As I shared with you yesterday, my beloved mother was just diagnosed with a rare and aggressive kind of leukemia. (If you missed it, you can read about our shock and our magic stories here.) When life throws you a curveball, advice is often the last thing you need. You need permission to be emotional. You need room to be with what has happened. You need . . . whatever YOU need. It’s so individual. That said, I thought I’d share with you some of the things that help me when life throws me curveballs.
1. Don’t be afraid to reschedule or cancel things.
Our culture teaches us to “force function,” as if strong people power through such curveballs without missing a beat, as if it’s a weakness to claim your right to make space for crises when they arise unexpectedly. We are rarely given permission to slow down so we can be fully present in how we deal with life’s curveballs. Yet what if the healthiest way to deal with a curveball is to take a few weeks off work, cancel your commitments, and lean into your loved ones so you can cope with what is happening in a conscious way? While distracting yourself with busyness can be a coping mechanism some people need, it can also be a way to numb yourself so you don’t feel the painful emotions that might arise. Be willing to clear your schedule and take time off work if it feels supportive to your process.
2. Get clear about what calms your nervous system and what doesn’t. Be proactive about doing the things that calm you and whenever possible, avoid the things that don’t.
Especially in the face of a health crisis curveball, keeping the nervous system is relaxation response and avoiding stress responses is paramount. Now is not the time to worry about people pleasing. Now is the time to be clear about your boundaries. What feels good? What doesn’t? Who cultivates the stillness in you? Who doesn’t? What work tasks feel yummy? Which ones deplete you? When radical remissions happen, they usually happen to people who are not afraid to be uncompromising in their devotion to keeping the nervous system relaxed so the body’s natural self-healing mechanisms can function.
3. Meditate and pray.
Take the time to digest and integrate the curveball. One of the Buddhist monks at Green Gulch Zen Center said, “Meditation is important because we must take the time to digest, “Wow, that happened.'” You can download my free guided meditation CD here.
Instead of allowing the mind to go nuts as it tries to figure out how to control and manipulate life, trust that we are all held by invisible arms of love that can help us navigates times of uncertainty. Surrender the curveball to the Universe. Release your need to know and let go of thinking you have to figure out what to do. Ask for guidance and pay attention to everything, knowing that the Universe is trying to communicate with you all the time, as long as you have the ears to hear and the eyes to see.
5. Feel what you feel.
Don’t use your spiritual practices as a sort of spiritual bypass. Let your feelings flow. When life throws you a curveball, you’re likely to feel a crazy mix of fear, grief, disappointment, anger, frustration, and overwhelm. Don’t resist them. Feelings are just energy forms. They move through you like labor contractions and they usually don’t last longer than about 90 seconds if you’re not fighting them. When you don’t resist, feelings can move more quickly and you can more easily return to peace.
6. Move your body.
Suppressed feelings can get stuck in the body. But when you let feelings move through your body—through dance, massage, yoga, running, hiking, or somatic therapeutic practices like Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing or Steve Sisgold’s Whole Body Intelligence, stuck patterns get released and the mind, body, and soul feel more ease.
7. Become self-aware, identify your needs, and ask those you trust to help you.
Our culture doesn’t do a good job of giving us permission to be needy. We are fed a lousy tale of the rugged individualist who doesn’t need anyone or anything but his cigarette and his horse. Expecting yourself to take care of all of your own needs when life throws you in a curveball is not a strength—it’s a weakness. Be willing to be vulnerable. We are tribal beings. We NEED one another. To be aware enough to identify what will help you feel better and to be brave enough to ask others to support you takes courage and breeds intimacy.
8. Practice radical self-care.
Sleep extra. Walk the labyrinth . Eat well. Let yourself be held by those who can let you feel safe to be emotional. Make love. Listen to music. Sing. Dance. Drink green juice. Write. Snuggle lots. Wrap yourself in fuzzy things. Stand among redwoods, waterfalls, mountains, rivers, and oceans. Let them heal you.
9. Make a home altar.
Devote it to whatever curveball you just got thrown. Gather sacred objects. Collect things from nature. Create a sacred space where you can go to seek solace, pray, meditate, and engage with the sacred objects in a meaningful and deep way.
In Norman Cousins Anatomy of an Illness, he tells the story of how a painful health condition was cured through laughter. Laughter is always good medicine, regardless of what curveball you’ve been thrown. Keep your sense of humor. Go to a comedy club. Spent time with those who make you laugh. Watch silly YouTube videos of cute things animals do. Try laughter yoga. Mom and I just went to an 80s themed prom with my new boyfriend Richard. Think taffeta, polka dot stockings, shoulder pads, Depeche Mode, and big hair. Laughter was plentiful. We could all feel the medicine.
11. Create beauty.
My family spent the past two weeks making a healing blanket, covered with images, symbols, words, poems, and quotes intended to help Mom heal. She will have it to take with her any time she needs comfort. Creating healing art and engaging in acts of beauty soothes the soul.
12. Find someone who knows how to hold space.
Call a trusted friend who knows how to hold space. Visit a therapist. Seek out support from your pastor or rabbi. Talk to a spiritual counselor. Get help. Know that you are loved. Don’t expect to get through this alone.
We are all in this together, my friends. Life throws us all curveballs. None of us gets off the hook. But we can do hard things with great love, as long as we know we’re not alone.
I love you,
PS. My beloved friend Debbie Rosas, who founded Nia, the dance art form, is launching a new program The Awakening Project that sounds as classy, gutsy, edgy, and creative as only someone like Debbie can co-create. I’m not an affiliate of this program. I just know from firsthand experience that anything Divinely feminine Debbie does is Full of Awesome. Learn more here.
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