I’m sitting down to write because I decided that if I did, that would be the one thing that would redeem this disappointing day. I was supposed to be traveling to Maui today. My covid test did not get delivered by UPS to the lab on Saturday like it was supposed to so if I went to Maui without the test, I would have to quarantine the entire time I was there. I was up late rescheduling everything and up early feeling anxious about everything.
I think the problem is that when something like this happens, it has the ability to make me feel like I’m off course. Like I’ve made some mistake or I’m not listening to myself, to god, or to the universe. That’s the deep training I got in childhood. It’s gotta be one of the most confusing spiritual teachings: When things are going good, god is blessing you. And when things are not going well, it’s for one of two reasons. Either god is trying you (like some test that you have to solve to prove your worth to the universe) or you messed something up.
And I’m not blaming my parents for teaching me this because this goes way deeper than them. I’m not blaming church. I’m not blaming anyone, really. Everyone who has passed this tradition down has likely suffered from it.
But I’m trying to dismantle it in my own mind. There are traditions that attempt to do this too.
Shit happens. Maybe that’s the modern answer to the modern “WTF prayer” Glennon Doyle describes. Though I’m sure people have been uttering WTF to god in some form since the beginning of humankind.
That’s the wrestling match I’ve just been through in the last 12 hours as my long-anticipated trip is getting shortened and reshaped and more expensive.
Maybe this is the most painful part of becoming conscious. I now notice all the garbage thoughts my brain vomits at me. I notice the fear they cause. The self-sabatoge. The defeat.
Just in this one episode, I’ve noticed the following:
- It’s just too much.
- I can’t do it.
- I can’t spend more money.
- But I can’t deal with NOT going on this trip.
- I’ve been so looking forward to it.
- THIS was the plan.
- I had an anxious feeling about this covid test.
- I knew it wasn’t going to work out.
- Why didn’t I listen to that?
- Maybe the anxious feeling means I shouldn’t be going at all.
- Maybe I’ll be killed or maimed.
- Is this god trying to warn me via a delayed UPS shipment? [Good Lord! If so, haven’t we all been warned at some point during the Christmas 2020 shipping season?]
- Or maybe this is just because UPS employees are all using heroin and cocaine to accommodate a world that needs covid test turn arounds in <48 hours?
- We’re just asking too much.
- I am asking too much!
- This trip was asking too much.
- I should have just kept my head down, gone to work, cooked a sensible dinner and washed the dishes.
- Why do I have to dream about getting away and having a break in routine?
- Why is it so cold in San Diego this winter?
- If it was warmer, I could just relax and enjoy my life here.
- What does relax and enjoy my life even look like?
And now we’re firmly down the rabbit hole I always end up in: how do I make the most of my life?
I use words like relax and enjoy. I sort of veered away from happiness, but this is because trying to grab it always left me feeling like Glinda in Wicked, gaslighting myself with a melodic, Happy is what happens when your dreams come true.
Bullshit, Glinda. But I think we all saw it coming—that distant look in in her eye and the slight twitch of her enthusiastically raised brow. I might be resembling her this morning if I bothered to shower, paste an IT’S-FIIIIINE grin on my face and sing to people who are shorter than me.
In the wee hours last night, I rebooked the flight for a later date, got an appointment for another covid test (this time in person), contacted the AirBnB host, who was very understanding and able to adjust the dates for me, and determined the rental car is probably a loss. I almost always pay more for the flexible booking. Almost always.
Now I’m sitting at my dining room table wondering about god and the power of positive thinking and vibrational energy. I’m grasping at straws to understand why this very first-world, upper-middle-class problem of travel inconvenience has befallen me.
Wait—do you hear the judgment in my voice?
Let’s take that on first.
The way I talk to myself in these moments I fascinating.
Oh! so sorry, Michelle. You have the free time and money and energy to plan a trip to Maui in the first place. You have the luxury of being vaccinated against covid. You have a coparent who is interested in watching your kid so you can do something like this. You have trusted friends to watch your dog. Soooo sorry you have to delay your trip by a couple of days and it’s costing you a bit more!
Ouch! That’s cold.
All of that is true, by the way, which is why my brain gets away with talking to me like this in the first place. But does this righteous speech make me feel grateful?
You should be grateful! with a wagging finger and a scowl.
I was reading Brene Brown when I realized that the word should was a red flag for me.
Should means the judgmental voice is speaking.
My righteous rant to myself about Maui doesn’t contain that word—that’s how attuned to should I have become. But let’s face it—even if the word isn’t there—the whole paragraph screams, YOU SHOULD BE THANKFUL.
And a lot of times we stop there. We stop at the righteous rant because it feels right. It feels sensible. It’s a kind of stiff-upper-lip, pull-the-bootstraps tradition that gives us a sense of control. And we utter, You’re right, as we swallow the feelings with a mouthful of Cheetos.
This is the cycle I’ve been trying to interrupt.
And now you know how it’s going.
So far my progress is that I can hear the judgmental voice (in the cold light of morning after a mostly sleepless night, mind you). I don’t think I will ever be able to banish it completely and maybe I don’t want to. But hearing it feels like a good step because then I can figure out what to do with it.
That goes something like this:
Me: Oh hello, judgmental voice. Thanks for airing your concerns. I think we’ve heard enough from you. Is there anyone else who wants to speak?
Also Me: Yeah, I just want to say that you have made a thousand tiny decisions in the past 48 hours and that you are probably feeling some decision fatigue on top of the fatigue from your regular life which includes being a mom, working, paying bills, coparenting, dating, participating in hobbies, housekeeping…just to name a few–all during a pandemic. We could get judgey about that too but bottom line is, both things are true. You are incredibly well-taken care of in this life, AND you are human so life is still hard. It’s okay to let Maui be hard right now.
Me: Okay, that’s true. Maybe nothing has gone wrong. Mercury is in retrograde. Maybe it’s just that? Maybe I needed a couple of days to shake all of this off before I get on my way. Maybe it’s all okay.
Also Me: It’s all okay. You can be frustrated and sad about it too. I get it.
Me: *Cleansing sigh of relaxation*
I am learning to be kind to myself.
I am learning to breathe.
All from my dining room table.