Tuesday, 29 March 2016

STOP. And mourn

Life is so fast nowadays. Blink and you miss it. Take an hour's nap and you're behind. We're constantly on the move, with places to go and people to meet, things to do and knowledge to gain, going, going, going that often we don't know how to. STOP. Or when. Sometimes, horrific things happen. Things that break our hearts and make us question our very existence. Family members die, friendships end, relationships fall apart and loved ones go missing. It's at times like these that we must allow ourselves to mourn. Don't know when to stop? This is the time. But we are so busy, busy, busy moving on and up and away that we don't give ourselves a chance to. And neither does the rest of the world. "Life goes on!"They say, in unison. "You gotta get under someone to get over someone!" They cackle. "Chin up, buttercup!" They coo. "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!" They sing. Platitudes, all of them. Said with kindness, while simultaneously encouraging you to "get over it". 

Whatever happened to a mourning period? In the Victorian era, widows were expected to mourn for two years, while children had to wear full black mourning clothes for a year after the death of a parent or a sibling. Some may see this practice as macabre, but I find it comforting. By wearing black clothes, the world knew that you were in mourning, and I like to think that they would be gentle towards you. Surely that would make heartache easier? Not having to pretend that everything is alright? Admitting that you are sad, and people acknowledging and respecting that?

The next time you feel loss, sadness or pain (and whether or not black is your colour), allow yourself to mourn. There is no shame in it, and it does not make you weak. If anything, you will be a stronger person for allowing yourself to experience the pain as opposed to hiding from it, or living in denial. Mourn and remember and cry and feel. They say that time heals all wounds, so. STOP. And give yourself that time. And give that time to others who may be in mourning, too.       

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Time to say yes

When I was 16, I went to a therapist who asked me to complete a personality test. It was scarily accurate, but the one thing I remember most was the section about introverts and extroverts. She told me that people tend to see everything in black and white, and think that you're either one or the other.  You like going dancing? You're an extrovert. You like staying home on weekends? Introvert all the way! The problem with this way of thinking is that it leaves no middle ground, no space for shades of grey. When my scores out of 10 came back as 8 for introvert and 7 for extrovert, I was confused - which one was I? The therapist then explained to me that personality traits and characteristics are never static, but move along a scale, veering from one extreme to the next. You are never one single thing, but a multitude of experiences, thoughts and feelings that combine to form the wonderful and unique thing that is you.

With this in mind, I've realised that I've been indulging my introvert for a while. When someone asks me if I want to do something, my immediate reaction is always no. No, I'm tired. No, I need to go for a run. No, I must clean my flat. No, no, no. But why? Are you really so tired that you can't enjoy a drink with a friend? Are you really going to go for a run, or will you bail on your plan and end up watching series all night instead? Does your flat really need to be cleaned right this second or can it wait until tomorrow? I've been living life, but haven't been truly experiencing it, allowing the negative and the fear to cloud the positive and the possibility of something incredible.

Well, no more. Although it's difficult, I am trying to say yes again. On Tuesday, I went completely out of my comfort zone and attended a dance meditation class with a truly inspiring friend* where you get to express your feelings through dance. There I was in a hall of crazy hair, floaty pants and some hairy underarms feeling completely out of place... for about two minutes, until I told myself to stop thinking and just dance. There was no talking to anybody and, best of all, no judgement – just two hours where you could let yourself feel whatever you need to. The insane thing is that during the course of the day, I had been running excuses over and over in my mind to try and get out of this class. But I'm so glad that I went, and I will probably go again. I said yes, and the world did not come crashing down. I felt afraid and uncomfortable, but that was soon replaced with excitement and pleasure. And at the end of it all, I went home deliciously exhausted and collapsed into bed, getting the best night's sleep I've had in weeks. All because I said yes.    

*Thanks to the amazing Stacey who is always encouraging me to think, grow and try new things – and who never gives up on me, even when I sometimes give up on myself.