For those of you who read my blog regularly I have no explanation for why I haven’t written a post in a long while. I just didn’t feel like it. That’s all. Some days…or months! are like that. We are all doing well, including Anna.
Thanksgiving in the US is tomorrow. Normally my family has a large gathering. This year it is not happening. I know this is the case for many others. Our plans have changed in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We are also trying to be mindful of the impact this pandemic is having on many medical facilities. Given all that, what can we do to honor the reality of the changes this year while still celebrating the holiday?
I think it’s helpful to be aware of what you are feeling and why. This is not new to anyone who reads this blog. I frequently write about the importance of awareness: knowing what you are thinking as well as what you feel physically and emotionally. Stuffing our feelings inside does not taste nearly as good as the stuffing we shove inside a turkey! It might make the moment easier but in the long run you are setting yourself up for some kind of unhealthy leakage or explosion. I know this first hand 😉
So start by honoring your true experience but not letting it dominate you. You notice what you are thinking and feeling. You find the parts of your thinking that are based on made up stories or predictions i.e., “We’ll never have another family gathering!”, “Thanksgiving is ruined forever!”, “This pandemic is never going to end!” Those predictions could come true but we don’t know for certain. All we know right now is it is safest to limit our gatherings, our usual Thanksgiving traditions will need to be altered, and we are living in the midst of a pandemic. Keep your thoughts reigned in to what is true. The truth is painful enough for us. We certainly don’t do ourselves any good by adding the emotionally crushing predictions.
Next, consider what you are grateful for. When the pilgrims celebrated their first harvest celebration, they had already endured tremendous hardship, illness, and loss. Sometimes the less we have, the more grateful we can become. The little things begin to take on more meaning. Many of us have a roof over our head, food to eat, and technology that allows face to face communication. We can step back and be grateful for those. We can look around us, at nature, the sky, sun, moon and starts and marvel at their beauty. Take a moment, breathe as deeply and slowly as you can, and soak in the beauty…the gratefulness. Let this moment bathe you and nourish your soul. Carry it with you and share it with others.
Some might disagree with my title. That’s OK. I believe no matter what is happening to or around us, we can choose how we will respond. As we enter into a Presidential election here in the States, it’s easy to allow other’s words or actions dictate our words and actions. You have more power than that.
I like to start with breathing. Slow your breathing down. Let your exhale be longer than your inhale for a few breath cycles. Begin to notice what you are feeling emotionally and physically. Notice your thoughts. Allow the situation to just “be” without having to judge the situation or act on it. Just pause, breathe, and notice.
After a few minutes, consider if there is any action you still want to take. Standing up for something you believe in is healthy but not if it is meant to be intentionally hurtful to another. That’s retaliation. I generally don’t think retaliation comes from a centered, grounded place inside. I think of it as a reactionary way to hurt another because you believe they hurt you. If it’s retaliatory, go back through the breathing, non-judgmental, non-reactive, just be with it place. Give it some time. Perhaps you will change your mind and find a healthier step you choose to take.
Pause for just a moment to take a breath. Make it as deep and slow as you can without feeling pressure to go beyond what you are capable of. Notice what it feels like to breathe, the sensation of breath coming in. Notice your body expanding as you inhale. Now exhale everything out and notice what that feels like for you physically.
Take another deep slow breath, noticing what that’s like. As you exhale allow your shoulders to relax. Notice other areas of your body that are tense and imagine letting the tension go with your exhale.
Take one more breath in and out repeating the steps above. Take this moment with you as you go about your day. Repeat as necessary 🙂
Our feelings about situations or relationships can be misleading yet we often base our understanding of reality on a feeling we have. Shift your thinking to the data. Does it prove your feeling is right or does the data offer up a shadow of doubt? If you feel your friend doesn’t like you ask yourself why. What tells you your friend doesn’t like you? Is it because she hasn’t called in awhile? Do you know why she hasn’t called? Probably not. You are likely starting to build a case for your feeling but it’s based on assumptions and skewed data in an unwise attempt to prove your theory. Be very careful how you read into information. Step back and take on a neutral stance. Then sort through the data. Also, it helps to contact those involved, in this case the friend, and ask. We have a tendency to create stories without checking our facts.
For some it seems elusive. I find it at times and at others lose it. It seems peace is connected to a choice we make about how we look at our circumstances. When Anna was waiting for her first transplant I struggled to find peace. I didn’t like not living at home and being away from all things familiar including people. I didn’t like the unpredictable nature of the transplant world, every day wondering if it would be the day we got the call for available lungs. I didn’t have a lot of peace.
By Anna’s second transplant I learned a few things. The main difference was being at peace with whatever was happening. I learned to find contentment in the space of the unpredictable and unfamiliar. Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament of the Bible, spoke of learning to be content in the midst of hardships. His were a lot more intense than mine but the concept of finding peace in any and every situation is accessible to all of us.
It is a choice to breathe and relax. To look for glimmers of sunshine in the midst of dark circumstances or simply be at peace right where you are. Life is filled with discomfort. Acknowledge yours, give space to grieve, be angry or sad. Then take a few slow breaths and remind yourself you can get through this a breath at a time. You can choose to hang on to icky emotions or let them go (for now, they will likely come back but you’ll deal with them when they show up again). You can choose to do something that fills your soul in the midst of the challenge (as simple as looking at a flower, the sky, a color you like, remembering a pleasant time or place). You can even follow the gentle prompt of my online yoga friend, Yoga with Adriene, turn the corners of your mouth up.
I understand it can be hard to find peace, but I also know it’s possible. Choose peace 🙂
We’ve been dealing with this pandemic for about five months. I wonder how you are doing? Are you enlisting self care? Are you giving space for your emotional experience?
When all of this first started it was scary for many of us. Our way of functioning was suddenly changed. We had to first deal with the shock of it. At this point in the journey I’m thinking you have found some stability within this unpredictable time. If you haven’t it might help to talk with a friend or mental health professional.
It might sound odd for me to put those two together: friend or mental health professional. I think our best support is found in stable friends. While I see my profession as valuable, I know friends are sometimes the best support. They are usually accessible 24/7. They don’t drain our bank account. They know us deeply (if we let them). Perhaps they have also walked similar roads and may know first hand the twists, turns and potholes along the way.
Sometimes we need the counsel of a professional. Our friends can guide us in that direction if the material we are dealing with is beyond their capability. Whatever you choose, be good to yourself and reach out to others to help you navigate this challenging road.