Thursday, May 12, 2011

how colleen does it

this post was deleted quickly after its first posting for some reason, so for those of you who have read it twice, i apologize.  but it's worth a second read!

i've known colleen for just about a year now and i've learned so much from her. she is the real deal and is ridiculously capable in all aspects of her life. and, although she could have written about a handful of things, i love that she has the perspective to write about what she did. 

here's how colleen does it...

So the question to answer with this post is, "How do you do it?" The trouble is to pick, how do I do what. I don't know why, but in the last 10 years I have had a lot of chances to deal with and work through a few tough things. The short list is that I have severe Chron's Disease, our daughter has Rett Syndrome and we moved to a place where we knew nobody just as both of these factors crushed down on our life. But amongst it all, I think the best story to tell would be how I battle my addiction to busy.  

It has always been very easy for me to find things to do and be completely justified in them. When I was younger I loved to volunteer. I worked on committees, organized events and really enjoyed getting to serve. Serving is good right?

As I got older I worked. In high school I became a bank teller and worked my way up. I was even able to work while I started taking classes at the community college. Eventually I became a trained chef and then had the pleasure of working a lot - weekends and holidays were just part of the package. I really loved cooking and I did it a lot!

Now I have two kids. Claire is 5 and has Rett Syndrome. There are endless possibilities for busyness within the special needs world. There is always an appointment to schedule, services to advocate for, and therapy to do, along with the daily care for Claire that can be quite consuming. In addition to Claire, there is Chloe, who just turned 2. She also presents plenty of opportunity for busyness. Just cleaning up the messes she makes could keep me busy for at least half the day if I did nothing else.

So you see, I, like so many others have plenty of things to keep me busy. At first none of this sounds bad, all very good things; but for me, I hide in it. Like any good addiction, the busy performed multiple purposes. It kept me from feeling lonely, made me feel smart, important, needed. I could go on but I think you get it.

I never really saw it as a problem, from the outside it just looked like I had my act together, and from the inside I was too numb to notice just how far I had slipped into it. 

Just over a year ago I was having a conversation with a friend about how I had become so numb. I figured that it all tied to Rett Syndrome and the death of the dreams, blah, blah, blah. But after thinking more about it, I was just using it as I had used many other things - to hide in.

That night my friend challenged me to stop using the word 'should'. It didn't sound that hard, but wow, it was a game changer!

Slowly, I started to release the tight grasp that I held on everything, and as I released, I was surprised by what I saw. As I stopped using the word should, I found that what I said sounded very different. The tone was different. Instead of thinking, "I should do that." I was able to say, "I will get to that when I am ready, and that isn't today." Sometimes I even found myself able to say, "I am going to do that," with some sort of sense of owning it, like, “Yep, I am going to, because I can, not just because I should.”

 With this new vocabulary, my days changed. I went through an amazing transformational period where I grasped that it was possible to live and just be, that I didn't always have to be doing something.

During this period life got a little wacky. A lot of things slipped through the cracks. As they slipped, some of the things broke and that wasn't nearly as bad as I had thought it would be. Other things sat there and waited for me; when I was ready they were still there.

I learned that it was alright to take a few more months to get the equipment we needed if it meant me not being on the phone all of the time. I found that I was available to do things that I really wanted to be doing, like playing with Chloe or standing over a hot stove cooking (yes, I actually love that!). I was freed up to notice when Claire had her small victories.

Removing that one simple word from my life has really been the biggest step that I have taken in the process of starting to live my life again and not just staying busy through it. I still slip and have days when I opt to do things out of duty and obligation, and I consistently find that it isn't fun. I end up very drained at the end of it.

So that is how I do it. I stopped being painfully busy by not feeling like I 'should' do anything. I still have very full days, but I do think there is a difference between full and busy.

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