As of late, time spent on social media has been far more emotionally draining than usual. Not every post is saddening, but the vast majority concern the heartbreaking shooting in Orlando, or the gross injustice handed down in the Stanford rape case, or a local missing person’s report.
Fortunately, many friends – and countless members of the recovery community – have broken up the cycle of grief with their positive articles, hilarious memes, and most importantly, a willingness to focus on the solution. Given that I am not a person of color or a member of the gay and trans community (although I do my best to be an active ally), it does not feel right to take up much space writing about Orlando. Rather, I have spent time reading incredible reflections – like this one, written by Suhad Babaa, the sister of Sarah Babaa, our Director of Admissions and Operations here at Life of Purpose. By taking the time to read, listen, share, and hold space for expressions from those deeply affected, we can honor the depth of such tragedies without co-opting them.
Of course, the amount of space and time that each person takes to grieve and process such traumatic events varies based on one’s proximity to the circumstances. Regardless, to counter the weight of grief, we can eventually gravitate towards positivity, warmth, goodness. In the last week or so, there have been several moments wherein the surrounding world has felt cold and relatively joy-less. After taking a short hiatus from Facebook and checking in with a couple of mentors, friends, and my partner – we’re talking about some amazing humans who love to find pure beauty in the little things – I was reminded that my life in recovery has always (yes, always) been full of opportunities to be present for myself and others, and to choose growth while being supported by those around me. Plugging into that reminder, while I would otherwise be wallowing in a false sense of helplessness, has made the last couple of hours and days more full and more bright.
These lessons about honoring sadness and embracing goodness were coupled with another, perhaps more direct message this past week: Slow. Down. Over the span of a couple of days, I lost my wallet and then left my keys behind at the vet’s office. Both are material losses which are fairly easily dealt with; I canceled my bank cards and was able to retrieve my keys. However, the impact on those in my close circle was significant. My partner graciously and generously covered the financial gap created when I left my wallet behind, and my sweet mother was kind enough to retrieve my keys during her commute to work.
It seems that most “bad” events have meaningful lessons nestled somewhere within them, discoverable if we are willing to look. Is it enjoyable to concede that your mindfulness could use some (or a lot of) work? Not quite. Who likes asking loved ones for financial help? Not me. So, what are the silver linings of my forgetfulness lately? Well, I am now face-to-face with a resounding chorus: slow down. I have been hearing it for decades (I was quite a hyper kid) but somehow, this time, it sounds different – perhaps more clear, undeniable, important.
These are a handful of ways through which I have committed, on a daily basis, to slow down, honor the sadness when it is there, and then embrace the goodness:
Meditate for one minute per day.
Or more. In the spirit of setting realistic goals, I figured that sixty seconds of closing my eyes and focusing my attention on my breath is a completely attainable target. After years of trying to get into a steady meditation routine, I am still blown away by the positive effect felt by even one minute of this.
Consciously appreciate very small details.
See the way those tree leaves outside are dancing on rivers of air? Check out the sky – maybe there’s not a cloud to be seen (in which case, I dare you to look as deeply as you can into the blue… how crazy is that?) or, maybe, the sky is filled with dozens of shades of gray and blue. If you’re like me, this could provide a lot of free entertainment.
Listen with your heart.
An old professor told a class of mine that the most meaningful listening occurs when you simply let a person’s message enter your eyes, mind, and ears without turning your response into something about you. We have been conditioned to “relate” to as much as we can. I am going to try relating in my head and simply meeting the other person with a smile, a nod, and empathy – pausing to honor the circumstances as they exist.
Thank someone you love for being in your life.
Call, text, get creative with a handmade card. No matter how this one is done, it tends to be wonderful for all parties involved. In our fast-paced world, a message can be delivered almost instantaneously. Why wait to spread even an ounce of appreciation?
Celebrate victories, both small and large.
It would be fantastic if each small success warranted a cake and ice cream or an afternoon off from work, right? Since that is not entirely realistic, how about simply appreciating the joy that is freshly washed and dried sheets, or the relief that comes with getting a small work assignment out of the way? These moments are just as much a worthy square on the Quilt of Goodness as is a semester of amazing grades or an annual birthday in recovery. I plan to write a short gratitude list each day in order to conscientiously embrace the good.
How are you going to slow down, honor, and embrace your world today?
Life of Purpose Treatment
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