Friday, December 2, 2016

Things Will Fall Apart...And Then What?



Every morning after I successfully drag my feet to our kitchen to prepare breakfast, one of the first things I see are the ant traps sitting in one corner of our counter top. They've been there for months. We had a minor ant attack in the summer, as if the heat alone wasn't enough to remind me that we do live in the South. Anyway, after a few sprays with diluted vinegar and a friendly visit from our pest control guy, the problem was taken care of. The weather also turned cooler so I really don't expect them to come back until maybe next summer again. 

So why keep the traps? I ask myself that every morning of every day when I glance at those black squares in the corner. The truth is, every day when I see those traps, I feel myself holding my breath a little as a brace myself and wonder if I would see specks of black or reddish-brown crawling around. I know the likelihood is low but I'm expecting the worst and convince myself that this daily awareness, though a torture, is better than being unprepared. 

But is it?

Is worrying about what could happen and perpetually wait for the other shoe to drop thinking you can truly be fully prepared for it, really a better state of mind than the alternative? 

As a self-professed overthinker and worrier, I'm painfully aware of the thin line that separates preparedness from paranoia. It's a very delicate line that if one is not mindful can easily be crossed, leaving you feeling consumed and unable to enjoy life fully.

I have wasted many yearsand still do waste some moments to this date as I work through my recovery—trying to debate if I should let things be and enjoy the moment, or anticipate, prepare and even preempt. 

There was a time when, after having just moved to the South and hearing of news of tornadoes, I did not see the point in decorating our newly built home. I kept hesitating to buy furnishings and told myself, what for if all this can just be destroyed by one bad storm that can hit any time?

More than a decade ago, after breaking up with an ex and then deciding to remain friends and explore the possibility of getting back together, I squandered immeasurable amounts of time debating with myself about the unknown future. I weighed my options and shredded every scenario to unrecognizable pieces, wondering if I should just cut the cord altogether for fear that the relationship was going nowhere and that I wouldn't be able to handle the inevitable second heartbreak that was looming in the corner. I even went so far as to employ the decision matrix à la Pascal's Wager: staying vs. cutting the cord against the two possible outcomes namely ending up together vs. living separate lives. Can one get even more neurotic than that? Yes, the matrix did help me decide, in case you were wondering. However, I can't deny the amount of time I wasted overthinking the whole thing instead of just surrendering to what I felt to be true. 

To say that this entire past year jolted me and thrust upon me changes and realities completely unexpected is an understatement. 

Early this year, a very dear friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. Another family member received similar news just a couple of months ago.

My parents have suddenly decided to significantly downsize and put our home in the market. 

The United Kingdom voted for Brexit.

My father-in-law passed away.

My two countries, the Philippines and the United States, both elected the less desirable candidates for presidency, men who are clearly not the rational choices in all objectivity. 

Another good friend of mine found out she was going to be laid off after being on that job for more than a decade and all this in spite of doing her work so well that almost everyone in her workplace relied on her. The organization just decided to eliminate her position. 

I can go on and ruminate further on how life has taken me by surprise this year, mostly in unpleasant ways, but the point is this: Indeed, preparing to some extent for the unforeseen  is wise, but never to the point where the future is robbing you of your present. A life lived in a constant state of anxiety about what the future may hold, or one where present choices always feel constrained for fear of a future built on lackfear of not having enough money, not enough love, not enough jobs, not enough friends, not enough time—is not living fully. It starves your soul of possible growth, adventure and wisdom. If you always make your decisions based on your worst case scenarios, you will find yourself fully depleted and yet replete with regrets. You will be left wondering where time went and will be haunted by a sense of mourning, asking yourself why you did not when you still could.

You can really only prepare yourself so much and if you're being completely honest, you know that peace can only be found in relinquishing control. Wisdom will make you realize that there is power in surrender. 

To me, as cliche as it sounds, the key to being present in your Now is to choose what makes you authentically happy. It's not a mindless and selfish way of existence. On the contrary, it requires a lot of introspection in order to define what makes you soulfully happy. And I doubt that the answer would ever lead to anything material. If we focus on answering that question, I suspect we would find it easier to choose to be in the present moment rather than being slaves to our anxieties about the future.










7 comments:

  1. Excellent points. I, too, worry a lot. Like you, I find it hard to find that line between being prepared and overthinking everything. Gotta let go.

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    1. Elsa knew the truth, didn't she? ;) It's not at all easy to let go but you and I both know worrying about everything is not a sustainable way to live. Thanks, Anne! Hope you have a great weekend ahead! xoxo

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  2. I used to be the same way until the worse did happen...and you know what? I survived now I just enjoy each day as the gift. It was intended. Happy holidays Joy!

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    1. Wise words from someone who's been there and came back victorious! Thank you, Rena. Truly we need to see each day as a gift and find our faith. Hugs to you and yes, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! xoxoxoxo

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  3. Oh that point between worry/despair and going with the flow. I used to call my parents and sister "the anxious family." One of the reasons I left NY was to get away from my sister's constant anxieties--often taken out by yelling at me. I forgot of course that in this day of internet phone lines, cells, texts, FB messaging etc nobody is ever really away.
    My best friend of 40 years used her IRA--almost the entire IRA to buy a house. Now she can't afford it and might have to give up the house. I had been feeling guilty because I bought a house but I could afford to. Still I'm not sure it was the best move I had ever made and had she ever asked me about the financial aspects I would have explained. But she never asked and I didn't realize she was going to use almost all her assets so I don't feel guilty. That would have been unbelievable to me just a year or two ago.
    Somehow this year despite everything that was going on and despite me feeling like the town renegade, I found the strength to finally, calmly, answer my sister back, and realized that in many profound ways I had changed.
    With Rena, who is much younger than I am, as a friend and guiding light, it's even easier!
    Love this post!

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    1. Faith and Friendships...what gifts indeed to help us through our darker, trying days. Life is really unpredictable and all we can do is to just do the best we can with every moment, with what we have. As Rena reminded us above, a lot of the times the worst we imagine is never as bad and we come out as wiser survivors. Thanks, Pia! Hugs to you!!! xoxo

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  4. I choose authenticity and complete denial over the craziness going on in the world.

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