Detoured. Again. What To Know When You Just Don’t Know

life detours

I was struck by this quote by my friend and Darling contributor Katherine Wolf from her newly released book Hope Heals:

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

Allie is a writer, dreamer, and kooky surfer-girl/wannabe cowgirl who lives in North Santa Barbara County. She serves as the Founder and Director of Wonderfully Made, a non-profit dedicated to helping young women know their value and worth.

  • Hannah July 28, 2016

    Thank you for sharing… I hit the detour of a health crisis and a heartbreak simultaneously last summer and feel like I haven’t come full circle yet.

    • Allie Marie Smith January 5, 2017

      Thanks for sharing Hannah, I wish you the best as you seek to embrace the life you have. Much love and best wishes to you in 2017!

  • Janella April 7, 2016

    This article was posted at a very poignant time for me. I appreciate the sentiment and the reminder I desperately needed: this too shall pass and what I DO have is pretty amazing.

  • Lennie March 26, 2016

    This. Is. Perfect.

  • A Gracious Life March 23, 2016

    Three years ago, I experienced a major detour involving the deterioration of a loved ones’ health and a painful ‘fooling’ episode with people close to my heart. I have not completely healed I know. The detour visits me once in a while and I realize that it is such a provocative reminder for me to stay on the right track.

    • Allie Marie Smith March 23, 2016

      Thanks for sharing. Detours are never fun, but they have an amazing way of refining us and have the potential to make us stronger in the end.

  • Erin March 21, 2016

    This article was perfectly written. It affirmed to me so much of what I needed to hear at this exact point in my life; as I currently find myself navigating a detour (a life altering and heart shattering break up). I found such strength in the permission to grieve and the encouragement to “…cry a while” and then “wash our face and rise to a new day.” This will most definitely stick with me and become a personal mantra.

    Thank you. Truly.

  • Tammy Thiele March 21, 2016

    This is just beautiful. I think your quote of live being beautiful and ruthless all at once will haunt me for a long time. It’s so very true. Thank you for your honesty.

    • Allie Marie Smith March 23, 2016

      Yes, it’s ruthless but so worth the pain and beautiful all in one. Thanks for your comment and for reading.

  • miranda March 21, 2016

    I’m almost as enamoured by the comments as I am with that article. Wonderful, poignant reminder for all of us, no matter what age.

  • Wendy March 21, 2016

    This article took my breath away. It’s as if my personal experiences & thoughts were extracted from my mind but beautifully written in a graceful and loving way. My picture has had numerous filters over the last year, mostly distorted grays. However, over the last several weeks I’ve been able to recognize that life’s lenses will always vary and the shot will go out of focus. But no matter what, if I look close enough the foundation of my image still remains. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Allie Marie Smith March 23, 2016

      You’re so right Wendy that life’s lenses will always vary and things will become blurred sometimes, but I believe seasons of clarity are ahead. Love what you said about the foundation of your image remaining. Thanks so much for your comment and for reading.

  • Marie Therese March 21, 2016

    I really appreciated this article. I’ve had more detours than not, and like you, I’m still finding my way, and I find your honesty very inspiring 🙂

    • Allie Marie Smith March 23, 2016

      HI Marie, I think we’re all on a journey of finding our way like you said. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  • Lauren March 21, 2016

    Wonderful message and reminder.

  • Kate March 21, 2016

    This was a really powerful article. Thank you for not only sharing your experience, but for doing it in such a way as to make me pause, think, rinse off and greet the detour.