What a shit week. I wonder, how are you doing, my friends? Because I look around and it really seems like I’m not the only one feeling it. A friend’s young, healthy sister-in-law was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer and possibly also lymphoma. Another friend’s cousin died from a drug overdose after recently completing rehab and getting back to her young family. Patients are sick with mysterious and disconcerting illnesses. Pipe bombs were sent to a slew of Democratic leaders and supporters. And today a man commits yet another deadly, hate-driven shooting. Seriously, WTAF? And I honestly think we have yet to hit rock bottom. I don’t see any of it turning around anytime soon.
I have barely made it through—so much psychic energy required to simply move from one task to the next, taking care of many (and not so much some others). This past year, actually, sometimes I’m barely holding it together. First the knee injury, then taking on a new big role at work. Then surgery/rehab, and another personal crisis that derailed all of my health habits for spring and summer. As I go around the country talking about personal resilience and culture of wellness, I wonder, am I being a hypocrite? Am I really walking my talk? Because if I’m not, I had better just sit down and shut up.
I wrote to a friend today, “I hope you are able to take care of yourself and recharge. The energy in the world is so tumultuous and agitated. It’s no help to blame and lament (well maybe lamenting can be a bit cathartic—for a while). I guess this is a time to exercise our best skills—sharpen them against the harsh and jagged surfaces of challenge and trial. I feel like all year my professed self-care practices have been called out and called forth—TESTED. And I’m still here… Still doing some good every day (I think), alongside the mistakes, the sub-par moments, the not-my-best words, actions, and thoughts… But hey, who’s perfect? Nobody. And are we all here doing the best we can? I agree with Brené Brown’s husband Steve, the pediatrician: It helps me live better when I choose to believe that we are—all visible evidence to the contrary.” (Here is another article that describes well the benefits of this mindset.)
Similar to last week, as I consider this idea, I am met with readings and conversations that deepen the exploration. Friend and author Donna Cameron published an op-ed today in which she, in her typically kind and gentle style, encourages us all to be our best and see the best in others—on November 7, a day full of potential for vehement loathing and gloating celebration. In her wisdom, Donna urges us to think ahead and decide in advance how we will choose to think, speak, and act. How can we be our best on that day, to ourselves and to one another, no matter what the circumstances?
Recently I have had conversations with trusted friends, my coach, and my therapist, focused on my own most cavernous arenas of personal self-loathing and shame. How lucky that I have such generous, loving, wise, candid, and brave people holding me up. With their help, I can move past shame, take a step back, and recognize that I simply have some dysfunctional patterns, just like everybody else. I slide into these deep grooves when I’m stressed, exhausted, and distracted—they are the default. They are part of me, and also subject to change—to intentional modification, gradual evolution. These days I meditate often on the distinction between perfection and healthy striving, and I’m also reminded daily of the benefits of cultivating a growth mindset. These days, instead of berating myself for falling into the same deep hole in my sidewalk, I can hold it more lightly, laugh, and exclaim, “How Fascinating!” climb out (often with a little help from my friends), and walk—ever onward.
Today as I walked outside, slowly (I’m so tired), I noticed the leaves again. I think autumn is my favorite season. It reminds me of the wholeness and beauty of transitions. They are inevitable. They are temporary (or constant?). They are unpredictable, at times prolonged, at other times sudden and acute. They can feel at once painful, joyous, terrifying, shocking, enlightening, overwhelming, confusing, awe-inspiring (or simply inspiring). It occurs to me that the best way through them involves practicing some combination of mindfulness, self-compassion, empathy, generosity, deep breathing, sleep, connection, self-awareness, magnanimity, and of course love. The only way out is through, and if we do it well, we can grow a little at a time in the process.
Who knows what shit will be flung our way and hit the fan next week? How will we cope? I know I will be leaning on my tribe and looking to make our ties ever stronger and thicker. Thank you for being here to share the journey.