Jun 11, 2008
A few weeks ago I performed the annual spring ritual of cleaning out my garage. Over the fall and winter months, leaves blow in, dust setttles, tools and construction material get disorganized, etc. Then, spring comes and the 2 garage doors can be left open to allow fresh air and light to come in. I park the cars outside, and set about restoring the premises. And as I did so this year, I was thinking about some of the people and questions on the anxiety forum, when I noticed what I was doing..,
And what I was doing was sweeping dirty water across the garage floor out to the driveway. That floor is reasonably flat and level, so sweeping out the water I spray to lift up the dirt and dust is not terribly difficult. At the same time, it is kind of a game. I start at the back of the garage, and shove water ahead of me with a pushbroom to the entrance, then onto the gravel drive. As I do so, a little tidal wave of water forms ahead of the broom, and water begins to flow off to the sides. There are a few low areas in the back, and water tebds to pool up in those. So there I go, back and forth, side to side, chasing down the water. After perhaps 20 minutes I get most of it out -and the floor starts to dry.
"How like dealing with panic and anxiety is this?" I thought to myself. Each time I sweep some water out, I count a victory. But the remaining water fills in behind me or puddles up on the side somewhere, and I go back to sweep it out -over and over. Victory, challenge, victory, challenge. At one point I realized that no matter how much I swept out, more water kept appearing. It was then that I noticed the hoze nozzle was not completely closed -a small amount of water was fizzing out the end, along the back wall. But it was enough to create a kind of "perpetual motion" machine in which I could never get the floor entirely swept -there would always be more water. The solution, of course, was to shut off the water supply! I did not notice the continuing supply of water until I had swept out enough to reveal the source.
And, "How like recovery is that?" I thought again. Sweeping out the accumulated water gave me evidence that I could, indeed, get ahead and make progress. But the big success came when I saw where the extra water was coming from, went to the source and shut off the supply. Now, I could sweep out the last little puddle -and walk away.
So, our individual victories and accomplishments are important because they tell us we can get ahead, life can be different -all cleaned up. They send us good news. At the same time, they may also reveal to us why we have the problem in the first place -or at least give us a clue. At some point, much as we take some satisfaction and encouragement from our victories, we also wish that we did not need to continue fighting all the time to get them; it is good to win a battle -but it is better not to even have a war. True "peace" of mind.
Can you think of any ways your life is like my sweeping story? Why not post your own similar insights below? I invite your thoughts.