…I use the words I have. I mean to say, I write more or less the same way I actually talk. It’s not always easy to read, and I’m sure cumbersome at times when simple clarity might have greater value. I’m tad surprised to have readers, and doubly surprised that many of them are my friends. It’s more than a little bit humbling, particularly when I feel those sensations of creeping self-doubt moving in to take over.

Self-doubt is a commonplace demon, honestly, and I’m pretty sure we’ve all kept company with that one at some point. Self-doubt can be so paralyzing, stopping me from painting, writing, or even connecting comfortably with others. Self-doubt backs me into a corner, and holds a fun house mirror to my face that shows me only flaws, until I question my worthiness as a human being, as an artist, as a lover, as a partner. Harsh. Self-doubt lies – using what appears to be truth. Oh, to be sure, if I can breathe through the panic, dry my tears, and take another look, self-doubt can also guide me to do more, better, and to reach for the next thing, and make it the next awesome thing about me… but… As likely as not, doubt will knock my enthusiasm into the dirt, and take away my joy for some little while, until I let go of the attachment to the target of the latest attack, and make my peace with being an imperfect being.

Begin again.

Begin again.

Self-doubt withers in the bright light of non-judgmental awareness. It’s a simple enough thing, requiring practice; I try to meet self-doubt with the certainty of change, a general attitude of acceptance, and a willingness to ‘just let it go’. If I’m not attempting to hold on to that which drives the feeling of self-doubt, it’s much less likely to undermine my feeling of worthiness overall. It works. An example? Well… It’s sort of personal, but here we go! Last night, toward the end of the evening, I felt waves of self-doubt wash over me after my traveling partner left… Maybe he’s been hinting he doesn’t want to be with me, and I don’t recognize it? (Holy shit – where did that come from??) Maybe he’s tired of me… not young enough… not thin enough… not easy enough to deal with… not rich enough… interrupt too much… too demanding (now damn it, that one’s just mean – I rarely make demands at all!!)… too something… not something enough… It cascaded one piece of internally directed criticism at a time, each seemingly built on something ‘real’… or at least real enough to drive doubt. By the end of the evening, I’d very nearly talked myself into feeling quite certain I was on the brink of breaking up with someone dear to me…without even exchanging harsh words, or enduring an uncomfortable scene. It was entirely, as far as I know, in my head. (Note that even now, many hours after this whole mess was put to rest, I still insert the ‘as far as I know’ clause in a sentence admitting I was tormenting myself with doubt? It’s weird how insidious doubt actually is; I felt it necessary to leave room for those fears and insecurities to be true…just in case they are. Doubt, you are a bitch.)

The temple of my heart is powered by my own feelings of love.

Love is a verb.

Other days, other doubts, I have been known to ‘stir the pot’ with foolishness like reaching out for reassurance, only… instead of just straight up saying “I feel insecure, and awash in self-doubt. I’m worried we’re heading for a break up, but that I can’t tell it’s coming. Can you please say something reassuring about your feelings for me?” (This would immediately put the issue at hand to rest, either with the requested reassurance, or the dreaded “Well…actually…” and the needed follow-up conversation.) That’s the fear, though, right? I don’t say that, because I’m terrified that the “Well…actually…” conversation would indeed follow. So. I often chose to wiggle into it sideways, fishing for compliments, or starting shit, sending an otherwise nice day spinning sideways into drama. This was not an effective strategy for me. I am surprisingly bad at asking the direct question, too; [lacking simplicity] I sometimes lose my way in the words, and head down the path toward drama in spite of myself. Ouch.

Doubt can be undermined so easily when I fill my awareness with the things that matter most.

Doubt can be undermined so easily when I fill my awareness with the things that matter most.

What did I do with this mess last night? It worked sufficiently well that I woke feeling comfortable in my skin, content, and fairly motivated to take on the day this morning. What I did was ‘let it go’. I practiced letting go of my attachment to the current relationship I share with my traveling partner. Sounds scary to see it text that way, but yeah, that’s what it takes [for me]. Your results may vary. I let myself really accept that ‘worst case scenario’ and made room for those feelings – the fear, the hurt, the doubt, the anger, the insecurity – and allowed myself, also, to make room for the awareness that I am okay right now… and likely would be quite okay even in the absence of this cherished relationship. Relationship comes and go, even the long ones. Ends are as commonplace as beginnings. It’s often the attachment to some tiny fragile detail that causes the cascade of painful self-doubt in the first place, but failing to notice that small detail as its own thing, I make things much bigger than they are. So, last night, I took time to appreciate small things I enjoy greatly about my relationship with my traveling partner. Distress took a back seat to the pleasure of savoring small things I greatly enjoy about ‘us’. My doubts kept chiming in with all the ways things have changed. Things we’ve lost over time. Things we didn’t/don’t have… but other people do (seem to, seem to, I remind myself – because appearances are only that).

Is love a journey or a destination? Or... is love a verb?

Is love a journey or a destination? Love… is a verb.

Before I went to bed, I’d achieved a harmonious equilibrium within my heart. Last night, I managed to avoid being pwned by self-doubt, which this morning seems an unreasonably large victory. It’s a new day. I love. I love deeply and well, and with my whole heart. As it happens, a very large portion of that love goes to my traveling partner, and I’ve got plenty more. If he did show up some evening and tell me “we’re finished as lovers, thanks for the lovely time”… I’d be okay. I’d be more than okay – I’d still be every inch and every moment this woman who I am, still very much able to love and be loved. I’ve worked to reach this place, and I won’t be so easily toppled from a comfortable sense of self… although I am aware how defining-ly dreadfully sad I would feel, for some time, to have to bear witness to the end of such a love as this one.  It seems fitting, really, to endure sadness when love ends, and the greater the love, the more terrible the sorrow.

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Read all the books, and there is still so much more to know.

Emotions are so much of what we are. I’m incredibly fortunate to feel such nuanced complex emotions. With practice, over time, I’ve become more skilled at recognizing each basic emotion, the complex combinations I am capable of feeling and what they mean, or can tell me, as well as more comfortable with emotional experiences, generally. I am learning to recognize (and accept) that some emotional experiences are more like having taken a drug and being ‘high’ on that chemical cocktail, rather than an emotional experience specifically tied to real-life events in an obvious way (the difference between inexplicable irritability, for example, versus feeling sad over something obviously hurtful, like a death or a break up). Sometimes the body and brain get together and just ‘make shit up’ on the fly. It’s okay to recognize that and let it go, as a best practice [I find]. Your results may vary. I have definitely found that insisting every stray emotion be validated and insisted upon as an urgent communique from my heart is not helpful, because some of them are just biological noise.

Cautionary reminder: I am not a neuroscientist. I am not a doctor. I don’t have a ton of relevant research experience in the field of emotion, neurology, brain chemistry, the human experience, psychology, or medicine. I’m a human, sort of muddling my own way through this human experience, very appreciative for all the science that is out there (now), and a tad overwhelmed by how rich (and complicated) this being human thing really is – and hoping to do my best for the woman in the mirror. I read a lot. I practice. I continue to practice the practices that definitely improve my experience.

I’m glad you’re here. I’m moved that you’ve read so far! I hope some moment of that is worthwhile, or at least enjoyable. We’re all in this together… I recognize that we are also each having our own experience. Maybe we’re so very different that none of this applies to you, ever. That could be a thing. 🙂 You’re human though… maybe you’ve doubted yourself, too? It seems a bit cruel to take nearly 1500 words to basically say ‘I deal with self-doubt by letting go’. It’s overly simplistic stated that way. I hope I was clearer, earlier! Is your coffee cold, now? Mine is. The sun is up, too, spilling in through the open window, warming my hands and showing their years. It’s time to begin the day for real.

This moment.

This moment. A good one to begin again. 🙂

Today is a good day to recognize how complete I am, precisely as I am, outside the context of relationships, jobs, addresses, connections, hobbies, skills, experiences… all of those things are because I am, not what I am. Today is a good day to be present in this moment, simply to enjoy being, and being who I am. Today is a good day to embrace acceptance, and let go of attachment; it won’t change any detail of reality, itself, but it definitely has potential to change my experience. 🙂