Level Letters: Hope & Truth in Tough Times

In the Spring of my freshman year of college, a best friend died in a car crash. The summer just after, I studied abroad and I really believed I profoundly missed my boyfriend.

He was a good guy, but a thoroughly mediocre boyfriend, and we broke up later that summer.

There is just no way that I missed that boy that much, but it was easier to believe I acutely missed someone I could video chat and send cards to, who my roommates knew and could share in conversation about, and ultimately, who would be there when I got home.

What I didn’t realize at the time was the pressure and the burden my misplaced missing put on that unsuspecting nineteen year old boy. I’m not being a martyr here; I don’t exclusively blame myself for the fate of that relationship. I don’t really *blame* anyone, and some degree of that longing was real. Some (a lot) of it, however, was superfluous and probably oppressive.

Right now, lots of people are experiencing a weird grief, collective, but at individual paces, in waves. There’s a temptation, just like I experienced on study abroad, deeply sad about my lost friend, exclaiming to a nineteen year old practice-boyfriend how much I missed him, to put that grief on the people you feel closest to. It’s uncomfortable and it feels like it might be easier if someone else carried part of it for you. Grief and “the missing” are often cumulative, and I have a tendency to assign that feeling to the most present thing, or person, or circumstance.

I hesitate to tell anyone how to handle their feelings—there are many right ways—but if I may be so bold, could we try something different here?

Rather than pushing off the discomfort, share without “shoving.”

When I’m inclined to throw a fit—to try to get my husband to “wear” some of my discomfort for me—I’ll try instead to name the feelings without assigning blame.

I’ll say “I’m feeling [sad/anxious/restless] and I’m not sure what to do with that feeling.”

I’ll try, “I miss my friends.”

“I see a lot of sadness and I’m feeling helpless.”

“I’m not asking you to fix it, but I need to acknowledge it.”

Then, I’ll keep going.

I’ll make my way to “Even though I’m feeling ______, I’m also really grateful for _____ today.” “Even though this is hard, I’m really hopeful.”

I generally want to skip either the first half or the last, the pain or the hope. The pain-naming can be brutal because I believed for a long time that labeling the feeling gave it power. The second part of the equation is challenging when there’s a temptation to stew in that first feeling-I-don’t-want-to-name. Turns out that for me both are critical.

Living in denial of feelings like sadness, anger, and disappointment gives them more power. Naming them and finding my way through them lets my heart exhale. It’s the start of working my way through. It’s the on-ramp to hope and creating the reality I want to live in. After the naming, there’s more work to be done, of course, through conversation, writing, moving my body, a poor attempt at meditation, prayer, or some mild or intense “rage-baking.” Take your pick.

Our words are real, living things. We hold the power to affect not only our own thought-life, but the world with what we say. It’s not ignorance of difficulty in the world to speak hope; it’s acknowledgement of something greater. It’s a choice to be part of creating a brighter future. It’s an offering of faith and anticipation to those around us and ourselves.

You hold so much power. What do you want to add to the world?

Sculpt + Dance Party Remix – @vickisecretss Instagram Live Workouts
If you want a blend of a Sculpt class and a dance party, Victoria is your girl. She’s a ray of sunshine in a hot pink hoodie and is currently offering these 30 minute workouts (zero equipment required) with 5 minutes of stretching four times a week. My ideal WFH lunch break, especially when I think I’m not in the mood to move.

Sleepytime Extra Tea
Oldie, but a goodie. Perfect for winding down at the end of the day.

Little Fires Everywhere TV Series
I’ll follow Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington anywhere, so it’s unsurprising that I love this. Did you watch Reese’s HBO series (based on Liane Moriarty’s book–great by the way) Big Little Lies? Similar feel. It wrapped up last month, so you can binge the whole season now on Hulu. Pairs well with red wine.


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