I’m going through a pretty rotten drawn-out moment right now, and there have been many of these moments over the past two years. I’m not talking about a temporary case of the blues or an emotional reaction to a negative event. No, I’m talking about the well of hope drying up to the smallest little puddle so that you really have nothing to keep you going.
For a temporary low, the solutions are infinite: listen to a happy song, smile, do something nice for somebody, do something nice for yourself, get out in nature, go for a run… They won’t all work, but if you go through them one by one, you’ll find one that works. That will get you out of the momentary doldrums. But when your emotional state is a linked to an ongoing situation, a situation that shows no sign of changing, then you have a big problem on your hands.
I read a quote recently that said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” (-Maya Angelou). I love the quote. I like the idea. It’s not really working for me though, not in this situation. This is what I’ve done: I’ve tried to approach the situation differently. I’ve tried to see it as a challenge, as a learning lesson, as an experiment. I’ve tried to take the emotion out of it by acting and reacting without emotion. But being a robot is no way to live and it is impossible, at least for me. If I’m dead inside, I’m dead, I’m not living anymore.
And then I remembered what I did the last time my hope ran out. I was in relationship hell and work, which I liked to fall back on when other aspects of life were tough, was everything but fulfilling. At the time, I felt that there was really no way out of where I was and the only thing I could do was accept and live in that misery. But to get me through it, I created an escape dream. It was something that I thought I would never ever do, but I still nourished this dream and focused on this dream. I bought books about it. I researched it on the Internet. From a vague dream, I built a detailed imaginary world. The situation did finally change, but for the worse and this got me out of it. Sure I landed flat on my face, but I was out. And once out, I went for my dream. I did that trip alone and it lived up to my dreams – it was completely different to what I imagined but still soul-replenishing.
Today, I’m in that situation again. This time I’m in professional hell and my personal life is everything but fulfilling (a desert of loneliness with ghastly ghosts from the past blowing through like tumbleweed). I’ve cried a lot about it, had many nightmares, banged my head against the wall fruitlessly… but nothing helps. Not until just now, when the escape plan popped into my head. It’s very different, but I think it will work. I’ve decided to give myself a special present for my birthday: freedom. If things don’t get better, for my birthday I’m going to quit even if I don’t have another job lined up. Until my birthday, I’m going to search for other jobs, consider other careers, research training courses, consider working from home, moving and working in other countries, traveling the world for a year… I’m going to keep dreaming of another world to this one. And this will get me through the bad times. If things get better, I win. If things don’t get better, I quit, which in a way would make things worse – I would end up unemployed – but maybe the only way out of this situation is to make it worse for a while, to really hit rock bottom before I bounce back up.