In the last three years, I’ve experienced tremendous change. Divorce. A special needs child finally properly diagnosed after 15 years of struggle. I lost my home. Money. A few friends. My job. At one point, I felt like I lost me. Other times, I lost hope that things could ever be right again. I made mistakes. I tried to make amends. There are still days where I feel like Charlie Brown when the football gets taken away at the last minute and I fall flat on my face.
Some days I still think the universe is punking me. 🙂
Anyone who has ever been stuck in a bad relationship – whether it’s a marriage, a job, dysfunctional family, toxic friends – you know how crappy it feels. There are a million articles out there about how to identify these situations, seven signs of “fill in the blank.” I know. I read everything I can get my hands on. 🙂 And you can get lost in the why. Why did this happen to me? Why did ‘fill in the name” do this to me? Why did my brother die? Why does my child have a disability? Why am I stuck? Why am I here?
This is an important part of the recovery process, don’t get me wrong. But often, we can stuck there, trying to process the why. We can stop there, filling in answers that don’t really help us move forward differently. I believe the only way to move forward and make real, lasting changes in your life starts with asking different questions.
Hi, my name is Christy and I am a recovering control freak. I belong to a secret society of people for which there are no meet up groups.
You know who you are.
You joke about being a control freak as you are wiping down someone else’s counter top or their child’s grubby, sticky-peanut butter/apple-juice stained face. You’re the guy who re-packs the trunk before vacation to make sure everything ‘fits.’ You iron everything. even things that are supposed to look crinkly (does anyone even own an iron anymore?). You put 20 chicken nuggets on the pan spaced exactly one-half inch apart so that they look like a regimented army of nuggets ready to march into the oven. When called out, you get defensive and claim you just want them to cook evenly. You bitch that no one helps you with the laundry but then bitterly complain because “no one knows how to fold towels anymore” as you refold them all the right way.
There is nothing wrong with order and organization, don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer in process and structure. The world is chaotic enough and there is nothing worse than coming home to a chaotic life. And there is a certain comfort in routine in our chaotic lives. But take it too far and your life becomes out of balance, more about control than living. And I am the first one to let loose and I say I love spontaneity – but it’s usually few and far between the day-to-day grind. Reality smacked me in the face when I was moving a few years back and the movers teased me about the stacks and stacks of organizing bins, baskets, bowls, Tupperware boxes and racks that I had lined neatly up in rows for them to load into the truck. Ha, funny guys. So what if I organized my spices (in alpha order), my clothes in the closet by color, season.
I have a confession to make: I’ve never taken bikes seriously. They were always more of a vehicle for getting around when I didn’t feel like driving, didn’t have a car, or just wanted to take a leisurely day off from running and take in the scenery. I rode my bike to the gym to go running on the treadmill.
Then a friend convinced me to try a ‘fun’ bike club. I thought, why not? After years of being a runner, I am ready for a new sport. After much coaxing and cajoling (“It’s for fun! You’ll be fine…we all ride 50, 100 miles on other rides, but THIS club is for fun!! Come on, just try it! “), I showed up one recent Monday night in my yoga pants and tank top, my water bottles in my son’s drawstring pack on my back. I was on my ancient mountain bike with the broken gears that I had used since my kids were…very little (they are teens now).
There’s nothing worse than watching someone you love struggle with a difficult situation. You feel helpless – nothing you say or do feels right, everything you say and do just seems to make it worse, and you rack your brain trying to figure out what to DO. But nothing works. And you desperately want to DO something. You want to make it go away. You want to fix it. But you can’t.
Like most people this time of year, I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to balance real life and the expectations of the holidays. There is a lot of pressure to be merry and bright amidst the realities of work, family, financial struggles, medical challenges, caregiving, you name it. Real life doesn’t go away just because we put up a cheerful Christmas tree, get the wreath hung just right, and mail out the festive cards. But I realized something this holiday season that has changed everything for me and it was just too good not to share.
We can give ourselves the gift of knowing that we have the power of choice.
I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately with people about selfishness vs. selflessness. When I asked one friend why we surround ourselves with selfish people, she said, “Because the planet might implode if you and I act like that. Or not.” When I told another friend about changes I was making in my life, she said, “Hmm. That sounds…selfish.” Another friend in a bad situation tells me that she has come to a solution: she will just be completely selfless and then everyone will be happy.
Here’s what counseling has taught me: a person can only be completely selfless for so long before they implode and go to the dark (selfish) side. And do something they will regret because they are so NOT selfish people at heart. The problem is, you don’t realize the price you pay when you give up your own needs and wants for someone else’s. So what to do?
Someone I used to trust once told me that you have to know what you want. I spent a year trying to figure that out and always came up against a brick wall. I couldn’t figure out why. Until now.
How can you know what you want if you don’t know who you are?
It’s not just about what you want. That is starting in the wrong place.