How Do You Spend Your Misery?

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No one on Earth is immune to misery.  Not one of us.  But, how you spend your misery is something you can control.  Let’s face it:  we all have times in our lives when we feel miserable.  Situations in life cause us to feel sad, depressed, and angry or an overall feeling of suffering.  This is inescapable.  But how we react, how we process, how we proceed… all of these things we can control; all of these things can take us from miserable to better.

This is my practical guide to misery, just for you.  Yes, I’ve experience misery myself, sometimes so badly that I was sure I’d entered the depths of hell.  It is only this that qualifies me to write this article, nothing more, and nothing less.  Even given my limited expertise, I think this is applicable to us all.

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1.     Process with a purpose

During college, a close friend went through a break up.  (I think a lot of us did, really.)  She was devastated.  She did everything she could think of to move on: go on other dates, have fun with friends, exercise, throw herself in to school and even study abroad.  Despite her efforts, her misery lingered.  We talked about it almost every day.  We replayed their recent encounters; we analyzed every word, every text, and every email and then did it again.  And again.  Some people would have gotten sick of going through that, and wouldn’t have let so much time go on but I knew there was a bigger reason.  She was processing so thoroughly because she never wanted to go through that again.  She wanted to see every mistake.  She needed to know that she missed the signs and didn’t listen to the people who warned her.  Every time we talked about it, she learned a little bit more about herself.  It took months, but she worked through it.  After it all, she was thankful for the experience and thankful that it didn’t work out.  The misery didn’t last, but the purpose she found, that she could get through anything and that she would find love, that did last.  She processed that misery and became the woman she needed to be to find the man who was her soul mate.  Now, they are happily married.  All the feels, I’d say.

Moral of the story?  It is okay to wallow.  Suffer through those tough times with purpose, though.  Don’t think that going over something every which way in your head is pointless, unless you aren’t learning.  Let the crap that happened, and the pain that it caused, be your teacher.  Mold that energy; process until the pain ceases and in its’ place, you have purpose.

2.    Keep Going

Have you ever gone to a haunted house?  They are the worst!  For my best friend’s birthday (when we were like 13) she insisted that we go to a haunted house.  Six of us girls in our awkward early teen stage got dropped off by her mom (cool, I know).  We got our tickets and proceeded to the entry room.  There they played a quick clip about the house we were in, how something terrible happened, and we would experience the horror that remained.  I was not excited.  The birthday girl led the way and in we went.  Scary things popped out, we went through rooms that were pitch black, fake smoke was billowing out of the walls and we were a pre-teen screaming and huddling mess.  But, we couldn’t turn around.  It was a one way street.  No matter how we screamed, how frightened we were, or even when one of us broke down crying (spoiler, it was me), we could not turn back.  The only way out was through.

Life is so much like that.  Misery, in particular, feels like a haunted house we can’t escape.  We can’t see the end and can’t predict how long it will last; all we can do is keep going.  And my tools for getting through that haunted house have come in handy in life:  Cling to those you love.  Hold tight to the people who support you, who are going to walk right alongside you through that terrible mess.  Do not forget that the true source of light is not outside you, but right in your heart.  Cry when you need to.  And above all, keep going.  In the midst of that scary dark place, you cannot see ahead to know that you are making progress, that you are heading for something easier.  Don’t let that stop your progress.  The only way out is through.  Keep going.  I promise it will get easier.

3.    Let it change you 

Read this one carefully:  let your misery change you.  But (and this is a big but), let it change you for the better.

Do you love coffee?  Cause, me too.  I read a story once about a daughter who was going through a hard time.  Her mother sat her down in the kitchen and boiled water to cook eggs, carrots and coffee.  They eggs started fragile on the inside and became hardened.  The carrots started hard and then softened.  But the coffee changed the water entirely.  All three things faced the same adversity, the boiling water, but only the coffee was completely changed.

This is how misery should change you.  You are going to go through that black mess, and you can come out on the other side with a hardened heart or a self deprecating weakness, or you can change.  We will all go through a black mess at some point.  But we don’t all let it change us for the better.  I hope that you choose to be like that delicious coffee.  Let that black mess change you into something amazing!

Misery is not optional.  No matter the gravity, we all experience it in some form.  But how we work through it can make the difference between having a miserable life or having a life well lived, even in the midst of misery.  How will you spend your misery?

Love, Kels

That is not my problem…

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That’s really not my problem…

Okay, I know this sounds harsh.  It’s not supposed to be harsh.  It is supposed to be honest.  Do you ever feel like you have too much on your plate?  Do you feel like you worry way too much?  Are you overwhelmed by problems in your life?  I’m here to tell you something bold: it’s not all your problem.  And you can only do what you can do.  This might be hard, and it has been for me, but it is time to separate your problems from the world’s problems, and let the responsibility drop from your plate.  The results will be life changing!

I have a friend who is highly sensitive.  He is the type of person who feels deeply what other people feel.  I can relate to him, because I am the same way.  Recently he confided in me some of his worries.  He has a trying relationship with his step dad.  This has always given him worry and stress.  But now, his younger half-sister is having some of the same troubles.  Tears filled his eyes as he shared with me how worried he felt about his sister.  He was so worried, though, that he wasn’t sleeping.  I completely understood.  It is heart breaking to watch our loved ones struggle, especially with something we have also struggled.

I think it is natural to want to carry some of their pain, to bear some of the burden so they don’t struggle so hard.  But this is an unhealthy approach for two reasons.  First, it is not your job.  You will have your own struggles and problems in life, and you will have to carry those.  But you shouldn’t try to carry someone else’s.  Second, by trying to carry someone else’s burden, you are robbing them of the experience.  Life is going to throw us all kinds of trouble and it is part of our journey to experience it.  There is no other way except to go through it, and be made stronger in the process.

The trick in this whole thing is to find the line between being supportive and loving, and bearing the burden.  Supportive acts can include listening, offering advice when asked, spending time with the person, or even joining them for difficult appointments or meetings.  If you take it too far, however, you might be trying to make a decision for that person or handle it all yourself.  If you notice that your life is being bogged down with negativity due to other people’s problems, you may have crossed the line into co-dependence.  In my experience, this can be one of the hardest balances to strike.  But keep practicing!  You should be a supportive friend and family member.  You should care about those around you.  But you have your own issues to deal with and your own lessons to learn.  You cannot learn a lesson for someone else without stealing their victory.  Let others bear their burdens and learn that they have the strength to persevere.

Someone wise once told me, “Kelsey, ask yourself: what is my responsibility in this?  And then ask: what is God’s responsibility in this?”  I have used these questions to help draw the line between supportive friend and controlling friend.  And you know what I have found?  I am happier!  And those around me are happier, too!  You see, when you give someone the opportunity to learn their own lessons, you not only empower them, but you also demonstrate your faith in them.  Give others the chance to struggle and find out what they are made of.  And even more importantly, give God the time to work in their lives.  Maybe this person needs God, even if they are asking for you to help.  Don’t steal their opportunity to grow in faith.

Be a good friend.  Be someone in the world who cares deeply.  And in this light, remember that caring deeply does not mean taking away someone’s problems.  It means standing by them through the storm.  It means loving them despite the trials.  It means believing that they are capable of persevering through whatever life throws at them.  Loving others and allowing them to navigate their own struggles is liberating.  You can only do what you can do, so do what only you can.  Give it a try.  Let me know what you find…

Raise the bar. High.

IMG_2963Are you sick of dating? Me too!  I’ve decided to give up, but trust me, I’ll never give in.  Let me tell you what I mean.

A few weeks ago, I had a great phone call catching up with one of my best friends from college, Katie.  Of coarse, during the conversation, we gave each other updates on our love lives.  Both of us are single and actively dating, and yet, we both agreed that it was really hard to date.  I told Katie that I had given up expecting a man in my life.  She told me she had come to the same conclusion.  We both want to get married one day, if we met the right person, but neither of us was sure that was ever going to happen.

Now, to give you some history on the subject, I should tell you about my first memory.  I was two and a half and my parents were getting married.  My mom was trying on her wedding dress in my parents room, and I thought it would be awesome to get under the dress and make it my own white satin fort.  To this day, I remember her vividly: how she looked, how she smiled, and how exciting it was for her to be getting married.  I have always dreamed of being married: the wedding, the love, the family; it all sounds so great to me.  But it hasn’t happened.  And I have asked myself so many times: if it hasn’t happened, will it ever happen?

My friends would tell you I’m a big believer in true love.  I also have a tremendous capacity for love.  For most of my adult life, I have been waiting for that perfect individual to come in to my life and make me the happiest girl on the planet.  Well, I’ve quit waiting.

I recently read a book called We Were Feminists Once.  In it, author Andi Zeisler makes reference to Hollywood movies.  She makes the excellent point that so many (and I mean SO many) of the movies that hit the theaters are stories of women who are lacking until they meet a man.  Maybe they are miserable, or haven’t come into their true personalities, or are just overall lacking in life; and then all of the sudden Prince Charming rushes into the scene and saves the day.  The woman is now the happiest girl on the planet and voila! they live happily ever after.

This common theme got me thinking: have I been waiting for a man to start my story?  It seems so ingrained in our culture and ingrained in our minds that our stories must indeed revolve around our relationships.  Sure, we can talk about our careers and adventures, but I notice that it always seems to circle back to, you guessed it: Prince Charming.  Once I realized this, I made a bold decision: I am giving up on finding Mr. Perfect.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Kelsey, you cannot give up on your dreams.  Kelsey, he is out there and you just have to be patient.  Let me tell you something: I’ll never give up on my dreams.  I will always be open to meeting a man who is going to help make my life awesome.  But in all honesty, it is up to God.  And only He knows how and when and if that person will be a part of my life.  But thinking of it that way is actually the best feeling I have had about dating in a long time.  I trust whole heartedly that He has an amazing future planned for me.  I don’t have to worry about making it all happen; God will take care of that.

I have taken a real look at my life now.  What do I want to accomplish?  What are my ambitions and dreams?  How do I want to spend my time?  You guessed it again: doing awesome stuff!  I need not hold back.  I am hiking and traveling, learning guitar and making new friends.  My life is awesome.  And if someone is going to come in to my life and be a big part of it, they have to be the kind of person who is going to make it even more awesome!

I sincerely refuse to give in.  I refuse to believe that I have to lower my standards or settle for less than what my needs really are in order to be in a relationship.  I refuse to conform to what other people think is best to ‘complete me’.  I refuse to be okay with mediocre dates, guys who are only nice some of the time, or anything short of amazing.  I refuse to accept that my life story has to start when I meet a guy.  Nope!  My story started long ago, and Mr. Perfect or not, my story will go on.

So, I say raise the bar.  Raise the bar high!  Live your life to the fullest and wait for no one to complete you.  Be complete by just being the wonderful and unique person that you are.  I’ve adopted this attitude and it has helped me to be excited with my life and satisfied with who I am.  Because I’m awesome.  And my life is awesome.  And I’ll accept nothing short of awesome.