Self-care is hard sometimes. I’m sipping my first cup of (less than good) coffee this morning, and reflecting on the challenge of managing my self-care, when the actual act of caring for myself and meeting my own needs is one of the actual anxiety triggers I find myself fighting. Yeesh.

I needed some time to think deeply without interruption, and to weep or rage if that is where my thinking happened to take me – without concern about criticism, or self-consciousness, or needing to “put a good face on it” if someone attempted to offer help expecting a result for their efforts. I “had some homework to do” and needed time and space to do it with care. So, I booked an inexpensive room on the coast (love the off-season specials!) and took my camera, my laptop, and my madness out to the coast for an overnighter of self-reflection. I mean… that’s all this trip was honestly good for. “King tides” and absolutely terrible rainy weather definitely kept me mostly indoors, other than breezes and rain and fresh air out on the balcony.

…Hell, I was so focused on the self-work I wanted to be working through, I explicitly planned not to go out for dinner (or lunch), and brought along a pack of ramen noodles and some snacks. Good enough. šŸ™‚

Funny thing is, I was started on my “homework” before I even got to the coast; just making the plans took me through an anxiety “fun house” as I tried to communicate my needs and how I wanted to meet those – and I hadn’t even booked the room yet! See, it’s like this; if going to the coast meets needs of my partner’s, I feel quite relaxed about going, and even eager to enjoy that time. Fair enough. Why not? But, each time I framed the trip (in my own thoughts) as explicitly for me, my anxiety went through the roof. This is not uncommon in my experience with my anxiety; willful, considerate acts of self-care and choice often come with a huge increase in my anxiety that taints both the planning and the experience itself. Makes it very emotionally difficult to balance my needs with the needs of those around me; mine cause me anxiety, and I tend to select away from that emotional experience. Over time, my resentment builds until I can’t mask it anymore, and that creates an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Not ideal. I can do better….

…Can’t I?

So. I danced around wanting to do an overnight on the coast. I brought it up once. Twice. I wasn’t getting traction on the idea with my partner; he was eager to have me around, having completed the most complicated set-up work with the new CNC. He misses me when I’m gone. Shit. This kept getting more difficult each time I tried to sort of slide into the idea for a win. Then I really took a look at what I was doing and saying, and observed how I was failing myself. My partner even explicitly said to me “I sure won’t stop you if you want to go to the coast for you, Baby.” He invited me to take care of myself. He simply expects me to own that in an honest way. Makes sense.

So. I tried again, Friday afternoon. I clarified that I wanted to go to the coast and do some emotional homework and reflect on my anxiety without concern that my emotional experience may be encroaching on his, or awareness of his presence (and his needs) that could distract me from the self-work I wanted to do. I laid out my plan, and asked him to tell me if any of the details were a pain point for how he would manage his day on Saturday. He pointed out that if I lingered at home into the afternoon, I would cut his productive time in the shop short. So I adjusted my plan to account for that; I’d enjoy morning coffee with him, run a couple local errands right quick, then head to the coast around 10:00, putting me at the hotel shortly before noon. I arranged an early check-in with the hotel for convenience. It felt good to be heard, and to have a clear plan that supported my needs. It also caused me quite a bit of anxiety into the night on Friday – just because I made a point (and a plan) to meet my own needs without also couching that in the terms of meeting the needs of others as well. It passed.

I woke feeling light and merry yesterday. We enjoyed a lovely morning and shared coffee together. I ran those errands. While I was out and about, my Traveling Partner pinged me to ask “Are you going to the coast today?” My anxiety spiked hard. Did he not know? Had I failed to clearly communicate? Was it not okay to go after all?? I stopped the car nearby and parked for a minute. Nothing he said was at all a criticism or an attack; he just asked a question. Commonplace stuff that, to check one’s assumptions and expectations. Nothing to fear from that. I breathed through the moment, and answered the question. “Yes”. He sent back smiles and kisses and hearts. Huh. That wasn’t scary at all. It’s as if he was just asking a fucking question. Anxiety is such a liar.

I finished my errands, headed back, and started getting ready to go to the coast. My bags were already packed (it honestly took no time; one overnight, and my camera and laptop bags are pretty much always ready to grab-and-go). “You’re going?” my partner asked. I could see he would actually rather I stayed, and that he would enjoy my company. Anxiety. I shook off the momentary inclination to abandon my plans and smiled “yep, I’m ready.” We kissed good-bye and exchanged loving words and well-wishes, and off I went.

…The traffic wasn’t even bad, and the heavy rain didn’t seem to rouse my anxiety any further. Huh. Something to think about.

The entire drive to the coast was “productive” time alone with my thoughts. Uneventful autumn drive with some truly lovely spots in spite of the heavy rain obscuring that sometimes obscured my view, so I spent it thinking deeply… about anxiety. About, specifically, my own experience of anxiety. I didn’t spend that time berating or criticizing myself, just thinking about how it seems to “work” and what most often triggers my anxiety (specifically in my relationship with my Traveling Partner). Thinking about how I communicate, and where that may be undermining my emotional wellness when anxiety becomes “a thing” in a given moment. Thinking about “fear” and “anxiety” and also thinking about “anger” and “anxiety” – where those overlap, or fuel each other, where they seem to be at odds, and what I can do about – or with – any of it. I spent quite a bit of the drive simply reflecting on how different the outcomes were trying to planning this overnight, depending on how I attempted to communicate my needs, my plan, and how I sought his thoughts or support. It’s a lot. Which sometimes also causes me anxiety.

Once I settled into the room, I sat on the balcony in the chilly wind, watching the tide recede, and thinking about anxiety. I had a list of questions to reflect on and to answer for myself. I got to work on that. No, I did not “solve for X” and wake this morning having cured my anxiety… but I feel pretty good, and I think I have a clearer understanding of some useful ways to diminish my anxiety in the moment, and allow it to dissipate more readily. Do I still need help with it? Fuck yes. I’m grateful to have a loving supportive partner and a really good therapist. šŸ™‚

Late in the evening, my partner pinged me with a progress report on his day and some loving chit-chat. He asked if I would be home “in the morning”. I understood him to be saying he’d like me to be home in the morning (vs later in the day). He asked if I would bring donuts. šŸ™‚ Hell yes. šŸ˜€

So…now I’m sitting here sipping hotel coffee, watching the dawn unfold, rainy and gray. I woke to darkness and a low tide. No surprise; Daylight Savings Time ended last night and I also read the tide tables yesterday. lol The featureless gray that woke me as “daylight” wasn’t actually daylight at all, really, it just wasn’t quite dark, and I was well-rested. I’ll be gone before the next high tide – so I’m glad I saw the one yesterday. šŸ™‚ The wind blew so hard during the night it scooted the chairs on the balcony from one side to the other. It’s a stormy sort of morning, lovely to watch from the warm of this room. I enjoy my coffee.

…It’s already time to start packing and getting dressed; I don’t want to miss the good donuts. LOL