Monthly Archives: July 2014

Challenging times for an Achievement Junkie – The Quiet Summer

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I have such lofty goals to write. I have a list of topics even. And yet, I get waylaid by the many things I’m trying to accomplish. Trying and succeeding at some, and failing at others. But there is a sort of liberation now in the failing at things I’m trying. Because they are things I’ve been wanting to try, but held back either for lack of time or fear of what lay beyond. I tried taking a class on herbs and wicca – to explore more about faiths and my own expression of faith and in search of a spiritual community.  In a Tigger like way (Tiggers don’t know what they like but they know what they DON’T like), I figured out more about my faith than before. I found that the online community that was part of that class, which was amazing and supportive and awesome, just didn’t click for me. But while I was trying and failing at that, I was also trying out a Unitarian Universalist church where I felt instantly at home, where I have made lovely friends and felt utterly supported during the struggles with changing jobs and in losing my cat and nearly my shit. Try, fail, try, succeed.

So in failing to write in here, I’ve actually learned a few things. I’ve learned that I do need some time to veg out at night. About an hour with a show I can get wrapped up in. Sometimes longer if i’m excited about whatever I’m knitting or beading. But I don’t need much more than that. Longer than that and its not that I feel antsy, which as a recovering achievement junkie I definitely still feel, but more like I’m sad because there are more things I want to play with/learn/do.

But the urge to feel better about myself by overdoing – by getting more gold stars today than yesterday – exists. It’s always at the back of my mind. Like Mya Angelou said about her years of not speaking – there is always a call of it. The same is true for my need to set a goal for losing weight. It’s always there. I recently cut out wine and cut way back on sugar and cheese hoping to resolve some of my digestive issues. I lost 8 pounds in about five weeks. Yay. but also, uh oh. The scale and the measuring and the idea, in this time of being single again after two years, and missing my loud cuddle monster of a cat, and being in transition at a new job calling for skills I haven’t used in a long time (how many days notice for motions in the bankruptcy court? what is adequate protection?), this time of shakiness, it would be so easy to fall back into measuring and calculating just how long it would take me to lose whatever specific amount of weight I might try. It’s sometimes a daily struggle not to calculate how many calories to burn at the gym to lose more than a pound a week. It’s always there, always calling softly, sometimes sweetly.

So the urge to overwork, to over do, in the words of an older friend of mine, to over process, is there. I lost my cat and by boyfriend in the span of 7 days. The boyfriend is still alive, I should say, just no longer my boyfriend. And I’ll write more about the cat when I have finally stopped looking for him every time I walk back into my house. When I stop thinking he’s going to wake me up in the morning by walking all over me begging for food. And when I stop leaving the kitchen light on for him, so he can play with whatever bit of string is left on the ground, clearly for the purpose of being played with. I loved that loud bourbon sniffing cat.

Luckily I lost the boyfriend and the cat at a time when work on one project was winding down, and I moved five trials from July to November. So work was calm and easy right when I needed it to be. Until all the sudden everything was quiet. Work was quiet. My phone wasn’t chirping and beeping to tell me about millions of emails and texts and on and on. The house was quiet because the loud cat was gone and left alone were the rest of us critters, the wobbly cat and bouncy dog and me, like people stranded on an island trying to figure out how to get off and get back to the loud cat. Silence.

And then it stayed that way for three weeks.  This is probably WAY more challenging than I had planned when I set out on this year of no goals. To face down loss and loneliness with a severe lack of work. But I plugged along. I kept moving, even with a struggle to try to convince myself to just observe how things were changing, at work, at home and beyond. My schedule was changing at work and without the constant 9 pm phone calls from the boyfriend, and without loud cat acting as an alarm clock. My schedule was also changing by getting to more and more yoga classes and making it to the gym, and being able to run fairly consistently, all of which I did not to get drowned in the sea of loss.

And now that work, of a different type entirely, is flowing towards me, challenging me to work in a different way, my schedule is changing in a positive, happy way.  It’s a challenge to have a lot of work, and yet still go to yoga class and take the dog for a walk, even though that lovely pile of work is there to be jumped on and pounced on and dissected. It’s a challenge to have work that is intellectually interesting again, so that I do have to balance how much I do rather than prodding myself to do more so that I can say I’ve done more.

The key, I think, to managing this challenging time, has been to work towards staying grounded. Which I know sounds kind of lame. But honestly, balance is a constant game. Take your eyes off the prize for a day, to handle a crisis, and the dishes are piled up, or who knows when you last did your sheets, or that motion/essay/project at work is now coming close to being due. Balance requires faithfulness and discipline. It requires figuring out what works for me in the good, calm, quiet times. It requires knowing that four yoga classes and four and a half sessions at the gym per week works. It requires knowing that I need to take the dog for a walk at night so she can be calm and let me get my end of day stuff on. It requires knowing that I need Saturday night plans by Wednesday so I won’t feel lonely all week. Knowing what works, and what I need to stay in a relatively balanced position, then lets me know what I need to be uncompromising about. I can miss a yoga class here or there – say for the ridiculous summer cold/flu/voodoo death curse I had – but I can’t miss hiking with the dog on the weekends or I’ll feel off center and anxious all week long.

I think the list of what needs to happen each week, of course, has to change with how my life changes – now that my schedule is changing, I might drop a yoga class if I’m only half into the instructor and would rather do an hour at home by myself – or I might find that I need to have more social events during the week and that will require doing a few hours of work on the weekends.

When I was truly suffering in my old job and trying to make it through week by week, applying to loads of jobs and feeling like I was spitting in the wind, I found a few pictures of the goddess Hecate.  She’s apparently the goddess of transitions – hanging out at dusk with her friends the bunny and the owl.  She has plenty of other attributes (including, but not limited to…) but my key was to think that the transition was a time in itself. Instead of being entirely future focused, entirely living for the moment when I got the new job, or figuring out what to do with the somewhat unsatisfying relationship I was in, it was a thing in itself. A time to examine and think and desire and plot and plan. Being in transition – which for me honestly lasted for six months – was a place.

I know people say many things about the secret of life being about the journey not the destination, and that’s not what I’m saying here. Yes, life is a journey. It’s about learning and trying and enjoying and experiencing, got it. But what I am saying is, sometimes in life you find yourself at the crossroads and you have no way or idea of how to move forward. For me, I mostly knew what I wanted to move forward to – I had the basic outlines of it when I decided it was time to move on from my old job – and I basically knew how to move forward, I just had to wait it out. And in doing that I learned a lot about myself. And I had to face down the urge that I could actually do something more than just sit there and send out resumes and fantasize about my boss’s head exploding (though preferably NOT on that lovely motion I had just drafted). That place of transition led me to where I am now, of trying and failing and trying and succeeding. Had I not landed there, stuck in the middle between whatever I had been living in and decided wasn’t working for me, and where I wanted to be going, I wouldn’t have had the urge to try to tackle my achievement dependence. And I wouldn’t have had the ability to start tackling the need to constantly control my weight. And I sure wouldn’t have had the readiness to jump when the door opened up to a new job. And now, when the door opened up to leave the somewhat unsatisfying relationship, I did step through. With a lot of hurt and pain and anxiety, but I find myself on the other side, where the grass really is greener.

By embracing the period of transition last winter, I can see now that I am still transitioning – at work into a new field and in life into getting what I want for me now. That dream I had of two dogs in the woods didn’t leave space for church meetings, and drinks with friends, and dinner parties and teaching yoga classes. All of which I have learned make me far happier than the idea of having two dogs.

I survived the quiet by knowing it was a period in itself and that it was going to usher in some change.