Here we are, at the beginning of September, and I have to tell you, the last thirty-one days have been… something else.
So much beauty. A trip to Paris with my daughter, incredible dinners with girlfriends, long runs down the Champs Elysees in the morning light…
But also, so much heartache. In Paris, I witnessed a violent assault and had to call the police to rescue a woman who was being battered. I’m grateful I was there, and able to intervene, but the experience shook me up for days. Then my husband’s father passed away, and we changed our flights and flew home for the memorial. In the midst of all this, we’ve been getting my son off to his first year at college, and our house has been a tornado of packing boxes, dorm room supplies, and intense emotions. And there’s been so much else happening behind the scenes—not to mention, in our country—that has left me feeling unusually tired and depleted.
Maybe you’re feeling similarly right now, for a million reasons of your own.
Maybe it feels like everything is falling apart. Like you’re battling your way through life, and even the most ordinary things—checking email, running errands—feel overwhelming.
My recommendation—to myself, and to you—is to focus on the basics. Sleep. Water. Move your body 3x a week, at minimum. Eat some food that doesn’t come out of a carton. Take 5 seconds to reflect on 1 thing that’s going OK. Get some sunlight on your skin. Basic self-care. You know what? That shit works.
Another recommendation—and this one is trickier for most of us—is to recognize that human beings are designed to feel a wide range of emotions. We’re not meant to feel 100% happy all the time, but rather, to allow ourselves to feel everything. The full spectrum of the emotion-rainbow, not just orange or pink. All the colors. That’s what it means to be human.
The Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön writes: “Things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
Things fall apart. Things come together. Goals get achieved. Setbacks happen. People get sick. People miraculously heal. Or not. It’s all part of the human experience. Can you allow yourself to feel whatever you currently feel, without running away from those emotions, or stuffing them down with TV, snacks, wine, excessive busywork, whatever? Can you allow yourself to experience your life fully, and feel things deeply, without constructing a shield around your heart?
As I often tell my clients, “Drop the shield and feel what you feel.”
I will try to take my own advice. Because I’ve done the opposite—hiding, running, shielding, gaining 40 pounds to avoid facing uncomfortable emotions, postponing difficult conversations—and I don’t want to repeat that pattern again. No thank you.
When we drop the shield, that’s when we become fully awake inside our own lives.
Even though it’s hard sometimes—even though it seems easier to pick up the shield and dull our emotions with a dozen different distractions and substances—let’s try not to do that. Let’s drop the armor. Let’s stay awake. I am brave enough and I know you are, too.
PS. There’s so much more I want to say about grief, loss, and unexpected upheaval, and I will, after I’ve processed my thoughts a bit more. There’s also so much I want to say about getting your kid off to college. Good lord. More on that later, too.
PPS. Please enjoy this video of Beyonce rollerblading around in her skintight jeans, looking like a roller derby queen. And how about this little Syrian girl who is determined to become a karate champion, practicing daily even though her city is in ruins, with optimism in her heart. In spite of everything, there’s still so much good in this world. That is a fact.