Let’s not sugarcoat it – life is an absolute f*cker sometimes. So how do we make sure we don’t become jaded, cynical and downright bitter?
In short – and not to remove the need for you to read this entire post but – growth and gratitude. Those are the key players to staving off bitterness when life has served us up a platter of the juiciest, most bitter lemons we’ve ever seen.
I cannot stress this enough; setting myself the goal of coming out better not bitter was one of the saving graces of my divorce. I didn’t want to be a jaded old maid at the ripe age of 28. Who wants to be her?!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of barbed comments in moments of weakness, like when someone says “what’s your advice for marriage?”, it’s just too easy to reply with “don’t”. And also, funny. And yeah, there have been times post breakups where I couldn’t bear to witness love, both from an envious place of watching couples walking hand in hand down a sunny street, as well as a truly painful depth I’m ashamed to admit when witnessing beloved friends tie the knot in the months after my separation.
But what happens if we can look at every ending as an opportunity for a new beginning and accept the reality of what we’re dealing with without fighting it, without wishing it were different? Suddenly we’re able to look at the experience as a time to grow, to learn more about ourselves, and develop our relational skills. Like magic, maybe after a lot of tears, and depressive naps, and alcohol, we now have a silver lining on the shitty situation. A glittery shitty situation if you will. If you’re growing you’re winning right? Even if our mental state doesn’t exactly feel like a winner right in that moment…
The other factor is something we need at all times, not just in tough times, but especially in tough times (when arguably it could be hardest) – gratitude. I wrote in Lou Who? that one of the biggest surprises of my divorce was that it made me more grateful, which seems like a fucked up way to finally develop a gratitude practice… but I digress.
The reality is that most of us are incredibly privileged and have a lot to be grateful for. If we have a roof over our head, food in our fridge, and… a fridge at all, then we have a lot more than a lot of people. (If you’re reading this then you’re obviously on a computer or smartphone so I’m definitely talking to you.) And while maybe a situation didn’t go the way we wanted; maybe we didn’t get the promotion we thought we deserved; maybe our family don’t support our life choices; maybe that relationship just kicked your ass; we likely still have a whole lot to be incredibly grateful for.
On some of my darker days, I’ve maybe only been able to identify that I was grateful for getting back into bed at the end of the day. That’s fine. Find the one thing and stick with it. Then add another thing. Look around. Notice the small moments of joy. Or peace. Or humour. In the darkness there is always a glint of light somewhere, if there isn’t our eyes will adjust to the dark and make it “lighter” (look it up, it’s science. I’m kidding, I don’t think it is but you know what I mean). In the same way even in our darkest moments our brains can still find something, even the most minute of detail to be grateful for.
And by holding onto gratitude we ensure nothing is capable of entirely robbing us of our joy. That’s what it’s about; not giving that away to anyone, or anything. Gratitude is literally that powerful. The mindset shift that a morning gratitude practice can invoke is immense. If you start your day intentionally recognising what’s good, the stuff that’s bad automatically has to take a back seat. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes. That’s 15 minutes you’re not thinking about the shitty stuff. It allows perspective, and reflection and it lets the light start to seep in again.
So if we’re growing, and we’re grateful, which means we hold the key to our own joy, you know what we’re not? Bitter. Yeah we’re maybe hurt, and pissed off, and confused, and disappointed. But we’re not fucking bitter old lemons. And that is a win.
Don’t let anyone rob you of your joy. Don’t let anything make you bitter. (On repeat in my head currently)