At the crossroads of circumstance

I have a name for it. As a way, I guess, of making sure it stays branded on my memory the way it’s emblazoned on my soul. Anyone with a fraction of common sense would immediately want to forget it all, who with an above average intellect could remain so committed to preserving such epically forgettable memories? Don’t we learn at an early age to remember rainbows and butterflies and sweep into the corner thunderstorms and rattlesnakes? Isn’t that why we hang pictures of weddings and births on the mantle instead of divorce hearings and funerals?

The name I chose is as poignant as it is accurate and provides just enough imagery to paint a picture without looking like I tried too hard.

··Emotional Winter··

[pullquote]They see it more palatable to medicate themselves with careers, handicaps, and pornography than finally do battle with the dragons they’ve spent a lifetime trying to evade.[/pullquote]It was 2008 and out of the gates the year was decked up to be a bad one. For starters I was hungover Jan. 1st. Not long after I would begin championing the notion that how you feel on New Year’s Day will be how the entire year goes – I haven’t touched a drop on that night since.  Second, I was working through the recent break up of a long-term relationship and still in the fog. Third, I had just been let go from a job replacing it with a new one at half the pay. Fourth, an IRS audit notice arrived right on time to ruin my uneventful Valentine’s Day. And to top off this cocktail of catastrophe I was reintroduced to the family court system thanks to an ex wife who chose to do things the hard way. And this is to say nothing of my bumbling social and dating life; by late spring I was convinced I had reverted back to a toddler learning about life by putting round pegs into square holes.

And it’s here I should mention all of this was happening at the same time.

•♦•

The hidden reality of this chaos, which consumed my life, was how violently it removed the crutches I had relied upon for my self worth and manhood. Now that the money, job titles, and relationships had been stripped away and all the static that until then convinced me I had everything figured out suddenly vanished, leaving only an insecure little boy struggling with how he could have fallen so far. At this crossroads of circumstance I was forced to ask serious questions, “How did I get to this point?”, “What could I have done differently?”, “Why had I put my value is such superficial incidentals?” Those questions would send me on a quest for answers.

My journey was laid out before me and for the first time in my life I made the conscious decision to learn about me and figure out who I really was, regardless of where that led or what I ultimately found. I began with grabbing hold of every book I thought might offer clarity. I shut myself away like a hermit, reading, studying, and taking notes as if preparing for a massive final exam. Counseling, too, became a weekly ritual with my ego and pride as the usual sacrifices.

•♦•

Men have good reason to avoid soul-searching expeditions. For starters, without a GPS there’s no telling where one might end up – angry at the world or curled up in the fetal position. Second, it’s a long trip that’s never enjoyable; driving down the back roads of our past is extremely treacherous.  And lastly, self-reflection isn’t manly. Not one beer has ever been sold using the picture of a guy hitting the waterworks on his therapist’s couch.

It’s because of this men generally would rather go shoe shopping than spend any amount of time in introspection. Choosing instead to become masters of avoidance who find it easier to swallow hard and keep it down than spit it up and talk it out. They see it more palatable to medicate themselves with careers, handicaps, and pornography than take up arms and slay the dragons they’ve spent a lifetime trying to evade. These same men, whose passion for living is all but extinguished, merely go through the motions of living,  as if a cog in a wheel, while never realizing the machine they grudgingly feel a part of –  is their own making.

•♦•

It’s difficult to imagine how things might have gone without enduring and surviving my Emotional Winter. Much like a near death experience, my return from the other side resulted in a changed worldview, new priorities, and a vastly deeper perspective on things. I could now look back on that other me and see how he got himself in such a mess. With a better appreciation of my past, I now grasped what had motivated me to do those things that in time wreaked such damage. Through healing I was finally able let go of past resentments I hadn’t even realized I was holding onto. Peace and security were finally freed by breaking the shackles of yesterday.

All of this leads me to one conclusion, none of this could have occurred without a burning desire for it to do so. Change, growth, and healing never happen by accident. We can’t wish ourselves into a better person or expect it to be painless. Just as a model car won’t build itself, we first must learn where the pieces go, after which we must break them apart from their current molds, and only then can we put them together the way they were intended.

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18 responses to At the crossroads of circumstance

  1. I love the phrase “emotional winter”… we could all learn something from those animals that take some time to hibernate each year. Of course… like you said, we need to do more than just sleep 🙂

    Great post, as always!

  2. Amen to that! I often tell people (and write about it too) that most of the lessons I’ve learned in life have come at the expense of my comfort. My horrible upbringing is what makes me the person able to empathise today. My mistakes carved me into the person I am today – someone I actually like very much.

    Yes, hard times are the things that shape us and carve out all the pompous frills we’re accumulated through the years.

    As the bible says, it’s fire that takes out the impurities of gold. The purest metals are those that have passed through the hottest fire. I think the same works for our character.

    I’d like for you to come visit me sometime. I also have a confidence building blog (apart from my relationship one).

  3. Kyle Bradford – Author

    “My mistakes carved me into'” — Great choice of words Anne.

    BTW..I just RSS’d to your site. I haven’t been able to find the feed until now.

    Thanks!

  4. Great observations, Kyle! I’m not sure where the idea came about that life should be easy. I talk to folks every day that seem indignant when they don’t get what they want, or the idea of sacrifice makes them cringe. While it isn’t fun to do the hard work and soul-searching real change requires, the end result is almost always worth it. One of my favorite authors on personal leadership, Stephen Covey, often talked about the “law of the harvest” – imagine a farmer snoozing his way through spring and summer, only to “cram” all the seasons into the fall harvest! I’m learning everyday that change and growth are constant forces, and I can either embrace them and thrive, or resist and be toppled.

  5. Kyle Bradford – Author

    “I’m learning everyday that change and growth are constant forces, and I can either embrace them and thrive, or resist and be toppled.” – wonderfully said DT.

  6. Jennifer

    When it rains it really pours! Life is not easy… but then again, that’s GOD’s plan so that we will grow & learn to keep growing. Our dependence should be on HIM & not ourselves, because we can deceive ourselves sometimes. GOD brings these emotional winters to keep our eyes on HIM & not our problems. Just as HE brings winter into spring… we have to keep moving or else we’ll miss our blessings to come! Sometimes I read back on my journals after my divorce & it helps me to reflect & to keep moving forward. I can relate to what Anne wrote about the fire purifies the gold. A friend introduced me to a song that helps me with the moving process. At the time she was going through a really hard time & her battle helped me also to stay strong. “Beauty from pain” by Superchick

  7. nicole

    I’ve been on a similar path the past year and it is good to hear from someone on the otherside. Thank you for sharing it. It is not easy to be so open.

  8. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Thanks Jennifer. I’ve heard these moments termed ‘pivotal circumstances’, and through them we usually grow into someone we never thought we’d become.

  9. Jennifer

    It’s been a really long time … reading my thoughts & emotional battles keep me going because I did not want to be in that dark hole again.

    I wrote about the financial, emotional & spiritual battles I was going through. Not to mention being a single mom & having to work & care for my children. My oldest son was 2 when we separated and 5 when the divorce was final… as he grew up to understand that his dad was not in his life like he use to be … he would rebel. The battle of having to discipline him, knowing all he wanted was to be with his dad & have that security he once had. On the positive side things my love for my children grew. How I found joy in the smallest things like just reading them a story at night or taking them to the park to play after I got off work. I did these things when I was married but some how it wasn’t the same… God gave me peace when my focus was not on my circumstances. My faith grew because I really had no one but HIM & my church family (My family lives hrs away & didn’t always come to visit). Now when a battle comes, I have no choice but to keep going (not for me but the sake of my boys)…I have overcome & know that I will continue because I put my faith in the ONE that was the ultimate over comer!

  10. Kyle Bradford – Author

    “God gave me peace when my focus was not on my circumstances” — Jennifer that is a very insightful statement. We often find out greatest strength in our greatest moment of weakness.

  11. I have had so many AFGO’s (Another Friggin’ Growth Opportunity) I’m beginning to feel like a professional grower. This year has been especially challenging, but with all the pain comes this amazing vision of myself as a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. It’s really beautiful and empowering, but also damn exhausting. My shoulders now sport a beautiful phoenix tattoo and three butterflies to remind me of the deliciousness of transformation. Thank you so much for your post. I relate!

  12. And this post is exactly why I don’t read books like Fifty shades or Fantasies – people have to change themselves and they have to elect to do it – and it isn’t easy but it is worth the journey.

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