Life on Life’s Terms
Life on Life's Terms

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy. Because what we leave behind is part of us. One must grieve for what has gone, before starting something new”  ~ Anatole France

What day is it? I ask myself each morning. I’m serious. And I have to think carefully before answering. I’m not always right, which is unsettling. I’ve thought about ordering Day-of-the-Week Panties to help ~ I remember having those as a kid. But then, folding them into the mix would require energy I don’t have right now. Do I need to know what day it is? Not really. Delete the DOTW panties from the online shopping cart. I let it go. 

We’re doing a lot of letting go these days. 

We’re not able to physically spend time with people we love. Or people we don’t love. We’re working remotely if we’re lucky enough to be working at all. Opportunities lost. Serious, uncomfortable conversations about how to pay the bills. So many have to adapt to new ways of shopping, educating their children, and communicating virtually. Now, for the first time in my life, I find I’m in a high-risk demographic ~ a further step away from youth. And, six feet has become the new degree of separation ~ above as well as below the ground.
True to form our “feel good” culture was quick to shift the Social Distancing phrase to Physical Distancing. I understand the shift of phrasing in the desire to point out that we can still stay in touch, we can still connect with friends and family. We rush in to save ourselves from feelings we don’t want to feel, and from the grieving as we let go and adapt to change and loss. 

I’m fascinated by how quickly we want to feel good even when we don’t. 

How quickly the “shoulds” show up in our feel good, grief resistant culture ~ a steady stream of Facebook posts telling me what I should do and how I should feel. I don’t like being told how I should feel. I feel what I feel and it fluctuates throughout the day. I’ll feel calm, optimistic, hopeful when I do, and I’ll feel disappointment, helpless, anger, grief, and fear when they come to me. 

I’m well able to let them flow through me. Emotions are like weather fronts that will pass. What matters is to not resist them, or rush in with an upbeat bandaid. What’s the emotion I’m feeling trying to tell me? If I engage truthfully with what I’m feeling, walk with my fear, the intensity of the feeling will ease and, guess what? I feel better, genuinely. 

I will get to the bright side of the road but I need to do it my own way, in my own time. 

When we’re inundated with well-meaning positivity, we become numb to it. It comes from the outside and not from our own experience, and because of that there is an insatiable compulsion to seek more ~ the quick fix only leads to needing more quick fixes. 

I believe there is value in expanding our ability to tolerate feeling uncomfortable, of being with the unknown. We learn about ourselves, who we are as humans. I’ve noticed my concerns shift. What made me anxious two weeks ago, no longer does. Our way of being in the uncertainty changes as we discover what we need to keep and what we need to let go of. Learning to trust our heart more than believing in the fear.

I advise my clients to keep it real ~ I encourage them to allow themselves to feel how they feel. Just because you feel anxious or disappointed, doesn’t mean you don’t feel grateful for people you love, the roof over your head, food on your table and deep sympathy for those who have lost a loved one to this virus, for those who died alone. One does not negate the other. 

Here’s how I’ve found myself moving through the uncertainty, the feelings and the letting go of life as we’ve known it. I do what helps ground me, what keeps me breathing into the day, and offers me as much ease as possible. I choose projects that allow me to focus on what I can control, what I can create and keep me engaged and hold a sense of purpose. Sometimes I just want to turn my brain off, so I stare out the window. The good dishes we bought in Ireland brought me back from the windowsill one morning. I bake using what is in our cupboard. I curl up on the couch with a book I don’t have to work hard to read, take gentle walks, watch movies. We’ve de-cluttered every nook and cranny in our small apartment. I wish someone were here to see how nice it looks and feels. Tea and toast, dark chocolate and music are essentials.  

What grounds us may be different for everyone. What is similar is that by discarding the comparison coated “should” card and giving ourselves permission to do what we want ~ without judgment ~ we are better able to adjust to or embrace a new way of being in a genuine way, which means less stress. We conserve our energy to deal with the aspects of our life that have been impacted ~ loss of income, healthcare, children’s needs, caring for elderly parents, the list is long for many. If you need support to discard those “should” cards you’re holding, I’m here to help. 

This time will unfold into the next chapter. There will be opportunities waiting for us. I hope we approach opportunities with wisdom we’ve gained in the letting go, building on the genuine, born of our hearts.

Until then, we live in the uncertainty of where this virus and our leaders will take us. The uncertainty is real and we are not in control. We can only respond from the information we gather to make the best decisions for ourselves; be kind to ourselves and others, love where we can and allow life to be what it is. Life on life’s terms.

Photo by Alexander Ant

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