Every December, I participate in Reverb – a reflective writing challenge that allows you to take stock of the year that was and prepare for the year that will be. Although I didn’t finish all the prompts this year – December was difficult to wrap my head around – I love the opportunity to think about what I am doing and what I want. Project Reverb offers a monthly prompt to continue the work that the daily prompts begin in December. The first of the monthly prompts was sent out last week.
UNGOALS – What are you so not doing this year? What’s on your “I just can’t care about that” list?
Goodness. So many things, although it is funny when I think about it – it’s hard to actually create a list. I think that perhaps the biggest thing that I want to not do this year is worry about the things I can’t change and stress about the things that I can’t control.
I have often said that I am a worrier by nature and that my personality tends to run to the negative. I have a hard time hanging on to hope. Sweet Husband can tell you the truth of this. Watching the Royals improbably World Series run was painful for him…because it was agony for me. Any time anything went remotely wrong, I was sure the whole thing had gone to shit and was about to end. SH kept trying to talk me down off the ledge, and there was a great deal of anxiety in my life for those three weeks. It’s funny – I’ve been like that for as long as I can remember…struggling to keep my head above the water of possibility.
Mr. Carnegie is right. I am frequently exhausted. Part of that is because I do not sleep much or often. Worry doesn’t keep me up; that isn’t why I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep because when I lay down, I’m not tired. It takes a really long time for me to get to that point. But carrying the burden of worry – always wondering if I’m going to be wrong, or what might go wrong, or how to handle the things that I screwed up, or being afraid…always fearful…of a misstep – is particular kind of torture at which I am excellent. I wish I weren’t. But I am. And that kind of mental acrobatics, the way I twist myself into knots about things that never, never happen or are never as worse as I think they are, leaves me foggy and confused, unable to meet the challenges that do arise in the ways that are most productive.
I do not yet know how to undone a lifetime of anxiety. It doesn’t appear to be as easy as “think positive thoughts” or just “tell yourself to stop!” If it worked that way, then I would have interrupted this loop a very, very long time ago.
This isn’t just something that I’ve taking on this year. I’ve recognized for at least the last 3-5 years that this is an incredibly destructive habit needed to stop. I got serious about working towards eradication about a year and a half ago when I lost my job…or rather, when I was fired.
That very bad thing that I was terrified of actually did happen. Those things that I had feared actually came to be. I legitimately had a reason to worry. The funny thing was, though, that even as bad as it was, it wasn’t that bad, but I was still horribly frightened. That fear was fueled by worry. By anxiety. By anger. Ugly when you get right down to it, isn’t it?
- Meditation. I have never been big on getting quiet with myself and consciously focusing on not focusing. I’ve tried a meditation a few times. Yoga a few. But this time I found an app that helped. Headspace has given me the tools be comfortable with meditation. The animations at the beginning of the program, really helped me understand what meditation is and is not and how to be kind to myself in the midst of it. For me meditation is really about letting the thoughts come and letting them go. The better my meditation practice – the more consistent – the less I tend to fixate on worry.
- Writing. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that almost every single morning I write. With such an ingrained habit, you would think that this is a long-standing practice for me. It’s not. I’d say my writing really has gotten consistent in the last 3 years or so. I struggled for awhile to get consistent, to figure out what worked for me. But once I figured out how to make it happen, it has made all the difference. The habit of writing, putting my thoughts on paper and twisting through possibilities, has given me a calm. If I don’t get the chance to write in the morning, my day isn’t right. I’m not as focused or able to handle what goes through my head or what happens of the course of the day. For some reason, knowing that I’m going to be able to work through it – let it come and let it go – helps stop my worry in the moment.
- Creative pursuits. I take pictures. I blog. I sew a little. I’m crocheting. The focus and the concentration that expressing my creativity requires literally allows little room for the fear and worry. When I’m struggling to figure out a crochet pattern or battling with the sewing machine, I don’t have time to think about all the ways I screwed up, almost screwed up, will screw up. It’s a very, very good thing.
That’s all I’ve got right now. There are other things that help when I’m consistent with them – particularly affirmations – but I’m not consistent with them.
How do you interrupt that loop of worry anxiety? Or what would you like to leave behind this year?