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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Why When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Over It

A story my Mom loves to tell on my older sister is that when she was a teenager and did something that made my parents angry (kind of her M.O. at the time, frankly), her response to my Mother’s admonitions was always, “You’ll get over it.”  OOOh, SASSY!  And BRAVE!  Let me advise you that my Mom was not much of one for backtalk when we were kids.  Still isn’t, come to think of it.

Of course my sister was right; as a parent, your “getting over it” skills become madly honed as you recover from your children’s misbehaviors and mishaps alike.  I’m thinking of the time my son shattered a beloved Christmas ornament on the kitchen floor.  And the time he somehow got ahold of the title for our car and went at it with his safety scissors.  Or the time he ruined our 10th anniversary trip by giving us both the most virulent stomach bug in the history of mankind the night before we left (turns out you can puke your guts out in fancy hotel bathrooms as well as anywhere!).
But you get over it.  What are the other options?  And as years pass you “get over it” quicker and quicker because you come to realize that NOT getting over it is a fool’s game.  It’s like contracting a horrible stomach bug and then actively CHOOSING not to recover.

I have recently been going through a very tough time—a lot of proverbial sh*t hit the proverbial fan at once—and I became so overwhelmed by negative input that I sank into a real depression for the first time in a decade.  So many situations were at crisis level at once, I couldn’t think of which way to turn.  Like the little boy with his finger in the dam watching hundreds of other leaks pop, I was in full-on panic mode.
William Shakespeare wrote, “Cowards die many times before their deaths” and I very much related to this as my panic spun out of control…not only was I worrying about all of the bad things that were ACTUALLY happening, my mind was inventing a lot of worst case scenario outcomes that would wake me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.  I felt neither brave nor well-equipped to handle all the things coming my way, both real and imagined.

I spent a few weeks “dying many times”.  I really don’t recommend it.
I even had a dream one night that I went to a big, dress-up event except when I showed up no one was there and when I tried to leave I realized my fancy clothes had (ala Cinderella) changed to rags and then my driver left without me, but took my purse and phone.  And left behind, dressed in rags with no money or mode of communication, I decided that my best option was to wander into the woods and disappear forever.

The universe was not being particularly helpful, either; after the initial wicked punches, it started delivering a series of VERY painful pinches to the point where I started vocalizing a belief that I have been somehow hexed.  Like in that “Brady Bunch” episode when Bobby finds the tiki idol and they start having a terrible run of bad luck, most memorably the tarantula on Peter’s chest.  But then something funny happened.
RIGHT AFTER I made the Brady Bunch comparison, my husband walked in the house from work one day with---you guessed it!---a GIANT wolf spider crawling on his chest.  After we disposed of the INCREDIBLY ENORMOUS arachnid, I’ll admit I had to laugh.  For something with such atrocious timing, the universe sure does have a good sense of humor.

This humorous out-picturing of my facetious fear (I am under a curse!) made me remember—fearing it is living it.  When we are fixated on what we FEAR will happen, we are essentially giving ourselves the experience of having it happen.  This is why “cowards die many times before their deaths”.
So I decided it was time, as my sister would suggest, for me to “get over it”.

Even though nothing has changed; even though nothing is “fixed”.  Even though there are no answers; even though the future right now looks bleak and uncertain at best.  Time to get over it or keep dying those many deaths.  Not much of a choice there.

Also:  when bad things happen, especially so many at once, there is the immediate response of “shock and awe”—how can this be?  Where am I to go?  What am I to do?  But after this very understandable phase passes, while we rarely have any concrete answers we do have a sense of those bedrocks in life:  family, friends, health, your sense of self.  Family and true friends tend to show up in force when the going gets tough; the security of being at home in your body and mind is no longer taken for granted.
We embrace the “real” and begin to parse out what is less important; priorities slowly begin to emerge and you take stock in all you have already survived in this life.  We humans are built for survival, after all.  Wired for it, actually.  So even though we need to allow ourselves time to process loss, trauma and pain, ultimately we are destined to rise again, like the phoenix from the ashes.  Our fears may cause us to die many deaths, but resurrection is inevitable.

Shakespeare also wrote, “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”  Today I am over it.  Tomorrow my fears may resurge and cause me to suffer, because I am a fool who plays this fool’s game.  But I will get over it again.  Quicker and quicker each time.  And next time I sure as hell won’t be bringing that tike idol home from the construction site, am I right???



  1. I've had a whopper of a week myself but hope that the sun will come out tomorrow for both of us. But definitely only figuratively ... it's been too dang hot this summer already!

  2. I've had a whopper of a week myself but hope that the sun will come out tomorrow for both of us. But definitely only figuratively ... it's been too dang hot this summer already!