Recently, someone I care about lost someone they cared about.
I’m not gonna presume to know how they’re feeling…that would be, well, presumptuous.
But I do know that I felt this overwhelming want/need to make them feel better.
In years before now, I would have been spamming them with messages, checking to make sure they were ok, telling them I loved them (in an attempt to ‘make them feel better’), and trying to keep them from falling into a rut…
But now I realize that that’s about me, not them.
I’m trying to make them feel better because it would make me feel better. I’ve decided that them feeling bad means that I should feel bad, too. Therefore, I can’t be happy until I make them happy again.
That puts a lot of pressure on my loved ones to be happy even when they’re not. How can I love them unconditionally when that’s the dynamic?
Short answer? I can’t.
And that’s unfair to them.
It is my job to comfort myself when I need comforting. It’s nice if someone can be there to support me and hold my hand, but ultimately, it’s on me. Because no one outside of me can make me feel better until I’m ready to do so for myself.
I have to do them the same courtesy.
But how do I deal with my own feelings (which are still totally valid)?
Learning to recognize when I’m dwelling or projecting.
9 times outta 10, if I’m upset for more than 5-10 minutes, it’s probably because I’m not entirely in the moment.
Sometimes I’ll be resentful about something that happened last week or concerned about something that could happen in the future.
A certain amount of this is healthy, but constantly being in this frame of mind takes you out of life.
After all, all you really have is this moment right now. You could be picked off in an instant by a freak accident and not even know it because your head is somewhere else.
I mean, I guess it doesn’t suck too much since you won’t know you’re dead, but the idea of it is still pretty awful.
So how can you combat this?
First, take a deep breath and a step back…
So imagine something just happened and it sucks really bad…and I mean really bad.
Like, you’ve just bought your favorite ice cream (in my case, it’d be the Salted Caramel Cluster cashew milk ice cream by So Delicious) and you’re about to take the first bite…
…only to trip over a tiny bump in the sidewalk and throw the entire damn thing all over the place.
Well, it happened. And it’s pissed you off. But what can you really do about it?
Once you’ve had time to register that you had ice cream and now you don’t, take a deep breath and let it out.
You had ice cream, now you don’t, and you want to go back to having it. But you can’t.
You can go get a new cone, but it won’t be the same. You’ll always kind of wish it was that first cone.
But part of enjoying that new cone is accepting that the first one is gone…all the things it was and could have been are gone with it.
I mean, what more proof do you need besides the fact that it was a delicious, frozen treat, and now it’s gritty, milky soup on the sidewalk. Not appealing. Why would you want that back?
So take a full, deep breath, and let it all out…and let the longing for what could have been, and the expectations of what will be, go with it.
Remember that pain, impermanence, and death are inevitable.
The reality is that you will not be happy every moment of your life.
I know, I know, sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s a lot harder to accept when you’re in the middle of something awful.
So here’s the thing...you’re gonna feel how you feel when you feel it. You can pretend you don’t, act as if, power through, all of that…but neglecting to acknowledge these feelings is counterproductive.
Especially because you can’t avoid the things that trigger these feelings.
I mean, let’s be real…if you’re happy, you don’t try not to be happy, do you? So why would you try not to be sad, or angry, or hurt?
They’re all natural, and they give our life balance.
Feel your feelings, take the time to honor and acknowledge them. You might even notice that as you do this, you start to feel better…
Why? Because you’re in the moment. Your thoughts are right here, not in the past or the future. And this moment contains different thoughts and different feelings.
No need to keep digging up thoughts and feelings past.
The best way to hold onto someone or something is to let them go.
I owned a little red tabby named Tigger when I was little…cute as a button and one of my first pets.
Loved that little bugger. He was the best.
Anyway, he used to be quite the escape artist; tried to get out damn near every time we opened the door.
Well, one day, he succeeded…and he disappeared for over a month.
The first 2-3 weeks really blew. I missed my cat. Kept looking at the picture we used on his “missing” poster and crying…
…all the while neglecting his equally adorable and sweet sister, Milky Way. Gotta love the torties.
At some point, I had to get real with the idea that Tigger might never come back…how many pets run away every day and don’t come home?
Then, of course, he came home a couple of weeks later. Weird how that works out, ain’t it?
Not saying this is why he came home, but my acceptance of the possibility that he might not made it so much more gratifying when he did.
Letting go will give you room to accept a new narrative.
This one’s actually something I’ve been working on with my therapist.
We’ve found that the majority of my issues come from ‘old tapes’…basically, situations in the past that I keep replaying in my head, comparing to other situations and making myself miserable.
These old tapes were controlling my current narrative. Which was essentially screwing up my life.
So every time I start to ‘awfulize’ about stuff based on past experiences, I have to take a minute to recognize that the old situation is no longer true.
And this is how I begin my new narrative.
Mind you, it doesn’t happen after one try. This is a constant effort.
I always have to be aware of what I’m thinking, so I can catch myself when I’m not all here.
But as soon as I catch myself and refocus, I’m able to let go of what I was thinking about before. It brings me back to the moment…and a new narrative.
Learn to love your pain, therefore loving yourself.
Like we said before, pain is inevitable. But you can learn to love it as a part of you.
Think of it like a family member that you don’t really like, but you love them. Yes, there is a difference.
Contact with them at least a few times a year is probably inevitable; you learn how to be ok with that. And before you know it, you’ve freed yourself of the dread of seeing them.
I’ve raved about it before, but you should really check out the Headspace app & website for daily guided meditations.You can do anywhere from 5-20 minutes, and they have beginner series that keeps everything really simple.
I just finished my 3rd basics pack.
But one of the things it reminds you to do is not try to change your state of being at any given moment. You just want to notice what you’re feeling…almost in the way that you would notice a physical sensation on a body part.
Free of judgment, free of will…just noticing.
Think you can do it?