I stumbled on this fantastic quote someone had pinned on Pinterest:
I won’t let pain turn my heart into something ugly. I will show you that surviving can be beautiful. Christy Ann Martine
Which started me thinking. When I was young, “beautiful” meant everything perfect (my definition of perfect), lovely (my definition of lovely), and no pain (again, my definition of pain). Beautiful meant bordering on a fairy tale, but not quite, because I mean, life isn't perfect, right? I couldn't be too greedy.
Oh, Gina, Gina.
With adulting and aging, thankfully, I've learned that beauty can be those things, but it has so much more richness and depth and POWER which can spring from the difficulties. The unpleasant. The gut wrenching hurt. NOT the fairy tales.
Beauty doesn't always feel good to me. Beauty doesn't always look "pretty" and in style and all hair strands tucked in. Beauty can be pain, humility, and that miserable trio of blood, sweat and tears. But boy, is it worth it.
When life shatters superficial beauty, something much grander can emerge. Before I lose you with flowery descriptions, let me plainly ask: Do you know what I’m talking about? I meet these people. They aren't the most put together, with the perfect home and family. They aren’t the most stylish. Yet there is a beauty about them that comes from something deep. It can even be a little intimidating, yet it pulls me toward them.
Then I learn their beauty came the hard way. Through ugliness: depression, pain, horrible circumstances. And this is good news for those of us that face the hardships of life. Every. Day.
Because suddenly the past and the future seem more bearable. There is a greater purpose to my own hurt. Like that mythical phoenix rising from the ashes, we too can emerge and show others that “surviving can be beautiful.” Despite the unspeakable ache and unstoppable tears and deep, deep wounds. It just may not be instant. It takes time.
But that is such hope for all of us.
I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely finding myself in the kitchen more and more during the quarantine. I find comfort in creating and eating yummy, home-made food. The problem for me is finding too much solace in food, if you know what I mean. But there are so many delicious comfort foods! Pancakes, cookies, spaghetti, tacos, pie, ice-cream etc… (I could do the backstroke through the list!)
I have a chef friend in London who is also a health coach. She wrote an excellent article about stress eating, “Overeating & Emotional Eating During Difficult times.” I highly recommend giving it a read. It really helped me understand some reasons as to why I’m so quick to bite into that delicious, homemade blueberry muffin (I LOVE blueberry muffins). The article also shares some techniques to help keep us from mindless eating.
For example, by asking simple questions such as “Why am I craving this?” and “What am I really craving?” We might be able to stop some of our needless eating and focus on what we REALLY need. And it may be that blueberry muffin, but it may not be.
And there it is again…another nudge toward living intentionally: to pause, and really think through our potential actions and the potential consequences. In this quarantine time, many of us feel like life is one giant pause. And it can be incredibly frustrating. But my friend’s article was a reminder to me that pauses can be a good thing. A healthy thing.
When used carefully, a pause can keep us from choices we regret. And while it might be (relatively) unhealthy food, it could be something even more. Something bigger. Something that can change the direction of our life in an profound way.
In essence, I’ve realized that this current quarantine should be used carefully. I want to step into the future with purpose and intention and wisdom. I don’t want this pause to go to waste. I don’t think any of us do. So may we use this time wisely, carefully, and maybe ...with that blueberry muffin as our treat.
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.
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.
I got a Marco Polo message from a friend of mine who was having a rough day. She was feeling a little down and very frustrated with her current circumstances. But as I listened to her chat, her words really resonated with me. She said, “one of the beauties of being older is that you recognize that these things pass…so you just gotta get through them. And I knew once I got up and got showered and went out for a little bit that I would feel better.”
I listened to her message and typed it out word for word so I wouldn’t be misquoting her. Because I think she’s right.
She got up, she showered, she went out for a little bit, and she felt better.
Now keep in mind I’m not talking about days with serious depression. I’m talking about those days that you just feel a little blue – I like to joke and say I’m a pale azure blue, verses a bright blue or a turquoise blue. Adulting is hard. The longer we live, the longer we experience our ever-changing moods and know that most of us don’t ride a constant high. We have those lows, and sometimes we can’t instantly snap out of them, no matter how hard we want to.
But thankfully time and experience, like gentle friends, remind us that we typically will level out our mood. We’ve gone through this before, and we will come out of it, just like before. And as my friend suggested, sometimes the best thing to do is to get up (change your physical position), take a shower (that good clean feel can make SUCH a difference), and go out for a little bit (change your atmosphere): three simple actions that can be just the direction we need for a hard day.
I keep hearing that “older” people are on Facebook, and that it’s not really used so fervently by the generation after me. Well, I guess I’m older, because I’m totally on Facebook – in fact, some of you are reading this blog post because I posted it to Facebook. It may not be the latest and greatest form of social media, but I still enjoy it, especially with a nice cup of tea.
Until I don’t.
I’ve heard so many of my friends say how much harder it is to NOT compare our lives with what we see on Facebook (and of course other social media like Instagram.) And I agree. Scrolling our Facebook feeds can result in its own unique strain of anxiety and depression.
As a result, I’ve unfollowed people who I love and want to keep in my life, but who post things that aren’t serving to encourage me. Simple as that. And I know a lot of you do the same. It’s nothing against the person and everything to do with what I want on the glowing screen in front of my face.
The SECOND best thing I’ve done is to also join Facebook groups who encourage me. Their posts build me up when I see them appearing in my feed. One of my favorites is “No Sidebar”, a group of people whose focus is on slowing down life and living more simply. Their description:
We want to help you figure out what’s getting in your way, at home and at work. We want to help you let go of distractions, online and off. We want to help you turn down the noise that disrupts the quiet of your heart and mind and soul.
Let me tell you, this group has been such a happy spot in my life! It may not be interesting to you, but I have a feeling there is your own version of “No Sidebar” in the Facebook world.
I have also joined a fitness group that exercises as I do, a group that celebrates all things hygge, and multiple blogger groups to help encourage my writing.
It’s taken me awhile, but I finally have a Facebook feed that I enjoy and that lifts me up. Scrolling Facebook is not anxiety filled. I actually take pleasure in it now. Do I still have my moments? Sure! But they’re fewer and far between. And I hope that by sharing some of the changes I’ve made, you will join me, and soon feel the same way.
I’m not a counselor, so this is far from professional advice: but there is something so encouraging about music that I find healing. Something about it can lift my spirits in a special way. Especially music from my past that reminds me of “the good old days.”
I wrote in a previous blog entry how encountering something like a song from our past can really remind us of the part of us that was made/created during those good times. The part of us that learned to smile a little broader, laugh a little harder, and notice beauty in life that we hadn’t seen before.
Listening to enjoyable music from years ago can be so deeply personal. It’s as if the music comes along beside me like a friend, shows me a timeline of my life, points out the good times and says, “Remember this? And this? This is your history. This is YOU.”
While adulting, I’ve found that turning up the volume on certain songs is just plain necessary. It energizes me. It moves me back in time while I stay firmly planted in the NOW, which is where I want to be, and where I should be. But, I’m feeling much more encouraged and ready to face the world.
I hope you will take a minute today to listen to a special song that you haven’t heard in a while. A song that reminds you of a fantastic time in your life.
Creator of Love, Auntie.