When Things Fall Apart

I wrote this post back in August 2014. I reread it recently and thought it still had lessons to teach me, and perhaps you as well.

Things do fall apart

In our lives, things fall apart: We lose jobs, we lose housing, we lose people we love. In those times,we feel lost as well. We feel that we are tossed here and there and long for a soft place to land. We are but blades of grass blowing in the wind.

Life has a way of showing us who’s boss and, as if we needed to be reminded, it isn’t us. 

Often our first response to this type of stress is to grip ever tighter and attempt to control our immediate surroundings. But this is rarely a strategy that results in an end to the free fall nor does it create the soft landing we seek.

Free fall gives way to uncertainty

When I lost my job in December of 2013, I was shocked into the reality of uncertainty. I was uncertain of what to feel, who to blame, and where to go next.

It took several months to get used to the idea that I was no longer a member of the highly functioning team I’d created and built over the last eight years. It felt as if I’d stepped out of a plane and was plummeting rapidly toward the earth without a parachute.

Gradually however, the initial sensation of impending doom gave way, not to comfort, but the realization that uncertainty wouldn’t kill me. It might be very uncomfortable for a while, but I would survive.

It’s been nine months since the day my position and that of my entire team was eliminated and I still feel the uncertainty, but with less intensity. I can’t say that I’m used to the idea of being unemployed, but I’ve been fortunate to transition to consulting, marketing the same skills to a wider audience.

Feeling alone and adrift

When our lives fall apart, we often feel isolated and alone. We tend to retreat from our usual social encounters causing friends to worry about us and nervously adopt a habit of checking in on us to see that we’re eating and not drinking too much.  

We fool ourselves into thinking we are, indeed, alone and isolated. We may dip into the pool of self pity on occasion, telling ourselves that being a bit miserable is part of the process. 

Isolation is always a self-imposed reality. No one forces us to withdraw, to retreat from our circle of friends, or to become a hermit. We choose this. It might be a source of comfort for a while, but it doesn’t last. 

Uncertainty gives way to being

For me, the feeling of uncertainty that followed the period of free fall immediately after my job fell apart, eventually led me to a place where I chose conscious being instead of cloistered isolation. I opted to strengthen my meditation practice by purchasing a zafu (cushion) and zabuton (mat).

I chose to create a period of the day that was always allocated to meditation and reflection. I chose to walk more and even get a new, and personally significant tattoo. Making these choices helped me take action and move forward.

When things fall apart in our lives, we slow down and lose our forward momentum. Making a conscious choice to move forward helps us grow out of the uncertainty into a state of mindfulness, consciously choosing to be fully present again.

Things will continue to fall apart

If I know anything for certain it’s that everything is impermanent. Everything is in flux and is ever-changing. My current state of being mindful of my new reality could change tomorrow. 

One of the lessons that I had to learn was that change isn’t unwelcome and it’s not always detrimental. I wished things would stabilize and remain the same. But you and I know that this is folly. Things will continue to change, to evolve, and at times fall apart.

The key to surviving and growing from these inevitable and unpredictable changes is to live mindfully in the present and when change occurs, approach it from the viewpoint that we have a new present moment and deal directly with what comes our way. 

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