Sometimes life bites.
In my practice, I meet many at the crossroads of life. They are shaken or stressed, anxious or depressed when life doesn’t flow as expected – or, if they are pessimistic, just as badly as they expected.
Accidents happen, relationships end, promotions are missed, we stumble and we fall. The dream job isn’t working out. We need to change our course of study or our course in life.
When life bites hard, it can challenge our routines, our plans and our assumptions. We have to rethink our priorities, our values and goals.
Often I am the bearer of bad news –of cancer that’s metastasized or a new diagnosis of chronic disease. I have seen a 24-year-old with a pacemaker, babies born with fused fingers and toes, lung cancers in non-smokers, brain tumours in young adults, and cancers in children.
I have had patients with more than their fair share of medical misfortune. Acute renal failure following a catastrophic stroke and diabetes. Heart failure following years of chronic lung disease. Multiple unrelated cancers. Some feel that they just can’t win. Life bites too hard and too often.
But my work with patients doesn’t end with the diagnosis. I am there to share both my professional knowledge and human support to help them cope with their new lives and to find meaning in the mess.
Life bites, but it doesn’t have to consume us.
If we look, we often find that life gives us what we need to meet the challenges it presents. We are called to question our direction, affirm our values and find a new path.
Change is the reality of our existence. We can grow and evolve with the challenges of life, adapt, change course and find a new way.
That path remains your personal choice. Though life presents conditions beyond our control, we are called to accept, embrace, avoid or overcome what comes our way. How do we choose? How do we find a new way when the former path is blocked?
When knocked down by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, we must first assess our injuries. How do we feel? The sympathetic ear of a trusted friend or family member can help you cope with the shell shock. If you’re feeling mortally wounded, you can’t shake out of a slump, or you can no longer function at home, school or work, seek the guidance of your family doctor or counselor.
Debrief yourself. What happened? What have you learned?
Accept what has happened and what you are dealing with right now. Letting go of regret can be the most challenging task. It’s often hardest to forgive ourselves. We may regret mistakes made or the path not taken.
Over the course of my own life, I have consoled myself by remembering that I did my best with what I had, with what I knew and who I was at the time.
Reflect on your new direction. Much of the time we run on automatic, working out of ritual and routine, and doing the task at hand without question. When life bites, it wakes us from our sleepwalking and forces us to ask where we are and where we are going.
In upcoming posts, we’ll explore ways to rediscover meaning in your life, redefine your sense of purpose and blaze a new path in life.