Object Lessons

 I can tend to compulsively manage my life. I do this in three areas especially: finances, recovery, and school. If you’ve been reading this blog for a couple months, you know about the financial stress I put myself under. Each thing has its place, and each place has its thing. As I told my therapist in our session last week, my life is like a row of little boxes, spaced perfectly evenly. If I happen to knock one of them even 1/16 of an inch from its position, I have massive anxiety. In fact, this what what our entire session was about last week. The session got far more intense than even I expected, and more personal than I’m going to detail here.

Unsurprisingly, this week has been my object lesson.

It began Monday night, which was of course the night before I started my semester. Some recovery things came up where I wasn’t DOING MY RECOVERY PERFECTLY. Oh, and this did come up in the middle of the night, also.

For this situation, I texted a recovery friend the next morning, emailed my sponsor, and then had dinner with another recovery friend after a meeting that evening.  The consensus was clear – have compassion on yourself. All three of these individuals said that, and they hadn’t even talked to each other beforehand! Imagine.

The next day, I found out I had a massive problem with one of my classes that I am required to have to graduate; I was waitlisted, and all the caps were raised so it was absolutely impossible for me to get into a class. The associate dean of my department, who I just happen to be TAing for this semester, told me to go talk to some people about a portfolio I could submit in place of taking the class. She also very graciously gave me permission to use her name when I went and talked to them. I came away from the conversation with the student worker with an inconclusive answer, so I turned around and emailed the portfolio director, CC’ing the associate dean. Then I had to wait. Meanwhile I’d already decided to stop trying to get into the class and just enroll in something else, which caused me a lot of anxiety. But I made the decision based on the suggestion of the associate dean, choosing to trust someone higher up than myself. And I didn’t hear back from the director before I had to give up my internet connection (which I don’t have at home).

In the end, last night, when I could have been at my most anxious, I decided to do something new. I decided to trust powers bigger than myself. In this situation, that included the associate dean of my department, and my HP. I journaled my thoughts out. Then I turned the lights off and did compassion (metta) meditation until I fell asleep less than 5 minutes later.

Normally, when I am anxious about something, it keeps me up for hours and I have to take melatonin to sleep. It’s amazing what happens for me when I decide to let it go and trust that I am not the only one in charge of my life.

Needless to say, when I checked my email yesterday morning, my school issues were all worked out, and my schedule is now better than before. I am able to take a much funner class than my prerequisite class, actually. A class called Wellness, Resilience, and Emotional Intelligence. Irony, anyone? 🙂

What do you do when your anxiety takes over? How do you calm yourself down?

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when words vanish.

I’ve taken to writing posts after I’ve been through an EMDR session, and this week is no exception. However… some things are too private to share so publicly, and I don’t quite know what to tell you today. Secrets are meant for the closest of friends.

I feel tender, broken open. Like a cantaloupe split down the middle and cascading with slick, vibrant seeds. And when I feel raw like that, opening up for the whole word feels sacrilegious.

Instead, I’m going to leave you with this video, which for now says more than I could put into words.

When even my therapist can’t give me what I want.

I had my therapy session yesterday, and it was disappointing. It was one of those sessions where you’re left wondering, “Why am I even here?” I should know enough by now to expect those sessions to come, but I don’t. I get cranky and annoyed. The last thing I said before I left was, “I don’t feel like I accomplished much in here today.” He smiled at me kindly as always and said “Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

That sentence is foreign to me, as you all might know by now. I might as well be hearing someone speak in Mongolian. I’ve been trying to unwind the session ever since and what it seems to come down to is something really hilarious, but exactly what I’ve been dealing with.

I’m throwing a fit because my therapist didn’t give me what I wanted. I didn’t get to cry and lose it and be comforted. I didn’t even do much EMDR yesterday, I did more talking. And I was peeved. Come on! You’re supposed to be a machine and predict what I want before I want it. Aren’t you?

This just proves the point of exactly what we were talking about in my session yesterday. My inner child has this glorious expectation that I should have a perfect, fantasaical relationship where I can always get what I need. He described a situation where I could come to his office, be fulfilled, then if I walk down the hall and realize it’s not good enough, I could come right back and it would be okay. He asked if that’s what it was that would be my perfect fantasy relationship. Yes, indeed, said I. That’s exactly what I would love.

The problem is that people aren’t machines, and they aren’t programmed to fulfill my every whim. They never have been. My inner child thinks this is a crime.

So now I sit here, with a decidedly unsatisfying session yesterday, and I get to acknowledge it. Be with it. Clearly see that, “you know what Laurie, you are not guaranteed to get what you want out of people, even your therapist who is one of your favorite people in the world.” It’s so irritating yet hilarious. I can see how unrealistic it is. And I think I should have gotten this by now after a year in love addiction recovery, but you know what, it’s that perfect romance story that I have to surrender over and over. Romance, relationship, whatever. The point is that I think neediness equals love.

I am asking my HP for grace as I sit with this and discover just how to deal with the fact that no one in this world can fulfill me. It’s a little harsh to figure out.

Has anyone else had this experience? Would love to hear your experience strength and hope on this subject!

Hamster-wheeling and Enlightenment.

My post last night was a little too dramatic for my taste. See, I’m on a hamster-wheel about my finances and it’s taking quite a bit to step off. After writing that post, I texted my best friend about 20 times (Carly is a saint, ya’ll) and she coaxed me down. She’s quite good at that. After 19 years of knowing each other it’s kind of our way. We talk each other down from emotional cliffhanging on a regular basis.

When I was able to calm down and look at my emotions more mindfully, I was aware of what was underlying the whole thing. Sure, I’m terrified. By which I mean I’m scared shitless. However, I’m not really terrified about money. I’m terrified that I am in charge of making sure I’m okay, of planning my life out so that I’m well-taken care of. Something in me says that if I make one little misstep, the whole house of cards will fall apart.

My therapist would agree. Last time I saw him he said that it’s all just a house of cards anyway, isn’t it? I’m still getting used to the idea that nothing is permanent or guaranteed. I’m sure being a trauma survivor doesn’t really help that. At the very end of my fear is this idea of what happens when the house falls. In my head, I see myself going crazy. Losing my mind. Also, that seems logical to me considering the vast history of mental illness on both sides of my family. My dad’s side looks especially terrifying, what with its multiple instances of delusions. My grandma, my grandpa, my uncle, and my dad ALL have suffered/continue to suffer in various degrees from delusions. (Delusion = one of the three roots of suffering according to Buddhism)

I looked at myself last night and I saw delusion, expectation, clinging, suffering. I see in myself the same things I see in my dad. Talk about terrifying. I want to run screaming from all the zombies that invade my brain at that thought. Except that I did have the presence of mind to finally return to my sangha last night, and what the dharma talk covered is still with me.

We talked about the 6 paramitas. One of the 6 paramitas of Buddhism is “generosity.” The idea of generosity includes the intention of being generous with my compassion. I see in myself the suffering I also see in others, so therefore can have compassion.

Psh. Who wants to have compassion? I don’t. Are you kidding? THEY are the bad ones! THEY are the wrong ones! Have compassion for THEM?

But then I can’t help it. It just comes. I see back through my ancestry and it’s so obvious. We all struggle against impermanence. We have used delusion to avoid the idea that it’s all falling apart, anyway. I finally can understand why my dad became so afraid and invented the whole delusion of “the Money.” The money was really just a keyword for being rescued from the fear of everything disintegrating.

I carry that exact same fear within myself. The very same one. Terrified that everything’s going to fall apart, I manage and manage and manage.

Which brings me to the third paramita – forbearance. That is to say, acceptance of life. Patience with life’s impermanence. The awareness that “this too shall pass.” It’s staring into the great wide yawning hole inside myself, and falling in.

Do you know what happens when stardust falls into a black hole?

It is enlightened. It transitions to another realm. Scientists are just now lending validity to this idea, but I’ve been fascinated by it for years. I started a fictional story of a girl that passes through a black hole to another dimension. What I was writing was what I needed to say to myself. Fall in.

Paramita. Crossing over to the other shore.

I see it now. May I transition to the other dimension, where the hamster wheel doesn’t exist.

Heart-Silence

I am coming to appreciate the value of silence. I don’t mean just silence in the sense that there are no words. I mean heart-silence.

Some people, when you tell them your emotional state, what you’re experiencing, respond with advice or suggestions. I’ve noticed this for awhile, and it comes in several forms. When I was still involved heavily in church, people would say “Well God wants people to do this and that because the Bible says this and that.” Instantly their word became gospel, of course, and I was expected to take their advice. In recovery, I find people expounding on certain techniques couched in their “experience strength and hope” which they expect me to then take on. Because it’s experience, strength, and hope, of course, and I’m supposed to be learning from the experience, strength, and hope of others. This isn’t intended to knock ESH; everything I’ve learned in recovery I’ve learned from other people. I DO need people’s wisdom quite often. But sometimes, I need heart-silence.

Rarely do I find a person who will not respond to my emotions with “well I did this” or “this approach is helpful” or “well maybe you need to do this” and instead respond with simple heart-silence. You know what I mean. When someone holds your words in a sacred way, there is a certain silence to it. They might say something, or ask a question for clarification. But they aren’t trying to fix. And in that, silence happens.

Actually, I really find those moments spiritual. That’s how my interaction with my Higher Power is. Most of the time, my HP isn’t trying to fix me when I’m communicating with It. Most of the time, It just listens. Soaks in. Reminds me that I am loved.

So when a person in real life responds to me that way, I get a taste of what my HP is like. I relax. I feel heard, seen, and valued. I treasure those moments.

Moments of experiencing heart-silence from others remind me of a place here in Colorado that’s very special to me. It’s a tiny little graveyard out on the eastern plains. It’s silent, so silent that everything inside of me unwinds, like a ball of yarn when you pull on it. There’s a great bowl of sky and a great bowl of earth, and I am clasped gently between them. I am held, as surely as a baby is held in a mother’s womb.

And even though so much of me right now resists “Christian religiosity”, the only word that can really describe the hush of that place is this:

Holy.