The holiday season is upon us; and with everything going on these days (i.e., global pandemic), I often find myself asking a lot of questions. I’m fairly certain given the state of our world, that I’m not the only one engaging in this type of internal dialogue. There seems to be an ever present cloud that hangs directly overhead. Will it ever dissipate? I really don’t know; but, what I do know is that this lingering cloud makes it difficult not to ask “Why now?” when other difficult or bad things happen. Unfortunately, other “bad things” don’t really care that we are suffering from a global pandemic. They aren’t really concerned about adding insult to injury. Even though I know this to be true, when other bad things happen, I still find myself appealing to the heavens with outstretched arms shouting, “Why now?!” Okay, that may be a bit extreme; but, I definitely give the occasional why-now-eye-roll often followed with an audible “ugh!”
Managing the Dark Cloud
It’s obvious to most of that we can’t force the cloud to go away. You know that eventually it has to move, but right now you can’t do anything about it. There’s no controlling the cloud. You can’t control how others feel about the cloud, much less all the other difficult circumstances coming your way.
What can I do about it?
What can I control today?
How do these circumstances reflect on me?
Do they even reflect on me at all?
These are the questions I find myself asking on a daily basis as part of my internal dialogue.
It Is What It Is
I particularly like this expression. I find it oddly comforting. It reminds me that any given situation can’t be anything other than what it is; thus, despite whether or not I had control over it in the past, I can only make changes moving forward.
I have also found myself struggling with toxic positivity. During recent stressful and challenging situations, I have found myself pondering a lot of thoughts focused on what I should be doing instead.
I should be more grateful.
I should look at the bright side.
I should be more positive about what is happening.
I should stop saying “it is what it is.”
I don’t know about you, but this makes the stress even worse! Now I am not only stressing about what I was (the past), I’m also stressing about how I should be (the future). Allowing my thoughts to aimlessly drift into the past or future during stressful moments or situations unfortunately doesn’t alleviate the stress I’m feeling. If anything, it adds to it.
As I confide in those around me, I hope to be validated and understood. A simple whisper or nod that communicates “I hear you” would suffice just fine. Unfortunately, more often than I care to admit, I hear those exact same invalidating and dismissive statements I have often said to myself:
“You should be grateful for what you have.”
“Well on the bright side you have time to…..”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
It Still Sucks.
I am truly grateful for what I have. I am completely aware that there is a light at the end of the tunnel (or cloud should I say). I’m smart enough to know that we can learn something from this – but it still sucks!
- Please let me share my experience with you without fearing that you will tell me I should know better.
- Please recognize that I put my Christmas tree up two months early, because it makes me a little happier.
- Please know that I understand that society is lacking in a lot of ways, but right now I can only control my situation.
- Please allow me to hurt.
- Please allow me to feel good.
That seems a little more to the point, doesn’t it?
This message basically says, “Look! I’m feeling like crap; and I just want to tell someone without fear of judgment or being dismissed.”
The reality is that 2020 has been a hard year. Not just for you or for me, but for everyone in the world in one way or another. I respect and encourage positive thoughts in addition to active listening. But, try hard to avoid sharing toxic positivity. Instead try asking yourself, “What does this person need from me right now, in this very moment?” Be careful not to do this at the expense of yourself. Sometimes you will be the one that needs to be validated and understood.
One Final Tip
You can control what you say and how you say it. Just taking out the word “please” makes a huge difference so how can you be more mindful in what you’re saying and how you’re saying it? The holidays are a good time to practice this, but PLEASE be patient with yourself and others.
Mary E.M. Scruggs is a marriage and family counselor in private practice at Family Solutions Counseling located in the Oklahoma City metro area.