Most of my life has been spent grasping outwards towards the gratification, rewards, materialism, and food that I "think" will make any bad day or time better. Most of us do this regularly ...
- You didn't get the job you were working so hard for = a night out with the girls drinking wine to feel better
- Someone broke your heart = you post a hot new photo to get ALL THE LIKES and start to believe in yourself and worthiness again
- Life feels lonely = but you booked a great job today so you will be BUSY and HAPPY
- Something ruined your day = Buy a new outfit or hell a whole new wardrobe and reinvent yourself
We do this all the time hoping, wishing, believing that grasping outwards towards these things and the happiness they can bring us will turn life around, will rid us of this emptiness and loneliness and make us feel "worthy" "enough" and most importantly like we have it all together. Yet this action is the very thing that destroys us the most- there comes a time where the tipsy warmth wears off , the amazing project comes to an end and you are back to unemployment or your friends are too busy to come to save you and the reality of it all seeps in. We say hello to the guilt, the sadness, the "life is unfair" conversations , the never ending "what if" anxious spirals our minds spin and we are back there at the beginning.
For myself work provided the instant gratification and reward system that would allow me to pretend that I was happy because I was busy every single day living what others would call a "dream life". When my heart was broken, I booked a job that meant the world to me. I busied myself with rehearsals and assisting and taking class and going out for drinks with the girls to meet new people and I convinced myself that I was Okay. Look at me go ! Im booked and blessed (cue vomit), busy, have so many friends and I didn't spend one moment thinking about the boy. Cut to one week later when the job was over, I was waiting for checks to pay my rent and my friends had gone back home well needless to say - I WAS NOT OKAY. An even deeper anxiety, worry, and sadness ate away at my little heart. I was breaking down and fast. This was not a one off occurrence either there has been a gazillion of times in my life where my successful work, my identity as a known dancer, and my butterfly social life have provided momentary bliss as I'm sure it has for you too. Over 200 likes on your photo or an email from an agent no matter how much you believe it will not "fix" you or the problem.
Until the very opportunity of grasping outwards ceased and was unattainable I may have been caught in that endless task of convincing myself and others that my life is fabulous and of trying to control every minute detail of my life and steer the ship to the right even though the current is dragging me to left. Sarah Wilson describes it perfectly in her book "First we make the beast beautiful" when she likens the flow of life to a river- "we try to dam the river with piles of logs and other obstacles because we think the river should flow differently" (our outward grasps to control others and situations) but eventually "the pressure builds...the flow wins out and Boof!" our attempts to manage and control explode leaving life to flow as it pleases and had planned to all along. This was my life- I tried to control my career, my relationships, my experiences and pre planned each moment until the day I tore my ACL and realized that even though I was doing everything "right" SHIT STILL HAPPENS.
Lying in bed, stalking instagram and seeing all the experiences and jobs that I could not do, the life I wasn't living and realizing I had no control over anything brought a storm of emotion and turmoil for me. Weeks of resisting and strong resilience until I finally hit the ground, cracked and started from a blank slate. I sat in it- sat in the grimness and mud of it all. It stank, it hurt and it was godly lonely but its exactly what I needed for this to change me- to grow. I felt the discomfort mentally and physically and didn't resist but instead went inwards to find the real me . For once in my life I can say I have found a place within myself where I am Happy- whole heartedly joyful with life as it is. No outer rewards such as an amazing career, gratification for my talents, fancy social life, or lover... simply my soul, my body and my mind and when those tough moments come I sit, I watch, I wonder, I let it pass and then I get curious. I write out my manifesto in my diary, get brutally honest with myself and the messiness I have brought on and then find myself at a place where the world is silent and I am smiling through my eyes at myself. This deep inner happiness is nothing in comparison to the short bursts of excitement rewards bring.
If there is one thing this time in my life has taught me it is that in order to grow I must let go. I must ride the wave that life is offering and resist the need to control. Smile at the unknown and find joy in the uncertainty of it all. I don't know what next week will bring, I don't know if my knee will fully recover, I don't know if I will book that dream job or find my life partner or god I don't even know if my bus will be on time tonight or not. Let go and embrace the endless possibilities, take one step at a time and see where it leads you - maybe to the picturesque instagram worthy lookout you wanted or maybe you wound up on the other side of the cliff but find a hidden gem of a spot.
I know I'm not "cured" of this controlling, worrying, fomo life but I'm getting a hell of a lot better at sitting in it, laughing and loosening my tight grip and just seeing what happens tomorrow let alone next year.