June 21, 2015

The Forgiveness Project: Taking the First Step.

Don't worry

So, you know RBF? Resting B*tch Face? Well, I have RWF—Resting Worry Face.

My default face is a look of sheer terror and worry. I offer Exhibit A as hard proof:

resting worry face

This was at my cousin’s wedding last year. It is unfortunate that I was closest to her and her awesome husband, as I effectively ruined their photos.

Thankfully, I’m mostly out of focus as I look positively tormented.

I remember being happy at the wedding. I was also practically 10 months pregnant with my second child, so there was a lot going on. But this expression of mine—captured for the rest of time—is not unusual.

Due to an overactive imagination and a hereditary “irrational” gene (or flair for theatrics—I prefer to blame science), I tend to envision the worst case scenario in almost any situation. From there, I spiral into a frenzy of worry and fretting. “If this happens, then that will happen, and then I can’t handle this because this other thing will then surely happen.”

Oh, I’m an expert fretter.

What’s funny is that some of my friends would describe me as laid back. Those who know me well—really, truly know me—would look at those people like they were speaking backwards.

I will set the record straight: not caring about wearing pajamas in public does not a laid back person make. You can be a hyper-intense, Type-A person while still wearing a sweatshirt in lieu of a bra at CVS. You can. But you probably shouldn’t.

I used to think that my ability to over-plan the future was what would make me successful. That my extreme ambition and constant drive was the only way to happiness. Worrying felt productive and proactive. If I wasn’t worrying and planning, well…that was something that caused me worry.

I was like this for the latter part of my teen years and all of my 20s. It wasn’t until I turned thirty that I started to reevaluate this lifestyle. If you are astrologically inclined—and let’s be honest, weren’t we all as tweens?—then you might recognize this time in one’s life as a “Saturn Return.”

A “Saturn Return” is when Saturn returns to the same point in the sky that it was in at your moment of birth. Apparently this happens every 29.5 years, and when it does, astrologers believe that it causes the person to enter the next phase in their life.

Basically, Saturn makes some sh*t go down and causes you to reevaluate everything you know. It’s a tumultuous time of growth, heartache, maturity and mind-blowing epiphanies about life.

With the first “Saturn Return,” you leave behind your youth and enter adulthood (go, me!), with the second you reach maturity, and with the third—if you are my grandmother—you are living in a retirement community with an overbooked social calendar, which confuses everyone since you don’t remember your grandchildren’s names and yet have so many geriatric besties.

Around this time, I started to feel rather lost.

The old way of worrying wasn’t cutting it anymore. It started to make me feel depressed and rather crazy. I realized that I didn’t like worrying. I know that seems like a “duh” realization, but after thinking that worrying was what kept me alive—kept me on my toes—I started to think that it was doing the exact opposite.

Worrying was keeping me from moving forward because I was so stuck planning out fixes for a false future. I was advised to “live in the now,” but having spent so much time in my doomsday version of the future, I had no idea how.

I recently started to see a therapist for the first time in my life to help me work out these issues. I have started to do positive affirmations and read self-help books to cement myself in the “now.” I started to meditate.

Well, wow. Okay, that was really generous of me. I’ve started to try to meditate.

I know, I know. Meditating is the easiest thing in the world. It’s literally just laying there and clearing your mind. Basically doing the only thing you were literally born to do. But I can’t do it.

Let me reiterate: I cannot do the one thing that every newborn human does immediately from birth.

I have to do guided meditation because I can’t turn my brain off unless someone tells me to. So you can imagine my frustration when I realize that I can’t move into the present and stop focusing on a false future unless I let go of my past. This is something else I have always struggled with. How does one let go of things?

When something bad happens to me, I will obsessively turn it over in my mind from every angle until I make myself—and everyone around me—absolutely sick. I’m often told, “You just have to let it go.” And that’s the most useless advice in the world. Oh, you’re broke? You just have to be rich. Oh, you’re bleeding out? You just have to stop bleeding.

I thought if I focused on the future and was always moving ahead and looking forward, that that would be enough.

It’s not.

I realize now that I wasn’t looking ahead and I wasn’t moving forward. The future that I envisioned was false. It was fraught with disaster. I was stuck in a weird state of limbo. It’s impossible to live in the future—unless you’re Marty McFly.

I wasn’t living in the present either. The only other option was the past. I didn’t feel that I was stuck in it, but I slowly came to realize that I was allowing my past experiences to paint a false future that I need to plan and protect myself from. It is exhausting.

I think I have the answer on letting go for me: I have to let go through forgiveness. I have to examine the parts of my past that I’m holding on to and I need to forgive the person or thing that I felt wronged me. In many cases, there are obvious perpetrators (like my childhood best friend) and in others they are not-so obvious (like my 22-year-old self).

Through this series, I will review and evaluate each past situation and work through the steps of forgiveness so I can let go and move forward. It’s a daunting task for someone so used to planning for the unknown future.

In this weird, nowhere state, I’m out of options. I don’t want to revisit the past because the hurt is still so fresh at times. I have no Delorean—and if I did, the idea of going 88 m.p.h is terrifying. I can’t live in the future as it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t know how to be present.

My only choice is to go back and heal the past.

And frankly, I’m worried about it.


Relephant Read:

Buddhist rule re: Worrying.


Author: Laurel Hess

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Flickr; Author’s Own


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