#567 Getting to the light at the end of the tunnel

My world was spinning in 2008.

After finishing school in Boston and going on a cross-country road trip with my friends Chris and Ty, I moved to a dusty suburb to live with my brand new wife in my brand new life. Yes, we got married young, we got married quick, and after living on opposite sides of the border we were finally moving in to get busy living.

So I slapped on a crisp, fresh shirt and started a new office job while trying to settle into a brand new town where I didn’t know anyone. My high school and college friends had long scattered like marbles so I was looking for a new place in a new world.

Now, my wife had been teaching for years so she had a bit more going on. She’d coach baseball tournaments and I’d stroll around waving at old folks on their porches. She’d play volleyball and I’d eat cookies and flip past reruns. She’d watch Gray’s Anatomy with friends and I’d practice the fine art of taking long naps and playing video games.

I was feeling pretty lonely and whenever I flipped open a paper the news didn’t exactly cheer me up, either. Polar ice caps were melting, pirates were storming the seas, wars were raging around the world, and the stock market was in a deep freeze.

It seemed like everything outside my window was just bad and everything inside was a little … sad. Yes, although my wife and I had respect, trust, and admiration for each it was becoming clear after a few months that … something was missing.

So one chilly Spring night in 2008, alone in our dark house, feeling cut off from the buzzing world of bright lights outside, I went online and on a whim started up 1000 Awesome Things. I wrote about broccoflower to kick things off.

I think I needed to remind myself there were bright spots in the darkness. I think I needed a cold breath away from the hot swirling clouds around me. I think I needed a place where I could smile at the little things we all smile silently at throughout our days.

Over time our nights at home grew a bit quieter, our dinners a bit shorter, and our laughs faded into polite smiles. While 2008 rolled on we kept living together but were growing further apart. She’d coach badminton and play on her volleyball team and I’d stay at home writing for hours about nachos and gasoline.

We kept trucking, kept slugging, kept soldiering on, until the rubber finally hit the road one quiet night while we were sitting on the couch. She looked me straight in the eyes and through painful tears summoned the courage to tell me she didn’t love me anymore.

It was heartbreaking.

Tears spilled all weekend and wet pillows, sweaty blankets, and head-spins came in waves. By Sunday night I blinked bleary-red eyes and suddenly realized I didn’t have anything to write about except crying. So that’s what I did.

When I look back on that post it reminds me of heavy times at the bottom of a dark well staring way, way up at the tiny pinprick of light at the top. But it also reminds me of the pure joy and relief of letting awesome things cheer me up while I struggled to keep moving.

I guess I’m addicted to letting thoughts of new bedsheets, fresh bakery air, and wobbly couch cushion forts swirl in my head and lift my brain sky high. I love talking with all of you and reminding ourselves of the many awesome things we all have to share.

For us, we just happened to be two different people walking two different paths. Sure, it was painful as painful can be, but we need to grieve, we need to let emotions overcome us, and we need to choose to walk towards those bright lights in the distance. Even if that walk seems pretty far away.

So, come on: When bad news squeezes your lungs and the weight of the world pushes you underwater, let’s always try to catch our breath by focusing on the best things in life. Yes, let’s focus on hitting a string of green lights on our way home from work, getting free time on the parking meter, and flipping on the cold side of the pillow. Let’s focus on beautiful pick-me-ups like getting long hugs when we really need them, laughing hard with friends, or the last day of school. Let’s focus on all the magic moments, eye-twinkling memories, and small special touches that make every day so sweet and make every day worth living.

Yes, life’s too short to swim in the deep forever so when it hurts remember to focus on the end of that tunnel and let those lights guide you forward and forward and forward and forward and forward and forward and forward.


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This post is Part 3 of 1 2 3 4 5

Photos from: here and here

134 thoughts on “#567 Getting to the light at the end of the tunnel

  1. Such a lovely post. I have been coming here for quite a while now. I am a 24 year old brain cancer survivor, who has always been a vibrant, happy-go-lucky character, but I have struggled with depression mostly because of my medications post-treatment. I love looking here to remind myself of all the little things that make me smile each day – like the sound of a dog or cat makes when she’s eating dry food or how good it feels to break the binding on a book I’m enjoying. You’re awesome! Keep the smiles coming!

  2. Thank you for your words of wisdom, sharing your story and helping us remember to seek out the small things in our days that are good. My husband is dying of cancer. He looks for the positive in every situation in his life, no matter how hard it may be that day he comes up with something. Very soon I will need someone to remind me daily of the good things no matter how small. Thank you, keep writing!

  3. Just reading through these comments, its obvious how much your writing touches people, Neil. You have a real gift, not only for writing so well, but for being so incredibly relatable, and make us all feel like we know you so well – a rare quality in these days of the anonymous Internet.

    Thanks for another beautiful post, and I have a feeling that this week’s posts are going to be remembered as a really special time in the life of 1000awesomethings.com!

  4. #566 Realizing that there is a smiley face in the top right hand corner of the “1000 Awsome Things” website page.

  5. You know, having just gotten through some pretty awful heartbreak, where even the day to day joys seemed empty, this post feels painfully familiar. So I just wanted you to know that over the past few months, since I discovered your site, your posts have fought and kept the gnawing sadness in my stomach at bay late at night. Only recently has the gnawing has started going away all on it’s own. So thank you for your bright thoughts, your joys and laugh-inducing posts, and your honesty. I hope you know that we all love you very much.

  6. This is an amazingly inspirational post and i would like to say you’re an excellent writer, so keep on keepin’ on!

  7. You’ve written so many amazing posts and have made me cry more than once… this one did it again. Thank you for your open heart, for sharing the highs and lows in your life and in doing so letting complete strangers feel less alone.

    YOU are Awesome!

  8. This made me tear up..I’m so happy you have a sort of “third eye” for awesome things and that it helped you through tough times. I’ll try to use my Third Eye of Awesome more, too!!

    Love from Lindsey and Mina

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this post and for all the awesomeness contained in this blog. I too am in the same leaky feels like sometimes sinking boat, being mid-divorce and suddenly a single mom of 2 teenagers after nearly 20 years of marriage. It’s nice to think that the light I see at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train! I really need a pick me up this week and this really spoke to me. Thank you, and thanks to all the other posters who have BTDT – it gives me hope that me and the kids will make it too :)

  10. this is amazingly amazing.
    well written.
    rock on.
    ps don’t you love it when you’re driving and the clouds in the sky in front of you looks exactly like the opening credits of the Simpsons?!?! :D

  11. Amen, brother! :) Perhaps this leads to another moment of awesome – the day you realize you’re truly over your ex. I know I’ve had that day!

  12. That’s your second post in two days that’s given me goose bumps.

    Thanks for the constant reminder to stop and smell the roses (or the fresh baking!) and appreciate the parts of life that truly are awesome.

  13. As with many people who have left comments, 2009 was a very difficult year for me. I was 27 years old, and less than two weeks after the holidays and my dad had a massive heart attack driving to work and passed away suddenly. I lived next to my parents. and couldn’t believe that I had just seen him the night before, perfectly normal. I had just ended a 2 year relationship and was now pretty much totally alone, and totally broken.
    I took to whatever would take me, work, friends, remaining family, and the gym. While my ex was busy moving in and getting engaged to his new girlfriend, I was trying to keep my head above water and adjust to the reality that was. My dad was really actually gone.
    My life for the next year was the hardest journey I have taken, but also the most wonderful. My efforts went into things that sustained me and a year later look back and realize that if I can live through that, I can live through a lot. I am truly AWESOME. Infact…..we all are! The human spirit is stronger than we can ever know. Thank goodness for challenges to show us that and make us appreciate the wonderful things we have in life.

  14. forward and forward and forward and forward and forward and forward…

    I don’t want to mess it up. I’m not going to. I’m going to do my best. And I’m going to appreciate my life. Because I HAVE everything I need to be happy. I don’t need more money or freedom from my parents. Now I really am tearing up. Thank you.

  15. thank you. you just helped me take a big step in a difficult time in my life. there are no words to express how much this post means to me right now.

  16. This post really hit home with me… I found this website last week while using StumbleUpon, and it came at the perfect time in my life. My boyfriend of four years and I had just broken up, and we’re going through a very difficult time right now. Reading these simple, awesome things every day has made me realize that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Also, that first day after we broke up, reading this site distracted me and actually made me laugh out loud at times. So thank you very much!!

  17. When I first saw this …. I read it literally. Like, when you’re driving through a tunnel and you’re almost at the end. Because in our family, when we go through tunnels (or on bridges), we try to hold our breath the whole way, and it can be really hard if they’re long ones! But either way you interpret this post, I totally and completely agree!

  18. I stumbled across your blogs just a few hours ago. This post made me teary…

    Thank you for such a beautiful post.

  19. I am not that girl telling my husband that I don’t love him anymore. I’ve been going through a hard time, and this post really helped. Thanks!

  20. “Be grateful for the little things, because you might wake up one day and discover that they were the big things.”

  21. Love is a choice not a feeling. Your wife chose to not love you. Her lack of principled thinking caused you to suffer. Find somebody that knows that committment means more than a temporary emotional high from a transient lover as shown on grays anatomy. She sucks.

  22. Wow. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. For the past few months I’ve been wondering when I was going to find the light at the end of my tunnel. Suffering from severe depression and anxiety, bad things always seem worse to me. Although I’ve never given it serious thought, sometimes I just think my life is never going to get better, and I should just end it.

    This is why I say thank you, reading this, this was the light at the end of my tunnel. I’ve never been so affected by reading something but this, this is amazing. Inspiring. Life changing. Life saving. You sir, just need to know that you are doing an amazing thing.

  23. Neil,

    I just went through a breakup after a three year long relationship and I have been reading awesome things to cheer me up. I would really like to buy the book but I am short on cash right now. I wanted to say thank you for this post. It is exactly what I need to hear right now. You are an awesome thing yourself.

  24. I’ve had an incredibly crappy week with, yes, lots of crying and hurt. I happened upon this post by clicking “random,” and I feel so much better.

    I’ve been trying to focus on the smaller things in life to keep me motivated and energized, much like you described. I can’t tell you how much I needed your post.

    Thank you. You are awesome.

  25. This blog keeps me going and puts a smile on my face during a long work day or a sad time. I am constantly forwarding posts to my friends to make them laugh. Keep it up – this particular post is exactly why I keep reading every day!

  26. I’m a little late to the party, since I only discovered and started reading the blog a few days ago, but I hope you won’t mind some late comments on my favorite posts.

    I have also gone through a divorce because of growing apart, or at least not growing together properly. It’s a painful thing to fail at something that most of us consider to be a HUGE undertaking, like marriage, and sometimes it seems that you will NEVER heal. But you do. I did, and I’m glad you did, and I’m glad you wrote this post that celebrates all of us who have.

    *hugs* Thank you again, Neil, for this post, the blog, and the book.

  27. …there’s a “Crazy Beautiful” spiral tunnel in British Columbia for trains…
    I’ve “rode those rails” and guess what~there’s even a light at the end of the “cork-screw” and I’m not talking about a wine bottle! When you can just get through “it”, the scenery is magnificent~so bright, you need rose coloured glasses for the rest of the ride:)

  28. You’re so wonderful! The fact that when you’re going through all of this, you still spend your time making others happy. The world needs more people like you, because you’re AWESOME!

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  30. You never know when you’ll be up late desperately scanning the web for something — anything … awesome.

    You never know when you’re going to be a total stranger’s awesome.

    And that’s pretty awesome.

  31. This post made me cry, I wanted to give you a hug. I nearly hugged my computer, hoping it would somehow reach you. We all have to find the light at the end of the tunnel, and also try to find the little light bulbs in the tunnel along the way. Keep posting, because a lot of people care, including me. Thank you so much.

  32. Hardware stores smell so refreshing! Just wondering, does anyone still use this app? I haven’t seen comments written since 2009 :/

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