Whenever something bad happens, my first instinct is to run. It's in my blood. It's only recently that I've learned how to stay, sit, observe.
The phone rang this afternoon, smack-dab in the middle of my workday, and hesitantly, I answered. It was the shortest two-minute phone call that rocked my world.
After I hung up, I tried to stay reasonable and unaffected, at least superficially, but it lasted for less than a minute. Then I could feel myself begin to slowly unravel- my mind shifted, my energy drained. I tried to keep a placid, balanced, neutral expression as I stared at my computer.
I vaguely remember PK asking me a question about tube feeds, but my mind was spinning so far away from calculating fluid and protein goals.
That's when I completely lost it. I started sobbing- waves of grief and sadness swelling and crashing down on me as I gasped for air. I felt my mind explode in a thousand directions, felt every difficult unresolved feeling I'd buried in the past ten years suddenly burble up with such violent force. I ran down the hallway, nose dripping, crying uncontrollably, and found an empty hallway space where I just stood still until the shaking stopped.
Get it together, Julianne.
And another voice-
What's really going on now? Be here now.
So I took a deep breath and stopped thinking and just watched my thoughts like clouds passing, not attaching to any one of them, but just being a curious observer. I watched as my mind flooded with thoughts of you're never going to be good enough for anyone. You deserve to be alone. You're going to die alone and have no children and even if you got a cat, the cat would probably hate you too and poop outside of the litter box just to piss you off, and this is just proof that no one is ever going to love you enough, and you'll never have your dream life or your dream house, and why is it so freaking hot outside if it's October, and I swear we are all going to die from global warming since everyone refuses to stop eating meat, and why are there so many dead bugs on this windowsill, doesn't housekeeping clean these rooms too, and what the heck is up with that Chrysler's parking job?
I just stood there for a few minutes, observing the ridiculous, fleeting nature of my thoughts. And it worked. Enough for me to wipe the smeared eyeliner from underneath my swollen eyes and blow my nose one last time before re-entering the office.
It's moments like these when I am grateful for my morning meditations. I'm far from being an expert. I just prop my pillow up in bed, cross my legs, debate whether I want silence or background music, and then focus on my breath. On some days the 20 minutes goes by in a blur, and there are others where 5 minutes feels like an eternity. But it's been in these sessions that I've learned how to watch my thoughts- the easy ones, the kind ones, the negative ones, the painful and worrisome ones. I've learned that I am none of these and all of these at once, and that they will all pass, and soon a new set will enter of things that I should worry about or fear, and then, those too, will pass.
Ninety minutes after my mini-breakdown, there I was again, this time seated in a circle with nine other medical staff and colleagues. Together we sat in silence, watching our thoughts collectively. This time, I wasn't sobbing. I was centered.
In that moment, I practiced my own version of lovingkindness 'metta' meditation. I felt my throat tighten and my eyes well up with tears, even as they were closed, as I began with myself-
Julianne, may you feel safe. May you feel connected. May you feel loved.
I moved on to bless someone who I dearly love. Then someone neutral. Then, the most difficult person to me in that moment- the one who had called me.
I felt my energy shift and my heart soften with compassion and understanding, knowing they only had good intentions as they made that phone call. I repeated it silently and purposefully in my heart for them- May you feel safe. May you feel connected. May you feel loved.
My heart still felt heavier than usual, but it also felt more open and soft and tender.
And I knew it would be ok.
And it was.
So, you, my dear reader, may you also learn to watch your thoughts in life's difficult moments- and know that you are not your thoughts.
And above all-
May you feel safe.
May you feel connected.
May you feel loved.