Words To Live By

 

I recently read an article from Psychology Today that talks about why we should all have a personal motto; something we say to ourselves that brings us comfort when things aren’t going well, or motivates us to reach a goal, or helps us establish a new habit. The article focuses on using a motto to change behaviors, but it got me to thinking about the importance of how we talk to ourselves. Before I got sober and learned a new way to live, the way I spoke to myself was a lot different from the way I do now.

In the past, my personal mottoes were all about hiding emotions, keeping up appearances, and not letting anyone see the real me. I can’t tell you the number of times I said to myself, “Get it together, DeLoe,” or, “Suck it up,” when my real emotions started to bubble up. It was all about pushing things back down and not feeling the negative emotions. Another personal motto of mine growing up came straight from my mom, “Act right.” This wasn’t meant in the same sense that the AA saying, “Do the next right thing,” is. It wasn’t about taking the next right step, or acting your way to a heart change. Its underlying meaning was whatever you do, however you feel, if it’s negative, don’t show it; just act right, and no one will know. Ugh. It’s no wonder I drank.

Now, I talk to myself differently. I allow myself to feel my emotions, and I express them. Sometimes it isn’t easy though, and old habits and methods of dealing with things pop up. When I start to hear the old sayings in my head, I combat them with new, true sayings. Here are a few that work for me:

This Too Shall Pass.  I remember the first time I heard this was in 7th grade English
class. I don’t remember the context in which my teacher said it, but I remember
thinking that those four short words provided such comfort. At the time, I was filled with that middle-school angst, worrying about things that I had no control over (yes, I did that even then), and wondering if I would always feel so messed up. The truth is, I did feel messed up for a long time, but I tried to remember that “this too shall pass,” and it did help. These days, whenever I face something that is hard to deal with, I say those same words to myself, only now, with three more decades of life experience, I know that they are true.

 
I’m a Real Girl, With Real Feelings. I have to credit my husband for this saying. When we were first dating, I would apologize whenever some uncomfortable feeling came up that I thought I had to hide or stuff back down so that he wouldn’t see it. Austin would tell me that I needn’t apologize, that I was a real girl, with real feelings. Wow. This was a revelation for me, because I had lived my life trying to keep any uncomfortable, or negative, emotion from showing outwardly. I thought that in order to be accepted, I had to appear to have it all together. I was wrong. Now I know that true acceptance only comes when I allow others to see the real me, feelings and all. From time to time, I still have to remind myself, or Austin does it for me, that I am a real girl, with real feelings.

I’ve made it through worse. Sometimes, when situations seem desperate, and I am feeling like I can’t take one more thing happening, I have to remind myself that I have made it through far worse. I have been raped, beaten, arrested, fired, divorced, and estranged from family. I have blacked out drinking and fought, wrecked cars, passed out in the dirt behind a dumpster, and been to rehab twice. I have suffered through PTSD related flashbacks, nightmares, and fear. I have been to the psych ward and to jail and thought my life was over. But you know what? Every single time, by the grace of God, I have survived. So today, when some obstacle or challenge comes up, if I remind myself that I have made it through worse, I am comforted, and I can persevere.

Everything is okay, right now. Staying present, not dwelling in the past or worrying about what is to come is huge for me. I slip into guilt and fear at the drop of a hat, so being mindful isn’t something that comes easy. When I remind myself that I am alright, in this present moment, whatever it is, I can carry on. This is especially important when I am feeling overwhelmed – either with emotion or with daily life. Believing that I am “okay, right now,” allows me to make it through the moment, and move on to the next.

All things work together for good. St. Paul’s comment in Romans 8:28 is something that I often say to myself. When something is going on that I can’t understand at the time, and I am asking myself, “Why me, God?”, I remind  myself of this verse. So many bad things happen in life, and we often can’t comprehend why until much later, when the real reason becomes clear. So, in the moment, I try to remember that there is a reason, God’s reason, and it’s okay if I don’t know what it is right now; something good will come of it, and I’ll understand later.

It is what it is. This saying is, by far, my favorite. As a matter of fact, I even have it tattooed on my wrist. I know that it’s overused and it sounds kind of flippant, but it holds special meaning for me, and I love it. One of the hardest things for me when I got sober was acceptance. I didn’t want to accept my past, I wanted it to be different. I didn’t want to accept that I was an alcoholic, or that I couldn’t stop drinking on my own. I didn’t want to accept that I couldn’t control others, or at least sway them to my way of thinking. I didn’t want to accept that the mess I found myself in was caused by me. So when I say “It is what it is,” it’s all about acceptance. In recovery I had to learn that I have to accept the things I cannot change, and it hasn’t been easy. Having the reminder (right on my wrist!) helps me deal with situations that I have no control over. Some things just are what they are, and they’re not going to change no matter how much I wish they would. It is at those times that I say to myself, “It is what it is.”

Those are a few of my personal mottoes and how they help me. What are some of yours?

 

Advertisements

It is what it is

It is what it isUgh.  Today sucked.  A lot.  As I said in an earlier post, I have been feeling overwhelmed at work.  Today that overwhelming feeling got multiplied by a thousand, and a good amount of frustration was added in.  The story is a pretty boring one, typical behavior of any large company.  The corporate office made a decision to change some things around to make things better in the long run.  Sounds good, right?  But in the short run, it will be a HUGE amount of extra work, we’re talking lots of overtime, and very tedious, and most of the work will fall on my shoulders.  While the idea of all of the extra work causes me a fair bit of anxiety, that wasn’t what was so frustrating.  The thing that really got me was how the decision was communicated to the staff.  First of all, rumors about it started flying last week.  Then, yesterday there were conflicting stories of what was going to happen, depending on which manager you spoke to.  This morning, there was confirmation that the changes were not going to happen, it was business as usual.  So I spent my day accordingly – working to prepare things as I normally would.  At about 3:00 this afternoon, there was an announcement that the changes were going to take place after all!  So I wasted the whole day working on something that was ultimately going in the crapper.  I’m sorry, I know I’m rambling, but can you sense my frustration???

Needless to say, I was pretty grumpy.  And that got me to thinking.  What is it that I am so grumpy about?  Is it the changes that are coming?  Is it the extra work?  Am I trying to control something that I have no control over?  Why am I frustrated, and what am I going to do about it?  I never shy away from extra work, I’m a hard worker and deadlines don’t usually bother me, I always get the work done.  Now, I don’t love change, but I have gotten better about rolling with the punches.  It occured to me that I often react to these kinds of situations the same way.  I get worked up and anxious thinking about how awful things are going to be.  I freak out on the inside, while I act like everything is alright on the outside.  I worry, worry, worry in anticipation of whatever the crisis is.  Here’s the funny thing…when the real thing comes to pass, it is never as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Everything usually works out fine.  Hmm.  I know this.  I even have a tattoo that says “It is what it is” to remind me that there are  things that I can’t control, and that I have to accept them.  You would think that knowing all of that would keep me from becoming such a nutjob when things happen.

So what am I going to do about it?  I’m going to get up tomorrow, go to work, and do my job.  And I will do it again and again, and in a few weeks, the worst of it will be behind me and things will go back to normal.  I’m going to remind myself that this is not a major crisis, I’ve had those, I should know the difference!  The most important thing to remember is that it is what it is.  It will work out just the way that it’s supposed to.  And it’s a whole lot easier to face it with a smile and a good attitude than the alternative.