Inner Strength

I’ve been on a roller coaster ride of emotions for the last few months. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others during this time. I’ve also come to understand how differently certain people can react to the same or similar situations. It just goes to show you that no two people are the same. That’s the beauty of life.

I had a long talk with one of my close friends tonight. I don’t think a topic was missed in the conversation. It started quickly and gained speed as it continued on. There were happy faces, sad faces, confused faces, laughter, blank stares and tears. It wasn’t an easy conversation, but it wasn’t uncomfortable either.

I’ve learned over the years that conversation can be as easy or as difficult as the person you’re conversing with. Some people make talking easy and free flowing. They make you feel comfortable from the start and you do the same for them. Other people make conversing a much larger challenge. It can feel like you’re trying to pull a tooth just to get the person to say something. Then, it can be all but impossible to disagree because feelings are hurt and it ends up in a blame game. Good conversation with honesty is very hard to find. I feel very fortunate to have found that with a few people lately.

I’ve been trying to help a few of my friends lately. Both of these people are facing very similar challenges in their day to day lives. I’ve always been good at giving advice, but I rarely listen to it myself. My actions aren’t always on par with my advice.

People have always told me that they think that I have a tremendous amount of inner strength. A few days after my ex-wife decided she wanted to get divorced we sat down in the living room to have a civil conversation which was one of the last ones I ever had with her. I was reeling with pain. I felt like a total failure in all aspects of my life, but I stored something that she said in the back of my mind. She looked at me and said, “I know you’ll be fine. You’re really strong and you can handle anything.”

For months and months I laid in bed without an ounce of ambition. I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide on the world. I didn’t want people to see me suffering because I finally lost my image of being strong. Now, I looked and felt completely vulnerable. I was vulnerable. I almost think that I had convinced myself that I was strong. Heck, I had practiced meditation, Tai-chi and studied many of the Buddhist beliefs.

Then, those months of hell came. I was lost on an island in the middle of nowhere. Although I had all sorts of people to turn to I was as weak as a mortally wounded soldier. I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know who to ask for help. I didn’t even want to look at myself in the mirror because I felt so horrible.

Before long one day led into the next and the days started piling up behind me. After all of the court battles finished and I got the final paperwork I began my new life. Not until that time did I realize how strong I must have been to make it through the trials and tribulations that I faced. The strength that I thought I didn’t have led me to a really good place. Although I didn’t know that I had the strength others told me I did. I didn’t think I would make it out the other side, but they all knew I would come through. It would be tough, but I would make it. I was amazed that they were all right in their assumption. I did have the strength even if I didn’t know it at the time.

At that time I found a quote that I’ve held close ever since. It reads something like this, “When one door closes another one opens. It might be hell in the hallway until you get to the other side, but don’t stare too long at the closed door that you miss the one that has been opened for you.”

So many people think they have no strength. They actually have the strength, but they let fear rob them of their strength. It’s the fear of the unknown that sometimes causes the paralysis. We get into a comfort zone and we’re too afraid of change that we plod along and accept things as they are. Instead of trying to better ourselves we stay with the routine. Before long the routine leads from one day, to one month to one year to a decade. People become “satisfied” with their lives even if they’re not truly happy.

We are soley responsible for our own happiness. If we are unhappy it is up to us to do something to change things. Our decisions will never be popular with everyone. We can’t live in fear of what others might think or how others may be affected by our decisions. While we have to keep our loved ones in our thoughts we also have to make decisions for ourselves. We can’t get into a pattern where we’re making our decisions based on what we hope the other person will do. When we become adults our personalities and behavioral systems are already formed. When we are adults we can’t continue blaming someone else for our problems. There comes a time when we have to stand up and be accountable for our actions. Many adults never find this ability. It can lead to poor relationships, poor behavior and a lot of anger. The anger comes because they want to blame someone else for the way they are. They might blame a spouse, a parent, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a coach, a teacher or even their pet. No matter who they blame the pattern will continue.  They very rarely blame themselves. They degrade people, call them names and turn things around so it looks like something or someone is the cause of their outbursts. As these things repeat so do the “I’m sorry” speeches after the fact. It could be within minutes or it might be the next day. It always comes following the storm.

Some people live with a lot of guilt. Some of the guilt is probably deserved while much of it probably isn’t. Guilt is a fine edged sword. If you have a loving heart and are truly concerned about others you will most likely experience guilt if you do something that can hurt someone close to you. That’s only natural. However, you must think about the reality behind the situation. When you’re feeling guilty for doing something to better your life is that guilt deserved? You might not have done it the right way, but you are testing the waters to see if you can improve your life and bring things into it that you know you need to fulfill your life. Then, as we’re beating ourselves down we forget amidst the noise and confusion that we might really finally be on a path to something much better and more rewarding for us.  Should you feel guilty at that point? At the point where you found out the hard way that there is more out there for you. There are things that can fill you full of joy and bring great happiness into your life. Should you feel guilty because you’re trying to better yourself and your life?

As the guilt builds there’s nothing you can do to stop it, but the fire still burns on the other end of the candle. The guilt usually hangs on because your heart is so tender and caring. You might have done the wrong thing, but at the same time did the other person feel guilty when they spewed off at the mouth. Did they feel guilty when they put you down? Did they feel guilty when they called you vulgar names? Did they feel guilty when they yelled at you for doing things for your kids? Did they feel guilty when they grabbed you by the arm? The answer is almost always no. The other person might have felt guilty for being an ass, but not for crushing your heart and demoralizing you  with threats. Yes, these threats seem harmless, but they were said with a reason. Although they’re harmless they’re said to hurt and gain control of a situation where they have no control. It’s a very thin line that this type of person walks on.

I’ve probably ranted long enough. I guess I’m just worried about my two friends. They both deserve better than what they’ve experienced in life so far. They both deserve to be happy. If someone lights your candle don’t snuff it out because of the guilt that you feel. Hold your finger close to the light and feel the heat. If you have a long enough nail you might even be able to see a star appear in the flame. If that happens wish upon the star and never forget that you are someone’s star no matter where you are. Be proud of yourself and your ability to realize that you’re just trying to better your own life. You can only take care of someone else so long before it becomes time to take care of yourself. Don’t lose your own identity while you’re trying to help someone else find theirs.

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