I’m a planner. A good one. I could outplan most people any day of the week. Not because I’m so gloriously organized, but because I’ve lived my entire life being as proactive as possible to avoid disaster everywhere. Today I’d like to tell you how that’s worked out for me.
It’s no secret I’ve been away from my blog for a while. The truth is things in my life have been so chaotic that it simply took me until now to force myself to sit down and put some words into my laptop. So here goes.
I’ve shared with you before that I am the child of a (recovering) alcoholic. An alcoholic that I love and respect with every piece of my heart, who is about to roll past 9 years of sobriety. But as I said in a previous blog, when this amazing parent of mine became sober, I didn’t. Not because I was addicted to alcohol, but because I hadn’t learned to unlearn all that I was taught growing up.
Today I’m working on it.
I meet with my therapist fairly often. Yep, I have one of those. And I’m not even remotely ashamed to share it, because when you’re missing tools in your life toolbox you can either blame it on someone else, or you can go find some damn tools. She is one of my tools. She explained to me once that alcoholics have unpredictable behavior, as such, anyone living with them often attempts desperately to remove anything that could set the alcoholic off, or cause distress in the home and/or relationship. I denied this fact for a while, justifying my incessant planning and proactive nature as simply being a responsible adult. Until it was time to look back at my life. And take an inventory of the time I’ve spent truly happy in my own skin, truly thankful for that which I have, and really enjoying the moment. The results….were slim.
I have a laundry list of successes, because I have always thought ahead and worked my ass off.
I had a Master’s Degree by the time I was 25.
I had full custody of a child I did not create by the time I was 26 (after about 6 months of marriage).
I had an incredibly gorgeous home in a prominent neighborhood by 27.
And I had a near total breakdown at 29. This year.
This has been a hard year for me. Trying to figure out who I am, where I am, what I am, and honestly assessing myself and my flaws.
One fatal flaw of mine is that living in the moment, being content, being satisfied; that’s a lovely idea. I don’t practice it. Truth is until recently I didn’t even know how.
Turns out when you’re always planning for tomorrow, you’re terribly miserable. It’s great to plan, have goals, and work to achieve them. But I can’t imagine anything worse than living so much for tomorrow that one day, all your yesterdays were empty. And that was my life. For a long long time.
If I get this, I’ll be happy.
If he does that, I’ll be happy.
If we get there, I’ll be happy.
I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire adult life, thus far. I chocked it up to genetics. I thought, I’m high anxiety – well of COURSE I am, if you clowns would think and act like I do things would get done promptly, correctly, and I wouldn’t have to fix all your stupid mistakes. It was never that I believed I was better than anyone else, I honestly never did and still don’t. It was that my mind works on hyperdrive, and a vast majority of others’ simply don’t. I was raised in an environment where it made complete sense to pull out any possible obstacle to success, or avoid an upset at any cost – meaning PLAN, DO AND THINK AHEAD OR ELSE. While that’s terribly unhealthy, it was all I knew, so after 29 years of that thought process, I’d say I was a pro at it. And it was killing me. Being that obsessed with perfection and attempting to remove anything that could go wrong is insanity because it’s impossible. It was my insanity.
I love me some Pinterest. Oh I could live off quotes for so long! So inspiring! And they do genuinely touch me and guide me and I find them so wonderful. Because they do, even momentarily, give you such a great reminder and perspective. But the one that seems to be just crammed down our throats is about living in the present. You know why? Because so many people don’t. Not everyone is the child of an alcoholic with a great deal of work to do in order to obtain necessary skills in adulthood. So before you close this blog because you are doing just fine living in the present, perhaps you should take a moment to continue. I promise not to drone on too long with this one.
If you have even an ounce of anxiety, you have not mastered living in the present. We all have issues in our lives. REAL issues, that cause stress, and at times, scare the hell out of us. Certainly we are allowed to feel afraid or angry or anxious at a situation -for a short time. That is, until we snap back into reality and remember that right now, right this VERY moment, we are okay. We are alive, we are not the thoughts racing in our brains, and the world is not ending.
A dear friend of mine has noticed me struggling with this concept for a while and suggested I pick up a copy of “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. While some of the concepts seem a bit extravagant, what he is trying to accomplish, is not. We believe we are our mind on some level. We let our thoughts take off without us and then not only are we a ball of nerves but we miss the simple moments that make life worth living.
The look on the old man’s face at church when I told him he looked SO sharp in his purple shirt on Sunday.
The fact that my Little Bear gives treats to our cat, one at a time on the floor, Hansel and Gretel trail style, and then pets her when he’s done while her furry face rubs up against his sweet chubby cheeks.
Gazing into my Christmas tree right now. Looking at each ornament and remembering it’s purpose, the emotions behind it, the beauty that is this symbol shining in my living room.
If you’re like me, you don’t stop. Because, why should you? YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO STOP. There are goals to reach, children to raise, groceries to buy, laundry to do, a dishwasher to empty, lunches to pack, homework to finish, bathrooms to clean, cars to fill with gas. Trying to keep a marriage going, apparently that’s not the easiest thing either.
Oh and the holidays. Enter stress city, making everyone happy, buying the perfect everything. Baking Pinterest style.
I’ve lost SO much sleep over things I couldn’t control. Cried tears of simply being overwhelmed because I cannot take ONE more thing on my plate. And tomorrow? Oh dear God. Tomorrow means we must do it all again.
I have a secret obsession with history. Social history. Fascinating facts about how people lived many years ago. And you know what? They were anxious too. But on a MUCH smaller scale. They didn’t live so fast and hurried and full of fear of the things we do today. They lived shorter lives and they made them count. Turns out making it count has a whole lot less to do with how many goals you reach, and everything to do with how fulfilled you’re finding yourself at any given moment. EVEN in the face of adversity. Because tomorrow is not guaranteed and today is here right now.
You can find peace in the present. But not if you don’t live there sometimes. I can honestly say this has been the hardest, worst year of my entire life. And if you’ve followed me for any amount of time and know the story behind our custody battle and what my little guy has gone through over the years, you know it must be pretty bad to top that. It’s been soul crushing, and the weight and pressure of things going on has been too difficult to bear, more than a few times in 2013. But as someone who is prone to abnormal levels of anxiety, as someone who plans every possible angle of everything, I am at peace. Not because I’ve found the perfect medication (I take none), or because my marriage is perfect (far from it), or my child is never needy, or work is not demanding, or any other false reason that brings no real peace. I’m at peace because I choose to be. And instead of preparing for tomorrow so intensely, I am not afraid of it, because right now I’m okay. And life should be a collection of right nows.