The Windmills of Your Mind: Feeling Like You've Achieved Nothing?

by | 7 Apr 2016 | Coaching

I’d worked hard for my ski holiday this year; after breaking my leg in 2013, I was determined that this was to be the year I would finally overcome my physical, mental and emotional limitations to skiing and return to something approaching the level I was at before my accident.

So I invested in new ski boots that were more comfortable and supportive for my leg; I started training at the gym months ahead and became fitter than I’ve been for years; when we got to the resort, I invested in a private ski lesson to help me rebuild confidence and hone my technique.

The result?

Disappointment, anger and frustration with myself because I still feel like a beginner cautiously tackling blue runs and ‘losing it’ when confronted with anything but perfect ski conditions.

I was tired from over-controlling my speed and a disproportionate fear of falling.

I’d set my expectations too high and then gave myself a really hard time. And then gave myself a hard time for going myself a hard time….and then poured scorn on myself for making such a big deal out of a first world problem like not being able to ski very well anymore!

It was one of those moments when the skiing just felt like a metaphor for life, and me more generally.

I was thinking and feeling “What, I’m back here again – back to square one; all my efforts have been in vain and I’ve achieved nothing. I‘m still dealing with the same inner demons I had 15 years ago!”

Of course, I know this is not true – it’s a distortion, exaggeration and skims over all I have achieved.

But it is true that sometimes on our personal journeys it feels like we’re going round in circles – coming back to the same issues within ourselves we thought we’d managed to move on from or overcome long before.

But actually it’s not a circle, it’s a spiral.

It’s not the same place, it just has echoes of it, or may touch upon it. In reality we have moved on – we have greater awareness, perspective and wisdom than before.

I haven’t fully let go of my frustration yet, but I am beginning to reconnect with my self-compassion, acceptance and humour – to continue on travelling round the next iteration of my personal spiral.

In the meantime a song’s been stuck in my head:

THE WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND

Music by Michel Legrand
Lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Round – like a circle in a spiral,
Like a wheel within a wheel,
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel,
Like a snowball down a mountain,
Or a carnival balloon,
Like a carousel that’s turning
Running rings around the moon,
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face,
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space,
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind!

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of its own,
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone,
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half-forgotten dream,
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream.
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face,
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space,
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind!

Keys that jingle in your pocket,
Words that jangle in your head,
Why did summer go so quickly?
Was it something that you said?
Lovers walk along the shore
And leave their footprints in the sand.
Is the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand?
Pictures hanging in a hallway
And the fragment of a song,
Half-remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong?

When you knew that it was over
You were suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair.

Like a circle in a spiral,
Like a wheel within a wheel,
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel,
As the images unwind,
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind!

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