Archives for category: Anxiety

I’ll head out this morning, and in a relatively short time (hours) I’ll catch up with my Traveling Partner for the weekend. Friends. Music. Goings on. The weekend. Lovely – and I am so looking forward to it! I’ve missed him greatly.

I plan my route with care this morning. See, there’s this particular experience I have pretty much every time I make this trip, and it’s not pleasant. There’s rather a long stretch of “highway” that is almost always gridlocked, aggravating, and populated with frustrated aggressive drivers, a handful of unskilled ones, and lurking in the mix, one or two people who are actually straight up “up to no good” – you know the ones; folks that get angry, take shit personally, and then act out their anger in real life putting everyone else at great risk. Drivers who “brake check” someone following them uncomfortably closely, or who is simply driving faster than they are. Drivers who deliberately cut other drivers off – and then “brake check” them, to “make a point” or otherwise demonstrate dominance. Drivers who “match speeds” with a car in an adjacent lane specifically to prevent another driver from passing them. It’s dumb – and it’s dangerous. Fuck, people, just drive your god damned car, and do it safely. Focus on what you’re doing in the world, yourself. Shit.

See? I’m already caught up in a moment that hasn’t even happened yet. I don’t enjoy that, and I would prefer not to just hand over the keys to my emotional experience to some rando fuckknob in a car. lol So. I am replanning my route with greater understanding of what I want from my experience in life, instead of letting my gps direct me down the same road everyone else is taking.

I have the time to enjoy the drive. I shoot for making it enjoyable, instead of “efficient”. Can I literally not even travel that stretch of highway at all, perhaps? Looks like I can – on a smaller rural road. My gps would not ever even consider this route; it’s a bit too close to the interstate highway, and the gps doesn’t really understand why I would choose anything else. In miles, it’s a bit more distance to drive, but in estimated time it’s very nearly the same. Speed matters, and the section of interstate I won’t be driving rarely moves faster than a residential street as it is. Do I mind not driving freeway speeds? Not at all. Not a thing with me, it’s more about a comfortable experience ofΒ  being neither rushed nor crowded. I plan my route down this rural “state highway”, and find that it avoids basically the entire stretch of the freeway that aggravates me. Nice. What will the experience be like? I don’t know – I haven’t had it yet. I do know it won’t be “the same” – because I have chosen differently. πŸ™‚

It’s a metaphor. You have choices. Begin again. ❀

By the time I got home from work last night, the anxiety that had been in background much of the afternoon had deepened and begun to take over. It was a visceral experience of anxiety, and mostly only that; I felt anxious. There seemed to be nothing much supporting it, and I probably prolonged it more than necessary by continuing to insist to myself that “it’s nothing”. Well, so what if it is “nothing”? I was still feeling it – and that’s something.

I disconnected from the digital world and began to practice very self-care focused practices with the specific point in mind of reducing my anxiety. Nothing much seemed to be helping. My Traveling Partner phones. A few minutes of gentle conversation seems to ease my anxiety almost entirely. Okay, well… that’s awesome. πŸ™‚ We end the call.Β  Later, I end the evening…

…I laid awake feeling anxious for some time. Weirdly, I’d get sleepy, and as soon as I even started to doze off, the anxiety surged back and woke me. Fuck. Damn it. …Did I have too much coffee? …Am I stressed over work?? …Am I not “anxious” at all, but actually excited and not discerning the difference? …The weather? Troubleshooting anxiety doesn’t really help matters at all, that’s not how anxiety tends to work (for me). Trying to find answers to “why am I anxious” just puts all my attention on the anxiety, which makes it the focus of my experience. Yuck.

Strong steps seemed necessary if I wanted to sleep. I got up for a little while, went out onto the deck in the cool-not-quite-cold night air with my meditation cushion, and sat quietly in the cold, just… being. I went back to bed, and to sleep, shortly afterward.

This morning I woke without the anxiety lurking in the background. I don’t reach back to mess with the “why” question any further. I’m content to be without the anxiety. This morning, my thoughts are on the weekend ahead. The sound of bird song outside my window. How satisfying my coffee seems. Finding out the “why” of an anxious afternoon holds more potential to create another anxious day than it does to answer any profound questions about the nature of anxiety. lol I let it go and move on. It’s not as if there hasn’t been ample stimulus in recent goings on for anxious moments. I totally don’t need “reasons” beyond that. πŸ™‚

I look at the clock, and notice that it is time to begin again… the weekend ahead of me… love, adventure… choices. All of that and more, just beyond this moment. πŸ™‚

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –Β  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. πŸ™‚

It’s time to begin again.

I’m sipping my coffee and listening to the rain fall. The dawn is gray, and it’s hard to accept that day break is past, and this… is it. Morning. No “sunrise” in any obvious way. The sky is a drizzly homogeneous featureless gray. I woke planning to paint. I still feel peculiarly energized to paint, and likely will. I’ll probably “go off script” from there, though, and “just paint” instead of working with purpose, plan, and structure on pieces that I have already sketched out in my head. I know what works for me, artistically.

I contemplate conversations with friends from yesterday. The afternoon was spent wrapped in warmth and intimate affection, connected close friendships, easy hang out time. We shared a bite of late lunch-not-quite-dinner, sufficient to fuel the afternoon hours without the distraction of hunger to throw off the genial vibe. Both very good friends of mine, neither had met the other previously, and we all had a great time – it was a well-connected, deep, experience. The conversation was lively, fun in spots, serious in others, and quickly exceeded any sort of “getting to know each other” limitations to become fully invested, authentic, and yeah – deep. Really talking over life. Love. The world. It was soul-nourishing time.

Hanging out and talking, watching cartoons, listening to music – these are very much favorite activities of mine to share with friends. Yesterday was a day well-spent.

I miss my Traveling Partner. I smile, feeling the warmth of his love as a sort of carrier wave on which the details of my experience travel across my consciousness. He would have been so welcome, yesterday. He remains so welcome today. He’s just hundreds of miles away, is all. lol I wish him well, and wrap the thought of him in my love. I would enjoy sharing coffee with him, this morning, and talking over yesterday – and tomorrow. lol Soon enough.

Openness is one of my “Big 5” relationship values. It’s a tricky one – what does that even mean, “openness”? For me, it means both acceptance and non-attachment. It means listening deeply, not just waiting to talk. It means being willing to change my thinking with new information. It means being observant in the moment, and prepared to “go with it” when circumstances or people reveal something more about themselves. It means embracing authenticity, myself, and sharing who I actually am, with others who are sharing who they actually are, too. It means creating an emotionally safe environment for that authenticity to exist. It means learning to communicate without tools like criticism, discouragement, or ad hominem attacks. It means “yes, and…”, instead of “no, but…”. There you go. Go forth and be open! LOL – I know, I know, it isn’t that easy, it does take practice, and your results will definitely vary. πŸ™‚

This morning I got schooled on being open in the most delightful way; I woke to a message asking me where my boundaries may be, on the subject of “getting closer”. Gently handled, clear, frank, and worded such that there just wasn’t any chance of being hurt by the inquiry, or any possible mistake about the intention – quite the contrary. I live pretty openly with this being I have grown to become over time, and I’m not surprised someone besides me would like to be closer. Going beyond the platonic relationship we share now is an exciting thought. No need to rush things along; that’s sort of new, mixed in with all this extra adulting I’ve learned to do. I offer reassurance that I’ve got no preset rules against growing closer, and no objection to it. I find myself wondering if I were sufficiently gracious about it – did I communicate my appreciation? For the desire? For the question? I smile. Everything’s fine. There’s no room for pointless anxiety here. There is always time enough for love. πŸ™‚

The rain intensifies, and perversely I now want to be in the garden. lol Instead, I set a course for the kitchen, a second coffee, and my meditation cushion. It’s time to begin again. πŸ™‚

You’re not a fish, but for real; don’t “take the bait”, online or in life. Breathe through the moment. Let it go. I know, I know, easier said sometimes, and there are definitely verbs involved. It’s so hard to let go of that urge to “correct a misconception”, to push back on an obvious falsehood, to “set things straight” when we feel wronged, played, or manipulated. The reaction, though? Following through on that urge? Yeah – that’s generally the entire point of baiting someone in the first place; getting a reaction.

Doesn’t matter if that troll is a loved one, a friend, a family member, a colleague, some random stranger in some unexpected moment sliced from a generally low-drama life, or even the person in the mirror. Doesn’t matter if the moment of provocation is online or “in real life”. Do not take the bait. You’re not a fish, so don’t become a meal. lol Don’t feed the trolls in your life and you will likely find they wander off to aggravate someone else. For real.

…Besides, just letting go that whole mess, include one’s own desire to be “right” in some specific moment, is a huge quality of life improvement, generally. πŸ˜€ It does take practice. Sometimes you may need to simply walk on from that entire relationship. That’s a thing, and trust me, it’s fine. Better than fine. Personal loyalties don’t need to become a lifestyle of self-sacrifice to benefit someone else’s emotional agenda at your expense. Treat others well, and also insist on being treated well, yourself.

To be clear, none of this is about our feelings – emotions are a very personal and subjective experience. You have yours. I have mine. That person over there has their own. None of it is subject to argument; we are each having our own experience. That said, emotions and thoughts are very different things, and the common habit of beginning sentences about thoughts with words about feelings is quite misleading. It’s a poor practice.

The content of our thinking may very well be subject to scrutiny, and we may quite reasonably be asked to reconsider it. It makes sense that our thoughts, once shared, will be dissected and analyzed, and discussed in the context of whatever shared understanding of reality is possible for human primates; we learn from each other. Behavior goes even a step further; not only are our actions subject to scrutiny, there are requirements that we behave within the boundaries of implicit and explicit social contracts, and we are responsible for, andΒ accountable for, our actions. Our behavior is a willful matter. Our behavior is built on choices and verbs. We aren’t free-falling through “accidents”, “mistakes”, and “happenings” – we’re making choices, and enacting our will. If you’ve done a thing once, and others have objected to it and alerted you that your behavior is not welcome, or that it is objectionable, and you do not change it, it’s no longer appropriate to say it was any sort of mistake, or in error; you are now acting deliberating to achieve that objectionable result intentionally – because you do know. The outcome has been demonstrated to be your intention, and saying you didn’t want that? It’s a lie. Ouch.

Don’t be a troll. Treat your loves well. Hell – just treat other people well, generally. Why would you not? No, I’m seriously asking you this – what possible reason could you have to deliberately treat others poorly that you think justifies that acceptably? (If the knee-jerk reaction is “well, because they…”, I have to wonder why you give that person so much power to undermine your progress toward being the human being you most want to be…? Then I’m going to back away slowly, and walk on. I have other work to do becoming the person I most want to be, myself.)

I’m over simplifying, I know. Some of those trolls in our lives are charming as hell when they aren’t trolling us or treating us poorly. Pretty promises. Pretty lies. Just as we extricate ourselves from their bullshit, they flash us a sincere looking smile, say something kind, give us something nice, or explain how sorry they are and how they didn’t mean it at all. Yeah… doesn’t change a thing, it’s a cycle of poor behavior. We know, don’t we, that the wheel continues to turn. Let go. Walk on. Allow them to be truly accountable for their actions, even to the point of losing your affection; their promises are not worth the real-life misery. Trolls are trolls. Do not compromise your values or your boundaries. Your choice to stay and feed the troll? Also not a mistake, once you know you’re doing it. Take better care of the human in the mirror, for fuck’s sake, this is your life. Live it well. Respect your own boundaries, yourself.

I finish off my coffee with a contented smile. It’s early. I woke well-rested but feeling a nagging anxiety in the background. I poke around my conscious experience for a moment or two, just checking in with myself when I notice the “anxiety” has lingered in the background. Is it the choice of music? No… it’s just arthritis pain; the headache isn’t as bad this morning, the arthritis is worse. lol The subtle shift in sensory experience specific to my pain feels a bit different, and I feel somewhat “anxious” because of it; it’s not really anxiety. It’s just pain. Well okay, I can deal with that. I change the playlist and head for my yoga mat. There are verbs involved.

…It’s a great time to begin again.