When “Getting Through” No Longer Works

2017 September 17

Put your head down. Keep going. Grind. Just get through it. This is what we tell ourselves when life becomes difficult. This is how we stay motivated when what we are facing is so frustrating and overwhelming that we must remind ourselves that something better is waiting on the other side.   This is how we keep going when our bodies and minds tell us otherwise.

When it’s over. When life gets better. When things can return to normal. If I can keep going just long enough to overcome this, then . . .

Suffering is never a destination any of us would choose for ourselves. For far too many of us, however, chronic caregiving means that what we are experiencing now is what we will be living with—indeterminately. While we are all vulnerable to using the future as a way to help us get through the present, we also need to be aware that exclusively relying on the just get through it mentality has real-world consequences for our everyday well being . . .

Our everyday is now—not later. Perpetually delaying the value of our present means we risk meaninglessness and burnout. A grin and bear it attitude might allow us to temporarily free ourselves and others from making sense of our overwhelming challenges, but this approach also creates additional suffering because what we are experiencing in the moment is left without the attention it deserves. When this happens, we become vulnerable to other’s leftover understandings of our experiences.

I’m so sorry.

It’s just so depressing.

I don’t know how you do it.

For your sake, I can’t wait until this is all over.

Well-intentioned comments such as these remind us that we are where no one else wants to be. But after people walk and drive far away from our situations, we are still here—in it. Other people will not make meaning for us. They will not find value in our experiences. They don’t have to—yet. They don’t need to—yet.  We have to—now.  We must—now.  Or we risk getting stuck in others’ stale misperceptions that deny the very parts of everyday realities that we must inject with value, especially when they appear unbearable.

Today can’t just be a means to tomorrow—it must have its own logic and purpose and value. Burnout is a side effect of not being able to talk about what we are experiencing without referring to next week, next year, or when things might return to normal. There has to be more to the value of today than the fact that it gets us one step closer to tomorrow.

Unfortunately, even well-wishing friends and family can’t help us in this regard because we make everyone around us feel momentarily better when we camouflage our everyday challenges in a preoccupation about the future. Yet, choosing not to make sense of our painful experiences now means we are choosing to minimize the value of what we are currently experiencing.

Committing ourselves to making deep meaning about the experiences we are going through now—not just the ones that make others feel comfortable hearing—means rejecting the fictitious logic of progress in an attempt to reclaim some semblance of control. When we begin naming our experiences as real, we bring our everyday challenges out of the shadows and into full light to be noticed and appreciated and valued.

Choosing to begin talking with those closest to us about the challenges and suffering associated with our experiences allows us to begin making sense of our everyday with those we love, instead of pushing them away with false justifications of when I get better, later, not now. This means beginning difficult conversations. Risking awkwardness. Knowing that later and soon are a type of irresponsibility that doesn’t affect only us but also impacts those that we love who need us to be active participants in the ongoing process of making sense.

Making meaning in the midst of suffering is not easy. Our culture reminds us daily that making sense of where we are—not just waiting until we get where we so desperately want to be—will make others uncomfortable. Creating value about our authentic experiences asks us to reject the getting through this mentality and give voice to the very realities that are going through us. Of course, here’s the challenge: well-intentioned outsiders don’t need to make sense of their everyday—we do. We can no longer wait for permission. We can no longer delay the urgency of our daily lives in hopes of waiting until we get through it.  Meaning making is our responsibility and opportunity. It can no longer be postponed if we are serious about creating the values that will guide, comfort, and sustain us in our ongoing care experiences.

 

 

2 Responses leave one →
  1. September 19, 2017

    Zachary, thank you for this superb post. It provides a grounding in reality for caregivers and for us all. I will especially take away from this post, “Today can’t just be a means to tomorrow—it must have its own logic and purpose and value. Burnout is a side effect of not being able to talk about what we are experiencing without referring to next week, next year, or when things might return to normal. There has to be more to the value of today than the fact that it gets us one step closer to tomorrow.” Thanks for this powerful and helpful reminder.

  2. September 20, 2017

    Thank you, Norris!

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