I’ve had a tough three years. Lost my job. My marriage fell apart and I was forced to move up to central Michigan to an area where I barely knew a sole to start life over. Also had surgery that went awry leaving me with double vision and a strange looking eye.
Sadly, some of the things were my doing and for that I take the blame. Like the demise of my marriage. Even the loss of my job was, looking back, my fault in that I did not prove to the company I had value and when it came time for layoffs…well, I was toast.
Living back in the woods in the small community of Harrison, I had plenty of time to think, mope, reflect, think some more and ultimately learn a lot about myself and how blessed I was—and am.
Now it’s important to say that although this was a dark period in my life, I really wasn’t tested. I mean I always had a place to stay (I owned the place in the woods). I always had money (although my savings was dwindling away). I always had friends and my family didn’t abandon me. I also had the support of St. Timothy, my church and congregation in Livonia.
Yet it was a difficult time and out of that time came a few lessons of life. And know that I am back to work in the big city and missing my country life (and new friends), I wanted to share them.
1. Never gave up hope.
I always knew something good would eventually happen. Obviously, going back to work is one of those good things, although I don’t know if that is really what I was hoping for in the long-term.
2. Start each day with prayer.
I always had a religious leaning and a fairly active spiritual life but it wasn’t until I lost so much that I developed a more active prayer life that including beginning each day with God and a cup of coffee in my recliner. Maybe I should have been on my knees. There is something about approaching God’s throne on a comfortable recliner that just seems all wrong. But I don’t know if God minded and I liked it that way, especially on cold winter mornings under my blanket.
3. Count your blessings
I started out each day thanking God for the roof over my head, the clothes on my back, the food in my stomach and gas in my car. That number grew and the more blessings I counted, the more blessings I found.
4. Turn outward, not inward.
Allow yourself a little self pity but that’s all. Then get involved with your community and in volunteer work. I got involved in county politics and decided to use the time I had to help others. I always enjoyed volunteering and it seemed a good way to spend time. One quote I saw summed up the reason:
- The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
I also found that volunteering made me feel blessed. If I ever thought I had it bad, volunteering made me realize how lucky I was. Volunteering made me feel fulfilled and happy.
- Happiness is not a goal, it’s a by-product.
4 b. Get connected.
This was tough but I got connected with the community. I found community groups that looked interesting and joined them. I got involved in politics at the township and county level. I started attending a divorce workshop at a local church (Brown Corners) and from there started attending the services, then Sunday School and then a small group study. Strongly recommended. And it’s hard to get engaged in a new community and make new friends when one is middle-aged. However, it beats sitting alone all day (although I can’t tell you that you won’t sit alone all night. I never got that one figured out but usually I was too tired in the evening to care and usually went to bed early).
5. Get your priorities in order
I learned again that relationships matter. Things are nice but they are fleeting. One bible study I attended was for the book One Month to Live as in if you only had 30 days left what changes would you make in your life. Wonderful book and study and a lot of great quotes. I have a number of them up on my wall and you are reading a number of them here.
Forget hate and anger. Hate takes energy and how can you ask others to forgive you if you can’t forgive others? Two more quotes I found:
- The only people with whom you should seek to get even are those who have helped you.
- He who cannot forgive others destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass.
Stay calm. I don’t sweat the small stuff as much as I did.
6. Take time to enjoy life.
Yeah I was out of work but as much as I hated not working and feared running out of money I knew it was also a blessing. It was a time I could see the country. Many people wait all their lives to travel or do what they want and then never get to do so. I spent 43 days on the road in 2011 and 21 days in 2012. How many people in the middle of their work life can do that? Another quote:
- Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. We cannot avoid pain but we can avoid joy.
7. Get closer to God
Not going to say it will work for you but it worked for me. Maybe that should be number one on my list; however I think i’t’ something that developed as time went on. And it happened in different ways and at different times. The closeness developed as I prayed, volunteered, and as I got involved in a church in Clare. At the same time, as I prayed, volunteered, and got involved in a church in Clare I got closer to God.
8. Discover the value of suffering.
Suffering can bring you closer to God—if you let it. At the same time I can understand how suffering can drive a wedge between you and God. Maybe that’s something you have to be out of to really appreciate. It’s the forest for the trees thing.
9. Never give up hope.
I mention this again because it’s so important.
And remember, (last quote) Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start now and make a brand new ending.