If you don’t read the entire post today, walk away with just this: Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.
There were days that I wanted nothing more than to move forward. If I could only figure out which way was forward, I would definitely have started heading in that direction. It happened to be that I was through the most major break-up in my life.
For a long time, I was looking for someone to tell me exactly what to do. I’d read a book and it would have an inspiring idea, but then the implications of that idea would make me feel uncomfortable. Still, I’d try it on. After months of struggling, I realized it just wouldn’t fit.
This happened again and again.
I thought there was something wrong with me because other people’s frameworks didn’t fit me like a glove. It wasn’t until I started helping other people that I realized, they’re not supposed to.
Other people’s words can inspire us, inform us, and, at best, give us valuable frameworks within which to place our experiences. But how we fill in those gaps and connect those dots—that’s still up to us.
Self-discovery is supposed to be messy and confusing. You’re supposed to feel like no one has the answers for you, because they don’t. YOU have the answers. At most, you need a guide to help you find those answers, and even then, you always have the final say.
After many tearful conversations with my ever-supportive friends, I would look forward to sitting down on my cushion and experiencing the sadness and pain I was feeling.
I would spend my days intently focused at work, and, when my mind wandered, holding back tears. I would be looking forward to letting those tears flow. I finally became ready to let these emotions live and to acknowledge and accept them, to live with them.
I would walk to my cushion, and sit. I would set the timer. I would pull my head up high. I would collapse, crying. I would pulled myself up again. I would collapse again, bawling.
Merely the thought of pulling my chest up again at that time was exhausting. All day I had looked forward to a moment when I could let these emotions be, and then I found myself feeling too weak to experience them in the manner I thought I should.
Experiencing the discomfort, however, did not seem to be my current problem.
These emotions had something to teach me, and I wanted to learn. When I finally just sat in meditation with the pain I was experiencing, I would begin to understand the lessons. I thought the lessons would tell me what to do and how to move forward. But it wasn’t the silence that brought me to freedom from my wounds.
We all want to be strong and stable (like a mountain). We want to sit with our head high and feel the pain. We want to not be a pile of howling self-pity on our bedroom floors.
But there were moments that I was a weeping mass on my bedroom floor. I was overwhelmed.
In those moments I would reset my timer. Five minutes. For five minutes I would agree that I could cry my heart out. Then, I decided, I’ll get up, cook dinner, eat dinner, drink a glass of wine, and read a book, and then I’ll come back to the cushion.
This new way of thinking started to go much better. I would weep for about thirty seconds, and then I would lay there breathing deeply. The timer would go off and I would get up.
I would remember Pema Chodron’s advice about lightening up, which is exactly what I needed to do. She said, splash water on your face, go jogging, do anything different. I put on some Al Green instead of the cathartic break-up music I was used to playing.
I would dance and sing out loud while preparing dinner. I had my dinner, my wine, my reading. I sat on my cushion. I experienced the feelings that had now transitioned into numbness.
The gratitude I have for that experience, for being able to recognize my needs and provide them for myself, to simply have given myself a positive, healthy break, is immense.
I gave myself the space I needed. I had hoped to sit on the cushion and get that space, but I found it shaking to “Love and Happiness” instead.
It’s not uncommon to want ourselves or our situation to be different. It is the desire to be a better person that pushes us to grow, change, and actually become better people. However, personal growth is often a slow and painful process. There are no miracles. If we keep picking at our wounds instead of embracing them, they never begin to heal. But when we begin to lean into our pain and suffering, when we allow ourselves to feel, that is when our body and mind carefully tells us when it’s sufficient and when to take that break.
The expectation to be something we are not, whether temporarily or permanently, is a form of aggression toward our selves.
The best thing we can do is nurture ourselves and our circumstances just as they are. Listen to yourself and do not try to force yourself or your situation to be something it is not.
When you give yourself a break, you create space. Allowing things to be, just as they are, without judgment or expectation, gives you room to breathe. And that is good for clarity. You will find things start to get better, if you let them.
When we become more willing to rest in a state of confusion, we accept things being “complicated.” There should be nothing disappointing to you about complication; it’s a sign of growth and transition.
It’s hard to see sometimes, but the joy of living is in the unknown.
Letting yourself be weak can give you strength. Letting yourself be confused can give you clarity. Letting your life be complicated can simplify it.
Have a beautiful Wednesday. xo Shelly