What Happened When I Stopped Complaining and Started Listening

This weekend marked a full two calendar months since I left Facebook, for good. I remember a day when not checking it for a day felt like a massive test of will. Now, the idea of entering back into that particular drama-ridden fray leaves me dyspeptic.

My friend looked at me the other week and said, “The last few times I’ve seen you, you’ve looked so HAPPY.”

I feel happy.

I’ve come to a place where I can rest my mind. More precisely, I’ve come into space. I’ve bought myself the gift of slack. In a space with slack, there is peace. And today, at 42, there is little that feels more important than preserving my peace. In the age of the onslaught of other people’s thoughts and feelings, peace is a precious commodity, inaccessible to most. So I’m hanging on to mine for dear life.

When I left Facebook, I chose to go quiet. I shrunk my sphere, I limited the people to whom I was connected to a mere handful, rather than greedy fistfuls. I stopped CHIRPING every single thought that flew through my head. I thought things, and then I let them dissolve. And I started being able to hear myself with fresh ears.

When we chatter constantly at the world, try to get the attention of anyone who might be listening, we can’t hear ourselves. And if we can’t hear ourselves, we spew half-formed ideas that no one can interpret. We cannot appreciate the need to develop better communication skills, because we have no idea what we’re trying to communicate. Because we aren’t being heard, we default to hyperbolic language, using stronger and more powerful words that weren’t necessarily appropriate to our initial states of being. Instead, we expand in our desperation so that our symptoms fit the language we’ve chosen. Hyperbole becomes the default state. And within hyperbole there is no relative scale. There is only black and white thinking. And life is so many beautiful shades of the rainbow, isn’t it?

We turn molehills into mountains. And we tell ourselves that all our mountains are too big to climb, that we lack the tools to get over them.

Right before I left Facebook, I was in a state about motherhood. And I was LOUD about it. I was very happy to sink into victim status about the choices I’d made. Poor me, with my three beautiful daughters and their unique challenges. It was all about me, my suffering, the things I didn’t choose, how alone I felt in it all, how society screws all us mothers over (hint – it does), how I didn’t understand how lifelong this undertaking is, how much I was sacrificing, and wasn’t I SUCH a great martyr?

I was miserable. And I was sucking people into my misery, and repelling them. And I was so convinced by my own rhetoric that I lost the ability to find the joy in most areas of my life. The world looked grey and dull. I was creating an anhedonic state for myself. And I love to FEEL all the things.

I nearly lost a very meaningful relationship because of this conviction I’d adopted. And that was my wakeup moment.

So I shut off the noise. I shut my mouth. I shut out the stream of suffering, the stream of thoughts, the stream of feeling. And I sat still, and I let my thoughts flow, and I observed them without judgement, and I didn’t hang on to them, I didn’t attempt to pin them down, I didn’t shoot them back out into Facebook-land for the validation that would keep them alive and feeding off me. I let them tell me what I needed so that life didn’t always feel like GO and DO and REACT and SURVIVE and NOT DIE and POOR ME.

I quit complaining. I spoke mindfully. I chose my words carefully. I took stock of what I have, of what is abundant in my life. I leaned on my dear friends. I leaned into myself, and the things I know to be true about my own resilience and emotional agility. When the yuckier feelings arose, I didn’t start babbling to try to keep them away. I sat in them, in the muck, and I followed their progression through my body, and I let tears flow when they surfaced. I felt, without fear. And I took the time I needed to be in the space between the stimulus, whatever it was, and my responses.

And I found my peace. I found the way back to equilibrium. I saw my molehills for what they are, and I trotted over them, one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, I slid down the other side. Sometimes, I stood on top, taking in the view. I learned to love those molehills for the opportunities they provided to look at problems with fresh eyes, to remember that I’m REALLY good at finding my own solutions. And I’m a GREAT mountain climber, when those mountains do actually rise up in front of me.

In a year from now, I plan to go back to school to earn myself a Master’s degree, something I’ve thought about doing for a long time now. I found the program that will fit my desire to lead my own learning, and I have a burning question that I want to answer, based on what the last two months have taught me. I am excited to take my newfound ability to focus my thoughts and direct my attention, to still my mind’s tendency to wander, and my body’s propensity towards expression, to fleshing out one idea completely, to pulse it into being, to start, and to finish.

I have time. I have space. I can breathe. And I can’t find it in me to complain anymore.

 

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