After 89 moves, over the past 38 years, I thought that I would be more capable of anticipating the Rota Fortunae Gravitron swirling push of emotional vs logistical pressures that housing and geographical shifts bring with them. Certainly dealing with those last remnants of random belongings strewn all over the place are like being shot with a fist full of porcupine quills, but it’s really not so much the items that are the problem. My siblings can tell you to watch out the week before I’m about to leave a place, especially the last 3 days. No matter how pulled together I might seem prior to that time period there is a meltdown looming in the curtains. I know it’s there, it’s always there, but every time it jumps out from behind it’s hiding place I am totally caught off guard. My eyes swell, I become ridiculous to be around, and it seems as if every little thing is rubbing me the wrong way. I’m in 100% denial of the pain and grief that leaving brings with it.
It is easy, almost second nature, for me to avoid grief. I’ve even developed a way to remember it’s 5 stages, calling it the Ikea dance of loss (if Ikea had a grief product, I think this is what it would be called): DANSA – Denial, Anger, Negotiation, Sadness, and Acceptance. I’m a prima ballerina on the grand stage of grief’s dance. I often procrastinate, or busy myself with trying to nit-picky manage and control everything, when moving to manifest distress. I subconsciously do this as the fear of actually experiencing my authentic feelings related to the move or leaving are too overwhelming. This tug-of-war creates all types of relational cray cray behaviour. My subconscious does not want to be ignored. I need to emote my feelings, as they are going to burst out in one way or another. How can we get to a place where regardless of how hard our survival skills are attempting to prevent the emotional pain of loss, we can still feel it? This I will touch on at the end of the article.
Other people help me avoid grief when I move, without even knowing it. There are 3 main questions people almost always ask me when I’m about to leave:
1. Aren’t you excited?
2. How long will you be there?
3. What are you going to be doing?
Perhaps a “normal and reasonable” person can tick these off, easy-peazy. I’ve never claimed to be a normie, but I know I am also no longer terminally unique in the challenges I face. My first inclination is to process these questions as an invitation to rip myself out of the present and go for a jaunt into the krakalaka world of living in tomorrow. There’s a reason why I’m not a time traveler. If I’m spending all of my time in tomorrow or yesterday, then I’m never here now. As a Texan once said to me, “If you got yer left foot in the past, and yer right foot in the future…then yer pissin’ all over today.” Clearly pissing all over my life is not something I’m interested in, not to say those of you with those inclinations are wrong in anyway…it’s just not my overarching goal. Let me tell you what my answer to these 3 questions are:
1. Not really. I’m not a future pacing excitement kind of person. I get excited when I’m presently experiencing something exhilarating.
2. I am not a fortune-teller, nor wish to be one, although I did play one at a Halloween carnival when I was a teen-ager. Once I made the decision to turn my will and my life over to a power greater than myself I had to face the hard truth that I can pontificate and plan, but I can not tell you what will happen in my future. Throughout my life I have never ended up in destinations or way stations I would have foreseen…never. I stay out of the outcomes business and keep in the present and trying to refocus on doing “the next right thing,” which leads us to #3.
3. I do not know what I will be doing in the future. I can tell you what people have told me I may be doing or what I may aspire to do. I’ve had many T.O.R.s (Terms of Reference) when working as a consultant for INGOs (International Non Governmental Organizations), but I can assure you the realities on the ground are always different than the outlined bullet points prior to departure. The best way I’ve learned to approach the future is to carry a bucketful of graceful curiosity. I can be okay with not knowing what will happen. I can have faith that I have the tools to face whatever comes my way. The only thing that can impede my ability is FEAR. I’ve been told there are a few ways to look at fear, and these are the 3 most pertinent ways, I try to keep in mind.
A. Fight Everything And Run: I tried this. Never works. Always makes at least myself miserable. You see, when I get on the crazy train…I like to be the conductor and it’s always a passenger train, so I naturally want to fill all the seats on the train. Pure madness. Eventually, I find myself surrounded by disgruntled, resentful individuals. It’s best to never start up the engine. Today I can choose to “cease fighting anything or anyone,” despite this being a natural reaction to stress and fear.
B. False Evidence Appearing Real: This means that “feelings are not facts.” I need as many things as possible in my life to remind me of this. My mind loves for me to believe that everything I feel is real. As I mentioned in my previous article about my mind being a madness machine. How do I stop the vicious downward spiral of feeling-thought-feeling-thought? Mindfulness exercises.
C. Face Everything And Recover: I will not claim that facing what I fear is a pleasant experience or the easy way out. Becoming whole is hard work. In my private practice I am clear with potential clients that I only work with people who are ready. Why do you need to be ready? I wasn’t able to heal and transform my acting out behaviours, as a result of past trauma and addiction, into authentic living until I was ready. My experience has been that it is only through pain and suffering that the willingness to change has been manifest. Pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth.
HOW DO WE STOP IT?
I wish it was as easy as that skit to stop all of our fears! For a little relief to become present in a moment of stress it can be easy to STOP.
S – Stop what you are doing
T – Take several deep diaphragm expanding breaths, with your feet on the floor.
O – Observe what is happening in your physical sensations, and name a few items you see in front of you.
P – Proceed in mindful presence on to the next thing.
I find these simple steps can realign me back to the present despite whatever stresses or emotional dances I am trying to do to avoid grief and the realities of moving.
May you give yourself permission to stop…pause…in this moment, and breathe in fully the peace there is to find…now.
© Amanda Lee