Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben
Monday was my 37th birthday. I had planned to do a post on all the things I’ve learned in the last year, and how I’ve grown, but it turned out a little different.
The last year of my life has been one with so many changes and challenges. From learning how to cope with my own ADHD, to dealing with my son’s diagnosis, a major depression/burnout, family turbulence and, just two weeks ago, my first operation. In many ways, this year was humbling in that it showed me all the things I still have to learn. And to continue that lesson in humility, I will now share with you 10 of those things I still haven’t figured out in my 37 years on this planet.
- Managing my emotions
I’ve been struggling with coping with my emotions since I was a child, especially with anger (and the suppression of anger, being depression). As a child, I used to bite my hand to refrain from hurting others when I was angry. And I still do this at times. My birthday itself was a great reminder of how difficult it is to manage my emotions because I spent most of the day feeling angry and depressed, for reasons I couldn’t quite figure out (I believe hormones played a role…).
- Forgiving myself
I’ve done things in my life that I feel really guilty about: the way my marriage ended, the way I treat my kids at times, the way I talk to my partner when I’m not managing my emotions… I have a hard time letting go of the guilt associated with something I’ve done. As a child, I used to often blurt out stuff, only realising that it was hurtful after the fact (typical ADHD trait, but at the time I was just seen as rude). I could lie awake thinking about the hurt I had caused, not meaning or intending to.
I still have a hard time forgiving myself for mistakes I make or made.
- Accepting myself as I am
This year has been really instrumental in bringing me closer to accepting myself as I am, and learning to see my perceived flaws as the natural consequence of some of my talents. It’s brought me closer, yes, but not quite there yet. I still want to change parts of myself for the wrong reason at times, and I still feel shame for needing/wanting certain things.
- Feeding myself
I know this seems like a no-brainer. Just remember to put food in your mouth about three times a day and swallow. And yet, I don’t manage to do it consistently, let alone put the right foods in. I’ve been working on this since I was 15. 20 years of research later, I have a pretty good idea of what my ideal diet would look like. I’m nowhere close.
- Letting go of control
If my depression has taught me one thing, it is that my illusions of control are just that: illusions. And yet, I cling to them for dear life. Somehow I keep this conviction alive that once I have things A, B or C under control, the rest of my life will follow. Right now, I’m trying to gain control over the state of my home (way overdue), but next, it could be my health, my parenting, my work, my relationship or my social life. And yes, having more structure does wonders for me (see point 6), but trying to control is often a way to ease any anxiety that arises from a situation completely unrelated over which I have no control.
- Staying organized
I have ADHD so ‘chaos’ is kind of my middle name. But it’s also one of the main stressors in my life. As difficult as it is for me to structure my day, work and house, I also need it to function properly and to feel sane.
On my birthday I cleared my kitchen counter. I am now committed to keeping it clutter-free and hope that the fact that I know I NEED it, and not just want it, will help motivate me to clear things off right away (and that my kids will respect that, too). I’ve seen 7-year-olds who are better at keeping neat than I am. If that’s not humbling, I don’t know what is.
- To stop projecting
When I’m faced with a difficult emotion, my brain still goes to find the culprit outside of myself. Did my partner leave his coffee cup out on the counter? Did my daughter say something mean? Did my friend forget to call me?
I know these things are not the cause of my emotions, because I respond to them differently depending on how I feel. But when I’m in the middle of a whirlwind of negative thoughts, I seem to forget that completely. I’m slowly learning to see it as it’s happening. I guess that’s progress already?
- Letting go of prejudices
Our brains are trained to judge from an early age onwards: who is dangerous, who is the right person to hang out with, what are the right clothes to wear and which music is socially acceptable to like.
I still catch myself assuming things about people from the way they look or the little amount of information I have on them. My life has shown me, over and over and over again, that when I get to know these people, the truth is always 100 times more complex than my simplified assumptions. I have learned to judge less, and to be aware of when I still do. That’s something I’m very grateful for.
- Letting go of what other people think
This one I have actually mastered to a certain degree already. In the past two years, I’ve learned to worry less and less about how others perceive me. This is partly because I’ve shown myself more and found that people are not nearly as critical as I thought they were (and as I am to myself), and partly because I’m much more confident in why I do what I do. This blog has both been instrumental and is a great example: I don’t care very much whether people think a post is good or not. I know when I think I’ve done something well (been authentic, paid attention to style or wrote something scary). My main validation comes from me.
But… there are still plenty of times when I worry again about how others see me. The people I worry about are different from before, however. I now worry much more about those who are close to me, my family and friends, and far less about strangers in the street. In my book that’s huge progress already.
My history of meditation could probably be summarised as about six 2-week periods randomly spread over the last 15 years. During each of these times, I had the intention to keep meditating for the rest of my life, and I immediately noticed the benefits when I did it. And still. I’m not doing it. The same goes for yoga, really. Wonderful stuff. Doesn’t seem to stick.
Looking at this list, I seem to myself as an utterly unteachable person. Luckily I know that’s not the case. I’ve learned so many skills throughout my life, things that I use every day. Some lessons just keep returning, and in a way, that’s not so bad. They help me keep focus and stay grounded. And they help me relate to others who have similar lessons that last way into adulthood.
Are there things you have struggled with your whole life, or habits you wanted to start your whole life that you just don’t get around to?
I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!