“I rued the day once. Didn’t get much else done.” –Chandler Bing
A few years ago, I went through a season of intense fallout. I’d made some choices that seemed like really good, solid choices at first, and truthfully, I made them knowing that I was stepping into a massively volatile situation, but I’d convinced myself that it wasn’t really a risk. I figured we’d figure it out. Solid logic, I know. No matter, it seemed like all signs pointed to the opportunity as the right one, and the feedback I was getting was overwhelmingly positive. When I prayed about the decision, the only comfort given to me was that we simply cannot know the future. Perhaps I should have known then, but I took it as a sign to make the leap. I am, in most things, an extremely cautions person, but when I leap, it is with both feet, and my whole heart, and I was totally unprepared for the fall.
I described what followed as a black hole, like it was all darkness and heaviness, and there was no air. It was like something inside of me had snapped, and I didn’t know how to put the pieces back together because I was so afraid of making the same mistakes again. At the lowest point, I was playing tennis with Steve, and this sense of depression came over me in a wave. I felt like the weight of it was pushing me into the ground, and I actually laid down, right there on the court, until I could collect myself enough to walk home. That night, I posted this on Facebook: “I feel like depression is trying to swallow me whole, and I refuse to let it. I have far too many awesome people in my life to waste emotional time on that.” At the time, that level of honesty and openness was rare for me, and I don’t remember my thought process in opening up like that, but what I found was that sharing begets sharing, and very quickly, people who saw that post started to open up to me about their own struggles. It wasn’t just one-on-one either. I remember one night a few weeks later, we gathered around a friend’s table with a few other couples, and someone brought up that post, and I was floored not just by how accepting everyone was of that side of me, but by how willing they were to open up to the group and share times that they’d felt the same way.
I’ve realized that the circumstances can be vastly different, but the feelings remarkably similar. The more we share, the more we realize how much those we do life with identify with us. There is something so powerful about feeling seen, feeling accepted, feeling understood, and it’s a gift we offer one another each time we open up. It is a profound antidote to loneliness and doubt, and leaves us feeling encouraged, enlivened, galvanized.
In a different time, and a different season, I experienced what I called my year of redemption. It was the year that I came out of my shell, and it was a year of growth, but mostly I call it that simply because it was what I wanted redemption to look like. It was full of bright and sparkly and beautiful things that grew out of the hard things. I think those moments are some of the most beautiful in life, and when they come, gratitude is the appropriate response, but I think the truth of life is that redemption is not always so obvious or quixotic. The danger is that when we get stuck on wanting redemption to look a certain way, we’re actually setting ourselves up to get just plain stuck. When we insist it must look the way we want it to look – which is probably an awful lot like whatever it was we wanted in the first place, accept no substitutes – we’re really just digging our heels in and refusing to move forward. When we fall into this pattern of questioning ourselves, or questioning where we went wrong, or questioning what signs we missed, it’s too easy to miss out on all of the grace and growth that are right there waiting for us.
So I went through a season of failure, and the result was connection – deep, true, meaningful connection – and the way it has woven through so many of my relationships since then is amazing. I wouldn’t trade it, but it took me a long time to even notice it. It wasn’t until I allowed myself to stand still for a minute, and allowed that season to open up for me, and traded regret for deep processing and deep personal growth, that I finally saw all the ways it had gone right.
I love the quote I opened with, and for those who have seen every episode of Friends, I’m sure you can picture Chandler’s wry humor as he says it. It’s witty and sarcastic, but it’s actually a fairly profound statement. When we give our days to regret, it makes it awfully hard to move forward.
Is there anywhere you’ve been stuck? Is there a piece of your story that you need to heal from? Are you expecting that healing to look a certain way?