2018 has been an absolute cluster fuck. There, I said it.
In the last six months alone, I have personally experienced:
- A stressful move
- Career changes (my own and my spouse’s)
- The death of a pet
- Personal health scares
- Family health scares
- Technology failures (someday the shitty HP printer I bought on Prime Day will work like it’s supposed to…)
- Marital stress
- In-law stress
- Grief & anxiety (my own and my family’s)
- Money worries
- Health insurance stress (stop sending me new cards, MassHealth! I don’t live in your Commonwealth anymore!)
- 2 yeast infections
- 1 upper respiratory infection combined with 1 tummy bug
- And 1 UTI (I just popped a couple antibiotics while writing this post…)
If this sounds like a lot, it is. But you know what’s even more shocking than my laundry list of what-the-fuck-is-happening life events? The fact that I’m not alone in feeling this way…far from it actually.
I’ve seen more married-to-divorced status changes and obituaries on Facebook since January 1st than I have in the last three years. Everywhere I look, people are losing jobs, losing loved ones, and losing homes…all in the span of just a few months.
Maybe it has something to do with Mercury (although that bitch stopped being in retrograde back in April) or there’s something in the water, but 2018 seems to be challenging us all in one way or another.
To add insult to injury, we’re all trying to cope with the shit show that is our political climate in 2018. These days, you can’t turn on your phone without getting a CNN push notification about a school shooting or a volcano that decimated an entire community of innocent people. Gone are the days of casual Twitter scrolling (lest you want to read the latest and dumbest Tweet from none other than your Commander in Chief), and you might as well recycle 2/3 of your Sunday newspaper unless you want to spend the remaining part of your day off in a wine-induced depression. Our bodies are under attack by old white men we’ve never met, the people we love are being gunned down in broad daylight just because of the color of their skin, every man you ever loved in Hollywood is now a rapist, and SNL is more of a weekly State of the Messed Up Union than comic relief…
If 2018 had a mantra, it would be: What. The. Actual. Fuck.
If my time on the mat has taught me anything, it’s to create a compassionate space where I can observe my emotions without judgment.
Feeling overwhelmed by the news every day? It is perfectly fine to feel that way right now. Feeling lost and scared in the wake of a family health crisis? It is perfectly fine to feel that way right now. Feeling depressed and alone after the passing of a loved one? It is perfectly fine to feel that way right now. Feeling angry about the most recent sexist bill to make its way through your state’s legislature? It is perfectly fine to feel that way right now.
Here’s the real newsflash your iPhone should be lighting up to tell you: It’s All Okay.
Whatever you’re feeling, however your body and mind are trying to make sense of this crazy world and the even crazier events you’re experiencing in your own personal life, it’s all okay. After all, life is tough enough right now without assigning shame to your emotions.
I’m no astrologer, but it doesn’t look like the insanity of 2018 is going to let up anytime soon. And don’t get me wrong, things have been shitty enough that I very well could just crawl back into bed and turn off my phone until the next election cycle.
But yoga has taught me more.
See here’s the thing: life is always going to throw you curveballs and put a wrench in your plans. And while it is perfectly fine to honor your emotions, you have to do it in a way that doesn’t send you hurdling head first down the rabbit hole…it has to be observed.
A couple of years ago, one of my yoga teachers told me that my emotions were ‘feelings not fact’ and I remember thinking, right there in the middle of savasana, that she was a total bitch for saying as such. “Umm, I’m sorry bendy-thin-blonde-ambition-yoga-chick, but when I feel sad, I’m sad. And when I feel lost, I’m lost. Who are you to deny me my emotions?!”
I now know that she was absolutely right.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel the same fear and anger and frustration as you do each and every time The Universe decides it’s about time for me to learn a lesson, but I’ve learned to experience these emotions in a different way. Instead of spending day in and day out fuming about the latest stress in my life, I go inward. I observe. I consciously watch my ego have its little temper tantrum with compassionate curiosity. And you know what? Time after time again I realize that my own reality isn’t so bad.
Yes, I currently have a burning UTI and am drinking gallons of organic cranberry juice to the point of wanting to puke…but I’m doing it in a gorgeous Upper West Side apartment while writing. Yes, my uncle is currently in hospice care and I have no clue how to cope with death…but I have a spouse and a family that loves me and hugs me whenever I get too scared. Yes, my beloved pet died and I miss her every day…but I now have a luscious, green, indoor garden in the place where her bed used to be.
Do you see what I did there? Just because I feel sick and sad right this very minute does not mean that I don’t simultaneously have a ton of beautiful things in my life to be grateful for. And so do you.
Learning to be mindful in an environment like 2018 can be tough. And look, I get it. But now more than ever, it’s important that we prioritize mindfulness and meditation (if for nothing else than as a means of surviving the next 6 months).
That’s why I want to share my favorite tips for incorporating mindfulness and meditation into your day. Try just one of these tips and I can almost guarantee you’ll feel a little bit better:
Tip #1: Turn off your damn phone (or at least its notifications).
I know what you’re thinking, “but my emails and calls and messages and work chats will be ignored!” Look, unless you’re Bill Freaking Gates or The Goddess Oprah (which, if either of you are reading this, send me a message and watch as I die and go to writer heaven), you just aren’t that damn important. I’m not saying you should completely go off the grid or ignore the calls from your kid’s daycare, but the fact is that most of us can benefit from our status as Average Joe’s and detach from our phones for a little while.
If turning your phone off altogether is making your skin crawl, start slow and just turn off your notifications. My friends and family always make fun of me for turning my iPhone 6 back into a glorified flip phone, but you know what? I don’t wake up to a flurry of depressing CNN notifications or random reminders about some kid I went to high school with’s birthday anymore…and it feels fucking fantastic.
Tip #2: Go outside.
I don’t care if you live in a dirty urban metropolis like me or if you call the beaches of Bali home…just go outside. Right now. You can come back to this post later, I promise I won’t take it down while you’re away. Go outside, go for a walk, and BREATHE some actual fresh air. Look around you and actually notice the color of the leaves and the smell of the ocean. Leave your phone on your desk and go outside…you’ll be glad you did.
Tip #3: Meditate in weird places.
This is one of my favorites: every time I get on the 1 train (local or express) by myself, I meditate. And every time I get off of the 1 train (local or express) by myself, I feel incredible. You don’t need a fancy meditation cushion or incense to meditate, you just need yourself. So the next time you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try meditating in whatever unconventional place you find yourself in right then and there. I’ve meditated in public restrooms, parks, my building’s laundry room, and even the McDonald’s above Times Square, and if I can find a little peace in those weird places, so can you!
Tip #4: Just say no.
For the love of God, stop trying to be a yes man. You’re not helping anyone by taking on too much and really, does anybody actually give a damn whether your cupcakes for the bake sale are homemade or from Whole Foods? Stop saying yes to things you genuinely don’t want to do and honor your body’s need for a little down time, particularly during times of stress (cough cough all of 2018…).
Tip #5: Challenge thoughts of guilt.
Along those same lines, stop associating self care with guilt. We’re not superheroes and we all need time to ourselves, so stop feeling guilty for placing your own needs first every now and again. If you’d rather stay in and curl up with a good book instead of having drinks with the girls, just say no and give yourself permission to enjoy a glorious night to yourself. If you’re sick of dealing with office politics, skip the awkward Friday Happy Hour with your co-workers and give yourself permission to go on a date instead. If Preppy Becky, President of the PTA makes your stomach turn every time you see her, skip the monthly meetings and find another way to be involved with your child’s education. Whatever you do, challenge the thoughts of guilt so you can look after yourself and enjoy some much needed (and deserved!) peace.
I share all of this partially out of personal frustration, but mostly to tell you this: you are not alone. We’re all living through this chaos together as a single living, breathing light, the essence of prana – life force itself – just trying to make sense of it all. And as fucked up as 2018 has been thus far, we can all take a little comfort in that…
The Yogi Lawyer