I know something of free-falling in my life – at least metaphorically speaking! Never have I ever jumped from a plane or bungeed from great height, though one day I hope too! I do however seem to be collecting freefalling experiences in life. I characterise a freefall as a time and space where you have no control; you are at the mercy of situations bigger than you. There are no grab handles, no anchors, no seatbelts, no safety net, no guarantees, no promises… just you… falling somewhat haphazardly through time.
Freefall moments can happen with a sudden shock, the loss of a loved one, a terrible diagnosis, the loss of a job, a betrayal, a breakdown, an injury, a natural disaster or even a global pandemic. They can also happen with some lead time or even by your own planning, but don’t kid yourself – freefall is freefall! Maybe you resigned with great aspirations, but nothing else is coming up… you filed for divorce but it’s so much harder than anticipated…you moved for that promotion, but you can’t find a community there… you made an unpopular choice based on your convictions and now you find yourself locked out of opportunities and communities.
Freefall moments are hard no matter the circumstances that sent you whizzing through the blackhole of confusion – whether you jumped or whether the ground was removed from under your feet. Knowing a few of these moments in my life, I thought I’d pass on the couple of things I’ve learnt (and still learning!) in freefall and maybe you can add your own in the comments…
Accept the reduction in capacity. Maybe before freefall you could juggle a million things, take it all in your stride and look fabulous doing it. That won’t be the case now. Freefall is a capacity reducer. It won’t be permanent, but it will make the old ‘normal’ impossible. And that’s ok. Seriously, it is ok! Anything you can reduce, cancel, cull – do it. It’s temporary, so make some temporary changes to your schedule and outputs. No need to burn any bridges but taking a few breaks in a few areas will create space and a cushion.
It’s unhelpful to assign blame. Whether you are trying to blame yourself, someone else or some entity or thing… you need to stop. It doesn’t help. It creates more difficult emotions such angst, rage, anxiety and fear, and they’re a rag-tag bunch of thugs you’ll find it hard to get on top of. It also leads you on the path toward being a powerless victim. You are not powerless. Even though it feels powerless in freefall, you are still a living, breathing person of worth with some choices still within your power. How you respond is the big one. Blaming will keep you focused on problems and the negativity within the situation instead of solutions and a way through. You don’t want to get stuck here, so don’t latch onto blame, it’ll try to time loop you forever!
Love is a light. It’s time to phone a friend. Love, whether it be from a partner, parent, new friend or old friend, it will be a light in the dark. We were not created for isolation or darkness. None of us like to be vulnerable. None of like to be in freefall. We all like to connect from places of success and strength, but funnily enough these are not the places where deep and true friendships are ever forged. Relationships build from shared troubles, hard times and the confusions of life. Love will be like a parachute… you’ll still be in freefall, but it will slow it down, remove the terror and give you a sense of being held in the midst of it. Love really does drive out fear and overcome all things.
Shorten time. When you’re in freefall, to think beyond today or even tomorrow is overwhelming and pointless because things are actually out of your control. That’s what freefall is! One. Day. At. A. time. So, shorten your focus to a manageable timeline; it might be down to minutes or hours and that’s ok. What’s the next thing you need to do? Just do that. One at a time. If you can keep just putting one foot in front of the other, you will eventually walk right through.
Relax. Yep, it goes against everything you feel and everything you want to do, but it is a necessary kindness to yourself! Being in freefall is bad enough without adding physical manifestations of stress that you’ll then have to treat or deal with. Breathe… in and out… and then pat yourself on the back for still breathing, it’s actually an accomplishment! Do something you love each day – as much as you are able or can handle. Read a book, watch a movie or a series, walk in nature, have a bath, go for a run, enjoy your favourite food or beverage (or both!). And breathe some more…
Remember. Remember when you have been in and through other hard times? Remember how things seemed impossible and yet you got through and lived to tell the tale. Remember other people’s stories of overcoming the kind of experience you are in now. Remember the anchor points that held you in previous storms. For me that is always faith, Jesus my greatest anchor in storms. I read impossible stories in the Bible and see how God came through and how He made a way for people. I remember (and remind Him!) of His word that says nothing is impossible for Him, that tells me not to be afraid, that tells me that He has already overcome this world. Remember the things that encourage you and think over and over on them. And then over and over on them again.
Freefall is not how the story ends – Not even close.
You will live to tell the tale.
You are not alone.