I’m curled up on the floor. Inside I am breaking.
I feel shattered, devastated, very, very afraid and alone.
My breath is coming in gasps. Tears are running down my cheeks. I am shaking – that deep, core shaking that comes from absolute terror.
I recognize this place. I’ve been here countless times over the past 3½ years – ever since the iron-hard protective cage I’d built around myself began coming apart. Ever since I began to feel emotional pain again.
This time, I decide I don’t want to face all the terror alone. I call a friend – which is somehow nearly as painful as the pain itself. She answers and, as usual, she is able to hold me, to be there for me. And eventually, I am once again a little more connected to myself, to my internal sense of safety and love.
Knowing the answer, I ask her anyway:
Will things ever get better?
Things aren’t going to get better.
Don’t believe me? Let me show you:
First, the external stuff:
- Life will continue to throw difficult, unexpected, challenging things at you. (Illness, injury, natural disasters, relationship stuff…)
- Economies will collapse, jobs will be lost, businesses will fail, dreams will wither and die (to be very dramatic).
- Your physical body will be in pain from time to time; it will grow old and eventually quit working the way you want.
- People will let you down, break your heart, do or say things that hurt you (whether intentionally or not doesn’t matter).
Now, the more internal stuff:
- Painful patterns will continue to play themselves out. Over and over and over. Just when you think you have figured out some pattern and that you will never have to feel the pain of that particular thing again, it will again slap you in the face – just to show you that, no, you aren’t done.
- New, even more painful and deeply ingrained patterns will continue to come to the surface in the hopes that you can meet them and begin to untangle and resolve the pain they hold.
- There will always be events, situations, people, words, etc that trigger old, unresolved pain in you.
Are you convinced yet?
Maybe *things* don’t get better.
But, through consciously, mindfully interacting with the pain we feel (whether physical or emotional), we get better.
We get better at meeting ourselves.
Life as a spiral
Life is a spiral, periods of gloom and pain followed by, perhaps not times of total joy and love, but, let’s say, periods of respite. Stretches of time where we are more connected to our sense of wellbeing and where things happen with more ease and naturalness.
Followed by, of course, yet another cycle of more intense suffering and disconnection.
Physically this may look like having times when that area of chronic pain is in remission (if you will) followed by weeks or months of unrelenting pain.
Emotionally, there are periods where we are not so easily triggered. When we are more connected to our sense of wellbeing and belonging. Then, there are times when anything and everything serves to knock us back into the pit of terror (or wherever your painful place may be).
Climbing out of the pit of terror
What I’ve found to be true for me is that the more I practice holding, witness, meeting the terror (my pain), the quicker that part of the spiral cycles through. Yeah, the feelings, the pain, the insanely uncomfortable sensations are just as intense as ever.
But, I’m not so completely taken over by them. Or, when I am, I am able to recognize it sooner and take the steps that reconnect me with that internal sense of safety and love.
And now, there are even times, when in the very midst of the terror (when I am overwhelmed), that I notice a very small part of me is feeling incredible joy.
Joy that I am allowing myself to feel and experience the terror without trying to do something (or make someone else do something) to make me feel safe again.
And, sometimes, I hear this small, quiet voice that reminds me that the more I can meet and hold myself while *in* the terror, the more freedom I experience in my life.
I know this to be true. There are some things that in the past would trigger me into this place of utter desolation and terror that now just slide off me. Not because I am hard and untouchable but because I now have this internal sense of safety that is not so easily shaken.
The more I practice kindly, lovingly interacting with my pain (using any number of the suggestions I talk about here), the less things trigger me, the more whole I am in myself, and the more freedom I experience.
All the things from my list that cause pain are still there. They haven’t changed or gotten better.
But, I have gotten better.
And that makes all the difference.
Today I just want to say that sometimes things are overwhelming. Sometimes the painful part of the spiral is long and hard and seemingly endless.
Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for having the courage to be in the hard, in the pain.
It’s so not easy.
And, I want to remind you:
You are so not alone.
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding
Even as the stone of the fruit must break,
That the heart may stand in the sun,
So must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder
At the daily miracles of your life
You pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart,
Even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief…
Emily Sapp says
I saw this first on a day when I really needed things to get better, so waited until today to read it.
This post is brave and wonderful and I thank you for sharing it. I’m going to share it too.
Love the title. Haven’t we been conditioned from a very young age? It will get better, soon/tomorrow/next week/after this situation is resolved etc etc. When this hope becomes superficial and the reasons for the anxiety become false, what does one do? Thanks for tackling the subject.
What does one say to the one who has said it all ? I thought i was alone. We all feel alone. Yet, my heart beats more lightly tonight knowing that someone else FEELS the same. I am deeply touched by the honesty of your writing, and its depth and wisdom. I hope that Plutarch had it about right when he said: “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality. That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.” In your case, writing!
I like this post a lot. It really speaks to me right now, thank you. A very good reminder that ‘things’ may or may not always get better, but my relationship to them can change and that can make all the difference. Beautiful, thank you.
Larisa Koehn says
Thank you 🙂
Hugs for being in the hard.
Great point. With that conditioning, I think it can be very difficult to just be where one is (whether that is in the hard or otherwise).
Love the quote. Thanks for sharing! And, thrilled to hear you felt (even if only momentarily) less alone.
Well said. Thank _you_.
Morel - Advanced Ortho-Bionomy Instructor says
Ahhhhhh! Sounds like the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. Sending you love Larissa…..
One of the steps is to have that someone there who is willing to listen. They always say they’re there to listen to me, but it’s not true. It seems like no one ever has the time for me. I am ALWAYS doing things on everyone else’s schedules and timetables and when it’s time for me, they can’t make it or do anything because they already have plans. And this is even when I plan something months in advance. I just don’t have anyone and things just get worse and worse.