Action begets action. Progress creates more progress.
It's inertia; the property in physics that basically says that matter continues in its existing state of rest or motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.
Yesterday, I was feeling down. I had over-reacted to a trivial issue earlier in the day and found myself drowning in maladaptive thoughts shortly after. I'm becoming aware of a certain sense of stubbornness and narcissism in me that's associated with these episodes. It's like, somehow in my head, I think that whatever I said or did is the most important thing in the world, and I HAVE to mentally beat myself up because of it. I also seem to tell myself that no one else can possibly understand the struggle I'm feeling at this particular second, but time and time again, I realize that's not true.
Call it stubbornness, pride, ego, a chain reaction of neural responses based on decades of learned core beliefs and maladaptive behaviors... It is what it is; an unpleasant experience I'm attempting to train my body to react differently to.
Back to yesterday... I was off work, it was about 1pm or so. I just got off the phone with Jill and was about to take a nap on the couch to try to re-set. My body felt low energy and my mind weak. I had a nagging hangover-like headache.
Then I remembered Jill's comment about how beautiful the weather was out. I thought, "She's right, the weather is great... and I'm laying in a dim apartment filled with ambient TV noise and mindlessly staring at social media..."
So, I got up, packed a small backpack and walked across the street to the beach. Two minutes and thirty seconds later, my feet were in the sand. I found a good resting place and did my daily Headspace meditation. After a while, I grew restless again, irritated with the impromptu amateur photoshoot that started taking place next to me, I started heading back up the beach.
Before heading back, I decided I had to force myself to get in the water fully before heading back. I did, and it felt great. It cleared my mind. For at least a few seconds, all I was thinking about was the water. The slight fear of stepping on a stingray, the surprise wave coming along and splashing not-yet-wet body parts, laughing at how ridiculous and awkward I probably look, focusing on the sensation of water dripping down from my hair, all of the good feels had taken up that precious front of mind space. For at least a few seconds, I was happily distracted and the irritations of earlier in the day grew smaller and more distant still.
When I got out and came back, I opted NOT to put on my tank top for the two minute walk from the sand, across the street, through the playground, over the train track to our apartment. For me, this is a bigger deal than it sounds like. For someone who grew up a fat kid, being bullied and taunted with nicknames like 'fat matt', the idea of being shirtless anywhere meant anxiety. I'd avoid it completely. The fact that I made the conscious choice to do so, and remained calm and mindful through it felt great.
The rest of the day was okay. There were ups and downs, but I made it through unscathed. The mental storm has passed, at least for now, and I'm better for having experienced it.
I'm not saying the ocean water and air are actually healing, though they very well could be... my point is, you can't start to feel better unless you are able to create some momentum in the positive direction. The mind is certainly capable of working itself into a fervor, so why not give it something positive to work on?
This is terrifyingly difficult. But, I believe the more you can make little changes to shift momentum in a positive direction, the more positivity you'll naturally have. I don't really understand neuroplasticity, but I think this is kind of in line with those theories.
I was too stubborn to think that doing anything other than laying on the couch was the solution. However, I felt a second of doubt in that thought. That second of doubting my own stubbornness is what led to a second of hope, the beach idea, the meditation, the ocean dip, the self-esteem boost.
A lot of tiny victories can add up to much much bigger victories. It just takes one to start. For me, it meant letting go of stubbornness and jumping in the ocean.
Inspired by my friend LES, I did some more creative writing of my own yesterday. I'll add, this was written before the ocean dip yesterday ;)
nothing to say
too much to say
words won’t come
silent I'll stay
the moment’s gone
the storm has passed
the dance resumes
i’ve lost my step
what happens next
you’ll never see
the battle inside
it’s me vs. me