Okay, so it's been a month.
(Off topic: I Can Has Cheezeburger is a glorious, glorious brainsuck. I don't know why I'm laughing so hard AND YET I AM.)
I have to say this: meditation is awesome. I don't know if it has lowered my general anxiety, but it sure as hell does give me at least half an hour every day that I will be able to relax, and over the past few weeks whenever I've found myself in the middle of a big honkin' flare-up of fear or anger, I've been using my breathing and trying to get out of my head and see the big picture. It's actually quite useful. In terms of keeping me from freaking out, meditation has thus far worked better than Zoloft and therapy, but I suspect that this will last as long as I keep, you know, doing it; therapy was the bomb while I was in it, and sorted out a lot of my long-term issues, and Zoloft stabilized my braaaane chemicals, but meditation is a pro-active, I-am-figuring-this-out-myself thing that makes me actually practice calming down on a daily basis. Highly recommended.
I think I may have finally answered my eternal question of how I can have motivation that isn't, er, motivated by fear (of my boss, of my dad, of embarrassment, of that general "getting caught" thing), or blunt force of will, or other things that make me lose my damn mind. I think that, in general, the state I've been in when I've been unmotivated hasn't been exactly peaceful, it's been more of a state of avoidance. That's where the either-or feeling has come from: either I'm calm and unproductive, or frantic and productive, because I've been getting my "calm" from avoiding the whole thing. (Oh joy.) At no point am I usually looking at the situation in a frank and honest manner without freaking out, so it's the times when honesty is brought to me against my will (by rediscovering a time limit, or having someone catch me slacking, or whatever) that I experience the wish to change things.
Examples are many, but the most obvious one, both historically and to a certain extent now, is the pudge. If I can ignore my flabby zones, I'm fine, no bad feelings! If something comes up to put me in the spotlight, then I'm frantic: swimsuit season! upcoming wedding! high school reunion! going home for Christmas! can't fit in last summer's clothes! The binary approach here is clearly not working for me.
So there are three parts that I'm working on. One is to know what's going on in my life, honestly and without gloss or condemnation, and accept that this is how things are at this very moment in time. The second is to sit down and ask myself, often, what I really want, and get a clear mental picture of it; to my surprise, being able to visualize things like that brings motivation right with it. The third part is to work out steps to take in the direction of what I really want.
I got a call from a headhunter last week, which kind of freaked me out a lot for all the aforementioned reasons. I am used to dealing with my job situation by ignoring it, because working toward getting myself out of it means bringing myself face to face with the whole reality of the situation and I panic and it's all bad. This time, I accepted the opportunity to come in and talk, and spent the weekend thinking.
Some calm examination of my current situation indicates that it's not dire; nobody's going to fire me. It's also far from uncommon in the company I work for; as far as I can tell, once they hire a person and like them, even if they phase out that person's job or reorganize, they want to keep them on, so we end up with a whole lot of people working in jobs that they're not qualified for, making shit up as they go along. It's like a weird cousin of nepotism. I.T. in particular was plagued by this for a few years, which is why I ended up in I.T., which is why the boss I had in that department knew nothing about I.T. but they needed a manager so they transfered him into the department, which resulted in a whole lot of I.T. trouble. That said, while I'm not qualified and was never formally trained, by sheer lucky accident I turned out to be very good at my job. The problem is that I.T. is actually getting their shit together and killing off the access of untrained folk like me. So the situation here is this: I could probably be employed here for another twenty years if I don't do anything dramatically stupid; they like me and would cheerfully shift me around to any sort of assistant-type opening they have. The thing is, I don't want to be an assistant. I want to do more than that. I want to do what I'm doing now, only more so, without the bullshit make-work parts of my job, and I want to learn more and grow and have, you know, a future career that I could advance in. I want to work for a place that is more service-oriented than finance-oriented, because I'm kind of a socialist softy at heart and I can't get behind the idea of promoting a brand or a product. I want to work for a place that is willing to take me in at a sort of starting-level position and give me a ladder to climb, point me in the right direction and let me get trained and educated. I want to work for a place that has a good balance between work and home, that doesn't expect me to work sixty hours a week and has a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to family time.
I told the headhunter all of that and she was totally down with it, and work has begun to find me something that would suit. And I'm calm about it. Seriously, I don't know when in my life I have handled anything half so well. Every other time this sort of thing has come up I have gone into a complete panic. WOOOO, MEDITATION!
(Another tangent: I came home from going to the grocery store the other day to find my Hub lying on the floor, looking contemplative. He explained that he was trying to figure out "that mindfulness stuff" and had been trying to relax his leg, which had been cramping after a too-big session at the gym. He says he'll try the body scan tape at some point, which I'll believe when I see it, but-- interest!)
The other major thing that I've discovered from all of this is that I have a great life. I have a great husband, two great cats, great parents, a great sister, and some perfectly lovely friends. I have a great apartment that has furniture for all the functions we need and that is within walking distance of Trader Joe's. I have a gym membership that allows me to go lift heavy objects every other day, which makes me grow stronger. I have a paycheck and money in the bank, and a little nest egg that ought to be big enough for a down-payment by the time the housing market stops losing its collective mind. We're gearing up for having kids in a year or two, and I'm starting to really trust that we'll be able to handle whatever comes up. Nobody's making me leave Chicago for the suburbs; if the housing thing doesn't work out, we'll just rent and send the kids to the parochial school attached to the church I attend. My parents are almost set for retirement, still have all their wits about them (or, as they like to say, they still have the small amount they started with) ,and are healthy. My sister is engaged, gearing up to get her doctorate, and is healthy. Her fiance is, as far as I can tell thus far, kind of a guileless doof, but he's smart and loves my sister a lot, and he's healthy. My husband and I are healthy and love each other. It's spring, all the flowers are in bloom and the trees are getting leaves and the grass is green. It's all fantastic. As far as the important things go, I'm blessed beyond anything I could ask for. As they say in the book, there is far, far more that is right with me than that is wrong with me.
I'm learning to feel whole, I think. Whole as I am, right now. It doesn't mean that I don't want to improve things, or change things, or get new things, but I don't have to improve or change or get new things in order to feel whole. It's counter to the feeling I got from my childhood, which was that I would have to fix myself, get myself up to par before I was acceptable. It also runs counter to the whole capitalist/consumer thing, which seems to indicate that a) you, the consumer, have a problem, and b) this problem can be fixed by spending money on [fill in the blank].
You're fat! Buy our food, which has zero nutritional value but has fewer calories and no carbs/fat/melamine, and your problem will be solved!
You have a headache from being so stressed out! Buy our magical pill, which won't do a damn thing about you being so stressed out but it WILL take care of your headache!
Your skin has too many wrinkles/blackheads or is too dry/oily! Buy our magical cream!
You are bored! Consume more media! Consume DIFFERENT media! Consume BETTER media!
I mean... yeah, that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but not much. I can't help starting to think that maybe a lot of our problems are exacerbated by, if not outright caused by, this illusion that all of our problems can be fixed via stuff that my grandparents would have called "frivolities" (a word that seems to be fading into obscurity as the very notion behind it gets lost). Granted, my grandparents were also very religious, so their answer to any problem would have been to pray on it, which I don't do half so much as they would have liked. Still. Every generation has a one-size-fits-all answer for what ails us, and while "pray on it" was my grandparents' answer, "buy something" is apparently my generation's answer. And it just doesn't do much for me, really; it makes me feel like I'm doing something, sure, but it doesn't really apply to the problem. I used to buy Doritos, now I buy new clothes; same damn thing at heart, and while both pleased me at the time they didn't address the actual issue, didn't make me feel more worthy or more loved.
I don't know where the hell I'm going with this, honestly, besides this: I'm fumbling toward some kind of answer for myself, and so far it means a whole lot of babbling and thinking and nothing definitive. Thus far I've managed to patch together that my life on the whole is good, and that any problems within that life can't be solved by adding more or better products, but maybe... maybe by being truthful with myself about how life is, and what the big picture is, and what I want, maybe I can figure things out that way. I can hope.
Cut for length-- click to read more.