Is life just one damn thing after another?

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I am always a bit perplexed when people ask me how to come up with new material for a blog.  I say, let it come to you!

Like this conversation I described on my new post for Martha Beck’s blog.  I was halfway through writing on another topic when I got this call on my cellphone.  I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I wrote this post as a way to provide support to the caller, "Beatrice."  Real life is better than fiction!

Sand turtle

My cellphone rang yesterday.

"I can’t believe I’m calling you," a woman I will call "Beatrice" said. "I don’t know where else to turn."

"I read Martha’s North Star book a few years ago and, while pursuing a dream job on account of a man, actually made tremendous progress in my career. I have since received national awards for my work.  I never thought it would be possible to get paid for work I love, but I made it happen."

"Now my romantic life is a disaster.  Today was a breaking point.  I was in the Disney store with my daughter and saw an ad for a cheesy movie about a robot who finds love on another planet.  I thought "Even a freaking robot finds love. Why can’t I?" and I started sobbing.  My 25-year old daughter looked at me like I had lost my mind.   I have been divorced for years and have gotten to a point where I am devastatingly lonely.  I don’t even know where to begin to fix it.  Can you help?"

This situation, while extremely painful for Beatrice, is a very common occurrence.

How is it that you can be really together in one area of your life and a wreck in another?  Why can one area of your life skyrocket (career, love life, finances) and the other tank (health, relationship with kids, level of grunge in ring on bathtub)?  Is it just a big conspiracy to keep you from being happy?

I think it is actually a kind and gentle way that life lets you chip away at improving different parts of yourself at different times.   In the complex web of your brain, heart and spirit, all parts of your life are not always in similar states of health and harmony.  This is why you see cases of:

  • The blockbuster actor going to prison for 3 years for tax evasion
  • The successful governor cavorting with prostitutes
  • The supportive husband and excellent father sticking with a dead-end, miserable job

We all become ready for change for different reasons.  For Beatrice, her "Disney meltdown" was a cry for help.  She realized that if she did not attend to this long-neglected part of her life, she was going to lose her mind.  I have witnessed or experienced the following catalysts for major life change:

  • A father finally making a career change after learning that while he was working 200 miles away, his 3-year old son was crying for him in the middle of the night.  Realizing how much he missed growing up with his own father, who had died in the Korean War, he got chills realizing he was not present in the lives of his children.  So he quit his high-paying job the next day, and started a  career working from home.
  • My own health crisis spurred by a toxic relationship.  It took me getting severe pneumonia to finally take action to leave a poisoned relationship.  Lying in bed, wheezing, with a strong fever and not even enough energy to reach the remote control that was one foot away, I realized it was time to change my life.  I picked up the phone and told my best friend for the first time how bad things really were.
  • A successful young career woman radically changed her work and lifestyle after the untimely death of her mother. A now thriving entrepreneur who travels the world for a living told me that what finally moved her to quit her "secure" corporate job was the death of her mother.  Suddenly, it became clear how fleeting life was, and she realized she was in charge of her own destiny.

Whatever spurs you to change, once you are ready, what do you do?

Read the rest here.

4 Responses to “Is life just one damn thing after another?”

  1. Erika says:

    I think essentially what this boils down to is balance. We, as a society I think, struggle with balancing everything in life.

    It’s tough, probably impossible, to have a thriving social life when you’re clawing your way to the top of the work ladder. It’s difficult to be a good parent when you’re spending more time at your office than with your kids.

    I do think balance is necessary, though, in order to be happy and fulfilled. Too much of anything can be a bad thing.

  2. This is so true. We address one area of our lives to find that another area which was very happy has become less so. Although, personally, I would rather be 10 out of 10 in some areas and have a few lows, than be 5 out of 10 in everything?

    Rosalyn

  3. robert says:

    Wow! What a potent post Pam.

  4. I saw an interesting phenomenon over and over again as a personal trainer — instances of a desire for change exerting itself under the guise of a non-controversial “get in shape” goal.

    Aside from people with specifically athletic goals (e.g., run my first marathon,) most of the people who ultimately met with success at changing their bodies had some deeper goal underneath the presenting one.

    One client came to me as part of an effort to regain her health after a year nursing her husband, who had passed away from cancer. Six months later she quit her corporate job, moved to another state, and started a dream business with her father.

    Another complained of feeling generally “weak” — she was about 15% underweight and carrying the burdens of a dead weight partner and a stressful, unrewarding (but lucrative) consulting business. A year (and ten pounds of muscle weight) later she had sold her house, broke up with the partner, began a better relationship, started a nonprofit job she enjoyed, and was exploring graduate school.

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