September 11, 2001 started out just like any other Tuesday. , en and women all over the country woke up, showered, got dressed, kissed their kids and sent them off to school, and then got into their cars or boarded buses or trains and went off to work — same as any other day — absolutely unaware that everything they knew about the world was about to change.
And then, suddenly — horrifically — planes began to smash into the famous twin towers of the World Trade Center and, just like that, Everything Changed.
I can remember visiting Manhattan in the months that followed (I’m a native New Yorker, but I live and work in Los Angeles) and walking to what would later be known as Ground Zero and being struck speechless by the wreckage and remains of the two majestic towers; it was upsetting and depressing to say the least, but there was something buried deep, deep inside of me that kept urging me to look forward to the period of growth that must always follow such destructions.
I’d walked through destructions like this one before, metaphorically speaking, in my own life. And survived.
If we meditate on this for a minute, I am certain each of us can find truly devastating moments in each of our lives which left us standing amidst our own, personal, “Ground Zeroes;” whether it be the sudden death of a parent; a horrific moment where, as children, we were left alone with an untrustworthy adult; a violent relationship where we lived in terror of leaving; a house fire that left us with nothing but memories and the trembling knowledge that we’d have to find a place to rest our heads by nightfall . . . All of these things and more can leave us stranded at a place where we are left with no resources save our own desperate will to survive and, barring that, the sudden need to curl up into the fetal position and abandon all hope.
But, there is hope. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already learned that you’re made of heartier stock than you’ve ever imagined; you just need to tap into that strength — that power — and begin the process of building a new life, one where you are the wholly responsible for what happens to you.
I’ve compiled 5 vital points for you to remember and use as you sift through the rubble of your own “lifequake” and begin the next chapter of your new life.
1. THIS TOO SHALL PASS — I have a friend who is a successful single mother of two who usually calls me whenever she feels overwhelmed by situations or circumstances in her life. She called me one desperate, dire day to tell me one of her children, barely 11 years old, had been struck by a car and placed in an induced coma so that her brain could recover from the injuries sustained from the accident. It was a terrifying phone call to receive but we walked through it and, eventually, her daughter fully recovered. It was just one of those things that happen in people’s lives — unexpected tragedy — for which there was nothing to do but wait and pray.
A year later, this same friend called me to tell me that she’d been dumped by some guy. She was beside herself with grief — sobbing — but I had to stop her and remind her that her child had at one point in time been hospitalized and almost killed by a bad driver. Her mind, you see, had forgotten that she’d walked through more traumatic experiences than a simple break-up. She’d forgotten that, in the past decade, she’d divorced a man who had beat her, buried her mother, sat at her child’s hospital bed . . . all in the space of a decade.
She’d forgotten how strong she was.
In assessing your situation, you also need to assess your life and look at what you’ve already survived and know that whatever you are going through cannot hold a candle to your indomitable spirit; that sometimes awful things occur because they are a necessary part of life, but these events — like so many others before them — are transitory and always, inevitably, serve as springboards to the next revelation, the next renewal, or the next chapter. This, too, shall pass.
2. YOU ARE ONLY AS STRONG AS YOU WILL LET YOURSELF BE — Maya Angelou (God rest her soul) was an amazing teacher. One of her greatest axioms was the belief that everybody born comes into the world trailing Wisps of Glory. I like that. It tells me, even in my darkest hours that I was not meant for whatever awful thing is happening to me; it tells me that I am meant for greater things. And it provides me the impetus to take action and activate my own role in whatever situation or circumstance is defeating me at the time. I don’t have to put up with anything that I don’t want to.
As a matter of fact, the only thing that tells me that I have to endure any malady that’s beset upon me is fear. I have a great fear that used to cripple me. It kept me from going back to school and earning my Masters (because what if I went to class and everyone discovered that I was stupid? Or what if I started my own practice and everyone discovered I was a fraud?). These are the lies that my own mind was telling me; I’d convinced myself in my fear to not take any action! And, if I’d listened to that fear, I never would have become the man that I am today.
We need to teach ourselves to separate the ice cream from the horse poop. We need to re-parent ourselves and turn off the voices in our heads that tell us, repeatedly, that we just can’t do it, whatever “it” is. Especially when a lifequake hits and we find ourselves at Ground Zero afterward. You are strong enough to walk away from that abusive relationship. You are courageous enough to change what you think is your destiny. You are worthy of a better life than the one you have now. The lie, sometimes, is in believing it is going to happen overnight. That isn’t always the case. Sometimes, you merely have to accept the fact that you’re going to have to take tiny, baby steps to reach your goal.
Every tiny, baby step you take away from a bad thing is a tiny, baby step you are taking toward a good thing.
And you deserve good things. I promise you this.