My life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.
Does it ever, really?
Death, however certain it is to come, is a current that sweeps the rug out from underneath us when it does. It shakes all the leaves from our trees, blows through our home, overturning every piece of furniture we had carefully placed, upending our plans, throwing us to the ground. Humbled. Disoriented.
I know it.
My brother died. My father died. My world changed dramatically each time.
We lose some.
We gain something else.
If we let them, the great tragedies in our lives show us how to live better this time around — as though we’re stepping into a new life, this “life after.” And when we’re willing to do that, the future, even though it closed one, opens up one of its many other hands with something else: another chance.
There are a lot of things we can do with our lives after we’ve been through hard times. It’s not required, but I think we ought to take it as a chance to love better.
It doesn’t have to be the death of a person that we’re grieving. I’m talking about the death of life as you knew it, whatever happened.
Whatever happened in your life that turned your whole world upside down, that was the beginning of another chance for you. Whatever uprooted your dreams turned out to be the seed of what else can be.
And you have a say in “what else can be.”
You can grow bitter and hard or learn how to soften. You can point fingers and outsource your power, or you can do the inner work. You can ignore your feelings, or you can be honest with yourself about where you are and what you need.
Whether you could’ve or couldn’t have changed how things played out in the past, you have a say in how you lead your life now.
You have a say in your own growth, in your own level of compassion.
You have the power to shape your own thinking now and to reshape your memory of the past.
You can choose to face the pain inside of you so that you can transform it into something useful for others — that so happens to be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen anyone do.
I call that choosing to love again, because of all you’ve been through.
The decision to love again, for me, means the chance to be a better companion to myself, to others, and to the earth. It means forgiveness and patience and generosity.
The decision to love again, for you, could mean a million different things.
Helping others who are going through what you’ve been through is love.
Talking honestly about how you feel with people who care is love.
Keeping the door to your heart open after it’s been broken is love.
Standing up for what you need and believe in without putting others down is love.
Forgiveness is love.
Patience is love.
Releasing expectations and settling into gratitude instead, anyway, is love.
All of that is courage, too.
So your life didn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Now what will you do? Now who will you choose to be, for yourself and for the people around you?
The way you lead your own life matters to someone else.
When you choose to listen and understand instead of judge and rage, you bring more peace into your own world and into the world around you. You start to relax inside while others fret over the small things. You remember what’s important, and what’s not.
That is love, too.
You know what’s love by the way it feels.
For me, love feels like a breath of fresh air, a steady heartbeat, a loved one lost remembered with a smile. It feels like hope and sunlight and freedom. It leaves no room for regret or fear.
I’d rather live one lifetime like that — heartbreak, love, heartbreak, love — than a thousand lifetimes with my heart closed, feeling nothing at all.
It may not be the easiest life, but what’s the alternative? I’ll take it all and give thanks for the experience.
… which is not to say that bitterness doesn’t still linger or that I’m not still working on all of this all of the time.
I’m a process.
You’re a process.
Choosing to love your way through the rest of your life comes in steps, in moments, in lessons. It doesn’t happen overnight or in the wave of a wand (how nice that would be!).
Your life after is a process, too, one that deserves patience and the opportunity to unfold. Give your life another chance. Give love another chance.
Give yourself that much.
. . .
How do you choose to love again, even after everything you've been through?
Please, tell me in the comments. You never know what someone else needs to hear, or read...
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