When things are shit.
I mean when you literally feel stuck in the most bug-ridden, stickiest mess of your life, the things that steadied you may no longer carry the same potency. You are, after all, stuck.
The problem is that ripping yourself free might mean that you lose a favorite boot or sandal and have to walk barefoot through the muck for a while. It may mean that you have to admit you played some part in getting yourself in this pile in the first place. It may mean that it gets worse before it gets better. Let’s admit it, standing stuck in mud sucks. Every step is laborious, and pulling your foot out of the boot to scamper stickily away will feel pretty nasty for a time, too. Sure, you’ll be free of your immoveable position, but you may end up knee deep in stink before you make it to the shower or at least to dry land.
What is Success?
All that to say: the way we define success in these seeming life-sucking situations must change, or else we also succumb to judging ourselves for not smelling like roses when we’re covered in shit, it’s just not realistic.
I am reminded of the end of a long, hot day of backpacking in the Porcupine mountains—heels blistered, out of filtered water, stomach grumbling and menstrual cramps setting in. Attempting to pump water through the filter only clogged it in the muck of a leech, deer fly, and mosquito ridden pond. That night it rained, and donning packs to hike the next day was delayed by airing camping gear dry on a rope between trees. Ironically, this memory recollection more often brings laughs and joy than the distress that may have been felt in the moment. Was it success or failure?
Of late, my day to day, breath to breath has felt much like that evening. I have gone from being a planner, thinking months ahead, plotting dreams and plans for work and pleasure, to only being able to bat away the bugs of the present moment—coaxing myself to get out of bed, to eat, to move, to sit quietly and breathe and not jump all over myself if the tears flow anyway. I am learning to redefine success, and at times to let the bugs buzz without batting them.
Allowing myself to sleep as much as needed
Jogging 5 minutes without stopping or having pain in knee or hip
Reading scripture and sitting in the belief that all will be made beautiful, in fact, the beauty is all around me even now
Moving my body through 30 minutes of Yoga asana
Sitting in 25 minutes of nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and coming back to my breath, even after sobbing co-opted a few minutes of my focus
Taking myself on a date to a favorite bar, alone!
Appreciating my physical appearance and self-care practices
Leaving my phone at home when on a walk in nature or turning it to silent for an hour at a time
Reflecting on my needs, intentions and expectations before making even the smallest decisions: what to eat, whether or not to get out of bed, how to spend time while sitting in the unsettling looming of the unknown
Smiling without expecting a smile in return
Eating something good for me, slowly, without also reading, texting, or otherwise distracting myself (other than my raging thoughts)
Preparing food for ailing loved ones, sitting quietly beside and respecting a gentle “no, thank you” when help is offered
Swinging my leg over my darling bicycle and peddling into town to write this, albeit 2 hours later than previously intended—no judgment, Andi, you’re here now.
Time for Self-Acceptance
In times like these it is crucial to come back to my intention of self-acceptance:
Believing I am beautiful, whether or not those I wish would tell me so are able to say it—I have found that telling myself this is more powerful, anyway!
To come back to my breath
To notice that an inhale and an exhale are gifts in themselves, not to be taken for granted, they are the essence of human life.
In months like this one, when time passes too slowly, I choose to repeat reminders, like:
I am able to cope with this moment.
I want this or that, but I don’t need it.
I am content, I accept reality.
I can accept not knowing (but of course, I wish I knew—again, no judgment).
In times like these, success becomes as simple as:
The biggest successes come when I own that my emotions are my responses to what is actually happening, they are not what is actually happening itself. Then I can let lips part and teeth come together, cheeks lift and beam like I mean it, until I do.
Rather than lofty goals, my success is being redefined by self-imposed limitations that involve avoiding putting myself in a situation that could give me enough information to bring up, again and ag