Two Steps Forward And 114 Steps Back

Sometimes, life is so joyful. I feel strong, accomplished, and self-actualized. Even when the circumstances around me are less than ideal, I sometimes feel the growth and power that comes from accepting myself and my value. When I am hovering in that mental atmosphere, I feel like I can handle anything life throws at me.

Then, life throws something at me. And hits me with it. Life does not miss. All the finessing and dodging and feinting right or left that I attempt is useless. Life definitely lands a solid punch that leaves me on the canvas. Sometimes, it is simply for a standing eight count, and I stagger back onto my feet to continue the fight. Other times, as I lay on the floor, I feel like I won’t be able to get up again and life is going to win by knock-out.

Recently, I’ve encountered a whole series of events that have served as a huge blow to my glass chin. A family emergency resulted in me taking an unplanned trip to Pennsylvania, traversing strange roads in a rental car, meeting and dealing with a whole group of strangers that have very different world views from mine, mediate squabbles between said strangers, live for ten long days in an inhospitable environment,  grapple with at least four profound ethical dilemmas, face a huge helping of personal grief, confront the heartbreaking reality that the sad life of someone very dear to me was even sadder than I had known, and struggle with financial and administrative issues. And those are the biggies that I can articulate just off the cuff.  For a while, I was doing great. I was so proud of myself. I was being strong, brave, gentle, creative, and, in general, the person that I have been working very hard to become over the last two years. Despite the circumstances, I was wandering around in a bit of a euphoria because I couldn’t believe what I was able to do. I wasn’t afraid. I thought through multiple possible solutions for problems and came up with a compromise plan that I thought met the interests of all involved. I grieved appropriately but remained functional. I was kind and generous. I did not shy away from difficult conversations. I did not dismiss my own point of view the moment I was faced with opposition. I was freaking amazing.

Then, the situation started to decay. A few things happened that took me to a deeper, darker, uglier, more isolated place than I have been in a long time. I remembered what it felt like to experience these painful feelings nearly all the time. Life landed a dangerous blow.  I did not like living in my own body, heart, and mind anymore. I still am lying on that canvas trying to figure out if I can stand up or whether to just let the referee call it a loss by knock-out.

As I have alluded to in prior posts, I’ve been dealing with some pretty big emotional and mental health issues since January. You may recall my Lenten miracle (A Lenten Miracle – Terri LaBonte- Reinventing Myself in Retirement). This year, I have been able to resolve and heal some horrible events in my past. The tragedy is that it took me 40 years to let go of those particular demons. The good news is that I’m a completely different person in many ways. I have been released from the pain, fear, and self-devaluation that I have spent most of my life trying to contain. I have been able to see the difference and I often cannot believe who I have become. One example of that joyful amazement was the first half of the trip to Pennsylvania. Even in the midst of my grief, I found myself musing, “Who am I? How am I doing this?”

However, once the considerable strain and pressure I was withstanding hit a point where my life’s very state of matter was changing, I could no longer find that remarkable woman anymore. She was completely gone.  It is a demoralizing feeling. It was as if my considerable progress over the past five months meant nothing, and I was down for the count.

I remembered something that I learned in the Alpha course I help orchestrate for my church. The course is intended to help guide people who are grappling with the big questions of life- purpose, evil, faith, God, etc. One of the things that the presenter mentions is that, often, when a person finds a new place in his or her relationship with God, there is a counterintuitive effect. When someone first comes to Christ or reaches some sort of new level in their spiritual walk, there is usually an overwhelming experience of triumph, joy, satisfaction, peace, or some other positive feeling. However, it is not uncommon in the days after such an epiphany, for that person to experience some internal strife. It is as if evil has found that person in their new state of spirituality and is doing its best to kick the legs out from under this new, beautiful understanding and joy in God. Evil, darkness, Satan- whatever you want to name it- does not want us to experience that joy and peace that passes all understanding and will fight your spirit to retake control.

I understood this in terms of spiritual development. Now, I’m thinking that maybe it applies to emotional development as well. Maybe, when a person like me who has fought the emotional demons all her life, gets a taste of what it feels like to live without that pain, the emotional demons don’t go down without a fight. Maybe that is what is happening as I lie here on the canvas for the eight count. The me who has finally found her way out of the dark is still vulnerable to attacks of emotional evil and destruction. They are putting up one last stand to retake their mental territory.

This past week and a half have made me feel like I took two steps forward and 114 steps back. I am struggling to see it as 114 steps forward and two steps back. As I write this, I am beginning to feel, for the first time since 6/3, like I may regain consciousness. What do you think? Can I get back on my feet before the eight count is over?

Anybody have any encouraging words? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a better day than I have been having lately!