Have you ever felt overwhelmed? Ok, that was a rhetorical question, I am sure you have, as have I, many times.
Life is hard. Sometimes it feels like stuff is thrown at us with lightning speed. We are filled with questions regarding the future: How will we manage? What if…? What if not…? The worry, or angst, can be paralyzing, not to mention times when we are overcome by grief, sadness, or depression.
I have often wondered at how we are born and instantly just thrown into the chaos, left to make our decisions as best we can. I certainly didn’t come with a manual that warned about my hidden congenital heart disease, or the depression that I would experience because of it, or the nearly crippling fear before my open-heart surgery. I didn’t have a handbook called “How to Raise Toddlers When Your Body is Ninety Years Old and No-one Knows Why”.
But I want to share one approach that I have found to give comfort in any circumstance we might find ourselves in. I have at least not yet encountered any situation where this approach wasn’t useful or comforting.
When my first book, the Wall Street Journal bestseller Beautiful Affliction, was about to be published, I was thrown onto a roller coaster of emotions that I wasn’t prepared for. It was a mix of anxiety for how the book would be received, the fear that often comes from walking into unknown territory, the uncomfortable feeling of exposing myself, and constant decisions that needed to be made, with no way of knowing for sure how the decisions would impact the book’s success.
My way of coping with this prolonged stressful situation, was to repeat the mantra that had helped me through the challenges described in the book: This will be interesting. I chased away thoughts that worried about success, and let myself rest in the assurance, that either way, the journey would be interesting. The assurance that I would learn a lot. The belief that things would work out for the best and even if they didn’t, it would at least be interesting.
It might sound simple, but the truth is we can always grow, always learn something. If nothing else, we can examine and learn from our own emotional response to the situation we are in. That is, I have found, often extremely interesting. Because we are not so different after all, and anything we can learn from our own experiences, can help us connect with others in a more profound way. Every time we feel something, which is all the time, we grow to better understand humanity.
As writers, we can use what we learn in our work, but every person is a creator–a writer of sorts–of their own story, and we can use what we learn in our interactions with friends and family, and thus grow, and learn, and grow even more. Even in times when we feel like our lives stand still and we learn nothing at all. Perhaps especially in such times.
Then, whatever dark place we find us in, the view can still be interesting, and even spectacular.