Choosing to listen, every day
In basically every aspect of society and culture, we’re told, in one way or another, to have our shit together.
There’s little space to feel hurt.
It’s almost like if we’re still living by the things we were told when we were kids and fell off our bikes: ‘it’s nothing’ or ‘get up and keep moving’.
In an attempt to build resilience, we end up invalidating our feelings and pain in that moment.
We don’t give ourselves (and each other) enough space to grief, feel, and heal.
Think about it this way: every disappointment, loss, trouble, thought, plan is a rock.
Some are tiny, some are bigger.
As you move through life, you keep collecting them.
Your hands starting getting full, and your arms, heavy.
At some point, even the smallest of additions will tip it all over.
For me, that’s when severe anxiety comes creeping in.
The overwhelming feeling that leaves me completely depleted, incapable of dealing with even the smallest of tasks.
It makes picking up any rock a massive effort.
This anxiety peak is a way our bodies have found to scream at us.
To remind us we haven’t been listening.
So maybe, rather than letting it accumulate, we could pause and acknowledge our feelings, pain, thoughts, worries, losses along the way - before it becomes too much to handle.
It doesn’t mean we have to act on every single thought.
But by observing them, by giving them a little attention, we realise there’s no need to hold on to every single one.
This frees up space to deal with the things that really deserve our attention.
This gives us the mental space to observe with more clarity.
It’s what meditation & mindfulness teach us, really.
Don’t roll your eyes.
Mindfulness isn’t the commonly-held belief of having a completely still, thought-free mind.
It’s rather a on-going practice of observing our thoughts, acknowledging them, and letting them go.
Repeating: an on-going practice of observing our thoughts, acknowledging them, and letting them go.
Nothing mystical or esoteric about it.
It’s simply an exercise to make our minds stronger - and who doesn’t want that?!
It has helped me a lot in dealing with my current struggles.
An anxiety peak as bad as the one I’m having right now is telling me that something needs to change.
And change isn’t always easy.
By the definition, it is abandoning the familiar.
It’s uncomfortable, challenging, and it can be fucking scary.
The good thing with change is that it doesn’t always have to be drastic.
Usually, we change our surroundings and perspective.
Ideally, we’d change both.
But reality is far from ideal, and we’re very often not in absolute control of our circumstances (some could even argue we’re never really are, but that’s a debate for another time).
We can’t change everything.
What we can most definitely do - even if one baby step at the time - is to change how we react.
We can stay still and observe our thoughts.
Looking at them makes us realise that they’re not as scary as they originally appeared to be.
We can notice, with kindness, that everything passes.
And that some things are so beyond our control that there’s no point worrying about them.
We don’t know what life will bring us next.
All we have is the here & now, so we might as well enjoy it.
As a good friend recently told me, all we can do is to live a full life, do our best, have fun, enjoy & help those around us.
There’s another analogy that links rushing the process of hurting to a crying baby on a plane.
When has ever shouting ‘stop!’ worked?
You need to slowly nurse it back to calm.
This is, obviously, very much so easier said than done.
For me, it’s a new, daily practice.
Of reevaluating my worries - understanding that they’re valid, solvable and passing.
Of being kind to myself - giving myself the space and time to wallow and heal.
Of stopping and staying still - focusing on the present, the breath, the body, the immediate surroundings.
Of balancing time & energy - carrying on determined, compassionate, engaged and recharged.
Of redefining some deeply ingrained values.
And you know what?
It’s a choice I have to constantly be making.
Sometimes it is fucking hard.
It’s not something that comes naturally to me.
There are days that I can’t pull myself mentally out of a dark place.
Or physically out of my apartment.
I can try again tomorrow.
And the day after that.
And the day after that.
And the day after that.
That’s how you build a habit.
With perseverance, patience, determination… and for me, now with kindness too.
Kindness to allow myself to fail bigger, and heal better, in my own time, in ways that feel right for me.
I’ve only just started to understand that this isn’t about fighting the mind.
It’s about being curious about it, and trying to understand what’s beyond the cloudy thoughts.
It’s a deeply personal process.
Only by experiencing it, you feel the clarity it brings.
(And you’ve got to stick to it a little bit to get the benefits)
If you’re not willing to full-on practice mindfulness, it’s fine.
Just try have adding a little stillness and kindness towards yourself here and there.
Take a moment. (Do it right now)
Close your eyes.
It will pass.
You’ve got this.
If you feel you haven’t got it today, there’s always tomorrow.
And I’m here for you if you need someone to understand you.
You’re not alone, your feelings are valid, you are worthy.
(so listen to yourself)