The Four R's: How To Pick Up The Pieces

The Four R's: How To Pick Up The Pieces

Refresh, re-evaluate, revive, and rebuild – but don't regret.
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You're drained – completely exhausted and just plain over it.

Whatever it may be, I've been there. We all have in one way or another. Life takes a detour, throws you off course (perhaps into a crash), and now, you're left trying to pick up whatever pieces weren't shattered by oncoming traffic.

I could write a book on all of the obstacles I've recently overcome. I could sit here for days, pouring my heart out over the tears I've shed and sleep I've lost in the process. I could list in vivid detail the tragic things I've seen, heard and dealt with in the past few months – drudging up awful memories in your head that you've been trying to drive out of your brain for a similar amount of time.

I could do a lot of things to empathize with you, but if you're anything like me, you're tired of sadness. You're sick of waking up in the morning and wishing you didn't have to deal with the day ahead. You're sick of receiving sympathy and pity, and you're just ready to feel like yourself again.

I was too, and I was sick of waiting for a miracle to happen that would cure everything. Like a house that had been turned upside down, I wanted things back to how they were before, when everything felt like it was in its place – untouched and undamaged.

But, how does one put things back in their places when some of those things are broken or missing or damaged beyond repair?

Well, when the dead cold of winter has finally passed and it's time to scrub the salt off the floors, out comes the mop and bucket. If we can spring-clean our homes, we can refresh, re-evaluate, revive, and rebuild in other areas of our lives, too.


Let's break it down with a simple mental checklist:

Refresh

This is when you should take a step back and process what the hell just happened.

Stop and think what exactly is stressing you out. Sometimes, most of our stress comes from trying to wrap our brains around the situation and how to fix it rather than from the situation itself.

Temporarily step away from what you can, even if it is just for a few minutes or a couple of days. Fight through what you must and take the deepest breath you possibly can.

Eliminate unnecessary plans, commitments or obligations. Hit the refresh button, drink a glass of ice-cold water and focus your mind on yourself (again, even if it's just for a few minutes or for the rest of the day).

Tip: If you have obligations for which you must be physically present, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom. It's a quick and simple break to recollect your thoughts enough to keep going.

Re-evaluate

Now that you're coming out of the initial shock, you can evaluate the aftermath of the wreckage.

Some people find comfort in having a shoulder to lean on while others prefer to be left alone. Keep in mind that isolating yourself to heal requires stepping away from everyone (including those you care about the most) in order to get your head on straight.

If they're important to you and care about you the same way you do for them, they will understand that you need this time to re-group. If they don't understand, it might be best to re-evaluate their status in your life.

In addition to people, take a look at other things in your life. Are you letting the wrong things take precedence? If so, why? Make sure you are keeping your priorities wholesome and realistic.

Stress can only consume you if you let it, so start by developing a mindset that helps you control it instead of the other way around. Don't be afraid to say, "No."

You cannot be selfless if you do not put yourself first every once in a while!

Tip: Anytime you make an important decision, ask yourself: am I doing the right thing? If not, re-evaluate.

Revive

Once you've re-evaluated what is or is not worth reviving, you can start collecting some of those pieces laying all over the road.

It is up to you to decide where you're going to focus your time and effort. You've finally re-prioritized and decided what parts of your life need the most attention, so you can begin to polish them up before you piece them back together.

Who/what brings a smile to your face? Where/when do you find yourself the most at peace? Answering these types of questions help you focus on solving rather than dwelling on the problem.

Tip: Do something you haven't done before or have always wanted to do (big or small). You never know what new opportunities can thrive from a simple step outside of your comfort zone.

Rebuild

Just because some pieces may be missing or beyond repair doesn't mean you can't put them back together.

Besides, why would you want your life to be exactly the same as it was before, when you were in a constant state of irritability and upset? Aim to reconnect the pieces you've salvaged into something new – something refreshed, re-evaluated and revived.

You've finally taken the time to mentally stabilize yourself, so it's time to reconnect.

What passions or relationships have you taken a break from that you want to rekindle? Have you been putting your best foot forward at work and/or school? If not, what can you do to improve?

Think about the people from whom you've distanced yourself. Keep in mind that although they may have understood why you chose to step away, their lives were not put on hold while you were gone. Reach out and see how they're doing – maybe they've been experiencing something similar and could use your support, or maybe they'll just be glad to have you back.

Putting space between you and another person is bound to change your relationship. Just be sure to keep communication a priority – it's the key to strengthening any connection. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Tip: Don't make excuses for your decisions or beat around the bush. Be confident and clear about how you feel, but keep an open mind. You cant expect others to understand where you're coming from if you don't give them the same respect in return.


Life is a funny thing and works in all sorts of crazy ways. We can't control what it throws at us, but we can definitely control how we react.

There is no time limit for any of these checkpoints. This is simply a guideline I wish I had when I was struggling to pull myself out of a rut.

Remember to trust your own judgement. Move on when you're ready, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Refresh your mind, re-evaluate your priorities, revive your passions, and rebuild a stronger you – just please don't ever regret!

Cover Image Credit: Eva Swan

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I Went To "The Bachelor" Auditions

And here's why you won’t be seeing me on TV.
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It’s finally time to admit my guilty pleasure: I have always been a huge fan of The Bachelor.

I can readily admit that I’ve been a part of Bachelor fantasy leagues, watch parties, solo watching — you name it, I’ve gone the whole nine yards. While I will admit that the show can be incredibly trashy at times, something about it makes me want to watch it that much more. So when I found out that The Bachelor was holding auditions in Houston, I had to investigate.

While I never had the intention of actually auditioning, there was no way I would miss an opportunity to spend some time people watching and check out the filming location of one of my favorite TV shows.

The casting location of The Bachelor, The Downtown Aquarium in Houston, was less than two blocks away from my office. I assumed that I would easily be able to spot the audition line, secretly hoping that the endless line of people would beg the question: what fish could draw THAT big of a crowd?

As I trekked around the tanks full of aquatic creatures in my bright pink dress and heels (feeling somewhat silly for being in such nice clothes in an aquarium and being really proud of myself for somewhat looking the part), I realized that these auditions would be a lot harder to find than I thought.

Finally, I followed the scent of hairspray leading me up the elevator to the third floor of the aquarium.

The doors slid open. I found myself at the end of a large line of 20-something-year-old men and women and I could feel all eyes on me, their next competitor. I watched as one woman pulled out her travel sized hair curler, someone practiced answering interview questions with a companion, and a man (who was definitely a little too old to be the next bachelor) trying out his own pick-up lines on some of the women standing next to him.

I walked to the end of the line (trying to maintain my nonchalant attitude — I don’t want to find love on a TV show). As I looked around, I realized that one woman had not taken her eyes off of me. She batted her fake eyelashes and looked at her friend, mumbling something about the *grumble mumble* “girl in the pink dress.”

I felt a wave of insecurity as I looked down at my body, immediately beginning to recognize the minor flaws in my appearance.

The string hanging off my dress, the bruise on my ankle, the smudge of mascara I was sure I had on the left corner of my eye. I could feel myself begin to sweat. These women were all so gorgeous. Everyone’s hair was perfectly in place, their eyeliner was done flawlessly, and most of them looked like they had just walked off the runway. Obviously, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I walked over to the couches and sat down. For someone who for the most part spent most of the two hours each Monday night mocking the cast, I was shocked by how much pressure and tension I felt in the room.

A cop, stationed outside the audition room, looked over at me. After a brief explanation that I was just there to watch, he smiled and offered me a tour around the audition space. I watched the lines of beautiful people walk in and out of the space, realizing that each and every one of these contestants to-be was fixated on their own flaws rather than actually worrying about “love.”

Being with all these people, I can see why it’s so easy to get sucked into the fantasy. Reality TV sells because it’s different than real life. And really, what girl wouldn’t like a rose?

Why was I so intimidated by these people? Reality TV is actually the biggest oxymoron. In real life, one person doesn’t get to call all the shots. Every night isn’t going to be in a helicopter looking over the south of France. A real relationship depends on more than the first impression.

The best part of being in a relationship is the reality. The best part about yourself isn’t your high heels. It’s not the perfect dress or the great pick-up lines. It’s being with the person that you can be real with. While I will always be a fan of The Bachelor franchise, this was a nice dose of reality. I think I’ll stick to my cheap sushi dates and getting caught in the rain.

But for anyone who wants to be on The Bachelor, let me just tell you: Your mom was right. There really are a lot of fish in the sea. Or at least at the aquarium.

Cover Image Credit: The Cut

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Taking Time For Yourself Is Nothing To Feel Guilty About, It's Healthy

Your emotional health should be your utmost priority — and you deserve to be in good emotional health.

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Renowned Sōtō Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki once said that: "We do not exist for the sake of something else. We exist for the sake of ourselves." We've often been told the opposite, however. We've been told that our worth is dependent on what we can do for others and that our existence itself is meant for the advancement of society. There is no place within our culture to truly exist with ourselves. The parts of our culture that claim to value self-love and self-care tend to commodify it in the form of relaxation products and personal development products — albeit helpful at times but mostly meant to addict us without true benefit to our inner selves.

As a young student, I talked with an orthopedic surgeon — a very overworked, ambitious woman — who told me to learn how to make it in the long haul, whether in my personal, interpersonal, or career life. You had to learn to enjoy yourself and find inner peace along the way. Because there would come a time, she said, when I would become guilty to take time for myself and forget what it's like to really enjoy life. Unfortunately, I made it to that point — I worked and worked and worked until I finally burned myself out. That's when I had to make certain changes in my life to understand how I got to that point and where I needed to go from there.

In the midst of our grand ambitions, it's easy to either go all in or all out. Either to give your entire self to a certain end or give nothing at all. I've been very much guilty of ending up on both ends of the spectrum — I would either devote all my time to writing/school or hit a roadblock and give it all up for a while. It felt like the value of my life was predicated on success, whatever that meant, in terms of contributing more and more and achieving more and more. It's never, ever enough, however. No matter what you achieve, there will always be a million more things on your to-do list. Whatever you triumph over, there will always be a million more roadblocks in your path.

The answer for me was to learn how to exist with myself, how to exist with other people, how to exist amidst all the dreams I had for the future, but also in the present moment where all my past dreams had come to fruition. Sometimes I would dive too deep into myself, and lose myself in thought, as noted in Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," "Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life." But I learned to participate fully, each moment to moment not necessarily enjoyable, but I find enjoyable moments each day with my friends, dog, boyfriend, and myself alone with a book or a pen.

Oftentimes as a crisis counselor, I am asked the questions: What's the point? Why am I here? What is there to look forward to? It's hard for me to precisely answer that question because, frankly, no one has anyone answer. But here's an answer that I believe in, born of taking time for ourselves: we live to feel the hope for happiness again. We live for the moments of joy, contentment, relaxation, excitement, pleasure, love, happiness, everything. We live to experience and to find each other. We live on because each new moment brings a surprise. There are many, many good moments in the future for all of us, even amongst the bad.

It's impossible to really experience life, however, if we're unable to take time to ourselves. That's one of my greatest fears, actually, that life will pass me by and I won't be able to experience each day as a full and complete miracle. There's something lost when everyone else gains from commodifying all aspects of our lives. Are you going to keep living for everyone else, or will you learn to exist for yourself? Do you owe the world your entire self, or can you take back at least some of yourself right now? Is it selfish to feel happy and not only to suffer?

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