We’re all working really hard to keep it together, to avoid tripping and falling down a dark spiral that is next to impossible to navigate. A load of unexpected obstacles keep blocking our view like mountains that seem too high to climb and hurdles that we keep smashing into. Activities like grocery shopping, pumping gas and filling a prescription at the pharmacy are no longer second nature. They are anxiety producing. They take pre-planning and courage as we put on our armor – our masks, shields, gloves, sunglasses – and we brave the places that scare us. It feels like something is lurking around the next corner, ready to attack and take us down.
During this difficult time, I think I should be able to take things in my stride, to be brave, stoic and non-reactive, but I keep folding under bad news. Someone I know got the virus. The political shenanigans have become unthinkable and damaging. Racism. Misogyny. It all makes me anxious. And then there’s free floating anxiety that seems to come from nowhere in particular as it wraps around my neck and squeezes me like a boa constrictor.
A friend wrote to me today: I periodically go a little crazy and then work real hard to pull myself back up again and again.
I was on that roller coaster a couple of days ago, flying up, crashing down and judging myself for being affected so deeply, when I stopped and said to myself, “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep it together.” The tears came and I let myself fall apart. It was a relief to feel the tension leave my body. I didn’t how hard I’d been holding on. More importantly, I didn’t know that my judgments about feeling too much, about not being strong, peaceful and someone else’s rock were the real reasons I was in so much pain. When I stopped expecting to be Wonder Woman, I started to learn how to accept myself whether I was keeping it together or falling apart.
I learned that when I accepted my humanness, when I truly let go, there was peace on the other side. These days, we are living in abnormal circumstances and a good cry, yell or whine might be just what the doctor ordered. When we fall apart from time to time, not only do we feel better but we give other people permission to do the same. My mentor, the late Stephen Levine, used to say, “When are you going to have mercy on yourself?”
If we expect to always keep it together, if we judge ourselves for not being the way we want to be seen – as the constant living example of strength and personal power – the stress and anxiety will eat us up. If we let ourselves ride the twists and turns of life and show up with our authentic feelings and lack of judgments, we can find some peace and compassion.
Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, says, “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
Have you fallen apart lately? I hope so.