Lesson # 18: It’s important to “get back out there” even after a big loss
We all knew this famous Mother Goose’s nursery rhyme as a kid:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall Humpty Dumpty had a great fall All the King's horses And all the King's men Couldn't put Humpty together again.
Such is life after a loss. We feel as if our life has taken a great fall. And now we are left to pick up the pieces. In my case, the major piece in it was gone along with several smaller ones around it. Sure I had tried to replace the missing pieces, but I came to realize that I couldn’t replace them.
Just imagine. It’s not easy to put Humpty Dumpty back together again once he had a fall and broke into pieces. It takes time, patient, and a lot of effort to find all the pieces and figure out how they fit together. If some of the pieces are missing, it will make it even more difficult to rebuild him. I used to search frantically for those missing pieces in an effort to replace them so I could re-create him just the way he was. Never thought I was allowed to consider creating a new shape all together. My fear was: What if I fail?
Images from childhood failures and embarrassments began to enter my mind. Memories of being criticized and rejected showed up unexpectedly. The same feelings of ‘never good enough’ and ‘unlovable’ came rushing in. What if that happens again? It was definitely easier to stay in my comfort zone, risking little, gaining none. But there was a time in my life where the urge to spread my wings was stronger than the fear of falling down. There was a time when the wiser part of me realized that to not show the Humpty Dumpty of my own making would be a waste of the precious life God gave me. So I decided to think of what I’d like to create, looked at the pieces I got that I would like to use, discarded the pieces that I didn’t think would fit my vision anymore, and brainstormed what new pieces I needed to get to complete my vision.
More education was the first big piece that I gleaned. Taking a writing course, dance lessons, other training for personal growth were part of developing new pieces to build a newly designed Humpty Dumpty I could call my own. Making new friendships/relationships, getting a job then another, changing jobs, self-publishing a grief workbook, expanding my resume, and creating a business were all new pieces. Looking back, I have created many new pieces along the way since 1999. The latest pieces I’ve been working on are writing another book and showing up as a business woman who is working hard to expand her business so she can be financially independent and secure. But mostly, so she can inspire others to venture out again even after a major loss.
No matter what experiences I had in the past, the fact remained: I would need to get back out there and show up in life again without the previous safety net that I thought would always be there for me. I gradually learned to trust myself. I learned to focus on my strengths, my vision, and the ways I wanted to be of service to others.
Of course, the journey has not always been so easy. There have been many bumps on the roads that threatened the integrity of the new Humpty Dumpty. Let’s just say, he has fallen and broken to pieces more than once. There have been shame and embarrassment that visited me, there have been tough times and desperation. There were certainly many days of pure hard work. At times, I don’t even know how I did it, and yet I had done it.
Standing in front of students and teaching them the things I still needed to learn myself was scary. Sharing new ideas with a group of people, starting something I’ve never done before, and entering new territory felt risky and uncomfortable. Meeting new people, having to trust others, and loving wholeheartedly after my heart had been broken was terrifying. All of these new endeavors presented me with the possibility of being criticized when I fail/come short/make mistakes, being disliked by some, being rejected, being ridiculed, and ultimately feeling unlovable.
Yet I learned that growth is not possible without willingness to take this risk! There is no short cut in this. Unfortunately. Learning to apply self-compassion, self-forgiveness, and self-appreciation are key. We need to trust that we are capable of constantly adjusting and adapting to new life challenges. We need to trust that we have an important contribution to the world. We need to show up and be seen if we are to give meaningful gifts to the world. This is how the remodeled and redesigned Humpty Dumpty gets to sit on the wall again!