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It Can Always Get Worse

Let’s stop saying that. On this week’s episode of the podcast, I talked about the fact that while 2020 was pretty shitty in many ways, until humans have begun spontaneously combusting “It can’t get worse” should not be in our vocabulary. Sometimes in an effort to appear strong, or pretend to be brave, we dare the universe to bring it on.

When my friend was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, she was so brave and so strong. She was going to FIGHT cancer. She fought mightily. Early in the diagnosis and adjustment period, one bad thing after another happened and after each one of those things she would say “well it could be worse,” and then we would laugh at the shit show. After a few weeks of these conversations, with an unimaginable number of ridiculous and unfortunate situations I said “You need to stop saying it could be worse. It’s ok to tell the universe that you’ve had enough and you can’t take anymore right now.”

That was a realization for me. It’s ok to not fight. It’s ok to show up without the fight. It’s ok to acknowledge our limits and to lay down our swords. I don’t mean give up. I just mean that when we recognize the energy that is required for fighting we come to understand that sometimes fighting gets in the way of living. There has to be a balance.

I’ve written before about my mother’s claim to “just want peace” and the lessons that lie in that but it bears repeating as we begin this new year with so much promise and uncertainty: Peace is a choice. In order to obtain peace, inner and collective, we have to let go of fighting when it is not serving us and accept the need to fight what is worthy of fighting for.

I won’t give-up fighting for a world that is safe, just and equitable for people with mental illness and trauma survivors. In order to make space in my life for that I have chosen not to fight for things to appear shiny and perfect. I fail at stuff. I sometimes want to run away and live in the woods because everything feels to big and I at times feel so small. In those moments I take breaks. Dark, uncomfortable, often excruciating breaks where I practice my skills and try to improve my ability to be, rather than do. Being is enough.

I am trying to remember how “things can always be worse” is an invitation to the universe, and instead I am saying “Things are as they are and I am grateful for what is going well and equally grateful for my resilience in the face of adversity.” Sometimes the key to a whole different outcome is a slight adjustment in the language we use to describe a situation.

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