I often tend— to little avail— to withhold my enthusiasm in case life doesn’t go as planned (or hoped). I say, “I don’t want to jinx it,” or “I don’t want to get my hopes up,” and then I minimize my excitement or squash it entirely— as if me being happy about something could change the outcome. It’s unfortunate, I’ve realized, and dates to childhood experiences when I got excited about things and then found out they weren’t going to happen. As a kid, I didn’t have the coping skills to handle the disappointment, and when I shared my frustration, I often received messages in line with, “Well, you shouldn’t have gotten so excited,” or something to that effect. My little kid brain translated that as it being my fault it didn’t go the way I wanted, and therefore my unhappiness was also my fault. We didn’t get to go on that outing I wanted, I didn’t get the toy I wanted, or I didn’t get to have the quality time with that person I wanted to spend it with. That’s a lot of responsibility for a kid, that somehow my excitement could control the outcome of a situation.
In adulthood, I have realized it is a horrible way to look at things! Not only does it deprive me of joy for what very well may come to be, but if it doesn’t happen or doesn’t go as planned, I end up blaming myself anyway. I’m not suggesting anyone should always assume the best possible outcome. In fact, I’m saying the outcome doesn’t matter! If someone is excited or happy about something that might happen, I think they should experience that excitement or happiness. Celebrate the possibility.
I am relatively open about my recovery from addiction with clients and comrades, and I feel safe to share that here as well. I believe my experience helps me be a better therapist and the work I do on staying clean helps me be a healthier human being. There is a lot to be excited about on this healthy path. And yet, sometimes I notice myself not wanting to overstate my enthusiasm about my clean time. It’s not as significant a number as many others I know, and there’s this underlying fear if I celebrate too loudly, I will jinx myself. Somehow happiness means I will become instantly complacent, ruining my motivation and dooming me to a relapse. It’s not the most positive outlook, and I must remember that the point of this journey is not the destination. It’s what I’ve done to help myself, what I’m doing to continue, and where I am now as a result. If I can’t be happy about that, what’s the point?
When I picture myself getting to the desired destination in my life, and I see that I’ve lived in fear the entire way, the whole trip almost seems like a waste. When I allow myself to embrace the possibility, I am more likely to act as if it could occur and continue making decision in my life that encourage the direction of that positive outcome.
For now, it comes back to the moment. When I am overconcerned with the results, bogging myself down with what is beyond my control, I sacrifice my own joy. I must be mindful and responsible with my self-care, and part of that care is permitting that happiness. When my pessimism speaks up, reminding me not to get my hopes up, I must champion for my joy. I envision my inner child, thrilled about some new adventure that might come to be. Rather than telling her to tame her excitement, I must be the adult who guides her though it. In case the event does not come to occur, I must help her with the let-down. She can handle it. I’ve handled it before, and I can do it again. That fact alone should permit me to celebrate potential and not fear the outcome. Life is much fuller for it.
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