Breaking old habits is hard. That feeling of just wanting to be alone, hurting in silence, licking your wounds and wishing that nobody would look your way. At the same time, wanting desperately someone to break through the wall you’ve erected all around you. You know, just punch through it with their fist and grab you by the scruff of your neck and drag you into the light.
I realize that the only person who can do that is me, really. Sure, other people can try, can just be there, present to witness my despondency. But it’s an attitude adjustment. It’s recognizing that I have to be my own caretaker. And sometimes that will mean climbing under the covers and wrapping the blankets around me and breathing in and breathing out gently. And that’s it, just being gentle with myself. In psychology I believe they call that self-soothing.
Well, this is me self-soothing. Writing down the feelings and witnessing them for myself. Putting some distance between me and them and trying to reorient.
Some people suffer depression because they inherit it from their parents and grandparents. Some people suffer because something horrible happened and it sends them into a tailspin. In my case I’m not sure what kicked in first, the genetics or the horrible event. In any case, I’ve struggled with depression since I was a child. And I witnessed my siblings and my father struggle with it as well. My mother, too, has some sort of mental illness I’m pretty sure. But let’s not talk about her for the moment.
I read somewhere it takes between 21 and 30 days to break a habit. I don’t think I’ve gone 30 days, ever, without feeling at times that it just isn’t worth it. Today is one of those days when I have to work hard to feel good about who I am.
It started, I think, when I went to a time management seminar earlier this week, held by the Project Management Institute at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver, BC. The event was an opportunity to network and mingle with other project management professionals from every conceivable industry. At my table were two IT professionals, an environmental engineer, and I forget what the others did. We were there to listen to an expert talk about how best to manage our time. Instead we got a life lesson.
He started by telling us that it wasn’t hard, that it wasn’t “rocket surgery”, it was as simple as doing what’s important first. Only, just because something’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. He repeated that a lot. He said that to know a person all you had to do was look at their calendar. What you spend your time on, that’s who you are. He also said that it was important to make lists. Not wish lists for what you want to accomplish, but actual to-do lists of what you will accomplish. The more realistic the better. Keep the wish list, but label it as such. And don’t confuse the two lists, ever.
What he said was this: time management is life management.
We are all on this planet for a finite amount of time. What we do while we are here is up to us. We get to fill it with activities, friends, family, work. We get to design what that life looks like based on the tools at our disposal and the way we manage our time.
The clock is ticking, he said.
It wasn’t a very cheerful talk.
It’s not that what he said is earth-shattering or mind-blowing or surprising or new. I know I’m not doing what I want to be doing with my life. It’s just that I’m afraid of so much and I’m not even clear on what it is I want to be doing. Sometimes I feel like I’m not clear on purpose – it’s a way of not having to start on the journey.
So here is the question again, that’s been gnawing on me all week: what am I scared of?
Because that’s where I need to go.