I had an odd experience this morning. It’s the first Sunday in a while I’ve not only been by myself (Jeremy is in San Diego), but I’ve had a few hours TO myself. No meetings till later, no appointments to rush to, no classes to teach. I take my time making myself a coffee carafe for one. I turn on Destiny’s Child radio on our Pandora because I’m here alone and J isn’t about that Beyoncé life and who doesn’t love a little Bug-A-Boo to start their day.
I open Instagram (when will I learn??).
I glimpse a statistic about eating disorders in women.
And I think:
What the FUCK have I been doing the last two months to help the epidemic of negative self-talk that leads to these kinds of numbers??
Empaths like me – like US – have this problem. We’re told to take time for ourselves because we spend so much in the shoes of others – but when we see a statistic or snapshot, we go down that constricting rabbit hole of guilt, thinking of all the time we “wasted focusing on ourselves” with regret and guilt. And so we don’t. We don’t take time for ourselves, because we know where THAT leads. Guilt. Remorse. Regret. Stuff we stuff down boils back up, and then there we are, once again caught in the negative self-talk loop we’re so trying to avoid. Because it’s way easier to focus on tearing ourselves down than addressing the real problem.
I sat with this guilt for a second. Sat with the feeling of “WTF Have I Been Doing To Help The World.”
And what freaked me out more (whoops) after I did is this: I’ve spent so much time in the last two months making sure life around me stays firmly attached at the seams, that I’m unraveling in the places that matter most. I think I’m keeping it together because I’m showing everyone else I can juggle and not drop the ball. But underneath, where only I can see, I’m scrambling to hold on.
In my mind, no one needed to see those parts. So somehow, at some point, I convinced myself that they weren’t important.
Longer post for another day, but big life-stage-transitions feel like a table flip. You know in movies when a character gets angry or overwhelmed and oh look there’s a nice and neat table so OH SHIT they take their anger out on it and FLIP the mothereffer onto its side? Instead of resolving the conflict, they take all the chaos around them and channel it into wrecking something that was perfectly fine and organized in the first place.
My table flip moments have manifested themselves not in chaos, but in the illusion of control. The amount of change in my life right now is overwhelming to me – a GOOD overwhelm, but overwhelm nonetheless – so instead of letting IT overwhelm ME, I have been narrowly focusing in on the stuff others can see and neglecting the stuff that keeps ME feeling grounded and in control.
Surprise surprise, that plan is backfiring. And instead of the THINGS overwhelming me, I’ve now ended up overwhelming myself.
I’m now six days out from my wedding and I find myself regretting the way I’ve handled the last month, which brings up all kinds of pangs of guilt. I should have journaled every day to document this moment. I should have taken more time off work to fly to LA and help plan. I should have been firmer delegating tasks to others instead of assuming they’d know what to do and avoiding any glimmer of seeming “controlling.” We’re taught in our society that this is (supposed to be) a once-in-a-lifetime kind of day – should I have amped it up more like I see other couples do leading up to THEIR wedding?
If I dig deeper, however, I realize that I THOUGHT things would look different in my life as I approached this transition. I thought I’d be (and feel) super successful, which (to me) means not just making a difference in ways I can see, but that those visible markers of success flow through my days naturally and with ease. I hate to admit it, but up until now a part of what success has always looked like to me has been: you’re on SUCH a roll that logistics take care of themselves.
I am nowhere near that. Moreover, this time in my life requires all. the. logistics. In the last month or so, I havent felt like I can soften my gaze on the Whats and focus on the Whys, because the Whats feel like I’m starting from scratch. New life stage, new career stage, new new new newnew. It’s an exciting feeling when you’re in it. And also terrifying. Really terrifying.
Good news, or so it seems, is that when the exciting-terrifying-ness gets to be too much, you can just tune them out, and do the work. I’ve been tuning them out and doing the work.
But guess what?
Strong feelings like excitement and fear don’t disappear – they just hide and grow. And grow. And grow. Until one day you wake up with a Sunday to yourself, turn on some 1998 Beyoncé, look down at the table you’ve flipped over, and realize the mess you’ve made.
When I was 16, I found a quote somewhere that seemed revolutionary to me: If you love something, don’t hide and suffocate it for the sake of holding on. Set it free. Anything meant to be always comes back.
This obviously isn’t original or unique – hello, every self-help book ever written – but at the time it blew my mind. You mean I don’t need to worry about the stuff that’s MEANT to happen? You mean I don’t need to pour myself into every single person, place, and thing 24/7 to ensure it sticks around? You mean I don’t need to worry?
The things I’m worried about in this moment – they’re things I know aren’t going away. My sweet friends. My beloved routine. Our WANT community. The change I AM meant to make in the world. NONE OF THIS IS GOING AWAY. But, but.. I can feel myself holding on and suffocating it all because I’m so scared that if I loosen my grip it’ll all fall away.
Is that fear of loss rational? No. It’s a concrete thought conjured by a vague emotion that’s trying to make sense of transition and life recalibration.I am EXACTLY where I need to be to feel the way I want to feel. Click To Tweet
So here I am. Practicing what I preach – but not in the pretty and zen way we read about. Doing the hard fucking work of sitting with my thoughts and asking WHY. Why I feel the way I feel – why I REALLY feel the way I feel – and then asking: so what are you going to do about it?
What’s the answer, then? If I am feeling overwhelmed, if I’m feeling angry with myself…but REALLY I am feeling a lack of a softer focus and wider lens, and REALLY I am feeling the confusion and slight panic of life feeling like it’s going faster than I can keep up with…then what am I really going to do about it??
I will be for the most part completely offline for the next two weeks enjoying every bit of our wedding’s before-during-after – and, moreover, every single moment of the first step in our new chapter. It’s a first we’ll never get back, and I want to be fully present.
I am stepping back and taking a break and not pretending otherwise.
I am pressing pause on the subjective deadlines I’m in control of (created by my mind) so I can make the objective ones I’m not in control of (created by LIFE) worth every single second.
I’m putting aside the pressure to make a difference in someone else’s life…and turning back inward to make a difference in my own.
I’m trusting that I am EXACTLY where I need to be to feel the way I want to feel.
And I hope that, when life hands you a table-flip moment, you will step back and do the same.
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