Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mind-cleansing walks in Springtime bring about control

I've been saying the Serenity Prayer a lot, lately. Not the verbatim prayer (at left) that you'll hear at most A.A. meetings or self-help groups. No, I've just uttered some version of that prayer nearly everyday. It has helped.


I've been taking walks around the lake in our neighborhood, enjoying the Spring weather here in Tallahassee. The mild temps, sunshine and fresh air are good for my soul. The walks are good for my body. The Serenity Prayer and the reaffirming self-speak have done wonders for my mind and emotions. The last few days, I've been referring to these walks--2.5 to 4 miles--as mind-cleansing walks. And they have been. It's been my chance to center myself in the middle of the day.

The last year has been a grueling one. I'd even argue that it's been one of my worst, possibly second all-time. I've survived a divorce, a failed relationship, an extended separation from my children and other minor set-backs along the way. I've always heard what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but that hasn't necessarily been the case except for in my darkest times.

I did come out of a severe depression in 2000 much stronger, but still battled many of my demons. I even survived a suicide attempt at the end of that year. A few months later, I was restarting my life in a new house and about to adopt my first baby. I learned a lot about myself in that year of about-face orientation. I still had a lot to learn and I'm not always the easiest student. I can be quite stubborn and hard-headed.

A look at Springtime Azaleas in bloom all around my
Tallahassee neighborhood
After some serious setbacks in 2006 and 2008, I was still determined to maintain my course even if I wasn't headed in the right direction. Fast forward to 2013 and circumstances tried to kick me down again. Out of that tumultuous year, I do believe that I have emerged even stronger still. So maybe it has taken several years and a couple of really bad ones to get my attention, but I have learned and grown.

It's been on these mind-cleansing walks that I've seen the most evidence. Take today, for instance, I put into practice the learned art of self-compassion. I walked 2 miles around that lake, speaking affirming words to myself that entire time. Thankfully, I didn't encounter too many others on the walking path. After a rough and emotional morning, it was the perfect therapy for me.

I read a book about self-compassion in December 2012 and it was quite eye-opening for me, but I won't repost here what you can read in my blog entry here. Suffice to say, that this was quite an accomplishment for me, and putting it into practice today made me realize just how far I've come since 2000. There was still so much critical energy, so much pessimism and self-doubt in me even after I recovered from my depressive episode. It took years to finally overcome that, and I still struggle with it.


“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” ~Maya Angelou

It was just a few days ago on one of my mind-cleansing walks that I accepted an important truth and slayed an age-old myth. That myth is the one that convinces us we are in control. As I was contemplating this blog post, I ran across another good one by a dog trainer in Texas. He talks about The Control Myth and how it skews our thinking (Note: this is more than a blog about dogs, so take a minute to read it, it's really good).

The important truth that I realized on my walk is that I can only control three things--my actions, my attitude and all that goes on between my ears. I like to draw a small circle just in front of me when I'm walking and talking to myself (I know I must look crazy, but I don't care what people think of me). I make that circular motion with my hand and remind myself, "This is the extent of my sphere of control."

I can't control anything beyond that sphere, that in reality, encompasses only my body and nothing outside of it. I can't control people, the weather, circumstances, other's perceptions of reality, etc. I can only control me, and more importantly, what's going on inside of me.

This afternoon, I also ran across this cool little series on WikiHow about gaining control of your emotions. That one, for me, is huge, also. I was on my walk yesterday, a four-mile round trip to Publix, when I really had to do some digging to realize what was wrong with me. The day had started off rather pleasantly, then I let myself get upset about things outside my control. I went on my walk thinking I just needed to be more positive. Well, I realized after some digging why I was upset and allowed myself to just be upset for awhile longer. My feelings had been hurt, so it was okay...not to be okay. After realizing the root of the issue, I dealt with those negative feelings and then got past them, giving myself permission to go there and then walk out of it. That's an example of controlling your emotions. It doesn't mean allow only the positive ones. It allows space for all emotions to grow and subside.

For me, the control comes in when I deal in a healthy way with all my emotions. I don't bottle any of them up or try to stifle the painful ones. I just let them breathe. I go outside and try to focus on the beauty of nature. I try to live in the here and now, focusing only on my present surroundings. I breathe deeply and listen to my heartbeat. I try to keep my wandering mind in check. The last couple of days this has worked well for me.

As I continue this crazy, out of control journey called Life, I hope to gain more control over the things I actually have the power to do so. I will continue to let go of the things and people that I cannot, thereby denying the myth. I will continue to love and affirm myself in order to maintain a positive attitude. I will not be reduced, as Maya Angelou said in the above quote, by all the events that happen to me. I will stay rooted in reality.

Drawing a small circle around me, I can only control this area right here. :)

1 comment:

CMD said...

This was really good and I needed to read it again. Thank you, Self.