Okay, as I sit here with two hours spread out before me to write whatever I want with no interruptions in my new writing space I am excited. However, I have just found the first flaw in my "room of my own". While the children and my husband respect it as being off-limits unless they are invited in, Peanut (you remember, the cat who defeated the automatic litterbox) has just arrived to "do his business". Yes, people, I am just stupid enough to have put a litterbox in my writing haven, and his business at this particular moment is not some innocuous little stream of urine, but a toxic, eye-burning pile of poop. I know he feels the same because he can't seem to cover it quickly enough and dash out of smelling range. Unfortunately for me, until I remove the offending waste from my room, all inspiration for writing will halt. I've got to find another spot for him to do his dirty work - preferably far away from my brilliant work...
Now, that little bit of work completed, I can get to the task at hand: writing about one of the bigger lessons I have learned over the past two years. For a multitude of reasons, I began to see a therapist a few years ago and found myself unable to stop crying. I had gone from being a very busy, competent perfectionist to a puddle of salt water in a matter of days. As I spent the first few sessions with my head in my hands, a box of tissues at my side and my eyes bulging from the effort of squeezing tear after tear out, I struggled to identify what had triggered this overwhelming sadness. Eventually, I shifted my focus somewhat and began to ask myself what I truly wanted to feel in its place. The conveyor belt of shoulds that ran through my brain day and night held phrases that ruled every moment of my life: make that doctor appointment, plan and prepare healthy meals three times a day, take the dog out for some exercise, make sure the house stays clean and Bubba's favorite clothes are clean so he can pack them for his next business trip. Buy that birthday gift, get the girls haircuts, check in on your sick friend, make sure you play with the kids sometime today, oh, and it's bath night. The cats need more food, the oil needs to be changed, etc., etc.
After weeks of trying to find a balance between acknowledging the to-do list and collapsing in utter exhaustion, it came to me. I wanted to learn how to be. I wanted to feel the freedom of following my heart in the moment. I had to learn how to shut down the conveyor belt and listen to my surroundings without worrying about what was going undone. I wanted to be spontaneous and not weigh every decision against some artificially constructed triage system of what was more important. If the only thing we had in the house for lunch was frozen waffles and peanut butter, let's make peanut butter waffle sandwiches! Or order a pizza. Or scramble some eggs, put on our jammies and have a pillow fight. Who cares?
Being does not come naturally to me. There is an inverse proportional relationship between the stillness of my body and the frantic racing of my mind. The less I am physically doing, the more awful I feel about what isn't getting done. Meditation has helped that somewhat, but the only way I can meditate is to put on a CD and listen to someone else guide me through it to keep me on track. I still grind my teeth while I sleep and wake up with that list of shoulds buzzing in my brain. I have found a way to trick myself by putting them all down on paper, vomiting them out in acknowledgement, and then I am able to let them go for the day: they will either get done or they won't. I was initially afraid that writing them down would make them seem more "real" or "necessary", but it has had the opposite effect. They seem ridiculously trivial and petty, and increasingly, the center of me yearns for less activity and more quiet time.
The benefits of learning to just exist in space are incredible, and I hope that my children are able to sense the difference in me and understand the importance of learning to do this for themselves before they dissolve into their own minds and jump on that conveyor belt. I struggle with it daily, but in those moments when I am truly able to shut off the buzzing of my brain and truly appreciate my immediate surroundings I reach nirvana. I know that I am in that place I really wanted to be, that place that simply accepts where I am right now and lets time flow over me like a river over stones, not affecting my position or my mindset one bit. It truly is something worth achieving, I've decided.