When I was a child, I had child-like fears of monsters in the closet and under my bed. I thought if I laid in the middle of my bed, exactly the middle, wrapped my blankets tightly around the edges of me, and kept still, then these monsters couldn’t touch me. The middle of my bed was magical, as it cast a shield around me. I’d lie in my bed, my eyes darting back and forth at the slightest sound, and waiting for the morning to come.
As an adult, of course, you know that blankets and the position in the bed are not a shield against life’s challenges. I know that there are no monsters under my bed or in my closet. Yet those monsters are still real today, as they lurk around the corners and recesses of life, waiting for their moment to pounce upon you. Our monsters as adults are real. They are the tragic, stressful, and consuming events which invade our lives.
Monsters are Here
On my father’s birthday, I was excited to call him as he had returned from his vacation in the Caribbean. Every trip fills him with such joy as he shares the stories of the adventures of their travels. But this trip was different. He was in pain, the kind of pain that knocks you to the ground and swallows you whole. He knew something was terribly wrong.
Instead of stories of long walks on the beach, glorious sunsets, and new friends made along the way, I heard these phrases coming through the receiver, words that crushed down upon me. He said he had cancer and we would know more in a few days.
Days are long when you are waiting. You feel the movement of the clock’s hands as it ticks off the minutes one at a time.
Two weeks ago today, the telephone rings. Two weeks ago today, my life changed forever. The monsters are here…again. My father tells me that he is terminal and has only two weeks to live unless he starts treatment now. Then there’s a slim chance for him to be here next year.
Let the magnitude of those words flow over you for a moment. Close your eyes and feel their impact. How would you react? How would you cope?
In every situation, regardless if you have control or not, you can choose how to react. That choice determines how you will cope and the quality of life you will have in the face of even the most unbearable challenges in this life.
My first reaction was to cry my eyes out and feel the full force of what is going to happen. But then I realized that he is still here. I was crying for what will be and the end result of what will happen…some day. I wiped my tears away and made the choice to do whatever he wants to make his last days better.
Then I realized that we were given a gift in the midst of this horror, the gift of time. We know there is an end and it’s coming. As humans, we live our lives thinking there’s an endless supply of time, some infinite duration. This delusion grants us the license to delay and put off spending time with our loved ones or pursuing our dreams. It becomes a habit, one in which we condition ourselves to accept and feed. But life is timed and finite.
We packed our bags and then drove to be with my family. I chose not to waste any more time.
Secrets for Coping
The blankets of my childhood are no longer a shield to keep the monsters from touching me. They lost their powers long ago. Even if I wore them draped over me, they would only keep me warm.
When the monsters come, we need better coping mechanisms, ones which deal directly with the challenge and each emotion. We need to be active and persistent to fend them off.
Release Each Feeling.
Feelings are sneaky. You can’t package them up neatly into a box and stuff them away on a shelf in the back of your closet. Like the monsters, they cannot be contained. They will consume you, pulling you deeper and deeper into the darkness if you ignore them.
Releasing the feeling sucks the energy out of it. When sadness gushes through me, I cry. I don’t care where I’m at or what I’m doing. I release the sadness.
When anger causes my face to turn red and muscles to tighten, I release it. Last week I woke up filled with anger. I put on my shoes, opened the front door, and started walking. I walked until my legs hurt and then I stopped to assess if the anger was gone. Nope, still there. I kept on walking. Finally, slowly, I released my anger.
The other day I was filled with rage, the kind of rage where I could punch anyone or anything. I piled a bunch of pillows on my couch and then started swinging. Blow after blow, the negative energy of my anger flowed out of me and into those pillows. I released my rage.
With each emotion, I actively chose to express it. This simple act of letting it do its thing removes its grip from me. I find constructive ways of giving the feeling its fuel. Eventually, the fuel runs out and the emotion exhausts itself. It then leaves me.
Build a Positive Environment
Negativity has a powerful gravitational pull, one that yanks everything out of balance and forces it into the darkness. It feeds on more negativity. Therefore, negative begets negative.
Like energies attract. Actively build positive energy all around you. As humans, our instinct is to surrender to it. But what you may not realize is you are choosing to feed it. Think about it. When you are down, you migrate towards like-emotional things, such as sad songs, books, or movies. How does that make you feel?
I cope by actively building a positive environment around me. I turn on music that makes me move. I watch mindless comedy shows that just make me laugh. As a family, we tell jokes or stories of happy or silly times. We actively feed positivity.
The energy you put forth attracts the like energy. If you wallow in negativity, it will feed itself. Whereas if you make the decision to insert happiness and positivity into your life, then slowly its influence will begin to fill you. I find it hard to feel sad when I’m smiling or laughing.
Feed Your Dreams
Every day the list of tasks grows. As the eldest, I have much to do to support my father and our families. These tasks keep me very busy in addition to our normal life. The day is a great distraction.
Let your dreams help you to escape. At night, I lie down in my bed and the quiet overwhelms me. There is nothing there to detract my thoughts. The monsters are sitting right there, staring at me. I can’t avoid them in the quiet moments. They keep me up.
I reach for my earbuds and fill myself with music. Some nights the rhythmic melodies allow my mind to drift off happily into my dreams.
On those other nights, I read a book or watch television. The stories move me to a different place, one of adventure where the heroes soar over the obstacles before them. Like a child, they fill my dreams with fantasy, taking me away from my now and into a world of possibilities and make-believe.
Get Up and Move
My long walk and pillow punching fest released my anger because of the power of exercise. Get off your butt and move to feel better. With each step and swing, my brain released endorphins to trigger and stimulate positive energy and feelings within me. This chemical reaction feeds your body. The more positive energy you flood through you, the less of a hold the negativity has upon you.
Whenever I feel sadness, anger, stress, or worry, my first reaction is to get up off my backside, walk to my treadmill, and move. If my favorite song is blasting through the speakers in my office, I may even get up and just dance. While the neighbors may chuckle at the crazy lady bouncing around the room, I am actively releasing and replacing the negative with happiness.
Don’t Feed the Monsters
You cannot avoid life’s challenges. However, you can choose how you will react. These choices will determine the quality of your every day life. I choose not to feed the monsters.
Two weeks ago today, the doctors told my father he had two weeks to live. He is still here. Today that is my positive. Today I am smiling and joyful.