Nothing is permanent. Everything is constantly changing. But we don’t always notice that fundamental truth. We usually go about our business without much notice. But then something unexpected or painful happens, like a break-up or coming out of retreat and we find ourselves feeling lost, lonely and depressed. What then?
I just got home from an extended stay in Canada. I spend five glorious weeks with my boyfriend, and then had to come back home to start my graduation program. After being awake for roughly 32 hours and a trip that was both emotionally and physically wrecking, I made it home. As soon as I stepped in the door I noticed I felt pretty much the same familiar way as when I come out of retreat.
I sat down on the edge of my bed and started sobbing. I felt lonely, sad, tired and found that even though my room felt very comfortable, something was missing. After constantly being surrounded by people, all of the sudden it was just me. After falling asleep next to my favorite person, his familiar smell, his loud breathe and the big spoon/small spoon battle night after night, now it was just my teddy bear and me. My Beertje (little bear in Dutch) was lacking human proportions, which never bothered me before. And no, I am not at all embarrassed for the fact that I’m 25 years old still need my stuffie.
My heart was aching and all I wanted to do was get rid of this feeling. I’ve been contemplating what to do about it ever since I set foot on European soil. But I’m starting to think that ‘how do I make this feeling go away,’ is the wrong question entirely. Maybe I shouldn’t do anything ABOUT it.
I remember reading this amazing piece in ‘When Things Fall Apart’ by Pema Chodron: “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
So what does this mean? I think it means that we can learn to have the courage to embrace change. That we can learn to stay with the discomfort and pain, because resisting it will make it harder. We might actually be able to look at it with curiosity and fascination, rather than feeling paralyzed by fear and depression. How? By being kind to ourselves. Realizing that every change comes with both pain and joy. That it’s okay to feel however we feel. That we can meet with friends, go for a walk, light some candles, and breathe. And the question should not be: ‘How do I get rid of this?’ but instead we can ask ourselves: What do I need?
I don’t necessarily mean ‘need’ as a form of desire. It’s not a clingy sort of needing. It’s the kind of needing that is nurturing. Other ways to say it would be: What can I give myself? How can I take care of myself? What would serve me, right now?
By asking ourselves these questions we can actually own up to however we’re feeling and be true to that. We can sit back and read if that feels right, take a shower, do nothing, or meet with friends. But it’s not because we think we should, but because it feels right. In that way we become neither paralyzed nor overly ambitious about getting rid of the non-existing problem.