This is a letter from me to you should you find yourself having a really, really hard day.
Tuck it away in some digital folder, bookmark it, soak in the words and then repeat them back to yourself the next time you find your mind reeling, your chest fiery with anxiety, your mind whirling with wondering, your emotions big and raw.
I want to share with you a few words of comfort for very hard days.
Honey. Today sucks.
Today is really, really hard.
You didn’t expect this would happen.
Even if you had a sneaking suspicion this might come to pass, you didn’t seriously entertain it and you certainly didn’t make plans around it.
Now you’ve been caught off guard, and things that once felt comfortingly counted on, stable and secure in your life don’t feel that way anymore.
Last night you may have reached some peace before sleep only to wake up with your mind reeling again, feeling like you’re waking up to a bad dream.
“It really did happen, didn’t it? I didn’t just dream it…”
You feel worried, you feel angry, or sad, probably all of the above.
You don’t know how you’re going to fix this and you’re jumping at the bit to take action, do things to make this situation better.
Maybe there are things you can do, and it’s important when to know when to be actionable.
Make a list then, of what’s in your control right now, sit down and execute against that list.
Do what you can but also remember this: things come undone in life.
It’s hard, but it’s also inevitable.
And when they do, we also have to make space for the feelings that come with the shattering, the wobbliness, the undoing of it all.
Try to stay aware of using action to numb yourself, to prevent yourself from actually feeling your feelings about this.
I’m here to tell you: you need to feel your way through this as much as you need to take action through this.
Let it be okay that you feel angry at them/he/she/it/everyone.
Let it be okay if you feel like giving up.
Like you want a refund on adulting.
(No one told us when we were kids that half of adulting is, apparently, just putting out fires and most of the time feeling incapable of doing so.)
Let it be okay that you feel overwhelmed, that you feel stretched to the max.
Let it be okay that you have no idea what the next step will be, where that needed extra time to deal with this new unexpected thing will come from in your already way too overbooked schedule.
Can you please allow yourself to feel all of those things: mad, angry, scared, overwhelmed, sad?
It’s going to ultimately help you if you can make space for your feelings even as you sit down at the laptop and make that to-do list.
Honey. And maybe there’s this: maybe there is not one single actionable thing you can do right now.
And I imagine that feels so scary and powerless. I get it. I’ve been there, too.
We don’t have a crystal ball. We don’t know how things will turn out.
And I think that the state that most of us struggle with the most is not-knowing.
So you don’t know right now. And it sucks.
I can’t tell you things will get better.
But I will ask you to remind yourself (and me!) of other times in your life when you felt hopeless.
When you were faced with the unknown and how you coped.
When the last really hard, seemingly impossible thing happened in your life, how did that turn out?
Who helped you cope? What resources did you use?
And, possibly maybe, did things ultimately turn out better than you ever could have expected (even though you didn’t see that at the time)?
Could it be that the same thing might happen this time?
Can you allow yourself – even a small part of you – to consider that someday this will make sense and you will find yourself in a situation that’s ten-fold better than what you were in and that seems to be dissolving in front of you now?
I want us to have faith in that possibility.
To invite the chance that this or something better may be coming your way.
And at the risk of sounding too Pollyanna-ish, I want us to hold both things: something better could be coming your way and right now sucks.
Both things are true.
You’re so strong.
You’re so capable.
You’ve been able to figure out so much in your life so far with far fewer resources than you have now.
You’re a resilient, gritty kind of person.
And that counts for so much.
Could the you of five, ten or fifteen years ago have imagined all the ways you’ve grown and all the added stress and responsibility that you’ve taken on and managed to navigate?
Can you imagine, too, what future you five, ten years down the road might think of you handling this situation?
If you can’t imagine what future you might have to say about the situation, what do some of your loved ones have to say about you and your capabilities to weather hard times?
Can you let their words of affirmation bolster you as you make your way through these rocky days?
I wish I could fix this for you.
I wish I could take out my magic wand and solve it or, at the least, peer into that crystal ball and reassure you that everything will be fine.
But I can’t. No one can, really.
You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other through these hard days, through these tough times, through this tender chapter of your life.
It may feel impossible and you may want to give up and just scream and sob and quit.
But you won’t.
Instead, you’ll do what needs to be done – start dinner, refill the toilet paper roll, return that work email, take out the recycling.
You will do all of this and you’ll feel like you’re on autopilot (that’s okay, please let that be okay!).
And you might feel like your chest is burning from the anxiety and your stomach upset by the worry.
Falling asleep and being at peace in bed at night may feel hard right now.
Don’t set the bar too high.
In times like these, it’s not realistic to think everything – including and especially your body and mind – will be okay.
Let it be okay that things are not okay now.
You may feel like you’re on autopilot and that the challenge of this situation has lodged itself like an angry storm in your body and mind, but it won’t always be this way.
One day you’ll wake up feeling more like yourself.
More hopeful. Less scared. More assured. Less shaky.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other until that day comes.
You know how to do this. You’ve done it before.
Honey, at the risk of dismissing your experience I want to say something: this is IT. This is the hardness of being a human, of being an adult.
It’s actually really, really hard sometimes.
Anyone who tells you otherwise probably isn’t being honest about their own experience.
Being human, being an adult with responsibilities, with relationships, obligations, debts, needs, and bodies that require special care can feel so crummily hard some days.
You’re in it right now. You’re getting the hard part of the human experience.
It won’t always be this way.
But while it is, please try and be as kind to yourself as you can.
Maybe kindness looks like being actionable.
Maybe kindness looks like slowing down.
Maybe kindness looks like reaching out for support.
Maybe kindness looks like doing this on your own, keeping your tender vulnerability close to your heart.
However kindness looks for you right now, be that to yourself.
There’s no one right way to handle very hard days. Whatever works for you is the way.
If you don’t know what works for you, still yourself for a moment and tune in. See what your body/mind/soul has to say.
If the only thing that pops up is having a bowl of popcorn for dinner, that’s wonderful.
If it looks like reaching out to your therapist, great.
If it looks like going on an angry sprint run, so be it.
Do what you need to do to take care of yourself right now.
The people who love you (and yes, there are people who love you) care about you. You matter to people.
Take care of yourself. Take comfort in whatever you can.
Recall all the times you’ve overcome, when you’ve managed situations that feel unmanageable.
Reflect on those moments in your life when things turned out better than you ever could have imagined and never could have anticipated that at the time.
Maybe, and I know this is a bit out there, think of the long line of ancestors you come from who likely overcame and navigated so, so much just so you could be here.
You come from a line of survivors. You will survive this, too.
For now, go take care of yourself. However that looks.
Please know that I’m here, rooting for you, wanting only good things for you, trusting that all will be well for you.
I see you.
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