How many times have you thought or said, “I can’t–“
I just can’t take this stress anymore.
I just can’t take this abuse anymore.
I just can’t take this not knowing anymore.
I just can’t take this uncertainty anymore.
I just can’t take this job/conflict/relationship/pain [insert your whatever] anymore.
A similar phrases is, “I just can’t do this [insert your whatever] anymore.
If you’re like me and millions of our global neighbors, you’ve expressed that sentiment more times than you’ve changed your clothes.
A few years back, at the height of my marital breakdown, and then again in the months after learning about a fifteen-year-old, parental-alienation lie that literally obliterated my family structure, fractured my relationship with my children, and led to a divorce I never would have imagined, I heard those words coming out of my mouth. “I can’t take this anymore.” A guttural plea that came from the depths of my soul.
And it hit me. My own words.
The very premise of The Five Facets Philosophy on Healing is this: We are born with everything we need to heal our heartaches big and small, to turn any struggle into success and any heartache into healing. In other words: We CAN.
Being mindful of the daily language and lifestyle behaviors that hold us in a conflict and grief pattern is one of the first elements new clients and I discuss. Changing limiting thoughts, speech, and behaviors is a critical part of the action process for each person moving forward in their healing.
When you say you cannot do something, your entire being hears those words and it can give up before you ever begin!
In my own scenario, I honestly didn’t know how the hell I was going to move forward after one of my children cut me out of his life and the relationship with the other two went sideways in ways I could not understand. No F-N clue. Though I’ve come a long way in healing that trauma, the journey continues as I further process, internalize, and continue to learn more about what these losses mean to me.
The first step was recognizing what I was saying and then to change my verbiage: “I don’t know how I’m going to manage this, but I know I can.”
“Can’t” is unempowering and holds you hostage, while “Can” is filled with promise, potential, and possibility!
One of my favorite quotes is by Maya Angelou. She said, “When you learn, teach. When you teach, learn.” That’s how I approach every situation, always looking to learn something new. And one of the things I always say to others when I am teaching is: “Take what resonates with you and discard the rest.” I have often joked: “This ain’t the gospel.”
Recently I was working with someone to whom I had expressed this latter quip.
“I can’t–” she said, stating what it was she didn’t believe she could do.
Before my brain could register anything, these words tumbled from my mouth: “The truth is, you CAN. And that IS the gospel.”
The truth is: You can heal adversity and acheive your wildest dreams
She and I laughed about that in many sessions to come and I found myself sharing the sentiment with others.
THIS IS THE GOSPEL, Neighbor! You CAN accomplish whatever it is you want to do. Yes, it might mean adjusting your desired outcome, but You CAN.
Counselor Hank, my very first therapist, once said to me after I expressed my belief that we can do anything we put our minds to that, “Well, Annah, some things aren’t possible. For instance, if you told me you wanted to be an Olympic gymnast at your age, I might say that is not likely to happen as those athletes are in their teens and early twenties.”
My reply? “True. BUT, if you loved the sport that much, then there are things you can do to alter your dream and still accomplish it in some form or fashion. Maybe a person could sponsor an elite gymnast or volunteer at a gymnastics center. The possibilities are endless, if you’re willing to adapt.”
He didn’t have a rebuttal.
Knowing what you don’t want can lead you to what you DO want
Once I recognized how “I can’t” was holding me hostage from moving forward in the wake of The Lie, I began shifting my language to “I don’t want to.”
I don’t want to be in the situation where my children are cutting me out of their lives.
I don’t want to envision a life without them in it.
I don’t want to have to figure out how to forgive all the people involved.
I don’t want to leave my marriage.
I don’t want to keep doubting myself, only to later learn my instincts and observations were correct.
When the thought occurred to me, well into the divorce process about who stood the most to gain in telling our children something so horrific, I had change the “I can’t believe he would do something like that” to I don’t want to think it is possible their father, the man who vowed to love me “til death do us part,” could ultimately be the mastermind behind The Lie.
I don’t want to even have to consider that one of my many options in coping with all of this is to approach life under the auspices that my three living children are as dead to me as their brother, Gavin, who did die shortly after birth.
I don’t want to lose my friends.
I don’t want the pain. Not one ounce of it. For a brief bit, I found myself once again wailing out to The Universe and anyone else who might be listening: “How am I going to survive this?”
What I’ve learned through my research and the thousands of conversations I’ve been part of is this: When you ask that existential question “How am I going to survive this?,” what you are really wanting to know is “How am I going to heal?”
Knowing what you do want leads you to what you can do
Once you can identify that you don’t want something, then you are empowered to choose what it is that you DO want. You are further empowered when you listen to your gut and your heart, to accept that there are many, many things you CAN do, and then take action to figure out what some of those things are.
For me, the first step was acknowledging the feeling that my soul would die if I stayed where I was, living around the people whom I initially believed to be The Lie’s purveyors and individuals with whom I repeatedly found myself in a perpetual hurt-and-healing cycle.
I called upon my years of experience and the many times I had successfully turned heartache into healing and struggle into success.
Slowly, but surely, I began to remember what I had learned and to implement the strategies I share on a regular basis. AND, I listened to those I could trust when they pointed out that I might not be taking my own advice, was being too hard on myself or not giving myself enough credit for the many positive, forward movement actions I was taking.
I began changing those “don’t wants” to “do wants,” and then figuring out how I could make them happen.
I do want to forgive those whose lies caused so much destruction and I called on my training to remember that forgiveness is not about the other person or situation, it is about releasing ourselves from the negative and limiting energies associated with the individuals or circumstances. I can wrap my head around that. I can come back to that belief when I find myself ruminating on the injustice of it all.
And most importantly, being away from all the hurt helped me to learn the ways I can treat myself with the same compassion I give others, and to find what I need to forgive myself for the times when I was not the best version of myself.
I do want to be in a relationship where I can trust my partner will honor his vows to me, to follow through on his promises, and to choose me over material things. Knowing that, I accepted that I could, and I DID, leave my marriage.
Shifting to an “I can” mindset creates healing
I do want to learn to trust myself. I can, did, and continue learning everything I can about the unhealed parts within me, the ones that previously drew me to emotionally unavailable and abusive relationships. I can heal those parts of myself. And so can you.
I do want to feel peace in my heart and my head. I can accept that I may never know the truth about who initiated The Lie and I can accept that knowing all the details behind it really won’t serve any purpose. I cannot change it. I can only change how I respond to it now. It became immediately and abundantly clear that trying to defend myself only made it worse for me and, in that recognition, I learned that I can stand tall in the knowing that The Lie is pure fabrication that someone else devised to get what they wanted, no matter who they hurt in the process.
I do want some semblance of a relationship with my children and I discovered that I can have that with them, one where I can send out love without any expectation for anything in return. True, unconditional love can be achieved… I can let them know when I’m thinking about them. I can tell them I love them, even if some of those messages can only be sent out into the ether. I can appreciate the connection moments I do have–and have had– and I can remember to employ Dr. Seuss’ wisdom: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”
I draw on my innate belief that our children really are not “ours,” we are but vessels privileged with bringing them into this world and then doing the best we can, with what we have on any given day, to raise them into their own adulthood. I can forgive myself for the times I wasn’t the best version of myself AND I can honor the countless times I was brilliant, even in the face of absurd circumstances.
I acknowledged that I did everything I could to honor my marriage vows, and in the absence of my spouse honoring his to me, I realized for the first time in my life that I can also honor my Sacred Self.
I can make new friends and I can accept that those who chose not to remain friends with me following the divorce might not have been the best type of forever friend for me. And I can accept that, in that particular Season of Life, those relationships were what I needed them to be.
I learned that I can fulfill a life-long dream of traveling and overcome my fear of taking leaps of faith as a solo act. In fact, I went to Scotland for three months on a shoe-string budget. I knew no one when I arrived and I left with many new friends I met along the way.
The list of what I can do continues to grow exponentially, Neighbor.
The Gospel According to Annah: You Can
I one-hundred-percent believe it, Neighbor. You can live your best personal, professional, and philanthropic life, even in the face of any adversity you might meet.
Now, make it your mantra: The Gospel According to YOU: I Can
Share in a comment what you CAN do right now to create a healing moment, Neighbor! You never know who might need to hear it and who else you might inspire!
I see you. I feel you. I believe in you, Neighbor!