I’m back in therapy. One of the things we’ve talked about recently is the unrealistic and unreasonable expectations I have of myself. We’ve discussed my fear of being “found out” when people around me realize I’m not all that great. I give myself no grace and no freedom to make mistakes or come up short.
I’m fighting the anxiety this week. Fighting it like a nemesis that showed back up after years of peaceful living without the battle of its control. I felt it immediately upon opening my eyes and I knew it was war.
This anxiety has waged war on my thoughts, my relationships, and my appetite. It showed up and demanded control of me, despite my resistance. As I walk the trails of my park, my refuge, I realize that I need to seek help again. I need to get a grip on this inner turmoil and I can’t do it alone.
I think about that therapist I just heard about. I think about scheduling an appointment and then immediately travel down the road of reasons why I shouldn’t bother. I might not like her. She might not take my insurance. My insurance might drop me if I don’t get my shit together.
Then I question, what would I tell a friend in this situation? If I saw a friend struggling in the way that I have over the years, what would I suggest to them? I’d say schedule the damn appointment. If you don’t like her, schedule another. And another. Until you find someone that can help ease the turmoil you feel. No one is supposed to live in misery. We all deserve to be free and happy and it’s time to do something about what’s been holding you back.
I entered into a new relationship and I brought years of hurt and fear with me. It’s like an old, tattered suitcase, full of years of disappointment and insecurity. It’s bursting at the seams it seems, like that suitcase that’s just a little too full. Like that suitcase that you sit on top of, squishing its contents as tightly as you can, just hoping to get it mostly zipped. You zip it and pull it behind you, secretly trying not to think about its potential to literally bust open at any moment. Hoping, praying even, that it’ll just stay together. That you’ll make it through the busy airport without anyone seeing your dirty undergarments scattered about on the floor.
That’s the suitcase I’m bringing with me. It’s stuffed full of dirty little insecurities. Times I’ve been hurt or felt inferior. Times I’ve worried about being left behind and harsh memories of when I was. It’s full of images of the things I hate about myself, including my tendency to think this way. If you were to unzip that bag, its first layers are neatly folded. It’s sorted into neat stacks and crisply pressed. You can tell that hours were spent folding things just right and smoothing out the wrinkled edges. It’s underneath that top layer that you begin to see the case’s real contents.
It’s disheveled and confusing. It’s as if you stuck your hand inside and swirled it about violently, looking for something frantically. Not the top layer though. It’s much more put together. I don’t want to carry this suitcase anymore. I’d like to sit it on the trail I’ve hiked for miles and bid it farewell. My arms are tired of hauling it and it’s really not serving me very well. I’d like a new wardrobe that’s not stained with shame from the past. I’d like a new suitcase, one that’s empty and begging to be filled with new experiences. I’d like to open and close this new suitcase without fear of its contents bursting from any exposed nook or cranny.
Truth being told though, I don’t know how to sit this suitcase down. It’s chained to me in some way and I feel obligated to carry it the rest of the way. It feels reckless to sit it down and I’d feel empty and exposed. When I encounter a new trial or obstacle, how will I face it without the arsenal of experiences stored in that bag?
As I think about it, I leave literal suitcases and bags scattered on the floor, delaying the task of unpacking them and putting them away. I loathe the process of pulling out the contents, refolding, and putting things away nicely. I’d much rather trip over that bulky suitcase for weeks than sit down and handle it today. That’s what I’ve been doing. Avoiding the suitcase, knowing fully that I’ll just continue to trip over it until I sort through what’s left there. Both the literal and figurative suitcases are holding me back. I can’t travel to the next oasis without first unpacking from the last trip. I can’t experience the absolute joy that’s waiting in this new chapter, no matter how badly I want it, without setting down my old baggage first. There’s a train for me to catch, a journey waiting on me to fully embark upon it but I have to empty that suitcase first. Empty it, put the items away, and open that new bag, that’s ready to be filled for the next trip.
I wrote this several months ago during a time when my anxiety and fear were running wild. I wrote it, never really intending to share it with anyone and it’s kept coming to mind the last few days. As I read it again, the feelings that prompted those words felt so real and I realized that there are many of you who know them all to well. Your triggers might not be the same as mine, though if you struggle with anxiety, you know how it feels to be overcome for seemingly no reason. I felt pressured to share, these words I intended to keep private, because something told me that someone out there needs a little nudge to seek help, just as I still do. Someone needs to not feel alone and to feel encouraged to reach out. I scheduled that appointment and while it took me several more months to do so, I’m back to working on the things that keep me up at night. If you, too, feel overcome with emotion at times, find a professional to help you navigate that inner dialog. Seeking help does not make you weak. As a matter of fact, only the strongest people have the courage to face those darker corners.
At some point we have all been or will be lost. Whether it be in a relationship we grew out of, a career we’ve grown to detest, or simply a place in the world that no longer fits us – at some point, we’ve all longed for more and yet not known how to get there, how to leave where we are, or even what it is that we’re looking for. Being lost is as invigorating as it is excruciating because it’s only after you’ve been lost that you can be found.
One of Keller William’s most fundamental courses is called BOLD. In this program, a BOLD coach flies in from across the country and leads you through the course’s material while often interjecting a bit about their own lives. This course isn’t really a real estate course. Actually, only about 10% of the material is real estate specific and the rest is entirely about mindset.
As I finished one of the new books that lives on my great-grandmothers’s pie safe in my living room, I prepared to throw away the empty page of stickers I’d been using as a bookmark. The stickers had all been used to seal note cards I’d sent to someone here or there. It originally housed six, round stickers to be exact.
It’s a Sunday morning and I’ve just finished my coffee and a bowl of cereal. I’m considering my options for the day, as I catch up on my favorite blogs. My original intention was to do nothing (besides laundry) after a busy week + weekend of work. In true PP fashion though, I’ve been making a mental list of all of the things I could do — play tennis, clean out that closet, go to the gym, sit by the river and read. That list goes on and on.
I went through and added the #ppsips tag to all of my coffee photos. Not surprisingly, there were almost 200 photos involving a coffee cup or coffee. In my defense, I tagged a few icees and such too. I post quite a few pics of coffee and I’m cool with admitting that.
My name is Pamela and I post pics of coffee on Instagram.
I sat there sipping my coffee, still reeling a bit from the hatred I saw the night before. I have a tinge of a headache and I’ve debated what might have caused this one. I’ve engaged in some intelligent dialog already this morning, which restores a bit of my faith in humanity. I’m listening to John Prine’s Spanish Pipedream (video below) for the first time and considering it as a political statement of sorts.
The 2016 holiday season is now in full swing. (I say “now” in full swing so some of you don’t burn me at the stake for “skipping Thanksgiving.” You know who you are.) Now, we can all go full on Christmas mode and not be shamed for maybe or maybe not having our trees up early. Personally, I’m feeling quite ready for the holiday season. 75% of our gifts are in route to my house, my calendar is laid out in pretty colors, and Christmas cards are on their way. And most importantly, I have a certain peace about this season that I haven’t had in a very long time.
I’m not sure if my calmness over the holiday madness comes from the life-changing events of this year or from my age. I wouldn’t say that I’m more prepared than usual, maybe even the direct opposite. However, I’m simply not feeling the anxiety that I’d normally feel as the happiest time of the year approaches. Let’s look at the facts.
Reasons why I should be worried:
- As of noon last Wednesday, we had 0 gifts purchased.
- I ordered Christmas cards later than planned and could have throat punched that stupid website.
- This past weekend was our last weekend without something planned until January. January!
- We’re testing out some new holiday traditions this year.
- I’m heavily involved in the success of a plethora of holiday events coming in the next several weeks.
- We’ll be hosting family in our home a few times and some things still aren’t finished or “ready.”
- I know, with certainty, that we’re about to be exhausted for the next 30+ days.
- My decorations aren’t ready.
Reasons why I should NOT be worried:
- Matthew and I got a heavy dose of perspective on life in 2016. I’m simply not as bothered by things that used to cause me stress.
- My new home is lovely and I’m happy to host people here!
- We made a huge dent in holiday shopping (online) over the weekend.
- We know exactly where we’ll be and when over the holidays. There will be no obsessing over who we’re visiting when and who’s going to be upset if we don’t show. Plans are set and that’s that.
- I’m transitioning into a better place of making decisions that are best for Matthew and I – without so much emphasis on what others want or expect. This is a GREAT place to be, by the way.
- We’ve had a fantastic year. We’ve not only survived, we have thrived. And basically, no one or nothing can steal that joy from me right now.
I could likely keep listing reasons for both sides of this argument. I’m just too excited to get bogged down in the minutia this year. Matthew and I have so much to celebrate, and I simply won’t allow the madness or chaos of this busy season distract from that. My #1 intention for this season is to truly enjoy spending time together and with those that we care about. The details might not be perfect and we might be outrageously tired after the first week of events. Nonetheless, I’m not concerned. We will attend each event that we’ve selected and we will enjoy ourselves with those people in that moment. We will have gifts for those we’re buying gifts for and even if they’re not the most perfect gift possible, they’ll have been selected with care and love. I will not live this season in guilt over not doing everything that everyone wants. Instead, we will enjoy this holiday season and celebrate the close of this life-changing year.
My new perspective could come from having faced one of the most trying obstacles we’ve encountered thus far and making it. Last Christmas, we would have never imagined the heartache 2016 would hold for us. I think experiencing something like that is sort of like a near death experience or severe illness – when you’re faced with something of that magnitude, and then get another shot to do better, those tiny details and expectations of others that drain the life right out of you, suddenly seem trivial. You’re forced to take stock of your life and how you’re living it and when you see things you’re not happy with, you make unrestrained adjustments. If this fresh perspective on the holiday season is a result of the flood, this will be another seemingly unrelated area of our lives that has been altered by the events of this past spring. On the surface one would think we simply had to remodel a house, fight insurance battles, buy new stuff (That’s fun right? Not really.), and be homeless for a bit. Quite the contrary. There’s really not an aspect of our lives, our business, or our relationships that wasn’t altered somehow because of this experience. If my take on the holiday season is another one of them, I really wouldn’t be too surprised.
Another possible factor in this newfound peace could be my age. Someone once told me that as you get older, you’ll slowly (and then suddenly) stop caring about what other people think. Whereas at one point you might live and make decisions based on the feedback you’d get from those around you, you suddenly stop doing that and do whatever in the hell you want to. For me, I’ve always lived in the mindset of guilt. I made decisions or did things to avoid the guilt I’d feel if I didn’t do them. What was best for Matthew and I might have been a different plan entirely, and yet we’d go with the flow and oblige so that I didn’t let anyone down. Even people that would let me down in a heartbeat if something was inconvenient for them. Lucky for me (not), guilt has controlled me for much of my life. Therefore, we’d get up, dress the part, and attend every single event possible. We’d show up boasting food or gifts, regardless of whether we wanted to be there or not. Suddenly, I no longer feel the need to do this. And I won’t feel guilty for letting that obligation go. If this is indeed some coming-of-age moment for me, I cannot wait to see what other areas of my life in which I’ll get some relief.
So much of life is about making choices. We choose what we’re going to do and not going to do. And more importantly, we choose what our attitude will be surrounding these experiences. We can be positive or we can be negative. It’s a choice, and I’ll be the first to admit that my anxiety-ridden self was the first to buckle under the pressure of the holidays in the past. I let the minutia of this detail and that one steal my joy. I think my anxiety and exhaustion (and sometimes dread) often stemmed from feeling like I didn’t have a choice in the affairs of the holidays. I sometimes felt like I was one “Merry Christmas” away from losing my mind. However, deciding to choose our schedule for December brought with it a fresh perspective and a sigh of relief. We’ve chosen our plans for the holidays, and I’m choosing to experience them all with joy. It’s a Christmas miracle!
If you find yourself getting drug along by the hustle and bustle, take a little break and remind yourself what this season is truly about for you. Remember that it’s an opportunity to share in a wonderful season with the people that you love. Remember that there are many wonderful things about this season and if we focus on those, it might lift our anxiety and frustration just a bit. And most importantly, remember that no matter what, nothing about this season must be perfect. We don’t have to give the best gifts in the entire world (and we certainly don’t have to go into debt for them). The Christmas treats don’t have to be perfectly made, and our halls don’t have to be perfectly decked. As a matter of fact, if we look with an adjusted mindset, we can probably see beauty in the imperfection. Furthermore, if the season brings with it some sadness over loves ones lost or misfortune of the past year, we can still work to see the best even in the unfortunate situations. Over time, we can condition our minds to find something good in almost every situation, especially if you’re looking for it. Truth be told, you will always find whatever it is you’re looking for. If you’re looking for joy, you will eventually find it. And if you’re looking for despair, it’s certainly there.
During this holiday season, and in the upcoming year, I encourage you to choose your perspective. Choose your path and celebrate those decisions you make, even if things don’t go as planned. I wish you the happiest holiday season, no matter your circumstances, and I truly hope you can find joy amidst the seemingly unavoidable chaos. This life, and this season, are what you make of it!
I came across this article and it reference a line in Something’s Gotta Give that I’d never even noticed. As I read through the rest of the post, I agreed silently that women (and men) should know what they like about themselves and be proud to agree and say those things out loud. As a matter of fact, I wanted to go right away and tell everyone I knew to start saying aloud what they loved about themselves. And for those who struggled with identifying those things, I wanted to challenge their thinking. I wanted to help encourage them until they did realized there were things that made them truly amazing and unique that they did like about themselves. And then I realized something; I didn’t want to do the exercise myself. Continue reading