This is the 16th letter in a series of posts entitled: ‘Letters to my Future Self’ . You can find all the others here . It began as part of the #write31days challenge, but I’ve decide to take my time and write them over a longer period. Today’s letter is about how I respond to difficult situations.
I want to write about how you react to things – hard things, stressful things, scary things, emotionally difficult things, and to remind you of this:
Swearing is never the answer.
It doesn’t have to be literal, out loud swearing. Swearing or cursing is the outward manifestion of the emotions which erupt internally in moments of pressure or difficulty. Anger. Frustration. Resentment. Bitterness. Fear.
You are no saint, and I’m not suggesting that you are going to be able to remove all those feelings from yourself, but I just want to suggest that there are ways to respond to pressures that will leave you feeling more whole, and less damaged by the circumstances.
The more you practice the other ways the more automatic they will become.
So what are the alternatives to anger? How do you want to deal with the inevitable hard things that will happen in the rest of your life?
I’ve got a few suggestions …..
Laugh. As much as you can
You have a gift of seeing humour in the most unfunny situations and that is actually a real strength when used well. It’s what keeps your family going. Sometimes people think that laughter can’t happen at the same time as tragedy, or terror, or sadness or disappointment but it can. Emotions don’t exist in isolation, nor should they. To be able to give your children and your husband the gift of laughter in the darkest times is something you must never hold back from them. Sure, others outside of your family (and your particular sense of humour) may not understand how or why you can all be laughing, but that is irrelevant. There are funny things everywhere and you are good at seeing them. Keep going.
Listen to your own needs
You are more likely to become angry or bitter or frustrated if you are not taking care of yourself in the midst of whatever the hard situation is. So ask yourself if you are eating properly, or need to go for a walk. Does your body need exercise or a long hot bath? Do you need someone to talk to, or is it time to do some journaling? Would a coffee with a friend help or is it a hug rather than a coffee that you need ? You know the answers to these questions, and I hope that you now understand that it is ok to ask them and to take care of yourself as well as everyone else. I was so proud of you yesterday when your husband became unwell and had to be hospitalized – you took time to get outside and take a walk. You bought takeaway instead of feeling that you had to cook a meal.
This is not about being selfish or putting yourself ahead of others, but about recognising there is a self to be cared for. Caring for that self will keep you more able to react as you want to.
Remember you have limited capacity.
Like all of us, your capacity to do things, manage things, stay on top of things has limits. You are not Wonder Woman, despite having the pants and the onesie. There is a point at which you can’t manage anymore. That’s the moment when you are likely to start swearing. Or feeling angry because you can’t control things. So stay away from those edges. Let there be margins in your life so that you never reach and cross those lines.
How do you create those margins when difficult life circumstances seem to take up all the reserves ?
You stop doing things. You say no to work or other people’s expectations.
At the end of your life you will not wish that you had written one more journal article or washed the kitchen floor one more time. But you might wish that you’d not reached swearing point so often.
Rather than thinking that you can and should ‘push through things,’ maybe it would be better to relax into the strong current of difficult circumstances, and let things go the way they have to. It takes less energy, and won’t leave you so exhausted.
Sometimes people use an analogy of a person being like a cup full of something and when someone or something bumps into you, whatever is inside spills out and covers both you and the person who bumped into you.
You will keep being bumped. That bit will not change, but what spills out does not need to be anger and frustration. Instead let it be laughter and contentment, peace, and trust in God, that spills over splashing you and those around you.
Until the next letter