When Things Fall Apart

Light at the end of the tunnel - pedestrian underpass in Tbilisi

By Judy Berman

I’m puzzled at times why some things go awry. I question what I could I have done differently.

There are times when we all feel stuck, when a job or a relationship is going south. But even those dark moments can become great teachers.

Once, when I lost a job, we were holding two mortgages – one on our old house after a sale fell thru, the other on a house we’d just moved into. This “layoff” happened right after I requested time off for surgery.

It was a difficult time. Too much month at the end of the money.

Initially, I was bitter and angry. But, I don’t regret going thru it.

The people I met along the way and the experiences I had – both good and bad – helped me become a more confident and resourceful person.

When you let go of being the victim, you are in a better position to take control of your life and achieve greater peace.

“Above all, be the heroine in your life, not the victim,” author Nora Ephron said.

Cocoa - Historic Cocoa Riverfront Park - 12-28-15

Time for a reality check. You don’t need to be a Pollyanna.

There’s no question that setbacks and personal tragedies – such as a debilitating illness, death of a loved one and job losses – can be overwhelming.

You can either let those hard times define you or help you emerge stronger. These thoughts are at the heart of Pema Chödrön’s “When Things Fall Apart.”

How to find that calm center? Let music soothe your soul, escape into a good book, seek a change of scenery by a walk along a river or thru the woods.

Or, you might want to step outside your comfort zone and help those who are struggling the most.

Book buddies

What suggestions would you make on how to handle challenges?


Photo: Light at the end of the tunnel (pedestrian underpass in Tbilisi) – taken Dec. 29, 2012, by Sandro Kharazashvili. Source: Flickr: Light at the end of the tunnel. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7f/Light_at_the_end_of_the_tunnel_%28pedestrian_underpass_in_Tbilisi%29.jpg/365px-Light_at_the_end_of_the_tunnel_%28pedestrian_underpass_in_Tbilisi%29.jpg

Photo: Historic Cocoa Riverfront Park, Cocoa, Florida – taken by Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish III on 12-28-15.

Photo: Book Buddies – http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/phillypets/Berks-County-animal-shelters-Book-Buddies-program-is-the-cutest-thing.html – The Berks County animal shelter’s Book Buddies program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is one of many ways to reach out and help others.

  1. I subscribe to Nora Ephron’s advice, one she practiced in her own life: Be the heroine, not the victim. You also referred to Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart, which sounds so like the title to another work, very disparate though, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart set in post colonial Nigeria.

    How do I handle challenges? Because I have a Christian worldview, I would pray to help me view the situation realistically and then act accordingly. But I may also need to vent as you have done here by writing. Sometimes it also helps to have a good, cleansing cry – and the support of friends and family. Again, a thoughtful post, Judy!

  2. Become the heroine, not the victim. Very good advice. But when things fall about and there is neither a heroine nor a villain, I’ve learned to stop, take a deep breath, pray, and then either rest or walk. And almost always some gem of truth, comfort or inspiration will evolve. Almost always.

  3. Meditation saves me. And crying helps me release the pain I’m feeling. I also agree that helping others can bring you out of that funk. You start to feel more productive and positive.

    1. Darla … I have a book of photos and Zen quotes that I often turn to. That helps as well. I agree that when you do something to help others that does help you focus on something other than your troubles. 😉

  4. Personally, I spit my gum out and start shooting.

    Oh, OK . . . Basically, I do what I can to make things better, live with what I can’t do anything about, and occasionally bitch to a wall or dead tree just to not keep things in.

  5. This all makes perfect sense to me …just go with the flow ..,the struggle against the rodents a whole lot harder…interesting post, certainly a pause for thought

  6. Rodents? I have no idea where that comes from , the word should have been tide ☺️ Hey but but rodent sounds ok if you turn it around a bit 😂 Really had trouble messaging u lately Judy but had probably with internet

  7. what a wonderful approach to life and all of its challenges – i try to see them as learning experiences too, and know that there will be something unexpected and good that comes from them –

    1. If we learn from our experiences, Beth, then that is a good thing. That is what I hope for. I’ve said that I don’t make the same mistake a dozen times … I just make a dozen different mistakes. 😉

  8. I suppose sometimes it depends on the type of challenge. There are upsets, and then there is total devastation. Sometimes being the heroine helps not only because it means you are not the victim, but also because it means you become a leader for others to follow. Even pretending to have strength, sometimes makes it so.
    At the same time, everyone is different. We all have to find our own way out of any abyss. Ranting to a friend helps. I’ve done my own type of relaxation and visualization exercises at times. Sometimes you need to cry or rant, or even have a Gilmore Girls wallowing in sorrow session with junk food and movies, helps before you can move on.

  9. Things Fall Apart is a good book. I value it’s depth. I liked the different things you mentioned. It is hard when you are sloshing around in the muck to feel gratitude or see the rainbows after the mud dries up and sun comes out.
    I lost a lot in 2006. It is still fresh, a home we had built from the ground up, 7 years as an Early Intervention (special needs preschool) teacher, and I felt my husband had given up 3 years prior. Moving into an apt in 2006, I still kept working on my Master’s degree and hoping to get it completed. Working 4 nights a week at a Cracker Barrel, teaching 5 days a week and taking courses at OSU. 🙂 It turns out you don’t die from stress, loss or pressure. I use what I know and learned with my grandies. I have a daily work out in a warehouse which may prevent my having dementia like my Mom has. Hope you are okay, will find answers and a way through things, Judy. Hugs, Robin

    1. Everyone has some degree of troubles. It sounds like you found a way through yours.

      They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I found strength that I didn’t know I had. Thankfully, the days I mentioned are far behind me. Thank you, Robin. 😉

  10. Oh, I made it up to 2008 teaching 9 years. Three courses left but not available during summer nor at times I wasn’t teaching. My OSU dean suggested I take a sabbatical. Lol 😀

    1. It took me ten years to get my associate’s degree (2 years for most folks who go full time. I went very part time.) Then I took another eight years to finish up my Bachelor’s degree. Keep on, keepin on, Robin. 😉

      1. I have met several during that No Child Left Behind mad scramble and they didn’t regain their jobs. Sometimes it is best to move forward and not look back. I have found satisfaction in not teaching anymore, Judy. It helps to have little ones to read to, do crafts with and play outside, chasing them. 🙂

  11. Beautiful thoughts here Judy. We are all battling our own demons, for me in the highs and lows I always learn something about myself. They do make us stronger. I wrote in a journal when I lost my brother. When I read it now the wounds re-open but I can see how time softens the loss. Now when things go off course I am more relaxed and just let the worry go. There are always ups and downs and sideways moments. I understand that better now and realise many things we have no control over. But we can control how we choose to deal with them.

    1. Thank you for this, Kath. I try not to post negative stuff because I don’t want to dredge up those emotions when I read it again. But, when I do, I’ve often found they’ve been a wonderful learning experience. 😉

  12. That was mean decision of your employer to let you go when you were at a low point and needing time off for surgery! 😦 I’m glad to hear you managed to find the right attitude in the end. I’m sure I would be flaming mad!! There’s nothing worse than feeling like your enemy is residing within you – if that makes sense? If it continues for years, they have a permanent hold over our minds and sometimes our quality of our lives.

    I don’t know what the law is where you are Judy, regarding that kind of action from your employer, but if an employer did that in the UK they would probably be prosecuted. People have lost their homes and family over such situations. Employers can be extremely selfish and forget their employees are human.

    I know a young woman who had a similar dismissal happen to her after she informed her employer she was pregnant. She managed to get enough information from some of the her ex workmates that the company had lied about not needing her and had employed someone else to immediately replace her. My brother helped her get enough legal information and the right lawyer, she proceeded to sue them for loss of earnings. The company caved in and settled out of court. It turned out a victory for her, but a miserable thing to go through, having a first baby should have been a happy time for her.

    But like you said, those dark moments can be great teacher – I’ve found that too.

    I’m not sure I have any advice on how to handle change, other than we need to refresh the way we have previously thought about things. It’s often not so much a new chapter but an entirely new book! 🙂

    1. Suzy … I’ve always loved Anne LaMott’s outlook on this subject: “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
      Another perspective: “Living well is the best revenge.” I got my former job back. Within a year, my boss sent another reporter and me to cover the Republican National Convention when it was held in New Orleans. That was one sweet assignment and I was delighted to be working for someone who appreciated me and let me know it. 😉

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