Looking Back

Life isn’t always fair or uplifting. Sometimes it sucks. At some point in our lives we’ve been humbled, taken down a notch, or made to see the error of our ways.

The act of humility is recognizing and accepting missteps, and understanding why we failed. No, it’s not always someone else’s fault. Sometimes we get exactly what we’ve earned.

Life sends us mysteries to untangle and decode. Inside is a prize, not always what we want or ask for, but sometimes it is what we need.  If we are lucky, we get it. For the unfortunate, mysteries go unclaimed, piling up at their door, maybe following them to the grave.

If we are lucky, we figure it out.  Sometimes it takes years.  Let me say that again: sometimes it takes years.  Mine did.

Here is one of my stories.

Thirty years ago, I started an incredible job. I hadn’t thought about the anniversary as anything special, but sometimes I think about the experience.

I had a love/hate relationship going with that organization. I actually worked there twice and both times left employment pissed off, feeling like I’d gotten a raw deal.

When I left the first time, I failed to look honestly at the situation, and waited three years until I could return.  When the opportunity happened, I jumped at it.  The circumstances were different the second time, but the politics and unethical behavior in the environment were the same.  What I failed to see was the accumulation of debits being created and how I contributed to that.  Just like before.

After I left the second time, it took me more than 20 years to realize all of this, or at least to admit it. Truthfully, I could have found a way to have stayed in that job both times, but the compromise was too great and I wouldn’t really have been happy.

These two jobs gave me rare opportunity, and most of the time I loved it. There were successes and failures. What I couldn’t understand was the connection and razor-sharp separation between the two.

Looking back, what I needed was a trusted adviser to give me blunt feedback and to help with my blind spots. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t someone else’s duty to save me, only to help point out what I couldn’t or wouldn’t see.

When I resigned the second time, it sucked the life out of me.  I felt sorry for myself and stayed in a funk.  Future jobs were just jobs, not substitutes for what I had experienced.  Instead of moving on, I held on.  Life filled in around it, eventually encasing the pain, delaying the opportunity to heal.

My story is about failing to let go.  Shiny objects are hypnotic and frighteningly surreal, but we hold on.  In the middle of a hurricane there is a false sense of reality, because we can’t feel the wind or see the damage circling around us. If we are looking at a mirror, the perspective can be distorted.  This is not the self-reflection we need.  For me, after more than 20 years, the objects in the rear-view mirror are clear.

Sometimes we walk through life with a pebble in our shoe. We tolerated it. It may not be a pain, but it’s an irritant, and truthfully, unnecessary. Still, it stays in our shoe, when we should just empty it and walk on. And yet…

Some truths:

Life deals you some hard lessens. You play the hand and don’t make the same mistakes again.

Everyone needs a critic to give you feedback.  You may not always accept it, but you need to hear it.

Understand when to walk away or at least put some distance between you and situations.

We all fail, not by choice, but by decisions that do not work out, situations that change or relationships that shift through time. Unfortunately, we all land on our faces, and although we try and minimize that landing technique, it is about getting up and trudging forward – beautiful or bloody.

Why write about this? The process of self-reflection is important and humbling. It should be. It is a key to our growth and a mile marker on the journey toward happiness. You can’t be truly happy in your cocoon. You must feel the sunshine, but also the wind and rain. The eye of the hurricane may be calmer, but it is a false peace.  Check the mirrow occasionally, there might be something on your tail.

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