We are living through such strange and tender times. There is no right way to feel, there’s just however you feel from moment-to-moment on any given day, and the amount of patience, humor and grace you’re able to offer yourself (and others). One of the best things we can do is figure out what we’re saying YES to, and what we’re saying NO to. Everyone is struggling with something most of the time, pandemic or not. Read that again if you need to. No matter how stunning, smart, funny, kind or successful a person may seem to be from the outside, you have no idea what’s happening inside unless you’re very close friends or family, or they tell you. The most gorgeous person in your orbit could have grown up in the most abusive household and struggle every day to feel worthy or unbroken.
I know people who look like they’re killing it on social media, but inwardly and in their day-to-day life they feel like they’re not enough. Or maybe their life is falling apart but they’re keeping it together on the outside. I remember when I was going through my divorce and my kids were tiny. My son was four and my daughter was 18 months old and still nursing, and I owned a business with my soon-to-be ex husband and the only thing I could focus on was making sure my kids were okay and trying to take care of the yoga community that had sprung up around the studio and online. There were many, many days I sobbed in my car on my way to teach, but I always got it together before I walked into the studio, always did my best to show up for the people who’d driven and hunted for a parking spot or ridden their bikes to come practice with me, always tried to have an ear to lend to anyone who needed it. I didn’t always succeed at all that, but I always tried. And a lot of the time my soon-to-be ex husband was the one greeting people and checking in my class. From the outside, I have no doubt it looked very Modern Family, but from inside the experience, there were many chapters that were gutting. That isn’t the stuff you post on social media, though, because it’s deeply personal and it isn’t just your story to tell. I share this with you in case you feel deeply insecure a lot of the time, or you fall into the trap of comparing and contrasting. Just assume everyone has pain they’re dealing with on some level, because you’ll never go wrong if you move through the world with kindness.
Things feel particularly painful and raw out there right now. Some people are thrilled and relieved we are coming out of the strangest sci-fi year any of us has ever lived through, and others are anxious and scared we’re opening too fast, or they feel the pace of the world starting to infringe on the slower pace they’ve adopted. Many people are a combination of all those feelings, every day. We have people exhausted, heartbroken and enraged over systemic racism and continual fear of what might happen next, wondering if things are ever really going to change. We have people working tirelessly for that change in the face of massive polarization, and often a true lack of understanding. None of it is easy, so at the very least, could we have some compassion for ourselves and each other? Could we recognize on a good day, most of us are struggling with some legitimate fear and insecurity, and also some totally absurd and meaningless mind-stuff – and behave accordingly?
Lately I’ve been feeling more and more that the root of all anxiety is fear of death. That because we don’t often talk about the reality of how fragile it is to be human, how mind-bending it is that we don’t know how long we have or how long anyone else has and that we don’t know for sure what happens after this, we’re in a constant state of knowing all this and also not wanting to know all this. It’s like the root of an anxiety tree in your mind, whose branches grow in different directions. It’s there, and you know it’s there, but maybe if you Netflix-binge enough you can forget about it. I mean, you can’t do anything about the parameters, right? So why dwell on it? I really think when we don’t grapple with the temporary nature of our being, we don’t live with the gusto and abandon that opens us to joy, and those branches can start to overgrow the system and block out the sun. We don’t have to agree about what we’re doing here or what happens next, but I believe we do ourselves a real disservice when we don’t face those questions head on, and figure out what makes sense to us. Then we can get on with the business of living with some peace of mind, true excitement and gratitude for the days we have.
Because the parameters of being human are tough, and they are, you can expect that many people are going to struggle. Hurt people hurt people as the saying goes. You will be hurt, and you will also do the hurting along the way. Hopefully at a certain point – maybe even today – you realize life is short and painful and amazing and glorious and full of loss and hope and dreams and if you’re very lucky, tons and tons of love and laughter. Hugs. Deep feeling. Grief because you love with your whole heart and losing people is devastating. Sand between your toes and the ocean – the ocean with its waves and currents and salt and sea air all around you, seagulls flying over head. The feeling when you scrape your knee and someone tends to it, cleans it for you, puts a bandaid on your scrape and gives you a kiss. Sings you to sleep at night. Gives you reason to believe that people are, at heart, really, really good.
But if you’re going to live fully, and if you’re going to find peace, there are two essential things: what you say yes to, and what you say no to. If life is precious, and I hope we can agree on that, then our job is to show up for it and give everything we’ve got to this dance while we’re here. There are going to be people who can’t be kind, can’t feel empathy, can’t respect your boundaries, can’t be counted on to treat you with love and respect. You may have people like this in your life. I would say the best course of action is to forgive everyone you can, but to realize when we forgive people, we don’t have to have them over for dinner. We don’t have to have them in our lives. We don’t have to call and say, “I forgive you.” And forgiving doesn’t mean we’re saying whatever happened is okay. It just means we are removing that fish-hook of pain from our hearts, we are reserving our finite energy and attention for other things, we are recognizing that whatever has happened is probably a result of this person’s pain, and we are not going to keep our pain and heartache alive by feeding it. There’s what you say yes to, and there’s what you say no to, and both are equally important for your well-being. If your body is your home, and your peace of mind resides within your body, imagine you can open or close the door to people and situations…and choose wisely!
Sending you tons of love,
Ally Hamilton Hewitt