Keep walking

I’d struggled to write for the last few weeks.

We reached a domestic code orange when we came back from our spring break trip in early April. For the first week we were all tired and uninspired. The house was in disarray and it was a struggle to get Fred to stick to his daily routines and homework assignments. Then the Boston Marathon bombings happened and the clouds and rain took up residence over our town. Max stepped up to the plate while I wrestled with guilt, self-criticism, and an internal debate over whether or not I should seek therapy. Because behind the lethargy was an undercurrent of anxiety and loss of purpose that I have only recently begun to acknowledge.

During all of this, a former client paid a visit from the UK. His visit forced us to make the house presentable. This has been an area of struggle for me for as long as I can remember, and as an adult I have wondered if all this time I have been suffering with an undiagnosed case of attention deficit disorder. Deep down, I knew that our lack of organization in the home was also a prison of chaos for our son, making his completion of daily tasks distracting and difficult.

We cleaned up. Got rid of all the paper that made my waking hours a living hell. Cleared our tabletops. Set up a gigantic white board checklist for Fred. As soon as we organized our house, everything clicked into place. Fred checked off his tasks one-by-one and by the end of two weeks we were high-fiving and hugging one another over his achievements. Of course, he improved in his time management because we removed the noise that had been drowning him.

Clearing my physical surroundings made it possible for me to begin making sense of the static that was inside my mind. And I finally admitted that maybe I was not okay. I have certain anxiety issues that I have conveniently ignored, that Max and girlfriends have so kindly worked around. Driving makes me anxious, for example, and I am dependent on rides if going beyond the confines of our small town. While I never loved driving, at least when I was younger this fear never really stopped me; it took more work but I would make it my goal to get to where I needed to be. I’ve since stopped pushing myself in this way. The risks outweigh the benefits, I would tell myself. But this is not okay. It is not okay because I am letting my anxiety over driving and other areas box me in at an age when I should be heading toward self-actualization. But I have harbored these secrets because I am competent and professional, and I am at an age and stage in my career where I am supposed to be confident, not afraid.

Being present – acknowledging, admitting and doing – has helped me swing out of these up-and-down three weeks. I was so traumatized by the cleaning job we did that now I deal with every piece of clutter as soon as it presents itself instead of waiting for it to accumulate. I’ve re-started my walk/jog program post-ankle surgery, having so far moved from a snail’s pace of jogging 20 seconds to jogging 30 seconds for every two minutes of walking. Someday, I think, I might go for a 5K. Or drive to the next city to meet a friend for lunch. Someday I might do more to help expand our business. Somehow, I’d let my dreams for myself and my goals for self-improvement fall away the moment I began nurturing someone else’s life as a mother.

Especially since I broke my leg last summer I’ve learned to accept that improvement can often only inch along. As it is often said, any journey is made up of many small steps. I don’t need to run. I just need to admit that I have to take that first step, and to keep walking.

Are there areas in your life that you’d like to improve? Do you also have issues with anxiety?

14 thoughts on “Keep walking

  1. I believe so strongly in this: An environment, controlled, allows deep breaths of peace. We can’t concentrate when everytime we look we see piles of something calling to us, to take care of NOW. I am working on this day by day, bit by bit. I will not give up hope… I want this for my children. IT”S THAT intent, loudly declared, that fuels me when I know ADD would be screaming louder. You and I: so much alike, so in this together. xo

    • You know, Alexandra, I was so surprised when I first had a hint that you were in any way disorganized. I think it’s something that’s so easy for us to hide. I too need to get with the program if not for myself then for my child. He takes after me, but I think a saner environment will eliminate a lot of the problems.


  2. I am a huge proponent of the idea that our surrounding reflect what’s in our innermost minds. My mother has been notoriously unorganized for all of my life. We joked about her lack of organization and haphazard way of living in her life as a mother and woman, but with my dad’s death, it became more apparent that there were deeper issues rooted in her clutter. She doesn’t like to delve deep into anything…her emotions, her house, her closets so usually things build up until it’s overwhelming. This past month, I helped her clean her house, clear out the clothing in my deceased dad’s closets, and get rid of the things that were blinding her to all that she had. Metaphorical and literally, a weight, a huge weight was lifted in her life after that. She’s started living more since then, going to the gym, and just living more in the moment. It’s really quite amazing. I say all this to say that I can relate and that I am happy that in cleaning your house you found peace and made new meaningful realizations about your self and what you want from life. 🙂

    • Hi Jessica, Thank you for sharing your story. I’m glad to know that your mom was able to turn things around. It is not easy, especially when you have to essentially rewire your brain after so many years of approaching life in a certain way. It should have been so much more obvious to me – that instead of thinking therapy, antidepressants, maybe I all needed was exercise and a clean house!


  3. You have had a constant stream of things hit, and I can empathize with the fatigue and lack of inspiration, not to mention, the oppressive quality of the clutter issue. It reaches a sort of critical mass that can be paralyzing, at least for me.

    I am extremely impressed (and envious!) that you were able to dive in, dig through and deal with all of it. I start, I make a small bit of progress, I never seem to truly get it done.

    My hat’s off to you!

    (And enjoy your Mother’s Day weekend.)

    • Oh, D, it was *only* because we had a guest coming! We have often joked that we need to schedule monthly houseguests so that we can keep the house clean 😉

      So happy to hear that my posts have been resonating with you. Happy Mother’s Day to you too!


  4. I agree with D.A. Wolf, you have had a plate full to deal with and it’s not easy. I am glad that you are finding your way and that you are feeling better. One step at a time. Happy Mother’s Day to you! I hope you get to enjoy it!

  5. Cecilia,

    I am a proponent of living in a clutter-free zone and more often than not it is my therapy to deal with anxiety. Recently, I’ve realized that cleaning offers a refuge for my spiraling thoughts.

    Personal and physical and external crisis can put anyone on edge. Even though I had no connection to Boston, I felt the angst of what transpired. Given that you have family and roots to where the bombings happened, I understand why you are feeling anxious.

    Have you read Priscilla Warner’s Learning To Breathe? The read was a comfort to me.

    Sending ((you)).

  6. You’re right…small, baby steps. Like they (GI Joe?) say, knowing is half the battle, which means acknowledging that which holds you back is a big, important step.

    I know, as moms, it’s tempting to put aside our own needs for that of others, but I’ve learned that when that happens, it doesn’t make me a better parent. If anything, I’m lesser because when I marginalize myself and not give myself the break and the ability to explore other parts of myself, I have so much less to offer my own girls.

    I am glad that you’re taking these baby steps. We all have to start somewhere right? And please know that I’m rooting for you, each step of the way, in your journey.

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