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When All Signs Point to “Danger!”

What to do when everything in your life is letting you know – gently or ungently – that you should probably take responsibility for yourself?

Well, I guess we have to take responsibility for ourselves. Damn it.

A theme that’s reverberating recently: you cannot control anyone else. It shows up in personal ways (spats, conflicts, misunderstandings) and in macro ways (politics, info maelstrom, societal stress level.) I am a doer by nature, and I often jump in with a list of 50 solutions before I’ve taken time to identify an actual problem, listen to someone else’s, or think about what could actually be a sustainable way to solve an issue.

Nope, problem-solving mode OR BUST!

All of this behavior is learned, and it often stems from tactical eagerness to assuage my own anxiety and guilt. Compassion is there, of course, but ambiguity and limbo and waiting and processing are excruciating states. If we can fix it now (i.e. slap a band-aid on it until the next time the wound ruptures!) let’s fix it. NOW!

I’m slowing down a lot of things I do and processes I engage in. How I edit, how I write, how I plan and triage things at my day job, how I create, how I engage with people. It’s painful. It sucks. I’m bad at it. I’m still trying, I suppose.

I talk often about what social anxiety and general anxiety look like for extroverts, and they often look like cheerfulness, aggression and charisma. If I’m expanding to fill a room, then I control said room and nothing bad can possibly happen to me! That behavior is often identical to when I’m just having a good time and being a giggly dork at a party, but it stems from different places. It’s taken years and years to identify the source of my social impulses, much less begin to accept them. I do wish other people would have some more compassion for that – the amount of times I’ve heard “But you’re so funny!”

Ugh.

Working on my impulses is more difficult. It is worth it, assuming I don’t short-circuit the process with the get-out-of-jail-free card of “Well, everyone clearly hates me so I might as well never try anything else ever again!” Doesn’t make it easy, though.

So, what I have to offer is this: give yourself some grace and some time, and pause wherever you can. Ask yourself why there’s urgency. Why now? Why not a week from now? Sometimes there’s a good reason, and sometimes there’s a deep-seated defense mechanism that could merit some smoothed edges, some compassion (self and otherwise) and some patience.

Be well, leafy buds. It’s wild out there.

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