The slow exorcism of the negativity habit

Walking out of the gym this morning, the thought of never doing my current arch nemesis exercise, the cable single-leg Romanian deadlift, flittered through my mind. Partly, mostly in jest, because in truth it went better this morning than it has been to date. My balance is better, my overall strength is improving, and I went slow and controlled. I did not get frustrated or give up before hitting minimum good reps per set, and I went through maximum sets for the entire List. That alone is a quiet victory.

After at least a week, maybe 2 away from this particular List, I returned to it either stronger than I was before or more willing to add more plates to the cable and other machines I was using. Perhaps J’s bold 250 lbs. on the leg press woke me up to the fact that I am stronger than I realize. I have been bumping up my dumbbell weights over the course of the last month, so it would only be logical that the weights I am using on the cable machine would tick up as well.

But driving from the gym’s parking lot and home, I realize again how ingrained negative girl’s legacy is throughout all aspects of my life. It has been only a few months (that seem more like dog years), yet my impatience with myself for not being more perfect in my new and improved behaviors more of the time continues. Words like “never” or “can’t” sneak in to my thoughts or even my conversations without my even realizing it. While I recognize that it would be impossible for me to completely revamp my entire vocabulary to leave out a few highly sensitive trigger words, I want to be more conscious of how I am using them in my daily interactions and communications.

I also had quick, unexpected coffee meeting with TM this morning, a pleasant surprise to bump into him at a local Starbucks. Since we both had a few minutes, we sat and had a nice chat and caught up. He is a regular blog reader, so he is well versed in my ups, downs, all arounds, and says I look great, my contentment with the way life is progressing shines through. In my village, heck, in my tribe, people do not tend to be beacons of fake sunshine and light. If they say something nice to me, they are being genuine and sincere, and I am quite sure (now) that it has been mildly to wildly aggravating to have me smile and say thank you automatically without actually fully believing them. But unless it is some sort of constructive or corrective type mandatory criticism (think hair on fire, or food stuck in teeth, or shirt on backwards), they would tend to not say anything at all if it was not positive and complimentary.

With TM, though, now we can just have a cup of coffee together without me going into analysis paralysis mode. We can chat about his vacation plans for summer, his significant other, M and our life, without it having big, loaded, therapy meaning. Off the clock we are just friends having coffee. But because of what he does and who he is to me professionally, and because this post was on my mind, I did ask him if he thought my negative vocabulary habit was detrimental to my continuing improvement. There was no desire or expectation that he would go all shrinky on me and suggest I need to make an appointment to discuss and explore this concern in greater detail; it was a simple, idle query and he treated it thoughtfully as such. The quality of my thoughts was the same pattern for a long time, and changing that pattern, breaking those habits takes time. But from what he sees and feels from our meeting this morning? I seem to be in a very good, happy, robust place with my life right now; the negative trigger words will fade with time.

I am reassured. But that does not mean that I do not recognize that I could maybe be more active in trying to reshape my less desirable habits.

Practice, as I have learned first in training and now sort of bumbling along in eating, is absolutely mandatory to create new habits and make them stick. By nature I am not much of a worrier, because it seems to be an energy-draining, life-sucking experience with zero upside. There are things that tend to engage my OCD-like characteristics, but worrying about things beyond my control is not really me. Because of that, I do not tend to really understand it. I understand anger, upset, unhappy, sad, even generally being a miserable, negative human being. I do not under the concept of going on a spin cycle of worry about problems and issues over which I have zero control and ability to impact. I used to think this is the way people express concern, but now I think worry is way beyond simple concern and reflective of something deeper and more troubling. Concern seems positive, healthy; worry seems negative, unhealthy for all involved.

So most definitely I am not worried about my pattern of thinking, but I am mildly concerned today. For the most part I recognize how far I have come, how much I have improved in this particular area. I simply do not want to backslide and lose gains I had to fight long and hard to achieve.

I am encouraged, though. I did better with my arch nemesis. I used higher weight ranges. I was finished with maximum sets and reps of my List of the day and was actually preparing to leave the gym when my watch alarm went off at 7 a.m. The feeling of being satisfied with what I am doing, how I am progressing in this realm is priceless to me. To walk out of the gym with a genuine smile on my face and to cheerfully wish the front desk guy a good day (as I do every morning) makes me feel good about being me.

When I relax my guard, when I do not stay in the moment and aware of what I am thinking and feeling, I leave a tiny crack open to negative girl and her whispers of doubt, anxiety, fear. The good news here is that that staying relaxed and in the moment is becoming more and more my normal state of being, and that crack is getting tinier and tinier as the days pass.

Last night I was reviewing my planned Lists for today and Saturday and realized there were a few exercises I did not clearly recall. In these situations I typically do a quick search to see pictures of what they are supposed to look like, which generally resets and refreshes my memory and I am all good without having to text J and ask the question. Only this time there were pictures that looked like nothing I had ever seen before, so without thinking it through I sent J a text with the question. Then I realized – I have other Lists that I can do instead, and we can have a real conversation about this new-ish items on Monday or Thursday. So I followed the question text with a “never mind” text. And I felt fine about it, rather than eaten up with guilt or remorse for bothering him.

And I love that. I love being confident enough to ask a simple question and then change my mind and realize I can wrangle with an arch nemesis List instead. Or do another go-round with walking lunges (except my lower half was kind of stiff this morning when I woke up and any and all thoughts of walking lunges were tabled until at least Saturday). I have lots of possibilities now, my library of exercises and Lists past and present makes finding something to do at the gym a simple task. As I have said and meant every time, so many Lists, so few practice days.

So for a light-hearted moment of thinking “never” I have a whole head full of other positive, powerful words and thoughts that drown out the negative trigger.

I find that words like “never” and “can’t” make me feel weak, helpless, hopeless. And I am so over and done with feeling that way with regard to the ways I live and conduct myself within my own life. When I was first dealing with childhood traumas, I wanted to reclaim some power over my life, because it was the only way I could learn to live and function like a real person in a normal world. So I donned my invisibility cloak and went on about my life. That worked for me for a really long time, until I was ready to try something new and advance upward.

Feeling powerful and in control of myself and my own future is different. Exciting and heady. Maybe this is what people mean when they say they “found themselves.” I have long known I was at least a little lost all the time, not as emotionally grounded or reactive within the span of normal human behavior. For the most part that has served me well, but whatever made me nervous or fearful quickly escalated into a big giant something that rendered me paralyzed and powerless. I do not want to relinquish that to any emotion or another person ever again. Hence my having my own little business to fall back upon if the lawyers turn into the stereotype of control freak lawyers and I have to suddenly quit. It seems really unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

For all that, I really hope to retain at least a base level sense of kindness toward others. When you have very little self-esteem and kinda/sorta/definitely hate yourself, all the kindness and self-care you wish you were deserving of is given away to others. Sometimes disportionately, sometimes to others with different issues who are cruel or unkind in return and describe it as honesty. I certainly do not want to morph into some variation of that sort of person. I am not going to be concerned about that happening, though. My focus at the moment is continuing my quest to exorcise more of negative girl’s influence from my day to day life. It is an ongoing battle, one I am winning in slow and steady fashion.

Happy Friday everyone!

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