Do you feel like everything in your life is chaotic and spiraling out of your control? Have you lost someone close to you and you feel as though your world is crumbling and you can’t stop it? I’ve been there as well, no knowing how to defeat depression and the darkness and feeling lost. But there is a way to rebuild your life, to live in the light again. It isn’t a cure, but it is a way to start living a positive life again.
What comes to mind first when you think of chaos? Maybe a void absent of all light; a black hole sucking everything into an abyss with no bottom — just nothingness. Maybe it is destruction; crumbling buildings and burning trees and hope lost.
Maybe it’s just that vein-bursting-stand-still traffic on the way to work that makes you punch the horn of your car like you are Mohammed Ali, combine every fucking-shitty-asshole-damned curse word in your vocabulary, and causing you to clench your Starbucks cup so hard it begins to bleed caramel latté all over your starched slacks — pissing you off even more.
For me? My comical chaos is myself as a cashier for an angry consumer mob ready to kill another human just to buy their shiny thingy-mabobber first — all of whom have wailing babies in the clutches of one hand and their Dolce & Gabbana clutches in the other hand.
Been there, done that.
But really, what the hell is chaos?
Some scholarly somebody (probably Greek) who sat somewhere important (probably under a tree) at some point in time (probably a long ass time ago) came up with the definition of “chaos” that went something like this:
“Chaos is a bottomless pit, or also a chasm that may lead to the underworld, the ocean floor or hell.”
Well that doesn’t sound pleasant.
But what about real and tangible chaos? What about your own personal chaos you feel throughout your lifetime? Not that everyday mumbo-jumbo like job annoyances, but the real shit-storms that make us feel like our own life is coming to an end.
Something got me thinking about personal periods of chaos. Today I saw an ooey-gooey mojo injecting Instagram photo with a quote on it by Deepak Chopra. Ya know that fella’ that goes on stage to speak and you suddenly think he has fallen asleep standing up — and then WHAM BAM! He exhales and whispers words that inspirationally bitch slap you across the face.
Words like this…
“The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.”
Oh wait. That was from The Dark Knight. Still a good quote, right?
Okay, here is the actual quote from mister Chopra:
“All great changes are preceded by chaos” -Deepak Chopra
Ah, there we go. Kinda’ gives you some butterflies huh? When you read that quote, did some period of personal chaos course through your mind?
What was it?
Maybe it was that time you lost your job; bills piled up and you felt like you would drown in collections calls.
Maybe it was that time you didn’t know what to do with your life; so much pressure in society to do something stupid that somebody deemed important, your parents pestering you to get your shit together and start a career — and all you wanted to do was listen to house music and slap acrylic paint on a canvas and hold a gallery show.
Maybe the love of your life broke up with you; your heart torn from your chest, thrown to the ground, whizzed on, and lit on fire.
Maybe it was when you lost a loved one; everything in the world seems to lose its smell, taste, feel, and beauty — a deep and dark sadness filled you up and consumed you and caused you to consume alcohol and drugs at a deadly pace.
It is those tumultuous times where everything is spinning.
Everything is crumbling.
Everything is loud and confusing.
You can’t catch a damn clear thought.
You want to curl up into some dark hole.
You don’t have the energy to care any more.
Booze and drugs and partying are the only friends that care about you.
The world is against you and shitting on you at every turn.
Your energy is nothing.
You are defeated.
This is personal chaos.
We all go through chaos at some point in our lives to some degree — whether it is death of a family member or heartbreak or career set-backs that are the cause. It doesn’t matter. Pain and suffering isn’t more or less based on the person or circumstance, we all feel it.
What can be measured is your effort to turn things around while suffering through this chaos.
But that effort can only be measured by yourself and only given by yourself. It is up to you to turn chaos into motivation and to give it all of your damn strength.
Or to not.
So how the hell can you turn the worst period of your life into something that rises you up?
Easier said than done right?
Well it’s also easier to sit on your ass and sulk but that doesn’t help anything. And ignoring the chaos and problems plaguing you don’t either.
I can empathize. I know what it feels like when everything seems lost and you don’t know what to do.
I struggled through chaos the past few years. Some of that chaos was brought on by outside forces. The other chaos…the amplifiers and the additional factors that made the chaos even worse? Yep, that was my own doing.
There was a period in my life where I felt the world was inherently against me as if the fates had decided specifically to torture me for their pleasure. That period came after I had found my father’s lifeless body one summer afternoon; a heart-attack had killed him and sent my life spiraling into oblivion.
I discovered how comforting one black-out boozefest after another could be, and how if I did that every night I didn’t have to think about the situation any more.
Then I decided to run. Instead of facing the chaos, I ran from it. And you better be damn sure if ya’ run from the chaos, it’ll follow. That storm will grow in its wake and just when you think you’ve escaped it, it’ll hit you when you least expect.
I ran from the chaos, and in turn it sent me into that “bottomless pit, or also a chasm that may lead to the underworld, the ocean floor or hell” described by that scholarly somebody.
Actually, it didn’t send me there — I put myself there.
When things turn to Hell and you think that all is lost, you are the only one that can either make it better or make it worse.
Sure, feelings of defeat or sadness or others are totally warranted in certain times of chaos. But if you allow it to, it will consume you, and getting out of the chaos will be a life or death struggle.
After I had left the United States for the first time and traveled to New Zealand, I thought it would be the end to all of my woes. That chaos that hit me after my father’s death would be left behind as I began to travel and chase my dream.
What happened? That chaos followed me there and hit my when I least expected.
Travel didn’t heal me, it amplified the things that haunted me because I was suddenly alone and exposed.
The darkest period of my life followed because instead of standing and facing the chaos that was destroying me, I ran away. I ignored it. And because of that, because I ran and ignored it, I landed myself into the abyss. I had been drinking just to not feel like a loser by failing at traveling. I partied just to be around other people.
FOLO – Fear of losing out. That stupid feeling ruled me.
I faced jail time for drunkenly breaking into a house I thought was mine after a night of partying. I woke up on a piss covered jail cell floor and all I could do is feel pity for myself. I contemplated suicide because everything was crumbling around me and I felt like there was no way out and all was lost.
I was giving up.
Why? Because the world was against me? Because I had gotten drunk and broken the law? Because I had failed at something I wanted to do? The world wasn’t fucking against me. Because things had become really hard after I had messed up?
The world doesn’t give a damn about us — it has bigger things to worry about like orbiting the sun.
Stop blaming the world for your problems and own up to them. If they suddenly hit you when you weren’t expecting, don’t make excuses.
“Snap the fuck out of it Ryan!” I growled at the mirror at one point while nobody was around. That was right before I went to my first court hearing.
I then slapped myself across the face as hard as I could manage. I stared at myself in the mirror breathing heavily, red in the face, eyes watering, teeth bared, and asked myself over and over, “what the fuck are you doing?”
Why? Because if you are allowing yourself to drown in the chaos and doing things to make it worse, you need a good slap.
Why did I tell you this? You need a pep talk from yourself. That doer, that fighter, that deep down desire to live needs to come out and look you in the face and tell you that you need to turn this shit around.
I don’t want you to compare your personal chaos to another. Whether or not your experiences are similar to mine or in a different form. Nobody’s is worse than another, we all go through something, and we all have a choice.
Snap out of it.
Stop the excuses.
This is the time that is do or die, and this is the chance for personal growth that happens after you’ve reached rock bottom. It’s true what they say about the only way is up once you’re down so low. The only thing that will keep you down or rise you up is you.
From there I could look around see exactly what I had done. I was on my hands in knees in the field of sorrows looking down at my reflection in a murky puddle. My image was unrecognizable. The only way out of this sad and miserable place created by a self-made shit-storm was to stand up. Pull myself out.”
This is an excerpt from an article I wrote, “How travel blogging saved my life” about my own self induced chaos — a storm that I had created that destroyed everything around me, and then struck me down. And at the lowest point in my life, in that stinking mud, I had two choices — stay down, or pull myself out.
Chaos happens to us all, but in this chaos you can find this freak Hulk-like strength that you never knew you had.
You are at the bottom and the only way to go is up.
So get the fuck up!
After I chose to pull myself out of the chaos, I found a new drive.
I began to finally face the root of all of the chaos, my past, and by doing so I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulder. That drive led me to get my act together and start saving again for travel.
I saved for travel with an obsession because my focus wasn’t clouded by outside forces or internal wars, and I managed to save $6,500 in 4 months.
I reconciled with my brother whom I hadn’t had a healthy relationship in years because of the chaos I was relishing in, the chaos that made me blame him for set backs in my life as well.
I started the blog again and began sharing these stories to show others how to combat these trying times.
Then, I left to travel again.
Yet this time, I left without phantoms of my past tearing at my soul or stalking me around the globe. And, happy to say I just graduated my TEFL training to become an English teacher.
The bottom line is that I chose to act.
That is the only way.
To claw your way out.
To use the last bit of deep down energy to begin rebuilding piece by piece.
It’ll only happen piece by piece, but after you begin, momentum of each step will build you higher and higher.
Don’t think you’ll get a fresh new slate or a new clean start because this is your life and everything that came to be, has happened. But it doesn’t mean that what has happened is all that is you. You don’t let the chaos and turmoil consume you.
When you choose at that moment in that metaphorical stinking mud to pull yourself out, that choice alone is one of the most profound moments of your life. You are facing one of the most difficult and demoralizing and depressing moments and you choose to stand up and fight? You choose to not hope for it to disappear, but to face it and rebuild your life better than ever?
Fuck yeah you’ll feel like a badass.
But more importantly, you’ll feel something electrifying surging through your body — a feeling of self-worth and drive to live.
Is all personal growth stemmed from moments of chaos?
No. Personal growth can happen at any moment, but it only happens by acting. Especially after you have faced chaos. Then you must continue to grow. But coming from the bottom of the abyss and fighting your way out — that takes a tremendous amount of blood, sweat, tears, will power, fortitude, and spirit. And you can see when you decided not to stay down, but to get up, the enormous growth that happens in that moment.
Are you free from the chaos after you’ve faced it? Nope.
It’ll be around, lingering and waiting for you to falter again and decided to stay on the ground. But as long as you know that this storm exists you can choose to give it the middle finger and snarl at it and know that you will not stay down ever again.
So, how do you truly turn chaos into motivation? How to rebuild your life when everything seems lost?
It is hard. But not impossible. And it will change you for the better…forever.
You’ll need to accept what has happened.
You’ll need to blame nobody.
You’ll need to fight strong urges that tell you just to give up.
You’ll need to stop making excuses.
You’ll need to act.
That is what surged through me when I saw that quote today. I remembered the chaos that hit me and the further chaos I caused on my own.
And I immediately became filled with a renewed urgency to continue the growth.
Has chaos consumed you? Then this is what I want you to do.
Look in the mirror.
Think about the things that are falling apart around you or that are pulling you down.
I want you to say out loud what is holding you back.
The only thing that you should say is, “I am holding myself back“.
Why? Because bad breaks at jobs and sulking about girlfriends and drinking to oblivion because of death — these are holding you back from living the life that you want, from living in general, and from being happy. They surely aren’t going to help you. So it’s time to lose those thoughts.
You are holding yourself from an opportunity for the biggest growth and achievement in your life.
So look in the mirror.
Tell yourself, “I am holding myself back”
Then ask yourself, “What the fuck are you doing?”
Slap yourself if need be.
Tell yourself, “It is time to change. I can fucking change this. I can come out of this better than I’ve ever been”
I want you to bare your teeth.
Shake your head around.
Yell at the mirror like you aren’t fucking scared of anything.
Chaos is your bitch.
It’s caused by many things; failure, loss, uncertainty. But turn it on its head instead of it turning you on yours. Use failure as motivation to do something better than before. Use loss as a motivation to live more than ever before in that persons memory, and to love fiercer than ever. Use uncertainty as a period of endless possibility.
I want you to let that animal, that fighter, that person that wants to live — let them come forth and look at you in the face in that mirror and I want you to choose…
Two choices: Stay in the mud or pull yourself out.
Are all great changes preceded by chaos? I don’t think so. But what I do know for a fact is that if you are experiencing a truly chaotic period in your life or if you have in the past, that is an opportunity to prove to yourself who you truly are. That is an opportunity to change your life around 180 degrees and move in the right direction. That kind of turn around takes courage, but it also will give you the greatest growth in your life.
It did for me. I believe in you. Now you must believe.
Have you ever been in such a chaotic period? When you began to fight and pull yourself out how did it feel? Did you notice a tremendous growth once you began working to rebuild your life better? Are you still struggling to take control?