Every day now feels so intricate and so special. Like I wasn’t meant to have them and they are a gift, a Christmas bonus that I wasn’t meant to receive. I don’t know why. It could be the near constant rate of change and uncertainty that forced me to see past achievement and look solely at experience. I was driving myself trying to achieve when I was on a cruise ship, then at someone’s house in Australia unable to work, then in Portland with no car, Portland with a car, back in cruise ship for vacation, then unexpectedly not vacation but working and playing catch up…. I’m not complaining. At some point during a deep stress and panic attack when I had shingles and my immune system was shutting down, I realized that I was stressing out and seeing as a burden something that people work their whole lives to experience- travel, change, adventure. And not only that but for the time being my needs were covered. I had spent over a decade in survival mode, scrounging for money and jobs but even though I haven’t needed to for quite a while I still lived like that. It was a habit, a fear, a very intense fear that was dictating my stress levels.
All of a sudden I see things differently. Everything from here on out is a bonus. I have experienced great love, world travel and success in my chosen field. Which has all been great but contrary to the beliefs I was acting under they didn’t bring peace, contentment and self esteem. In fact I completely overlooked them thinking I had to work hard and struggle to achieve….something that I’ve never been able to solidly define. If I can’t nail down what it is I have to achieve to be worthwhile then it must not be the absolute thing to work towards. All that stress for…what?
So after that hit me in the head my days have felt different. Not that I’m lazy now. I’m ever ambitious. But it’s different. I appreciate simpler things. I can sit still a little longer. And when the demons of self destruction come calling I smile and say to them “my intention is to feel good right now. So, what’s your endgame?” Because I think, and I’m not psychologist, but I’ve spent a lot of time in my own mind and body, that I/am addicted to guilt. I felt very guilty and undeserving and scared as a child and those neural pathways are well worn. So I found ways to feel that way as often as possible because it was familiar. While it didn’t essentially bring “peace” and contentmeant to me, it allowed me to feel something close- familiarity. It was my default mode and I needed a hit all the time or I was restless and even more self destructive. But there’s been a shift in my awareness. I can feel myself lining up situations sometimes to give me a hit of guilt and self flagellation and I actively combat it. Sitting in “non-guilt” has been uncomfortable to say the least but like anything it gets easier as I a pathway starts to form. The pathway I want is joy and contentment. And why shouldn’t those be my default? I know joyful people and I fully believe it is a habit that creates the ability to feel chronic joy. At some point stimulus invoked joy and like a rat pushing a button for a treat we know how to give ourselves that hit of joy. That’s the button I choose now. And when I feel my fingers reaching for the guilt button I distract myself with something shiny until I have it in me to only press the joy button. Literally I distract myself. I have an Arsenal now of behavioral modifications for myself (I’m so wild, don’t you wanna hang out with me?). That Arsenal includes a few songs that I have found to be just fun and a mantra of “I intend to feel good”. Sometime last year I just realized that often, emotions are a product of habit just like fitness is. I’ve always had such a commitment to the habit of working out and being active. It’s easy for me to translate into other areas of my life. Now I see opportunity for adventure and joy and it feels like a huge gift after all those years.