Month: January 2018

Confronting Anxiety

I am learning how to be less afraid. This is not an easy task since anxiety is so omnipresent in my life that I often don’t recognize I’m responding to it. This year I’m trying to take daily small steps to confront the anxiety and see it for what it is. To help with that effort, I’ve got a page in my journal where I write down small things I do to confront my anxiety. Here are some examples from the last three days:

1/2/18: I did not go back to speak with my son’s service coordinator after my son left. It would only have served to vent my fears, not provide the coordinator with additional useful info. The coordinator and my son will build their own relationship. I need to stay out as much as possible. If the coordinator has questions, he’ll ask me. But I really wanted to go back.

1/3/18: I donated a hardwood dresser even though the likely replacement will be IKEA pressboard. I don’t need to be the keeper of historical dressers. Particularly not partially broken ones from 1980 that I picked up at a garage sale. It took an hour to convince my brain I had not made a terrible and life altering mistake.

1/4/18: I sat with the anxiety of not knowing how my son is doing at his school. And I didn’t contact him or his service provider to resolve it.

1/5/18: I could hear Howard and my daughter’s voices upstairs, but not the words. Tones told me that Howard was in lecture mode. I did not go and check to make sure that Howard wasn’t making daughter upset. She’s an adult. They have a great relationship. If he was annoying her, that’s between them. No point in me showing up to referee. It is not my job to make sure all conflicts are prevented or resolved, nor my job to ensure that my loved ones always have good relationships.

1/5/18: I started the day with a vague feeling that I wanted to cry or curl in a ball. There is no reason for it. My son is not doing fine at his new school. He called and told me all the ways he is struggling, but he is struggling in exactly the ways he needs to struggle in order to grow. If I try to step in to make him feel better, I will only prevent that growth. Instead, I took hold of my own brain and focused on something that distracted me from want-to-cry, until after the feeling faded.

These are only a few examples. Many more things made me slightly or significantly anxious during each day. Keeping the list is helping me notice how pervasive anxiety is in my life. Noticing the anxiety and naming it is a step toward not letting it win.

First Day of Routine

The house feels empty and today felt long. I can feel the absence of my 20 year old son. It happens dozens of times all day. At the grocery store when I don’t buy an item which we stocked because he likes it. In the house when the floor creaks and it isn’t because of his footsteps. When I do laundry, because I discovered a load of his clothes still in the dryer which I’ll need to deliver to him later in the week. I have lots of feelings about him living elsewhere, but I try to land on enthusiasm for the things he’s going to get to do.

We remembered how to do the morning off-to-school routine. Some years I have to struggle to remember how it goes, but this year it all fell right back into place. And college girl, who is finishing her last semester from home, fit right in to the patterns. Then during the day she undertook several household projects that would not have been completed today if she weren’t here. Howard’s office is being rearranged so it can function as studio space for two artists instead of just one. They’re both quite excited about it.

I had more trouble picking up business tasks. I had to take time looking at all of the work tasks and re-establishing urgency and priority for each one. So many things got shuffled to the side during the holiday shipping rush, holiday, and then getting my son settled at school. But I made a start on getting things done. I’ll do more tomorrow. Slowly but surely I’ll knock tasks off the list.

All things considered, this feels like the true first day of the New Year. It was the first day when we began to establish patterns that we’ll try to hold onto. I’m reluctant to draw any conclusions about the coming year as a whole based on results from today, but today was good.

Construction Zone Expected for 2018

I began 2017 with trepidation, as I said in my New Year Ahead post on January 1st. In some ways I met the goal of that post: to grow my heart. In other ways I could have done better. I do know that I reach December of 2017 feeling worn out and battered, which was discouraging. Politics and the world at large felt like impending doom all year, but on the home front everyone was doing better. We weren’t “all better” but everyone was growing which was a nice improvement over the shrinking several of my children did for a couple of years. Unfortunately growth is always a thing of fits, starts, and backward steps. We hit a harder patch in November/ December, which had me counting down toward the day when 2017 was over. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve was a gift that granted me a measure of calm, clarity, and perspective.

2017 is complete. The beautiful things about it are safe in treasured memory that can’t be damaged by anything in times to come. The things that were hard about it, I can mine for lessons, then let go. Which leaves me looking forward.

I have things to build this year. Most of my Christmas gifts were power tools and related paraphernalia. We have some home renovation that needs to be done. I’ll be doing some of it myself. These physical renovations are an external manifestation of emotional and family dynamic renovations. We have changed who we are, and we are still changing, it is time to alter our living spaces to match. And changing our living spaces assists us in the work of re-defining who we are and how we see our lives.

Yesterday I wrote a post about the end of 2017 and someone asked “I thought this year had been better for you.” It was and it wasn’t. But most of the reasons it wasn’t have to do with my anxieties and my emotional reactions (or over reactions) to events that occur. Additionally, I think I let the weariness of November/ December color the year too much. After all, it was a year that included all the brightness and joy that was my trip to Europe. And I finally delivered all the Planet Mercenary packages, I have to remind myself the magnitude of that success, because my brain is more inclined to focus on how afraid I was during every step. Afraid I’d do things wrong. Afraid the shipping funds would run out. Afraid that it wouldn’t get done in time. And then there was all the anxiety related to national events… Viewing 2017 through that haze of anxiety colors everything.

I make my life harder than it has to be, because of the quantity of energy I spend on being afraid of (and preparing for) things that haven’t happened and might never happen.

Of all the things in my life that need to be fixed, that is the largest one. I want to build a life with less anxiety in it. To do that I have to change habits of thinking. I have to change my physical spaces. I have to get rid of the detritus of past selves which aren’t letting me clearly see what is needful in my life right now. Attempting to reduce my anxiety is a project that will spawn a hundred projects, some new, some already ongoing. I’ve cleared away the memories contained in the blog books. I’m now clearing the happier moments of those years by creating matching family photo books. (When I’m stressed, I write words to sort it. The happy moments are more likely to get recorded in photographs. There are hundreds of tiny, happy moments even in the hardest of years.) I’ve already been sorting and discarding old stored things from my house.

I’m not going to try to do a massive grand renovation. I’m going to do a hundred small construction projects. I’m not going to “hit the ground running” or plan to go fast. I’m going to make small, consistent, persistent changes. I’m going to change my surroundings to remind me of those changes and to reinforce them. I will spend this year building: physically, creatively, socially, and in my community. It is time to roll up sleeves and get to work.