The cold-water shock
Welcome to the realization train station
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
—Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
I remember looking at my Mom and realizing there was no recovery ahead. That cancer was the train and death was the destination and we couldn’t get off and we couldn’t slow it down and we couldn’t change tracks. The strongest feeling I had in that moment was a kind of shock.
This can’t be my mom. This can’t be happening to me.
But it was.
Disbelief doesn’t stop things from happening. It just stops you from being aware that they’re happening.
When the train screeches to a halt and you get dumped out, you can still refuse to read the station signs, refuse to acknowledge where you are. But you’re there.
And until you’re willing to look up, look around, figure out your options, see where you can go from where you are… you’ll be stuck.
If you don’t look at where you really are, you can’t make any kind of reasonable, doable decision about where to go next.
This is true on big and small levels.
A lack of tension isn’t because some-bad-thing doesn’t exist.
A lack of tension exists because everybody’s agreeing to ignore the bad thing.
Tension begins to build when some of the people at the station start reading the signs. Looking around. Saying, “Hey, wait a minute…”
Tension starts to build because acknowledging reality—as you truly see it, know it, experience it—is the greatest power move ever. It causes a fundamental shift. It releases the brake lever and starts the train rolling down a different track—out of that station, somewhere different.
You still don’t know exactly where you’ll end up. But at least you’re moving.