Wednesday, November 14, 2018

I realized, as I sat in the second meeting in a week with the topic of “fear,” that a big piece of my “ism” is the “what if?” syndrome – what if this, that, or the other thing goes wrong, and not just wrong, but terribly wrong? I understand on an intellectual level that this kind of thinking is a product of anxiety, of trying to predict the future that may have made sense as a young child, but doesn’t serve me now. I’ve gotten a lot better with changing the channel, with saying to myself, “we don’t do that anymore,” but can still get quite a story going in my mind.

Another aspect of my “ism” is the “it will get better when...”  Things will calm down after vacation, the holidays, that project, the summer months, etc, etc, etc. This, again, is a form of anxiety and anticipation, an attempt to live in the future. Maybe, when I’m doing my 3rd Step in the morning, I can ask to be given the discipline to stay in today. Someone once said that their new year’s resolution was to only have conversations with people who were actually in the room. I can resolve to only think about what is going on today, here and now. Wish me luck.

I am a planner and an organizer, and lately I don’t feel so organized. It is frustrating to try to fit my desired life into after-work hours, when all I often want to do is eat dinner and watch Jeopardy. Everything that needs doing does get done, but I can feel the internal urge for more – more time, more space, more energy for the want to’s vs the have to’s.

I am a planner and an organizer. I like having things to look forward to (ahh – the other end of the “what if?” spectrum). I like having things (trips, parties, coffee dates) to look forward to, and it just hit me that planning takes some of the mystery out of the future. I know what I’m doing on April 10, 2019. I know what I’m doing next Tuesday. Hmmm. The question for me, in long term recovery, is how to accept and appreciate my innate characteristics while being mindful of where they veer into “instincts gone awry” land.

In the first meeting on fear I attended last week in Taos, NM, a member shared that fear is a necessary emotion, and can keep us safe. It is having a right-relationship to fear that is the challenge – which of my fears are real and within my control, and which are fantasy or totally out of my power to influence?  I have some fears around financial security in retirement. I have some impact in this department, and can continue/ increase my efforts at saving. I have some fears for my brother’s health, with a surgery pending, and have absolutely no control over his innards. What I can control is my response. I can flail about, or turn it over to Higher Power and show up as needed.  What is my choice to be?

I just ordered a fancy new 2019 planner that has a section for dreams and goals. My drive and motivation, as related to my career, has definitely ebbed over time, but I do feel that internal push – for what, I haven’t quite yet identified. Other than looking forward to not going to work every day, what are my dreams and goals? I've earned my degrees, self-published my novel, run 10 marathons - what's next, as I enter these later years?  The urge for space to allow those dreams and goals to surface feels more urgent as the time to stop working draws near, and, one day at a time, I am where I am.  

Part of craving space is seasonal, a drawing inward after an active summer. I continue to adore November,  especially now as the temperatures and leaves drop. There is a poignancy to bare branches against the sky, evoking both exquisite sorrow and intense gratitude. This time of year I can hold both, gently and with reverence.

Some people’s "what if" shows up as “what if I had done/said something differently, while others are future directed, and I suppose, some aren't troubled by this at all. What type of "what if" are you, and if not that, is there another twist of thinking that takes you off center? How does Step 11 (November) bring you back to a place of calm?

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