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.
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?
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
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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