When I was 21, I spent a bad summer at home, and in an attempt figure out why I was such a mess, I turned to some self-help books. Lucky for me, aside from the books, I had a Kate, who threw herself whole-heartedly into my self-improvement by reading the books and making it a mutual summer of development.
One of the books was, in retrospect, dopey in its simplicity, but for two neurotic college girls who had never been told this stuff, it was pretty helpful. The book taught a lot about living in the present moment, compassion for the less than worthy, and perhaps most importantly for us, to limit how much you let your thoughts run away from you. As the writer had pointed out, sometimes a person starts out with a simple thought, like, "gee, I can't believe I just spilled sauce on my favorite sweater" and by the end of a half hour, your thought-process has exploded the entire situation into "My life sucks, nothing good will ever happen." Okay, that's a drastic scenario. But it's true that if I'm not conscious and conscientious of my thought processes, I can take a mild negative scenario and explode it into epic proportions.
I almost never do anything like that anymore, thanks to seven years of practice. The importance of living in the moment, the knowledge that I am in complete control of myself, and can therefore effect how I behave in nearly every situation, that in many respects any problem that I have which is rooted in myself can be solved through my own thoughts and actions - this is liberating information that I learned that summer. It took years to really apply it all, but I have been doing it on a consistent basis since that time.
So it was with some sadness that I have found myself slipping into the trap of wishing that things were other than they are. In an episode of the Simpsons, Homer forces Bart to join his grease collecting business and Bart says, "But I'm supposed to be in school!" Homer responds, "Sounds like someone's got a case of the 'sposed ta's.'" I had a serious case of the sposed ta's.
I felt adrift, lost and uncertain of what to do, while at the same time, intractably focused on what I thought my life was "supposed" to be like at this point. Where was I going? This was a disaster - for such a planner to feel so clueless and dissatisfied. I allowed a modicum of obsession on the sposed ta's, before I threw up my hands and sighed, "It is what it is." I am unhappy with it, but it is what it is. So let's get to work on fixing what's within my control. But it's hard to fix it when you aren't even sure what you ought to be doing.
After tossing the problem on the back-burner (another suggestion from the aforementioned dopey self-help book - it basically means that you stew the problem without bringing it into focus at the front of your thoughts.... this advice also works very well on tricky crossword puzzle clues), I had a little lightbulb moment in the shower this morning, of all places. It's a babystep in the right direction.
And in the meantime, I have my little action plan, my cat, my hobbies, and the other small things in life that distract from the sposed ta's. It is what it is. So now I can get to work. And the next time I fall off my mental health horse and roll about in the neurotic muck, I'll get to do it all over again.