There is a meme going around on social media that says, “January was a tough year, but we got through it.” Did it feel like that to you? It sort of did to me. But for many of my friends this was deeply true. A lot of difficult stuff happened. And I feel like I say this on a regular basis, but it’s true: life has been hard lately. I feel like we’ve all been through some really tough patches these last three or so years and it’s doesn’t seem to be letting up.
For me, one of the things I’ve been grappling with is loss. Loss at mid-life feels like it’s a weekly event. It’s the big things- I lost a beloved uncle in August- but it’s also the small things- my hair is not growing back as thick as it used to (and I really miss it, especially in this cold!). I can’t quite depend on my body the way I used to. I’ve lost touch with people I care about. Making new friends isn’t as easy as it was 10-15 years ago. In the Sex Surge we might lose the sense of who we thought we were, or the certainty of our partnership. These are all losses. And I know many of you have losses like this- some bigger, some smaller. But they certainly seem to come to roost at mid-life.
Often, when we feel a loss – big or small – we want to fix it. I know that when I lost some flexibility in my arm for a few weeks ago my initial reaction was to Do All The Things to Fix It: go to the doctor, cut back on weights, rest, massage. Loss is a strange mixture of grief + memory + desire and it leaves a hole in us- whether small or large. The natural, human tendency is to fill the hole. We turn to some form of fixing because the feeling of loss is really uncomfortable.
Here’s what I know about managing loss, though- filling the hole isn’t always the best way through the loss. The best way through loss – or anything, really – is to just flow with what’s happening. When the loss feels acute, to admit to it and accept it. When the loss feels like a soft rain, to also admit to that and accept it. It’s a useful tool for almost anything we’re going through that’s difficult. To let a thing, a feeling, be what it is and just ride it like we’re going down a river means we aren’t trying to stop the process and Fix It or deny that it’s happening or somehow avoid it. We’re getting through it by…getting through it.
Interestingly, feeling our feelings and letting things be as they are tends to make the difficult things pass more quickly and we don’t get stuck on quite as many prickly bushes as we float along the river of emotion. Another interesting point is that when we feel our positive feelings and let ourselves move along with the happier experiences, it doesn’t make them end more quickly, it intensifies the emotions so that we feel them more deeply and enjoy them at a deeper level in our heart. When we can be with joy the intensity of it fills us completely. When we can float along with happiness or humor or satisfaction it infuses our mind and spirit (and body) in a way that doesn’t happen if we’re just barely acknowledging it.
I will say that there is a special caveat about this for those women who are in the Sex Surge. Feeling our feelings for desire, sex, sensuality can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes feeling those feelings can help reduce them, because we’re letting them move through us. But sometimes feeling those feelings can also cause them to intensify, which makes it worse and harder to handle. My recommendation is to give your current level of feeling a number between 1-10 (1 being low feeling, 10 being high or intense feeling). Notice what happens when you open to the feeling and let it flow through you. If it reduces in intensity (and that’s what you want)- great, keep at it. If the feeling intensifies, I recommend you take 3-5 deep breaths and imagine moving the intensity of the feeling back down to where you started (you might imagine a thermometer going down, a bucket going down a well, or the feeling of walking down a set of stairs).
I think we all know, by this point in life, that we will get through things. Whatever Life has thrown at us, we’ve made it through, so far. But the fastest way through the difficult things is to really feel them and be with them. To accept that one minute, one hour, one day we may feel some intense emotions about what’s going on in our lives, but that the next moment, hour, or day things will probably settle down a bit. Either way, telling the truth about what’s happening grounds us deeper in reality and that means we can have an easier time of it because we’re not denying or fixing what’s happening. When the joys of life visit us, accepting them means we get to experience them fully and our honesty means our spirit can be filled with the goodness of our life. As the year goes on I truly hope that we all have more joys than difficulties, but whatever happens I know we will make it through.