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Happy New Year, my friend.

So 2016 has finally arrived and I imagine that for many of you, there may have been a sense of “good riddance” when we said goodbye to 2015 ten days ago. And if that was the case, you’re so not alone.

2015 seemed to be almost absurdly challenging for many people.

From the tragedy of events unfolding on the world stage — the Syrian refugee crisis, the mind-boggling American gun violence epidemic, and certain politicians using their power and platform to spew messages of fear and hate — to the personal pain, struggle, grief and overwhelm that may have unfolded in our own individual lives, 2015 was a year where, for many, humaning was hard and adulting wasn’t always easy.

And while I truly hope that 2016 brings greater ease and peace in the course of world events, as a psychotherapist I also want to go on record by saying that no matter what’s going on at a global level, the daily stuff of our own individual lives – the adulting and humaning we’re all called upon to do each and every waking day – will likely still feel very hard at times in 2016. Because, Life.

I say this not to be a downer, but instead to offer up a big, fat slice of compassion and perspective if you’ve felt alone in your daily struggles of being an adult and being a human.

Everyday in my work, I see people shame and blame themselves for struggling with the daily, inevitable stuff of life, and this — the added layer of shaming and blaming on top of an already tough time — can cause so much additional and unnecessary pain and suffering.

So in today’s blog post I want to share with you my perspective as a psychotherapist about just how hard adulting and humaning can actually be sometimes and share some encouragement if you’ve ever shamed or blamed yourself for struggling with it all, too.

Pour yourself a mug of something warm, and keep reading…

 

So What Exactly is Adulting? What’s Humaning?

Confession: I love Buzzfeed. In addition to appreciating their news coverage, mental health advocacy and awareness campaigns, and – of course! – quizzes, Buzzfeed helps me (for better or for worse) stay plugged into the Millenial cultural lexicon. It’s where I first heard the terms Adulting and Humaning, life verbs I’ve since really come to appreciate and use in my work with clients.

So what exactly do these terms mean?

Adulting, according to Urban Dictionary, is:

Adulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.

Adulting then, in my opinion, is the verb for navigating All The Things most of us inherit in our Western society once we join the work-a-day world that can often feel small but challenging when they’re stacked up: Paying the bills and chipping away at retirement, keeping the house stocked in toilet paper, remembering trash and recycling day, finding the time and energy to nurture your relationship with your honey, your friends, your folks, your co-workers, all the while juggling your job, tolerating the commute, scheduling doctor and dentist appointments, etc. etc. etc..

 Adulting is a wonderful verb for capturing the external, logistical, daily parts of our adult lives.

Humaning, on the other hand, while it gets tossed around on Buzzfeed, blogs, and social media often, doesn’t exactly have an official or unofficial definition yet.

Urban Dictionary doesn’t yet have an entry, and while Merriam-Webster only lists “Human” versus “Humaning”, one part of their “Human” definition feels appropriate and interesting to me:

Human: a :  having human form or attributes b :  susceptible to or representative of the sympathies and frailties of human nature.

“Susceptible to or representative of the sympathies and frailties of human nature.” Yes.

And what are the frailties of human nature? I’m reminded of what famed psychotherapist Irvin Yalom, MD in his book Existential Psychotherapy said were the four ultimate concerns of a human life, the existential givens of our existence:

  1. Death. Death is inevitable for we are all mortal and this inherently causes some anxiety for all of us.
  2. Freedom and Responsibility. We have freedom in our lives and are responsible for our choices and actions. And coming up against this can cause anxiety.
  3. Isolation. We long to be connected and yet are ultimately fundamentally separate and isolated from one another. And this can cause anxiety.
  4. Meaninglessness. It is ultimately our responsibility to construct the meaning of our lives given life is inherently meaningless. And facing this can cause anxiety.

Humaning then, in my opinion, can be used to describe what happens when we experience the frailties of human nature in our daily lives: Death, sickness, grief, loss, aging, isolation, longing, despair, meaninglessness, etc. It can also include all the beauty and wonder of our human experience, too: Love, connection, empathy, friendship, purpose, and so much more.

Humaning is a perfect verb for capturing the paradoxical challenge and joy of life as a human.

And bottom line: Adulting and Humaning are not always easy.

In fact, much of the time they aren’t. And yet so many of us believe we’re the only ones who are having a challenging time with it all. That sense of shame and isolation that comes from thinking, “I’m the only this is hard for!” is often incredibly painful.

So what follows is some encouragement if you’ve felt challenged by all the Adulting and Humaning your life demands. Come back to it any time you’re feeling alone in the whole being overwhelmed with Life thing. You’re not the only one. Trust me.

 

When Adulting and Humaning Feels Hard.

  • When you have to show up to a job you don’t always like every day while still not knowing what you want to be when you grow up and you’re feeling lost and confused, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you’re feeling the heartbreak and loss that comes with the end of a relationship (even if it’s your choice) and it hurts so very much, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you’re not being paid what you’re worth or what you need to make headway on your financial goals and you feel frustrated, overwhelmed and stuck, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you’re watching a loved one suffer illness or pain – mental or physical – and you feel helpless and sad, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you’re feeling the limitations of your body age and some of your life path options close with time and you’re angry and sad, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you’re feeling like your greatest accomplishment some days/weeks/months/years is simply getting out of bed, brushing your teeth and putting one foot in front of the other and yet are judging yourself for not being further along or more accomplished, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you’re feeling panicked about your ticking biological clock, anxious about meeting a life partner, and yet feel utterly over and exhausted with the online dating scene, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you’re up all night with an anxious mind and you didn’t get enough sleep and yet have to show up for work and be on your A game, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When your family is in conflict and there’s nothing you can do to ease the fractures and friction and you feel frustrated and helpless, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you’ve run out of laundry detergent (not to mention clean clothes for work), forgot to send your brother a card for his birthday, discovered that your car has a flat, have been told that your rent is going up $100/month, and you just saw on Facebook that your ex is engaged, just remember….
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you realize that despite your $100K of student loans you don’t actually want to be a lawyer and you’re feeling stuck, panicky, and overwhelmed, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When it feels like you’re the last of your college girlfriends to get engaged/get married/have a baby/buy a house and you feel sad and very alone, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you’re struggling with chronic health challenges (mental or physical) that make even basic tasks often feel insurmountable, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When the promotion you’ve been working towards for ages suddenly goes to a newly minted MBA hire and you feel unseen and overlooked and desperate to work somewhere else, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you’re feeling the rollercoaster of anxiety and excitement, joy and worry that comes from dating someone new, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you’re having a hard time and are feeling lonely in the evening and struggling with emotional eating to cope with it, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When on a visit back to your parents you see how much more limited their physical mobility has become and you begin to realize – really realize – they won’t be alive forever, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.
  • When you look around you and imagine everyone else has their sh*t together and you tell yourself you’re the only one who doesn’t, just remember…
Adulting’s not always easy. And humaning can be hard.

 

So what’s to be done about it all?

The thing is, there isn’t actually anything to do about any of this. Yes, of course, there are actions and choices and movement against many of the examples I listed that could help you tend to what need tending, but the goal isn’t to make these hard feelings or situations go away.

 Instead, our goal is to expand our capacity to better tolerate all of this — the times that adulting and humaning feel hard, as well as the times that they feel good.

In those moments where adulting isn’t easy and humaning feels hard — Millenial catchphrases, I think, for aptly describing the complexity of the adult human experience — life is happening. Our goal then is to show up for life as best we can, create space and acceptance for what’s actually going on in our lives, and to reach out for support if you need help with any part of this.

We’re all in this together and, in my personal and professional opinion, most of us are challenged by these things we call Adulting and Humaning a lot of the time. To show up and be an adult engaged with your own life and with your mysterious human experience isn’t always easy, but it’s not always hard, either. It’s both/and, a paradox, it’s utterly complex being a human.

Now I’d love to hear from you: Have you heard the terms Adulting and Humaning before? Did the way I described the terms feel helpful or relatable to you? What are 1-3 examples of humaning or adulting that sometimes feel hard that you would add to this list to help others feel less alone in their struggles?

Leave me a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond.

And until next time, take very good care of yourself.

Warmly, Annie

 

 

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