one good thing: some final thoughts on heartbreak
The following is excerpted from The Beauty of Different (Bright Sky Press 2010).
About fifteen years ago, I convinced myself that my life had fallen completely apart, never to be put back together again. I was in my late twenties and my first marriage had ended. After taking the bar exam (and barely passing), I moved out into an apartment on my own and was promply laid offfrom my first legal job ever. I was jobless, alone and running through my savings. Fast.
In short, I was a mess.
Understandably, my outlook on life seriously deteriorated. I began believing that ever major move I had ever made was completely without logic or basis, that I was incapable of making a sound decision. I became depressed, and I stopped eating. And since I wasn't in a relationship and didn't have any children, I started having thoughts -- fleeting thoughts, mind you, but they were there, just the same -- that perhaps it would be better for the World at Large if I simply ... went away.
Then one day, as I was lying in bed late at night, trying to fall asleep and failing miserably, I remembered the first two lines of a childhood prayer my grandmother taught me many decades earlier:
Jesus, safe in Mary's arms,
thank you for this day.
As I lay there, I felt myself growing angry. "Thank you for this day"? Really? My life was seriously sucking wind lately. How the hell was I supposed to thank anyone for that day.
But then I thought, well ... maybe there's one thing that was good about this day. If I can think of one thing to be thankful for, then, maybe, the day isn't a total loss. Maybe it's worth sticking around to see tomorrow.
So I thought.
And I thought.
Then suddenly I remembered that earlier that day, in a fit of defiance and even though I really couldn't afford it, I stopped by a coffeehouse for a cup of coffee. When I was about to enter the building, an older man who was ahead of me grabbed the door, opened it wide and stepped aside to let me in, smiling warmly as he did so. I remember thinking to myself, goodness, that was really nice, and weakly smiling back.
Okay, I thought as I lay there in bed. A stranger showed me a bit of kindness today. That's one good thing that happened today. I felt just the tiniest bit better.
And then I fell asleep.
Since that night, every night before falling asleep, I think about at least one good thing that happened to me during the day. At first, it was very difficult -- the decidedly insignificant fact that I'd perfectly boiled an egg for my morning breakfast featured heavily as a "good thing" in those early days. But slowly, and ever-so-surely, I found that I was able to come up with one, sometimes two, eventually three and even occasionally more occurrences in my day that were good things. And after a few weeks of doing this nightly practice, I found myself consciously looking for events during my day that were Good Things, things that made me think, cool, I'll add that to my list tonight. And amazingly, my outlook began to change. I became more confident. Slowly, I was able to turn my life back around.
And I'm proud to say that in fifteen years, there's never been a day when I couldn't come up with something that made my nightly Good Things list -- even during the worst possible days.
Because it turns out that as long as there's One Good Thing, I can keep believing in Hope. And sometimes, that's all I need to keep going.