Step One: Stop the Loop

Note: This is the beginning of a recurring series of posts I’m calling The Year of Living Intentionally. (Unofficially, I’m calling it That Time Leah Decided to Get Her Shit Together.) You’ll be able to access all the posts here. I hope you’ll join me on the adventure.

A writer friend, Jess Topper, mentioned something online the other day about “stopping the loop.” She was referring to that negative script that runs through a person’s brain, and it made me pause: I’m not the only one. Other people struggle with the loop, too. You might know what it sounds like:

I’m not good enough for this.

I’ll never get ahead.

I bit off more than I can chew.

I’ll never get there.

I’ll never have that life.

I’m too out of shape, too weird, too disorganized, too too too…

It’s time to stop the loop. But when did it start? Was the loop running through my head as I grew up? Did it only begin when I became a parent? Because this sense of anxiety, of failure, of never being able to keep it together, is only intensified by the fact that I’m a parent now. My world is not just me. I’m not the only one affected by my choices. I was thinking about it last night–there were huge winds rushing through our area, and all of the kids were awake and frightened. And I thought about the weight of making them feel safe. I worried about what we would do if the siding was ripped off our house (the sound of wind slapping against vinyl makes me feel that like there’s nothing holding our home together but masking tape and popsicle sticks). I thought about what happens if we let something slide–the bills, the job, the life–and panicked. Sometimes David and I will sit on the couch with all of the kids with us, just a big tumble of legs and arms and elbows, and my heart will slip straight from gratitude right on down to anxiety: they trust us. Oh, dear God. They trust us.

The loop starts running through my head before I’m even out of bed in the morning. I wake up behind. Before my feet hit the floor I’m exhausted, and scared, and scrambling. The loop is playing, and I indulge the voice I hear there: the one that says I should’ve gotten up earlier to work out. The one that says that I’m already pressed for time, already late. It’s the voice that says I’m letting the kids down, my husband, myself. I let the voice slap me around, and she’s grown pretty damned strong.

I’d be more embarrassed to tell you this if I didn’t think you might understand.

I read my friend’s comment last night and decided it’s time to take the suggestion. I’m stopping the loop. As soon as it starts, I slam an imaginary window closed, like my brain is a house and I’m refusing to let the voice in. It’s only 9:30 in the morning now, and I can’t tell you how many times already I’ve had to shut that window. But it does me no good to listen to it, and frankly, I’m so tired of being bossed around by something that’s not even real. So I’m going to try this, because what else is there to do?

My hope is that shutting the voice out over and over again will eventually teach it to stay away. I even wonder if I might eventually be able to flip the script to something good. Even better: to live without the script playing at all.

Wouldn’t that be lovely.

Do you fight the loop, too? Have you beat it? 


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