The purpose of this project is to give hope and encouragement to anyone who is in the midst of a turning point in their lives. You are not alone. There are many others who have been where you are now.
When I was in my darkest moments, I sought out stories to inspire me, to keep me going. What was I looking for? I don’t know, exactly. But I found comfort in the simple truth that I was not alone. Others had come through similar and much more daunting circumstances, and had lived to tell about it. That meant that maybe I could, too.
When you’re in the middle of a turning point, it’s not necessarily a foregone conclusion that you will emerge stronger and wiser on the other side. There are some losses from which people never recover. They are never the same again. Sometimes people feel they are broken beyond repair. It’s as if some part of them has died, and cannot be reborn. Their will to live, their life force, seeps out through the cracks, or pours out of the gaping holes in their hearts.
I knew that could be my fate if I didn’t change course. But in the addled brain state of a serious illness that had come on the heels of serious depression, I was in no condition to dream, plan, or change anything. I was just hoping to hang on until the dark clouds lifted. I had been told, in no uncertain terms: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”* I made my choice. But it still felt too soon to count on a better future, or any future at all.
That’s why it seemed so important, then and now, to find stories that gave a glimpse of what might be waiting down the road if I could just hold on. Each story was like a life raft, a road map, an oxygen tank, and a hand to hold, all wrapped into one.
Most of these stories were written by people I had never met, and never would. Others were relayed to me by people I knew only briefly. I encountered them everywhere, in dozens of “chance meetings” that were not “chance” at all.** Can you imagine, being so deeply affected by a stranger’s story that it changed your life? That it saved your life? Sounds a little farfetched, right, that those words could have such power? But it happened. And not just once, but over and over again. The universe sent one storyteller after another to light my way.
That’s why I have to do this project. This is my “thank you” to every person who opened their hearts and souls and shared their tragedies and triumphs with me, who offered me a kind word or a knowing smile, who randomly struck up a conversation with me in line at Starbucks*** and — because small talk is too small for such things — cut right to the chase, looked directly in my eyes, and delivered whatever piece of wisdom I needed that day, though they could not have possibly known I needed it. You may not know me, but I can’t forget you.
I did make it, as it turned out, just like you said I could. I wouldn’t have bet on it; wouldn’t have bet on me. I’m an extraordinarily lucky woman. I am acutely aware that I do not deserve such luck and such happiness. It was given to me as a sacred gift, this second chance at life. I have an obligation to use it for the good, to pay back those who have been part of my journey, and to pay it forward in some small way to those who might be out there now, walking down those lonesome roads wondering if anyone, anywhere, can point the way home.
“Sometimes the best map will not guide you,” as the songwriter Bruce Cockburn says. “Sometimes the road leads to dark places; sometimes the darkness is your friend.”
You may not find a road map here. (But who knows? You just might. The universe is always conspiring to shower us with unexpected blessings.)
What you will find is a collection of stories from the journey, and a community of fellow travelers. For everyone who’s been to those dark places, who’s been down the road of heartache, and for anyone who’s out there right now, please know this:
You are not alone. We’re all here, walking right alongside you.
We share our stories to offer comfort, inspiration, humor and the courage to keep going.
We share our stories to remind ourselves of our common humanity: what happens to one of us happens to all of us, for we are connected to one another.
We share our stories to celebrate where we have been, how far we have come, and what we’ve learned along the way.
Do you have a story to share?
Have questions or feedback?
Please let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org
*How I wish I had heard those words in the voice of Sam Elliot or Morgan Freeman. But alas, no. The messenger sent by the universe was no soothing baritone, but rather a cool contralto who could’ve cared less about my response. Really didn’t seem to matter to her one iota. Not to quibble, but weren’t there any other angel – messenger types available that day? I would’ve gladly taken Alan Rickman (may he rest in peace, dear man) as the snotty seraphim Metatron in “Dogma.” Oh well. Too late to request a do-over now.
**You know those moments? Those “Hey, pay attention: this is not your average conversation. This one is important . There is a message for you in here. Put down your so-called smart phone, and listen.” Yes? Share them here.
***Is it just me, or do some Starbucks secretly contain portals to other dimensions? I’ve met some of the most interesting and unusual people there. I lost count of the number of times I’ve gone in for an iced coffee with soy and come out wondering, “Did that conversation really just happen?” One woman touched my arm and said, in a voice so kind it startled me, “So many people give up on their dreams too early. Don’t give up on yours. It will all turn out okay. You’ll see.” There was the retired city worker and aquarium volunteer who took pity on me and my tower of textbooks, and tutored me in Spanish for 45 minutes, patiently explaining the verb tenses I needed to master for my test the next day. Then there was the cantankerous author and Kennedy assassination expert who pounded on the table we were sharing and said, “You’re either a writer or you’re not. You are a writer. You have something to say. It’s fear that’s holding you back.” I think the overstuffed chairs may actually be the anchor furniture for an interstellar waiting room of some kind, where the ancients gather and dispense little kernels of truth and wisdom to lucky passersby. Has anyone else noticed this? Or have I just read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” one too many times?
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