It’s storming all around me. Incredible winds... thunder/lightning... a small lake forming in the backyard... and I'm in the screened-in porch. I had to move close to the house and put a big bag around my laptop to protect it from the blowing rain so I could write while I enjoyed the sounds, smells, and feelings of the storm.
It’s one of those days that's a true roller coaster ride - jerky ups, steep downs, twists and turns and loops, and some boring straightaways. I fought with a company who misled me (and lost), contacted another company who charged me for something I didn’t receive (and won), filed for unemployment once again because they messed up at the unemployment office once again, had a huge fight with my daughter, was interviewed for an article about having a child with mental illnesses, and did a few mundane chores.
Unfortunately, I don't have the choice of riding a roller coaster again. Most days include similar rides. Some are kiddie versions and some are the latest and greatest thrill rides, but for those who battle mental illnesses/addictions, there are very few says with the option of not getting on that roller coaster.
Finding peace in the midst of these storms while riding that roller coaster is my goal. But how?
In every addiction recovery group, the importance of gratefulness is mentioned. It's also vital for those with mental illness... or who lean towards pessimism... or actually anyone breathing.
With everything I've gone through in my life, I thought I had reasons to be pessimistic. I used it as a safety measure - after all, if I've imagined and prepared for the worst thing that could happen, then I'd be ready for anything.
But it doesn't work that way. Looking for the bad in everything, consciously or unconsciously, takes its toll. I am a prime example that if you have that attitude long enough, you won't be able to stop.
Having several anxiety disorders doesn't help. In fact, they may be the cause. It's like the question of which came first - the chicken or the egg – but it really doesn't matter. It’s something that needs to be corrected.
It started with a phone call. It was pity party time and my boyfriend mentioned that I should be grateful within the situation. However, earlier in the conversation, he had his own pity party about something he's dealing with. I thought I was so clever and turned the tables on him, telling him that he should also be grateful in his situation.
And then he said three words that floored me:
"You are right."
I was speechless. I wanted him to agree that us wallowing in pity was okay. I sat there and tried to think of a good counterargument.
There isn't one.
In both situations, if we each looked hard enough, we could find something to be thankful for, even though just a few moments prior we each thought that these issues were insurmountable.
I then thought about other situations in my life that have been highly anxiety-producing lately - my eyesight and unemployment benefit issues. Both are massive issues.
Every time I look around and can’t something in the distance, it produces anxiety. The doctors said that my eyes just need more time to completely heal after cataract surgeries but there's always that little voice saying, "But what if they don't?"
I am currently getting unemployment benefits (PUA) because there is no work currently in my field. You might be thinking, "But she can't work anyway due to the cataract surgeries." I could do photography shoots if I had to - it's just harder with these vision issues. I’m relying on those benefits until events start back and since I don’t know how long that will be, the anxiety is high if the unemployment problems aren’t solved.
Either issue could make even the most optimistic person worry… and I’m definitely not an optimist. Plus, I am dealing with both.
So how can I possibly be grateful? I can understand accepting them as "things I cannot change" ("The Serenity Prayer"), but being grateful?
Using the skills I use to find the worst in a good situation - and flipping it around - I found ways to be grateful, even in bad situations.
Concerning my eyesight - I don't have to dread the cataract surgeries anymore; they were postponed to while I am out of work which has made everything easier; and even though I can't see clearly yet, my vision is much better without correction than I’ve ever experienced.
Concerning unemployment – Freelancers normally can’t get unemployment, so anything is a blessing; through working on these unemployment issues, I realized a mistake in my favor; I discovered an app that auto-redials (the only way I could get a human in the unemployment office); and I was able to pass along what I’ve learned to others having similar problems.
Concerning today’s issues - Although I lost money over the misleading subscription practices, at least I noticed before I lost even more; the fight helped me realize some things about myself that I need to work through; and I was able to contact unemployment the third time I called (a new record!) and hopefully fixed one of the issues.
So, though life might be storming around me while I'm riding that dang roller coaster (aren't rides supposed to be shut down during storms?) gratefulness can lead to peace in its midst.
And on a side note… the storm that was whirling around me when I started this post has now stopped. There's blue sky peeking through the clouds. Birds are singing. The wind is barely blowing. It's really mild for a late June afternoon in the South.
I loved the ferociousness of the storm but also love this peace. Maybe being grateful for the positive aspects of each is the key to enjoying whatever comes - storm or peace.