Is life just one damn thing after another?

by Pamela Slim

My cellphone rang yesterday.

“I can’t believe I’m calling you,” a woman I will call “Beatrice” said. “I don’t know where else to turn.”

“I read Martha’s North Star book a few years ago and, while pursuing a dream job on account of a man, actually made tremendous progress in my career. I have since received national awards for my work. I never thought it would be possible to get paid for work I love, but I made it happen.”

“Now my romantic life is a disaster. Today was a breaking point. I was in the Disney store with my daughter and saw an ad for a cheesy movie about a robot who finds love on another planet. I thought “Even a freaking robot finds love. Why can’t I?” and I started sobbing. My 25-year old daughter looked at me like I had lost my mind. I have been divorced for years and have gotten to a point where I am devastatingly lonely. I don’t even know where to begin to fix it. Can you help?”

This situation, while extremely painful for Beatrice, is a very common occurrence.

How is it that you can be really together in one area of your life and a wreck in another? Why can one area of your life skyrocket (career, love life, finances) and the other tank (health, relationship with kids, level of grunge in ring on bathtub)? Is it just a big conspiracy to keep you from being happy?

I think it is actually a kind and gentle way that life lets you chip away at improving different parts of yourself at different times. In the complex web of your brain, heart and spirit, all parts of your life are not always in similar states of health and harmony. This is why you see cases of:

  • The blockbuster actor going to prison for 3 years for tax evasion
  • The successful governor cavorting with prostitutes
  • The supportive husband and excellent father sticking with a dead-end, miserable job

We all become ready for change for different reasons. For Beatrice, her “Disney meltdown” was a cry for help. She realized that if she did not attend to this long-neglected part of her life, she was going to lose her mind. I have witnessed or experienced the following catalysts for major life change:

  • A father finally making a career change after learning that while he was working 200 miles away, his 3-year old son was crying for him in the middle of the night. Realizing how much he missed growing up with his own father, who had died in the Korean War, he got chills realizing he was not present in the lives of his children. So he quit his high-paying job the next day, and started a career working from home.
  • My own health crisis spurred by a toxic relationship. It took me getting severe pneumonia to finally take action to leave a poisoned relationship. Lying in bed, wheezing, with a strong fever and not even enough energy to reach the remote control that was one foot away, I realized it was time to change my life. I picked up the phone and told my best friend for the first time how bad things really were.
  • A successful young career woman radically changed her work and lifestyle after the untimely death of her mother. A now thriving entrepreneur who travels the world for a living told me that what finally moved her to quit her “secure” corporate job was the death of her mother. Suddenly, it became clear how fleeting life was, and she realized she was in charge of her own destiny.

Whatever spurs you to change, once you are ready, what do you do?

Martha’s Finding Your Own North Star is the robust road map for doing this work, and clearly lays out a methodology for how and what to do. Her new book Steering by Starlight expands and deepens this work. But if you don’t have a lot of time to read, here are a few shortcuts, drawing from some previous posts on this blog:

  1. Commit to working on this part of your life. Beatrice’s Disney meltdown moment was powerful enough for her to pick up the phone and reach out for help. She is interested in working with a coach to help her navigate what feels like the shark-filled waters of attracting a loving partner. Your defining moment will be different than anyone else’s, and may not even be voluntary, but it is worth it to step into the Ring of Fire.
  2. Examine your thoughts and feelings on this topic. Beatrice and I spent a short time on the phone, but I could tell that she had some powerful thoughts and feelings about love and relationships that were causing her a lot of suffering. Common limiting beliefs in the area of relationships can be things like:
    -All men are dogs
    -I am not lovable
    -In order to have a strong relationship, I have to give up my own needs
    -I will find love only when I lose 50 pounds/clear up my acne/finally get a nose job
    -Love hurts
  3. Once you zero in on some thoughts or beliefs that cause you suffering, apply the 4 questions from The Work:
  4. 1. Is it true?
    2. Can you absolutely know that it is true?
    3. How do you react when you think that thought?
    4. Who would you be without that thought?

    and

    Turn it around.

    Master Coach Brooke Castillo put together some more tools and information on Self Coaching here.

  5. Leverage the strength you have in one area of your life for others. Beatrice told me that she totally amazed herself with the progress she made in her career. Although the process she used to get there was not ideal (In her words, “I want to make sure that I point out that I wound up with the job of my dreams because I wanted a relationship with the man I worked with. He is one annoying human being and I drove myself to reach far beyond what I ever I had before because I was trying to prove to him I could do it and I wound up proving it to myself in the process. I wasn’t exactly trying to become what I became, it just happened and then I realized 18 years ago that it was secret desire I had harbored all along. I just literally came to the point where I couldn’t keep waiting for him but by that point I was at the top of my field. I’m not sure if you’d want to recommend that method to anyone – however I think it does fall along the lines of what Martha mentions about being so attracted to someone or something that it leads you where you’re supposed to be.”)
    Regardless of how you got there, if you feel ease and strength in one part of your life, use it to remind yourself that you are capable of taking on huge challenges and succeeding.
  6. Create a positive, supportive Everybody to help you along. In Is there a conspiracy by The Man to keep you down? I describe the broad, generalized, highly judgmental “Everyone” that keeps many people from making progress in their life. You know that you need to do some Everybody juggling when your soul screams out “I must make a change in my career!” but your mind says “But everyone will think I have lost my mind if I change my job! When you surround yourself with good thoughts and supportive people, the process of change is much more manageable.
  7. Take turtle steps. Making major life changes (starting a business, looking for a life partner, cleaning up financial chaos) can bring up a tremendous amount of overwhelm and panic. If you try to tackle the whole thing, you will most likely end up on the floor of your bedroom in the fetal position. We are very fond of turtles around the virtual halls of Martha Beck Inc. (hence the photo!) and have seen the power of slow, steady, steps for making significant change. For a cool tool, try a 4-Day Win.

I am honored that Beatrice had enough trust to share her innermost fears with a total stranger (me). And that she agreed to let her own struggle be a point of education and support on this blog for others (you) who face similar challenges in your own life.

An encouraging sign? Beatrice and I are already laughing in our email exchange about the Disney meltdown moment. She was the one that suggested her pseudonym: “Call me Beatrice, Much Ado About Nothing!” When you start to laugh at what has felt deeply painful and frightening, you know you are squarely on the path to your own North Star.

Happy travels Beatrice — we are cheering for you.

If you have any advice or encouragement, chime in with your comment!

Comments

  1. says

    I can’t give any advice today. But I received a lot of encouragement from your post. To laugh in the face of adversity has been one of my biggest challenges. But strangely enough it works. Thanks for this post I needed it.

  2. admin says

    I’m glad Mark!

    We all need this kind of support at one time or another. I am so glad it reached you when you needed it.

    Take good care, and thanks for reading!

    -Pam

  3. says

    Pam,

    Loved the Blog. It’s amazing how help comes when you reach out for it. Most of us think we should have the “perfect” life when in reality we don’t know what that means or how to achieve it. That’s why working with a Life Coach is an invaluable experience. I believe that our deepest pain leads us to our greatest achievements which makes the Ring of Fire a wonderful experience once you’re brave enough to go through it. I wish her all the best in her quest to love Beatrice knowing that this love will magically bring her the ideal life partner.

  4. says

    I too went through a life crisis like the Disney meltdown only opposite. I was watching “Beaches” and I mentally knew it was a very sad movie and I should be crying but I wasn’t—I didn’t feel a thing. I made a declaration that moment to feel everything, to no longer run away from my true self, and it caused me to be horribly sick for the next week. Those pent up emotions literally laid me out.

    At the end of it all, I got back in touch with my soul and my heart. I left my high pressure corporate job that was killing me and my verbally abusive marriage. I made it through it. I got free.

    Now, I work for myself, have a wonderful amazing man, and I am happy. To me, it goes to show that Life offers us such amazing chances for change when we are ready for it. I am grateful for my own revelation and I am also thankful that you have written to eloquently about how we can all manage our own. Thanks!
    Vicki Flaugher

  5. Beatrice says

    Number one, thank you all for your stories and encouragement especially Pam who listened when I got choked up explaining that a Disney robot made me cry in front of my daughter. A thought, as silly as it sounds, just occurred to me and I just want confirmation that I’m not insane. I’m allowed to want what I want – what I want in my heart, right? For instance, where I want to live, what the house looks like, how comfortable it is, I want to share my life with a man, a good man who wants me, I want a great job that fulfills me, I want adventures like sailing on a tall ship and learning photography. I swear to God, nearly everyone I know keeps telling me I’m unreasonable, I shouldn’t want to have the exact life I want and it just occurred to me how ridiculous it sounds to advise someone not to go after the life they want. I know this sounds so elementary but when you’re raised by people who never believed you could have the life you want, it’s hard to get past that. And I just realized I really do have a right to have the life I want, I don’t think I ever really believed that before. Wow! I’m right, right? Thanks again, Beatrice

  6. says

    I loved reading this blog! Pam Slim, you are a master. Beatrice….you are right for sure. You can want what you want, and create the life you want.

  7. Christine says

    I’m new to this blog – I stumbled across it looking for something entirely different. I guess I can chalk-up this particular left turn to serendipity, as I benefited greatly from the post. I’m in the middle of an assertive-reinvent-myself moment and about every six seconds or so (but who’s counting) I question some of the changes I am initiating. I have been terribly unhappy with my geography for some time now, and moving is an anxiety point for me. So, stuck I have been (says Yoda). That situation is about to change and a move is on the horizon. In other words, my world is about to be turned upside down. Your post reminded me that the temporary cost of discomfort is well worth the eventual payout of mental and spiritual peace. Thanks – I needed that.

  8. says

    I am always amazed at how whatever I’m feeling, good or bad, if I put a little thought into changing, I’m led somewhere that makes me feel better. That makes no sense. I can’t explain it. At any rate, I picked up Martha’s book, Finding Your Own North Star, after starting it several months ago and then misplacing it. I found it in my laptop bag from a ski trip and have been toting it around in my truck for 2 weeks now, still not starting it again. The past two weeks have been so incredibly stressful. This morning was horrible because I changed my pants at least 4 times b/c I feel so fat and UGH!!!! But I am at my office alone today to give an exam to students–so I finally picked up the book and brought inside with me and decided to read while the students did their tests. Immediately I felt better. The students are gone now and I decided I would check out Martha’s site. I first clicked on her schedule and was reminded that she is on Oprah today–where I first saw her. Then I click over to the Blog link and scan through the topics and read this one–wow–just right there and one line says it all to me: “Take turtle steps. Making major life changes (starting a business, looking for a life partner, cleaning up financial chaos) can bring up a tremendous amount of overwhelm and panic. If you try to tackle the whole thing, you will most likely end up on the floor of your bedroom in the fetal position.” HELLO????? Of course, as always and because I’m a self-proclaimed over-achiever, I’m trying to find a new job, move in a month, get out of a financial mess, AND I’m worrying over my weight? Good grief….one thing at a time, LTP (my initials)….so THANK YOU everyone just for having your comments on here for me to come across, for making me realize I’m not the only person in the world going through stress, and that I can do this–even if it’s slower than a turtle. There is no deadline…I have to keep telling myself that!

  9. Barbara Monroe says

    One damn thing after another…for 57 years! I thought finally my husband and I had made it. I found my soul mate by just envisioning him 20 years ago. I envisioned building our dream home and it became a reality 10 years ago, though pretty much on a shoe string. Then after my husband had a heart attack and we were both laid off, I envisioned us starting our own construction company. Each year we had exponential growth. Then, even though the voices were warning me, the business hit a wall. It was due to many factors, my health, bad decisions, even worse, bad clients.

    The stress is overwhelming. Though the business afforded us many things over the years, it began to envelop our whole lives, eating us away. It slowly started to erode my health.

    I suffered a grand mal seizure a year ago and many smaller ones since then. Depression set in, exhaustion, etc. We are broke. I know we have the tools to start over, but in your late 50′s it is not so easy.

    I watched your show on the Laws of Attraction and have had many emails on the same. I know this! I’ve known this all my life. Wake Up, I told myself. For the first time in my life I feel so despondent. My children, who I’ve supported in so many ways all their lives, are apathetic. I still give and give emotionally with not much in return.

    After watching your show, I made the vision board on a Friday as my husband watched me. The next day an old friend and ex-employer of my husband called. He had a job opening for a superintendent. Of course, my husband wanted to give it to his brother! Ugh, we need this so badly! I don’t want to be selfish, but wake up, mister. In his defence, we are always giving, never taking.

    Right now he is watching the show. He also has the power to do this. I know this setback we have is to make us stop this chaos we have created before it kills us. What good is this business we have if it will only put us in the grave?

    I want my life back, I want my health back. I don’t want to win a lottery or have millions of dollars, never did. I want peace, health, happiness. I want to be able to express myself for the good. I want to be able to impart my knowledge, my ancient knowledge, to others. I have power that I have surpressed for many years to help others.

    To me, to work with children in a peaceful setting teaching English in Italy, would be wonderful. Maybe I’m idealistic.

    But right now I don’t even have the money to get through the next month.

    Women have power. Women know what is right from wrong. But it is surpressed from the time they are little. It is so sad. They seem to think the answers are from the opposite sex. I’m not saying that I dislike men, I’ve been there. I’m saying that to give over your power to anyone else is not fair to the other person. It does not teach you anything nor afford you any growth.

    Barbara
    Cave Creek, AZ

  10. Bea says

    Hi, I’ve been feeling a little desparate after patiently healing and waiting for almost 5 years now since my last relationship. I googled you Martha for advice on ‘attracting your soulmate’–and my name just happens to be Beatrice! haha, I guess someone IS listening to my pleas for help. Thanks for sharing your gifts with the world. You are my favorite author!

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