It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that I spend too much time in my head, chasing random thoughts rather than being in the present moment. The thought chasing leads to what feels like time speeding up and going way too fast for my liking. Since becoming a parent I have struggled with time. At least I think it is only since becoming a parent, I can’t remember life before that! I feel like I’ve been walking around slightly hunched over with time and responsibility on my back slowing me down, inhibiting my ability to move, and leaving me feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I also have the sense of spinning, as if there is a hamster wheel loaded with responsibility going around and around in my head. But, here is the cold, hard truth…the only reason that hamster wheel keeps spinning is because I am the power supply for it. I am the only one to blame for the way that I feel about my circumstances. And this isn’t meant to lame blame and induce guilt. This is me shining a light on and working out what is happening.
It isn’t our circumstances that cause us to feel lousy. If you put two people in the same situation they won’t necessarily have the same reaction to it. We find ourselves in a circumstance and we start telling ourselves a story about it, this is normal human behavior. What can get us in to trouble is the content of our beliefs or thoughts. If our thoughts about a situation are negative it will lead to feeling negative. Circumstances lead to thoughts and thoughts cause feelings.
In my case I started to notice that I was feeling annoyed on the weekends. Weird, right? What I discovered were some deeply buried beliefs. What you might call my personal religion because I bought in to it so fervently. I believed that I bulk of the responsibility for my home and kids was mine. My husband and I never sat down and made a contract that said Jennifer will be the sole carrier of the health, welfare, and even happiness of our two daughters. I just internalized that over time. And, I’m a good girl by nature, I follow rules and I want things done perfectly. What a recipe for disaster. The reason I was feeling annoyed on the weekends was because I believed that I needed to spend my time on the family responsibilities. My needs and wants didn’t really register with me. The personal religion was so deep that I no longer even knew what I wanted to do. What would it take for me to feel happy and not spend my weekends wallowing in irritation? Catching those thoughts is step one. Martha Beck has an expression that goes something like the mind is a two-bit whore and will follow any thought. I think my mind was entrenched in following thought after about what I was responsible for or had to do. After catching the thoughts I needed to examine them. This can be done with a coach, a trusted friend who will be honest about beliefs or through Byron Katie’s inquiry method (www.thework.com).
Step 2 in my quest to get out of the irritation ditch is to get out of my head. Eastern cultures have professed the benefits of slowing down the mind and getting in to the body for generations. I notice when I take the time to follow my breath, to ground, and/or to meditate everything literally slows down. That is when the spinning stops. My intention is to listen to what my body is trying to tell me and tune in to my own messages. Asking myself “what do I want to do this moment, hour, day…” and asking that of my family as well. There will always be responsibilities, but there are ways of making them more enjoyable and they might not seem so all consuming if they are balanced with fun.
Finally, step 3 consists of really internalizing a new belief that self-care is not selfish. True happiness comes in small packages that might be missed while spinning on the hamster wheel. Imagine how much energy it takes to run that wheel continuously and putting that energy instead into more positive thoughts. To get there, self-care needs to be on the top of our list. And I’m not talking about getting a pedicure (although that never hurts!). Listening to our bodies and treating them like the goddesses that they are with good food, exercise, slowing down, tuning in, and scheduling in fun on a regular basis. Keep asking what do I want to do, it isn’t selfish, it is getting to know your needs and meeting them. Maybe what I want to do is the laundry because it feels so good when it is all folded and put away. Or perhaps I want to eat lunch in the park in the sun. The point is taking the time to tune in and listen.
It is going to be fun following the joy. Who is with me?