A stand-up comic named Christopher Titus once joked that people from dysfunctional families are actually better off because when the shit hits the fan, we know when to duck.
And in some ways, it can be true.
The problem I run into, however, is that I am always ducking. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Always trying to stay just ahead of everything so I am not surprised by anything. So I am not the one covered in shit.
This has made me a bit of an anxious, likely OCD to a degree, control freak. I almost always ruined nearly every Christmas and birthday present growing up to the point June told me to wrap my Christmas presents with everyone else’s and “act surprised.”
This has also trapped me in a constant state of perceived scarcity. Not enough money. What if I have a medical emergency? Never enough. I never am or have enough or I am afraid of being or having too much.
Like with food. If I buy a lot of food, I have this overwhelming urgency to eat it all as fast as I can. I struggle to just be thankful I have it and enjoy it and not feel like it’s a race against the clock to eat it all before it goes bad or something.
When things are going well, I wonder why, what it means, and when is it going to end. Then my focus becomes all about watching for the end and being like, See, I knew nothing going that well could last long.
I don’t want the scarcity viewpoint because it is stressful, frustrating, and depressing, but the gratitude and abundance viewpoint feel so vulnerable and terrifying. It is a fear that if life feels too abundant, it’ll rip me into shreds when something or someone’s expiration is up.
How do I just sit in the present and focus on what is right in front of me? How do I just find gratitude in the moment even if the next one turns to shit?
When my anxiety attacks peaked about 2 years ago, I began fearing the next one before it even happened because I felt so out of control during them. I was paralyzed by fear when they came on. All I could do was lie down, close my eyes, and feel my heart pound in my chest and my head swim. If I was lucky, I could release the pressure valve by crying myself to sleep. That wasn’t very often.
So I learned to tell myself, when the fear of anxiety came rushing in, Amy, you are okay right this second. You are okay. And I would say it each second and add, Even if you are not okay in 10 minutes or 10 years from now, you are okay right now and that is all that matters.
Sometimes it worked, sometimes I took a Xanax.
Sitting in gratitude of my abundance feels like dropping my guard. It feels like making myself vulnerable to attack. Like if I let myself feel deeply how much I truly have and am loved and adequate, I will lose everything. I will “jinx” myself.
I remember when I saw The Notebook, or maybe it was A Walk to Remember, in the theater and all I thought about on the drive home is why God often allows a shorter life together for people who truly love and cherish each other than those who make each other miserable. It felt like God gets jealous that those who love each other deeply love him less so he rips them apart.
It made me fear God’s envy that I may love someone more than him. It made me angry at God. It would be 15 years before my faith unraveled but that was one string ripped from the fabric, for sure.
I fear being too happy. Too full. Too satisfied. Too attached.
Instead, I procrastinate, self-sabotage, criticize myself and others, complain, and fight for control. If I want a life, however long it is, to be fulfilling, I can’t live scarcely or on hold for whatever.
The story I have always lived around is one of constant vigilance and preparation. How do I change it to one of appreciation and living for the moment as each moment goes by?
Loss is inevitable. Maybe I need to just realize that I can duck all day long and still get covered when the shit hits the fan why waste my time? What can I do instead? How can I change this story?