“As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, so I, born in the world, raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world.”Buddha
It feels shameful to admit, but 2020 was the best year of my life. The pandemic forced me (well, everyone) to sit with their own thoughts and feelings. All my needs, self-care, and boundaries I’d been neglecting were finally letting out a bloodcurdling scream and begging to be addressed. Maybe the catalyst was coming off my meds, but who the fuck really knows?
By the time 2021 rolled around, I’d completely dismantled my life and left myself feeling vulnerable and exposed. I was proud of myself for walking away from a job and marriage that weren’t serving me, but that sent me plummeting down the rabbit hole of anxious thinking about the future:
- Will I find another events job during the pandemic? What if I have to start over in a new career? No one ever thought the events and hospitality field could collapse like this.
- How long will my savings last to pay for rent, car, insurance, utilities, therapy, etc.? How will the divorce impact the way I file my taxes?
- My divorce will be finalized in 90 days, and all I can do is wait. Meanwhile, it’s a pain getting my ex-husband’s name off of everything.
- Living in this apartment stresses me out, and I can’t break my lease. Where should I live next? I don’t know what I’ll be able to afford until I get a job.
- I’m grateful that I get to keep both dogs, but sometimes it’s a logistical nightmare to make sure I’m home to walk them 3x per day.
I’m luckier than I’ll ever realize that I never had to worry about support from friends and family, who offered to lend me money or live with them. Still, I was overwhelmed and burned out. Every day I beat myself up over letting the situation get this far, and that self-deprecation depleted any ounce of self-confidence I had left.
It was validating to hear my therapist point out that I was in survival mode, and my brain had temporarily disabled any capacity for executive functioning. As a planner, I was frustrated and annoyed to tears that I couldn’t think further than a day ahead, if that. Like everyone else during the pandemic, I wondered, “When will I return to normal? What will normal even look like?”
After weeks of hysterical fits and uncontrollable sobbing, my mind, body, and soul were exhausted. I needed a way to slowly climb out of this hole I’d dug for myself, and my therapist gave me just that: the task of setting daily intentions. At first I rejected this woo-woo-yoga-sounding shit, but once I started going through the motions, it’s as if I taught myself how to walk again.
Similar to the philosophy behind the MyIntent Project, setting a daily intention is essentially deciding what purpose to own that day. It’s too paralyzing and unrealistic to tackle all of life’s challenges at once, so this narrows the focus to what’s most immediate. Here are some examples I adopted in 2021:
To set my intention, I think about what’s upsetting me the most or what I can’t stop obsessing over, then imagine how I hope to feel about that thing by the end of the day. Going through this process has forced my brain to slow my anxious thoughts and prioritize my needs, self-care, and boundaries.
It’s not a perfect system, i.e. I don’t always remember to set an intention or achieve it, but it’s a tool I can leverage at any given moment. Basically it’s giving myself a project with a relatively easy win… and when I’m down a toxic rabbit hole of self-deprecation, all I want is a win. After several days of racking them up, I find that my self-confidence builds, as does my hope for the future.
I keep wanting to reach some sort of “finish line” for healing, but I know that’s not how it works. What’s most terrifying is realizing how much work I still need to do towards feeling fully self-confident and self-sufficient again, while living my best life right now. This requires patience and self-compassion, neither of which are my strong suits.
It’s challenging for me to look back and acknowledge the progress I’ve made. I’m even skeptical about the world opening up again because we’re simply not there yet. Maybe it’s a matter of practicing gratitude. Maybe it’s my struggling growth mindset. Maybe it’s my crippling fear of uncertainty. Whatever it is, I know that I have the best friends, family, therapist, pets, and community to help me through, and that makes all the difference.