When the cold is in your bones

Right now, where I live, there is this crazy weather phenomenon occurring.  It’s so cold outside, that my apartment windows are covered in ice from the inside.  It’s so cold outside, that my car didn’t want to start this morning.  It’s so cold that- well, you get the point.

And here’s the thing about it being this cold out-

You can’t go anywhere, and if you could, you don’t really want to.  So all that there is to do is to just think.   Or if you’re motivated, you can craft.  (Which I’ve spent all winter doing, so here we are.)

Today, as I was struggling to get ready, I was thinking about where I am.  A year ago, I was in my cozy apartment in Texas, and working 300 hours a week, and figuring out my next chapter.  Two years ago, I was in my tiny house with my husband, and partying as a means to assert some kind of control.  Ten years ago, I was struggling to meet people and feeling trapped by where I was.

So much about my life has changed; it feels like that is the only consistent theme in my life.  Constant change.   And I do -S O- well with that.  I thrive when there’s a lot of change and chaos and dysfunction, if you will.  I can maneuver through anything, provided it’s a C5 storm.  I am a queen when it comes to dealing with, processing, and acclimating to change.  It’s my superpower.

So much so, that when things are easy and it’s all smooth sailing, I have begun to notice that I will actively search for the chaos and stress.  Not to be confused with creating that; let’s get that one thing clear.  But there is this inherent need to be constantly moving, or in this case, navigating choppy waters.  I can’t seem to function when things are easy.  It sets my teeth on edge.

As things have more or less calmed down for me over the last few months, I have had this need to tilt at any and all windmills that I find.    I have taken “active listening” to a whole new level, which is maddening.  In fact, my mom constantly needs to remind me to stop taking charge of everyone else’s battles.

So while it is unbearably cold outside right now, I have tried to force myself to create more and more emotional distance from others and their personal problems.

Let me assure you- this is stupid challenging.

Because I am a “worst case scenario” kind of planner; I can create a contingency plan for any scenario under the sun.  I can craft a response for ever single variable.  When you have spent your entire life in “fight or flight” mode, that apparently comes with the territory.  And so when a friend or coworker or hell, a perfect stranger shares their most pressing issue with me (which happens far more often than I am comfortable with), I immediately come up with an internal flowchart of responses to outcomes.

One of my goals this year has been to go more slowly.  I keep mentioning this goal of mine, because it is truly a big part of all of -t h i s- that I’m processing.  Slowing down means that I have the opportunity to step back and be mindful about which cause to take up; which windmill to tilt at.  It’s the most challenging part of “self care” that I can think of, because this means that I am consciously putting my mental and emotional health first.  I am not allowing just anything to take up space.

Marie Kondo is all of the rage right now, and for good reason.  Because we all live such overfilled lives, stuffed full of things and thoughts and feelings and memories and intentions.  A lot of the focus of her philosophy has been centered on the material aspects of our lives.  Which don’t get me wrong- those closets need to be cleaned out.  But that just scratches the surface of what’s really at issue.

It is so much easier to focus on the physical, instead of taking time to clear away what doesn’t spark joy, in the emotional and relational sense.  And it is so much easier to focus on the chaos surrounding everyone else than it is to learn how to enjoy peace within.

I have been a real life adult for over ten years now.  I have adjusted to just about every single life event one can.  I have weathered some real storms.  And now, as those chapters are (hopefully) coming to a close, it is time for me to learn to enjoy a life free from chaos- or as free as one can reasonably accept.

And with the cold being here, and being as brutal as it is, I am taking advantage of it filling my bones, and making me slower to react.  This cold, as much as it sucks, has begun the process of forcing me to pull back into myself, to take care of myself first, and most importantly, to learn to love the peace that comes with the quiet.

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