“Life only demands from you the strength you possess. Only one feat is possible – not to have run away.” Dag Hammarskjold.
We signed up for it, this glorious experience we call life. Not consciously, and certainly not actively but when we arrived on this planet, we were given a breath, and we took it.
Instinctively, perhaps, but something in us wanted to live. And by that act of breathing, we were already conscripted. And so we grew, trudging along each of our individual destinies. However, at some point we bought into the notion that the pursuit of happiness is the most important goal of life. We didn’t realise that we might get more out of life if we sought service and contribution.
So life occasionally gave us rude shocks, moments when it stunned us after the unthinkable had happened. A poor grade in a final exam. Job loss.
Failing health. Losing property or money. Relationship trouble. And perhaps, the most painful, losing a loved one. In those moments, a thick fog seemed to descend. Life became a maze and we couldn’t see our way through. Which way next? Would the sun ever shine again?
It was tempting at those moments to make a seat and remain in the fog. After-all, how do you move forward when you don’t know what awaits you? And so some of us remained in the fog, in that place that made us victims. The fog became life defining. It was all we talked about, and then it became who we were. We made name tags in the fog, and wore them on our chests. “The woman he left,” or “The former employee of X” or “The alcoholic” or “The college drop-out” or “The sick man.”
What we didn’t see was that the fog was a chapter in the story of our lives, a comma, not a full-stop. The only way out, was to keep moving, and to go through it.
Country musician Rodney Atkins sang, “If you are going through hell, keep moving!” If you have ever been heartbroken, grieved the loss of a loved one or suffered through chemotherapy as a friend did, you know that fog looks and feels like hell. This is not time to stop and take in the view, just keep moving forward and outward.
Secondly, if you are going through hell, routine can help. Simple every day mundane stuff that needs to get done anyway, can take the edge off the pain.
By ironing that shirt our brain can temporarily be distracted from the enormity of our pain. So get up, dress up, and do what you need to do today.
Third, if you are going through hell, breaking the routine can occasionally help. The first Christmas, Easter without a loved one can lead to depression.
You think of what they would do or say if they were here, and tiny shards of glass cut through your already wounded heart. Why not do something different this year? Take a holiday, visit a friend or help someone who is going through a fog of their own.
Fourth, when you are going through hell, take one day at a time. There’s no point focusing on a distant future.
Make it your goal to get through the next 24 hours, and if that seems too much, try to just make it through the next one hour. And when you do, give yourself a pat on the back.
Fifth, ask for and take all the help you can get. Sometimes encouragement comes from the most unlikely quarters. It may not come dressed as you would like or in a tribe or colour of skin you are used to, but if it warms your heart, accept it with gratitude. Those are some small mercies sent to help you along the way.
Sixth, resolve that the experience will make you better, not bitter. Seventh, when you are going through hell, believe that this too shall pass.
One day, slowly and surely, the fog will lift, and you will find joy again. Life teaches us, that sometimes the only way out of a situation is through it.