This past weekend was rough.
Very rough. Things were not working out and the universe was definitely off duty when it came to shaping itself around my desires.
I was in a pit. I can laugh (a bit) now, but it wasn’t pretty. Something about my identity had gotten triggered, my self esteem bruised, and my hopes dented. I didn’t even need to know why – although I had some clues. There was nothing I needed to fix. I just needed to find a way to make it to the next day (or sometimes the next hour).
I decided I needed small steps – specific things I could do to keep going (or not do in the case of just sitting and being quiet.) I began to write them up.
Now that I’m officially out of the pit, and have been so for at least four hours, I can look back on the wisdom I gained. I’m sure that my experience could be the foundation for a New York Times bestseller – or at least a $2.99 Kindle bestseller. Fifty things you can do to climb out of the pit.
Today, I’ll write up seven – both as a teaser to my magnificent work and because I’m hoping you’ll send me some of your favorite recovery strategies so that I can make it to fifty (I promise to include you in my heartfelt and prolific credits at the back of the book!)
- Stop judging yourself. Maybe this is too tough to be number one. But it’s so important. It’s hard enough to be in the pits without kicking yourself for being in the pits. There’s such stigma around the d-word (I won’t even say it), and so many reasons that you “should feel different.” But that sucks. You feel what you feel. Sometimes happy and sometimes lousy.
- Do something mindless – mindfully. At one point I plunked down in the middle of the gravel path and started pulling weeds. It was an interminable task. At ten minutes a foot, no way was I going to finish the 80 foot path to my cabin. It didn’t matter. I weeded because it was mindless and because I had plunked my body down and felt some satisfaction seeing little bunches of grass coming up in my hands. Curious. I made sure not to turn my adventure into a “to-do” or make myself finish. I weeded precisely 6 feet, got up and felt better.
- Now your naturopath may be cringing, because, I know, too much caffeine will probably hurt you long term, but a strong cup of caffeinated green tea was a pleasant way to spend time in the pits. I could feel my motors starting to rev up a gain and even climb out, at least for a while. It helped me find the energy to make my list (strategy # 4).
- Make a List of Life Affirming Things (LLAT) that you can do right away. Like I said, I was waging a moment-by moment battle, so this was not time to plan a trip to New Zealand (or plan much of anything). What was helpful was identifying some simple things that would make me feel good without too much effort. I avoided the to-do list, although I did pick up a couple of times that I felt like doing (plant peas, clean off my desk). From my list: Pick a peony. Read the library book. Have another cup of tea. Eat popcorn. Call M. (Your list will be idiosyncratically yours.)
- Call a friend. This one’s tricky. As I said above, a lot of people have an aversion to the d-word and want you to snap out of it. Avoid these folks. This is the time to call your foul weather friends – the one’s who will understand because they’ve been there, have terrific empathy, or an arcane sense of humor.
- Watch a funny movie. Actually choosing a funny movie can be hard work, and comedy isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Plus thinking of Robin makes me sad. I ended up binge watching 30-Rock in honor of just completing Tina Fey’s book Bossy Pants. (Reading Bossy Pants would have been on my list if I hadn’t just finished it.) 30 Rock took me away from the Big Questions in Life and let me immerse myself in something I could enjoy and then be done with.
- Pet the cat. Cats, unlike dogs, don’t seem to have that empathy gene that would have them crawling all over you and licking your face when it feels like you need help. Or maybe they do, but they express it in a more cat-like dignified way. But the fact that the cat could care less about your work dilemma makes him all the more useful. He just cares about you petting him. Pretty soon your life will be blissfully reduced to this as well.
So that’s the start of my list. I have more in waiting. (I might share more if you beg me for another post.) Hopefully, with the addition of your proven suggestions, I’ll quickly make my full list of 50 things you can do (or up it to 100) and claim my appointed spot on the Kindle Bestseller list.
Last year, when I wrote: Lead with Your Legend about discovering and living into your own new story, I talked about the heroic journey we’re on when we make big changes in life. During that journey, there’s a time I call the middle muddle. It’s when we can feel lost, confused, disheartened, and yes, even depressed, because the end isn’t yet in sight.
Writing Lead with Your Legend reminded me that heroism isn’t always about slaying the dragon or grabbing the golden apple.
Sometimes it’s just about keeping going and taking the next step, the next step, and the next step.
So here’s to climbing out of the pit with a smile on your face or tears crusting around your eyes, or whatever you’re feeling…and just keeping going.
P.S. Now it’s your turn: help me crack a hundred great ideas! And drop me a note if you haven’t been able to pick up your copy of Lead with Your Legend