Grit & Grace: When It Rains, It Pours and yet, We Endure
I could hear the buildup in her voice—the anger and resentment. The voicemail I received from a patient, whom I knew pretty well, started out relatively reserved, but by the end she was emphatically yelling into the receiver. In all honesty, I’m sure it was easier for her to yell at a machine than at a living breathing human being on the other end of the line. Nothing she said in that voicemail was directly related to me, but I was nervous to call her back anyway. I took a deep breath and waited for her to pick up. The minute she heard my voice, she started apologizing just as emphatically as she had yelled at my voicemail. I assured her I was there for her and would gladly listen (and take the brunt) of her frustrations.
What’s that saying, “When it rains, it pours”? Long story short, this patient had it piling on and crashing down around her. The medication that had been keeping her cancer at bay for the last 13 years was no longer working; she was currently in the hospital with heart issues and would need to have surgery to correct whatever was going on; she was worried about money and her kids and her cancer growing while figuring out what came next. I would have been yelling at someone’s voicemail too.
Sometimes it feels like it is one thing after another; we’ve been dealt a bad hand; and we’re drowning in decisions and doubt and details we have no control over. Maybe we find it hard to rise above, and the anger starts festering and growing and before we know it, it’s bleeding into parts of our lives that can’t afford to be infected. All of us just want to be happy, and we want a life that feels valuable. Is that too much to ask? But how can move past the anger to find and embrace a meaningful life?
First of all, don’t ignore it or pretend you aren’t angry. You are, and it’s fine. Anger is an emotion and it deserves space like all emotions. Because here is the thing, you can’t let go or “get over” something you don’t believe exists.
Next, you have to get to a point where you are willing to let go of the anger. I know for me, feeling angry gives me a sense of control. I can use anger to control distance in my relationships to avoid vulnerability. I use anger to self-soothe and justify extreme actions that may not be helpful. Being willing to surrender the anger can lead to a sense of losing control, so having a safe place to vent is key. Whether it is physically finding a place to release the anger, writing everything down, or paying someone to listen to you vent (this is also known as therapy)—find what works for you.
Research does show that we cannot be angry and grateful at the exact same time, so start a gratitude practice. It’s called practice because it may not come naturally, and it will take time and consistency to feel a change and it may feel a little cheesy sometimes. Here a few ways to start a gratitude practice.
- Gratitude Journal-This is easy and personal (and there is no one to answer to but yourself). Commit to writing 10 things you’re grateful every day for 1 month straight then go from there.
- Social Media Gratitude Journal-We all love to talk about ourselves and show the highlight reel of our lives on social media, so incorporate this into the gratitude practice. Tell all your friends of your intentions and post your successes. I guarantee this will keep you more accountable.
- Guided Gratitude-Because I am a glass half empty kind of gal, I sometimes find it hard to get motivated to appreciate the small things. What has helped me most is relying on guided mediations and gratitude practices. I just look up gratitude meditations on youtube.com and pick one of the many. Start with a 5 minute meditation first thing in the morning, and see if it makes a difference in your day.
Lastly, know that anger isn’t a bad thing. It prepares that fight response in our bodies, and that can be used for good. We need that push so we can battle injustices, fight cancer, and/or champion for ourselves. So skim a little anger off the top to drive those worthy battles and let the rest go little by little.