What I don’t want to tell you about my recent thoughts
I’ve been reluctant to write about this. Even as I write it now, I’m still not sure I want to tell you. I feel as though I just want to close my laptop and just forget about it all together. But then I realise that that’s part of the problem. If I don’t take a moment to sit down and look at myself straight in the mirror to admit my thoughts to myself, how can I ever move past them? Past my own thoughts!?
So here goes. Deep breath in…
Over the past week or so, I’ve been asking myself whether we’ve messed up by coming to France.
and deep breath out!
There, I’ve said it. When I say I’ve been asking myself, it’s more like the thought has crept into my mind many times, but as soon as it would poke its nose I would shut the door in its face and run away the other way… arms waving in the air and everything!
This thought has been bugging me and I’ve been doing everything to try and avoid it altogether.
The thing with thoughts…
The thing with thoughts though, is that they can be pretty persistent. And the more you ignore them, the needier they get. It can all become pretty hard work trying to avoid them, and very tiring as a result.
I’ll be honest, I’ve been feeling absolutely knackered of late… I kept asking myself why did I feel so tired for no obvious reason? I sleep well, I’ve been eating healthy, I’ve lost a little weight and I’ve been more active than usual. Only as I write this, do I realise the connection, as though a lightbulb is blinking bright above my laptop:
I’ve been trying so hard to avoid my scary thoughts that it’s literally been draining all of my energy!
Because they are scary. The sale of our UK house should complete over the next week or so (doing a dance for the property god as I type as I’ve been saying this since January now!). We’ve sold and donated loads of our possessions before moving. The kids have attended three schools this year. Siena has really struggled to adjust at times. We miss our friends. Trying to work out self-employment in France is worse than trying to learn Japanese and Chinese at the same time while doing a crossword.
So if at the end of all this I think we’ve messed up, what was the point in it all?!
I’ve been telling myself for a few months that perhaps the Universe is trying to test us, to make sure that we really, really want to move to France. But I’m not sure this test is meant to go on for so long… (is it??)
Lately, mainly due to feeling a little deflated I guess, I’ve been wondering if perhaps we’ve simply messed up, and shouldn’t have come to France as we did. And that is one depressing thought!
Talking About Thoughts
I’ve been finding it difficult to talk about it. I’m not great at talking at the best of time. I feel a lot more comfortable writing about things. But I’ve also been avoiding writing for fear of what I might uncover. I’ve felt a whole range of emotions when updating friends and family on our situation. Almost as though I’ve felt guilty about things not being as perfect as I’d hoped for and for feeling as though I’m complaining about our situation. Part of me almost didn’t want to talk to people so that the subject wouldn’t come up. Yep, full on denial mode had been activated. But that only leads to feeling lonely, which is of no help when we’re already so far from all our friends and family.
Luckily, I have one super brainy and supportive sister who also happens to be an incredible psychology expert. I’m learning to open up more to loved ones around me, and so the other day I told my sister about how I’ve been feeling and that I could use her insight. Because she’s usually spot-on whenever she gives me her insight and also has great advice on how to address my thoughts.
Thoughts & Values
In reply to my message, she asked if I had considered my values. She explained that I needed direction, and to know that I am moving closer to my value. She told me that this came sacrifice and compromise, and I had to make room for all the thoughts I had.
To demonstrate her point, she told me to watch, “Demons on the Boat”:
Demons On A Boat
As I watched it, I realised that this was exactly what was happening to me. I’ve been trying so hard to avoid my thoughts, aka the demons, that I’ve not had the energy to move towards my goals. If anything, I’ve been avoiding heading towards my goals, so that I wouldn’t have to face my demons.
I remember that when I was a lawyer, there would always be tasks on my to-do list that would fill me with dread. My initial thought would be to put back these tasks as much as I could. However when I decided to tackle them head-on and get them done, they were never as bad as I had imagined in the first place. And once completed, I felt so much better and was able to move on to other tasks and have a productive day. It’s not so different to having to face the demons on the boat.
Part of The Journey
Coming face to face with my demons isn’t the end of the journey. Far from it. It’s simply part of it. A necessary one of that too.
There is no doubt that things haven’t gone as smoothly as we’d anticipated with our move to France. We were expecting to complete in Bristol shortly after we arrived in France in March 2018, yet we’re now in June and we’re still waiting to complete, this time with new buyers. We’ve found our dream French house but it’s unlikely we’ll be there for the start of the Summer holidays as we’d hoped for… I could go on and on!
Breaking It Down
But breaking down each thought, each demon, separately, actually makes me realise that none of them by themselves are that scary. None of them can actually hurt me. And none of them warrant the bigger thought, the one that combines them altogether to form the demon: “we’ve messed up big time coming to France”.
Because deep down, we haven’t messed up. I know that. Barry knows that. Siena needs a little convincing at times…
But noticing how she is suddenly speaking French and how she is blossoming in the French lifestyle; Hearing Hugo talk French and playing hours on end in the garden; Realising the kids have barely watched TV since we’ve arrived but have kept themselves busy in so many other ways, as though regaining some of their childhood; Noticing the changes in our lifestyle, the move towards a slower pace of life where we can spend more time with the kids and pursuing things we love. These have shown that we haven’t messed up. We knew the move wouldn’t be easy, but we knew it would be worth it.
Headed towards shore
We may be a little way from setting home in a gorgeous French farm house to renovate (so, so beautiful! I can’t wait to share more of it with you!) and implement all the projects we have in mind.
But things are in motion. Our values are taking root, slowly but surely, and strongly. We are realising each day what matters to us, what we want to work on, what we don’t want to go back to. I know the past few months have most definitely not been a waste, or a mistake. We’ve been learning so much with each step, each demon.
I just need to stop avoiding the demons lurking beneath the boat, and greet them all by name so we can all move on forwards. A little like the weird old man who’s always lurking in the park and who you avoid at all cost. But when you learn his name and realise that he’s not a threat towards you, suddenly he’s no longer weird or scary. He’s just an old man. And you can both go on your separate ways.
I’m also currently reading the Happiness Trap by Dr. Russ Harris, which is where the Demons on the Boat metaphor initially appeared. And I love this quote of his:
it doesn’t matter how far away from the shore you are. The instant you start heading towards it, you’re living life; you’re having an adventure; you’re moving in a valued direction, Demons On a Boat
So I may have some scary thoughts at times I’d rather ignore, but if facing them means having an adventure, in a valued direction, it sounds pretty good and worth it to me.
Can you relate to the above? Do you currently have demons you’re avoiding? Do you feel ready to head for shore ? Here’s to living life and having adventures!
Psychology Reading Corner:
- Demons On a Boat: https://workingwithact.com/2011/03/05/the-demons-on-the-boat/
- The Happiness Trap: https://thehappinesstrap.com/
When did you last work on your thoughts? Does the above resonate with your own thoughts?2