Spoiler Alert! Yes you will.
On the Edge of Hopelessness
Almost every great movie or story reaches an “All is Lost” moment. The scene where the hero crashes against a formidable opponent and we sit on the edge of our seats wondering if they have what it takes to get through. We hand over money to see our hero bump up against foes almost too strong for them. We are drawn into wondering,: “Do they have want it takes?”
Batman gets his butt kicked by the evil Bain.
Darth Vader looms large in the space between Luke and the Emperor.
Julia Roberts sprints from the altar one more time.
Do they have what it takes to survive this? Perhaps the reason we are so willing to line up to watch characters rush to the edge of hopelessness, is because we have been forced to hang in that space in our every day lives.
“All is lost” moments are so much more exciting on the screen than in real life.
I know from my social media feeds that feeling on the edge of hopelessness is not a new moment for many of you. In record numbers we are rushing to that crucial ‘all is lost’ cliffhanger every day. Sometimes before breakfast! Will we make it through?
Like a wrestler pressed to the mat we wish we could tap out.
Some of us literally go buggy eyed at the thought of yet another zoom meeting with the top of someone’s head or staring up someone’s nostrils. I had an entire counselling session with a picture on a wall which, by the way, was preferable to the one I did with a client’s chest.
Our New Normal is Not at all Normal.
The newly dubbed Homeschool Mom or Dad, that is forced to oversee a mishmash of educational options without access to libraries, stores or sporting events.
Not a few of you are sweating over finances. Forced to play with unknown budget forecasts in order keep the business and the families afloat takes a tangible toll on our bodies.
The frontline workers pulling themselves out for their shift, acting like it’s ‘business as usual’ when it’s anything but. Forced to wear masks to protect against an invisible enemy while creating headaches to haul home.
Small quick errands have become half day excursions. My printer spit out its last bit of ink and I traipsed off to view the lineups at Walmart, Staples and London Drugs – only to find there seems to be a shortage on my printer’s particular ink. Why didn’t I just order online?. Well I did and what was supposed to be ready in 2 hours is now 2 days late. Things are frustratingly just not the same.
It’s okay if you need to press pause for a moment.
It’s okay to take a breath.
Like all the great movie heroes, you’re going to get through this. Your kids will not be forever scarred because they failed to get through their math page. The teacher will forgive you for missing that zoom call. Oh, you are the frustrated teacher? So much grace has to be available in both directions.
Sometimes the Best way to Pull it Together is to Fall Apart
There is just so much going on that we can’t control.
Perhaps we needed this bit of pandemic craziness to help us pull our lives back together.
Face it. Things weren’t all rosy before. We were in a reality we might not want to return to. Too many of us were running too fast for too long just to stay above water.
I’ve looked in wonder at how this latest generation of parents have raised the bar of expectations beyond what I feel is humanly possible for everyone. Have beautifully managed houses, while you always look fabulous with a fit body, while doing a side hustle, and making Pinterest worthy snacks for after the soccer practice while still finding time to send cute notes to those they love. That level of expectations really needed to come crashing down.
When you’ve reached your “all is lost” moment, here are some thoughts and reminders to help you pull it back to together when it’s all fallen apart. Any one of these tools are adequate to help you face this adversary with strength. Pick one or two to hang on to today and know you are not alone. We are all fumbling with our tools wondering if we have what it takes to get through this moment and onto some beautiful reprise.
1. Lower the Bar on Expectations.
We set the bar height. We can lower it. If you are having a day where it seems the world within your walls has gone mad, drop the expectations. What you are going through is incredibly hard. No one has done this before. Breaking new ground has always been back-breaking work.
2. Raise the bar on love.
I know you want to raise responsible human beings. I know you’re worried about them falling behind and destroying their futures forever. It won’t. Everyone is in the same boat. Remember your first responsibility is not to churn out brilliant, capable humans. Your first responsible is to love them. Focus frazzled parent. Love. Everything else is secondary or just a stress inducing waste of time at the moment.
If you aren’t dealing with kids right now, still make your focus love. Being part of the machine that is churning out negative stories, isn’t helping you or those around you. Churn out some love for those around you and for yourself.
3. Recognize the Push and Pull of Social Media
We so desperately need social connection at this time. Unfortunately social media can quickly creep up the expectation bar that you’ve just lowered. Seeing the highlight reel of your friends’ fabulous lives is not helpful in that moment. If it’s not inspiring, but shame and guilt inducing instead – shut it down. Parents motivated by shame and guilt will only pass on shame and guilt. I’ve been there, done that. And besides, behind that highlight reel, you really don’t know what’s going on. Take it from a counsellor. You have no idea. Balance your pull for social connection with a call to an understanding friend instead of a passive scrolling through the feed.
4. Create moments of silence. Quiet time. (For Parents)
Find spaces of solitude. It’s crucial. I don’t want to pile on more “you shoulds” but developing some sort of shift schedule is crucial. Times when someone else is in charge and you can shut off. If you are parenting alone, you can’t feel guilty about letting screens give you those moments of quiet. My mom, a co-creator of 10 little humans, always enforced a quiet time after lunch. It was a time to get away from each other in your bed. They can read a book, draw, use their imagination, nap. Meanwhile you take your hot drink to a window and watch for birds and living things. Intentional breaks from the chaos.
5. Expect and accept your space will be interrupted. (For Parents)
You might as well just accept it . If you catch a moment alone, like on the toilet, someone or something will interrupt it. Expect it but don’t give up trying to find it. By expecting it, you forgo those moments of frustration when it happens and your mood turns worse than it was previously. It’s like expecting that when you’re driving in a city that you’ll have to stop at a red light. If you expect to get to the grocery store without ever having to stop, you’re going to be extremely frustrated. There are things like traffic lights and stop signs that will mess with that goal. But we’re smart enough to expect them. Very few of us rage at stop lights. It’s a pointless endeavour and we’ll never change it. The same is true of mom or dad and kids. Expect delays for a change of clothes and detours for the forgotten blanket,. Somehow expecting the unexpected drains the emotion out of the situation.
6. Celebrate the small wins.
If you’ve lowered that bar and are accepting that there will be delays along the way, then when something (ANYTHING!) goes off without a hitch, take a “Yay me!”moment. Those are not the “this is the way should be” moments. Those instead are the victor’s triumph – You’ve persevered and made it through.
7. Know this won’t last forever.
“This too shall pass” is not a new statement. I remember the first time a seasoned mom said that to me and it felt like a weight lifted. Sometimes the most fearful thought that tumbles around in our heads is,”This is the way things will always be.” It’s not.
You have what it takes to get through this.
You know how to love.
You know how to carve out moments of peace.
You know how to bust out a ray of joy.
You can do this.
These are the only truly important things right now. .
You’ll get through this. We’ll get through this together.
“All is Lost” moments are always followed by growth that changes. This chapter won’t last forever and you will be more resilient to face whatever comes next.
Trish White provides counselling in Saskatoon for those needing clarity to get through the “all is lost” moments of life.