Valley. A low spot. According to Google, specifically between mountains and hills. Personally, a really great analogy for the journey of life.
We all know how it feels to climb mountains, perhaps not physically, but metaphorically speaking. Likewise we all know how it feels to slip.
Sometimes it’s just a momentary loss of footing where we catch ourselves a few feet down.
Other times it’s a straight plummet to the bottom or a fast descent where, no matter how hard we try, we can't seem to regain control.
Defining the difference between plummeting and a fast descent is important to me because I’ve suffered both. A plummet is a result of life hitting you so hard, so unexpectedly and so painfully that you’re laying in the valley before you really realize you’re falling. A fast descent feels more like life is throwing pebbles at you – which quickly turn into larger stones – escalating to what can feel like a rockslide as you grasp for anything to stop yourself. Both end the same way – you’re back at the bottom, in the valley, a little (or a lot) broken and bruised.
Picking yourself back up in any one of these situations presents its own challenges. But in this post I want to talk about my most recent fast descent and what I learned about rockslides, myself and this adventure we call life. It's time to think about what to do when life seems to come crashing down – and you're caught in the middle of it.
Epic plans (alone) will not prevent rockslides.
This in and of itself was my first lesson. Some of you may be thinking I should have already known this.
Unfortunately, “learning the hard way” sometimes feels like my go-to strategy.
In my past blogs, I talked about some of the goals I set for each area in my life to take me from striving to thriving. In the last post I touched lightly on some setbacks I encountered and how I addressed them. What I seemed to have forgotten was to pay attention to the setbacks encroaching around me, the little things that turn into big things faster than you can keep up.
I recently got hit with two shake-ups that turned into an epic rockslide:
- New job assignments and projects
Now, in all fairness, I knew I was going to be moving. It was planned. Sure – it would put a stretch on my time and brain capacity, but figured I could handle it with a little adjusting of my schedule. I could catch that rock and continue my ascent.
Being assigned to a new barn this month, however, was completely unexpected. As in, I was asked what I thought of the reassignment on a Thursday evening, given the official news that Friday afternoon and started at the new place the next Monday. This change in responsibilities requires more time and concentration.
A new barn. A new manager. A new crew. A new way to run things. New opportunities. And new challenges.
Stone after stone after stone. Rock after rock after rock. And there I go.
After the first week in, I was exhausted and started trying to create shortcuts.
“I won’t get up to go running today. I’m too tired.”
“I could work on one of my five personal projects, but I need to unwind. Maybe I’ll watch a movie.”
“I don’t have time to meditate.”
“I can’t focus long enough to read this book, article, paper, blog.”
All of those mindsets I’d been fending off came back full force as I continued to lose ground. By the end of the week, my descent had escalated and I was back at the bottom.
Getting Back Up
I won’t lie – laying in the valley, looking up at the mountain while freshly bruised and weakened, getting up seemed twice as daunting as before. Sitting up hurt. Standing up felt impossible.
As I sat there, the second lesson dawned on me.
I am solely responsible for deciding to get back up.
I will tell you that I did not get back up immediately. I sat there for a couple of days waiting for something to hit me and lift me to my feet. But, in one brief moment of clarity, I realized that if I did not choose to rise, nothing would magically get me up. There are no magic words, no energy drink, and no amount of caffeine or motivating speeches to lift you up. If you do not decide to push past the pain of the fall, past the pressure of everything undone, past every negative mindset and thought running at you – an army could not lift you up.
Did I get back up on my own? No. I turned to the helping hands surrounding me; I pressed into my God and his word, I listened to inspiration from those around me, I listened to role models on podcasts and read blog posts. But it had to be my decision – and mine alone – to act on what I was hearing and reading. And to convince myself to act, I had to decide to believe those things.
Deciding to get back up is one of the biggest struggles we face. It is a continuation of the everyday war taking place on the battlefield of the mind. So what was the final straw?
In Mark’s training, he goes through The Survivor’s Guide to Thriving pyramid. The third step – Suffering – is a place I’m sure we’ve all been. Knowing life could be better, that we don’t have to be complacent in survival mode, that we could reach for our dreams and we could thrive – but we're hurting because we haven't taken action yet. The realization that I was in this Suffering phase flipped the motivation switch for me. I am not content to settle for giving life less than my best.
Instead, I made the decision to take a deep breath and shake off the momentary pain of standing back up – instead of endlessly suffering on the ground.
Final Thoughts from the Valley
As I continue my journey up the mountain a couple final thoughts hit me.
- Could I have prevented my rockslide or at least minimized the damage?
Absolutely. There will always be situations in life that you cannot control – but you can always control your reactions. In this case, I needed to…
- …be more honest about my limitations to myself and those around me. I was so focused on my goals and plans that I was not adequately prepared for dealing with unforeseen changes.
- …sit down and readjust my schedule.
- …prepare for an adjustment period.
- …be more firm in my commitments to the things that could have saved the days I felt myself slipping – meditating, reading, participating in small activities I enjoy and more overall investment in myself .
There is no reason I needed to feel overwhelmed, aside from the fact that I let myself feel that way and then did nothing to relieve it (devolving into a slow sort of panic). Is this the last time I will begin to feel overwhelmed? No. But it could be the last time that feeling turns into a rockslide.
- There is beauty in the breaking.
The second half of Google’s definition of Valley is “… often with a river running through it.” And the images? Breathtaking. The valley can be a beautiful and refreshing place, if you choose to look at it correctly. My faith is deeper, my determination doubled and vision clearer. My plan and goals are still epic. The mountain is still high. But I would rather keep my eyes on the heavens, then cast them down to study my doubts.
Brittany Shears is a millennial on a mission to find “the best version of me”. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a dual degree in Animal Science and Agribusiness. By trade, she is in training to manage a sow unit in rural Ohio. Outside of work, she is active in her church and plans to be a minister, owns two horses and is an avid reader. It is her combined passion for agriculture and her faith, coupled with her supportive family and friends, which have inspired her from a young age. Brittany’s primary goal is to find an occupation that will allow her to showcase these two passions and incorporate them in her professional life. On her journey from dream to reality, she continues to gain invaluable experience and learn life lessons that propel her forward.