For almost 25 years I had it all: career, marriage, motherhood, a beautiful home -- and I was also buried under so many responsibilities for other people that I think of myself as being a member of the "Panini Generation." Worse than just a sandwich, we are squeezed and pressed.
So many of us -- women and men -- are squeezed by life and being caregivers to the people we love.
How do we find ourselves again? Reinvent ourselves? How do we re-connect with the deepest desires we had before life became so complicated?
First of all: Laugh.
That's the start. Find a comedian you love and go to one of their shows, or watch everything they've ever done online and really let yourself laugh. It's healing, it feels good, try it.
Louis C.K. recently saved my life. I was going to the hospital every day for a week. This is after years of going to hospitals, emergency rooms and ICUs for my now deceased mother -- but this time I was there for one of my best friends. She was in the hospital for a few weeks and ended up in ICU on a breathing tube. They couldn't figure out what was wrong with her, and everything they tried failed to save her. Every night I came home in despair, ate a little, then watched Louis C.K. and was able to laugh out loud.
My friend died. It was as if she fell off a cliff. All of her friends and family were stunned. How does that happen? It just does.
Second of all: Breathe.
Sit in the quiet, at least a few times a day, and breathe. I don't know why that helps so much, but it does.
In one year I lost my marriage, my mother, my job... my entire life, really. Gone. And gradually, I seem to be getting it all back... Well, not my mother or the marriage, but a good life. And I did a lot of sitting in silence and breathing. And some hyperventilating, but I don't recommend that. James Lipton, you know the guy from "Inside the Actors' Studio," said this when asked "What sound or noise do you love?"
"Silence: deep, velvety silence. It is the most underestimated sound on earth, and because of the way we live, we very seldom experience it."
Third of all: Talk.
Find people you can talk to and who will listen. Then listen to them because everyone has sh*t in their life that they need to share with someone. And listening is an art. I'm still working on being a better listener. Most of us are thinking about what we're going to say next, instead of just being there and listening.
Fourth of all: Remember.
Chances are you've been through rough times before and you got through them. And you will again. How do I know? I just do. I've seen people walk through the most hellish experiences and survive and thrive.
"If you're going through hell, keep going." -- Winston Churchill
In the past couple of years I've done some Internet dating (talk about hellish experiences. Well, I'm kidding, but not really).
Recently I met a guy and this was part of our conversation:
Me: So have you ever lost anyone, or gone through a difficult period in your life?
Me: Oh. Really?
Him: Yeah. Never.
Me: No divorce? Lost a close friend? Parents? A job?
This isn't my guy. Another one:
Him: Well, actually, in one year I lost my mother, my father, my best friend, my job and then my wife left me.
Me: Oh... I'm so sorry.
Him: Yeah, it sucked.
Me: That must have been horrible. I understand.
Him: I started doing stand-up comedy recently. And a friend of mine's son had a friend who lost his dad and they asked if I would be a sort of foster dad to him. So I did that 12 years ago and he's become like a son to me. I lost my life and then I gained a son.
Potential here. This guy speaks my language. The language of grief. The language of life. And love.
Brené Brown, author of "Daring Greatly" and "The Gift of Imperfection" (who was also featured in two fantastic and popular TED Talks) says, "Vulnerability is the birthplace of every meaningful experience in our life." I think that's true.
Louis C.K. does vulnerability really well, which is why I think we love him so much. Comedians, in general, at least the good ones, do it. What's more vulnerable than standing up in front of people and trying to make them laugh?
"I can't go on. I'll go on." -- Samuel Beckett
That Beckett, he was a real comedian.
Follow Robin Amos Kahn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@rakahn