Sunday, June 3, 2018

Two steps forwards, one step back

Sometimes it feels like no matter how hard I'm trying, no matter how much I'm learning, I'm just not getting anywhere. The issue is that everything's fine when everything's fine, right? And it's like I get lulled into a false sense of security. "I'm doing great, I've got this problem sorted, I can do anything", is what I think. And as soon as that happens, as soon as I feel like I'm on top of the world, the universe comes along with a big fuck-off reminder that actually, no I'm not. Something goes wrong, there's a challenge or a bump in the road, and I'm right back at square one, freaking out, getting stressed and totally losing my shit. 

The other day was a classic example. We had to drive to Prague, and our sat nav only has maps for Western Europe, not Czech Republic. So we downloaded an app that promised it would work offline, got a route to our friends house sorted, and off we went. 

As we started the trip, I was full of confidence. I've been driving in Europe for a month now, and feel like I've got this whole being on the wrong side of the road thing down. We haven't even got lost yet (I do not deal well with getting lost, at any time, but especially not in a 7m long vehicle in a country where I can't speak the language). So in my confidence I said, "I feel good about this, don't want to toot my own horn or anything, but I'm pretty proud of myself. I was really worried about driving before we left, and I think I'm doing really well. I havent even freaked out yet!" 

You can see what's coming now, can't you? 

Everything was fine until we reached Prague, at which point a) the map totally stopped looking like the world it was supposed to represent or b) Ryan's ability to read said map went from expert to non-existent. I think it may have been a case of a little from column a, a little from column b. Either way, 10 minutes after reaching the city we could no longer tell where we were on the map, I had got stuck trying to pull in somewhere and ended up on a dead end street with no space to turn around and was on the verge of a massive melt down. When we finally got out of the smallest road I could have possibly found in Prague, I pulled over, we figured out where we were, I meditated for five minutes (which is the adult version of a time out), and we got back on the road. 

Within 10 minutes we once again had no idea where we were on the map, I was simply forging ahead because I was too scared of pulling over and getting stuck again and was on the verge of another massive meltdown. Finally we saw a supermarket car park I could get into, we stopped, figured out where we were and where we had gone wrong (the very first turning), and headed back in the direction we had just come from to try again. 

At this point I'm going to cut a long story short and tell you that 4 hours after we arrived in Prague, despite never being more than 10 minutes away from the house (and at one point less than 5), we still hadn't found it, and at 8pm we were heading out of the city and into an empty industrial estate, where I finally called it quits, pulled over for the night, and surrendered to the massive meltdown. 

I'm always so frustrated when I succumb to the panic and irritation I feel with myself when I fail to do something. Why do I think I have to be brilliant at everything, including driving through a strange city with no map, road names in an unfamiliar language and an unintuitive road system that means I'm scared of left hand turns? This would be challenging for most people, but I'm very unkind to myself and intolerant of my own incompetence. And what's worse is that not only am I annoyed at my failure, I'm annoyed with my annoyance. I think I'm being unreasonable and that I should be better at dealing with problems, so I beat myself up for failing, and then beat myself up for beating myself up. If you think it sounds ridiculously difficult and confusing inside my head, you'd be absolutely right. 

This has been going on for a long time, but what's making it more interesting (and by interesting I mean really fucking difficult) is that now I don't have my old friend marijuana to turn to. Up until fairly recently, if I was stressed or upset or angry, I would take myself off and smoke, and it would make me feel better. I realise now it wasn't weed that helped, it was taking time out, focusing on something other than my angry thoughts, and most importantly, breathing. When you think about it, the very process of smoking is taking deep breaths. Inhale, pause, exhaaaaaaaale. Over and over. It turns out, that's what meditation is too, only minus the toxins that give you cancer. Bonus! 

I feel like I should end with a profound statement, an important life lesson you can take away. But I'm not sure I have one. I'm still learning, still trying to figure out how to manage the messes in my mind. But this post is called 'two steps forward, one step back' for a reason. Because even when there are set backs, I'm learning from them. I'm learning that it's ok to find a situation stressful, that it doesn't make me a failure or a bad person. I'm figuring out how to manage that stress now I'm no longer smoking, so that it's truly being dealt with rather than just being covered up by haziness. And I'm realising that every day is a chance to try again and keep moving forward. 

I should add that we got there in the end. We always do. But I've deleted that fucking useless map app. 


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