The Origin of Things.

I spend a lot of time contemplating the origin of things these days. Feelings, emotions, thoughts, reactions… all that stuff. I want to know where it comes from, what’s causing it, etc., because at some point, I realized that figuring out where things come from helps me determine whether or not it’s an appropriate feeling/though/emotion/reaction to the current situation at hand. And ultimately, it helps me to return to the source and nip that shit in the bud.

So, like, last week I was having horrible anxiety. The kind that prevented me from sleeping, but rendered me unable to do (or want to do) much else. Brain running a mile a minute, constant butterflies, inability to focus, underlying sadness… and it was a visceral reaction to a situation that honestly didn’t warrant it. Adding insult to injury, I wound up acting on it (in a relatively minor way, thank goodness) and then having to own the behavior. It wasn’t comfortable, for a lot of reasons.

But I know all the right things to do, right? I reminded myself to sit with it. I forced myself to reach out to friends, who all helped in their own ways. I made dinner plans with family. In other words, I got back to the business of being me, instead of allowing the anxiety (and resulting shitty thoughts and feelings) to rule things, and it helped. Immensely. So much so that, 24 hours later, I’d made the transition from worrying and stressing and having my catastrophizing imagination on overdrive, to seeing the reality of the situation and no longer giving a shit. I referred to it in my ThxFriday post as achieving WTF enlightenment and “whatever” nirvana.

There’s a lot of freedom to be found in not caring. (I’ve been applying this lesson everywhere, and boy howdy, does it work!)

And yet, that still doesn’t solve the original issue. There’s a lot to be said for reconditioning, and it’s entirely possible I could heal it all up and reprogram my brain and anxiety response simply by engaging with people who live life with integrity and who treat me with respect and loving kindness. Learning to trust people and situations, as well as the truth that I will be okay, no matter what. I have every intention of doing all of that, regardless. But I also think I need to identify triggers, trace them back, and sort through THAT. Tending to the structural integrity of my psyche, you know? Little dings in the armor here and there are fine, but at some point after 40 years, things begin to warp and crack and break.

Right now, I think my reaction to certain things/situations is broken, and while it’s feeling a lot better, I don’t want to have to contend with this for the rest of my life if I don’t have to. Anxiety makes me imagine the worst – and then believe my thoughts. I get rattled, confused, distracted, short-tempered, fearful, stuck in fight or flight, and basically experience a complete loss of self. It’s pretty terrible. It’s a toss-up between recognizing it’s not “truth,” and feeling completely powerless to do anything about it, as to which part sucks the hardest.

Anyway. It seems to me that this particular anxiety started in my late 20’s. Prior to that, I’d spent years coming at relationships from a place of insecurity, but it was different. I have a feeling that the two years spent in a dysfunctional, drug-fueled, traumatic relationship with a junkie who would disappear for days at a time to be with the woman he really loved, only to come back when he needed something or when she’d push him away, left me with a touch of the PTSD. All of that in conjunction with extended crystal meth use probably did a number on my brain, because the things I imagine now – the thoughts that pass through my mind when I’m feeling insecure or afraid – are a lot more intense (and ridiculous, and awful) than they ever used to be before. It’s possible, too, that some of it comes from age and allowing it to fester, as well as being in several less than stellar relationships afterward which only served to exacerbate (and reaffirm) the fears and insecurities.

So there’s a lot of work to be done. I know where it comes from, I know it’s not based in reality and that there’s a difference between the anxious gut and my REAL gut. They say very different things, a lot of the time. This past week or two has been a prime example. Thankfully, I’m learning to speak and understand/interpret both languages, and operate accordingly.

ThxFriday, The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack Edition.

Sleep as respite; perfect weather for a Hustle; voicing concerns and riding the waves; learning again to sit with/in silence; all of my dudes and the Sunday soothe; the Jack Palance mantra; heeding the need for comfort; impromptu family dinners; after-dinner drinks and listening parties; Isbell and Buckley from the sweet spot; curling up to football; internet search mishaps; achieving WTF enlightenment and the “whatever” nirvana; Music City PandA; finally getting the joke; backing the truck up; Minnesota musings; poolside cocktails, Wooten brothers badassery, late-night stops at the ML Rose, and Alice in Chains (Layne Staley 4Ever); calm and truth on the other side of anxiety; sleeping in – just a bit; keeping it simple; calendar perspective; the magic of trouble/worry jars and learning to leave it there; and a weekend ahead of tending to and sending off and hanging on and letting go.

ThxFriday, Mitigation Edition.

Pizza and wine over Slayer and rain; sunshine; cool air; blue skies; elevated trains; art institutes; coffee shops; walkable neighborhoods; friendly hosts; clarifying questions for sanity’s sake; time with friends in faraway towns; Descendents (I’m the one – I’ve been here for you all along); opting for culture; museums of science and industry; easy transport to airports; the journey home; someone to curl up with at the end of a trip; furniture building, cocktail drinking, air clearing, and progress making; late nights worth the next-day struggle; seeing where there’s room to grow; early bedtimes; sunbeams shooting out of butts; birthday celebrations; surviving the roller coaster; coming clean; self-advocacy; building trust; necessary steps; giving and taking space to be cranky (and learning it’s not the end of the world); mini-explosions and the relief they provide; the Firefly refuge; unexpected together time; and waking up to yet another chance to get things right.

ThxFriday, RIOT FEST Edition.

Finding joy in Costco trips; sushi and special treatment; opting for low-key; church bake sales with impromptu family time bonus; cookies!: healing, insights, perspective, adjustments, and holding presence through all of it; Pharmacy burgers and malts; trusting the process; putting hard work to work; more Formula One, please; giving and taking space; ladies who pedicure (and make me laugh); deep breath benefits; Shit Kickers victories; invitations to share, no matter the medium; wallowing (call it contemplation, y’all) and letting it pass; more good news on the “getting to go home” front; ant traps and bug spray; furniture deliveries; bites of ice cream; enjoying journeys instead of forcing destinations; productivity and handling ya business; reassuring doctor visits; and a long weekend ahead of Chicago adventures, fun, friends, music… and some gold waiting for me at the end of that rainbow. Better than a grilled cheese! <3

Brain Dump: “It Takes a Village” Edition.

As per the usual, there have been several things swirling around in my head to which I’ve only lent bits and pieces of attention. Whether due to lack of interest or lack of focus, I tend to fare better when I get it all out on “paper” for further inspection. With that said… get comfortable. This may take a while.

  1. Several years ago, I was kinda sorta starting to date someone, and I guess we were spending a fair amount of time together? At this point, I don’t even remember. But a friend of mine told me I was spending too much time with the guy, that he and I should be hanging out with other people, as well as doing our own thing, too. I am sure the advice was well-intentioned, but it only served to add to my pre-existing hypersensitivity about “Relationship Island.” You know, that place you go when you first start dating someone, and want to devote time to building a relationship and getting to know the person? Right. So, for whatever reason, that has stuck with me, but I’m finally beginning to see how there are way too many sides to that perspective for it to be so cut and dried/black and white: the person saying it could have felt threatened; that same person could have simply been repeating what someone had once said to them; it very well could have been an unhealthy amount of alone time with the guy; it may have been more of an attempt to introduce some balance into my life (I’m a lot better at balance now than I ever used to be)… and yet, I had every right to spend as much time with someone as I damn well pleased.
  2. So I’ve been pondering “Relationship Island” for a lot of reasons, and it touches on a lot of different things for me. Because of my history and experience, I don’t ever want my friends or family to feel as though I’ve ditched them for a man, or that I ever would. It feels like shit. I understand that we are driven, biologically and otherwise, to pair up, and that some people value romantic relations over all else. I also trust that my friends, the ones who know and love me, understand when I meet someone with whom I choose to spend a lot of my time. I like to think that if I disappeared off the face of the earth for a dude, or if I screwed someone over for the sake of a man, my friends would lovingly call me out on it. I also understand that I am *especially* sensitive to it, for a lot of reasons, and not everyone cares nearly as much about it as I do.
  3. Bearing all of that in mind, I am pretty happy with the way things are going with the current dude (I will call him “ninja” or N. for short). We are spending a good amount of time together, but we’ve hung out with friends and family, as well as just on our own, and it has all been fairly seamless. Easy. And I am still taking the time to do my own thing, as is he. It’s kind of awesome how it’s all working out so far.
  4. I was feeling insecure about something yesterday and today; a little sad, too. So he and I talked about it. There was really nothing he could do to change it, nor would I want him to, but he did tell me that I can, and should, always feel like I can trust him with those thoughts and feelings. This is HUGE, after dating so many people who either had no concept of what respectful communication and emotional connection, etc. looks like, or were just completely on the defensive and preferred to keep me quiet, to keep from challenging them at all. It feels like we are building a friendship. I know it’ll take some time to get there with the whole trust thing, but it feels really nice to be met halfway with it.
  5. I always feel like I need to handle all the things myself (all of my emotional junk, anyway). That it’s not fair to put my stuff on someone else, when it has little or nothing to do with them and current circumstance. And then, there’s the part of me that isn’t fully in touch with my emotions/feelings yet, still, so I feel compelled to sit with things until I fully understand them and what it’s affecting in me. Today, even just the thought of trying to talk about things with him made me want to cry, which is how I knew I was overreacting to something ELSE, not the situation at hand. Because nothing was wrong; I was just feeling tiny and afraid.
  6. I was smart enough and aware enough to know that it would be a good idea to reach out to some friends and get in some girl time today, if possible. So I did, and we did. Pedicures! I am so, so grateful to have women in my life who I can call or text or hang out with, share what I’m struggling with, and be met with love, compassion, understanding, and humor. Because if you can’t laugh at yourself being/feeling/acting/thinking like a nutcase, you’re kinda screwed.
  7. I’m reading a book with a terrible title. It was recommended to me by my wonder-therapist, and so far, it’s pretty spot-on. So because there are old things that still need tending to and healing, I am at least now more aware of the fact that it has the ability to impact and affect my current relationships. And how. All the more reason it’s so important to me to do the work. I want to be as healthy and present as possible – not just for my own benefit, but for those around me, too.
  8. Last night, the ninja and I were talking about why it can be so hard to see pictures from someone’s past. Like, pictures of your current partner when they were with someone else, for example. Why so many people feel compelled to erase that history – at least online. I’m certainly “guilty” of that. To my knowledge, there are few or no photos of me with ex-boyfriends anywhere on my social media outlets. And it’s not that I regret the relationships or want to pretend like they never happened; there’s just no need for me to see that stuff. Especially if we’re no longer in contact. It’s a sensitive and delicate thing. And I’ve got plenty of photos to post without that person in them. Plus, I just assume that if I start dating someone else, that’s the last thing THEY’RE going to want to see. Right? But why? What is so threatening or scary or sad or insecurity-inducing about that stuff? Is it because there’s a history there that you weren’t part of? Because someone else got there first? Because you haven’t had the same experiences (or better ones) yet? I guess there’s a lot to it. But I don’t want to fall prey to insecurity based on some instinctual thing without even questioning it.
  9. The interesting part was that N. told me there were studies done about how we, as humans, are only able to really live in the present time. (I’m probably going to screw this up, but I should get pretty close.) So, basically, I am experiencing him in the present moment, and that’s all I can really do, right? But when he talks to me about his ex-girlfriends or ex-wife, it feels like I’m experiencing THAT in present time, too. Even though the relationships are over, they’ve ended, and he’s adjusted to his new reality (or is in the process), for whatever reason it still feels as though that relationship is a current thing. And I guess, rather than working on incorporating his past into my experience of him in the present, it just feels easier to pretend like there WAS nothing before me. (This is hypothetical, because I really want nothing to do with pretending anything, much less living in denial!) I guess I’m just trying to figure out where some things come from, and how to best navigate it all, right?
  10. And that actually explains my own arrested development when it comes to… well, everyone. It’s like life ceases to occur and time stops, whenever I’m not around someone. So I’m often surprised and moderately dismayed at all the things that have happened or are taking place when I’m not around. My friends who live in other cities/states/countries and have kids… that’s the big one. Whenever the kids have birthdays, I’m always taken aback. How the hell did that happen? “Well… duh.”
  11. Anyway. The most interesting thing to me, right now anyway, is how I’ve been making my way through all this stuff. Paying attention to emotional responses to things, recognizing where it’s all coming from, whether it’s legit or based on old stuff… and, most importantly, just sitting with it long enough to parse all of it. I still have a lot of work to do, both in learning how to communicate about it all (in real time, instead of in writing later on) as well as tending to old business and healing it properly so it has less of an impact on current circumstances. I’m pretty excited about it all, though; I finally feel like I’m a pretty solid human, with a lot to offer. It’ll take a little while to trust that I can speak up without fear of someone running away (or at least remembering that if they DO run away, they’re doing you a goddamn favor), but that comes with time more than anything else.
  12. N. was talking about how he’ll be interested to see how we navigate our first fight/disagreement/etc. That to him, it can be a pretty good indicator of how you’ll fare, long-term. It’s never occurred to me to pay attention to that sort of thing, but I suppose you can learn a lot about a person by how they fight. Right? I’m not much for fighting; conflict upsets me a great deal, but again, it’s because of my history and fear of abandonment. I was always taught to shove things deep down inside and have no opinions. So… yeah. I do my best to avoid conflict, but I also am at a point where I won’t make nice for the sake of avoidance anymore. I do believe there are respectful ways to disagree and work through that stuff, but I also know it’s not always so simple. Nor is it easy to do in the heat of a moment. I could probably try to imagine every single potentially inflammatory/polarizing topic and try to script it for the best possible outcome, but there are better ways to spend my time and brain capacity, I’m sure of it. I just have to trust that we’re building a strong enough foundation of communication that, if it ever comes to that, we’ll be in good shape.
  13. Overall, I guess it’s fair to say that this weekend brought a few things to the surface and for the most part, I am just happy and relieved as hell to realize that a) I am pretty damn self-aware at this point, of triggers, needs, and progress I’ve already made, and b) I am dating a grown-ass man who is attuned, receptive, thoughtful, and kind. For starters. Praise be!
  14. I bought chicken at the butcher last Saturday, and never cooked it, so I just had to throw it away. That makes me sad. I’ve been falling down a bit on tending to things at home, so I’m ready to get back to it.
  15. I have a mouse in my house, and need to tend to THAT.
  16. There are also a lot of spiders in my house. I feel like I need to deep clean the joint. Or burn it down, one of the two.
  17. But I’m heading to Chicago on Thursday for Riot Fest, which means the deep cleaning and cooking and stuff will have to wait til I get back. Or, Tuesday.
  18. I know it’s silly, but N. and I won’t get to see each other til next week, and I kinda miss him already.
  19. I’ve decided I should go back to school next fall. That both scares the hell out of me and excites me to no end. I am ready to use my brain again, and ready to move into the next phase of things. All this digging around in my own brain/psyche has to be good for something, right? If I can get paid for it, all the better.
  20. Speaking of, N. and I went into a gallery yesterday, and there were a lot of paintings that reminded me of my own work. Selling for $500-1000+ each. *blink* He has a separate room (almost like an in-law, separate from the house) that he’s offered up for me to use however I want (I’m assuming he was serious), so I think I might start painting over there instead. And, you know, start making some money off it! Why not, right?
  21. 21 is half of 42, which is the answer to Life, the Universe, and everything (according to some). I’ve not read the book, but I’m content to end this list halfway there.

ThxFriday, Moderation (in moderation) Edition.

Cutting out early for a sassy cut and color; Porta Via pizza and a good kale salad; delicious advances in GF technology; early Saturday morning gym (plus that willingness thing); Noelle, Noelle, Noelle; FORMULA ONE HOLY SHIT Y’ALL; curling up and snuggling down; homemade tomato sauce; happy Sunday brunches; family dinner +1; toasted marshmallows and silly kids; three-day weekends; starting off the day with the giggles; driving with the top down on open road perfection; thumb wars and South Park; Fantasy Football funtime; full nights of sleep; leukemia-free kids who get to go home; finally feeling like a priority; Mas Tacos con amigos; all the reminders that I’m where I need to be; happy hour with new friends, and a dinner to beat the band; weeknight overnights; and waking up happy and grateful.

Life is so good.

ThxFriday, Good Times (ain’t we lucky we got ‘em) Edition.

Getting Sherlocked on a Friday night; moving Sunday to Saturday to make room for another Sunday; discovering the joy and wonder of cauliflower mash; Alegria and all the spicy dishes; naughty kids in Costco; the great VitaMix vs. Ninja debate; early morning gym time; gluten-free carrot cake cupcakes and whipped cream/cream cheese frosting; at-home overindulgent steakhouse experiences; days and nights filled with laughter; marked tendinitis recovery; using frustration to fuel determination; getting all the sleeps; sushi and football adventures (fun for the whole family!); Friday afternoon hair appointments; and three days ahead of honoring the American workforce by doing as little as humanly possible, in the company of people I adore.