What to Do When You Want to Give Up and Quit Everything

Every now and then this feeling comes around—like everything I’m doing is for nothing and I might as well give up. This time it showed up on Tuesday morning, around 5:40am. Discouragement is just so normal like that. It rolls up next to us at stoplights or comes streaming in through the window with the morning sun.

give-up

This time was no different. My alarm went off and I rolled out of bed to change for my yoga class, but as I did, the sinking feeling came over me.

What are you even doing with your life?

Shouldn’t you have this figured out by now?

That second question is really the worse of the two. I mean, if it were just the first question, I could probably handle it without wanting to light a match and burn everything to the ground. But that second question is what does me in.

Every time.

It reminds me of something I heard Glennon Melton say recently, which is, “it’s not the pain that takes us out of the game, it’s the shame on top of the pain.” In other words, it’s not the hard work of building something that makes us want to quit, and I doubt it’s even the uncertainty of wondering whether our hard work will pay off. We are wired for challenge and really quite resilient to pain.

Where our wires get crossed is when we start wondering: aren’t I too old (or too blessed, or too whatever) to be asking this question?

What’s wrong with me?

When life doesn’t go how you planned

I was talking on FaceTime to a friend the other day, catching up after a long time of not being in touch. I asked how he was doing, and since we’ve been friends for more than a decade and he’s not the kind to pull punches, he answered:

“To be honest, it’s not going that well.”

He explained how the relationship he’d been in for the past five years had come to an end, and things were “complicated” with his family, and that he was questioning his career path. He said he’d thought a lot about quitting everything and moving somewhere else, but wasn’t sure where to go. I sat on the floor of my bedroom, nodding in agreement, days away from moving myself, disheveled and surrounded by half-packed cardboard boxes.

“Life just don’t always go the way you plan,” he said.

We both laughed. Wasn’t that the understatement of the century.

But the whole thing made me think about how much easier it is to handle discouragement when we know we’re not the only ones who feel it, when we realize this is such a normal, human, everyday kind of emotion.

It also made me think about how quickly heartbreak takes over when life doesn’t turn out how we plan. When the relationship falls apart, or the marriage falls apart, or the business deal falls through or the job falls through or the illness falls over us unexpectedly. Suddenly we find ourselves in a place we never expected to be, wondering if and where and how we made such a terribly wrong turn.

But what if we didn’t make a wrong turn?

What if we are exactly where we were always meant to to be?

Exactly where you are supposed to be?

I was with a good friend last weekend, spending time with her and her four kids. We woke early on a Saturday morning to watch her son play in a peewee football game. Later, her three daughters wanted to read princess books and do dances while I videotaped them. Then they wanted to snuggle on the couch and watch High School Musical.

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At one point my friend came in the room where I was on the couch with her girls—one of them literally draped over the top of me—and mouthed Thank you to me from the door. All I could think was:

Are you kidding me? I couldn’t be any happier.

After the kids went to bed we sat on the couch and drank wine and talked about how different our lives were. Her house is full of crayons and noise and music and sweet little voices and beautiful activity. Mine is quiet and peaceful and lonely much of the time and my closet is organized by color—for whatever that’s worth.

A quiet moment came, and that’s when I said it.

“I’m kind of jealous, honestly.” I looked at her.

“Me too,” she admitted.

We both laughed. And there, in the quiet of the night, with all of her kids sleeping, we sat in awe at the fact that no matter the circumstances of our lives, we are all pretty much asking ourselves the same question, under the surface: am I making the most of this one precious and beautiful life I’ve been given?

We are more the same than we are different. (Tweet that)

Whether we are all exactly where we are “supposed” to be—no matter where we are—I don’t know. Can any of us really say for sure? But “supposed to” is a close cousin to shame anyway, so I doubt answering that question is going to make any of us feel any better. What I do know is RIGHT HERE is the only place we can be. Right here, RIGHT NOW is all that exists.

What other choice do we have?

If we are going to be in our lives with our whole hearts, RIGHT HERE is where we have to start.

The only way to succeed.

My friends Jill and Kate came over to my house the other night with wine and tacos—literally the BEST kind of friends—and we sat around until late talking about this very topic: about how life doesn’t turn out how you plan, how you can work and work and work toward something that falls apart without your permission, or how sometimes you make a huge investment in something that never seems to pay off.

When is it time to call it quits?

That was the question we threw around with each other.

How long do you keep working at something, investing in it, giving yourself over to it, having hope, believing in it, praying for a miracle, before you finally decide to go put your mental, emotional and spiritual energy energy in a different bank account? Is there a time that comes when it’s actually a good thing to give up?

By this point the tacos were gone and we were leaned back on the couch and swirling glasses of wine. Kate spoke up.

“I figured the only way to succeed,” she said, “is just to keep going.”

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We chewed on that for a bit. I thought about how, for so much of my life, I had measured my success by outcomes. By circumstances. By certain mile markers I assumed I was supposed to reach—a measure of career success, an amount of money, a house, a car, a relationship that “worked” in the way I thought it was supposed to work. I figured if I checked all of the boxes and followed all the rules that things would just sort of, you now, fall into place.

I was waiting for a time and place where things would be settled in my life instead of working to curate and cultivate a feeling being settled in my own heart.

The problem with this, of course, is that life is constantly shifting and changing; and no matter how many rules we follow or how many boxes we check, we have so little control over the outcomes we seek. Not to mention “outcomes” can be pulled from underneath us in a single second. The marriage can end. We can lose that perfect job. The house of cards we are so proud to have built can come tumbling down.

All we have is RIGHT NOW and the only way to make the most of it is to just to keep going.

The time to quit.

Recently I had to say goodbye to a friend I love dearly.

I don’t make a habit of saying goodbye to friends. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done this in my life. I’m loyal to my very core, so once you’re in my life, you’re pretty much in it for good. But this friend was an addict who was unwilling to confront her addiction and worse than that, I was an addict—addicted to pleasing-people and making her happy and cleaning up her messes.

For awhile, we were the perfect match—her with the messes, me with the cleaning them.

But things had reached a breaking point.

See, sometimes the feeling of discouragement is a great gift to us, a message from our bodies or our minds or our souls, telling us something is off, something is wrong, and begging us to do something about it.

So we had a conversation where I tried to tell her what I needed and she tried to understand and we both cried. The whole thing was heart-wrenching. I worried maybe I was giving up on her too soon and I think she probably felt like that, too. It didn’t take much before I started to second-guess my decision.

Was I doing the “right” thing?

Was I withdrawing my love from her?

But as sat there with her, hand on her back, letting her cry, I thought about what Marianne Williamson says about relationships—that they don’t ever really end, they just change form. Meaning once you have loved someone you don’t ever really stop loving them. You simply change the way that love is expressed toward that person. In fact, at our true nature, we are MADE of love, which means all there is is love.

I love you—always.

You love me—always.


This made me feel a little bit better. Because it made me see that this wasn’t a question about giving up on my friend or not giving up. It wasn’t a matter of quitting or not quitting. Instead, this was a question of whether or not I was willing to change. I am willing to change. I am willing to change. That’s what I recited to myself silently as I sat there with her.

Because a willingness to change, I’m learning, is the key to the peace we are looking for.

When I feel miserable, when I am discouraged, when I feel like quitting, when I’m scared to let a relationship change form, when I’m clinging for dear life to things life is asking me to let go, when it feels like everything is falling apart or “things” are not turning out the way I wished they would, I whisper to myself, “I am willing to change, I am willing to change.” I am willing to change my perspective. I am willing to change my mind.

I will never give up. But I will be wiling to change.

Miracles are literally born from our willingness to change.

A sweet potato and a nap.

I ran by my friend Sarah’s house the other day. She lives about 0.2 miles from my house, so when I’m out running I often run past her driveway.

This time I decided to stop and say hello.

She asked how I was doing and I told her how I had woken up that morning with that sinking feeling, and how I had spent the whole day packing my house, and how everything was a mess and I wasn’t sure what the next six months of my life were going to look like. I mentioned to her how the holidays seemed like they were sneaking up and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for Christmas.

She nodded and kept listening.

I told her how I’d been writing this book but I wasn’t sure if anyone was ever going to read it, and how tortuous it felt to think that the thing would be stuck on my computer forever, without a purpose. I told her how I was behind on writing blog posts and I felt like I had been struggling over this thing for so many years, maybe it was time to give up.


Then she looked at me, in my running gear, all hyped up and looking like I hadn’t slept much, and she said something I won’t forget.

She said, “you know, sometimes you just need to eat a sweet potato and take a nap.”

I laughed, because I knew what she meant. She meant that so often we think our problems are complicated and existential when really they are quite simple. So very normal. A sweet potato and a nap. Sometimes we need to pull ourselves together and try harder and go faster and longer. Other times we need to soften, to give in a little, to give ourselves permission to take a break. Strong and soft.

No, we don’t get everything we want right right away. But we have every single thing we need for right now.

Always.

All we have to do is just keep going.

52 comments on “What to Do When You Want to Give Up and Quit Everything

  1. I’m so glad you posted today. Your name popped in my head last night, which is weird since I don’t know you IRL and you don’t know me at all. But I’ve walked the path you’re walking, so walking back through it in your writing is oddly comforting and I enjoy it so much. I’m about 13 years ahead of you and still struggle with some of it. Anyway, I wrote you on my list of prayers today and was going to send you an e-mail that said, I kid you not, “Keep going- it’s starting to get really, really good. Just keep writing.” So, there. I’m glad you did. Happy Tuesday!

  2. Thank you for posting this! I am in tears. (Good ones I think lol). “Miracles are literally born from our willingness to change.” Wow! My mind knows a lot of what is right, but my heart can tend to take me on a detour! This article got me back on track today.

    • I’m such a huge fan of good tears. They can be so cleansing. Glad the post spoke to you. Thank you for reading and sharing!

  3. Allison,
    Don’t ever give up. Your voice is making a difference in so many lives. I am going through a breakup and I have looked at your blog everyday waiting for you to post again and here it is, words I needed to hear. You are an inspiration and your words give me strength we I need it the most. THANK YOU!

    • Thank you so much Terry for your words. What a gift that my words can be a gift to you—and yours can be a gift to me. We are swimming in love. SO grateful.

  4. Please, please keep doing what your doing! You speak words of TRUTH, that so many are thinking but can’t put into words. Your life is a gift to many!!! Keep writing! He’s using you to speak Shalom over the lies of the enemy.

  5. This came at thew right time for me, coming out of a really frustrating and discouraging week last week! It is just like you said…Sometimes we just need to keep going. For me, it’s not only that but also doing something different, something that breaks the pattern. I had felt really stuck on a book idea, so instead of thinking about it more, I shared my ideas with an established writer over lunch. It gave me so much clarity and momentum in such a short amount of time. Sometimes we just need to reach out and ask for feedback!

    • Yes! I love that concept of doing something different to break the pattern. There’s actually quite a bit of brain research to support this approach. It’s how we break out of those neurological ruts that have been carved so deeply. Keep it up Amy. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Aw…love that “G” quote! I just listened to the Magic Lesson’s podcast with Liz Gilbert! I think she uses the quote there! Love that if I give myself permission to release perfection and being “good,” I experience freedom! Thanks, Allison! 🙂

  7. You are always able to say the things that my heart has a hard time expressing and usually it comes at just the right time. I have been going through a season where everything seems like it is in limbo. We just left a church that was unhealthy for us and are now searching, I finally have a diagnosis after months and months of pain and distress yet there might be other problems, and I feel great shame for not doing enough right now for others and not feeling like I’m enough. The quote, “it’s not the pain that takes us out of the game, it’s the shame on top of the pain,” hit the nail on the head for me today. Also, you opening up about the shame you experience helps me to realize I’m not alone in this. Thank you for being vulnerable and allowing us in to your world. You’ll never know the impact that you’ve had on me and many others.

    • I’m so glad it was helpful Julie. THIS is truly the reason I keep writing these posts, honestly, despite the fact that sometimes I want to quit. Because it’s an incredible reminder for all of us that we are so connected. We are not in this alone. We can do pretty much anything when we know we aren’t alone. Sending so much love your way and prayers for clarity and answers and healing for your body. Grace upon grace.

  8. Allison,
    I am older than you and settled in my life. But I was once in my thirties and made a heart breaking decision to divorce a man I loved who was (and still is) an alcoholic. I second guessed myself for a long time. My leaving the marriage left me financially and emotionally fragile. He made a lot of money and was a mostly well functioning alcoholic who looked like a success to friends and family. I recall one night sitting in the floor of my crappy apartment crying after an impassioned call from him asking me to return and wondering if I made a mistake. Why not quit and go back to a relationship that was imperfect for sure, but a known life of a certain type of ease?

    It is impossible to SEE how close you are to the shore when you FEEL like you are lost and drowning. I stayed the course and built a new life for myself. Now, looking back, I have great compassion for the scared and lonely me who had no idea about how good her life was about to get. It frightens me to know how close I was to quitting and returning to a marriage that was ultimately not a healthy place for me.

    Don’t quit but be flexible in your plans and realize that we don’t know how life will unfold. Years from now you may marvel at paths you walked that you would never have predicted. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

    • Isn’t it so hard to move from the known to the unknown—even when the known is crappy? Ha. It’s tempting to settle for something you don’t want because we aren’t sure we’ll get what we do what. It takes SO MUCH COURAGE to step out. Thank you for lighting the way, walking ahead, and for turning around to encourage others behind you who are taking their own leaps of faith. You are miracle-worker, a light-bearer. We are so grateful.

  9. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience. You’re completely correct, knowing we are not alone in having these despairing feelings is a sense of relief.

    The feeling of having so much more to do after accomplishing so much usually hits me like a foreboding I can’t shake off. That’s when I tend to be quiet, isolate myself and finally check online to see if someone else has shared such a feeling. Often times it feels like a good friend stopping in with a small token of their appreciation only I don’t have to worry about my house being cleaned or being in my pj’s.

    You, Allison, are not alone as it seems by all your commenters you are surrounded by wise fans and loyal supporters for whatever change you’re going through. Count me in!

    Thanks for writing and reading,

    Sarah Butland
    author of Being Grateful, Being Thankful

    • Isn’t it strange how our tendency is to isolate ourselves when we’re feeling like this? That is the instinct. When what would really help us is to reach out and connect and remember we are not crazy, we are not alone, and we just need to keep going. Thanks so much Sarah. Appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts!

  10. Another timely post that resonates so deeply. I’ve been discussing this feeling with my therapist lately; the feeling of wanting to leave it all behind and start fresh somewhere new because life feels too damn overwhelming. When I’ve been in the same place (or same job/same relationship/fill in the blank) for several years, I start to feel pretty restless and bored. The fact that people in these situations actually know me, the real me, means if I want to start fresh right where I am, it’s going to require a lot more work (at least in my opinion), including a lot more boundary setting, which can be very difficult.

    I know in my heart I do want to move eventually, but I’m working on recognizing that this doesn’t happen overnight. I’m working on cultivating appreciation for where I am, instead of wishing I were elsewhere, or beating myself up for not being what I thought I’d be by now. Mindfulness meditation is helping. I highly recommend it.

    • Julia, I know this feeling so well. I can say after living in five states in five years, there really is no such thing as reinventing ourselves, haha. Or at least not that I have found. I always have grand plans of reinventing myself, but strangely… wherever I go, there I am 🙂

      Besides, what if you don’t need to be reinvented? What if you are exactly perfectly who you need to be? Growth, sure. Finding new aspects of yourself, YES. But you may not need to be reinvented as much as you think. You are exactly who you are meant to be in the world. The glory of the human race.

      Sending so much love to you!

  11. This is wonderful Alison, I loved all the really tangible stories and the wine swirling. I think most of all I loved how real you were- I feel like over the last year you’ve been finding that authentic voice more and more and it’s very refreshing so thank you 🙂

  12. Allison, Please keep writing your blog. I enjoy your thoughts and the ideas you contemplate. I rarely respond, but I do appreciate your thoughtfulness and ruminate on your words days after reading them. Thanks for all you do. Jenny

  13. Life throws you a curve ball—BOY isn’t that the truth!!! From January-May, when ever I talked to my 94 year old dad, he said I want you to be happy, you are getting the money from the sell of the house so you can move back to Kansas. I believed him, he was my dad after all. I took maybe 20 car loads of stuff I wasn’t going to need in small town Kansas to the local thrift store, I boxed things I was keeping up. I was ready. Than, he died June 1st. Turns out he didn’t leave a will! Turns out there is a $72,000 loan against the house, turns out I have a greedy step-sister (which I kinda knew.) turns out I am not getting a cent & there may be money owed even–My hopes & dreams are dashed. I WILL survive somehow, I WILL forgive him, I WILL get through this, I WILL move back to Kansas somehow!!

  14. Dang, Allison Fallon. You’ve done it again. This was exactly the piece that I needed to read at this moment. Glad I’m not alone in wondering if I’ll EVER feel like I’ve arrived. I’m going to keep on trekking. Thanks sista!

  15. Wow. I finally quit trying to copy the sentences from the blog which were speaking to me into a journal I keep of misc. quotes and verses and lyrics and general wisdom and just printed the entire post. Interesting thing … I am just now reading this after a couple of weeks of out of control work and personal life craziness. Had I read it when it was published, the impact would not have been nearly as great due to the season of life I am walking into beginning yesterday. Just wow. Thank you.

  16. What an awesome piece, Allison. Was feeling low and stumbled across it – now thankful and motivated to press on. Keep up the great work. ☺

  17. Just keep going where? What if you have no destination to go to? What if you’re purposeless, adrift like a ship at sea with no motor to push with and no anchor with which to hold your soul still?

    • Perry, I found this blog post and your comment tonight, looking online for a reason to live. I’m going through the motions. Since I started a career in social work, my life has been on a downward trajectory. It’s a job that costs far more than I earn and has drained me to me core. I no longer know who I am. I’m on the edge of destitution and homelessness. Another Christmas season alone, another day rudderless, deeply sad and empty. Your post made me feel less alone. Allison’s blog entry gives me pause, but I’m so very lost.

  18. Thank you, found you when i googled for an answer and led me to this article. It helped cleared some thoughts and anxiety. Thank you so much for sharing these wisdom!!!

  19. Hey, your words are still working. I found this from a google search as I too have what seems like the end. Sometimes life deals you a difficult hand, you just have to play it out.

    Allison, keep the words coming. You have a special touch.

  20. I’m living in my last days……there isn’t much I care about anymore. It’s all meaningless. I’ve had a purpose or reason for being. I’m always alone and no one cares, that’s the truth. I’ve never been married and actually I may as well be invisible; actually I might be. Anyway, I have given up. Too tired to fight anymore and there’s no point. It’s for those who to battle on. Sometimes you gotta just let go…..I’ve decided to let go and be free.

  21. You know, this posting I just read seems fairly old, so I don’t know if anyone will ever read this. But just a few minutes ago…literally…I got a text message from my sister that made me throw my hands in the air. The context of the text is unimportant, but it really made me think: “I just can’t do this anymore.” I’ve spent the majority of my life in and out of prison because of an alcohol addiction, and at the moment I am sitting in a halfway house starting over from Square One. Again. I am 53 years old…and very, very tired of everything. In fact, the only reason I found this site is because I typed into Google: I GIVE UP. The problem is…I’m not really sure that I am ready to do just that. At the moment, I just took a minimum-wage job, which is better suited to a person half my age. Not that I’m complaining. I am actually grateful that anyone would hire me at all at this point in my life. And it’s not that I’m without talents or abilities. I have written several novels, published a handful of short stories, and even took 1st place in an international essay contest several years back. But every time I seem to get up and running, I somehow find a reason to give up and I go into self-destruct mode. And like Ms. Fallon mentioned, I also look at all of these novels sitting on my computer and wonder if anything will ever come of them. But now I am just rambling and avoiding the one thing that I really want to express. I WANT TO GIVE UP ON EVERYTHING, AND I JUST DON’T KNOW WHY. But I DON’T want to give up. Or DO I? I feel like Hamlet! Nevertheless, I guess I’ll just keep going until God calls me home. And since I will probably never find this site again once I hit the submit button, I just wanted anyone who might stumble across this message to know that…yes…life can be tedious, boring, and sometimes it can even feel like it’s just not worth living anymore. But it HAS to be, doesn’t it? I mean, there just HAS to be more. There just has to be SOMETHING worth getting up every morning for. And for everyone out there, including myself, I certainly hope that we discover whatever it might be. Because really…the thought of living another ten, twenty, or thirty years feeling this way every day is…well…just exhausting in itself. Peace…

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