It as been over a month since the stay at home order was issued. Over a month socially distanced, without concerts and large festivals and conventions. We aren’t where we were a month ago, and for a lot of people, it’s hard. I say hard to avoid politicizing the agony of now. I say hard to say this sucks without some sugar to sweeten the bitterness. You anticipated proms and concerts and trips and gym outings where we’ve all remained at home. It’s ok to mourn the moments lost. It’s ok to mourn what was normal and grieve the impending new normal. That makes you human, not bratty. That honesty makes you real, not negative. Some aspects of life are negative. Covering dogshit in glitter doesn’t make it something other than dogshit.
I’ve discussed this concept for a while, but it didn’t have a name. Suddenly, it came to me: it’s the law of the numerator. What I mean is that everything that happens to us has the power of one. The compounded number of events that have happened to us– it is the ever growing denominator. Some numerators have more gravity. They hit us harder or lift us higher. But it is always one numerator, and many will follow. And although it doesn’t feel like it right now, the impact of this one numerator will eventually be offset by the expanding nominator below it. The denominator represents all the things you have experienced, all the ways you have survived, all the moments where you grew and stretched.
Yeah, that’s great, Marisa, but I have to live through right now. You do, reader. There are periods of my life where I awoke cursing God that I wasn’t taken in my sleep, when the nightmare didn’t break. I’ve been the spectator to other people’s thriving, bitter that I was drowning as I watched people swim in gentle waters. Life is not a competition. It isn’t a contest. And I know how shitty it feels when life deals you a rough hand. Cheryl Strayed encourages people to play the hell out of the hand they’re dealt. Whatever you choose to do, coping is key. There are certain things without a route around, moments we must claw through in order to see the other side. To get there, we need to believe that the other side exists and the sun shines upon it.
Meanwhile, here are some coping tips. What you will find is most of them are really basic. You’ll shrug them off and say they’re stupid. I did for a long time in therapy. Then, I realized, you don’t build a castle on shaky foundation. Healing starts by MASTERING the basics. Only then is sustainable growth possible:
- Eat, sleep, and drink water regularly. Physiologically, you cannot live to your maximum potential if you are depriving your body of its basic needs. Starving yourself strong impacts emotional regulation. Sleep deprivation incapacitates people in the same way alcohol can without the fun buzz. Dehydration ruins focus.
- Belly Breaths. Ever been to a yoga class? It always goes back to breath. Why? Because noticing your breathing attunes us to our bodies, connects us deeper to ourselves. Be still. Inhale so deeply your nostrils expand, belly protruding frontward as both ribs reach for the side walls. Strip yourself down to the very first thing your body learned to do when entering this earth. Remind it that you are present inside it, not ignoring it.
- Write it down– whether it’s a bullet journal or utilizing a feelings wheel (sounds cheesy but that’s literally the second thing we did after breathing in intensive therapy) and locate how you’re feeling, where you’re feeling it, and what you need in those moments. Not only that, but mapping a scale of your feelings from worst to best, how you react and what actions are associated with that as well as what you need in those moment is helpful. Consider listing what you are grateful for. Maybe it’s just one thing, like strong teeth or the shining sun. Locating gratitude, while also holding our pain is the key to surviving hardship. Survival belongs to those who hold their grips with their hope and gratitude.
- Recognize your triggers and how you can address them (not just avoid but move through those moments when the triggers appear).
- Who do you trust? Who comprises your community? Consider having an accountability buddy for your commitments. Consider a confidant who you can process externally with. One person cannot fulfill all of your emotional needs. That’s why a community is important. If you don’t have them in person, consider online (facebook groups, tumblr, etc).
- If you can afford it, telecounseling is helpful.
- Maintain hygiene. Even if it’s just putting on a new pair of PJs and changing your sheets, that creates a sense of accomplishment. If you feel up to it, shower, shave, brush your teeth, put on make up of that makes you feel good. It is harder to hate something you take care of. At the very least, self care gives you one fewer thing to beat yourself up about.
- Move your body– it doesn’t have to be this super intense work out. Walk outside. Stretch. Dance to your favorite song. Just get the blood flowing. It’s a few minutes away from your bed.
- Accept that healing and coping aren’t a competition. It isn’t superficial. It’s at your own pace. Don’t pressure yourself.
As I’m writing this, I realized that today is the eight anniversary of the day I was assaulted. That is a meaty numerator. It’s the kind that doused so much of my college career– the numerators following. But no numerator is definitive. That includes your job, your social circle, your hobbies, your net worth. You aren’t what you do or what has happened to you. It has never been about what you call yourself– as that will change a thousand times over. It is about doing the damn thing and remaining rooted in the self that cannot be taken away. I said this in my last post, but I’ll say it again: you cannot be taken away from you. You can feel grief for so many losses, but the real you is always with you, even if it is a reintroduction.
We are not out of this season, friend. We are still inside it. Can you breathe? Can you laugh and cry and curse that fate ordered this and still, still believe it is a wonderful life? Because it is. This is a bitch of a numerator. There might be a few more ahead. Yet, I assure you that the denominator– the grand total of your life– is glorious because I refuse to believe you won’t let it be anything other than that.