Knowing what is going to happen tomorrow, wanting to plan everything in advance, getting anxiety over not knowing, sounds like something terribly bad now that I am writing it down. Except that when it has been your daily routine and going on for years it seems perfectly normal and justifiable. At least that’s what I kept telling myself.
Several people had mentioned that I would feel less stressed out if I relinquished the immense control I was trying to hold over my existence. But it was as if I was deaf or suffered from acute selective hearing as nothing registered. One day after a particularly stressful week I decided to give it some thought. How has all the time spent fussing, planning and fretting influenced my life? Has it actually changed the outcome of anything? NO Has anything ever happened as planned? NO
What has been the result of things not turning out exactly as I has imagined in my head? Disappointment. Do I want to spend my time being regularly disappointed? I doubt anyone’s answer to that question would be yes. Slowly this realization turned into the light bulb moment of recognizing that I had a control problem, and more importantly that it needed to change.
In order to turn back the clocks on my brain that I had trained into creating disappointment over the years, I had to pinpoint when and why it happened. This thought process took me back to the greatest trauma I have experienced. The loss of a parent. Watching a loved one’s health slowly deteriorate whilst you stand there helpless was my trigger moment. It left me feeling completely incompetent and helpless. I couldn’t do anything to change the outcome, all that was left to do was stand by and witness it. This subsequently led me to try and control everything else in my life. Planning every moment became a routine, convincing myself that everything would happen as I intended. Having the control gave a sensation that nobody could take anything else away from me. Working towards this life plan that I had all lined up for myself kept me reassured and calm.
Suddenly being aware that it was just an illusion and has no healthy purpose in life left me feeling lost and confused. How am I meant to function if not planning my every move like a game of chess? How was I supposed to relax if I didn’t know what I was doing next? Even after deciding that change needed to happen, how on earth was I meant to go about it? How do you retrain your brain, and con it out of the habit of a lifetime? Do I start small or do I go big? So many questions leading to so many anxiety filled sleepless nights. I kept asking myself how do other people do it, wondering how they can go to sleep at night not having every minute of the next day planned out. In essence how do I let go?
Quite honestly I am not sure where to start. Do I even know when it happened? What was the first step I took?
The first major moment of consciously relinquishing that strong hold over my life happened when I was made redundant. Suddenly (or not so suddenly as the whole procedure took six months) I woke up without knowing what was going to happen in my day. I had no job tot go to, no need to be anywhere. It led me to be free, I could use my time as I liked. Opening my eyes each morning with no set intentions was so refreshing. Kind of spooky to begin with, it took a few days to get used to. Taking time to make breakfast, to read an article, rediscovering the pleasure of simple things like savoring a pot of fresh tea and making homemade bread. Really consciously appreciating these “mundane” activities led to me reaching a new level of calm. Not needing to be out of the door by 7:30 AM liberated me of a pressure I hadn’t even known was there. Thinking about professional induced pressure opened a whole can of worms over me questioning my professional future. Not a subject I am going to get into now as it is an ongoing inquiry.
Back to letting go though. No pressure, no stress. Free-time, me-time.
My brain feeling lighter, as it was less overrun by anxious thoughts, now gave me more time for thinking about me. What did I really want to do today? Taking each thought as it came, being more present in the moment, all-in-all being more selfish. This new freedom led to great wanderings around town, down cobbled streets, aimlessly rediscovering the city that I had lived in for the last five years. All at my own rhythm. I was loving my new carefree life, but even though some worries had gone away some other deeper rooted ones were coming up to the surface. With these old haunting worries came harder questions that I didn’t even begin to have an answer to. Not being able to answer them made me worry even more. What was I doing with my life? Shouldn’t I know the answers to questions about me?! I was becoming more and more obsessed with questions.This led to a growing feeling of being lost. The honeymoon period of the happy-go-lucky me had been and gone. I couldn’t get my brain to stop the incessant neurotic self-questioning. My thoughts would go sooo fast that I would jump from one question to another to another to another and without realizing it 5 minutes later I would be asking myself something completely different but equally unnecessary. A quote I saw once on Pinterest sums it up perfectly : “it’s like having Google running with too many tabs open”. At this point it was really tiring me out, it took up so much time and energy, it was draining me. I needed to get rid of these thoughts, to let my brain breathe. Give it the time to be more creative, more aware. The key to this for me was realizing that the whole interrogation and over thinking process had no use. It was useless and meaningless. It was not important and I had to accept that, rather than ignore it. Accepting it for what is was also meant admitting that it hadn’t been helpful in a singe way, not one. When you give something importance you are basically sending it signs of welcoming and acceptance. I am letting you be a considerable part of my life. You are giving it free reign. This can be a good thing with sentiments such as love and gratitude. Although these negative feelings I was creating and feeding myself were far from anything along the lines of love and gratitude. It would be like welcoming the flu virus and giving ti free reign of your body. “Come in, make yourself at home, by all means treat me like shit”. Auto – flagellation, self inflicted pain.
Once I had understood this concept and started applying it, or rather un-applying it, the hold the questioning had over me was weakening. Of course I still had moments of interrogation, I am human, and humans ask questions, but they were getting less powerful. It wasn’t so much me trying to control them, but not letting them control me. Once again I was starting to breathe easier, my mind on more pleasant and agreeable things. Realizing that I was on some sort of a journey I felt the need to set some sort of steps method. I am one of those people that likes setting goals so that I can track my progress and not feel static. My boyfriend made me aware of “the small steps method” that he himself had discovered through David Laroche (a French self-confidence guru). Small steps one by one, they are achievable, realistic and relatable. An important step on this method has been trying to live even more in the present. Not dwelling too much or worrying about the future. I am attempting to give as much of my energy to my present self and surrounding people as I can. It gives my present life a higher quality and no longer impacts negatively on the lives of others. It’s not about earning more money or that I am living the “high life”, for me it means being more myself, giving more of my energy to good causes (that includes myself), more to the people I love, and more to appreciating what I have already.
This has been greatly influenced by the fact that for the last six months my partner and I have been living in a van in New Zealand. We had planned nothing in advance for our trip and have kind of been making it up as we go along. I have started to appreciate the unpredictable side of life, the randomness of a discovery and meeting cool and interesting people. Trying to plan everything only closes yourself off from a world of opportunity. You are sending the universe a sign of unavailability “sorry dude I’m busy come back later”. Later never comes. I want things here and now to be as awesome as possible. I don’t want the pressure of expectations that can and often cause disappointment.
Distancing myself (geographically and mentally) from a world of worries, through acceptance and realizing that it wasn’t really me, has given me the freedom to make the most of my life. I have rediscovered who I am, reconnected with who I was as a child before all of those adult life problems I piled on. Being carefree does not mean that I don’t lead a responsible lifestyle. Quite a common misconception. In fact it is quite the opposite, I now have a wider view of what my chosen responsibilities are. I can give them far more of my time. There is so much more room for creativeness and self development, I have a clearer mind, less contaminated by oppressing questions and thoughts. It has given way to a healthy curiosity that pushes me to better myself.
There is no end to letting go, as it is an ongoing journey that I pursue everyday. As you start on this journey of freeing yourself, as you go ridding your garden of weeds and unwanted invaders, you will notice it becoming a far more pleasant place to live. The threatening clouds make way for the sun, it’s beams streaming down. You will start to appreciate it more than ever, and your flowers and plants will flourish and thrive in the process.