Yesterday morning I had a moment.

The simplest trigger: at a cafe, an old framed portrait on a white wall that reminded me of something from then.

And I was off. Cycles of panic, terror, helplessness, pain, fear.

And then I came back. Doing the things that help me be here.

So yes, I’ve had a fairly messed up life in some ways. I’ve had hard things happen to me. And I’ve lived in difficult places, difficult situations.

But everyone has hard. Everyone has pain.

I don’t know whether you also get knocked out of your space the way I get knocked out of mine. But I am documenting some of what I do in these moment of hard, with the hope that some of this is helpful.

Being in my body. Or: being with my body.

In this case, walking outside in crisp air for forty minutes was the exact right thing.

Sometimes I can’t do that.

But anything that helps me reconnect to my body in a way that feels safe and grounded is good.

Rubbing feet. Drawing words on my arms. Kissing the palm of my hand. Touching the ground. Acupressure points. Any yoga pose that uses a wall.

Talking to me-from-then.

And creating safety.

I tell me-from-then the following things:

  1. Things are different now.
  2. She is allowed to be scared. Whatever she’s feeling is completely legitimate.
  3. Her work is done. She does not need to take care of anything ever again. It is her turn to be taken care of now.
  4. She has protection. I am here now. I am a pirate queen. I have skills, resources, allies and superpowers that we didn’t have then.
  5. Everything is going to be taken care of for her and she doesn’t have to do anything except experience safety.

Then we create the safest, most perfect space for her.

We put locks on the doors and assign these badass lions to guard the entrances. The lions are beautiful, graceful, powerful, devoted to her.

We fill her safe space with whatever she wants — books, music, cushions, an enormous punching bag, borekas. Whatever she wants in there, we make sure she has it.

And then I ask her to listen in from her safe space while I do the separation exercise and the alignment exercise.*

* See the next two bits — these are exercises I came up with several years ago that have been helpful in all kinds of situations.

The separation exercise.

I list ten things that are different about now.

They can be related to whatever was going on then, but they don’t have to. The point is just to create space. Distance and space.

  • I own and run a successful business. And it’s a pirate ship! With an (imaginary) island!
  • I have a home.
  • It used to be that I didn’t know how many options were available to me at any given moment. It was easier to end up in situations that couldn’t be gotten out of, because I couldn’t see any of the exit points along the way.
  • Now I know about things like deguiltifying, compassion, being my own true friend.
  • I have a lot more experience with mindfulness, alertness, paying attention to cues.
  • I know about sovereignty, and so I approach every situation differently. I assume that my space gets to be mine.
  • I’ve had X more years to practice things (everything from standing up for myself to believing I have a right to).
  • I speak German.
  • I work at a Playground.

The alignment exercise.

Ten things that me-from-right-now has in common with me-from-then.

We’re on the same team, so she needs to know that she can trust me. How are we the same? Where is the continuity?

  • We both love to walk.
  • And to nap.
  • And to read.
  • We talk to trees (and now they talk back too).
  • We are both writers (except that I don’t hide it anymore).
  • We like to dance.
  • We get annoyed when people tell us what to do.
  • We care about words.
  • We collect funny names.

The naming exercise.

This is where you name everything you see to remind you that you are here.

Poppy seeds. Bagel crumbs. Empty glass. Pink soap. I am here. Cracked sidewalk. Tall fence. Blue backpack. Worn clogs. I am here. Pirate flag. Flowered tablecloth. Old lamp. Cross-eyed cat. I am here.

It helps.

Remembering to access external support in addition to internal support.

Getting out of isolation is really helpful for me.

I need someone who isn’t going to ask questions or make me talk about it, but who is up for going for a walk with me, or sitting with me while I process stuff with myself.

Generally I try to figure out who these helper mice are when I’m not having a moment, because once I’m panicking, I can’t really think straight.

Always! Asking what’s needed.

In this case it was:

trust, safety, sovereignty, reassurance, perspective

And then giving it to myself in some form.

If that’s what I need, how do I get it?

I give myself a dose of trust by writing it on my heart with a finger. By writing a request for it as a Very Personal Ad.

A dose of safety by locking myself in my office and meditating.

A dose of sovereignty by mentally reconfiguring my force field and by putting on my tiara.

A dose of reassurance through listening to one of the Emergency Calming Technique recordings.

Bringing in the new pattern.

I dance the awe-full wrathful dance of anger. I dance the patterns without knowing what they are. I flail and fall and make mistakes.

Mainly, though … I try things.

All the time. And every time I try things, I take notes.

What’s this like? How does it feel? What’s missing? Is there a way to make this more useful, more accessible, more fun?

And then whatever you learn goes in the Book of You for next time.

You never have to use techniques that you don’t like. And you never have to stick with something that isn’t a good fit. It’s your video game. Your practice. Taking care of yourself is the most individual thing there is.

And probably the most important.

Comment zen.

The one thing we definitely all have in common is that we all know pain.

Beyond that: People vary. Pain varies. Experience varies.

We tread gently with pain. We do what we can to meet people (ourselves too) where they (we) are. Sometimes this is hard and annoying. That’s why it’s a process.

We let people have their own experience, which means: we can talk about what works for us, but we don’t give anyone else advice unless they specifically ask for it.

Wishing you all kinds of love and support and whatever helps right now.

The Fluent Self