To My Friends Who May Be Struggling

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Hey, 

I know I haven't written in over a month and a half, and that's mainly my fault, but I'm not going to use the old standbys that I've been so ZOMG busy, or traveling too much, or whatever else I tend to say when I've been absent from these parts. The fact is, I have enough time in the day to drop a blog here and there, and I have a ton to say. 

And that's exactly the problem. I have a ton to say. A lot has happened in these last four years, and I'm in a place to start digging deep and talking about it, but the trouble is, it's so overwhelming and I simply don't know where to begin. I also don't want to sound like some kind of pretentious asshole and preach like I have life all the way figured out and you should be like me, your zen master. 

My life is amazing. I sat with tears in my eyes last Wednesday night, a year to the day I publicly declared I was going out on my own, and there I was... making something of myself. It took almost a solid decade of falling flat on my face, but still getting back up. Almost a solid decade of being a complete trainwreck at times, being successful at times, being lucky at times, but always knowing I would eventually right the ship and have a path. 

I think that's where I want to start. I want to talk to those of you who feel like you've been struggling forever. I want to talk to you in a way that gives you hope without a ton of platitudes. I know the Holiday season is hard for some of us. It's going to be hard for me again this year, but nothing like the last four years have been. So maybe it's a good time to write a post like this. While everyone is blathering on and on all over the internet about how grateful they are for their fake Facebook lives, let's get real for a minute, and hopefully what I have to say offers you a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. 

First of all, the tunnel is long, and there aren't any shortcuts out of it. That thing is solid brick with one way out. Through. You have to get through it all the way, and that doesn't mean at the end you're rewarded with kittens, rainbows, and a pot of gold. I know for me, I always believed there'd be some kind of prize, and life would be FANTASTIC. Suddenly, life would be no big whoop and I'd just coast along my merry way in a haze of bliss forever. 

Nope. Life will always have its shit. So don't let that torpedo your trip through the struggle tunnel. I have had an emotionally rough November. I always thought in life of terms of, "If I get this, or if so and so loved me, I will be complete and I won't have bad feelings or relive old trauma anymore." 

Lies. It's actually harder than you think once you get through the tunnel or the fog lifts. Nobody told me the 'Now What?' part of it. If you lose the weight, find the love, get the money, have the success, or receive what ever that 'one thing' missing is, you have a whole new set of things to cope with that will make you wish you were back in the tunnel sometimes. 

If you're struggling and the Holidays are a tough time of year for you, here's some things I've learned over the last few years that have gotten me through, and maybe they will help you, too.

Allow yourself to have a pity party... with an end date

I believe in a good pity party. For an entire day. That's it. Last year, I watched the entire first series of, "The Crown" on Netflix nursing my shattered ego. I drank a metric fuck-ton of wine, and had every terrible food Uber Eats would allow me to order delivered... AND IT FELT GREAT. But the next day, life has to go on. You have to get out of bed, shower, and leave your house, even if it's just to go walk around the block. There are strings of tough days, especially weekends when I have a lot of alone time, where I literally tell myself, out loud, to get in the shower and go do something. I believe in momentum. Your body and mind will follow one another. So, if I'm having a hard time, I give myself Friday night to be a garbage person. I sleep in Saturday morning, and then I have to follow a schedule. If it's an exceptionally hard time, I give myself Saturday. But Sunday is the end date to pull it together and get ready for a new week. You can be a mess. Hell you're entitled, but you can't live there. It's just a visit... you didn't pack a bag. 

Speaking of end dates... start counting backwards from this time in your life

I can't take credit for this, my therapist actually came up with this one to help me through this Holiday season. Sometimes when you're going through the tunnel of darkness and the light at the end seems like a pinhole, counting backwards reframes your attitude so the inner Eeyore doesn't creep in and convince you there is no point in continuing to walk so you set up camp in your pity party. 

This Holiday season, instead of going, "Oh great, another lonely disjointed holiday, this is number five... ho-hum, oh look! Booze and navel gazing!" I told myself the truth. Yeah, it's the 5th shitty Christmas that isn't the way I want it, but it is at most, the second to last crappy one I will ever have. I can't begin to tell you how much that is helping me right now. It actually helped me get into the spirit of the Holidays for the first time since I came to Georgia, and I have real joy about being with my loved ones in the way I can this year. It kind of evaporated my sadness about the whole thing. My point is, you can't look at the years of your life and not marvel at how different one year looks from the last. Next year WILL look totally different than this one, and you are responsible for 49% of that outcome. If everything is terrible for you, the countdown to this moment in time being over is already ticking away. Every day down, is a day behind you. 

Stop reaching and find ways to be happy where you are in this moment

Goals are great. Aspirations and dreams are what makes life bearable, but they're also a wicked measuring stick of our perceived shortcomings and failures. None of us probably feel like we are rich enough, thin enough, have experienced enough, achieved enough or have received enough love. You want those jeans to fit, a certain number of 0s in that account, a companion, that dream whatever... so you look at yourself and go, "FAIL AND A HALF." 

If you want to get all Oprah on me, maybe make a list of things you're grateful for, or walk around your living space and enjoy the things around you that give you joy. Recently, I went through a bout of extreme loneliness over things I have no control over, and things that have been kicking up the dust of my past trauma. I walked around my modest little house and told myself the truth. There is a lovely bedroom I could cheaply turn into a creative home office/sanctuary. I have a brand new, gorgeous range I love but never use. I love to cook and bake. Why don't I make it a point to make myself a nice dinner every night instead of eating cold cuts and string cheese? Sitting down to a nice dinner every night whether I am alone or not helped a lot. I'm typing this in my new office because it's my space just to come into and write while I listen to music completely isolated from the rest of the house. 

There are things within your reach right now you can do for yourself that will help you gain some momentum to change the way you feel about things. Think simple. Your goals will always be there, and you might actually get there faster if you notice and appreciate where you are right now. You're not a huge suckface failure because you're not there yet. You're just here living. That counts for something. 

If you're grieving the loss of something or someone...

Former Vice President, Joe Biden, was interviewed last week on Today, and he said that one thing that helped him with the loss of the son Beau, was asking himself what Beau would be doing right now, and he tries to do that. 

That simple statement helped me a lot with some recent loss as well as older losses. Sometimes you're grieving someone and the answer to, "what would they be doing if they were alive?" and the answer is, "creating misery." That's mean and blunt, but it helps. Sometimes we grieve our regrets rather than the actual person. Other times, when you ask that question, like for example, about my dearly departed best friend Lisa, the answer is, "making great art and being unapologetically herself," and you can't sit on your ass being sad, because you have to go do that instead. 

Grief is a bitch, but sometimes we lie to ourselves and magnify it, too. We can't get them back, but we can live the rest of our lives, too. You aren't betraying them. 

We struggle, it's ok if you struggle for a long time. Acknowledge it, feel bad about it for a minute, but realize with every bad day, you're one day closer to things getting better. It will never be perfect. Ever. Perfection is a myth. Suffering less and less while doing the best you know how to do to get yourself out of the tunnel is the only advice I have. Just keep moving through... you'll get there. 

I guess I just want you to know that I get it.

Jennifer Gulbrandsen