Not Every Day Is a Good Day. Show Up Anyway.

My hairdresser is usually an upbeat and positive woman. Her energy pulls me into the moment and her “bright side” approach helps me forget the fact that I seem to have a little more grey to cover every time.

Yesterday was different. Tears teased the corners of her eyes as she detailed all that had happened to her recently. She was valiantly trying to hold it together, but it was like her emotions were winning at tug-of-war, pulling her over the edge.

Finally, as she applied the last of my color, she wiped the corner of her left eye, picked up a curling iron and exclaimed,

“Damn it. I am going to be beautiful today.” 

And she was. I watched as her hair – and her face – transformed while we waited for my color to set. As each new ringlet was formed, her eyes became a little more determined and her expression became a little more hopeful.


 

It is a fact of life for all of us – bad days will happen.

Some bad days are of the, “I overslept and my car was rear ended on the way to work.” Other bad days fall into the, “I just buried my best friend” category. And in between those, there will be plenty of the, “I’m just not feeling it today” variety.

On those bad days, there is the temptation to crawl back under the covers and wait for the next sunrise to signal a do-over. Our minds feel pulled towards what’s not going right, thinking about it even past the point where thinking is needed. The plummet of our emotions seems as inevitable as a raft in whitewater poised at the top of a waterfall. We yearn to avoid the discomfort and so we try to distract with food, a drink or busyness. And the idea that things can be better is nothing but a distant possibility, so hazy that it seems like the false hope of a mirage.

Not every day is a good day.

Yet even if the chips are down and the tears are frequent, it is still YOUR day.

You can make the decision to show up anyway.

To proclaim, “Damn it. I am going to be present. I am going to persist. I am going to be positive.”

 

My husband likes to say that loyalty isn’t about being there when things are good; it is about being there when things are bad.

Be faithful to yourself.

Even on the bad days, show up.

And never confuse a bad day for a bad life.

 

 

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Why We Struggle to Believe Things Can Be Different

I recently turned (gulp!) forty. Something about those milestone birthstone birthdays encourages reflection.

So I found myself thinking back to my thirtieth birthday…

Ten years ago, I awoke with the determination to learn to run a mile. My first efforts were pitiful, as I barely managed to cover a quarter of my goal. But it felt good to try, like I was giving aging the finger. My birthday gift that year was an assortment of running clothes to aid in my new goal.

Later that evening, I enjoyed a birthday dinner with my then-husband. I was completely in love and completely unaware of the duplicitous life he was leading. Ten years ago, I was finally feeling competent at my job and happy with my position teaching gifted and accelerated math.

At thirty, I reflected back on my twenties, to getting married, moving across the country and starting my career. My twenties had been a time of growth and change; and at thirty, I felt like I had arrived. I felt like I had done my evolving and that I could, with relative certainty, envision how I would be going forward.

And now at forty, I look back at the changes I’ve made over the last decade and it makes my head spin. Far from my expectations of my personal evolution slowing, my thirties were a time of incredible – and incredibly challenging – change.

That first quarter-mile run morphed into a completed marathon a few years later. That fabrication of a husband simultaneously destroyed me and resurrected me. After a few years of navigating a new system, I found myself back in an accelerated math teaching position.

My thirties were a period of destruction and rebuilding. Of losing one love and finding an even better one. Of impossible goals and painful journeys.

I hardly relate to the woman I was at thirty. She almost seems like a former friend. Her name has changed, her outlook is different and even the results of personality inventories have morphed. The changes have been so drastic and so complete, it’s difficult to comprehend.

And now at forty, I feel like I have arrived. Like my period of growth and change is over and now, with relative certainty, I can envision how I will be going forward.

Even though I can be almost guaranteed that I will feel the same way a decade from now.

In fact, research has shown that people inevitably underestimate how much they will change even into their eighties, continually expressing that now they have become truly the person they were meant to be.

It’s easy to look back and see the evolution, but it’s difficult to imagine that transformation continuing forward.

When we try to envision our futures, we rely heavily on our pasts and our present. It’s as though we’re trying to create a new painting using scraps of the old canvas. We can imagine some change, but we struggle to accept that everything could end up different than it is today.

On the one hand, it’s scary to think that we are always evolving, always becoming. That any feeling of “making it” will always be fleeting. Yet the realization is also exciting. Our futures may be unknown, but they are also unbound.

I just hope that my next decade has a little less drama than the previous one…

 

 

How Will Your Divorce Change You?

When I was dealing with the aftermath of my divorce, I was reminded of the PlayDoh extruder toy I had as a child. I would marvel at the smooth, even shiny, surface of the dough when it was first removed from the canister. Then, I would feed the material through the extruder where it was split and molded into a variety of forms. When it was time to clean up, I always tried to recreate the same smooth cylinder of clay as I started with.

It never worked. Because even though all the raw material was still there, it had been shaped and pressed to such an extent that it could never be the way it was before.

And that’s how the divorce felt. It was one of those life experiences where, even as you’re going through it, you know it will become a dividing line between the “before” and the “after.”

Because divorce changes you. That you cannot control.

But maybe you can influence just how it will change you. Read how here.

 

How Hope Works For You…And Against You

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

Desmond Tutu

There was a time when hope was all I had. Everything around me was in tatters and in its destruction, all that I had believed and loved for years was called into question. I clung to hope like a drowning man clutches a life raft. I had to believe that the darkness and despair were not absolute and that there was a way out of the ruination that surrounded me.

That hope became a beacon, a guiding light. It allowed me to wake with purpose and whispered me to sleep with comforting thoughts. Hope became a reason to keep going, a motivator and an influencer. Hope shone its light on the underside of the pain, helping to illuminate the gifts hidden within.

 

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hope says that the now is not always. Hope tells us that tomorrow can always be better and that we can overcome the obstacles in our path. Hope gives us a reason to try harder and a provides a purpose to the pain. Hope tells us it’s not over and assures us that we can rise above our challenges.

Hope takes the long view, projects the big picture. Hope takes us out of ourselves and into the greater connected world. Without hope, individuals would not survive unsurvivable odds. Without hope, humanity would not tackle insurmountable odds. And without hope, there would be no reason to try again.

Continued hope in the face of the seemingly impossible is perhaps one of mankind’s greatest traits. For without hope, no great achievement can ever be reached.

 

“Hope is a good breakfast but a bad supper.”

Sir Francis Bacon

Perhaps the best repercussion of the way my first marriage ended is that any sort of reconciliation was completely and utterly hopeless. I had no choice but to accept that the marriage was over and that my husband was (and would remain) a virtual stranger.

Most do not have this luxury. I speak with so many people who are grasping onto hope that their partner will change. They see the potential in the person and they stay and continue to exert effort in the hope that the potential will be reached. And even when reality is saying otherwise, they are listening to their hope.

In this case, hope becomes more of a shackle than a beacon when it is applied to controlling the uncontrollable. It can be the reason people stay in abusive relationships, order invasive and fruitless medical interventions or even just believe that somehow their financial problems will resolve. 

 

“Hope is a beautiful thing. It gives us peace and strength, and keeps us going when all seems lost. Accepting what you cannot change doesn’t mean you have given up on hope. It just means you have to focus your hope on more humanly tangible and attainable goals.”

Julie Donner Andersen

Hope on its own is based on the fiction of dreams. It works best when it is anchored in the acceptance of reality. Yet, irrational hope is at the root of so many miracles, from the irreversible brain damage that heals to the shipwreck survivor that endures weeks afloat at sea. If those people limited themselves to the facts, they would not have made it trough. 

Sometimes the impossible happens because somebody dared to believe that it could. 

Yet one thing is certain , no matter where your hope is focused and how reality-based it is, it only works if you do. Hope without action is just a wish. 

 

Are You Running Towards or Are You Running Away From?

One of the best leaders I’ve ever worked for told me her greatest lesson about hiring good people –

I only hire people who are running towards something, not those who are running away.

Her words settled into my brain throughout that afternoon and evening. The more I considered them, the more profound and wide-reaching they became.

 

I thought back to my early attempts at dating after the divorce. I was looking for men to distract me, to heal me. To save me. I ended up in their arms as I was running away from my pain and my present situation. I wanted an escape and I was looking for it in dating profiles and arms that looked as though they could protect me from the world.

It didn’t work for long.

Some of the men were also running away. And so we ran into each other. Splat. Soon realizing that we were never a match. Others had fantasies of being the white knight swooping up the distressed damsel and so they stationed themselves to catch ladies running away from their captors. Only they wanted to hold me captive as well.

I eventually found the courage to stop running away from my pain. To instead invite it in, curious as to what it had to teach me. I began to find peace with where I was, no longer so impatient to be somewhere else. I knew something was different when I no longer had the same driving compulsion to find a man, to be partnered. I was okay alone.

I slowed, no longer gripped by the anxious energy telling me that I needed to flee.

The whole time, I kept dating. (Even though I was learning how to be with the pain, it was still nice to be distracted!) And a shift started to occur. I stopped focusing so much on my past, on what happened to me and I started taking steps to the future. I began to picture the type of man and the kind of relationship I wanted.

And my momentum began to pick up.

I started to run towards my future.

This felt different than the earlier flight. It wasn’t motivated by fear; it was fueled by excitement.

I was seeking rather than avoiding.

Looking forward instead of backward.

Building the new not escaping the old.

 

What’s your motivation? Are you running away from what you want to avoid or are you running towards what you want to create?