“Would you say you’re a little change-obsessed?”
I didn’t hesitate in answering Ashley.
“Yes. I’m totally addicted to change.”
“Well, I’d suggest an intervention but that would be another change. So, I guess consider this your intervention?”
We laughed as we walked through downtown Freiburg, window shopping while sipping on our drinks. Her: Carrot pineapple ginger juice. Me: Coffee. Of course.
Coffee is the original black: It goes with everything.
After we chatted that night, Sante and I were settling in for our last night at home before our big roadtrip when I started crying. Not sad, mind you, but happy tears. Something was shifting in me.
I told Sante that for the first time in a long time I looked at the person I was and was happy. I was proud of me. What? When did that happen? I guess sometime in the last seven years or so.
And that’s what I said to my therapist as well: If I was my 27-year-old self looking at the woman I am now, I would brush my hands together and say, “Job well done. Who’s ready for cake?”
But I’m not that 27 year old anymore. My expectations for myself grew as I did. Which is fine. But what didn’t change is the voice in my head telling me this:
You’re not good enough. You’re not doing enough. You’re not enough. Maybe drinking more green tea will make you better. Maybe doing a news fast will perfect you. Finally.
Seriously, I’m about to flip out. Green tea? Shut. Up!
So I decided that I should probably pretend I’m my 27-year- old self again. Just for a minute. Rewind to 2007.
Me: Inner critic, you there?
Inner Critic: Yep. Where else would I go?
Me: Right? OK I’ve got an idea. I know you’re overworked and lord knows you’re wearing me down. So, I’m going to make a list of what I need to change and do so that you can finally rest. And I’ll get some peace. Sound good?
Inner Critic: Hell yes. I can’t believe you came up with such a good idea.
Me: Sometimes I’m pretty smart. I have this goal of being the best person I can be. You ready?
Inner Critic: Go to town. I’m listening.
Me: So here’s the list:
- Floss every night
- Make and keep appointments
- Stop drinking so much
- Work out regularly
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Stop eating at fast food restaurants
- Have an emergency savings account
- Wake up with enough time to enjoy my morning
- Stop smoking
- Be a real, true-blue friend
- Journal every day
- Understand retirement accounts and contribute regularly
- Spend more time outside
- Travel more
- Live outside the state
- Stop waiting tables
- Live outside the country
- Tell the truth
- Be part of a loving, respectful relationship
- Work less
- Plant and harvest a garden
- Have hobbies (outside of drinking and watching sports)
- Watch less TV
- Cook more
- Learn to read Tarot cards
- Walk or bike almost everywhere
- Learn another language well enough to speak it
- Stop trying to fix people
- Stop my part in the family drama cycle
- Manage my depression
- Be debt-free
- Volunteer every week
- Read more
- Listen to different kinds of music
- Try cooking different types of food
- Have a budget and stick to it
- Drink more water
- Achieve goals I create for myself
- Write a novel
- Make choices and act in harmony with my thoughts
- Write a regular weekly column
Inner Critic: Whew, that is quite the list. Are you sure you wanna throw all that on there? I mean, this is a binding contract. If you don’t follow through, I can bug you forever. And you know me, when I have a job to do, I do it well.
Me: Yeah, but if I do manage it, then we’ll both be more at peace, wouldn’t you say?
Inner Critic: Well, I guess I didn’t ever see myself retiring so this is good news. At least there’s hope.
Fast forward seven years.
I’ve fulfilled my contract. I’m done. I’m off the hook and so is my inner critic. But at my latest session with my therapist, I said “But I still wanna be the best person I can be.”
She threw her head back and said, “Ugh that sounds exhausting. Why can’t you enjoy who you are?”
And I wonder: Why can’t I?
After all, being me is pretty sweet.
It’s the change obsession. I’ve been changing so much for the past seven years that it’s become a habit. And when I’m not changing, I feel like I must be turning back into that younger version of myself. As if somehow enjoying life as it is will put a cigarette in my mouth and a bottle in my hand.
And that, my friends, is just silly. So while I was on vacation I started a new challenge: To be happy with myself just as I am. After all, if the people in my life can love me that way, why can’t I?
So I left a few dishes undone at our vacation home. I laid on the beach and by the pool reading, not worrying (OK worrying a little, but not doing anything about it) that I wasn’t out hiking more or seeing more.
Now that we’re home, I’ve skipped a few routines, opting to do things later so I can try a new yoga class. (German yoga! Oh lord. That’s a story for another time.) I’m focused very much on living in the moment so that I don’t try to change anything.
This challenge requires me to do nothing. To accept what is. And that my friends, is one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced thus far. But I think I’m up to it.