Turn toward the future. Pack your old baggage up and make room for future adventure and dreams. As your feet take you forward one step at a time, they will follow your line of sight. Keep your eye on your dreams and create a bright future.
You feel like your life is over. You've lost a husband, lover, job or home, anything that leaves a hole so big that you feel like you’re never going to be the same. That's the bad news. The good news is you're never going to be the same. You are going to be better, wiser, stronger, and anyone you choose to be. The only limits you need to worry about are the limits you select.
An amazing thing happens when you lose something. Space opens up in your world for new things and you get to decide how to fill it. You can fill it with anger, regret and revenge or you can fill it with goals, dreams, hard work and new accomplishments.
When bad things happen or your life is catastrophically out of balance, it may feel impossible to dream. There is a pattern and a process to recovery. Part of that process is grieving, allowing ourselves to mourn loss, any loss including death, divorce and moving away from family or friends.
If you haven’t already done it, allow yourself to grieve, cry, shout and spend time mourning. You may feel that if you start crying you will never stop. Don’t worry, you will stop. It is important to process our feelings in order to clear them out and make room for future feelings. If it is a major event like death or divorce, consider working with a therapist.
Then take an honest look at what has happened. What did you have control over? What did you not have control of, and what can you control or change now? What do you want to repeat or avoid. Be wary of shame. Shame is an emotion that serves us by encouraging us to change, but it should not be used to beat ourselves up. Avoid becoming trapped in the cycle of shaming and blaming yourself. Just give your life an honest review and be prepared to move forward.
Allow yourself to dream. Immediately following an earth-shattering event, pursuing a dream may feel impossible, but give it an honest effort. Set aside financial, physical and other limits. Ask yourself questions like the following:
If I could live anywhere in the world where would I live?
If I could do any job or be anything in the world (sky is the limit), what would I do or become?
If I could look like anything I wanted to, how would I look?
If I could spend time with anyone in the world I wanted to, who would I spend time with?
Write your answers down and begin to create a dream, a picture of you. There are days when we feel like we are shadows of who we could have been if the world had not beaten us up so badly. Look beyond that shadow and see who is really in there. Is your dream-self an artist, a veterinarian or a hair dresser? Does your dream-self live in the desert or on a beach and with friends or family? After you have a picture of who you would like to be, write down concrete goals that can help you become your dream-self. Don’t limit yourself. I remember having a conversation with a family member about my nephew who is interested in acting. They felt strongly that my nephew needed a backup career in case he failed at acting. I told them not to plan for his failure. He should only plan for success. My nephew is currently playing an important role in a movie and is well on his way to success. He has only just begun. The sky is literally the limit. Yes, he might have to pump a little gas along the way, but at least he is going in the direction he chose and so can you.
You need to realize that in a new town or at a new job, no one knows anything about you except what you choose to share. So often following a traumatic experience like a divorce or abuse, we begin identifying ourselves to others as a victim or survivor and we carry our label around like a bag of heavy rocks. It is like we believe that everybody can read the invisible label like, “divorced,” or “victim of abuse.” No one sees us that way. We don’t have to sort all our old baggage in public every day. We can save it for therapy and leave the old suitcases packed and at home.
Look to the future. Behave like the person you want to be. If what you want to be is happy and thin, then look in the mirror and smile. Eat and exercise like a happy, healthy person. If you want to be an artist, buy paint and set up a studio. If you don’t know the first thing about art or selling the art you already have, Google it, take classes and find a mentor.
Break large goals into small bite-size goals. Create a check list and achieve your goals one-by-one. For example, if you're divorced and feel like you have lost not only your spouse, but also your friends, create a future with new friends by setting small goals like the following list:
Serve at a charity and meet new people.
Join a church and make one friend.
Ask someone at work to go to lunch.
Day by day, step by step, you will become someone you like and will build a future filled with accomplished goals and dreams that you made come true. Learn from your past, but turn toward your future, put your old bags down and revel in the opportunity to fill the empty spaces in your life with new and exciting things.
As your feet take you forward one step at a time, they will follow your line of sight. Keep your eye on your dreams and create a bright future.
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh