Everyone is a multifaceted expert who is talented in ways both celebrated and secretive, useful and quirky.
I don’t know what people think I’m an expert in, but the most immediate thing that comes to my mind is that in between radiant periods of happiness, I am an expert on being depressed and stuck in a rut. I am an expert on being ruthlessly insatiable, on following my adrenaline-fueled dreams in a burst of passion until I drop… into a rut. Where everything comes to a blood-curdling halt, and all I want to do is sink into my bed irretrievably.
We all have these times of stuckness, of feeling tentative in our own skin. All of us. Everyone. Despite abundant external circumstances, sometimes everything slows down in our minds and congeals into one grey blob of malaise. Life can screech to a frightening lull when the things that used to inspire us start to invoke boredom, leaving us wondering why we were put on this planet in the first place.
When I saw Anne Lamott speak last week, she imparted this wisdom: “If you think it’s hard here, the truth is a lot of us think it’s hard here too.” This didn’t come off as depressing – I felt liberated that everyone goes through episodes of sadness. It took me 23 years for it to sink in that we all have this experience – sometimes as the result of life events, sometimes just Because, and both equally valid.
Dark emotions are valuable – they are the pink neon arrows that alert us when we are not living in line with our highest potential. They teach us. They deepen us. But if left unchecked, they can also destroy us. Here are a few guideposts I have picked up along the way for when it seems like Life is knocking us down:
*Look for lifelines. Hope is a mysterious force that lends us strength when our sense of purpose is wobbly. Look for clues that the universe is on your side and that better things are ahead. When I commit myself to looking for synchronicities, I often see “1:11” “4:44” “11:11” pop up repeatedly whenever I check the time. That brings me hope that I am in sync with the mysterious forces of the unknown and keeps me putting one foot in front of the other.
Lifelines can also come as surprise texts from a friend, a song on the radio that sparks our most beloved (or repressed) memory, comforting dreams, intuitive knowings, interactions with strangers, or any other number of infinite avenues. Keep your eyes open, and choose to believe in the truth and beauty of these lifelines.
*Keep moving. Sometimes the most compelling impulse is to sink deeper into the rut and let the shadowy emotions enfold us. Inaction is the worst thing we could possibly do to revive ourselves because a lot of feeling “stuck” comes from a sense of isolation and stagnation. Keep showing up to life at whatever level you can manage.
*Treat yourself. We spend so much time fawning after celebrities and buying immaculately-chosen gifts for our friends – doing one nice thing for ourselves won’t kill us.
*Shake things up. When we feel like our vibrant lives have flatlined to a blasé norm, we can recharge our energy by breaking our standard routines. Do something differently than normal, even something as small as taking a different route to work. Sign up for a community class that you have always been interested in. Dare to wear more colors to work. Buy coffee for the person in line behind you.
(See my post “Adoring Nonsense” for more thoughts on how out-of-the-ordinary activities can transform us)
*Wander. Take a stroll in a place that inspires you or ignites your curiosity. Don’t worry about a final destination – wandering revolts against the linear and gives us the spaciousness to open up to new experiences. Let yourself be moved by what you see, hear, smell, and experience, and let yourself learn a few things from the people you meet.
*Burn your to-do list. E-mails to respond to, errands to run, choices to make, insurance companies to call…. these nagging tasks can all add up to tremendous overwhelm. Wipe the slate clean. Let it all go. Unfreeze yourself.
If you eventually need to accomplish some of these tasks, fine, but make a new list from scratch and marvel at how much shorter it becomes once the excess is cut away.
*Daydream. Envision what your life would look and feel like if you were living your dreams. Fixate on what you would be doing, what you would be wearing, what your home would look like, how you would see the world. Let these images sink into your bones for a few minutes until you can physically feel what it would be like to experience that reality.
*…But honor where you are today. Daydreaming for too long can leave us despondent that we haven’t achieved that level of happiness yet. Dive into the present moment and find something to be grateful for today.
Let your emotions rock you. Let them teach you. Let your heart be cracked open to a deeper understanding of who you are.
And then let them propel you forward to a life that is bursting with your own brilliance.
Love & Warmth & Smiles,
(Do you have stories & guidance about coping with life’s difficult times? Share your wisdom in the comments section!)