What to do when the going gets tough? Keep going.
This post goes out to all of you who are navigating the tricky waters of transition, heartbreak, loneliness, disappointment or loss.
Both my parents grew up on corn and soybean farms in central Illinois. I come from grounded, humble, hardworking and loving stock.
Decades of watching the seasons change and being entirely dependent on the weather and forces far beyond your control breeds a deep trust in the nature of things. An earth based spirituality rooted in the reality of the way things are. Ever-changing. Ebbing-flowing. Sometimes the crop is abundant. Sometimes there's a drought. Consequently, my dad consistently offers up no-nonsense, refreshingly practical advice (may also have something to do with him being a lawyer).
In my past, as I was going through a rough period of heartbreak, disappointment and sadness after a breakup from a lovely long-time boyfriend my dad called to check in and ask how I was doing. I told him I was upset, mad and frustrated with tears rolling down my cheeks.
He said simply, "Well, everything changes. Sometimes you've just got to pick yourself up and keep moving on. Get up everyday and do your best. You will get through this. Put one foot in front of the other. Another man will come your way."
His left-brained words landed. They lifted my heart. I could breathe. Oh, yeah! It will all change. This has happened before and I'm stronger, deeper and richer for it. (Breakups still suck.)
The piercing of truth through a veil of emotion. Believe me, I'm all for emotional expression, cultivating emotional intelligence and emotional processing. After all, I am a Cancer with a Pisces moon and enough water in my chart to be an amphibian. But, this uncomplicated, plain advice was the perfect medicine.
#1 -- Befriend Your Pain
Let yourself swim in the watery tears and swirling emotion. Actually feel. Identify the sensations of sadness/anger/loneliness in your body. Describe them. When we learn to practice mindfulness and become "friendly" towards whatever we are feeling (a Buddhist concept called "maitri") -- just becoming curious and watching it with sincere intrigue -- we soften, allow and have less need to push away. We realize this wave will pass and another one will come. Give yourself permission to be gentle with yourself.
#2 -- Invite Your "Debutante" to the Party
My old therapist, Mona Miller, used to say that I have strong, bullying inner "debutante" -- a teenage princess who systematically rebells when she doesn't get what she wants, when she wants it. She whines. Quickly slipping into denial, she knows exactly how to manipulate a person or situation to get what she wants. Or at least try. This is not helpful. It only prolongs the inevitable. Instead, I learned to invite the debutante to the pity party. She actually is the one throwing the pity party. I let her whine it out on the pages of my journal, or yell and scream at the top of my lungs while hitting a pillow with a whiffle bat. Yes, I really do this. Yes, it really works. She must be heard. Her voice is the valuable inner heart of your sadness. Let her in. Let her be heard. Then be a good parent. Draw clear boundaries and don't let her run the show. Party's over.
#3 -- Practice Radical Self-Care
The heart is precious. Love is our most vulnerable, tender temple of self. When we are wounded, heartbroken, disappointed or sad it is crucial that we go the extra mile to treat ourselves with upmost respect. Get a massage. Eat especially clean, nutritious foods. Avoid self-sabotaging behaviors that only repress difficult emotions which will resurface sideways and compounded at a later, most inconvenient date. Slow down your work load and take it easy. Spend time with trusted friends and supportive family. You are wounded. Time and self love will heal.
#4 -- Keep Going -- One Foot in Front of the Other
As Ralph Turner says, "Pick yourself up. Keep going. It will all change."
Take an action step (baby steps perfectly acceptable) to keep moving towards your dreams. Literally, get moving. Exercise! Nothing will make you feel better. Call old friends; strengthen your social network (in real life, not just online, people); do one thing every day that propels you forward. Small baby steps. Forgive yourself for taking it slow, but make a commitment to take one measurable step a day. I decided to launch a 30-Day Yoga Challenge. I took 30 yoga classes in 30 days with 30 different teachers. Do something radically different. You will be rewarded.
Thanks, Dad, for inspiring this post and for your ever-present love, wisdom and support! I am one lucky daughter! I love you!
Please a comment below with one thing that helps you through heartbreak.