Inside looking out: The turning point
We are creatures of habit and victims of circumstance. Sometimes we need to have the courage to change the course of our lives toward a different destination. Staying on a straight path can lead to an undesirable outcome and unless there’s a turning point, there may be no way to get out of a very bad situation.
Turning points often have little to do with asking for advice. When we find our lives spiraling out of control, we can have too much pride to ask for help. Some time ago, I knew a man who was losing his business and his marriage as well. He was going broke and couldn’t pay the money due to his employees. He brought his misery home every night and his arguments with his wife put their marriage on the brink of divorce.
One day she took a moment to step outside of herself to see how unhappy he was. This was the man she had pledged to love for the rest of her life. Her empathy for him gave her a sudden and unusual idea to help him cope with his problems.
“Why don’t you coach baseball?” she said to him.
“What?” he replied. “I can’t pay the bills and you think coaching baseball is going to help?”
“Yes, I do,” she said. “You know how much you love the game and you play catch with our boys all the time. It will take your mind off everything for a while and maybe with a clearer head you’ll be able to figure things out.”
The next day, he signed up to coach Little League Baseball. When the games began, he came home with his sons and all they could talk about was this hit or that catch. His wife saw the light come back into her husband’s eyes. Weeks later, he consolidated his business and started making a profit again. Now he’s a project manager for luxury town house renovations.
Once again, they are a happy family and the turning point happened when he had exchanged a pen and an empty checkbook for a bat and a ball.
A turning point doesn’t always come from a suggestion. It might be a critical decision made by someone who comes to a moment when he realizes the journey of his life has come to a dead end.
He was a high school superstar who pitched a no hitter in a state championship baseball game. Drafted by a major league team, he was a pitch away from making the New York Mets roster, but then the trouble began. He injured his arm and his baseball career was done. With no direction and an abusive, alcoholic father haunting him from the grave, he turned to hard drink and violent behavior. He couldn’t hold a job or a relationship. One step from no return, he put the whiskey glass down one night and with a clear moment of enlightenment, he walked into an uninvited meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous and stood before the group to bare his burdened soul.
Wind the clock to the future. This man earned a college degree and became a high school teacher. He found a good woman to share his reclaimed life. Not only has he not had a drink in over 30 years, he is an AA counselor who keeps his phone ready 24/7 in case he gets that call from a recovering alcoholic who’s got the bottle in hand, but desperately wants to be told to put it down and walk away.
The turning point in this true story might have been spiritual as this man had thought. He heard his father pleading with him from the afterlife, “Stop, son! Don’t become me. Get help before it’s too late.”
There’s never a timetable to have a turning point. It’s an opportunity that may come later in life, but the door can close quickly and that opportunity can be swept away with the wind.
She grew up as the forgotten child, the one who was expected to marry young and serve her husband like the dutiful wife. And that she did. But after years of a heavy unhappiness in her heart and against the will of her husband and her parents, she wanted out and she got out with a plan to turn her life around. Rebuilding her life by herself after raising two children was not easy, but she was up for the challenge. She went to college and earned one degree and then on to graduate school to earn another. She became a school psychologist, a job she held for many years until her retirement. Like the flowers that she grows in her garden, she unlocked the chains of her past and bloomed into the person she always wanted to be.
There comes a time when we say, “Enough is enough.” We turn negative energy into positive motivation to do whatever it takes to make a better life. We overcome the odds and knock down the walls that have kept us in an emotional prison for far too long.
The “Turning Point” sounds like it might be a good title for a TV reality show. Seeing is believing, and believing is the first step into a different direction that can take someone who’s tired of walking the path to nowhere toward a rewarding destination.
Rich Strack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.