At thirty-one, I had to learn to change my approach to life, because the old way wasn’t working.
The old way put me at the center of the family (even though I was fifth born), listening to and attempting to resolve every family issue: Do you think your younger sister is okay living out there in isolation? Your older sisters are not talking to each other. I can’t talk to Mom, will you? Why do men always leave me? Your brother thinks I abandoned him as a child. I can’t talk to Dad; he’ll listen to you. Your brother is coming to stay, and well, you know about his wife. I can’t live with your Father. And on and on.
The old way was me constantly trying to run from my problems, striving to be better, to do better, and to get ahead. I was invested in the belief that if I could just do the right thing, my life would be perfect. I beat myself up trying to reach some magical destination where peace would prevail, and all would be well with the world.
Attachments, chaos, interference, and desires were destroying me. I lived in a perpetual state of strife and discontentment.
And then the blessing came: my mind snapped.
As I picked up the pieces of my life, I had to learn to simplify.
I was gifted with new objectivity. I realized that even though my own life had come to a screaming stop, everyone else’s went on without me. The chaos and drama of my family continued, and for the first time in my life, I recognized that I had no ability to control it. Never had. My need to feel important and responsible in the midst of that whirlwind was my own sick way of coping. Nothing I said, did, or sweat over was going to change the outcomes. I learned to detach and stop interfering.
Mom and Dad are trying to run my life.
“You are strong and have supports. I trust that you can deal with this.”
Find out what’s wrong with your sister.
“I have my own relationship with my sister, and would prefer that you do the same. Let’s not get them confused.”
It was the first step to learning to breathe again.
Losing my mind also put a stop to all that rushing around. I was forced to stand still, which meant everything I had been running from caught up to me. Egads! I went into therapy.
My family, I came to understand, dealt with dilemma’s by creating more distractions: new problems. Our momentum came from the next crisis and there was never any shortage of those. The problem with this way of living is that the underlying message is that there is something so wrong, so unmentionable, that it is not safe to relax, and so we hang on until the next cliff hanger. The only control I had in all of this was to no longer choose to be part of it. Peace, I discovered, was an inner journey and not an outer destination. Boy, had I been on the wrong track!
“What is it that you really desire?” the therapist asked me one day.
“I don’t know,” came the response, and it was true. I had been driving myself so hard, I had forgotten what it was that I was aiming for in the first place.
Life, I concluded, is not a game in which the person with the best ideas, and the most responsibility wins. It is a journey of moments, and discoveries, and connections, which if we’re not careful, we will miss. Simplicity, my heart’s actual desire, is being able to minimize the attachments, resist the need to interfere, and be the calm at the center of the storm.
I’m still working on it, but at least now, I am more aware.