“I will learn to love the skies I’m under.” – Mumford and Sons

This lyric has been stuck in my head a lot recently. I’m starting to realize that it’s not just because these words are from one of my favorite songs at the moment. This is both my daily reality and one of my most desperate prayers, a liminal time. There are moments that I’m excellent at accepting with palms wide open the life I’ve been given, moments that tears fall from the deep gratitude for all that has changed and will continue to change in me. There are also moments when I ball my hands into fists and reject what’s happening in, around, and through me.

Transitional days and seasons like these bring the greatest potential for excitement and joy, but also much space for anxiety, depression, and loss that is quiet and numb, or else so loud that it could shatter glass. I both love and despise change. I experience beauty and pain (literal and figurative) all at once these days as I continue to live out my new, healthier life after a month at the Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Center. I sometimes have marvelous successes. Other times, what seem to me to be colossal failures turn out to be just hiccups if I’m willing to look at them head on, realistically and compassionately, and learn from them quickly.  You can let hiccups just be hiccups, not the beginning of a backslide or a new set of reasons to fight against yourself.

Fun fact: Understanding is my middle name. Literally. Ferstandig is an Americanized form of a German verb for it.

Second fun fact: For my senior superlative in my sorority, I was given this title. It was a beautiful coming-full-circle moment.

Third fun fact, except this one isn’t so fun at all: I am pretty terrible at offering understanding to myself. I, like many people, am my own worst enemy. I make one mistake and expound on it for days. I accomplish something big and practically discount it.

Fourth fact, no judgments about its characteristics: this tendency to not offer myself compassion makes hard days harder, especially when I’m transitioning. It’s easy for me to identify what I can be doing better. It’s also easy to overlook the progress I’ve made already.

So, how do I deal with these moments? I would love to tell you that they stop as you move forward in your recovery journey, but they just don’t. However, you can work to make them quieter and less frequent. I have a little process for going about this.

  • Spend a few minutes at the end of each day identifying what’s worked and what hasn’t worked. As much as possible, I try to be impersonal and short-term—that is, I don’t label myself either way. Examples: Leaving campus at 8:00 PM meant I wasn’t too tired to drive home. 8:00 PM seems like a good limit. Listening to an audio version of the Bible while also reading the text helped me to stay more focused. Perhaps I should try to keep combining audio and visual components of learning whenever I can. I didn’t like sitting in the library for 4 hours straight. I don’t think I was as productive as I could have been. I need to break things up more next time. I want to spend more one-on-one time with people and less time in groups because I felt a bit lonely today. I will reach out to _____ tomorrow.
  • Forgive myself for what I think I could have done better.
  • Praise myself for what I have been doing well.
  • Accept the unchangeable things exactly as they are. For challenges that are especially hard, I have to do this on a daily basis. It’ll always be frustrating to have lower energy than the average person my age, but I can be grateful for the fact that I have so much more energy than I used to because I’m willing to work to be as healthy as possible.
  • Tell myself, “I will try again tomorrow” knowing that I’ll do better because of what I’ve learned and I’ll be able to keep moving because I didn’t knock myself down in the process of gleaning information.
  • Thank God for all of it.

This simple process is helping me to learn and grow. However, it’s not perfect. If I’m having trouble being at peace after I go through these steps, I’ll reach out to a trusted friend who knows me well and can provide an outside perspective.

Friend, whatever it is that you’ve learned today, be grateful for it, no matter what form the lesson came in. Be ready to apply it tomorrow. Let go of the mistakes you’ve made and the negative thoughts. Walk or roll or even crawl if you must, but no matter what, keep going. Keep your heart full of hope and leave just enough of an empty space for the mystery of the new morning.

“Write it on your heart

that every day is the best day in the year.

He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day

who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.

You have done what you could.

Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in.

Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;

begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit

to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,

with its hopes and invitations,

to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson –

This was originally published on IllnesstoWellness.com.


Emmie Arnold

Emmie Arnold (she/her/hers) is a hospital chaplain in New York; a Reverend in the PC(USA); avid cook; traveler (on hiatus); friend and family member to many; writer; and musician.


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