Life's ups and downs

It is often said that “Misery Loves Company” and “when you are down and out, there are only two kinds of people: those who are down with you and those who are looking down on you.” 

You seldom get encouragement or help to pull yourself out from those milling around in the ditch with you. The people looking down on you will either reach out to help you or have no help to offer you for their reasons.

I have been in a tough spot multiple times in my life. Based on my own experience, it sometimes feels easier to stay down and be around people who understand your situation and cannot judge you because they are in a similar position, rather than facing the challenge of getting back up and starting over. But when we find the strength and courage to do so, it is a triumph to celebrate.

So, what does it take to pull ourselves out of the ditch? First, we must conclude that we are in serious trouble and need help. Second, we must put aside false pride, ask for help, and believe we deserve help. Third, we must figure out how we got into the ditch so we learn from the experience.

Our lives are like journeys; we sometimes take detours, not realizing the consequences ahead. After a while, some give up on themselves and their journeys. When we are down, our eyes become blinded by the distractions we have given value to. We must remember that journeys are about putting one foot before the other. We stay down out of our sense of shame and lack of self-worth.

However, we must find and hang on for dear life to just one, only one thing that will far out-shine our shame and feelings of defeat. It could be a family member, friend, or even remembering a broken promise to a loved one. For myself, I returned to God because, after sixteen years of substance abuse, at that time in my life, I had nothing left to hold on to.

When I looked hard, I could see my journey was just a glimmer away, waiting for my return. The path of my journey had not left me, but I had left the path. I realized that my life was worth fighting for and that “up” looked much better than “down.” I began to understand that I had to be willing to do whatever it took to climb out of the ditch and that I was obligated to complete the journey my God had given me.

To successfully climb back to the top, I had to prepare myself for the criticism and judgment of those who did not believe me. The remarks of others were hard and hurtful, but eventually, it became easier to turn a deaf ear to them than to listen and allow myself to fall again. There were days when my tears could fill buckets because sometimes, I was unsure I could stay in the fight when I grew tired.

However, when you make the crest of the ditch, you can breathe a little easier and find the footing that will put you back on the path of your journey. Now, do not think that once you have picked yourself up after this fall, you will be safe from future falls because you will not be. There will be more falls; perhaps they will not be as severe as the ones you fought to overcome this time.

When I think about the possibility and fear of falling, I remember a message someone once told me. “If you fall nine times, get up ten times.” These words are my motto for the journey of my life.

As I reflect on my several off-ramp journeys now that I am in my sixties, I realize that navigating the challenges of the paths I choose to walk were just that, challenges. I often thought I could not survive another fall into the ditch.

However, somehow, I managed to fall again. At my worst, my ears were deaf to the voices, and my eyes were blinded by the hands that tried to reach me. It took being at rock bottom with nowhere but up to go for me to see that I must choose to die or live.

Now I can say this: Going from one way of living to another, going from the lowest of the bottom to the highest of the top, is a rugged mountain to climb. However, this is a journey that is worth taking. No matter how many scrapes, scratches, bumps, and bruises you get, the climb will be a victory. How long this climb will take will be different for every individual.

You must be willing to persevere the journey and make amends to all whose hearts have you broken, whose backs have turned away from you to say I am so sorry. Accepting, believing, or acknowledging your victory will take longer for some. Do not force, argue, or beg. Accept where they are today and hope for tomorrow. Now, you must accept the hurt and disappointment you laid at their feet as you fell into the abyss. You realize this is the hardest part of the journey.

For many, this may cause a return to the bottom of the barrel. Not being accepted on your terms and timeline will be to your detriment. The one thing you, I required of myself, was to take care of me. Making people accept who I have become after my trials is not my job. I knew this was the time to learn to care for and love myself. To understand that I am not perfect. I will never be perfect.

When the doubters were ready to walk through my door and accept the changes I made, I welcomed them with open arms without question. The journey from the bottom to the top took a lot of work. However, I value every step it took to overcome the darkness of my life at the time. 

Sitting and remembering where I have been and what I have done sometimes saddens me. 

After some time, I reminded myself this was not where I was today. No one is telling me what a terrible person I am, and no one is pretending as if I do not exist. Today, I give back to those who remind me of who I once was.

Yet, remembering makes me so grateful for what I have today as I age and have peace of mind, living on a road less traveled.

M.L. Holly