Paddling Upstream or Flowing Down?

Which comes first Joy or Gratitude?

For years my life didn't flow easily.

In fact, it felt like I was constantly paddling upstream. I 'To Do' listed my way through days, weeks, and months of my life. I  judged my own worth by my accomplishments and didn't appreciate much of what I already had. I think I felt some inner need to stay ahead of the current so it wouldn't sweep me downstream. Wonder where I ever learned I had to paddle against the current instead of just going with the flow?

I realize now that life isn't supposed to be so hard.

Instead of allowing life to happen, and appreciating the little beautiful things every day -- I attempted to control the life around me. For years. As if my thinking about every outcome could prevent catastrophes from happening, as if I could ward off future failures and disappointments by doing everything perfectly. I'm pretty sure I thought I could save valuable time by being so darn efficient. What in the world ever made me think this was the best way? What was I saving the time to do anyway ---accomplish more?

Eventually the exhaustion and frustration that comes from continually swimming upstream overwhelms a person---it did me anyway. I became anxious, stressed, couldn't sleep, cried a lot, and was borderline depressed. No matter how perfect I attempted to make things, it was never enough. I felt stuck -- probably what I fear the most in life -- feeling helpless, trapped, unsure of my next move and unable to figure out how to get unstuck. 

One particular low point, as I began the process of digging myself out of my funk, was starting a gratitude journal and struggling to come up with anything to write in it. It all felt forced and insincere even to me. That is when I knew I had to make some serious changes.

Tuning in to all my emotions, the good and the not-so-good, flipping my reactions to responses when things got sticky, and being open to change instead of fighting it made a huge difference. I now can "feel" when control-mode attempts to creep its way back into my life, and I have strategies to stop it.

Over time I changed my negative thoughts, silenced my inner critic and started to see the beauty around me again. It took months of focused work, and some help from unexpected new friends, but I did it. I am proud of the changes I have made and the person I have become.

I no longer paddle upstream. In fact I have such a sensitivity to anything that feels like stress, worry, or control that on some days I don't pick up a paddle at all, I simply allow the current to guide me. I hope to never go back to my old way of being.

Flow is beautiful. Joy is energizing. Gratitude is exhilarating. 

Question of the Week #39 / When is the last time you felt like you were going with the flow of life's current?

What were you doing? Who were you with?  Where were you (specific place)? And, can you get there again?