We often hear gurus all over telling us that our pain can be our greatest teacher. It can be rather hard to listen to when you are watching them climb into their private jet and return to their own island. I am not inferring that the rich have no problems, or that their advice is any less valid because they have wealth. If we are being honest, hearing that kind of advice from someone who has the appearance at least, of not being in pain can be hard to listen to.
Shortly after the year 2000, as my study in self-improvement was just beginning, I had a moment that in reflection helped me grow substantially. When I was going through it, however, all I could tell you was it sucked. That is how life is sometimes. Steve Jobs said we can never connect the dots moving forward, only looking back. Sure it would be great to know how your current struggle is going to pay off in the future. It certainly would make going through it a lot easier. I guess that is where something called faith comes into play.
Back to my personal story and how it can benefit us all. Shortly after 2000 the United States Postal Service, the fine edifice where I step most of my waking hours informed me although I was a model employee, due to declining mail volume my hours would be cut to about 10 a week. What made matters better is that to receive these hours I would have to be available Monday through Saturday from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. making it near impossible to find a second job to make up the lost hours. Luckily for me, about a month later they did realize I was an employee worth keeping and found a position for me.
Here is what really threw me, I found myself not knowing what or more to the point who I would be if I left the Post Office. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, but at the time I had been working there 13 years, roughly 50 hours a week. It became a part of my identity. In a world of corporate downsizing this can be an all to common situation. It is not limited to jobs either. Think of the end of a relationship. You fell in love and were perhaps in love for a great deal of time. You shared everything, they were not only your lover, but your best friend. All of that is exactly how it should be. What happens when that is gone? The person leaves, be it through walking away, cheating or even passing away. You feel as though a part of you has died. What then?
Just like the loss of a job, it is an end of a relationship. No matter how intense or good the relationship is, job or person, it is a weaving of two paths. Trying to keep this in perspective is one way to help us carry on. I am in no way inferring that this is an easy thing to do. The better the relationship, the more it will hurt. Even in that pain you must remember to balance that with gratitude. You had great moments some may never experience. Maybe that man that seemed so perfect for you turned out to be a no good snake. Maybe he even slept with your sister…or your brother for that matter. The fact remains you still received moments of joy and bliss out of the relationship. The fact they ruined it by being a snake simply means they gave up the right to experience more of those moments with you. Maybe someone you loved passed away? There are no opportunities to share more moments no matter how much you both would have loved that. It is time to realize how rare having someone like that in your life is. Reflect on those memories when they come up not as a sense of loss or that you will never have them again. No, reflect on them with gratitude you had the opportunity to share that with them. Maybe even offer up a word of thanks to their memory for such loving memories. Again, not saying or even imagining any of this is easy. Pain is something we get through day by day.
Lastly, and this is what helped me through my job challenge, is have people in your life that have known you before that job or relationship started. An old friend is a gift that is more priceless than gold. When I was feeling a loss of identity, I called up my good friend and former bandmate, Russ. We have know each other since we were around 13 years-old. I asked Russ a simple but bizarre question, “Who was I before the post office?” Not only did he remind me of that, he even offered some ways in which I may have lost myself due to the post office. Good friends can tell you ways in which you kind of suck without being too hurtful. \
Discovering there was a person who existed before and more important separate from, the job (again this can work for relationships as well) helped me in two important ways. First, it made me determined to keep who I was separate from what I did for a living. This can also be helpful in a relationship. Margie and I are amazing as a couple and people recognize that, but we each have our own personal identities as well. For example, if you want a great cake for your special occasion you best talk to her. Need a speech written? More my forte. The second way in which this liberated me was I realized I was free to decide who I wanted to be as a person going forward, despite whatever foolish actions the Postal Service may take. Who you are should never depend on what you do for a living or who you happen to date. Those things have a great influence on you and it is your job to make sure it is a positive one, but at the end of the day it is you who decides who you are going to become.
In closing, remember that you are not a victim in your life, but a creator. We may not have control over the actions of others and how it can impact us, but we do have complete control over how we react and how we can put the challenges to use in our lives. It will not be easy but it will definitely be worth it.