Why do we keep torturing ourselves with the lie that other people have it all together, have it easier, or have it much better than we do? (Whatever “it” is….)
I’m so tired of this lie.
Yet, I continue to believe. I get a snapshot into someone else’s life. It might be an actual one via Instagram or Facebook. Or I create my own mental snapshot through a conversation or even just an observation. Then, with just that TINY snapshot, I am able to convince myself that everyone (oh yes, I go straight to absolutes) has life figured out and under control, and I’m the one scrounging around trying to make heads and tails out of…well…a lot.
As a fellow human being, please let me assure you, my friend and reader, that I do not have it all together. I do not have all the answers. I still tango with pain, doubt, and fear. During this quarantine time, it’s easy to get lost in our thoughts. It’s easy to convince ourselves otherwise: that we are alone in our dancing.
But please, if you remember nothing else from today, know that you are not alone. I’m right there with you. And I want to assure you, that even if you don’t see it, feel it, or even dare to believe it, we are ALL struggling together.
A good friend of mine once told me, we are all battling dragons, some of them are just invisible. The point is, we are not fighting solo; I loved it when she told me this. She was my friend who reminded me of this truth. Let me be that friend to you today.
“I know you can’t solve my problem Gina, but just listening to me really helps.” My friend was facing a difficult situation, and she said those words to me.
And she was right. As much as I wanted to, I had no solution for her. Unfortunately, we live in a world with problems that aren’t always easily solved. Oh, how I wish it were different. I feel so helpless at times.
However, I think I had forgotten the power of commiseration. By telling me that my listening was valuable, my friend pointed out that I still had something to offer. Shutting my mouth and hearing her and only saying, “Yeah. That’s awful. I hate this too,” is more helpful than I realized.
I have my go-to phrases where I tell friends not to worry. I say (big smile): “We survive and come through hard times stronger!” It may be nice and true, but it also sounds like a cliché, unhelpful greeting card.
I think about past conversations when I’ve vented to close friends, and how much I benefited when they would enthusiastically agree, “WOW! THAT’S TERRIBLE.” One friend especially! To this day, I know her eyes will get big and she will really emphasize her words of concern for me. I am so comforted by it, because I feel she is jumping with me right into the mess. And it is soothing for three reasons:
Isn’t it nice when we can help solve other people’s problems? But if we can’t, or we aren’t asked to, empathy is still such a powerful gift.
During this hard time, when pain is all around us, and we can’t magically make everything better, I needed to be reminded of this fact. And I thought I’d share, in case you needed it too.
Stay safe and take care of yourself and others…
Donuts. Such a role they have played in my life! And not just the calories – I’m talking life lessons here, people. Ha! Just to include a lighthearted entry, I’m sharing three of many lessons I’ve learned as a result of donuts (or doughnuts, if you are classic, and prefer the less Americanized, original spelling used exclusively before the 1800s.)
When I lived in Turkey, traditional donuts were harder to come by. But, when my dear friend (you know who you are) texted that she had brought a treat from Istanbul for me, I certainly didn’t think it was a donut. YES, it was a fantastic surprise. It’s in the picture above – that cheerful pink confection with sprinkles. Oh yes, sprinkles. How many friends will hand carry a fresh donut on a plane? Who does that? My friend, that’s who. I was beyond delighted. That donut spoke more words to me than a Hallmark card about friendship. I knew then that she and I were friends for life.
I wanted to be a fun Aunt, so on the way to my sister’s I picked up a half dozen donuts. Once at her house, I asked her if the kids (who were circling me like puppies) could have one. She said yes, so without hesitation I directed the chicklets into the kitchen and plopped a donut on a plate for each. Later, when they were pinging off the walls like yoyos, my sister asked me in horror how much donut I had given them. Apparently “a donut” in her household means “a piece of a donut”. We are talking fractions here, not a full donut. Oops. We all went to bed tired that night (might have been a sugar crash for some of us?). Now, I’m a more careful Auntie with dessert distribution to the little ones.
This is a little embarrassing, but I’m going to share it anyway. My husband brought home a half dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. They were the old-fashioned sour cream cake kind (cue angel music), which I don’t have a lot of self-control around. I opened the box, smiled at the donuts, and in my quarantine state of mind thought, “Today is going to be THE DAY.” I’m going to eat as many donuts as I want. I’m an adult. Why not? So, I did. Honestly, it happened so fast. Then I felt like a plastic container of kindergarten paste: slow, thick, and sticky. I was sick the rest of the day with a stomachache. Self-control lesson learned. (At least where donuts are concerned.)
I hope this little trio of stories cheered you up. Unlike John Belushi, I can’t say, “I owe it all to little chocolate donuts.” But, I think I do owe something to those little pastries. As I get older, I love to see how even the unexpected things in life can be our teachers. And it’s incredible.
Stay safe and take care during this quarantine time…
Please note: I had a rough time composing this blog. I think because I don’t want to sound cliché, but I do want to remind myself and others to be more mindful of our capabilities. Hope you are encouraged!
I take vitamins tablets every day. I’d almost forgotten the struggle it took for me to learn to swallow a pill when I was little. In order for me to ingest an aspirin, my Mom had to crush it in a spoon of jam*. Yuck. But that was the only way to get it down me. Now, I daily take tablets for health, and I think little of it.
What about you? Do you have a similar story? What about the huge deal it was to ride a bike? Pull things in and out of a hot oven? Maneuver a washer and dryer? When learning them, these tasks were probably difficult for us.
I think we don't give ourselves enough credit for what we accomplish each day. There are of course the obvious tasks, but I'm talking about the smaller tasks we don't give much thought to: blending a fruit smoothie, successfully picking out a ripe watermelon, or knowing when the oil in the pan is warm enough to fry the burrito.
There is an artist, Gemma Correll, who illustrates badges of honor we could award ourselves such as I “did the laundry” and I “got out of bed.” (She recently created a great set for the current quarantine time.) The point is, the rewards are cute, and they make me laugh, but they send a message: we do so much and we do it well, even during this time when we are confined to our homes and restricted to only certain activities. We shouldn't underestimate ourselves.
Stay safe and take care...
*To this day I have a hard time putting a spoon of jam in my mouth, even if it is the sweetest jam and there is no aspirin inside it! :P
One of the most discouraging aspects of fighting anxiety: it’s rare to experience an instant victory.
During intense panic, we can do the mindful breathing, we can drink the chamomile tea, we can lay flat on the ground and close our eyes, but very rarely do these techniques make anxiety go away “poof” like a bad dream we can wake up from.
One of the techniques I tried before taking anxiety medication was an intense workout. As much as I wanted to believe one session at the gym could take away all my bad feels, it just wouldn’t. And starting the workout? It was plain miserable. When already my heart was skipping beats and my hands were shaky and I was short of breath, the last thing I wanted to do was a hard-core workout routine. I instead wanted to wrap myself in a cozy blanket and NOT move. (As most of you probably know, this wouldn’t help much either…)
The best and very painful truth was learning that it took a while for my anxiety to build up, no doubt years upon years, and it would take time for the anxiety to subside. It’s not a truth I wanted to accept, let alone hear. But hidden within that truth is a tiny bit of comfort. I’m not damaged beyond repair. I’m a human being fashioned with such complexity - layers upon layers of tiny pieces and parts - and it’s okay, even normal, to not overcome anxiety in a short period of time.
I began looking at my situation as a journey to go through verses a single test to pass. It took a lot of pressure off my expectations, causing me to relax (just a bit! But hey – I’ll take it!); this, of course, in turn did great things for my anxiety. Because a journey involves planning, right? I became more proactive versus reactive. I discovered the importance of using tools, such as deep breathing, even when I’m not stressed. And deep breathing when I’m not panicking? It’s incredibly relaxing and enjoyable. I find myself drawn to it, so that even when the anxiety sets in, that specific coping mechanism is more natural and comforting.
It’s not an instant victory, but it’s still a victory. And I think that’s what I have learned about fighting anxiety: it’s not just one giant win for me, but instead a succession of smaller wins. And I am okay with that.
For those of you who relate to what I’m writing, please know I care about you, and are not alone. We are fighting together.
Creator of Love, Auntie.