I don't know if there's something in the air or if the planets and shit are all misaligned but there seems to be a general trend of crises floating around lately. Most people who I know, and myself, have been burdened with crazy things happenings out of nowhere, and it was just recently that a friend and I discussed how 2014 may be one of the most bat-shit crazy years we've ever experienced.
I'm writing this post because I hope that someone reads it and I hope that it helps them. There seems to be a sense of urgency because it really might have the chance to be helpful to someone, as the story I'm about to tell you helped me. I'm going to try relay what happened, without too much personal detail, so I can be as informative as possible.
Recently I had a really bad experience. Someone who meant a lot to me hurt me, and it was a shock. We all have these moments, hopefully not very often, where you're completely floored by a person or situation. For a short while your world doesn't make sense, someone you love becomes a stranger, or you feel so downtrodden for simply having been "fooled" in some way. These are the moments where you really, really confront yourself and your own ability to pick yourself up. I think these are the experiences that allow us to grow and to hopefully become more resilient, and I do believe they're necessary.
I was faced with a very interesting dilemma this fateful night. The bad experience was had on my way into work. There were words exchanged, and my world suddenly changed. And then I had to walk through the door and leave it behind. I sat at my desk in the studio, knowing I had about 15 hours of solid concentration ahead of me, through the night and into the morning. I was desperate. I wanted to find a way to be okay. I had to be okay, because I had no choice and people are relying on me. Never had I been in such a blatant position where I had to pick myself up.
My writing pad was open with yesterday's date and all my notes about the work I was about to dive into. I'm looking through the pages upon pages of notes, working out the schedule in my head, and all I can think about is the horrible thing I just experienced. All of a sudden every thought leads to the horrible thing and the horrible thing won't let me concentrate. The horrible thing starts to consume me, and I'm reading words on a page without taking them in. All I can see is the horrible thing.
I don't know what led me to do this, but I turned to the next empty page and without even thinking wrote at the top, in capital letters "POSITIVES".
I started to list everything that I was grateful for, in a free-flow of thought style. I wrote and wrote and wrote until I filled the page and I kept writing more. I wrote with such urgency, with such vehemence. At first the bullet points were focused on myself, then they were about my family, then they were about my friends. I wrote with such fervor and focus, as I pushed the horrible thing out of my mind.
I realize that simply saying "I wrote everything I'm grateful for" isn't really enough of an explanation of the process. I have the page open in front of me right now. I read it about 20 times during that night and I still read it now. I'm going to list a few of the less personal points, to give you an idea of just how basic my bullet points were. All of a sudden, I was able to appreciate things that hadn't crossed my mind in a long, long time. Things that I had probably been taking fore-granted.
"I am healthy"
"My mother and father are healthy"
"I get along with my parents and will see them in December"
"I have a great friendship with my ex-boyfriend, we survived"
"I love my job and I am learning every day"
"I can pay my rent"
"I know I am a strong person"
"I am true to myself"
The list was lengthy. It was basic, and it poured out of me effortlessly. The most incredible thing was what I wrote at the end of the list:
"I have the ability to pick myself up"
"I am sad, but I'm not crushed."
That's it. I am sad, and that's okay. But I'm not crushed. I am not broken. In fact, I'm totally okay.
I'd never done this before. I've never sat down and wrote down all the positives in my life. I find that when something bad happens to one, we tend to focus in on that thing way more than we need to. We even start to define ourselves by it. We become the person who's "someone's ex-girlfriend", or the person "who was lied to", or the person "who was cheated on". Do you ever think that sometimes, just sometimes, we allow ourselves to be the victim? I think that I do. I don't want to be the victim. Why should something that someone else did define who I am? Only I define who I am.
It was amazing how it took a desperate time for me to really, really, focus on being okay. If only for 15 hours, until I could really give the thing my full attention and start to process it. I'm not encouraging one to simply sweep a situation or a feeling under the rug. But maybe we can learn what the best medicine is for ourselves. Keep in mind that what works for someone else, may not work for you. People will tell you things like "you need to take a vacation and just be with friends", or "focus on your work, it'll help you feel better". This doesn't matter. What matters is what actually makes you feel better. You'll have to try various things. I will say that this night, when I wrote my list, I was astonished by what it did for me. By the end of the list I felt better. I had completely avoided "the hole". By the end of the night (the next morning), I even chose to stay longer at my job, because I was interested in being at a meeting the next morning. I wasn't required to be there. Not only did I feel okay, I surpassed my expectations of myself emotionally. The absolutely insane part is that when I got off my train back in Brooklyn, there is the person, sitting in plain view on a bench, smoking a cigarette. Why, world? Why? Maybe because I was okay to face him.
It meant a lot to me when I was able to pick myself up and be a professional. I then started using this experience, of staying focused in a desperate time, to keep my head up. Now I think, wow, right after I was so shocked, I totally made my way through it. If I can do that, under that kind of pressure, I know I can be even more resilient in the future. It made me feel really proud.
So I guess all I wanna say is that it's important to listen to yourself in times of need. If I hadn't been in a high-pressure situation, I probably would've drank alcohol and watched TV shows until I fell asleep. To be real. But, I kind of skipped that part now. I didn't want to wallow, and I still don't want to wallow. But what I will do is write about it, because that's the best medicine for me. Whether I'm writing down the positives in my life, to bring those facts into focus and to put the bad thing into it's small space in my mind, or I'm writing a blog post, or writing a song.
Find what makes you get back to yourself, free of your "stories" about all the bad things that happened to you. You have endless energy to put into the things you love.