Whenever one ponders about their worth, I hear it talked about as if it exists floating somewhere above us. Drifting along in the same group of clouds that envelop our fantasies, hopes, and dreams. These aspects of ourselves are seemingly intangible and translucent. Something that comes and goes at rather inconvenient times. Life always has a way of challenging the security of our worth.
Whenever I explore someone’s experience of their worth, I find it’s typically in the hands of someone or something else rather than the person sitting in front of me. It could be grasped within the dynamics of a relationship, the productivity of a job or school performance, the reactions of others and our interpretations of other’s experiences of us.
What if the cloud we place our worth in were to be reframed into the steadiness of a rooted tree?
I recognize that comes across as awful corny but bear with me.
Worth is not supposed to be derived from other people, places, or things. Worth does not originate from materialistic ideations or relational dynamics. Rather, our worth is uniquely and undoubtedly our own since the moment we develop conscious thought. Our worth is grounded in the power of our voices, and the choices we are privy to whenever we are faced with crossroads in the way we can respond to an experience. Just because this idea of self-value is not something that has a designated color or graspable shape does not mean it is any less accessible.
Our worth is rooted within us. Deep in our bones, cozy within our souls.
You are worthy because of your experiences, resilience, imperfections, quirks, and the addition of someone utterly one-of-a-kind in this World.
Recognizing our worth and our accountability for it can be intimidating at times. Perhaps that’s why we are so eager to hand over the responsibility of it to someone else.
But here’s the thing.
Our worth is so rooted within us because we are undeniably human. We are messy, imperfect, and deeply feeling souls whom have individualized perceptions of the same universe we all inhabit. Our worth would falter if we were perfect, uniform, and untouched by the unpredictability of how life rolls. Worthiness is inherent simply because we can do and have done hard things.
It’s OK to make mistakes, my friends. It’s brave to have days or weeks or months where you feel deeply and vulnerably human. It’s welcome to cry and express your perceptions of the world around us. Making it through the hard days highlight how inherently and unshakably worthy we really, and always are.
I think we can all agree that this week has brought a hefty amount of fatigue.
COVID fatigue, compassion fatigue, mental and emotional exhaustion, gulley’s of grief, celebration hangovers, you name it.
It seems as if Americans have been holding their breath since November, or perhaps even longer. We could cut the tension in the air with a butter knife. Layers upon layers of intensity brought to us by conflicting perspectives, aching inequalities, deeply run injustices, and unfairness none of us seemingly feel we have much control over.
And then there was Bernie.
Wednesday invited a peculiarity that was the feather that tickled the collective deep sigh right out of us.
The world was delighted with an image of a political figure slumped begrudgingly into a cold fold-up chair. He donned a dark grey winter jacket, and brown-patterned mittens that proudly displayed the love that was put into creating them. One leg perched across the other, a disposable light blue mask stretched unsymmetrically, but properly across his furrowed face.
Each one of us instantly resonated with the humanness Bernie Sanders quietly embraced.
And halleluiah for that!
The quiet tension that seeped from America’s bones has suddenly erupted into laughter. This genuinely human-felt image has captured the delight of many as they cut and paste it into every scenario that embraces the human in us. A chilly Bernie playfully represents the teacher about to retire but still has recess duty, the bored parents at their child’s soccer game, the cranky soul perched impatiently at the oven waiting for the cookies to finish baking, the list goes on.
The laughter that is echoing is a welcomed and much over-due chuckle.
So, thank you, Bernie Sanders.
For the joyful reminder of the thing we all have in common.
We are, and will forever be, human.
Thinking about a word that could accurately describe the past few weeks, I continue to circulate back to “muddy”. I feel as if everyone who enters the therapy room are trying to navigate slippery slopes and quicksand-like mucky spots within their lives without the satisfaction of good galoshes. The world is muddled by high tensions, tickled from approaching significant historical transitions of power smudged by intimidating threats. The one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic looms in the murky background, a heaviness no one is able to fully overlook.
In the realm of Autism, the tension that poisons the air is creating a very uncomfortable, dread-like sensation. One some of my client’s awake to and restlessly drift asleep into. I think we can all resonate with the inescapable muddy feelings that taint the spaces we presently exist in.
What can we do with all of this metaphorical mud that sticks to our souls like glue?
I find myself looking for the glimmers. The sparkles that exist in spots if I pause long enough to squint. If anyone knows me, pausing is not my strong suit. I’m a full-steam ahead kind of gal, ploughing ahead toward the next adventure, the next tantalizing goal or destination.
Perhaps that’s the mud we are getting stuck in. Going full-steam ahead toward anything right now is a mentality that will face a slew of obstacles, largely out of our control. This pursuit of hustle has a high chance of dishing out enough burnout to trap even the most zealous of humans in soul-sucking muck. This enveloping muddy mess that’s a product of the largely uncontrollable factors that surrounds us begs for a thoughtful reframe.
Slow down, breathe deeply, and look for the moments that glimmer.
They may be brief or faint. They mostly go unnoticed due to how untrained we’ve become at paying attention to them. Nevertheless, these sparks have yet to be engulfed by the murkiness of the world’s dishevelment. Nor do I think they have the capability of disappearing entirely.
Everyone has their own nuances of glimmers, and they are related largely to ways we all find our happy. Glimmers can mimic a subtle smile from a child who was committed to their grumpiness a few moments before. The gratification of a crispy apple or a wonderfully ripened avocado that serves as the “just right” addition to your Wednesday lunch. Perhaps these shimmers could be the first step outside and the warmth that washes over you as the sunshine embraces you in its hug. These sparks could be the goofy grin your dog shows off as they convince you they need a bite of your meal.
I’m thankful for the glimmers that fill this tired therapist’s soul. I grasp onto them tightly, mindfully noting their existence so I can melt into the memories of them on especially murky days. Closing my eyes and sinking into these memories now, I feel the corners of my mouth uptick. My mind takes me to the color that fill a client’s cheeks from relief as they take their first deep breath in days. The widening of one’s eyes as they recognize the sensation of sitting in a space with another whom sees them in their entirety. The heart-felt giggle from a youngster who finally beat Ms. Kat in Candyland. The warmth and vitality from a hot chocolate that was so kindly gifted from a sincere clinical director on a random Tuesday when my feet were especially dragging. The three squeezes from the hand of my husband, his gentle reminder of his steady love.
This is your friendly reminder that your glimmers are there within the mud that colors our perspectives and experiences. I encourage you to be mindful of these sparks, and when they happen, hold onto them tightly. For these shimmers are our galoshes that will carry us through this especially muddy time.
Perhaps our happy is like a piece of chocolate or a good book. While savoring the chocolate or indulging in the storyline, we reflect on the raw joy that happiness embodies. However, the longer the stent of this joy perpetuates, the more uncomfortable we become because we know all good things come to an end. All emotions, including happiness, have a beginning, middle, and end. This is a process we do not get much say in, as this is as indicative of being human as our fingers and toes. The belief here is that this process makes many of us squirm with discomfort, desperate to lean on back-up sources that are 100% reliable to generate the joy. To restock the chocolate.
I hate to say, but we cannot enjoy this chocolate all of the time. If we did, we would not know joy even if it slapped us in the face!
We embrace our happy because we have experienced otherwise. There is a purpose to the “veggies” of the emotional wheel as these cultivate resilience, internal motivation, and grit. We cannot outrun the gambit of the human experience that will undoubtedly encounter sadness, resentment, jealousy, anger, or hurt. Nor are we supposed to.
I wish there was a way to rewrite our relationship with discomfort.
From early on, we hate for our children to know the face of discomfort. We soothe their cries and kiss their booboos. However, this sort of nurturing mentality has evolved into an entity that smothers our youth’s beliefs they can do (and survive) hard things. Suddenly, we are letting the argument of “I am not going to follow through with a task because I do not enjoy it” become valid and normalized. The message that lies beneath this mentality is “I cannot embrace the emotion of happiness while partaking in something I do not like.”
This ends up biting us in the butt, folks.
We can do hard things and still dig deep into our happy.
This is a vital skill necessary for a satisfying and fulfilling life.
Because life is hard. The saying “money can’t buy happiness” rings deeply true. Buying that thing, or having this relationship with my family, or marrying that man does not guarantee a one-way ticket to paradise. Life is composed of our “pursuit” of our happy, and the fulfillment arises from the obstacles that YOU did not let dictate your responsibilities to yourself.
We are not entitled or owed our happiness. We have to do hard things in life. We have to clean our rooms, pay our bills, go to the dentist, and confront our skeletons. Just because we have to experience and face difficulties does not rob us of our capabilities to find our happy.
So, how do I find my happy?
My happy is woven into the air I breathe when I first step outside. The delicate aroma that tickles my senses as the sun hits my face without the obstruction of windows. My happy is sparked by the creatures within my world, their songs and stories delighting my soul. My happy swells at the sight of other’s smiles, the deep satisfied breath that follows as one soul connects with another. My joy lives within myself and the memories I hold close as I continue to survive the many obstacles life throws my way, my quiet confidence that hums within my heart as I embrace each and everyday with a recognition of my choices. Sure, I falter and stumble, however my happy evolves because of my choice to stand back up.
Go find your happy, my friends. Find the happy that is unarguably and passionately yours. Your joy does not deserve to be at the mercy of your partner, your parents, your children, nor your boss. Take back your joy from the hands or places it’s given it to, for this happy wants to come home to you. Know you can do hard things, and that your propensity for happy won’t depart from you without permission from your own self.
While it could be different for every clinician, I have discovered I can rely on the kickoff of a new year to be uniquely hectic. Despite the chaotic schedule, I observed an exchange that halted me in my tracks a few days ago. A parent was expressing a task they wanted their child to complete. The child’s response mimicked something like “But I don’t enjoy doing that task! I’m not supposed to like it, I’m a kid after all!”
As the conflict carried on, my mind began to follow a tangential question.
When did happiness become so misconstrued?
It seems that many of us have replaced the notion of the “pursuit” of happiness with the “entitlement” to happiness. The threshold for discomfort is unequivocally low for many as I experience those viewing happiness through a very polarized lens. Either life is sunshine and rainbows, stock full of satisfaction granted from having life go the direction one craves, or it’s a black hole of despair, void of that “one thing” , that “one person”, or that “one opportunity”.
Genuinely, how do you find your happy?
This is one of my favorite processing questions. The perplexed expression that clouds a client’s face is predictable as they sit with the odd finesse of the question. I choose my words carefully here, as so many of us hyper-focus on “what makes us happy”.
Yikes. Here’s the roadblock.
A person is responsible for their own happiness. Our happiness cannot and will not rely on others.
Regardless of one’s age and stage of life, we are the ones that get the final say to our own emotions. Sure, it is the actions and behaviors of others that contribute to the environment we exist in, however our emotional well-being is not inherently THE other person’s fault.
So, why do we continually dole out the responsibility of our happy to everyone and everything but ourselves?