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.

The Angst that is Anxiety…

I like so many others are dealing in anxiety daily. It creates an angst that makes you want to run but what exactly is stirring inside of you and where you want to run cannot be identified. It is a whir of nervous energy that unlike excitement breeds a feeling of doom. It feels like the world is going to crash down around you. Angst as it is defined is…

…which is exactly as I have described. So now that we know the feeling, what do we do about it. What I find is that while I KNOW what to do when the anxiety hits I rarely do what I know. I instead sit in it which compounds until the point that it can make you feel like shutting down. It is for this reason that today I bring you the “list” that you can turn to when you feel that angst and in doing this I am serving myself as well as this list I need to be reminded to turn to as well.

Here are some of the things that I know work:

  • Don’t predict the future! You have no idea what is coming and cannot control it so focus on what you can control. Prophesizing what might happen does not serve anyone.
  • Don’t “sit in it”! This is about moving on from the thing that is causing the anxiety. In our case at this time and place that equates to getting stuck in front of the news that is reporting 24 hours a day the doom and the gloom that is paralyzing us! Limit the information stream.
  • Create routines. We are a species that thrives in routine. Where we have routines we have resolve. This is what is causing the most anxiety at this time is that everything that we know is upside down. We are no longer following a routine that we know so well we sometimes do it without thinking. We have to think about everything right now because nothing is routine. The most mundane of routines like going to the store or leaving the house requires thought. Create a new routine and follow it.
  • Get moving. Exercise solves anxiety in a HUGE way. Take a walk, turn on music and dance, do yoga, or just do anything that gets your body moving which helps your mind process. Personally I have to push myself to start but once I am in motion, I feel better almost immediately.
  • Call a friend. As we find ourselves isolated reaching out and talking to others creates a fellowship that reminds us that we are not alone. Even better is to utilize technology and have a video call so you can see the smile on the faces of those that you cherish.
  • Create your own peace. Turn on music, practice breathing exercises, sit in nature (even if that is in your backyard); create peace around you. Meditation can create that peace and there are numerous resources online to use if you are unsure how to meditate on your own.

Like everything in our lives anxiety comes down to a lack of control or indecision. We cannot control everything around us and ultimately that is affecting us. We have to identify what we CAN control and exercise our ability to DECIDE. You decide what you will do and ultimately you can ease the angst. You may not be able to totally remove the anxiety but relieving it is a start. Do what you can by first identifying the feeling and then deciding to do something.

We are in this together as a globe! Never have we been reminded how equal we all are as in this moment as titles, roles and identities will not remove us from this reality. Coming together and realizing that we are more alike than we are different is the resolution we have always needed. Embrace who we are…

…one nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Life as I live it…anxious – L.

Overthinking – it kills creativity and worse

I have found myself intimidated by the idea of writing. I have so much to share, so much to say and starting dialogues prompted and ready to roll but then I overthink it. Instead of writing from my heart and my very busy head I sit and think about what my audience wants to hear or read. I realize in this moment that this is where I am going at it ALL wrong.

I am not a fiction writer for a reason. Put simply, I cannot make it up. I write about what is real, what compels me and my writing is truly a form of journaling that I am brave enough to share. If I have to think about what I am writing it is a deal breaker because I have to “feel it”.

The idea of overthinking is one I identify with as I frequently overthink. I find myself overthinking about EVERYTHING in my life which is why I suffer from anxiety. I have worked to remind myself that most of what we “overthink” won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I use tools like asking myself “will this matter in five years” to help bring perspective. But it happens anyway and it happens at various levels.

The problem with overthinking is that it then lends itself to obsessive behavior and elevated emotion. Neither of these are a compliment to my personality…ha! Obsessed in my word means I follow relentless routines, push harder than necessary and will exhaust that which I am obsessing. Elevated emotion in a Taurus is down right dangerous! The issue with the emotion attached is that I have an uncanny ability to rally those around me easily therefore I am not only getting myself amped up but all of those that support the “cause”.

I Googled “overthinking and the excerpt above came up. It is absolutely on-point. The reality is that the more you think, the more you obsess, the more anxiety that surrounds the situation and the spiral begins. Additionally the article attached to the excerpt above notes:

Chronic overthinkers rehash conversations they had yesterday, second-guess every decision they make, and imagine disastrous outcomes all day every day.

Thinking too much about something often involves more than words–overthinkers conjure up disastrous images too. Their minds resemble a movie where they imagine their car going off the road or they replay distressing events over and over again.

I can relate to this excerpt admittedly worse than I want to, but admitting that something is a problem is the first step to solving, so once again I bear my soul.

  • Second-guessing every decision is something I do often but more in line with conversations versus decisions. It is frequent that on my drive home from work that I will replay all of the various interactions I had that day. I question my dialogues and my emotions and then visualize what I could have said or done different. Clearly pointless in that those moments have passed and most of these “replays” prove that nothing was wrong with the original dialogue.
  • Conjuring up disastrous images is the worst thing my brain does and the one thing I work very hard to stop or avoid. My mind is a very powerful tool. As noted above I can replay a scene in my head that will play over and over, feeling so real that it can bring true emotion to the surface. I was just telling my son the other day about this as one of the frequent scenes that plays out in my mind is “what if” when Gary and the kids are traveling together. I worry that if something happens to them I could lose all of them at once. WHO THINKS ABOUT THIS AWFUL STUFF!!?? I do.

In the end I criticize myself less and instead realize that my form of overthinking is truly about offering my best performance, work, relationships, etc. If I did not care I would not overthink and I will take “caring” over going through this life doing things that have no meaning. In my life, everything has meaning because if it doesn’t then I don’t engage. In this world, it’s easy to exhaust, it’s easy to letdown and hence my overthinking on how to manage it all.

With regards to my writing; today was a turning point of doing exactly what brought me to this passion to begin with years ago. Writing for me is not about thinking and certainly not about overthinking; it’s about getting out of my brain those thoughts that are circling, those things that have taken hold as an outlet. Just like this post I write it exactly as it is in my head and what comes out on paper surprises me to the point that it in itself is its own therapy as I now understand it better and can release my additional thoughts and emotions around it.

I have made a commitment the day I hit “publish” the first time to have the courage to share exactly what came out on paper. It is this commitment that will be my anchor and reminder to keep it pure; what is in my head will be what comes out on paper. Unapologetic-ally, not over-thunk and raw enough for YOU to get it even if you don’t.

Life as I see it – L.

Knowing Better…

This post started with the word DREAD but it is such an unfair word. August has been the focus of my dread for months now. This is the last month I had with my mom last year. It brings up so much emotion and none of it wanted, thereby dreaded.

On August 31st it will be a year. A year that I feel I have barely survived. A year of feeling loss when I want to call her, see her or even when I think about her. I know she is with me, I see her in my hands, my voice and she is my heart.

My day started out with smiles as I drove to work talking to my friend. I realized I was smiling as I was talking to her and stopped to note as much. This was a good way to start the first day of this month that has caused such anxiety.

Unfortunately by 9:00a the weight was mounting, the clouds were setting in and I could feel my mood changing. I can’t stand the power I have given this month. Why? Why? Why? My day continued to be isolating and heavy.

As it would turn out and coincidentally, I had an afternoon appointment with my therapist. And the power of therapy would once again prove its power in my life. As I left my therapists office I felt lighter. The day still had its shroud and the month is still wound in anxiety but how I allow it to affect me is still my choice.

The night concluded with my first run around the neighborhood in months. As I floated home on a runners high it only got better and I ended the night with babies and fellowship.

I am still not where Joe Biden’s quote promises me to be but I am going to work hard to spend this month HONORING HER instead of GRIEVING HER.

When you know better, you do better…one day at a time Kiel, one day at a time… L.