I spent Thanksgiving with great friends this year, and we honored their family tradition of declaring the things that we were most thankful for.
While I would have normally just said something clever, I took this opportunity to really think about the year that I’ve had. There have been some heavy hits – to my heart, to my ego, to my well-being – but I’ve come through and am excited about all the new beginnings, and for that I am very grateful.
There have been so many times when I could have quit, given up, turned back, but I pushed through because I believe in the good things coming. And while I haven’t been grateful for misfortune in the past, this year I was able to see that I was moving toward something much bigger than my current drama – for that vision, I am also very grateful.
As for the loss, we all experience it at some point and in some way, and it always creates a vacuum that begs to be filled. But despite the grief that comes with any departure, we have a unique opportunity to change in the face of that emptiness. Picking up the pieces hurts, but it’s part of rebuilding. It is a crucial part of rebuilding, because if we don’t have a clean foundation moving forward, anything new starts on rocky ground.
That said, our lives expand and contract all the time – when we bring in something or someone, we grow. When we experience a significant departure, we have the opportunity to retreat back to our former shape or build something new to fill that space.
Out of destruction, comes creation.
What we bring in here is crucial. At first, the emptiness can be overwhelming and our inclination to just make it stop can lead to some less than healthy behaviors. For me, it used to be a vodka tonic or three (anyone have a lemon?) or maybe a text to an ex (never a good idea), but I’ve made a point over the last few cycles of expansion and contraction to bring in things that are good for me.
We have a chance to change in these moments when life feels empty. A chance to do it differently. If we give ourselves time to think, time to heal – and if we do it safely, in a place separate from what we have lost, for me usually the mat or the river – we start to see that we already have everything that we need.
I can’t even count how many people said “well, when life gives you lemons…” to me last month. So much loss – and my friends seriously came at me with “make lemonade!” Anyone with even a modicum of self-awareness knows that, in the long run, pouring sugar on our problems rarely solves anything. But I do believe that we can make shit work in the face of even the greatest struggle if we start to reframe what it is that we consider a “lemon”. I’ve written about it enough, but my breakup was crap. My grandmother dying sucked. Fortunately, I’ve realized those weren’t the lemons life was giving me.
What was in front of me was an opportunity to change – both how I view loss and how I looked at what I had left in the wake of two very emotional endings. I had been given the chance to refocus on all the things that I am capable of with the freedom that exists outside of a romantic partnership, with the inspiration from a long life well lived.
And I found so much gratitude – for what I’ve created on my own, for the capacity to continue to be creative and the possibility inherent in any change. Unfortunately, we are programmed to think that we need to make ourselves sweeter, better, more palatable after a breakup (or any kind of loss), but that assumes we want to go back, when the goal is to move forward, right?
Why should we change for what is no longer in our lives?
If we like what we’re doing, we should be focused on growing those things. My ex was a drag, but my grandmother always told me to be fearless, to push for what I want, to take chances, to go big. With no distractions and more time and energy to invest in the things that I loved, what was I waiting for?
As much as I wanted to squeeze a lemon in someone’s eye, I see now that if we change what we consider a lemon, we don’t have to make lemonade. We just have to find a new market for our lemons, because someone out there wants what we’re selling, no sugar added.