Tuesday, January 17, 2017

You have no power over me...

"Through dangers untold. And hardships unnumbered. I have fought my way here to the castle; beyond the goblin city, to take back the child that you have stolen. My will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great...you have no power over me..."

- Sarah to the Goblin King, Labyrinth

Late last week I experienced what is called a triggering event.  I won't be sharing the event here, but I will share that it led to extremes of anxiety and self loathing.  Human interaction became extremely difficult because everything in me wanted to shut down and go into hiding.  My emotions were very close to the surface and I found myself in that terribly uncomfortable place of crying in public on more than one occasion.  I spent much of the weekend self medicating and binging on Netflix.  Many of my healthier coping mechanisms went right out the window

"Hostess.  Frito-Lay. Hersheys. Red, red wine. Won't you come join me at my little party of self loathing?  Let's sit together and dwell on all of my flaws shall we?"

This of course led to that horrible cycle of self talk in which I berate myself for not dealing with the situation well, which leads to more not so healthy coping mechanisms, and thus more beating myself up over how poorly I am managing this....and...

"Welcome friend, you managed to bypass The Wallow and dive head on into The Pit - here's a cozy black hole of despair to hang out it - you aren't likely leaving anytime soon so let's get you nice and comfortable...."

Monday finally rolled around (thank you three day weekend) and I managed to climb my way out of The Pit.  I got it together enough to go for a walk.  I made sure to hydrate and rest.  I wrote in my journal about the event and my response to it.  It was there that I wrote how I was so tired of the events of my past continuing to have power over me.

I paused in my writing.  It seemed such a simple revelation.  Past events, traumas, hurts, loss - all of these things impact how we relate to the world.  Long after the event has passed it continues to have power over us. They events linger in our minds, waiting for some action, or scent, or sound, or whatever to bring them raging back to the surface with all of their caravans of unresolved emotions, snatching us up to be unwilling passengers.  But they don't have to...

I know it is not just a matter of saying it.  Unlike Sarah, by uttering the words I won't be instantly whisked away to a land of high self-esteem and solidly healthy coping mechanisms.  The next time some monster triggering event comes along it is quite likely my brain will accept its offer of an express ticket to The Pit, but when I come out, as today, I'll still be doing the work.  And so there is hope that maybe one of these times I'll recognize the creature for what it is and maybe, finally, I'll look it in the eye...

"You have no power over me..."

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Musings on Regret

"Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh." -  Henry David Thoreau

Before I go any further, I want to ask folks to please refrain from telling me, or anyone else who might express similar feelings, how useless, pointless or irrelevant regret is.  Regret may indeed be all or some of those things, but saying such to someone who expresses that this is the emotion that they are feeling is at the least inconsiderate and worse, totally invalidating.  And when someone is sharing their pain generally what they need is someone to listen and not give advice - at least not unless it is asked for.

I am sure that there is some evolutionary psychologist out there who has made the attempt to explain why humans feel regret.  They might say it is akin to guilt, that it helps us to figure out those things that take away from our tribe's ability to survive. Regret makes us feel bad because we did something that isn't beneficial or helpful or that furthers the good future of our particular group or family.  When you feel bad about something you are less likely to repeat the action.

Regret, though, can also be about all of the things we never dared, the things we set aside in order to do something that society deemed better or more safe or that we just found made us less afraid. Regret can be so deeply personal, and it is usually fueled by hindsight.  Which  might be why so many say it is a useless feeling because a big reason why we regret certain decisions is because we now know how the choices we made turned out.

And if those choices turned out not so great, well the other choice...it must surely have been better.

We only have a certain number of years allotted to us.  The path we choose can take decades to play out and when we realize that perhaps it was not the best choice to have made, we have fewer decades remaining ahead than we have behind us.  I am quite sure that more than one midlife crisis has been fueled by such realizations.

We should have a national holiday for regret, where everyone is allowed to openly grieve for the roads not taken, the loves not pursued, the joys left behind.  We would line up and process past an open and empty casket; a wake for all of our unspoken poor choices.  Candles would be lit for each forgotten dream and flowers laid at the foot of the statue of an angel who looks over their shoulder weeping with one foot raised ready to step ahead into the future anyway.

Later, over a feast of food and drink, we'd share the stories of how we thought things might have turned out.  We'd admonish all of the children who have been allowed to stay up late to hear the tales to listen to their hearts, to care more, live more, love more.  And later, as we make our way to slumber, we'd wonder how many listened.

I think most of us eventually learn to live with the choices we have made.  We learn to carry, as best we can, whatever regret, sadness and grief come our way and keep walking ahead anyway.  We learn to enjoy the moments of peace or happiness that we find because we know how fleeting they can be.

Perhaps that is the lesson in regret, not to learn to not repeat past mistakes, but instead to appreciate and cherish the times when we, despite all of our human flaws, actually get it right.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Doldrums

The Doldrums.  Wikipedia defines it as, "a colloquial expression derived from historical maritime usage, which refers to those parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm. The doldrums are also noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sail-powered boats for periods of days or weeks."

It is also my happy place.  Well, as happy of a place as I have any way.

I have been working with my therapist on how to deal with those moments when I find myself in an emotional state that has become overwhelming.  Sometimes this is anxiety, but more often than not lately, the past year anyway, it is a deep sadness and profound sense of self loathing.  When the spiral down into this state becomes a direct, uncontrollable plummet to the-world-sucks-I-suck-nothing-is-ever-going-to-improve-because-I-am-rotten-unworthy-and-I-deserve-nothing-good-let's-just-dwell-forever-in-the-land-of-Shitsville.

When, in a recent session, I was asked to close my eyes and imagine a place that made me feel calm. My mind went right to the middle of the Atlantic; specifically the Doldrums (yes, there is some irony here...).  It is a part of the sea where the swells and long and low, and the air can be utterly still.  There is no land in sight.  Just open sky and a massive, infinite expanse of blue water.  There is also a sense of surrender, because when you are in this place, you are thousands of miles from anywhere and if something were to happen, you have only the resources at hand to deal with it.

For someone who has control issues this has the potential to be quite terrifying. But for me, floating along on a ship through the middle of the Atlantic there was also a deep feeling of letting go; a peacefulness that I, one who is ever watchful for the next catastrophe, had not experienced before. I'm not sure I recognized it at the time, but when asked to take my mind to the place that brought me the most peace, something inside of me certainly did.

I've spent a lot of time in the Doldrums this past week.  Taking my mind to that peaceful place on the sea, taking lots of deep breaths, trying, trying, trying to recenter and remind myself that the only thing I have any control over is me.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

A cat and her teddy - because
we all need to have a bit of a smile.
I'm pretty sure that there is nothing I could write here that would do 2016 justice.  There are bloggers far more talented than I who stand a much better chance of adequately summarizing the crash and burn roller coaster ride that was 2016.  If you were to travel back in time to December 31, 2015 and tell me where we would be on this day a year later...

...well the truth is I'm not sure how I'd react.  I might think you were fucking with me, but there would be a part of me that would want to believe you really did travel back in time to send me a message, and then I'd think about the consequences of what you'd just said...and how if you really did travel back than your prediction might also be true as well.   But I'd likely dismiss that as just fantasy because the possibility of that happening was so ludicrous.  And I'd go back to believing you were just some weirdo trying to mess with my head.

And then ten months and eight days later I'd have found out what you said was true.

I'm not sure my wonder of learning that time travel was real would have been enough to overcome the feelings of despair I faced in early November.  My own fear and that of my friends, neighbors and community members was far too present and besides, you Mr. or Ms. time traveler, are now long gone and we remain here, having to live with the outcome.  If I thought of you at all, it would probably have been with resentment.

But maybe at some point I'd have started to wonder why you came back to New Year's Eve 2015, and why, of all people, did you choose to speak to me?  Did you do so because I could make a difference?  Or maybe something went wrong?  I don't know how this time travel thing works.  You could have meant to appear at the door of some great hero of might and media who would save us all, but for whatever reason you appeared to me.

And if it wasn't a mistake, just what the hell was I supposed to do about it?  I mean you are from the future - you must have known I'd have dismissed your claims.   Was that it?  Was I not supposed to figure it out until now?  Is there something I'm supposed to do?

I'd go over ever word you said to me in our encounter for some hint of what my next step was supposed to be.  I'd probably bring in a few friends who, though skeptical, love the idea of a puzzle and so help me to figure out the solution.  And then...somehow, we'd have a crazy adventure, with many trials and, only after almost losing everything, we'd save the day?

I'm not sure I'd wish that were the case.  I don't know how I would react to such an unfolding of events.  To have the burden of saving the world resting squarely on my shoulders.  The responsibility of being that sort of hero seems far too overwhelming.

But here we are, all of us, being called upon to be heroes.  Because the fate of the world, or at least those we love, really does rest with all of us.  We have to make sure that decency, love, equality, truth, remain something that is still alive in our hearts, our homes and our neighborhoods.

Together, we need to express our outrage and our fears.  We need to stand up to shout and sit to listen.  We must hold each other up and provide each other with space for rest.  We must make sure our fellow humans are fed, sheltered and warm.  We must try to be the people we imagine heroes to be.

I wish there was a singular hero, someone to come set things right.  There is instead just us.  Us.  And the responsibility isn't any less, though it is, thankfully, shared.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Moon

I did an entire month of blogging daily and then...stopped for nearly a month.

When I finished that last post in November I felt like I could have written daily for another 30 days.  It had become habit, or so I thought. Instead a day, two days, a week tick tokked by without a single blog post.

I could give you 50 reasons why, okay maybe 10 or 5...

1.  I'm processing a mess of old shit that keeps cycling back into my life.  You know that sort of stuff that you know you will likely have to deal with for the rest of your life and the only solace seems to be that it gets just a tiny bit easier to face every time.

2. Reason number one triggered a deeepressssive episooooode which left me shuffling through mental goo for a solid three weeks.  It took me the first two to figure let go of the "Oh, I can manage this.  Nothing to see here," attitude and I finally sought help...and YAY, therapy!

3. It's winter.  It's dark by like 4:30 and my brain seems to be on the same cycle as the sun.

4. I've had a couple of weeks where I've had no real obligations other than the day jobs and feeding the cat.  It has been rather nice.  The days where I have had a thought about maybe writing a blog post it was quickly followed by the thought, "Well, maybe later today...or not ever."

5. I'm really, really, really freaking tired.  So I've been giving myself permission to stop doing things when I have used up the small amount of energy I seem to have right now.

Today though I wanted to write. The new moon seemed as good a day as any to start clickety clacking words out again.  So here I am.  Hello, how are you?

I suppose you can expect an end of the year post soon.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Day 30: A word...or four

It is the last day of NaBloPoMo and I'll be using the final prompt of the month for today's post:

"Have you chosen a word of the year for yourself for 2017? What is it? If not, what words would you consider?"

A couple of years ago I set an intention for the year.  I don't recall what it was.  I might have done it at the beginning of 2016, but unless I wrote it in my journal (which I'm too lazy to get up and retrieve from its shelf), I don't recall that either.  Maybe a word, one simple word, will be easier than a full on intention.

What words would I consider for 2017?

Hope comes to mind first.  I think we are going to need it.  I think we will need to remind ourselves that somewhere ahead of us in this dark tunnel is a light.  I think we will need to remember that there is an generation coming up whose values are more progressive and open than any before.   We will make progress.

Work.  Work because there is going to be so much of it that must be done.  I expect difficult times; that we will need to take a stand over and over and over again.  I expect moments of exhaustion, but the work will be done because there really isn't any other option.

Community.  Do I need to explain this one?  I can say this for the election results, it has brought people together.  I have seen and experienced friends reaching out to each other in concrete ways (you know, beyond the usual social media likes and virtual hugs).  I sent of a few dozen holiday cards this week, something I've not done in years, because I wanted to connect in a more real way.  We will need to continue to come together, to support one another, and to love one another.

Finally, I'd pick joy, because even in the toughest of times we need to celebrate the high moments. We need to share cake on birthdays, spontaneous picnics and potluck dinners (yes, my joy often involves food).  Even gloomy old me has to smile once in a while.

Hope. Work. Community. Joy.

There are my words for 2017.  Somehow I think this coming year's words will be more difficult to forget.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Day 29: One to go...

Tomorrow will mark the end of this year's NaBloPoMo.  Assuming that I write a post tomorrow, it will be the first time I've successfully completed it in the month of November when the rest of the blogosphere is participating. I have usually done it in the month of December when I was on break from school.

I enjoy blogging.  Writing has always been one of my primary tools for processing emotions, change, and significant life events and this month was full of such events.  On the upside this made for a lot of available blog fodder and I rarely found myself drawing a blank as to what to write about. In fact I was more likely to have a need to write about something I didn't want to yet share, than I was to have a desire to share and found I had no topic to write about.

This month my blog contained far more personal emotional expression than it usually does.  This was, I think, a good exercise for me because I often tend to keep painful things close - usually out of shame, embarrassment or simply not wanting to seem a bother.  But the events of the past several weeks were overwhelming and I actually found myself unable to contain them.  I was grateful to have this forum as well as my friends and family as support.

I discovered too that my writing did not benefit just me.  Several people shared their feelings on what I wrote.  Through comments, emails and a few face to face conversations, people shared what resonated with them and expressed that my experience helped them in some way.  They felt a little more connected, a little less alone.

I can't really ask for a better compliment than that.  Connection and understanding are things we all need and if this blog provides some of that in even a small way it is worth the time and effort I put into it.

I've one more post to go.  Thank you for taking the time to read these posts, for sharing them and commenting on them.  Thank you for connecting.