I’m drowningOct 11, 2023
Sometimes life comes at us like a tidal wave. It’s a wall of noise that we can’t avoid, it’s crashing over us whether we like it or not. And sometimes it’s more like rain. Not really a problem until it doesn’t let up and the water collects, sometimes so slowly that you don’t even notice the water level rise. Until one day you realise everything from your chin down is wet.
Those are the moments when it feels like we’re drowning.
I’m going to share some advice with you that a friend in the UK texted to me during some of the worst months of my life. My mum had just died, my girlfriend had just left me, I’d just found out she was in a relationship with someone I thought was a bestie, my fledgling business was sending me broke (I was 36 and had to borrow money from my Dad to cover my rent) and I’d just injured my ankle. I was limping physically and metaphorically.
I reached for my phone and sent an SOS message. My friend wrote back almost immediately.
Her message simply said “Life is big.”
Okay so it’s not really advice, but it really helped.
In those three words my mate recognised the enormity of my circumstances without enabling any victimhood.
“This is life, my friend” I could hear her say, “this is life.”
At that moment I knew I had two choices in front of me. Deal with it. Or drown in it. I chose to deal with it. And this is how.
Firstly, let me say that your “million things happening” may very well be less about death, grief and heartbreak and more about the sheer volume of shit on your plate. The advice remains the same.
1. Where are you playing the martyr?
This is an uncomfortable conversation to have with yourself because no one likes to recognise their own victimhood or how they perpetuate victimhood in their actions. But the first thing I looked at was how I was responsible for my experience of what was happening.
Some things (like death, heartbreak etc) can’t be changed. What I could change was my relationship to those things. I was not the first person to lose her mum to cancer. I was not the first person to be cheated on, betrayed or broke. And while it sucked, it was also all transient. Nothing Is Permanent is a spiritual principle I live by. I decided to cling to that life-raft, reminding myself in the moments it was hard to breathe that this feeling would pass. Brighter times were ahead. And a little perspective went a long way.
Then of course we have the things we can change. As someone with millions of things on their plate, ask yourself how many of those things have you put there? And why? What are you trying to prove? And what to whom? Are some of those things there to prove a point? (be honest) And can some of those things be taken off your plate?
I feel to cite the serenity prayer here because damn biach, those three lines have helped me back to radical responsibility many times.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
If you can change something, do. If you can’t, surrender. But don’t play the victim either way.
Which brings me to point number 2.
2. Work out what’s important and what’s urgent.
Mostly we run around doing all the urgent things. We’re busy and significant and validated in our doing. But mostly the urgent things are bullshit things. They’re not the things that really matter to our happiness. They’re not the things that are important like spending time with loved ones or having our values met. Important things actually shift results like your finances, your wellbeing, your health.
We need to cut through the urgent crap that is often just distracting us from what’s important. I like to use the 4D’s.
What can you delegate? Can your kids make their own packed lunches? Can you hire a cleaner? Can you hand a project over to someone else at work? If you’re getting your significance by being the martyr and doing it all (no one does it as well as I do it) then check yo’self.
What can you delay? When we get overwhelmed we get time blindness and it feels like everything needs to be done yesterday. Get a calendar. Timeline all the things. Only deal with what needs to be dealt with today. There’s no point taking up bandwidth with projects that don’t need addressing until next month or worrying about anything that hasn’t happened yet.
What can you delete? Honestly. We become like lint rollers when we’re stressed. We pick up more and more with every roll until we’re laden with jobs and worries and tasks that aren’t even necessary (and often not even ours). We become useless, unable to pick up what’s important because we’re covered in fluff. What can you simply not do?
And now, be sure to do what’s important. What really matters to you? Take stock.
Now obviously this doesn’t relate to my experience. I couldn’t delegate my grief, delay my heartbreak or delete my debt. But I was very selective about what I chose to do during that time. And what I did was so basic bitch, but it saved me then and I still prioritise it today. It's the reason I can handle a big life. And it’s point number three.
3. There’s a meme that floats around the internet every now and then and it makes me chuckle every time. It says something like;
I told my mum I was overwhelmed and she told me to go outside and eat a banana
It’s such simple logic. Eat. Breathe.
At the risk of donning a grey wig and sounding like your grandmother, the basics of self parenting needs to be remembered and adhered to. When life is big we need to go back to basics. If we want to have a big life, we have to lay the foundations.
- Eat well (reduce the amount of processed shit you’re eating)
- Sleep well (phones OFF and put yourself to bed. You’re an adult. You’re capable of doing it)
- Get outside. Every day. Not just on the commute. Stand in front of the ocean, hug a tree, get your bare feet in the soil. Or even just walk round the block. Yes, even if it’s raining.
- Move your body. Stretch. Run. Walk. Cycle. Fuck. Dance. Whatever it is, get your heartrate up.
- Mediate. Every day. Even when you think it’s not working or there’s no point. Sit in silence with yourself for 20 minutes every day. Not 19. 20.
I know it sounds trite but I can’t tell you how much perspective can be gained and how many bouts of depressive feelings can be avoided by doing the basics.
You can claim you’re “too busy” all you like and that’s your choice. But if you’re not willing to do the work to learn how to swim, you’re gonna feel like you’re drowning.
If you want the internal capacities and resources to be able to handle the stressful parts of life (which are inevitable) then you’ve got to do your part. There’s no biohacking short cut around it.
4. I left the most important til last.
Learn how to manage your mind. Your mindset, the stories you tell yourself and the way you identify with yourself and the world around you is key. In my cluster-fuck months as they came to be affectionately known, I got coached. Hard.
I dove deep into myself. I sorted through my limiting beliefs. I uncovered why I was seeing patterns repeat over and over again (especially in my love life and my finances). I addressed my boundaries. I built strong spiritual scaffolding.
I learnt how to be disciplined with myself so I could have a routine that was baggy enough to live in. I quashed my people-pleasing (mostly). I fell in love with myself. Wildly. Radically. Unashamedly.
I learnt how to say no. I found out what was important. I began to nurture the connections that made me feel safe and held when the water crashed around me. And the water continues to crash.
Life is big.
SIGN UP HERE FOR A WEEKLY FRI-YAY INTO YOUR INBOX
A DOSE OF POSITIVITY FROM EM DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX
(please make sure you check your SPAM once you've signed up)
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.