Image by Johnny Freebird
Source: Instagram @calamityfair
Not everything always goes to plan, as it turns out. Every so often life hurls us a curve ball. This year’s topsy turviness has made it feel like they’re being fired out of one of those tennis ball machines at high speed. Some moments of late have looked like Inception. There have been days – nay, whole weeks and more – where it has felt like I was unwittingly cast in some sort of hyper-emo surrealist movie where all the other players were handed an advance copy of the script. Truly Bohemians, there’s only so many times What The ….?! can appear in the thought bubble above your head.
It is a struggle at the best of times to bridge the gap between where we think things are heading and then what happens. Expectation may be the root of all disappointment but it also exists as the mechanism by which we plan our lives. Caught out between the two poles, enough becomes more than enough. When you’re done with the blindsiding and its shocking fall out, all you want is answers. All of them. Because the best way to cope and learn and move forward is with understanding, right? Of late, I am not so sure.
What happens when those solutions don’t come served up on a neat little platter? If all you find on your tray table is lemons, do you make a twee lemonade? Boozy cocktails? Reach for the nearest spud gun? I am starting to think the concept of closure is contrived and dangerous at best and absolute horseshit at its worst. When All The Answers are not stashed in our back pocket or behind the lounge, nailing how to cope with having the rug pulled definitely helps. It is not a dodgy guarantee that it may happen less but it is certainly the Afterpath.
There’s nothing worse than that feeling sitting in your body of something that you just want to go away. It could be anger, guilt, sadness, grief, regret, heartbreak. It could be that you are completely to blame or that you have been hogtied and branded by another. It could be both and all of them at once. Blech. There’s no undoing what happened and there’s certainly no going back to happier times when delusion ruled the day and no-one could see the storm coming.
Life just goes on regardless, not even pausing to peer at us down there on the ground. The world still turns and work piles up and there are meetings and dinners and friends and family that maintain their usual positions around us. For some, the easiest solution is to wave the white flag and tell anyone who’ll listen… best friend / your Mum / uninterested bus driver / hapless mailman / unsuspecting telemarketer. For others it is deeply held dark secret shame that shall never be spoken of again, best pushed a significant distance away. For most of us, it is somewhere in the middle.
We tend to scramble when something goes terribly awry because these days, life doesn’t really let us fall in a heap. There’s no room for those hard to watch emotions, as we all meet the widely held expectation (look! that word again) of living happy, smiling Insta-worthy lives whilst keeping the tough stuff in the back of the cupboard. But scrambling doesn’t change how awful we feel and it doesn’t help us to make sense of whatever we’re going through. The only thing that does that is sitting with it. Being still and present. Actually feeling what we feel. Alone. It’s horribly liberating work. The bottom line is that you need to cry and scream, rage and regret, howl and whimper. The alternative leads to disease, in every sense of the word. Ideally find a private location where you will not be stumbled upon by anything with two legs and without wings, out in the wilderness of the natural world. Make it a gorgeous day as sitting in the rain and mud is taking things just a little too far. Take your creature comforts, or at least those that you can transport and that you know will aid the process. If any of those come in bottles, keep it in walking distance.
Know that This Too Shall Pass. It’s hard to lock on to that one when you’re feeling ultra crapola and the solution to your malaise is not within reach but it remains Absolute Truth. Things will shift. Time will pass. It will not last forever.You will get past this. You will heal. We don’t subscribe to this when everything in real life is actually like our ultra shiny Facebook page but it is fact. This Too Shall Pass. You’ll be back for more sultanas before you know it.
I love it when some life shitstorm morphs into an hilarious tale over too much red wine but it can take quite some time to get there. Until then it may take a while to even limp towards anyone. Only a trusted confidante will do, because there’s nothing worse than having a painful hole in your body prodded by someone you don’t care to discuss it with. Choose your audience. Share wisely and/or listen compassionately depending on which side of the life trauma fence you get to be on. Listen as though your life depends on it. Theirs probably feels like it does.
Resist revenge. Even if it means telling yourself that it is a dish best served cold and spending the cooling off period plotting all manner of elaborate humiliations where you emerge looking, like, amazing and so together. Sure honey, totally plausible. I cannot recall a single revenge inspired payback that ever went to plan and wasn’t in some way shape or form completely hollow. There are never any winners in that sort of scenario and there’s also no medal ceremony. Leave it to the Fates, to Karma, to your favourite deity, hell – leave it to your dog for all the good it will do. Just make sure to leave it to someone or something other than Beautiful You, the late coming vigilante. Generally speaking, by the time you wait it out in a cloud of quiet dignity, grace and integrity and resist all temptations to fire back, the desire will have been replaced by a shiny new life that has no room for petty grievances against peeps who have become The Past.
Be kind to yourself. Work out what you can handle and shelve the rest, utilising as many ridiculous excuses and lame cop outs as required. The world will not stop turning but you might. Lean on the people around you who have offered to help. You don’t need to get through this all by yourself so take them up on the offer. For some crazy reason, we don’t think twice about making others a priority when they are suffering, but when it comes to our good selves we crack the whip. Never forget: that company that tells you to soldier on is selling amphetamines.
They say that if a writer falls in love with you, you can never die. The world is literally sprinkled with truly great art that was created from searing pain. It is fodder for the best love songs, the tear inducing movies and stories, those incredible works of art that you feel in your heart and your gut and your marrow. Every single one of us has a creative muscle and there’s nothing like a hefty life wallop to get it moving. Like any muscle, you have to use it or lose it. Your pain is fuel, your pain is inspiration and it is true and real and raw. Mine it to its absolute depths because you can be sure that there is someone else out there in this big wide heavy hitting world that will breathe a little easier knowing you feel their pain.
On the flipside of the creative coin, seek out those who have created something wonderful from the space you are in. If you are grieving, there is comfort in sharing the story of someone who has been there and gets you in a way that others cannot. If you are heartbroken, your choices are virtually unlimited. Those cliches exist because it happens so very often to so many of us. Everyone, everywhere, at some point or another. This simple fact of life is part of the process, the game, the dance.
This is the Afterpath. This is the crooked road you make your way down in your own time and in your own way. Don’t dwell on how you got here because here you are regardless. Who does it help to berate yourself with notions of how stupid you may have been, what you missed or could have done differently? You might be. You didn’t. You are still here. Stumble and stop if you need to but try to keep moving forward, even if it is one teeny tiny baby step at a time. Don’t set up camp because there’s no way that what happened is worth giving up the rest of your life for. This is your lesson, your funny anecdote, that thing you will one day be so grateful for because of what it taught you.
And this too, these beautiful wise words by Ellen Crow VodickaI want the momentum of birth after
a thousand deaths
I want to do what I’m scared to do, to do what I love
to follow the embroidery of blood
mapping my grandmother’s voice
to where I have not been yet
The key to resurrection is to re-member
remember pain shooting through you wet and tender
agonizing in your growing
the heart sharply green in its need
You never know who will split your darkest seeds
and draw light from your eyes