I have a bad habit when it comes to my anxiety. When I start to feel out of control, I imagine my perfect day – what is the routine, what am I wearing, who am I with, where do I spend this perfect day? I have labeled this “perfect day” exercise a form of Goal Setting, so it’s okay that I spend my very limited time fantasizing about something so unrealistic and so unattainable. Just now, I felt extraordinarily out of control again, so I thought I would plan my perfect day again. “Then I can make a plan to make today more like this perfect day.” Thank God, and this blog, I was able to pattern-interrupt and write this instead.
This morning, I woke up and put on a full face of make-up. I dressed in work clothes I would have worn if we weren’t in a pandemic working from home. I sipped my coffee slowly through a straw because I didn’t want to mess up my lipstick. I sat down at my computer to start my work day and had a panic attack. I have become well-versed in these now and can spot them before they become all-consuming. I was able to go through my panic attack checklist:
- You are safe. You are not in danger even if your brain gives you danger signals
- What room are you in? Name five objects in this room right now
- Breathe in to the count of four. Breathe out to the count of six
- Allow the in breath to come in naturally. Focus, instead, on feeling the out breath
- Do a body scan. How are you sitting? What parts of you are touching the floor? A chair?
- Once you feel that you’ve grounded yourself, go get yourself a glass of water
We all create these coping techniques for ourselves for every day things – most of the time not as extreme as panic attacks.
What if I were to take this “be in this moment” practice and apply it to everyday? Instead of grounding myself in the right now only when I’ve lost sight and feel panic settle in. Not comparing myself to what I want to have done or what I will be able to do or what the rest of my day or week will look like. Instead, look at the right now. What is my biggest priority? How to focus on just that one thing right now? What does my current moment look like?
Right now, with Ellie in the infant stage of her development, I want to spend as much of my time with her possible. I want to make faces at her, speak to her in overexaggerated vowels, and see her smile. I want to see her mimic my faces and stick out her tongue when I do it. I love holding up her favorite Elliefant toy and ask her to follow it with her eyes.
I cannot do that all day long because I also want to keep a roof over Ellie’s head and keep her in formula and diapers. Therefore, I also need to balance spending every waking second with Ellie, just marveling at her, with doing the job I get paid for. I work for a reason, and it’s for my family. I have very little room for ambition in my current mental state. Instead, I just need to stay employed. Take that sweet, sweet paycheck and use it to keep my family healthy and happy.
But balancing work and Ellie is not enough.
I also need to do something for myself and my marriage … and my friends and extended family? What do I owe to others and when do I owe it? A very dear friend has just suffered a stroke, and it took my until last weekend to go visit. He’s been recovering for almost 12 weeks, and I was only able to see him last weekend.
Everything, right now, is a return on my investment calculation. Do I bother to shower today? Will that be the little thing I do for myself to feel human? Or do I use that time to call my mother and tell her about her granddaughter? Will the little thing I do today be to clean my kitchen after dinner or do a load of laundry? And what kind of mommy guilt will I feel if I spend the afternoon folding laundry while Ellie is awake and cooing in her chair?
So if I’m taking care of my house to improve my environment score for my own mental health, then I’m not spending the time with Ellie who will be different tomorrow than she was today.
There is really no such thing as balance. It’s a myth. There is not “present moment / wonderful moment” because every moment is a trade off between what is now and what needs to be.
Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to this post. If you started reading this because you can identify and you are looking for the solution? Then I have failed you, Reader.
Instead, all I can do is go over the responses I received from the I Have Lied to You post and really wrestle with what those responses are trying to tell me. Each of the responders have been where I am today, and each of the responses has something different to remind me. I’ll synthesize these responses for you in our next post and maybe we – you and I – can learn together.