“Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress, which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.” ~Unknown
Often these days, I would like nothing more than to move forward. If I could only figure out which way was forward, I would definitely start heading in that direction. If you couldn’t already tell, I’m going through a break-up, the most major break-up of my life so far.
Again, I’m often disappointed that if I were to check a box to describe my “relationship status” it would most likely be “It’s complicated.”
Truthfully, it’s not as complicated as I make it; however, at times it has me spun around to the point that I don’t know my direction. Pain and confusion are part of daily life.
Recently, after a tearful conversation with my ever-supportive sister, I was looking forward to sitting down on my cushion and experiencing the sadness and pain I was feeling.
I had spent a day intently focused at work, and, when my mind wandered, holding back tears. I was looking forward to letting those tears flow. I was ready to let these emotions live and to acknowledge and accept them, to live with them.
I thanked my sister for everything, hung up the phone, walked to my cushion, and sat. I set the timer. I pulled my head up high. I collapsed, crying. I pulled myself up again. I collapsed again, bawling.
Merely the thought of pulling my chest up again was exhausting. All day I had looked forward to a moment when I could let these emotions be, and now I felt too weak to experience them in the manner I thought I should.
Experiencing the discomfort, however, did not seem to be my current problem.
These emotions had something to teach me, and I wanted to learn. If I could just sit in meditation with the pain I was experiencing, I could begin to understand the lessons—or so I thought. I thought the lessons would tell me what to do and how to move forward.
I wanted to be strong and stable. I wanted to sit with my head high and feel the pain. I wanted to not be a pile of howling self-pity on my bedroom floor. Sitting on the cushion, I realized I might not have an option.
It was undeniable. At this moment I might just be a weeping mass on my bedroom floor. A word came to mind: overwhelm. I was overwhelmed.
So I reset my timer. Five minutes. For five minutes I could cry my heart out. Then, I decided, I’ll get up, cook dinner, eat dinner, drink a cup of coffee, and read a novel, and then I’ll come back to the cushion.
The new plan went much better. Only, I wept for about thirty seconds, and then I lay there breathing deeply. The timer went off and I got up.
I remembered Pema Chodron’s advice about lightening up, which is exactly what I needed to do. She said, splash water on your face, go jogging, do anything different. I put on Donna Summers instead of the cathartic break-up music I’ve been playing recently.
I danced while I cooked dinner. I had my dinner, my coffee, my reading. I sat on my cushion. I experienced the feelings that had now transitioned into numbness.
The gratitude I have for that experience, for being able to recognize my needs and provide them for myself, to simply give myself a positive, healthy break, is immense.
I gave myself the space I needed. I had hoped to sit on the cushion and get that space, but I found it shaking to “Bad Girls” instead.
It’s not uncommon to want ourselves or our situation to be different. It is the desire to be a better person that pushes us to grow, change, and actually become better people. However, personal growth is often a slow and painful process.
The expectation to be something we are not, whether temporarily or permanently, is a form of aggression toward our selves.
The best thing we can do is nurture ourselves and our circumstances just as they are. Listen to yourself and do not try to force yourself or your situation to be something it is not.
When you give yourself a break, you create space. Allowing things to be, just as they are, without judgment or expectation, gives you room to breathe. And that is good for clarity. You may find things start to get better, if you let them.
My situation remains “complicated,” and I still experience confusion. However, the confusion has slowly begun to dissipate. I am more willing to rest in that confusion, to accept complicated.
The truth is, I am moving forward, day by day, no matter what my choices. There is nothing disappointing about complication; it’s a sign of growth and transition. It’s hard to see sometimes, but the joy of living is in the unknown.
Letting myself be weak gave me strength. Letting myself be confused gave me clarity. Letting my life be complicated simplified it. Letting myself off the hook gave me a really pleasant evening when I needed it most.
Girl meditating image via Shutterstock