Life, controlled

I love lists. To-do lists, short-term, long-term, lists of accomplishments, lists that track data or statistics… oh I love them and I know I’m not the only one. Most of us who are like this don’t necessarily talk too much about it though, we know we’re the minority and it’s almost a closet passion. I’ve met a few kindred spirits though and learned that there are incredibly similar reasons behind our love of lists. Our gathering and tracking (and yes, sometimes hoarding) of information and data makes us feel secure and grounded – safe. They make a person feel like they can clearly see, assess, measure – control – everything in our reach and even those things beyond our current reach. Goals and dreams for the future even factor into the never-ending compilation of lists and spreadsheets. So does looking back and tracking where we’ve come from in so many areas of life. From work performance and tasks to personal activity, health and fitness tracking and goals to budgets, it can all be sorted and tracked and analyzed – almost obsessively so. “Archive” is a word that gives people like me the warm fuzzies – but we’ll almost never admit that, except to another like-minded spreadsheet-loving freak.  I am not exaggerating when I say I have budgets archived from at least 10 years ago and I can tell you exactly how much I spent in a coffee shop in October 2003 ($41.85). Want to know what the postal code was for the apartment that I lived in for a few months in 1990? I have that too. What was my body fat percentage in March 2013, just one second while I pull that up. This goes beyond the usual grocery list on the fridge type of behaviour that is what most people limit themselves to – and I know that. Being in control and task oriented is a good thing, even necessary depending on how you live your life. Yet what I’m looking at here is something other than what would be considered “normal”. An easy analogy: having a drink with friends when you get together is all good; secretly drinking alone every night until you pass out is not healthy behaviour. Same idea but without the alcohol….

So why is it that some people are so bound by lists and the need to collect and track information? Any behaviour that is habitual must serve a need to be continued. The question then is how is it serving a need – and more importantly – if you want to change it – what is that need?

Some introspection this past week has me pondering the reasons behind it all. It’s not the first time that I’ve thought “what would happen if I just stopped?” Would the world stop spinning if I chose to “delete forever” from my drive? Would my ability to function within my safety net of knowing everything be affected? It’s these thoughts that drive me to peruse the “why”. It’s actually something I contemplate every time someone in my life points out that these lists and compilations aren’t always the healthiest of behaviour patterns for me.

Breaking it down, It comes down to two very separate and distinct motivators. From the people who I’ve encountered, and my own experience, these reasons exist with very blurred lines of separation and aren’t mutually exclusive.

The first is control. The control that a person has over their lives, or the illusion of control, serves a massive need to feel secure and stable. It is personal safety 101 and it is one of our most basic, primal needs that we search to have met. If you grow up experiencing life with trauma, abuse, neglect, instability or a feeling of not being secure – this is where it can manifest from. From a sense of not being able to control even the most basic of your needs like personal safety or stability in your environment we learn coping mechanisms. Some people put up walls so thick and high that their own internal space becomes the only space they need or want to feel that security. They dissociate, find a secure place inside of themselves and hunker down for the long haul, sometimes for life. Others turn outwards, looking to obsessively control any aspect that they can. For these people, when they start to have control over some areas of their lives, they exert it stringently and with an iron fist. Welcome to homes that are never cluttered or untidy, bookshelves arranged by colour or author or book size, closets that are micro-organized. Lives that are lived scheduled to the minute and smartphones that are linked to every calendar imaginable for cross referencing. This type of behaviour is something that can be a healthy characteristic to possess. It’s when it creeps into needing to control other people’s actions (or reactions) that it can get messy and toxic.  In teen years, or even younger, this control shows up as eating disorders and other forms of self harm. You can’t control if someone is abusing you but you sure as hell can decide to not eat or to secretly hurt yourself with blades. You exert dominance over the one thing you can; your body.

Which brings me to the next option for “why”. Closely linked but different.

You grow up, move out and get away from the external influences that you sought to wrestle control from. Now you are competent and in control and perfection in action… Unless you aren’t. Instead of your mother or father or society inflicting the hurt or telling you that you aren’t good enough or you are a failure, you learn to (outwardly at least) shake that off and be strong and independent! Yet the firmly entrenched and expected feeling of being not good enough or “wrong” somehow is – sadly – a comfortable way to feel. As dysfunctional as that sounds, it’s what is the most normal and it’s been the most consistent feeling in your life for so long that it actually feels better when you feel badly. Messed up, but not uncommon unfortunately. So, what better way to punish or hurt yourself (and create that familiar, if unhealthy, feeling) than by being the one to set up the parameters for how you measure up? This is an easy one to hide from even yourself though. It very often masquerades as “good” and “healthy” to the person doing it, even motivational. These types of behaviours are routinely even praised and encouraged by others. You feel accomplished and organized and you are the envy of your friends who can never find the tax papers they need or who run out of socks because they let their laundry pile up in the corners of their cluttered rooms. You give yourself a big pat on the back for having it all so together.

Looking deeper though, you’ll see the patterns of reactionary behaviour that go with this type of behaviour and tracking and list making. You know the exhaustion that comes from always needing to be perfect and the need to have everything around you perfect. You know that holding onto those spreadsheets of weekly or monthly goals not quite met sends you into an emotional spin. You know that every time you analyze what you consider a failure to meet unachievable goals (that you set for yourself…see the loop here?) you feel badly. Yet you still do it. You have become the abuser and the abused, and in some twisted way, you know this and it’s better than it was because now at least, you are in control of it.  You are the only one who can stop the cycle and be, ironically, in control of ending the cycle that eats away at your self-image and self-love. But how about instead of you being the one to control the hurt, you chose to stop it instead?

Whether it’s about control or self-harm, unhealthy actions need to be changed. It may sound simplistic and it is. Simple, but not easy. Being aware of the “why” is sometimes the first stop on the road to making changes. From there, you’re in control, in a good way.

A Year of Yes

A year of saying yes starts today.

It was 25 years ago today that my life changed forever (happy birthday today to my oldest!) and it’s as good a day as any for me to start another step on my path. Seems kind of fitting somehow actually.

A concept that was introduced to me by my partner and something that has taken hold in my musings.

To say yes instead of no or maybe. Not something as sweeping as saying yes to everything that comes my way; I’m wanting a shake up in how I live but I’m not completely off my rocker, thank you very much.

Essentially how I see it is simple. To make a conscious decision to not stay stuck in patterns of behaviour that have become unhealthy and limiting to myself. The only way to change is to change. It really is that simple.

It’s not saying yes to every option I am presented with or with every opportunity that comes my way. What my year of yes will be is taking the chances that I would normally knee jerk into a “no”. It’s not letting my fears or reservations make my decisions for me like I have been. It’s being conscious of choosing to nudge myself outside of the comfortable areas that I have come to hibernate so well within these past few years. It’s not automatically shutting down an opportunity that excites me because I’m nervous or uncertain. It’s feeling all that and deciding to do it anyways. It’s trying something when I’m not sure if I’ll succeed or not. It’s seeing risks and taking them.

It’s more than saying yes to invitations, it’s also saying yes to what I ask of myself. It’s not limiting myself and my growth anymore due to fears or insecurities. It’s believing in myself again and my potential and letting myself rise to the bar that has no set height except for where I set it…. and I’m tired of keeping it set as low as I have. It’s telling myself to shut up when I say I can’t or shouldn’t. It’s saying yes, you can and you should, and you will.
Is it scary? Yes. Look, I said it… that wasn’t too bad 🙂

I need

I need

to say yes, instead of no, or another time, or maybe

to play, with laughter and giddiness and passion

to dance, to sway and bump and grind or stomp. dance.

to hurt. to feel the rawness and scream into it and dare it to try to hurt me even more.

to conquer and feel my own power.

to fly and soar and feel the freedom that I have.

to cry. and scream and rage and claw my way out.

to laugh. until it hurts. until my sides burn with stitches from it all and until I have tears in my eyes

to run. as fast and as hard as I can. without holding myself back or pacing myself

to feel. all of it. everything. even the feelings that I can’t name.

to not be afraid

to be afraid and do it all anyways

to love and not give a fuck if I’m risking being hurt

to reach and connect and touch people. because it terrifies me.

to remember my love for that. to feel that again.

to allow myself to be touched and seen. because it terrifies me.

to bleed. literally and figuratively. to feel that essence.

to consume

to be consumed

to know myself

to not hide from myself

to allow my shell to be pierced. to be exposed.

to love

to say yes to all of this.

to own all of this

to share and not give a fuck who thinks what

 

most of all

I need to admit that I need.

Propelled and Paralyzed

Seeking

  1. to go in search or quest of: to seek the truth.
    2. to try to find or discover by searching or questioning: to seek the solution to a problem.
    3. to try to obtain.
    4. to try or attempt.
    5. to go to: to seek a place to rest.
    6. to ask for; request:to seek advice.

 

Trying to even come up with a word for how I’m feeling the past while was hard. Seeking seems to fit though.

I find myself feeling lost in a sense. Roles and actions that used to be a part of how I identified “me” are no more. They have changed and with that change has come a sense of being adrift. A sense of feeling unknown in a way but at the same time, acutely aware that the core of me is very much clear and there. A dichotomy that leaves me feeling propelled and paralyzed.

Instead of lamenting what has been lost or what has changed, I am trying to look simply at what is now and what I want for the future. Looking back can only do so much for guidance moving forward and the truth is that what’s past is past; what’s gone is gone. Done, now what?

I came across a show the other day that had this thought in it: Our “issues” are gifts. While that is hard for me to swallow on a few “issues”, I get the sentiment and actually do embrace it. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without the experiences I have had to get to this point. Things I have lived through and and with (and still do) have shaped the facets of who I am. Definitively, without a question, they are what made me, me. So where does that leave me in my seeking and what exactly is it I am seeking?

Simply, freedom. Release. The ability to move forward and to express what is deeply and authentically, me. I’m the only one who can give myself that and I am, slowly, recognizing that. It is sad and exciting to realize that the only thing standing between myself and how I want to live and things I want to do and achieve is me. What stops me from doing all of those things that I say “I know, I know” when my partner points out actions? It’s me. Just like it is for all of us.

We vent and express and talk about changes we want to make or things we want to do and if we are lucky enough to have someone who listens – and offers ideas or directions – we sit and nod and say yes, I know, I will, I should, I am going to…. We even say it to ourselves when it’s just our own voice that tells us what we already know we have to do. So why don’t we? Why don’t I? There’s the question; and only I know the answer. Just like it is for all of us. Only I can find what I’m seeking. Only I can make happen what I want. That thought is what has propelled and paralyzed me for so long it feels like. Not anymore though.

Life has a way of flitting by. Each day is so filled and busy and so just “life” that it goes by almost without notice. There has come an awareness lately for me that is raw and hard to live with. The awareness that time is not on my side. The years have slid by so fast and I have found myself grieving a life that I wanted to live that I haven’t. Experiences that have always been “some day”. The freedom to live true to who I am finally realized but it feels so late and like so much of my life has been lived small and that so much has been unrealized. The weight of what I haven’t accomplished or expressed or tried or experienced is so much more of a burden to bear than what I have – and that’s not the way I want it to be. So the time to change that is now. Now, because I am done being paralyzed. I’m done being held in place by the sheer feeling of being suffocated by regret and fear of “what if”. Propelled, not paralyzed is how it needs to be.

 

Sliding Doors andMoments

There is a movie that I saw a few years ago called “Sliding Doors”. The premise of the movie is that we sometimes have, in our lives, a singular moment that can alter our path. In the case of the movie, the main character is trying to make it past a set of sliding doors. In that one moment, her entire path alters. The movie splits basically and in one scenario, she makes it past the doors and in the other, she gets stopped on the other side. That one second makes all the difference to how the next hour, the next day and the next path unfolds for her.

Fascinating.

 

I have been having a lot of thoughts lately on this concept. The fact that a single event or choice that a person makes can have such a profound impact on the direction of a life. It’s a thought that I find both powerful and paralyzing. On the one hand, I believe that very rarely does one single choice have that much of an impact but it does happen. On the other hand, I have been in, and seen, those moments that are exactly that. Transformational.

 

Whether or not I have a muffin or yogurt for breakfast probably won’t matter much in the long run. Or it could be the catalyst for a conversation in the break room that lights a fire in my mind for a new direction. Or not.

Whether I choose to take a course that intrigues me could set me on a path that affects me 5 years down the road. Or not.

I could pick up a book that grabs my attention but that is not something I would normally read and it could trigger a domino effect of thought to action to change. Or it could bore me and do nothing.

I could decide to stop procrastinating and actually try to make happen the passions that I keep saying I will indulge and it could fuel in me a change for the better. Or it could do nothing.

 

The most amazing thing about sliding door moments is that most often, we have no idea of the importance of those moments when they are happening. Sometimes we have the ability to look back and pinpoint, but usually not even that is on our radar.

 

In that movie, that character has no idea that the moment that alters her life is anything other than every other second in that day – seemingly insignificant. I’m starting to see that life is like that.

 

A tapestry of seconds, moments, choices…

They are defining, significant, profound, irrelevant, meaningless and futile all at once…and we almost never know which they are in any given moment.

Beauty of it all

Talking today with someone who is in the process of getting her permanent resident card. She’s lived in Canada since she was an infant and she’s turning 50 this month and this is her birthday present to herself. It’s something that she has wanted to do for many years but just never gotten around to. She is almost giddy with how excited she is. She said today to me “do you know what it’s like to finally be doing something that you’ve wanted to for so long? Something you didn’t even know how badly you wanted it until you started the change?” She grinned and answered her own question when she saw my face. Yes, I know. Smiles. She grinned in return and said “Of course you do”. She’s right. She’s seen me these past few years.

 

It’s an amazing feeling to know that you are doing something that you want, that you need, to do. Even more amazing when it sinks in how you didn’t know how much it was needed. It took me a long time to embrace and be open about who I am and how I need to live my life to be able to be happy. Starting with barely admitting it to myself, little bit by little bit, it’s good to be where I am now. Comfortable now. Open. Finally feeling the sense of freedom that comes with living my truth and not hiding it, even from myself – especially from myself.

 

No more shoulds or expectations based on norms that just never fit or felt right anyways. It took a lot of years for me to shine that light inside of myself and see what was there to find all along. Even more years to bring it all forward and accept myself and give myself the nudge to show other people who I am once I finally stopped feeling “wrong”.

 

To expose myself to not only myself but to others. To reach and connect… to finally start to draw closer instead of holding at arms length. Still a struggle but moving forward. To have people in my life who now help make up the beauty of my life. The beauty that is having people that know me. People that see me. The beauty that is having people in my life, some who I love intimately and some I am just getting to know more deeply, who live with the same authenticity and openness. The beauty of being able to see that I’m blessed more than I can see sometimes. 

 

it’s about f*&#ing time

I’m tired of living limited and inhibited. Sick of letting fear control me and stop me from doing what I want. Fed up with not making the choices that I want to make.

 

I have let fear dictate my life is how it feels. From those first moments of feeling like I was somehow broken and wrong because of what made me feel, what made me yearn and hunger for touch. Wrong. Scared and sure that I couldn’t have the life I wanted if I choose what I really wanted in a partner. So I made the choice to go the path of “normal”, resting assured that I would stop having those feelings, stop wanting what wouldn’t get me the family and children that I knew I wanted. Women who loved women didn’t have that. Not in my world. So I married men. I tried not to let on that I was drawn to, thirsted for, desired, the wives of my husband’s friends. Years down the road and a couple of divorces and some life lessons and that choice is now comfortably made – the way it should have been 30 years ago. A lesson hard learned.

 

Fears holding me back all of my life. Fear of failure, fear of what if I make the wrong decisions. Voices in my mind from so many years warning me that I’m not smart enough, strong enough or knowledgeable about myself enough to ever make the right choice. All at the same time wearing a mask that I was all those things. Inside though, not at all. The truth is though that I am those things. I’ve found that truth about 10 years ago. Briefly. I started to not doubt that I DO know myself, that I do know what I want, what will be the right choice. A sideways bump the last few years as I’ve fought back through grief and learned to live with that has started to come around again.

 

Starting to fight out of the fog that grief brought down. The fog that made me second guess myself.

 

Seeing now the far reaching impact that loss and grief can wreak. Seeing that some parts of my life need a shake up. I miss my confidence – even in my disastrous attempts at something new – there were times of laughter and “oh well, that was a fun try!” and I didn’t have the grounded sense of fear that permeates me now. I feel it and it makes me angry and sad and frustrated.

 

Now with a partner that I have none of the old fears with. I know, without a doubt, that she loves me – not a version of me. I know that I have a relationship with her that supports me, the same way I support her. The freedom that comes with that is something I had no idea existed to be honest. Feels good, and right, and the way it should be.

 

The rest of the work is for me to stop listening to the voices in my head that tell me the fears. The ones that tell me to not dance like I want, swear like I do (ladies don’t use language like THAT), to not wear that piece of clothing that makes me feel awesome. to not do those things that I want to, but am scared to do. Time for me to silence that. Time for me to stop being the harshest judge and critic and censor on myself.

 

It’s about fucking time.