“Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high…where trouble melts like lemon drops, way above the chimney tops, that’s where you’ll find me”. Who wouldn’t want to be there – on the other side of the rainbow, where the bluebirds fly and the dreams really do come true? Blue skies, happy days and all things lovely.
But for many of us, that’s a place of dreams, and maybe far removed from our current experience of life. In my last post I shared a quote from Kahlil Gibran. Being a poet, he doesn’t just say he wants to feel all of life intensely. No – he begs to be allowed to ‘bathe my soul in colours’, ‘swallow the sunset’ and ‘drink the rainbow’. Such beautiful imagery. But, as somebody said to me, “I want to ‘drink the rainbow’ too, but it’s hard. So much about my life isn’t how I’d hoped it would be. It’s hard to even find the rainbow, let alone want to drink it, when all I see are grey clouds and stormy skies”.
I really appreciated that comment. It got me thinking about how we can drink the rainbow when the colours are not pretty – when they are perhaps black, murky or dismal. It’s a difficult question, and I’m no expert. So I asked readers of our newsletter if I could tap into their collective wisdom – what ways have they found helpful in staying connected to life when things are hard?
Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who replied. And I’m really happy to be able to share what you’ve found can help. I hope others might find something useful here for them as well.
- Be kind to yourself. You’re doing the best you can. Try not to beat yourself up – instead, give yourself credit for still trying, for still caring, for still showing up. One reader wrote “When my life gets hard I just try to stick in there and get through it. When I’m able to, I try to be as kind to myself as I can. When things are hard I can make it worse by telling myself how I should be different, how I should be able to cope better, or how unfair life is….so I just try to give myself a break from all of this and do what I can at the time”.
- Give yourself time and space. Another reader said “I need to crawl away to lick my wounds – I read a favourite book and eat peanut butter”.
- Keep it simple by connecting back to basics. A good suggestion was “Breathe and follow the breath, in and out.” It sounds almost too simple, but it connects you back to yourself and your body, and to the breath of all living things. Focus on small, nourishing things – the steam writhing upwards from your cup of tea, the sound of the birds, the feel of your warm jumper, a favourite song.
- Draw on memories of better times – times when you felt able to connect with joy, beauty, hope – with life. One reader said “I love the idea of rainbows – we used to have a lot of them when I lived on the mountain. On that property the stars seemed to shine brighter, and the rainbows ended on the mountain where we were.” Even though she’s not in that place now, she can still vividly remember the experience and the feeling.
- Use your hands. Many readers found that when it’s too much for the mind or emotions to ‘experience the rainbow’, they can instead do so through their hands, their body, their senses. One reader uses her quilting projects to help her appreciate and experience colours, another finds order in doing jigsaws, yet another paints. I read a novel recently in which a woman, after a long period of shutting out grief by disconnecting from everyone and everything, began to connect back to life through working in the kitchen. “She boiled water, washed produce, tore lettuce, pulled the strings from string beans, measured molasses, sugar or meal, mixed and rolled biscuit dough, washed dishes and put eating utensils on the table. She worked grief out through her fingertips and before the next summer began to hum as she worked” (from, “The Maid’s Version” by Daniel Woodrell).
- Draw on faith. Several readers spoke of the importance of faith in their lives, and how it gives them a very real hope, even in hard times. One said “I go on in life searching for rainbows that seem unreachable, only to find the dark clouds roll in and I get stuck in stuff that seems too difficult. But then the rainbow turns up after the rain as God promised it would”.
- Be in nature. Walk by the beach, sit and look at the sky, feel the grass. the sun, the wind. Garden. Get your hands dirty.
- Look after your physical and mental health. Eat well, rest, talk to someone. Laugh with someone. Have a list of ways to look after yourself, of things that make you feel good, and do things from that list every day.
- Reach out for help when you need it. From a friend, a neighbour or from a professional. There’s no medals given out for going through hard times on our own. One reader spoke of the importance of medical help for depression “See a doctor ASAP because clinical depression can be treated…then one can start dealing with improving life instead of spending all of one’s physical and psychic energy ‘fighting dragons’”.
So thank you, everybody, for your comments on what’s helped. There’s much more we could say and share on this topic, and I for one definitely feel encouraged and supported through hearing the experiences of others.
You might also like to read (or reread) these earlier posts from way back when
And hang in there – soon spring, and blue skies, will be back again!