It’s not all bells and whistles
I used to feel like I was that little metal ball in a pinball machine being hit in different directions by outside forces. I would try and stay in the game and maybe get some points on the board while reacting to everyone and everything around me. I had vague ideas of where I wanted to go, and it was always towards some kind of peace and understanding but I didn’t even know what that felt like, or how to get there. So, I would look outside myself, at other people to show me. I would look at what other people had, maybe material things, physical beauty, or an amazing job, and I would try and copy them. I thought this would bring me to the place I craved. Working towards this place would start off well. I would work out more, buy some new clothes, or put in extra hours to get ahead at work. I would feel good as I got praise from those around me on losing a few pounds or getting a promotion but then I would lose steam and burn out. I would gain back those few pounds or become apathetic at work when no one was looking. I was floating. I was waiting for someone to tell me what direction to go next. I was the pinball spinning around, going in holes and being popped out, with lights flashing and bells ringing. Sometimes I would score big, sometimes I would go in the wrong hole and the game would be over. But either way I was depending on outside forces in order for me to navigate my own life. And I didn’t even realize it. I didn’t even realize that this is why I was so lost, confused and depressed. I blamed all of these forces for making my life miserable. It was their fault for pushing me around, and not telling me exactly where to go so that I could find my peace and connection. Needless to say I would end up exhausted and depressed and throw in the towel on everything, including myself. This is when I would spend time alone writing in my journal and trying to ‘figure out’ everything around me; Why were people acting the way they were acting? Why was my boss so mean? My friend not calling me? Why is the city I live in so boring? Why? If these things would change I could be calm, and happy and find the peace I craved. After journalling and withdrawing for a while I would slowly start to get my energy back. Then I would get back out there recharged and say to myself, ‘Ok, here I go, I am going to be strong this time!’ But inevitability I would end up back at the same place of withdrawing with my journal and writing about why I was so confused and depressed. I saw this pattern. But what I didn’t see is that it was of my own creation. I didn’t see that I was creating all of this by letting outside forces dictate how I should feel and what I should want. And most importantly letting outside forces dictate how I felt about myself. I was so reliant on praise and attention from others that I put their opinion above my own. I even put the opinions of people I didn’t really like above my own. My moods were whipsawed around depending on others moods and I never knew where my day was headed. The answer was so easy to anyone observing me; Just take control of my own life! Why was that so hard to do? It was hard because I had no idea what I wanted. I knew I had vague ideas of wanting peace and connection but I didn’t even really know what that meant. So, first I had to get to know myself again. The first step in getting to know me was that I had to stop reacting to everything, and letting these things spin me out of control. This was hard! It was a long engrained habit for me to jump into everyone’s drama and moods and try and ‘help’. But, what I realized is that it was just that, a habit. And habits can be broken and changed. It was nothing that I couldn’t fix myself with some work on my part. The work was hard though. I felt a strange stillness that was almost deathlike not being involved in some sort of drama. I felt detached and alone. But I stayed with the feeling so I could be quiet with myself and really listen to what my own body and mind were trying to tell me. I could tell I had something to say but I didn’t know what it was yet. It was a very small incoherent voice, but it was there. I started asking myself questions like, What do I want to do today? or How do I feel? I realized I hadn’t been asking myself even the most basic questions, like, am I hungry? Tired? Sad? I had neglected my most basic needs to chase something outside of myself in search of peace. I was being pushed along and letting everyone else decide if I was happy or not. I have always had the ability to commit to something, my marriage, my job, my friends but I had never used this same skill and committed to me. At first I felt selfish putting myself first. I felt selfish claiming a room back in my house and calling it mine, I felt selfish buying a computer and spending the whole weekend on my writing, I felt selfish taking long baths and drinking tea alone. When I first started doing all of this I would have a little panic in the back of my head that would tell me to hurry up with all of this self care and get back to being available. Available for what? I wasn’t even sure, it was just a feeling. But before I can be ‘available’ for anybody, I have to be available for myself. And it isn’t selfish, it is necessary. I am not floating anymore. I am not the pinball anymore. In listening to myself and committing to myself I am starting to find the peace I have craved for so long. And it doesn’t feel like the big score on the board, the lights flashing, or bells sounding. It feels like the purring of a cat or an engine humming along quietly and smoothly. It feels like me.