You know how sometimes you don’t want to do anything because you’re busy avoiding everything? Same. But here’s the thing: when we do nothing, nothing changes, and life continues to suck. It’s unfortunate that it works that way because the whole self-isolation thing works for me in the short term, but I know that life goes nowhere if I don’t make a conscious effort to live it.
A few years back, I was an anxious mess. I still am, but it was crippling back then. I didn’t leave the house, my fear of failure overpowered my will to try anything, and I desperately sat around waiting for something to change. And, predictably, nothing ever did. I was too trapped in my own head to realize that life was going to pass me by if I didn’t make an effort. Hell, up until then, I thought I was making an effort! I was doing therapy, after all. Wasn’t that enough? Then I moved into my mother’s home. But it wasn’t just me who had to move back. For many reasons that would take too long to explain, my sister, her husband, their two children, and my brother all moved in. Not to mention my other sister was already living nearby with her husband and four kids.
When you live with and around so many people, especially children, you can’t avoid life’s happenings. Babies need to be fed, carpools need to be driven, and children need to be supervised. Being a live-in uncle is hard work, and I suddenly found myself doing a great deal more than I was used to, but my sisters and the kids needed me. Whenever my family members asked a favor of me, I knew the consequences of saying “no” were often serious, so I said “Okay, sure.” It wasn't easy, but I realized I could do more than I thought. I started saying "I can because I have to." At some point, I found myself cooking and cleaning in the kitchen, giving children the occasional bath completed with tear-free shampoo, and having dance parties in the kitchen (the kids now have exquisite musical tastes). I was coming alive and participating in the world around me again.
Then, as all child-watching adults, I needed a break. I was pushing my mental boundaries and breaking through old limits, which is exhausting, to say the least. So I poured myself copious amounts of coffee and began writing in my free time. I wrote a book and decided to get it professionally edited. I found a writing coach who is not only a great mentor and friend but the coolest person I’ve ever met. She once dragged a tree she liked down a mountain to turn it into tables for her home. She suggested I start blogging, so I said “Okay, sure.” Then, after a couple of blog posts and some heartwarming feedback, the craziest thing happened. I realized I felt fulfilled. I was doing something for myself! I was actually accomplishing something in my life, and it felt amazing. When nobody needed me around the house, I spent my time writing at the lake with regular meditation breaks on the sand. I was out of the house, pursuing a passion, and practicing self-care.
A few more blog posts in and I decided I was the captain of my life again, no longer a passenger. I sat down with my family, and we discussed what I should do next. When they suggested college, I answered, with some trepidation, “Okay, sure.” Now I’m moving on to the next step in my life. I’m currently living independently away from my hometown and starting school in October. My life is mine again.
I realized that the only way for life to happen is if you make an effort to participate. You can’t just stare at flour for months on end expecting it to turn itself into bread, nor wait for a tree to turn itself into a table. We need to actively participate, or things will either never happen, or they'll happen without us. I’m still anxious and not fantastic at being proactive, but I understand that not doing anything will only worsen that anxiety and make me depressed. If you’re a passenger in your own life, you need to remember that nobody else can drive for you. Only you can do that. And it’s okay if you fail. Failure is part of life, not the end of it. It’s better to live with the occasional failure than to never live at all. And it may be challenging, but it’s worth it once you find a purpose and pursue it. I’m going to ask you to give life a try, and I hope you answer “Okay, sure.”