My Middle of the Night Conversation

Another anxious, sleepless night. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. Heart’s pounding. Exhausted. Totally awake.

That was me a few weeks ago. I’m familiar with nights like this.

This is partly because I’m a mom, but mostly because of years of worry, grief, and fear of loss.  I’ve spent a lot of years steeped in self-work. And my expertise is honed by my “wounded-healer” insight. I know about the tailspin of loss of control. I know how to lean into the pain and fear and to learn from it.

But, so-called expertise doesn’t help at night. I wish it did.

So, that night I am finally gripped by the grief, pain and fear that I’ve been helping my clients recognize and accept. I’ve been consuming news about my home (New York). The arc of the New York spirit is inspiring and beautiful and haunting, as it always is: taking a turn for the worse, fighting back, being spirited. But I am feeling grief. I want to wander those streets. But, of course, I won’t be doing that. I miss home. I miss the tactile help of my community and my family. I am gripped.

I called upon my other side to help this soft, wounded side. I called to my inner caretaker. “What should I do?” I asked. “I want to shore up, get certain that everything will be ok, I want reassurances.”

And then I heard a response.

“You don’t need to decide anything.”

“No one will push you to decide anything. You are strong. No one will loosen your control over your life. Only life can do that.”

“You can always say “no”. You can always continue believing what you believe.”

That comforted me enough, and I went to sleep, and I slept pretty well (for me).

In the face of grief – a totally overwhelming, catastrophic ending, humans are powerless. We try. We are geniuses at tech and streaming videos but we all have moments of total loss. We are always watching out for fear because it is a primal instinct. We need to know how to be afraid so that we can survive.

Living during a global pandemic, it is definitely good enough to just survive. I applaud that. I hope for that.

But living indoors, I hear over and over how people want more than just to survive. People are afraid. They want control now. They want to decide now. This fear leads them to want to fix broken relationships now, to get into a new relationship now. To fix their family dynamic now. But your grief is calling you to another mission: tolerating the ability to have no choices – like, zero choices (stay inside!), and still feel totally empowered in one choice: “I can try to decide how I feel.”

In “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor Frankl writes of this type of survival, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

You still have power.Here’s my reminder to you: in the face of grief, sometimes that’s all you need to know.

We’re all in this . We share this ghastly and human emotion.

You can’t fight it, you can allow it to lead you to a purpose.

What you want matters.

Even if you can’t have it right now.

You always retain control.

Even if its just over yourself and your thoughts.

So when those scary thoughts come back to me – which they do all the time. I remind myself that I’ve been able to sleep before. “What if something happens and I’m the only one who can fix it and no one is listening to me?” That’s a huge one for me. So, I remind myself, again, “Yea, that’s ok. I can let it go for now. No one is forcing me to be someone I’m not. I can still be fearful. The future could be dark, it could also be bright. But for tonight I can decide that these thoughts should go to sleep, so that I can as well.”

And I almost always feels better in the morning light.

What action can you take now?

Apply this reminder to your life right now. This is your new life, so how do you want to live it? What are you trying to control that you can let go for now?