Life experiences, whether personal, professional or both, have a way of turning our attention inward in order to make sense of what has happened. Stops us in our tracks and certainly gets our attention!
Such is the case for me right now and the “right now” is linked to an experience that occurred 38+ years ago. An experience that I call a “defining moment”. The experience was becoming a widow at age 38 with daughters not yet out of school and major decisions that would not wait until the shock of widowhood had worn off.
I rarely mention the experience as I don’t want to be”defined” by it. It happened, changed my life and that of my daughters; but I refused to let it be how I am defined in the hearts and minds of others. Frankly there was no time for that luxury as providing a living and a different lifestyle were at hand. And for that – I’m grateful!
Unfortunately such has not been the case for some folks on the periphery of my life. Folks who suddenly are part of life after years of simply being “on the periphery“. No need to share the gory details, but current events have forced me to go inward in order to make sense of and understand. This post is the result of the inward journey – and I hope it will be of benefit to one or many who read it.
I now understand that we can allow major life events to define us – or we can permit them to be “defining moments“. TWEET THIS
You might ask, “what’s the difference?“
On the surface, very little. But over time, allowing major life events to define us can become extremely debilitating. Once we decide to be defined by what has happened – to us or those we love – it’s too easy to stop becoming the woman we’re destined to be.
And if we gain what I call “goodies” from others because of our personal definition; then it can be nearly impossible to change. To grow – to achieve! After all, the sympathy gained from being defined by loss, grief, heartache or any other perceived negative is affirmation too heady to relinquish!
On the other hand, permitting major life events to become defining moments in our lives is not difficult at all. They have that capacity built into them. Moving from marriage to widowhood or divorcee’ certainly is a defining moment. As is corporate professional to “sorry but your services are no longer needed“!
Any major life event that changes the course of our lives in a dramatic way will remain a defining moment – regardless of how we define it for ourselves! TWEET THIS
So how do we avoid the “defined by” trap? Here’s some thoughts from my ‘inward journey’:
1. If a “loss” of some kind; grieve it. Grieve it NOW. In other words, grieve it at the time it occurs! At least peel back the top layers of grief and deal with them when the time is ripe for doing so. Deeper layers will arise from time to time; but they will take a much lesser toll.
2. Don’t wear your grief like a shroud. Women of faith, remember that Jesus neatly folded the burial cloth and laid it aside once resurrection occurred! Don’t deny it; but don’t use it as a label with which to “define” yourself from that moment forward! And don’t let others do the same!
3. Seek out those with whom you can be brutally honest – who will be the same with you. They’ll keep you honest and won’t let you wallow in self-pity hugging the shroud about you for the remainder of your days.
4. Own your feelings. If angry-be angry without engaging in destructive behavior. If weepy; weep. If raucously funny and irreverent-so be it! Whatever it is you feel at the moment; let it be you. In that way, you’ll not loose a sense of your own integrity and the ability to be honest with yourself!
5. Don’t let the reactions of others become an ego trap. The sympathy (compassion, empathy, etc) of others can be like salve on an open wound. Careful it doesn’t become salve on a wound that never heals!
6. Determine to seek wisdom and understanding from the experience. As we do so, the immediacy of the moment takes on a different hue. We begin to comprehend that perhaps what was meant for “evil” is an opportunity PAPA means for good. We may beg to differ with His opinion; but nevertheless, the truth will set us free.
There are many other “tips” for avoiding the ego trap of self-pity that defines us for the rest of our lives, but the 6 above will suffice for today.
Perhaps the most important piece of wisdom with which to leave you is the understanding that the “pity” others bring to the moment wanes over time. Our attempts to hold onto it prevents us from moving into the life we are designed to live. And it distances the very folks we would most like to remain.
I chuckle as I close this post because at times, I wonder if PAPA has permitted many of my own life experiences in order to give me ‘fodder’ for blog posts.
If so, I can think of better ways – but then He’s the one in charge. And He knows that what I don’t like is actually an opportunity to be defined in His way!
Linda S. Fitzgerald, Visionary Partner
Champion of Ordinarily Extraordinary Women of the World
A Women’s Place Network, Inc. dba
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[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/2382941337/pjm5n494765lxfks49h7_400x400.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]My passion is to see women become all they are designed to be – personally, professionally and most of all – spiritually. I write, teach, mentor and coach with that passion in mind. As an author and prolific blogger, I reach out to women in all walks of life, especially women of faith to empower and equip them for greatness. [/author_info] [/author]