Shonda Rhimes is a literary hero. Everything she writes turns to gold, and above the undeniable talent, there seems to be an awesome and inspiring woman. Her video, ‘My Year of Saying Yes to Everything’ is moving, and thought-provoking and seems like an admirable, if not slightly daunting task. She decided to say yes to everything that scared her for a year. In saying yes to that which terrified her (public speaking, acting, a live television debut, and being less of a workaholic to name but a few) she was able to dismantle the power that her fears had on her. She shares with the large TedTalk audience, “The very act of doing the thing that scared me, undid the fear. It made it not scary.” Sometimes, it takes a momentary decision, and the choice to start engaging with life and that which scares us, to change our whole lives. It takes undoing negative patterns and walking a path that we haven’t tried before. And sometimes it just means being less of an Asshole, and more open to the experiences, and lessons that life has on offer. Lately, I have been a bit of an Asshole. To myself, to people close to me, to amazing opportunities presented to me, and to this little thing we call life. That’s the thing with chronic anxiety, you spend so long trying to control the outside world (which never works), in a futile attempt to make it feel safer (it doesn’t), and in the process, you destroy everything that was working, and okay. It is futile, and exhausting, and painful. And the worst of it all is that it makes you really fucking selfish.
This morning as I was scrolling through Facebook mindlessly when I stumbled upon a Meredith Grey quote (but let’s give credit where credit is due, and praise Shonda!). Or maybe the quote stumbled upon me. It’s funny how quotes sometimes come to us when we need them the most, and this one came to me when I needed it. Or maybe, when I was actually willing to engage with it mindfully. And not mindlessly, as per usual.
I am a big quote person. I save them, I share them, I adore them. But after the initial moment of believing in their magic and vowing to implement their message in my life, I forget them. I am all talk when it comes to their meaning and little walk. But this quote struck me, especially these lines.
“Is this the best you can be? Can you be stronger? Kinder? More compassionate? Decide. Breathe in. Breathe out and decide.”
And I realised unequivocally that my answer was no. No, this is not the best that I can be and this is not the life I want to live. And this is perhaps the surest I have felt of anything in a long while. My anxiety of late has been at an all time, life-destroying high, but rather than take active steps to combat it, I have crumbled. I have been selfish, unkind, erratic, and obnoxious towards those that care for me, and in a strained attempt to create order and control in my life, I have caused more hurt, and stress for myself, and others. This isn’t written to beat myself up, I do enough of that on the daily, but it is to acknowledge that I can do better and that I have to make that choice. The choice to be better for myself, and those around me.
They say that life will present you with the same lesson until you learn it. Once mastered, various hurdles and newfound problems will unfold. Life is after all about learning, and if we aren’t gaining deeper knowledge and growing, then what is the point? My deepest struggle in life is the fear of being unwanted and this most negatively impacts the close relationships in my life. Like most, I have some deep-seated abandonment issues from childhood, that present themselves in the most unflattering of ways. I hate depending on people, but when I do, I become a nervous wreck and then depend on them too much for all sorts of validation, support, and safety. Safety that I need to marshal and create in my own life. I often pride myself on being a ‘nice’ person, (what a flat, and boring word) but I am realising that this niceness is only present when people fit my mold of who they should be. When they do not live up to my ‘perfect’ image, my fragile glass-casing snaps, the talons come out, and anxiety and manipulation prevail. I can sometimes even see myself doing it, and I just sit there, some inert observer, watching the walls crash around me. I can identify the problem, but I struggle to implement the action. And my excuse? “I am just messed up.” But that is utter crap. I am not ‘messed up’, I am just a person who is dealing with some stuff, and at any moment I can decide that these behaviour patterns just don’t work for me.
When I read the Shonda quote, it hit me. I have been a real A-hole for quite some time, and I want to be better. I have to be. I often don’t say things that need to be said, “out of fear of not rocking the boat or hurting someone’s feelings”, but then I harbour resentment and eventually lash out. I make my anxiety the problem of everyone around me, and when they cannot help me (because it is not their job to save or fix me), I blame them for their failures. I spend so much time being critical of others, in a weird bid to deflect my own shit, and then just bring more negativity to the world and feel even worse. Instead of sharing what I love and making the world better, I bash what I hate and propagate it into the world. And of course, I am not denying the power of anger, or the right to stand up for things that hurt you, I believe in that, but I also believe in the power of kindness and love. And that has been lacking from my life for some time.
I have this one life to live and dreams to follow, and things to do and it isn’t enough to simply say ‘I am messed up’, I have to decide to take all the broken and complicated things and show up anyway. And yes, part of that is being kinder to myself, and maybe not calling myself ‘messed up’, but part of it is realising that I am actually bloody over my own Bullshit. I have things to do, friends to make, books to read, oceans to swim, love to give, and music to listen to, and I am wasting precious days in a murky cauldron of self-sabotage, immaturity, and despair. It stinks in there! And no, self-flaggalation and pity is also not healthy, and another weird toxic behaviour I need to say goodbye to.
This journey will require me to bow out of my self-sabotaging ways, in order to live a better life. And that is hard. Because self-sabotage, while destructive, and nasty, is also strangely comfortable. It means you never really have to try, because you are setting yourself up for failure anyway. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy of the most brilliant, and shitty preportions.
It’s so scary being honest with yourself and taking a long look in the mirror. But MJ coined it when he sung : “I’m starting with the man in the mirror….la la la…”
These lyrics ring true for a reason. (Did you read this without singing it?)
So, today, I have decided to make different choices, because I am tired of these negative patterns manifesting in the same ways. My life feels like the proverbial example of ‘Same Shit, Different Day.’ And I am exhausted by it. I am exhausted by me, and the drama I create. And maybe I am sharing too much, and exposing all the things in me that should remain concealed, but maybe in making this public, I am also searching for some accountability. Maybe in typing the words, and hitting share, and sharing my most vulnerable parts, I am deciding to be better.
So friends, or the one person reading this who is probably my gran (who is kind, and lovely to me, despite me sometimes snapping at her for simply caring), I want to be better. I want to change my life, and I want to do it today.
As a kid I used to say, “I may be a little bit scared, but I can do it.” I am scared of failure, I am scared about how this will all pan out, I am scared of posting this, and I am scared of what the future holds, but as young me (who was far wiser and cooler than old me) said, “I may be a little bit scared, but I can do it.”
Elizabeth Gilbert (another literary hero) shared,
“I have never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit.”
And goodness knows, I am tired of mine.