be a better human, home, kindness, let it go, meditation, strangers, talking

Called Out/Tuning In

Today, something fun happened. On my lunch break, I made a sandwich, perilously close to the start time of meditation. I debated not “going” to meditation. Instead, I reasoned that being three minutes late and eating a sandwich did not bar me from virtual attendance where I would have my camera and audio muted, so I shuffled back to the computer, finished eating and closed my eyes.

Not long after, the gentleman who guides the meditation paused from his regularly scheduled broadcasting about breathing and addressed the group. Two people had their sound turned on, and he asked everyone to check that it wasn’t their own. Barbara and Aaron did not check. He asked them by name to silence their computers. Another few moments went by, and Barbara still did not check! “Barbara, please silence your computer!” he implored again. And again.

And I loved it.

Now, before you think I am picking on Barbara, or you want to give her the benefit of the doubt (maybe she had stepped away from the computer), no. The default was not to display video or audio (because only one person needs to be talking, and it is awkward to display yourself on camera when all you are doing is closing your eyes), but Barbara had enabled both. I watched her keep her eyes closed despite the guide speaking her name. Eventually she fumbled with the phone and after a bit of phone-fumble-breeze sounds, then a view of her ceiling fan, she was gone.

Nay, it is indeed human to make technological mistakes. Though it is rude to not consider your impact on those around you (especially in a silent setting), this Babs thing made me chuckle more than anything! I appreciated the person in charge for his quick action to resolve the issue. He knew that everyone was in the session to tune out as much noise as possible, and didn’t want to let any extra in on his watch. He defended the peace! Non-judgmentally, directly, and quickly!

I’ve been in many meditation sessions where this is not the case. Even the best teachers may not recognize or know how to handle the conflict of one participant causing a distraction/disruption. And maybe it is easier in the virtual class, because all are equally muted, contrary to, how is someone supposed to police the volume of another’s breathing? (However, one could argue *cough, I would argue* that when an instructor says to breathe quietly, the person taking giant lion breaths and sighing forcefully is knowingly being a dick.)

Or maybe it’s just quieter right now! Ordinarily a cough or other auditory distraction will pull me out of precious silence, out of focus, and make me mad. The bonus of workout/meditation classes from home is that no one has to hear anyone but the instructor. Everyone is free to do their own thing (but should all be paying attention, if this is a work video call ;). In theory, this applies to work, personal life and projects too. Less noise = fewer distractions = more focus. I have a task to complete, and if I need to call or email someone to complete it, I can, but otherwise, it’s all me. Obviously, some days it’s easy to get out of my own way, and sometimes it’s incredibly not. Yes, in the case of meditation, the Equitable Mute was threatened, defended, and ultimately upheld. (Justice!) BUT: what if the loud exhaler is me? What if the loud background noise is coming from inside my head?

Several of my close friends deal with anxiety too. A few of the ones who identify as introverts are having a really tough time with self-isolation. One told me, “okay, yes, I like to recharge away from people, but… now I’m fully charged! What am I supposed to do?” Another is struggling with boundaries; as much as she resented interacting with unpleasant people at work, she has to defend a new boundary of people calling and emailing her nonstop because they can now. Yet another told me she was cutting back on watching the news. THE NEWS! During a pandemic! Where the conspiracy theories, political vitriol, and uninformed opinions are flying all around!

There is such thing as too much information!

I’m typically the last to know everything, and I have been keeping more current with news since rules and standards are changing by the day and I don’t want to get turned away from the grocery store. But no way will I watch the news. A) I don’t like certain people’s voices, and those people are often featured. B) having more information is not going to improve any aspect of my life. Ultimately, I choose to tune out the theories and focus on the facts (what to wear/do when out in public), seeking information that will serve me. As long as I get the bottom line/know the safety regulations, I am tuning the rest out. I donate to charities, I purchased gifts and stamps from the USPS, and I sign the petitions about absentee ballots, incarcerated populations’ release and whatever I can mentally handle.

I’m not checking out, or sticking my head in the sand as if this isn’t happening, but choosing where to look for what types of information. I’m also trying to send out more than I take in (mostly in the form of mood-boosting things like letters and phone calls). This tuning out of non-essential information is helping me to pare down and tune in to the essentials: what I need and how to connect with/be “there” for my friends and family. A wise lady recently told me that this pandemic situation is all about who you are in a room by yourself, and I’m determined to enjoy the company.

 

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Effin Birds for the win again
anxiety, family, home, librarians, meditation, writing

Time to Re/build a Habit

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I resist writing even though it is beneficial to do. Now, though, as the world is seemingly falling apart, I might try harder. Even before I would write this blog today, I spent 30 minutes on hold for Apple Care to change my password in order to update my iOS (non-essential but on to-do list for literal years), I went to the grocery store (carefully) and I made tapioca pudding. Scraping the bottom of the to-do barrel just to put off writing. I do not understand (but greatly respect) how people do this as a career.

In the interest of maintaining my sanity and eating my peas, I need to actively recognize that there are some things I don’t want to do, that feel like a hassle, and I have to do them anyway. This is ridiculous, because I really LIKE writing, but sometimes it just feels tiresome to talk about myself and my life and my thoughts and maybe my handwriting isn’t great that day and blechhh. I prefer to blog and share entertaining anecdotes or stories.

I don’t have any current stories right now. This upsets me. The library has been closed for a full week, though we are answering emails/phone calls, and people are in various states of panic and sadness. My heart goes out to the college kids who can’t return to campus for the rest of the year and have to endure professors attempting online instruction. I am not jealous of people with school-age children going stir crazy with cabin fever, but I am happy to hear parents acknowledge that teaching is HARD and teachers are UNDERPAID. And, these safety precautions aren’t going anywhere in the near future. I understand that people are sad when events they looked forward to are canceled. There is a grief in not being able to throw your small child a birthday party, not being able to attend a concert three months away, or a milestone college reunion. Some people have to cancel their weddings upcoming soon, and women who give birth right now are not permitted to have their partners with them. I really wanted to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday with her family and friends, but that is not happening. These things range from heartbreaking to a shame to a small price to pay in order not to contract or spread this virus.

The anxiety also makes sense to me. Anxiety over the turbulent rule changes, the closures of restaurants and businesses, anxiety over possibly catching or spreading deadly disease. Anxiety over making rent/bill payments after losing non-salaried work. For the general anxiety, I would say follow the rules suggested by health professionals and limit the information intake (aka only look at news updates once per day at a designated time, or only read articles if tv news stresses you out too much). Essentially, control what you can control. For the money anxiety, figure that shit out! You can’t control the fact that you’re out of work, but you can sure as hell sign up for unemployment or look for other work that doesn’t compromise your health.

All that said, I’m lucky. I have a salaried job that I can do from home. My office was ramping up for at least a week ahead of time getting us set up with the technology to feel like we were in the office. I don’t have school age children, and I am mobile enough at least in theory to take walks and exercise in my home. I have a car and so don’t have to deal with public transportation being germ-ridden or closed. My biggest complaints to date are that I miss my coworkers and my fancy desk chair & I’m eating too much/moving too little.

I try to have anecdotes for the blog, which I like sharing, but even in personal writing for just myself, I drag my feet. One of my professors in college preached to us the virtues of her own daily morning ritual: to fill a page. I thought it was silly; what could possibly be so different from the day before? How is that interesting to write, much less read???

When I avoid journaling, I tell myself that what I’m thinking and going through is repetitive; I’ve been here before and flipping back a few pages reveals similar themes and patterns. Why bother writing it down? I talk to my friends and my therapist about my inner world, and I write in my journal when I have something particularly weighty on my mind. Why make it a daily habit?

And maybe this is a “duh” moment for you, but I never really put together that daily journaling is the meditation of writing. Writing every day to assess the quality of my mind seems to me like an affirmation that my thoughts/feelings have power and that I should pay more attention to them AND an outlet for them so I can clear the ones that don’t serve me. After all, just because my thoughts are boring and repetitive, they’re still swirling around in my head, and my motto is better out than in! Since I have been trying to meditate every day (to mild success) I am working journaling into my as-often-as-possible routine too.

Not coincidentally, this happened when I received a gift from my cousin. She, a practicing clinical psychologist, published her own journal to help people write, reflect and grow. So if you need to build a new routine now that everything in life is drastically different, I recommend it–I like the open-ended prompts and the focus on being present. Check it out!

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This is what it looks like!

If you are struggling this week, reach out to your loved ones. Reach out even if you aren’t! And now that we have a little more alone time, maybe look inward too. Grab a pen and paper of some kind and see what happens. Of course, you may just write me a letter bitching about this whole situation, and that would be fine. I love mail 🙂

anxiety, community, coworkers, meditation, talking

19: What I’m Hearing

At some point within the last month, I have been both on a roll and in a funk, and today marks day 19 of a 19-day streak without a day off (3×5-day workweek + 2 straight weekends = 19).  Oh, and, the world is ending.

The weird: a skunk sprayed directly outside my bedroom window. Three. Weeks. Straight. Always on Sunday! The smell was so strong that it woke me from total sleep. And it lingered. No, lingered is too gentle a word. It sat, chokingly heavy in the air in my bedroom. Stayed for almost a full week despite 24-hour air purifier and vinegar water to draw it out. I was convinced I was wearing the smell out of the house. JUST when my room stank only faintly, it would strike again. For three weeks. It was the closest thing to torture I’ve ever endured, and if it were an interrogation, I would have cracked. My favorite place (my bed) was not relaxing, and it was not safe from this nastiness.

The good: I was feeling kind of bummed out when I wasn’t hearing from a couple close friends. For some reason, it is still unfamiliar to me that even though I reach out when I have a lot going on (because I need to be out of my head and into the world) close friends  might want to retreat from the world and go into their heads. The good came from finally making contact with said close friends, understanding where they were coming from, and spending loads of quality time together. GOOD, aka the calm before the storm.

This good was influenced by reading an empowering book about diet/health: Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, the author of the book that made me go gluten-free (Grain Brain!). More fermented foods (hello, kombucha!) and more healthy fats (hello, avocados!) and I was feeling calm for the first time in forever.

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Trust Ferg to recommend only the best books

During this time of joy and such, I attended meditation and the leader guiding the meditation had a cough. As I sat there, I was still peaceful despite his intermittent startling cough. I remarked to myself about the unconditional positive regard I have for this man, and how with my “good list” of people I will waive annoyance that readily pops up in response to the same behaviors by any other person. How do I get more people onto the good list? If nothing else, that would spare me more annoyance…

The bad: Just when I had gotten into a rhythm of working out at lunchtime, our employee workout classes were canceled. All fun has been canceled this week. At first, I pouted, sad that this was “taken from me.”

Not only is one of my coping mechanisms not available, but the anxiety is ramping up. Just when I had finally found places to hold end-of-year events, now we are unsure if they will take place. Almost everything I have been working on is now on hold because of drastic changes to the very core of the student experience. There are known cases of coronavirus in my community, and I work two places in the community. In short, people at work are freaking the fuck out. All week, I’ve been hearing about how there is no toilet paper at the stores, and that people are stockpiling, preparing for being on a multiple week lockdown. I generally do not fall prey to public panic, and I typically resent the behaviors and mindsets behind them. In short, people outside of work are freaking the fuck out.

And instead of resenting those people, and instead of bitching about every change in policy, and while only minimally judging (because unless you plan on eating toilet paper, there is no need for you to purchase that much of it).. I’m listening.

I’m hearing a lot of rational, caring people on conference calls trying to mitigate and support others through a messy situation. I’m hearing a lot of compassion and a lot of flexibility from my supervisors when I mess up various things because my mind is not at full strength or focus this week. I’m hearing my coworkers tell me their children are feeling a lot of fear and anxiety. And that they are too. It helps to know I’m not alone (but honestly how could I be?).

And I listened to myself today, and advocated for what I needed (aka asked not to come in to the library due to the anxiety I was feeling). And I was met with support! It was great!

Since the new year, I thought we wouldn’t have to hear about 19 ever again. It was a trying year, and it seems to be extending its disasters into 2020. This public health scare is crazy, and it requires precautions that make sense. I am not alone in my fun being taken away. Pro/college sports, theater, comedy.. it’s all put on pause. And though social distancing is extremely hard and uncomfortable and sad for me, maybe it forces me to really take care of myself. Yes, working out is now part of my mental health regime. Yes, I need it and yes, it will be unavailable to me in organized groups for the foreseeable future. Yes, I may still brave the yoga studio, and yes, I may choose to still go to the grocery store or out to eat (one or the other!).

Even though I would like to consume less, I need to be a part of a social fabric, and saw this poem today and love it so much. It reframed this whole stay-at-home crisis for me. Obviously, when people get sick, it is scary, but my anxiety lessened when I thought of the precautions in these gentle, respectful terms rather than scary, disease terms.

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anxiety, information, joy, kindness, let it go, meditation, social media, strangers

Dating Anxiety

The grammar nerd in me wants to point you towards the double entendres of the title: I am “dating” anxiety. Of course what I mean is that I have anxiety about dating, or that I am dating [with] anxiety. Since many of the other areas of my life I was unhappy with have fallen into place (my therapist would point out that I toiled and suffered and took chances and overall put a lot of effort into making these things happen) over the last year… so “the boyfriend question” is literally always on my mind. It is the next issue to tackle. The missing piece, if you will.

Maybe because my readership includes mainly my family and possibly my ex, I have only alluded to the ongoing drama of trying to find a stable, kind, human male with whom I have all of the chemistries for to settle down and make babies. And I do care what those people think. It’s hard to draw the line between anxiety and people pleasing; where one stops, the other one fills the gap. I care about making people I love/d uncomfortable or sad, so I won’t go into any gory details, though I still wouldn’t even if I didn’t care about offending anyone’s sensibilities (the internet is OPEN, y’all. Discoverable!). Nothing is secret, if a librarian (or god help me someone with more credentials or beef with me) wants to find it.

Some of my lack-of-relationship stuff is because I didn’t like my life, so I told myself I could compromise on what I want (for example: babies). Part of my lack of relationship is continuing to fall for the trap that is males who consider themselves attractive to the point that they have shirtless photos on their dating profiles. (They may say they are looking for a relationship, but are they? ARE THEY?) Those are easier to let go of. No, what they think about me is not as devastating as when I get excited about someone and think I have a chance and see them multiple times, only then to be ghosted because they were scared away by honesty (or by triple texting).

Because putting myself out there, over and over, for new dudes to fully see and judge me is exhausting. And nerve-racking. So when it seems to be going right, only to have the dreaded 24-hour-without-texting mark roll around, that stings. The rejection is very real and it hurts and however many weeks or months I looked forward to hearing from that guy now has been time wasted and time detracted from the search for MY PERSON.

And all of my non-attachment and let-it-be-ness goes straight out the window. Along with my pride. “Maybe that last text was too awkward/personal/not funny enough to get a reply; I’ll send a follow-up hedging it and trying to be more entertaining!”

Is it anxiety that I cannot let go of the idea of the object of my fixation working out?

…Considering that going through my head is an all-caps disaster script along the lines of: NO NO NO WE LIKE THIS ONE DONT LET HIM GET AWAY THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER MAN AS GOOD AS HIM… Yes. It’s fucking anxiety. Because, at least statistically, there will be another one as intriguing and promising. And eventually maybe even one who won’t be scared off by my anxious behaviors (or I can learn to manage my sky-high expectations and also to not text too much/get my hopes up too soon).

[Side note: the texting. FUCK TEXTING. People who have been monogamous for at least the past 10 years do not know the blessing of not being on dating apps and living through the hellish texting culture therein.]

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This is now my standard practice. Delete the evidence that I gave a shit.
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Sorry I’m too lazy to crop these photos!
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Running through my mind at any sustained period of silence
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Me when my hopes are all the way up only for someone to change his mind

I do not write this because I resent everyone in a happy relationship. Nay. (Nor do I write this to hear that I am loved; please let us avoid these awkward lines of dialogue.) Though I may not have opened social media this past weekend and so therefore did not ‘like’ your lovey-dovey posts, I still think it’s great that you found your person. I hope that you get to be your truest, weirdest self with them. If you do, you give me hope.

That’s the dream.

Perhaps the biggest source of the anxiety is indeed the fact that I want that dream so bad. I go into everything thinking this could be IT! He could be HIM! and that is an unhealthy amount of pressure to put on A) him B) me C) the whole situation. The only way to find my person is to wait. That’s all. I have to wait, and take it day by day (NOT minute by minute staring at my phone), and take the time to think about who I’m curious about. Who I want to get to know better. Who makes me feel like my best self and simultaneously like I can improve my best self. To watch and see who proves himself over time. Only when those things come together in one person should I get all aflutter.

So for now, I’ll go back to swiping, and trying to trust that what’s meant for me will not pass me by. If he passed me by, it is because someone better is on his way.

And, request to relatives: please wait for me to volunteer information rather than asking for date updates. Please!

be a better human, let it go, meditation, strangers, talking

Off Days

The last women’s meditation, I wasn’t feeling it. And that’s okay.

It started off wrong. As a gluten-free individual in a world of free sandwiches, I rely on salads. This salad, however, had wheat berries and croutons mixed on in, and there weren’t allergen statements on anything else to ascertain safety. The event took a safe, familiar salad and made it toxic to me. I recognize the privilege of being served a free lunch at work, and I don’t want to complain, but this made me sad because the salad they usually have is delicious. Why mess with a good thing?

Anyway.

The actual meditation started out fine enough. The theme was “excitement” and the leader asked everyone what they were excited for this month. The obvious answers (family, food, time off) popped up. Someone got close-to-personal as her voice quavered as she said “I’m not feeling excited right now, and I am having trouble trying.” I said giving gifts, because I like doing that and it’s not too personal of a statement to share with a room of strangers (friends/family would get a different answer :)* When someone at the end of the circle said “making gifts” (emphasis spoken), I felt immediately that I had an enemy (aided by the fact that this particular person never acknowledges outside of that room that we have been in the same room many times). She was one-upping me. Okay, fine. Don’t let the negativity stick.

Then the instructor began, telling us about how excitement manifests not only in positive ways, but that when our systems are ‘excited’ by stress, we feel it, and we feel it too when our systems are defeated and succumb to the rest and relaxation when we are sick or just over it. I appreciated that she talked about how she was feeling under the weather and stressed over an upcoming final project she has in her yoga teaching program. She’s a human, and I like when people share more than just the positives.

She lost me after that. She guided us through a meditation about the seasons, and what we wear/eat/do during the seasons.

….um, what? How is this exciting? Not that she had to perform for us, but I didn’t see the connection to excitement at all. I was too excited to pay attention to her!

But, whatever! I was there, and that’s all I could do. Instead of judging her (or really even listening to her enough to get annoyed by the meh-ness) I just did my own thing and thought about what I actually needed right then. And I had that. I had a colleague sitting next to me, I had a warm and sunny space. I had a job and coworkers I love waiting on the other end. And following this disappointing event, I had a great conversation about real shit.

I had lots of positives going on, but when the facilitators invited everyone to share their follow-up feelings, I passed. My positive feelings had nothing to do with what just happened. In fact, I felt not positive about that. My nemesis had only one word, “free,” said with a smug smile. And this part of the event always irritates me. It feels like a performance, and an easy line of delineation for who the meditation “worked for” and who it didn’t, aka a line between those who are “in” and those who are “out.” The person who started off by conveying her fragile and unexcited state was yet unchanged as well.

The same day, I went to kundalini, because it had been weeks and I kept making excuses not to go. The movements were physically challenging, and I had fed myself not enough, not nourishing food (see: the two bags of chips I ate for lunch). Also, the class was directly after therapy, so I was already mostly depleted.

Needless to say, it was an off day.

As I gave up midway through almost every exercise, I was surprised to find myself still happy. I thought about how typically, I would have been pissed at my subpar performance. I thought about how annoyed I get when people (usually dudes) are too loud or off-key with their breathing or chanting or singing. Instead, I realized that there were so many off-key singers that even I couldn’t calibrate my voice. I couldn’t even carry a tune for the very basic chants, and yet. How different that I was okay just to show up to class. To be in the room. To be.

At the end of the day, after a full day of being slightly off and when I tried to show up for arguably too much, I was totally accepting my limitations! Killing the mindfulness thing!

Hooray!

If my nemesis ever decides to show up to my precious yoga class, though, I might snap. (And I accept this about myself.)

 

 

*This specific reason for excitement is no longer applicable due to the three-week gap from when I started writing this to the actual completion. Really gotta write more often.

anxiety, career, let it go, librarians, meditation, writing

Time Off

It would seem I took an entire season off from writing… It wasn’t an accident, but procrastination took over any time I told myself to blog. Interestingly enough, at least over the past month, this lapse in writing has overlapped (overlapsed?) with a lot of time off from the library. But holy cow, has there been a lot going on. Time off from the library doesn’t mean time off from general life!

In June, I worked two four-hour shifts at the public library. Reader, I had Friday nights to myself! Those Fridays were great, and I spent them with dear friends.

However, with full appreciation of not having to punch the clock, let me say: I think working at the library is part of my self-care.

Over the past couple months, the seven-month period of temping has come to a victorious end. I am gainfully full-time employed, officially, permanently, in a department surrounded by awesome people who love coming to work every day. My 9-5 is everything I have waited for, and I feel so so so fortunate.

I would love to say that I was confident in my abilities and my chances at this job since the department knew me and invited me back (despite myself 🙂 to fill the position while the search went on. I would love to say that I did not stress myself out even though the job was probably mine from day one. I would love to say that even though the work is an exact match to my professional skills and demeanor, I was not chock full of terror that I would be rejected again and set adrift to continue temping elsewhere. For the several weeks in between when I applied and when I interviewed, any mention my colleagues made to “you’ll see in the fall” or “when we all do X/Y/Z in August..” I inserted “if I’m still here!” in order not to jinx it.

Because there is no time off from my brain. To me, the only thing worse than not getting this dream job would be to have expressed my sense of belonging out loud, on the record, and THEN not get to stay. I pulled apart any and every interaction with my supervisors to decipher whether they were implying that I would be sticking around. As professionals, they couldn’t just come right out and say “you are our first choice for this job,” but I’ve apparently become so uncomfortable with uncertainty that I needed someone to say that to ease my strife. On the occasions one of them did say something encouraging, I tried to hold it and internalize their praise for as long as I could.

Now, I have the security of a real job, and the comfort and immense joy that is belonging with these people.

So on the one hand, big things have changed on my time off. On the other, I still have the crazy monkey mind running around behind the scenes, not knowing what to do with herself when she does not have a task at hand. This week for the holiday, a full day off, I made zero plans and essentially online shopped all day. (Don’t yell at me, Mom! I yell at myself enough!) I haven’t been meditating enough, nor going to yoga enough, nor celebrating my accomplishments, nor going outdoors, enough, and I wanted to just zone out and hoard pretty things.

And this is why I will still work part-time at the library! Not only because I need funding to offset my love of and proclivity towards buying clothes, but also because I need to get out of myself and work in the service of others (which I do during my day job, but evidently I can’t get enough). I am not delusional to think I am saving lives as I sit behind a computer at a desk in an air conditioned building, but when I am there, surrounded by friends and community members, it feels like where I am supposed to be.

During my interview day, I met with a gentleman colleague, and he asked me one direct question about the position, but since he has already worked with me for a couple months and has seen what I’m about, the rest of the time, we spent talking about the library. He told me he was curious about where I ran off to on Fridays, and he complimented my hustle.

Maybe I shouldn’t need to hustle. Maybe I should take it easy, and take more time off. But at this point, I don’t really know what to do with more time off, and my work is more than a paycheck. All I know is I’m looking forward to the new normal, stabilizing and seeing what happens.

Stay tuned! Back to work.

anxiety, coworkers, judgment, meditation, strangers

Doing it myself

One of the perks of working on a university campus, or at least the campus where I work, is a movement to support the wellbeing of employees via meditation! I felt like I had landed in the right place when not one but two (!!) colleagues mentioned that they liked to meditate / the university regularly offers not one but two (!!!!) meditation sessions open to students and employees. I was IN. And then I learned there was a free lunch provided.

Dreams come true.

For the first session, I went with a colleague who showed me the ropes (pointed out where the bathroom and free food were, in that order). Then, the leader asked us to go around the room introducing ourselves and commenting on what abundance means to us. This was prior to Thanksgiving, and that theme was popping up many places, in association with overeating, in association with gratitude for whom and what surrounds us.

I was unaware I would have to speak in front of a group of strangers… There truly is no free lunch. There was a range of tones reflected in people’s comments, from sincere and thoughtful to “lol cookies!” I wondered if anyone else was as nervous putting a short string of words together to say (in this completely nonthreatening and welcoming space). Ultimately, I did what I often do: turned bright crimson and crossed my fingers that I made sense as all the words I had planned to say vanished into the ether as soon as it was my turn and I felt all the eyes in the room shift onto me. I then repeated that process after the meditation, as the leader again had us go around the room and share further comments. Everyone else had such simple, clear and respectable responses, and I felt inadequate based on whatever verbal hodgepodge I spat out, and I assumed that everyone in the room knew I was new and didn’t belong.

I slunk away and hoped they would forget how inarticulate I was by next time. People who meditate are likely not the judgiest of humans, but my anxiety nagged at me even in my happy place.

The actual guided meditation was great. As was the salad. A free meditation class and free food? I knew I had to go back.

The problem was, when the next one rolled around, my colleague couldn’t join. I prefer to enter unknown/uncomfortable situations with a bodyguard/companion. Preferably one with more experience doing what I’m headed into, but a fellow novice will do in a pinch. A warm body is a passable security blanket.

Would I go without her?

I waffled, but thought of that sweet, sweet salad. I hadn’t packed a lunch and didn’t want to spend money… I was going!

And it was great. I walked over on my own under a blue sky, the crisp winter air on my face. The second time around, I was an old hat. I knew the drill. I loaded up on salad and started chatting with the woman sitting next to me. The opening question was easier (what is your favorite part of December?) and again spanned the range of sincere to “lol cookies!” I could answer this one without bumbling.

The second time around, I focused on the meditation (calming) and not the vocal contributions or potential judgment thereof. And I walked back solo through the cold, bringing some zen back to my colleagues.

anxiety, career, community, coworkers, depression, kindness, meditation, writing

Goodbye, library

Subtitle: holy radio silence, Batman!

It has been three months of stress and movement and decision-making, which is my least favorite kind of making. My blog has been silent this whole time because I haven’t wanted to write. Or, I didn’t want to write without knowing the conclusion, but the spark for this post existed a month ago; consider the rest a “here goes!” rather than a definitive resolution/conclusion/tying up of loose ends. There are still so many loose ends. Anyway…

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I have heard of family traditions where when they drive away from their house upon moving out, they ceremonially say, “goodbye, house!”

This was not my family’s tradition. We were too busy covering or not covering our emotions, as I don’t think we ever moved out of a house with only positive, looking-forward excitement. There were always reasons to move, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t like change.

I still don’t. But as I provided the last SEVEN YEARS’ worth of addresses for a background check for a new position, I couldn’t even remember one of the eight addresses/apartment number from that time period. For funsies, I took an average of how long I lived in each place (min= 3 months, max= 2 years) for a less-than-ideal 10.25 months.

All this to say: of course, I’m moving again. And this time, I’m moving away from the most consistent “home” and family I have had in my adult life. I have to say “goodbye, library.” More reliable and consistent than any living quarters has been my part-time public library. Though not always perfect (what workplace is?), I have found community and learned so much from this place. I love it there, and no matter how bad a series of days I was having, coming to work there or just stopping in and seeing my colleagues was a source of light and pride. Not only do I love knowing and working with coworkers and customers, I, no joke, am such a nerd that my first thought at the start of the ‘should-I-leave?’ thought process was, “I can’t possibly move; I have so many books on my for-later shelf!” But as we all know, libraries are much more than books. Especially my library.

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And, as the case goes when I force myself into plans I’m not ready for, I recognized what I had done super quickly. The move was something I thought I “should” do, not what I wanted to do at that exact moment in time. It had been The Plan, and who am I to amend The Plan? And not surprisingly, the job did not feel like a place I would want to call home. The living situation, absolutely. I am grateful to have such wonderful people who consistently open their homes to me and make me feel welcome and cozy. I love my family, and don’t like disappointing them.

But I don’t love movement for movement’s sake. I needed to move away from my toxic job. I needed to shake myself out of the funk that the job allowed/harbored/caused (depending on how much responsibility I want to claim). But what I’ve learned through meditating is that often when I want to run, it is a means of avoidance. Resistance. And resistance is futile. It is futile to resist negativity, because ‘wherever you go, there you are.’ Unless I address and correct the problems that made me unhappy in the first place, I will carry that negativity and unhappiness wherever I move. As a wise person told me, sometimes I need to stay still and work through “it” rather than trying to leave “it” behind.

So, I did end up saying goodbye to one library. I probably should (should-ing all over myself) have made that move much sooner, in order to support healthy boundaries and surround myself with people who inspire me and help me grow instead of the opposite. But I have spent almost every day this week at my happy place library, or in the company of the wonderful people who work there. They have invited me to book and writing events, and urged me to keep writing. They, as well as my tribe at home, have encouraged me about the job search and stated that above all, they want me to be happy and do what’s best for me. And that community, support and love from both places is more than I can ask for, especially when I lose trust in my decision-making and ability to know what is best for me.

My priority is to rebuild my career confidence (and confidence in general?), and to find a place where I will like what I do on a daily basis. This also means doing more things I like and that are good for me like meditating, writing, exercising, engaging with new people and experiences… all those things that bolster my strength to face and work through anxiety. Somewhere in the stress of decision-making and planning a move, many of those intentions fell by the wayside. Having anxiety requires constant vigilance! Being mindful means making a habit of noticing what my emotions are doing, and reconnecting to my body and the world outside myself. Like in one of my favorite Curious George quotations, for me, it is so easy to forget.

Unlike Curious George, this story doesn’t have a pleasing ending yet. But I do promise to be more present for all the people close to my heart, whether geographically or figuratively.

anxiety, be a better human, books, coworkers, librarians, meditation, talking

Balance.. and quitting

I just finished a book I checked out in June. (I know, I know, I rag on others for their excessive renewals. But I wasn’t done! And I have the hookup for renewals!)

I remember fondly the day I checked this book out. It was a weekday afternoon, and I had just gotten sushi for lunch with my friend and coworker. She returned to work, and I told another coworker I was there to pick up the book waiting for me on the hold shelf. Because we are book people, she was interested: what book was it!? Her unasked questions, I know well: was it new? Was it a novel or nonfiction? Should she know about it?

The gleam in her eye turned to laughter when I showed her: a random, nondescript, nonexciting book published in 1992 about Kundalini yoga practice. I was the only one excited about this book. And I wasn’t even that excited. After all, it took me a while to start, and a whiiiile to complete.

This is partly an effect of reading multiple books at a time: sometimes it takes me ages to finish a physical book. Audiobooks zip by. But turning the actual pages takes time (especially since I check out too many at once). Staring at my giant pile of library books, topped by books people have loaned me, it becomes harder to get through books that don’t hook me right away.. or lag in the middle.. or ones that I set aside in order to read something else.. It’s summer, so I’m giving myself a break on how much time it takes to complete my ever-replenishing piles! I’m out doing summery activities and not reading as much! I gave myself permission a couple weeks to not post a blog (mini-quitting).

And when I am reading, I want to enjoy it. As good as Just Mercy is, it is also about people wrongfully convicted and their prison stories. As far as I’m concerned, we are on a break. I’ll return to it eventually, but it wasn’t what I needed right now. As interested as I was in Infectious Madness, there is only so much research I can plod through before I say I GET IT I GET OK OK OK. It is interesting–in some cases, various psychiatric disorders can be brought about by bacteria, but there were just. so. many. pages. I gave myself permission to quit after dutifully reading half of it.

But the 1992 Kundalini book, I would not allow myself to give up. I needed to read it. No matter how farfetched and ridiculous it sounded. Even if it meant I stopped and started and stopped and started. This form of yoga/meditation, based entirely on chakras (energies) and the vibrational effects of various sounds, is woo-woo and far out and yet, all I know is that I leave classes in a better, more balanced mood. (That is why I like it so much.) Actual words I spoke to other drivers after class today: “you’re so silly!” and “hello, traffic! I am prepared for you!” It’s weird. Weirdly positive. Especially compared to the expletives that usually make up my communication with fellow roadmates.

Since I can’t always get to class, I read this book and can do more of the breathing exercises and movements at home (once I get over how weird it feels to do them by myself; somehow it is more natural in a group). Kundalini (movement/meditation), combined with exercise, nature and connection to others are what keep me from falling back into the everyday rut of anxiety and negativity. Even so, I can still slip into those habits within hours of working out, or another positive experience of some kind. I need to build and use my anti-anxiety toolkit, using whichever methods give me success, as weird as they may be. There is no quitting in anxiety–on either end.

anxiety, be a better human, depression, kindness, meditation, strangers, talking

Stress/Anxiety/Depression & Relaxation/Meditation/Vacation

I really needed a vacation.

Everyone in the US probably does, because we generally work too much and relax too little. For months, arguably longer, I have been stuck in a negative feedback loop about work and where I live and generally doing life “wrong,” or at least not in the way I want to. Turning 30 helped this third-life crisis, but anxiety has a brutal way of sinking its hooks in deep.

Vacation, it was! For a friend’s wedding. And this time, I was doing this one differently, even before I left. Responsible for the planning, my friend/co-traveler/co-bridesmaid told me she was too busy to weigh in on everything. She trusted me. I can just send her links and tell her what to pay. It was great! I like trust! And planning! Whereas in the past, I may have been paralyzed with the responsibility, this time around I welcomed the project and chose lodging, still giving my friend the right to veto.

Now, I like planning because I like having things set, determined. Unambiguous. My anxieties are particularly triggered by transportation and the timing/cost thereof. I proposed a suggested itinerary in February, and when I got the go-ahead for the general dates, I almost immediately booked my tickets, out of fear the price would surge. Because it always does when I wait. Normally, I would have just worked myself into a resentful panic about co-travelers 1/2 and them reserving their flights. I did not want to pressure others or myself, so instead, I did not. I just did what I needed to do and let her do the same. Co-traveler 2 didn’t schedule her flights until within a month of the wedding, but she was also busy and the plans were set up, and eventually it all worked out. It was fine!

This may make an underwhelming story, but it represents a TON of growth and improvement. Many vacations, I bring all my mental crap along with me and am unable to escape and enjoy myself. I can be cranky and wish I had just stayed home and saved the money. My goal for this trip, though, was to be truly present, enjoying the people and places around me. And then I made a plan to travel by myself on the first day, because the rest of co-travelers didn’t arrive until the next day and I had never traveled by myself ever, much less in a foreign land.

This would be good for me, I reasoned. I would see the beautiful sights I wanted to see, and I would be jolted out of my comfort zone (but not sooo far–I opted for a bus so that I would not have to book/catch multiple trains). I would arm myself with offline maps, and I would take responsibility for feeding and entertaining myself for a whole day! (Yes, technically, I do this at home, but that gets boring and tedious, and here I was Seizing The Day and such.) The jet lag would only serve to help me, I reasoned. Meeting a tour group at 7am would be fine, because I would fall asleep early!

Then I learned from my awesome Airbnb hostess that I had to catch a 6:09am bus. Even if arrival times are flexible, I tend to run late and stress myself about possibly being tardy. In this case, I also would have missed my whole day’s plan and flushed a bunch of money as well as my independent-lady-traveler-bragging-rights down the toilet.

I did the thing I was not supposed to do… I let myself fall asleep at 6:00pm–only to wake up at midnight, wide awake and counting down until my 5:00am alarm. Meditating didn’t work, because the anxiety of catching the bus was not letting me go. I was out of bed at sunrise after several hours of tossing and turning, and waiting at the (not-so-quickly-determined incorrect) bus stop at 5:45am. My fear had come true, and I walked past the correct bus stop, walking first to the one farther down and across the street. I did not learn this from the nun, the lone pedestrian who passed me and, kindly, attempted to speak to me though we didn’t share a language. Her, probably the person most inclined to help in the town, I was meek to ask for help. To admit I didn’t know what I was doing. Thankfully, anxiety-earliness meant I had budgeted enough time to miss one bus, and miss it, I did. Not for lack of trying–I sprinted, but to no avail. It was now 6:00. Fifteen minutes is a long time to stand in the cool morning air, hoping I wore the right thing for the day’s temperature, but shivering in the meantime. The sprinting woke me up, and I was not letting another bus leave without me. Not without a fight. I had no more time to spare. The next one didn’t display the same destination and it wasn’t slowing down, but I flagged it just in time. I had to actually speak to the driver, confirming my stop. He said yes! I was triumphant.

The morning was gorgeous, sunny and crisp. The past six hours of sleeplessness had been worth it, just to make this slow and uneventful bus at the nearest to sunrise I had seen in a long time. I looked out the windows at Rome as the locals lived it, away from the city center and the tourist lures. Another man got on, a local, and asked the driver for the same stop as I had–I cheered silently for his good fortune too. I wasn’t the only one who had to ask, plus, I now had a marker for whether I would miss my stop! I had made my plan, and now it was in motion. I would make it! It was destined to be a good experience, because I had already done the hardest part.

Before I started meditating, and actively working to be my best self, I would have been a monster that day. I would have whined and complained about how tired I was. I would maybe have succumbed to the anxieties and just emailed the tour company and asked for my money back because I didn’t want to even deal with leaving. In a nutshell, I would have let my thoughts derail me.

That day was not perfect, and I caught myself being unkind to my fellow tour-goers and to myself, but all in all, I didn’t complain because there was no one to complain to. I shushed myself and reminded myself that I had navigated the public transportation in a city where I barely spoke 10 phrases of the language. I thought with gratitude of my Airbnb hostess and how thorough and kind her directions were, despite my spastic communication. I grumbled a bit when lunch (a piece of fish and an espresso) cost $37, but, the views!! Nothing was bringing me down. This was my day.

So, I saw some marvelous sights: Pompeii in all its historical glory, and Positano, one of the most beautiful tourist traps of all time. It was a roller coaster of emotions, but I recommend traveling solo based on how independent it made me feel. And, I did it with the training wheels of a group tour where I just showed up! More adventurous folk plan trains and hike with backpacks and sleep outdoors! There are plenty of options. Either way, it was a great start to my vacation, made me open my eyes and explore.

The whole vacation did knock me out of my routine and funk…once I got over the post-vacation mini-depression of returning to real life. I wanted to leave being present on vacation, because coming back, I saw the same errors and flaws. Other than my motivation. I was the person who traipsed around Italy by herself: I didn’t let the self-pity last long. I went to a yoga class, and I reached out to an awesome friend who made room in her weekend for me. I wrote some postcards and thought about how lucky I am to have the friends and family I do. I returned to daily meditation. I feel recentered.

And my real life is far from all-bad. Yesterday, a customer came into the library looking for audiobooks by Pema Chodron. As I started to read the titles off to her, I commented to her that I hadn’t heard of her, but now wanted to listen to them! She raved about one, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. We had a lovely chat, she told me to read at least that book. When we introduced ourselves, I put out my hand to shake hers, but she said “I’m going to hug you, if that’s okay!” And she did. And it was. Vacation and meditation have mellowed me enough that strangers* hugging me is okay. In a nutshell, I’m feelin the love from the universe this week. The trick will be to manage my stress and keep the contentment/gratitude going as life sneaks back to normal.

Walking to bus station at sunrise, to Positano… Worth all the pennies.

 

*strangers who have two-way conversations with me about meditation and books first.