I’ve had a presence problem for a long time. Even before the strange and troubling events of this past year, I’ve been very good at being distracted. At spending a lot of my attention listening to the running commentary inside my head.
I need to do this. I didn’t do that. What if this happens. What if this big risk I’m taking fails. What if I fail as a parent. My house is a mess. How is there possibly a mountain of laundry already. Why can’t the kids put anything away. Will I ever stop doing the dishes. I am always doing the dishes. Did someone just sniffle? Did we catch something at church because that’s the only place we’ve been going. What’s for dinner when do I need to put dinner in I think I need chocolate oh no the kids ate all my chocolate.
Exhausing, right?! Maybe you can relate, maybe you can’t, but I felt like my brain was on one constant speed-like I was driving with the windows down on the highway all the time.
I’m a planner by nature. I like to mitigate risks and maximize efficiency. It’s taken me five months, but I finally finished reading a book that has actualy helped me to slow down, make room for all my worries and feelings, and be more present in the moment. It helped a lot when my debut was launching, and has helped even more in the day-to-day life since!
The book is called The Happiness Trap, and you can purchase it here:
I love how the book is written in a linear, easy to follow and understand format. It has exercises you can do throughout. And I was able to take it in bite-sized pieces over time, which helps when you are juggling many things and balancing many plates.
There are three areas where I’ve found it’s been most helpful:
1- The running commentary in my head. I’m doing a better job at making room and accepting uncomfortable feelings. This leaves me more space to be present in the moment with my kids. To catch Zelie in a playful mood and play a silly game by the stairs. To color with Mary. To notice the concentration on August’s as he learns to draw his favorite super hero from a tutorial. To catch how Felicity’s hair falls over her cheek as she’s mixing batter for cookies. My commentary is still there, and still loud often, but I’m noticing more moments in my life and am less distracted.
2- I learned that avoiding bad feelings at all costs isn’t actually a healthy goal. A lot of self-help books seem super focused on being positive and eliminating bad feelings. This book did the opposite. It made sense for me to learn to accept that life will come with negative thoughts and feelings, but that I don’t have to place judgment on them, or even try to avoid them. I can accept them for what they are- negative thoughts. They don’t have to have any more value or worth than any of the other thoughts inside my head. Their existence doesn’t make them true or not true. And I can make decisions that align with my values no matter what my thoughts are thinking.
3- Creating a life I value. As I read the book, I realized I had done some important things to create a life that aligns with my deep values already. I was willing to take on a lot of discomfort to make it through four pregnanacies, and also to pursue the scary unknown of writing a book. But I honed in more on the specific things that I deeply value, and have worked on aligning more decisions with those vs. making decisions by default or because of fear. One of the big consequences of that has been that I’ve reduced my presence on social media. I still have a FB page for this website and for being an author. But I deactivated my personal account. So far, that’s been a healthy choice for me.
If you find yourself listening to the running commentary in your own mind, struggling with negative thoughts or worries or fears, if you are feeling like your life is somehow a mismatch for the things you feel are truly important, this might be a good resource to check out! I have a long way to go, and this is something that’s a life-long process, but it’s definitely helped this constantly-thinking momma, and I think it could be helpful to others too!