Bumps in the Road and Six Tools for Navigating Them

In which the author rambles on for over 1,300 words about feeling sucky, and about six tools for helping feel unsucky.

So here’s where it gets hard. For over a week I managed to stay pretty solidly in the place of hope, excitement, and belief in myself and my dreams.

The past couple of days, though, have been rough.

Suddenly I feel smothered by overwhelm. Grief from a recent loss has unexpectedly welled up and slammed – smack – right into me. A day ago, full of hope, I read a wonderful article on doubt at Soul Shelter. Now I find myself drowning in it (self-doubt, that is).

So it seems I’ve come to my first bump in the road.

I have to ask myself: Is this whole endeavor just a complete waste of time?

But then the answer comes right back: No!

Benign reality: my primary goal in starting this blog is to inspire myself to keep going after the life I want.

And guess what – I’m writing daily, and have been making art and progressing in other ways. So from this perspective, my mission is already a success!

I knew I’d hit bumps in the road. The whole point of this narcissistic exercise is to help me navigate my way through them (or over them, or around them – pick your preposition).

So, kiddo, what do you do when you hit a bump?

Thankfully, I’ve learned a thing or two about myself in my decades on this planet. (Havi would call this my Book of Me, though my actual physical book is spread out among years of journals.)

Sometimes I think of it as a Tool Box.

If I need to connect a couple of pieces of wood, I grab a hammer and nails. If I need to get through a rough time, there are some things that I know work.

Of course, not yet having achieved the state of perfection, I don’t always do them…

But I’m getting better!

Here’s a list of some of the tools I’ve been using (or not), and how it’s going right now:

Crying

Okay, I know that may sound like a weird tool, but don’t you always feel better after a good cry? Or if not better exactly, at least slightly less stuck?

No, it’s not a fun tool, but it is a useful one, and I’ve been using it a lot lately!

This tool is much better if you can use it in the presence of someone who can listen, and not comment, and not give advice, and whom you know won’t get all caught up in worrying about you, but will know you’re really okay underneath all the tears; you just need to vent a whole lot of emotion to get back to seeing Benign Reality and that your life is good.

Of course, finding people who can do this is not always easy.

People get confused, and think that the crying is the hurt, when in fact it’s the healing from the hurt. And the last thing you need when you’re trying to heal from a hurt is to worry about someone else getting all freaked out, and feel like now you’ve got to take care of them in addition to taking care of your own sorry self!

A good therapist can play this role. Or a co-counselor, who takes turns with you – one of you plays the role of “Client” and the other plays the role of “Counselor.” You set a timer, and then swap when the time’s up.

It’s amazing. I’ve been doing it for over a dozen years now in a local co-counseling community, and it has changed my life.

Have I reached out to my co-counselors during this bump? A little. I had a great mini-session yesterday, but 10 minutes is not nearly enough when you’re drowning in grief. I have a much longer session scheduled for tomorrow, so that’s good.

Tool use score: Good. Could use some work reaching out.

Going for a walk

Something about getting outside and walking, moving through space, just makes a big difference. I especially like walking where I’m closer to to nature. Yesterday and over the weekend I went to the park near my home, out in the Baylands.

The underlying hum of rush hour traffic from the nearby freeway is inescapable, but the rustle of tall grass in the wind adds a layer of gentler sound. Honking geese, ducks, egrets and other water birds remove me from the problems inside my head. Even the snails scattered along the trail pull me out of myself. (Have there been snails on the path before? I don’t remember them! What beautiful shells they have, white with a delicate brown lace overlay.)

I wonder what it must be like to be a duck, to be focused only on eating and procreating, and whatever else it is that ducks think about.

For at least a moment I am not thinking about myself and my problems!

I suspect the ducks are probably not concerned about achieving something meaningful and great with their ducky lives. Just being a duck is enough.

Which is probably a lesson.

But even if I don’t make it out to the park, even if I just walk around my suburban neighborhood, something about the rhythm of my feet on the ground, my arms swinging, just shakes things up, moves some energy, helps get me unstuck.

Tool use score: Pretty good — I’ve gotten out for a long walk a few times in the past week-plus. Daily would be ideal, but is probably not realistic at this juncture. I’m working on being easy on myself, so 2-3 long walks in a week is a reasonable goal.

Writing

I’ve taken to bringing a little pocket journal and a pen on my walks. I’ve spent most of my life writing in my head: letters, expository essays, random musings. The problem is, if it doesn’t actually get written down, it can’t accurately be called writing.

Now I find myself scribbling like mad at every opportunity. Sometimes I spend more of my “walk” writing than I do walking!

I notice that when I’m writing, I feel like I’m being actively creative, which in turn feels like I’m doing something concrete to create the life I want, so yay me!

Tool use score: Excellent! Writing daily!

Yoga

Everything goes better when I’m doing yoga regularly! I’ve learned that I’m not very good about doing it on my own (even though I’ve been through yoga teacher training!), but I get to a great vinyasa class at least twice a week.

Three times a week is more than 50% better… but doesn’t always happen. It takes just that much effort to get to class, and it’s so easy to think I really need that hour and a half to get work done.

And this week my old shoulder injury has flared up, so it’s a Catch-22: go to yoga and delay my shoulder healing, or don’t go to yoga and feel crappy!

Monday I went, and the class just massacred my shoulder. Today I skipped it.

Tool use score: Not good, because of my shoulder. Perhaps more walking?

Avoiding Sugar

Since I switched to eating “primal,” ala The Primal Blueprint, it’s become easier for me to avoid sugar. The big key is keeping it out of the house. I frequently crave sweets when I’m feeling down, but eating sugar never actually makes me feel better.

I know this.

Unfortunately, with Passover, there’s been a lot more sugar around. Dinners on both the 1st and 2nd nights had lots of yummy desserts, and I ate too much..

Still, aside from that I was actually doing pretty damn well… until today when I tucked into the leftover vanilla ice cream.

Tool use score: Not that great. But better than at some times in my life, it should be noted.

Getting adequate sleep

Ugh. This is a hard one. My biggest challenge. Here I am, compulsively working on this post, and it’s almost 1:00am.

‘Nuff said.

Tool use score: pretty dismal.

And on that note, I’ll sign off.

(Wordy little thing, isn’t she?)

What tools do you find helpful when you come to a bump in the road?

Share your thoughts!

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