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We go along doing our best work and one day something changes, we experience a great loss, a significant person in our life walks out, our child gets sick. Whether it is financial, emotional, or physical, when a loss occurs our sense of safety, security, and purpose shatters.
Life is terrifying because the most important things in your life are out of your control …
The most important events of your life, when you are born, when you will die, when someone new enters your life, and when someone leaves, is not in your control.
Both destiny’s kisses and its dope-slaps illustrate an individual person’s basic personal powerlessness over the really meaningful events in his life: i.e. almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of Psst that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer.
― David Foster Wallace
I went through a breakup that shattered my world. The relationship coming apart took me apart. This loss changed me in an irrevocable way. The wound went deep enough to surface unresolved hurts and scars I didn’t even know I had. As much as I wanted to run, I couldn’t find a place to go. Rationalizing, protecting, and defending my heart was not possible. I was left exposed.
Allowing the pain started to expose what I had been avoiding all these years.
I was in the middle of launching Playing to Your Strengths, working closely with my partner, planning our future and the rug was pulled out from underneath me. Our personal relationship came to an end. In the days that followed, I began to live in a timeless orientation. I couldn’t think about the future at all. For the first time in my life, I didn’t want a future. My strengths as a Creative Visionary, seeing potential and possibility had nowhere to play. It felt impossible to organize myself around a vision or predictable outcome. Outcomes? What a joke. He had been a deep source of inspiration for my life and my work. It felt like my world was dissolving.
Looking back, I can see what I couldn’t see at the time. I wasn’t sensitive to longings of my heart and had misunderstood the fear of being alone.
I had come to trust that he would always be there, and it was not true. I had ignored all the signs that his heart wasn’t in it, and I held on because I couldn’t face the razor-sharp cut of separating my heart from his.
I was grasping and feeling foolish and yet held on.
When I started to look at things from the perspective of what was real and true, it was evident that life was moving in one direction while I was digging in my heels and screaming “No!”
It wasn’t just about being alone; it was the fear of facing a future without him in it. I wanted to grieve, but my mind wouldn’t stop trying to fix the situation. I kept thinking there was a way to make it work even when we came to the conclusion letting go was for the best.
I couldn’t grieve until my mind finally stopped trying to solve the problem.
It was shocking to see just how compulsive my mind was. In the first few months after we ended, no matter how much I wanted to stop thinking, the mind could not give it a rest. I learned so much about the nature of thoughts and how difficult it was for me to take my hands off the wheel. While it was clear that life was moving this way for a reason surrendering was a constant decision and act of will.
Wanting to know what was true, became my priority.
I wanted to wake up from the self-created nightmare of pushing away and grasping. I wanted to know who I was beyond this dependency.
Life gave me the gift of losing what I was clinging to, as an answer to my deepest questions.
It was a slow process.
I’m softer now. I am more aware of the tenderness and fragile nature of life.
Letting love in means all of it, the totality of love, even its sting. Letting love in means facing the terrifying aspects of love, and the intensity of caring so deeply. Hermann Hesse describes this knowing:
… we grieve to see the flowers wilt again and again, and the leaves fall, and in our hearts we know that we, too, are transitory and will soon disappear.
When artists create pictures and thinkers search for laws and formulate thoughts, it is in order to salvage something from the great dance of death, to make something that lasts longer than we do.
Impermanence is both devastating and liberating. “This too shall pass” is good news when we don’t like our experience. Not such great news when we love what we have. I’m not saying we should want the things we love to end. That isn’t natural. It is just accepting. Things do come to an end, yet loves never does.
Loss reminds us to stay sensitive to ourselves and each other. Vulnerability helps us to drop our guard and give our restless hearts and hungry souls room to grow. Even when it is crazy, turbulent, and heartbreaking, love expands our capacity for embracing more of this mysterious life.
As visionaries, we are agents of change. We are challenged daily to step into the unknown. As free-spirits with sensitive hearts, we thrive in the creative space of discovery. Can we also acknowledge that while we want to move bravely toward expansion and transformation, sometimes it breaks us open beyond what we can handle?
These are the critical moments.
The hole in the center of your heart, tightness in your stomach, closing sensation of your throat, are signals from your body. They are the doorway into the stories that want to be held, seen, and released. Breathing into the pain, allowing, and acknowledging what is there brings awareness. When you stop abandoning yourself, you can begin to heal.
Sorrow carves a space in which deep compassion can arise.
The heart expands to let more and more in. We strengthen as this vastness becomes alive and our deepening source of joy.
Kahlil Gibran on Joy and Sorrow:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that
which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that
the other is asleep upon your bed.
Staying sensitive and not resisting pain isn’t technique or strategy, rather an invitation to allow it all in. Whatever is happening is happening. We can either rally against it or drop into it.
The invitation is to come to a deeper love of the mystery, to face the fears of lack, surrender to the inevitable yes, and participate in your great adventure.
Part 2: Turn obstacles into the path.
Part 3: The gift of new beginnings