Staircase

Well, if I didn’t have an interesting morning Friday. . .

I mean, just the black and white sounds pretty boring and average. I took the boys to the dentist. Big deal. I’m sure many mother’s took their children to the dentist Friday morning.

But I learned things about myself in this simple little parenting task, so it kind of was a big deal.

I skipped our appointments in June because of COVID – I don’t necessarily fear the virus, but I have a healthy respect for it.  We hadn’t been to the dentist in over a year though, so I scheduled all three of us for a cleaning now that we’re reaching the end of the year. In my head, it wouldn’t take more than an hour, maybe just a little over an hour. No big deal. I might be a little late for work but nothing worth putting time off in for.

But much to my dismay because I hadn’t been in for a year, I was in the chair for an hour.  This doesn’t include the time for the boys. We were at the dentist for an hour and a half all told – meaning as we walked to the car and Matt probed me for information about Chase’s dental health, I was already a half hour late for work – and I still needed to drop them off at their destinations for the day. I came back with a short, if not rude response. I found myself snapping unnecessarily at the kids as they asked me normal everyday questions. I found my mind hectic and racing. I found every vehicle in front of me seemed to be driving too slowly, even though in all actuality they probably were driving the speed limit. As I tried to pull into Tim Horton’s to grab Chase some donuts and me a coffee after dropping Matt off, I saw the line wrapped around the building. . . and I found myself angry and negative.

I had found my anxiety.

I acknowledged this summer that I had a definite anxiety problem, but not one that I thought needed medication. In examining this newfound condition, I was determined to try and manage it myself. I have worked really hard to slow the fuck down and pay attention to my triggers and find things that quiet my mind as opposed to trying to race to the finish line all the time. I quit smoking and quit drinking as much caffeine – I don’t even drink coffee at home anymore, it’s strictly tea. I listen to more instrumental music and meditate and do yoga. I have found a calmness in myself that I had zero idea existed.

And in doing all of this, I had forgotten what anxiety felt like. I have indeed calmed the fuck down.

I have spent a good portion of my adult life racing from point A to point B and back again. I have spent my life taking care of everyone but myself. I used caffeine and nicotine as crutches – caffeine to keep me moving at break neck speed, and nicotine to sit down and chill out for five minutes before resuming the race.

But I never really noticed before how this lifestyle of mine made me feel. I never realized that it isn’t normal to feel tense and overwhelmed and ready to punch the next person who looks at you wrong. I had zero idea that a racing heart and hectic, incomplete thoughts were not the normal human condition.

Until I slowed down. Until I made a point to take life a moment at a time instead of always thinking ahead.

I didn’t realize until I let anxiety damn near cripple me because I was running late how I must have felt on the regular. . .

I dropped Chase off to Grandma and as I pulled out of the driveway I realized how short I was being with everyone and how my heart was racing and how I felt like I couldn’t move fast enough. . . And I stopped. I took two seconds to get with reality. It was 9:52am. I was already late, and me being angry at the circumstances and anxious about everything on my to-do list wasn’t going to change the situation. Late was late. There was nothing to drink at my office and there was no getting around it – I had to stop and get something for my day. So I took a deep breath and dealt with what was in front of me. Looking at the big picture can be helpful, but sometimes the big picture is too big and it’s too overwhelming. Sometimes taking life in small doses is the only thing you can do to keep your sanity.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I still think a lot about what’s to come. I still drink caffeine and drive too fast. I still get aggravated at shit and toss my glasses down in frustration. But there is a lot more quiet in my life, a lot less rushing, a lot less anxiety when shit doesn’t go as planned, and I spend more time concentrating on now as opposed to what if and what about. . .

Instead of letting the little shit get to me, I make a conscious effort to take a deep breath when I start to get overwhelmed by the what-if staircase and start to get irritated. Remember my friend from all those years ago? The one who said, “don’t sweat the small shit”? Well. I finally get what he meant. Sweating the small shit can lead to a whole pile of shit – and now look. You’re hyperventilating and unable to function. No thanks. I’m done with that part of my life.

And guess what. I arrived at work in one piece, and the place hadn’t burned down and there weren’t any angry voicemails or emails and I didn’t get into trouble. Imagine that. I stressed myself out for nothing.

I learned that the things I have been practicing are indeed helpful – the deep breaths and the meditation, the yoga, and the quiet music. . .  instead of always going and doing and being for everyone else, I think about my own wellbeing – mentally and physically. I have realized I need a lot more quiet and a lot less hectic.  I realized something about the old me that will be able to help the new me. I learned that I should practice what I preach – concentrate on the stair in front of you, not the whole damn staircase.

Photo by Jaakko Kemppainen on Unsplash

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