Earlier this month I talked about my “Year of Taking Care of Me.” It might seem like an odd New Year Challenge. I mean who doesn’t know how to take care of yourself? The idea came about as the end of 2016 came and I felt worn out. Like I lost myself. As if some part of me had gone missing. Yes, I have a wonderful life, full for fantastic people but the hectic schedule of work, kids and all over busyness had been creeping in on me a bit more each year. More of the things I did for me, the things I needed to do for me, had eroded with time. By the end of 2016 I felt it. The lack of care I had taken in myself finally had a physical and mental effect on me.
Although I still had the desire to strive for some monthly accomplishment I did not have the will to put into another year of goal setting. Instead I decided to turn inward and see what my head, heart and body was asking of me. What I needed to get back to feeling like me again. To recover from the pace of life I had been setting for myself. So here we go on to month one….
Why do I do that?: Look at the habits you have created, are they good? bad? How did they develop? Which ones I would like to change? Which ones have I changed unknowingly? We all know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. What do we do over and over again?
Habits. In the past when I think of habits it was usually in terms of what I eat. Trying to get more veggies, less sugar. This time I took a different approach. I tried to be aware of the feelings I experienced when I engaged in certain habits. Some of the times I surprised myself, some of the them I was really disappointed in myself. But all in all I learned a lot more about what some of my habits have been doing to me.
Habit # 1 The News
I will be the first to admit that everyone is probably feeling a heightened sense of emotion with the election of our new president. Good or bad we all seem to be having more extreme emotions about President Trump and his actions. In our house my husband watches the news…a lot. For me having been in the journalism field I have always had an interest in seeing how certain events are covered. However, I found that recently it was not so much the topics that I was watching for, it was how the topics are covered. It seems as if all around on every channel there is only peoples opinion. No one is reporting facts anymore. The constant arguing by pundits and analysis became the background noise of my house.
Unbeknownst to me this was having a profound effect on how I was interacting with people. I was leaving the house in the morning more agitated, engaging in arguments about things I wasn’t even really passionate about and worst of all I was judging everyone around me. After one particularly bad episode where I felt really ashamed of my behavior, I decided to stop watching the news all together. Tired of the division, the fact less fighting, the hostility and fear. I shut it off. This caused me to reflect on what I was really angry about.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the topics or the people making the news that generated my anger. Rather it was the constant barrage of opinions instead of fact based emotionless reporting. This and the changes I had seen in a field I loved made me angry and saddened. This had nothing to do with politics or the election at all. It was a sense of loss I felt in the journalism community. This realization prompted me to write “We have no Watchdog.” So for now until I can reconcile this loss I will keep the news off.
Habit #2: Social Media
In the past social media was like a life line. It was a connection to people from childhood. It was an open door to make new friends and have new experiences. However since the end of last year something has changed. No so much in social media but really in me. It was as if someone took the rose colored glasses off and I saw all the hucksters selling “downloadable products” filled with nothingness.
I came to recognized the only people making money on social media were the people selling how to make money on social media. It started to seem like a racketed and could no longer watch new found friends be sucked into it as I was. I’m not talking about MLM’s mind you those have actual products of value and I am still in support of all those on social media making a living at them. It’s the “information products” I no longer see the value in.
Need to get away from the negativity
Also, the negativity was really effecting me. So many people with so many opinions about everyone and everything. Everyone has become a Facebook expert. Why does someone who knows nothing about police work get to play Facebook judge in a police involved shooting. Why do mothers from all over get to judge each others actions? We all make mistakes everyday in raising our kids. Does it really make us feel better about ourselves to put down others? Lastly, why do we hang on the actions and opinions of celebrities as if they have some secret stash of knowledge that is more adept then our own?
Facebook was suppose to be about connection but it has become about judgement of others. I fell pray to it as well, engaging in Facebook fights if someone had an opposing view then mine. But who am I to judge a name and face on a screen. I know nothing about these people and they no nothing of me. I wonder how much time I wasted arguing with someone who wasn’t even a real person, just a made up account?
Get back to people not profiles
As much as I loved connecting with the people I found on Periscope, I now feel social media has changed for the worse and it was changing me. I gave no thought to believing what I read as if it was a well-researched, fact based news story instead of made-up click bait. In addition, without hearing the person’s tone, and seeing a facial impression it was to easy to misinterpreted the meaning behind a typed phrase.
The lack of face to face interaction has taken its toll on social media I think, making it less enjoyable and more hostile. An emoji, however cute can not take the place of a real hug. So I took the step of deleting the app from my phone. I will admit I still go on to check the blogs page and respond to messages but I try not to scroll anymore. No everyone needs or wants to know my unsolicited opinion on everything and I really don’t need or want to know everyone else’s.
Habit #3: Mindlessness vs. Productivity
The final habit I decided to change this month was deeply ingrained in me. Maybe it is because I was born in New York. It could be because I don’t know how to relax. Possibly it is because I have always been in a perpetual state of rush. Whatever the reason I have rarely allowed myself to do anything mindless. Everything has to have a purpose. It has to have reason that is moving me forward somehow. If I was watching TV it had to be something I would learn from or it is a family bonding activity. It couldn’t be mindless downtime. Time is to precious to waste. Right?
Now I understand doing something mindless is not a waste. A lifetime of this “habit” is part of what has caused my burnout. I remember my husband playing a video game after coming home from work saying he just needed to decompress.
It’s ok to just wander
There is a purpose in the mindless. It helps to let your mind rest, let your thoughts wander. Maybe I never wanted to let my mind wander because then I would have to sort out thoughts and feelings I pushed away. If you are always in productive mode you never give yourself the time to think and process hurt feelings, sadness and sorrow. Went I was quiet and inactive, I realize I never actually grieved when my father died. I let it out a little but then life went on and there were things to be done so I pushed it aside.
In more recent days, doing mindless things like sitting in silence on my drive to work, playing a mindless video game and coloring has been a new experience for me. By letting my mind wander freely into uncharted territory, hurts I thought I pushed away have resurfaced, new questions have arisen and I realized I miss my Dad sometimes. The thing is this time I am letting myself walk thru it, instead of running away in busyness.
I know I have only scratched the surface in terms of habits but this is not a forced challenge with a strict path to goals. It is free flowing and organic. What I have shared is what has arisen in my since I have been taking the time to pay attention. To listen and to actually be still. Are there any habit you have been doing that have prevented you from fully experiencing joy. Have you discovered habits that were masking what really bothers you? If you are doing this along with me would love to hear your discoveries.