Is this my Life’s Lowest Point? Or its Highest? 6 Life Lessons

What could get better than this?
Free air-conditioning and rent. What could get better than this?

It was 1:30 a.m.

I was startled awake by a loud knocking on the door.  My friend’s roommate had returned a week earlier than planned, and would be needing the room.

Yes, the very room I was sleeping in. That very night.

I hurriedly packed my things, cleaned up, and moved to the comforts of the nearby living room where a beaten-up sofa welcomed me.

I have been couch-surfing ever since.

After sleeping in spare rooms – and on couches – for the past 6 months, I’ve started reflecting on my life.

Can it get any worse?

I now own sufficiently few possessions that they can all fit in my car.  I’m equipped to travel with all my worldly possessions in tow: clothes, dishes, laundry basket, ironing board, lamps…

I’m also technically homeless, as I no longer have a permanent residence. My brother has been generous enough to provide a temporary room (and a mailing address) when I need it. My friend Diane kindly let me stay at her home on my last job.

I became jobless the day my last campaign ended in November. Although I should be accustomed to the fact that my employed life ends on election days due to the nature of my work in grassroots activism, it’s still unsettling and terrifying for the period of unemployment that follows.

I also became legally single more than a year ago after a sad – if amicable – divorce. Divorce changed everything I had known about my place in the world and my future and left me lost and searching for meaning.

During this time, I grew increasingly isolated.  I eventually stopped contacting my unsupportive parents, who couldn’t see past a wounded family name to be supportive during difficult circumstances.

So, yes, to sum up my life at the moment: homeless, unemployed, divorced and isolated. And don’t forget couch-surfing, with all my worldly belongings in my vehicle.  

Can it get any better?

Upon further reflection, I also realized that the four months I spent traveling in Central America last year were some of the best I’d had.

I lived on a luxurious Costa Rican farm, ate tantalizing organic food, and spent two months at my friend’s idyllic Costa Rican paradise.

view outside
A tropical paradise, right outside my window

When I returned, I started working on a series of independent and freelance jobs, work which I put very little effort into finding. In fact, a recent project that came out of nowhere might actually turn into a full-fledged business.

Not having a home has allowed me to travel up and down the beautiful state of California. I’ve been grateful to reconnect with friends of new and old who’ve take me in, treated me like an honored guest, fed me, and opened their homes to me.

Not having a spouse has allowed me time to seek out many old friends, family friends, new friends, and blogger friends. So many relationships which have been rekindled, refreshed and renewed.

I’ve immersed myself in weeks of Spanish classes, lived in homes with beautiful views….

Views like this.
A beautiful view of the California bay.

I also attended nearly a month of Sunday church services at the Cavalry Chapel in Chino Hills, Baptist church services in San Diego and a visit to the Zen Center in San Francisco.

Are these the best of times? Or the worst of times?

I find it hard to think of myself as unemployed, homeless, divorced and alienated from my parents.  I’ve found, instead,  that the people in my life now bring me infinite happiness, the temporary housing has brought me into contact with wonderful people and places to live, unemployment has brought forth exciting opportunities, and spiritual discoveries have helped me uncover lessons of a lifetime!

Here are 6 life lessons I’ve learned in the process. 

1)      Change happens. Embrace it. I once hated change like you hate being pick-pocketed. It can be intrusive and inconvenient. One minute you have something, the next minute you don’t.

But I’ve realized that being able to adapt to changing circumstances makes you stronger, wiser and calmer. Change can be unsettling, but it also spurs growth. I’ve learned to embrace change, rather than shy away from it. Now, I welcome it.

2)      The universe knows better than you. Trust it. I used to demand that my life work out a certain way, always trying to be in control of the circumstances. When life took its own twists and turns, I realized I could no longer do that.  And the universe was infinitely wise in bringing me opportunities that were a perfect fit for me.

Do your part, then trust the universe to take care of the rest.

3)      Friendship is a choice. Cherish it. While I am no longer with my spouse, or in touch with my parents, I’ve created much stronger bonds with everyone else in my life. My brother, who I fought with growing up, has been both supportive and helpful. I’ve strengthened relationships with many friends from my past, and reconnected with many people who fell out of touch.

Since friendships are a choice, you can make a choice to value them and work on them.

4)      Gratefulness is a practice. Thank it. Although so many bad things have happened, so many great things have also swooped in. I’m grateful for the positive people, circumstances and energy I have found.

When you notice, acknowledge and appreciate the positive events in your life, you invite more of the same in.

5)      Happiness is a choice. Choose it. Here’s the thing about happiness: you’re confronted with many opportunities to be happy each day.  I have come to realize that I can choose happiness in every decision. So, I choose to be happy in both the simple and big events in my life. The people you’re with, the places you go, the work you do – all are laden with choices.

You have the power to choose happiness, and that’s a compelling feeling.

6)      Happiness comes from within. Be it. You don’t have to go very far to be happy. No one person or event or job will make you happy. Happiness is an everyday practice. And more importantly, it comes from within. You have the ability to be happy exactly where you are, without doing one thing more.

Find the happiness in what you have, where you are, in the moment.

“I could chose to see this differently.” – A course in miracles*

I used to feel like I had so much control over my life. Now I feel like I’ve surrendered my life to the universe, and it leads ME.

I used to be so averse to change. Now I welcome it, accepting that it’s a part of life.

I used to strive towards happiness someday. Now, I simply choose to find it every day.

I used to hate falling. But now I realize that, the more I fall, the more I learn and the quicker I get back up.

Where you are in life has a lot to do with perspective. If you’re willing to change your perspective, the world around you changes.

Have you had life experiences that were both positive and negative at the same time? Something that was painful, but spurred personal and spiritual growth in the end? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

* If you would like to share your story through a guest post, please reach out to me. * Thanks for sharing this wonderful quote Galen.

38 Comments

  1. Thank you dearly for sharing your transformation. You have overcome many challenges and know the greatest challenge to overcome is how to view your circumstances. Every lesson you have shared is so valuable it’s priceless. Everything depends on the way we look at things. My own life experiences taught me that I can think I have clear vision but upon deeper thought I see those same things things in an entirely new light. Circumstances I once thought were a curse have proved to be a blessing. Difficult people I did not want to listen to have taught me many important lessons. May you remain well and happy, Vishnu.

    1. Thank you for your kind words:)

      I think changing perspective can change our lives. We can’t change the circumstances but we can change how we deal with something, view something.

  2. Sounds like a time of upheaval indeed Vishnu but glad to hear about the positive things that have come from it. Thanks for sharing so honestly what you’ve been going through in recent times.

    1. hey Milo – it’s interesting because I tried to show the extreme sides of the same situation going on in my life. Yeah, some of the circumstances have not been great but the growth has been life-changing 🙂

      p.s. Thanks for your kind words – I was about to link to your contest post in another feeble attempt to lose your contest. haha

  3. Refreshingly honest, Vishnu (not that I don’t think you’re other posts have been … !!).

    I too went through a divorce and faced having family members care more about their ‘honour’ than my feelings. Things are 100% better now so I would say give it time – your parents will come round.

    I absolutely love ‘Do your part, then trust the universe to take care of the rest’. Most people don’t even think they have to DO anything! Sitting around chanting affirmations is as much doing as they can muster!

    Brave, brave man.

    – Razwana

    1. Thanks for your words Razwana and encouragement – I doubt there will be too many posts getting this personal. haha but I did enjoy writing this one to show the extreme contrasts in my life and thoughts on perspective.

      The part about the universe is interesting. Once I realized I couldn’t control a lot of circumstances, I just had to roll with it. Yes, we do have to do our part and leave the rest up to what’s going to happen. I don’t think sitting back on a hammock with umbrella drinks will save the day.

      Looking forward to hosting you on the blog next week. I think you’ll be the first guest poster!

  4. Great post!! Maybe one of my favorites.. So what happened to your dream home?? It looked so nice! I didn’t realize you were divorced. I’ve never been divorced (never been married) but had something similar when breaking up from a 5 year long relationship, shared bank account, shared mortgage… yes, I co-owned a house! With both our names!! Stupid idea. 😀 But I can honestly say breaking up was one of the best things that’s happened to me. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the break up and now I’m in the slums! hahaha. This is the best and worst of times indeed 😉 Positive and negative but I choose to look at the positive and I have faith that my weird decisions and ‘failures’ WILL lead to success!! I think it’s awesome that your random freelance jobs that came from nowhere might turn into a business. Go Vishnu!!!

    1. One of my favorites, too…I feel like I got to know you better through this post.

      I have learned to surrender control, too. Well, 90% of the control, at least;) I think we still have to put in our 10% of the work to make things change, but let go of the outcome.

      1. Thank you Bri! I knew you would like this post. haha I didn’t. But am glad you did. And glad you looked it over and shared your thoughts/edits with me last week : )

        Yeah, letting control is good for a lot of reasons. The more you let go of control, the less you demand, the less you expect and the more (I’ve notice) things work out the way you’re supposed to. I think we can put in the work but not holding the outcome hostage is key:) Let what will happen, happen.

          1. It was hard to write but glad I did 🙂 One of my favorite posts as well – on further reflection : )

    2. Thanks Janet – your posts always inspire me with the many ups and downs of your life. This will be one of the few more personal posts! 🙂

      Wait so the breakup led to the slums? haha this is not sounding good.

      But I also know much of your personal and professional growth stemmed from the move 🙂 Yes, it’s all about perspective! And learning from our failures and screw-ups as in your latest post! Definitely a foundation to future success.

  5. Wow, Vishnu, what a powerful and personal post this is! I will definitely be keeping you in my prayers, my friend.
    Yes, change is inevitable and choice is a gift. I have experienced the elation of writing/completing a novel and the downside of rejection from publishers and lit. agents. Through it all, I chose to be happy and positive, knowing God was with me. Oh, sure, I had my moments of worry and doubt, just like any ordinary person would who can’t see the whole picture of God’s timeline, but I learned to be patient, more trusting in His will for me, and to find joy in all things, counting my blessings as they came.
    And, now? Book #2 getting all dressed up and ready for the presses. Good things come to those who wait upon the Lord.
    Blessings and prayers, my friend!

    1. Thanks so much Martha for your comment and prayers : ) I think your book writing example is a perfect example of changing perspective. And how you forged ahead despite rejection by publishers and agents. I’m so glad that you published your first book and moving onto your second! And how you trusted God in the process knowing it will all work out.

      As you know, I’m with you 100% on the power of prayer in our lives – for strength, patience and even changing perspective!

  6. This post really got to the heart of you, Vishnu and I feel so blessed to be reading it. You’ve dared to expose yourself to us and that to me is a gift. I will take the gift of you and be grateful for the person I’m coming to know and admire so much. That you have dared to be authentic, positive, open and grateful makes it easier for me to be the same. Thank you for all you are, Vishnu.

    1. Thanks so much Corinne – glad you enjoyed reading the post. It’s a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time and a post that really reflects the lessons I’ve learned in a rather tumultuous couple years of my life. Along with the ups and downs, the life lessons learned are powerful and will be life-lasting I think. I’m really glad I wrote the post and thankful for your support and feedback. I think by writing about our lives in a more authentic way we can help teach and inspire each other. One of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog.

    1. hahaha funny Galen! I’m no master. We’re all students:) and learn from each other. I’m just sharing what I learned.

  7. When I look at the overall big picture of my life I feel very blessed. I have definitely had difficult times that while in them felt both positive and negative. The more time and space that occurs afterwards the more I see them in a positive light. Those are the times that definitely caused me to feel the most grown up because of the personal growth that occurred.
    Sharing your personal journey and experiences is a very brave and giving thing to do to help others. Thank you for this great heartfelt post and for the very kind link. Wishing you a great evening, Vishnu!

    1. First, thanks for inspiring this post Wendy with your post on perspective. And how love can change the perspective on any situation. That video definitely resonated with me.

      It’s interesting how the very same moment can have positive and negative consequences for us. I think that’s what perspective is ultimately. Time also helps change perspective, as you point. Some of our worst moments – our best. And our best moments – our worst.

      Thanks for your comment and continued inspiration Wendy!

  8. Wow, you are so courageous, Vishnu. I don’t know if I could trust the universe as fully as you have! Yes, I’ve had shifts in relationships that were painful and positive. It all depends on perspective, doesn’t it? I’m glad your life is filled with such exciting opportunities and spiritual discoveries. While I sit here listening to the week-whacker next door!

    1. hahahahaha funny Sandra! I wonder how you can have differing perspective on loud annoying noises like that weed-whacker next door. That maybe the ultimate test of perspective: )

      I’ve tried both ways – trying to make things happen and allowing things to happen and unfold in its own way. Circumstances seem to work out better when I just let it happen. Not maybe in the immediate short-term but definitely in the long term!

  9. Wow, this is honestly the best post I’ve read anywhere for a long time. I think what inspires me most is how you’ve reacted to very difficult circumstances in such a healthy way. I’ve taken some serious knocks in life as well, albeit different ones, and some of the best advice I ever got from a close mentor was to not become bitter. To kind of pragmatically roll with it but with a positive, enterprising outlook. I feel like that is what you have done.
    Congratulations on an excellent post, bro.

    1. Wow – what a compliment Bjorn! I’m glad everyone has responded so favorable to it.

      Ok – one super personal post annually:) Yeah, I’ve learned lessons of a life time from everything that has happened. Need to get shaken up to realize these life lessons. If life is not so tumultuous, we don’t grow. Although we don’t appreciate the roller coaster, we can appreciate the lessons on the way – like buckling up. haha

  10. “I used to feel like I had so much control over my life. Now I feel like I’ve surrendered my life to the universe, and it leads ME.”

    Woah, this post made me cry and smile at the same time. Outstanding. It’s funny that I’ve learned almost exactly the same lessons over the last year. There seems to be certain principles that, if we need to learn them, life will find a way to teach us. The more receptive you are to them, the easier it will be.

    “Are these the best of times? Or the worst of times?” Both!

    1. hey Andrew – perspective is everything. Glad you’ve learned similar lessons as well. I think life is continually teaching us lessons – we have to try to find the lesson and learn them so we don’t repeat same mistakes. But like you say, if we need to learn it – life will teach it to us. For free : )

  11. Have you had life experiences that were both positive and negative at the same time? Something that was painful, but spurred personal and spiritual growth in the end? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

    yes!!! i have exactly

  12. I think you are very inspirational Vishnu. It sounds like when life could have been hectic for you, you decided to make the best of it. It sounds like you have a lot of great friends. The only way to have great friends is to be a great friend. I think 2013 will be a great year for you. Are you speaking fluent Spanish now?

    1. Meg, thanks for your comment and feedback. Yes, making the best of a situation is putting it in the best perspective possible. I’m looking forward to a great 2013! I spent 3 months in Central America – I would say my Spanish is above average – not quite fluent but if you dropped me off in the middle of a central American country and asked me to get out of there and back to the States, I could probably handle that. : )

  13. Vishnu,

    I am surprised at how parallel our path of last year has been. I, too, am technically homeless–a friend generously allows my little family to live in a guest room of her home (as I have done for others throughout my life). So, I understand a bit of how one might technically have nothing, but energetically feel, appreciate, and celebrate the abundance of the moment. I am so glad that you chose to share this, from the comments above, you have brightened the “light in the room”.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments Joy. Yes, having nothing and abundance in the same moment is an interesting place to be and a very empowering one. I continue to be grateful for all that I do have in my life, including your visit and comment : )

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