I used to see life as this black and white thing- I am either succeeding or failing, giving 100% or 0%, good or bad. At some point I realized this was a huge cognitive distortion and there were other ways I could think about the world. (insert thousands of dollars spent in therapy and school to get here!)
However, this led to me learning a critical reality- life is constantly changing, as is everyone in it. Nothing is static for too long. And part of change is falling down, failure, wanting something and not having it, and feelings of fear that you may never get it. The sense that life is not as I would like it to be.
life is constantly changing, as is everyone in it. Nothing is static for too long.
Often when someone is in this space of change they tell me they know what they want to be doing but find they aren’t doing it, and boy does it feel uncomfortable! Some people will describe themselves in negative ways, putting the full blame on themselves for being in this position in the first place. (These are often the type-A perfectionists like myself). Some point fingers at others- seeing how so-and-so should be acting different, or wishing that some aspect of their life was different so change would be easier. Others simply avoid and seem to turn off all thought around the matter entirely (these people often aren’t in my office though…)
Pema Chodron is this amazingly awesome Buddhist nun who speaks all kinds of truth. She ways “We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they comes together again, and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen; room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
I found this quote about 10 years ago now when I was in a “falling apart time,” nothing particularly life shattering was happening, and looking back I can’t tell you exactly what it was that was falling apart even, but I found myself on a therapists couch, wanting to be different than I was and this wise woman recommended a book of Pema’s called When Things Fall Apart. Somewhere in there I believe I found this nugget of truth. So I began to try to look at humans through this lens of coming together and falling apart (yes try because I struggle to hold this way of thinking all the time because I am human after all).
We will never be done changing, just as the ocean will never be done having waves.
The image of the ocean came to mind as a metaphore for this process, because although one wave may build, peak and crash to the shore, another is always close behind it. We will never be done changing, just as the ocean will never be done having waves. Struggle and success both need to exist. I am no different than any other human. My life can fall apart and come back together just like everyone else’s.
Around the time I really heard Pema's words above, I started applying this idea in simple ways to my actual life (not just the way I thought I "should" act in my head). I started expecting that there will be periods of time I consistently washing my face and moisturizing it at night, and times I won’t. There will be periods of time where I am able to exercise my body consistently, and times I will wish I was more active. That does not mean I am failing, it’s not that black and white. I figure the more I practice this way of thinking on the smaller things, the easier it will be more me to apply it to the big times I fall apart too.
The falling apart time is necessary and it’s going to come and go for the rest of my life. So I can step back, see it for what it is, and my work is showing up for it all without judgement.