I’ve never been a sleepwalker. I occasionally mutter things in my sleep, but I don’t wander around doing things of which I have no recollection.
Or at least that’s what I thought.
Then yesterday I woke up and found I was in the middle of something that I hadn’t even realized I was doing.
For months, I’ve been operating in survival mode – just getting things done, wondering how I was going to get it all done and when it would be over. I was riding out the storm, buffeted by waves, being pushed and pulled by the currents. I would call for help, and someone would throw me a line and tow me away from the most dangerous rocks amid churning sea. At least, that’s how it felt in those moments.
But then something I did yesterday awoke a new understanding of those days and months. I submitted my passport application. It should have been a perfectly ordinary task, mundane and bureaucratic. I took the forms and documentation to the local post office. I had my picture taken. I signed in the designated box. I wrote out a check to the State Department. I left with a small thrill of excitement and anticipation of getting that little blue book in the mail and the opportunities it will open.
Then another reaction hit, one that’s difficult to fit so neatly into specific emotional boxes like “excitment” and “anticipation”. As I meandered to another part of the city to complete some other errands, I realized that I did this. There was this thing that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, that I wanted to do for me. A few months ago, I decided I was going to get it done this year. I pushed through all the things that needed to get done immediately, things that required time and money and emotional reserves – I found a new apartment, I moved, I filed for divorce… And then I did this thing for me. I had dreamed and planned; then I had the means and the freedom to follow through. Suddenly I understood that I had done this. Not just a simple passport application, but all of it – the things I needed to get done and the things I wanted to do. I had plans, and I executed them.
There was (and, in many regards, still is) a storm. But I did not simply abandon myself to its mercies. The waves crashed, the winds howled, the currents raged. But I did not quiescent. I acted. I did what was necessary to steer safely through to the horizon. I have had incredibly supportive people in my life, but I never surrendered control to them. They have been and continue to be invaluable, illuminating the way, helping me see that the storm will not go on forever, reminding me of my own capabilities and strengths. I have not gone through the experience alone, but I have made my own choices and, perhaps at times rather stubbornly, have done things on my own.
I find it amazingly easy to accept the burden of “failure” but often find it difficult to accept ownership of my accomplishments. This week, I ran up against stress and anxiety about basically everything – professional prospects, finances, social life, family demands, etc., etc. Some anxieties were legitimate, some habitual, and some simply irrational. In other words, I was a mess. In the midst of it, I had no sense of what I’ve achieved, despite someone reminding me. To then comprehend what I have done, to understand that I get to take credit for it, was overwhelming but important, as if I’m waking from the fog of a long sleep.
I am not caught in the currents, being pushed and pulled with no contol.
I am not being towed, leaving control to others.
I am making my own way. I am at the helm.
I get to take ownership of what I have accomplished.
And that is a very powerful feeling indeed.