It was only 6:00 AM and the roads were already covered with snow. I was slated to present at a conference in New York the next morning and my flight was at 3:00. The weather channel said the storm would be over by noon, but Delta had canceled several afternoon flights already. I thought of […]
In one year, Carmen’s* life fell apart. First, her husband left her and moved in with one of her best friends. Unbeknownst to her, he had borrowed money over the years to cover expenses and they were in debt. She loved her house but could no longer afford it. Just when she came up with a plan to rebuild her ravished finances, she was laid off. Finally, her youngest daughter left for college.
Childless, houseless and jobless, Carmen was lost. Her anxiety level, which was high under the best of circumstances, skyrocketed. She had grit, but she lacked a larger perspective. Without a developed spiritual life she could not see any purpose or have a framework to process all she had endured. She worked hard and was a good mother and wife, but her good behavior did not matter. Life was not fair. She upped her anti-anxiety medicine and tried to push down her bitterness.
Carmen’s bad situation is made worse by her unexplored spiritual side. She has no belief or theory about what she is doing here or what it all means. There is no larger reason or even a philosophy to help her weather hardships. When the going gets rough, she pours an extra glass of wine and ups her medication. There is nothing wrong with these coping tools except they do not create happiness.
Part of reason Carmen never thought much about the meaning of life is because she never bought into any of the explanations provided by her early religious education. God and his self-appointed representatives on earth did not seem to be helping her much. By early adulthood she had thrown all of that religious and metaphysical stuff out the window. The only thing she could depend on was herself. She would remedy her anxiety herself and not worry about what it all means or what happens later.
There are many stories about people like Carmen who hit rock bottom, discover their true selves and find peace of mind. Eckhart Tolle and Neale Donald Walsch come to mind. We are told pain will force you to take action. When you lose everything you will let go, understand what is important and be full of gratitude. But why wait? Why let agony be your teacher when it is so much easier to learn when life is not in spiraling down the sewer. While some people learn best when under pressure, Carmen is too stressed and angry to think about anything except surviving the day and putting one foot in front of the other.
Look around. Unless you are exceedingly lucky, something hard is coming your way. Your beliefs will evolve in response to those circumstances but a solid sense of purpose and a reason you are here will help tremendously when challenging times come. Now is the time to find something to believe in.
*Not her real name.