Okay, My precious Vagabonds
Let us pause for a quick update and overview about how this whole Mindfulness Challenge is going.
I have suffered from anxiety for longer than I have known what anxiety is. I’ve been in and out of counselling since leaving an unhappy and marriage and the one thing that has helped me more than anything is mindfulness. For me that meant being present in the moment. When things would start to get overwhelming or I caught a panic attack before the waves of terror enveloped me completely, mindfulness would keep me grounded and out of the trap of living in the ‘what ifs’ that can cause abject terror. However, it wasn’t enough. I needed more to help me get a handle on living with this illness in order to live and love every moment of my wonderful life. I have a gorgeous family, a good job, wonderful friends and a new safe life. But this irritating anxiety issue keeps getting in the way of me immersing myself in the joy that comes with that all of the time.
As I’m sure you are well aware I challenged myself to take on a new way of thinking, a new approach to my everyday life. Each week I was to integrate a new principle from Dr Elisha Goldstein’s work in order to live a more mindful life. And with the exception of the third principle, show gratitude for good moments – and grace for bad ones, I have done this. Showing grace for the bad moments took a couple of weeks for me to get the hang of, I’ve not been so good with letting go or not performing well.
This week is my fifth week of the challenge and already I have tried to start living with the following principles:
- Approach everyday things with a sense of curiosity – and savour them.
- Forgive their mistakes – big or small.
- Show gratitude for good moments – and grace for bad ones.
- Practice compassion and nurture connections.
As I said, not everything has gone to plan. I still have panic attacks (I have not deluded myself in to thinking they would disappear any time soon) and sometimes I cry when I feel put on the spot or overwhelmed. I have stumbled in places and at times not felt ready to move on, but all in all I am feeling stronger and more carefree than I can remember feeling. Ever. The most powerful technique for me so far as been learning to hold my emotions outside myself. It has allowed me to negotiate the physical symptoms of the anxiety attacks while keeping the emotional ones at a safe distance.
Week 5 – Make peace with imperfection – inside and out.
I don’t think it is any secret that a lot of us struggle with positive body image. Or feelings of insecurity about things that we don’t do as well as we would like. Girls rip in to each other mercilessly from an early age, preferring to cause emotional scars over the physical ones boys are more prone to inflict upon each other. I can remember the first moment I knew I was fat. A girl named Christy made sure I was aware of just how large my butt was. This was back when I was skinny, but she made sure she asserted her dominance and crushed my shaky self esteem by reminding me how big my arse was on a regular basis. My whole first marriage I was aware that I wasn’t good enough because I would see my husband looking at (and… yeah lets not discuss that) women who were taller, blonder, skinnier etc than me in both magazines and in real life. I spent a lot of time trying to look like I was worthy of his attention, so much so that I became a personal trainer because of the amount of time I was working out.
I’m still insecure. But not so insecure I feel the need to work out 6 hours a day or vajazzle myself. (On another note – I’m not sure I want to live in a world where my Google Docs knows the word vajazzle.) And aside from one stumble where I almost developed an eating disorder earlier this year, it’s been a long time since I cared enough about the way other people perceived me for me to go out of my way to make them happy.
In all honesty the concept of making peace with imperfection inside and out feels closely related to week 2’s forgive their mistakes – big or small. Dealing with my imperfect moments without judging myself harshly was a big deal for me. And in learning to judge myself by the same standards that I judge others by I accidentally made a head start on this week’s part of the challenge. To be able to forgive my mistakes I had to see myself as fallible in the same way that others are, to reconcile the idea of holding myself to the same standards that I hold other people.
It did not feel like a large leap to go from forgiving my own mistakes to forgiving imperfections, to me they are one in the same. Imperfection is imperfection whether it is a character flaw, eyebrows that aren’t perfect or the inability to perform a task.
Over the last few years I have come to view the physical things about myself that don’t measure up to the pictures in the magazines as flaws in society rather than imperfections in myself. I don’t feel I need to rip all the hair out of my vagina and end up looking like a prepubescent girl to be attractive to the opposite sex. Ten year old girls aren’t sexy. I don’t feel that I should have to cover my face in makeup and create contours that don’t exist to be of value. Or that I should have to spend thousands of dollars per year on hair care to prove my worth. I’m not saying that no one should do that, I’m just saying it shouldn’t be expected of us. We should do it if we want to, because it is fun, because we enjoy it, not because someone who works for a magazine or advertising company tells people that we are not attractive or valuable to society if we do not look a certain way. None of the superficial things change who I am as a person. I am a good person. I am empathic, caring, and forgiving. I value people over money and value my education over the lack of a gap between my thighs.
What I learned
This former shift in focus together with the skills I learned in week 2 made the idea of reconciling imperfection quite an easy one. I had thought I was going to struggle with this greatly at the beginning of the challenge but the more I learn, the more natural the next idea seems to feel. Though I do recognise that it certainly doesn’t mean that I will never have issues, forget or stumble I don’t have a lot to report in about this week as it feels like the bulk of the work for this one was done long before. So I guess the thing I learned this week is that living mindfully day to day is like going to the gym. The more you exercise the fitter you get. And the more you make mindfulness a part of your everyday life, the more natural mindfulness becomes. The calmness that comes from living mindfully allows my mind to be less cluttered with anxiety and free to focus on integrating the next principle.
With only two more weeks left of this challenge I am going to set a reminder to check in with myself and with you about how I am going in three months to make sure I don’t need any fine tuning. This has been the most positive thing to happen to me in a very long time and I am not willing to let it go.
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The Brunch Fuelled Vagabond