Letters from Home
When Things Fall Apart Quote Pema Chodron - To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest

What happens when things fall apart

“The middle way is wide open, but it is tough going…”

Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

One of the loneliest feelings I’ve ever felt is feeling lost in the middle of heartache.

That heartache has taken all kinds of shapes in my life. Right now it’s the shape of unresolved family issues. They continue to float on the top of our outwardly beautiful life like an invisible pool of grease.

And they refuse to go away just as determinedly.

Other heartaches include things such as:

  • The pandemic.
  • Depressive episodes.
  • Stress from work
  • Stress from money.
  • Worries about health.
  • Anxiety on making mistakes in relationships.
  • Loss of life from friends and pets, and other loved ones.
  • Trying and failing at something.

All of these things seem to ebb and flow into my life making me lose sleep and cause me to feel frustrated and angry.

I want to find an answer

I don’t like to be uncomfortable. Things need to be solved and resolved. I dislike it when I’ve hurt someone else’s feelings and they can’t seem to accept my apology. I want to feel better. I want them to feel better.

Many years ago was when I first found the book When Things Fall Apart and read it. It was during my single years when a love in my life had promised to come visit me and continue a relationship that we’d started. When he changed his mind, I was devastated.

For months I wrote to him asking him “why”? How could he have given up on me so easily?

Expecting Perfection

There wasn’t any answer. There was no answer. The answers given didn’t balance the scales of sense. The questions left unanswered often felt only slightly more satisfying. I was afraid.

In fear, I have found myself being too aggressive, demanding people be better. Demanding that they try harder, work harder.

I have been especially hard on myself, expecting perfection — wavering between wild working and depressed immobility.

The causes of aggression and fear begin to dissolve by themselves when we move past the poverty of holding back. Peme Chodron quote When things fall apart

At the heart, I was resisting

Resisting life and resisting people as they were. I did not want to be uncomfortable.

This resistance and discomfort has slammed on my brakes. It causes me to constantly question myself. Am I worthy? Why have I wasted so much time? Why is no one listening to me?

I don’t want to be uncomfortable. I want to escape it. But, life keeps reminding me: life is uncomfortable.

Our personal demons come in many guises… They are anything that makes us so uncomfortable that we continually run away.

We do the big escape: we act out, say something, slam a door, hit someone, or throw a pot as a way of not facing what is happening in our hearts. Or we shove the feelings under and somehow deaden the pain. …

All over the world, people are so caught in running that they forget to take advantage of the beauty around them. We become so accustomed to speeding ahead that we rob ourselves of joy.

Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

The speed of life was — in some ways — forced to slow down this past year, when all of us — worldwide — were forced to stay home. We were forced to stop “doing.”

But in other ways, it caused us to be keenly aware of ourselves and our lives. It made us notice where we’re speeding around and also how we’re tuning out.

For some people it grew their fear. And for others, it opened their hearts.

I know I won’t be able to stop the world from speeding up again.

I know I am not able to control the hearts and minds of others. I feel as though I am barely able to get a grip on my own!

So when things fall apart, I return to Pema Chodron book When Things Fall Apart as reminder:

  • I have work to do to embrace uncertainty and to respect fear.
  • Impermanence is the goodness of reality.
  • Ego covers up basic goodness.
  • Gratitude and tenderness heal. (I have a lot of work to do on this! Gratitude sounds easy, but it is hard!)
  • Suffering is reality. Pain and pleasure go together. They are ordinary.
  • Breathe in suffering. Breathe out happiness.

How are you doing? If you aren’t too nervous, post a comment below.

8 thoughts on “What happens when things fall apart

  1. Lately I have had a hard time feeling anything…either good or bad…I feel like I am on automatic pilot.

    1. Ellen, I TOTALLY get the “dead inside” feeling. I hope pray believe you will get yourself back. But I also thing we (collective WE) all had to go into self-protection mode these many past months/year to close ourselves off from the overwhelming pain of loss. I hate to say it, but I know Colin and I already had experience of that feeling with the early trauma from the kids hitting us like a truck. So, I really do FEEL YA. And I hope you gets lots of swimming and floating on your back in the lake this summer.

  2. Great reflection! Thanks for sharing. I struggle with the gap between knowing a lot of these things on an intellectual level (i.e. gratitude would bring more peace, uncertainty is a part of life, etc.), but I cannot seem to change my attitude. That, in turn, leads to more anger directed at myself for not being able to change.

    1. That’s me too Eric. For gratitude on like daily things it just seems so basic and cheesy. I know it isn’t. I’ve read the research. Also I know sitting meditation makes a big difference… but the practice!

      1. I’ve been working on sitting meditation for the past year and have stuck with it more consistently than I ever have in the past. I’m uncertain if it has accomplished anything. It really takes a faith to believe it’s making some kind of difference. At least with a physical workout, I feel some type of ‘runner’s high’ after getting done, but with meditation, I often feel like I’ve just wasted my time. But, I have kept moving forward with it in the hopes that it is changing me at some deeper level. Again, I know the ‘immediate gratification’ expectation is unhealthy, but I have trouble just turning that desire off like it’s a light switch or something.

        1. I have no practice of any sort. I am thinking about martial arts because at this point I am always feeling like destroying things lol!! Meditation does work for me — but I never really get past about 5-10 minutes. Much like savasana in yoga, once I am there, I feel like it works… but I have to get there first! I know the science so I guess just doing it matters, and let me brain do the work sorting things out. Meanwhile, we can talk about me crazy dreams another time!

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