Well here we are again my Darling Hobos,
For the second week running I have tried to integrate the third principle from Elisha Goldstein’s article ‘7 Things Mindful People Do Differently and How to Get Started’:
Show Gratitude for Good Moments – and Grace for Bad Ones.
As we discussed last week this is more than being grateful for the good moments and allowing yourself to have bad ones. This principle is about holding our emotions lightly. It is being able to experience the emotion without being controlled by it. And by Jove I think I’ve got it (sorry, I have no idea why I just had a My Fair Lady moment. I’ve never even seen it.)
My week started relatively nicely making it easier to get back on the band wagon. Public holiday – sweet! Off for brunch and a surprise catch up with good friends.
Tuesday back at work. I knew I had to move past the frustrations of last week and just decided to make my peace with the fact that no one was going to give me the knowledge I needed to do my job well. I would just teach myself what I needed to know. I also decided to be proud of myself for holding my own against people in positions of power over me last week. Although I didn’t get what I needed, I hadn’t backed down. My last workplace had pushed me to a breakdown when I disagreed with the decision makers about their lack of ethics and illegal practices, and many years ago I came out of a relationship where it was not advisable to speak my mind. It is a big deal for me to stand up for myself. Even though it was via email, I had done it. So I was able to make my peace with it all and move on.
I opened Outlook. There was an email asking me to have a phone conversation about my training issues on Thursday. My heart sank. My stomach knotted. Then I remembered that I needed to feel the emotion but not be taken over by it. I had to visualise holding the dread outside of myself to avoid the panic that was threatening to come over me. I visualised placing it aside and breathed in calming breaths (not claming breaths as I first typed, that would be very fishy advice….) and set up the conversation. Every time I remembered it I put the emotion aside and reminded myself that the worst that could happen was that they denied me the training I was asking for. And that had already happened.
Wednesday I left for work early. Not deliberately, I’m not a sadist. I forgot about the public holiday on Monday and thought I needed to be at work at my usual Tuesday starting time. I realised too late to abort and my first instinct was to feel like an idiot. I held that feeling lightly, placed it aside and decided to use the time to take myself to brunch at the Eat Street Cafe I had wanted to try since they opened – WORTH IT! Best screw up of the week.
Thursday I was nervous about the conversation but I had taken the time to write down my points before my supervisor called so I could be clear about what I wanted and why in the event of a thought train derailed by panic. By the end of the conversation we had shared a few laughs and I had presented my case as well as I could hope for. I hung up glad that I had this tool of holding my emotions lightly to work with. If this situation had arisen months ago I would have been consumed with dread about that conversation and made myself sick. It turned out there was absolutely nothing to be worried about at all. This called for celebratory nachos at Eat Street!
By Friday it was starting to feel natural to hold my emotions lightly and I no longer had to visualise the negative emotions being alongside me rather than consuming me. It was starting to happen without prompting. Which is good. Because after a joyous few nights making a mermaid outfit for my gorgeous friend to wear to con, Sunday was to bring on the mother of all panic attacks. The type of panic that makes you want to hide in your wardrobe and chant to drown out the screaming in your head until it has gone away.
My heart raced uncontrollably, I felt nauseated and dizzy, I was on the verge of tears and my flight instinct had kicked in – I needed to run and hide. But do you know what I didn’t do?
You’d be wrong if you guessed ‘panic’. Panic wasn’t optional, that was happening whether I liked it or not. I can’t stop that any more than I can stop the sickening tide of Kardashian that is washing over the world. But like the Kardashians, I can look the other way and not let it become the focus of my life. I couldn’t stop the physical symptoms of the attack, but I could recognise the emotional ones and attempt to hold them lightly, giving myself grace for the bad moment I was in.
What I Learned
I learned that with time, effort, grace and the determination to find success in failure even difficult life changes can be implemented. I learned that there is hope that these things that feel overwhelmingly difficult to do when I’m in the middle of a bad moment will eventually come so naturally I won’t need to think about them. And I learned that my mind is stronger than…my mind. I mean I can use reason to hold back the floodgates of panic and anxiety. Sure, the physical symptoms will spill over the top of the wall I build, but the emotional ones will be slowed to a trickle. I can scoop up a trickly and hold it lightly and eventually the crashing waves of panic will subside. They are still with me now, 29 hours later but with sleep and continual wall building they have been stemmed to their own trickle.
I’m actually starting to feel excited about the rest of this challenge. This has been the most chilled out week I have experienced in a long time. Deadlines, difficult conversations, strangers, mistakes, fear of judgement and life in general have been less exhausting to deal with than ever. I’ve always known that it was not likely that my anxiety would be cured no matter how many tools I learned. But for the first time I have actual, serious hope that I will be able to manage it and feel like my old, confident, ridiculous self again one day. These are baby steps, but one day I might learn to run again.
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The Brunch Fuelled Vagabond