Sometimes, the things that break us set us free.
I was running when those words came to mind. I was pushing myself beyond my usual limits to see if I could go a bit farther, a bit faster. My breathing was labored, my body was still sore from my last run, and I was simultaneously hot from the workout and cold from the weather.
I kept reminding myself that I would have to push myself to do more than I thought I was capable of if I wanted to reach my goals. I want to run a half-marathon, and I won’t be able to do that if I don’t push myself a bit farther. And then the thought just came to me: Sometimes, the things that break us set us free.
It was such an epiphany that I nearly stopped in my tracks. Because it’s not just about running, although it can be applied to running, too. But it seemed like the anthem of my entire life.
Every time that I faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles, a part of myself was set free. It hasn’t been an enjoyable process. I look back at a lifetime of relocations, losses, divorce, having my heart broken in the experience of unrequited love, and even losing a job that I liked and on which I depended. It’s not a pretty picture, but what is beautiful and amazing is how well I survived them all. But I didn’t just survive — I thrived.
I took all of that agony and turned it into something incredible. I made my own experience art that others could relate to, and I transformed myself from a person who was sleep-walking through life into a deeply-feeling human who has gotten in touch with my own soul, and is committed to living a fearless, passionate, authentic existence.
But I look back and think about the things that set me free, and it’s interesting that arising out of all of it, to my own surprise, is a feeling of profound gratitude. If just one thing I had wanted in my master life plan had worked out, I might have missed the growth experience that propelled me toward new opportunities. I wouldn’t have thought at any of these points in time that I would ever look back with any feeling as positive as gratitude. And yet I do.
If I’d stayed in that marriage or that job or that relationship, my life might have been okay. I would likely have had moments of great joy along the way. But I wouldn’t have stepped outside of my comfort zone to embrace the next step.
I would have missed out on living a life that aligns with my dreams. I would have missed out on meeting the amazing people I’ve met along my journey. I would never have known that there was all this potential lying beneath the complacency of a life that I had accepted but didn’t passionately love.
On the other side of being broken — more than once, I might add — I can see that I tend to learn things the hard way. The Universe has to push me and break me to get me to pay attention to the life I need to be living.
I would never have quit a good paying job with great hours to write. I wouldn’t have relocated to a place that feels like home if my marriage hadn’t fallen apart. Every step forward was one that I took because of a mighty push. Now I live in gratitude for the experience of being broken from those cages and set free.
I have no idea what the future will look like. None. Because I know that my life plan and the plan that Life has for me aren’t the same, and any expectation will inevitably lead to disappointment.
That may seem bleak, but I’m focusing instead on the patterns of my past: Yes, I may be broken along the way, but that breaking has always been what I needed to be set free. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring means that the future is open to possibilities.
I hope some of them will be the ones I dream of, and I plan to live my life true to my deepest core of passion and authenticity. But I also know that some of what will happen might be better, bigger, and wilder than even my wildest imaginings.
I hope sometimes I’ll even listen to the Universe without having to break first.
Sometimes the things that break us set us free
You broke my stubborn heart against your wall
My cage broke open then, releasing me
I thought I was breaking as I began to fall
Instead, I began this clever transformation
I turned into something clearly unexpected
And this thing of beauty was sort of your creation
This thing that rose in me that you rejected
Every breath took me further from my desire
I trembled like a leaf falling too fast
But the flames of this new feeling took me higher
I dropped the hook that tied me to the past
And as I evolved into something stranger
As my past burned away somewhere fall below
I realized that falling wasn’t danger
The danger was in never letting go
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul.
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