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Woman Being Free

The Ocean Waves Blog

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

Sometimes life just gets in the way. It's that simple. You may have a clear vision, a realistic plan, positive motivation, and good support. You may be making progress along the way. And then something happens that is out of your control and you fall off track.

A common response is to beat yourself up with your thoughts and to feel like you blew it. How often do we blame ourselves and feel like a failure? And how hard is it to get back on the wagon once we feel like we've fallen? But, sometimes, no matter how determined we are to reach our goals, life simply gets in the way of you making things happen as planned. Then what? How can you reassess and revise your plan and jump back on board?

Let me share a little bit of my marathon training adventure as I've learned that running is truly a metaphor for life.... Here I am, a 43 year old single mom, in the midst of a difficult divorce, building a women's wellness center, and just determined to run my first marathon.

While inspired by the movie "Wild" to embark on a healing journey, I don't think I could handle even one night of camping out alone in my backyard, let alone the Pacific Coast Trail! However, I admire Cheryl Strayed's incredible strength and perseverance and connected with her story.

As a brand new runner, running along the beautiful Jersey Shore boardwalks has become part of my personal healing adventure. I have not found anything else to be as soothing or empowering as running along side the crashing waves of the ocean. I can release my thoughts into the ebb and flow of the waves, I can inhale the ocean air and breathe in peace, and I can allow each step forward to show my strength and positive momentum in reaching my goals.

I steadily increased my mileage each week and enjoyed the camaraderie of training with my running partners. I even thought I had confronted my fear of training in the cold until Mother Nature "blessed" us with record breaking lows this winter. While I learned to feel invigorated running when the temps dropped under 25, near freezing conditions were another story! Then my divorce became exceedingly complicated with excessive demands outside of my control.

My life started getting in the way of my training ... Clearly, I can't control the weather. And sadly, I can not control the time needed to manage my divorce. Life forces, outside of my control, are now forcing me to reassess my goal.

On a funny sidebar, when I shared my marathon plans with my children, my 7-year old daughter said, "but mommy, you're not going to win." To which I responded, "not only am I not going to win, but at least 1000 people will finish before me."

So, now I'm not only faced with the dilemma of giving up on my goal and feeling like I failed personally, but feeling like I will fail to be a good role model to my children and to my clients. Do I give up because the going got tough? Do I allow my marriage/divorce to prevent me from reaching another lifelong goal? Do I give up because it got a little cold this winter?

I have decided that giving up is not an option. While I need to accept that life and Mother Nature got in my way, I will not allow either to defeat me. And I have a little girl who needs to learn that I don't have to cross the finish line first to be a winner, I just need to continue my own personal journey.

But, I also need to be realistic here. Life got in the way of my marathon goal (that might have been just a little too big for a new runner anyway) and pushing myself too far, too fast, is just not a smart move. Is the risk of physical injury worth a little disappointment and possible blow to my ego?

If I were guiding a client in therapy, the path would be clear. I would encourage her to break her goal down into manageable parts and embrace success at each step. I would never expect a client to push herself too far past physical limits because of fear of letting go of a dream. When outside forces interfere, it's time to reassess where you are, revise the plan, and just keep going. So that's exactly what I'm going to do.

I'm going to run the NJ Half Marathon in 8 weeks and allow myself to embrace the joy and success of completing my first ever half marathon (not such a shabby goal in itself!). But, watch out Philly, because I'll be there for the full 26.2 in November!

Life gets in the way sometimes and we need to learn to accept what we can't control, move past the roadblocks, and embrace what we have the power to change.

 


Embracing Possibility

This isn’t where I was supposed to be.

Plain and simple, I was not supposed to be 44, divorced, and a single mom to two young children. I was not supposed to be starting over in the middle of my life. I was not supposed to give life to my children, to not share in their experiences every other weekend. I was not supposed to have my own father die just after I separated from my husband and I moved out of our home. I was not supposed to feel like I was stepping off a cliff into a life I knew nothing about…

I thought I was supposed to have it all – the perfect family life raising my amazing children, enjoying our beautiful home together, sharing the day-to-day events, and working hard in helping others. And, on the outside, the pretty picture of my “white picket-fenced life” looked exactly how it was supposed to be. But, behind closed doors and behind the painted smile, lay a pain so deep and a sadness so strong, that every bit of who I was supposed to be, was slowing slipping away. There reached a point in which my spirit had all but been shattered. While the outside picture may have looked like it was supposed to look, my inner world was crumbling.

As a psychologist, I often have clients share with me that they are not where they are supposed to be either. They are supposed to be married, supposed to have children, supposed to have a better job, supposed to be more successful, supposed to have an easier life… They were not supposed to have a child with special needs or any other medical concern. They were not supposed to be sick themselves. They were surely not supposed to be traumatized by some horrific event in their life. And they were absolutely not supposed to face the loss of a parent, the death of a spouse, or the heartbreaking death of a child. None of these things were eversupposed to happen to them.   But, sometimes, some things that were never supposed to happen manage to somehow happen anyway.

We simply do not have the ability to control all of the “supposed to’s” that we end up facing in our life’s journey. We do not have the ability to change the past, we can not change poor decisions we might have made at a different time, and we just can not always change the hand of cards we may have been dealt. And sometimes, for no known reason and no fault of our own, we may have been dealt a truly awful, unfortunate, painful, terrible, simply bad hand.

And, so we come to a fork in the road and we pretty much have two choices we can make. We can dwell on the “supposed to’s” and fantasize about the life that we envisioned we would have. We can beat ourselves up for possibly making a different choice in the past than we would make now. We can stay stuck in our grief, worries, sadness, or pain. We can let the “supposed to’s” both consume us and trap us in our own thoughts and our own feelings and we can allow ourselves to feel hopeless about things ever changing.

 OR

What if we can make the choice to accept our circumstances, allow time and effort for healing, and let go of enough of our pain to allow ourselves to just breathe freely in the present?  We can choose to move forward and embrace our journey, albeit a journey that might look and feel very different than what we had previously envisioned. As far as we know for certain, we only have one chance at life on Earth, so in my book, we might as well do everything in our power to make it the best possible life that we can.

Accepting 

Accepting our current circumstances does not mean you have to be happy about your situation. It does not mean you have to necessarily forgive someone else. It does not mean you are not entitled to dream about a different future. Accepting really means that you stop beating yourself up and stop replaying the past over and over in your head while imagining a different ending. Accepting means that you truly acknowledge that you have absolutely zero ability to change anything that happened before this very moment. Accepting means that you truly recognize that you only have the power to control how you yourself think and behave and that you alone are responsible for your own feelings.

Healing 

As for healing, I believe that it’s a bit of a misnomer to think that time alone “heals all wounds.” While the passage of time can help in easing pain and decreasing the intensity of feelings, healing actually requires active energy and effort. Healing does not mean that we forget the past, forget about a loved one, or feel like we have to embrace our circumstances with joy. Healing is about acceptance, understanding, learning from the past, getting “unstuck,” feeling emotionally supported, and allowing yourself to experience peace and happiness, somehow, some way, at least some of the time. Finding something that brings you joy and feeling like you are entitled to have this experience of joy, no matter what happened in your past.

Letting Go

Letting go involves releasing some of the angst or past “stuff” that you have been holding on to. It might mean looking at your self differently, for example, letting go of a victim mentality and embracing the power of being a survivor. It might mean letting go of a relationship that has ended, or needs to come to an end, and creating room for a new relationship. It might mean letting go of the expectation that someone else would change to meet your needs. It might mean letting go of the belief that you could change the past or change present circumstances that are beyond your control. It might mean letting go of the constant tape of replaying thoughts in your mind that prevent you from being in the present moment. Letting go is simply letting go of the past (at least some of the past) in order to create space and energy within your heart and mind for new beginnings.

Moving Forward

As for me, I’m unquestionably not where I was supposed to be. However, I’m exactly where I need to be and the possibilities for peace and happiness in my life are endless. While divorce is never easy, it is sometimes simply a blessing that allows one to grow into the person they were always meant to be after all.

While life rarely turns out to be exactly as you thought it was supposed to be, sometimes, life’s greatest lessons and greatest opportunities come from accepting our hand of cards, enjoying the moment, and embracing the beautiful possibilities that await your next step.