I fell. Hard. Painfully. In an attempt to navigate our world of social distancing – trying to protect myself and others around me – I took a mean spill that resulted in injuries to both my ankles. A fall off the boardwalk at the beach is bad (and embarrassing!) at any time…but my reaction to it in this particular moment (pandemic times) was even surprising to me.
The pity party was MAJOR. I was livid at myself for mis-stepping; mad at the mask-less man who I was trying to avoid; upset that after 4 months of limited contact with my loved ones due to factors out of my control, that I would now be even thwarted further into isolation. And I drown in the pity. AND I also know enough to realize that the dark hole of despair needs to have a timer or it can become my new way of being. So I gave myself one. And when it went off, I began to REFLECT.
The message came to me loud and clear declaring, “Be still.” My body has always been the barometer for when I am over-doing/over-performing. In the past it took crumbling, life threatening health issues to get me to face my performance addiction. So I had to ask myself now, “Why is the universe telling me to be still and what do I need to learn?”
The first lesson is that there is a distinct difference between isolation and solitude. In isolation it feels like we don’t have a choice but to be alone. We feel powerless and point the finger at others for our situation. In solitude we choose to spend time with ourselves in reflection and care. In doing so, we can exhibit immense gratitude and make choices of how to respond to the situations in which we find ourselves versus simply reacting. In the stillness, I began to feel a rush of thankfulness that I have amazing doctors, loved ones, technology that allows me to still connect with my clients while I’m immobile, and so on. Is the situation ideal? No. But could it be worse? Of course.
The second lesson is that there is a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain is the actual discomfort we feel. In this case the throbbing pain of broken and sprained ankles. The suffering comes from the stories I attach to the pain; i.e. this is awful. I am never going to feel 100% again. I am missing the last of my time with my family on vacation. How could I have been so stupid? It is the stories we tell ourselves about our situation that support our resilience or our suffering. We get to choose.
The third lesson I have learned over time is that it’s okay to participate in your pity party. It’s actually necessary sometimes, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for it after the fact. This is a new concept for me. I always hear a voice saying, “Come on Gail! You TEACH this stuff and should know better!” But when I let go of my own judgement surrounding my reactions, I was able to more quickly move forward. I allowed myself grace in the situation, and even patted myself on the back for allowing the pity party in the first place rather than stuff my feelings. AND, I made the choice to move out of that pity party.
Every trial is a moment in time. Even the pandemic. It’s incredibly hard, I know. Many have lost loved ones, jobs, and life as they know it. We all have a choice as to how we show up in these challenging moments. Growth doesn’t happen without discomfort. That is why it is called growing pains. Have your pity party AND then reflect: What can you learn? How can you grow?