“Bailey! Bailey! C’mon Bailey!” I called from our backyard, expecting my dog to come running like she normally did. She didn’t.
Then I saw it—the broken fence post.
I gasped. She was gone. Loose. I imagined Bailey wandering the busy streets that surrounded our neighborhood.
I raced around the block calling her name. But her wagging tail and smiling face were nowhere to be found.
I ran back to the house to grab my car keys. As I burst through the door, there she was—wagging her tail. Smiling back at me. My wife had let Bailey in before I’d begun my desperate search.
I dropped to the ground and gripped Bailey to my chest. As tears of gratitude spilled down my cheeks, she consoled me with her wet kisses.
I was grateful Bailey wasn’t lost. But the escapade topped off a triple-decker week of work conflicts and family messiness that sent me into an emotional tailspin.
“I can’t do this anymore, God. I didn’t sign up for this!” I rocked back and forth on the floor crying as Bailey’s soft tongue caressed my arms and legs.
Scud Missiles Happen
Life sometimes does that to us. Everything’s going great and then boom! what feels like a scud missile bombs our lives.
It can be simple things like getting a cold, misplacing a piece of jewelry, or stubbing a toe.
Tough stuff also hits us. The death of a loved one, caring for an aging parent, or dealing with a cheating partner—these kinds of life-events rock our world, making us feel like we’ve entered a war zone.
When scud missiles hit us one after another, the “I didn’t sign up for this!” blues can shake our souls.
Discovering Consolation and Desolation
So, what do we do when we want to scream, “I didn’t sign up for this!”?
In the chapter titled “Get the Funk Out,” of my book, Finding Flow, I write about the ancient wisdom of St. Ignatius, who graced us with a simple question we can ask ourselves to learn how to grow: am I in consolation or desolation?
Ignatius says when things are going right in our lives, when we feel connected to God and ourselves, when our days are filled with joy, blessings, and gratitude—we’re in what he calls consolation. We have a sense of God’s closeness and guidance. We’re experiencing the fruits of the spirit—inner peace, love, and joy.
When in consolation, Ignatius instructs us to keep doing what we’re doing because it’s working.
Desolation rears its head when we experience disorder—when we feel disconnected from God and ourselves. In desolation, we fill with anger, fear, and worry. Our world feels out of control. We’re overwhelmed by life.
In times of desolation, Ignatius says we need to push gently against it by doing something different, like increasing our quiet time to listen for God’s guidance, finding a book or reflection that speaks to us, taking time in nature to rest and recharge, or seeking wise counsel—someone who can help us discern how to move forward so we can discover how we’re being invited to grow.
What to Do When the “I Didn’t Sign Up for This” Blues Hit You
When I hear myself complain, “I didn’t sign up for this!” it’s a telltale sign I’m drifting into the desolation zone. By naming the experience as desolation, I’m able to put it into context so I can apply Ignatian wisdom.
Here are the steps that help me push against the desolation:
- Be honest with yourself and God. Admit what you’re going through stinks and you don’t like it.
- Cry out to God. Tell him you didn’t sign up for this. You didn’t expect or want things to go the way they are.
- Increase quiet times to listen for God’s guidance.
- Take more naps.
- Find time to be alone in nature.
- Identify and accept the work God has given you to do.
- Trust the Creator will give you the wisdom and strength to carry it out.
- Focus on solutions. Get off the pity-pot and look at your options. Ask God how you can resolve the situation.
- Move forward with God’s wisdom to implement with love and courage whatever you sense you’re being called to do.
- When the scud missile storm has passed, lick your wounds. Admit it’s tough to keep standing up when life keeps knocking you down.
- Take more time for self-care.
- Ask yourself what you learned.
- Forgive yourself and others for any missteps.
- Move on—firm in faith—God is with you. He always has been and always will be. Trust him.
This Is How We Grow
As frustrating as the times of desolation are, they can also be a jumpstart toward inner growth.
When we let ourselves be perfectly human and allow the Divine to lead us through the darkness into the light, we then move into consolation.
The next time life’s scud missiles hit you, view it as an opportunity to dig deep and recognize how strong and resilient you are and how faithful God is as you face life’s difficulties together.
That’s how we grow. It’s what we can do when the “I didn’t sign up for this” blues strike again.
—brian j plachta
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Here’s what people are saying about the new Finding Flow book:
“Finding Flow” was the perfect book at the perfect time for me. About a year ago I started a spiritual quest. I have been already doing many of the things mentioned in his book. I have been into yoga, meditation. I even did a heart math class he mentioned. Also, I did a Healing Touch class which is similar to Reiki. The problem that stumped me over this time was that I was worried about going to far out there and straying from Christianity too much. I worried about doing “the wrong thing.” I was searching for “the right” answers. This book changed me by giving me the perfect guidance and showing me that I am on the right path for me! For me, Brian’s perfect message is to stop intellectualizing everything and make God an experience instead!
Thank you for this. I will continue to strengthen my daily routine and experiencing God in my Heart.”
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