Not Strong

Unless it's No-Shave November, I don't pay much attention to "themed months". But recently it came to my attention that May is Mental Health Awareness month. I found this out when a former classmate of mine, always known for being hilarious and popular, posted the reminder as his Facebook status. 

In it, he said the pressures of always being "the good single dad" in the neighborhood, as well as the funniest person on Twitter, can sometimes get to him, but it's okay to not be okay--and to talk about that.

I've always prided myself on "being strong." Stronger than anyone else in the room. But when there's no one else near me, and I don't  have to be the captain of the cruise ship, something comes over me. Hint: it's the temptation to lie on my bedroom floor in the middle of the day and literally-cannot. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what giving into anxiety looks like.

Unlike my classmate, I may not have to fake a smile while running carpool or deal with the pressure of anyone actually reading my tweets (unless they are about Harry Styles, then it's a different ball game), but there are things in my life that choke me out more than they should. There are DIRECTV bills to dispute, impossible deadlines to meet, difficult people to please, places to be that I don't necessarily want to go, dogs to walk in the rain, etc. 

As insignificant as any of those seem, let me assure you that "being strong" sometimes doesn't even begin to make a dent in any of that.

But what I've learned is that strong doesn't mean you are a 24/7 QuickStop, servicing all things for all people. Being strong doesn't make you a vending machine that hums with the light on and never gets unplugged. Strong also doesn't mean you can't ever be sad. It doesn't mean you can't struggle. Or that you have to do everything alone. Or carry all of the weight, at all of the times.

And most of all, strong is not powering through, it's working through, so that you can in fact come out a bigger, better person. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to be late for therapy.

Just Stop

It's an incredibly challenging time to be alive. And trust me, that's not a political statement.

I'm managing more work than I've ever taken on, all conveniently bound by ironclad contracts that make slacking off or even asking for a mere extension damn-near impossible. Additionally, my 12-year-old dog was vomiting for a week straight, I'm playing landlord to multiple properties that are thousands of miles away, and for the first time in my life, I'm doing things like "forgetting to eat lunch" which is a huge red flag for someone who finishes one meal thinking about the next.

Here's the sick confession though: I kind of like it. The chaos, that is.

I feel alive when I'm busy. When I'm firing off emails and turning in work. It's the reason I can't meditate or take a vacation without wifi. And for the most part, I handle it all well. "High functioning" is what the therapist calls it.

But I'm still human. And the same thoughts that keep you up at night are the ones that keep me up at night. I just have a triple order of them, which is only a good thing when you're talking about French fries.

That said, I haven't slept much lately. Every night, I lay awake in my bed planning my next move, trying to get ahead of tomorrow, and attempting to answer a myriad of questions that flow in while the rest of the world winds down. And then I wonder why I'm exhausted and defeated in the morning.

But last night was different. In an unprecedented moment of clarity, I said just two words to myself as I crawled into bed: "Just stop."

Just stop because tomorrow isn't here yet; now is here. And now is bed time.

Just stop because you don't have the answers to the questions. And they won't come to you between now and 7am.

Just stop because the scenarios you are going over in your head are out of your control. And no amount of ruminating changes that.

So just stop before you even start. And go to sleep.

It was like five-second truce I made with my inner self and I couldn't have been more OK with it. I put the phone on the charger, turned my white noise app on, gave my dog a smooch and shut my eyes. I had the best sleep I've had in months.

There's a degree of peace you need to make with yourself, on your own time, in your way. It's like a deal you have to strike, especially when times are tough. For me, that'll likely never come through things like meditation retreats, traditional prayer, or even regular exercise.

But I have been newly-enlightened by the concept of "just stop" and am ready to make that part of my fresh start. 

 

 

 

 

 

Give It A Year

I'm of the minority, but I loved 2016. I achieved my life long dream. I spoke to my family almost every single day on the phone. I moved 60 seconds away from a frozen yogurt place. But the year wasn't free of challenges; especially toward the end. And while "another year" doesn't mean there's some scientific change in the air, I welcome the opportunity to audit how I'm going to do life moving forward. Three thoughts:

Make Mentally Sound Decisions.

The nature of my life (re: crazy) means I'm near-constantly making decisions. From what to eat for lunch, to what word to type next, to what seat to select on an airplane. But as of late, decisions have felt more complicated and complex than ever, which makes me want to do nothing at all. So, in 2017 I will no longer worry about making the "right" decision or the "wrong" decision. And when a decision feels "hard" or "sad" I will push through and make the choice that causes the least impact on my mental soundness. 

Deal with Negativity Appropriately.

When someone brings negativity into a situation, I circle around like a Life Flight coming in for landing. I immediately ask: What can I do? How can I help? What can I change about myself? No more. Negativity is what happens when someone cannot process challenge. It is not my job, it is not my bag to pick up, it is not my cause to take on to figure out the way. It is my empathy that is needed. So in 2017, I will protect my most valuable resources - problem solving, true compassion, charity - for when they are thoughtfully needed, and I will exercise empathy more freely than before.

Dismiss Fear.

I was with a friend recently and caught myself saying, "I would do THIS, but what if THAT." Translation: "I would [do this thing that makes total sense], but what if [something uncomfortable happens]." I was letting fear, some inanimate object that doesn't even exist in the universe as an actual situation, dictate my actions. When I saw it like that, I became repulsed. I'm stronger than that, and I know it. So, in 2017 I will acknowledge my fears, but then I will dismiss them and I will just DO. I will write the sex scene into the book. I will travel to the place I've always wanted to go. I will not apologize for being myself. 

How about you?