How To Use Mindfulness To Bring You Back Home To Yourself During A Chaotic Time

Guest post by writer Erin Abbatangelo. Connect with her on Instagram @collecting_daisies.

If I polled a random sampling of people asking them to describe 2020 in one word, I think the clear winner would be sadness.

This has been a year filled with loss. It's been felt by all of us around the world. We endured heartache and crippling sadness as a global community, and we didn’t always know how to comfort one another.

Some have chosen to stay there–in that deep, heart-wrenching sadness, while others have found light in these dark days.

Both paths are hard and require a new type of inner strength, but what is in all of us is the opportunity to choose better. To choose happiness. To choose to be more aware of our neighbours and ourselves.

If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that mind over matter is real. Mindfulness is better than any therapy. It allows you to be in control – but you need to want it.

2020: the year of sadness that led me to become free from myself.

Before Covid-19 led to a Pandemic, I was already sad. My stepdad passed away in January, breaking my heart into a million pieces. His passing was hard but expected. I mourned the fact that he was no longer here, but I also experienced a weird sense of relief – Dementia had claimed his final years. And while his passing gave him the peace he needed, my world was about to get turned upside down.

If you’ve lost a parent, you know it’s exhausting—the change in family dynamics and unnecessary family drama makes the loss that much worse. It’s not how you want to start a new year. But looking back, I think my stepdad knew what was coming and decided he wasn’t interested in watching it play out. He was smart like that.

By March, Covid-19 was upon us and the global lockdown took us all by surprise. A nasty, ugly, "No, thank you" kind of surprise.

And then the tragic death of Breonna Taylor.

And then the horrifying public death of George Floyd…and then…and then…and then…

2020 just kept giving.

The personal impact this was having on me resulted in a complete melt down. Hard truths surfaces. Lessons were learned.

Mind over matter is real. But it’s not easy.

I spent many, many years in therapy learning cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which helped me in significant ways, but CBT wasn’t a complete solution for me. There was always something missing.

I knew CBT worked because I practiced it daily, but it was a linear practice that didn’t take away the sadness that still came from depression and anxiety. It was a band aid with a side of Advil that helped keep some of my "issues at bay, momentarily.

The depth of sadness that gripped me at the start of 2020 forced me to look at my life differently. This was the first time in my life that I gave myself permission to let past traumas resurface, wash over me to the point where every conversation resulted in tears, sobs and shakes. I allowed memories to flood over me. I allowed myself to relive them.

For 48 years I had buried so many situations, feelings and experiences that they were controlling me. They controlled my happiness, my relationships, my perceived self-worth, my desire to be liked, and, most importantly, they had me putting everyone else’s needs and feelings before my own.

Being confronted with the Covid-19 lockdown, isolation from the outside world—family and friends... It forced me to spend more time with me than ever before.

I began to see people and relationships differently. Not because they had changed, but because I was seeing them in a new way, and it wasn’t pretty.

I had allowed others to treat me poorly over and over again.

Why did I allow them to continually hurt me?

Why did I keep going back for more?

Why was all this bubbling up now?

What do I do with all this pain?

I recall one morning in July, lying in bed, asking myself how I was going to survive that day, what I needed to change to get through the day. I remember asking myself, too, WilI I be successful?

I decided that morning that I needed to change the way I was dealing with the avalanche of toxicity that I was allowing to wash over me. How I was feeling and how people treated me was in my control.

I was choosing to go back for more. I was choosing to allow other people’s misery to take me down with them. Reliving all of the ugliness of my past made me realize I was allowing it to control the present, and inevitably, my future.

Talk about an ‘ah, ha’ moment.

If you look hard enough, gifts can be found in unlikely places, at unlikely times.

For me, 2020 really was an undeniable gift. Through the loss of my stepdad and the global pandemic, I was rewarded with the gift of me—me without the baggage of my past.

The time spent dealing with my past gave way to me being mindful of my present. And my present world is incredibly rich with laughter, love and light. It comes from within me and the walls of my home, not from the external forces that I allowed to negatively impact me for so long.

Covid-19 also brought me clarity.

That clarity led me to feeling better than I ever have about who I am. That clarity reminded me to be more mindful of everyday things.

Like, how sharing a quiet moment with my kids can make my heart sing for days. Or, how happy I get when my husband asks if I’d like an afternoon tea.

These little things matter. These are the things and moments that I am choosing to carry with me now.

2020 taught me that mindfulness is for all areas and moments in my life, not just a way to squash my depression or anxiety.

Mindfulness brought me back to me.

Being mindful of my past has given me a new perspective on how I choose to live.

Being more mindful of my past releases its hold on me. It forced me to change how I choose to see and experience life.

My life. My choice:

Wallow in anger, grief (the past)? Or, focus on the people, experiences and moments that truly matter—the ones that make me happy (the present)?

To live mindfully and experience all of the wonder that comes with it is a choice. The only choice for me.

This is easier said than done, true. I needed to take a long and windy road to get to a place where I could make this choice without feeling guilt. But, still, just because the road may not be smooth doesn't mean it's not possible to drive down. We all have it within us to get behind the driver's seat and move slowly, but surely, in a more mindful direction—a direction that brings us back home to who we really are, and what we really deserve.

And this is the perfect opportunity.

Photo by Katerina Jerabkova on Unsplash