As I started this blog topic today, I noticed lousy is in the word jealousy And the final feeling when all the rage, anger, blame, guilt and shame has settled down, the end result is I always feel lousy. Can jealousy be my teacher or at least serve as a guidepost that a boundary perhaps is being crossed? Other times jealousy arises from the actions perceived or real by a stranger, someone unknown, and it’s not personal. But I feel recoiled, wounded and protective. It opens up old scars that I thought I’ve gotten over, long healed and moved on. Today, I got to work a little late so my usual parking spot was taken. It’s not mine. I don’t have a claim, a sign, a right even to that parking spot. It’s just convenient. I could always park one level up and be on the same spot. It’s all perspective, claiming ownership over something that isn’t mine. Today it was a reminder of impermanence and the inevitable change that must occur. And again suffering is optional and at my own making. I can leave feeling lousy. And instead of starting my day on the positive, I’m feeling thrown off kilter, uncertain and grumpy. When was the last time you felt jealous?
“She’s so nice” “almost too nice.” What the hell does that mean? From childhood we are nice girls when we help mommy and are not too rambunctious or loud. Nice when we are using our imagination on domestic endeavors. I’ve grown up being called nice and the good girl. The dependable child. Always available, helping with minimal complaints or drama. How did this disposition become so ingrained into my identity that I don’t remember where it originated from? And when did I choose to embody the spirit of nice? I was in a long-term relationship in my early adult life. I played by all the rules and was proud of my accomplishments and all that I did and strive for despite my challenging upbringing. But I gave away my power so easily. Particularly to my partner. And I still have this tendency in my marriage. The weight I give him takes precedence over my own beliefs and interests. If I speak up, I feel selfish and like I’m being self-centered and there’s something wrong with me for voicing my opinion and concerns. I’m making waves. It’s always easier to just play along, go with the flow. But soon the scenery changes And the calm river is now rapidly moving towards downfall and I lost my footing, my way, my own heart’s calling and loving what I love because it fits me. I am cast off. So I need to make waves if anything for survival and self-preservation. I am not going to lie there without taking an active role. But these feelings of I should just go along, it’s easier than using effort when life can feel so exhausting. And “we have to choose our battles“ but then I’m left with a shell of what could’ve been.
We all walk around with a little trauma in our back pocket. Sometimes we forget it’s there. Sometimes, unbeknownst to us, we pull it up and it’s in our face without any warning. How we experienced the trauma is individual and unique: what happened, how we dealt with it or didn’t deal with it, our own personal experience of the trauma. We were innocent one moment and then the event rocked us to the core and that is something we all share.
We’d like to pretend it never happened to us. Why talk about such negative things that don’t affect us now? The event shaped us whether we’d like to admit it. We can choose to acknowledge this trauma that we’ve been carrying around for far too long. Perhaps we’ve grown tired and exhausted from the heaviness of that burden. And it has metaphorically created a hole and fell out of our pocket. However it happens, the opportunity lies before us.
Do we quickly scoop it up and bury it once again? Do we distract ourselves and hide it, ignore it or stuff it? Or can we just for a moment accept our common humanity that trauma unfortunately happens. It’s a part of the journey of life. But it doesn’t have to control us any longer. It happened, for sure. It sucks. Who wants to rehash unpleasantries?
But once we acknowledge our common human experience, our trauma, something shifts. Our burden lightens. We see that we are not alone in our suffering. It is okay. We are not justifying what happened, but right now in this moment can we feel safe? Can we take a breath? Can we sit with this feeling for just a few moments?
Here’s what I would like you to do right now. Don’t engage in a dialogue with the trauma. Just be the listener. Write if it helps you to sort out your thoughts on paper. Treat yourself gingerly, with the softness and tenderness as you would a small infant. You were innocent when it happened through no fault. Can you see what “trauma” is showing you? Is there a message? A nugget of wisdom that you can explore?
When you’ve listened to what has to be said, put your hands on your heart and just breathe for a minute. Counting breaths helps. I like to count to 10. One, inhale; one, exhale. Two, inhale; two, exhale, etc. I promise you any fear, anger, or other strong emotion you feel will dissipate if for just a moment you can let it out. It’s been bottled up for too long.
Sharing my story heals myself and others, and at the same time I am not my story. Yes, my story is my past and has shaped who I am. I am grateful for my past. It has brought me to here. Now. This moment. Yet my story doesn’t define or shape this very moment that may someday become “my story.”
How can that be? I’ve learned from my story. I’m able to fit life’s experiences into a nicely labeled box or manila folder to be tucked away into my memory. Those lessons have been integrated and shape my view of myself and the world.
I am more than my story: than my past, than my teenage angst, than my mistakes, worries, future trips, to-do list, career, roles, and lifestyle choices. Each part is not a stand-alone entity because for this moment it’s on the front burner of my psyche.
However, as with all contradictions, each integral part is a part of me, responsible for who I am, who I was, who I will be.
I almost lost it all. One moment of self-doubt could have turned to tragedy. It couldn’t really be carbon monoxide. It must be faulty batteries, not a faulty furnace.
How I doubted myself. How it could have ended everything for me, for my life, for my neighbors in the building.
What I could have lost and missed out on: motherhood, adventure, marriage.
All lost in a moment if I didn’t move. If I didn’t follow through. If I didn’t make a phone call. All could have ended.
The earth gone black. Death by choking. Death in my sleep. Death all alone. Death all heartbroken. Leaving everyone I knew’s heart in pieces too.
Luckily, that’s not where my story ended. It was a rebirth. A renewal. A tangible bona fide appreciation of life.
How fragile it can be. How temporary it is. That every day is a gift.
My neighbors survived. My life was given new meaning. I am forever grateful for the lessons and cherish each day.
That basement apartment off of Gano Street? The final verdict: uninhabitable for human life. I called it home for a short three months. And it could have cost me my life!
My first time on my own. Living the dream of being an independent woman.
And I was afraid. I was lonely and heartbroken. Alone for the very first time. Unsure of what to do. Doubting my choices to leave, layering on guilt and remorse.
It could have all ended. But thank the stars it didn’t. My life is amazing these 14 years later. The beauty and gift of this one remarkable life.
We are all hurting. If there’s one thing we share in common, it’s that we all experience pain and/or suffering.
Our thoughts can hold us hostage and sabotage our present moment. For example, when I got my new job, my husband suggested, “Let’s spend some time celebrating!” In an instant my mind shifted into forward thinking. There’s childcare needs, a new wardrobe to purchase, and a general fear of the unknown. That moment to celebrate was ever so brief. Sweet but not fully experienced, not completely felt. In hindsight, perhaps I should have taken a moment to savor the excitement and opportunity and let a feeling of gratitude set in.
It’s over too quickly and we can’t get it back. I had a similar experience when my 19-year old cat Max died. My mom and I never followed through on our plan to memorialize him. We were in a state of grief and I had to take care of my toddler. We didn’t get the chance to properly mourn him. As a result we suffered on our own and grieved alone. Instead of holding each other, we kept it inside. A few years have passed since then. And I don’t know if we will ever be in that space again.
Our thoughts can run wild if we let them. They can rob us from the rich and healing experience of being fully present: to how we are feeling or what is happening in this moment. Now I try to pause when I notice my mind going rampant or rehashing the same story over and over. I take a deep breath and think, “I’ve already spent enough time, space and energy on this.” I soften and I take a moment to notice my surroundings. “How is this story, forward or past thinking distracting me from the NOW? Is it causing me undo stress?” Of course, it is.
Then I ask the question, “How do I want to feel instead?” Usually I want to feel relaxed, present and connected to my family.
And the final question, “What can I do to make that feeling a reality?” Usually it’s taking a few box breaths or utilizing one of my self-care tools. I’m a work in progress. There are days when I forget my tools and I get lost in thought and distraction. I lose my grounding and connection to myself and the present moment. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m continuing to learn and re-learn what works for me, and I will always continue to do so.
Now it’s your turn. How do your thoughts affect you? Are they distracting you from what’s going on right now? Are they causing you undo stress? If so, how do you want to feel instead? And what can you do to make that feeling come true?
I send you peace.
We are all connected. And the speed of information has advanced our society into a global community. You want to learn about X? What does Google say? Information is literally at your fingertips if you happen to own a smartphone. And knowledge is power.
Even though my family got rid of cable years ago, we still have access to the news from our phones and apps on our TV console. I love that we can choose what to watch when we want to. But we do channel surf through YouTube and you can’t escape the collective fear that is ever present. The recent tragic events and acts of violence have pulled at my heart.
I love working in Providence. It’s a city rich in history and I’m proud to be a native Rhode Islander. It’s a beautiful city to walk around: the Brown University campus, the financial and downtown districts, and historic Benefit Street. But I’m tired of living in fear. If a car comes racing by or a strange box truck is around, I tense up and anxiety takes control. My leisurely walk is interrupted and I’m terrified for a moment, especially if I’m around city hall or a federal building. It never used to be this way. Fear never played such a prominent role. I started working full-time a little over a year ago. And I loved the city. I drank in the architecture, the people on their way to work, students walking to class, and the waterfront. It was a welcome sight.
But over these last few months, the anxiety has been building. Yesterday as I was walking to the parking garage, a box truck stopped right in the middle of the street and began to back up. Normally this wouldn’t have been an issue. There’s construction everywhere and the street was a one-way. But the truck seemed to be backing up and keeping in pace with me as I walked. Cars behind the truck began to honk, and it seemed like the truck was going to back up regardless of traffic. This odd behavior made my anxiety soar. I started to run, and all I could hear was the incessant “beep, beep, beep” as it continued to reverse. I had the worst panic attack. I feared it was going to blow up right then and there next to the financial district. I had visions of me getting into the garage on the fifth floor and being toppled over by the above floors during the explosion. I couldn’t wait to get out of that garage.
Once I got behind the wheel and started to exit, I shouted, “I’m tired of being afraid! I’m tired of living in fear! I’m tired of freaking out over a truck! I just want to be able to walk in peace without feeling terrorized!”
I don’t have an answer during these crippling moments. I just try to deepen my breath. I remind myself that meditation helps ground me and I should meditate more and journal more. Events will happen that are beyond my control. And one thing I can control is my breath.
How do you bring calm when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed?
I have naturally curly hair. When I get my hair cut every couple of months, my hairdresser will straighten my hair. She uses a straightening iron and tames my locks into a sleek, smooth style.
Coworkers or someone usually comments on my hair.
“New hair style?”
“I like your hair.”
Or even, “I didn’t recognize you with that straight hair.”
Instead of acknowledging, Yes, I just had it done. I usually say, Well, I have to get my hair straightened every time I get my hair done or else my husband will say – and I deepen my voice – ‘Why did you spend money to get your hair done when it looks the same?’
He may have said that comment to me once a couple of years back. Ever since, it’s been my go-to-response when someone comments on my hair. I had the revelation that his comment is now my story, my truth. Even though it was said years ago, I’m keeping it alive and present by repeating the speil.
Today I’m going to change my story. That inner dialogue from a comment way back when will no longer have such a prominent place when I respond to a compliment.
I can think of other examples of compliments that tend to get brushed off.
“Oh, it was on clearance.”
“Thank you” is not always the first response.
Next time someone compliments me, I’m going to accept their compliment with grace and gratitude.
All this weekend, my 16 month old was driving me crazy. Changing her diaper had become a wrestling match. I would pin her down across her waist to stop her from rolling over and off the changing table, while she protested, “No! No! No!” You’re only 16 months old. You’re not supposed to be telling me “No” yet.
She’s a happy, content, cuddly baby most of the time. Now it seems like she thinks she’s a big kid, wanting to be like her older siblings. She almost climbed up the ladder to the top of the bunk bed within seconds of leaving the girls’ bedroom door open. I was exhausted from chasing her. I kept repeating to myself, “This kid’s gonna be the death of me. I’m going bonkers, bring me to Butler.” Not in all seriousness all the time, but the thought was ever present.
Last night around 4:30 a.m., my baby was crying. Not the usual, I’m half asleep whimper to a cry. This was full-blown hysterical crying. My husband brought her to our bed and she just sobbed and sobbed for a good thirty minutes. She slung her body across my chest, almost like she had me pinned down, with her face close to mine. I rubbed her back and took deep breaths to silently demonstrate calm breathing.
The crazy making self-talk melted as I held my sobbing child. I realized I was the only one making myself crazy. She needed me to be there for her, to make her feel safe and loved. She had me pinned down. And while I held her, my heart widened to that truth.