Embracing All and Nothing

The other night I had a panic attack. I’m talking breathing into a paper bag, heart pounding in my eyes, dark thick fog, standing on the ledge panic. Luckily by the time it set in all the way I’d placed myself in a nice hot bath, which for me is the best place to have a panic attack. The soothing sound of running water masks the sound of spazzy hyperventilation and the heat soaks into my bones, making me sleepy and a little less internally combative. So no one in the house knew the marbles were temporarily running loose in my head. I’m trying to learn how to keep that shit to myself because the fewer people who get caught in the crossfire of my irrational panic the better. I generally pass through crazy town faster when there aren’t any hostages.

The reason for this particular panic attack?

I blame the damn vegetables.

Hear me out.

Every year for as long as I can remember, I have written a new year’s manifesto that includes at least 50 items I want to experience, achieve or learn about in order to BE A BETTER PERSON. And every year I mostly kill myself the first part of the year trying to check all those things off my list in order to be smarter, more successful, skinnier, richer, happier, funnier, prettier: BETTER.

The second part of the year I pretty much eat all the cookies.

Lists are my crack.

So this year, in attempt to get sober and healthy, I decided in late December that the only thing on my new year’s manifesto would be this:

“In 2018 I will be kinder to myself and to others.”

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Just kindness.

I have spoken the following words (or similar ones) to my people over the years:

“Beautiful, lovely, smart, funny, dear friend! Be kind to yourself! Do YOU. Embrace your perfect self AS YOU ARE right now in this moment and the next kind step will present itself to you without a drop of struggle.”

And I have meant and still believe these words with all my heart. My people are so perfect. If only they would just see that they don’t need to change or become better. They don’t need to make a list of rules to be their best selves if they just wrap their arms around themselves and BE.

But as my mother used to say “Do as I say, not as I do missy.”

(Insert hypocritical snort here.)

But THIS YEAR was going to be different.

And it was my total and complete intention to LEAVE my beautiful and perfect manifesto ALONE and try to let the ‘next kind step present itself’ without a crazy ass list and wrap my arms around myself and celebrate my AS IS self.

Then voila, along came my next kind step, a workshop (that I’d signed up for clear back in November) called “Balanced Goal Setting” that was offered by one of my friends. While my main purpose at the time I signed up was to support her growing business, I thought, knowing my history of manic goal setting, that the content in the workshop (namely the word BALANCE) would help me keep true to my 2018 Manifesto.

The day was wonderful. I immediately fell in love with the small group of talented, ambitious and openly honest women. The discussions were guided well by Rene’ to keep us all on task but there was a rawness to much of the discussion and I was able to confess to the group my all or nothing behavior and how my hope was to find some middle ground in my goal setting so that by mid year I wasn’t in fetal position from exhaustion eating all the cookies.

We did this fun activity where we were asked to draw our current state of reality and then our desired reality. There were no rules. Just coloring. Which is my jam. My talentless jam. Which is why it’s my jam: zero performance pressure.

I wanted to be truthful and committed to my simple goal to be kind to myself and others and gently acknowledge my current state: complete and total physical, mental and spiritual chaos with the inability to hone all the things coming at me in a balanced manner:

And here is the desired me with tidier hair, better physical flexibility, cute hippie jeans that fit, and all of my catholic chakras in balance, kindness overflowing.

I went through the motions of identifying a few key long term goals, examining my why, setting some time lines for action steps and ways to be accountable. I shared some of them with the group and feel like I received and gave good feedback. But deep down inside, I had the nagging knowledge that it was dangerous for me to be doing any kind of list making and kept glancing at my desired reality picture and breathing in deeply with the Bette Midler version of “Human Kindness” running through my mind. This was going to be me in 2018.

I left the workshop with some wonderful new friends and a sense of peace that I had taken some basic ideas that were relevant to my quest for human kindness and would NOT, I repeat NOT go over the top with this.

But an addict will do all kinds of things to get a fix. It started with a simple question “What are some things I could do to be kind?” My first response was:

“Eating more vegetables would be a kind thing to do for myself and it would leave less room for shit food.” (Note to self: swearing does not qualify as kind.)

But then: “How will I keep track of this vegetable consumption? How on earth can I remember to be held accountable for this act of self kindness? It’s not like I’m gonna REMEMBER to eat broccoli, no matter how kind it is..”

So I made a perfectly innocent little daily checklist that looked like this:

3 Greens ______ ______ _______

The size of a sticky note. Absolutely no big deal. Though as I type this I am thinking what a great sticky note marketing idea this would be:, 365 sticky notes that say: “Did You Eat your Veggies Today? It’s Kind”. _____ _____ _____

Don’t copy me. It would not be kind of you. It’s my idea.

But then I thought, another kind thing to do for myself would be to consume a little fruit. Balance is kind. Fruit tastes good. Especially after broccoli. A kind but healthy reward for putting miniature trees that taste like crap in my mouth.

3 Greens ______ ______ _______

2 Fruits _____ _____

And then maybe some Yoga. Every day I will do Yoga. It’s peaceful and will help my body feel better. That would be kind. 20 minutes minimum every morning. Of aggressive Yoga.

3 Greens ______ ______ _______

2 Fruits _____ _____

Yoga _____

But the piece of paper looked weird with so few words and so few things to check off. So I added a few more things for Feng Shui:

3 Greens ______ ______ _______

2 Fruits _____ _____

Yoga _____

Lots of water _____

Write for 30 minutes a day _____

Read for 30 minutes a day _____

List 10 gratitudes everyday _____

1 Handwritten note to someone _____

The list grew and grew and grew. I’m too embarrassed to expose all of it. But before I knew it I had THE MOST PERFECT DAILY KINDNESS CHECKLIST in the history of all time. ALL for the sake of kindness to myself and others. And it was only January 5th so it wasn’t too late because everyone knows the first week of January is just a “warm up to the resolutions” week.

I put the title “Balanced Day Checklist” on it and printed up 360 8-½” x 11” sheets and put them in this cute little clippy thing so I would have record of all these lovely things I needed to check off each day for kindness to self and others. So that I would be accountable for my kindness. 24 hours of highly efficient kindness. It felt reasonable and solid.

I showed a couple of my friends the “plan”. I casually told them “It’s not etched in stone, it’s just a sort of guideline. To keep me in tune with things. If I don’t get to it all, well, so be it.” They were polite and encouraging. “That’s so inspiring!” “Wow! Good job!” My daughter said “Gimme that I need to copy you.” One friend said: “Wow. That’s a New Year’s resolution on steroids. I’m just going to try not to shit my pants this year.”

Enter the night of the panic attack. I’d had a very busy couple of work weeks and pretty much shit my pants on the whole kindness thing. 14 of the 21 days with nothing checked off except “drink lots of water”. Which wasn’t really kind. I was just really thirsty.

The rules were in writing. And the boxes were not getting checked. My grade was a 30%. Worse than just an F. It was negative FFF. Fuck kindness. I can’t be kind when I’m FAILING to check all the boxes.

I got out of the tub, pulled myself together a bit and did what addicts are supposed to do: I contacted a sponsor. The friend who said my list was on steroids and basically nutto. I sent a text :

“That stupid daily balance sheet I put together: it’s too much. And I don’t know how to back away from myself.”

My friend’s response: “Simplify.”

Me: “The checklist WAS an attempt to simplify.”

Friend: “Oh I see the dilemma. Make it a weekly balance sheet and split it into 5 days with 2 days off.”

I mentally imploded at the logical idea of changing things up. I had already printed up the pages and there were 339 pages left to complete. I texted on and on trying to work things out, without any further response from my friend who knows better than to become a hostage on the crazy train. Then I had myself a small cry and went to bed.

The next morning I cut up the 339 pages into scratch paper (small tantrum) and then made a simplified weekly balance sheet with a few less spaces to check. But I only printed six pages because I wanted to be able to regroup without having another panic attack. I need to save those for more important things like bad hair cuts and pants that won’t zip.

See here’s the thing: if I am going to truly be kind to myself and wrap my arms around myself “as is” like I have told so many of my perfect people to do, then I need accept the truth that part of who I am includes extremism. I’m probably never going to stop setting over the top goals and making lists and then failing to accomplish everything on the list. This is part of both the fun and the agony of being me. And I think the kindest thing I can do this year is stop trying to fight the all or nothing me and embrace the all AND nothing. That pretty much covers every angle and level of kindness possible, which begs to become a perpetually changing list.

I have to go. It’s time to eat a serving of small bad tasting trees _____ _____ _____

Namaste perfect people.

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