The Art of the Bounce Back

By Lori Welch Brown

The Art of the Bounce Back

Yoga teaches you flexibility.  Meditation teaches you serenity and oh so many things.  Algebra teaches you—well, I’m still trying to figure that one out.  What no one teaches you, however, is the art of the bounce back which I’ve probably struggled with more over the years than advanced math.  I’m talking about the ability to get back on your feet after life hands you lemons vis-a’-vis cruddy first dates, questionable boyfriends, maniacal bosses, layoffs, etc.  Most of my ‘pulling myself up by my bootstrap’ moments centered around romantic endeavors vs. professional livelihood.  Lucky me.  Personal rejection and/or unrequited love seemed to be the theme du jour.

In my teens and twenties, the romantic melodrama reached epic proportions.  As many times as Mom tried to reassure me that men were like buses—“Oh, sweetie.  Don’t worry—there will be another one in twenty minutes”—my heart (or maybe my ego?) couldn’t comprehend that fact.  Granted, teenage heartbreak is normal as you don’t yet have much to compare your emotional feelings to yet.  It’s the first time you’ve touched the stove and it smarts.  By the time I reached my twenties, my romantic life was like a Shakespeare tragedy.  For the record, as far as trends go, I’d be fine with bringing back the fainting couch.  When Cupid turned his back on me, I turned to the pages of my poor tear-stained journals.  Praise be to Jesus that I had the foresight to burn those years ago.  Oh, the anghst.  When the date headed south, I headed to the self-help section of Barnes & Noble.  By the time I hit my thirties, my personal library was pretty well stocked and I had a Master’s equivalent in narcissistic behavior, co-dependence, and interpersonal communications.  Happy hours with friends turned into therapy sessions thanks to my ability to quote sage advice from the likes of Pema Chodron, John Gray, Martha Beck, Iyanla Vanzant and others.   

While I was succeeding at many things, I was not winning any medals in the art of the bounce back.  A break up that I should have recovered from in a matter of days took me an embarrassing amount of time.  During the Dark Ages of my dating, I got stood up on at least three different occasions.  That’s pretty tough not to take personally.  If that were to happen to me today, I’d say to myself, “What kind of person does that to someone?” and be done with it.  Delete.  In that moment in time, however, it was like a hail storm to my heart.  I took it personally and let it knock me further down the rabbit hole.  I didn’t think there was something wrong with me, but was more like, “how or why does this keep happening to ME?  Where is MY happily ever after?”  I developed a victim mentality.  I became depressed.  I became envious, jealous and resentful.  I was not bouncing back.

Wallowing is lovely some times, but it has a shelf life.  I indulged in all the usual suspects—long, hot bubble baths (today’s equivalent to a fainting couch); copious amounts of alcohol; country music journaling.  Not familiar?  Queue up the twang.  “Well, my date stood me up, the cat done thrown up, and my car payment is due.  Why oh why do I feel sooo blue?”  Nashville, here I come!  I turned to God, girlfriends and even a very nice therapist named Lois.  On the bright side, this is when I discovered my true tribe.  My girlfriends lifted me up.  They listened to my tales of dates gone bad without complaint and responded by telling me all the things I wanted and needed to hear.  They told me how magical I was and how horrible [fill in the blank] was—how I deserved better.  They came up with hysterical nicknames for [fill in the blank].  When I was ready, they said “Put on that leather mini, break out your Lip Smacker, and walk your sweet butt out onto the dance floor, girl.  It is time to shake it off.”  That is how you bounce back.  You get your butt back out there.  Or, you get out of bed and dust off your resume.  Or, you lace your skates up and get back on the ice.  Whatever your ‘thing’ is, you bounce back up, channel your inner Scarlett O’Hara, and confidently acknowledge that “Tomorrow is another day.”   

Bouncing back is the space where you stretch your wings and learn to fly again.  And—you remember how much you loved flying!  It is weathering the storms, but remembering the sunshine.  It is fielding fly balls and dodging curve balls.  It is waving your hands from the top of the mountain after navigating the valleys.  It is the growing pains.  The quicker you bounce back, the quicker you learn the lesson that was meant for you.  It took me awhile to learn that I needed to raise the bar on who I was willing to allow into my world.  There were some minimum requirements, i.e., do what you say you’re going to do and show up!

What would I tell my younger self?  “Listen to your mother!”  So trite, but so true.  I don’t really believe in soul mates.  I think that people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.  Some people aren’t meant to be your forever people—they are sent for a reason, a lesson.  Learn it and move on.  Or, maybe you are teaching them their lesson.  Maybe I was teaching someone how not to treat people.  Next, stop taking things so personally.  In every instance where I was stood up, the guy circled back later and apologized.  The reason they ‘showed me the ghost’ had nothing to do with me.  Shocker.  Life Hack #1:  There is absolutely no reason on this planet why you should ever leave someone hanging.  Two words for you:  Karma, baby.

Eventually, you bounce back—in your own time, but why not learn to speed up the process?   Start by practicing the art of self-care.  Take the baths.  Eat the ice cream.  Wallow a tiny bit.  You deserve it.  Next—acknowledge that the planet doesn’t revolve around you.  Stop taking things so personally.  Bad things happen to good people all the time.  These are the fender benders of life—you can’t avoid them so best to learn how to lean into them and ride them out.  If you don’t practice self-care, the small issues can snowball into a big problem, i.e., the mole hill will become the mountain.  Death by a thousand cuts, so your job is to not let the cuts grow too deep.

Life is about being flexible to what life hands you, but also about dusting yourself off and getting back up—bouncing back—when life knocks you down.  You don’t always get what—or who—you want.  I’m here to tell you, however, that the one I got was worth waiting for, and all that getting knocked down taught me to get back up so I could dance with him.

Happy Thanksgiving.  Give gratitude to all that life hands you.  You got this.

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