Whenever I used to frown, my mom would say “Don’t do that, your face will stay that way.” She was right – the picture above is a self-portrait. That’s not true – I only mildly resemble a sharpei. But you do get my point. Depending upon the success of my nights in the arms of Morpheus (I love that line), I can wake up with a start, my brain flitting through the worries du jour, the have-tos that I neglected to do the day before (which I realize diminished their importance as obligations) and the ‘should have dones’ that didn’t even register. Once I have coffee, all bets are off and I wave the white flag because my mind begins to travel at a speed that has yet to be measured scientifically. Perhaps I have a bionic brain – the thoughts fly with the speed of sound, I just don’t necessarily get anywhere.
I’ve reached the point though where I can laugh at this (btw, in the picture above I am laughing – can you tell?). These exercises in self-flagellation are futile, and bear nothing like those scenes in “Fifty Shades Of Grey” where ostensibly everyone is enjoying the experience far more than me, and their vocalizations don’t resemble my “Oh damn” or “I can’t believe I forgot to do that – you dummy”. Sometimes I say things even worse, but no need to repeat them here.
Why do we do this to ourselves? We know better. We know it is better to step back, breathe, prioritize and discard the non-essential. I’ll go a step farther – we also know this is learned behavior, and as such can be ‘unlearned’. I think there is something self-reinforcing in experiencing this kind of stress. In a convoluted way it reminds us that we’re important, our contributions matter – within the circle of our life, our actions are critical to keeping the cosmic wheel turning. Is that enough of a motivator to keep stressing ourselves out? Um…no. Because in the final analysis, our ‘musts’ are not about fundamental survival, coordinating organ transplants (unless you’re an organ transplant doctor, in which case I apologize) or responding to life or death situations. We are creating this level of pressure in our own minds. It isn’t until the you-know-what hits the fan that we realize that we’ve been stressing over things that are overblown in our own minds.
We are making ourselves slightly crazy. And our sanity rests to a large degree in our perception of how big our requirements loom. If we accept that every routine day is inevitably disrupted multiple times, some things don’t go as planned and other events are out of our control. So be it. Perhaps we can gain some control over what we choose to get exorcised about. Maybe today we can start our day differently – committing to ourselves that as involved as we are going to get in our day, we are not going to let it gain zombie-control over our life (my understanding is that once you give a zombie control of anything, they pretty much grab the whole enchilada). When our tendency is to over-react to the problems in front of us, instead we will create some distance so that we can look at them for what they really are. One challenge at a time, fix it and move on. Maybe we can honestly acknowledge the days that seem to pass without asap incidents or increases in blood pressure, for there are those too – and it doesn’t mean you’re not a diligent, capable and important.
Just try it and let me know how it goes. Let me know what happens when you take a step back instead of running directly into the fray. If I have any success with this, I’ll let you know too. Unless I am attacked by a zombie, in which case all bets are off.