It’s been a rough year. It’s the same story with many people I talk to: feeling lost, or sad, or down, or just quiet – feeling like taking our outstretched arms, wrapping them around our weary bodies and hibernating for a long, long time. For every person who has their life together, there’s three unravelled, struggling. Holding to the uncertainty of young adulthood, the uncertainty of world affairs, the uncertainty of our lives, jobs, relationships, or days.
I’ve started being more honest when people ask me how I am: “honestly, not the best” or “tired” or “sad”. I reserve the darker feelings for when my mom asks: “heavy”.
The Free Woman tells many absolutely beautiful stories of women who have overcome their demons, who have fought battles with their bodies, minds, childhoods, and so on. It’s so encouraging, and yet, for those of us still in the thick of the battle, we can feel left behind. Stranded. As if there’s a timeline for personal development, for healing, for moving forward. As if no one has ever wandered in a desert for two, five, ten, forty years.
Deserts. Storms. Nights. Periods of time in our lives when we should be growing up, moving on, getting over, climbing up, seeking out, healing, mending. We dream of inspirational blog posts, of happy journal entries, of “how are you”s answered honestly with “great!!”s. I mean, it’s been five years, I really should be healed up by now. Time to move on with my life, time to get my act together and have a lovely, free soul.
When Bethany asked if I’d write my “so lovely, so free” story, I didn’t reply to her email for months. I didn’t forget, I just couldn’t see clearly. I didn’t see anything lovely or free about myself. I don’t feel lovely – I see so much pain and darkness in my own heart and soul right now. I don’t feel free – there is so much holding me captive, so much I’m working through. I read story after story of lovely and free women, and rejoice for them. But I am simply not there yet.
So here I am. In the middle of a season of life that feels chaotic, dark, and heavy. And maybe you’re here, too. But that’s the most beautiful part about having all these similar conversations with so many different people – there’s a lot of us here. A lot of us sorting through our beliefs, battles, and heartaches. A lot of us feeling quite a bit lost in this season. And a lot of us wondering: what do we do while we wait?
+ Be an observer, not a judge
My counsellor has repeatedly told me this: instead of judging ourselves for our thoughts, inability to progress in life or business, or for our failures, we need to observe what we do, how we feel, or when we fail. As an observer, we can then offer ourselves grace and gentleness like we would to someone else we watch going through life.
+ Be gentle and kind to ourselves
If your younger sister was going through this season of life, you would tell her different things than you whisper to yourself. You would put a cup of tea in her hands, hand her a journal, and wait. She would be given time to process and space to experience the emotions she feels. That’s how we should treat ourselves: with the patience, gentleness, and tender love we show the people we love when they go through cloudy times.
+ Be okay with failure
A big topic in the beginning of this year has been failure. Aren’t we all afraid of failing? Isn’t that the biggest reason we hold back or run away? The biggest reason we don’t say “yes” (or “no” for that matter)? The biggest reason we hesitate? The truth is, we will fail. Over and over. I don’t know how many times I failed in last year, and I anticipate failing a few times in this one. It’s part of human life: humans will always fail. “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal,” said Winston Churchill, “It is the courage to continue that counts.” When you falter or fall or fail, wipe the dust of the ground off your eyes, look up, and remember who you are.
+ Remember who you are
You, in the dust. You, in the pain. You, in the darkness. You are lovely, your soul is glorious, and your heart, in all its wreckage, will repair. Because you’ve done it before. You will do it again. And one day, you will feel free and found. In the meantime: be patient, be brave, and hold yourself in tenderness. Take heart. You will not feel lost forever.
– image credit: Lindyn Williams