Ready for a quick, humbling true story about life?
Tragedy strikes a woman who isn’t yet old. A minivan traveling toward her on a dark mountain highway hits her car nearly head-on just after sunset. She grips her steering wheel as hard as she can and veers into the rocky mountainside until her car screeches to a halt. The minivan flips onto its side and skids in the other direction off a cliff, plummeting nearly 500 feet to the ground below. Inside, a young family of five on their way to grandma’s house for the holidays.
The woman doesn’t recall the events that followed during the next several days. She doesn’t recall the three eye witnesses who comforted her and assured her that it wasn’t her fault—that the other driver had swerved into her lane. She doesn’t recall how she got to the emergency room or the fact that she stayed there for over a week to treat a severe concussion and broken bones.
What she does know—and clearly recalls—are the endless string of days she passes sitting alone in her bedroom, crying and thinking, “Why me?” Why after 48 years of Sunday church attendance, unwavering faith, and regular community service and charity work, would God ask her to spend the rest of her life knowing that she single-handedly killed an entire family?
She has a family of her own that tries to comfort her ailing heart, but now she sees them only as the family she has taken from the world. She also has an overflowing network of close friends who want to see her smile again, but they now represent friends that others have lost because of her.
The woman who isn’t yet old begins to age more rapidly. Within a few short months, she is a shell of her former self—skin and bones, wrinkles creasing under her eyes, a despondent downward gaze, and a hole in her heart that has grown so wide she feels like there’s nothing left at all.
All the people around her—those family members and friends who care so much—have done everything in their power to revive her to her former self. When love didn’t work, they tried relaxing vacations. When vacations didn’t work, they tried getting her involved in healthy community activities. When the community activities didn’t work, they tried doctors. And now they have resigned from trying. Because the woman who is now an old woman has completely resigned from everything.
A night comes—a mid-December night exactly one year after the accident—when she decides that it’s just not worth it any more—that it’s time to leave this world behind. Perhaps to go somewhere better. Perhaps to go nowhere at all. Luckily, she decides to sleep on it, because she barely has the strength to keep her eyelids open. So she closes her eyes and instantly falls into a deep sleep.
And she begins to dream. In it, she is sitting in a dimly lit room at a round table across from an elderly woman who looks a lot like her late mother. They stare at each other in silence for several minutes and then the elderly woman speaks.
“My dear, tragedy is simply a miracle waiting to be discovered. Because within tragedy lie the seeds of love, learning, forgiveness, and empathy. If we choose to plant these seeds, they grow strong. If, on the other hand, we choose to overlook them, we prolong our tragedy and let somebody else discover the miracle.”
The old woman cries in her dream and in her sleep. She thinks about her husband, her children, and all of the wonderful people who love and care for her. And she suddenly realizes that instead of using the tragic accident to notice how precious life is, she has prolonged the tragedy and essentially ceased to live her life. And she is very close, now, to passing all her pain and sorrow over to the people she loves the most in this world.
She opens her eyes and takes a deep breath. She is alive. She realizes that she still has an opportunity to change things . . . to mend the broken pieces and experience the miracle that comes after the tragedy . . . to plant the seeds of love, learning, forgiveness, and empathy, and water these seeds until they grow strong.
She rolls over and kisses her husband on the cheek and ruffles his hair until his eyelids begin to flutter. He opens his eyes and looks at her, totally confused. There’s a spark in her eyes he hasn’t seen in a long while—a spark that he thought had died with her youth on the day of the accident. “I love you so much,” she says. “I’ve missed you,” he replies softly as he kisses her lips. “Welcome back.”
Our Stories . . . After a Hard Year
The woman in the story above is a close friend. Her name is Wendy, and I’m happy to say she’s alive and well, and not nearly as “old” as she once was. With that said, however, Angel and I know many beautiful souls just like her who are still desperately struggling in these final weeks of 2022. We’ve been speaking with them every single day.
Through a decade of coaching sessions, course trainings, heartfelt conversations, and live annual seminars, Angel and I have learned a lot about the human condition and the stories we hold on to and recite to ourselves. And, for so many of us, the end of the year is when it all comes to a head. We spend the final days of the year off from work and school, reflecting on the state of our lives. It’s not all bad of course, but even when times are generally good our minds have a tendency to drift back to (perhaps less intense) personal versions of Wendy’s accident on that dark mountain highway.
And Angel and I are no different. To say the least, the past couple years haven’t been the easiest years to reflect on. Certain recent memories are painstaking to process.
Keeping things in perspective. We proactively feed ourselves the right reminders—our year-end mantras—to ease our aching minds and redirect our energy effectively. We challenge you to remind yourself, too . . .
Mantra #1: You are not alone.
Don’t be scared to let someone special in when you’re in a dark place. You know who this person is. Don’t expect them to solve your problems; just allow them to face your problems with you. Give them permission to stand beside you (even if it’s virtually via FaceTime or Zoom). They won’t necessarily be able to pull you out of the dark place you’re in, but the light that spills in when they enter will at least show you which way the door is.
Above all, the important thing to remember is that you don’t have to face hard times by yourself. No matter how bizarre or embarrassed or pathetic you feel about our own situation, there is someone in your life who has dealt with similar emotions and who wants to help you. When you hear yourself say, “I am alone,” it’s just your mind trying to sell you a lie. Don’t believe it! You are NOT alone.
Mantra #2: Be here now, and breathe.
Life often leads us on journeys we would never go on if it were up to us. Don’t be afraid. Have faith. Believe. Believe in yourself through hard times. Believe in your capacity to heal. Believe that the answers are out there waiting. Believe that life will surprise you again and again. Believe that the journey is the destination. Believe that it’s all worth your while.
Yes, you’ve been hurt. You’ve gone through numerous ups and downs that have made you who you are today. So many things have happened—things that have changed your perspective, taught you lessons, and forced your spirit and soul to grow. See the beauty in this. Appreciate your progress. Give yourself credit for your resilience and how far you’ve come . . .
You’ve survived all your bad days.
And you’re still here growing.
So, just remind yourself right now: You are not your bad days. You are not your mistakes. You are not your scars. You are not your past. Be here now, and breathe.
Mantra #3: This is the beginning.
Everything in life—every situation and every relationship—has to come to an end eventually. It’s important to appreciate and accept the end of an era—to walk away sensibly when something has reached its inevitable conclusion. Letting go, turning the page, moving forward, etc. It doesn’t matter what you call it, what matters is that you leave the past where it belongs so you can make the best of the life that’s presently available to be lived. This ending is not THE END, it’s just your life beginning again in a new way. It’s a point in your story where one chapter fades into the next.
To a great extent, this happens to us constantly. It’s happening right now.
Every single day we have to accept the fact that things will never go back to how they used to be, and that this ending is really the beginning. This concept might be tough to accept sometimes, but it’s always the truth. Life is endless impermanence. And it’s beautiful. It means nothing is really behind you. It means life always begins now—right now—not tomorrow or the next day or the next. And it means you can have the fresh start you want whenever you want.
So be humble. Be teachable. The world is always bigger than your momentary view of the world. Right now there’s plenty of room for a new idea, a new step . . . a new beginning. (Note: Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Happiness” chapter of the newest edition of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Mantra #4: In your response is your power.
The goal isn’t to get rid of all your negative thoughts, feelings, and life situations from this past year. That’s impossible. The goal is to change your response to them.
The first step?
Anchoring yourself in the present. Because no matter what, you can always fight the battles of today. It’s only when you add the infinite battles of yesterday and tomorrow that life gets overly complicated.
The easiest way to find presence, and change your immediate response, is to start by evaluating the tension in your body and posture. In fact, I bet you can find some kind of tension in your body at this very moment. For me, it’s often in my neck, but sometimes it’s in my back and shoulders.
Where does this tension we feel come from? We’re resisting life in some way—perhaps we’re disheartened by the truth, frustrated at our circumstances, or overwhelmed by the road ahead. And our mental resistance generates a tension in our bodies and unhappiness in our lives. Therefore, Angel and I often recommend this simple strategy to our course students who are struggling to relieve themselves of their resistance and tension:
- Locate the tension in your body right now.
- Notice what you’re resisting and tensing up against—it might be a situation or person you’re dealing with or avoiding.
- Relax the tense area of your body—deep breath and a quick stretch often helps.
- Face the same situation or person, but with a relaxed body and mind.
Repeat this practice as often as needed—make it a small daily ritual. Face the day with less tension and more presence. Change your mode of response from one of struggle and resistance to one of peace and acceptance. And see how doing so changes your life. (Note: Angel and I build small, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals & Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
Mantra #5: You have enough to move forward.
What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were thankful for today?
Seriously, look around, and be thankful right now. For your health, your family, your friends, and your home. Nothing lasts forever.
And even in times of uncertainty—even when life seems far from perfect—it’s always important to keep the simple things in perspective.
- You are alive.
- You didn’t go to sleep hungry last night.
- You didn’t go to sleep outside.
- You had a choice of what clothes to wear this morning.
- You haven’t spent a minute in fear for your life.
- You know someone who loves you.
- You have access to clean drinking water.
- You have access to the Internet.
- You can read.
Some might say you are incredibly wealthy and privileged. So remember to be thankful for all the things you do have. Let your enthusiasm rise from the doldrums by seizing the very real and present opportunity you have to be appreciative. Breathe it in. And then do your best to take the next smallest step forward as we approach the New Year.
It’s your turn to let go and move forward…
I sincerely hope you will join Angel and me in keeping the points and principles in this post at the top of your mind, today and in the weeks ahead. 🙂
But before you go, let us know:
- Which point or principle above resonates the most right now and why?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
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NANETTE MIRANDA says
Thank You so so much Marc and Angel! I agree the past couple years have been nuts! But I am going to keep this to ‘re read it all the time…… what impressed me in this post and related email and I’m grateful. If you are grateful so much more will be added to you. Trust me i forget often and down in misery but after having read this it was certainly uplifting. This can be an emotional time of year and one tends to look at things past….. it can weigh heavy on one so I am so grateful for people such as you to show things in a different light. THANK YOU MANY MANY TIMES FOR YOUR GREAT WRITINGS. I wish I could attend your next live event or do some one-on-one coaching with you soon……. Nanette from South Africa
I want to thank you both for being a bright light in the night to so many of us.
I have health issues, financial problems and I’ve lost all my original family members. Still, I’m very happy. I have sons and a grandson who love me, two wonderful best friends and extended family members.
I started saying a gratefulness prayer a few years ago and it has made a major difference in my outlook on life. I have so much to be thankful for, even when others will look at me as if I have nothing.
Merry early Christmas and Happy Holidays to Marc, Angel and all the community members here who I know read these posts and comments.
How did you know that this was me today and those were just the words I needed to help me through a very black patch.
In just 1 year 5 people died and I lost my whole support network – best friend, grandfather, mother, father and then a car pulled out in front of me and knocked me off my bike. I limped along for another 2 years at work with a changing situation and my own position there going from bad to worse til I left and then started my own firm. It was just my 14 year old son and me and when I started it was about paying the mortgage and keeping things together long enough to get him through school.
That was 6 years ago now and he’s in his 2nd year at Uni and doing well.
The black times come particularly this time of year as the end of October is my mother’s death day and the end of November was when I was knocked off my bike. The ghosts and the pain haunt particularly badly now and I feel so alone. This year is really bad as my dog died at the end of September and I blame myself in part for it.
After reading your blog I’ve made a resolution.
On my mother’s Death Day I’m going to celebrate her life – she had so much love and loved to dance and laugh.
Next year – on her Death Day I’m going to celebrate her life.
Iam so terribly sorry for the loss of your dog. Sometimes, our kids and pets are all that keep us going. I lost my 15 year old tabby cat Angel to leukemia in September, 2 years ago. I still miss her so much, but there’s comfort in the love and joy she gave me. I adopted a rescue kitten a month later but I felt kind of guilty. My best friend said. ….you were a wonderful mom to Angel and I’m sure she would want you to share all the love and devotion you gave her with another.
Please forgive yourself for whatever you think you did to contribute to your pup’s passing. I guarantee he/she knows how much you loved him/her and forgave you in a heartbeat. Perhaps adopt another rescue pup ; it will absolutely perk you up. I am so sorry as well, for all those you’ve lost, but the best thing you can do to honor them is to celebrate them and continue to find joy in lifei
I am not saying this lightly. I have lost all my immediate family members, including my sister, brother in law and brother. I have multiple medical conditions, including chronic pain. I don’t have much money, because I am on Social Security. But still, I feel grateful and happy. I have kids,grandkids and friends that love me. I can still take care of myself, buy everyone I love a few Christmas presents and I have my wonderful calico Luna for companionship.
I’m sorry this is so long. I just wanted to offer you some words to hopefully help you. Have a wonderful Christmas with your son and God bless you and keep you safe. Cathy
Happy holidays, Marc and Angel, you have helped me so much through 2022 and I’m so grateful to you—your coaching and teachings have been changing my life. -Louise
I have followed you for years. In fact when my previous relationship ended in 2011, a friend sent me your site. Now, as an Oncology RN who has had yet another massively heartwrenching breakup during this pandemic I nearly lost it all. Had no desire to go on. Dealing with this breakup in a small place, being confined with the person who crushed me until July when he moved out (he sprung the breakup on me in January when i returned from a 4 day trip), losing so many patients and recently putting my pup to sleep, well, the past couple years really took its toll. Had it not been for my daughter I would have been ok sleeping forever. I NEVER EVER thought I’d come out of this darkness. I look back now at the depth of pain and heartache and that first mantra – oh how truly I felt alone. He was cruel and unsupportive through this all. Not being able to see my family or have my friends near me, not feeling any human contact AND this… There are no words to describe how this year decimated me. There but for the grace of God and video chatting with family, I’ve moved forward. Each day I’ve made a few steps forward slowly, steadily. My advice to anyone feeling the deep despair of solitude, of a loveless situation, feelings of hopelessness ~ HOLD ON! Today I have met the man of my dreams who I could marry tomorrow if I could! As a first responder I pray everyone has a better and safer New Year!
Dante Eversley says
I truly appreciate the work that you both have done throughout the years. I wish you, your family and your loved ones a blessed Holiday season. Thank you for always seeking to leave us better than you found us and giving us fresher perspectives, insights and principles to take on our journey. Be Elite Today!!!
Desiree Pheister says
It’s too late for my husband’s nephew to read this. He took his own life the day after Thanksgiving. He was so loved by his family and friends, so talented in the medical and music fields. A new baby niece will never know him, a grandmother will never hug him again. A mother will never again mark his birthday with awe and pride; instead she sits at a funeral home making arrangements overwhelmed with grief. We are left behind coping with loss, with a hole in our lives, with the inevitable “Could we have done more?”
Thank you soooo much for these principles and pointers. Your article will be first on my gratitude list today.
My biggest take-away is that I can tackle today’s battles. I’ll leave the past where it belongs and try not to ‘see’ a doom and gloom future. Sounds easy, but I know I should really write those words on my hand, as every day I feel overwhelm by not living in the present.
New Year greetings to you, and much appreciation!
A close family member says she needs a break from me and has closed off completely. I have spent every day the past year wondering what I did to deserve this treatment. Number 4 has made me realize that I need to start working on myself and know that I am not to blame for this. That others in my life do not reject me or feel the same and focus on living for those that do care for me. I need to rid myself of the pain this has caused and look to a future in my last years of life..
Thank you for all your help.
This is a lovely post to reference throughout the end of the year and into the New Year. I’m also enjoying the digital recording of your think better live better conference. Thank you for all the guidance and value you’ve brought into my life this past year.
You two are responsible for keeping me alive. I’m currently on month 23 of Long Covid. I’m disabled, bed ridden and alone. My immediate family and friends have disowned me because they got tired of hearing about my Covid issues. I haven’t hugged someone since January. I’m trapped in my own prison. I’m so grateful for my cousin who is the only person I speak to. I have her check in on me daily because if anything were to happen to me nobody would find out for days. I leave extra food and water out for my disabled kitty in case Covid takes my life. It’s a struggle to remain positive, but I’m doing my best.
Prior to Covid I was raped multiple times by an ex roommate who is now dead from drowning in a river. It’s too much to wrap my head around.
I was also homeless living out of my Jeep with my disabled kitty four times. I was finally blessed with being approved for Section 8 that I waited five years for. The apartment I live in now was my 30th move of my 47 years on this earth. I’ve had to jump out of my bedroom window to escape crazy roommates.
I’m grateful for the nice, brand new unit I live in now, but have been bed ridden the entire year and a half that I’ve lived here. I’ve been fighting with SSDI for a year and a half and have minimal income that doesn’t even cover the cost of my monthly bills.
I’m very scared for my life, but make sure to find one thing to be grateful for each day thanks to you two. I know this is probably not possible, but would you two be able to help me and be my friends? I know it’s corny, but I desperately need your positivity in my life.
Thank you genuinely for everything.