by Amy Lawson, MBA, CDFA®
I’ve struggled putting “pen to paper” the past few weeks. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the scary state of affairs; not only the affairs in the Land That I Love and in my beloved State of North Carolina, but in my city and community as well.
While the protracted shelter-in-place order has magnified the “alone-ness” of some, it has magnified the unhappiness and loneliness of others, and, most alarming, the abusiveness for others.
Financial pressures continue to mount as people lose their jobs, their livelihoods and their homes. Those fortunate enough to work from home but who also have school-aged children have been forced into the additional role of “teacher,” adding to the already long To-Do list of “parent” and “employee” or “employer.”
We’re cut off from our houses of worship, the main source of solace for most people. While we need to take positive steps to enhance our spiritual growth, a wise woman recently reminded me that feeding our souls isn’t strictly a one-woman job. We need the fellowship of like-minded individuals to help us grow spiritually and help sustain us on our journey.
Time in nature, a comfort for many, may be limited, if not eliminated, by extreme temperatures, seasonal allergies, or fear of infection.
Changes Coupled with Fears
Then there’s the mask mandate and the politicians who condemn leaders of the opposing party for its opposing stance and the subsequent shaming of We The People who choose not to wear them. Not only are the protective qualities of the masks under fire, but when our Wear-The-Mask leaders are photographed not wearing their own masks and our Don’t-Wear-The-Mask leaders are photographed masked up, it makes logical people roll their eyes and question the validity of the mandate and the sincerity of our leaders. Not to mention that the requisite fails to take into account individuals who may have been gagged while being raped or abused, or individuals with autism or another sensory processing disorder, or asthma or other respiratory issues. I was humbled recently by this realization and now view those I see in the grocery aisle through a kinder, gentler lens.
The scary state of affairs in the land that we love and the states and cities and communities in which we live can exacerbate the scary state of affairs in our homes, hearts and minds. So, what can we do? What action(s) can we take NOW to take better care of ourselves as this (sh)it show, aka, The Year 2020, whirls around us?
If everything outside of ourselves feels out of control, the BEST and ONLY place to go is within. Yes, dear friend, I’m talking about meditation. I’m not suggesting that meditation alone will eliminate all of the insanity of our external world. If that were the case, we all, at some point, would have assumed the Lotus position and “Ohmmmm’ed” our now-EXs right out the door.
But we do need to cultivate thoughts of hope for our futures and the best way to do that is to change our perspectives. That doesn’t mean we don rose-colored glasses and sing Kumbaya forevermore. Just the opposite. The first step in improving our lives is truth-telling. Observe everything that’s going on and tell yourself the truth about what makes you anxious, what makes you angry, what scares you. It’s OK to feel anxious and angry and scared if that’s how you feel. Admit to yourself that you don’t have the solution to improve or resolve your current situation. It’s OK to not have the solution to improve or resolve our current situation if you don’t have it. It doesn’t mean you’re any less awesome, it just means you are human and humans are wired to seek connection and sometimes that connection includes a helping hand.
Do you realize deep down you could really use a helping hand but are too afraid to take the first step for fear you’ll careen off of the cliff? It’s OK to be afraid, but you don’t have to let your fear paralyze you, you can let it fuel you to take the first step instead. You don’t have to take the first step alone. Here, take my hand; I’ll step out with you. Close your eyes and think about all of the things that are happening around you – in your country, in your state, in your city, in your community, and in your home. Hold those thoughts for a moment, then fill in the following three blanks:
“I feel anxious when I hear/think about ______.”
“I feel angry when I hear/think about ______.”
“I feel afraid when I hear/think about ______.”
When you think about the things that create anxiety, anger and fear, do you find that the voice in your head on constant rewind? Are you telling yourself any of the following?
“I don’t have the answers…”
“I don’t see a way to improve my life…”
“I don’t see a way out of this situation…”
Searching For Answers
At the very time we NEED creative solutions, the auto-play of negative messages keeps the creative solutions at bay. Seeing the creative solutions can be particularly challenging for someone who suffered childhood trauma. If the adults in our lives either abused us or neglected to protect us from abuse, our world view is skewed toward scary. We don’t trust someone to have our backs because the most important adults in our lives did not. Even though we are now adults, we don’t suddenly trust just because someone says you can. Trust is built incrementally.
While searching for my next read on personal development, I discovered You Are the Guru, by Gabrielle Bernstein. While I don’t necessarily share the author’s beliefs on how what ails the world has manifested itself, I won’t throw out the baby with the bath water. And, hopefully other people of good character will refrain from doing the same.
According to the author, the messages we tell ourselves can either keep us stuck or propel us forward. Below are messages (in bold) that Gabrielle Bernstein uses to help her through difficult times. While the message is the author’s, the interpretation of each message is mine:
1. See Through The Lens of Love
At the very beginning of our lives, we were lovely little beings, full of love and willing to trust; we were little sponges who soaked up all of the messages around us. Given that all messengers suffer their own wounds, if the messengers consciously took steps to heal their wounds, their messages to us were saturated in love and trust and safety. From those messages of love, trust and safety, we painted our world view as safe, loving, and supportive. If our messengers stubbornly failed to recognize themselves as wounded, their messages to us were saturated in fear and mistrust. From those messages of fear and mistrust, we, the little sponges that we were, painted our world view as fearful and untrustworthy. What does this mean now that we are no longer little sponges? People who abuse, who wrongly accuse, and/or who constantly blame others for their current situation were wounded by their unhealed messengers. Because they fail to see themselves as wounded, they seek no healing and live in a steady state of blaming, shaming, judging, and abusing others to avoid looking at themselves, to avoid self-judgement. Your acknowledging their woundedness does not excuse their behavior toward you or anyone else, but it does serve to explain it. Acknowledging their woundedness doesn’t mean that you have to allow them into your life or the lives of those who are dependent upon your protection. It’s your duty to yourself and to those whom you owe protection to protect yourself from abusive people. BUT, you can see them as the wounded individuals they are and send them thoughts of love from afar.
2. Surrender to Creative Solutions
When our logical minds have failed to provide a solution, it’s time to surrender to creative ones. When we survive childhood trauma, we cling to the need to control our environment. We only feel safe when we are in control. Control creates what we believe is safety, but really it is only the illusion of it. We can get so wound up in the need to plan and control that we cut off our creativity by overanalyzing and overthinking.
3. Inspired Action Clears the Path
As you learn to quiet your mind through meditation, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the spark(s) of inspired action you will likely experience. You may feel the urge to call a friend or, visit someplace you’ve never been. If you feel inspired, do it!
4. In Stillness We Receive
Even if you only are able to quiet your mind for a few moments at a time, it is in those moments of stillness that you will receive guidance on the next right thing. It may come in the form of a thought, a flash of one, or a sense of what to do next. If you receive guidance on the next right thing, do the next right thing!
5. Compassion Creates Connection
Though it may not be easy, we can cultivate compassion for those who harmed us without subjecting ourselves to their abuse. People who hurt others are people who are hurting. It doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t protect yourself and your children from the abuser but, seeing them as wounded will make forgiving them much, much easier. Again, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you allow abusive people in your life, it means that you release the pain so they can’t keep hurting you.
6. You Are The Guru
As you practice the steps described above, you will develop your ability to propel yourself forward. You can acknowledge that you don’t have the answers or see a way, but instead of chopping off the thought at that point, you now can tell yourself the rest of the story, because you recognize YOU are capable of writing YOUR story.
“I don’t have the answers, but I’m open to a creative solution.”
“I don’t see a way to improve my situation, but I’m opening to finding a way.”
“I don’t see a way out of this situation, but I’m open to finding a way.”
FEEL the difference?
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, You Are the Guru, is now available – FOR FREE – on Audible.com.
Wishing you peace & plenty of positive messages to get you through these difficult times!
Your gray girlfriend,