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  • Writer's pictureJeff Johnston

The Peril of Shortcuts

Let me acknowledge that I knew this “thing” existed and I was very aware of it lurking all around me. At times I could feel it creeping behind me, silently, like a harbinger of doom. Often I sensed it’s presence in front of me, luring me in with its siren call. Behind me, in front of me, within me it grew.

Well, what was this “thing” you may ask? It was….. ME, within ME. The Abyss, I prefer to label this sinister location.

It is a place deep inside, far within all of us. A cold, dark and very lonely place, nowhere I wish to return to, yet I know I will eventually. I have been in The Abyss a few times, few enough I can count the times on one hand. Let me tell you how this unfolded and what I learned. I hope this can help you not just avoid or fear The Abyss but prepare for it’s arrival when it comes calling for you, as it does for all of us sooner or later.

After our son, Seth, passed I witnessed a similar event. I went straight downhill and was drawn to a few very unhealthy activities. Self-loathing, guilt and regret were fueled by an unshakable thirst for alcohol. This combination as you can imagine wasn’t just toxic it was becoming lethal. On 12/24/17 I decided to stop drinking. I committed to invest heavily in meditation and I exercised more regularly. My life improved and I began writing and speaking about our ordeal and challenges. Then on 6/29/2021 my wife of 21 years, Prudence died. The grief and pain of losing a child was a mountain she couldn’t climb, many can’t.

I had a number of boxes that had gathered in my living room since she died. I walk by them each day, all day, glancing over at them wondering what was inside. I knew what was inside yet, like an alcoholic to a beer or a moth to a flame I was drawn in. After 6 weeks of pacing I decided, late one Friday evening to pull up a chair, sit down and start the process of opening the boxes. I was alone, by myself as both my boys, Ian and Roman were out for the weekend. I was unprepared.

Each box, or as I called them “boxes of doom” held so much happiness yet was suffocated simultaneously by the stark realization I had lost two people I loved so dearly. Pictures I hadn’t seen of Seth in elementary school, letters the boys wrote to him while he was incarcerated with drawings only children could draw, and to top it off a letter he wrote me proclaiming his love for me and all I had done for him. Each second it got worse. This wasn’t a tropical storm or hurricane brewing inside of me; this was an earthquake, so sudden and overwhelming. Not me, huh? I am Living Undeterred right? I shut my phone and computer off and didn’t turn either back on for 3 days. I invited all the friends in my head to the biggest pity and misery party I have ever thrown! Then I opened the next box of doom.

Here I am today. I am better. I am wounded a bit yet stronger as I advance ohnward. I survived a massive test of humility and modesty. What did I learn from the ordeal? How could I actually benefit from this and avoid living a life full of fear and worry of when this would occur again? I discovered, after taking time to become more aware, I had taken shortcuts in my process of healing and growing. You see, I skipped two things I had got into the habit of doing daily, meditation and exercise. Sounds so trivial yet bypassing these two coping mechanisms it almost killed me. It wasn’t the “boxes” in my living room that were the problem, it was the “box” on my shoulders. I got lazy and overconfident and learned a very valuable lesson. NO SHORTCUTS. EVER.

We all develop ways to cope, to give us guidance and support to keep going, to get us through tough times. In my previous blog, “The Living Undeterred Mindset'' I discussed the word,” preparedness.” Ironically soon after this blog was written I fell to the illusion I had this all under control, all figured out, conquered. It is never conquered, ever. I implore you to see the importance of not only having a plan but sticking to it, no shortcuts, ever. Live Undeterred.

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