So this is still a thing you’re doing? After all this time, it’s still bothering you? Really? I don’t mean to be rude, but don’t you think it’s time you just got over it? I mean, come on, it’s been…How long? Right, and you’re still moping around like a child that’s lost its teddy bear. Life goes on so suck it up. What are you waiting for? Just get over it.
Wow, so helpful! Why didn’t I think about that? Geez, all this time I’ve been struggling, and you’re telling me that I just had to get over it. What a revelation. If only you came around sooner! Do you know how much time I’ve wasted feeling horrible? All that time, the answer was right in front of me, and I didn’t see it. Thank you for gracing me with your wisdom. I mean, really, I don’t know where I’d be without such eloquent and thoughtful advice.
Do I have to point out the sarcasm? No, I didn’t think so but just to be safe and make sure nothing gets lost in the algorithm: Sarcasm! The advice wasn’t helpful, thoughtful, or kind. Those brilliant leaps in compassion and logic didn’t change anything. It did annoy, frustrate, and it made me go grr so well done. I grr’d. I never grr and now I think I dislocated my eyeballs.
It’s a dangerous thing, my friend, rolling your eyes. Never know when they’ll get stuck. Can someone smack the back of my head? Ouch! A little quick on the draw there but thanks. My eyes are back in their proper sockets.
Where was I?
Every second of our lives is put on a schedule and when we miss the mark there are questions, recriminations, and judgments. From education to career. Relationships and procreation. Grief or pain recovery. There are stages we’re supposed to hit but when we lag behind or bypass them all together? Well, words will be used, and they won’t be helpful or gracious.
Should I state the obvious? Yeah, why not. Life is hard and that damn schedule is draining the fun out of whatever’s left over. Sometimes it’s impossible to match that thing step for step because life doesn’t have a straight trajectory. Life likes to throw in some speed bumps and a hundred-foot drop. We trip, fall, and we’re expected to get back up. Not just that, we’re expected to get back up and get back on track. It doesn’t matter how fast we have to run, jump, or climb. As long as we hit the mark on time and meet expectations.
Then we hit a mark and do we stop to savor the moment? Do we celebrate the achievement? No, of course not! We can’t do that because we’ve got to answer the question, “So, what’s next?”
No idea. Not a clue. What? Wrong answer? Shoot, I thought it was a reasonable response. My bad.
The pressure doesn’t always come from external forces. If you’re like me, the hardest push comes from within. I’ll finish something I’ve been working on and say something like, “Great that’s done. Next.” I won’t let myself celebrate the accomplishment or even entertain the idea that I should stop and be proud of myself. Maybe it’s small, insignificant in the grand scheme, but I did that. I started something and I finished it. It’s good. It was hard but fun. Why can’t I enjoy the moment?
I’ll choose self-deprecation over self-aggrandizing any day. I’ve bought into the societal norm that decided that one is a positive trait, especially combined with humour, and the other is arrogance. One has value, and the other is a moral failing. I’ve accepted these notions and internalized them. I’ve applied them to my sense of self and I’ve used them as self-expression.
Then again, one could argue that all things in moderation is the key to a happy life? Nah…I don’t think that’s gonna fit in the schedule. We’re on a time crunch here. The rat race is a fast-moving wheel. You’re either on or your off. You either keep pace or you fall away. The pace doesn’t slow down for anyone. No matter what hurdle they have to jump, or cliff they have to climb, the wheel keeps spinning.
And just like that, the damn wheel brings me back to the very first paragraph. Obstacles are thrown in front of us, and we’re supposed to jump over them and keep going. If we fall, we’re told to get up and dust ourselves off. How many times have you been told to get over it? How many times have you told yourself the same thing? Did it help or did it hurt?
I have a list of things I should be doing or things I should’ve achieved by now. That list has one or two checkmarks but the majority of the page is untouched. More failures than successes. More losses than wins. All these things I should’ve done but didn’t. My schedule is way off but maybe the problem isn’t that I’ve failed? Maybe I’ve printed off the wrong schedule? Maybe I wrote it down wrong? Maybe I’m giving it too much power?
This schedule fails to take a lot of factors into account. It assumes perfection in an imperfect life and world. It assumes that life will go forward when, in reality, it can come to a complete stop. Things happen that no one can plan for and I can’t plan for how that hit will affect me. Every time something has happened, I’ve take a few steps back but the number of steps is different every time. Sometimes it’s one or two. Other times I fall back to the beginning. It’s a game of snakes and ladders that only ends when the lights go out.
If I’m playing this game how do I win? The plan for my life? The schedule I should be following? How could I possibly keep up?
When I was three a doctor made a mistake and my kidneys were damaged. I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure and my relationship with this damn game began. I’ve lived with this condition for over thirty years, so you would think I’d get used to it. Maybe feel numb when the phone rings? Bored wouldn’t be a reasonable response, would it? Sometimes I do feel this tired sigh bubble up, and I’ll say something like, “With my luck? Yeah sounds about right.”
Roll the dice, hold my breath, pray for a ladder, and not the snake.
I give myself some time to grieve, heal, but then I expect life will return to normal. I tell myself to get over it, and that’s often reinforced by well-meaning people. I want to get back to normal, to move on, to put this behind me but who gets to decide the timetable? Who gets to say when or how that happens?
One of the strangest feelings is stepping outside after your world has fallen apart. Whether it’s a medical diagnosis, the loss of a friend, or something else entirely that moment is surreal. People are going about their day like it’s nothing. Life carries on like nothing happened but something massive happened to you. It feels like watching a movie in an augmented reality. As if you’ve been pulled out of your life and forced to watch it carry on without you.
Or maybe that’s just how I’ve felt.
Life does go on and, yes, time heals all wounds but, when it comes to wound care, time isn’t linear. There are no speed limits and the road isn’t clearly marked. Some days it’s full throttle and other days going a short distance is a big accomplishment. Give yourself a break if you need it. Please know, there’s no shame in asking for help if you feel like you’re getting lost.
Go forward, go back, stay where you are for a little while. Feel what you’re feeling and don’t listen to the timekeepers. Yes, that includes that voice in your head listing all the things you should be doing. Don’t give too much power and control over to the all mighty schedule. It’s not all-knowing. It doesn’t feel compassion or grace. It’s cold, unfeeling, and if we let it, it can be unyielding. Sure, it has its uses, but you get to decide when to use it and how.
If you’re hurting right now? I’m so sorry you’re going through it. It won’t feel like it will ever be okay but it will; it’ll just be a different kind of okay. Please take all the time you need. There’s no rush. We’ll wait and if you need us? We’re here. Take your time.