I went through a phase in my life when I gave up on my future. Maybe we all do. I didn’t believe I would ever be happy again, or successful, or satisfied, or loved. Everything in my world had fallen apart and I couldn’t imagine how I could put Humpty Dumpty back together again. So I gave up. Of course, I wished things were better, but I stopped expecting them to be better. After the death of my husband and my mother, my whole life was contracting, pulling into the hard shell of self-protection, and that’s where I stayed for ten years. Now that fatalism seems like a phase I was going through. I’ve made some discoveries and I’m not giving up anymore.
When I felt hopeless about my future, which I think is a natural response to tremendous loss, it was impossible to imagine how or why I would not give up. I was in surrender mode and I couldn’t see any way of being otherwise. That state of losing faith in myself came with its own dank self-perpetuating brain chemistry, volatile emotions, a vocabulary of criticism and dissatisfaction, and physical malaise. I was living in the half light of depression. After a few years of that, my emotional isolation became a habit. I forgot what it was like to live in the light and look forward, and simply accepted that my glass would always be half empty. Especially as I aged, I believed that emptiness was just the dang deal. I believed the defining characteristic of the years was loss. I was living in a state of loss so deeply that I disappeared into it and lost myself.
But here’s the thing about loss — my life was good before it went bad. Loss is the absence of something that once existed. I had a pretty fabulous life until I lost it. I know I was happy. I remember being successful and satisfied and loved. What changed inside me was what I believed. I stopped believing in the possibilities, those fairy godmothers of hope. Then I wrote my memoir and discovered that my life is just a story I tell myself, and I choose the story. We all do. We spin our way of seeing things based on our experience, our influences, our habits, the repetition of our behavior patterns, the ruts we fall into, and we believe that what we tell ourselves is true. Until things change.
Now in a bolt from the blue my life has changed, suddenly, unexpectedly, radically. My fairy godmothers are swarming, and I see possibilities that didn’t seem to exist before. It’s a surprising event in a predictable life, highly ordered, planned to the four walls around me, governed by to-do lists and self-imposed rules. I didn’t think I could be surprised. I was too busy to be surprised. Then a new place, a new person, a new conversation, a new opening, and everything is changing. Again. My behavior patterns are disrupted, my rut is disintegrating, and I have a new vision for the future. I didn’t see it coming. But, of course, life is a river, not a grid, and the future is changing all the time. New horizons surface. Anything can happen. It’s a different mindset to embrace change instead of resisting it. I believe in the future again and I’m not giving up.