What I’m Learning at the Moment: Life is happening all the time, not only when I’m accomplishing the things I want to accomplish. Seems obvious, right? As long as you’re alive, your life is happening - it’s part of the story. But I don’t always feel like that’s true.
Have you ever heard of FOMO? I hadn’t, until one of my students explained it to me. It stands for the “Fear of Missing Out.” My student was explaining why she was so attached to her phone/social media – she said it was because of this FOMO Phenomenon.
“I just don’t want to miss anything going on with my friends, you know?” she said. “I want to be part of all the adventures out there.”
It wasn’t until this week that I realized that I, too, have FOMO, but in a different way. I‘m not so worried about connecting with my friends all the time – I have long list of awesome people that check in, keep me updated, ask me out for coffee, visit, call, text me, etc.
My FOMO is really more about my goals – the long-term vision I have for my life. There is SO much I want to do. The list is exhaustive. Here’s a sampling: Write books (because I’m crazy) Sell books (even crazier!) Help other people write books (what?!) Others? Help other people just generally kick ass. Others? Have a family. Travel the world. Eliminate carbs.
And the craziest part is that most of time I actually believe I can do all of that stuff, plus a million other things. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve felt a drive to do more than what seems realistic, more than what’s expected.
I LOVE that surprised/satisfied feeling when I actually accomplish something big and far-away seeming.
But there have been months that I haven’t surprised myself very much.
Some days I have serious doubts, tiny panic attacks, and general angst because overachiever Carmen is screaming at me that we only have approximately sixty-some years left on this earth (assuming I don’t die before then), and I’ve still got so much shit I want to do!
Overachiever Carmen is pretty intense sometimes - it’s her FOMO kicking in. Here’s how I deal.
1. I remind myself of my identity, and that it’s not primarily founded in what I do. What I do matters, of course, but ultimately who I am is who I am – that is, who I believe myself to be. That has a lot to do with what I “do,” obviously, but not in a cause and effect sort of way. I’m not valuable because I do great things. Rather, I can do great things because I am valuable. That’s a distinction I have to make a lot of the time when I feel an unrelenting pressure to “DO!” stuff – and it really makes all the difference.
2. I also write lists. All kinds of lists. Lists of my dreams (getting them out on paper is comforting and makes them more accessible. Lists of what I’m thankful for – and this really helps me weed out any dumb, pointless desires because I can take stock of all the good things I already have. Lists of what I’m scared of. Lists of what I’ve already done – you should really try that one. Often, we don’t spend enough time reflecting and celebrating what we've already done.
3. And lastly, I try to live with the belief that it all matters. I don’t necessarily know how, but it all does something, and it’s all significant. Writing this blog, drinking homemade coffee creamer, talking on the phone with my mom, laughing with my sister, coloring with my niece, holding my nephew,having the occasional small quick stress sob, eating scrambled eggs with Jeff, grading stacks and stacks and stacks of papers, buying a donut with my dad, giving forehead kisses to my friends, driving with my brother, flying in planes, walking on beaches, staring into the 200ish pages of something that is supposed to be my novel…if I really believe that it all matters – the big stuff, the small stuff, the good, the bad, and the stuff in between – then FOMO can’t beat me down.
Because I’m never missing out.