What to Do When Your Perfect Life Comes Crashing Down

by Alli Polin on October 13, 2015

Life comes crashing down

I’ve had a pretty great life so far.

Of course, there were things that weren’t all rainbows and unicorns, like my child who needed medical care for the first few years of her life. There was also the time the company I worked for was acquired, and my lovely job was sold to a big behemoth with values that didn’t match my own. Still, all things considered, I wasn’t prepared for when life comes crashing down and let me be clear, it hasn’t. It’s more like I’ve run into an unexpected kink in a very curvy wire that has gotten me to where I am today. 

You may know the feeling.

Things are going well, you travel, enjoy your job and have a partner you love. At times, it may seem a lot like a hamster wheel, but you’re happy enough to keep going, until the day you’re not. Crash. 

One day, you’re minding your own business, running on your wheel, and shit happens.

Spouse cheats. 

Fall out of love and get divorced. 

Lose your job.

Crash your car. 

Child gets hurt on the playground.

Biggest contract goes poof.

Find out you need to have a bilateral mastectomy even though you felt healthy, and cancer was the furthest thing from your mind. (Welcome to my kink in my perfect life.)

What to do when your perfect life comes crashing down?

We never anticipate the crash, do we?

It’s not the crash that breaks us; it’s the unwillingness to break the frame and embrace the change instead of rallying so hard against it that you create a forever derailment. 

It’s the frame, struggling to keep you and me safe in the comfort of our lives; that makes us want to scream and yell as it’s being pulled apart.

“It’s unfair!”

“Why me?”

“I don’t want this.”

Who does want it? Um, nobody.

Unfortunately, even through a time of pain, you need to find the strength to take out the hammers and the nails and create a new frame, to ultimately move forward with confidence, competence and creativity once again. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t be sad, or feel the loss, or even anger. You can and you should, it’s human. 

My wise friend on social media, Christopher Demers (@ChristopherinHR) had a brilliant tweet recently that was truly on the mark and definitely hit home. 

That’s what it’s all about. Learning to find the goodness through it all. 

Here are three things I want to share with you that I’ve learned about resilience, unexpected change and unwanted crashes in your life:

Learn to love what is, not only what was. 

I’m having surgery on Friday, and my body will never look the same, but I will still be me: my body, my brain, my heart, my dreams, my hopes, my fears; me. 

 

We all have scars; some are just outward visible reminders and others cut us so deep in our core we think we’ll never recover. You can, and you will emerge to create a new normal

Longing for the past can’t bring it back.

Wishing things never changed will not magically give you Harry Potter’s wand.

This is your life, the only one you’ve got, don’t let it all go because it’s not what you imagined or wanted. Learn to love what’s present today. Reread Christopher’s tweet, it may help. The goodness is there for you. 

The wrong choice vs the best choice.

There are many times you need to make the best choice you can with the information that’s available. Three years later, when you know more, it may become clear that there was a better choice, an easier path to follow. Quite frankly, who cares?

Making a choice and taking action based on what you know today with confidence is the best choice. Allow yourself to accept that you made the best choice you could instead of beating yourself up with a terrible losing game of “what if?” 

  

The beautiful thing is that change is up to you.

I know people who have gotten divorced and wasted their next decade as bitter, angry, untrusting human beings. I also know women who have had mastectomies and never learned to love their bodies again despite their imperfections. Happily, I also know people who embraced their wounds and transformed. 

 

I don’t know about you, but I love imperfections. They make you raw and real instead of a polished impossible version of perfection that only belongs on TV or in magazines. 

Ask yourself: When life changes, will you claw at the past, desperately trying to find a way to get a grip on it before it disappears, or will you open your arms to the future?

PS. Your perfect life hasn’t come crashing down; you’ve just come face to face with a new beginning. 

I’m going off the radar for a little while on social media and this blog. It may be two weeks, or it may be closer to four or more, but I’ll be back. When I return, once again I’ll have lessons from everyday leadership to share with you and hopefully spark your personal development. 

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Mertz October 13, 2015 at 6:53 am

Alli,

In the mess of life, goodness blooms. Good thoughts are sent your way, Alli, as a community of good thoughts help us all through the messiness of life. And this is important to remember. You are not alone. A new goodness grows.

Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Jon

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Alli Polin October 13, 2015 at 7:24 am

Goodness blooms. Yes and it’s within our power to seek out the goodness and not give into the darkness.

Appreciate your support and kind word, Jon.

~ Alli

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Linda Bidlack October 13, 2015 at 7:02 am

Ali, I salute your resilient outlook and pluck. I have found great wisdom in Mark Nepo’s writings, and one quote sticks with the most: ‘What’s in the way is the way.”

I’ll be praying for you over these next days and weeks, and knowing your voice will be burnished and tuned by this passage. Much love, Linda

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Alli Polin October 13, 2015 at 7:26 am

Linda! One of my favorite experts on resilience!

My next kindle purchase may be The Book of Awakening. Thank you.

Grateful for your words and prayers too.

xo

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Blair October 13, 2015 at 7:49 am

Alli,
Your weekly contributions will be sorely missed, as they help me fill my head with goodness. Wishing you great resilience, love and all good things as you courageously shatter this frame and reboot. And thanks for being a bold leader and sharing your tough truths here.
Love,
Blair

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Alli Polin October 13, 2015 at 7:16 pm

What would I do without you, Blair? Incredibly grateful for your support and friendship.

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John Thurlbeck October 13, 2015 at 7:51 am

Yet another great post Alli – striking right to the heart of the issue! I loved the quote, “Choose bitterness or transformation. Be a butterfly.”

I wish you well with your surgery on Friday! You will be in my thoughts and prayers!

Kind regards

John

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Alli Polin October 13, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Here’s to becoming butterflies!

Thanks so much, John.

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Karin Hurt October 13, 2015 at 8:31 am

You are deeply in my heart and prayers. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.
Love,
Karin

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Alli Polin October 13, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Sincerely means so much. Thank you, Karin.

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Tom Rhodes October 13, 2015 at 8:40 am

Alli,

First and foremost my best wishes and prayers to you. Your strength in writing this post has already begun your transformation. I know that when my crash happened, when my Father passed, you were one of the people that helped me up and helped me choose a new path forward. Know that although far away there are people here to help you move forward. Nothing will change the beauty inside you.

Tom

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 2:51 am

Tom,

Your words made me smile. I appreciate you very much.

Thank you!

~ Alli

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Joy Guthrie October 13, 2015 at 8:42 am

Alli, a little more than 6 years ago, I had similar news. I won’t say that I know what you are feeling. Everyone is different. Remember that when you are told about side effects, survival rates, treatment options. Everyone is different. As a change agent provocateur, you know that how you approach what happens to you is critical. When it happened to me, I gave my tumor a name. I was in a kind of hyper attention fog. You have a world of people rooting for you, a wonderful, supportive family, and you have friends that you can rely on. There will be tremendous focus on you. Since you’re going off the grid, I feel compelled to say here that having support for your family will also be important. They will be going through this with you. Their fears are different than yours. Their experience will be different than yours, even though it’s for the same set of events. You are a survivor. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers. I’m looking forward to seeing you write about your experiences and what you learn. Help will come from the most surprising places.

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 2:54 am

Joy,

I wish that this was something that no woman ever had to go through. You, my friend, are a survivor and a thriver. Thanks for setting the bar.

I’m in Sydney for my surgery without family but at the end of my time in the hospital my husband will be here and my mother is making the trip from the USA to Australia too.

Appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers.

xo

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Robyn Povich October 13, 2015 at 9:16 am

My dear Alli,
Thank you for sharing your journey with such transparency. Sending you peace, love and compassion as you travel this new path. (call me)

Loving what is…,
Robyn

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 4:34 am

I’ve been thinking about you a lot. You probably don’t remember but before I moved to Australia you gave me a card with a Byron Katie quote on it. Three + years later, I still carry it with me in my wallet daily. You are a light shining the path to loving what is. Grateful for your love and support.

xo

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Carl October 13, 2015 at 9:26 am

Alli, my friend, I will miss your insights while you are away – but I applaud your wisdom to take time to refocus –
Feed your heart and soul, allow your spirit to see the beauty that surrounds you.
Namaste,
Carl

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 2:56 am

Going to definitely take the time to recover and feel good. Will feed my heart and soul until it overflows and lifts me up 🙂

I’ll be back!

Thanks so much, Carl.

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Christopher October 13, 2015 at 9:34 am

While you go away to ten to your body and soul, you can rest easy in the basket of warmth that is made of the love of your friends and family. You, my dear, are never alone and always cared for.

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 3:50 am

Leaning into the goodness. Thanks so much, Christopher.

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Larry Coppenrath October 13, 2015 at 10:23 am

Alli, sending only positive thoughts to you and your family. Having gone through a bout with vocal cord cancer 2 years ago I get the uncertainty and evaluation of life that must be going on right now. So do what you always do; add value, create a record of your experience to help someone else that is about to go through a similar experience with information on a shared reality. So breakout Evernote or whatever you use and don’t let your feelings and experience get away. I found it to be a very positive thing to do everyday. If you would like to see what I did go to Amazon and search on Larry Coppenrath.

My best to you and your family and if there is anything I can do to help just shout out.

Larry

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 6:48 am

Great idea, Larry! I’m an Evernote fan and have it on my ipad which will be with me at the hospital. I’ll be there for 8 nights so plenty of time to reflect and undoubtedly countless thoughts to capture. Will head to Amazon shortly…

Thank you for sharing your story as well.

All the best ~

Alli

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LaRae Quy October 13, 2015 at 12:14 pm

First and foremost, prayers for you in the days and weeks ahead.

Second, regarding scars—my dog Gus recently ruptured a back disc. We took him to a neurologist who said, “Put him on bed rest until the scar heals. Once healed, that scar will be tougher than the tissue around it.”

And that is you, my friend, with what you are going through and experiencing…

Luv ya!

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 2:59 am

Thanks for sharing that story about Gus. From adversity comes strength!

Luv you tons too, LaRae! Thanks for your kind words, generous spirit and for all of your insight on mental toughness. Carrying them with me.

~ Alli

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Terri Klass October 13, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Alli,
My thoughts and love are with you. You are one of the most incredibly courageous and fearless leaders I know. I will miss your weekly stories of inspiration and encouragement to make a leap in our lives. But I know you will be back with some amazing lessons for all of us.

Please know that I am here if you want to just share.

May you go from strength to strength!!

Love,
Terri

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 3:01 am

Terri,

I do know that you’re there and it makes it easier – truly. This is not something I’d ever choose but plan on a long, happy life ahead with many more visits with you in NJ.

Thank you, thank you.

xoxo

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Ingrid October 13, 2015 at 7:14 pm

My thoughts are with you Alli. I wish you resilience and strength to come out the other side. Best wishes from the far south. Ingrid

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 3:01 am

Many thanks, Ingrid. Very much appreciate it.

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John Bennett October 14, 2015 at 12:30 am

From your incredible post : “It’s not the crash that breaks us; it’s the unwillingness to break the frame and embrace the change instead of rallying so hard against it that you create a forever derailment.”

First and foremost: All the best to you with the surgery!!! Our prayers and hopes are with you and your family…

To me at least, it’s even more fundamental: Even when one embraces change (as I do), there will be times when things ‘come crashing down’ and the change we were hoping for, planning for, working to implement will not have success; indeed, I’ll suggest virtually never will things go as we want – too much uncertainty ALWAYS!

Expect it, don’t be defeated by it, learn from it, and CHOOSE to move forward!!! Just make sure you assess, reflect, learn, understand, and revise first!!!

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 3:30 am

Yes! Expect it, don’t be defeated and choose to move forward. Right on, John. I’m all for change but as we know, we can’t control it.

I love your comment — it’s an important truth!

With gratitude,

Alli

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John Bennett October 14, 2015 at 10:44 am

Again, all the best Friday!!! My prayers include you and your family.

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Lori Anding King October 14, 2015 at 1:17 am

Dear Alli,
My heart and prayers go out to you and your family.

Now I understand the disconnection you mentioned when we were tweeting each other. Your strength and resiliency shows in your post. You are an amazing woman. I’m glad you plan to take a significant amount of time off. Don’t rush it. It is so important for you to take care of yourself and heal. I will miss you! I look forward to chatting again.

Hugs and love,
Lori

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 6:50 am

Hey there, Lori!

Yes, finding out the reason behind it must have been a surprise. I’m sure at first it will be strange to be off all social channels, no coaching, and no blogging. I’ve given myself permission to check in on Twitter etc if that’s what I want to do. No hard and fast rules other than to take it easy and have a strong recovery.

Thank you so much for your support.

~ Alli

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Brenda Lee October 14, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Hi Alli,

This is a beautiful post. I was living a semi-perfect life and mine came crashing down on me. I was devastated. I couldn’t see beyond the turmoil that engulfed my life. But somehow, I managed to push through it, find forgiveness, and move forward. We need to learn from our past and embrace it. Gain strength so we are that much stronger for if and when our world may crash and burn again. Live in the moment but keep on moving forward.

Thanks for this, Alli.

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Alli Polin October 14, 2015 at 9:56 pm

B ~

Thank you. The crashes hit all of us. You too share your story with so much transparency – you’re proof that after the pain there’s goodness.

Thanks for leaving your mark with your beautiful words here.

~ Alli

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Hoda Maalouf October 15, 2015 at 1:51 am

Dear Alli,

Please take good care of yourself my friend!! You are in my prayers & thoughts! Hope we could talk soon,

Love,

Hoda

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Kumud October 16, 2015 at 1:09 pm

I send you warm light of peace ~ may it suffuse you with the healing rays of unlimited divine energy as you arise and awake to a new life flowing full of all the goodness that all those who surround you and hold you in love have to offer…
Namaste.
Kumud.

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Doug and Liz October 16, 2015 at 4:17 pm

Hey Ali, we just heard. Your notes are so strong. There will be difficult times ahead, as you know, and we ( the whole family) are here FOR YOU. You are an amazing woman who will get through this even more strong than you are now. We are thinking of you and praying for a fast recovery. Looking forward to hearing when you are home and looking forward to the rest of your life. Xoxo

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Jen Arbittier Williams October 16, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Love you, cousin. I’m so sorry I can’t be there to hug you, Ted, and the kids. But I’m thinking about you and cheering you on from here. You’re a rock star and will get through this stronger and wiser than ever!

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Ryan Biddulph October 18, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Hi Alli,

Loving what is, IS the only way to go to embrace the crashes. I have tried to end my life. I have lost my money. I have been shunned by family. Loving what is, well, that saved me, and that pearl of your wisdom is the ultimate piece of advice for living. I mean that.

Thanks Alli.

Ryan

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Janine Truitt November 2, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Alli,
I want to say I’m sorry to hear this, but I am equally proud of you for sharing these jewels during what I believe is probably a difficult time for you. Life has come crashing down on me. What I know is that you emerge from the rubble as a newly minted being full of grace and strong as steel. I am praying for you and looking forward to your return. You have thing fellow leading lady. ; )

Be well,

Janine

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Renee Milausnic November 25, 2015 at 12:29 am

Alli,
I just heard and wanted to send you love and prayers. I hope that everything went well and that you are onto your path of healing. I think about you every morning when I make my coffee and miss you terribly. You are so inpirational and strong!
Love,
Renee

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