“You do realize that this is nothing new, don’t you?”
I nod as I read the email.
Of course. She’s right. This is nothing new.
My cheeks flush as I scroll down and read my original message.
What was I thinking, sending such a frantic SOS in the first place?
I close my laptop.
I’d hoped for support; instead I made a big deal of of “nothing new.”
How foolish of me.
For the next year-and-a-half, I keep reminding myself that the problem I’m struggling with is “nothing new.”
After all, I’ve been dealing with it for decades, now.
How could something so old possibly be new?
When Old Feels New
It’s many months before I realize that the words “this is nothing new” are false.
No, the over-arching issue is not new. That much is true. I have plenty of head knowledge about it, as evidenced by my shelves of heavily-highlighted books.
But my decision to begin connecting with others who share my struggle is new, and it’s opened up a Pandora’s box of emotions.
The shame of not recognizing the truth sooner?
This is new.
The regret for past choices I made based on inaccurate information?
This is new.
The grief from losing my optimism, my story, my hope?
This is new.
Maybe this was all “nothing new” for anyone else.
But it felt overwhelmingly new to me.
I now see how damaging it is to believe words such as “this is nothing new.”
While technically true, they were code for “you should be over this by now” when, in fact, I was finally beginning to really deal with “this.”
I guess it was easy to believe “this is nothing new” because technically I knew so much about it. I had spent decades trying to make head knowledge solve a heart problem.
After decades of paying lip-service to acceptance but living in denial, I found myself treading water in the deep end of acceptance with no chance of ever again wading in denial.
I felt lost in the midst of unresolved grief.
And the words “this is nothing new” made me feel completely alone—like I was welcome to reach out again once I’d finally gotten my act together. But as long as I was creating fresh drama out of stale problems, I could do that on my own.
But I couldn’t do “this” on my own.
I needed help to make it through.
Knowledge vs. Acceptance
Here’s what I’ve found to be true when gaining new ground in the on-going battle with an old issue:
Just because you knew some things didn’t mean you knew every thing.
- It didn’t mean you knew how deep it went or how pervasive it was.
- It didn’t mean you knew the poor consequences of your carefully-made choices.
- It didn’t mean you knew how much you had lost yourself along the way.
All of this can feel completely new, because knowing and accepting are such very different things.
Knowledge stays up in your head, while acceptance happens in your heart. Along with processing your shame, facing your regrets, and finally grieving your losses.
During the process of acceptance, “this” will probably get harder before “it” gets better.
Which may be inconvenient — even annoying — to those who are ready for you to just “be over it by now.”
Someone Who CAN Help
Maybe their annoyance is actually ignorance. And perhaps people who are inconvenienced by your unresolved grief can point you toward what you really need.
You need help to make it through.
But not just any help. You need help from someone who “gets it” and, more importantly, who gets you.
So the next time someone says “You should be over this by now,” here’s what you’re going to do:
First, you’re going to tell yourself:
Their words have are about them not me.
What they’re really saying is, “I can’t help you make it through.”
Then, you’re going to seek out someone who has experienced what you’re going through.
- Who has felt the same pain.
- Who listens. And listens. Then listens some more.
- Who says things like “I know what you mean” and “This all makes sense to me.”
Don’t make my mistake; don’t send a desperate SOS to someone you hope will help you.
Seek support from someone who can, in fact, help you make it through.
This may be a friend. Or a friend of a friend. Maybe someone you meet at a support group. Perhaps a trained counselor.
As you search for that someone — and as others invite you to be their “someone” — remind yourself:
While nothing hurts like dismissive words,
Nothing heals like feeling heard.
* * * * * * * * *
You Don’t Have to Try So Hard: Ditch Expectations and Live Your Own Best Life — originally published as The Cure for the “Perfect” Life — releases on September 4th.
Pre-order your copy today!