• Sahar Abdulaziz

One-Foot Forward

There’s an anxious proliferation in the air, a dire need to get things done, complete what’s left, accomplish pressing tasks, and return to business as usual. To force the fallen pieces of the once finished puzzle back in their designated place, and once and for all stabilize the shaky, now trembling ground that for so long could be counted to secure. Careful observation and the need to know why have mandated a second and third look, a deeper introspection while fielding questions and pending uncertainties.

Many life-altering changes are sweeping in, colliding in my direction one right after the other. In reflection, I shouldn’t have been surprised. My life has always managed to exist in grand sweeps. Tepid lulls to extreme highs; quiet to stormy, with nothing to offer in-between. However, before when faced with life’s altering often haphazard course, I relied heavily on the stubbornness of youth to combat the shock and denial. Coupled with the sidekick naiveté, the two worked tirelessly together to thrust me forward, -and most of the time in an undetermined direction. But I was young, and didn’t care. Now, through many years of experience and mistakes, I have absorbed at least a modicum of wisdom and knowledge. I now discard the fallible innocence of yesteryear and have replaced it with a clearer, more perceptive experience. I am acutely aware of what I am about to face and the daunting climb upwards.

I have found, again through decades of experience, that when the rug gets pulled out from underneath, the first response is inevitably shock and denial. This can’t be happening. This just can’t be! Soon I’ll awaken, and this will be nothing but a bad dream, a nightmare, but soon enough shock and denial wear off and guilt manages to maneuver into place, easily taking over. Leaving one to question as to how this new mishap could have been avoided, if only-

Ah yes, hindsight. Old hindsight...everyone’s go-to beat up tool, which supposedly has the capacity to reveal a succession of events with a renewed keen astuteness, just unfortunately, after-the-fact and point of destruction. The now visible FLASHING neon sign pulsates the obvious hints and red flags that once were less discernible. And just when guilt’s stronghold seems unending, the pain of the new norm sets in, -in the form of shame and depression.

"Why pain and depression appear together is not altogether clear, but it is thought that pain and depression share common brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine). These neurotransmitters assist in regulating mood states and may intensify pain when they occur at low levels in the brain. For example, the limbic portion of the brain not only regulates and receives pain signals, but is also the center of emotions. That’s why, when a problem arises in the limbic area of the brain, pain can also increase as well as anxiety and feelings of sadness.” [1]

“Guilt and its handmaiden, shame, can paralyze us––or catalyze us into action. Appropriate guilt can function as social glue, spurring one to make reparations for wrongs. Excessive rumination about one's failures, however, is a surefire recipe for resentment and depression.”[2]

Then the stark realization that what was, is no longer shows up on the scene and begins to produce a surge of emotions left to boil to the top. Now anger sharply intercepts guilt as the reality of loss is felt, mincing little words and pushing its way through, consumed by an uncalled-for amount of building questions and the continued frustration of little to no answers.

In an attempt to defend territory and regain footing, one charges ahead and begins bargaining. Brokering deals. Tallying up the extent of loss and making half-cocked decisions. -Anything to right the wrong, to fix the mistake or replace the emptiness and loneliness now careening into position.

For some, hopelessness will set in. Despondency abounds. This is the period when the full magnitude of the loss becomes agonizingly crystal clear. The yearning to constantly reflect back to yesterday only manages to taunt the blaring harsh reality of today, mocking the despair as it feeds into the emptiness. As a result, many pull back, withdraw, but “by withdrawing from the real world, we can essentially numb ourselves to the feelings of guilt and shame so that we are no longer upset by these sorts of things. Again, nothing has been done to address the core issues of the problem.” [3]

Some will linger here for some time until they can emotionally move on while others will eventually claw their way to the next level, somewhat bruised, but ready to take on the task of recovery. An adjustment period ensues as one starts to navigate through the new and sometimes murky waters, -all in an attempt to reconstruct a viable and productive road ahead.

If possible, a sense of calmness will begin to settle in. A methodical ability to reason returns. Scattered thoughts that once only saw the impossibility of the situation now gladly makes room for the inevitability of potential to materialize. Embarking into the unknown with a renewed determination of spirit. Acceptance and hope overtake anger and guilt to work within the parameters of the new reality set forth. And although a lingering sadness will still be evident, the undeniable capacity to move beyond those daunting feelings will help set a new course forward.

These necessary stages of mourning and grief are a very real part of the human experience, each playing a pivotal role in achieving the final healing process. After a shock to the system, the body has rights over the heart and the soul, both needing time to readjust, to set a new course of action, and to compartmentalize the overpowering feelings of defeat.

In many ways, without these various stages the closure we all seek would not be possible or ready to permit anticipation and welcome joy to reenter. These gradual, -often difficult steps transform into an antidote which then provides the serum necessary to cure the undeniable heartache felt when life inevitably throws a curve ball directly at your face and you forget to duck.

“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back.

That’s the real glory.”

– Vince Lombardi

Healing Hugs-

1. But You LOOK Just Fine, by Sahar Abdulaziz and Carol Sveilich


3.. Barker, Phil. "Guilt and Shame." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: July 2003 <>. [2]

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