01/20/2013 10:27 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sliver in the Soul

Maybe it was another gray winter day. Maybe it was a post-holiday emotional hangover. Maybe it was long days and too little sleep. Whatever it was, it was that one too many drop into an already-full cup that sent it spilling over. I slipped into a dark, sad, and depressed place.

My usual cheery countenance was but a fantasy. I could no more snap myself out of it than I could run a marathon. Actually, all I wanted to do was crawl back in bed, pull the covers over my head and wake up when whatever this was had passed. However, my dog beat me to it:


So, with that option unavailable, and the realization that yes, I did need to go to work, I thought "WWJS"? Meaning, "What would Janet say?" I seemed to recall that I had doled out my share of advice over the years on how to pick yourself up in these situations. And though I hardly believed myself at this point (I was seriously into doubting everything...), I had very little else to try and absolutely nothing to lose. So I started one by one to pick up the tools that had been laid at my feet over the years.

  • Meditation: My mind was racing on a hamster wheel of doom and gloom. I knew that I needed to at least get it to slow down, if not stop altogether. I sat quietly for as long as I could. It helped a little.
  • Pray: My belief system includes belief in a power greater than myself. Knowing that I certainly had no control and no answers, I send a few (okay, a lot) of urgent requests and pleas to be released from this detrimental mindset. I have personal experience that tells me that when I put it out there and trust that it has been heard and will be acted upon at some point unknown to me, things do happen. All I could go on was that faith.
  • Read motivational/inspirational text: I went back to my tried-and-true volumes and read the words that usually uplift me. Mostly they sounded pretty but not enough to clear the fog. I moved on.
  • Say a mantra: When my kids were little I use to say "this too shall pass" a million times a day. I love the saying "It gets better." Sometimes "the sun will come out tomorrow" even works. Not so much for me at this point, but sometimes it does...
  • Write it down: I had no idea what to write. I seriously doubted my ability to complete a sentence. But I sat until an idea came and I wrote it down. That led to another thought, which led to another, which led to another. Pretty soon I had a substantial list of things that were bothering me. None of them were big or overwhelming. They were the types of things I tucked away in the moment precisely because they were not of great importance. Most I had forgotten about. But all together they became too much. Even a pebble is too much to carry if you get enough of them together.
  • Have a good cry: This "stuff" just needed to come out. My body needed that physical release. A good cry is healing on so many levels.
  • Reach out: I was finally at a point where, although getting better, I knew I needed a strong hand to help pull me back up the rest of the way. I reached out to a friend who let me vent. It is so important not only to let it out, but to feel heard. You can spill your guts to anyone, but if they aren't listening, if they haven't acknowledged you, it is worthless, or sometimes more damaging. Knowing who you can trust, who believes in you and supports you, is so important in these situations.
  • Breathe: Once I had done all that releasing, a big belly breath sealed the deal. It pushed out the wisps of sadness that remained, leaving me lighter, clearer, and ready to re-start my day.

I progressed through my day, and little by little I started to feel better. By the time my head hit the pillow, I could even be grateful for a couple of important conversations I had had. And, with a huge sense of relief and gratitude, I awoke the next day feeling back to my old self.

What I had experienced was called "life." It is not all rosy all the time. Sometimes we get a splinter in our soul. Something is there that doesn't belong and until we get it out -- all of it out -- it is painful. Left unattended, something that starts out small can fester and grow and cause much bigger issues. Once again, I have learned that it is so much better to get it out in the moment.

Sometimes one of these tools is all I need. Sometimes, like this one, I needed the whole kit. I am sure there will be more that I will pick up along the way that will be helpful down the path.

I know I will continue to learn these kinds of lessons on my journey. I will continue to be grateful for the tools I have to help me when I forget who I am and where I am supposed to be. And through it all, I will continue to walk confidently on my path, knowing that even though I may stumble or fall, I have people to help pick me back up and to be a light in my darkness. Amen to that. Here's to a sliver-free life!

For more by Janet M. Neal, click here.

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