The Good Men Project’s series How to Survive in the 21st Century delivers survival-mode insight on accepting life-changing circumstances and gives you the road map to your new normal.
In this 21st Century, life is different, moving at breakneck speed; it’s all we can do to keep up. As much as we try to plan the details of our lives sometimes events happen beyond our control, or we might realize we have no control. The visions others have for their lives and personal evolutions, and where they wish their journey to take them, their company, or their relationship, may not play nicely with the path we have carved to lead us to the future we desire. The Good Men Project’s 5-part series, How to Survive in the 21st Century, delivers survival-mode insight on how to accept your new normal, whether it be a devastating diagnosis, an unanticipated breakup, a bankruptcy, or other equally surprising occurrence, and then supplies the road map for getting on with your life.
When life smashes missiles over the net, similar to a relentless tennis ball blaster, and we can hardly recover before getting blasted again, it’s natural for our faith in ourselves to falter. In the midst of loss of control, we get angry and we fight and thrash to regain what we’ve lost
People start in with the well-meaning platitudes: you gotta look up, it just means something better is ahead, you’re having a rough patch, you’ll figure it out, be thankful for that other thing you have going on. All great intentions, however invalidating. What’s the matter with being sad, with lingering in a woeful space and letting anger gnash you up. What’s the matter with feeling? Why are we so encouraged to shake it off?
I read a friend’s post expressing bald emotion over a serious injury, telling her circle she didn’t want to be okay, even as she felt so much pressure to be happy, to get the effing epiphany elevator which would take her to the top again. She suffered a big blow and it might change her life. I am so proud of her for defending her right to feel like crap.
When you lose faith because of a life-180, cover these bases as you try to implement your powerful truth: You are okay being not okay. In fact, you’re glorious.
- Get into the feeling groove. Hurl bottles at a cement wall. Crush cans. Get your hands on an old phone book and tear it apart. Compartmentalize and confine your angst to a canvas through painting. Fill a blank page with your emotional musings. If you’re sad, commit to being the best pathetic lump, wallow in the covers, watch movies that play your heart strings like a harp, listen to our song on repeat and weep with pride and wonder. Whatever you’re feeling, welcome it into your body to wring its contents out. So you can be done with it. Finish your emotion.
- Put a time limit on your grieving. Wade in the worst of it for 2 days only. Anything longer and you are wasting time getting on. You need a limit so you don’t live in this new, untenable space. Dwelling in the belly of sadness or fury is not living at all. If you can’t move on after two weeks, please talk to a counselor or therapist who will assist you in developing your new to-dos.
- Understand you’re not predictable. Anticipating this phenom helps to buffer the blow. As a panic attack sufferer, I have learned to ride that wobbly horse, to hang onto the stringy mane when I think I’ll be bucked off. Even when it seems as if I’m going to die. Literally die. I chant in my head I am okay. I will survive the nausea, the stomach churns, the tremors wracking my body, and I always do. Because our bodies and minds are miracles.
- Reassure yourself the worst isn’t going to happen. The bottom probably won’t drop in the next 24 hours. Or next week. Unless you’re defending yourself from a catastrophe of biblical or bodily proportions, ease up on the worst-case scenarios. You will rise to see the sun color the morning, you will live to survive the changes in your life, you will conquer moving on from your ex, your job, your loss of mobility, your former friend. You will live to survive.
- Trust. When we’ve done everything to safeguard our future, our relationship, whatever dried up and blew away, it’s very hard to trust in the future and to trust ourselves. You lose faith in yourself to do anything right, think you read signs all wrong, question if you ever knew how to gauge people. We can turn compulsive about these issues, second guessing simple decisions. It’s a very natural and an understandable defense mechanism, which wells up for one reason: to protect us. Be cautious, we hear our inner voice whispering, chastizing our last choice. Please stop overthinking. Please…breathe. Be in the moment. Release the need for immediate gratification, for instant knowledge of where you’ll wind up. The amount of planning and obsession you invest in your day-to-day dealings may not even matter in the scope of the larger picture. Have faith a solution you haven’t considered may be imminent.
- Treasure your faith. You need it as an intangible entity reaching down to pull you up. You need it as a ray of sun behind a door. You need the light-limned cloud so you can radiate towards it. If you didn’t want to live, you wouldn’t, but even the crabbiest among us choose to breathe and forge ahead. You must have faith in solutions even when you have been reduced to shreds of who you used to be.
- Clear out toxic energy and believe in yourself. Toxic energy blocks you. Negative associations with people who manipulate, who passive-aggressive you until you’re feeble and weak, cage rattlers, the yeah but-ters, the one-uppers, sweep them all out and envision yourself in that new job. In that relationship holding hands with someone as you slog through puddles. Success is 90% informed by our attitudes, the rest is connecting the dots.
- Write it down. When I wanted a full-time gig at a corporation, retirement and benefits, I wrote down my aims over and over. In cursive, typed, in block letters, on legal paper, on blank, creamy white paper, on the backs of bill envelopes. I wrote my goals down so my actions gravitated towards fulfillment. I saw my desired end result and was forced to live as if I were getting there. When I was finally confronted with the opportunity at the crossroads, I went where I was supposed to go, the finish line.
- Baby steps, baby. When you have no idea how to go, where to go, what part of the mess to clean up first, begin somewhere. That loose end? Tie it up. Make that phone call. Manage your life. Achieving baby steps will restore a greater inner faith that you can achieve bigger steps.
- There are no guarantees. It’s funny, I used to think I had a right to a perfect life, to a beautiful house, to good treatment by others. My thought of an insured ideal reality comprised getting my poop in a scoop and waiting for the rewards to come pouring in. Realizing there are no guarantees helped sharpen my focus. I wasn’t being slighted or personally targeted because I got a disease, lost my job and then… for eff’s sake…my health insurance! An important detail when you have a disease. I was, and am merely, a human cruising through life, hitting unseen hurdles just like everyone else. Our problems crop up like weeds defying extermination. Coexist with the weeds, reroute around that sprouting abomination and walk on.
- Now’s the time for reinvention. I regard these unknown moments as blessings in a renaissance life, and I try to resolve the reason for the change. What am I supposed to learn? The truth is, the answer might be nothing, but reinvention is an ideal time to sit back and figure out the lesson…if there is one. Take advantage of the positives in your altered existence. These sweet nuggets are all yours to savor, and after what you’ve been through, you deserve it.
Original article appeared at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission.