How do you cope? With loss, heartbreak, stress, disappointment, anxiety? It’s been over four months now, but I still think of him. Tito Dougs passed away suddenly last June, and I do not exaggerate when I say I miss him every day. Not in a terribly painful my-heart-is-falling-apart-into-a-million-little-pieces manner anymore, but in a way that hurts very much still, some days just more so than the next. It’s different each time, and the tears still sometimes fall very unexpectedly and very quietly, usually when I am very happy, or when I am more than just a little bit sad.
Tito Dougs smiles back at me every day, from a little photo I have propped up on my desk. I smile back at him each time, too. Sometimes when I am stuck in traffic I press “5” on my speed dial, even though I know I will not hear his voice on the other line. There have been a few times when I honestly wished he would show himself to me, half man-half ghost, vapor-like if he wants to, even if it has to happen ever so quickly, to assure me all is well where he is, wherever that is. I feel he is happy — he was a good man through and through, after all — but there are days when it just feels all-important to have tangible proof of that.
As I write that last wish, a part of me also acknowledges that I would be totally spooked should something like this ever happen. I would most probably faint royally, right after shaking like a leaf, turning whiter than I already am, if the latter is at all even possible.
But really, sometimes the longing is so real it takes my breath away. When that happens I make an effort to literally inhale and exhale very deeply, and very regularly, like a newborn deep in sleep, or as if I were in the middle of some challenging pose in yoga class. I do that to keep my grief at bay, and so that I can bring myself back to what the day was holding for me before I got all emotionally distracted. A quick shifting in my mind, of thoughts and memories, helps me snap out of the resident loneliness of it all. That is how I deal with the missing and the longing.
How do you cope with heartbreak? Not necessarily the romantic kind but maybe that of the little/big dream that did not come to pass, of deals that did not push through? My parents have always led by example, teaching me and my siblings to always count our blessings, but I would be lying if I said I am beyond disappointment already. When an endorsement deal I am hoping for does not push through, usually because of contract restrictions and/or product lockouts, a sigh still manages to escape me, and my mind wanders over to that taunting space with a glaring neon sign that says “What Could Have Been…” I allow myself a day or two to dwell on the matter, and then I let it go with a light goodbye. I try not to look back. What is left to do? It just was not meant to be, really. During those times, surrender can be so calming. It simplifies everything. When I say as I pray “Your will be done, Lord,” I simultaneously address a sub-prayer to Him for the grace to mean those words with all my heart and soul. It can be hard at times, especially when you are really hoping for something. Resignation to the situation makes things less painful, leaving little room for regrets and thoughts of what could still be.
How do you cope with stress? With the pressures of a rough work week, of sometimes being surrounded by difficult people? It is easy to love loveable people but, truly, how do you even begin to love mean-spirited ones? I don’t know where I learned or who taught me this little trick I deploy at will; perhaps I read about it in passing somewhere, and somehow it has stuck with me. This is how it works: I try my best to imagine that mean, difficult-to-like person as a baby, too, and really, how can you dislike a baby? Any baby. There is just no way. It works all the time. Gentle feelings will almost instantly replace the harsh ones; it is almost magical in its quickness, the sudden shift of feelings from being upset and resistant to one of, if not actual niceness, then tolerance at the very least.
Next to that I try to firmly remind myself that the twisted, totally terrible being that is causing my stress has a history all his/her own, one that I am in no way part of or responsible for, and I can always be the bigger person and choose to look away and just let him be.
How do you cope with a blue day, when worries are as real as they are imagined? This is easy. I shut out the rest of the world and get my iPod. Even if it is just a pocket of 15 minutes, it helps.
How do you cope with fear? Our fears vary. When it comes to work mine has to do with performing, especially for a live audience. Right before I set foot onstage to start the dance, backstage I hear nothing but my heartbeat; my stomach has its own choreography with vomit as its finale and everything but my dancing shoes wants to back out. “Why do I do this to me?” I ask myself each time. But I go out and do it anyway and when it’s all over I know I will jump into it and do it all over again. That is how I stretch myself beyond my comfort zone. There may be bigger things to stretch but trying to conquer my monster onstage is a good start.
How do you cope with a child’s demands for your time? With feelings of guilt when you can’t always give in to that because two days in a week, work gets in the way? How do you cope with the balancing act that is required as a parent, when you have to make your daughter still stand in the corner even when she has already said that she is sorry, when fat tears are dripping down her cheeks and your heart is breaking because you must do what you must do and bear the sight of her little suffering? It can be draining sometimes, and parenting is not always about baking and niceness and conflict-free days.
In all things big and small, in the midst of muddle or mess, how do we cope? A little each time, I guess, basically just going with the flow as situations unfold. It is with grace — something that I’d like to think comes from no less than heaven above. How can it be considered anything less than that when the strength just pops seemingly out of nowhere, to tide us through hard days, like stored knowledge with a time-release feature.
How do you cope? With loss, heartbreak, stress, disappointment, anxiety? Five tiny little words, but put together as a thought they make a world of difference.
One. Day. At. A. Time.
Until everything is, and feels, right again.