This one is pretty personal. You have been warned:)
I am fascinated by the way people react differently to stress. For example, I’m the one who can hold things together when something big happens and everyone else falls apart, but the smallest things that shouldn’t matter (think “being unable to find a roll of tape”) throw me into fits that leave me nearly unable to function. I’ve stopped trying to make sense of it.
Today’s yoga class was one of those crazy classes where the realizations came at me from all directions; I hardly remember the actual postures at all. It was 90 minutes of one revelation after another. And I almost didn’t even try to go today (but more about that later.)
At some point during class, I realized that I almost thrive on anxiety–something I probably always realized and wished I could change, but didn’t fully understand. If I don’t have something to feel bad about, I’ll find something. I can’t possibly be the only person who does this. I can’t be sure, but I think this pattern’s attractiveness is rooted in fear. I’m starting to think that most unsettled feelings start with fear, and I’m on a (n admittedly slow) mission to banish fear from my life.
Not an easy feat.
But I’m working on it.
Last night, I realized that I’ve been freed from an immense source of stress (my car; I got a new one.) It sounds superficial that it was causing me so much panic; I didn’t realize exactly how upset I had been about it until I worked it out. I had approximately an hour of calm, and it was liberating. However, something in my mind decided it needed to fill the gaping hole left by my new lack of car stress. It started at about 2:00 this morning. I was trying to fall asleep, but my chihuahuas started barking (and they don’t, unless someone is at the door or coming in the door). I heard a “BANG!” sound; they immediately drowned it out with more barking. I grabbed the nearest heavy object (a 10-pound weight) and my phone, and had the speed dial for “911” pulled up as I crept into the living room, then the kitchen, sure that someone was trying to break in.
I have a weird reaction to such a scare. I eat. So I ate more than I should have in 12 hours, much less 15 minutes. I was angry, sickened, disappointed. I called myself names, cried, dreaded work at 9am, dreaded yoga at 3pm, dreaded looking into a mirror for the next week (or ever).
I finally fell asleep, woke up vowing to “make up for it” (which never works, but that’s a different story) and went to work. I had to make a judgment call at work, which made me freak out a little bit, and when it was time to leave, I was agitated and could only think of two things: EAT STUFF. And BUY THINGS.
My addictions may be odd, but I know their patterns very well. Since I failed to figure out a way to “make up” for last night’s imperfection, and let this morning’s small incident morph into a full-blown panic, I was now forced to fight the urge (and lose; I always lose) to say “to hell with the rest of the day” and either reinforce my ridiculous shopping addiction, or eat several pints of coconut milk ice cream and an entire bag of lentils. If it doesn’t make sense to you, it doesn’t have to. Just know that once the idea is in my head, it is impossible to win. Along with the sudden “I give up” is the promise of “starting over tomorrow;” add it all together, and…well, anatomy of an addiction, right?
On my way to either mindlessly buy clothing that I would ultimately return and/or procure said pints of coconut milk ice cream, though, something weird happened. The mall was to the right, Whole Foods straight ahead, and home to the left. I just said “no.” And turned left. And went home. And then went to yoga.
And now we are back to the point.
I might sound or seem wise or enlightened at times, but I know nothing about forgiveness. I’ve never actually considered “forgiving myself” at any point. (The fact that I feel the need to put that in quotes is pretty telling. As if it is a concept I feel comfortable with only if I am ridiculing it.) If I do anything that I perceive as a mess-up, I have to cause myself a lot more damage before saying, “okay, enough, start over, try again.” There are no exceptions. It’s perfection or nothing. Perfection, or create an absolute disaster. Most people don’t understand this, and I’m tired of explaining. I, on the other hand, don’t entirely understand the concept that there exists any other way; I’m still feeling unsettled about how I reacted today, even though it was probably the “better” reaction.
The big revelation of the day, though, was that I project this on to others. I absolutely do not know the way to forgive somebody. Not surprising. The surprising thing was the realization of why. It seems that when I care, when I really, truly care about somebody, I tend to view their imperfect actions as insults. I take them personally. And, well…that’s not really “loving” at all, now is it?
Instead of feeling worse about myself and calling myself all the names that would fit (selfish, crazy, self-centered, oblivious, etc) I am going to remember this and try to understand. I get frustrated and angry when others don’t understand, so I’m trying to do away with the double standard. Instead of feeling insulted or hurt or anxious or worried or angry or disappointed, I’ll try to respond with compassion. Actually typing this out makes it sound like the most obvious thing in the world, and I might be the very last person on earth to realize this.
In case I’m not, though…you’re welcome.