RECKLESS ADVICE FOR THE OVERWHELMED
by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
SAN DIEGO -- So many of my patients are overwhelmed with life. I empathize with them deeply. ""The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Henry Daviod Thoreau said." He was smart.
I, too, on a fairly regular basis, am overwhelmed by life. In fact, right now, tonight, I am pretty much totally overwhelmed with life.
I am not sure exactly how I became so familiar with this territory but I did and at an early age when most of peers were foot loose and still feeling omnipotent.
I'm only still mid-middle age and I can still think that the best is yet to come. But if it gets bad for me, just what is it like when you know things aren't going to get any better? In fact, the full truth is that things are certain to get much worse - and then you'll die.
Morose? Maybe. But it's true. Why do we have such a hard time admitting that death is staring us in the face every day of our lives? As long as I'm on a roll, 'fessing up to reality, there are other hard things to admit.
Like most of us, I would love someone to come along and solve all our problems. I'm no different. I want someone to take care of me, to tuck me in at night, rock me when I am afraid, and tell me everything is going to be all right.
I want my Mommy. I want my Daddy.
I want to suspend all my wearisome logic and believe that everything is going to be all right. But I don't seem to believe myself readily. I know the inside scoop. I need someone else to tell me and I would believe them. Really I would, if just for a few minutes each day.
Just long enough to find the pluck and gumption to continue.
In the meantime, I can pretend I am that person who's not lost in the woods and knows what to do when things go wrong, and remind myself of a few things that seem to help when feeling very small and out of control.
Take one day at a time. Cliched? No kidding, but it works and pragmatism is what counts here. It's also much harder than you think; it's a mental discipline as rigorous as any martial art. Old age and death are fiercesome opponents. Thinking past today for most of the elderly can be intimidating beyond words.
"Focus just on the present," I tell them. Balance on the still point. "What the hell is that," they say. "Breathe," I answer. Fact is, sometimes oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange is enough of a challenge - let alone knowing how to handle the rest of your life.
There's a classic of mystical literature called "The Cloud of Unknowing," written in the Middle Ages by some appropriately unknown monk. He was probably overwhelmed. Maybe he was Christian or maybe Taoist or Zen. No matter. Point is, sometimes you've got to forget what you know cause we all basically know way too much for our own good.
So forget about whatever it is that's bothering you. Suspend reality. Go into the clouds. Seems irresponsible I know. But as the saying goes, "Don't sweat the small stuff... . And everything is small stuff." The cloud will help you remember that. Of course, the proviso here is that the only ones who get to avail themselves of this attitude are those who know how to sweat bullets in the first place. I figure that's most of us.
Find something to laugh at. You won't have to look far. After all you're pretty funny. These days instead of feeling ashamed of myself when I trip on my shoelaces, fall on my butt in the middle of the bowling lane, or walk into closets, I am learning to not only enjoy, but revel in my idiocy. Seeing yourself as part clown helps. The older you get the easier this is to do.
Go to sleep. Naps are the best way I know to block out the world and "give up" in a non-destructive way. Giving up is important to do in small doses so that you get it out of your system and you aren't tempted to do it in large ones. It's alot like re-booting your computer. Things work much better after some downtime.
Get outside and breathe some fresh air. Go for a walk. This works for me when I am feeling impossibly neurotic and ready to climb out of my skin. Just being outside changes the vibes and magically restores sanity. If you are lucky someone will see you wandering around, invite you in and take care of you.
Take a bath. Water seems to return one to the days of uterine bliss; pre-aging, pre-midlife crisis, pre-credit care debt, pre-divorce, pre-car, life, health, dental, vision and long-term care insurances. Total fetal symbiosis. Again, the cloud of unknowing.
Have a drink. Whatever you like. During your bath if you like, unless you have a problem with maintaining your airway.
Sit in your favorite chair and ask yourself, "What will this matter in a hundred years?" Who's gonna care if you went bankrupt? Whose gonna care what so and so said about you at the office? So what you got fired. So what, you lost some of your investments. So what if you're falling apart? Have hemorrhoids and rolls of fat that will not be negotiated with. So what if you have vericose veins, hair in your nose, can't see anymore without glasses, or have a hard time remembering trivial things like where you live?
And sometimes it really helps to think in terms of checking out. You do have the power to do that. Shame on me for even mentioning the ultimate no-no? I know it's forbidden in most belief systems including mine and let me be very clear, it's not something I am advocating but it's oddly empowering to know you've got an option. And, like it or not, that is the honest to God truth.
Knowing that you don't have to go on makes going on sometimes tolerable. When you know you are not trapped you can stop wasting all your energy in resentment and self-pity you can simply choose to hang around and see what happens. Freedom.
>b>Everybody is living with something that's likely to kill them.Most people live with something that hurts. Physically or emotionally. Everyone is handicapped, everyone has limits.
Another irritating cliche for you: it can always be worse.
Like the story I heard this morning about a bull that broke away from it's owner and wandered across a park until it spied a bright green porta-potty it didn't like. The bull charged it again and again for 15 minutes.
The woman inside no doubt thought she'd died and gone to hell. Somehow, I doubt the cloud would've helped her much.
They won't get within two miles of a bright green Porta-Potty.
Cindy Hasz is a nurse and writer living in San Diego. She can be reached at mailto:email@example.com.