I swirled the whiskey in it's glass - concentrating on the ebb and flow of the liquid until it settled again in the glass.
Repeat the swirl.
Jameson, neat. What I always get because when I was singing with people because it soothed an otherwise tired and sore throat, and it just stuck.
This is not what I want my life to look like. I don't know how I got here - but this is not who I am.
It was a moment of distinct clarity. And I don't mean to trivialize the epiphany to a simple "Lauren feeling weird about being in a foreign bar with people she barely knew" or anything. This was catalytic for me. It was a deep and profound realization that the sum total of all the parts of my life didn't add up to something that was satisfying.
I've been in therapy for a few months, and basically every time we process through something, it comes down to me being unhappy because I don't have control over something. Or me being unhappy because I am controlling something but it's not going well. It gets repetitive - and I often find myself self-diagnosing as I am talking things out with A (what I will henceforth refer to my therapist as) and even before I get to the end of my train of thought I'm like "I KNOW THAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT ME WANTING TO BE IN CONTROL, A, YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY IT..." and she just laughs graciously at me and nods her head. She's the best kind of therapist for me. She just allows me to talk in circles and brain dump and then says something that ties it all together and makes it all make sense and I feel like take all my money forever.
I also am learning just how impatient of a person I am. I have zero real capacity to feel content with delayed gratification. My brain does not fathom why waiting for something can be good. It just goes into automatic despair and bitter mode. This paired with a propensity to just take control of things that aren't moving quickly enough...well that's a recipe for failure. And that's where I've been for the last few years.
Over the past three(ish) years, I have been living in a haze of what my life used to be. I thought at first, it was just a by-product of growing up. Everyone said "oh, your mid-late twenties are just really hard" so I just figured everyone felt like this and just slogged through. But it's come to a point where I cannot accept that anymore. That can't be right. I know that I wasn't meant to live in this fog.
Especially because...I used to be content. I used to be mostly happy. I used to have vision and direction and passion and excitement. I want that back.
I want to decide that is Lauren again.
And I think I can.
My boss is working with me through a few leadership books to make me a better manager. We just read a chapter in Boundaries for Leaders about control and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
It was all about shaping culture so that people aren't held back by what they can't control.
Like - ok we can't control _________ about the market or the industry, but we are still going to do ___________ for our customers or constituents because that's just who we are. Henry Cloud suggests that organizations do this exercise where they put all the things they have no control over in one column, and all the things they can control in the other. Then, they are supposed to dwell on the things they can't control for like...5 minutes and then accept it and move on to doing all the things they can control.
When I read this a lightbulb came on. Well, maybe the lightbulb flickered off and on for a few days, and then at the bar it caught the light and held it, steady.
If I were to honestly make my lists right now, it's not hard to tell you what would be in the "I have no control over this" column.
I want to find someone and be in a relationship headed toward marriage. I want to create a home that is mine. I want to be in a PhD program. I want to be a mom.
But, I have no control over these things. Zero. None. I cannot manifest a husband. I cannot move out on my own and create a home that is just mine (damn you Orange County living cost). I cannot guarantee I will get into a PhD program. I cannot (well, this one is a bit tricky because technically I could, but let's just go with I should not) have a kid right now.
These are a bit different than work issues - I get that. I don't expect myself to have written these down and reflected on them for 5 minutes and then moved onto the other list. One of the huge benefits of therapy is having someone validate your grief. Say "it's ok that this feels like that" to stuff that just feels shitty. But on the other side, in therapy I am re-learning (again and again) that if I dwell on the things I cannot control like I have been - I will continue to feel like I have been feeling. Period.
So all this leads me here. I haven't written in months because I've felt like I have nothing to say about anything.
But I have something to say to myself, about myself, so here it goes.
Lauren, there are things you cannot control. Things you want to have and to do and to experience. You cannot control if they happen in your life. Period. You've spent 3+ years mourning that, and there's value in that time. But for now, you have to move on to the next column. You have to figure out the things you can control and do them.
You have to invest in yourself because maybe that's the person you'll "do life" with forever.
You have to love the home you're in and make it yours in all the ways you can at this moment in time.
You have to work toward applying for school because you can control the work you do to get in regardless of if you can control if you actually get in.
You have to love the family and friends you have in the moment because maybe that's the role you are to play in the world for now.
Those are the things you control - and that's just the start! There's a bunch more things that you can actively control right now and so do those things. Focus on those things. Change the path of your life by focusing on the little things you can do at each step. Stop focusing on what you cannot control. You're done with that.
Writing that feels painful, because honestly the haze of the last few years feels comfortable now. I feel like it just is easier to dwell on the things I've been dwelling on because I know what it feels like. I honestly think that's why people stay unhappy for their whole life - because at least it's familiar. Shifting perspective, even if it's back to a perspective I've had before in life, is different and scary and new.
But I know that I have to do it. For my own sake.