I feel behind in life.
It’s the repeating thought I’ve been battling for a long time until most recently.
I went through old notebooks and found my 5 and 10-year plans. One of which my late partner and I had built together.
I checked the date, and more than five years had gone by.
I feel behind.
Most of the hopes and dreams I had laid out were either nonexistent, unfeasible, or matters for which I no longer had interest, strength, or present capability.
While speaking to a good friend, I told her, “I’m not where I should be.”
“Where should you be?” she asked.
“Where I planned, and I’m nowhere close.”
“Well, where you planned to be didn’t include what happened. You didn’t plan for your person to die how they did and when.”
I paused. That made a lot of sense. It’s hard to be where you should be if death and grief relocated you to where you ‘shouldn’t.’”
It’s hard to be where you should be if death and grief relocated you to where you ‘shouldn’t.
I thought about it for a while and concluded that my friend was right. Maybe it would’ve turned out better if life had gone as planned. Or maybe it wouldn’t. Had I known, perhaps I would’ve guilted myself for “knowing but not doing better.” Everyone dies, and there’s no way I can prevent that.
That’s why when things don’t work out, it’s not always a sign of failure. Maybe you were blindsided by something that you couldn’t have anticipated and planned for.
I wish I could tell my past self, who had that conversation, “You’re doing a great job, and you couldn’t have done life more perfectly. Slow down. There’s no need to rush.”
Life is filled with endless responsibilities; rarely do we acknowledge our current capacity. It’s the “most people overestimate what they can do in a day” problem. We hold ourselves responsible for more than we should and give ourselves too little credit for the grief we’ve withstood.
We hold ourselves responsible for more than we should and give ourselves too little credit for the grief we’ve withstood.
It reminds me of when I moved my piano from the bottom floor to the top level of the house. It took me and the person who helped a while to do it. We took several breaks. It’s not an instrument you can carry quickly. The only easy part was moving the books because they were lighter.
Life has taught me that carrying heavy things requires slow movements. And because grief is heavy, it requires slow movement too.
Quickening the pace can lead to injury or unexplainable exhaustion. In fact, trauma therapists define trauma as an event that happens “too much, too soon, too fast.”
We pace ourselves when carrying physical objects but expect emotional and mental burdens to be expedited. And unlike me carrying the piano, some of us have little to no help bearing the full weight of loss.
It’s okay if you’re moving slower than you’re used to. It’s perfectly normal if you take breaks to refuel, rest, and recover. It’s okay to be unsure how you want your life to look after loss.
I’m still unsure what “should be” looks like. I’m exploring what my new “should be” is piece by piece, and I’m slowly–sometimes begrudgingly, accepting that it’s okay if I haven’t arrived there yet. I tell myself the only place to be is here, right where I am, in this present moment.
Nostalgia is for the past, worry is for the future, and what I’m experiencing in my body is for now. Life in slow motion does have benefits. It gives me time to notice what I hadn’t before, to enjoy what’s left of my existence. Because while they have died, my breath is alive.
In the slowness, I count the days, not in how many since their death, but in how many I continue to carry them. They are not forgotten. Day 5, viewing the skyline he always enjoyed. Day 100, biting into her favorite blueberry muffin. Day 487, watching the show we’d laugh at. Day 1,001, dancing to their favorite song and touching that outfit they looked amazing in.
Death removed them, yet it leaves tangible pieces. As a survivor, I get to be one of the best parts of them that remain. I will not ruin it.
As a survivor, I get to be one of the best parts of them that remain.
Therefore, when you believe you’re not moving quickly enough, consider the opposite, that your expectations are too fast. Heavy things aren’t easy to carry; the heavier they are, the slower we may need to go. It’s okay if you don’t have everything together right now. Your only job is to be present where you are.