all or nothing

One of the things I’ve been meaning to write about, but haven’t had a chance to really think about at length is a sort rundown of all the things I’ve learned now that I’m (ack) 37 (!).  Because, holy crap, that’s going to be a long post.

Recently, I was reminded of one of the things I wanted to talk about, while lazily reading Twitter.  My asthma/allergies have been particularly bad this week, so I ended up not working on Monday and actually had way too much time to peruse my networks and catch up on TV.  (This brings up another lesson: listen to your body when it needs to rest).  Usually, my asthma symptoms are secondary–meaning they are never really just caused by me having asthma.  Usually, for me, it’s a cold or allergy that starts the ball rolling.  Add in some stress and not taking the best care of myself, and boom–>no bueno.  In any case, I’m still feeling pretty bad, but not feeling like I might have to run to the ER anytime soon.  So, that’s a bonus.

Twitter is (sometimes) a great place to people watch.  One convo I eavesdropped on was basically between this girl and guy.  She had just broken up with her boyfriend, and she mentioned how she was this super passionate person — that it was all or nothing with her.  She either gave things everything or completely disconnected.

I could relate.  But I found myself sad for her.  This mindset, based on this short convo, seemed to really damage her relationship.

It made me think about my own all or nothing ways and how–like her–I always wore it like a badge of honor.  As some way of validating that I was alive and awake and willing.  I realized how I really don’t live my life like that anymore.  I’m much more of a middling sort of person these days, and mostly, it’s because I realized that the extremes I lived with and by made me sick in a lot of ways.  Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and absolutely physically SICK.

I feel like, most of us, get this education in our 30s.  Age starts creeping.  Joints get creaky, all of a sudden.  Our body starts being a lot more needy as all those years of abuse finally get paid for.  I know, for me, my 30s really have been a time of realizing I’m not superwoman.  I’m painfully human, and I’ve been given so many reminders to put my ego in its rightful place.  When I fought against that notion and dishonored that reality, man–I paid.  For me, the physical symptoms were the first clue.  And that wasn’t even obvious to me until I literally had to fight for my life.

You live by extremes, you’ll die that way too.  And trust me–it hurts.

I got my reality check, that’s for sure.  For me, that reality check changed everything.  It made me acutely aware of how much I needed.  That I couldn’t go all or nothing anymore.  I could only do my best for who I was now.  I had to compromise.  I had to prepare.  I had to stop judging myself for not being perfect.

Unrelated to the physical stuff, things I thought were done suddenly came bouncing back into my life.  The psychological parts of being sick triggered all kinds of shit for me.  And life just has a way of flinging people back in your life.  When you’re not clean, shit is always dirty.

So, I’ve really had to do a lot of clean-up.  It’s all connected.  You can’t hide.  Your body and brain remembers.

In therapy, I learned about something that affects a lot of ACOAs–something that I had read about and had identified with–but had never had a name to label.  My therapist gave me this sheet on Love Avoidance and Love Addiction.  I’m a little more avoidant than I am addicted, but it’s all a spectrum.  A lot of my all or nothing things were here.  In fact, it’s probably what fueled that way of being.  I think a lot of us adopt this shit because our culture is so dysfunctional.  Hell, we can say America is basically just a culture of addicts.  For me, it came directly from my parents–who probably got it from their parents.

I can’t tell you the misery this shit brings.  And here, I thought I was just this passionate person.  Nope.  I’m just a product of dysfunction.  How I love–who I love–and why–man, it’s hard to unlearn.

I’ve done a lot of work here, and it will likely be a huge part of my future therapy mostly because this stuff doesn’t just change because you decide to stop it.  I have made huge strides here, though.  The people I’m attracted to now has changed significantly.  If I met my exes now, I doubt I’d have pursued them.  I can see clearly why I pursued them now and how it was connected to a dysfunctional part of myself that came from my father’s absenteeism and all the scars I bare because of it.  I’m not the girl who jumps into things quickly and without thinking anymore.  If anything, I’m the opposite.  And I worry about that.  For me, I try to stick to the middle because I know hanging onto the sides means I’m going by some script I inherited or learned to pretend to be safe.

I’ve tried to adopt this moderate approach to nearly everything.  Before, I was a workaholic that would work 12-14 hours a day, easily, and obsessed about it all the time.  Now, I take naps at lunch.  I leave at 5 pm–sometimes a few minutes early if I logged on early that day.  I seek out opportunities to do the work I love (like writing) during my on-time.  I take breaks to meditate.  I don’t fill up my days with appointments–because I know it’ll harm me.  I work hard, sure, but I keep it in perspective.  This is not my life.  This is my tool to make my life easier.   I don’t take it personally, but I do care about it.  I’ve worked hard to find a place where I can do that, and it’s made my life so much better.

I have adopted it with my diet, too.  During the week, I eat really well, but I don’t police myself.  On weekends, I do whatever I want.  Nothing is a no-no.  I don’t track.  I don’t weigh.  I listen to my body and rarely feel the need to be extreme.  I started doing this after a year of fighting with myself (and others) to be a certain way.  I realized the tracking mindset–the certain foods as Devil philosophy I had come to live with–had fed into my proclivity to be extreme.  It was making me miserable and sick.  Since being moderate, nearly all the problems I had come to expect to deal with on a daily basis are pretty much gone.  I realize now I was stressing myself out and making myself ill because of it.  I feel so much more relaxed and able to cope with my own specific problems.  So, I can actually start dealing with them in meaningful ways–instead of constantly punishing myself.

I’ve worked hard to do this with relationships, too.  I am more cautious about commitments–though I still allow myself to get carried away with feelings and in moments.  I often worry that I’m putting up walls, but then I remember that this is something I shouldn’t just give away easily.  I’m now the kind of person who reaches out only when I want to–not because I feel like I have to or should.  That may mean I don’t return a text for days.  It may mean I send 4 in five minutes.  I’m done with the whole tit for tat thing that I used to observe.  I don’t hide my interest or emotions, but I also don’t throw my own needs out the window.  And I don’t put up with others who operate that way either.  It’s a big reason why my last relationship ended.

I still see myself as an extreme person.  I am still a passionate person.  I know I’m prone to that, and sometimes, I go off the deep end.  I will catapult myself straight into that corner of this is everything.  And that’s okay.  I realize it’s the sick part of me now, and I know to moderate in other ways.  I know that’s just a sign that I need to slow down and be still.  I need to ask for support.  I’m proud when I’m balanced now.  Mostly because it’s a choice I make daily to take care of myself.

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