26 July 2012

An Unpleasant Internal Discovery

Keys, phone, purse, shoes, drink...
What am I forgetting?
I feel like I need to put this up here as a means of accountability. I have discovered that I get tense and anxious when I'm preparing to leave the house, and any interruption, no matter how innocuous can send me into irritation mode. I don't like that about me, and since it has come to my attention, I feel it's something on which I need to work. However, I don't really know how to go about working on that.

I'm not normally prone to anxiety, so this is something that seems really out of character for me, and I'm somewhat confounded by it. If you have a suggestion, please put it in the comments. I'd love some input on how to keep my attitude right under those circumstances.

I know that as we start having children and moving into other, more complex phases of life, this isn't going to get easier. Being responsible for more people will only be more difficult, unless I get this figured out and can have my preparations and the attitude that goes with them in submission to the God of love Who lives in me. Let's face it, irritation and anxiety don't make me very loving or kind.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
~Ephesians 4:32 (KJV, as I memorized it when I was a little girl)~

I suppose the knowledge of this has been gradually increasing in my mind for some time. Our last weekend trip (two weekends ago), I became conscious of my souring thoughts as I was developing a tension headache while packing.

Part of this has been part of my packing process for some time. For one thing, until we got married, the vast majority of my travel was solo, and I was responsible for every portion of the trip. When you know that the degree to which you can rely on others, either in transit or while at your destination, is minimal, if you're like me, the greater degree of responsibility you take upon yourself. Responsibility = control freak. Think of everything, then check twice to make sure you've covered every potential possibility. Control = stress.

The other part of that is new. I'm not packing just for me, anymore. Now, I pack for us. Since my husband packs light, and since the luggage is going to carry more of my stuff than his, he gives me what he needs to pack, and I include it in my packing. Oh, whee.* Since I'm the nerd, I get to do all of the list-type activity. What do we need? Where will we be? Did we remember that we'll need this? Did I pack it in a way that makes sense? Can we get to things in order of how we'll need them? There's no throwing stuff in the suitcase and going. A decade-plus of single-hood has drummed any spontaneity out of me, when it comes to travel. Sigh.

Packing is only part of the issue, though, because I have become more and more aware of this building tension when I leave the house for other reasons, too. If any measure of preparation is required (i.e. putting on makeup, dressing up, fixing hair, etc.), or if an appointment is set and I have to be somewhere at a certain time, I find myself growing more and more tense, especially if both of those criteria are in effect. If I'm behind my self-imposed schedule for an on-time departure, you can just up the exponent on my internal tension by a notch or two.

The door I have to get through...
On the other hand, I've gotten much more relaxed about leaving my house for things like errand running that don't have a set time frame or level of expectation. I've gotten to the point that I don't worry about putting on makeup or even taking my purse (gasp!). I grab my wallet, phone, keys, shoes, and go! (I used to never go a day without makeup, but now I have fewer days with it than without. Odd, how that has changed with my spiritual development. I don't feel like I need my mask, anymore.)

This realization about my anxiety level hit me full in the face yesterday. I had a dentist appointment. Several things weren't going as planned in the pre-prep time of the morning. I was in a fairly neutral mood, though.

I left my desk a little later than planned, so I was rushing to put on my makeup and fix my hair to look appropriately put-together for a professional environment. In that last 10 minutes, my desk phone rang, emails came in (cue the computer ding), three text messages came in on my cell phone (cue the Star Trek Communicator bleep), and then my cell phone rang (my favorite, and my husband's exclusive ringtone -- Josh Turner's "Soulmate")-- all of which I forced myself to ignore in favor of finishing the process of getting out the door. With each noise, my level of tension, irritation, and anxiety shot up.

Is it just me, or
does my attitude stink?
As I was running out the door to get in the car, I called my husband back, in what had become an officially bad mood. My attitude stank. I had lost my grip on it, and by the time I realized it and apologized to him, I was really mystified. How did I get from neutral to bad mood in such a short time, without noticing? How did I lose my grip to the point that I was unkind to my amazingly caring husband whom I love and who deserves only my very best?

The thought sank in that I was being unreasonable, that my level of anxiety was way too high and entirely unnecessary. As I was snapping at him, I recognized it and still couldn't grab it back and shove that attitude away. Simultaneously, I realized how thankful I am for him and how much I love him. No control, though. I was past the point of being able to stop and breathe and be kind, and I still don't know how I got to that point. To make it even worse, he hadn't received my "good morning" text message, so he was just calling to check on me and make sure I was alright. I was repaying his kindness and concern with an outpouring of stinky attitude. Great.

So, how do I prevent this kind of bad attitude from sneaking up on me? I don't know how I got there to begin with, so how do I keep from getting there again?? Is there an area of your conduct that has you mystified and more than a little embarrassed? What do you intend to do about it?

Much love,

*I don't actually mind packing for both of us. In fact, it gives me an opportunity to be thankful for the husband God has given me. It just is one more thing to feel responsible for doing well, and my tension increases, along with my gratitude. I'd like to make that relationship inverse-- have the tension decrease with the increase of gratitude.

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