Despite what other people’s lives look like on the surface, I would say that probably all of us, at some time or another have been overwhelmed by fear, loneliness, pain, sorrow, or loss that is so overwhelming we don’t know how to take another step. When we look at what we can see of someone else’s life, we may see everything but hardship. We may see their comfortable home, their loving family, or their outward demeanor and think they’ve never been through what we are going through.
The truth is, though you may not believe it, many people who look pretty well put together on the surface, have been through the wars. My dear husband has told me the story of an earlier marriage when he came home from work to find that his wife had moved out, lock, stock, and barrel. All of her clothes were gone. He hadn’t a clue where she was. For months he looked for her. She left him no answers, a crushing hole in his heart, and financially behind an eight ball, that while entirely manageable for two people, was overwhelming and impossible for one.
Years ago a young man shared with me his haunting childhood memory of coming home from the store, where his mama had sent him, to find that he was locked out of the house. When he rang the doorbell and knocked nothing happened, so he opened the mailbox slot in the door to call out to his mama and saw that she had killed herself and was lying on the floor just inside the house. How could she pass her pain onto her very young son?
As I’ve written in the little bio about myself, I haven’t been spared sorrow or loss. There were various times in my life when I was hurting so badly I didn’t know how to take the next steps. But I have lived to see a much brighter day. I was driven to write this because at this very moment I know several people who are overwhelmed with the hand they have been dealt and find it often difficult to believe that a brighter day awaits them — however much they strive to hold onto that belief every day.
I would like to suggest some things that I have found that have helped me when I have been in my lowest places. None of these things have anything to do with clinical depression, therapy, or medical intervention, which my friend Les talked about in an earlier blog which you can find here.
What I am writing about today are a couple small things that you can do for yourself. When I was at a very low ebb, I started writing a short letter or brief note to a different person every night. I started catching up with old friends. I wrote one before bed every night, at the writing table in the front hall of my old house, with just my cat Radcliffe for company. I did it because I wanted to remind myself that I had friends.
It turned out to be a much bigger deal than I thought. First, because my focus started to be about my friends because I was looking outward rather than looking inward. But also because I started getting friendly letters in return nearly every day.
Apparently, the fact that they’ve been off your radar for years doesn’t stop your old friends from being surprised by opening their mailbox to discover a friendly letter amid the bills and junk mail. In my own life, it had an entirely different effect than reaching out to others by e-mail, phone, or social media. Snail mail letter writing became a necessary part of my life and one that still brings welcome surprises.
The other thing I did was to pray every day: that God would see me through this dark time, and for my family, friends, and everyone I knew who was going through a tough time. I didn’t say general prayers, but prayed for individuals by name, focusing on the various people as I listed them. Besides my prayers possibly being helpful for the other people, the act of saying them turned my own thoughts away from my troubles to focus on others. In some unexpected ways, after I began this, I saw positive changes in my life which were gifts or blessings that came from outside myself.
I have several friends who are not religious at all. Perhaps the idea of prayer may seem way out in left field. I’ve read several books by Jerrold Mundis about debt and earning. Recently I found this quote which I thought was interesting:
I had not prayed for years– decades, actually. I had been strenuously an atheist all my adult life. But I could not help but notice, in this new life without chemicals and without debt I had begun to lead, that everyone around me that had anything that I wanted in my own life– serenity, delight, joy, the capacity to wake up in the morning with enthusiam rather than despair–had some kind of connection with some kind of higher power. However they defined that.
But I could find no authenticity within myself with any prayer I knew or had ever encountered. So, over two or three days, I wrote one myself, one I could say without recoiling in disgust, incredulity, or anger, one I could say with all my heart and being, from the deepest recess of myself, one that I could mean . . . .
I turned the page, and I have to say that when I read his prayer, I laughed out loud. It is funny. This is what he prayed:
“In the unlikely event there is any motivating force in the universe, in the improbability that it is even remotely aware that the species exists, and in the near impossibility that it in any way contributed to anything that is good in my life–I am appreciative.”
Although this amusing little nonsense that he wrote and prayed made me laugh, it proved to be a major turning point in his life. Sometimes it doesn’t take much when we reach out in prayer. Our rather pitiful attempts to open the window a crack to see if there is even a God out there to invite into our lives is sometimes answered by a remarkable life altering roar.
When we are hurt, and at a low ebb we need to stop and reach out, away from our pain and our inward muddled, tired self, to God. We also need to think of other people. Connecting with old friends or acquaintances is helpful. Even when we don’t know what will become of it.
Surprisingly, in my own life, I have found that daily reaching out in prayer, and daily reaching out on paper to friends, started to turn my life entirely around in ways that I could not have imagined when I first started. I can now say with sincerity and truth, that Life is Good.
Dear Ann, I so appreciate your thoughts. This is lovely! You are an admirable woman and I am glad to have you as a friend. Carol