I was in the midst of what I believed to be one of the most frustrating conversations I think I’ve ever had in my life when she caught me rolling my eyes. Again. This time I wasn’t going to get away with it.
“What?? I’m sitting here pouring my life out to you and your response is to roll your eyes? Do you have any idea how rude that is??”
My friend wasn’t having it. But then, neither was I.
“Do you have any idea how rude it is to make me sit here while you pour your life out to me for the millionth time while blaming every single thing and person in your life when it couldn’t be any more clear that the issue is you??”
Tessa furiously took a breath in as I prepared for an unleashing of the worst kind of hellish diatribe of which I’d ever been on the receiving end.
Her forehead creased and she squeaked out a little noise. Then she sucked in another breath even deeper than the last.
I really braced.
She exhaled a long, dramatic train of air that was so heavy she actually slumped as she breathed it out.
Then came the tears. Lots of tears. The thing was, Tessa knew exactly what I was saying and I didn’t even have to say it.
She had been so busy focusing on the belief that everyone and every circumstance in her life were holding her back from her true happiness that it never occurred to her that the real problem was herself. I couldn’t blame her. Most of us believe it’s so much easier to place the responsibility for our woes onto someone else but the truth is, it’s not. Not in the long run anyway.
Frankly, I find it soothing to know that I’m the one in charge of my own happiness. If I had left that up to my high school guidance counselor, I’d likely be cleaning toilets somewhere (she didn’t like me very much). The point is, I knew from a very young age that life is what you make of it, and what you believe on a deep level is usually what your reality will be, in one way or another.
Tessa believed that she couldn’t leave her data analyst job that came with a shitty boss and shitty work because she was the sole provider in her family.
Tessa really wanted to study law but she didn’t think she could take the time to go to school because she believed she couldn’t safely leave her 15-year-old and 17-year-old kids with their alcoholic father.
Tessa believed she couldn’t leave her alcoholic husband who hasn’t had a job in 12 years, pees the bed regularly, and falls asleep in his own vomit…by 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon. She believes this because she said vows and promised to be there through the good and the bad so, therefore, divorce wasn’t an option.
Tessa had created an illusory world around her that she deeply believed in. She believed she was trapped by the people in her life that depended on her and by the circumstances in her life she believed she couldn’t change.
As if, in all of the professions and jobs in all of the world, this was the only one that could feed her family and pay the bills.
As if her kids weren’t old enough to make their own microwave macaroni and cheese and get their homework done.
As if her husband didn’t already break those vows and promises a million times over every time he refused to take any accountability for his alcoholism, seek or accept help, and place the whole of their entire life’s responsibilities on Tessa’s shoulders.
This is what came crashing down on Tessa when I explained my rude eye roll. The veil over her eyes dropped. The not-so-rosy glasses shattered and she saw her life for what it really was.
She was living in a horridly miserable world that had been fully constructed and maintained by her own self. Don’t misread me here. Her miserable job, husband’s alcoholism, and co-dependent children may not have been her making but she built the walls around all of it to create a reality that she lived in daily because of her belief that she had no control over changing any of it.
The good news was that if she was the one that sustained this existence, she was also the one that could change it. The bad news was that only she could do that and changing a deeply rooted belief structure isn’t easy.
Unfortunately, it’s in our human nature to believe in hardship over happiness because our brains are hardwired to keep us alive. Therefore, it doesn’t like risks. It likes boring, hum-drum, and safe, even at the expense of our joy. So while it’s super easy to say all that Tessa had to do was knock down the walls she created, the reality was that it takes going against every grain of what she’s known and believed for a very long time. The reversal of such things, thoughts, energy, and beliefs is no small task.
But it 𝙞𝙨 possible.
I knew that if I could get Tessa to allow one, teeny, tiny, little crack of “possible” to creep in, she could set fire to everything she knew and finally design a life worth her valuable time and beautiful heart.
Though Tessa hasn’t quite yet fully ignited that fire, I’m happy to tell you that the embers are getting pretty hot.
But how does one go about burning one’s life to the ground? We see it in the movies and we always root for the underdog. We cheer them on and our hearts explode with pride for our hero when she’s finally had enough, kicks the shit out of her wretched life, and burns it all down only to rise like the Phoenix and courageously take back her life. We find her in full technicolor, sitting poolside, Old Fashion in hand, surrounded by friends, laughing as she holds her big sunhat in place. The camera zooms in on her face, she deadpans the lens and gives a smile. *wink*
Am I right or am I right??
So, how do we become our own heroes? How do we find a different pair of glasses with lenses that allow us to magically see the walls we’ve created in our lives that are keeping us from real happiness? Well, the first step is admitting you have walls. The second step is owning that you created them. The third step is actively working to deconstruct them.
Sure. Easy, right?
Let’s break it down a little more.
𝐀𝐃𝐌𝐈𝐓𝐓𝐈𝐍𝐆 𝐘𝐎𝐔 𝐇𝐀𝐕𝐄 𝐖𝐀𝐋𝐋𝐒. Listen, there are a few lucky bastards that were dealt a hand that allows them to live the life of which we all dream. Who they are I have no idea but sure, I’ll make room for that. Otherwise, most of us are just schlepping through life, trying to figure it all out while holding on with both hands trying not to fall off. Therefore, unless you’re one of the lucky bastards, you’re likely a schlep just like me. There’s no shame in that, friend. Welcome to the club.
The point is, if you argue against reality, you’re only causing your own suffering (thank you Byron Katie, you mad genius, you). You’re also only prolonging your unhappiness. It takes courage to own this and I can tell you right now, if you’ve made it this far into this post, you have the courage. Don’t doubt it for a minute.
𝐎𝐖𝐍𝐈𝐍𝐆 𝐓𝐇𝐀𝐓 𝐘𝐎𝐔 𝐂𝐑𝐄𝐀𝐓𝐄𝐃 𝐘𝐎𝐔𝐑 𝐖𝐀𝐋𝐋𝐒. This is important because it puts the ownership and power back in your hands. If you continue to place the blame on other people and your circumstances, you’re only handing over the ownership and power to change your life to those people and circumstances. If you’re counting on anything or anyone other than yourself to change your life, you’re going to be sadly disappointed.
Quit focusing on the 𝙝𝙤𝙬 and 𝙬𝙝𝙚𝙣, and focus on the 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩. 𝙃𝙤𝙬 it happened keeps you in the past and this only perpetuates the jail you’re currently residing in. 𝙒𝙝𝙚𝙣 it’s going to end keeps you focused on the future and this divides your attention and places it on the end result instead of the current work you need to complete to get to your happy future. 𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 you need to do to change your life keeps you focused on the present and this is where you want to be. The present is the only thing you have any control over.
Recognizing that you have all the power is a mighty motivator. Once you allow that to seep into your bones, you’ll be poolside with an Old Fashion in your hand and laughing without a care in the world.
𝐃𝐄𝐂𝐎𝐍𝐒𝐓𝐑𝐔𝐂𝐓𝐈𝐍𝐆 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐖𝐀𝐋𝐋𝐒. Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. The hard part here is donning the glasses with the new lenses that will allow you to see those despicable walls. We live in so many different worlds within our realities, how are we supposed to know which of them has walls? Work, home, marriage/romantic relationships, hometown friends, work friends, ride-or-die friends, family, in-laws, children, PTA, school…the arteries of our lives can be vast and extensive. However, sniffing out where to start is a lot easier than you know.
𝙒𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙪𝙣𝙝𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙮?
Yep. It’s that easy. Of course, simple unhappiness isn’t always an indicator because there are likely a million little things a day you do that make you unhappy but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a wall that needs to be obliterated.
Yes, it makes me unhappy to have to do accounting for my business each month but does it make me so unhappy that I feel the need to change careers? No. Not for me. Yes, it makes me damn miserable having to clean my house, do laundry, and cook. Does that mean I should light it all on fire? Likely not a good idea.
These examples may be light in comparison to the real drama in our lives but you get the point.
I was very unhappy in my marriage. I thought I could hang on by changing this or starting that. In the end, I donned the glasses and saw that it couldn’t be changed. I had a choice: stay for everyone else’s happiness or leave and create my own. I chose the latter. It wasn’t easy. It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make. It burned bridges, caused a lot of pain, and blew up everything I had ever known. But once you see the walls, you can’t unsee them.
Once you know, you know; once you know, you can’t unknow.
I am unfulfilled in my career. I don’t hate it and I still enjoy it very much but, once again, I donned the glasses and saw the walls that were keeping me from growing and expanding into a new direction that has the potential for great happiness. This one, thankfully, didn’t come with the destruction my marriage came with. I realized I could do both and, in fact, could create a bridge where one can feed the other and vice versa. But had I clung to my fear that swirled around potentially causing my only source of income to shit the bed, I would be missing out on the gift of new opportunities.
So, here’s your homework:
1. Identify the false walls in your life.
2. Take a magnifying glass and begin inspecting how you laid the bricks and how you can take your power back.
3. Dig in. Start taking them apart brick by brick.
This isn’t an easy process and it’s certainly not a race. The two most important things I want you to remember are this: Yes, you can, and you don’t have to do this alone. In fact, I highly recommend you don’t do this alone. There are people like me trained to help you carry the load of those bricks and if you don’t get the warm fuzzies for me, there are plenty of wonderful and talented professionals that can help guide you through the dismantling of your walls. It’s always easier going through life’s sucker punches with someone you trust and believe in.
If you need help lighting fires, reach out. I have plenty of matches left over.