Instead of going forward, sometimes we need to wait

Mindfulness May Mean Waiting When I Don’t Have the Answer

This blog post I’m writing is not ready for prime time — even under my “don’t be too precious about it” rule. Initially, I wrote about my struggle with some insurance claims that I’m trying to resolve that my brother had been dealing with before his death. I recounted how as soon as the resolutions weren’t as forthcoming as I had hoped or a new hiccup arose, I went straight to imagining the worst case scenario — that they were going to deny the claims and I’d have to find a lawyer. Once I arrived at my dramatized fears for the future, I was ready to give up. It wasn’t worth the time and effort I imagined that it would take to reach a resolution. Except then I was angry that they would “win.”

I called a friend to vent that I was obsessing about how difficult these claims were to resolve and how my preoccupation was preventing me from writing my blog post. She suggested that perhaps my post should be about this obsession. As we talked, I started to see this recurring pattern of mine to catastrophize outcomes whenever I had a problem to solve involving another person. I wondered why I had this tendency.

The more we discussed it, I could see that if I stayed in the moment with the problem at hand rather than jumping twenty steps ahead to an imagined outcome, the decision was often simple. It was the worrying about the dramatized future that really wasted so much of my time. Perhaps I was being preemptory in assuming each claim would be a huge fight that I’d ultimately lose. I also saw how ignoring my happiness resolution to believe that the people I’m working with actually want to help was making me unhappy rather than the events themselves. I felt remarkably peaceful after our conversation.

That was the post I wrote. Then while taking a break before going back to edit, I happened to read a chapter on Mindfulness in Kristin Neff’s book,Self-Compassion. She talked about how when we’re dealing with problems “not of our own making,” we can fall into problem solving mode and fail to “allow ourselves to acknowledge that we’re having a hard time and that our pain is deserving of a kind, caring response.” By not doing so, “our suffering will go unattended, and feelings of stress and worry will only mount. We risk getting burned out, exhausted, and overwhelmed, because we’re spending all our energy trying to fix external problems without remembering to refresh ourselves internally.”

It felt like the universe sending me a message that I was on the right track with the post. That it is valuable to comfort myself in my frustration. The chapter, however, also reaffirmed and added to my conclusion that the only moment that matters is now; the future is only my imagination and I can just as easily choose to imagine a positive outcome.

As I edited my post, though, Neff’s words about dealing with problems not of our own making kept nagging at me. It dawned on me that my emotions around the insurance claims wasn’t just about the claims themselves but it was also about my brother’s death. About how they remind me of his death every time I work on them and how I miss him. But also how he had complained about these very same problems when he was alive and how I’m angry that he left them for me.

Except he didn’t leave them for me. I voluntarily chose to take them on and I could choose to set them aside. Nonetheless, I get angry that I’m in this situation and I recognize that this anger is part of my grief process. I don’t yet understand the lesson I’m meant to glean, however. So I’ve struggled to finish this post because I want to write a tidy conclusion about what it all means for me as I learn to love myself and I can’t. Instead, I will post this not so perfect story that has no meaningful conclusion, which I could not have done in the past. And in recognition of being mindful in the moment, I will be gentle with myself as I wait for an answer to come to me. In the meantime, I’ll move on to the next story as all of this new information stews in my subconscious.

Also published on Medium.

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