anxiety · connection · family · honesty · love · self-care

Incoming!

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Enjoying my last moments of solitude in my studio apartment
before I pick my mom up from the airport this afternoon. Delighted though I am
that she’s coming to visit, I look forward to someday having an apartment where we both
have bedroom doors!
Also, my voice is going, a combination of sickness, rehearsal + yesterday’s voice lesson, when it really began to go. My voice
teacher advised that I avoid talking as best as I could during the next few days…
I replied, (Fat chance!) You know my mom’s coming into town, right? 
That woman and I could talk until all the stars burned out
and still have things to talk about that were interesting. It’s who and how we
are. How we’ve been. But, I need to “rest my voice,” as the teacher put it, so either my mom
will do the majority of talking, or she’ll get really good at lip-reading!
I’m excited to see her, to have her here. But, I also know
that it means three and a half days of mostly “up” energy, or at least engaged
energy, which is hard for me. Because it’s a “visit,” it means that we have a
lot to talk about, and a lot to try to “fit in” to three days, since we see one
another maybe once or twice a year. Oakland may be the Brooklyn of the Bay, but
it doesn’t mean I can get to her home of Manhattan by
the Q train.
What I realize is that I’m going to have to police myself
these few days, getting over a bad week of being sick still, but also, just for
general self-care.
My mom, whether it’s the New Yorker or the mania in her,
runs on an elevated frequency. As her child and a game partner, I tend to rise to
her level. Some people call that level anxiety(!), but as someone once said to
me, The difference between nervous and excited is breathing.
So, I’m going to have to remind myself to breathe, to take
time to be a little more still and not quite as participatory as perhaps I might be, and to also let her know that’s my intention. Also, I’m going to have to inwardly remember to un-constrict, to let her
vibrate at whatever frequency she wants to without feeling I have to meet her there. That’s my
part in this: she’s not asking me to be all abuzz with her;
I’m doing that myself.
It’s hard, as I’ve said, when people change the rules to a
game you’ve played for a long time; but I also don’t like partially dreading
spending compacted time with her. It’s a litt– a lot exhausting to try to
match that level of up-ness and on-ness, and, well, it’s why she’s the one with bipolar disorder, and not me.
There’s also a crash when you’re up that high.
I’ve tried to learn to moderate my own extroverted and
introverted behavior, balancing a few hours of out-ness with a few of
aloneness. It doesn’t have to be inside my home, away from the world; just
alone-ness is enough, on a walk, at a museum alone, at a movie alone. As much
as I thrive on connection and conversation, and could indeed talk to the end of
time, I’d be working on fumes by then.
Self-care will be the name of the game. I know that’s
changing the rules a little from how we’ve always been and always communicated, but if I let her know that I’ve introduced a new
rule to our relationship, at least for now—for even one hour out of the 16 we’ll
be spending conscious with one another—I think it will be respected and
absorbed.
It might not be a smooth transition into a different way of
“being together,” but I think in the long run, it will help us both to be
present with the other in a way that feels nurturing.
Which, I think is what a mother-daughter relationship is
supposed to be anyway.

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anxiety · body · connection · dating · fear · isolation · love · relationships · vulnerability

Disarming.

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I am having a languid, delightful time getting to know someone.
A man.
The same someone who inspired me to look at how much I don’t want to let a romantic interest get to know me. And,
for whatever this is or will be, it’s really, really nice.
I described to a friend what it felt like to be held – not spooning, or even the enjoyable resting of your head on the guy’s
chest – but simply standing, holding one another, like the kind of extended hug that
someone forces around you until you relax. Until they can feel your shoulders drop,
and your lungs start to inhale again. Until you feel safe enough to breathe.
It’s like that, only without the imperative insistence of the
extended hug. This feels, to me, mutual, natural, like we both are relieved
just to stand there, heads tucked, arms wrapped, bodies together, and breathe
for a minute, guileless. It’s similar to the feeling I sometimes have when I realize that
I’ve been holding my breath or breathing shallowly for too long, and I finally
take a nice deep breath into my belly. Filling out my whole body with awareness, instead of constriction.
It’s a feeling that you didn’t know how stressed or armored
or anxious you were, until it falls away so fucking naturally and quickly,
that it almost makes you dizzy. And suddenly, you’re just two people, two
hearts, unaware you were looking for relief and comfort and ease, until now
you’re experiencing it.
It’s benevolent, and it’s grace.
For me, it’s also an awareness, I think, of how lonely and
body-starved I’ve been. Not for sex, though sure, but for that kind of holding.
To be held. It’s actually, now that I think of it, what I came to at the
conclusion of my meditation retreat in January. I concluded that this year, I
wanted to learn to let myself be held.
I almost always hold my breath, as I’ve written about before. Even in the safety and constance of my own home. I am always on guard,
protecting myself from something. And it’s just so tiring, but I don’t realize
it – didn’t realize it, until in this togetherness, I find it fall from around
me, and experience feeling unburdened and relieved of that something. 
I am not Fate’s author, I am only the scribe. So, I can only
report to you what I know, and share with you how I feel in the moment, today.
As everything changes so quickly.
But recognizing for myself that there’s another way of
being, that there’s an open way to be, that in fact that way of being feels
like its own ecstasy, I think I’m learning that my armor is not as useful as it
once was. And that being held, without that shield, is more healing, joyful,
and filling than I could have predicted. 

anxiety · courage · disappointment · equanimity · family · love · relationships · resentment · trying

Not the Buddha.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. As evidenced by the insane photobombing bonanza that was Facebook yesterday. (Yes, I’m modifying the meaning of photo-bomb in this context.)

I was unsurprised to notice an amalgam of feelings arise as I scrolled down, and down… and down, through the newsfeed. Yes. Everyone has a dad. Yes. I get it. Yes. I even have my own. Do I have to see yours, too?

In the end. I posted my own photo of myself with my dad. I must be about 5 years old, climbing over the guard rail into the brush. We’re probably on vacation in Cape Cod, the ocean visible in the background. He’s looking out through binoculars, the front fender of his red 1970 Cutlass in the corner of the image. The majority of the photos I have of us together when I’m little are from the Brownies/Girl Scouts Father/Daughter dances — staged photos on cubes of packed hay. I’m sitting on my dad’s lap, looking highly uncomfortable.

This annual awkwardness was the closest my dad and I ever got, and the call to look normal at it was a difficult one to answer.

But, still. Yesterday, I too wanted to feel a shred of familial nostalgia, true or un. I wanted to add to our communal photobook my own pixelated, sugar-coated memory.

In the afternoon, I attended a seminar being hosted at my work. I was on hand as a staff member but got to participate too. The subject under discussion was “Having Difficult Conversations.” … It was the most requested topic, and the least attended. We all want to know how to do this, but we’re also hesitant to do so.

With about a dozen other folks, I was asked to turn to my neighbor and share “the story” of a conversation I’d been avoiding having. It was about 3pm on Father’s Day, and I’d already mailed my dad a generic, but nice enough card. I’d emailed him yesterday with that photo attached. And the conversation I was anxious to have or not have was whether or not to also call him.

Had I done my due diligence as a daughter? Was a card and an email enough?

One of the questions asked of us was: What is their side of the story?

I thought about this, wrote about it. Thought about my dad wondering what he’d done to be punished with silence. Thought about him getting angry with me for disappointing him again. Thought about him contemplating his martrydom, that all he’d done was love me, and I can’t show up for him.

But. True or not, these are only what I think he’s thinking.

In reality, what he’s probably thinking is that he loves me and misses me and would like to hear from me.

Period.

Because as time and experience have proved, he has little ability to contemplate much below the surface.

Once the workshop was over, I’d concluded that I’d probably done enough. That I didn’t need to call him, to subject myself to being open to attack or discomfort, as previous conversations have only proved to be. That’s what the story is, too: If I call, I open myself up to disappointment. Again.

But, once I arrived to my friend’s house for dinner, I’d had a few more minutes to think, and as I parked, what occurred to me was a phrase a friend told me long ago: “The Buddha says hello first.”

I thought as I put it into reverse, What kind of person do I want to be in this world?

Surely, I don’t want to be someone who allows themselves to be whipped over and over, but I forget that I’m also someone these days who when I see that coming or happening, I have the esteem and wherewithall to stop them or to end the conversation.

I want to be the kind of person who sends love, even to those who are unable to receive it. Not as “The Giving Tree” would do, but with conscious decision. I know I’m taking a risk reaching out to you, but I care … not really about you, sorry, but about how I feel — and how I feel is that I want to send you a … not an olive branch, but perhaps just a message of peace, not truce.

In the end, I just wanted to act toward my father how I would want him to behave toward me, with awareness, with boundaries, and with empathy toward us both.

So, I called. And mercifully, I got his voicemail. I left one, short and sweet. Which he reciprocated while I was out to dinner and left me one.

He just wants to know what’s going on in my life. He has lost this right. He has proved himself untrustworthy to know more than the most sweeping generalizations about my life. And I will have to decide once again if this is a conversation I want to have.

The Buddha may say hello first, but how many times do you say hello to someone you don’t trust?

anxiety · beauty · faith · fear · healing · scarcity · self-esteem · self-love · tension · truth

Don’t Hold Your Breath.

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No, really, Moll. Relax.
A woman recently told me that the body is the last hold-out.
It’s the last place we carry anxiety, tension, fear, even as we’ve worked
through it on all other levels.
I hold my guts in tension 99% of the time, even when I’m by myself. I rarely breathe
to full capacity, unless I’m reminded to. There is always a slight constriction
of fight-or-flight going on in my body.
The few places I can recall this not to be the case are when
I’m hiking, walking in the woods. Hm, well that’s the only place I can recall
at the moment! Although, it also happened when I would go up to Sonoma to visit
friends, an old boyfriend. I would say I could “breathe bigger” there. There
was something about the openness, the closeness to nature, the un-cityness of
it all that allowed me to open, too.
I’ve done a lot of pondering on how to bring that feeling, that
sense of ease, of safety, home.
I realized something significant this week. My fear takes
two tacks that leave me hamstrung in a Catch-22: On the one hand, I’m atrociously scared
of being boring, being neglected, being overlooked. Yet, on the other, I’m
afraid that if I am seen, I will be
annihilated, attacked, shamed.
What’s a girl to do?
Well, I can’t control the first part – I cannot control how
I am seen or embraced by others.
But, what does the first part really mean, anyway? It means
that I’m scared my needs will not be met. Though what I can control is that I am
healing in a way that means I’m better able to take care of my own needs, and
to invite others into my life who are able to meet them too, without dumping my
own onto them.
So, if I can come to believe that my needs will be met,
because I and the world around me are
meeting them, then I don’t have to fear being overlooked and languishing in the abyss.
To address the other hand, the fear is that I am not
safe in the world. That if I peek my head out, if I take ownership of my needs,
become brave enough to step out of the shadows, I will be suffer.
How can I dismantle that part? How can I force myself to
believe I’m safe in the world, and not the object of opprobrium if I raise my
hand and say, Hey, this is who I am and how I want to express myself in the
world – isn’t it cool?
Well, I can’t force myself. I can convince myself, my jury, through
overwhelming evidence to the contrary that I am safe when I am myself.
I just have to be willing to look at the evidence. And
that’s hard. 
Who wants to look inside themselves and declare it good? Who wants
to walk with a spine of confidence in their music tastes, clothing choices,
reading material? Who wants to feel proud of their contributions in the world? Their aspirations and hobbies and dropped hobbies and efforts and set-backs
and dorkiness and naiveté and thirst and laughter?
Who wants to say, “Yes, this is me, and I am good. In fact, I
am great”?
Perhaps we all say we do, but the issue to me is that every
time I think a thought like that, I have a gremlin born of those ancient fears
that croaks, “You think so, do you? Well, here are all the ways you’re not.”
Every time you begin to catalogue your achievements, you are
slammed with doubt. And so, you stop cataloguing; the doubt wins, and the
evidence slackens and dulls.
There is so much effort
(it seems to me, right now, and may change) to loving ourselves.
There is so much effort in deciding to face that gremlin,
allow its ire, yet continue with our own mantras of belief.
Belief. It’s all we really have, especially when we’re not
willing to accept the evidence yet.
On both sides of my fear aisle, I am called to believe: a)
That my needs can be taken care of because I believe they’re important; and b)
That I am safe in expressing myself because I believe I am important.
That’s a lot of work for a given moment! And that’s why my
guts tangle nearly every waking moment.
I don’t think I have an anxiety disorder. I know moments of
peace and relaxation and ease. I know that it is possible for me to strive to
have them more frequently by doing this dismantling and believing and accepting
of facts.
But, until then, I will just have to remind myself to
breathe.