Another Day…to Contemplate

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Yea, this picture, this is exactly what it feels like to be in my head on any given day. Contemplation over every single thing. Every single person. Every thought and emotion contemplated over and over and over again. Start…no stop. Do…no just be…still. My mind goes one million miles an hour from the minute I wake (before my eyes are even open) until the moment I drift off to sleep (only possible through medication). Obsessive? Compulsive? Manic? Depression? What does it really matter what you call it except that this is “Me”.

Interesting that I called this blog “Always Starting…The Art of Never Giving Up”. Initially, I wore this as a badge of honor; like a warrior in battle. Profound words indeed as I realize that the warrior in battle is only defined by how he leaves the fight; alive or dead. Success could be defined either way, if alive he won and persevered or maybe is alive as a prisoner of the war. If dead it could mean he was courageous in his fight or shot in the back while running away. Perspective. It is truly all we have; your perspective and mine.

I have learned through my life of therapy that you must respect everything that has helped you survive for without “it” who’s to say how it all would have ended. Addiction, compulsion, obsession, or whatever your tool, are survival mechanisms. Most are not sustainable in their original form but through adjustment can create incredible resources. Addiction in its most evil form can kill or harm however when redirected towards good can bring about major life change. Compulsion and obsession are also spontaneous and perfectionists in different forms. Perspective changes the judgment. If I say that “She is compulsive” it brings about a negative connotation however if I reframe it that “She is spontaneous” we reimagine someone free and liberated living a rich existence. Ha…perspective…what a lie.

By now you are reading and wondering, “Where is she going, as we are a mile down a rabbit hole and not sure if I am inspired or concerned?”. I am trying to realign my “resources” to stop the contemplation that threatens my sanity; and everyone around me. I am trying to figure out how to tame a “monkey mind” that is brilliant and yet all over the place. I am fighting deadlines and expectations as defined by me, myself, and I. I am wondering where you, the reader, fit into all of this or if you do. I post my writing and my activity to inspire…hmmm…or is it to get credit or yield criticism.

This is what contemplation looks like and where all other “diagnosis” exists. Call it what you will, or don’t. Understand it as you know it, or don’t. As one could guess I am not a “stick your head in the sand” kind of person; compulsive, obsessive, and contemplative people do not stick their heads in the sand. They do quite the opposite, they build 15 sandcastles and contemplate how many more to build; ultimately not needing one, let alone 15 sandcastles.

What is the purpose of today’s blog? Rant? Statement? I don’t really know. It is what was top of mind. It is where I am going to find an outlet. Contemplating the next thing I will write, the next thing I will do today or won’t. Contemplation.

Life as contemplate it — L.

Tortured by my Thoughts

I have the most overactive brain of anyone that I know. I am thinking all the time constantly going over and over every conversation, every emotion, every thought, every relationship, every bite of every food, everything!!! Nothing goes on without me overthinking the crap out of it!!! I am not certain where this comes from as I come from two human beings that never thought about what they were doing on the forefront let alone ever thought about it again.

I credit my overactive thought process for much of the success in my life and maybe for a bit of the failure. As I do I was sitting here thinking about my thoughts; if that is not an oxymoron I am not sure what is…but I digress. The first thought that came to mind was the question, “Is everything that happens in our life because of our parents?” The answer comes quickly that this cannot be the case as many people grow up without parents. Is the question then “Is everything that happens in our life formed by childhood?” If that is the case at what point do you own the responsibility?

I think about my spending habits and are quick to blame them on my Dad because my Mom was the most frugal person I have ever known. In reality, when I test this theory I realize that while I am “giving” like my Dad I am far more frivolous…maybe. Ha! Overthought but ultimately I own it. I love to spend money…guilty as charged.

I think about my children and watching them live out their lives and feel a bit of karma coming back on me as I see their choices and know they were not defined by their parents! That is not to say that they cannot place blame on us as their perception of where their character traits come from is theirs to decide…I guess?!

Ultimately I am not over-defining life I am overthinking it. Two very different things. Blaming my spending habits on my Dad is defining not thought-provoking. The overactive thought process has more to do with a constant dialogue in my brain that questions every move I make. I am rethinking conversations, wondering if I said enough or too much. For goodness sake, while I am in the conversation I am thinking about whether to stay silent, speak up or interrupt and then immediately as I take that action, I am rethinking if I should have…? Exhausting? Yes!

My actions are thought-provoking as well. Do it or don’t, should I or shouldn’t…decision made…regrets?? Nothing is done accidentally or maybe it is. Ha!! Made you dizzy yet? This is my brain, not on crack but cracking up, certifiably CRAZY.

When I came out with my first prompt journal, Seeking Normal, I sent my Dad a copy. I was proud to have published something even if it was a series of prompts and self-published (not diminishing, just stating facts) and wanted him to have it in hand. When he saw it the first thing he said was “you think too much”…what…wait…this is your “take” on my craft, hobby, seemingly greatest accomplishment outside of my career…what the heck? I think too much!!!, that is all you have for me? In defense I came back with “Maybe you don’t think enough”…but then again I already know that about him. Ha!! In defense of my Dad he is not the first nor the last to say this to me as I have heard it from my children and husband many times before and again in all cases, I am fine with it. I don’t wear it as the badge of shame that it is intended but instead as the badge of honor that I do. It is who I am for goodness sake.

While this topic can be quite comical it has its tragedy. The entire addiction that I suffer from in food is cemented in overthought. It is through the overwhelming processes I have put upon myself in overthinking every single bite, drink, and workout that manifested itself into enormous dysfunction. It is only of late that I am finally getting to a place where I can distinguish the need to eat by true cues from my body and not from my mind that is on overdrive on when, where, and how I eat.

In most areas of my life, the overactive thought process does not hold me back or hinder me as I am decisive and active in my approach however the backlash of those thoughts can be exhausting. It elicits a “do” approach rather than a “be” and in that I find my thoughts to be relentless. Again as all things in life, this can be both good and bad however in being both, it is exhausting.

My favorite “game” to play with my husband is to randomly ask at any moment in time “What are you thinking about right now?”…and his inevitable response always being “Nothing”. I envy the idea that nothing can or could be on his mind at any time. How is that possible?? I can’t drive down the road without thinking about what is in the woods beside the road, if the road is bumpy and why it is so; and he thinks of nothing?!?! What must that sound like…quiet, peace, or an enormous void? Dang…give me a minute of that any day. Funny enough he rarely asks me the same question! I think he likely does not want to know what I am thinking…and I cannot blame him. What is ironic is that when he does ask, I typically cannot articulate it in those moments. It is the look on my face that elicits those moments that he asks…smart man…he knows I am perplexed and won’t be able to explain it.

In all fairness and in conclusion, I remedy this overthought by starting every single day with journaling anything and everything on my mind, as a way of clearing my mind. I learned this from a previous therapist and most recently from author Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artists Way”. You just write, anything that comes to mind without re-reading, just write. It works for me. It is far more effective than meditation as you cannot imagine the civil war in trying to meditate with an overactive brain!!! If you have an overactive mind, welcome to the club and if you are blessed with silence then embrace it. For me, it is who I am and all I know to be. I will continue to think on it relentlessly! 🙂

Life as I overthink it – L.

This is going to leave a mark…

This theme has been with me for weeks now and so here I go to give life to the theme. It is plaguing me with something pressing to say, to communicate, to shout from the rooftops…maybe.

It is too obvious to suggest that what we, as a world, have gone through in the last three months will leave a lasting impression that will be defined far greater than “leaving a mark”. What we have gone through in pandemic, protests and riots and politics will go down in history. We can only hope that all of the strife will change the future to allow recount of “how it used to be” versus “why it is this way”. This will all remain to be seen.

What is not obvious is the “mark” that is being left on you, on me, on each one of us mentally, transforming us physically. We are taking in images subconsciously that we are not used to processing. We attempt to create context around these images but we realize the internal struggle when we feel the anxiety, insomnia and otherwise unrest internally. We try to put a name on it, we try to diagnose it and yet we are left with discord and diagnosis undefined. We as a nation are not used to seeing violence in the form of protests in our streets, body bags being loaded into semi-trucks from the fallout of a pandemic that has not found its end and the lack of a leader to guide us out of chaos and into peace. Those images go in and then bounce around like the ricochet of a bullet leaving in its wake, damage. Minor damage for those that have the tools or resolve to digest it and flush it out and catastrophe for those that cannot imagine what they are experiencing.

I have had the benefit of talking to groups of friends and colleagues that all share their experience. The same experience that I am party to however my experience being different based on my resolve. It is your internal resolve that will drive you to act or retreat. It is that resolve that will show resource or surrender. Anxiety is the theme, regardless of the individual. Why do I feel emotional? Why am I angry? Why do I want to retreat or rebel? These are the questions we are ALL asking. It is now that we are forced to come to terms with the inside voice that has its own monologue, those thoughts that show up in neon lights that dare you to act…before you think. But don’t! Stop. Stop everything. Take it in. Allow it to show itself. STOP. Then decide…what’s next. Yes, it always comes back to this one fact, you decide. Even in today’s world; you decide what risk you are willing to take, what opinion you will have and who you will follow. YOU DECIDE.

It is indeed fair to say that this will leave a “mark”. Yes it will, it has to, as nothing this extreme will depart quietly. Whatever is eating you today, you must meet yourself where you are and find a way to digest it. Decide what is right for you. Be careful of what you are taking in as not everything is fortifying. Let the mark that is left be partnered with a time you can look back and be proud of how you handled yourself, always meeting yourself where you are and not defining yourself by the moment. Anxious yes, it is impossible not to be, but taking that moment to stop and realize that the resources that I have can reduce it all and make sure that the mark left is not a scar but a battle wound!

Life as I live it – L.

Anxiety Diaries

Here is where I am, anxiety-ridden without being able to describe the “why”. I feel it, and I know the feeling well. If you ask what I am anxious about I likely cannot tell you. What causes the anxiety is a tornado of thoughts and emotions all at once, therefore to identify the ONE thing is impossible because it becomes everything all at once. The saying “when it rains it pours” comes to mind. As an analogy the saying defines anxiety as every drop of rain being a worry and the storm represents the thousands of worries coming down all at once. It is paralyzing.

While it is impossible to define it there are ways to calm it. The issue is that when we are “in the storm” we find it hard to know which umbrella to grab to protect us from becoming drenched. That paralysis prevents us from grabbing an umbrella for the lack of being able to decide which umbrella to grab. However we know that grabbing any one of them will provide some shelter. Meditation, walking, listening to music, calling a friend…any one of these things will bring relief; sitting in it will only soak us and eventually we are drowning in worry, in anxiety.

Today’s blog entry is not going to offer a laundry-list of ideas on how to resolve anxiety because if I were the “expert” or even the “practitioner” I would not be a prisoner of it in my life. Instead I am going to identify with it, find a way to verbalize it and then resolve that it is what it is and now it is time to do something about it.

Staying “in it” cannot ever be “the answer” because anxiety does not serve us well in the long-run. It is worth noting that there can be short-term benefits to anxiety as it does create action or movement. If you are able to capture it as it is happening it can bring about provoking thought and observation as the worry is so enhanced that you see it different. It is more colorful, it is loud, it is active. Grabbing those moments as they are showing themselves can serve pivotal as a paradigm-shift.

Olivia Remes in her TED Talk said, “People with anxiety think a lot about what they are doing wrong. If you had a friend that constantly pointed out what you are doing wrong…you would probably want to get rid of that person. People with anxiety do this to themselves all day long.” This is the truth. I admitted to a group of women that I was meeting with last week that I create my own expectations or better said rules to live by that then create added pressure to perform to a standard set by myself. When I cannot perform to the level I have set I feel the failure. I feel let-down regardless of how unrealistic my expectation was to begin. Letting yourself down may be the greatest let down of all.

What now? Well the easy first step is to stop creating rules or new expectations and instead live in the present. This is different than not planning. Having a long-term plan or goal is key to a purpose-driven life however quantity will negatively affect the quality of those goals. Too many takes away from the ability to focus on the few that add true quality or value to life. My first step this week is to let go of those rules, goals or standards that I have set for myself that are not serving me well. It does not mean that I don’t continue to do those things that I know are moving me forward but to not create a “standard” allows me to enjoy it more as it is being achieved versus only feeling the benefit once complete.

It is the journey and not the final destination that matters as that is what this life is, it is now. All that has passed cannot return and all that is in front of us will never be realized. We only have what is right now and living outside of that is lacking reality. Anxiety in my life is born from the past and the future and rarely in the present. It evolves from what I have not done or need to do versus what I am doing right now. This week I vow to keep it in the present. Keep it “real” and enjoy the journey. Enjoy what we have in this moment because tomorrow is not a reality nor may it ever be so to allow it to affect the present is where torture lies.

Life as I am IN it – L.