How to Thrive in Calm When You’re Used to Chaos
Ever meet one of those people who just seems to have a knack for brushing off criticism and judgement? Ever meet one of those people who walks around happy and confident all the time?
Me neither. I sure like to act like I am, though.
Since I first began to speak phrases, I’ve been optimistic about life; in fact, one of the first things I ever said was “when my’s gets bigger”. And I’m sure the universe chuckled and thought to itself, “Look at her thinking that she can plan out her life. She’s just so damn adorable.”
(Of course, my other favorite phrase was “my’s do it” because even though you do not need proof of my lifelong stubbornness [or as the boyfriend calls it: my “ability to be purposefully difficult”], I’m compelled to reiterate that I really have been this way since birth.)
I can see the good or the benefit or the calm in any storm. I thrive in chaos because I’ve learned that it is temporary. And that in and of itself is on par with psychosis.
It’s an almost crazy re-rationalizing of a trauma. Why deal with the negativity when one can focus on the positive side of each and every single situation? It’s more of a glossing over than an actual coping with the issue mentality.
Which means that no real clarity or growth is ever achieved. Which means that mere words turn into therapy-inducing self-esteem issues.
Case in point: to this day, I am still extraordinarily critical of myself based on some long-gone opinions held by men (my father, my former boyfriends, and even my daughter’s father*) that were once important but are now long-gone.
The men are gone, but for some reason, I’ve allowed their opinions to linger longer.
These opinions need to go away. Find a new home. I should post these opinions up for grabs on the List of Craig. They wouldn’t go for much, but at least I’d be rid of them.
At least they wouldn’t play over and over in my head like a soundtrack.
The rational part of me knows that these words should have no relevance of any kind. They should not define who I am, who I was, or anything about me.
They were ignorant words that I awarded with value. They were fake and demeaning and unworthy of my attention. And I admit, I paid them a lot of attention.
— Milk (@MilkStudios) November 7, 2016
In order to silence the words, I have to face them and take away their tight-fisted hold. I have to acknowledge that yes, the words were said, but their current existence is because of my continued regard and not because they contain truth.
- I don’t need to try to be perfect.
- I don’t need to try to be less analytical, less logical, or less fond of donuts (hello, donuts are soooo not the devil).
- I don’t “always need to be pretty so that [a man] will continue to find me suitable” — actual words spoken by my** pastor’s wife out loud to me as I hysterically cried to her about the end of my marriage. My tear-streaked face apparently didn’t meet with her standard of beauty. Seriously, people, this is one of the reasons that I am not an advocate of church or the God in the Bible or teaching women to be subservient to their husbands. But that’s a post for another time.
I know that they say that it’s difficult letting go of old habits, but I’ve spent years and years spinning and placating and debating and conceding. The chaos is familiar.
My brain really just needs to learn to enjoy the calm, to appreciate the quiet, to realize that another person’s recriminations have no bearing on my life. I must learn that I can cope just as well in calm as I did in chaos. I must learn to stay in the present and stop focusing on the past.
Perhaps then the soundtrack will cease playing, and the words will finally go away.
I’d love to hear from you. What do you do when you start to dwell on old criticisms or judgements?
*I do not refer to my daughter’s father as my ex-husband. Ever. The term ex-husband reduces him to a former, no-longer held title and fails to honor his place and importance in my life. It’s not something he would even care about or probably even notices, but I felt it merited an explanation.
**Former pastor’s wife. Not pastor’s former wife. I’m sure they are still married. And her face is probably free of mascara etchings. At the time, mine was not.