It is the first month of the new year. For some of us the New Year starts off all clean and shiny. We set goals, aspire for things to be “different” or hope that maybe this will be the year of “blessing”.
I’m curious, where did this idea of “New Year” start as “fresh, New Me”? To be honest, I have never set resolutions. I believe life is a journey, it flows on a spectrum. Some days I’m boss woman and other days I fall apart. The chronological point in time does not change this because, well frankly, I’m human.
There is no “New Year” toxic positivity over here. It is all the realness, all the time.
In the past month my heart has been breaking, sharing in the real grief of women who get up everyday and walk in their reality, as the calendar page turned to 2022. They are overwhelmed, yet they try. This new year didn’t start shiny and happy. They wake up everyday and radically accept that their year begins with more grief, loss and anger.
The corporate lament that I hear from myself and these courageous women is, “Lord, when will it stop?” The hits just keep on coming!
I’m alone raising 2 kids – how will I pay my bills?
My husband has cheated and I discovered his double life.
How much more chronic pain can my body take?
My ex has destroyed my relationship with my children and grandchildren.
I’ve lost my entire community – they’ve turned against me.
My parents betrayed me.
The court awarded my abusive ex, custody of the children.
Sometimes, it feels like we won’t be able to get up from the mat and go another round. The despair feels unrelenting.
When the hits keep on coming – what shall we do? We are simply trying to survive, “ten rounds of pain”. When you are in the throws of a punch (active trauma) – your only job is to keep your hands up and survive.
If the punches have temporarily stopped some of us are able to crawl to our corner stool and build some capacity for the next round. Grounding, Self-Compassion and Attachment are all ways to build this capacity and navigate the pain that never seems to end.
Ground yourself with basic needs: As my bestie says, “Drink your water and take your vitamins because there are people who love you and care about you.” In essence, first things first… have you eaten today? Have you taken sips of water? Did you take your medicine or supplements? Have you rested?
It is okay to lay down in the middle of the day and fall asleep for 2 hours. It is okay to watch a movie. It is okay to hide under the covers in your bed and retreat.
When the prophet Elijah was fleeing for his life, his inner critic was verbally beating him down. An angel came and the FIRST thing he told Elijah, “Go eat some bread and take a nap – we’ll talk when your basic needs are met and you are regulated” (Rochelle version)
The Creator of the Universe, created you. He knows you need to eat, rest, regulate your emotions, calm, and self-soothe. He designed your fight – flight – freeze – fawn responses. He knows this is how your body responds in order to protect HIS creation.
Your brain is doing her job – and she is doing an AMAZING job protecting you through this fight.
Wiggle your toes inside of your socks right now, my love. Imagine your heels pushing through the floor, look down at your adult hands. You are an adult. You are here. Look around the space you are in and say out loud three objects that you can see. When I begin to feel myself leave reality – this is a quick exercise I have to practice staying present. You are not alone in this survival.
Self – Compassion: We are not used to showing ourselves compassion. Why would we be? We’ve been sent the message that we take up too much space, we are only good for sex, we can never be a godly enough wife, and it is our role to take care of everyone else.
Let’s change the narrative! You are the first person to take care of, and this is hard to do! It is hard to practice new behavior.
Brene Brown states, “Self-compassion is key because when we’re able to be gentle with ourselves in the midst of shame, we’re more likely to reach out, connect and experience empathy.”
This is why attachment and self-compassion go hand in hand.
Self- compassion sounds like this:
“Of course I am tired, I have been carrying the weight of possibly losing my children.”
“Of course I would be angry people on all sides of me criticize, accuse and blame me for the divorce.”
“Of course I stayed so long with this man – I am a good and loving person and those are qualities that make me who I am.”
“I am human”
“I am still learning and growing – mistakes teach me what to do next time!”
These phrases are the antidote to the inner critic. She wants to accuse and belittle and your core spiritual self wants to nourish, cherish and protect. Allow your core self to express and hush your inner critic. (Self-compassion is probably the most powerful antidote I have learned from my amazing counselor!)
Attachment: Most of us did not grow up with secure attachment and we were left alone with any painful experience we had as a kid. Whether it was being teased by a bully in school or being slapped across the face by your mother. When we are left alone in isolation to deal with that pain – it becomes stuck. This is the definition of trauma. ANYTHING that gets stuck and unprocessed along the pain processing pathway.
When we have secure attachment we are taught to process pain – we are able to stay attached during a scary circumstance. Secure attachment says:
· When I look for you, I find you
· When I find you, you are always happy to be with me.
· I feel understood when you listen
As an adult this can be very difficult in our healing journey, to bravely put ourselves out there and say, “community here I am… see me; this is my pain – help me with this fear and agony”. We often become paralyzed and overwhelmed in the face of stress and tragedy. An appropriate response, initially, to these situations. As we do our inner work we can learn to stay attached to self, God and community.
Learning to ask the questions, “What do I need to feel safe right now?” Give that to yourself.
Ask: “Who do I want with me to fight this fear?”
When we become able to reach out rather than isolate in our pain – these “hits” can be processed and integrated as a part of our larger life story. These “hits” become “witnessed grief”, in community. Allowing others to bear your burden’s with you, and friend – THAT is church.
In one of my favorite books, Eternal Echoes, John O’Donahue pens, “During times of suffering, the shelter of belonging calms us. The particular shape of belonging must always strive to meet our longing.”
Staying attached during pain allows us to feel seen, heard, known, and safe. Basic human needs that we all long for. When these needs are met in the shelter of belonging they provide SAFETY and VALIDATION to calm the nervous system. Things can begin to process when the body feels safe and validated. Gabor Mate states, “The healing of trauma is to help the person expand so there is space for all those emotions, the inner self never got to express“
My Dear Sister,
I see you. You have no idea how clearly I see you! I see your lament, your sorrow and the weariness of your body and spirit. There is no way to shorten the length of recovery time, and there is no way around the “hits”. We have to go through them and we must feel them to heal them.
My love, no matter how beat down you feel. I see a woman who is resilient and she is listening for the expression of her own soul. She is finding Jesus’ tender touch and the rest He provides.
You are doing it. When this round is over, you will be the one victorious.
Fight on girl, fight on.
You are not alone.