Today’s post will be a bit off the topic of woodworking and my business, but I hope that in some ways many of you will still be able to relate to it. When I first started writing this blog nearly two years ago, I knew there would be days such as this, and try as I do to keep things on topic, but sometimes life dictates that I just have to wander.
I received some important news yesterday. News that was both expected and anticipated. While I don’t really have the need to get into specifics about it, I will say that it is something that affects my life greatly. Perhaps not externally, for when you see me or talk to me you won’t notice any difference. But it affects me intrinsically and as I sit here and write to you, I am breathing a huge sigh of relief.
We all make poor decisions from time to time. While some of them come and go with no lasting consequences, there are others that have lasting effects that linger on and can be very destructive. As we get older, we learn to recognize peril somewhat better, and we learn from our previous experiences and avoid getting ourselves into something that is not good for us. I believe that is why older people are somewhat more conservative, they have experienced the result of this reckless behavior and (the smart ones anyway) have learned how to avoid putting themselves and others around them into bad situations and act accordingly. It is part of getting older.
But then there are people like me. In my longing for finding peace and happiness in my life, I turned a blind eye to reality and jumped into some life-changing decisions without thinking them through completely. And for several years I have paid the price of my recklessness. The cost was high, and cannot be measured by dollars and cents. The toll it took on my spirit and my soul was something that I can’t even begin to measure.
When I first made that decision, I was filled with hope and anticipation of a better life ahead. I felt good because I wasn’t being passive in my life and thought that the only way to better it would be to take action and do something about it. I didn’t want to be unhappy and sit back and complain about things while not doing anything to improve myself. So I changed things. Drastically.
Unfortunately, as the fog began to lift (after the decision and subsequent action was made) I learned the difficult lesson that things aren’t always as they seem. But by then it was too late. I could no longer turn the page back to the previous chapter, and I had to follow through with my commitments, no matter what the cost.
At first I tried my best to make it work for me. But it didn’t take very long before I realized that no matter what I did, it would not. The more I realized the hopelessness of the situation, the angrier I got at myself and I began seeing myself as a person that I didn’t want to be. I was sad, and bitter and a victim of my own doing. I had no one to blame but myself, and I was very hard on myself for being so foolish. I sulked. I behaved poorly. I hardly was able to do any work. I went through a time of darkness and self-pity that got to be intolerable, even to me.
But then something happened. I reached a point when I no longer wanted to feel that way. I didn’t recognize the person I had become. We all have some adversity in our lives. But I was never one to wallow in it. I was never one to be the ‘victim’ and play that role. Why then was I doing it now?
There came a moment when I decided that I wasn’t going to let this beat me. After all, I was the one who made the decision, so I should own up to it and take responsibility for it. As silly as it sounds, there was a defining moment when I decided that my life would no longer be sad and pitiful and that I would make something of myself once again and contribute to this world in whatever way I could. I knew that the road back would be long and difficult, but there was also something inside of me that told me that I would be able to do it. And it was time to try.
Along the way, there were others who helped me. I will never forget their kindness and support. I have friends and family who cheered me on from the sidelines, and I doubt that I could have made it through without them. But ultimately, this had to come from me. I had to be the one to make things work. After all, I was the one who got me here in the first place. And work I did.
Over the past several years, I have found a new respect for myself. Please understand that I say that without arrogance or vanity. I had spent many years not believing in myself or my own abilities that it was very detrimental to my own self esteem and how I view myself. As a result of these mistaken beliefs, I allowed myself to be a doormat and be taken advantage of because I didn’t feel myself worthy of respect. And that in turn caused me to be resentful and depressed and give up hope. But by working hard and doing things that I knew were right, little by little I began to regain the respect I lost. I no longer listened to the negative people in my life and the more I worked at focusing on the positive things, the more they became true.
The best analogy I can apply to this is that it is like stopping a speeding train and reversing the direction. It is not something that can be done quickly or instantly, but it takes time and patience. But each step in the right direction fueled me to move on and before long things started to snowball in the right direction, and I began to see that what I was doing was right. I am still using that momentum to my advantage and I am still seeing the result of it.
I apologize for going on like this, but in talking to so many of you, I know that many of you are going through some great difficulties. I want you to be aware that there are ways to combat them, even if it isn’t always apparent at first. I could have given up three years ago when I believe that I hit the bottom. But then what? I look at all the lives that I have touched in the last three years, and at those people who have touched mine and become my friends and I think that I would have missed out on all of that joy and happiness that they have brought to me. And that would have been tragic.
Today I feel like George Bailey at the end of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I know it sounds silly, but going through hardship has caused me to look back and reflect on my life and how I have affected those that I have met. While my contribution to this world may be small and trivial, I feel that if I can bring happiness to even one other soul for a minute or two, then it is worthwhile.
I don’t have a lot of ‘things.’ I don’t have a huge house or a large bank account. But I do wake up every morning knowing that I am doing something that helps bring happiness and joy to others in this sometimes overwhelming world. And it also brings joy to me. I love what I do and the people that it brings into my life. And that is good enough for me.
My news yesterday marked the end of a chapter in my life. It was a very difficult chapter, one that I would have liked to have avoided altogether. But when I think about it, it is a chapter that contains a very valuable lesson to me because it taught me to appreciate the important things and people in my life and it also taught me to be accountable for myself and my decisions, and to live by them and honor them. But perhaps the most important thing of all that I learned is that we ARE our own destiny. We can choose which path our life will take. But only if we have the courage to stand alone and trust ourselves and patiently work through the adversity.
I can now close that book and move on. Without bitterness, sorrow or regret. While I know that there will be bumps in the road that lies ahead of me, having gone through what I have has empowered me to face anything. I am eternally grateful to you, my family and friends for being there for me. I could have never done it without you. Thank you so much.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"