We’re all made up of stories: stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, stories we tell ourselves about our relationship with other people and about the world. I have a few stories I’ve been working on overcoming, but I still find myself stuck in them once in a while.
Life’s been running away with me a bit. I’d just reached a space of acceptance in many areas, a place where I was starting to feel comfortable, so of course things changed again. A path I’d let go of – convincing myself it wasn’t for me – opened up. Despite some reservations, I took it. Things have felt busier since then, all in good ways, nevertheless I had decided ‘busy’ wasn’t a state for me, what was I to do with all this busy-ness?
Falling into old stories
Old patterns of thinking began to resurface as my quiet time for reflection and meditation dwindled. Decision fatigue crept in, to the point where simple decisions seemed to require a mammoth amount of effort. The one that caused me the most angst in a twenty-four hour period was whether or not to take our beloved dog on a camper van trip I’d planned with my daughter.
Our trip coincided with a heatwave and whilst I try to avoid the news, I couldn’t escape the incessant warnings of the dangers of the ‘extreme heat’ which were about to engulf the UK. I had visions of our dog baking in the van, and there was voice in my head reasoning it would be easier not to take her, one less thing to think about. My daughter was bitterly disappointed; we’d planned this trip with our furball included, how could we leave her behind?
I went back and forward over the decision in my head for longer than was necessary, falling back into old patterns of rumination as I weighed up the pros and cons and fretted about what to do for the best. In the end we left without the dog, but by a happy coincidence I took a wrong turn ten minutes into the journey and we ended up having to turn around and drive back past the grandparent’s house where we’d left her. We picked her up and the gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach subsided as soon as she was in the van; my body felt right, so I knew I’d made the right decision.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
We had a great trip. The heatwave was considerably less on the south coast where we stayed, about ten degrees cooler than the area we’d just left, so the dog was better off with us. She did struggle to settle on the first night and woke me for a midnight walk, but I got to see the stars in all their glory and stroll in the night-time summer air, wrapped in stillness permeated only by the merry chirping of the grasshoppers, so I found I didn’t mind one bit. The small things my churning mind had worried about, like what we’d do with her while we showered, and what would happen if she ran off, or what would happen if we needed anything from the shops, worked themselves out: there was a hook to hang her lead outside the shower room where she waited quietly and patiently for us, a couple of times she did run off, but she came back very quickly and shops and eateries in the area were very dog friendly. Taking the dog along didn’t hinder our trip at all, it enhanced it; having a dog in tow is always a good way to get chatting to new people.
I remembered my new story: that when it comes to the small stuff, if I don’t sweat it and put a little faith in life – and myself – then things have a habit of working out.
How to know which decision is the right one?
I think the key here is that often there’s no right or wrong when deciding between two viable options. In this instance, I just had to be happy with the decision I made, so if we had left the dog behind it was up to me to focus on the positive aspects of the decision, like more time body boarding and more sleep. But for me, at this time in my life, I think it was important that I went with the seemingly more difficult choice of taking the dog, and that’s why my body reacted with calm once we’d picked her up.
I have an old story in my head I’m trying to overcome that tells me I always go for the easiest option in life because I’m not capable. Maybe it’s been true at times. I don’t think it’s true now, but that’s something I need to remind myself of regularly, so at this stage in my life the best option was to pick the choice that felt most challenging. That’s not to say I go out of the way to make life difficult for myself, but as I work to overcome the old stories I have of myself as ‘not capable’ or ‘always taking the easy route,’ it pays to take the more challenging route.
Small challenges reap big rewards
A friend said to me she wasn’t sure if she could take a camper van all that way. I’ll be honest, I had the same misgivings about myself. This was my third camper van trip but my first one in charge, my husband has always been there before and he tends to take charge of practical matters when we’re away. This is great, but in my default easy life settings it does nothing to improve my sense of my own capabilities. As it turns out, I loved driving the camper van. My fears of getting stuck in country lanes or not being able to park weren’t realised, as we negotiated the long drive and day trips with ease. In only a few nights I became adept at breaking camp and setting back up and when a camper enthusiast approached me with some questions about the van I felt a bit sad that I had to admit it was a rental, I felt so at home in it!
Owning the new story
Things are starting to quieten down again now as I adjust to my new path, allowing me more time to meditate and reflect. Best of all, I have even more ammunition for my new story as a capable woman who doesn’t always choose the easiest path in life, and my old story fades into the background just a little bit more. Sure, there’ll still be times of indecision, but now I have even more knowledge about how to feel my way into the choice that’s right for me in that moment: follow my heart, trust my gut, listen to what my body (not my noisy fear filled brain) is telling me and most importantly: trust life. I’m usually rewarded when I do.
What stories are you working to overcome?
I hope you enjoyed this week’s post. If it resonated with you then have a look at the personal growth section of my blog where there are loads more of my rambling reflections. You can also follow me on Instagram and if you haven’t already then please subscribe to my blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post, don’t worry you won’t be inundated, slow and steady is my mantra and so is my posting.