Thursday, January 7, 2016

It's a New Year

It's a New Year, and I'm all about a new me.  I shouldn't say "a new me" exactly.  This year I've made a commitment to myself to get back to the old me.  I kind of liked her.

It all began with a little epiphany I had over the holidays.  The day after Christmas, we woke our weary heads and headed out on a plane at 6am to visit my mom and brother's family in Florida for a post-Christmas visit.  I do not like flying.  In fact, the build-up to getting on that plane leads me to so much anxiety the week before that by the night before take-off I am speaking to no one, in a mind trance, and fight my mind to get some sleep.

As we prepared for take-off this time around, I began to prepare my brain.  Years of yoga have taught me how to empty my mind and focus on my breathing.  On this trip I even found myself humming quietly, which surprised me at just how calming it is. I became one with the plane in an om-type trance.  Thus, as I am practicing crazy, I began to think over when this fear of flying had developed and why it has intensified exponentially recently.

My first flight ever was to my brother's first Olympic Trial in Indianapolis when I was probably 17 years old.  I loved it.  I loved every minute of it: up in the clouds, feeling the rocking of the plane, sitting quietly for a couple of hours reading a book in absolute peace.  Beginning in college, I became quite the professional traveller, coming home all by myself for holidays and breaks.  It became old hat to me, and I loved every aspect of traveling.

Until now.  What happened? I really can't say exactly.  The change seems to have taken place with the birth of Madison.  Coincidentally, her birth was followed nearly a month later with September 11th.  Was it having children that changed my perspective and instilled this fear in me?  I've talked to many other women who have had similar feelings every time they step on a plane, and the fear was never there before having children.  Suddenly, it's not about you anymore.  If your children are with you, you fear  for them.  If they aren't with you, you fear leaving them behind.  It's irrational, I know, but these thoughts come in and out of what is usually a quite reasonable brain.  I know the statistics.  I know people fly every day.  I know it's rare for a crash. I know, I know, I know.  Yet, the brain won't stop.  Couple that with a fear that was awakened in us all on that day in September fourteen years ago.  Quadruple that with an even greater fear in the wake of Paris and San Bernadino.  The airport is a constant reminder of security threats.  My mind races with all of the possibilities of things falling through the cracks and evolving tactics to get around the security.  I look at everything.  I grip the armrests with every shutter and dip.  I listen to the noises on the plane and look out of the window to make sure everything looks okay.  Guess what? Planes make lots of noises and I am certainly no mechanic, but it doesn't stop me from inspecting everything. It's all about control and awareness...and fear.

The epiphany I had came about as I was trying to clear my head.  Maybe it was the humming, maybe it was the breathing, or maybe it was the joy I saw on Logan's face as we soared during take-off, but something happened.  I began to think about the past two years and just how stressful they've been.  They haven't been stressful in a bad way because the outcomes have been incredible.  However, I feel like we've been in a constant state of flux with one event after another coming at us.  If I go back to Logan's birth, it really began then.  From remodeling our old house, to having Logan, to Gary moving jobs, to remodeling the house again due to flooding, to losing my beloved Winston after a very long illness, to building the new house, to moving, to settling in, to selling the old house, and to all of the in betweens, we have been in a constant state of motion and upheaval.  There was always something to worry about, to stress over, to exhaust me.  I've tried to find myself in between all of these events.  Should I go back to work? Should I give writing another try? Should I focus completely on my blog? What if I can't succeed? What if I'm not any good? What if I waste my time for nothing in the end?  I worry about the kids constantly.  School, grades, their friends, their tears, their frustrations, their withdrawal, their changing needs, their behavior, their happiness.  Am I spending enough time with them? Am I truly listening to them? Am I giving them good advice, being too hard on them, not hard enough?  It doesn't end.

To focus on my fear and to analyze it on the plane awakened me to all of my fears, not just my fear of flying.  The flying aspect was a metaphor for what had become my life and my state of being.  I realized I am allowing the fears I have drown out the joy of what is.  Instead of looking forward to seeing my family and to being with my husband and children, I was dreading the plane ride.  The plane ride! I was letting my fear steal my happiness.  And, that's when I realized all of my fears and worries were robbing me of enjoying moments with my family.  I smile less than I used to.  I laugh less than I used to.  My state of being is full of anger, angst, and worry rather than joy, happiness, and gratitude.  The negatives were outweighing all of the positives.  I realized I wanted to get back to being me.

Yesterday, I attended a yoga class (another vow to myself to get out there and be with others), and the instructor talked about how resolutions typically mean changing yourself, improving something that is lacking in you.  She said that we need to get away from the word "resolution" and instead to acknowledge yourself and to realize that we need to focus more on the me that is and to be thankful for it.

For me, the message reached home because it is exactly what I am attempting to do.  I don't need to "improve" myself.  Instead, I need to get the old me back.  I need to tear down this mountain of worry and focus on the beauty in everything around me.  I need to stop looking for something to come along that will give me purpose and with it the ensuing stress over making that purpose a reality.  When I do this, I get consumed with it and angry toward the rest of the world going on around me because of the intrusion.  So what if I don't get something up on the blog today or work with it every single day? Did I find time to organize our pictures from our trip, hang pictures that have sat on the floor for an entire year now? Did I get to sit down on the couch and cuddle with the kids under a blanket after dinner, letting my mind go? Did I get to read a magazine or sit down with my book? Take on a new knitting project?  Did I enroll in a yoga class and let my mind wander while my creative juices took flight?

Inner peace. It's a beautiful thing.  When I stop searching, stop fearing, and stop my brain from running out of control, I find I am in more control.  I'm happy.  I look forward to my family coming home.  I want to spend time with them instead of looking at them as part of my stress.  I can let things go and surprisingly feel more in control than I ever have.  I can look at past friendships that have wandered over the past years and find that I want to be a better friend, to reach out, and to focus on the positives.  It feels good and isn't that the way to have a better year.