2019 is over and done. All of our friends are posting and sharing what their greatest accomplishments were in 2019. If you’re a pilot, you’ll typically see statements such as: “I earned by tail-wheel endorsement!,” “I became an airline pilot!,” “I made my first solo, cross-country flight!” Each of these announcements makes me smile, knowing and understanding that feeling that transpires with such personal achievements. Humans have this unique ability to empathize with others. There are three types of empathy. The ability to literally feel another person’s emotions is coined “emotional empathy.” It’s such a cool thing that the human race is capable of. It allows us to understand and relate to one another, oftentimes, in a way that motivates us into some type of action, e.g., congratulating a friend, preparing a meal for a sick friend, or quizzing a peer preparing for a check ride…
Scrolling through each person’s proud moments of 2019 forces one to evaluate their own milestones. Thank goodness for this age-old tradition. I’m not sure we give ourselves enough credit as we live day in, day out, for how far we’ve come. The days just keep passing by and we keep beating ourselves up for what hasn’t been accomplished. We are programmed to keep moving forward and focus on our goals. The problem for someone like me is that my list of goals doesn’t ever seem to get smaller. It just keeps growing and growing and growing. It reminds me of that little pink Energizer bunny. Keep forging ahead and banging away towards that next achievement! However, someone or some great philosophical body of people decided long ago that we should take a moment at the end of the year to reflect, recall, and allow ourselves some time to pat ourselves on the back. Shout out to those people!
The “UPS”: How To Host Your Personal Cheerleading Session!
It’s amazing how quickly we forget the events that happened just a few months ago. I, myself, had totally forgotten that I’d earned my multi-engine rating last year until I’d seen someone else post about it!! 🙄 Here are some steps that will get you started in recalling all you’ve done this year. Prepare to amaze yourself!
1) Scroll through your photos. If you’re like me, you have snapped about a million photos this past year and you’ve dumped most of them into the cyberspace abyss. However, we typically keep our favorites (you know the ones where you think you look tall, or skinny, or hot, or like a super-fun individual with a very envious, exciting life). These pics may no longer be on your handheld device but they are likely on your computer, external hard drive, or somewhere up in one of those clouds. Locate the right cloud and pull them back down to earth for just a bit. As you look at these captured moments, jot down the significant moments on a piece of paper. And smile. You deserve it! 👏🏼
2) Pull up your calendar. Most people have moved away from paper calendars by now. I’ll admit this was a challenging transition for me. I finally gave up my “Mom’s Wall Calendar” ages ago!!!…like, two months ago. JK…maybe. I’m going to spare myself the embarrassment of announcing just how long this paper habit really did continue. On your calendar, review the appointments/events, month-by-month. This will help you recall certain commitments and occasions that you’ve probably forgotten about, or they’ve been stored into one of the long-lost file cabinets in your brain. Jot these events down in a notebook or on a piece of paper as well.
3) Your journal! This one’s a long shot for most. If you happen to be a consistent journaler, (I’m pretty sure this isn’t even a word but this is my personal blog creation, so what the hell…I’ve created a new word) then pull out your fancy, expensively bound pad of paper labeled “JOURNAL” or maybe it’s a cheap spiral notebook. Read through your submissions (or admissions, as the case may be). Hopefully, this will jog your memory as to your progress during the past year. Or, you may find that maybe it’s time to actually take some action to work on all those things you wished for ten months ago. Either way, it’s a win. I emphatically encourage you to take some time for yourself. Sit down and go through these steps. I’m begging. Pleading. Schedule this time as an appointment on your iCal, if necessary. This is a gift to you, from you. After completing these exercises, applaud yourself and smile!
The “DOWNS”: Sucky Learning Opportunities
You will inevitably recognize some low points while performing the above exercises as well. Some event recollections will make you cringe or feel like a fresh punch in the gut. The good news is that you will eventually forget and/or progressively heal from these occurrences. The length of time it takes is unknown. The process is arduous and overwhelming. Revisiting these matters through photos or journals will allow you to recognize how much progress you’ve made in processing and moving on from these events. It’s okay to allow yourself to hurt. Let yourself feel all the things. Trying to mask or downplay your pain will come back to bite you. Call these times what they are: painful, disappointing, sad.
Letting go is freakin’ hard. It might just be the hardest thing EVER. Many people refuse to let go. You must let go in order to grow and to be the best person you can be. That might mean letting go of a person, or your idea of a particular person. Sometimes, it means letting go of expectations, misconceptions, or a particularly bad experience. Believe me, I know that’s easier said than done. Hoarders are a concrete example of how damaging it is to hold on to some things. We’ve all seen a glimpse into a hoarder’s life on TLC. Watching one episode of this reality show should be a requirement for all of humanity. This is extreme but demonstrates the physical and emotional price for holding on to things that aren’t helpful, and in fact, are harmful to you. For some reason, we may like to cling to painful events, mistakes, and relationships. We wear them like a badge of honor oftentimes. It’s a great way to justify being a victim. You can use these events or people that disappointed you as an excuse to be bitter or to mope through life like a zombie. If we hold on to that, we feel that we have good reason to be stagnant or not take responsibility for moving forward. Blaming our circumstances can be an easy rut to fall into.
For me, being stuck in a pity-party is the equivalent of hell. Knowing myself (many thanks to journals, family, and friends (including my paid friend, aka therapist) allows me to take deliberate action to get out of this trap. First off, a good friend of mine has a rule that she allows herself 24 hours to feel sorry for herself when something or someone has hurt or disappointed her. After that, it’s time to take a shower, smear on your favorite lipstick, put on a cute outfit, and go out on the town!
It is inevitable that we will experience “lows” throughout life. We can’t control when they occur. They can be opportunities (they won’t feel that way initially!). That’s the bright side. Use these painful, draining times to take stock of what happened and try to learn something. If it was the end of a relationship, there were undoubtedly some things that weren’t perfectly satisfying to you about that person. Identify those things so they can be avoided in the future. These things can be identified as “red flags.” You can also pinpoint what you really did like and vow that your next friend or partner will need those attributes. If there was a situation that hurt you or others, how can it be avoided in the future? Is there something you should have done or said, but were too prideful? Don’t let that happen again! The “downs” can be devastating. You may find yourself stuck and unable to move forward. So, how do you get out of the rut as quickly and as healthily as possible?
How To Stop The Pity Party
First off, recognize and admit you’ve fallen into the abysmal pity party mode. You have to do this early on before it gets worse. It can get very grim quickly if you don’t intercept it and take action. Of course, taking action is the exact opposite of what your body and mind actually want to do. How do you know you’ve slipped off the Cliff of Doom?? Oh- You’ll know. Just in the slight off-chance you don’t recognize the signs, here’s what it looks like for me, personally. I have no appetite, can’t sleep, there’s no desire to do or accomplish A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G, and hiding in my closet all day, behind my boot shelf seems like a great idea. Everyone is different and most people know when they’ve hopped on this long, black train headed to absolutely nowhere. So, now what? Drugs? Booze? Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix.
There are typically two sources that cause suffering: either an event that takes place (such as sudden death, accident, or illness) or an individual. We’ve likely all experienced pain from both sources. It’s not fun. If there’s an event or situation that’s affecting your life, and it’s out of your control, there’s really nothing you can do but manage your attitude about it. You’ll need to step up your faith game. Know that it will be okay, even if you don’t know how it will be okay.
If someone has hurt you, the same faith mantra applies. You’ll be okay. It’s out of your control. You can’t choreograph people or events to suit yourself. Not everyone will like you (most probably will unless you’re a jerk), and not everyone will reciprocate the same feelings you have. When we’re wounded, we may think it would be easier to avoid relationships altogether so we aren’t subjected to any painful or negative outcome in the future. However, if you stop and consider the number of times and number of people you’ve invested in, you’ll likely find that you’ve built more friendships and relationships than lost. Don’t ever beat yourself up for caring about another person! That means you have a heart! There’s no shame in that. Unfortunately, people don’t always do or feel what you’d like and that can sting. There are other people waiting for you to be in their lives.
In life, eventually, someone hurts you or something happens that may blindside you and you’ll be down for the count. What can you do? It’s time to take action.
1) Call a friend or friends. Admitting and verbalizing that you’re in a bad place is huge. For me, there’s nothing more challenging than letting people see me at my worst or see my weaknesses. However, my admittance was the first thing I did recently in order to stop the depressive momentum. Hopefully, you have “besties” at the ready. If you don’t have a handful of people you can call, start building a group! You have to have these valuable connections. I have about six people ready and willing, anytime. My group is pretty diverse, which I recommend, two men and five women. They each have their own personalities and their own unique words of wisdom, comfort, or humor. Some of them are annoying as sh*t because they won’t let me play the pathetic, poor-pitiful-me game for long. They see things you don’t see, particularly when you’re in the trenches. I call several, if not all of my friends, when life’s got me down. My phone was next to my ear almost the entire day recently. That’s a bonus of having multiple friends…You have the ability to constantly rotate who you’re talking to so they can each get an occasional break and still live their lives! True friends love you even when you’re a mess. They will work hard to reassure, uplift, and help you realize how rich your life really is!
2) Pinterest. Pinterest. Pinterest. Verses and quotes. Keep it simple. When I’m living in the “Pit of Despair”, putting energy into reading a book is just not going to happen. Remember, I feel no desire to do A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G, even if it only requires moving my eyeballs from left to right. My Pinterest app is always ready to speak to me! It helps me find words or memes that make me laugh out loud, pictures of things to dream about, bible verses, cute animals, whatever…and it’s all in short, concise bursts.
3) Prayer. I’m not a preachy person and will not tell anyone how they need to “worship” or what they should believe. Your idea of God or a Higher Power can be whatever you want it to be. My hope is that you have some type of spiritual belief or foundation because it’s powerful. For me, it’s having a best friend that knows everything about me and would never reject me. Believing in a higher power allows you to relinquish control. You must recognize that you DON’T have control. You can’t control another person’s feelings, you can’t control the outcome of most things, you can’t make anything happen. That’s very freeing. It’s not up to me. If everything was up to me, that would be extremely overwhelming. I would absolutely hide in my closet and would never be seen again if everything was on my shoulders!
4) Playlists. Create two playlists now! That way, they’ll be ready when you need them. One playlist should consist of the most melancholy songs you can find. It will magically make you bawl your eyes out and release some of that negative energy and the emotions you’re holding in. It is such a relief to let it out! The other playlist should include the most upbeat songs you can find (even better sometimes if there are a few cuss words). Music has the ability to heal. It may not be immediate and it may take every ounce of energy you have to hit the play button. Turn it on! Or, ask someone else to turn it on for you. Give yourself 10-15 minutes of just listening. The other helpful audio resource these days can be some affirmation podcasts. Again, you need to find one you like now so it’ll be at the ready.
5) Binge. Not on food. As mentioned before, when I’m in a slump my appetite decreases. That’s often the opposite of how others respond. It seems to me that overeating on junk does not help anyone feel better. You’ll probably actually feel worse about yourself. So, I wouldn’t recommend that. However, if you can’t resist, give yourself a time limit to eat whatever you want and stick to it.
Binge on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, whatever. You can use the same idea with TV shows or movies that you use with music. Find something that will help you release some of those tears and something that can make you laugh. Smiles are contagious, even if they’re on TV.
6) Journal. Write out exactly how you’re feeling, what happened, what you’re going through, anything that comes to mind. The act of simply putting it on paper is medicinal. Get the thoughts out of your head. Dump them! This is also great because it allows you time to articulate what you’re emotions are telling you. You may also come up with solutions or ideas that may help you avoid pitfalls or mistakes you might have made that led you here.
7) Take Care Of Your Body. Take a shower, for the love of God, and get some exercise! Finding motivation can be super challenging during difficult times but it’s a fact that exercise helps you physically feel better. No one really looks forward to going to the gym! The act of going to the gym is the hardest. The part that makes it worthwhile is after the gym. You’re likely not going to be super chipper about working out. You need to force yourself, knowing that getting to the end of a workout, is the payoff. If you go to the gym, you’re probably going to need to shower. Smelling yourself certainly won’t raise your self-love. Take a quick shower, put on some comfy clothes, and you’ll still have about ten hours left to act like a sloth.
My wish for everyone is minimal pain in your lives. However, it will exist. Believe me, I wish there was a magic pill. If you use some of the above action steps, you’ll be on your way to your old self sooner, rather than later. FYI: This whole blog was therapeutic journaling for me. So, thanks for being a part of my unloading! May your 2020 be full of all the “UPS” and good “feels” that you can handle!