When Things Get Better: Now What?

Nobody ever says what that means.

Type this into Google: “What happens when it gets better?” Scroll down, and down, and down. Click through to the second page of listings, repeat. Go ahead and do that with the third. Halfway through the fourth is there a pattern?

There’s not a whole lot on the subject of what “better” actually is or like, but there’s plenty of reassurance that it will happen and advice on how, why, and what can be done about it.

The assumption is that a body is going to just…know…when this has become a thing. It seems like a natural enough question, though. If we’re slogging through some craptacular times then it‘s helpful not just to know that we’ll come out of them, but also at least some of what to expect when we get there.

Defining this is unanimously avoided because “better” is subjective and dependent upon each individual; however, the same can be said about each person’s shitty circumstances though that has never stopped advisors from laying it on before. The danger in presenting any insight into what it means to be Over The Suck lies in the liability of being wrong — something that seems riskier when promising results than recommending a process. It’s counterproductive to duck out on this, though — in order to hit the target we might all like to know at what we’re aiming.

“Better” doesn’t usually arrive all at once like considerate guests before a surprise birthday party (something else that never actually happens either).

It begins as a trickle which is in and of itself a tiny torture. We’ll be torn watching it and wondering, Is this finally It? We absolutely do not want to be vulnerable to further disappointment should this first little miracle be a mirage. Conjuring hope in vain feels more damaging than not having hope at all. This persists through the later phases so be forewarned: it’s not going away anytime soon.

Second, we’ll have this suspicion confirmed — more bullshit will roll in and we’ll feel like a damn fool. There’ll be frustrated anger at arbitrary forces that toyed with our emotions, then we will direct it inwards because what moron didn’t see that coming? Of course we’re getting laid off the same week we were dumped and our dog jumped the fence. When our mom calls to say our favorite grandma needs a quadruple bypass, well, what else did we expect?

Now we consider saying, “Just fuck it,” and actually, this is great.

If I am going to give us any single piece of advice on getting over yet another smoldering heap of flaming dumpster remnant, resigning ourselves to saying, “Fuck it,” is exactly that. This is going to be a pretty pivotal moment when we look back and we’ll wish we would have figured it out on our own much sooner. It would have saved us many brain cells and much dignity.

Once we accept the Force of Fuck It, we’ll clear out all the layers of crust and dig up the fossil of a pterodactyl that was us. Heavy, but we’ll gain a sense of where our sad sorry predicament ends and we begin.

Those damn waves might keep rolling in but now that we’re not all weighed down with that nasty the ride feels a little smoother. Whether it’s part exhaustion, part whatever, we won’t be so sensitive to things rocking the boat and what was truly catastrophic a month or two ago is now aggravating but not dire. Two months ago, I had to pay $900 to fix my vehicle. This past week I had to scrape up 3x that amount along with doing some creative scheduling so I could borrow and rent cars to make life work. In first go around, I dodged one of my now-too-normalized meltdowns only through sheer fucking will. I wanted to freak out, and I felt like freaking out, but I white-knuckled my way through it. This more recent episode was much more costly in both finances, time, and favors, but I immediately accepted it and employed some nuclear options that were unthinkable to me several weeks prior.

Success for the time being might not be so glamorous, so now we get down to realistic assessments of where we are.

I’ve come out of some dysfunctional scenarios looking like a rockstar but not always. Sometimes, like this time, it settles in with little moments — I’ve been keeping on top of my workload without killing myself. I got to play outside yesterday. I got to do yoga today. I react to challenges a little more like a grown up and I’m more conscientious about giving myself a break. This might be what the gurus call “having gratitude” but I can’t be the only one who is starting to get turned off by that word. We’ll come up with something that hasn’t been ground down into the dirt and made hollow eventually.

Finally, when whatever has cycled through and changed enough whether it’s our circumstances, our mind, or both, we’ll have an acute awareness that this period of things being “better” is also impermanent.

It’s going to be real, real important not to let this be the hurdle that trips us up, though. I get hung up on that notion a lot. Don’t do that if we can help it — instead, acknowledge that yes, that is real and a thing but don’t let it rob us of now. Now is really the main thing that matters and when things are “better,” we’ll be better at being there in it than we are, well, right now. It’ll make all the difference.