CANVAS. Hundreds of colorful pens around me. An empty white paper on the desk. A creation waiting to happen. Words beyond a veil of grief. The canvas of the future stays empty. I respect that. I am the future. Just not today.
~ Maria Lehtman
What do you dream about today? Has it changed since yesterday? Is it different from a few months ago? If you step outside your anxieties, do you see there are people who have lived past and beyond that for a long time? Some of us have needed to cross that path of anxiety every day, harness it for the energy of accomplishing small things at a time.
I realize we are all looking for hope and consolation at times like this. Everyone is looking for someone to say: “It is going to be alright.” And when no one can, we keep searching for the right answers. If you lived your life well, perhaps you do not need to fear. If you have the people you care about here, still within reach, you have everything.
When doves don’t cry
I dream about the dimensions before and beyond the last veil. I see couples embracing each other when they meet again. I see people considering their life choices and wanting to start over. I see the light that unites us and the multitude of angels helping us.
~ Maria Lehtman
I was nineteen years old when I lost my first love. Some years after, my mother might say with a hinge of pride in her words: “Our daughter does not cry.” A close friend or a family member passing away is a loss you can never fully understand unless it has touched your life. I was bereft. All the tears in the world could not console me. It bothered my parents that I would cry in the evenings. They did not understand what it meant to lose a soulmate – how it felt to look into the mirror and wonder how your reflection still seemed intact when your soul felt to have fallen in two pieces. There was an actual emptiness where the other person had been. I learned to keep the tears inside.
Life brought me a blessing: a stronger man, less tempted of the shadows of the world, and adamant of keeping a higher standard of ethics. I learned to cry again if I felt sorrow or disappointment. It did not make me feel weak anymore. It was an expression of an emotion.
Until one day, my chronic pains were too much to bear the pain of crying. I could no longer take medication for the migraines that followed. I learned, once again, to hold the tears back. And then, before and in the middle of the pandemic, we started losing loved ones for different reasons and illnesses.
Your resolve to believe is the key
Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has.
– World War Z (movie)
Our first loss was our mother. She was severely ill and ready to move on – if it had not been for her love for her family here. She fought until her last breath to be present with us. I still feel her. I see her often in my dreams. I shed silent tears when she passed. The sadness was an avalanche inside me. It brought my physique down, but after a few months, I returned to work. I forced myself back to a routine but constantly considering the load and balancing it.
We lost more relatives in the coming months. Each loss was another broken arrow situation for me. We all need emphatic people – to be one is the toughest quality you can have. Throwing a challenge to a healthy person is hard work. Facing a challenge with an infinite spectrum of emotions and illness – that is when you need to rise to the occasion. I know that. I, too, was healthy and felt near-invincible at one time. I had a firm belief anything, and everything could be resolved with the right communication.
Now that you know a little about what I have faced – what can I tell you that might help you stay strong?
There is enough material to write a book, but I will break down a few of my principles here:
- Be the witness. Always inspect your emotional status and how much it impacts your body. Check the rhythm of your pulse, your heartbeat, your breathing. Recognize the feelings you are having, even when you cannot name them. The more there are, the more certain you can be that they impact you, people around you, and your health.
- Practice mindfulness. Everything on the Internet is full of mindfulness guides, but in the end, what matters is what makes you calm. What takes your mind off your most pressing concerns? Is it reading, writing, walking, throwing stones into the water, chopping wood, cleaning, meditating, photographing, praying, decorating. Observe the outcome. Are you calmer? If so, keep up the habit, a little every day. If you cannot continue your normal habits, discover new ones, evolve.
- Run through a self-check. How are you feeling today? Is your emotional state sufficient to carry out the tasks you have planned for the day? If not, start by changing the mode. Obviously, if you have, e.g., children, the circumstances can be different. In either case, consider, are there any other things you can give up from doing while you are feeling too stressed out? Is there anyone who can help you with the other tasks? Can you take short sessions to by yourself with, e.g., music, even if only for a few minutes at a time? Try to find small outlets that will allow you to stay you. Try to block the ‘what others may think’ mode. It is not about them; it is about you and your balance.
- Carry out a life-check. We are facing unusual times, but those can happen to any of us at any time. I had to move from constant travel to no-travel at all. Finally, my anti-immune illness made to stay indoors and in some level of isolation for long periods, even months at a time. I needed to let go and adjust what I was doing at the time. I had practiced for my next potential job in my own time, even during my sick leaves. The hours I had invested in a hobby turned into my day job. I set the expectations to the level I knew I could manage. I stopped following the feeling that I needed to be the champion in everything I do. I had to give up being a perfectionist.
- Iron out your most significant stress factors. These may very well be the toughest choices of your life. In the long term, if you feel anxious about a person, a relationship, a job, a boss, a mortgage, etc. you need to find a better solution. I tend to plan for an exception, a ‘what-if’ scenario. It may never happen, but the day it does, I push the button. I make the decision. I say “yes” to my plan, and I say “no” to other things that may sabotage it. And it is tough because only time can tell if you played it right. This is why I discuss with my spouse, I listen to advice, I take it to my heart, I listen to my intuition, I pray, I consider different outcomes, I read about potential risks and opportunities, I sleep on it, and then I take action.
- Ration social media use. Social media has had a tremendous role in my life for getting new friends, keeping in touch with people, and finding new outlets for creativity. It is not a place to ‘dump’ your life into. You can quickly become a target. The younger you are, the more certain that a complete emergence on social media will also do damage. Select your friends and network with care. I cannot underline this enough. You need to know your sources can be trusted. Furthermore, a normal person is not a professional therapist. Even with people you know, keep your boundaries. Protect yourself. Do not pass on details that you would not want to see publicly. There are no safe zones on the Internet. None. Some conversations are better off left to private phone calls, and sometimes before saying anything, it is good to sleep over it. Remember to also consider your stress level. If the social media universe brings too much anxiety nowadays, perhaps it is best to let some of it pass, take a technology rest or ration it.
- That is all I can say. Believe that there is a grander scheme in the Universe that surpasses what we have planned out. Believe in whatever way is most natural and comfortable to you: ask for solutions, outline possibilities, hopes. If you feel an emotion as if a form takes shape around you, ask it to step back. I genuinely mean that. Our mind is a great force. I have used my thoughts to battle almost impossible odds because I had to. It was the only way to move forward when tears were not enough. I go to sleep with a wish in my mind: “See a good dream.” Even if only one good dream. In my dreams, I do the things my waking life cannot cope with. The other night I saw a dream recalling the losses we have recently had. Someone next to me said: “It is ok, you can cry here.” And I realized, in the dream I could. It became a therapy session overnight like so many of my dreams are. I felt much better the next morning. So take your ‘mind-board’ and write on it what you wish to dream about. Write it down, wipe it, and write it down again three times. Eventually, you program your dreams to consider your needs.
Lastly never forget about the modern side of medical science. I still meet people who hard-headedly tell others they do not need help. If you do not, perhaps ask your close ones – they might consider otherwise. I never turned down options no matter what dimension they came from. I combine the Eastern with the Western with the universal. And I use all of them with the same careful consideration I make any decisions.
Take good care of yourself! I know for certain a mind is capable of adjusting – even if it takes time. Stay strong.
Always lead with hope and love. Some of us have the opportunity to live in democracies. Now we know that any democracy stays so only if justice is led by love.
~ Maria Lehtman