“I believe we have two lives,. . . The life we learn with and the life we live after that.” I doodled over who said this but it’s from the book, Something More by Sarah Ban Breathnach. This is the current book I’m altering.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about learning from my life experiences and I have done many art journal pages cataloging those lessons. Today I started thinking about the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and other things that are said to help someone in a difficult situation. I realized that it’s true but it doesn’t help anyone actually get through the difficulty. We’re kind of stuck with knowing this end result but have to reference how to get there and what “stronger” even looks like.
This is what my cancer journey looked like to me and it shows the two juxtaposed lives I was living. Brave on the outside and fucking scorched mentally, physically, and emotionally. My spirit helped me to keep the brave face on because I knew I would be stronger on the other side – but what does the other side look like? What do you do when you’re in that dark tunnel (of any really hard situation)?
I didn’t know just how meaningful it would be for me to be in college (when I signed up) as I went through treatment. The physiology/counseling classes and art classes really helped me adjust to this new experience. My art therapy classes were worth all the college debt I have now. I learned to express myself through symbols and creative experiments. My art got deep and brought out “stuff” I was trying to push down. I was able to purge my fear and anger so I could get to that stronger place.
I want to offer what I learned about going through those stop you in your tracks, bat shit crazy, WTF situations you will encounter in this life.
The first thing I had to do was shift my mindset from “why is this happening?” to “what am I suppose to learn about myself as I go through this?” We all fear the unknown and losing control of our lives and if we shift from a why mindset to a I’ll learn something mindset it gives you back some kind of control. Ok, it will give you the only control you have – your reaction to a situation.
Question 1: How do you cope with stress & the WTF times in your life?
Journaling or collage your answers. What you should be looking for are triggers that give you that bad whirling in your gut and how you have learned to react to those triggers.
Question 2: Have these situations come in my life before?
Instead of asking a blank “why”, get specific and ask yourself about your reactions. This helps you to take back your power. You can control your reactions with practice when you focus on learning about yourself. We tend to repeat the situations we need to learn from over again until we understand the lesson.
Along with your triggers and reactions, start checking your expectations. Our society has an unhealthy obsession with a comfortable life filled with stuff. We’ve lost the meaning of why our souls came into a human body – to learn.
Think about school – there was some fun in between the learning. You need focus and practice – baby steps year after year. There is good times mixed with sometimes boring & sometimes icky learning. Just like life.
If we expect life to go a certain way and hold on tightly to those expectations, it’s going to be much harder for us to shift our mental focus to learning.
Question #3: Are my expectations of what I can/should do realistic? Are my expectations of what your life “should” be realistic? Are you too stuck in this way of thinking to move through this lesson? Are you too hard headed?
While you are digging deep please please remember to be compassionate with yourself! Talk to yourself like you would your best friend. There is no real reason to be hard on yourself.
The more I learn about myself, the more I like what I discover. I know you will find that too.