Three Steps to Surviving & Thriving When Sh** Hits The Fan

 

It’s been a journey since the last time I wrote.

I got a restraining order.

I ran a marathon.

I moved out of my house and drove across the country.

I visited Sedona… a place of dreams and miracles, to which a piece of my heart is now fondly devoted…

I worked remotely through the whole journey westward.


How to put myself back together again? My whole life has been disassembled. I recognized that – in a rare clear moment, my head popping temporarily out above the dusty anxious murmur of late – I’ve built a life for myself before as an adult, and every part of that life (and ‘self’, or so it feels) is behind me now. All my routines and communities… just memories. No more living reality except what lives on in me, the unmanifested, that will take a similar but different form somewhere else. Somewhere new. All this energy that doesn’t know its place, doesn’t know where to go. No wonder I’ve felt so much chaos.

I thought I wanted to write about my “journey to food freedom”, but what I really wanted was a journey from Point A to Point B with linear progress. I wanted to show up for a weekly report and have something clear and worthwhile to say.

Healing isn’t a linear process, friends, and it’s something that boggles my mind’s ability to make words. Even journaling has escaped me lately. I try to write and it’s like trying to pull dense weeds out of dry, hard dirt. You can’t get to the root, when the conditions aren’t right. Sometimes you just have to endure, let the weeds grow, and do whatever the extra dryness and sunshine affords you.

Traveling has been the gold I’ve gleaned from this chaotic time. I knew I needed to leave, but I didn’t know where to go…. so I decided to go many places. If I can work remotely from one place, I can work remotely from many places. Restless spirit in me has been wanting to move? This situation is a chance to move.

I am on the move again now, to meet a healing spirit by the name of Iboga. This is a plant medicine that comes from the Bwiti culture of West Africa. I’ll be in the loving hands of a group of shamanic practitioners in Costa Rica, and participating in a documentary while I’m there.

One of my wonderful, wise grandfathers, recently witnessing the turmoil coming through my writing, told me I should unplug and take some time to gather and re-assess.

I am grateful for this opportunity to unplug, gather, and re-assess. With some intentional extra input.

For the full moon… for my birthday… for the end of a decade 🙂

It has been the hardest year of my life.


Now for something a little less self-indulgent. I want to share some learned tidbits about how to hold yourself together when you don’t have a home in one place.

 

Three Steps to Thriving Amidst Chaos

 

1 – TAKE CARE Of Your Temple

No matter the external circumstances… You always, always, as long as you are alive here in this realm, have a home… inside your body. Body can and should be a place you feel at home.

Believe me, I know what it feels like to not feel at home in your own skin. And I know what it feels like to live in that feeling. Icky…

The good news is… this is something you can change with thought alone. Whenever you are feeling gross in your skin, it’s because you’re thinking crappy judgmental thoughts about yourself.

It’s time for all of us to ditch the habit of putting ourselves down.

Whenever I catch myself feeling gross or avoiding looking in the mirror now… I straighten myself up, look myself in the eye, and see myself as I truly am… a badass human warrior! A soul. A heart.

We really can cultivate an attitude of love and appreciation towards ourselves, towards our bodies. You can think of your body as a being. It hears and understands every thought you think about it. It feels good when you offer it gratitude. Thank your body every day. Tell your body, “You are so precious to me. Thank you for being the house for my soul.” Notice what makes your body happy, how it likes to move, how it enjoys the energy flow of normal life. Small gestures go a long way. Treat your body well. Be in relationship with your body. If you’re used to hating your body, this isn’t a change that will happen all the way overnight, but it IS a change that can start RIGHT NOW. All it takes is an intention. And an act: right now, offer one thankful thought towards your body. Give yourself a squeeze with love, and mean it.

We can spend all day making jabs at ourselves because our bodies aren’t as perfect as we want them to be… but it’s a waste of precious time. We’re here now. Everything is going to change. The people you love are going to die. One day someone close to you is going to die. On that day, won’t it seem stupid that you wasted a single breath of your energy on worrying whether you looked good enough? How will you look back on the time you spent with the ones you love?

That brings me to my second point…


2 – BE HERE NOW

Uncertain times and situations are natural breeding grounds for two of our best friends, Anxiety and Worry.

Why would I call Anxiety and Worry my friends?

Well, to be honest, I treat them like my friends sometimes. They show up at my house, and I let them in and entertain them. Sometimes all day long! Sometimes I’ll give more attention to them than to my work, more attention to them than to the people around me… I’ll even offer them to the people around me, thinking maybe they’d like to be friends with them, too.

They’re the friends you’re familiar enough with that sometimes you don’t realize you just don’t feel right when they’re around.

Ok, real talk, anxiety isn’t a friend. It’s not worth your time. It’s another way to waste your energy, mentally grinding on things that may or may not happen, instead of being where you are, being HERE AND NOW.

Remember what I said a bit ago, about how everything is changing and we’re all going to lose what we love and die one day? Maybe you skipped that part over, because I used the D-word. Death is something to keep close to your heart. Everything comes to an end. Remember that, and it helps you live as fully as you can, appreciating as much as you can, in this moment right now.

When I was in Sedona, some of the time I was pouting about how I was spending most of my daylight hours working on a computer instead of frolicking around outside.

Did that help me get through the work day faster? Did it help me do my work better? Did it help me get outside and enjoy the day later on, once work was done?

No. It was just a waste of energy.

The best times that I spent in Sedona were obviously the hours I spent hiking in the Red Rocks.

Because… really, I’m not even going to try to put it into words, but it’s beautiful.

But the second best time was, my last week there, I was working on something challenging at work. And I really showed up to work every day, while I was working on that. And I got it done, and it felt good.

Okay, it wasn’t perfect. I can’t lie to you and tell you I had perfect focus and loved my work every moment because I was being properly challenged. No, still I let anxiety creep into my day and some stretches of some days I’d binge-snack anxiously while doing my work, and feel creepy-crawly inside myself, and want to hit the eject button. Sometimes I’d pace around while not knowing the immediate solution to a problem I was working on, looking longingly out the window wishing to run away into the beautiful rocks. Sometimes I’d be in my PJs in the middle of the day in a hotel room, having stayed in and eaten a crappy hotel breakfast to save a few bucks but gotten the experience of being a bedraggled mess in return (great tradeoff… )

Here’s the thing about anxiety, and all other forms of fear including depression and apathy.

They don’t need to be consciously cultivated.

They’re kind of like the weeds that our internal garden will devolve into, if we let our awareness and consciousness drift.

They’re the people who are always around… they aren’t your real friends but you might mistake them for friends if you haven’t cultivated any real, meaningful, healthy relationships.

It’s okay to feel anxious when the ground is moving beneath you and you don’t know what’s happening – it’s okay, because it’s natural. But it’s also an option to cultivate more of a sense of trust, and to come back to being in the moment. I want to say this gently because I don’t want to make it seem like you did something wrong if you find yourself in a knot of anxiety and forget how to get out of it. Actually “getting out of it” is an idea that Anxiety worries about. “Oh no, I’m not doing well, I don’t feel good, how am I going to make this feeling go away?”

It’s okay to let all of that go. To practice gratitude. Gratitude is a BEAUTIFUL flower to consciously cultivate inside your internal garden. We have to practice things like gratitude and joy, and then we truly can live in those states.

I’m not trying to be morbid here, but the Death thing really helps me cut through the BS. What if I never get to come back here again? What if I never get to see this person again? If this moment never comes again, what would I miss about it? And then sink into the richness of your senses, all of your perceptions of the moment. Be in your heart. Notice what you love and where you are challenged. And in this state, time passes because you live your way through it. It doesn’t skirt around you. Life in the present is a prayer of gratitude. Life in the present is where self-compassion is possible. It’s where forgiveness is possible. And this brings me to my next point…


3 – Forgive and Let Live

Chaotic times are an invitation to embrace our imperfections.

When chaos comes into your life, it’s going to shake you up. Your routines are going to take a beating. It’s going to shake you off your usual element.

Remember point #1 about taking CARE of your body?

It’s true that eating well and exercising are actions that will help you move through stressful times, but it’s also likely that your uber-healthy nutrition regimen will suffer in times of chaos, and you might miss some of your regular gym sessions, and if you’re being extra challenged… it might feel like you start dropping the ball on things you normally have in the bag.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and sometimes we have to give ourselves space to just be human. To let things fall apart and trust they can be put back together.

For me, all this chaos and danger from having a stalker and trying to get a restraining order… it forced me into an extended period of travel for three months, at a time when I was attempting to train for my first marathon.

I tried to keep up with my training plan, but every time I moved locations I had to figure out a new thing – where’s a track where I can do my track workout? Is there a trail for my long run? Is there a pool or gym for my cross-training sessions? What if I’m staying with someone and don’t have a car? How can I make up for missing the strength training I was getting through Crossfit? …. logistics, logistics, logistics. And then, I’d go for my runs and feel sluggish and slow, weighed down by stress and fatigue.

Soon enough I gave up on my training plan and lost confidence in myself. I wasn’t having fun, it just felt stressful.

The first month of traveling, my routine was shaken up, but I still managed a 20 mile trail run two months before race day – that was my longest trail run to date, and I was feeling great.

And that was pretty much it. After that I didn’t do another “successful” long run. I did runs of 10 or so miles, a couple times, through the wild, rough hills of California, and at altitude in Colorado.

I thought I’d ruined it. I gave myself a lot of grief over “losing my streak”. I was prematurely disappointed about the loss of my marathon, and allowed this to be another stressful thing at a stressful time in my life… when running could have just been a source of joy and an opportunity to be in my body and in the fresh air. It’s funny, because looking back I know – I spent all that time outside, and the enjoyment was right there. Sometimes I felt it, and sometimes my perfectionism and anxiety got in the way.

In case you’re wondering how it turned out – I honestly think it’s a miracle, but I ran the whole thing! It was my last day in Durham, the day I’d held out for. And that morning, I thought I’d run part of the race and gracefully bow out when I hit my limit. But I didn’t hit my limit. I enjoyed the whole race and I finished it, crossing the finish line at the Eno river quarry, one of the first nature spots I ever visited in Durham.

I was so convinced I wouldn’t be able to do it, and I was almost angry at life for putting me in circumstances that made it so difficult to stick to my plan.

But it turned out that my plan wasn’t so important after all. I kept showing up as best I could, given the circumstances I found myself in, and that turned out to be enough.

When things get turned upside down, give yourself a break. And be willing to let things go, that you thought you had to hold onto really tightly. Sometimes life gives us a dose of chaos to give us a chance to let go. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It actually means you’re growing into better relationship with life.

Forgive yourself for not being perfect; you were never meant to be the “perfect” that your ego has constructed. Forgive yourself, and you’ll create space for a new experience of right now, whatever right now looks like. Maybe it’s something new. Maybe in order to bring in something new, we really do have to let go of something familiar.


 

I hope this has been useful and entertaining for you. It would bring me great pleasure to know that some of my struggle has served to entertain or teach.

So let’s recap. When sh** hits the fan and life feels like it’s descending into chaos…

1 – Take loving care of the temple of your body, and make your home inside yourself!

2 – Come back, over and over again, to the present moment. Let go of fear and uncertainty and practice that next degree of trust.

3 – Forgive yourself, when you’re struggling. Forgive yourself when it feels like things are falling apart. You didn’t do anything wrong; this is just something that happens sometimes. It’s a force of nature. It’s a lot like a forest fire, which is necessary periodically for the health of the ecosystem – so, too, do YOU need a fire to burn through your life every now and then; it makes way for the new growth you’ve been calling in for yourself. So allow this movement with grace and love… forgive and let live ❤

One thought on “Three Steps to Surviving & Thriving When Sh** Hits The Fan

  1. Anna Barbagelata

    And don’t forget Emma, keep singing with that beautiful voice of yours and playing the guitar. Let your musical voice be heard as well! I look forward to “making music “ with you again very soon ❤️

    Like

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