Roughly 10 months ago my world crumbled and the person I was fell into a despairing abyss of my own creation. It was an almighty chasm years in the making, dug out only by myself and my poor attitude and bad habits.
And even though not even a year has passed the person I am now is filled with hope and aspiration. I see the world in a different light and have regained some of the magic which once was lost.
The thing is quite little has really changed in that time. In fact I feel like I have more to deal with, more challenges to face, and with very little outside support.
It certainly hasn’t been easy and no doubt there are many obstacles yet to come but my mind, heart and soul, have gained sufficient belief and feeling that no matter what comes along on this wonderous ride I will face it with my head held high, looking with eyes of love rather than fear or hate.
With that in mind I thought I would give you a brief breakdown of the things that I have found to be most beneficial in my development in the hope that someone out there who maybe feels a bit lost, or resides in a dark place, can see, the person needed to find their way out, or shine a little light into the darkness, is, first and foremost, yourself.
After the initial shock of the collapse of my marriage and the worthlessness I felt subsided something within me just snapped into place. If I stayed in the hole I was in the only direction it could go was further down. My son has always been my world and I could not be the person to add to the suffering he was already feeling, and whilst I was always a good attentive father I needed to become a better person. I did not want him to see the broken man I was. I needed to be better. And I determined to myself the best way forward was through actions, not words which can be so fickle. I needed to be the example he would aspire to.
As I was never very organised the first thing I did was to buy myself a whiteboard and some markers. At the beginning this was just to keep track of the small things. So I drew out a table to cover the days of the week in which I just wrote things like which day was his PE day, what day he took school dinners or I had to make lunch, or any appointments that were coming up. I had a book called ‘Passing Time In The Loo’ which was filled with inspirational quotes so I found myself picking out a quote each day to help me get motivated and I wrote it at the bottom of the board as a constant reminder.
Just reading through those quotes each day got me into the habit of reading again which then led me onto looking at self-help books. One of the first books I got was Carol S Dweck’s ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’. A simple premise of this book became something that I still employ today. It talked about two opposing mindsets. Growth and Fixed. The fixed basically says you can’t change and this resonated with me as it was something my ex had said to me. But the growth mindset. The growth mindset let me realise that anyone can change. It was just a matter of how you think and you can train yourself to think better. The message being you can change your mindset. This was a revelation I needed at just the right time.
Buoyed by the possibilities this idea presented I then decided that if I was to work on myself mentally, then I had to work on myself physically as well. The two pretty much go hand in hand. So, I decided, it was finally time to put the little pieces of gym equipment in my shed to good use. The convenience of it helped immensely as I was able to dart out to the shed when my son was otherwise busy and it wasn’t an inconvenience. I started small. A few bicep curls, a few bench presses. Nothing much at all. To be honest in the early days I wasn’t even breaking a sweat which is saying something considering how unfit I was. But I was doing something equally as important. I was forming new habits. Something I had also encountered in my reading of the self-help books.
Now throughout this time and having become my son’s primary carer I also had to do the things that kept my house in order. The ordinary things that we all do to stop our household falling into disrepair. The cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. The discovery of Audible (the audio book service) was also beneficial as it meant that whilst doing these things I could also continue to listen to those ever so helpful books on habit formation, human nature, self-analysis. Basically anything I thought could help me improve upon the person I was.
All these things combined soon lifted me above the fog of my self-pitying depression. When the dark thoughts descended I employed all the ideas I had read about or listened to. I thought about if they were helping me to grow or bringing me back down. I learned to see those dark thoughts as the old part of me I wanted gone and forced myself to leave them where they were and look at them in a different light.
Not long after I quit my 20 year habit of smoking marijuana. There was no great build up to it, no big decision. I just stopped and that was that. The ease of which still surprises me. Then I made the decision to get back into the habit of writing and this blog was born.
As I said earlier, very little has actually changed in terms of my circumstances. I struggle more financially as I have had to reduce the hours I can work to be there for my son. I worry about how the break-up will effect him in the future, especially as there have been some tough times for him since. In a way our situation is quite precarious.
The reality is the only thing that has really changed is me and my attitude to life in general. But I feel this has been the most important change of all. It has been the change that will make the real difference to our future.
I also said I have discovered some magic that was once lost and that the person needed to make all the difference is yourself. And that is the truest realisation I have made. You are the magic ingredient in your own life. You and you alone. And as long as you draw breath there will always be hope. You just have to believe.