Here’s a story: I don’t go out much. I need a lot of recovery time. I can only have so many interactions in a day before I get to a point where I can’t string words together coherently anymore. I’m an introvert. Small talk and/or too many details makes me sleepy. Sooooo sleepy. I love napping. My command center is my bed. I’m also a highly sensitive person. Too much stimulus makes me ragey. More bed.
I’ve been telling that story for a while now because once upon a time it was revolutionary. It saved my life. I used to have no idea that I was allowed to get up and walk away from a table of extroverts and go lay down. I had no idea that there were other people who had meltdowns in electronics stores, or dreaded being committed to even the coolest of social opportunities. Learning to tell a cohesive story about my capacity gave me the permission I needed to take stellar care of myself, to become a more discerning person, and to stop acting like a deranged toddler when I got overstimulated.
Also, it’s just a story.
Eventually our stories become mantras. Eventually our mantras become habits. And eventually our habits aren’t serving us anymore. We fall asleep at the wheel. We arrive places and don’t remember how we got there. Often those places aren’t where we set out to go.
What was once new and useful and awake can become stale, constrictive, and limiting.
We have to continuously be smarter than our habits. We have to both understand how to create habits, and know how to unhinge them.
I worked diligently to integrate the ability to navigate my social sensitivities. It was awkward the first few hundred times I turned down invitations or left a perfectly good room of people for no reason other than to get the hell out of it.
Then it got easier.
That’s about when I started having even more social situations to navigate. My calendar started filling up. My son’s calendar started filling up. The ranks of incredible people who I wanted to spend energy on in my life started rising. There was dating. The stakes were being raised and my old story was sounding stale.
And, now, instead of giving me agency, the story was giving me anxiety.
How will I ever be able to do all of that stuff in a week? Two things in a day? I’ll die, I would think.
Not a super healthy mind state.
So I started to think about what it would take to say “yes” more. What it would take to remain discerning and maintain my energy levels without it all being quite so binary. How much can I actually endure?
As it happens, I see this perfect articulation spray painted at the park while I run. Thanks, confirmation bias! Also, another sound argument for exercise. Ahem.
Some? Okay. Sure. I guess I can endure some mayhem. Some mayhem is probably good mayhem inoculation, right?
And now I’m writing a new story. Or editing, or maybe adding a chapter. Whatever the metaphor.
The thing about your stories is that no matter how much they once served you, sometimes you have to consciously reverse their direction to stay on your track. If you go North far enough, you will eventually start going South.
Even compassionate intentions, taken to extremes, can become blind fundamentalism.
So what do you think? How willing are YOU to change your stories, change directions, endure a little mayhem?
Meanwhile, I’m sitting on a makeshift doughnut pillow / travel pillow while I write to you. I’ve badly bruised my tailbone because I fell down the stairs.
I live in my head and forget about my feet. A lot.
So full of grace, but clumsy to the core. Perhaps I should go spray paint “… and mortification” onto that wall at the park. I would. But my butt hurts.
At least I didn’t break my thumbs. Feel free to send flowers.