The recession had just hit New York.
I went through a string of jobs I hated, bosses who made me anxious and a breakup that shook me to my core.
I wasn’t sad; I was pissed. I felt totally jipped.
At this time, I was able to identify with my anger, and it became part of my story.
When I felt doubtful or weak, anger created the illusion I felt bold. I became so addicted to my anger because it made me feel powerful, elated and daring.
Life had been an assh*le, but I was still standing.
After a tumultuous year in finance and heartbreak, I decided it was time to go home.
By then, I’d narrowed down I wanted to pursue writing, and I knew I couldn’t do it with the pressures of the big city on my back.
I’d lost hope I was going anywhere. I was certain I wasn’t going to be anyone, and I figured I was going to have to go at it alone.
I knew then my life was in no way empty, but I couldn’t shake the sensation there was no more in store for me.
Though I’m painting a pretty bleak picture, I was actually pretty normal. I was a social, healthy 20-something the majority of the time.
Anyone who knew me might even be surprised to read this, which is why I felt the need to write about it.
No psychologist I’ve ever seen has even blinked during any of my sessions. It appears my form of anxiety was completely normal in this day in age.
“How can people live like this? And for years?” I once asked.
My psychologist stared me straight in the face, almost bored, and said, “People accept it. They just think it’s normal to feel this way, and so they do.”
I knew, coming out of her office, I had to do something different.
It was the first time in my life I realized I wasn’t striving to be normal. I was going to aim for something out of the ordinary.
If people really lived like this, I knew I couldn’t.
I blamed myself for not being able to deal with the jobs I hated. I blamed myself for not being able to just get over the breakup as quickly as everyone else expected.
Why couldn’t I just date someone new and move on, as the people around me had suggested? Why couldn’t I pretend I was comfortable when I wasn’t? Everyone else was doing it.
I heard a lecture once that said hunches are our subconscious minds' way of trying to tell us exactly what we need. If we’re lucky, we pay attention.
I got lucky in the sense that when the itch to go home appeared, a part of me surrendered.
Lost souls always end up going home, right?
I cut myself some slack and gave myself the holidays to settle in and recharge. As the new year kicked in, I began to focus and roll up my sleeves.
Just when I was ready to face it all, my father was diagnosed with cancer.
Then, I wasn’t ready at all.
I only called one friend, and I remember sitting in the parking lot of a super store, waiting for him to show up.
“Is this really happening?” I kept thinking, as the tears streamed down my face.
I cried freely and openly, and I poured my heart out on the leather seats of the car.
I was physically reacting to the news without a filter. I had no conclusions, and I thought nothing. I just felt it all.
Speechless, he let me cry.
Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet and theologian, said:
You have to keep breaking your heart until it cracks open.
My heart cracked open for the first time in a long time, and I began to feel all of those feelings I had spent so much time avoiding.
I felt lost. I felt sad.
But more than anything, I felt tired of being angry.
That year, as my father received his treatment in Houston, I was left to take care of the family business and our home.
I felt alone. I felt left behind.
I could’ve been angry. It kind of felt like everyone was giving me permission to be upset about what was going on, but something in me turned the other way.
I felt sad. There were many times I’d just lie in bed.
I imagined all the families I knew gathering and spending the afternoon together.
I thought about Sundays in New York.
I thought about missing my ex.
I thought about how long I’d be wishing things were different.
Well, I got my wish, didn’t I?
While lying there, I’d reflect on the things I’d been obsessed with for so long.
Yes, those circumstances were upsetting, but they weren't as heavy as the idea of losing my father.
I remembered lying in bed one afternoon and freaking out about something trivial. I obsessed all day, twisting and turning.
The next morning, I got a call from my parents. Things weren’t holding up so well, and my father was growing weaker.
I'd been obsessing about my own mini-dramas, while my father had an incredibly rough day. It was then I realized the idea of the “rough day” needed to take on a new meaning in my life.
As I lied there, I realized, “This is life, isn’t it?”
These are the real trials we have to face, whether we're ready or not.
Although this was a difficult moment for us all, he was still with us. I began to realize it was time to value each and every moment.
My fearfully violent heart was exhausted of blaming. It had been overworked.
Anger had felt like power to me for so long, and this last hit reminded me I was powerless over life’s curve balls. As much as it scared me to let go of the anger I had held on to so dearly, I knew I needed to feel something different.
I was tired of resentment and bitter misunderstandings. I was tired of being “right” all the time. I was tired of having all this evidence proving I had a tough couple of years.
Who cares? Really, who cares if I had a crappy few years?
Wasn’t I still here? Didn’t I still have time?
Who cares if he left? Hadn’t I lived in a great city? Hadn’t I loved someone?
Hadn’t amazing things happened, despite all the sh*tty things? Even after feeling stuck for so long, hadn’t I grown?
I started talking about my feelings, and the more I opened up, the more I’d hear my friends say, “Why on earth are you being so hard on yourself?”
It had never occurred to me that I was.
Just like that, my mind cracked open a little more.
Viktor Frankl said:
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
This is when I dove into learning, books, meditation, exercise, psychology and religion.
I became aware I needed to surrender.
It took me a long time to understand what "surrender" meant.
Surrendering is actually a lot more peaceful than people think. You just loosen your grip and let go.
I read somewhere that surrender is the soul sister of trust. I have issues trusting things will work out without my control, but that’s what it's all about.
I decided what I wanted out of life, what I wanted to feel and what I wanted to exercise. After that, I had to trust the universe would bring it all to me.
I had become very comfortable and familiar with my anger, and the more aware I was about this, the better my anger got at hiding from me.
But, I read somewhere successful people keep at it. So, that’s exactly what I did.
In the end, all the reading and exercise I had done didn’t save me. Eventually, I reached a point of frustration that finally loosened my grip.
One change shifted it all. I took this fearfully violent heart and its vicious fears, and I gave it love.
I prayed. I appreciated. I offered peace.
I started saying “stop” out loud when the rants began. I started going to bed imagining all the things I wanted, as ridiculously impossible as they felt.
I started brushing off the skepticism. I opened up to gratitude, joy and — dare I say it — imperfection.
This is when everything I’d done and everything I’d read finally clicked.
The more I opened up, the more I came to understand I was misusing my greatest strengths.
I'm smart. I’m witty. I have great observational skills, and I can feel people out. I have a knack for feelings.
I was misusing all my gifts.
The world didn't have anything against me, and it was time I realized that.
The universe hadn’t overlooked me in any way.
I learned to stop feeling frustrated about my mistakes and lost time. Everyone becomes stuck somewhere.
This is what life is all about. These trials and misconceptions shape our lives and turn us into the people we are today.
No one is naturally unhappy, unsatisfied or hopeless. We are extraordinary beings capable of being happy and creating meaningful lives.
If we're capable of creating one meaningful moment, how can anyone argue we aren’t capable of creating thousands?
I’ve seen the same world that once denied all my advances bring me things on a silver platter.
Life has a funny way of giving me what I believe it will, but it also has a knack for letting me believe all the negative little conclusions I dare to come up with.
I now understand what kept the business opportunities, great ideas, healthy friendships and love of all kinds at arm’s length.
Violent feelings scare everyone and everything. Violent hearts seek to blame.
Violent hearts go after proof they are in battle. Violent hearts are afraid.
Violent hearts are blind. Violent hearts are not ready to love.
In the years since all this unfolded, I got a lot of things wrong.
But in the end, it didn’t matter. I kept going.
Eventually, just like that, I managed to shape this violent heart into a humble one.