I was on a podcast yesterday — one of a panel of folks — and the question was “how do you stay grounded when you are overwhelmed?”
I heard the usual New Age answers — with the tone I call “glurpy purple with angels” — things like “dance in the middle of your living room” or “go hug a tree.”
But the first thing I thought when I heard that was “and what if someone is bedridden? A paraplegic? In a concrete jungle where trees can’t be found?”
You want privilege? I point to that.
So listen, my fellow metaphysicians of whatever stripe: When we are asked for advice on how to deal with something, don’t knee-jerk to what you’ve read on a Hallmark card or in a Hay House book. Think about who might ask that.
They’re working eighty hours a week at three different jobs.
They live in an area where maybe there AREN’T trees (inner city, the desert-y Southwest).
They live in an area where it’s downright damned dangerous to go find nature to hug.
So no trees. Maybe even no living room. So what does everybody have?
The one thing that we have is our BRAIN, if we are asking for help with that. So give brainstuff.
What did I say yesterday?
ONE: Remember that you are not your story — don’t feel like you can’t (or mustn’t) change what you have been your whole life. You are allowed to change your story. You don’t have to be the one everyone tells to do things when they’re too damned lazy. You don’t have to be the one people ignore. You have a right to be angry, to demand to be seen, to say NO. Because…
TWO: NO is a fabulous idea. Use it. Learn that saying no to someone high maintenance, thoughtless, unconscious, is one of the most powerful things you can do to break out of the overwhelm.
THREE: If you’re like the little kid with the foot nailed to the floor who doesn’t understand why the scenery isn’t changing no matter how fast he runs — pull out the nail, if at all possible. Whatever that nail is — in terms of old ideas about yourself, other peoples’ ridiculous expectations.
FOUR: Dare, don’t compare — stop telling yourself that everyone else handles what you handle, so you have to do it too. Dare to care about yourself first, even if it’s not fashionable, even it’s not what “people in your circumstances” do.
And it doesn’t mean go spend money on spas, new clothes, or an “event.” It means pay attention to where you become exhausted, the stress becomes unbearable, or demands are constant and unreasonable. And allow yourself to ACKNOWLEDGE that, and hit the brakes on whatever you can.
Of course there are things like “hug your fur person” — I completely admit that a 22-pound Maine Coon is Valium with whiskers and a purr — but if you haven’t got a fur person handy, it’s important to reach for what you can.
And to my fellow left-of-center counselors and healers, I challenge you to think about what comes out of your mouth and see if it’s truly helpful, or just another damn purple platitude.