At 20 years old, I was making preparations to be a wife. At 23, I was single, again. Life hadn’t gone as planned. My heart was broken; I was mentally fragmented and emotionally more damaged than ever. Broken, bitter and confused, I sealed my heart. Men became the enemy and love was a concept that I couldn’t accept for my life. This wasn’t my first time being romantically disappointed but I was convinced it’d be my last.
When I thought life couldn’t get any worse than being abused and financially misused, it did. At 25, I became physically disabled. My ability to walk, talk and sit up was severely compromised. I had moments of paralysis and lost just about all physical independence. I was literally on my back. My life and its setbacks felt more like setups. I struggled to believe that my life would ever be more than medical tests and doctor’s visits.
I’m so glad that my story didn’t end with misery and sorrow. I bounced back, baby! God took every piece of sorrow and built a life worth living. My life isn’t easy, but it’s beautiful. I’m blessed. I had to fight for “better days” before I got to enjoy them. I had to speak and believe them into existence. Every day, I maintained control over my life by refusing to cower to life’s blows. I’ve suffered loss, yes; but I’ve also gained.
I’ve gained insight. I understand that there is a necessary process – a type of shedding of excess. The process can have many other names. Sometimes it’s loss of loved ones, sometimes it’s sickness. Sometimes the process is loneliness, unemployment, being single, persecution, disappointment or severe opposition. Whatever the process, it has a specific purpose. The purpose isn’t the suffering but there is purpose in the pain. The purpose is the process – the rebuilding and redesigning of who you are at the core. Your transformation is worth all of the tension, confusion and chaos. So, how do you identify and then navigate through the process? There isn’t a complete one-size-fits-all approach but I can give you a few pointers.
1. What hurts and why? The process focuses on our weak areas – you know, those parts of us that we want to keep hidden. The not so pretty parts. The process heals and perfects what’s broken, wounded or impaired, helping it to function more efficiently. What’s bothering you? Are your feelings frequently hurt? Are you overly sensitive? Maybe your finances have decreased. Are you being forced to rely more on others? Constantly finding yourself in embarrassing situations? Could you possibly use more humility? It’s important to accurately identify the struggle, the difficulty, the pain. Pay attention to the things that make you uncomfortable or that bring up emotions and reminders of your past. Tender spots. Yes, let’s call them tender spots. Figuring out what and why they are will help you make sense of your challenge, crisis or circumstance and, more importantly, help you survive the process.
2. The process isn’t your enemy. Please understand that no matter how painful and uncomfortable, you are meant to benefit. You are meant to be strengthened as a result of facing and overcoming this difficult time in your life. Your death, suicide, mental breakdown and total isolation is not the purpose of the process. Just trust me on this one. Eventually, you’ll get it. Life is your gift and not an enemy. Life is a tool, an opportunity, to create and experience greatness, laughter and love. Don’t run away from your pain – embrace and dig into it.
3. Take it in strides. Don’t try to figure everything out at one time. This is one I constantly need to remember. I like to know. I like to know the why, when, how long, who with, etc. Give me the details. Break it all the way down. Well, life doesn’t always fill me in, unfortunately. But I find myself more stressed when I’m trying to figure everything out than when I just go with the flow. You know why? Because trying to figure everything out up front is like trying to taste the cake while it’s cooking. Not only will it burn your tongue butit isn’t cake, yet! We get impatient and try to rush a process that wants to give us beautiful results. We end up with a mess. So, inhale, exhale. Breathe. You’re going to be fine. You may have to cry, call a friend, pray, journal or get in a good game of b-ball. Do what you must (that’s healthy) to survive. Eventually, the big picture will be evident. Just wait. I promise that if you commit to wait, you’ll start to see and understand more than you ever thought possible.