I imagine most of us have fairly straightforward pictures in our heads about what our lives will look like and who we’ll become. When something happens that is not inside the four corners of that picture we view it as a detour and hope to get back on track as quickly as possible. So what happens when you take a detour and can’t ever get back to the original picture?
For Katherine and Jay Wolf, their detour was a massive brain stem stroke that almost took Katherine’s life at age twenty-six and left her severely disabled. She had to learn to walk, talk and eat again. While some of our detours might not be as life-threatening or grave, they are valid and we don’t escape this life without them. The loss of a loved one. A breakup. A health crisis.
My first detour happened at age eighteen when I found myself in the behavioral health partition of the hospital due to severe clinical depression. Everything I had placed my value and hope in was taken from me. Two years later I was detoured again when depression returned with a vengeance, forcing me to change colleges and let of go of the dreams I was chasing. And my most recent detour happened three and half years ago with another health crisis and, if I’m honest, I haven’t found my way back yet. Detoured. Again. I’ve tried — tried hard, but I have not been able to get back to the four corners of that picture. And I’m realizing I probably never will. At least not to the picture I imagined.
Let’s not let the Instagramable lives we see fool us – life is beautiful and ruthless all in one.
This life is full of twists and detours and roadblocks. Let’s not let the Instagramable lives we see fool us – life is beautiful and ruthless all in one. I’m learning to let myself mourn life’s losses. To be discouraged by broken dreams and to grieve the life I thought I might have. But after we cry a while, we must wash our face and rise to a new day.
Here are three tips for navigating life’s detours:
1. Give yourself time to grieve.
When life is irreparably different than the picture we imagined a profound sense of loss ensues. Allow yourself to experience these feelings. Stuffing our emotions is ultimately self-destructive. Journal. See a counselor. Talk to your family and loved ones. Pray.
2. Remember life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.
As women we so often paint an ideal portrait for our lives and when things get of course we become disillusioned. Find beauty in the mess and remember it is our brokenness not togetherness that connects us with others.
3. Embrace the life you have, not the life that could have been.
It is not a matter of if detours will come, but when. We don’t escape life without them. Even though your life might look different than you imagined, it is uniquely yours and that makes it lovely. Own it and make the best of what you’ve been given.
What’s your detour? How can you embrace the life you’ve been given?
Image via Anna Howard