What usually transpires though is piling a bit too much on my already loaded plate, picking through some of the shiny bits that manage to hold my attention for a few seconds, and then inevitably, I dump the entire contents of the plate into the rubbish bin, disappointed with myself and immediately looking for my next area of focus. My raison d’etre. My next project of self-improvement. These last two months have seen me commit to just about nothing, in terms of new practices or habits to help me on my path to recovery. The more reasonable part of my brain-which some days, seems non-existent-knows that change takes time, and that my new shiny, healthy and present self isn’t going to materialize after a few attempts at meditation, or a few hours of concerted effort focused on change. The emotional, and often times irrational part of my brain though expects results, and would like very much for them to come quickly and present themselves to me.
This is a week where I have felt a bit more stuck than usual. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s a week that has involved a lot of fear and worry. Stress and anxiety. I’ve diagnosed myself with a kidney infection I am sure will kill me. In a series of late evening texts with Ian, in which I was looking for an external brain to help calm me down, I wondered why-more to myself, and more out of frustration than anything else-I had suddenly, in this last year become so dramatic about and fearful for my own health. There have been a few times now where some small ache, or a bloodshot eye has left me concluding that I must be dying. I never used to be this way. Getting paranoid about my health just wasn’t something I engaged in. Now though, even the smallest of oddities in my body set me off down the rabbit hole that is Google, and I usually end up on the other end more scared and panicked than I was going in. Ian’s response, as is usually the case, was simple and direct and made a world of sense. Two of my biggest reference points-my Mom and my Dad-have both fallen horrifically ill in the last three years. In witnessing these two stalwarts that have always represented a sense of security and a home base to me, go through some incredibly scary health issues seems to have rippled into how I perceive my own health. I turn everything into a crisis.
During my session last week, another comment that perplexed me at first, but stuck with me was that I was someone who was afraid of being struck with something. Upon unpacking this statement a little further, it was brought to my attention that I have been a big subscriber to the Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop Club for some time now. Rather than the more optimistic and happy version of myself I believe I used to be, I have somewhere down the line begun the habit of wincing and flinching for no reason, other than the fact that I am waiting and anticipating something negative happening to me. It happens while I drive. It happens when I go for walks. Late last fall when I was out for an early morning run, I was struck by a car-the driver thought she could turn right on a red, and hadn’t realized there was a timed pedestrian crossing to be followed. She also hadn’t looked right as she made her turn and so, turned right into my left hip. Each time I move near an intersection now by foot, I am afraid that I will once again get hit. When I get a hiccough, or a mosquito bite, it happens there too.
I know how much chronic stress can affect a person on the whole-their physical self as well as their emotional self. I’ve attended enough seminars and lectures throughout my work career to know how big an impact stress can have on the brain. I know about telomeres and I know about how a mother’s own stress can significantly impact the development of her baby while in utero. Still though, when I try to apply this reasoning to my own method of thinking, and life in general I can’t quite get it to stick. I know what is happening to my brain, I just struggle with making the consistent changes I need to to reverse some of those effects.
I am realizing more and more that while I used to crave routine and structure, what I am really looking for now is some consistent guidance and direction. Some new reference point that I can return to, and one that will help me stay upright when I feel like slumping. My illusions of doing this recovery and healing on my own, not to mention doing it effectively on my own aren’t really holding up any longer.
As I keep getting distracted by one shiny penny after another-without managing to truly commit to one thing and see it through-Ian reminded me that one of the driving principles he subscribes to (and writes about in his latest book) himself is the idea of picking ONE thing. Focus on one area-whether that is to strengthen my meditation practice, or improve my sleep, or work on my physical health-and put all of my effort into that one area. Save the other areas of improvement I notice or desire, but move through each one slowly and with intention and with focus.
I’ve been shuffling from one area to the next now for two months, but again with no commitment and as such, no real focus. No real heart. As someone who likes to think I can do it all, and do it all perfectly, this has been one of my biggest self-realizations now over these last 2 months. I can talk a big talk and write a lot of words and sentences about the idea of slowing down but if I don’t actually start practicing it with real intention, and also with a lot of self-love and kindness, I won’t get very far. With anything.