How to shine when things go to shit

[Woman holding a fur coat and sombrero boarding a Pan American-Grace Airways (Panagra) airplane heading to Buenos Aires, Argentina; Tony Frissell]

[Woman holding a fur coat and sombrero boarding a Pan American-Grace Airways (Panagra) airplane heading to Buenos Aires, Argentina; Tony Frissell]

This is about what to do when things go pear-shaped.

Did you know that it is believed that the expression "gone pear shaped" comes from pilots in the Royal Air Force trying (and failing) to do aerial loops? They are apparently very difficult to execute perfectly and tend to come out distorted, or "pear shaped." 

I relate, bold fliers.

It's a good day if my aerial loop attempts look pear shaped. 

Sometimes life, especially when it's a creative, honest, bold life you're trying to build, can feel like trying to do a perfect aerial loop in an airplane made out of two kites and a surfboard. While wearing boxing gloves. In a hurricane.

Or maybe that's just me.

I like to think that even Amelia Earhart, patron saint of bold lady pilots (literal and metaphorical), would struggle.

So, what to do when things get so bad you want to fly to Mars?

Well first let's start with what not to do.
Because I'm contrary.

1) Don't make it worse by blaming yourself. Don't pile on. Don't tell yourself to snap out of it, or that it's your fault. Even if it is your fault, go easy.

2) Remember (or learn for the first time) that it's actually pretty feasible to solve problems that are our fault. Problems that originate in our thoughts or choices or actions are problems that we have a fair measure of control over. That means that we have all kinds of levers we can pull, tricks we can try, changes we can make.

These problems, in case you hadn't noticed, are not exactly in short supply.

The reason I have a job at all is because so many of our problems are self-created.

Self-created problems are simpler to solve, because we hold the key to their presence in our lives. We made them, we can unmake or remake them. All that it takes (ha) is seeing how we're creating them, and then changing that process.

(No big deal. I say simpler--but it's usually not easy, per se. What I really mean is that it's very possible.)

I spend a lot of time with clients helping them see how they are creating a problem and therefore how to fix it. It's actually fun, if you can believe it.

The point is, solutions to self-created problems almost always start with being kind to yourself, because even when we have created a problem, even when it's entirely your fault, being all mean and judgmental about that doesn't help you fix it.

That being said, this week was a hard week for me professionally because my clients brought me a lot of big hairy problems that were not self created.

These were problems with a capital P that rhymes with T and stands for Trouble.

Calling them problems, honestly, diminishes them. They are more like, well, not to put too fine and delicate a point on it, things I would categorize as "Fucked Up Shit." You know, that kind that isn't fair, and isn't just, and isn't okay.  The stuff you can't problem solve your way out of it. The stuff that isn't a problem so much as a situation. The stuff that only time takes care of, but not always.

So, what to do when Fucked Up Shit lands in your life, like a hostile alien spacecraft gone pear shaped?

Remember how I talked about what not to do? That applies here especially.

Because there is this thing that sometimes happens in very self possessed, self aware, growth-oriented individuals. (Which I'm assuming you are, if you're reading this far.)

It looks like taking personal responsibility and turning it into an extreme sport.

(This is a very American sport, in case you were unaware. Here in the good ol US of A, we love encouraging people to take personality responsibility for stuff that is way outside of their purview. Extreme Victim Blaming should definitely be in our True American Olympics.)

It makes sense why we do this. There is a logic to it: 

When things get deep and dark and scary and out of control, we want to take control wherever we can find it.

Sometimes if feels like the only place to wrest control from an out of control situation is by turning on yourself. Telling yourself you should be handling it better. Or doubling down on control in every other area of your life. (Raise your hand if you've ever tried to fix an out of control life with a new diet or exercise or time management plan.) Or, going allGodzilla and smashing everything in your life, because at least it all matches now.

It's a mistake to apply the method for fixing self-created problems (how did I create this? how can I fix it?) to problems that are not your fault. Because you didn't create it, so it's going to be harder (and sometimes, but not always, impossible) for you to fix it.

It's a mistake to see controlling your emotional response by repressing, avoiding, and numbing your feelings to Fucked Up Shit as a solution to it.

So, now that I've taken away that coping mechanism, what's left?

Good news! There are still some things left that you can control!

As my friend Rachel half-jokes, "now is the time for the making of a nest."

When SS Fucked Up Shit docks in the port of your life, do what you need to do to take care of yourself:

1) Designate crying or yelling times. I'm serious. Actually set aside 15 minutes to feel whatever you are feeling, alone, in a safe place. You might start crying and end up laughing.

This is, you will notice, the opposite of trying to control your feelings. You will also note I'm not telling you to spew your feelings all over others. That's just other side of repress/deny/avoid coin.

Some of us do both and call ourselves exploding doormats--rigged to blow upon experiencing the slightest trigger.

2) Create a soothing environment for yourself. Make sure those sheets you're going to be copiously weeping into are soft. Make sure your fridge is stocked with your favorite, loving foods. Have nice smells and sounds around you. Go to your happy place, whether it's snuggling with your animals or walking in woods behind your house or making a literal nest in your bed. 

3) Ask for help. Ask for love. Ask for what you need, even if what you say is "I don't know what I need, can you just stick around in case I figure it out?"  If you are too stricken to stock your fridge, or light your scented candles, or wash your sheets, ask someone else to help you do it. Talk to a friend, a coach, a therapist, a doctor, the authorities--whoever is appropriate. 

4) Ditch all the extraneous stuff you don't have time or emotional energy for. This might mean people, places, things that make you feel bad about yourself.

5) But don't ditch everything.

Sometimes it's really tempting to go Godzilla on our lives--when one part of it is falling to pieces, why not just smashthe whole thing to bits?

"Wheeee there's so much destruction I barely notice anymore!"

Don't do that. Use your powers of compartmentalization (I know you have them) to keep up the bare-to-medium minimum in your job, your relationships, your routines. Again, get whatever help you need in order to do that. 

Believe me, you will be grateful when time passes and things are more bearable again and you haven't created a whole bunch of extra messes to clean up.

That's how to shine on, diamond.