Often find yourself on edge? Like a ready-to-boil-over pan, or Jenga pile nervously awaiting the next nudge?
I used to get stressed a lot. So much hacked me off. Slow drivers. Program crashes. Blown light-bulbs. Instruction manuals that didn't make sense just by staring at them blankly for four seconds.
"Why can't things just be EASIER"
I hadn't realised what stressed me wasn't the things themselves. It was me.
I'd walk in after work and get wound up if my then-girlfriend had left unwashed breakfast stuff on the side. I soap-boxed about how it was a lack of respect. "Because then I just have to wash it up".
At the time my righteousness seemed completely justified. It wasn't for longer-than-I'd-like-to-admit I realised what was really going on.
This was one of many rules I had. About life's shoulds and shouldn'ts. And with good intention. Because with certain rules I could control things better. Avoid stress. Stay calmer. Be more productive. There's just one problem:
The world didn't care about my rules.
Of course, some disciplines talk about the benefit of having 'no expectations'. That certainly would've solved my problem. So why not just let it go?
Because it wasn't about the washing up. It was what the washing up meant to me.
The washing up being 'left for me' meant I wasn't respected. Unworthy of love. It also meant more time doing chores. Meaning less time to be productive. And being productive meant being worthy and good enough. Good enough to be loved.
So letting go of that expectation wouldn't bring calmness. I'd be accepting I wasn't good enough. I wasn't trying to be difficult or controlling. I was asking for proof I was lovable.
Thinking about it now, it does seem a bit nuts. But that's the kind of black-and-white, cause/effect mental-shortcutting the mind can do. Especially when it's trying to protect you.
It took me a while to start questioning my rhetoric for reacting that way to the odd misplaced mug. And turning the spotlight on myself proved much more effective than the soap-box strategy.
"If this was somehow about me, how would that be?"