February 27, 2024

In the Thick of It? Remember to Do This.

 

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We’ve all been there. In the “thick of it.” In all its messy, profoundly cortisol-raising, overwhelming glory.

Deep in crisis, whether it be health, financial, relationship, experiencing a seemly endless bounty of grief, or if you are really lucky, a nice hodgepodge of them all.

When I am in this state, I tend to find something as simple as getting out of bed in the morning a challenge I deem worthy of an applause and a cheerleading squad.

The thick of it. I’ll paint you a vignette.

When I’m deep in it, everything looks grey. It’s like someone’s ran the sepia filter over my life, bleeding it of its colour, leaving only the bare bones behind. A life drained of its vibrancy, its mojo, its chi.

When I’m in the thick of it, I am so focused on the micro, I find myself stuck in a time warp where what is happening expands indefinitely in both directions of past and future while simultaneously not being able to ground into the present moment.

The result is I tend to make unreasonable extrapolations about the future like, “How I feel now is how I’m going to feel forever,” “I will never get over this pain,” and my personal favourite, “I will never experience a love like that again.”

Cue the counterproductive coping mechanism of black and white thinking.

The antidote? Zoom out.

When I’m in the thick of it, the uncertainty of the future feels too much to bear. I tend to want to take the power back by making sweeping statements like, “I accept I’ll never get the life I wanted, but it’s okay. I choose this life.” It’s as if choosing a known misery is somehow more acceptable to my psyche than the uncertainty of not knowing. Something I know in my core to be profoundly untrue, but the default I go to when I’m stuck in the thick of it.

And I gently whisper to myself, “You need to live in the grey baby. In all its sweet shades.”

Yet I also need to remind myself to zoom out.

To pan out of the minutiae and into the big picture. To remember that there is, in fact, a huge great gaping picture there for us to indulge. That right now, in the thick of it, I am not blessed with hindsight, but to remember, one day I will be.

The micro and the macro is the difference between mouse vision and eagle vision. The mouse is working at floor level, sniffing around, focused on the small scale. The mouse is on the ground, working on those small baby steps we need to make in the day-to-day, to get by, to survive. But it is the eagle that flies above the canopy, has the full view, the greater picture at large. The eagle is omnipresent, it can see all at once, the past, the present, and the future. Eagle vision helps us tap into that higher, “all knowing” part of ourselves that can hold all three timepoints simultaneously.

And yet we can’t do one without the other. We need both the mouse and the eagle. The micro and the macro. The eagle provides us with the big picture to inform the mouse on which next baby step might best serve us.

When I am in the thick of it, it’s like a thick heavy fog has descended, and I don’t know in which direction to turn, where to look, let alone which next step to take, baby or otherwise. The air feels dense and thick; things are slow both in mind and body. It’s like wading through a thick pool of molasses that threatens to engulf me with one wrong misstep.

But deep down, we do know the best way to handle fog don’t we?

Don’t get in the car to drive cherub.

Of course you can’t see the forest for the trees (or the wood for the trees if I’m speaking to my fellow Brits). No one can see from that angle. You simply don’t have a clear view. An elevated position is what you need. To rise above the top of the trees, soar like an eagle, and pan out.

Fly; don’t drive, sweetheart.

And remember, zoom out.

So dears, the next time we are in the thick of it, we need to remember the eagle and the mouse. Remember that we are likely to default to the mouse position. The floor feels safe, the weight of the ground underneath. That’s what they tell us to do, right? To ground down, to feel our roots extending out below us to the earth?

But the eagle, the eagle can see the full picture. It can see the thick mist down on the ground, but it can also see the sun and the stars and the sky. We need to elevate our position above the canopy so we can see the macro. Because when the fog is thick and the air is dense, it’s not always safe to drive.

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