Finding my way through the darkness

Today is Day 1 of a three-week “Shelter in Place” order that was announced yesterday here in Santa Cruz, California (courtesy of COVID-19, naturally).

Basically, we are not allowed to leave our homes unless we are seeking “Essential Services” (e.g., food, medicine, or medical services).

If we are healthy, we are also allowed to go out for exercise. Whew!

Not gonna lie…I’d been having a really rough couple of weeks before I ever even knew a thing about this whole COVID-19 situation. And, when I learned of the pandemic, it sure didn’t help things.

(I try my hardest to avoid the news, so my first time being clued into this pandemic was last Tuesday when I stopped for my weekly grocery trip and discovered all toilet paper, paper towels, etc. were GONE. Suddenly, shit. got. real.)

Anywhooooooo…..back to my “really rough couple of weeks”…

I’ve been going through some dark, painful times – I believe (in hindsight) due to my life getting WAY out of balance. Too much work, stress, social media, and doing-doing-doing …and not enough preventative self-care (meditation, gratitude journaling, exercise, idle time, watching the birds, or whatever).

SPOILER ALERT! Yes, even those of us who are generally super happy people go through dark times. And, even if we are smiling and making you laugh through it all…it doesn’t mean everything is always okay.

So…be NICE to people. Many times, people are hurting and you can tell. And many times, people are hurting and you’d never even know. There’s no way for you to control just how much your actions can affect someone – so make sure your actions come from a good place! Always.

I’ve gone through this type of “darkness” a couple of other times in my adult life. And, generally, there’s a huge life change waiting for me on the other side. I just need to slow down enough to listen to my heart and find out what it is!

The episodes of “darkness” that I’ve experienced usually start for me with an overwhelming feeling of “not having enough time.”

Then… a gut-wrenching, vague sense of feeling “lost” creeps in.

Then… I start finding less joy in some of the activities that I’m usually passionate about.

And for the grand finale… the tears start to flow for (what I think at the time is) no reason at all.

THAT’S when it finally occurs to me that SOMETHING. IS. WRONG!

Then…I remember that I need to slow down, get quiet and focus inward.

The couple of times that I’ve experienced a period like this in the past, it turned out that my heart was trying to tell me something (generally a big change of direction in my life)…and I was keeping myself too busy to hear it.

Once I slowed down and got my mind to shut up…and shut out all of the distractions…then I could hear what my heart needed to say.

In the past, I’ve accomplished this by doing what I refer to as “going on my island.” I cut myself off from the world, from people, from distractions – to the greatest extent possible and for as big of chunks of time as possible. If it’s my day off, then I’m “on my island” for the whole day. If I absolutely must go to work…then I’m “on my island” for the entire rest of the day (or whatever).

On my “island,” I shut my phone off completely. No internet. No TV. No chatting with friends or family. Just me. Just me focusing on me, and not thinking about anyone or anything else.

(Man, is that hard to do if you’re a super caring, sensitive soul! Ahhhhh!!! But, as they say, you just can’t pour from an empty cup. So do everyone a favor, and take care of yourself!)

Okay, so no phone, no friends, no nothing. Sounds horrible, right? Agreed. That’s why I resist it. Every. Single. Time. LOL!

I tell myself, “oh…it’s okay to just check Facebook once a day”…or “it’s okay to invite a friend on my walk”…or “it’s okay to write just one quick blog post” (like I’m doing right now! LOL!), or whatever.

But…every single time, I wish I would’ve just surrendered sooner to committing to the FULL process that I know works for me because making these “exceptions” never works. It only delays the benefits of the “island time” that I’m ultimately going to have to engage in completely in order to feel better anyway.

It might take a few days on the island. It might just take one. But if I’m not “all in,” it just doesn’t work.

It’s really, really…really hard to not give in to the unlimited opportunities for distraction (as I’m literally doing RIGHT NOW by typing this blog).

It feels sooooooooooooooooooooooo much better to log on to social media for a quick dopamine rush…or to talk to a friend and get all mixed up in their life happenings to keep yourself distracted. Or even to “help others” so you’re not focused on your own pain and confusion.

But….NONE of these actions are going to lift your darkness for good. They are just temporary doses of “feel good-ness.”

If you want to truly get through darkness and learn what it’s there to tell you or to teach you, then you’ve got to slow down, dig deep, focus inward, and fully feel whatever pain is there. At least that’s what works for me.

So…..I suppose if I have to “Shelter in Place” for 3 weeks, there couldn’t have been a better time for me to be forced to do so. I was already planning to do a lot of self-isolating for the forseeable future anyway.

Today, I’m starting off my day with some gratitude journaling, peaceful music, and a big ol’ mug of chamomile tea.

Well, I sat down to do that…and then I felt compelled to write this blog post first…which is totally cheating, right? Oooooops!

(In my defense, I wanted to get these words down in writing while the feelings were fresh because maybe this will help someone else figure out strategies to help themselves when they feel this way. Buuuuuut…I’m supposed to be focusing inward….not focusing on helping others right now. Ugh! I told you this is hard! Plus, it’s impossible to know for sure if I’m REALLY even solely writing this to help others. Maybe I’m just typing this to distract myself? See the problem?? Ahhhh!!!)

It is SO much easier to do ANYTHING else instead of slowing down to listen to your heart!!! You know???

I think it’s because we’re afraid of what it’s going to tell us…because it’s certainly going to involve change…possibly change that doesn’t make sense to our brain. And our brain definitely likes to be in charge, huh?

Alright, I’m loooooong overdue for some MAJOR self-reflection, so I’m definitely gonna make the most of this “Shelter in Place” situation. I’m going to do a lot of sitting in silence, being still in nature, journaling, drawing, etc.

And, I’m definitely going to be going for long walks alone in nature. A lot.

Let me just repeat that so I’m held accountable. I will go for walks ALONE. ALONE. ALONE!

It’s always sooooooooooo tempting for me to invite (or drag) the hubby along with me for company. Seriously, I just did that yesterday even though I know I need to be walking alone in silence instead. Ahhhh!

A long walk alone in nature during a dark time like this several years ago is where my idea was hatched to sell our home, buy an RV and hit the road full-time. My brain thought it sounded crazy. But my heart won for sure!

And I can’t imagine the past several years of my life if I hadn’t followed that nudging from my heart. So I definitely appreciate and believe in the value of focusing inward. It’s just really hard to make myself do it!

But, here goes nothin’…

And, who knows what will happen this time!

Maybe I’ll have another life-changing idea. Or maybe … my nervous system will simply get a long-overdue break.

Either way, it’s a much-needed win for my little aching heart.

So, how about you? Can you relate to any of this? Do you have a process that works for you and helps you find your way through the darkness?

Please share below. You never know who you’ll help!

2 thoughts on “Finding my way through the darkness

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