Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Life Is What Happens

Two years ago, I set out to tell the story of my own breakdown and subsequent recovery. I did this primarily to remind myself that recovery was possible because, at the time, I desperately needed the reminder. I was in a bad place, emotionally and mentally, and could see warning signs of things getting worse. I needed to turn things around, so I made a conscious effort to revisit the path I had taken before. It had helped me to build a better life in the past, and I was not in a place to turn away from any available help in the present.

I did decide to make one fairly significant difference this time. This time, I would share the experience. That decision, alone, was actually a solid indicator of how much I had grown in the intervening years. Sharing something this personal back then would have been impossible. Even trying to do so would have triggered the very issues I was hoping to address. I’m not fantastic at sharing today, but I can at least see reasons and possibilities. That wall is still pretty thick, but it does have doors now, and they’re even not all locked and barred (or guarded with traps, pitfalls, and armed beasties). Sharing is possible today, which is a huge step forward.

I decided to share because doing so would help me. I have often counseled people to keep journals, and this was a form of journal. Keeping a journal lets you write down what happened, and seeing it written down can often give you a new perspective. When you have to put something into words, you give shape to things that were shapeless, and giving them shape gives them edges. You begin to see that problems have borders and limits. They are finite, and they can be surmounted. Keeping a journal lets you see what can be and, when you begin to take inventory, it is not uncommon to discover that you have more going for you than you had believed. It is human nature that we tend to exaggerate our fears and minimize our hopes, and a journal lets us put things down in a row and often reveals that we had things exactly reversed.

I decided to share because it would help others. I have been asked many times in my life how I accomplished my recovery, and I was usually not able to explain it in any useful manner. I could tell you that I had done X or Y, but I could not tell you how I had done them because I couldn’t remember. The details were important, but it was like trying to remember the ingredients of a complex meal I had eaten decades before. I could remember enough to get and maybe even to give a feel for the experience, but I could not remember enough to recreate the experience. I could tell you how good it had been, but I could not tell you how to make it. This time, however, I could take note of things as they were happening, and I could share the experience with you as we went along. Not only would you know that such a meal was possible but you would be able to make it for yourself and know the full results firsthand.

I decided to share because helping others would help me. It’s a nice, full circle. There are very few things in this life better at lifting you out of a depression than helping someone else find a smile. No option is perfect, and you do have to be careful to keep things in a proper balance, but there are so many positive benefits to helping people that the idea should always be included in any recovery plan. If nothing else, you learn so much about yourself when you’re helping someone else up. That, alone, is nearly invaluable. Aside from that, it’s just easier to be happy around happy people, so if you help make people happy, you are helping to surround yourself with happy people. It works. If you doubt me, give it a try and see for yourself.

I had these grand plans for how I was going to build this huge self-help website and fill it with the tricks and techniques I has learned. Along the way, I was going to expand to cover ideas of just being a better person and building a better world, so that things wouldn’t get stale or become too limiting, and I think things were going along well. We have been building an audience and making connections, and I am told that people are benefiting from what I have done. I know that I have benefited, and I have certainly planned to keep things building and growing. Life happens. As summed up beautifully by John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

Shortly after I began this project, Heather and I were asked if we would become foster parents for a teenaged girl we knew, who was a friend of our son’s. At the time I believed there was only one possible answer to that question, and I have not changed my mind since. In fact, today, discussions are underway to transform that foster placement into adoption. I am not yet at liberty to go into details here, but the details are good. I will let you know when I have more to share, but talk about life changing plans.

More recently, the day job has decided to almost completely rewrite itself. We had a staffing change that resulted in gaps, and I was asked to step forward and fill some of those gaps. Some of that involved tasks I was already doing, but in a more formalized manner. Some of that involved learning new tasks on the fly. At the same time, I am one member of a team working to redesign our entire area of the business, while, of course, business keeps flying along its merry way. I heard a description the other day that seemed perfect: “We’re trying to change a tire on a moving vehicle while it drives down the highway.” That about sums it up. Now, add in the fact that I am also transitioning into a leadership role while all of this is happening.

All of this has, as you might imagine, taken up a good deal of my time recently. There was a little while when people were asking me if I ever left the office, and they weren’t entirely joking. Things have settled down a bit from that point, and they will continue to settle further as the transition progresses, but I don’t expect things to be truly settled at any point in the near future. Life keeps going, and sometimes all you can do is hang on and try to enjoy the view.

I was reminded recently, though, that the things I write here are of benefit to people, and I was happy for that reminder. I am grateful that my audience has been patient with me during this chaotic time, but I do need to get back to writing. I can’t promise that it will be as often as it was, and consistency may be right out the window, but words will flow, at least from time to time. I’ll also give you more updates as I have them to give. Thank you for understanding, though, that there will be times when we have to run on autopilot. Make all the plans you want, but life sometimes has its own ideas.

The important thing is that we keep moving forward. There will be interruptions, but those interruptions don’t have to bring things to a stop. Pause, look around, catch your breath, and then keep moving forward. That was the whole idea when I decided on the name of this project, so let’s keep it the part of the plan. We may be frequently interrupted, but we keep moving forward. Thank you for your participation in both the journey and the interruptions.

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