Behaviors That Guide and Soothe When Life Falls Apart
“The Truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen.” This is Pema Chodron’s wisdom, an ordained Buddhist Nun, from her book “When Things Fall Apart”.
A shocking thought provoking reality about human life. We humans work in a focus, concentrated manner to stop things from falling apart. They fall apart anyway. This is the nature of life. Daily minor things “come together” like making coffee. We add water to our favorite pulverized coffee beans and flip the switch to on. Within minutes we have a satisfying earthy cup of deep brown goodness. We customize by adding milk or cream or sugar or mix our morning beverage into our favorite mug. This ritual makes our first to last sip “come together”. But sometimes, our sacred coffee moment “falls apart” as a passerby, be it an adult, child, or pet doesn’t see our lovely, sacred cup of wake-up goodness…and then SMASH over it goes!
And this is how we live…life comes together and life falls apart daily, yearly, monthly or moment to moment. There are small moments when life falls apart; like the coffee calamity. While it’s frustrating, the broken cup can be swept up and the hot liquid rebrewed. The quick clean-up is the act of bringing life together once more.
Then there are the much greater than coffee spill “falling apart” moments. When life pitches a curve ball and the only choice is to watch life “fall apart” while we contemplate how to effectively pull life “back together”. To soothe and calm us, we can weather the “falling apart” by noticing the subtle gifts presented to support us as we bring life back together. Here is how –
– Once we receive the “falling apart” news, pause to absorb the feelings as well as the story. Short term activities like a shower, 5 deep breaths, screaming internally, doing push-ups will release tension. This release of tension and time to absorb our shock can activate our self-care and problem-solving parts.
– When grounded, mentally resolve to thoughtfully respond not unconsciously react by asking ourselves these questions. What is the worst realistic thing that can happen? What can I do or take to provide self-care so I’m available to respond effectively in the realistic worst-case scenario?
Possible simple self-care items – tea bags, healthy snacks, notebook and pen, comfortable clothing, toiletries, novel, blanket Possible things to do – contact a person with wise counsel or is emotionally calm and asks thoughtful questions to support your problem solving
What can I bring (if needing to support another) that provides comfort and care?
Possible items – favorite toy, treat, healthy snack, book, chocolate, wine, clothing, extra phone, watercolor paints and paper, deck of cards
What can I do to prepare for the realistic worst-case scenario?
Contact friends, neighbors putting them on standby explaining why you may need them. Contact emergency personnel. Take any items with you that may be of use in a worst-case scenario. Having physically or mentally planned for a realistic worst-case scenario can bring a sense of control or calm.
Do I need to eat, wash, bring food, or arrange child or pet care to support my problem-solving skills to stay focused and sharp?
Do I need to eat, wash, and/or change my clothing to maintain or aquire a positive attitude?
– When reaching mental or emotional saturation or exhaustion ask for help or momentarily step away. Our goal is being available to problem solve and/or care for ourselves or someone else. If we are saturated with words bouncing throughout our brains or heavy emotions pulling down our hearts we will be less capable of making decisions that guide the situation into “coming together”.
– Angels will appear as life “falls apart”. Express heartfelt gratitude toward people who assist or support. Our sincere gratitude will provide balance and give us a moment of good feeling. The positive energy from the good feelings can also give us a respite from the stress. The brief respite can create clarity.
– Take notice of the smallest positive. The coffee that tastes good. A well decorated room. The softness of your clothing. A pleasing color. The brilliant sunny day. Unexpected sweetness of the whipped cream on a hot chocolate. These small positive moments, like the gratitude, provide a stress break, a positive focal point which makes us more alert for any further decision making. It creates emotional balance.
– Throughout the “falling apart” seek openings to step far from the situation. The stress break from the stress can realign us to a calm state. Is there a beautiful park to visit? Is there a nearby restaurant to enjoy a healthy comforting meal? Is there a nearby shop to wander thru? Is there a quiet place to pray or meditate?
– Look for how we can make lemonade out of lemons. Attitude is everything. A delayed flight (falling apart) can give us an extended and unexpected quiet or alone time (chance to come together). A loved one having unexpected surgery (falling apart) gives us a chance to reflect on the meaning of the relationship. This reflection can become a caring and loving note we write then share with them. (coming together).
The moments when life “falls apart” may feel less overwhelming and frightening when we realize how thoughtful responding can guide life to “come together”. If we think about it Pema Chodron is accurate. Life does “fall apart” and “come together” over and over and over again. Our ability to create calm for ourselves and others, when life “falls apart”, is a gift that assists us in bringing life back together. “May all beings everywhere be happy, peaceful, and free.” – The Buddha