“The quote that is normally attributed to the writer ANAÏS NIN, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” is also a Talmudic idea about dream analysis: People can only dream about things they have encountered or thought about, and so their dreams consist not of reality — whatever that is — but is instead a version filtered through the lens of the dreamer’s experiences.” –Deb Amien, for the New York Times
For every person who says you’re too loud, there is a person who says they are too quiet.
For every person who’s told they overshare, another is told that they undershare.
For each person who says to get off social media, there is someone who feels joy and laughter and love when they are on social media.
For every person who thinks you’re too much, there is a person who thinks you are beautiful, hilarious, and brilliant–a person who lights up when they see or hear you.
For every person who worries too much, there is a being out there being asked to show up and care a little more.
For every recommendation to meditate, there are recommendations to rage or dance.
For every tidy, organized, color-coded schedule, there is an artistic, well-doodled page of options arranged to be either taken OR left.
You know yourself best. Recommendations from others come from their centering-points. Again, we see the world as we are. We project our needs onto others because we are trying to help or grapple for control. And sometimes what a person is doing to cope makes US anxious, and then we try to make them stop…by telling them what we do. So they’ll stop. Because deep down, maybe they are making US anxious.
- To de-center oneself and one’s own needs,
- and remove our own expectations from others
- so they may show us who they are
- and be willing to see them clearly
- without trying to control them
…is an act of courage that is very difficult.
It is important to understand we don’t own or owe anyone, that we are not entitled to collect on our expectations, and that not everyone is *for us. And this means that we will not be *for everyone.
It’s not personal, but sometimes it *feels personal. Our feelings can definitely be wrapped up in something we think we need, or ideas and desires we have become attached to. And that’s not wrong, it’s just hard and it makes life feel a little more sticky. And heartbreaking. On the other hand, life just IS heartbreaking.
Try not to force your coping style onto any other person. If you need more of something or less of something, consider how that need is yours and it’s precious. This doesn’t mean your right to have it is any more precious than another’s right to not have to provide it.
These are hard truths to swallow. It might be better to set one or another on the counter and just peek at it from time to time until it starts to take meaning for you, from inside of your own life.
Coping in the Pandemic
IN THE HOUSE:
Each person in the house may have a different coping style. If the house is small, this may be more difficult. All we can do is practice grace and respect and boundaries. These are a practice.
Don’t try to rip anyone else out of their coping style. And this one’s hard to swallow…even if you feel it is unhealthy. Even if all you want is the best for them, try to acknowledge efforts to rip coping strategies away doesn’t work. And in this crisis, it might cause escalations.
And this is imperfect advice, because some people’s homes never de-escalate. Domestic violence is a very big, real problem. Right now it’s still a problem. Many of us straddle the line between sobriety and addictions. And there are so many hurts right now. It’s unfathomable.
IN THE COMMUNITY:
We are seeing our community members, friends, and families’ coping styles on display. Some people retract to conserve energy. Some people reach out to connect, fueled and encouraged by that. Some people use humor. Others ride the ebb and flow of anger, sadness, or anxiety. Some people go fully dissociative. Some crawl into the cognitive and academic. There is overworking, and there is shutting down.
Silence is profoundly comforting to some, and behind that silence a host of experiences sit, or stand, or pace. We ought not try to read the minds of the silent.
Some people remain watchful, some vigilant, some hypervigilant, and some are unplugged. My husband builds things to relax. He is doing projects. I am, obviously, writing.
This is a time to practice living shame-free. When we’re put into close quarters and our escape hatches are closed, there will be visible evidence of our failings; personally and collectively.
It’s ok to do it wrong. It’s ok to make mistakes, whether you made them when you were anxious or not. If you feel ashamed or embarrassed, it’s ok to step out of that and laugh at aspects of it…or cry, or release that in whatever way serves you.
Gently, I’ll suggest that it’s not ok to double down on the reaction to dip into shame. Shame will wrap itself around you and bind you up. It will slow down the return to Try Again Base Camp. It mucks up our recovery and reset from the inevitable negative feelings of things not going the way we’d intended.
Try to balance gentleness and firmness. With yourself and others. Now and always. It’s a good time to practice seeing others as *they are.