Places filled with fear, sadness, grief, and anxiety so thick you can feel it surrounding you as you enter the overflowing and slow-moving parking garage… places where no one wants to be. Places cloaked with the stench of sickness and the heaviness of despair – where people in white coats rush about and noises drone constantly. You visit but don’t glean much information or hope. Any day at the hospital is inherently draining.
Places where I succumb to a search of my property and person even though I have committed no crime. I simply want to board a plane or love someone who is on the wrong side of the bars. Places where those in uniform clearly hold the power, and it is most wise to suppress and succumb.
Shopping for 6 whites, 6 socks, 6 boxers… alongside excited RIT and U of R students and their parents preparing for the upcoming school year and the promise it holds. I shop not for the hallowed halls of these institutions but for the stark concrete barricade of an institution of last choice and lost hope. I hope you don’t know what this feels like, but if you do, know that you are not alone…
Phone calls that don’t simply ring through but require agonizing minutes of recorded messages along with so much button pushing… calls that cannot be answered on the fly and can’t be returned if you miss them.
It’s been a month of epic highs, extreme lows and some flatline numbness. Along with the places I’ve mentioned already, I’ve also had moments that blew me away with their beauty and wonder!
Leading retreat at the serene Himalayan Institute with a group of women who openly share their hearts; Camp is in Your Heart in the incredibly gorgeous Colorado Rocky Mountains with people who share inspiration, hope, and also struggle. Guiding my sweet and wise Self-Care Sanctuary group through practices that nourish and sustain us and working with clients who are fully embracing their life and their strengths while facing their challenges… these are some of the highs. I have also cherished quieter highs in times with my beloved or a dear friend, sharing simple moments of life as well as our dreams and fears.
All of this has required me to walk between pretty open-hearted places (where I much prefer to be and how I really want to show up to life) and places where I’ve needed to armor up a bit, to protect my tender heart. It can be hard to dance back and forth between those two ways of being.
I’m generally a pretty optimistic positive person, and I have had more mornings than I’d like to admit that have begun with “I guess I’m ready to face the day.” My practices are lucky if I don’t forget them, and I am fortunate when I have remembered… they ground me. Otherwise, my mind easily gets away from me into thoughts about the past or worries about the future.
Why share this with you? Well, why not? When I share, I no longer have to hold my story in silence and shame or fear of judgment. As I share, each of you can lightly hold a piece of my story with me, which lightens the load on my heart. I remember that I do not walk through this world alone.
And, more importantly, maybe my sharing will allow you to open your heart and share yours. Each one of us has challenges and suffering that too often we try to bear alone. Why? What good does that do?
If You are Hurting...
If you’re hurting, please ask for help. Ask for listening. Ask for support. Ask for someone simply to walk with you through the pain. And when you need it, ask for time to be alone. But, always remember, you do not have to face this on your own. Whatever “this” is for you.
Find practices that support and nourish your body, mind, heart, and soul. Here are a few that have worked for me:
- Gratitude – this is a keystone practice for me. I find it every day, in the smallest of moments and in things I might otherwise take for granted, even for tears and sad feelings. I find gratitude for being alive enough to notice.
- Yoga – it brings all of our parts into the same space, reminds us of a strength and flexibility we may not have been feeling, and gives our nervous system a chance to settle for a bit.
- Rest – getting all the rest we need and letting it be ok, knowing that it takes a lot of energy to go through hard times.
- Nature – whether that be a walk among the trees, sitting on the grass staring up at the clouds or stars, or getting out on the lake… nature has its own soothing embrace that bathes our souls in its gentleness.
- Simple Joy – find simple pleasures and let yourself enjoy them. Find laughter and play. Movies and mindless TV have been part of my self-care – they transport me out of my own head, life, and story, and carry me away to another place and time, if only for a short while. They help to shift my energy.
Your life is still happening and you deserve to engage in it,
even when circumstances are grim.
- Gentle yourself – (yes, I am intentionally using “gentle” as a verb – try it!) be very, very gentle with your tender, aching heart and lean into care, letting it be ok, releasing any harsh self-judgment.
- Simplify – eliminate the drudgery – avoid the tendency to treat your life as a chore. Reschedule, delegate, and do what is absolutely required – the rest can and will wait. Leave some (or a lot) of white space in your calendar; in hard times we need extra spaciousness and breathing room.