AJ Coleman was devastated when he lost his wife to cancer, leaving him alone to raise their baby daughter. He felt an almost debilitating mourning as he faced this and other challenges—becoming a single father, accepting his hearing impairment, learning to deal with anxiety and panic attacks, and recovering from job losses. He later found faith and spiritually in Israel hiking up the Masada. He wrote the book Keep Those Feet Moving: A Widower’s 8-Step Guide to Coping with Grief and Thriving Against All Odds as a gift to other widowers and people suffering losses and challenges to encourage you with his heartfelt advice gleaned from his journey. He offers actions you can take to move beyond difficulties and toward happiness.
We all have obstacles and setbacks, but having the tools to triumph over barriers can make the difference between giving up and thriving. AJ’s book is an eight-step guide and memoir will inspire you to reflect on your reactions to hardship and give you the power to achieve your ambitions.
Below is an excerpt from Keep Those Feet Moving: A Widower’s 8-Step Guide to Coping with Grief and Thriving Against All Odds
I like to think that life is like riding a roller coaster. You see, everyone rides roller coasters differently. Some scream or wave their hands in the air, while others sit without emotion. But regardless of how you ride, in the end everyone winds up in the same place. The true difference is in how you perceive the ride—was it terrifying or exhilarating? The same concept applies to how you perceive life.
Many people have asked me where I get my strength. Much of it lies deep within me as I made a commitment to myself to rise higher with each setback, heartache, and challenge I’ve endured over the years. I taught myself early on not to accept defeat, not to accept failure. Those terms are not welcome in my vocabulary. With each challenge, I work hard to overcome it, preparing myself for the next one to surface. I always keep those feet moving, never stopping to rest. If I can’t knock down walls, I find ways around them. If I can’t find a way around, I make my own way. I made a decision a long time ago to decide what I choose to accept and what I don’t.
As a toddler, I was diagnosed with a hearing impairment. By the age of 20, I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. At the age of 33, I became a widower and single father to a baby daughter. And, oh, throughout the years, I lost my job not once or twice but five separate times due to company layoffs or culture toxicity. At one point, I had less than $100 in my bank account and wasn’t sure if I’d make the next rent payment or where my next meal was coming from.
From an early age, I’d grown quite accustomed to the fact that life knows no boundaries. There is no mercy button to push on the roller coaster when life is brutal and unfair. Life doesn’t recognize how much you may be beaten down physically or emotionally. Life doesn’t feel pain or have sympathy. It just keeps coming at you full speed each day. And when nightfall settles in, it doesn’t go away; it’s there waiting for you the next day.
But somewhere along the way, I learned to “Keep Those Feet Moving” and provided a personal guidance to better understand who I am and what I can do. I’ve learned that the setbacks, heartaches, and challenges in my life do not have to mean doom and gloom. Instead, they are meant to prepare me for the next steps in my life.
Since the Keep Those Feet Moving: A Widower’s 8-Step Guide to Coping with Grief and Thriving Against All Odds book launch in November 2022, I’ve been invited to be featured on a national syndicated television show, join podcasts and provide written posts to inspire others coping with grief, while providing heartfelt advice.
Disabilities, Impairments, and challenges don’t define you- you define them.
Everywhere there is opportunity to be inspired and uplifted. It doesn’t always come to you. Sometimes you have to go search for it, and make it happen. Or, in the worst case, create it on your own. Life is full of challenges. When you add disability challenges to life’s equation, it becomes a bit more complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.
In the end, it all comes down to perception and finding balance. Why not change life’s equation to make it work for you? Remove the term “disability challenges,” and replace it with “ability challenges.” Now take a look at life’s equation. Much, much better!
Anxiety and stress are a natural part of your life. Don’t spend your time and energy on things you can’t control.
Mental self-care plays a consequential role that involves your psychological, emotional, and social well-being as it correlates with how you think, feel, act, or respond in certain situations. Each day you encounter various stress rigors. The majority of the time you can quickly dismiss or maneuver around those rigors as you can see them coming from afar.
Sometimes there are rigors missed that will quickly set you off into a tirade. But before you self-destruct, ask yourself the following question: “Do I have a five-minute problem, a five-hour problem, or a five-year problem?” Depending on the problem, you may be able to quickly bring stress down to a more manageable level.
Hardships, struggles, and disappointments are all part of life. The turning point is how you rebound and find opportunities to leverage your mental self-care so that you don’t allow those hardships and struggles to weigh you down with fear, anxiety, and panic.
Celebrate Life, Not Loss
People—and animals too—who touch our lives provide us a great gift through joy and memories, leaving profound impressions that change our lives forever. They capture our hearts with their smiles and laughter. They become part of us as we become part of them.
In the end, it’s the stories we tell about them that enable them to live on. As the days, months, and years go by, we continue to go about our lives. But there is a part of them that we will always carry with us, and no one can take that away.
Make no mistake, life is precious. How we touch the lives of others makes it that much more special. We all have a purpose. It’s up to us to make the best of what we’ve been given. Every day is an opportunity to seize the day. To make a difference. To live life. And to celebrate life!
Losing your job doesn’t define your career—it’s a chance to hit the career restart button.
All types of layoffs are hurtful, painful, and demoralizing. In some cases, the emotional scars left behind take years to heal. Your emotional wounds might be so deep that the thought of reliving those moments brings tears to your eyes. Each instance left behind its own unique scars.
Losing a job and being unemployed can bring undesirable challenges, but they are not permanent fixtures. It just gives you a chance to chance to hit the career restart button all over again to ask yourself the following questions: 1) What do you really want to do?, 2) What makes you happy?, 3) How do you want to earn a living?
Take time to think these questions through, as the possibilities are endless! When you are ready to answer them, you’ll be able to restart your career. Getting fired or laid off is one of the moments in life when a restart button presents itself. Once the emotional roller coaster ride subsides, you’ll be able to see the possibilities ahead. Maybe you’ll decide to change careers, take a sabbatical leave to recharge your life, or even retire. Think of it like being reborn.
Everything in life happens for a reason. Sometimes you have to trust faith to guide you through troubled times.
Have you ever noticed that life resembles a Rubik’s Cube? Each color represents different concerns of importance, such as religion, faith, spirituality, health, relationships, and finances. No matter which way you turn the cube, colors become integrated, sometimes without any real logic. Just when you think you made all the right turns, you discover that the colors are further scrambled, but as you continue to turn the cube, you begin to notice how to bring those concerns together one by one. Rubik’s Cubes come in different sizes, shapes, and forms, and—much like your life’s challenges—not all of them move in the same direction. You may have to improvise as you think about the direction of each turn. Despite the difficulty, you have to keep turning.
There are moments in life when it is just easier to toss the Rubik’s Cube away. The odds against you are overwhelming. The agony of continuing is too great, and the desire to continue on may be lost. But before you give up, ask yourself one question: “Have I truly done everything I could to overcome the challenges I face?”
You have the power to overcome the obstacles you face. You have the power to knock down barriers that stand in your way It all starts with your perception, but it won’t come easy. It’ll take time and patience. There will be moments of frustration and barriers that you encounter. But if you stay with it and keep turning, eventually you’ll see how all the colors come together. Fate doesn’t control that Rubik’s Cube—you do.
My writings and speaking are a direct reflection of empathy, compassion, and understanding of what inspires and motivates people. Life is not about being popular or how many friends you have. It’s not about how much money you have or fancy possessions. It’s about accepting yourself for who you are. It’s about giving back to those in need. It’s about living each moment to its fullest extent without regrets, fears, or pain. Too often we look at our past as indicators of the future. But what we thought we knew back then couldn’t be more different from what we know now.
We all experience many setbacks, but with the right perception, none of them change who we are for the worse. Instead, they make us stronger, smarter, and more appreciative of what we have. We still have to make mistakes and get our tongues tied into knots. However, those things won’t take away how far we’ve come.
No one said it would be easy. Then again, you never asked for it to be easy. Life lessons are blessings in disguise. What you take away from them makes them that much more special. I think faith has a lot to do with that.
This is your time; it doesn’t matter where you started or where you’re at right now. What matters most is how you take those next steps forward and to keep those feet moving.
About AJ Coleman:
AJ Coleman is a widower and single father who’s overcome a hearing impairment, job losses, and crippling anxiety. Through it all, he embraced, accepted, and grew. Now he shares his experiences, practical guidance, and resources to help others conquer life’s challenges.
A financial crimes expert, AJ earned his BS from the University of Florida (Go Gators!). He lives in Illinois with his family. AJ is a devoted father who loves traveling, learning languages, and watching Florida Gator football.
Learn more at www.KeepThoseFeetMoving.com.