You Don’t Get To Pick Your Problems, But You Do Get To Pick Your Attitude

Over the years, I have learned the discipline of gratitude and choosing joy.

  • I always laugh at people when they are shocked to hear I have problems. 

Life is full of problems. I’m alive, therefore I have problems. It is part of the human condition.

My life is anything but a happy shiny rainbow. I am in the process of learning how to do hard things – epic, brave, and courageous things. I have loads of hurdles and obstacles to overcome and I strive to not let them define me.

But you’re always so happy!

As my family would say, “Don’t be dumb.”

This is sage advice.

Happiness is a daily choice, way of being, and discipline. Yes, I often have to tell my mouth to smile but it is so my heart can truly smile and so I have my mouth lead the way – whether its in a word or a smile.

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What’s the point in complaining? 

If you’ve read my blog over the years, you know I lean towards over sharing personal information and ‘whatnot‘ (yes, it’s an official term) on the interwebs, but its because I think people need to know they aren’t alone. Life is a journey and we are traveling it together, yet I still try to not broadcast everything bad about my life and complain.

  • Fact: Some days are just horrible.

Yesterday I allowed myself about 4 hours of feeling extremely sad. I literally sat and stared out the window and let the tears roll down my cheeks while the sky matched my heart and cried along with me. I journaled, prayed, sobbed, got angry, and hid under the covers like a scared 5 year old.

  • Fact: Life is hard.

Getting up from failure and working through discouragement and pain is what makes you strong.

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Yesterday at 2:00 pm, I breathed out a purpose-filled breath and got on with my day. Biking to the library, shopping at the Italian market, and getting things done around my house helped to move me back into the mental space of who I want to be.

How I felt wasn’t going to define me.

  • Fact: You get to choose.

What you look at, focus on, and strive for is what you become – and it is a daily choice. Who you surround yourself with, what conversations you have with yourself, and what you do matters.

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Today I experienced 20 minutes of acute disappointment. In the grand scheme of my life, it is but a small crack in the sidewalk that gets stepped over in an instant. I submitted a piece to CBC’s Canada Writes Competition and didn’t even make it to the long list.

I succeeded in trying and that is what matters.

It is a good thing I am on my own path and working towards my own goals and dreams. I realize what I submitted probably wasn’t what they were looking for and in some ways, I don’t necessarily care.

  • I am me – Donloree – it was a long road to get here and I will not go back.

Oddly enough, the piece I submitted was from a time when I didn’t even know how to breathe or be myself. I had forgotten about the contest date and then *blam* I was in the middle of Winter Storm Leon trying to make it to Dallas and I did what I could. I grabbed a snippet from my Bookloree and sent it off – better something than nothing.

So in honor of being myself and to show you there is hope if you keep pushing forward towards what is possible but hard, I will share it with you.

And next time, I will submit something funny. Gracious, what the world was I thinking? People like funny, better yet, awkward and funny!

Sometimes I am WAY too serious for my own good. *rolling my eyes*

Enjoy the seriousness!

~ Trapped in Success ~

My daily schedule of meetings doesn’t allow time for a bathroom break, let alone a panic attack; both are held at bay by sheer force of will. Tightness in my chest, anxiety, and shortness of breath plague me everywhere I go. A walk through the bullpen of desks in my fuchsia heels, distracting myself with food or refocusing the panic into a meeting keeps it from consuming me, from rendering me unable to breathe. By the time 8:00 pm rolls around and I am found still working on project plans and client emails, there isn’t enough energy left to experience the panic. It morphs into disillusionment and sits on my chest heavier than two pieces of cheesecake after Christmas dinner.

I experienced my first panic attack at the age of seventeen.

After a week of volunteering at summer camp, I found myself meandering around our church parking lot. The vans of kids and their parents had come and gone and I was waiting for my parents to finish doing responsible parent things inside. Much of my childhood was spent at church; it was our second home and our second family.

It was the first week of August and I needed to catch up on tanning from all the hours spent indoors working as a Shift Manager at McDonalds. There were cute boys that needed to be impressed and Snow White had yet to yield any results. My final year of high school started in just a few weeks and I wanted it to be different. Perhaps this was the year one of the boys noticed more than my wide shoulders, blindingly white legs, and academic pursuits. Maybe, just maybe, I would get asked out on a date.

The heat off the asphalt created a frying pan effect and my legs sizzled in the heat.

I waved as the Senior Pastor drove up to the front of the church in a van that cast a shadow over my piece of the asphalt.

Another car turned in from the main artery in front of the church. It stopped abruptly in the middle of the parking lot and a woman neither of us had ever met before tumbled out of the driver’s seat and onto the asphalt.

Sobs and pleas for help could be heard from underneath the pile of blonde hair and sunglasses as we hurried towards her.

“Are you ok? What happened? Were you in an accident?” My pastor asked all the appropriate questions.

I just stared.

“I can call 911. Do we need 911?” My asphalt-seared legs were suddenly primed for action. Adrenaline began to course through my veins.

“I can’t. I just can’t. Can’t. No. I can’t breathe. Air. Help me!” The words tumbled out in short, breathy punches.

“So we do need 911.” I confirmed.

“Just a minute.” My pastor took control and the adult voice of reason spoke up. “Do you have asthma? Do you need an inhaler?”

“No. I am getting married and I can’t. I can’t marry him, but I have to. I am trapped. I don’t know what to do. I just can’t.” Her keys fell onto the ground as she covered her eyes and crumpled to the asphalt with loud, painful sobs.

I looked down at the beautiful woman in bewilderment. Don’t marry the guy; it’s that easy.

My seventeen-year-old mouth opened to make the simple proclamation, but a wise hand on my arm kept the words from coming out.

“We don’t need 911, at least not yet.” My pastor whispered to me.

Panic and pain continued to pour out of the woman until she was spent and quiet. Crouching down, I caught her eye and the raw pain startled me into silence. Her soul was bared and bleeding. No words were required.

Her haunting eyes were what I remembered when I found myself lying on the brick bathroom floor at work, unable to breathe or move. Sweat poured over my body and I shivered violently while desperately trying to push air through my lungs.

My custom tailored red and brown tweed suit stuck to my skin and my hair became matted and unkempt in a matter of seconds. I felt small pebbles from the sand and snow covered sidewalk in front of the office building under my hand and cheek. Small and displaced, just like me.

It was winter outside and in my soul.

My body was plastered to the floor and I was unable to move. Unable to breathe. The inability to continue, make a decision or face another day held me to the floor as several people tried to open the bathroom door. An unexpected tear leaked out of my right eye and left a cold, salty track down my nose before it pooled on the red brick floor.

Time stood still.

As though strapped into a movie theatre seat and unable to move, scenes of regret, pressure, expectation, and pain passed in front of me.

Lying there, I wondered how long it would take to get a locksmith to open the door if I never came out, if I just died on the brick floor. We had never found a key to the bathroom and hoped there would never be an occasion for us to need it. Apparently, the occasion may have arrived and ironically, I was the one on the wrong side of the lock.

Pushing myself up into a sitting position, I let my head drop forward and then back like a bobblehead doll. For the first time in my life the option of self-destructing in an embarrassing and public way was an option. What if I never came out? What if I just gave up? Gave in? What if I stopped fighting and striving?

What did it matter?

My breathing slowed and my body shivered as the sweat covering my body cooled and the panic attack subsided.

Sitting up straight with my back against the wall and my legs askew, I caught the reflection of my eyes in the mirror. A wild, lost soul stared back at me hauntingly. Who is that woman and how did she get my eyes? My hand kept the impending sob from announcing my state of distress to my coworkers waiting to use the only bathroom in the office.

An insistent buzzing from my left hand broke the painful reverie.

Nine minutes until my next meeting started. The chair at the head of the boardroom table required my presence.

Nine minutes to pull the pieces of my soul together and clean up the salty evidence of my breakdown, the chink in my armour of success.

Hardwired responsibility overrode the pain and my finely honed skill of ignoring my own needs kicked into high gear. No matter what, I couldn’t fail at my job. I am my work and without it, my fear of being meaningless would become reality.

I wiped away the residue of pain from my eye, threw my shoulders back and chin up, took a shaky breath and spun around without another glance at the scared woman staring back at me from the mirror.

A personal crisis would need to be scheduled in for a later date.

The sound of the door latching behind me closed in the shame and pain that unexpectedly cornered me that Thursday afternoon. I stepped into the familiar, ill-fitting role I had crafted over years of painstaking work.

I am hanging onto the corporate ladder for dear life.

Only two options exist: to keep climbing towards the increasingly elusive success or a quick descent that may kill me on the way down. Neither option guarantees life.

If I am going to die, I suppose I will keep climbing in case success actually is at the top.

Where you are now, who you are now, and what you’re doing now doesn’t have to be forever.

  • You get to choose.

Choose to see what is possible and go after it and leave complaining behind as you chase down your dreams.

Now go BE AMAZING!