I’ve been reading Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
I’m both glad to be reading it and simultaneously quite uncomfortable and not sure I am able to understand and internalise everything she is saying.
I’ve been going through a lot of big changes in the past year. Starting a business, getting a concussion, starting the alternative training program to become a drama therapist, travel, taking classes, bad roommate, getting a new job, moving twice in three months including one which was sudden and unexpected, owing taxes for the first time and quite a lot, major car repairs, and now a breakup.
And that’s just the past year. Since I left graduate school in 2012, I’ve been injured in two car accidents that also left my vehicle totalled, moved to a new city, had a variety of jobs, cut ties with majority of my family of origin, started several recurring events.
Needless to say, a lot of changes. A lot of shifts.
And I think the most recent rash of changes has happened too quickly for me to really be able to process any of it until now. I was overwhelmed by stress. All my weak points were pressed simultaneously. I was living in panic mode. A lot of these changes were triggering past trauma and I was trying as best I could to also hold space for someone else who was being triggered in different ways.
I do not think I could have handled these changes any better than I did. I know I did shut down and withdraw. I was just trying to get through a dark time and get to the other side. The present moment felt far too difficult to live in. I was not able to practice what I preach.
In some ways it is easier to manage stress I feel I have chosen. Graduate school was very hard. But I could remind myself why I was doing it. Likewise, the path towards drama therapy is difficult, but I have chosen it. Hard times we do not feel we have chosen, which instead we have feared…. those are so much more difficult to live in and breathe through and to be present for.
Even if I have still so far to go, I can see my progress.
In a time of great and compounding stress in college, I attempted suicide. This time I did not. I did not even seriously contemplate it. I did not have a nervous breakdown. I did not have to be hospitalized. I did not alienate everyone I care about. I did not have to be medicated. I did lose a relationship, and a very important one.
It can be so difficult for me to feel love and compassion for myself. I can be so very critical of myself. I have come a long way towards learning to love myself. And we can only extend the love to others that we feel for ourselves.
Feeling I should have done better or loved myself more does nothing beneficial. To sit with the vulnerability. To not blame myself. To not blame others. To allow myself to sit with the vulnerability and the pain and the uncertainty as I have been these past few weeks. That is not something I could have done eight years ago.
I was present to the extent I could be present. I loved myself to the extent I was able to love myself. To even know that there is a pattern, a habit, to be able to recognize the maladaptions to stress and to even for one second not to live in them….that is progress.
And I must not loose sight of that. The obstacle is the path. What we grasp so tightly slips through our fingers like as much sand.
It is so very hard for me to live in the present moment. I knew I was overextending myself, and I allowed it to happen. I deceived myself into thinking I was in stasis for three months, and that I could just hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. Wait for the obstacles to be removed from my path.
But the obstacle is the path.
That I was even able to be present in the moment for two days in the woods. That I was able to assert boundaries and care for myself as much as I did. That is so much progress.
And I must hold on to that.
If you struggle, know I struggle, too. I’ve been stuck. I’ve been shut down. I’ve been overwhelmed. I’ve done the exact opposite of what I know I need to do because I’m tired and it just feels too hard.
I can’t promise to be further down the path than you. But I know that I have tools to help you if you want them. And I can hold a space open for your vulnerability and your discomfort. A space for you to see your habit for what it is. A chance to break it. A chance to extend compassion to yourself.
I’m here with you, if you want it. I can promise you that. I know how hard it is to even try. I see your bravery and I will do all I can to match it with my own.