I’m not going to sugar coat this message, and I’m certainly not going to ask you to count your blessings. However, I do hope that by sharing my story it will touch you or inspire you.
A few weeks ago life took an unexpected turn, and I didn’t handle it well. I lost my footing, stumbled, couldn’t catch my balance, and I fell. I fell headlong into an all consuming sadness and anxiety. I had all of my tools to cope, but nothing seemed to work. I got more and more isolated and confused. I lost 10 lbs. I felt humiliation, regret, and a deep loneliness. All of this was compounded by my determination not to act out my normal, unhealthy escape methods.
I reached deep and found the willingness to stand in the fire of my life without shrinking back, without trying to escape even though all I wanted to do was escape. As you know, anxiety is awful. If it hadn’t been for my yoga/meditation practice, and some really great friends, I don’t know how I would’ve made it through. Yoga has given me the skills to stay present even when the shit hits the fan.
Let me be honest, it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was quite messy. But there was also something deep inside of me that was aware that if I could stay with it long enough that I would come out on the other side emotionally and spiritually more intelligent, a little more enlightened. That thought was not comforting in any way, but it was something to hold as a tether to keep my feet on the ground.
Meanwhile, the holiday cheer was building around me.
In the turmoil of my life, my Thanksgiving plans got canceled. I found myself one evening wondering around the natural foods store not hungry, not shopping, not doing anything but walking up and down the aisles. Thanksgiving was everywhere around me. The loneliness of this holiday held a sharp edge to everything. In that moment, drifting aimlessly, I remembered something David Whyte said that changed my life.
He told the story of a good friend who was telling him her story of “I’m not enough.” He said that in the moment he decided not to encourage her with words like, “of course you are enough,” while trying to convince her of all the ways that she is enough. Instead, he said to her, “what if you’re not enough? What if this is the vulnerable moment in your life when you need to reach out and ask for help because you know you can’t do it alone.”
Reaching out and asking for help is difficult for me. I’m someone who often thinks I can (or should be able to) manage everything on my own. But I reached deep inside myself and I rallied. I mustered the courage, and reached out to a friend, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving? I’m in a dark place and I don’t want to be alone for Thanksgiving.”
Regardless of the outcome of this story, the truth is sometimes we are alone. Alone, alone. Or alone even when surrounded by friends and family. Feeling alone or lonely is human, and we all experience it. In fact, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel these things right now. It’s an often unacknowledged experience of the holiday season.
What I’ve found is that listing all the things we are grateful for is not the antidote. Counting our blessings isn’t going to make us feel less lonely. Perhaps the antidote to loneliness, sadness, and confusion isn’t gratitude, but the willingness to simply acknowledge it and to be with it in best way we can. Healing and gratitude will happen in it’s own time and in its own way for you. There is an incredible power in acknowledging what’s right here, right now.
Wherever you are, whatever you are experiencing, whatever your plans for the holidays... I acknowledge you. I acknowledge that it’s not always easy. I see you