Leaving the vet with my already very unhappy cat, we were faced with a sheet of rain descending in one furious downpour. Waiting wasn’t an option as Dougie was making it very clear in the cat carrier he wanted out. So I raced to the car, got wet and drove home. Typically about 2 minutes after getting inside the rain cleared and the sun grinned sarcastically down at me.
It got me thinking about how my mind’s inner talk changes as quickly as the weather.
One minute I’m feeling so negative about everything in my life and then just like the clouds parting and the sun shining I just as suddenly feel so grateful for what I do have. What the hell is that all about?
Take my marriage for example. There are the times I can only see the bad, and reasons why, after 19 years, we are just not meant to be together. He likes footy, insists on over piling plates with copious amounts of food rather than going back for seconds, doesn’t like watching movies (weirdo) and doesn’t clean the hob or sink properly after cooking. I can only tolerate football when it’s a big final/World Cup and only with alcohol, am currently on a very low-calorie food replacement diet, LOVE a good movie and still find myself scrubbing the damn hob and pulling bits of God-knows-what out of the sink even though I’m not eating any damn food.
So I sit and fester.
If I let my mind fall down that black-hole I could have a much bigger list of differences, my bags packed and be out the door before you can say ‘one-way ticket to Symi please’.
Then, like the sky clearing, my mind will decide to tell me something different.
I’m lucky to have a husband who loves me, who is supporting me through my career change/midlife crisis/perimenopause, who accepts I have to disappear up to the loft to watch a movie with my diet bar and water whilst he and my son eat toad-in-the-hole and meringues. Or, on my many non-diet days, when I text him on his way home from work:
Your son is being a little shit. Can you get me Prosecco.
he turns up with a cold bottle and takes over parenting said little shit whilst I enclose myself in the lounge room with my prize and ‘The Chase’. And yes I do hate myself for calling my lovely boy a ‘little shit’, but the fact is, he sometimes is just that. But he is also incredibly funny, smart, loving and does a bum wiggle dance that cracks me up no matter how angry I am at him.
Sometimes I think I’m bipolar – that would explain the sudden shifts in mood or perception – but even then I realise I’m being stupid as bipolar swings are a much larger problem than what goes on in my small head. So where do these swings come from and why do they happen?
Am I just thinking too much?
I hate it when someone tells me I’m ‘over-thinking’ a problem because there is no line where it’s ‘normal thinking’ and then suddenly ‘oh-ho you’ve just gone into overthinking’ is there? So how the hell do you know when you are over-thinking something? And where does ‘ignoring the problem’ fit in with all this?
Man, I could go mad just thinking about thinking.
There is light at the end of the tunnel I think. I’ve started listening to Brené Brown’s book ‘Daring Greatly – How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead‘ and I’m having so many ‘thank God it’s not just me’ moments that I’m starting to think Brené and I were separated at birth!
The book has made me realise I suffer more from vulnerability than I ever imagined. And it’s not just negative thoughts about my relationship but also the one no parent wants to admit to having – the thought of losing your child.
Brené talks about those moments we stare at our children and think ‘I love you so much I can barely breathe’ (granted these days for me it’s really only when he’s fast asleep that I think that) and then in the exact moment think of something terrible happening to them. The example she uses in her book is imagining your child in a car accident and then rehearsing the police conversations.
Terrible isn’t it?
But apparently, we all do it! 90% of parents Brené interviewed acknowledged having that experience. She calls it the ‘vulnerability and joy connection’. By picturing something really terrible happening to your child or practising being devastated, we are trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. Or as one of her researches said:
‘I used to take every good thing and imagine the worst possible disaster. I would literally picture the worst case scenario and try to control all of the outcomes’
As great as it is to know I’m not alone in my thinking, it’s not great to think we pass this way of thinking down to our kids – especially when life is going well. So I’m trying to work on these thought patterns and understand where they come from and how to control them. I’m hoping Brené and her brilliant book will help me with that – but for now, I’m just relieved to know it’s not just me!