Chatting with a bestie today brought up this thought. She’s a dear, dear friend who has had life-altering bad things happen in the last few years and has perservered and gotten through it. Things have been stable and are truly starting to improve in ways she can feel, including a happy college gradution for one of her children. Yet she texted me this morning:
So now I’m worrying about having a panic attack at graduation indoors surrounded by thousands of ppl. Sigh the way my brain works sometimes.
Funny how we become so addicted to chaos and worry our minds create drama to give itself sometime to feed off.
The more I think about this, the more I realize how true. And how sad.
I believe retraining our thinking is a lot like dieting, developing discipline. There was a time when I worried constantly about being adequate. As an employee. As a wife. As a mother. Every time my children would do something I perceived as negative or bad behavior, I was sure it related directly to my ability as a parent. I tortured myself with anxiety. When I divorced their father I was sure of two things: I was irrepairably scarring my children and I would never be asked out again. At 29 I was certain I had failed already as a parent (the kids were 2, 3, and 5 at that point) and doomed to a life of lonely celibacy.
Despite my worries and my fears, my kids adjusted and grew up into fine young adults. Being an invisibly average single parent also did not deter nice, attractive men either, and I dated and had a couple of different relationships before meeting and falling in love with M. What did change with hard work, coaching and encouragement from friends, and professional counseling (most critical thing for me) was my thinking and ability to retrain my thinking. After awhile my reality reshaped itself and chaos became less of a thing in my day-to-day life. My addiction to it and the drama it created – both the real and the imagined – became secondary to living in the moment with its happiness, headaches, joys, and frustrations. With a live-in boyfriend (at that time) and three young, active, busy children, I learned to trust myself and the good things blooming in my life. When genuine problems arose from circumstances (car accident and resulting 3 weeks in the shop for repair) or poor choices (not budgeting, living above our means via credit card spending) I had the skills to cope and the resolve to solve the problems rather than let worry and anxiety rule my days.
While I would love to say I am completely cured of worry and anxiety attacks, I like to be both realistic and honest. I do still worry – about my family, friends, and finances. And about things that matter less directly in my day-to-day life – terrorism, politics, natural disasters. The latter is easy to fix by a few days of detox from my news outlets; the former is something I have to just let go and trust that I will be ready if and when I am needed for family and friends. Finance is always a concern, because I work with money for a living and understand it is a finite resource. Other than living on catfood now (and our fluffbuckets will be miffed if we started horning in on their gig), retirement savings continues and I have to believe it will be adequate when the time comes. We budget and we save every month, and we (mostly) spend according to our plan. It’s an imperfect system, but we are human and our mortgage remains our only debt so we are doing something right.
I remarked yesterday I do not cope well with drama. I especially do not cope well with drama of my own or another person’s creation. I try hard to stay the course that problems can be managed, even if I do not like the way they have to be managed due to constraints likely beyond my control. But I have not had a panic in years and hope to never have another.
But my pragmatism … I occasionally wonder if it makes me appearless compassionate with those who struggle. My friend gets me, and she knows I do not mean that she’s being childish or unreasonable in her worries and her fears. She also knows I’m pretty well grounded, that I understand and am trying to help keep her on a even keel by pointing out the obvious. Others, even here in my own blog or when commenting on other blogs, I have concerns that I come across as smug or as if I believe those who react or handle issues differently to be ridiculous or worse. Most of the time nothing is further from the truth, and if I did feel that way I would be far more likely to just say nothing at all or simply state “I think you’re being ridiculous.” Which is another post about times I am too frank and/or too earnest.
Since we are speaking of drama, though … M is 100% better today. You will all be happy to know I have ceased eying the pillows in our home with nefarious intent toward him.