Archives for category: Anxiety

I am sipping my morning coffee, considering the walk I am eager to want to take. I’m “not there yet”. lol My muscles ache from pushing myself, already. I’m not bitching about it, and I’m not unhappy over it. Sore muscles are muscles working a bit harder, doing more things that need done, and becoming more capable of more work. Consistency is a requirement for forward progress; if I skip the walk today over sore muscles, I don’t make as much progress toward my goals, nor as quickly, so… at some point? Walking. I’m not looking forward to the walking itself, although I’d like to. I am in pain. The walking helps the pain in my back and my neck (osteoarthritis), but is less helpful with the bad ankle that has to support the weight. Without walking, the weight remains an issue. With the walking, the ankle is an issue. I’m not saying it as though this is an unsolvable conundrum, either, just saying that these complications are part of my experience. 🙂 There’s a metaphor here…

It’s a journey with a lot of steps.

We become what we practice. Emotionally and physically. There’s not a lot of room to argue on this one. Are you hot tempered, easily frustrated, quick to react, and tending to fall back on negative feedback and criticism to communicate your needs? Well, that’s the person you become, over time, in a fixed and rather predictably unpleasant way. Are you tender-hearted, prone to tears in the face of negative feedback, (whether or not it is accurate or well-intended, or useful at all) particularly when it comes from someone whose opinion you value? Same slope; you become more of who you already are, and what you choose to do with the toxicity of the world around you, because it is what you practice. You may get called a bitch when you demand that your agency be respected, or when you insist on not being interrupted in a meeting, but that lack of boundary-setting? It’s a practice, too.

…Also? Don’t be a dick. Don’t be a bitch. Don’t call someone names, either; how about we start there? Speak gently. Be clear, and also honest. “Stay in your lane” in the sense that not every opinion you have actually needs to be shared (particularly with regard to your aesthetic, and someone else’s appearance). Check your assumptions – a lot of them are wrong (the science is in on that) – and practice deep listening, instead of waiting for your turn to talk.

Does it sound like I’m venting aimlessly, about commonplace bullshit we all seem to engage in, if not regularly, then once in a while? Well… then I’ve failed to communicate clearly. I’ll try again…

Your words matter. Use them with care. If you are communicating with someone you say you love, communicate with love – real love, using words and tone that make it very clear that the love is first and foremost in your mind, rather than some momentary frustration. Our bitterness, our hurt, our anger – once shared, it’s out there. Shared with emotional force, and absent the love that may be part of our experience, it causes real harms, real doubts about our affection, and can undermine that love we cherish so much.

Don’t let the sun set on a treasured relationship without saying something encouraging, supportive, authentically affectionate – the smallest moment of authentic appreciation and praise can change the color of an entire day. I am fairly certain most of us share negative feedback with cherished others almost every day… imagine the crushing weight of all that criticism, all that negativity, the constant pressure to raise oneself up from beneath the weight of it… Let’s not do that. Let’s handle our words with greater care, ensuring that we take more time for what is positive and uplifting that we do for things we see as problems needing correction.

I challenge you to practice even a 1 to 1 ratio of (authentic) compliments and (sincere) encouragement to criticism and requests for change. I hope you find that incredibly easy (and succeed) – because people need more love and encouragement than that, and as starting points go, it’s a bare minimum for success. I promise you that if you are only sharing negative feedback, that’s all that is being heard. That sounds like a pretty terrible experience to be on the receiving end of, just saying. Use your words as a force for good in your life, use them to lift others up, to encourage what is positive in everyone you meet.

A lot of people may grow up in environments in which very little positive feedback is shared, or the positive words are hollow superlatives about qualities they can’t control, and no attention given to the whole person. People coming from that place may not know how to give authentic positive feedback, and may genuinely not understand why it is necessary. They need to see it done, to feel it, before it will be something they can easily practice themselves. Is that someone part of your life? Be open to explicitly telling them what you need to hear – without excuses, or a need to justify yourself. It’s okay to need what you need, and it’s also quite okay to ask for it. 🙂 “I need you to say something nice to me right now.” may feel weird to say, but it is one place to start. 🙂

We’re all so human. There’s so much stress and hostility in the world right now. Our culture feels so toxic. Be someone who understands there is work to be done, and recognize you can do some of it. Be someone willing to do it. Be the change we need. Speak gently. Be encouraging and kind. Soften your tone. Be trustworthy. Be honest without being mean. Let small shit go. Don’t drink the poison offered to you. Don’t offer others poison.

Don’t like the world as it is? Be part of what changes it. We become what we practice. Practice being the person you truly most want to be. Every choice, every interaction, every day. Sometimes you will fail (I know I do); your results will vary. Practice more. 🙂 Be that better version of yourself, because you choose it, and it matters. Other people may not make these choices – don’t drink the poison they offer you, and walk your own path. 😉

It’s time to begin again.

I slept well last night, and got enough rest. I woke gently, and quietly made coffee, hoping not to wake my still-sleeping partner. I headed to the studio, sat down with my coffee, and started trying to put my thoughts together, words on a page, on a quiet Sunday. I’m grateful to have had an entire night’s sleep. Today, it looks like I’m going to need it.

This morning, my writing is interrupted, several times, for what I can only describe in this moment as “difficult interactions”. I’m not yet fully awake, and lack adequate emotional resilience for the irritated (I hear it as angry) tone of voice, so early in the morning. My thoughts are fractured, scattered, and now focused on feeling hurt, instead of nurturing something within me. My studio door gets slammed, probably without intent. My tears spill over. A quiet morning is apparently not on today’s agenda, and I am the hapless villain in this story – but who is the author? I feel frustrated, sad, and isolated (as much because I don’t really know what to do with these feelings, in this moment). It irks me that I woke up feeling so soft and amiably inclined toward my partner… and at the moment, I feel only the sting of his irritation, his disappointment with me (“What do I have to do to help you remember??”), and the visceral sensation along my nerves of a slammed door.

Sometimes “doing our best” isn’t enough to overcome opportunities to fail at something, or to miss a detail, and “trying hard” is not enough to ensure success. This is true with or without a brain injury. We have to choose again and again to “do the verbs” and to try again. We have to choose again and again to walk our path, or select a new one. It is also true that we don’t generally grow from the things we are reliably good at, or which we find comfortable and easy. So, okay – routine human shit between human primates. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it isn’t comfortable. Sometimes it is necessary to be reminded what the point of it is, and refocus our efforts, because it matters enough to do that. It reliably takes practice.

…What a shitty morning so far…and less than an hour into the day. Disappointment with myself, with the morning, with the circumstances, it all fills me up and spills over as tears, while I watch a little brown bird on the stoop, picking enough sustenance from the ground and from the sidewalk, just to get by another day. I watch the little bird, and try to nudge myself in the direction of recognizing that I am just experiencing some emotional weather; the climate in my heart (and, I assume, my partner’s) is fine. This? It’s just a moment. It’s useful to begin again, if I can start on that, somehow, then it’s not “a shitty morning” as much as a shitty moment. Moments are brief, and they pass.

This time, when my Traveling Partner opens the door to the studio, his face is softened, and he looks at me with love. The irritation is gone. He steps close, and strokes my hair. I apologize for the difficult start to his morning, through my slow, steady, tears. He tells me “it is what it is” and “I’m not angry”. He’s human, too. If I allow it to, the morning will shift gears to a happier place; we’ve made that possible, now it is just a matter of accepting that change and going with it. A matter of beginning again. I give myself a moment to appreciate having a partnership with so much resilience and potential to bounce back from a difficult interaction. I savor the feeling of gratitude that seeps in, as I contemplate the difference between this partnership, and others I’ve had.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. Allow my heart to slow, and my posture to lift me more erect. I sip my coffee, and begin again.

I woke earlier than I needed to, this morning. No reason. Maybe I’d gotten enough sleep? My anxiety started to increase a few minutes after I woke. Yesterday morning was like this, too. There are steps to take, and they do work pretty well. The key detail is that I have to actually practice those practices. Reliably. Thinking about it isn’t particularly effective; however well I know that there are practices that help reduce my anxiety, doing them is what is required. Verbs. Action. Practice.

What works? Probably a lot of things. I started here. And here. And here.

What works for me, may not be what works for you – but that may not be an obvious certainty until you’ve tried them. So… what worked (for me) yesterday? Meditation. Good self-care. Positive self-encouragement. Taking a walk. And (for me) a bonus; my Traveling Partner was out of the house for a couple hours hanging out with a friend, and I got some much needed solo time (actual solitude, spent actually at home) in which to meditate (more), read, and find an hour of real ‘cognitive stillness” (no TV, no music, no notifications, no conversation, no other human presence…just… quiet). I recognize that the profound desire for “cognitive stillness” and solitude, isn’t a thing for which we all have a uniform need. Some people would definitely not enjoy that kind of deep, stark, uninterrupted stillness, and some people find solitude, itself, quite terrifying. Finding the practices that truly support our individual needs, and our own emotional wellness, is complicated. Try a lot of things. Stick with what works. Be mindful and compassionate with others; what works for you may not work for them. We are each having our own experience. 🙂

Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a minute, and sort things out.

I suspect that a considerable portion of my anxiety, right now, isn’t properly my own. I’m picking it up from relationships and circumstances, from the media news, and sort of “inheriting” the anxiety of people dear to me, as they work through their own baggage, and deal with their own deal. Nothing about that results in the anxiety being less real; it is what it is. I’m feeling feelings. The feelings are uncomfortable, and mess with my mind, and my emotional comfort. No reason to take it personally. I have practices to help with that. Practicing those works. (Talking or thinking about them, as practices, without practicing them, does not work at all. lol Just being real. There are verbs involved.)

Once I noticed the anxiety creeping in around the edges of my awareness again this morning, I immediately began taking steps. Breathing. Meditation. Checking my email. (Um, no. Not that last one. lol) A quiet cup of tea. A bit of reading. I look out the window thinking about taking a walk. The sun isn’t even up yet. It’s quite dark. So… too soon. lol Instead, I reflect on how meaningful and appreciated that few minutes walking yesterday really was.

It was a beautiful day for it. Clear, and chilly without being cold.

It felt good to be out on the trail. I was grateful for the paved path, and that I remembered my cane, which I am definitely needing for longer walks.

Blue skies and trees illuminated by sunshine became a smile on my face.

I found the walk challenging enough, between slippery bridges still wet from recent rain, and my aching ankle, and popping knee, that I only managed a (fairly gentle) 1.22 miles. It still felt great to be out there, just walking, alone with my thoughts.

Gnothi Seauton. I wisely choose not to walk a distance or paths I am not ready for, today.

The distance was shorter than I could easily cover, fairly recently, but I didn’t take the setback personally. I just enjoyed the walk I actually took. 🙂

It was enough to walk in the sunshine, smiling, watching the squirrels.

I find myself glancing through the blinds, now and then, while I write, this morning, hoping for another good day to take a walk. It looks rainy. My ankle and knee (opposite sides) ache. Letting that stop me is counterproductive for several reasons, so I maintain the intention of “getting out there” for at least a mile. I may try to do this every day…

How else will I see all the squirrels? lol

I didn’t get as much sleep last night as I’d have liked, but the sleep I got was restful. No nightmares. I’ve wrestled a bit with anxiety, this morning, which prevented me sleeping longer, or more deeply. I finally just got up.

I spent some time meditating, before I made coffee. Feels good to be restoring a reliable meditation practice, and letting go of the vague feelings of shame or guilt that had occasionally been surfacing as a result of letting a valuable effective practice fall behind. I know how effective it is; just a couple days into a “New Year’s” commitment to meditate more reliably, my Traveling Partner commented, last night, that I “seem so much less stressed”. 🙂

I think about the “you’re not lazy, bored, or unmotivated…” video. I sip my coffee and consider my fears. What holds me back? I leaf through an old day planner. Remember those?

I relied on this planner to hold my life together for a few years, but it wasn’t the solution to everything.

New Year’s resolutions come and go. Dreams become goals, become plans, become actions, and eventually become outcomes of one sort or another… or disappointments through lack of action. I know I am not the only human being who struggles with the fears that hold me back. I watch the video again. There are things I’d like to do with my life… there is limited time to do them in.

I breathe, exhale, relax, and feel the anxiety that surged when I thought about the many things I also “need” to do, begin to recede. It’s an interesting exercise. I think about the thing I could undertake to start, do, or finish, my anxiety goes crazy; I breathe deeply, acknowledging the part I play in my own decision-making, and what I do with my time. I exhale, relaxing again, with a measure of self-directed kindness, and understanding that “things can feel so difficult, sometimes”, and the anxiety falls away. Back and forth. (Am I seriously playing with my anxiety?? Wtf?) Like wiggling a loose tooth; it is uncomfortable, but hard to resist doing.

Life can feel so overwhelming at times; the dreams, the goals, the chores, the errands, the tasks, the resolutions, the commitments, the projects, the responsibilities… they all pile up and compete for attention, and for limited bandwidth. Some are my own, others are imposed upon me externally. Some have some urgency. Others are deceptively lacking in apparent urgency, but more important things rely on them, in the future. Some I earnestly want for myself, but lacking encouragement, I give up on them. Others meet needs expressed by other people, and I vacillate wildly whether to do them at all. I guess I’m not surprised how often I find myself stalled, and at a standstill, just… not doing things. Realistically, I also don’t feel physically able to “do things” continuously throughout the entirety of the portion of the day during which I am awake; fatigue and pain are limiting factors that require some care…which becomes a handy excuse all its own.

About that… pain does not make getting shit done any easier. No surprise there. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a whole new year, or not. Pain sucks. I have another sip of my coffee and really think that over. Pain is pain, for sure, but… I’m not the only human being fighting to live a good life in spite of the pain I live with. Hell, I’m fairly fortunate that physical pain is my greatest day-to-day challenge, actually – things could be much more complicated than that. I let that go, and consider what I can do with my day, today, to support the quality of life I most want, in the most skillful way, with the time and resources I’ve got, while still feeling as well as I am able to, and enjoying the best possible self-care I can offer myself. It seems a worthy goal. (This approach is often where my “to do lists” begin, honestly. Very “tactical”. Not especially strategic.)

I push myself to “think farther out”, beyond this one day. What can I do with my day, today, that builds that quality of life farther out in the future, not just here, and now? Building blocks. Getting to those is fairly easy, and it is quickly apparent that most of those also have “building blocks” of their own; tasks that need to be completed in order to complete another more complex task, in order to further a project along its way, in order to get something done that may, at some point, result in a goal being achieved, or quality of life being improved. Fuuuuuuck. It all seems so messy, and chaotic, and human, and… omg, so many verbs!! Merely lobbing verbs at tasks isn’t ideally suited to bringing dreams to life, or achieving goals. Organizing my thoughts is worthwhile, having a plan is helpful… neither reduce the number of verbs or the amount of effort involved in making a great life, or reaching those far off goals, I guess, but the clarity of mind is useful, and often, within the planning and consideration, there are new observations to be made regarding how various goals and plans dovetail with each other. Small changes in timing or resources or “order of operations” can result in amazing things… Every journey feels easier with a map. (This is driving my thoughts towards day planners and project management applications. lol)

…”Every journey feels easier with a map”…

…I start thinking things over differently… How will I draw this map? I am my own cartographer… and it’s time to begin again. 🙂