I’m not sure if there’s an easy way to learn the lessons of life, I just know that if there is, I haven’t taken it. I have made a lot of mistakes. I think I want something and then once I realize I don’t, it’s too late.
Last year, I packed up my whole life (2 dogs, 1 cat, 1 understanding partner and whatever else we could fit in a tiny Honda Civic) and moved across the continent. The reason for this change? Me, thinking I knew what I wanted.
Once we arrived, I promptly decided I had made a huge “mistake”. In reality, mistakes don’t exist. We can always learn something.
When the things we fear happen (like making a huge mistake), it is sometimes as tough as we imagined. It’s also liberating, if you can accept your situation. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my frequent mistake-making.
The waves keep coming.
When you are young and something upsetting happens (maybe your first breakup), you get through it and then pick yourself up and say “now I can get back to my life”. Then, you are surprised when something else comes along and uproots you again.
Life is a series of ups and downs. We can never expect to avoid all difficulties or have everything figured out. There is never a point you will reach when you have it figured out and you will be immune to the realities of being human.
Pema Chodron, a buddhist meditation teacher, explains this as never-ending waves. You are standing in the ocean, and a wave knocks you over. Then another.
The goal is not to stop the waves – that would be impossible – but learn how to steady yourself so that each hit is not so devastating.
There is a season for everything.
During a period of time where my partner and I both experienced episodes of chronic illness, we ate takeout more than I would like to admit. I sometimes took the dogs on a 10 minute walk and then we all went back to bed. I cancelled plans with friends on multiple occasions.
And I’m okay with it. This season of life for me has required a fierce commitment to rest and healing. I take care of myself at the expense of anything else that gets in the way.
It’s okay to go through times in your life that look really different. Life is always evolving and what you need might be something restful now or to be really social or to take a last minute vacation. Just allow yourself to have the experience you feel you need and don’t worry what you “should” be doing.
I am resilient and you are too.
This was my experience: when you manage the thing you thought you could never manage, you have no choice but to accept how strong you are.
I’m not saying I did any of this managing perfectly; I made terrible mistakes, said the wrong thing, felt immense pain. But I’m still here. I take difficulties as an opportunity to learn about my resilience and what I can survive.
I can survive a lot. Sometimes it’s not pretty – but I’m happy to be alive. You can borrow my affirmation when I catch myself thinking I can’t handle what’s happening: “I will survive this. I am going to be okay.”
There is nothing to fear anymore.
So, some of my worst fears have came true. Maybe yours did too, and that’s why you chose to read this article. It can be a relief to know that you don’t need to be afraid of this anymore. Once it’s happened, you don’t worry about it happening anymore.
You are free from the fear. Of course, you would never choose this if it was in your control, but now that it’s happened, you can let go of your fear. You can let go of the fear of this specific thing and also the fear of other troubling things happening. You will keep learning how to steady yourself.
I have no doubt that you have suffered and I wish you healing. I wish for you to be able to learn from this experience and get whatever you need to feel at peace. Remember, you can survive this.