When Life Sends Us Spinning: Finding A New Point of Reference

For the vast majority of you who have never experienced a bout of vertigo, let me tell you it is one awful ride. Something goes wrong in the inner ear, which is where the body finds its equilibrium, so that it feels like everything around us is moving about, making it impossible to orient ourselves. I know several people who suffer from this debilitating condition and I’ve experienced a fleeting spin or two, myself. The thing about vertigo is you can never quite predict when it will hit, how bad it will be, or how long it will stay. It’s completely beyond our control. When vertigo strikes, one feels completely unmoored, grasping for anything that feels solid in order to regain a sense of balance.

In a similar manner, there are occasions when Fate hits us smack in the face, sending our world into a tailspin. (Not all re-booting creeps upon us slowly, settling into our very marrow before we are forced to act.) Thrown for loops we didn’t see coming, our life fractures into a million little pieces, our solid frames of reference broken. If sufficiently dramatic and unrelenting, such upheaval can make us question everything from our intelligence to our ability to shoulder this burden to our faith. Nothing makes sense anymore.

What has made your head spin?

Now, I’m treading in somewhat unknown waters with this post because I have never had a dramatic event thrust upon me where I didn’t have at least some warning that change was a comin’. But having such hints doesn’t mean it wasn’t any less difficult or painful for me to find a new point of reference when the shit hit the fan. It was faith (as evidenced through the support of those close to me) that helped get me through. When caught in a black hole where I didn’t know which way was up, where I couldn’t understand why this terrifying development had descended upon my head, and where I had no idea what else might happen or how I would make it to the next day, I clung to an abstract faith, praying to help me get through because I had nothing else to lean on. That’s how petrified and exhausted I felt. I firmly believe that benevolent support for each of us exists, whether one is religious in the traditional sense or not. Faith was what whispered to me in the darkest of my despair that, maybe, what was happening was actually a good thing—even if I couldn’t see how. Looking back, I now believe that this disorienting upheaval was needed in order to jettison my old life and priorities, thus making it possible for me to find the right trajectory. It took faith for me to trust this was possible.

There’s no medication or standardized treatment that will “cure” vertigo; it comes and goes according to its own mysterious logic. Why some people suffer from it and others do not remain unknown. We have little understanding of it and, yet, we know it exists…

What do vertigo, life crises, and faith have to do with re-booting?

They influence how we feel anchored; they impact our life balance; and they trigger our need for a re-boot. Everyone’s life goes spinning. The people who tell themselves they have an unshakeable faith and a complete understanding of how life works are the least prepared to handle those times when life turns upside down. We are meant to be tested.

How we react to these troubles is where we receive our master lessons. Whether it’s your vertigo or your faith, recycling old ideas (aka frames of reference) to regain your balance is not going to work. Oh sure, for awhile, you might hold onto the side of the bed, but doing so won’t get you down the hallway. You may have to pause, lie back down, close your eyes, and drift, unsure how long this ride is gonna last. The destruction of ideas you’ve embraced for so long is hugely disconcerting—1) you no longer believe that occupying the top job is the “everything” you thought it was; 2) the family meltdown has forced you to change your vision of yourself as the “master fixer” you thought you were; 3) now that you’re better, you no longer have the “crutch” of illness as an excuse as to why you can’t get out there and do more in your life; 4) you must now forge an identity without that certain relationship in your life—given all that’s happened, who are you now? These previous identities gave your life definition, they provided the parameters for your choices and now they’ve been obliterated. BAM! You have no choice but to find a whole new center of balance if you want to get up off that bed.

It was faith that provided a gravity pull which kept me from spinning apart. Over and over, in those darkest of dark days, I would mutter in the car, “Just trust. Just trust.” I wasn’t even sure what I was trusting, but I knew I needed something bigger than myself. And so I did. Blindly. Stumbling as I went. Faith got me through then and it continues to get me through now. However, while faith cannot alleviate the symptoms of a problem, it can help overcome the problematical reactions that the problem brings with it. Overcoming a challenge or condition is very different from symptom alleviation. Your mother-in-law will always be a pill, but you can overcome your irritation towards her. Your chronic vertigo will continue to send your world spinning, but you can overcome your frustration at having to deal with it. If you are creative and adaptable enough to TRUST that there must, somehow, be a constructive purpose for you to endure this problem, you can begin to reorient; you can begin to re-boot.

Can you think of a time when you, or someone you know, radically shifted their perspective on how to handle a major crisis and things got better? The problems didn’t necessarily subside, but their reaction to them changed. This attitude adjustment is an example of faith that there is something important for us to learn through our suffering. This shift in attitude is a new center of gravity. It is in this manner that we can overcome our very real pain, which is different from symptom alleviation.

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