Letting Go of Expectations2:29 AM
So, I’m doing this whole mindfulness thing-y. Yes, I am turning into one of those annoying people who moves a bit slower, speaks a bit more deliberately, and actively carves out time in their day for nothing. Well, not nothing, seated meditation just looks like you are doing nothing.
I will be honest. I came to mindfulness out of pure desperation. Nothing happened quickly, but over the past couple of years I started to develop some negative habits in dealing with stress. I have the type of brain that gets overwhelmed when there are too many details to remember, so I am constantly writing things down and making lists. This usually works for me to keep my stress level in check, but gradually I started to be plagued by intrusive thoughts. Did I really send that letter? How do I know? Is the deadline on that project really the 20th? What if I read it wrong?
Ever so slowly, things started to shift and my behaviors changed. After driving back into work for about the tenth time to make sure I had turned my coffee pot off, I just stopped making coffee at work. Problem solved. If I wanted to make sure I remembered the deadline, I would just print out the page and bring it home with me so I could check it again if I needed to. And I always needed to. Still: problem...solved.
Sometimes it is not easy to distinguish where you cross the line from a helpful coping mechanism to taking pictures of your office’s electric sockets to convince yourself that you did unplug your lamps. As time passed my habits solidified into rituals that took a larger part of my day. Still, no matter how many times I did something, no matter how many ways I tried to document it and get it firmly established in my brain, my brain would light on something that I just could not check right then and there. And so I would worry. And not sleep. And worry some more.
Ugh. I am here to tell you that obsessive compulsive disorder is neither cute nor comical. The more things in my day I tried to control, the more I would find to worry about. I tried to hide my increasing anxiety from my coworkers, but this becomes nearly impossible when you know the entire night janitorial staff in your building because you come back so often to check things. The pictures I would take with my phone of my computer and files safely put away at the end of the day were no longer enough to convince myself that the computer was still there, safely put away an hour later.
It is embarrassing, but this is where I found myself. Anxious, nearly hysterical, and completely worn out from the demands of my own brain. It took longer than it should have, but I finally made an appointment with my doctor to lay it all out there. It was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be, we came up with a treatment plan, and I started on my way.
Long story short - part of my treatment plan is mindfulness. Specifically the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction technique pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book Full Catastrophe Living. It really isn’t complicated, but the program is a radical shift for my brain and body.
Which brings me back to my current state of non-fitness and the lingering Minnesota winter that is now eating into spring. The only biking I have been doing recently is my 45 minute daily commute. I’ve stopped lifting weights entirely and my running shoes have been sitting unused for nearly a month. At any other time in my life this state of affairs would have made me bonkers, but one of the first attitudes mindfulness helps you to cultivate is letting go.
And so this spring I have let go of any expectations I have about where I should be in my fitness. I will ride when the weather is good enough for me to enjoy riding. I am not one of those hardcore cyclists who rides in any weather. When it gets sunny, when it gets warm, my bike will be cleaned and ready. Until then, I will mindfully enjoy my commute!