There are years that strip you bare.
This has been one of them.
I think it was Glennon Doyle who said going through a crisis is like putting your life through a sifter. All the things you once thought were so important fall to the floor, and what you’re left with is the stuff that really mattered all along.
The thing about the sifting is that it feels like it comes out of nowhere.
You’re going through the motions of life as usual, until all of a sudden, you’re not.
You lose your footing. Up and down don’t make any sense anymore. Nothing is the way it’s supposed to be.
When you’re in the deep-down parts of the sifting, you look back and realize how off your perspective has been.
You see, when you’re staring up at the world you’ve built around you, it all looks so big.
But when everything you know comes crashing down, you see how small so much of it really is—how it only looked big because it was stacked on top of piles of other small things.
When you get the diagnosis. When the relationship falls completely apart. When mental illness becomes a real thing, not just something you hear about. When the company downsizes. When that person who was supposed to be there, isn’t.
When life like you knew it ceases to exist, you find yourself searching the rubble for real things—frantically reaching out a hand for something solid to steady yourself.
Suddenly, social media seems more vain than it did before.
Portraying a picture-perfect life to people you barely know seems petty.
Comparison seems like a waste of effort and a recipe for disappointment.
Making sure your kids have the perfect first-day-of-school photo and the cutest Thanksgiving outfit seems trite.
When everything falls apart, you regret all the little things you let become big things, and you realize the extraordinary amount of time you’ve wasted on things that will never matter.
Hindsight truly does become 20/20.
And as you dig your way out, you can look back with lessons learned. And if you’re lucky, maybe you also take with you a strength or a purpose or a faith you didn’t even know you had inside of you.
But in the middle, I think we all just want to know it’s going to be OK. That we’re going to be OK, and the people we love the most are going to be OK, too.
Society tells us if our marriage doesn’t look like Chip and Joanna, and our house isn’t the perfect balance of farmhouse and contemporary, and our kids don’t have something monogrammed to wear for the holidays, and we don’t get the perfect fall family photos with the sun beaming through the leaves at just the right angle, and we’re not in tip-top shape and eating clean every meal, and we’re not climbing the right ladder at the right pace–then there must be something wrong with us.
But the thing is, no one has it all.
Some people have the job. Some people have the marriage. Some people will never have the kids. Some people would literally kill for the health.
And I bet, if you spend enough time on this earth, you might find yourself sifting through broken pieces looking for anything that resembles the thing you once knew.
I’ve often wondered why some recipes call for you to sift flour. Turns out, the process of sifting prevents lumps that would otherwise weigh the batter down.
I’m coming out of a sifting, and maybe you are, too. And though it hurt like hell, sure enough, it removed some things that had been weighing me down for a long time.
When you find yourself being sifted, remember: sometimes it takes the worst things to wake us up to the best things.
So, just take the next breath. Make the next decision. Keep going even on the days every single thing within you is begging you to stop. Don’t listen.
And after the sifting is over, take a look at what’s left inside yourself. Because that stuff? That newly sifted, raw, and fully awake stuff?
That’s the stuff you were made for.
Originally published on the author’s blog