When Nothing “Works”


CC-BY, user capt_tain Tom, https://www.flickr.com/people/87744089@N08/

Thanksgiving is fast approaching.  For many people, this time signifies the beginning of an incredibly painful season of the year.  For some, the holidays contain hurtful or traumatic memories.  For others, the holidays compound a currently difficult situation.  For still others, it’s simply the way the holidays bring their experience of despair in even sharper contrast with yet unfulfilled promises of hope.

For me, this season is difficult for something of an “all of the above.”  As I steel myself for the onslaught of reminders of the time of year and begin to cry through the heartbreaking pangs that accompany them, I start to strategize: What will make me feel better?

Maybe if I make sure I get a good night’s sleep as often as possible.

Maybe if I make sure to exercise every day.

Maybe if I swear off of sweet treats.

Maybe if I make sure to have time alone each day.

Or maybe if I make sure I have meaningful time with other people.

Maybe if I forget all of those strategies and just do what I feel like doing to get through each moment–whether that’s binge-watching a captivating TV show or stopping for a mocha latte at the slightest whim.

All of the above can be helpful for their part (especially sleep and exercise, and yes, even giving in to superficial whims to get through a particularly difficult moment).  It is absolutely important to prepare yourself by making room for these healthy steps.

But expecting these steps to actually take away the pain will only bring disappointment.  As much as I have experienced, and as many times as I have gone through similar seasons, I forget that I cannot block out the accompanying feelings.  I still think I can “prepare away” the pain and the anxiety.

Even if you have a coat and umbrella when you go out into a heavy rainstorm, you will still get wet.  You will still be cold.  You still need to watch your step.  You will still crave shelter.  The coat and umbrella will do much to protect you and to make the experience less uncomfortable, but they don’t change the fact that you’re going out in a rainstorm.

So, if you sense a storm approaching, grab your coat and your umbrella.  Maybe even thrown on that scarf that isn’t the most sensible, but it just makes you feel better to wear it.  The storm will probably be rough.  But there’s no reason we can’t walk out into it together.  Who’s to say we won’t find some puddles to splash in along the way?

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