A couple of years ago, I went through some deep shit of my own making, and having come out the other side of it all in one piece, I’ve learned a few things.
For starters, I’ve learned that most, if not all, of the chaos that happens in my life is self-created. There’s almost never anyone out to get me. I either do something stupid, or when something happens, I have a self-destructive reaction to it and compound the original incident with my own nuttiness.
One of the ways this happens is by buying into lies that swirl around inside my mind most of the time. I imagine we all carry around a headful of lies and fears that originated around the time we had our first conscious thoughts: you’re not good enough; you’re not smart enough; nobody likes you. And on and on.
In my experience, those lies have always been there, and most of the time, I’ve been able to overrule them with rational thought and a boot-strapper’s mentality towards life. I got into trouble when a couple of bad things happened in succession, around the time of the big recession back in 2008, and I gave into those thoughts. Once you start buying into lies, they quickly pile up on you.
At first, the lies were about what I was lacking, and then they morphed into what was wrong with my life and those around me. I suppose that morphing was a survival impulse that kept me from getting overwhelmed by the accumulation of accusations – a kind of blame-shifting that made some outside force or forces responsible for what I thought was wrong with me.
As the spiral tightened on all that negativity, the lies grew worse until I finally crashed and had to deal with truth.
At first, the truth seemed like a lie. And then, it just seemed impossibly hard. And then, one day, I had an insight. I realized that by buying into a reality where everything was wrong, I was closing myself off to the possibility of what was right to the point where I couldn’t even see it anymore. I realized that somewhere along the way, I’d stopped counting my blessings.
Once I realized that I wasn’t taking the time to consider all the positives in my life, I immediately began to take a daily inventory of things that I was grateful for. If you grew up going to Sunday school, you may remember a song called “Count Your Blessings.” The refrain goes like this:
Count your blessings, name them one by one
Count your blessings, see what God has done
Count your blessings, name them one by one
Count your many blessings, see what God has done
“Count Your Blessings” – by Johnson Oatman
It’s amazing the amount of perspective I gain each day, just from pausing to think about the many blessings are contained within it. Even when I’ve had the shittiest day imaginable, I can point back to the love of my wife and children, a decent job, good friends, good health and a host of other things that are abundant in my life. And when I’ve remembered to do this, I’ve never failed to gain a new perspective on the problem that was causing me so much stress.
I was reminded of this tonight, after dinner, when I had a conversation with my 15 year old daughter about a stressful time she’s having with a close friend. It’s so easy, as a 49 year old, to look at the problems of 15 year olds and shake your head and laugh at how dramatic they’re being over what seems so trivial. But when I remember back to how high the stakes seemed to me at that age over the same kinds of trivial stuff, that’s when I begin to take my daughter’s problems more seriously because this is the first time she’s dealing with this stuff.
At a point in our conversation, as we were talking about how to approach this friend, we talked about this business of counting blessings and I was so blessed to hear that my daughter had heard a message like this from my wife not too long ago, and it was a key in pulling her out of a bad spell. Hearing that was certainly one of my blessings for today.
My prayer is that she’ll somehow be able to communicate this wisdom to her friend who’s also having a hard time seeing anything positive in the world. If this negativity is simply a matter of buying into lies and negativity, I pray that this individual will stop and consider everything, rather than just what’s wrong. Maybe in doing that, a new perspective will be gained that shines enough light to overcome the darkness.