“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” ~ Albert Camus
How may have turned into the world’s most popular one-word question.
And, for good reason. It’s something we all want the answer to:
Admittedly, I’m a lush for some of these.
I want to know how to make my mornings feel like I woke up seaside with the scent of warm coffee and saltwater drifting up from the kitchen, and playfully stretch like a kitten until my mind is awake enough to face the day.
I want to know how to love myself, how to let someone love me, how to pour the love inside me out into the universe and make a big, love-colored mess of it.
I want to know how to feel good, and look good and be good.
And, luckily, there are people out there with some beautiful, quirky wisdom who can tell me just how to do each and every one of those things—or, at least how they would do each and every one of those things.
But, there is one how-to I haven’t stumbled across yet.
It’s the one that would come before all of these other how-tos—the ones that suggest we do something differently, do something we hadn’t thought of yet, do something, period.
It’s the how-to that is the most authentic, the most simplistic and also the most challenging.
It’s the how-to that tells us the best way to do absolutely nothing and be exactly as we are.
The other how-tos are good for the next step, the step that is necessary to ensure that we don’t linger too long in ourselves and ignore the spinning world beneath our feet and beating hearts that dance around us.
But, before we rejoin the world in the spinning and the dancing, before we begin to heal or grow or put new words to the unchanged rhythm of our hearts, there is only one thing we need to know how to do: simply, be.
This list of how-tos is designed to encourage just that.
So, without further adieu, my top three how-to-just-be-yous:
How to heal a broken heart:
Let your heart be broken. Let it throb and ache and send its woes all the way down into the pit of your stomach and let that be broken for a while, too. Let it commandeer your tear ducts so some of the hurt can spill out but be prepared when you start gasping between each salty droplet to pull the hurt back in because you weren’t quite ready to let it go yet. Let it be hard to be touched or looked at or loved again—not forever, but for a little while—because that is hard, and that is okay. Leave your cracked pieces unglued and maybe even let some of them fall away; it’s okay if they leave a gap—after all, that is how the light gets in.
How to be happier:
Let yourself drown for just a few minutes. Let those big waves pummel you, and once you’ve stopped fighting it, feel the way the water rolls your body around with its power, feel yourself gracefully flailing while your elbows and knees are skinned on the sand. Feel the heaviness that is suspending your weightlessness, but don’t try to take a breath just yet. Wait until you’ve understood the rhythm of it all, until you’ve accepted that getting to the surface is not easy, but it can be done. Wait just a little bit longer, until you understand where you really are and how you’ve gotten there—and then, just before you try and make it up between the waves, imagine how sweet that first breath of fresh air will taste.
How to feel beautiful:
Let yourself feel ugly—don’t tell yourself you are ugly or be overly critical, just let yourself look in the mirror some days and know what it feels like not to want to lean in and kiss the reflection staring back at you. Allow your skin to breathe and your face to be naked and familiarize yourself with its freckles and red spots and wrinkles, because they’re all hinting at something beneath the surface. Let yourself wonder why today is different, and let yourself wonder if maybe, just maybe, it has nothing at all to do with what’s happening on your face and instead has more to do with what’s happening in your heart.
This list could go on infinitely, but those three circumstances seem to be pretty universal, and pretty popular in the land of how-tos.
The good news for all the qualms I didn’t cover is that the answers are largely the same: stop thinking about how to change, first just sit with however you currently are. Know that it’s okay to feel, okay to hurt, okay not to know.
Change is good, and learning how to grow and heal are certainly important parts of these lives we lead.
But, more so than any list of tips and tricks, the greatest catalyst for change is an awareness and acknowledgment of where we are starting from, because if we don’t know that, how can we possibly know where we are trying to go?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Photo: Author’s Own