Leaning In When It’s Crash and Burn (365 Days of Spirited Living – DAY 246)
“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Faith also means reaching deeply within, for the sense one was born with, the sense, for example, to go for a walk.”
— Anne Lamott
When you’re feeling out of sorts and everything around you seems to be crashing and burning all at the same time, don’t ignore it. Accept that it is happening. I know this sounds unhelpful and weird and impossible. But we tend to feel we have to do something in a crisis. We don’t really all the time. Sometimes a crisis is going to happen and there’s nothing we can do about. And we need to accept that it is happening and that we are helpless at that moment.
Don’t deny what is happening. The power, strength, and grace to change is all ours only after we accept the situation. Be honest with yourself. Rant on if you need to. Talk about it. Curl up and cry. Admit you’re in pain. Say that this or that hurts. Open up about your humiliation, discouragement, embarrassment, depression, fear, and anxiety. It is real. You can only deal with reality when you actually realize that reality is right there before you.
One of my graduate professors used to tell her class, “learn to lean in to the discomfort”. Leaning in to the pain is our first acknowledgement that it exists. It is the opposite of ignoring it. It means that instead of sitting in front of the television watching soap operas all day eating bowl after bowl of ice cream, or telling all your friends that you’re fine, or faking happiness and gratitude, you look yourself in the mirror and say this is really a pain in the neck and you allow it to hurt until you are ready to allow change.
This isn’t throwing a pity party for yourself. This is acting like a grown up. This is looking yourself in the mirror and saying something is wrong. This is standing on your own two feet and instead of glossing over the horrible mess, you actually get a broom and dustpan and work for a new reality. Throwing a pity party is when you’re complaining and whining and adding multiple doses of drama to the situation. You’re stretching it out much longer than it has to be, but some people need this in order to realize how much they need to change.
Drama does not effect change; choices do. So while you’re leaning in to the pain in your life and leaning in to so much that’s not going right, you’re also leaning in to the fact that you have more power than you ever realized to change your situation. If you must see a counselor, do it. If you need six sessions of psychotherapy, by all means go for it. But some of us just need to choose to switch gears in our psyche and tell ourselves, ‘You know what, I hear this pain and I feel this hurt and I don’t like the sound or the feeling, so I’m going to make some changes so I can hear a different sound and experience a different feeling.’
Right there, you’ve just informed yourself that you want something different so badly that you are going to do what’s necessary to make it happen. See you can’t change the fact that pain exists or that hurts happen, but you can change your feeling toward it. Will you lean in and then pursue change or will you just run away and hide and ignore that a problem even exists? When you choose to “be” with the pain, you can actually look forward to “being” with something better, positive, calm, and complete.
We can’t jump from the side of pain to the other side of joy. We must travel the distance. But some people stay on the side of pain because it’s easier to do so once you’re in it. Staying too long makes the destination of joy become foggy — too foggy for some that they forget to travel. Feel your pain, admit that it hurts, and then anticipate change not because it is going to magically happen, but because you are willing to travel the distance and go through the process to get to the other side.
“The first noble truth says simply that it’s part of being human to feel discomfort.”
— Pema Chödrön