When I was young, I used to go hunting with my Dad. We’d walk and walk through the woods on my Uncle Roy’s property. Hills, valleys, streams, downed trees, and a thick carpet of leaves and pine straw. Walking uphill was always hard. You know when you’re walking uphill because gravity is pulling you down. You can always tell uphill.
But, downhill is another matter. If the slope is gradual enough, and your perspective limited enough by forest, you couldn’t tell you were headed downhill until you got to the bottom and found yourself surrounded by uphill slope.
I live life somewhere on the slope, between the hilltop of who I want to be and the valley of self-destructive depression. Hey, it is what it is, right?
Sometimes, I live on the top of the hill, but let’s face it, it’s exhausting to be that happy all the time. So, I spend most of my time on the slope, in a happy medium, usually pretty close to the top without being disgustingly cheerful.
And, sometimes, I head downslope. I lived years mostly downslope. Far from who I wanted to be. Unhappy. And, now I can say I’ve lived years mostly upslope. But, I still (and will likely always) have to be careful of downslope.
So, I’ve placed roadsigns along the way. Reminders to turn around, head back up. Make some change. STOP! You’re headed down the wrong path. Go back. Don’t go here.
Here there be dragons.
One sign is Anger. Frequently, when I’m on the slopes, anger masks a different issue. I have to look at my anger and figure out whether I’m angry about what’s really wrong, or if I’m angry about something totally different and fixating that anger onto something that’s easier to deal with.
Another sign is paranoia. There’s an old saying that “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.” In my case, it’s generally “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there’s anyone out to get you.”
Another sign, and the one that stopped me in my tracks this morning was solitude. The exact thought was “Why won’t they all just leave me alone?” That’s the strongest roadsign of all, and the best indicator that I’m about to step onto slippery slope that it’s hard to climb back up from. History has shown me that if I’m asking why they won’t all just leave me alone, I’m likely about to do something to make it happen. Expedient, but not productive; not what I want.
So, I’m forced to look around and see all the things that I’ve blinded myself to. The links that pull last month and last week and this week together. The gradually decreasing level of happiness. The gradually increasing level of depression. The defeated attitude. The unwillingness to communicate. The inability to focus. All baby steps that add up to a long and winding walk.
And, there’s a prevailing sense that every stone in the road is a crisis, waiting to leap up and knock me down. Constantly being on alert, waiting for a problem to raise its head, like a snake, so I can stomp it into submission again. Creating crisis out of the possibility of crisis. The inability to adjust to the ending of a long period of crisis. Finding something to replace that because it’s become a way of life. And, I don’t know how to adjust.
But, the first step to solving a problem is defining the problem. And, like almost every problem, it’s rooted in fear. Fear that now that my project at work is over, I won’t be able to find a place where I fit in. Fear that I am now redundant because I don’t remember how to do the job I had a year ago. Fear that no one will trust me again because it’s been my job for a year to find problems with their work, and pointing it out so it could be fixed.
And, solving the problem instead of hiding it under chocolate. M&M’s are great problem maskers. If my day went to hell in a handbasket by three p.m., I could eat enough candy to pump me up for the rest of the day…but then I’d get home and crash and be despondent. Separate from the family.
Fear is a devil of a snake to do battle with.
Wish me luck. I know that just thinking this and writing this and getting it out there is over half of the problem solved. Because secrecy breeds more fear and that grows and grows until it can push me right down the hill to the bottom.
Next step, tell my boss. Tell him I’m afraid I don’t fit anymore. He’ll help. And, then there will be two of us making sure I don’t become redundant. Two heads is better than one. And, even if my worst fear comes true and he doesn't help, at least I'll know that.
But, it's not likely. That's the problem with secret fears. If it's a secret, nobody can tell you not to be afraid. And, nobody knows to help.