For the hard times
Hard times. Sudden loss. A sadness that is so quiet you don’t even know it is coming until all the sudden, you are standing in front of the bathroom mirror brushing your teeth in the morning and you realise something feels like it is breaking and all you want to do is cry. Fear. Shock. The dull achy kind of hurt, where nothing horrible happened but nothing feels right.
All of these things happen. Unexpected or predicted, they come and they take over for a time. And when I am in the middle of one, I can sometimes forget things that might help. So I make a list, to help carry me through for the next time when everything seems kind of bendy and warped and I wonder if I am lost.
For the hard times:
- If someone were to show up at your door and say, “I’m your fairy godmother and I’m here to take care of you and give you what you need,” what would she do and make happen? Whatever that is, choose to give yourself. For as long as you need.
- Go to bed. Take a sick day. Make soup. Trust the world will not fall apart because you stopped. Trust that in resting, the world and you can actually be made new.
- Set the timer and have a tantrum or full out melt down. Freak out. Go frantic with fear. Think all the horrible thoughts you’ve been working so hard to repress. Flail and cry and call names. When the timer dings, take a deep breath, and carry on with the day.
- Sleep. sleep as if your survival depends upon it. Because right now, it does. Do not try to figure anything out at 2 o’clock in the morning. Sleep when you can, as get as much sleep as your body will let you.
- Have boundaries. Respect them.
- You do not have to like this, whatever it is. You do not have to look on the sunny side, or see the silver lining, or find what is good. You can love and trust life, without liking what is happening. And one of the surest ways to build and grow trust for yourself is to honour what you are feeling, whatever it is, instead of trying to talk yourself out of it.
- Similarly, whatever your are experiencing right now, it does not have to mean anything. Or be a life lesson; or a story with an inspirational message. It does not have to be a process of discovery or the path to enlightenment or an experience of empowerment. It can be, sometimes it is, but it doesn’t have to be. Because sometimes, it just sucks. So, let it.
- Remember to eat. Drink lots of water. See how long you can walk before your feet hurt, and then take a cab home.
- Hard times (or grief or the weight of heartache) does not make you a spiritual or moral failure. It makes you human.
- Lie on the hard wood floor. The ground helps.
- Whatever you are feeling, it really is ok to just feel it. It won’t destroy you. It may wreck a bunch of things that are ready to be torn down, or it may take you further in the grief wanting to work its way through, and this can sometimes seem like drowning. But it is ok. Love yourself, wholly. This kind of love is the life raft, and will carry you.
- Make things.
- Things that sometimes help: baths with eucalyptus oil, being outside, waking up early enough to be in the quiet for a bit before starting the day, watching movies, not judging yourself when you go numb, wearing a necklace so you have something to reach up and hold onto, cussing, going somewhere and seeing something new, taking notes.
- Remember that this is now. This is especially helpful with the fear part, which is famous for telling a lot of stories about how it was then, or how it will always hurt, or how it will be bad up there ahead. So: Be still. Or move. And just notice what is happening and what is inside you and what is around you. A kind of listing of what is right here and now. Because it can help keep you here, and here is what is real, and here is where even if it is horrible, it is also, somehow, ok.
- Breathe in. And breathe out. When it is time, swim for the other side.
This article was first published on Lists and Letters and has been republished with permission.