While driving I often listen to the radio. Soft rock, coffee café, kind of music. Not too
fast or slow, not too soft, or too loud. I like to understand the words of the songs and
occasionally sing along. Not long ago a song caught my attention. It had a pretty
melody, so I turned up the volume. These were the words I heard:
“…when you don’t know where you’re goin’
Just stand still, soon enough you will
And when all the hope and joy you feel turns into paranoia
‘Cause it will, remember just stand still”
Just stand still
Just stand still.
As a therapist, these words compelled me to perk up my ears. I work with lots of people
who don’t know where they’re going. And for that matter, I’ve spent a fair share of my
life wondering the same thing. “What am I doing?” “Where am I going?” “Why am I here,
in this situation?” “What am I thinking?” “Where did all my hope and joy go?”
I’m listening to this song and I’m thinking about the words “just stand still”. “What does
that mean?” “Just stand still.” Finally, it came to me. I was reminded of all the years I
felt like all I did was run. Feeling that I was just barely hanging on, working at being a
wife, mother, and sole employee. Running, always running.
Until life forced me to “just stand still”. It came in the form of a terrible car wreck.
While driving home after work on a November afternoon I dozed off. I was on a freeway
averaging 75 to 80 miles an hour. When my head dropped, jolting me awake, I looked
up to see the median of the highway directly in front of me. I quickly swerved to miss it.
This action caused my small compact car to flip five times across the sagebrush
landscape. I awoke in the hospital with a nurse asking me if I could move my fingers.
For the next seven days doctors and nurses revealed my injuries to me. It was like
peeling the layers of an onion. My left arm had suffered compound fractures on both
bones, near my wrist. All the bones in my left hand were broken. My hand had been
crushed and the extent of damage was unknown. Apparently the vehicle had to be
rolled off my arm. They didn’t know the amount of time my hand had been without blood
flow. I was told how fortunate I was that the doctor on call at the ER was a hand
surgeon, one of the best. Had it been another doctor, my arm would have likely been
amputated. I was also told that I had 36 stitches in my head and fractured bones in my
I left the hospital with my arm in a cast and brace on my neck. My husband had only
visited once in those 7 days. He took me home to be greeted with all the things I should
have done during the week I was in the hospital. Laundry, dishes, sweeping. I jumped
right in to complete these tasks with the pain I had from deep bruising and trying to do
things one handed. It was frustrating to say the least. My daughter helped me when she
wasn’t at work, with my personal needs.
I really didn’t take time to heal, not just physically, but emotionally. I just jumped in and
started to do what I thought I needed to do to make others happy, even if it wasn’t what
I wanted. I didn’t have a clue what self-care was, or that such a thing existed.
Fast forward a year and a half.
I’m driving on the same freeway I rolled my car on, only going the opposite direction. I’m
driving across the country with my car full of personal belongings and my small black
dog, who wouldn’t get out of the car when he saw me packing. I have completed three
surgeries, hours and hours of physical therapy for my hand and arm and I’m very
depressed. I have also signed divorce papers after 27 years of marriage. I have finally
realized I have been living my life for everyone else and doing what had been modeled
to me which didn’t include regard for self. I desperately needed to find myself, who I
was, and to do self-care. The consequence for me not taking care of myself was that I
was forced to stop, to think, to “just stand still”.
“…And my grandfather told my father, “It don’t get easier, just
harder Yes, it will, remember just stand still
And when all the hope and joy you feel turns into paranoia
Cause it will, remember just stand still”
I spent the next year unemployed living with my family. As I willed myself to come out
of the shock two plus decades had left me with, I did a lot of standing still.
Then I began to ponder. The word Ponder according to Webster’s Dictionary means
“To think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply”. I did start considering my
life soberly and deeply. How did I get to the place of feeling like nothing and nobody? I
prayed, I took walks, I meditated, I sat in a library quietly thinking, journaling my
feelings. I cried a lot. I thought about the possibility that I could control where I would
like to be, how I’d like to feel. I got into therapy and worked hard to learn, at least the
foundations, of what I needed to learn.
Now, thirteen years later, I am still learning. My life is considerably different. I am
learning to own my emotions and take responsibility for them. I take walks, pray,
meditate, recognize all the things I’m grateful for. I notice the breeze, the ground
under my feet. I feel different. More content, calmer, I found the best thing about me,
my sense of humor! And I remind myself that it’s OK to just stand still.
“Just stand still and watch the sunset bleed With only dirt under your feet to feel, just stand still
Sixty-seven thousand miles an hour around the sun
And that is how it feels, just stand still
In a universe that’s infinite
Yet everything gets lost in it
You will just stand still
You’ll be right, you’ll be wrong, you’ll be fine also like
Cause life goes on and on,
Just stand still, just stand still.”
Song and lyrics “Noah(Stand Still)” by Billy Ray and Noah Cyrus
Top book picks for Authentic Happiness according to University of Pennsylvania:
● Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
● Authentic Happiness by Martin E. P. Seligman
● Handbook of Positive Psychology edited by C. R. Snyder and Shane Lopez
● A Psychology of Human Strengths: Fundamental Questions and Future Directions for Positive Psychology edited by Lisa Aspinwall and Ursula Staudinger
● Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification edited by Christopher Peterson and Martin E.P. Seligman
● Positive Psychology in Practice edited by P. Alex Linley and Stephen Joseph. ● Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham H. Maslow
● The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte
● Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
On a personal note: “Learning to Stand Still” written by Anna Skaggs, LPC