So…how long will it take to feel better?

“I’m doing everything you said I should do,” I told my coach, Matthew. “How long does it take to feel better?”

I’d been taking time daily to meditate, visualize, tap into gratitude, move my body, notice any places where I was out of integrity and get back into alignment—and the negativity still sat on my shoulders like a nagging headache. I still caught myself complaining, immediately noticing what was ‘wrong’ rather than what was ‘right’ in my life. The shame I felt about not being a “more positive person” was palpable. I’d been doing what he’d had suggested, for months—when would I see the results?

How long would it take before I’d feel happier, more secure, more grounded?

“I don’t know,” Matthew said. Simple. Kind. Straightforward. He wasn’t lacking empathy; he knew that this was hard.

Then we talked about how there is no goalpost, no “there” over there that I was supposed to try to get to. He pointed out my phrasing, how I’d told him I was doing everything “you said I should do,” which indicated that I still thought that the work was done to satisfy him, something external, to get my gold star, a “should” prescribed by someone else, rather than letting the work be about my own inner wellspring.

Then the conversation moved over to—oh, yes, of course, a favorite topic for the perfectionist within me—releasing expectations.

And then Matthew, dropped the question of all questions, all Yoda-like: “Are you willing to let this be a process?”

* * *

When our friends are going through hell.
When the illness or injury rages on.
When you look up after weeks of abstinence from the addiction and yep, the craving is still there.
When you’ve cried yourself to the bone and you can tell that there’s still grief.

When the shit hits the fan in life, and especially when you’ve done all the right things in response but the hits keep on coming, I think it’s only human to ask:

Uh, how long does it take to feel better?

Answer? It’s a process.

Spoiler-alert: you’re going to hate hearing from people that “it’s a process.” You’re going to hate it, even though it’s true. Spending a lot of time resenting the messenger is a waste of time.

You can’t out-run truth. The truth lands squarely, here: when your friends are going through hell, when the illness or injury rages on, when the addiction and cravings are still there, when there’s still grief, you can do so many wonderful, proactive, helpful things that promote all sorts of healing…

…you just can’t skip the part where there’s a process.

I’m writing this maybe a decade after that conversation with Matthew. Since then, there have been so, so many fucking processes. I still find “being in process” with something quite uncomfortable, but I’ve gotten smarter about not kicking and screaming and avoiding. When quite literally everything in my life is saying about a thing, “This doesn’t feel good,” I suit up and pay attention instead of stick my head in the sand.

The irony, of course, is that the more one resists the process they are in, the longer it takes to…process it. How long does it take to feel better? About as long as my resistance lasts, I’ve often found.

* * *

This doesn’t mean don’t do the stuff.

Yes to meditation.
Yes to prayer.
Yes to moving your body and feeding it the best available foods.
Yes to noticing tendencies to complain, criticize, and ruminate, and interrupt those tendencies.
Yes to reaching out for support.
Yes to creating better habits.
Yes to consciously deciding to do nothing if you are a chronic go-go-go “do-er.”
Yes to abstaining from the addiction.
Yes to confronting your resistance and the parts of you that want to give up.
Yes to noticing your mindset and consciously choosing not to go into pessimism, even if the reframes feel fakey-fake.

So often, when we are in process, fear takes over, tells you, “This is too hard—you can’t do this—this process thing is worse than it was before we tried to change—what’s the point?—I’m tired!” and back to the old way of being we go.

When fear sings that (old) tune, it’s actually time to double-down. We’re talking extra meditation sesh, extra self-acknowledgment for even the smallest thing you’re doing right, extra texts to your bestie, extra pushes to say out loud and in a vibrant and wildly alive voice, “Here’s what I’m committed to noticing that’s GREAT about the world, right now.”

It takes as long as it takes, this process thing. The greatest help we can bring to others or ourselves is self-compassion around things taking as long as they take to heal, grow, transform. We “all know” that “it won’t happen overnight” and in the most painful parts of any process, we need to remind each other and ourselves that being in process is the work, is the healing, is the growth.

There’s no timeline, no cartography of the soul for how to feel better, faster. How long it will take to feel better is some mish-mash of things we can set intentions around, take actions towards, and a fate that is wholly out of our control.

When we are willing to be in the process of things, the ride gets smoother.