When Life Feels Really Tough
By Randy Peyser
What do you do when you’ve gone splat on the pavement of life — when your job, house, relationship, or finances come wobbling to a halt?
By the time I had hit age forty, my body no longer wanted the wear and tear of deadlines and pulling all-nighters at my job running a monthly magazine. Although I knew that this job no longer served my Highest Good and that I had to move on, beyond that I didn’t know which direction to pursue. However, trusting that things would work out and that somehow I would be taken care of, I left my collection of red pens and long time identity as a magazine editor-in-chief and made my exit.
Around the same time, my equally long time, on-again, off-again relationship came to a grinding halt. Grieving this loss as well, I hung my heart at her door in addition to my identity as her partner.
As if this weren’t enough, one day shortly thereafter, the phone rang and the voice on the other end informed me of the suicide of a former, dearly loved employer. Clearly, the crises in my life were multiplying faster than rabbits.
Under these circumstances, I had a melt-down. It was not a mere, dark night of the soul kind of melt-down, but more along the lines of a dark year-and-a-half of the soul kind of ordeal.
In the midst of these multiple losses and changes, I isolated myself, spending much time in nature, talking to God. I also prayed to God, cried to God, bargained with God, and raged at God. And I grieved the kind of tears that feel like they have no end.
Although people typically fear going to the depths of grief over the loss of a loved one, a relationship, or other types of losses, a most mysterious thing happens when we allow ourselves to feel every painful feeling. The pain comes in waves. As the painful wave hits, we can cry or grieve and hurt terribly.
But that moment, no matter how painful or grievous, will in time give way to another moment. Although the pain feels like it’s going to last forever, eventually, we will find ourselves transported to a calmer shore.
Through the process of expressing so much grief, I came to understand that sorrow digs the well and joy fills it. As I allowed myself to experience and express the wave of painful feelings swelling up inside of me, I was also increasing my capacity to ultimately feel more joy.
By not stifling feelings, energy flows, and where energy flows, healing happens. As my journey of emotional healing progressed, I wondered what it would it take for me to truly be happy. And I wanted to know if it was possible to find happiness in spite of the often difficult outer circumstances of my life.
I decided that for the entire next year I would live my life as an experiment. In this experiment, I would be true to myself by constantly making choices that I thought would lead me to happiness. If I could foresee the potential for conflict or unhappiness concerning any particular choice, right from the start, I would not allow myself to say “yes” to that choice.
For example, if a friend called and invited me to an event, I would first tune into my feelings and notice whether or not I felt a happy feeling when I thought about going. If I didn’t feel happy about it, but my friend insisted that I go because I “should” go for whatever reason, I decided to honor my own intuition and make the choice not to go.
I started to ask myself the question, “What’s the most loving thing I can do for me right now?” Sometimes the answer came back, “Take a walk,” or “cry,” or “clean your space.” But often the answer came back, “Do nothing.” So I learned how to just sit and do nothing.
It was a time to be, to reflect, to breathe, to just sit and be present in the moment. One time, while I was sitting and doing nothing, it occurred to me that perhaps I could light a few candles. Grabbing some old Chanukah candles, I sat and watched the flames from the moment the candles began to burn until over an hour later when the last wisp of waxy smoke vanished into the air.
Watching the candles became my daily meditation practice. No matter how itchy or antsy I felt, I would sit and be present in the moment for the entire time the candles burned. Each day, the chatter in my head began to diminish until, eventually, I could hear only the silence of the flame.
One day, in the silence, a compelling urge to sit in front of the computer and write overcame me. Every day after meditating, I’d type and watch my fingers fly as the stories flowed out of me. One month and 100 pages later, it occurred to me that I was writing a book and that this was the direction I needed to be going.
From the moment I’d first sat down at the computer to write these stories, I’d experienced a great sense of happiness. It occurred to me that that which was seeded in happiness could only lead to greater and greater joy as a result.
However, since I’d been spending all of my time passionately at work on the book, money was trickling in slower than an intravenous drip. I had also been looking for a publisher, but to no avail. I knew I had to create a better financial flow.
An amusing idea popped into my head. I couldn’t imagine myself actually doing it. But this crazy idea wouldn’t leave me alone. Finally, one day, the only thing left in my refrigerator was the box of baking soda and I decided to just go ahead and do it.
On a Wednesday afternoon during the height of rush-hour traffic, I stood on a meridian at one of the busiest intersections off of the 101 freeway in Mill Valley. I wore high heels, my best dress, a new, naturally curly perm, make-up, and held a giant cardboard sign that read, “Author Seeks Publisher.”
As I performed this “random act of chutzpah,” I was shaking in my shoes. The response I received, however, was overwhelmingly positive. Pretty soon, I was grinning larger than the hookah-smoking Cheshire Cat. Drivers cheered me on, smiled and waved, gave me the thumbs up sign, and shouted, “I hope you get it!” and “Good Luck!” from their cars.
A publisher stopped and gave me his card. In the end, it turned out he wasn’t interested, so I filed his rejection slip in my “Stood Up At The Altar” file along with the others.
A funny thing did occur that day, though. You know the saying, “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get.” Notice the sign read, “Author Seeks Publisher,” not, “Author Seeks Publisher for Book.” That evening, a publisher called to offer me a job as the editor-in-chief of his magazine. I’d applied for the position the previous week, but when I hadn’t heard back from him, I’d thought he’d found someone else, and that was fine with me.
Even though I needed the money, I really didn’t want that job. I didn’t want to compromise my truth, and my truth was, my book was my unfolding dream, not another job at a magazine. Politely, I turned it down.
Then much to my surprise, the publisher made me another offer. He asked if I’d be willing to work the job until he found the right person. This time, I accepted. For one, I really needed the money. And secondly, it occurred to me that perhaps I could make a connection for my book by working at this magazine that I couldn’t make by sitting in my living room waiting for the phone to ring. I worked that job, made tons of connections and furthered my writing career.
Each day continues to brings its share of joys and challenges, its opportunities and blessings. Now, seven years after I had first begun my journey toward consciously choosing happiness, my book has just been published. For all that I have been given and all I have discovered, I am grateful.
Randy Peyser is the author of “Crappy to Happy: Small Steps to Big Happiness NOW!” Order from www.crappytohappy.com , www.amazon.com , or at your local bookstore. She is also the creator of a one-woman show of “Comic Intervention for Closet Visionaries and Almost Manifesters.”
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