Archives for posts with tag: anxiety

There are so many tea-related metaphors. I’m more of a coffee drinker, frankly, which you probably know if you’ve read more than one or two of my blog posts. I do occasionally drink tea, though…

Proof I do drink tea. Sometimes.

Here’s a thing, though; tea has been around a very long time. It has ancient origins. The idea of having a cup of tea to relax, or as a pick-me-up, or as a shared moment among friends, or a celebratory or thoughtful ritual, is not new. (This is going somewhere…)

…I mean…damn. Have some tea. Think about how that connects you to your ancestors – and the world!

Life has been “busy”. My anxiety has pushed me back into therapy, because although I worked a long time to manage my anxiety generally (in the face of trauma, stress, and emotional pain), I haven’t actually done much to deal with my anxiety in the face of … success and contentment and a pretty good life. Turns out, that also massively aggravates my anxiety! Fuck. Seriously? Well, shit.

Even a lovely colorful pleasant life rich in love and joy can be a source of stress.

One of the things I had talked over with my therapist is this idea that I feel unprepared for things to go well, and as if I am constantly vigilant, waiting for “the other shoe to drop”, which is a weird source of anxiety, seems to me. I also gave voice to my frustration that I’m struggling to stay on track with my meditation practice – in spite of my awareness and direct experience that it is profoundly helpful for managing my anxiety. How is that even fair? lol

All through the summer, I explored area parks and nature areas with my camera. Thinking, walking, taking pictures of flowers, trees, and birds.

I zoomed in close-up to examine small details.

I developed favorite spots as the weeks passed. I switched up my routine to put me out on the trail with my camera almost every morning for a hour or so before work. It did a lot to inspire, soothe, and entertain me. It met real creative needs that I’d been struggling to meet well for rather a long while. I still do it most days, even though the sun rise is (much) later. I start my work day later, too, and stay closer to home on work mornings (saving the further away spots for weekend mornings). I’m grateful that I can.

Just this morning, at dawn, I had a realization…

I think I’ve been “getting too close” to the issue at hand, and as a result failing to find a thread that connects some of it in a useful way, with other things that are also going on with or around me…

It’s easy to get too close to something, and miss the important details I’d easily see if I took a step back.

I drink a lot of coffee in the mornings. I often write in the mornings. I do camera walks in the mornings. I feel fresh and wide-open to possibilities in the morning. Once my two coffees for the day are over, I’m generally pretty well wrapped up in work, or moving on with a list of things that need doing, or errands that want running. By nightfall, I’m exhausted, irritable, in pain, and struggling to find emotional balance. There’s a lot of time between the end of that second coffee and the end of my typical day. I’m going to start stopping for a cup of tea in the afternoon. 🙂 An easy moment from which to begin again, to reset, to reconsider, to reconnect with myself… I plan to make a commonplace ritual of it, as so many people do, and I will seek to be very mindful, and deliberate, and take advantage of the break in my routine each day to really pause, reflect, and appreciate my circumstances.

…If nothing else, it will use up the tea in my cupboards, and give me a reason to use the tea cups in my porcelain collection. Delightful. Self-reflection, a break in the afternoon, and delight?? Sign me up. (Oh, wait, I already did…) A new practice. Sometimes it takes a bit of new along with the routine to find my way along the path. Something with which to begin again. 🙂

I am sipping iced coffee from a can, listening to a song that suggests I have some tea. Of these two juxtaposed experiences, the music is by far the better choice of the two. lol This is a thing to know about choices; the results vary. I still got to choose. 🙂

I woke early. Too early. Early enough to leave the house (early) and miss the morning commuter traffic into the city. It’s a Wednesday. I go in to the actual office each Wednesday. This, too, is a choice I make. Funny thing about choices; they feel different from circumstances that are imposed upon me. That commuter traffic? Dense and unpleasant and very stressful – if I have to endure it. Interesting to me is how much less stress I feel over commuter traffic going into the office once a week by choice. I shrug it off. I take my time. I relax and comfortably remind myself there is no hurry. I plan my evening around the longer commute time, and come home with take-out, or run an errand on the way. This morning, the lack of traffic at that early hour was a lovely change, so much so that the drenching downpour along the way did nothing to add stress to the drive (though it often would). Just a woman driving a car in the pre-dawn darkness on a rainy morning. Nothing to see here.

…When commuting is forced on me as a requirement of my employment, the seemingly endless hassles of the traffic, shitty drivers, and time pressure mount up day by day, worsening as each week progresses, becoming a thing to dread, and a source of lingering background stress, anxiety, and disappointment in my fellow human beings (some of whom clearly ought not be licensed to drive at all, based on what I’ve seen on the roads). It’s one of the things that nudged me in the direction of working remotely; that commuter traffic was a massive looming source of ongoing stress that I could choose to avoid.

So. I’m in the office early. I am alone – first in. I make coffee for folks who will arrive shortly. I grab “a cold one” – canned coffee – from the fridge in the break area. I sit down to write, feeling relaxed and comfortable. It’s a pleasant start to the day. I’m sufficiently relaxed to think about anxiety. LOL I give myself a moment with that thought.

A coworker’s heavy fragrance – classic, French, expensive – arrives seconds ahead of the sound of conversation, as she enters the work area with a colleague. The smell of rain follows them from the elevator. I feel a moment of appreciation and gratitude; the restroom is down that way near the elevators, also – the results could be much less pleasant than perfume and petrichor. LOL We all exchange smiles and greetings, and the morning feels merry as the presence of colleagues signals the start of the work day.

It’s time to begin again. 🙂

Oh my god this day. It’s hard to bitch… good job. I’m enjoying it. Great partnership. I’m super in love with that guy. Lovely little house just outside a small town. I love it here. All the practical details of an amazing and comfortable life are in place. In spite of that, this morning, I absolutely melted down over the dumbest shit, and wrecked my day in a stew of tears and drama. My mental health wellness is at risk because it is not as well-managed and supported as it could be. Part of that is in my hands; I needed to return to therapy, but I delayed that because I figured I was “honestly fine”. Compounding that, I moved to a new community (what, two years ago now? ffs) and haven’t yet found new healthcare providers. So… yeah. My therapist impressed upon me that he’d like me to consider giving medication another try for my anxiety. (I see his point, and my Traveling Partner’s as well.) So… sure, but… he’s a PhD and can’t prescribe, so I need a clinician who does to partner with him. Someone more local, perhaps? Fuck-fuck-fuck…

…Today I may have finally found someone…

My whole day today has been a weird series of otherwise-welcome interruptions of various sorts from various people for various purposes. None of them especially urgent. All of them important enough to want to support or respond to immediately… which starts setting up cascading conflicts in my priorities, and quickly destroyed my bandwidth with the buckshot of “pings”. Email. Slack. Calls. Text messages. Errands. My to-do list. “Quick questions.” It was peculiar that it was so quickly “too much for me”… I think I slept well..? My self-care hasn’t been horrible… but I also don’t feel like I’ve truly been caring for myself, so… yeah. I finally disintegrated into tears and just let that be what it was for awhile. I know it passes… eventually.

My headache is… a headache. Worse from crying. I feel “low” – the chemical aftermath of that emotional storm may last a bit longer. My back aches. I got enough done to feel productive. Even took time to get my nails done. I feel drained, though, and tired. Disengaged. Moody. I’d call it “hormones” – but theoretically I’m well passed all that!

I “don’t know” what to do now… a shower? A nap? More coffee? Do a thing? I feel distracted and pulled into separate pieces of consciousness and getting my shit together right now is like herding kittens (only less cute). Fuck.

…I’m okay, though. Truly. For most values of “okay” I’m not only okay, I’m living a good life in a good place surrounded by love and all is well. The only messy bit is this fucking emotional construction zone in my head and I’m getting fed up with the constant fucking remodeling (to stretch the analogy way too far). I know I need to begin again, I’m just too annoyed to do that – at least for the moment.

I’ll get there soon enough, I just need to practice some practices and stay on the path. Sometimes there are stairs to climb. Sometimes it rains.

It’s a journey with a lot of stairs to climb…

It’s early evening. Or… late afternoon. I guess it depends on how you count the hours, and when you dine – or end the day. This once, let’s agree it is early evening, though the twilight before nightfall is quite a way off still. I am sipping a glass of ice water after a leisurely soak in the hot tub, and some yoga to ease tense muscles. I am thirsty, and almost peculiarly I am not completely worn out beyond usefulness, which is a nice change of pace for this time of day. It’s been a pleasantly productive day of work, and I’ve managed to be genial, relaxed, and content all day. I have not burdened myself with the additional stress of self-imposed ridiculous deadlines or “production goals”, nor worn myself thin with too many “yes” answers and not enough “no” answers. I have enough left in me to write, and likely even to prepare a meal later. What did I do differently…?

Let me count the ways I did things differently today, and the things I tried:

  1. I gave myself a lovely few minutes before ever beginning work to reflect quietly on the day ahead, and give some thought to what I hoped to get done – and to realistically plan ahead the things I probably would not get to, without giving myself any shit over it, or making any excuses.
  2. I focused on, and completed, the few specific tasks I had committed to, and having left myself some room to do so, I was able to pick up a handful of other helpful things and get those done without any pressure to do so, nor any sense of failure if I did not.
  3. I took real breaks, and made a point to walk away from work – the way I often recommend to other people, and often fail to do for myself.
  4. I had real conversations with real humans, and during those conversations I focused on that human I was speaking with, and really listened to what they were saying. (Doing this, and getting it right, was the most difficult thing I did today!!)
  5. I took care of myself when I got home from work… yoga, a hot shower, a soak in the hot tub, and this quiet time spent writing, all fill that requirement.
  6. I did some site maintenance on my blog that I’d been putting off and feeling crappy about.
  7. I updated my to-do list without rushing to do any of it just yet.
  8. Each time I experienced a moment of anxiety, I gave that feeling a minute of my attention, and some self-compassion. I paused long enough to practice self-soothing, and to consider what might really be driving that moment of anxiety, without judgment or shame. I even learned some things by doing so.

Not bad. In fact… (I feel) pretty good. I’m pleased by this feeling of being settled and centered, at the end of a work day. It’s a good feeling. Comfortable.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

…My anxiety surges as if on cue. I’m okay. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I look it in the face – “why now?” Probably simply that success (on this issue) is a little scary, itself. I’ve struggled with anxiety for so long, it is a little… weird… to contemplate who I am without it. That seems very human, and acknowledging both the emotions/sensations and the humanity of it, I feel myself relax again. Less anxious. Good deal.

Perspective matters. “Emotion and Reason” acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow 2012

I see my therapist Wednesday. Our first in-person appointment since before the pandemic. Wow. Milestone.

My Traveling Partner sticks his head in for a moment. “How’s your writing?” he asks, pleasantly. No stress between us. This also feels very good. My anxiety fucks both of us up. lol I gesture vaguely at the screen, “I’m writing about anxiety, things I’m doing differently to handle it, stuff we were talking about…” He nods looking serious and hopeful, “That’s promising…” he says (or words very like that – I may already have forgotten precisely what he said).

…It’s time to begin again.

Staying on the path is a choice, and there are verbs involved.

I’m an artist. A painter, primarily. I have a regular “day job” as an analyst, and have for many years – it’s just easier to support my lifestyle and my creative endeavors with a bit of steady employment, versus attempting to use my creative endeavors to support my lifestyle (for me – your results may vary). I sat down with my coffee this morning, after a lovely “camera walk” at a new (nearby) location and a coffee with my Traveling Partner, and I began scrolling through the past year’s pictures taken hither and thither with the purpose of updating my “all the art” photo album, and the “new art since 2010” album. Google Photos politely and helpfully took me to the last items that were updated to each album as a starting point to the scrolling.

…That was more than a year ago…

I scrolled… and kept on scrolling. I scrolled through pictures of flowers in my wee garden, and pictures of garden efforts that were varying degrees of success. I scrolled through seemingly endless pages of pictures from camera walks over the course of the year. I scrolled through pictures from multiple business trips and a trade conference. I scrolled through pictures of weather, and pictures of “why not?”. I scrolled through pictures snapped in retails spaces of items to share with my Traveling Partner for inspiration, or to gauge interest. I scrolled through holiday pictures, camping pictures, lunches, brunches, and coffees with friends. I scrolled through pictures of birds, squirrels, racoons, cats, dogs, snakes, and deer. I scrolled through pictures of beach trips, birthdays, and miscellaneous adventures here or there. I scrolled through pictures of my partners shop as it developed over time, and pictures of projects he completed there. I scrolled through a handful of selfies, and numerous pictures taken in order to confirm “is this the one you want?” while I was running errands. You know what I mostly did not scroll through? Pictures of new paintings. There just weren’t many. Two? Four?

I look over my shoulder at work in progress, and the most recent completed work… minimal. 7 pieces? 9? Not even 1 per month for the 14 months of pictures I scrolled through, and most incomplete or not photographed. Damn. It’s no wonder I’ve been feeling (for quite a while) this certain specific feeling of being “crowded” or “imposed upon” by the day-to-day demands of living a full life. I’ve failed to nurture this part of myself, and that’s honestly a massive self-care failure. I could do better. Time to reflect on the experience of painting so much less for the entire time I’ve had a dedicated studio (in any living space in which that has been the case, frankly)! It makes no fucking sense. I created the space to work in… why am I not working in it?

…Is it a lack of inspiration? That seems unlikely given the number of hastily dashed off notes to myself about things I want to paint, and the number of pictures I’ve taken specifically with compositions on canvas in mind.

…Is it lack of time? That’s an easy out; life is busy, work takes time out of my day, and there’s certainly plenty of work to be done to maintain our quality of life…but…do I really lack the time? I suspect not – but I’m sure not using the time I have to paint (or, let’s be real, to write on the regular).

Is it lack of will, interest, or materials? All pretty practical, but no. I’ve got the materials, the space, and the time available… My interest hasn’t waned. I can’t dismiss “lack of will” entirely; if I had sufficient will-to-act, I’d be in the fucking studio painting, would I not? I find myself wondering what’s up with that?

Being true to the artist I am, I see the effort, the will, and the self-care time going more to walking with my camera, out on some trail, breathing the fresh air, getting some exercise – and these are good things. I can’t complain that I’m treating myself badly. Those walks definitely nurture my creative side – and a camera is far more compact to travel with than paint boxes and an easel. It is a very different sort of work, though. For me, painting (note: I’m primarily an abstract impressionist, more or less…) is a way of communicating things I don’t have words for (and that’s really saying something considering “all the words”). When I stop painting, I start trying to force emotions into words I don’t have. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this eventually tends to result in mindless nonsensical chattering of streams of consciousness that are distracting, confusing, or meaningless for whoever happens to be stuck listening to me babble. (Do I sound as if I’m being hard on myself? Consider the burden on someone who lives with that, though… how tough would this be on my Traveling Partner, a very reality-bound engineer-sort?)

…Perhaps that’s the key. This partnership. This amazing love I share with my partner. I am reluctant to yield moments I could stand near my partner just breathing the air he exists in for something so self-centered as painting. That’s not fair to either of us – surely I would resent that over time, and that could undermine this profound love I feel for this singular human being. We both want to hang out together approximately every minute of every day – realistically we both also recognize that won’t actually work. It’s also not particularly emotionally healthy. So. There’s that.

I guess I’m just saying, I really noticed that I’ve “failed myself” a bit on this detail. There are paintings and ideas for paintings in my head, living in a space that has become crowded with them, distracting me and making it tough to properly communicate whatever else is going on (most especially related to any of those notions/thoughts/ideas).

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

The other day, in response to a moment of stress and heightened background anxiety, I retreated to the emotional comfort of my studio… and got to work on a new piece. Fuck that felt good!! “She discovered the answer was within her all along…” Omg. So trite. So… ridiculous. I think on the number of years I painted on the floor…or in some corner…or on a kitchen counter or dining table, any space I could use that had enough room to work. I could do better for myself. I felt so much less anxious just getting some color on canvas… something to think about.

Meta Luna, 12″ x 12″ acrylic on canvas w/glow & glitter, 2022

So… new job, new habits. It’s a new beginning and I’m not wasting it. I made a point to start getting my hands manicured again – and I’ve stopped tearing at my cuticles (again) or biting my nails (again). Nice. I’m keeping an eye on work hours and setting health boundaries with my time. I’m putting my errands and to-do items at the top of my list each day and refusing to allow myself to push myself further down among my priorities. Feels good.

…This is perhaps a lot of words to say “it’s time to begin again”… 🙂