There’s an anonymous saying that, in order to live the life that is waiting for you, you have to let go of the life you have. In 2007, when I swallowed handful after handful of pills and tried to commit suicide, my life, as I knew it, ceased to exist from that moment on. OK. That’s taking it a little too literally.
In the months that followed, I lost custody of my children as they moved with their Dad to a different state. In the following year, friends gradually disappeared as I shrank into an isolated cocoon, not returning phone calls or socializing. I couldn’t. All I could manage was taking care of myself and existing.
The things which had been so important to me, like the latest fashions, a flawless appearance at all times, and having a house looking like it came out of a magazine complete with the sparkle and fresh smell, weren’t a consideration anymore. Not even on my radar. I used to take pride in having my yard never hint at the fact that a single woman lived there. After the injury, it was all I could do just to keep it from looking unkept. I think, I even saw a few tumbleweeds blow through.
After an initial period of shock and anger, a profound sadness and grief settled in my bones. In truth, the Debbie that had existed did die, but slowly, gradually, I learned to forgive myself, accept the new me and take responsibility for the life I’d lived, the big mess I’d made, and the future I was creating.
At that time, I started putting my energy into me and working very hard to improve myself and my life. I knew I didn’t want to stay in the condition I was in, and I also knew that I was the only one who was going to make it better. For years, through exercise, mindfulness, meditation and other tools, and neuroplasticity, I continued my daily dedication to my rehabilitation, gained momentum, and improved. And you know what? It worked, and I recovered fully.
If a fortune teller had looked into their crystal ball and told me that I would be living without my kids, without a significant other, without a career, with a speech impediment, and facing the same basic issues as when I tried to kill myself, but I’d be happier than ever and very optimistic about the future, I’d have told them their ball must have a huge smudge. Yet, it’s true.
Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, in her book Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion writes:
Wanting to find a place where everything’s OK is just what keeps us miserable. Always looking for a way to have pleasure and avoid pain is how we keep ourselves in samsara. (the vicious cycle of suffering) As long as we believe there is something that will permanently satisfy our hunger for security, suffering is inevitable. The truth is that things are always in transition. ‘Nothing to hold on to’ is the root of all happiness.
Things may not be perfect, but I’m OK…great even. I’ve come to recognize that in uncertainty lies all possibility. Peace and joy aren’t found in having no wrinkles, a spotless house, or yard of the month. They’re in my brain and my thoughts.
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