Happy New Year!
I know myself. What I know is that I am not one for New Year’s resolutions.
I know if I say resolve to lose weight that before the end of January, I will eat my way into gaining ten pounds. If I resolve not to swear, I will develop some sort of psychological compulsion to explicate every other word, thus filling the damn-hell swear jar before the end of the week. Then there are the relationship goals. They are the worst! If I set an intention to be a better friend, sister, mother, or wife, for instance, I will certainly self sabotage, thus alienating myself from the entire world, being blocked from social media, removed from group texts and chastised by a relative. Oh, oh and if I rededicate myself to doing more than going for a walk each day, I will most certainly be forced into an online-streaming binge, unable to shower, brush my teeth and get off my couch.
The truth is when setting any sort of resolution or goal, I am filled with crazy performance anxiety and a shuddersome dread (obviously). This fear would most definitely lead me right back into therapy, a place where I can safely unpack the root of my goal setting angst.
Maybe my goal-avoidance-performance-anxiety is genetics. I really and sincerely know that if I diet, I gain weight. I am so freaked out with failure that I make myself fail to prove I cannot succeed. You know what’s weird? My self sabotage response is like a reflex? It takes me until I go up a few pants sizes until I am like,
“Woah, Beth, diets really stress you out.”
So if I said something to myself like,
“Hey, Beth, you cannot eat sugar,”
I will fill my dream board with the message: You must devour all the sugar!
I have — devoured all the sugar, that is.
What I am getting at is why goals freak me out. I am not sure why. Ok. Sure, I could argue that goals freak me out because I am afraid of failure. Then again, I do not think I am really afraid of failure, but I am afraid of letting people down. What I think I have is more like a twitch/reflex. And here and now the twitch is my ability to set goals. And the letting people down part is the completing goals part. Consequently, when I am focused on the twitch, all I think about is that I will let someone down.
Ok. All of you who want to diagnose me, enjoy. For me, however, I think my twitch really is probably more about my baggage combined with what my brain does when I think I am going to fail.
I remember when I decided to finish my last semester of college. Because my initial grades were less than stellar, Dave and I realized it was best to finish this semester at the college where I began: Brigham Young University. Determinedly, I jumped through several hoops, including having to meet weekly with an academic probation counselor, convincing BYU admissions that I was serious about graduating (they asked). Then convincing people to write letters of recommendation on my behalf. Then tracking down my Mormon bishop, (I was no longer attending the LDS church), assuring him that I was not going to go rogue and obtaining an ecclesiastical endorsement.
At the time, We were living in Park City and trying to sell our house. Dave was working full time in San Francisco. On the weekends, he flew back to Utah. Kyle and Eli were enrolled in different Salt Lake City schools. Each day we were out the door around 7:45 am. We drove a half and hour through Parley’s Canyon from Park City to Salt Lake City. I dropped Kyle off first. Then Eli. Each drop off was met with eye contact, an, “I love you,” and a “hand hug.” Then I drove another hour to the BYU campus in Provo.
It was my first day of classes. There I was, sitting in my car. Because I did not have a parking pass, I was parked about a half a mile from my class. Sitting there, my heart began beating so hard, I could feel the pulse, pulse, pulse exploding in my ears. I was sweaty. I sat paralyzed. I knew I was going to fail.
“Beth, you should have stayed in Salt Lake City.” I thought to myself.
Panicked, I called Dave. I struggled conveying my fear.
“Dave, I can’t do this. I am not worthy.”
I am certain he was like,
“You did all this work to get here, why on earth do you think you are going to fail? You are worthy! You are amazing.”
I was not buying what he was saying. (Bless him for trying.) Now officially late to my first class still in the car, and convinced that I suck, I called my friend, Beth. (Yes. She is a real person and shares my same name.) I heard her voice and burst into tears. Quickly, I vomited out all my doubt:
“I am too old! I am too agnostic! I am definitely too dumb to be back in college. I am not worthy! I cannot do this.”
Here is what she said:
“Beth Adams, I believe in you. Catch your breath. I will stay on the phone with you until you are in your classroom.”
For some reason while we were talking, I moved the car. She urged me just to park. Finally I parked and got out. I grabbed my backpack and locked the car, all while telling her why I completely suck.
Beth stayed on the phone. Calmly she continued,
“Put one foot in front of the other. Keep walking. Just keep walking. I am here. You don’t even have to talk. I will stay on the phone. Just keep walking.”
I made it to class. My face was covered in tears. I took in a deep breath:
“I MADE IT TO CLASS!”
I sat there smiling. I looked around. I was ok. For the next few weeks, each time I took the Provo exit, I called Beth. Each time she stayed on the phone with me and talked me out of the car, up the street, up the stairs and into class. Each time she told believed in me. Each time she told me I was good. Each time she told me I would be ok.
Eventually I made it out of the car on my own. I cried through all of my papers. I continued meeting with my academic probation counselor. Eventually he said, I did not need to come anymore. I finished the semester I finished the semester with a 4.0.
Recently, and in front of me, a friend told Kyle that Kyle is lucky he has Dave’s genes.
“Your dad is so smart. Thank goodness you got his genes.”
My friend also reminded Kyle how poorly “your mom” performed the first time “she” was at college. He was not wrong. That being said, he was not right. In that moment I realized I need to hold space for the fact that I am also the badass who got herself back into college, received really good grades (all A’s except for one B+), and graduated.
I never knew things would be ok, (no matter what the outcome.) Maybe you understand that feeling too. Maybe my anxiety really is genetics. Maybe it is baggage. Maybe it is both. All this to say, maybe goal setting, or finishing something you start, freaks you out too. Maybe like me, you have history and brain full of self-defeating messages, messages that get in the way.
In the end, or really the beginning of 2021, I want to set some easy goals. I want to be happy. I also want to post every week day. I might not make these goals. I also believe I can. I also believe you can too.