Last updated on November 24th, 2012 at 06:16 pm
I had reached a point when life didn’t feel worth living to me, when I couldn’t find the meaning in it any longer. The past two years had been filled with trauma for me, and even though I was a young college graduate, with a degree from a top university and the world at my feet, I couldn’t see any hope, possibility or promise in my future.
Years later, I would learn that my experience was not unique as a trauma survivor. I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for years, having panic attacks at night whenever I heard a noise in the house, convinced that someone was going to break in and kill me.
This wasn’t so unusual, considering that I’d been stalked by a man who threatened to do just that, and described how he would do it. My body was primed to respond to the slightest movement or sound. I was still living in survival mode.
Spiraling into a deep depression, as I had, wasn’t so unusual either. Sometimes when the body has been through too much trauma and can’t make sense of things, it shuts down. I just felt like I couldn’t take anymore after all the experiences I had been through in those past two years, which I detail in my book, Burning Down the House.
Praying for Grace
Perhaps that is part of the reason I feel so much empathy for the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan right now. Their lives have been shaken up with so much loss and suffering, and the pure raw fear that can arise when events are no longer within your control.
The truth is, we never have complete control over anything except our own thoughts, words and actions.
But we often feel like we exert a certain amount of control over our environment. And it’s terrifying to find out that is not the case.
What happened in Japan last week, and the after-effects and ripples of it now, are beyond imagining for most of us.
It is impossible to imagine our possessions, homes, or most frighteningly people in our lives being just swept away.
It is mind-boggling to imagine rebuilding whole cities and communities from the ground up.
How does a culture process so much loss? And how can the world help them to get through it, and rebuild?
Remembering How Lucky We Are
Waking up to the news of the tsunami last Friday, I just cried, tears pouring down my face, thinking of all the people affected by this event. I didn’t know what I could possibly do to help. So I just focused on sending love, prayers and positive energy to the people of Japan.
Soon, friends sent links of ways to donate, and I gave what I could to one of the global relief organizations, figuring every donation of any size helps. Sunday, I spent time at the suggestion of a friend creating a group online on Facebook where people could share thoughts and prayers for the people of Japan: www.facebook.com/prayersforjapan
Somehow it helped me to feel like I was doing something, no matter how small, to contribute to the relief efforts.
I have never been through something like what the people of Japan are now enduring. But I have survived traumatic events in my own life, and learned to be happy again. I wish the same for them right now, that with the help of the world, they will rebuild and heal and find peace, love and joy in their lives again.
Witnessing an environmental and humanitarian crisis on this scale can serve to remind us how incredibly lucky we are, simply to have our health, homes, possessions, people to love, work to do.
It’s so easy to take the basics for granted. And yet many people around the world don’t have that much. Indeed, we are lucky to have all that we need to live our lives day to day.
Always More To Want
Do we have everything we want? If we’re human, probably not — the cycle of human desire is virtually endless. Unless we can escape it by turning to prayer, meditation or other means, and truly not define our lives by what we accomplish or acquire, we will almost certainly always be seeking something else. There is always more to want.
But do we have everything we need? For most of us, if we’re truly honest with ourselves, and barring any unusual circumstances like what is happening in Japan, we do have what we need to survive.
Of course we want more in order to thrive. And we want to live our dreams, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Following the arrow of desire where it leads you so you become what you dream of being is part of self-actualizing fully, and living a happy and fulfilled life.
But times like this, for me at least, are a poignant reminder of how much I do have. All that I could ever need, really, to live a happy life — food, shelter, clothing, people who love me, enough money to get by in the world.
I have my health. I have amazing family and friends. I have so many beautiful things — art, books, clothing.
I am so fortunate to be able to pursue my dreams, which right now include completing my book manuscript in 2011, finding an agent, and landing a publishing contract, and building my life-coaching business up to the point where it can sustain me and I can live and work from anywhere in the world.
I’m well underway with these dreams. These days, I’m just grateful that I have the opportunity to pursue them at all.
Taking Our Gifts for Granted
It is so easy to take all that we have for granted. Yet when we watch the world shifting in front of our eyes, and see how quickly it is possible to lose everything, it is a powerful reminder to be thankful for all that we have.
It is part of the reason that I’m so determined to finish my book this year, and to live my dream of coaching other women to lead fabulous, happy, fulfilled lives. I have been given such gifts, and want to make something of them!
I was terrified of my writing gift for years, afraid to actualize it. What if I never was the success I hoped I’d be? What if I couldn’t make it work financially?
Well, I won’t ever know if I don’t try, right? And perhaps I will encounter success beyond my wildest dreams now that I’m finally truly living all my dreams. Often those who generate the most abundance in the world, in terms of financial success, are those who simply have the courage to do what they love.
I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to pursue my dreams, and to have a supportive community here at 8womendream to help me do it.
The Gift of Peace
Right now, the Japanese people are likely just hoping their lives will someday return to normal.
For so many without homes, or shelter, or any possessions right now, getting their feet back on solid ground will feel like a small miracle.
For those who lost people they love, and for those for whom loved ones are still missing, finding peace in their hearts will feel like a miracle.
They will need time to heal.
I believe, from my own life experiences, that we can endure anything and emerge stronger for it.
I believe, after what I’ve been through, that grace is endless and will always allow us another chance to rebuild, start over, live our dreams.
Right now, I am wishing for a wave of grace to wash over the people of Japan, so they can feel how very much they are loved and supported by others around the globe, and so they will believe and know they can rebuild in time.
For all of us who are fortunate enough to be able to pursue our dreams, I would ask that we pause this week to reflect on how much we have and how fortunate we are. And that we give as generously as we can to help those most in need right now.
Help give the people of Japan the gift of peace.
Lisa Graham is an inspirational writer, life coach, motivational speaker, and globe-trotter whose passion is to help others to find happiness and meaning their daily lives. A political activist at heart, Lisa would like to empower more women to run for political office as a way to create positive change in the world. You can find her on the Madam President Project or watch her TEDx speech on YouTube.
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