Not Unequalled

I survive hard things. I can survive hard things. I have had to survive things.

Even with all the research that confirms their necessity for mental wellbeing, I struggle with affirmations. At most, I use them as gateways to figuring out what comes up for me when I think about the main idea in a particular affirmation. For instance, I have read several variations of the affirmation about our capability to get through difficulty, to be resilient, to come out ‘on the other side’ -this other side that I’ve written a little on and talked my people to death about. This side I’ve continued to struggle to see, to believe in.

Somehow, even with all the experiences that feel like the unimaginable, the big ones, the worst, I always turn up on what appears to be the other end of the rainbow, the joy in the morning, the light at the end of the tunnel, the ease after hardship. In the depth of my inability to see possibility, the pits of my experiencing that difficult thing, all these chaotic experiences life has brought my way, I often repeat to myself, ‘who thought I could survive this?’ because with my track record so far, I seem to have been made to survive the worst. And so, even when I feel it in every bone in my body, that this is the thing that will end me, that it will break me completely, it doesn’t. It hasn’t. Yet.

And I’ve come to many of these endings, at least what I thought and, perhaps more honestly, hoped were full stops. Places where I hoped that all the pain I was experiencing, was the depth and breadth of all the pain I was made physically, mentally and emotionally capable of bearing. Oh, how I’ve been wrong. Every time. So I keep finding my way back to this surety that I was made to survive: that it’s not only that I am capable of surviving or have had to survive but also that this is what I’m meant to be doing. ‘Meant’ here makes it sounds like I’m predestined for this, that we come set on a path, maybe we do. I struggle to believe that there’s that much order that exists for my hardly significant part in the universe. So when I say this, what I mean is that this is how I can make sense of this, this is what feels like it could be possible or true.

I’ve continued to maintain a tight grip on a need for control even with a deep knowing that so little is up to me. I know there are many things we can say about humans and our tendency towards this, our inherent want for explanation, understanding, meaning that makes us feel in charge of everything associated with our selves. So it’s not absurd that I want clarity about how exactly I made and make it through, that I (want to) sit with each experience, hold it, re- think and feel through it. I hope that the next time darkness comes, I’ll be better prepared to get to the other side in a way that I can retrace my steps through to where I first began. I want to believe that these examinations, if done repeatedly, sorted effectively and given enough time for me to mull over, will turn into something tangible, something useful.

We don’t always need to know how we’ll keep going – we just need to trust we will.

We don’t always need to believe in our capacity to keep going – we just need to remember we’ve kept going every moment up until now and, somehow, we’ll continue.

We don’t always need to predict what’s on the other side – we just need to let ourselves live the life we have, trusting we’ll make something out of whatever is ahead.

We don’t always need to have the answer – we just need to let ourselves be open to it when it’s ready to arrive.

– Lisa Olivera

The recent years have been a lot, with the horrible having felt like it’s always close at hand. I can’t say that I trust I’ll keep going or feel capable of keeping on. If anything, I have gained more resolve in trying to situate more clearly whether the place of momentary breath before the next ‘again’ is indeed this ‘other side’. I am trying to recalibrate my ideas of what this other side means, looks and feels like. I realise now that my expectations and standards for what qualifies this side to be the other might have been too tidy, too neatly and narrowly defined. I want(ed) the love, ease, joy and calm that I envisioned to exist in abundance there to be consistent, almost enough to be considered permanent. I expected that these feelings would be as overwhelming, as engulfing as the more difficult ones often are. I am learning now that this pure ‘other side’ doesn’t exist, that respite remains that: an interval, a space of time between events or states, a temporary period of relief. That because of this, that knowing this, the hurting, the healing, the surviving, the living will happen with complexity: concurrently, overlapping and intermingled with one another. That even when it feels like only the surviving and the hurting is happening, that it’s most likely just the loudest, the most prominent, not unequalled.

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