In order to be discharged from the inpatient psych unit at Laurel Regional Hospital, all patients had to make a list of goals that they would work on once they got to sleep in their own beds.
Three top goals for me were: 1. To work less (ha!), or at least to base less of my self-esteem on royalty statements, 2. To take up a hobby (non-work related), and 3. To invest more (or at least as much) energy into local friendships than I do to virtual pals (e-mail friends) and long-distance relationships.
Upon unpacking my bags from the hospital, I was determined to become a woman who enjoyed scrap-booking (my new hobby), and a domestic diva who would instinctively know which color candle to place in front of which accent piece to make the living room sparkle with that feng-shui everyone is talking about.
That flopped miserably. (I suspect scrap-bookers and interior designers have similar genes to clothing designers–they all know not to wear striped shirts with plaid pants, a talent I lack.) The 200 bucks I forked over at Michael’s was a complete waste, unless Eric decides to do something with all the candles, frames, and other crap still sitting in a bag in the garage.
So I switched gears–I tried tennis. But unfortunately for everybody, my ballet training complicated this new pursuit a bit.
“Stay rooted! Feet on the ground. No pirouette please,” the instructor yelled to me and my partner, also a former dancer. Together we performed a beautiful Swan Lake production for the observers–Eric said we were unmistakably the worst tennis player he had ever seen.
But we laughed a lot, and that meant I was at least getting somewhere on my third goal (real friendships versus virtual ones).
“Let’s do a triathlon,” she said.
This delighted me, as I have always wanted to do one since my marathon training days. I tried two of those long distance runs, but ran into knee problems (no pun intended) both times once I got to 18 miles. I wasn’t going to risk further injury for a metallic blanket (you get when running across the finish line). So I told myself I’d do a triathlon and be nicer to my body.
But then I got pregnant. Twice. And wasn’t nice to my body at all–given the protruding belly and the hormonal, bio-chemical, and neurological explosion inside my head as a result of the births. All pre-kids goals took a back seat to those small people who were literally in the back seat.
The cheesy motional speaker Anthony Robbins says that “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” Richie Rich Andrew Carnegie writes that “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.”
Perfectionist Americans are pretty obsessed with goals, in my opinion, so I have to be careful with not going too goal-crazy. (Everything in moderation, even moderation.) But setting goals has been an important exercise in my recovery. It has, on a number of occasions, helped me to climb out of the Black Hole, as long as my goals are realistic enough (take a shower three times a week, eat a bagel, walk for ten minutes, don’t order the turkey sandwich off that psych ward menu again). Because with each small accomplishment, I am able to pat myself on the back, and say, “Well done,” and try on a bit more self-confidence (with my striped shirt and plaid pants).
Last weekend, my ballet partner and I competed in our first triathlon! Two goals in one! (She is live, real . . . not virtual, and our sport counts as a hobby.) I must confess that the rush you feel crossing the finish line with people cheering you on from the sidelines is hard to beat. It’s up there with a good vodka buzz.
I’m still pretty wiped out from swimming a half mile in a really gross “freshwater” pond (future post coming on that experience), pedaling 14.3 miles on a mountain bike while the race bikes sailed past me, and then running 3.5 miles past a chicken farm, the smell of which nearly had me barfing.
But I did it! Which means I get to cross it off my list and never do it again if I don’t want to.