I think we can all agree that the above meme captures 2020 perfectly. It's been a heck of a way to start the next decade, and it feels as though we have all lived about eight lifetimes since January. And there's still a month and a half to go. But that's not what this post is about.
Nope, this isn't another doom and gloom "what could possibly happen next" analysis. Let's all agree that we have no idea what's coming next. Maybe something great, possibly something terrible, probably some combination of both. Instead, this post is about one of my biggest coping strategies: writing.
I'm a turtle. I don't mean literally - I mean, when I get stressed or overwhelmed, I go in my shell. I shut down and don't tell anyone that I need help. Instead, I stew in my misery until either things get better or I start sobbing for no particular reason in the frozen food aisle. Listen, don't judge. We've all been there.
The problem with being a turtle is that it doesn't help anything get better. Instead, it's a lot like the meme I put at the beginning of this post: the world around you burns, and you huddle in your shell hoping you won't overheat. Sometimes it all works out, the fire dies down, and you can slowly come out. Other times, you get tuck in your shell. In the worst case scenario, the shell melts and you have fried turtle.
Sorry, that metaphor broke down about halfway through, but you get the point.
Because being a turtle is not a sustainable, long-term approach to life, we develop coping mechanisms. Sometimes we lash out, other times we cry. We talk to people we trust - and sometimes total strangers. Other times we go on an online shopping binge, or work out until we're ready to drop. The point is, everyone copes a little differently, and different strategies are good for different situations.
My biggest strategy is writing.
I don't mean journaling - I try it at least once a year, thinking this year is the year I'll finally journal consistently. I last about a week, then my poor journal ends up in a stack of abandoned, half-finished thoughts. I mean writing stories.
Before I was a writer, it was reading. When I read a good story, I got lost in it. I saw the characters do amazing and incredible things, face and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and slay dragons. It made my own problems feel small, and it helped remind me that the hard things pass. Nothing can stay hard forever.
When I started writing, it was transformative. Instead of avoiding my feelings or projecting them onto characters that were not my own, I expressed myself in my stories. When my parents divorced, I created a young woman who was orphaned but found a way to overcome her abandonment. At school when I struggled with the pressure to perform, to be perfect, I connected with a dystopian world where anything less than perfection was punished - as I was afraid I would be.
The list is endless, but it all centers around a feeling of catharsis. That release of emotion is what we all seek at some level, to finally process and move forward from hard times. Whether it's reading, writing, going for long walks, cuddling a dog, or something else entirely, finding a way to be okay with those feelings is the important part.
Then you can move forward.
Bridget is the author of Summer Twilight, available for purchase now!