Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Running On Autopilot

I’m mostly running on autopilot right now, and that’s perfectly fine. For one thing, my autopilot is pretty good, if I do say so myself. That’s one of the advantages to being pattern-oriented OCD. When the edges start to crumble, you grab hold of a pattern and ride that comfortable routine until you can find solid ground again. The things you are used to doing get done - and get done correctly - because you are used to doing them. If you’re like me, you just don’t know how to be any other way. Things have to crumble way past the edges before one issue actually manages to override the other and, by the time things go that far, you probably shouldn’t be trying to do routine in the first place. When the center starts to fall, you’re well into I Need Help territory, and it’s past time to start actively working on Plan B.

I’m not into Plan B, and don’t expect to reach that necessity. Autopilot is doing its job, and I know this territory. It’s turbulent and uncomfortable, but it is charted territory, and I’ve passed this way many times. I’m not the best person to talk to on this leg of the journey, and I apologize for that, but autopilot actually requires a great deal of concentration. Yes, I realize the metaphor breaks down a bit at that point, but not really. You just have to look at it sideways. The autopilot is engaged because of the intense concentration required elsewhere. When I’m in this place, it takes most of my effort just to stand still. Anything other than just keeping the plane together is on the autopilot right now. That’s why autopilot exists.

In the second place, there is nothing wrong with standing still. There is nothing wrong with taking a break. There is nothing wrong with needing to take a break. That is the real message I want to get across to you today. When you’re struggling, when you’re having a really bad day and all you can do is scream at a wall because anything else - absolutely anything else at all - is just too much, stop, scream, take a break, and don’t let anyone tell you that’s not okay. Anyone who would try to tell you otherwise has no idea what you’re going through. Anyone who has felt your pain, or has made a sincere effort to understand your pain, knows that there are times when even just enough is just too much. You do what you have to do to survive, and if that means standing still then you stand still.

There is a school of thought, especially in motivational speaking, that, if you’re not moving forward, you are moving backward. Nonsense! My actual opinion is far stronger than a simple “nonsense” would suggest, but that would be impolite here, so we’ll just let that exclamation point stand in for the severity of my response. If you’re not moving backward then you’re not moving backward. Simple. Life is not a river and you are not a salmon fighting your way upstream. There may be times in life when you are fording a driving current, and you will need to push forward with all of your fight during those times, but they are times, not all of time. You have to know the difference or you may be wasting your fight when you don’t need it and, as a result, you may not have it when you do need it.

Everything in the world that moves, moves in cycles, stop and go, movement with breaks. Nothing is always moving. Nothing even can be always moving. If it moves, it also stops moving. If it doesn’t occasionally stop moving, it breaks and then it really stops moving. That’s how things work in the real world. The only thing “Go, Go, Go!” is going to get you is an express trip to the grave. We’ll all get there eventually, so there is really no point in rushing. Let yourself stop when you need to, not just to smell the roses - though that is important as well - but sometimes just to stop. Sometimes absolutely nothing is exactly the right thing to do. Give yourself a break, and don’t buy into the perpetual motion nonsense.

That’s the joy of autopilot. Sometimes you need to stand still but routine things still need to happen. Autopilot. As always, though, know your limitations. Know yourself. You need to have a good understanding of what you can and cannot do under what circumstances so that you don’t bite off more than you can chew and get yourself into trouble that your autopilot can’t handle. Don’t try to autopilot your way through juggling chainsaws. Ouch! You may need to make special arrangements for some things, so don’t be afraid to do so. Better to own up to it up front than for something important to you get broken because you didn’t want to admit that you needed help.

Also, remember that you cannot live on autopilot. This is a short term, emergency mode only. The idea behind autopilot is to get you from Point A to Point C while you deal with B. Going through D and E might work if you really need it to, but if you start trying to autopilot your way through the entire alphabet, things are probably not going to go well. That just isn’t the way to get positive results out of life. Sometimes you may need autopilot, and there is nothing wrong with using it when you do need it. If you’re spending too much time in autopilot, though, it’s time to take a fresh look at your needs and coping mechanisms because something isn’t working and you need to figure out where to make adjustments.

There are going to be times when life doesn’t make sense. Everyone goes through it. If you are living with mental or emotional issues, you will probably go through it more often than some other people, but you are still not alone. No one’s life is perfect, no matter what Facebook tells you. There may be days when it feels like taking even a single step will shatter you into a million pieces. Stop and breathe. If you need to, let autopilot kick in while you hold the pieces together. You’ve made it this far. You’ll be able to take that next step, but you may need to wait for a more appropriate time. Don’t be afraid to wait, if waiting is going to help you keep moving forward in the long run. That’s what matters. Life is not a race. All forward progress is forward progress, no matter how many interruptions you have to take along the way.

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