I’ll never get the image out of my mind.
I was watching The Pursuit of Happyness, a film about a homeless man (Chris) who tries to build a serious career while sleeping in various shelters with his son, Christopher. Each night, Chris and Christopher raced the clock to catch the last city bus to the shelter to avoid sleeping in the street. Every scene in the film features Chris defying crazy odds, all while his little boy plays with a blue action figure… his favorite toy.
And that horrible moment came when Christopher dropped the little action figure in the street, but there was no time to go back for it. The bus door was closing. And there he was, his face pressed to the window, screaming with heartbreak. It was agony to watch. One story was ending. A better one was about to start.
If you’ve ever tried to climb your way to a better day, you know the agony of that scream. The one you feel when the sweat pours down but you just can’t lift that heavier weight. Where the millionth rewrite still disgusts you. Where you paste that painful smile on for work after reading the 152nd rejection letter. Where the fever keeps rising and the pain is at a 10, but you pull the covers over your head because you can’t afford the ER.
And you’ve got some sort of security blanket that makes you feel good. You stop posting your songwriting videos, and the trolls go silent. You embrace writer’s block, and your family sighs with relief that you’re past your “stirring up trouble” phase. You spend the money you were saving for schoolbooks on a weekend of fun. You sit on your ideas at the church board meeting just to avoid possible glares.
You precariously balance your purpose on the false safety of a quiet moment, leaning hard on those little comforts and habits that immobilize you for a while. And there you hang, lonely and fearing life without the crutch, without the security blanket.
I’m here to tell you, the story isn’t over.
That false sense of security isn’t going to fix you. Life doesn’t need permission to make you suffer. Swear off drama all you want; it will still come knocking at your door. No one thrives while living in perpetual and reactionary numbness. It’s time to walk through it and see what is on the other side. Yes, you have to be pathetic for a while if you ever want a prayer of being incredible.
As a woman of faith, there are two ways I overcome: 1. asking for God’s help, and 2. being as honest, practical, and gracious as possible about my awful situation.
At first, letting go feels like a disservice. When you go through something terrible, you just want the hell you endured to *matter,* so it’s tempting to hold on to the pain. When you keep trying and failing, it can even feel good to hate yourself to express that pain. Don’t. It matters. It does. You can be honest about that as you heal.
But the story isn’t over. For some reason, suffering becomes meaningful in hindsight. Elevate the impulse that wants to save you, and you will suffocate the immobility that wants to destroy you. And that is how you wake up at 30, 40, 60, and 80 unafraid of the ghosts keeping you in fear this very minute.
People will let you down, throw wrenches into your perfectly-moving gears, and otherwise fail to meet your expectations in ways that pack a wallop. Sometimes you bank your hopes on a dream, only to watch it die again and again.
But despite the tender stitches, the fractured ribs, the tears slipping like oil down the front of your shirt, I want you to let go of the little indulgences that hold you back, and choose growth over death. The story isn’t over.
You are not alone. Please don’t let that sudden fall into pain and pitch blackness take your heart.
Your story isn’t over.
For Kim G., who dared to be brave today.