How to take care of yourself when everything is up in the air

How to take care of yourself when everything is up in the air by Jen Louden

My last post struck a resonant cord with many of you. Thank you so much for all your supportive wishes and sharing my words with your friends so widely.

Your experiences of being in liminal space – this betwixt between time when you’ve let go of one person, place, or job and what’s next isn’t here yet – inspired me to think more about how we can best take care of ourselves in these wide open times. I’ve been pondering,

How do you take care of yourself so you can let go with courage and stay awake to what beckons next?

I’m finding that simply posing this question is useful. It is helping me hold both, letting go of this phase of my life and designing what I want in my new life.

It also helps me be aware that self-care needs to support my nervous system to calm the hell down without excessively numbing myself out. I’ve been keeping an eye on how I want to comfort myself, minimizing shadow comforts by asking myself, “What do I really want?I-rest or TV? If TV, what show would restore me rather than make me anxious? Novel or poetry? Sit outside on porch watching the swallows and ravens or do a little yoga? Talk with a friend? Then who can meet me in this place without trying to fix things?

It sounds like this inquiry takes a lot of time, but the truth is, asking what you really want saves time because you don’t end up giving yourself something so-so or even draining, which leaves you feeling more drained or strung out.

I’m also being aware of how much I seek comfort because I don’t want to use comfort to mute the potency of this passage. I don’t want to “just get through this.” I want to savor this in-between time, this not knowing what’s next.

I’m telling myself that being in the liminal space is the coolest thing ever, not knowing is fun! Instead of wanting to be done, I keep bringing myself back to experiencing with my body what in-between feels like in this moment. You might play with that.

I’ve been reading Decisive by the Heath brothers to help me remember how to make good decisions and watching Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk, “How to Make Stress your Friend,” to remind me that, as Kelly says at the end, “One thing we know for certain is that chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort. And so I would say that’s really the best way to make decisions, go after what it is that creates meaning in your life and then trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.”

Find resources that teach you what might be helpful but don’t try to get a Ph.D. right now – a little goes a long way.

I am also reining my mind in from obsessively making plans. Plans are a bone thrown to my desire to know, and that bone throwing? Can get ugly fast. It’s one thing to calmly call my sister and say, “We need a plan B if a place for mom doesn’t open up by August 15th,” and quite another to absentmindedly chew my arm off while pinging through every possible permutation with her. It’s one thing to spend 10 minutes on Zillow looking at houses while dreaming about what I want in our next house and quite another to frantically click click click for an hour. When the frantic clicking and arm chewing starts, it’s time to shut my mouth, close the laptop, and move my body – even if it’s just a walk around the block.

It’s helpful to distinguish between planning that helps and planning that spins you in circles and muddies the water until you can’t tell up from down.

Related to that last self-care move is taking myself away from the fantasy of doing this passage right. I have such an addiction to doing things right! It’s so weird because I am not a “good girl” at all. Bob jokes that I’m his little rule breaker but there is some part of me that, when I am anxious, starts scratching around for “the right way.” But, of course, there isn’t a right way to do this. I can only stay awake. I can only keep opening my heart. Keep crying in yoga. Keep pausing to feel. Keep walking in the woods.

Keep on friend, keep on. We are always doing the best we can in any given moment. We can trust life to carry us and ourselves to navigate with love.

Love in liminal space,

Jen

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