Life isn’t easy. We all say it, but I’d never fully appreciated the weight of it until a recent conversation with a friend. After years of struggling to stay afloat financially and emotionally, she’d relocated, lost her livelihood, and encountered life-changing upheaval that would make even the strongest of us crumble under the devastation. Her stamina was faltering. Her bank account dwindled down to nothing and she was losing hope – fast. Despite courageous attempts to change her circumstances and tremendous sacrifices, she felt defeated and out of options. Standing on the rocky shore of her existence after years of fighting to survive, she was wondering out loud if her ship would ever come in.
So many of us have been there, in that terrifying moment when we realize our best efforts have left us with nothing more than disarray and uncertainty. And it’s then, in those moments of total loss or chaos, that it’s most tempting to panic, despair and lose faith. We scramble or collapse. We run in circles, never really accomplishing much, all in an effort to regain lost ground and return to the comfortable familiarity of our former, more stable lives.
I have to wonder, though: What if there’s something better out there than “familiarity?” What if all of that desperation to feel comfortable actually limits you from growing, from finding something different that’s more inherently “you?”
Something wonderful happens when you give in to total upheaval in your life. I know that sounds crazy, but no one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe. Sure, you’re venturing out into unexplored territory, but that’s the beauty of it. Hitting rock bottom and having your life upset to epic levels gives you an opportunity to completely redesign your life if you choose to. And, truly, would we ever “choose” to, if we constantly encountered smooth sailing? The universe, I believe, has a funny way of making things fall into place, by causing things to fall apart.
I’ve seen it happen to dozens of people. I once read a story about a homeless woman who started a weight loss business after seeing an ad in a local paper. She slept in her car, working part time hours in exchange for the use of a local business owner’s back office phone and the start-up cost of the business. Today, far from her days of addiction, she now owns a home and helps hundreds of clients a year live healthier, happier lives.
Closer to home for me, I watched a brilliantly talented friend nearly give up on her art career when her husband lost his job. In order to support her family, her passion took a back seat to earning money as a gallery curator, where she furthered the success of other artists by showing and selling their work. Though she couldn’t have known it at the time, that job led to multiple networking opportunities that set her up to produce her own work again. Today, she exhibits all around the world.
We all long for lush, distant shores, especially during or after a maelstrom. The mistake would be to assume you’re shipwrecked because a storm of epic proportions just blew through your island and swept your rowboat out to sea. Your ship is coming. Believe it. Sometimes that ship isn’t a luxury liner; sometimes it comes much later than expected; sometimes we have to sweat, live off of nothing but coconuts, and get sunburned while we build the raft that we’ll have to row out to meet the ship that will carry us to our next destination. How we get there may be a far cry from what we expected, but with some patience and planning, by watching the tides and being open to new routes, before we know it we’ll be sailing to shores that we never imagined, on vessels that vary as much as the very dreams we all carry. Keep an eye on the horizon. You never know what the tide may bring in.