Keep Living – Four Tips For Surviving The Changes Of Life
Just keep on living. That has been and still is one of my mom’s favorite sayings. She uses it to describe the changes in life. I never understood it when I was growing up. But all she would say is ‘just keeping on living’.
Naturally, I thought the “change” was menopause or something that would happen when I was well in age. She never explained that life changes all the time, regardless of your age. As I began to experience the “change,” I realized she forgot something big.
She never told me the secret of how to keep living when you wake one morning and realize that the “change” was happening and you hadn’t even turned 40. So, off on my life-changing journey, I went. Along the way, I learned a few tips that will help you survive the “change.”
- Create a space
The environment I was raised in was not conducive to sharing or expressing feelings. To me, emotional sharing communicated weakness and subjected me to some form of attack. All my life, I safely compartmentalized any psychological issues and placed them securely behind the “avoid at all cost” wall not to ever be climbed.
So, when my husband asked me for a divorce, all those emotionally constructed walls were bulldozered and destroyed. There were new and foreign emotions raging inside of me. I was in the middle of a “change,” and I had no experience on how to keep living.
I was full of hurt, rage, disappointment, bitterness, sadness, grief, betrayal, resentment, and violence, and I had no outlet to release it.
I became a boiling pot, ready to explode. What I did conclude, was that if I wanted a life outside of prison, I needed to find a way to unleash what was brewing within me, and I needed to do it in a safe and healthy place. I needed a place where I could be me, and I could express what was inside of me and not be judged or criticized.
I needed a place, that when I wanted to vent, I could, and when I needed encouragement, I received it. I needed a place where it was safe to be totally naked. So I created a space. I found it in journaling, I extended it to exercise, and I found four friends that I trusted who taught me to communicate and allowed me the freedom to exhale.
I have never appreciated how essential it is to have a safe place to be emotionally vulnerable. Journaling became my altar, exercise was my place of release, and my friends were my place of comfort. The combination of these places became a place of truth, a place of expression, and a place of healing.
Create your space. It may be journaling. It may be dancing. It may be in counseling. It may be writing. It may be creating music. It may be in exercise. Whatever the place, create a space to be emotionally vulnerable, safely exposed, defenseless, and free to express yourself in an authentic way secure from judgment, ridicule, and condemnation.
- Experience the pain
The thing I find the most interesting about hurt is the mental belief we have that it will never end. We convince ourselves that what we feel will last forever and that there is no escape from the hell we are in.
As a result, we do everything possible to avoid the process. I mean, who in their right mind wants to experience pain? But here it is, the only way to make it to the other side is to go through it. You go through it by feeling the pain of the cut and then releasing it in your safe place.
I remember shortly after my husband told me he wanted a divorce, I went outside and asked God to allow me to die in my sleep that night. It baffles me now, but at the time, I honestly chose death over the thought of experiencing emotional pain. I learned I couldn’t get around it, and the only way to make it out was to experience it. I wish I could lie and say that it was easy. It was not.
Some days were totally unbearable. There were moments when breathing seemed impossible. But each day I showed up and felt what I felt, it got a little easier. The healing comes in feeling and releasing. Experience the emotion and then release it.
Take a walk. Go dancing. Write a song. Write a book. Go for a run. Whatever safe place you create, let that be the place where you also heal.
- Strengthen what remains
With the pain of divorce comes the pain of loss, and when you have experienced any type of loss, there comes a time when you stop believing that good things are possible. You stop believing that happiness is in the cards for you. You stop believing that peace and love and goodness can ever be yours again.
You start to live life on scrapes. The scrapes of what is left after pain, disappointment, and sadness have eaten away at you. It takes everything you have to present. You make an appearance in life each day, but no one fully understands or can comprehend the amount of pain that you are in. You live only on the bits and pieces of you that are left.
My scrap was my dog. She was my reason to get out of bed. I was forced to take care of myself because she needed to be looked after. I had just enough strength to love her and care for her. But somehow that became enough. I lived for that purpose until I could find another reason. You have found your safe place, you are experiencing your pain.
Now you have to take the scraps that you have left, and you have to strengthen yourself and choose to live. As long as you can take a breath, you have something. Take what little you have and enhance it. Build from what is left. No matter how small know that small hinges swing big doors.
- Forgive yourself.
I recently watched an episode of Red Table Talk with Will and Jada Smith. In the show, Will Smith made a statement that the pain Jada caused him pushed him to discover himself, and has resulted in him living his best life.
I know that it seems an impossibility, but the pain you experience and release, will propel you to discover dimensions of yourself, you never knew possible. I did not know that it would ever be possible that the pain I once asked for death because of, would challenge me and change me so tremendously. But with that new realization came an overwhelming amount of guilt.
I felt guilty for finding a way to be happy. I felt guilty for finding peace for the first time in my life. I felt guilty that I didn’t hurt every day anymore. I felt guilty that I stopped thinking about him every day. It became so easy to stay in anger and dwell in a state of pain and build a life within those parameters. But I decided I wanted more, and I felt guilty about that. It took me some time, but I learned to forgive myself for moving on.
If you give it space, guilt will cause you to stop moving. Forgive yourself, release the pain, and live. Give yourself permission to find peace and be happy. You can not become what you need to be by remaining what you are.
In the words of my wise mother, keep living!