Monday, August 8, 2011

Dancing in the Rain

I've always been the kind of person who looks to the future, and not necessarily in a good way. It's not because I'm exceptionally optimistic or goal-oriented. It's because I'm always trying to "get through" the current stage of my life and anticipating the fantasy of the next stage. For some reason, I always seem to think that some magical change will take place when I reach the next phase of my life, and I'll escape the constant turmoil of day to day living.

I've had an "I just need to get through this" attitude for as long as I can remember. When I was in grad school, I thought my life would calm down when I got a job. Then I got a job and I thought life would calm down when I finished planning my wedding. Then I got married, and then I got a new job, and then I got pregnant, and life just kept getting busier with every step. When Reese was born and I decided to stay home, I remember thinking, "Finally! Finally, life will calm down. Finally, I will have the quiet, easy-going lifestyle I always wanted." Well, as you can see, the chaos followed me again, and I eventually found myself giving up on this phase of life too and thinking, "maybe life will calm down when my kids are in school."

After each phase of my life passes, I get to the new stage and I have just as many demands and just as much stress. Then I look back at the last stage and I'm disappointed that I missed out on making the most of it because I was too busy anticipating its end. I can't allow myself to do the same thing with this phase. My time with Reese is too precious for me to watch it pass by in a chaotic whirlwind. And the only way to prevent that from happening was to figure out why I just can't seem to escape the chaos.  

Lately I've been doing a lot of reflecting on this topic and I think I finally figured it out. It sounds simple now, but I just never realized it before - I have been searching for an external solution to an internal problem. I kept thinking that life would calm down when my circumstances changed; once I finally got to a place where I had fewer daily demands (as if life ever suddenly starts demanding less of us). It took the threat of missing out on the full experience of life with my baby to get me to admit that the problem has nothing to do with my life circumstances and everything to do with how I approach them. This whole time, I should have been thinking, "life will calm down when I calm down."  I kept trying to wait for a change in my circumstances instead of trying to change myself.

All I have to do now is admit that most of my stress is self-inflicted. I put so much unnecessary pressure on myself to do as much as possible every day, and I do it because I'm afraid of life passing me by. How ironic that I am actually causing the thing I fear! It is true that life is busy - there's no getting around it. There's always work to be done, bills to pay, gifts to buy, decisions to make, meals to cook - it never ends. Add in all the unnecessary tasks on my list and the strict timeline I force on myself, and no wonder I'm always just "getting through" life. Well, I don't want to just "get through" life. I'm done waiting for the never-ending storm to pass. It's time to start dancing in the rain.

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