Do you fill up your schedule in an attempt to avoid issues? Why are you going to school? Why do you feel like you have to go to every museum in New York? Why do you think you have to be the one to plan the group outing or baby shower? Is it because you love these things or you think you should do them?
It’s a fair question. One my therapist taught me to ask myself. One I’ve pondered a lot. In fact, I feared moving to New York was just something I was doing as a distraction. I think it’s true that I used to fill my calendar in attempt to avoid real issues. For years, I’d plan out what I’d fill my evenings with. “Tonight I’m going to stop at Target, sew pillow covers while watching “How I Met Your Mother,” and call Courtney,” in order to avoid down time.
Now I’m doing things I love. I go to boot camp because I want to be one buff, toned babe. I go to school because I want to add to my resume and I find my classes fascinating and they’re helping my career. I’ve also gotten better at saying, “no thanks.” No, I don’t need to fill my Saturday with a museum outing or list of to-dos. If I feel like drinking coffee in bed on Saturday morning and skipping yoga class, so be it.
Sure, sometimes I’ll go to a birthday party I’m not really feeling because I think I should go. If it were my birthday, I’d want people to go to dinner with me, etc. And sometimes I do things because I wouldn’t want anyone else to do it. My sister-in-law’s baby shower, for example. I didn’t want to get invited to the one her friend throws. I’m the baby’s auntie. I wanted to be the one (or one of the two) to give the shower.
But I do think sometimes I do things for a distraction? Sure. Movies, for example. I don’t love watching movies. I never have. If I’m watching a movie, it’s usually because I’m on an airplane or train, or someone else wanted to. Occasionally, there’s one I’d really like to see. But usually I get bored. I like to have something for my hands to do. I don’t enjoy just sitting. In fact, I’m writing this while listening to “The Daily Show” because I couldn’t just sit here watching TV.
Once again, I’ve veered off from my point. I was stressing about a big job interview a couple weeks ago, and I went for a walk with The Boy. He asked if I ever meditated. I haven’t. When I feel anxiety bubble up, I “check in with myself,” like my therapist taught me, and explore where those feelings are coming from. “I’m feeling anxious because I have a job interview. Getting this job could mean big things for my career and have enormous impact on my day-to-day life. Not getting this job could make the workplace awkward and make me feel like a failure.”
OK, so that’s a good reason to feel nervous, right? I remember my Psych 101 professor telling us our emotions are precious. The good ones and the bad ones. She doesn’t recommend “medicating them away.” She recommended exploring them and appreciating them for what they are. As I mentioned in my last post, some of the best times for self-growth come from those “bad” emotional times. But how can we ever appreciate the good if we just distract ourselves from the bad? Will watching TV or drinking a whole bottle of wine or overdoing it at the gym really make us feel better?
I don’t think so.
Just allowing the thoughts to fill your mind seems like a way of meditating, yeah? Sometimes I do this best when I’m walking. Like I said, I don’t sit still well, but I do like to walk sans headphones or phone in hand. Sometimes if I’m angry at an injustice, I like to give the offender a lecture in my head while I run on the treadmill. Once I’m done, I’m usually over whatever got to me. Sometimes writing is the way I sort things out. Less frequently (these days anyway), bouncing a topic off a friend is helpful.
Whatever the outlet, they all have one thing in common: Acknowledging the emotions and feeling them. It feels so much better than pretending all is A-OK.