February 5, 2017

When You Don’t Have the Strength to Go On, Borrow Mine.

Life is strange sometimes.

We can be going along and doing well when we’re hit with something that we never saw coming.

And just like that we’re shocked (devastated even), and it can be hard to reassemble the pieces of our lives when they are so carelessly smashed to bits in mere seconds.

I went to work on an ordinary Wednesday. I had a little skip in my step, and a smile on my face because I was happy with my job and with my life. I called out greetings as I walked in and was met with a wall of silence from a few of my colleagues.

It was unusual, but I was also in pre-coffee mode and inclined to give the early risers a break. I poured a cup of coffee and took it to my desk when I was called into the boss’s office. And that’s when I lost my job.

That quickly. With no warning.

I had trouble taking in what I was hearing because I never pictured myself working anywhere else. I’m one of those annoying people who learn quickly and work hard, so losing a job wasn’t a worry that had crossed my mind.

I loved this job in particular and the people I worked with. I made it out of the office before crying, but then I found that I couldn’t stop. And what’s worse, I began having a panic attack the likes of which I’ve never experienced. I’m a single mother. Child support alone is not enough. I have to earn, and I have limited childcare options.

The panic increased.

But do you know what else increased? The outpouring of love I got from everyone I know.

As soon as friends and family heard the news, I received so many messages of support and love. People sent messages of encouragement and job listings. I couldn’t think because of my raging headache—likely caused by stress but also because my breakfast was still sitting on my desk untouched. Well, not my desk anymore.

I couldn’t take it all in so I drove to my favorite place in the world—a local garden that brings me peace when I have none.

Sitting there, surrounded by the beauty in nature, I remembered my strength. I remembered how much I had gone through already. And, yes, I am so f*cking tired of being put to the test, but I also know that because of the adversity I have faced, I am capable of anything.

I now have time to finish the novel I’ve been writing. I’m 153 pages in and I haven’t had a lot of free time to work on it up until now. I can start seriously looking into other writing opportunities and also explore different career options. I’m fortunate to only need part-time work at the moment, and I remind myself that this would be so much harder if my ex-husband was a deadbeat dad who didn’t pay child support. It actually gave me a moment of gratitude for him.

And I’m in a new relationship with someone so wonderful that the first thing he did was assure me that I didn’t need to worry about how I was going to support myself and my kids because—and he said this first—I am so strong and resourceful but also because we’re in this together.

It’s hard to maintain a sense of panic and despair when so many people take the time to say that they love us, support us and believe in us.

When others feel that we are capable of anything, there’s something in that belief that causes us to believe it too. And what’s more, we learn to draw strength from theirs. It’s incredibly empowering, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the people in my life.

Because I have been given their strength to rely on, I’d like to offer these words of love and support to those out there who need it—all the people who have taken one hard knock after another in life and don’t always see a way to stand up again.

For those of you who need my strength, remember this:

You are so incredibly worthy of everything good coming to you. The Universe is in no way punishing you for a lack in you because there’s not one. This isn’t punishment or a reflection of unworthiness. This is life. Accept that you are worthy of good things.

You are stronger than you know. You have so much strength inside of you, even when all you can do is pull the covers over your head and refuse to get out of bed. Even when you weep with loss and despair. Even when you tremble with rage. Your strength is powerful and so much more than you imagine right now.

I’m not going to insult you by talking about doors closing and windows opening. Many of us just want to jump out of one at the darkest moments. But I will tell you that I have found in my own life that my greatest opportunities have come when I have been the most devastated by life.

This is cold comfort when the loss is sitting heavy on our chests, stifling our breath. But take courage in the fact that some things look like the end because we can’t see the whole story. I choose to believe that a great opportunity is coming, even when I sit here surrounded by the pieces of the future I had imagined.

You are loved by so many people who want to see you do well. I think that there is a curious alchemy in our love.

I think when we’re loved by so many and have so many people wishing us well, we’re imbued with a particular strength and capability. And maybe it feels like there aren’t people out there loving you and wishing you well, but that’s simply not true. I’m sitting in grief of my own, and I’m out here loving you, a stranger, and wishing you well. I have gratitude for you because I could not write this without you there to read it, and I care that you are well. But if you look around, I am confident that you will find many people who feel the same. Reach out to them now.

You do not have to do this alone. I am stubborn to a fault. I want to be self-sufficient and to independently take care of myself and my children. The idea of being reliant on anything other than myself makes me feel deeply uncomfortable. But I am learning to let others in. I’m learning that the people who love me suffer when I suffer, and I can ease both of our suffering simply by allowing them to help in the ways that they can. So please do that. Open up and let other people see that you’re hurting and let them help if they offer to do so.

Allow yourself the opportunity to rest and to grieve. Don’t let it consume you, but please don’t try to run away from it or drown it out. Instead, take the time to process it and find peace. I know that I will have to find peace with losing a job I loved and having my world upended. But on the other hand, I can try to find gratitude that I had this opportunity for as long as I did and met people that I like and admire. I can appreciate that the job was there when I needed it, and I can find a way to see losing it as a necessary step to push me out of my comfort zone. Believe me when I say that I’m not there yet, but I also know that I am capable of that. And so are you.

Life never fails to surprise me by its twists and turns, and today I am not pleasantly surprised by them. But I am sitting in a garden right now instead of at a desk. I will have some unexpected extra time with my children while I look for new employment. I have an ex-husband who never misses a child support payment. Even as I grieve, I am surrounded by much to be grateful for, and I will hold on to that. And I’ll hold on to the strength I’ve been given by others and hope that you, reading this today, draw strength from this, too.


Author: Crystal Jackson

Image: martinak15/Flickr

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

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