With a very timid and quiet voice she half whispered, “I’m barely hanging on by a thread!”
I know you’ve been there before.
A moment when things were not going well at all, and you felt like you have slipped from what was “the end of your rope” to “hanging on by a thread.”
I honestly wish I could say I’d never experienced anything like that. Or that I had only experienced it once. I do remember the time that I’m most keenly aware of “hanging on by thread.”
Within a matter of days, I’d lost my marriage, my home, my favorite car, and I had watched the new owners pull away with my horses in their trailer, as I sobbed.
I had moved my mother and dad to Texas to help my mother take care of my dad who was slipping away into the fog of Alzheimer’s. We’d recently had to place him in a full-time care facility and I knew I had to somehow hang on so I could take care of my precious Mother as she spent 12 to 15 hours daily at the care facility, taking care of him.
People said all kinds of things, and you may have heard them too, just trying to be helpful:
- “Tie a knot and hang on.” I knew that’s what you did with a rope, but they simply did not “get it” that I was hanging on only by a thread.
- “Well at least if the thread breaks, there will be no where to go but up from there.” I knew I could not let that happen, so it only drove me to hanging on tighter to a fraying thread.
- “Everything happens for a reason.” Although I did believe that God takes things that are meant to harm us and turns them into good things, in that moment, that was not the encouragement I needed.
I knew then that I had to become my own encouragement. I love the story about King David who reigned over Israel in about 1000 BC. It is written about him that in his most difficult times of hanging on by a thread he “encouraged himself.”
I didn’t understand completely what that meant, but I ascertained that he became his own encourager. It’s okay to seek help, to seek support, to seek encouragement when you are hanging on by a thread. But it’s also helpful at times to decide to become that for yourself, rather than allowing your fate or destiny to be controlled by others, who might not be encouragers.
I opened the blog with the woman who had whispered to her husband that she was hanging on by a thread. His response was to throw his hands up in the air, take two giant steps away, and let out a sigh that felt like total disgust to her. (Later we learned that it was really an expression of his fear and helplessness of not understanding and not knowing what to do).
I was able to remind her of the lessons that I had learned from my situation. I also share these lessons with clients and friends often. The good that came from that experience years ago, losing everything, was that I was able to search for and develop seven things during that traumatic time in my life, that helped me become my own encourager.
I hope as you read this you are not in a situation or a season where you are “barely hanging on by a thread.” But if you are, I know this will be helpful. If you are not currently in that situation, please store this away in case it occurs in the future. And my greatest ‘ask’ from you is that you’d share it with those you know who are “barely hanging on by a thread.”
Here are the seven things you must remember:
1. Be grateful there’s at least a thread.
There will always be people who do not respond in a manner that is supportive or encouraging. And usually, like the husband’s response I described, it’s because they are fearful and don’t know what to do or how to help.
The truth is, not everyone has the gift of compassion and empathy. (It can be developed if you happen to be one to whom it does not come naturally).
Rather than becoming angry at lack of support and/or empathy, I learned that what we absolutely must do in this situation is to practice gratitude.
Not to be grateful that there is only a thread to hang on to, but to be grateful that we are still hanging on. Neurochemical research has revealed something very powerful about gratitude. The first is that it is impossible to suffer when we are in the midst of gratitude. In gratitude, the body releases neurochemicals that soothes suffering, pain, fear and anger.
I actually began by practicing gratitude about the many wonderful reunions, events, celebrations, parties and family gatherings we had had in (what was no longer my home) on our ranch.
I also experienced what another research project has revealed about the neurochemistry in our bodies when we practice gratitude: and that is, that we immediately become more resourceful.
I had no idea what I was going to do, where we were going to live or how I could pay for even a short-term hotel. But as I practiced gratitude, resourcefulness emerged. I remembered that a good friend of mine lived in homes that were staged to sell and were on the market.
Market research at the time revealed that properties sold quicker when they were not vacant, and felt “lived in.” In exchange, you had the privilege of living rent free, only paying utilities.
I asked my friend for the information and within a number of days, we not only had a roof over our head, but my Mother got to do what she loved to do most, which was to stage and decorate homes.
The last thing that you will feel naturally inclined to do at those moments, is to practice gratitude. But, I have to admit that had I done that AND none of the other six things here, I believe I wouldn’t have survived!
Remember you can always pause and be grateful for nature. Flowers blooming, leaves turning gold and red, the sounds of a river or a beach, the sunrise, the sunset.
You can always be grateful for your great friendships, family members who’ve always been there for you. I was able to be grateful for the people who were trying to take great care of my Dad, and pause to love on my Mother at the care center.
Gratefulness and love, if only for a moment, have the power to re-focus our thoughts and lift our spirits. Even if just enough, for us to see and feel that hope is coming!
2. You are here for a purpose, and someone needs you.
Remember this always: your purpose is alive and well. No matter what setbacks come, no matter how bleak life may seem, your purpose is like that little flower that pushes up through cracks in the sidewalk to bloom again
It was during this time of “barely hanging on by a thread” that I put together my Power of Purpose program. I knew that ultimately, purpose would be what would see me through. And I somehow knew it would be what will see you through also!
In moments when we’re hanging from a thread, it’s hard to believe that we have a purpose, much less to believe that anyone might need us. Hanging from the thread, we feel our purpose is fleeting, or totally gone. And that we are in such desperate straits, there’s no way that we could serve or help another human.
One night during my dilemma when I could think of no good reason to hang on, my precious angelic Mother came in my bedroom as she often did at night. She sat on my bedside, and brushed my hair back off my forehead, as she had done hundreds of times when I was a little girl.
As she had throughout my life, she said a prayer for me, and kissed me on the forehead. She was tucking the covers in under my shoulders, and getting up to leave quietly as she always had. But this time she came back and put her hand lovingly on my face, and leaned down and whsipered ever so sweetly: “dee dee, we are losing daddy. And I can’t lose you too. I need you!“
She didn’t need me financially, she didn’t need me to sit with my dad, she needed me to rise back up and be the rock I had been for many years.
I know you can’t imagine anyone needing you, just as I couldn’t.
But no matter what shape you’re in, someone needs you!
3. The darkest hour is just before dawn.
I know it isn’t always a great encouragement to hear this when you are hanging on by a thread. But it does give us something to focus on (the dawn) other than our dilemma (our darkest hour).
I’ve always known the power in picturing something done before it has actually occurred. I’ve always had dream boards, photo proclamations and visual reminders of what I desired to see occur in my life, long before there was an ounce of evidence that it would.
During my dilemma, I remembered a song that was popular by a folk singing group, the Mamas and the Papas. I would sing that song out loud to remind myself that something better was coming.
While I’m far away from you, my baby,
Whisper a little prayer for me, my baby,
Because it’s hard for me, my baby,
And the darkest hour is just before dawn.
Although I’m not typically a morning person, it helped me during that time to get up and watch the sunrise. It helped me to remind myself of an old Proverbs that says: “God’s mercies are new every morning.”
Focus on things that the dawn might bring into your life. During that time, I visualized the beach, I visualized traveling around the world doing my workshop, “The Power of Purpose.“ Interestingly enough, all of those things occurred within a short period of time.
The sun will rise again. Trust that. And remember … Without the darkness, the power of light would never be welcomed, embraced or fully understood.
4. You matter
Yes, YOU matter!
When we are “barely hanging on by a thread,” the chatter of voices reminding us of our failures, of our shortcomings, of our mistakes, of opportunities we missed, of things we said or should not have said, things we should have done or not done … all of it roars in our heads.
You have to remember that you matter. You must remember that if you had no failures, you would have no wisdom to share. You must turn mistakes into stepping stones by assembling lessons learned.
Yes, inventory your life in order to grow, but not to beat yourself up. Make a decision that every single mistake and misstep comes with a lesson which you can glean and use to help others avoid the same mistakes.
No matter what… Silence the chatter and remember this great truth: you matter!
5. You’re not “too” anything; or” not enough” anything
Often during these moments when we are hanging on by a thread, the chatter is about what we are too much of or not enough of. You’re too young or too old, too rich or too poor, too experienced or not experienced enough, too shy or too boisterous, too educated or not educated enough.
When you are hearing that you are “too much” or “not enough” in your head … that is chatter. Not truth.
In my difficult time, it seemed to play from a jukebox playing the too much/not enough chatter in sound surround. The chatter was so loud and so often that I would write the chattered messages, cross them out with a red marker, and find something valuable in me that combatted the chatter.
For example, I knew I had to get a job. But the chatter came to me that I needed health insurance. But that I was too young for Medicare, and too old to be hired into a progressive and generous company that would offer great benefits. That’s one of the dozens of chatter messages I wrote down. I literally crossed it out with a red “X” and thought: “But there is absolutely nothing valuable in me in that arena.”
After much thought, I did write down that I was grateful for my excellent health. I decided that was valuable because I ate well, exercised regularly, took nutritional supplements, and avoided all toxins.
Later on in a moment of gratitude for my health (remember we become more resourceful in gratitude), I remembered a nonprofit organization that provided health insurance for a season to people in dire need. I was able to find that, and secure temporary insurance that allowed me to move forward in peace. I was not too young or too old. (I actually spoke aloud to the chatter out on walks in nature and told the chatter I was not too young or too old)!
Not only was the chatter wrong, but I also received a generous offer from a progressive company as Senior Director of Worldwide Training, which I loved!
6. Someone is waiting on your vision.
I’ve heard it said that the graveyard is the richest place on earth. Because it contains songs never sung, movies never scripted, inventions never brought forth, and ideas that could have been revolutionary.
Everyone has a vision. And whether it be a vision of creating something of convenience, or one that would somehow enrich and change the world, someone is waiting on that vision.
This past spring, I was at a family gathering. A family member was sharing how he had created a zip up bean bag that was a quick solution for storing stuffed animals. Because his product fascinated me, I began reading some of the reviews. 90% of them were from moms exclaiming how it had taken hours of their days, and made cleaning up after kids a much easier and more pleasurable job.
He had a vision because he has five children. It helped moms around the globe.
What is your vision?
My vision was to train and certify Life Coaches to deliver the things that I knew that I had needed during that season of my life. I have Coaches trained, certified and practicing on four continents and in 11 different countries.
I recently received an email from one of my Coaches practicing in Australia: “I sometimes wonder what my life would be like had you not gone through the difficult season that gave you the vision of training Life Coaches. Not only was your vision life-altering for me, but it created a vision in me that’s affecting hundreds of lives and businesses here in Queensland.”
Even if it seems ridiculous in your moment of “barely hanging on by a thread,” focus on your vision, and remember that someone is waiting on your vision!
7. Hanging by a thread could become a beautiful part of your life’s tapestry.
I’m very aware that this thread-hanging thing is not fun. It’s treacherous, and at moments, it is terrifying.
But I remember one day during my “barely hanging on by a thread” when I thought I could not wait for that thread to be over and totlly gone from my life. As a matter fact, I remember on that day I said to myself: “I hate this so much that I’m ready for it to either break or go away because I never want to see it again.”
That very day I walk into a good friend’s office. She had a tapestry hanging on the wall with a quote by Maya Angelou: “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
Long before I walked over to read the quote, I was drawn to the tapestry and captivated by the rich and royal threads woven together. Royal blues, royal purples, soft grays, and a touch of fuchsia.
As I read the quote, inspiration rose up from deep within me. I asked myself a life transformational question: “I can live in despair, afraid of connecting, because I might get hurt again. Or I could make a decision to love, just as she described. And love people out of their pain, fear and anger. Which will it be?”
I remember chuckling to myself, because I had often heard the quote: “I love you to death.” But standing there, I made the courageous and bold decision to be a force for good, “loving people to life!”
I’m certain that a smile warmed my face as I made the decision that this thread would become a fuchsia thread in my life‘s tapestry.
No one would choose hanging on by a thread. And yet sometimes we find ourselves dangling there.
If you can remember and practice just a few of these things, I promise that your thread-hanging season will be significantly shortened. And my prayer is that you will take a beautiful thread from your “barely hanging on by a thread” experience, and somehow weave into your life‘s tapestry.
Then make it a goal to be the encouragement that others need in their “barely hanging on by a thread” moment. In order for their thread to be woven in as a beautiful part of their life’s tapestry, they need you!
Indeed … YOU do matter!