You can do anything you set your mind to Think happy thoughts Just keep your head up
It’s all in your mind Don’t wallow in pity for yourself There are people worse off than you
Think of everything good in your life Happiness is a choice It could be worse Cheer up
Snap out of it Just don’t think about it Try a little harder You’re being dramatic
Have you ever been surrounded by people who actually may or may not mean well, but try to sympathize with you? In trying to sympathize they really just make you feel even more isolated. They try to put a silver-lining on it with “at least” statements and “if only” statements. I can’t really blame them for trying to make things better, but it’s usually for themselves. Suffering makes people uncomfortable. People feel like 1. They don’t want to catch that 2. They don’t want to be around that 3. They need to minimize that and/or 4. They need to fix that. The result? “but you have it so good” “if only you tried a little harder” “at least your Husband supports you.”
Sometimes I don’t want a response. I don’t need to hear anything at all. Because it’s not about fixing whatever is wrong, but instead meeting me where I’m at. Because when I’m in a dark trench, shouting out that I’m stuck and overwhelmed, I don’t need you to bring me up to where you are in sunshine land. The light is too bright to adjust to all that fast. And when you’re standing where the sun is soaking into your skin and the grass is tickling your toes, it’s more difficult for you to understand what it feels like down where my bare feet touch the rocks and send goosebumps racing on my skin. Connect with me. Don’t try to make things better.
The “if only” and “at least” statements attach a negative stigma to positive mind-shifts. I was so irritated and frustrated and annoyed and isolated when people told me to basically just think happy thoughts. Oh sure… they stood up there. Don’t they understand it isn’t that easy! When you climb down in the dark with me to display that you know what it’s like and that I’m not alone, suddenly you’ve brought a ladder that leads out of the trench. When you’re next to me just sitting and you break the silence with try to think positively, I don’t feel like rolling my eyes this time. And just maybe there’s something to this mindset-shift.
I want to take a moment to thank my husband. David has mastered the art of climbing down in the dark trench with me, not saying anything but offering his chest for tears (hey, I’m short). Then, he’ll reach out his hand to me and wait for me to accept. Hand in hand we’ll walk to the ladder and climb, one step at a time. It doesn’t mean I’m not annoyed at the concept and thought of trying to find ways to think positively –but it does help me.
Last night I was reading “They Do Remember” by Sandy Cicero. Her book reads truly like a story, you’re drawn into the events just as when reading To Kill A Mockingbird or Man’s Search For Meaning. I often find other survivor stories empowering and connecting. But sometimes, it triggers a strong emotional plight. I get sucked down in a dark trench. And for me, it’s more about feelings and pictures than it is words. I wasn’t thinking words at all, but I could feel pain and sorrow and I could picture silent memories. I consciously made an effort to think if only a little bit more positive and to feel if only a bit happier. And it worked. There was still this shadow, but it worked. I climbed back up the ladder, one foot at a time! I know I haven't always shared with you the positives, so here it is - I love my life. I may not enjoy the whole suffering-entering-my-life-often part, but when I love life, life loves me back.
Each of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm. When we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other because each of use is more alike than we are unalike. ~ Dr. Maya Angelou
So this is me, climbing down with you to your dark trench, saying I know what it’s like down there and you’re not alone first. Second, this is me sitting with you, for as long as you need in silence. Third, this is me breaking the silence, offering to take the first step on the ladder, hand-in-hand. The second step won’t seem so hard when we climb together.