I had a difficult tooth extracted last month. I am now healed up but was in pain for a couple of weeks.
Sometimes I want to be taken care of, and other times I just want to power through. I’m not good at asking for help, but I’m always happy and relieved when it’s offered… or even thrust upon me. Feeling alone during injury or illness is a bit of a construct because for most of us a helping hand or supportive friend is just a phone call or text away. (My dentist calling me back late in the night on day four, in my moment of “why am I still in pain” gets a gold star for attentiveness.)
Besides healing from my recent dental adventure, I generally spend a lot of time in hot pursuit of learning how to heal one’s heart, soul, and spirit. Working on becoming the expert of myself lets me gather the techniques I share in my writing and talks, finding that we humans are all more similar than different.
When I travel somewhere new (Prague and Paris for this last trip, and yes I am grateful my work takes me far of foot) I tend to read, research, and dive into a place a little bit before I go. For this trip, I have been reading Rainer Maria Rilke, the beloved and complicated Czech-Bohemian poet. I came upon this quote that reminded me that my hot pursuit is a lifelong journey, not a quick sprint down the lane.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”— Rilke
Another quote struck me too — both making me happy and pissing me off, but I also think it holds a lot of truth.
“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.” — Rilke
I realize I do live and feel everything, which makes some days hard. And I also realize sometimes the universe gives you things/people so you can see and understand what you don’t want in your life. This isn’t always fun to accept, but it’s necessary for us to grow and make choices that are hard in the moment but we know are for the best. Answers come to us in a myriad of ways.
The ever-changing sticky note of things to consider on my computer offers me a few of those answers:
Let go of guilt
Love yourself first/boundaries
I’ve learned a lot about being a human because I am willing to share openly about myself, hold space for other people’s stories, and keep those stories in “the vault.”
These are life’s heavy hitters, and since I’m human I’ve experienced all of them at some point. I call them the 5 D’s:
These five challenges weave their way into and out of all our lives over and over again.
Difficult as it may be, I do think the best way to navigate them is, as Stephen Pressfield says, “just do the work” — whatever that means to each of us, we need to do it. Be present, feel your feelings in real-time, and get help when you need it. We only get one life, and every moment is a chance to move towards the answers to the heart’s questions. It might not be on the timetable we prefer, but as Rilke says, the answers come when they should.
Finding balance and self-love is different for everyone, but I wholeheartedly believe there is something out there that each of us connects with. Sometimes it’s a pint of ice cream, sometimes meditation, sometimes phoning a friend, sometimes a blast from the past coming into your life, finding a therapist, seeing something or someone in a different light, or even just going hiking. But you still have to look for it and make that connection.
Further, don’t wait to say what needs to be said or do what needs to be done. Happiness is a lifelong pursuit and there are many fears, obstacles, and things that happen that get in the way. But life is about the journey, not the finish line. What you fill that journey with, hopefully, is more good days than bad and more healthy than harmful choices.
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