“We think that if we just meditated enough or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect.” ~ Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
Things do fall apart
In our lives, things fall apart: We lose jobs, we lose housing, we lose people we love. In those times, we feel lost as well. We feel tossed here and there and long for a soft place to land.
We are but blades of grass blowing in the wind.
Life has a way of showing us who’s boss and, as if we needed to be reminded, it isn’t us.
Often our first response to this type of stress is to grip ever tighter and attempt to control our immediate surroundings. But this is rarely a strategy that results in an end to the free fall nor does it create the soft landing we seek.
Freefall gives way to uncertainty
I’ve experienced several times in my life when I’ve been shocked into the reality of uncertainty. Each time I go through one of these experiences, it feels as if I’m stepping out of a plane, plummeting rapidly toward the earth without a parachute.
Recently I was there again, the bottom falling out of the world as I knew it. I was in freefall.
Gradually the initial sensation of impending doom gave way, not to comfort, but the realization that uncertainty is my new reality.
Feeling alone and adrift
When our lives fall apart, we often feel isolated and alone. We tend to retreat from our usual social encounters causing friends to worry about us and nervously adopt a habit of checking in on us to see that we’re eating and not drinking too much.
We fool ourselves into thinking we are, indeed, alone and isolated. We may dip into the pool of self-pity on occasion, telling ourselves that being a bit miserable is part of the process.
Isolation is always a self-imposed reality. No one forces us to withdraw, to retreat from our circle of friends, or to become a hermit. We choose this. It might be a source of comfort for a while, but it doesn’t last.
Uncertainty gives way to being
For me, the feeling of uncertainty that follows the period of free fall eventually leads me to a place where I can choose a state of conscious being instead of cloistered isolation.
In the past, when I’ve encountered a similar seismic life event, I’ve opted to act and pursue something meaningful: to renew my commitment to my meditation practice or go to the gym more often or get a new and personally significant tattoo—anything that would help me move forward.
When things fall apart in our lives, we slow down and lose our forward momentum. Making a conscious choice to move forward helps us inch forward from a place of uncertainty into a state of mindfulness, consciously choosing to be fully present again.
Things will continue to fall apart
If I know anything it’s that nothing is permanent. Everything is in flux and is ever-changing. My current state of being mindful of my new reality could change tomorrow.
I know that life will continue to change, to evolve, and at times fall apart.
Moving forward, embracing new actions and commitments, and honestly looking at what is in front of me is, perhaps, the wisest way I know to respond.