I feel like lately I’ve been treading water, in the psychological sense, as of late. Replaying past transgressions and worrying about the future. On my ride home from work tonight, I got on the phone with my mom and pretty much unleashed. It brought up a new thread of thought for me…and I thought I might flesh it out here to help me…and make you maybe not feel so alone at the same time.
Though you may not know this, I have struggled over the last few years with depression and anxiety. A lot of it was external triggers…some, admittedly, was self-imposed. At the end of the day, I have found it harder and harder to define myself as happy. Of course, I act it. Anyone can keep up appearances and go with the flow. There have definitely been moments and even moments LONGER than just “moments” of happiness and profound joy. But I kept feeling this growing…frustration and disappointment over time. So here. I’ll say this the first time, out loud, for people to see/hear:
I am unhappy.
I have generous friends, a roof over my head, I pay my bills and I have a new boo-thang that can get me all butterflied in the tummy with just the tone in his voice (there they go again).
But something somewhere in me is unhappy. Inside somewhere there is a defeated, slouching, grumbly version of me that has poked her head out more and more often. But where is this bitch coming from?
The question….if you just don’t feel like you are as happy as you should be is……(drum roll): Where am I unhappy? WHAT THE ACTUAL LIVIN’-JESUS-in-FLIP-FLOPS is WRONG with MY LIFE?
When I thought about it, my unhappiness came from, in two words, expectation and perfection. I’m not where I wanted to be in my career. I expected something else out of my marriage. I expect more out of friends and family relationships. I expect more out of me. And time after time – hey, lookie here; I’m disappointed. Again. All because my expectations of all of these things are immeasurably high.
Immeasurable? That’s being hyperbolic, Ashleigh. Tone it down, you say.
No – they are immeasurable because I literally have no clue what sort of superhero-dom, chivalry, respect and generosity – – PERFECTION according to my whims – – I thought I was going to get out of people. Immeasurable because I’m doing almost exactly what I wanted to do as a kid and I hate it. Immeasurable because I know in my heart I’m a good person, I mean well and I try my best as a fellow human being to the rest of y’all. Yet somehow, most everyday, I go to bed feeling inexplicably stuck, alone and disappointed. Imperfect.
What did I REALLY think was going to happen today? I was going to go to work and find flowers on my desk, and a raise of 20 G’s in my paycheck and a hug from my mom? Was my boss gonna tell me to go home, pack my bags and head to the Caribbean for a month on the company dime? Was I going to come home to Publisher’s Clearing House in my front yard with a ridiculously huge vanity check to pay all my bills and my kid’s bills..and my kid’s kids’ bills? I mean, for real. WHAT did I THINK would HAPPEN TODAY?!
Maybe I could make a list of the things that are disappointing in my life and next to them, right down a clear and measurable solution to each….a destination if you will, that I haven’t felt I’ve reached yet. And then I could make a plan to GET to those destinations.
Or maybe since most every destination I’ve pushed for has disappointed me (career, marriage, my attitude toward all these things, etc…) I could fashion a list of all the ways I can enjoy the journey?
Maybe I could get flippin’ ANXIOUS about HOW I CAN BE LESS ANXIOUS!? WHY am I so ANXIOUS, OMG I’M SORRY FOR BEING SO ANXIOUS.
(This is where I get complicated folks. This is where my crazy comes out. Yeah, I’m a real funny, adaptable, low-maintenance chick who likes to drink beers, watch football and cook for her dude and what not. 29 days of the month. Then I have about 36-48 hours where I am a totally insufferable, catatonic mess of illogical presumptions and stupidity. Yep. Basically when you look back, this blog is an obnoxious love note, to you, from my ovaries.)
So, long story short, this is where I hung up with Mom (the best mom on the whole effin’ planet, if you ask me. And you didn’t, but I told you anyways. She’s the best. Maybe even including other planets. But that’s for another blog post). There I was, hanging loose like a chad in a Floridian election. Where should I (and we, if you care to join, company is always nice) go from here?
Maya Angelou had many great quotes, but this one rings truest today: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Maybe I don’t need to make an actual Excel spreadsheet of the elements of my life I don’t like with some elaborate algorithm for certain happiness or success, as it were. Some excruciatingly detailed timeline isn’t going to help this (*points at heart*) get like this (*spreads hands far and wide*). Ms. Angelou simplified it by just….Making. It. Simple. I hate math more than I hate sauerkraut or mayonnaise, but let me break it down real easy-like:
Good Attitude + Normal Life = Better Days, Better Months, Better Years (Successful relationships, greater earning potential, full self-actualization.)
Bad Attitude + Normal Life = Crappier Days, Crappier Months, Crappier Years (…and probably more than you feel comfortable admitting you’ve spent on Fireball shots and ice cream. You know I’m keeping it real.)
Soooooo, ergo (or however you use that word)……
Good Attitude + Obstacle = Happiness rooted in reality, Strength to conquer other obstacles (Success! *party horns*)
Bad Attitude + Obstacle = Sadness rooted in quicksand of more crippling sadness which zaps energy for future inevitable obstacles because we’re all humans and deal with other fallible humans (Failure *sad trombone*)
At the end of the day, we’re all confronted with some total bull-you-know-what. If it’s at work, your ol’ man, your ol’ lady or some jerk friend that’s been around too long – we’ve all had them and can commiserate. Take account of a) what their problem is with you and b) if you can, HOW you can fix it. If there was a misunderstanding, fine, talk it out. If you have some psycho being a weirdo in your life, exile ‘em. This is YOUR SANITY we’re talking about. If you hate your job, apply to other ones or make the business plan to get your own business off the ground. There is NO ONE on this whole Earth that has a perfect, conflict-free life. Stop caring what other people think of you and THINK about how your treating your one-and-only SELF! If you were your friend, would you let yourself talk to yourself the way you do?? We only get one trip on this big sloshy, mixed-up planet….why are you wasting your time?!
And this isn’t just for you. No no….it’s my internal monologue too. Snap out of it, Ashleigh! If you don’t like it, change it…and if you can’t change it, change your attitude, silly girl! My expectations, even of myself alone, have driven me down, have put me on medical leave and tuck me into bed each night with a shrug and a “whatever” as they walk out of the room…without checking under the bed for the boogie-man. I am NOT going to cure cancer tomorrow. I’m not going to find 5 grand on the porch. I’m not going to write the next Pulitzer Prize novel and I won’t be picking up my Nobel Peace Prize any time soon. I am going to make a real effort, and I’m a woman of my word, if nothing else. I will let GO my of my expectations of perfection. Tomorrow is going to be a standard day in the life of Ashleigh, but I only get tomorrow this one, solitary time. This 24 hours comes and goes but once. I can screw it up and mope about in it or do my best to make it suck as little as possible. I’d like to stick with the latter.