So I’ve shamelessly dragged my feet on the conclusion of this series.
And that’s because, in the wise words of my blogger cousin Abby, “It isn’t over.” And it’s so true. Growth doesn’t have an end date. Growth is choosing the trajectory of who you are becoming, everyday, with small decisions. It was a cascade of small decisions and little blessings that finally led me to hope. So, it’s hard to boil things down, but I am going to connect the dots and show how all the learning I’ve done over the last four years has finally brought me to where I am now!
The Developmental Snowball.
I think I mentioned this in either the intro or part 1, but I didn’t really explain it. As I visualize it, your character and your thoughts and your life as a whole take some time to start moving in a new direction. For me, it took four often-grueling years, to see major changes in the way I thought and acted. Call me stubborn, but there it is. The first few months or year were the hardest, because not only was I trying to garner up the courage and will to keep trying, but I was trying to go in a totally different direction than I was going before. Some nights, I literally thought, “This isn’t worth it. I’m going back to my dark thoughts, thank you very much.” It’s one of those beyond-me laws of physics, that once moving in one direction, everything resists a change to that.
At about the two year mark, the work started to feed into itself, at which point things became a bit easier, but I still struggled. For example, when a dark thought came to mind, I now had at least an option to think something more positive. Thinking “I’m a failure” became a choice, as opposed to the only possible response. I could choose to think “I failed” instead. Not super positive, but a whole lot better. When I sang in front of people, instead of “Don’t mess up,” I could think “What’s the worst that could happen?”
And that’s where the real stretching began. Now that I realized I had a choice in my thought life, I had to actually choose. I didn’t always choose right. Sometimes, it’s easier and less risky to stay in the dark. I now had a responsibility to be aware of what I was thinking. I spent a couple years, jumping over some of these little choice-hurdles, crashing into others, until I was choosing the good thoughts over the bad, just a bit more often. But I think it was about a month ago that I woke up, and realized that I was different. I felt different. I interacted and thought and planned my days differently:
Things that used to irk me and steal my joy, no longer disturbed me to the point of distraction. Social interaction no longer felt like a complete chore. Public singing had the potential to be a chance to receive, as much as to give. My calendar was full of things I was genuinely eager to do, and there were almost no items on my calendar that I dreaded. I was able to say ‘no’ to certain opportunities, because they would interfere with actual goals I had made for myself. Sharing true, personal thoughts in groups larger than two (haha) was no longer a struggle. I could apologize for an error, and move on. My inner world was no longer dark.
“Well, why couldn’t I do that?”
“I’ll feel better tomorrow.”
“I guess that’s not such a big deal after all.”
“I’m so excited to co-write with these girls! I’m so glad I went on that retreat.”
“I’ll give music an honest try, for a year. Then I’ll reassess.”
You get the point. My first thoughts were truths instead of lies, my initial focus on blessings instead of griefs. I had begun to believe that I had something to offer the world. A message of encouragement instead of discouragement played in my head in the morning, and I noticed it with glee. When I read books of any kind, things began to click-click-click into place. The snowball was rolling down the hill, and life had turned into an adventure. I was being taken along for an awesome, free, hope-filled ride. I still am!
Over the course of four years, I dedicated my mental and spiritual energy, and a bit of money, on sourcing out the past hurts that had me spinning. I allowed my community to support me. I immersed myself in the knowledge of greater, wiser people. I went to God through it all and made the intense pain of growing a part of our relationship, rejecting sterile prayers and dry supplication. It was only after all this, that I was finally open to the idea of hope. It was only after all this, that I began to believe I am truly made for good things. There are good things in store. It has completely changed my life.
More than anything, I want to encourage you. If you feel like you are at the beginning of or in the middle of this journey, know that you are not the first to tread this path and that there is a light at the end of the long tunnel. There will always be more to work through, and more to learn, but you can do anything and face anything if you have hope.
And, more than anything, this is what I’ve learned. Hope is real. Now that I’ve found it, it’s what I’ll cling to in the tough times, and what I’m most thankful for, from the last four years. It can be found. If you set the time and energy aside to seek it out, it will seek you right back. It will galvanize your life and your passions, brighten your days and ease your fears. It will make you your best self, capable of improving your world. It will make you unspeakably thankful for the gift of even existing. I mean it.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. – If you have any questions about the videos, books, articles, etc. I read over the last few years, I’d love to have a conversation with you! Anything I can do to help. 😀