Here’s the thing. Life isn’t always the smooth and joyful ride we’d like it to be.
In fact, it’s usually not.
Generally, life is more like a turbulent roller-coaster of crises and fears and anxiety. (Or maybe that’s just me…)
All of which is to say that things are likely to go sideways sometimes.
When they do there’s a few things that will help.
Apply the brakes
When things start to slip into dangerous territory it’s a good time to ease up on everything. When things feel like they’re falling apart the best thing to do is to stop and take a breath (or two or three or six thousand).
Have compassion for your struggle
The thing about struggle is that the only thing that is guaranteed to make hard times worse is piling on self-judgement about your struggle. You’re allowed to struggle. You’re allowed to be unsure. You’re allowed to make mistakes. You’re allowed to be all of these things.
Give yourself permission to be ok, even if nothing else is
Just because everything else might be falling apart doesn’t mean you are. When we learn how to be ok in the messy middle we find our truest strength. We learn how to weather the storm without taking a beating. We learn how to take shelter in the gentle warmth of our own open hearts. We learn how to breathe even when it feels like we’re under ten feet of water.
Because here’s the truth.
Each and every one of us navigates dark days and we don’t do anyone a service by pretending to live always in the light.
So why not admit it? Why not allow ourselves to struggle?
Why not give ourselves permission to struggle and still be ok. Permission to screw up and go on with our lives.
Life goes on until it doesn’t.
You’re going to struggle until the day you don’t.
There is no way out but to muddle through each and every messy minute in the middle.
It works better when we allow ourselves to muddle through the middle. When we allow our mistakes and our miseries to be a part of the process — instead of another item to add to our list of “things we did wrong today”.
It works better when we can meet ourselves with a kind of gentle grace — with the kind vision that says: I see you. I see your struggle. And I know that you are doing the best you can right now.
And then we get to the really hard part: you have to believe it.
You have to believe that it’s ok to struggle enough to live it. To allow yourself the space you need, the care you need, the love you need as you muddle through the middle.
We have to navigate the hard times with tears and laughter and anger and naps after the long, anxious nights that find us along the way.
We have to navigate the hard times with hot showers and flowers and cashmere and whatever it is that makes us feel cozy and safe.
We have to navigate the hard times with all the kindness and grace we can muster — and, yes, that means taking care of ourselves first.
Because navigating the hard times with kindness and grace is only possible when we trust that even though we are messy and imperfect we are still infinitely deserving of love and kindness.
And we have to give that love and kindness to ourselves. We can’t wait to receive it from anyone else.
I’ve been stuck in the messy middle more than I’d like recently and these are the things that have helped me through:
Long naps after sleepless nights.
TV that makes me happy when I’m tired.
Really good books.
My brilliant coaching clients and coach friends.
Your list may look entirely different than mine. But it’s important that you make one.
Because the hard times are coming.
And you’re going to need that list.