Honestly, these are exciting times
... and nothing feels scarier than having everything going for you
I was sitting on a train to Amsterdam after a lovely weekend spent catsitting in Rotterdam when I started feeling fuzzy. I had just mentally reviewed my commitments for the upcoming month, and a sort of dread took hold of me. It's too much; perhaps I can't do it all. Objectively, I have several things lined up that I care about, but that's a good thing. All of a sudden, however, I couldn't think straight. A blurry mind is a symptom I know all too well - it's an immediate effect of anxiety for me - and sometimes the only identifiable signal that I'm not just a bit stressed, I'm anxious. Mental fog annoys me immensely because it slows me down, makes me indecisive, and stands in the way of efficient decision-making. It prevents me from enjoying the process too, which is more than half of the fun. Goddamn it, everything was going just fine.
I have been very excited about life lately. After two months of enduring autumn weather in Amsterdam, I'm about to go on holiday to the Portuguese beach shore. I attended the first session of an entrepreneurship program for artists + creatives which got me pumped about my professional life. One of my best friends is about to get married: I've got my outfit ready to go and celebrate their love in a country I've never been to before. Two days ago, my friends and I partied for the first time in a public space with a DJ set and all: everyone was ecstatic. Romantically, things are slowly taking a sweet (if unexpected) turn too. My birthday is coming up, and being the birthday lover I am, you bet I'm throwing a feast.
It's a pattern. When things start looking bright - brighter than usual; - when there's momentum building up in my work; when I have different things going for me in life, I start wavering. This time the trigger was the coronavirus. What is this strange cough about? What if this means that I can't make it to my beloved friend's wedding? What if I get ill and can't go soak up the sun? I can't possibly survive perpetual rain and overcast skies, can I? And what if I can't implement the learnings from the entrepreneurial program? What if nothing works and I'm a flop? Recollections of situations when I felt like a failure flashed my mind too. For a moment, I got tempted to go there, and dissect the similarities of past instances and now. As if the dwelling could protect me from anything.
For most of my life, I dealt with worries by way of overthinking. Whenever something bothered me, I had to think about it, analyze it from all angles; my attempt at tearing apart the power of fear. I'd get into obsessive cognitive loops until I felt like the idea had lost its threatening properties. A certain thought would come at me and a reaction would follow suit: to resist, to undo. I programmed myself to do this from a young age. I got trained to rationalize everything, from bitter environments to undesired emotions. It was all about thinking the situation through and convincing myself there was no reason to feel whatever way I did. I can hear my mother's saccharine voice: See, how there's nothing to worry about? Now, repeat to yourself: I won't let this thing bother me. Did I know how powerful our minds are?
Resisting was my way of protecting my boundaries and autonomy growing up. To my mom's dismay, I did not repeat the affirmations she so eagerly wrote on a piece of paper for me to practice and become "better." I fought back. I should not have to program myself a certain way when the circumstances were the problem (I sometimes get impressed at how mature I was at that young age.) Eventually, I became an adult and got to build the life I wanted, a life that served me, a life that was conducive to me feeling fulfilled, connected, satisfied. Some patterns are hard to break, though. I know how to navigate adversity. I know how to withstand hardship. I learned how to protect myself, how to look out for signs of danger. It is less clear for me what to do or how I thrive when there's no antagonist. Despite being a gentle person by nature, it always strikes me as paradoxical how inflexible I can be with myself. I made a mistake because I was stupid. Someone did something hurtful but I should've known better. I suffer from (at times impairing) anxiety because I am weak.
There's nothing to resist in my current life anymore. It's okay to have troubling thoughts. It's okay to feel foggy. It’s okay to have a history. I trust my good judgment. I am allowed to make mistakes. I am allowed to pick things back up again. I'm allowed to take my time. I’m allowed to go at my own tempo. Where I am now is a good place to start. My body is a safe place to be. This is not me being complacent, as some critics may say, this is me giving myself what I need to keep at it: reassurance, connection, radical understanding, a warm embrace. I don’t try and convince myself of any of these truths. I’m simply lining them up here because I often need a reminder.
I was so used to scaring myself off and backtrack from what was truly important for me. Whatever the thought or emotion that arose, it has a right and a reason to be there, even if I can't immediately grasp it. It's impossible to zoom out at times, so I give myself the gift of softness. I remind myself, again, that my worth is not up for debate. I focus on the here and now. I start by relaxing the areas of the body that feel tense. I let the mind be foggy.
The fog dissolves by itself, as I continue following the routines I have in place, taking concrete action, doing the things I know are good for me.
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