Confluence | Aug 14, 2019 | 0
Why I’m Not Going to Tell You Everything is Going to be Ok
Reading Time: 4 minutes
By: Sarah Normandin – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
Recently, I was talking to a friend about someone they were really worried about. And the truth is, they had every right to be. This friend of a friend was going through some pretty serious shit, and anyone in their right mind would be freaked out. We all know what it’s like to agonize about things we can’t control, especially when it comes to someone we care about. And uncharacteristically, I was having trouble thinking of the right thing to say (this is the basis of my profession after all) — something comforting, something to ease their mind. I struggled because what I know to be true is not always exactly what someone wants to hear. Because even though it sucks, everything might not be ok. The worst thing might definitely happen, because it does, to plenty of people, every single day.
I’m not trying to be a downer here, but I want more for us than just a series of bandaids that cover the wound, but don’t truly heal it. I want for us to face our fears so that we don’t have to be so afraid anymore. Sometimes, we complicate things too much to avoid the pain, but I have found that the simplest way to make it through to the other side is to face fear head-on and ask, so what? So what if it does happen? What if that terrible thing happens? Let’s just play that out — your mind’s projection about that “what if” is preventing you from living your life more fully, maybe from even knowing and being yourself, who you really are, who you really want to be.
My mind thinks the worst thing ever, would be public humiliation. Big, big fear. That’s the thing that I perseverate about when I can’t sleep. Past embarrassments, possible future embarrassments — basic social anxiety kind of stuff. And while that’s my kryptonite. Some people are afraid of abandonment, or loneliness or being poor. Some people are afraid that their lives will amount to nothing, that they won’t leave a mark, that they will be forgotten, or worse, that someone they love will become ill or die. And mostly everyone is afraid of their own mortality and they try not to think about that one at all. But whatever those fears are, and they are all similar in one way or another, those fears can get in the way of really experiencing life in a meaningful and deeply human way. Because a life worth living requires risk. It requires, evolution, growth, and change. And honestly, none of those processes are particularly fun, or always feel good. But feeling good isn’t the point — feeling alive IS.
And anyone who has lived through any of those “what ifs” knows that there is nothing you can do to protect yourself, nothing you can do to steel yourself from the pain. Life happened yesterday and it will today and tomorrow, over and over again. Without our permission or consent. So, to me, it feels disingenuous to tell someone that everything will be ok because maybe it won’t. And that reality can be the foundation of how we approach our experience. If we know, allow, surrender to the fact that we have no control over many of the circumstances of our lives, then we can begin to put ourselves back together. Put ourselves out there, knowing that “what if’s” are coming our way. And since we can’t do anything about it, we might as well just go for it. Why not? What’s to stop us?
The truth is, when we try to protect ourselves from the worst of life, we also miss out on the best of life. You just can’t have one without the other. And because I value feeling alive over feeling comfortable, I end up playing those fears out in my mind almost as a practice. I imagine the embarrassment, the humiliation, the torture of people not accepting me. And then I say to myself, so what? Followed up by, then what? Because if the worst thing in the world happens, then you know that you can live through it, you know that you can survive it. We all know how it feels when something we dreaded happening, happens. And then there’s often a bit of relief. We think, “glad that’s over.” When the shit hits the fan, then there’s nothing else to do because you no longer have to work to prevent it. I know we all have had past experiences that were anything but good, and maybe even seemed insurmountable. But with time, and perspective, really don’t seem all that bad anymore. Maybe we even learned something. And, I think there is an important distinction to make, because being embarrassed and dealing with a tragedy are two really different things, but sometimes, our mind makes them equal. That’s where the saying don’t sweat the small stuff comes in, because much of it, IS small stuff. There is also trauma, and that is a separate conversation.
You know how I said before that feeling good isn’t the point, well, I lied — it actually is the whole point. But sometimes you have to make peace with the possibility of feeling bad in order to feel better. Get it? The mind is tricky and you have to outsmart it, or else it will keep you distracted with possible future events, rather than letting you enjoy what you have right now or thinking about what you really want, what would really feel good. That’s a kind of forward-thinking I can get down with. So, imagine the worst, accept it, and then move on with your life. That terrible thing may or may not happen, but what is for real, what is for sure, is that life is happening to you right now and you’re missing out on it if you’re focusing somewhere else.
More by Sarah:
Sarah is a therapist and coach who has been supporting women for over 12 years in creating lives that align with their own values. As a mother and a wife, she understands the complexity of modern life and how to manage stress while juggling many responsibilities. She believes in having fun, taking naps and saying no as often as possible. If you’re interested in exploring motherhood, imperfection and doing less to have more–or just want someone to tell you to take a break, you can find her at sarahnormandin.com.
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