Last night as I was falling asleep, I couldn’t stop worrying about something that, depending on the state of the pandemic this summer, may or may not happen in July. Even though that’s nearly half a year away, I was sick with anxiety about it. I couldn’t relax.
However, in the middle of my worrying, I had a realization. Why was a worried? Presumably because I feared being anxious or uncomfortable in this future situation. Yet by pre-emptively worrying about it months ahead of time, not only would that not change the reality of the situation when it finally arrived, but would ensure I was anxious and uncomfortable in this very moment as well. Fixating on the past or the future does nothing but steal the peace we could find in the present.
This train of thought led me to also understand that there will always be a time in the future to worry about. Or a memory to miss from the past for that matter. If we don’t teach ourselves to prioritize and be mindful of the present moment, that anxiety, that sadness, will always remain.
Peace is only to be had in the present. It is always here waiting for us, waiting within us. Why waste it? Difficult times are sure to loom on the horizon. But there is nothing to be done about them until they arrive. I always feel like if I don’t worry about things before they happen, then I won’t be prepared when they do. But even I know that is ludicrous. Anxiety and worry do not make you more prepared. They just extend your suffering. To truly prepare, it would be best to stay grounded in the present. To allow myself time for peace and rest, so that I may face the future when it comes with strength and confidence and a firm connection to that peaceful place within myself. Besides, who knows who I will be, where I will be, when that future does finally arrive? I will not be the person I am today, the person I am right now. I must have faith that whoever I have become by then will be ready.
So I will let the future come in its own time. There will be plenty of time to agonize over it when it arrives if I still feel the need to. In the meantime, I am going to practice learning how to more fully enjoy the present. I am going to give my brain a new system to follow. Whenever I notice myself becoming distraught over something yet to come, I will practice pivoting away from those thoughts. I’ll ask myself: How does it feel to exist in this body right now? Do I feel heavy? Light? Is there tension in my jaw? My shoulders? Can I release it? Can I relax into this body? What is my breath like? Short and fast? Long and deep? How does it feel to breathe all the way down into my belly? How does it feel to pause between inhales and exhales? Can I feel my heart beating steadily in my chest? Can I hear it pumping away? Can I feel gratitude for these things I so often take for granted? Can I remember that the future is not guaranteed? Yet I have this precious moment in the palm of my hands. What a crime it would be to waste it.
I keep focusing on the wrong things. Then the wrong things become everything.The Front Bottoms
Last night I had a little, friend Christmas with my sister, our best friend, and their partners. It was a wonderful time. We had some drinks. We got super high. We exchanged gifts. We played games. And we shared delicious food along with each others’ company. Truly a night to be grateful for.
However, as I was driving home, I was angry. You see, I had a fancy mini bottle of Grey Goose Vodka that I was gifted at work. I had a few shots of it myself, and did bring it with the intention to share. However, my sister’s boyfriend was the only one who drank any of it besides the little I had. I have only met him once before this. He never asked before helping himself time and time again. And at the end of the night I made my way home with a practically empty bottle.
My head was swimming with accusations and indignation. The nerve! I don’t very much like this character any more! How rude can you be! I was fuming. But then I stopped in my tracks. Why on earth was I choosing to focus on that one small aspect of my night? It dawned on me that I always seem to do this. If even one little thing goes wrong, I fixate on just that. I ignore all the delightful parts of any situation in favor of a tiny imperfect detail. I am being ungrateful. I am taking the good stuff for granted.
I was so relieved when I remembered that I can choose where I want to place my focus. Yes, the vodka thing did happen, and it kinda sucked. But that was by no means the most important or significant thing that happened yesterday! I got to spend a Christmas-y evening with some of my favorite people in the world. I was given thoughtful, wonderful gifts. I was given good food, drinks, and drugs. I had a great time. I laughed and smiled more than I have in a long time. I got to watch the joy on my loved ones faces as they unwrapped their gifts that I put so much thought, effort, and love into.
What a difference attention can make. It can turn a wonderful night into something to be angry about. It can turn a banal day into an extremely stressful one. But it can also turn a tragedy into something to be grateful for. We can’t control what happens to us, but we always have the power to choose where we place our attention. And that is such an incredibly powerful thing.
Whenever I thought about procrastination in the past I imagined lazy or easily distracted, flighty people. I had an idea that whatever task was being put off, just really didn’t mean all that much to the person avoiding it. A procrastinator in my mind was someone who was disorganized, irresponsible, disinterested, etc. I don’t think the synonyms most other people would come up with would be very positive either.
Until recently I would have never thought to consider myself a procrastinator. And maybe it has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older and taken on more responsibilities. But trying to see myself from the perspective of my friends, family, and coworkers made me realize that they may view me that way.
I do tend to put things off and spend time doing things others may think of as less important than what I should be doing. It had just never occurred to me how this looks from the outside. Because internally I never fit into the mold of the type of person I would call a procrastinator. You see, I wasn’t lazy or careless or irresponsible or being distracted by other activities I found more enjoyable. I was putting important things off, not because I didn’t care about them, but because of my anxiety.
Once I realized this, I immediately felt guilty for being so quick to judge the procrastination of others. What if they are just like me in reality? Just too paralyzed by anxiety to do what they want/need to do. Maybe they were also too embarrassed and ashamed to verbalize their reasons to those around them, thinking it wasn’t necessary. Instead of sympathizing with them, I was silently criticizing them from up on my high horse.
I am hoping that there will be at least a few people reading this that, like me, never thought of things this way before. The next time I see someone avoiding their responsibilities, rather than judge them, I am going to reach out to them. Maybe they just need some support and understanding. I know it would mean a lot to me if the people in my life understood why I put things off and let important tasks pile up. I would feel even worse about it if they were all thinking I just don’t care. The opposite is actually true. I care so much that I become incapacitated and have to avoid thinking about it at all.
I’m going to try to remember this realization in the future. I am often so sure of my perception of other people’s intentions and motives. I forget that life isn’t always as simple as I think it is. Everybody has their own inner world that I know nothing about. Instead of analyzing, I just want to observe and accept from now on.
I had a realization today that I hope will stick with me. My whole life I have been compounding my suffering in social scenarios by blaming myself. There have been countless times in my life that I have been rejected in some way that left me feeling unworthy and unsure of myself. It took me a long time to realize that I was building on to those negative feelings by critiquing and criticizing my actions and interactions with that person. My inner monologue begins to not only feel slightly by the other person but by myself as well. It seemed impossible to avoid the power other had to pull on my heartstrings.
What I have begun to realize though, is that the pain I feel from the situation pales in comparison to the pain I make myself feel in the following days, months, or even years by internalizing the scenario and finding all the ways it was my fault. I end up suffering so much more than I would have because instead of the comfort and support that I need from myself in these moments of rejection, I have been trying to punish myself. I tell myself that I was stupid to expect anything else, that I should have known better, that I’m an idiot. I tell myself I was an idiot for trusting, for loving, for showing someone myself, for trying. And that hurts more than anything, feeling that way, that you aren’t worthy of the happiness you desire.
Instead of doing that, I want to stop adding to my suffering. It’s not stupid to show compassion, to love, to trust, to hope. I want to do more of those things, not less. If someone takes advantage of those things, then that is a reflection of who they are not who I am. All I can do is keep trying my best and striving for the things that I want in this life. I’m not foolish to believe that someone could love you even if it turns out they don’t. Falling for a false facade doesn’t make you stupid.
It’s okay to be sad when something upsetting has happened. But from now on I’m going to try harder to tend to that suffering with self-love rather than adding on to it. From now on when I’m suffering I am going to be gentle with myself. Let myself sleep. Give myself fresh, healthy foods. Meditate a little longer. Have a slow and mindful yoga practice. Give myself something I like. Allow myself to do something I enjoy. Focus on all of the things that I have to be grateful for.
The older I get the more I am realizing the importance of the relationship I have with myself. The most important person I can have on my side is me. I believe that I love myself, yet my thoughts can be so cruel. It’s time I begin to speak to myself just like I would anyone else that I love.