When you find yourself upset by a situation or person, ask yourself if the thoughts, feelings, or actions from the situation or person is yours to carry.
With this, it could be helpful to visualize a bag (or an assortment of bags) during these times.
Observe the bag—it’s shape, it’s color, it’s size, it’s contents, it’s weight—and decide whether you wish to pick it up and hold it…or not.
This comes with the parallel awareness and realization that—like airport baggage/luggage—we can only carry/handle so much before being bogged down and overall the contents of the bags preventing us from getting to our gates and ultimately to our desired destination within the optimal experience (i.e., the destination that is aligned with our life values and goals).
A question to ask as you approach a new bag…is this mine to carry? Is this something I choose to carry?
We can often become anxious in anticipation of the future or sad about the past. It can be helpful when we are able to live in the present.
If this sounds like you, the following activity may be useful. If you would like to try it out, write “future” on a piece of paper. Under “future” write “present” and under “present” write “past.”
When you feel caught up in thoughts or emotions, slide/move your finger up or down the page to determine where you are. Are you in the past, present, or future?
After a few times you can move the written out page to a visual in your mind. This can be a useful strategy as you move about your day in order to determine your current mindset. If you find you are in the future or past, you can then ask yourself what you may be able to do to move back to the present. This is an intentionally lived and mindful life, a life within the present.
As we stand on the welcome mat of 2021 and prepare to enter its door, I find myself reminiscing. Who knew when my family arrived back in Cali in October 2019 that we were headed into a worldwide global pandemic that would cause massive societal shifts that have come to change the way we live.
2020 what a year! It is said, “When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” —Tuli Kupferberg
As I reflect, this is where my thoughts drift this morning and where I am able to take some solace amongst the continued uncertainties of this virus. Uncertainty and change is no stranger to me. The trick is to remember the blessings amongst the chaos and not get so caught up in it all that we forget to live. The virus has already stolen so much from us but what has it given us? How has it forced us to evolve and embrace what is important in life?
Vernon Law says it well, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.”
The surreal’ness of it all. Benjamin Disraeli said, “Change is inevitable. Change is constant.”
I have lived this life of change and unpredictability before. In response to quick turnaround military orders, I recall the night before my families big move to Italy at the end of 2018 wherein we packed up 4 kids and 3 dogs and moved across the ocean. The true challenge of this change, the absolute blessings from embracing and moving within it. It changed us in ways we could never have imagined—despite the difficulties of a massive move, uprooting our kids, adapting within an unknown culture— we persevered as we soaked up the history, the culture, the food experiences. While there were many blessings, there were also true challenges within this growth-producing experience. We gathered a true multitude of memories from our time abroad as we were given the opportunity to travel all over Europe. We drove the crazy no rules roads in Italy, dived into various cultures and languages, walked the streets of Rome, ventured to Pompeii, white water rafted in Austria, ate yummy pastries in Bologna and huge (size of your face) homemade pretzels in Germany, went to Shakespeare’s Globe in London, plus so much more. We took the fear of this move and travel alongside us and did not let it hold us back. Now that we are nestled back in Southern California, these experiences are ones we continue to treasure.
I find myself thinking, what if we had not embraced the challenge and converted it to opportunities? What if I had let fear hold me back?
After all, “The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” —Kakuzō Okakura, The Book of Tea
When we remember the blessings amongst the chaos we get to live fully—even in the midst of a global pandemic.
When we build a campfire, does it burn eternally? Do we build it once and never tend to it again? No, of course not, similar to our devotion of creating a rich, full, and meaningful life, we have to tend to that campfire every single day to keep the flames burning. Life is similar, we have goals we are striving for, obstacles we face, and things we must put into action to keep our flames blazing. This may include stepping back and assessing the campfire several times a day to add new logs to the campfire and generate new sparks and/ or maintain the everlasting campfire (i.e., a rich, full, and meaningful life). Of course, within balance, once we have a strong campfire built, life is also about just being and enjoying the warmth of the campfire you have built, adoring the dance of the red, orange, and yellow flames, throwing a new log on occasionally to keep the spark alive, and remembering life is not a destination, it is a journey…sometimes a journey that takes many logs being added to our campfire. Live the intentional life, a life full of campfires.
Part of being human is the experience of emotion. Emotions serve to communicate to us when things are going well and not so well so that we may formulate a response. With this, the feeling of numbness may be something everyone experiences from time to time—from feeling overwhelmed by a life stressor to some form of trauma. Typically the feeling is temporary and allows us mental and emotional processes of shutting out feelings in order to move through something difficult. However, for some, this feeling of emotional numbness can linger for a duration—often serving as a protective defense that guards us from further emotional or physical pain. While this shield of numbness can serve us well in the short-term, such as to get through a life stressor; when it stays for a duration, it can have long-lasting consequences such as the inability to problem solve, experience pleasure and other positive emotions, engage in life, and be the whole person we can choose to be.
Numbness can show up differently for each person. The cause could be wide such as symptoms associated with PTSD, Grief/ Loss, Depression, Anxiety, Abuse/ Neglect, and/ or a whole array of past life experiences that have now come to haunt your present. When feelings of numbness linger or stay for the duration and exceed our ability to cope, it may be time to consult a mental health professional to support in unpacking and processing within the causation of the emotional numbness.
Treatment may include a Therapist (such as myself) who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma Work, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), and other treatment approaches.