When I was a teen, I got stress headaches. Not every so often but multiple a day for several years. And then one day, I realized that it had been a while since I had had one. A long while. They had departed so gradually that I hadn’t noticed the progression, even after years of wanting them gone.
Our learning curves can be like that, too. In the last week, I’ve been puttering through some year-end habits, including reviewing the year that will sing its swan song tomorrow. It was only in the review that I noticed a shift in my emotional/behavioral self as subtle and yet life-changing as the disappearing headaches.
Early in the year, I kept getting caught in a perfectionist spiral related to my relationship with Theresa. The simplified version went a little something like this: I’d get grumpy, I’d get mad at myself for being unpleasant to be around, the self-punishment would make me more grumpy, which would make me less pleasant to be around, which would lead to more self-punishment and so on. You get the gist; you see the spiral.
It was only on review of my year that I realized that I haven’t been struggling with in nearly the same way in recent months. Sure, I still get grumpy and I’m still unpleasant while grumpy – and I still don’t like being unpleasant around Theresa – but the spiral isn’t turning into a full-blown tornado because little by little, so gradually that I didn’t notice at the time, I accepted that grumpiness happens and that committing to share my whole self with Theresa meant the less awesome bits, too, no matter how much I might want to be a perfect partner to her.
Taking the time to pause and notice our growth curves is critical to keeping them going; when we don’t notice our shifts, the efforts can feel fruitless and our motivation can fly right out the window. Alternately, when we notice we’ve made progress, especially when the progress is the result of the little steps and bits of mindfulness from day to day, we reinforce our focus on efforts that can feel insubstantial when we do them, things like meditation, pausing, and making even minute adjustments to our behavior and perspective.
How are you different today than you were on January 1, 2019?
You might even offer yourself a pat on the back or a happy dance for your progress.
Another effort I made this year was to make my newsletter as useful and inclusive as possible; this week, I’m including some tidbits about two simple, daily record keeping practices that help me see my learning curve, and the processes I used to help ease the perfectionism spiral I had been so entrenched in. We’d love to have you in the community; this is where you join.