Living Authentically When Things Fall Apart

April 09, 2012

This is a guest post written by Carrie Hensley, who writes and coaches over at Realize Your Potential.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. ~Viktor E. Frankl

 I have crafted a beautiful story for myself. One I have been working on for years. In this story, I have survived sexual abuse, overcome drug and alcohol addiction, and have not popped a Dulcolax in two years. I have collected beautiful labels including wife, mother, yoga instructor, entrepreneur, and mentor. I have worked through shame, surrendered to ego, and hold concepts like humility and integrity dear to my heart.

 Within a year, my story has unraveled, things have fallen apart, and I am in the heart of the fire.  Some major family drama has surfaced including allegations of sexual abuse with a family member and his daughter, another family member is threatening to sue my company, and I am in the process of letting go of my company because I can never recover the loss of the property after the economy collapsed.

 Like many of us survivors, I love control, I thrive on being the “good girl,” and I want you to like me. Like you, I am an achiever, because the more we do, the more we prove our worth, the more we secure our footing in the world around us. Like you, I am fiercely independent and can take care of myself. Like many of us, I can shut down at the speed of light, cut off relationships in a single thought, and build walls that Attila the Hun would be proud of.

 So, is it possible to live authentically when things fall apart? Is it possible to keep our hearts open and expose the raw grace of being human? Is it possible to allow things to unfold without blame, without shame, and with a willingness to learn, grow, and continue to extend into our potential? I, wholeheartedly, believe it is.

 You Are an Active Participant in Your Life

Viktor E. Frankl, survivor of the Holocaust, reminds us that our freedom lies in the space between reactivity, in our ability to choose our response.  I may have not been able to speak up as a child but I can call CPS when no one else is willing to save an innocent child from abuse. I may not be able to control the economy but I can choose the ways I take care of my family. Living authentically, when things fall apart, means making choices as an active participant in my life as opposed to acting like a victim and feeling like things are being done to me.

Surrender Your Expectations

Shoulds tell us something is fundamentally wrong with reality. Reality is as it is. No wishing or hoping will change that. It doesn’t mean we have to like our current reality. It simply means accepting that in this moment there is drama, there is pain, there is loss, there are strong emotions… By surrendering our expectations, we live authentically by staying present to what is. Journeying into this fire exposes us to our true potential. We dip into the courage to choose to help another soul, we dip into compassion by holding ourselves tenderly through the loss and grief, we dip into grace by exposing ourselves to the darkest places of our soul knowing we will survive and be stronger for it.

Extend Kindness to Yourself

When we are hooked into feeling defective or broken, it is easier to judge and criticize ourselves. Because I’ve operated from this place for so many years, it feels more natural to tell myself I am a failure, I can’t do anything right, I have nothing to offer, even my family couldn’t pick me… Living authentically, when things fall apart, means challenging those limited belief systems. It means picking yourself over and over. It means not getting angry with yourself when you need to take time off from writing, because that’s what you need. It means letting the tears flow over and over and over, even though you swore you dried every tear duct out twenty times over.

Reach Out to Others

Shame, fear, and doubt thrive in isolation. For many of us, secrecy was the key to allowing unhealthy behaviors to thrive. There is no judgment here. There is an understanding that living authentically, when things fall apart, means opening your heart to another who can hold it tenderly for you. By opening our hearts for another to mirror the compassion, love, and understanding we need strengthens the vulnerability, beauty, and grace of being human.

 How do you live authentically when your world around you is falling apart?

Carrie’s blog, Realize Your Potential, teaches women how to live a life rooted in purpose, prosperity, and peace.