Living With Disappointment
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens: but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” – Helen Keller
I’ve always been a big believer in setting goals. It seems pretty obvious that without setting goals it would be hard to accomplish much, but I think about goals differently now than I did in the past.
When I was in my early 20’s, my goals were a bit lofty. I was young, enthusiastic, thought I knew almost everything and what I didn’t know, I could figure out. I really believed that if I just thought things through hard enough, read enough books, and worked hard enough, I would figure out some sort of magic formula that will allow me to live life perfectly and achieve anything that I want.
A successful career, a fabulous husband and a few great kids were all I needed to achieve perfect bliss…or so I thought.
Now, I suppose it’s possible that these things would have brought me to a state of bliss. I really can’t say for sure since to date I have not accomplished any of these goals, but knowing what I know now, I truly doubt it.
I found work that I loved. Unfortunately, it was seasonal, and barely paid me enough to live, but I was able to succeed at it in ways I had never been able to before. All I needed to make it work was a husband to split the rent with.
I did eventually find a man who I moved in with, but it was the wrong man for the wrong reasons who would have ruined my life if I stayed. When I left I took my clothes my cat and my guitar and set out to start all over again at a poverty level income.
There was a night in January of 2009 that I found myself curled up in a fetal position on my yoga mat in my meditation room sobbing uncontrollably. I was desperate to figure out what is so wrong with me that I can’t even accomplish what simply seems to “happen” for most people.
When I turned 40 this past September, I had to finally accept the reality that I will never give birth and hold my own baby in my arms.
Technically, 40 is certainly a bit too early to give up on children entirely, except that I have extra-mobile joints and Fibromyalgia and I’m just too damn tired to believe that I could even want to find the energy to work as hard as I do and run around after a toddler. I didn’t want to have children so that they could make me happy. I wanted children because I knew that I could be a fantastic Mum. Those days are over.
I don’t want to spend the rest of my life curled up on my yoga mat sobbing over what I haven’t had.
I have come to believe that everything happens for a reason, so I assume that this means that I was destined for something else… and it wasn’t poverty, loneliness and endless pain. I thought that I was here to give to a husband and children, but clearly I was here to give something else. Asking the question “What?” brought me to where I am now and the faith that I am finally on the right path.
The next step was to grieve and move on.
There is no quick fix. Grief is a process that takes as long as it takes, but here is what I did.
I had come to understand that what we think, and how we think determines what we feel. If I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in agony due to the great big hole in my heart where my family was supposed to be, I have to change how I think about it.
It took a while after my realization to decide to let go, but when I was ready I stopped telling myself the story. I don’t need to tell myself the story of how badly I wanted a family of my own or how unfair it was that I got debilitating anxiety, and depression instead. I don’t need to tell myself that having not only survived, but overcoming all of that made me entitled to the simple things that I wanted, or how no one understands, or how much it hurts or…
Instead, I just stop those thoughts the minute I recognize I’m having them. This was hard at first. I’ve hard-wired my brain to think this way for many years and it takes effort and a lot of desire to discipline myself to stop and not indulge in those thoughts no matter how entitled I might feel I am. If I want to be happy I simply have to give that up.
Instead, I come back to the current moment. I focus on my breath, feel my body, come back to what I’m doing, and find something that I have in this moment to be grateful for. There is always something.
It works. That big hole in my heart is healing rapidly and that is a miracle. If you told me when I was 30 that I’d be where I am today, I have no doubt I would have killed myself… but now, I am finally beginning to love life for the first time ever. Goals are no longer a means to an end. They are the path to learning. Some of them aren’t meant to be achieved, but they still serve their purpose.