Is it Possible to Walk Downstream Now & for the Rest of My Life?

Via on Jan 3, 2013

Source: spiritualityhealth.com via Lynn on Pinterest

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

~ Lao Tzu

At the New Year’s yoga class, I set an intention to walk downstream. The question is, can I do it?

I can’t pinpoint the exact day I stopped going with the flow—whether it was a gradual resistance or sudden white knuckled grip around every corner of my life—but I don’t like it.

In fact, I hate it. It makes me feel anxious.

Quite possibly, my anxiety was behind the construction of my on-high-alert-in-control anti-flow mode. Yet, while I can remember always feeling somewhat anxious, I don’t recollect the incessant motive to be in control.

I do everything to assuade anxiety—running, yoga, rest, breathing, reading about how-to reduce anxiety, eating the right foods. Yet anxiety can imprison me—literally and figuratively—granting the occasional leave. Timing of this “leave” is unpredictable and seems to have nothing to do with anything, but I’m grateful for it (Thank you for the leave, anxiety! I’ll use it wisely. xoxo!).

I’m less likely to extricate myself from the house when I’m under duress, although getting the hell outta here would probably be another way to calm the old nerves and gain fresh different perspective not involving cats. But—hello chicken and egg metaphor—since I prefer the illusion of control, getting out of the house could prove another way to lose control and mess up my “routine,” hence creating anxiety.

I’m not agoraphobic (or am I?).

A bit of backstory: I was not home-schooled, I went away to college. I got my own place in Chicago, was always out and about and experienced life with and without roommates. I used to get my exercise at a workout club. I had a career (albeit unintentional) that required an hour commute each way, journeying across the country every week and a half, making presentations, interacting all day with actual live people. My husband and I were social.

Then we became parents. I was a stay-at-home mom with the occasional freelance work for a while—very connected with other moms in the neighborhood. Then I started my own biz, got too busy, my hubby had some serious medical issues and unemployment, we had some marital issues, reduced our partying to one or two drinks, turned down invites, gradually stopped receiving invites, don’t get out much due to catching up on unemployment and my failed business. Yada yada yada.

The fact that I can work from home is both a luxury and an albatross. While I interact with people all day, it’s online and feels solitary.

I think I’m just lazy when it comes to preparing to get out to work in a cafe or the library where I’d see and be seen by actual, breathing human beings. It would involve a) working out earlier, b) packing a lunch and water and stuff, c) wearing non-lounge wear and d) making my hair look presentable. Hell with all that nonsense! (Oh, such suburban problems I have. And to think millions of women and children have to walk miles every day just to get water.) But it would be good for me. So…

It’s quite the process. Have I worn you out yet? Bear with me here.

When the wind blows too hard, don’t try to resist. Just let go with the flow and see where life takes you.
~ Unknown

In my dreams, I walk downstream. I go with the flow. I laugh easily and don’t worry about whether (or get mad if) my husband allows my son to get the large corn-syrup laden soda at the movie theater. Well, no, I don’t even walk downstream in my dreams. My dreams are vivid and involve a) getting chased, b) trying to find a working bathroom, and/or c) elevators. Can a gal catch a break?

Source: google.com via Lynn on Pinterest

I beat myself up day after day until finally my husband asks whether I thought about taking a chill pill (Xanax). I have a prescription, after all. But I forget I have it. And, quite honestly, I don’t want to take more medication. I’m already on a low-ish dose of daily anxiety/depression meds. Why in the world would I want to take more? I eat organic, whole grain foods and exercise. I want to be natural, dammit!

The continual battle with self wears me out. And to what end? What am I trying to prove? Mental illness is in my genes. I have two grandfathers I never had the pleasure of meeting: One committed suicide, the other died of alcoholism (and was also physically abusive). Total bummer, right?

Thankfully, anxiety is not my daily life. But control sort of is. Control. Control. Control. And did I mention, I must be in control? It’s really a bad state of mind and I wouldn’t recommend it. But I digress.

What to do about this anxiety bull-shit?

Acceptance would be helpful. Instead of putting up a fight, why not just accept those feelings whether they’re thoughts in my head or the physical want-to-jump-out-of-my-skin variety? Breathe into them. Stop. Stare out a window or at one of the cats. Step out into the chill of the air and let it seep into my bones. Have a cup of hot tea. Call a friend. Play the piano. Get out. Watch some comedy.

Please hold while I work this out. Is it really going with the flow, though, if I’m accepting and embracing my control freakish self—which would entail being said control freak—instead of trying to ward off the control part of me?

Maybe it would be better to go back to my intention to walk downstream.

What does this “walk downstream” mean exactly?

If there’s a sudden change of plans, breathe. Sit and breathe.

If flying on an airplane and I don’t get the window seat where I can alert the pilot post-haste should the engine catch fire? (Fortunately, I never go anywhere, so this isn’t a common problem right now.) Breathe. Pay extra close attention to the flight attendants emergency instructions. Feel under the seat to make sure the floatation device is there. Take a Xanax.

If I feel the need to get out of the house for a change of scenery, just go! Don’t care about what I look like. Nobody else does. And if they do care and judge because I’m missing a full application of make-up and my hair has that freshly slept on look? F-em. Get out. Smile. Be. Take it all in. Live. (I do go to yoga class and grocery shop at least once a week, but the grocery shopping doesn’t really count.)

Take small steps, shuffle.

Go with the heart, not the head.

Accept the bad days.

Remember to be grateful for the little things.

 

There are times I experience flow, as if life’s carrying me along. And I’m not resisting. Man, how I savor those times. Sometimes they’re just fleeting moments; other times hours or days.

Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.
~ Eckhart Tolle

What if it’s all just hormones?

I will report back in a month to let you know how the downstream action is coming along.

In the meantime, what are your tactics for walking downstream? I’d love to hear about them!

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About Lynn Hasselberger

Lynn Hasselberger lives in Chicagoland with her son, husband and two cats. She loves sunrises, running, yoga, chocolate, and NYR, and has a voracious appetite for comedy. In her spare time, she blogs at myEARTH360.com and LynnHasselberger.com. A "Green Diva" and social media addict, you'll most likely find Lynn on twitter (@LynnHasselbrgr & @myEARTH360) and facebook. She hopes to make the world a better place, have more fun, re-develop her math skills and overcome her fear of public speaking. Like her writing? Subscribe to her posts.

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30 Responses to “Is it Possible to Walk Downstream Now & for the Rest of My Life?”

  1. slsimms says:

    This is very moving Lynn! I think we all struggle with similiar needs to control…knowing we need to let go.

    I'm trying to employ this to my employment and romantic life. I keep telling myself, "what you don't have you don't need it now." This is the extent of my appreciation of Bono.

  2. Harold Gardner says:

    I had a friend reply when I asked a similar question, "It's possible, but it ain't likely!" That was good for a laugh but also had a bit of insight. I think some folks just go against the grain a bit. Most of the prophets, philosophers, scientists, and great leaders felt this unsettlednes; so relax…we are in good company!

  3. Caitlin Grace says:

    I think we are a very large club who quietly go aobut our days hiding in plain sight. I come from a family of anxiousness and worrying. It breaks my heart that my youngest (he's 20) also suffers from it and at times has found it debilitating. I am thnkful that he at least talks about it, with me, his friends,his father and step father. I think the more people like yourself put it all out there the more we will come to realise that actually we are all feeling the same thing, we are normal. and Harold is right part of it is a questing, earning for something deeper and more meaningful in our lives than mere living.

    • I bet you're right, Caitlin. People deal with it in different ways—probably one of the biggest reasons the alcohol industry is so profitable! I'm very open about it with my son, who is 12, and feel being open and having humor about it is the best way to go. I've hinted at my anxiety here and there in my writing, but it felt good to just put it out there in more detail and, even better, to get feedback like yours. To know this can potentially help someone else! Cheers!

  4. Brigitte says:

    Lynn, WOW. This resonates so much with me on so many levels.

    I could write a book in response to your post, but one of the things that most resonated with me was the AGORAPHOBIC comment.

    My business partner and I, who are both work from home mostly, entrepreneurs often self diagnose as agoraphobes. We seriously have some amazing stuff going on in the world, amazing invites, travel, glamour.. and literally… WE NEVER WANT TO GO… Never want to leave the house… The irony? When we are at these parties… we are literally the Belles of the Ball (he's a guy though so he's not a belle, but you know what I mean)… no one would guess we would prefer not to leave the house most of the time…

    I find it very interesting you feel the same way. Something to explore further.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Great insight and perspective. It's messages like yours that make us feel connected in this digital virtual world. It gives us comfort to know we're not alone and not special with these feelings of anxiety, angst and maybe or maybe not agoraphobia :)

    • Thanks for taking the time to read & comment, Brigitte. Interesting about your and your partner. I received a similar message from someone who has the opportunity to attend some pretty cool events in phenomenal locations—one in Switzerland—but she'd rather just stay home (and often does).

      You'll be happy to know I'm working from the library today (with my son across from me). I've had a simple list (5 things) of weekly to-dos that I keep with me and that never change. One is to work outside of my house for one day. Another is to go on a walk with a friend (the walk happens most weeks, the working outside my home happens rarely). I run outside (alone). Work-in-progress.

      Cheers!

  5. Yes, it is possible to go with the flow and walk downstream… just be mindful of your surroundings and forces at play – at times villains and/or idiots abuse those tendencies in humans and direct the masses for their own benefit, sadly…

  6. Leeanncain says:

    Yes! I loved this and all of the comments. I also work from home and agree that it is both a blessing and a curse. There are days where I feel like I am "under the desk", just making it through the day. When I venture out for meetings and events, I always feel validated. but the anticipation and mental preparation is daunting. Glad to know I am not alone. Maybe I just need to start eating carbs again……………

  7. Terri says:

    Lynn, this is an amazing and courageous piece of writing. I also work from home and could identify with so much of what you said even though I have never articulated it. There is much to think about here…thank you for sharing this.

  8. Kathy Treat says:

    More honest, beautiful, heartfelt reflections Lynn…thank you for connecting us all!

  9. Anne Samit Anne says:

    Honest and brave. Thank you.

  10. Lynn Bonelli says:

    I’ve had very similar talks with a friend (and wrote about it on my blog) that I felt I might be suffering from agorophobia. Even things I WANT to do often seem like a chore. Sometimes I find an excuse to avoid going out ( I distract myself…oh, I need to do laundry or rake the leaves) but lately I just try to challenge myself to do one thing…even if it scares me. It could be as simple as going for a bike ride in a populated area. Other times I’ve been able totake huge steps…like a group trip to Death Valley for 4 days on a tour bus. I didn’t know a soul but I also couldn’t just leave. I was miserible for the first day and questined my sanity but by day 2 I had all new friends and an awakening. It was quite magical.

    • Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Lynn! I'm not sure agoraphobia is the problem. It have more to do with falling into a habit (so much easier/more convenient to stay home, justified by working out of the house) and trying to create a new one. This week, I'm going to take one day to work at the cafe. And the next week the same I have someone who has agreed to make me accountable–meet her for coffee that day and then, boom, into work. And every week. As they say, it takes 30 days to create a habit. So once I've done that, I'll add another day. Bravo to you for heading to Death Valley without knowing anyone. I'd like to do something similar, like head to a yoga retreat. But need to wait until that's financially possible. Meantime, I can go to yoga one extra day a week. Taking the steps slowly and feeling good afterward will reinforce the habits. That's what I hope, anyway. Cheers to you! P.S. Maybe you'd like to write about your own experience for elephant?

  11. Bernadette says:

    Dreams about elevators – me too! Been plagued by those for over ten years now. Always check in with myself when I'm riding an elevator to see if I feel afraid and the answer is no. Why why why, the elevator dreams?

    • I suppose they're symbolic and probably depend on whether you're heading up or down in the elevator. I've had the elevator crashing through the roof dream more than once. Other times, the elevator is falling, out of control and sometimes at an angle. I found this podcast exploring the meaning of elevator dreams that you might find interesting: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/30/the-well

      Thanks for the comment, Bernadette. Cheers!

  12. Ellen R says:

    Grocery shopping counts! I leave the house, I drive to the store and notice the weather and any changes along the route, I may help someone load groceries in their car and take their cart back in to use, I touch the produce, I chat with the dairy dude who shows dogs with my old neighbor, I laugh with the cashier – I have 4 favorites and one of them is always there – I bag my own groceries so the bagger gets to unload my cart, giving him/her something different to do, I check in with all these people – how's the new puppies? how's your cats? how's the newest grandbaby? how's your husband doing with chemo? how are you doing with chemo? – which gets me out of my head and into the world a little. Grocery shopping can be exhausting and uplifting and mundane and important – it counts.

    • Yes, I suppose you're right, Ellen! I'm guessing the people at your store look forward to your visits. P.S. I usually bag my own, too. I don't like to just stand around and watch other people work. :)

  13. sallyearthsky says:

    aged 57
    and pathologically fear-ridden since conception
    I discovered the 'five tibetan rites' a few months ago
    and have been practicing them regularly ever since …

    this practice has transformed my life on the many levels
    physical, mental, emotional and social …

    it targets the hormonal and nervous systems most effectively
    and is enabling me to live a much more courageous and joyfull life

    ATLAST !

    there are many videos on utube for those who may be interested ………

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  15. brianna says:

    Hi Lynn,
    I love your piece! So powerful to read and so easy to relate to. Thanks for finding the words and sharing. Maybe we should collaborate and share tips about working from home?! haha.

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