There’s a day in my journal where I wrote, “I just don’t want this life I’ve been given. I know it doesn’t work that way, but I can’t do this anymore.”
On this particular day, I was reminded of the taste of disappointment. I was reminded of how disappointment takes hold of your heart and seeps into every pore in your body. I wasn't new to this feeling of deep disappointment (trust me), but it had been a long time since I felt the kind of ache that makes you wonder if you actually still have legs that work or if you’ll just crawl through the rest of life.
Sometimes in my journal, I try to write to God. And sometimes in my journal, I write really quickly and furiously when I write to God because, honestly, I’m mad. Like the level of mad where I scribble incoherently in all caps, “IT ISN’T FAIR, DO YOU KNOW THAT?”
Or, my personal favorite, “HELP.”
I am a writer, but days like this just take the words away from me. All I can yell is HELP, followed by a dramatic dissertation on why it would be great if my passions just changed today and I suddenly wanted to write only fiction.
On this disappointing day, I had come into the day with a high level of expectation. Really, a rather poetic plan for how I thought the day should play out. It was Father’s Day, so of course my dad and I would have a day filled with witty banter and father-daughter kayaking. You’re so great! No, YOU’RE so great! Or something.
The day went nothing like this. My dad had a bad day where he struggled with temptation, anxiety, and addiction. Let’s just skip to the part where I tell you that the day didn’t go as planned, and it’s not a day I would like to relive.
I could not write in my journal on the day it happened. Because I walked around in shock like I was floating on a planet without gravity. And I couldn't grab the drifting words to put on the page.
But the next day, I ran to my journal and wrote in this furious manner, “Why am I stuck in this life?”
When my expectations aren’t met because of my dad’s addiction, suddenly it feels like my entire world is crumbling. Right before your very eyes, Ashley will now disintegrate into a pile of ashes. And then, POOF, you can just blow me away like dust in the wind.
Suddenly, I’m not a writer, I’m not a graduate student, I’m not a homeowner, I’m not a friend, and I’m certainly not a human being worthy of any kind of love. I’ve been sent out to live with the wild animals and you can just find me howling with the coyotes. Right where I belong.
So I think the question is simple – what do we do when we’re stuck in a life that we don’t want? When we’re stuck in a life that’s disappointing and we would love to send back the life we’ve been given? Um, yeah, this is not what I ordered.
I wish it was that simple. I wish we could send back the parts of our life that we don’t want and just keep munching on the parts that we love. But, the truth is, loving in life with an addict is messy and complicated. We have to keep making decisions to live our very best lives.
QUIT THE THING YOU HATE.
There’s never a “good time” to quit a job, or to even just start looking for something new. It’s easy to say you don’t have time or energy to think about it because you’re stuck caring for someone else’s problems. Don’t wait until life is tidy and sorted, or you'll spend your entire life lost and hiding in a basket of dirty laundry.
Someone told me once to start a happiness jar. On every day that is a good day and you feel content with what you get out of bed in the morning to go do in this world, then put a little pebble in a jar. If months have passed and you’re staring at an empty jar, I’m begging you to quit the thing that you hate.
You can’t control every disappointment that comes your way, but you can make choices that will steer your car to a place you love with people who will love you through the sticky stuff.
WORK ON YOUR MIND INSTEAD OF CIRCUMSTANCES.
Some diagnoses and relapses and outbursts are out of our control. No matter what we do to change our lives and make the leap to get out of disappointment's way, doctors still call and police officers still show up and that person we love still leaves us.
I think in this whole line of business in feeling stuck in a life we don’t want, it comes down to how we respond. It’s how we react to the news or how we respond in a stressful situation. It’s where we carry the heartbreak. It's who we help when we meet people who are going through the same mess and we can say, "Been there. Felt that."
It’s where our minds go when we’re stuck in another blizzard. It's who we call to help us shovel our way out.
GET ON THE PLANE.
In a recent NY Times article, Carl Richards grants readers permission to do the hard thing—the thing you’ve always wanted to do. Richards states, “People expect you to stay how you are, to maintain the status quo, to stay the course. And if you get bogged down looking for that affirmation to make a change, you may never make it.”
So don’t just buy the ticket, but actually get on the plane. Go to the place you’ve always wanted to go. Take the job. Start the classes. Even if it’s just for a small amount of time, go for it.
Say yes to the adventure. You are not stuck.
And then, when you return, home is never the same. That’s all part of the journey. You know what? It’s a timeless tale, this one of adventure and flying away for some time.
I think we’re only as stuck as we make ourselves. We can do better. We can learn and we can love and we can live. Right now.
We want to hear from you. Where do you feel stuck? What can you do to take the next step forward?