May 21, 2015.

Thursday, May 21. It was 10:30 am.

I was on my way to another meeting on the 4th floor. 

Took the stairs from the 7th floor and between the 6th floor and the 5th, I fell apart.

Again.

It had been almost 3 years since my first huge anxiety attack and I had learned then that I was not perfect, vulnerable, different.  I learned then how to be more mindful, stay present, meditate to keep the edge at bay.  I’ve had mini attacks since then but I always got over it, talked myself down from the edge and all was well again.

This was not part of the plan.  This was not how it should be.

I did all the right things.  I meditated everyday, I tried to be mindful everyday.  I tried to let go of petty stuff everyday.  Each day was a new beginning.

So, what went wrong?

I saw my doctor on Friday.  I was glad to get an appointment so soon as she was always booked up. She would know what to do. She would help me make this right. 

As she said “hello”, my tears started falling. Uncontrollable.  “I failed”, I whispered.  She looked at me questioningly. “I fell apart again.” 

“But, Debbie, you were trying to BEAT IT and that you cannot do.  You have to ACCEPT IT. Make peace with the fact that THIS is part of you.”

That gave me pause. 

It made sense.  Somehow it made sense. 

So what now?

How do I accept?  Make peace?

For those questions, she could not help me. I must find that out for myself. She wrote me a doctor’s note for work granting me some time off. 

“This patient is unfit for work…”

Unfit for work…my thoughts were rebelling.  

“But there’s so much to do!  How about the accounting course that your team is hosting that is coming up in a few weeks? How about the countries you are responsible for? Am I going to be fired for this? Who is going to water my office plants when I am away?  Was there any food stuffs on my desk that is going to stink? Any leftover coffee?…and on and on it went. 

I pleaded that I really just need a few days off. I just need to get some good quality sleep and I should be ok. 

She gave me two weeks and then we reassess. 

In the meantime, I have to write, paint, garden, spend time with family, have coffee with my best friend, do yoga, meditate, read. BREATHE. 

She called it “Adjusting my sails.”

I am skeptical. I have done all those.

 I am just lost. 

…but I am patient. I have adjusted my sails this past week. 

Let’s see where it takes me…

Debbie.

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“Don’t push me…please.”

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Those who knew that I was on this mindfulness journey were actually afraid for me…”That’s it.  Debbie is going to be a doormat once the word gets out that she is actually nice….”

BEFORE that fateful spring day in April 2012, I was the “Yes, I can handle this” type of person.  There was nothing I couldn’t juggle:

  • a stressful career and since I just got promoted, my “proving mode” was on overdrive
  • a busy family life (swimming lessons, piano lessons, Olivia’s homework, renovating the basement, laundry, grocery shopping…you get the picture)
  • running regime (trying to break sub-2 hours in a half marathon and not throw up at the finish line),
  • learning Spanish for work (fail…although, I can order a bottle of wine and ask where the bathroom is)
  • writing a children’s book (still not finished)

While I thought I was a pretty good juggler, I admit I was not the nicest person to be around.  I was more impatient, more crabby, more mean…just “more”.

I remember telling my husband that his 102-year old grandmother will die a very bitter old woman and she deserves it. Ummm, yah. Not nice.

In the office, I had just gotten a promotion and so I was so engrossed in proving myself…if someone disagreed with me, I spent the day poring over accounting rules to prove them wrong.   “I am right and you are wrong.” Ummm, yah.  Not nice.

THEN, while on a conference call that fateful spring day in April 2012, my brain and lungs decided that juggling was no longer fun. I could not catch my breath and everyone in the office thought I was having a heart attack.  They called 911.

Not a heart attack, but an anxiety attack…equally as life changing.  It took months of doctor’s visits, hours of therapy, rigorous regime of mindfulness practice and meditation to realize that it is OK to be…imperfect, vulnerable, not be in control.

FAST FORWARD TO TODAY ….

I am more centered, more mindful, more present…just “more”.

My daughter loves that fact that I am patient, calmer, and actually listens…

Work is also more enjoyable–both for me and for my colleagues.  I try to inject humor and an all-around-positive-attitude during meetings, I try to actually listen with a “beginner’s mind” even though I may have seen the issue in the past (hey, I might learn something new), and I am more patient in explaining myself (if the other person does not get it the first time, it is OK…I can try to explain again).

So, getting back to the “doormat” issue.  I must admit that I too was worried that people would take advantage of my “niceness”….and you know what?  Yes, people have tried to take advantage.  I don’t fool myself into believing that just because I am on this mindfulness journey that everyone is also on the same journey. However, as Mahatma Gandhi once said,

“You cannot change how people treat you or what they say about you.  All you can do is change the way you react to it.”

So, when someone pushes me, I generally pause, assess (the person may be having a tough day!), and say with kindness and compassion…”Don’t push me…please.”

So far, this reaction has worked for me.

However, I wonder if they had kept pushing me…I think I might have eventually taken a page from the book of one of my very passionate Latina friends…..”You keep pushing me….and I BITE YOU!!”

At that point, I would have taken away the WELCOME mat….

Oh well.

Debbie