It was with this question that Gandalf the Grey, Wizard of Middle Earth, challenged Bilbo Baggins of the Shire in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
Bilbo had become comfortable, complacent, uncomplicated; retired, in some senses. He had grown at ease with the life he had come to enjoy in the Shire. Everything was as it should be; everything was in its place; life moved along within predictable perimeters. Then, in one evening, his world was launched into chaos and mayhem with the arrival of Thorin Oakenshield’s band of thirteen dwarves. With dwarves and dishes flying everywhere Gandalf arrives to bring a meager sense of order to it all. It is then that the Quest to retake the ancient Kingdom begins to take shape.
It is often out of chaos and mayhem that our own lives begin to take shape. Tragedy cuts short our plans and dreams; broken trusts confound our relationships; fear grips our souls with spiritual and emotional stringency. There seems no place to go but…, actually, there just seems no place to go: we believe there is no way out of the quagmire that bogs us down in futility.
Thus do we give up.
Do not despair. There is always a way to push your way through the fray and conquer. Some suggestions, if you will—
1. Stop! Give your heart and mind time to recover from the shock.
2. Ponder. Think through your own shortcomings as well as external causes of the recent events that plunged you into this devastation.
3. Talk with wise friends; not just with drinking buddies who will commiserate with you. You need sound advice and reflection.
4. Pray for guidance from above…, especially if you do not believe in a god. There just may be one who might surprise you. Boo!
5. Do NOT watch excessive amounts of TV to escape. That will merely dull your senses and make you tired the next day.
6. If you are married, talk with your spouse about what you are experiencing. This is the one person in the world who loves you the most. Time to open up.
7. If the road ahead still seems muddled, seek professional advice. A life-coach, a professional job coach, a relationship therapist, a pastor, AA. You do not have to go this road alone.
8. Recall your own network of friends. There usually is someone there with connections.
9. Use an actual piece of paper and pencil (not pen) to clarify issues, draw connections, identify failures (your own & others), and to lay out your next steps. Do this alone first, then, with someone who knows you v-e-r-y well. BE HONEST.
10. Let it all go on a walk, a run, a basketball court, Ultimate Frisbee, or a fine dinner out. Thinking about your situation ad infinitum will drive you crazy.
I make these recommendations because I have been where you are now in life. I have known the pain, the broken trusts, the tragedies, the loss of those I love, the personal failure. You can and will get through this— for your own sake, and for those you love.
For what it’s worth,