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March 3, 2014

Lisa Madras: Feeling stuck? It’s time to figure out why

NEW CASTLE — Why are you where you are?

Geez, if this isn't a loaded question, I don't know what is. This one is going to make up dig deep. Real deep. And before the digging even starts, we have to define what we mean by "where you are."

We could be talking about your health, or your happiness, or the kind of relationship you're in, or how much you weigh. We could mean one or some or all of these things. Chances are, though, as soon as you asked yourself this question, one specific thing came to mind.

For me, it was the general state of my life, and included pretty much everything I just listed, plus some. Why am I a 40-year-old widowed mom with a string of failed relationships and an ever-ballooning weight problem who doesn't make enough money to pay the bills? (And yet, oddly enough, I am a pretty happy person.)

Let me answer that question in a moment. First, let me say that several of those things are obviously nothing to be happy about. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I'm in a pretty bad place on most of those things. And if "where you are" is a bad place, then it's definitely something worth taking a look at.

Now, if you ever manage to get through my overly-wordy stories and learn a lesson or two, I want you to pay careful attention to this one. So much so, that I'm going to spell it out right now instead of making you work for it: If you're in a bad place, and you want to get out, you HAVE to figure out how you got there.

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've listened to friends or family members cry, broken-hearted, over the state of their lives. Maybe they can't seem to find a decent man to date, or they've been passed over for yet another promotion at work, or their child is out of control, or they can't seem to lose the weight they want to lose.

And yet they continue to do the same things, day after day, year after year — and yet still have the (yes, I'm going to say it!) audacity to act confused as to why nothing ever changes.

Listen, I can say that and get away with it, because I've done it myself. Hello, Pot, my name's Kettle.

That said, let's finally answer that burning question of how I manage to remain happy even though most of my life has basically unraveled like a cheap sweater. I'm happy because I finally figured out that being a victim doesn't mean you have to remain one. Let me say that one more time: Being a victim doesn't mean you have to remain one.

Just knowing that, and believing it, was enough to turn the tide in my direction and made my downward swing flip completely around to an upward one. I'm happy, too, because even though I still have a ton of things in my life that need fixing, I'M ACTIVELY DOING SO, even if it's one mess at a time.

Trust me when I say that I know how easy it is to rest in the comfort of familiarity, even when that familiarity is the lies we tell ourselves to excuse our own culpability in these situations. (I don't eat any more than a skinny person ... the way men treat me has nothing to do with how I allow them to treat me ... I don't have the time to go back to school, to go to the gym, to pursue that hobby.)

It's only when we can be honest with ourselves that we realize exactly why we are where we are. We are where we are because we've put ourselves there. Maybe we haven't made the smartest decisions. Maybe we were thinking with our hearts when we should have been thinking with our heads. Maybe we weren't thinking at all. Or maybe, deep down, we just thought we didn't deserve any better for ourselves.

If we're trapped in a cycle of any kind, it's because it's a cycle that we, ourselves, perpetuate. That's a hard truth. But until you face it, and start doing things differently, the cycle will never be broken.

 

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