Photo by Graeme Law
Twice in my life I’ve had unwanted, seismic change forced on me.
The first was when I had a breakdown aged 30; a breakdown that left me without a clue who I was or where I was, and that unravelled my patterns of thought so fundamentally that I was unable to understand the simplest conversations.
The second was when I was diagnosed with M.E./CFS in 2008, a chronic, incurable illness that’s with me right now.
They were changes of the worst kind; unwanted, unwelcome and, at first glance, unacceptable.
You will have had your own crises, times when life dumped you in sh*t creek and burned all the paddles. Those moments that threaten everything you’ve got and all you’ve worked for. Of course, life wouldn’t be life without springing these things on you from time to time. No way around it I’m afraid.
So what do you do when life sends an unwelcome, disruptive visitor your way? If you’re anything like me, your first instinct will be to close the door, heave the fridge in front of it, turn out the lights, go hide under the bed, close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and hum to yourself.
You do what you can to push away the unwanted change so things can stay the same.
When my breakdown happened, I dealt with it dutifully and pieced myself back together over a period of 18 months. Then I started looking for jobs back in the same industry I’d been made redundant from so I could get my life and lifestyle back.
When I was diagnosed with M.E. my first thoughts were about beating it and getting rid of it altogether, carrying on as normal so that I could get my life and lifestyle back.
Each of these events forced me to dig deeper than I’d ever had to before. You know what I’m talking about here, when your foundations are rocked, you’re scared down to your bones and having thoughts like “Seriously, just how strong does life need me to be?”
Being strong is a good, appropriate and sometimes essential thing to be. Personal strength helps you forge a path through the hard times, and it helps you stay anchored to what matters.
But, there are also times when that same strength can be used as a resistance mechanism, a way for you to stand up to change, show it who’s boss and fight to keep what you may already have lost.
Sometimes, your strength is the one thing that’s standing in your way.
Coming out of my breakdown, I knew full well that it was the fact that I was busying myself building a lifestyle that meant nothing to me that was the root cause, but I hid from it for the longest time and pushed up against that door with all my strength to keep it shut.
In starting to battle with an incurable illness, I knew full well that it might be with me for years, decades or the rest of my life, but my strength and bluster kept me focused on beating it once and for and all.
I didn’t want to “give in” to change that felt like loss.
But then I kept digging.
Deeper than I had at any time before.
I dug down past strength and found something surprising.
When you’re in the midst of the storm it’s hard to see what the hell’s going on; sometimes all you know for sure is that it’s loud, chaotic, painful and sometimes tortuous. All you know how to do is to brace yourself and hold on long enough for it to pass.
But when you sit inside the storm it’s possible to find the calm centre of it. And it’s there that you get to relax and breathe.
My breakdown started me on the road of coaching and writing, things that make me feel like I’m home.
My illness has made me confront how I’m being of service to people as well as long-standing issues around feeling undeserving of love.
The changes I refused to accept were the ones that I needed the most.
I’m immensely grateful for each of these events, and with regard to my illness I know that it’s only just started teaching me about life.
So over to you.
Are you more focused on “being strong” in the face of change than finding peace within it? What might happen if you stopped fighting and started accepting?