My anxiety woke me during the night. No particular reason, as far as I could tell… perhaps my anxiety was concerned I’d forgotten it? No matter. I got up for a few minutes. “Checked for monsters.” Went back to bed. My sleep was restless. I woke feeling out of sorts.

"Anxiety"  10" x 14" - and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ – and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

I sip my coffee discontentedly mired in suspicion and unease. This isn’t about “reason”, and I don’t go looking for reasons. If I were to allow myself to yield to the temptation to “figure this out” in the early morning, before I’ve really quite woken up, before I finish my first coffee, I would be inviting the sort of deep down personal attack on myself that wells up from the dark corners, where the chaos and damage still lurks. It’s neither necessary nor helpful to “figure this out”; these are emotions, and I’ve just awakened from a night of troubled sleep…so… yeah. Nothing to figure out, really. I’m feeling.

This is a good morning to breathe, relax, make room to allow myself to feel my feelings without acting on them, and let them go without attachment to them.

My thoughts shift. I write some about emotion. I write about reason. I doubt the value in my words and delete all of it. I feel myself full of doubt. My nightmares, too, were full of doubt. Doubt and unease and insecurity. I breathe, relax, sip my coffee. It’s hard not to pick at those feelings, like tiny wounds. Experience suggests my wisest course is to make room for them, be open to what I can learn from them, and to maintain perspective – the broad deep perspective of 53 years that understands that this too will pass, and that emotions are more like street lights than news stories. Experience suggests letting the emotional content of my dreams color my day is a poor choice, and unnecessary – I commit to choosing differently. That used to sound like an impossible task, now I understand it as a practice. My results may vary.

I make some notes, on paper. I list the emotions and feelings quickly, without any deeper intention. I review the list, and next to each, write an emotion or feeling that amounts to a “conflict of interest” in the sense that the existing uncomfortable emotional experience can’t “compete” or continue to hold my attention were I to fill up on the other. Insecurity is the easy example, since its “opposite” experience is fairly easily identified – security. Feeling secure versus feeling insecure, feeling emotionally safe versus feeling uneasy… and having identified the preferred experience, I will cultivate that. No need to tear myself down for the emotional experience I’m having now, I will build something different, by choice. Small changes sometimes get big results.

Dismissing my feelings out of hand is ineffective; emotions tell me things about my experience, and how that’s working out for me, and although they are not a reliable source of information (because they lack precision and simple clarity, and because sometimes they are simply a byproduct of skewed biochemistry) they are my early warning system that emotional inclement weather may lay ahead. A night of nightmares and unease may mean I’ve got something on my mind that needs my attention, that I may be overlooking or avoiding. (And it may not.) Tonight will be soon enough for all that. It is an unfortunate truth of adulthood that sometimes work comes first. I sigh aloud, and sip my coffee.

My emotional life belongs to me. How I treat myself is a choice I make. The relationship I build with myself is singularly intimate, and colors every relationship I have with others. Being present, awake, and aware, in my experience with the woman in the mirror has its own unique challenges – and value. There are verbs involved.

Begin again.

Begin again.

Today is a good day for emotional self-sufficiency and continuing to cultivate emotional intelligence. Today is a good day to be present and engaged in this moment, here. Today is a good day to change the world, even if only in the tiniest way, in one single moment; every change matters.