I pulled my coffee cup from the brewer and slid into to my kitchen chair. I picked up my pen to journal but there were so many thoughts fighting for space that none could win their way out onto the paper. All I could muster were tears. I had recently called off my wedding. I was in debt up to my eyeballs. My company had been purchased and my job was uncertain. In that moment a few years ago, I felt powerless to the landslide of changes pummeling into my life, even though I was the one who caused most of them.
You could call it a “rock bottom” moment, which I define as hitting my upper limit of pain. I feared making the same relationship mistakes again. I wondered how I’d rebuild financially. Relationship wise, I thought maybe my “picker” was broken. I criticized myself for not being able to figure this out and wished for a roadmap to help me make the right future decisions.
Have you experienced, or are sensing you need to make, what feels like a world-rocking life or career decision? Today, many of us are experiencing one that isn’t of our choosing. If you’re like me, sometimes the fear of the unknown is worse than the chaos of the known.
I think what caused the most stress was an identity crisis caused by all of the changes – If I’m not a wife, then who am I? If I don’t have this job or group association, then who am I? Who am I without my title, routines and status at work (kids don’t listen to you like your employees do.)
You see, my ego had confused my “who“ with my “do,“ and the untangling of those – that I am not what I do – can be a soul-searching process.
What Didn’t Work To Rise Up
Fixing It: I overthought my problem and considered just going back to what was, but that didn’t fit. To paraphrase Einstein, “the same level of thinking that got us into the problem can’t get us out of the problem.”
Numbing It: Either through busyness or ignoring it, I tried to stuff it away.
Ruminating Over It: I hated the feeling of not knowing what was going on, but worry seldom surfaced answers that brought relief.
But there was one simple thing I did in all of my low moments. I felt the urge to take a long walk, which is interesting, because navigating difficult transitions is a bit like exercise. Muscle must break down so it can rebuild stronger. We, too, must break down to build back up – to shed what needs to go and make room for growth.
Much to our disliking, this process doesn’t happen in one day, but consistently over time. Just like we don’t get fit from one workout, we don’t experience a season’s worth of personal growth in one day. Additionally, what grows a muscle is not overworking it. Counterintuitively, what grows a muscle after it’s been worked is rest, food, and oxygen.
What moves us out of rock bottom moments is not trying harder to fix it in one day, but consistently acknowledging the pain of new growth.
How I Used Walking to Find Wisdom
Every week, I took a long walk by myself. Many times, I didn’t bring headphones. I wanted to find a space to be with nature, get contemplative, and allow space to hear anything God wanted to tell me.
Here’s a simple coaching tip I’ve personally used to get through my toughest moments. Take your problem on a walk outside. Take notice of things that really catch your eye – an animal, a flower, a tree, a unique rock or path. Ask, “If this tree (or object) had my problem, what would it do?”
My answer in one walk was: Drop its dead leaves. Store nutrients for winter. Bloom when ready. Stay firm in storms. Accept seasons, don’t resist them. Know its value. Be loved. Build strong roots.
Then I asked myself: How can I drop what doesn’t belong, stay firm, know my value, be loved, and build strong roots?
This didn’t give me concrete answers, but it created an inner confidence shift that in the moments where everything feels lost, I was free to be the creator of my future.
The unknown seems to hurt because we have little tolerance for it. It was helpful for me to turn up my dial for tolerance of some unknown. If I can offer a mantra, the one that helps me settle down is, “I have no idea what’s going on, and that’s ok.”
I guess you could say that I walked myself up and out from rock bottom. When things feel like they’re falling apart all around you, how could that be the universe removing what is no longer serving you? Could it give you the creative freedom to rebuild the life you were meant to live in the first place?
I share coaching insights every week to help women rise confidently. Join my inner circle: www.kelliraethompson.com/subscribe.