What I have learned is that I like clear distinctions. I have found comfort in being able to see the facts placed in front of me. I have found a sense of ease in seeing clearly where something starts and oh yes, where it will end. I need lines. Clear lines. Only then can I make accurate assumptions, declarations and decisions. Or so I thought.
Literal lines. Like when everything in my life seemed to be spinning and I would visualize drawing a giant line in the middle of my life.
A line that clearly stated, “Everything over here…is mine! And everything over there…is yours!”
You know what I mean. A line in the sand. My boundary line. As if drawing a line could keep me and others around me safe. As if I could just stay on my side of the line, alone, with clear, balanced and whole thoughts. As if this line could clarify with certainty: mine, yours, beginning and end. As if this line could eliminate all possibility of any surprises.
I’m all done with surprises. Let me just draw this last line to prove it. No more surprises. No more coming and going at leisure. No more pre-cancer, real cancer, life threatening illnesses, or surprise endings. No more side-ways floundering, chaotic thinking or flutters of anxiety. No more. I drew the line.
It was my way of feeling in control.
Yet after a few years of soul-searching, I am finally able to see the complexities of life, that do not align with the simplicity of the line. The line was a perspective created to keep me safe from the parts of life I feared. It obviously didn’t keep me safe from anything, even though I truly believed it would help.
Some call that distorted thinking.
Distorted thinking can stem from many things. It could be from trauma in your past, underlying anxiety, or even the side effects of someone’s else’s distorted thinking. It is when your thoughts feel real and make perfect sense to you, yet when pulled apart, don’t align with reality. That may be difficult to understand if you have never experienced this, but it is similar to having an intense fear of heights. That also just happens to be me. Ha!
So let’s say I am in a glass elevator. As the elevator goes up, I can see the lobby below, slowly getting further and further away. My knees begin to feel wobbly and my stomach grows tight. Even though I can see the glass protection around me, my brain has an intense fear of falling out of this encased elevator. I am so afraid actually, that I can’t even touch the glass windows. I am so afraid in fact, that I have to turn around and face the door. This, is distorted thinking. I KNOW I am not going to fall out. I have repeatedly gone in these elevators and have never fallen out. Yet the fear is so real, and the distorted thinking is so loud, that no matter what the rational side of my brain says, I can’t grasp what’s true. Just the distortion.
The point is that I survive the elevator ride. I even choose the elevator over ten flights of stairs. I carry on with my life. I know how many things I have lost due to caving into my fears and now choose differently. I have learned to listen to my fears, with pause. Questioning whether it is real or perceived. I have learned that not everything I feel in this moment is true, just the truth based on how I feel in this moment. And I have learned that this too shall pass, if I am still long enough.
Like when I saw this view on my morning walk today…
My brain struggled to make sense of what I was seeing. In fact, I stood for a long time trying desperately to make assumptions, declarations and decisions…but was challenged. My brain knew that this was the bay. My brain knew that I should clearly be able to see the where the water ended and the sky began, yet the longer it took my brain to process, the more uncomfortable I was. But I stayed with it…and then, instead of trying to focus harder, I pulled away a bit and let the muscles around my eyes relax. I let my body and brain relax as well and inhaled deeply.
And then I smiled, finding humor in the fact that sometimes we can’t see clearly where one thing ends and another begins, nor can we predict what’s coming next at all. It was then that I found joy and comfort in the space of the unknown and no lines in the sand.