Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Upside to Rock Bottom

Consider this quote from Helen Keller:
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.
There are times when things seem so bad you want to curse the heavens for making your life so difficult, so confusing, so exhausting. It happens when you have a petty, mean boss. It happens when you lose a job you really need. It happens when a relationship goes to hell. It happens.

What's worse is when it happens and then continues for what seems like forever. You're applying for jobs to get away from said petty, mean boss, but nothing turns up. You lose your job just before Christmas when no one is hiring and you can't get a response to anything for months. Your breakup is anything but clean, and devolves into bickering or festering resentment.

In other words, life seems to suck. Often, the advice you get is this: It could be worse. While true, you can't imagine it, and besides, it's already pretty darn bad. Should you be happy with pretty darn bad?

No. But you should be grateful. Grateful that it isn't worse, that it is, in all likelihood, a temporary condition that will not characterize the rest of your life unless you let it.

You should also be grateful for all the things you're about to learn about yourself and about how to deal with a crappy situation. Because so long as you're alive, you can bet life will throw you another crappy situation. Better learn to deal with it now so you won't be so devastated the next time around.

For a time, I envied my friends with inheritances, rich husbands or fat trust funds, frustrated that they didn't have to suffer daily as I did in my miserable government job. They had time to write, the time to think. Why oh why couldn't I be so fortunate? (These thoughts were characteristic of my Early Whining Phase.)

But a funny thing happened thanks to the suffering and the misery--I grew more and more aware of what I wanted, what I needed from my life, my work, and what I was unwilling to tolerate any longer. And as I began to devise ways out of Rock Bottom, population Me, I grew stronger, more creative, more motivated to make it happen.

And when I left the city limits of my bad situation, I realized how much I had grown, how much I had changed, while my friends at 123 Easy St. still seemed comfortable, yes, but not driven, not more capable, and not ready for success or the next hardship.

Now, more than ever, I feel confident that I am the master of my destiny, and that when life tries to throw me off course, that I will know how to handle myself to make the best out of a bad situation. I can't control the future, but I can control my reactions to whatever comes my way.

If I had taken the easy way out and asked someone--my husband, my parents, my friends--to rescue me, there is no way I would be enjoying the success and the thrill of self-determination that I'm experiencing now. I simply needed the struggle, the soul-crushing weight of the world, the seemingly unending darkness of petty minds and dust-filled hearts to inspire me to find a way out, and on my own terms.

If you're in a bad situation, you may wish you had a winning lottery ticket to rescue you, but what you really need is what you already have--a creative mind trapped in a bad situation. Let the struggle strengthen you, and when you're ready to leave, you'll surprise everyone--including yourself--with how easily you snap those chains.

The upside to reading this blog? An encouraging voice in the darkness! Subscribe here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


1. Congratulations on climbing your way back up from Rock Bottom. I know it isn't easy.

2. This is beautiful: "And when I left the city limits of my bad situation...".

3. Very, very cheesy: I just watched the Christian Bale 'Batman' movie. The oft-repeated refrain is:
"Why do we fall? To learn to pick ourselves up."

Part of the reason I enjoy your blog as much as I do is the strong sense that you've overcome something overwhelming, that would've been soul-crushing if you'd allowed to be that way. I feel an affinity to that, since my move to Texas was the final stage of a two-year journey back from Rock Bottom. I appreciate the reminder that I wouldn't be who I am now, if I hadn't fought for my happiness.

Here's to us & the knowledge that the next crappy situation isn't going to devastate us, either!