Life isn’t fair. But we’re warriors — we’ll make it through.

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Good Lord, this year has been tough, you guys. That’s all I keep thinking — Good Lord, this is a tough year. There’s no way around it. We started with fires at the beginning of the year, and we’ve come full circle before it’s even the end. I have to cut myself off from empathizing with all the plants and animals having to flee, the humans losing their homes, the homeless people without shelter from the smoke, or perhaps even a mask, as well as everyone working day and night to stop the flames from getting worse.

Amidst all that, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, during which we’ve been forced to be far more isolated than we would have ever liked. (Unless you’re an introvert, in which case you might not have noticed much disruption to your daily routine, and you’re quite happy.) We might have lost our jobs or a loved one. We might feel like we’re slowly losing our minds, or drowning ourselves in sugar, carbs, alcohol, or the freaking news every day.

Not to mention we’ve got an administration that doesn’t even try to hide how little it cares for human rights, and yet millions of people might still vote for him in November.

They say that “life isn’t fair,” and to some degree right now, that feels massively under-emphasized. It seems that that phrase is always uttered out of bitterness, but right now — I’m tired of bitterness. I’m tired of selfishness, greed, profiteering, and fear. I’m also just plain tired. We need things right now that remind us what it feels like to be light and free and prospering. That give us motivation, as well as stillness, both within and without.

This week, I want to remind you that you are an incredible human being with an incredible spirit, and you can Do Great Things. You can do hard things. And you’re absolutely worthy of living in a world in which your heart and your soul both feel utterly free.

We don’t have to go outside to be a part of a Movement. We don’t ever have to go out our front doors to contribute to change. The change starts here and it starts now, and it starts in our hearts and our minds.

It’s true that life isn’t fair. But we’re warriors. And we’ll make it through anyway.

I really want you to feel that right now in your bones. I want you to affirm for yourself that you deserve to be happy, that you deserve restoration, and that you deserve peace.

I mean, say that out loud. I deserve to be happy. I deserve restoration. I deserve peace.

Things may be shitty as all heck right now, but you’re incredibly strong, my friend. I know it’s tough — we’re all struggling in one way or another. Even the happiest person you know doesn’t get it right all the time. What they likely do, though, is give themselves a whole lot of grace, compassion, and understanding on a daily basis to make it through the tumult of their pain. They pay attention to how their body feels, how their heart feels, and what their intuition tries to tell them about what it is they need. They then listen actively by responding to those signs and signals with action.

They rest when their body says rest. They play when their heart says play. And they reevaluate their priorities when their intuition keeps encountering resistance and dissatisfaction as opposed to fulfillment and abundance.

Do shitty things happen? Absolutely. Is life totally unfair sometimes? No doubt.

“But how you deal with life being unfair is a choice. You can choose to play a victim and let it weaken you. Or you can choose to be a warrior, learn from it, and let it strengthen you. Because despite the fact that life isn’t fair, every person has the ability to do whatever they can with whatever they have to make something positive of themselves, their lives, and the lives of those around them.” -Zero Dean

This doesn’t mean faking positivity, but it does mean giving yourself the power and permission to set the course you desire for your life by setting the attitude that will allow you to flourish.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

What I’m learning is that I can be depressed or anxious and find authentic gratitude on a daily basis. I can acknowledge that things are unjust and acknowledge there’s a million people out there fighting for what’s right. I can stand in my power, knowing I’m a strong, competent woman and feel small and insignificant at times. All of these things can exist at once, and what’s important is to allow them to, but also know that you have a choice, every time.

You have a choice to respond to the fear within you with love, and you have a choice to combat the depression with doing whatever it takes to make your mental health your #1 priority. Not work. Not bills. Not even your kids. You.

Liz Gilbert once said that our primary occupation should be taking care of ourselves, and then everything else comes second. She spends six hours a day taking care of her mental health. Six hours. Because that’s what she needs to stay alive. And yet the stories we tell ourselves are, “Yeah, but I have a mortgage, I have a job, I have kids…”

It doesn’t matter. You still need to take care of yourself first in order to make all those other things sustainable.

You can make time. You just have to change the story you’re telling yourself about why you can’t.

If you’re depressed or anxious:

It’s okay. I know it’s hard, and you’re in pain, but you can do this. This is not the end. You are strong. You are brave. You can do hard things.

I may or may not know you, but even if we’ve never met, I’m incredibly proud of you for simply getting out of bed today. Perhaps you’ve made yourself a cup of tea or coffee, or a sandwich, or you’ve watered your plants, or hung up a shirt that was lying on the ground. Maybe you went to work despite your stress, or you played with your kids. Whatever you’ve done today, know that you are enough. And you’ll get through this. I know this because of all the challenges you’ve already faced in your past — all the times you’ve felt hopeless or dejected or grieving the loss of something important to you — all those times that you’ve made it through, despite all adversity. And you’ll do so again.

“Sometimes, life will kick you around, but sooner or later you’ll realize you’re not just a survivor. You’re a warrior, and you’re stronger than anything life throws your way.” -Brooke Davis

If you’re agitated or restless, but your body feels frozen to do anything about it:

I’m right there with you. The world can feel like a massive burden sometimes, with all its little inconsistencies, challenges, and lack of justice. Please know that it’s not on your shoulders alone to fix things, and that you’re not a failure, nor are you flawed, if your life doesn’t look a particular way someone else told you it ought to.

Release yourself from the responsibility of having things all together; of the “shoulds” and the “have to’s” in your life; of any shaming of yourself for not doing or being enough. You don’t have to be brave all the time, and you don’t always have to have it all together. Allow yourself the expression of desire and of want — even if it’s selfish; even if it doesn’t “contribute.” You can’t pour from an empty well, so take care of yourself. We’re often our own worst critics. What would it look like if you were your own biggest champion?

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. … Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work, or family, or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing: Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” -Neil Gaiman

Fear may be a powerful thing — but so, too, are you, my friend.

If you feel worn down from work, raising a family, or seemingly endless tasks and goals:

Cut yourself some slack. You’re trying your best, and that’s enough. Sometimes simply saying “no” (kindly) is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Even if you love what you do, if it’s exhausting you, it might be a good time to force yourself to take a break. Normalize asking for help in your life, as well as knowing your own limits. The more aware you are of how much you can actually do vs what you think you can do, the more energy you’ll have, and the more effective you’ll be at whatever it is you genuinely want to pursue. Remember to love yourself the same way you love other people.

Another important thing I learned from my own lack of setting boundaries: stop doing work that isn’t yours — both physical and emotional. It’s not your job to save people, nor should you pick up every shift that someone asks you to. I know some tasks are unavoidable, but make sure you’re prioritizing yourself just as much as others. Check in with your body. Check in with your intuition. We know when we’ve hit our limit, we just tend to ignore that little voice that tells us to stop — to our own detriment.

“Make yourself a priority. At the end of the day, you are your longest commitment.” -Junaid Arshad

And if you’re generally a motivated, energetic person who can consistently and easily find joy:

You’re one of the lucky ones — which isn’t to say you haven’t worked hard, or to invalidate your joy, but to celebrate it with you. Chances are life may not have always been easy, and it’s only through consistent dedication that you were able to make it to the light. What tricks have you learned that you could pass on to others to help them achieve the sort of fulfillment you already have? How can you use the power you’ve cultivated to fight for equity and compassion, to make lasting change in the world? What can you do to spread that gratitude and fervor for life to every human you know?

“Always remember that you may not be able to do everything, but you can always do something… Don’t let what you can’t do stand in the way of what you can do.” -Zero Dean

Last but not least, here are 4 things I really want to encourage you to try, just for this week:

  1. Get off social media. Endless scrolling is a timekill and a soulkill. Despite whatever they tell you, you will not find true connection on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. You find connection by going out and connecting with people. Send a text, make a call, set up a Skype date, email, or host a socially distanced get together, but do not think that you have to stay on these platforms in order to stay connected, or even to stay informed or “change the world.” Your mental health will thank you later.
  2. Get off the news. Anything you need to know, I guarantee someone will have told you by the end of the week. Staying informed is important, but there’s no use in reading article after article if it’s to your own emotional detriment. Activism is important, but remember that consuming the news is not activism, but passivity. And often these days, it’s divisive.
  3. Ask for help. Talk to someone, particularly someone you trust. It can look like a simple text that says, “I’m sad,” or it can be a phone call to a parent or friend or mentor. Remember that you’re strong for asking for help, not weak, despite whatever your brain might tell you. We are wired for community, not for isolation. So please don’t hesitate to reach out when you need it.
  4. Lastly, please set aside four minutes this week to write yourself a letter of encouragement from the perspective of someone who loves you. This might be a partner or a parent, a mentor, a friend, a spiritual guide, God, or your inner child. Start the letter with love, and see where it takes you. You might just discover a message you deeply needed to hear.

Keep on fighting, everyone. Never forget that you’re a warrior, and that you deserve all of the love the world has to give. Find gratitude in the little things, even when it’s hard. And cut yourself some slack. Wherever you’re at today, you’re doing your best, and that — and you — are enough.

My name’s Julia. I’m a writer, and these are my COVID-19 weekly letters of encouragement.

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