Continuing from where I left off previously...
This summer I felt a big shift happen. I can't completely explain it other than to say that I let go of a lot. The constant low level anxiety abated and I started feeling emotional space come back into my life for the first time in a long time. I let go of a lot of "shoulds" and even experimented with the idea of doing what I wanted to do first rather than what I thought I should be doing and the results were actually quite remarkable.
It has been interesting to be back home this past month. I think that being away for the summer helped me let go of things because there were less demands on my time...fewer activities and less pressure to "get things done." After all it was summer, a time when it is ok to relax a bit. So the trick has been to figure out how to trust that my shift over the summer will continue and that I won't be pulled back into old ways of thinking.
This past Saturday, I woke up and found that the low level of anxiety had returned for the first time in awhile. My first reaction was wondering why (as I could not really pinpoint a "reason" for my unease). My next reaction was disappointment (I have not missed it in the least). Then came fear (oh no, it is starting again, I'm not "strong" enough to maintain my peace of mind in the "real world" away from the beach).
But then my next reaction was one of acceptance. I did not know why I was feeling what I was feeling, but I also recognized that "it was what it was" and that there really was little I could do to "get myself out of it." I was definitely frustrated because I had hoped to get several things accomplished this weekend and I could not find the motivation or the focus to be "productive." I decided to be gentle with myself about this as well. After all, what else could I do? The expectation that I would never feel anxious again, while completely understandable, was not a realistic one. I decided to trust the process and just deal with the day the best I could.
That night, the boys met up with their homeschool friends for all night laser tag and I had a chance to hang out with some of the other moms (until 1 am!) I came home after dropping the boys off at their Dad's house and did not feel like sleeping, so I ended up completely indulging my romantic side by watching the BBC's Robin Hood series until 4 am (it is one of my guilty pleasures). Part of me wondered what the heck I was doing (I need my sleep! I have things that I need to get done!) but I slept in on Sunday morning until about 10 am and found that the anxiety was gone and I was looking forward to the day. Once again, choosing what I wanted to do (and ignoring the worries about being "irresponsible") helped put things back into balance again.
I also found that I had better clarity about what was causing the anxiety in the first place. I have a tendency to view the weekends that the boys are with Jeff as my "catch up" days...a chance to do all the things that I feel as if I am "behind in." And therein lies the problem (and the reason for the return of the anxiety). It plays directly into the belief that there is some magical place where I am "all caught up." Which plays into the belief that my sense of worth comes from being perfect and not being "behind." What I find amusing is that it is not just "work" (homeschooling or my volunteer work) that can cause me to feel "behind," but things that I do for myself (blogging, writing on homeschool email lists, even taking "me time" can become a "should" in my crazy way of thinking).
In this case, even though there was nothing pressing that needed to be done this weekend (and maybe because of that...if there is nothing pressing then that means that I have to decide what I should work on and I might choose the "wrong" thing) I was stressed because I might "waste" the time that I had.
On Sunday I felt like I had things back in perspective. Things get done when they get done. Nothing on my plate is life or death. I don't have to be perfect and my sense of value does not have to come from what I accomplish. It is ok to do what I want to do (even if that means staying up to 4 am to watch a series I have watched many times before for completely indulgent reasons).
Because what I learned this summer is that contrary to the worry that if I choose things based on what I want to do, I won't get the things done that I "have" to do, I have found that the more I fill myself up with things that I want to do and enjoy doing, the more emotional space I have, which makes it easier to get the "have to's" done.
The truth is that I am a very responsible, albeit imperfect, person. I don't have to keep such a tight rein on myself in the hopes of keeping myself from "screwing up." I can trust myself and trust the process. In the past 45 years of my life, what has needed to get done has gotten done. And most of the stress I have put on myself while doing so was completely unnecessary.
I am feeling much more centered this week. While I am sure that this will not continue forever (what ever does?), I am enjoying it while it does. I am finding that the more I pay attention, the more I see these examples of how trusting in the process results in much less anxiety on my part. The less I try to control the outcome, the more settled I feel. Somewhat of a paradox, of course. Accepting that I am powerless over many things leads to a feeling of relief and ultimately more peace of mind which is powerful indeed.