As I drove home from work tonight, I was hit by a sudden sensation – one of those moments of full body clarity where you really understand the heart of something.
I think it was on my mind because I had such an odd little day today. Not bad, not good, just odd. Neutral. Slow-moving, peaceful, uneventful. At about 4:30 this afternoon I had a micro-panic and leapt up from my desk. I ran into our paralegal-in-training, in the hallway.
“Are we forgetting something? Am I forgetting something? Is it just me or do we actually have a handle on everything, nothing is an emergency, and I’m freaking out for no reason?”
She smiled and said “Yup, I think we’re in good shape.”
I don’t know what to do with that. I don’t know how to exist like that. Though I had no choice, because hey, we had our shit together. Our clients were all taken care of, nothing was waiting to be done. We even had a meeting to hone office and file management procedures. I had nothing to grab onto, to tell me what to do next.
Let’s break this down: Basically, what’s happened here, is that my innate talents and skills, plus stimulant medication and new behavior choices, have conspired to create a life for me that is mostly free of conflict, drama, emergencies, and “oh shit” moments. I’ve made better decisions, cut ties with dramatic people. OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!
I’m joking. No I’m not. How do people live like this? It’s weird.
So I started thinking about how there are people out there who define themselves through conflict. You know them. Some people like to argue and pick fights. Some people like to create problems where they don’t exist, because it makes them feel alive. They often have other rationales for their behavior, but the real root of their issue is that without conflict, they don’t know who they are. Their internal identity isn’t strong enough, so they have to use the rest of us to bounce themselves off of, to define themselves.
I was sitting there thinking “man, I don’t miss having people like that in my life, I mean who wants to put up with drama all day and…wait…uh…”. It was right then that I not only realized that I was understanding this type of conflict creation on a deep level, but I suddenly realized that there’s a second type of person who thrives on drama. Who defines themselves with it. And that in the past, I was one of them, and that even now, though I resist it, a part of me misses it. I don’t totally know what to do without it.
When you continually allow drama to exist in your life, whether you create it or not, you are saying yes to it. You are a participant. You are getting a high off of it – you’re certainly getting something from it, or you wouldn’t keep saying yes to it. And you can’t participate like that, and look down on the actual drama creators. Some of us really get a charge off of just the proximity of drama, conflict, and emergencies. Some of us don’t have the confidence (yet) to exist without it. And even after we acquire that confidence…we may still be learning what to do in its absence. I’m right there.
I drew new boundaries. I said “hey addicts, you don’t get to bring drama into my life anymore”. I said “hey, people with totally untreated mental health issues, who refuse to explore treatment, YOU don’t get to bring drama into my life anymore”. I said “hey, sadistic employers who treat employees badly, you don’t get to continue treating me this way”. I said “hmmm, I think I’ll stop filling my life with calendar clutter, overcommitment, and cheap ego-feeds”. What was left? A life that’s pretty calm most of the time, where I have to make some choice about who I am, how I want to spend my time. A job that is manageable and reasonable in its expectations, and which allows me the flexibility to work on growing my own projects while I’m there. A household where we don’t have to scramble as hard for a sense of order. I have time to clean my dishes. Vacuum my livingroom. Walk my dogs.
Today was so calm…that I wasn’t even sure who I was. In the absence of conflict I have to find news ways to define myself. It’s not bad, but it’s not always comfortable. I think that I am going to have to allow myself a certain amount of “stimulation” in order to feel okay – stimulant medication quells most of the thirst I think, but doesn’t totally eliminate it.
As I finished my work day I started to go into worry mode, my mind insisted that I must have missed something…but then some other really practical part of my mind told the worry to just let go and knock it off. Because there really wasn’t anything to worry about. I’ve got bigger things to think about…like how to define myself in the absence of conflict.