When I started this little blog, I thought it would have a major impact on me. The 2014 year of no goals! I would be so transcendent by the end of the year, so calm and serene. The truth is that I have had a massive cosmic kick in the pants from starting a new job that is, in the most generous word, chaotic. It’s true that some of that chaos is self-inflicted – trying to make everyone happy, trying to do everything the way the guy who had my job before me did, and on and on.
The positive part of me is grateful for the chaos, because its shown me that I really have to dig in and do things in an authentic way. I can’t put on a suit and pretend to be conservative for more than a day. The whole thing devolves and ends up with me either itchy & bitchy, or in tears because I couldn’t make things work. I learned from this chaos, that was the job that I had wanted so badly, that I don’t fit in to parts of the legal world. I am not the type of lawyer who thrives in a law firm environment. Nor am I able to balance the stress of working hard and running my own cases/clients while also beating the pavement to find new clients. So I learned, no partnership track for me. I also learned that I absolutely check out when working with other people who are winging it – flying by the seat of their pants and living on fear and stress.
I learned it the hard way, not one of those moments of “hmm… this doesn’t seem to be working for me.” I learned it with rounds of not sleeping, not eating, constantly weighing myself as if my body shape was the only thing I had control over and by god I was going to win. Which left me eating so little I nearly fainted on a few occasions. Arriving for meetings for church groups and having to ask for honey or fruit to keep from falling down. Not a pretty site. At some point the stress lightened up and I started eating again, and realized that litigation – running to court or freaking out about a trial – was not a career for me. I would end up making some major goof up based on not focusing, not being present and then spending hours or days beating myself up about the goof up\
. At some point late in the summer, I started fantasizing about being fired and going to work as a bartender.
So that was the summer – losing the battle with not having goals about my weight. Though I did manage to start running again when the stress eased. And the fact that I had decided not to train for events made me sad a little, when seeing pictures of friends marathons and such. I did decide to go back to training for longer races now that I could enjoy running a little more. And I have plans in 2015 to run a few half marathons – but also to run with people. To have it be fun, and not work. To take the shiny brass ring away from running so that it isn’t one more thing I beat myself up about not doing right or well or frequently enough.
The Fall brought its own challenges of not being heard. Of being treated like a glorified paralegal, even though I have experience and training and honors degrees. Of being so freaked out and scared by the meanest judge on the bench and the craziest yelling-est partner in the firm on the same case, so much so that my hands shake at work sometimes. I took tranquilizers at work to be able to focus and stop the shaking.
I turned 40 and had a lovely dinner party, none of which I remember because work was so crazy, I had so many things going on that I barely sat down at the party, so worried that it wasn’t good enough or cool enough or people were having a bad time and I should have planned something different. I woke up in the middle of the night panicking, and ended up sick.
Then I started moving and yoga teacher training and November was a blur of craziness of my house being chaotic and overwhelmed by boxes and worrying about moving and getting lights turned on and cable hooked up.
By December I was in full workaholic mode. So focused on the move into a new apartment, getting everything to fit, having to give up on a couch, living out of boxes and rarely sitting down for more than a hour. I was sick again, with a terrible cough, and it took weeks to get better. Broke up with yet another boyfriend, making for three breakups in six months, with almost no time in between boyfriends, and almost no time alone, on my own to try to catch my breath. I made silly, stupid mistakes at work. I’d be surprised if I don’t end up being fired from them because I failed to stop. I failed to break and cry uncle and tell people I couldn’t do something. When i finally got a chance to nap, to lay down in bed on Christmas and try to rest and relax, I woke up in a panic an hour later. Heart pounding. It was the first time I’d stopped moving in weeks, maybe even 6 weeks. And the fear and terror about work caught up.
So I’ve realized that all this time, this bright shiny job that was supposed to be so prestigious, is not for me. That I’ve once again tried to go after a brass ring to show that I am as smart and capable as everyone else, and put myself in an environment that is 100% wrong for me. There is little support at work, not many other associates in my year, no one in my office who can help with any of the work that I do, few people to turn to in my firm to ask for guidance on how to do something, and a whole lot of people who yell when I don’t know the answer or procedure for doing something off the top of my head. It’s a nightmare for an anxious person. It’s torture for someone sensitive and scared. The key to it all is confidence and feeling like a squirrel in a fish pond, always doing the wrong thing and struggling for air, doesn’t work.
The answer is to find a way to be myself. Which requires that I figure out who that person is and start liking her a whole lot. Letting her dress the way she wants. Get tattoos that people can see (instead of hiding them under her shirt), doing things she likes and needs to do. Setting boundaries about how things will go and how she should be treated. All of that requires time and rest and support.
And I do feel like I’m so close at work to screaming and crying and walking out with no notice, taking a torch to the place while I leave.
And how does that relate to goal-setting? That’s the thing. I used those goals, the work, the achievements, all of it, to escape from feeling the present. I used it to escape from the world I’ve put myself in instead of figuring out what I need to do to live in the world. How to shape jobs and relationships and activities to work for me, so that I don’t end up strung out and desperate for a break.
This chaos, this nightmare. Its let me let go of the time I tried and failed to do the corporate law firm gig before. I no longer feel like a failure about that time. I see now that I burned out. That I desperately needed a break to get my shit together and find something else. And instead of taking time off and regrouping, I kept soldiering along, creating projects to make myself feel better. Trying to be someone I wasn’t – be the hippy little thing, with no care for money or eating only raw fruits and veggies and meanwhile freaking out about not having enough money to keep the lights on. By focusing on work all the time, I was in a state of constant reaction. Bouncing from thing to thing, trying to make myself feel better.
This summer when I ran out of work while the long term relationship ended and losing the cat, I realized I needed to move into being able to be present. Even in the waves of grief. I didn’t do it well – bouncing from relationship to relationship so that I wouldn’t be alone, scared to focus on myself and instead falling back into a familiar habit of focusing on making something work. Yoga, walking, running, being with friends, kept my feet on the ground while the world spun around me. When things went sideways at work, it was too much and the old habit of obsessing about my weight came back like an old friend, comforting me by taking me away from how much I was failing at my job with losing another half pound. Or something new fitting. I was like a drug that numbed me each time I got on the scale, one half my brain terrified about losing more weight and being out of control to the eating disorder and the other soothed that I had control over something.
I say this now, because I’ve come to the end of my rope about this crazy job full of chaotic mean people. I’m now looking for a new job, which I’ve realized requires me to let go of what I’ve known for 10 years – law firms, partners, bonuses, etc. What I’ve scorned and hated and tried to leave multiple times. Leaving the known, even when it is bad and isn’t working, for something new and different is like moving into this new apartment. Its totally different – even though its just two miles from the older house. Its walking to get groceries and to yoga. Its friendlier people. Its living so much smaller (the apartment is tiny) and finding out that its so much easier to keep up with smaller. It’s having time to myself, finally, to just watch TV or read or take a bath. Its developing a yoga practice at home again, because I can get up earlier now.
The end of my rope also means that the soft comforting allure of obsessing about my weight has returned. It sneaks in on such small feet. A missed breakfast. A lightheadedness. Lunch getting later and later on weekends, during the week. This time though, I’m looking at it as a friend. Instead of spending energy fighting it, because good people don’t have eating issues. Organized, connected, “with-it” people don’t struggle to eat dinner and have to pray to eat lunch. That was my reaction in the past. To be good. To be right. To fight the eating issues. This time I see it as it is. I want to have control over something and so my brain invented this for me. And so long as I am in an environment with crazy, chaotic mean people I will have this struggle. Figuring out that I have to be myself in order to work, in order to survive also means accepting that I have these eating issues. That to find peace with them (since overcoming them hasn’t worked for 25 years), I have to make my life like the new apartment – smaller, more manageable.
A smaller life also means not setting goals or reaching for achievements because they will win me love and respect. It means figuring out what will work to get me to sleep on a regular basis, and eat in a moderate, healthy way.
So maybe the experiment with living without goals did have an impact. It did have a life-changing effect. I am not the transcendent, peaceful, blissed out yogi that I wanted to be. I am strung out and struggling and bargaining with myself to eat dinner. But I’m present. I’m feeling everything. I’m here with my feet on the ground, instead of planning a way to win some new shiny achievement that will take me out of myself.