Name It, Box It Up, Move On

Last night, I went and saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier after work. It was something I had planned to do for most of the week since I worked last week to watch the rest of the movies in the franchise, and I really enjoyed the movie. As my nights go, it was one of the better ones: I got out and  did something I wanted to spend my time on, felt like it was worth my time, and should have come home feeling quite pleased about how adult I am and other such nonsense. The key word in that last sentence was should.

Instead I came home full of The Emotions, and I’m sitting down today to try and unpack everything a bit more. It wasn’t until this morning that I even realized what I was feeling, which says quite a lot about the complexity of the emotion and how much it ate at my mind overnight.

The reason I was in the throes of emotionally-infested waters was that as I left the theater, I realized my former roommate, her new roommate, and their neighbor had all gone out for a brief night of unplanned but rousing camaraderie. At this point, I’d like to think it was the fact that my only three friends in the city went out “without me” that got me feeling all FOMO. I immediately went into FOMO recovery mode, which is to say I felt lots of things, talked too much about it, listened to some music really loudly and walked most of the way home.

(The quotes in the above paragraph, and any that follow, indicate my perception, which is to say the lie that my brain is telling me.)

Okay, so my coping strategies aren’t half bad–after a year in London, I finally have ways of dealing with the fact that I feel like I am missing out. But that’s not right, is it? Because normally when I call an emotion out, I feel better. When I say to myself, hey this is just FOMO and you know what to do with that feeling, I do the things and I feel better. This morning, and this post, are an indication that I don’t feel better. It took until this morning to realize that the reason I didn’t feel better wasn’t that my strategies didn’t work; I don’t feel better because I didn’t call out the right emotion.

In what is still considered pop psychology, FOMO (feeling of missing out) sits squarely on the anxiety spectrum, based out of misperceptions that things are going on which are infinitely better than the current situation we find ourselves in. For those of us with them, our anxiety brains amplify and distort the thoughts about what fun others are having until we’re so miserable where we are that we can’t enjoy the life we currently have. This happened to me a lot in London last year, when people were out “having a good time,” (to be fair, they often were having a good time) and I spent much of the year miserable about how my own life was still so depressing. I worked really hard in the last few months of my time in London to let it go, to enjoy whatever I was doing as I was doing it, everyone else be damned. It was then I learned the only cure for FOMO: YOLO (oh yes, I went there). Embracing the current moment, losing oneself in it, is the only thing that makes FOMO better, because it proves that where you are is the best place for you. Reassurance seeking (asking others if it’s fun, if you should go, if you’re missing anything awesome) only feeds the anxiety; proving false the hypothesis that you can’t have fun doing your own thing actually reduces the anxiety.

tumblr_inline_myopzty10E1rmfd9gAll this to say, I know FOMO. I get it, I know all the feelings, and I’ve learned how to deal with it in my own way.

What I felt last night was not FOMO. What I felt last night was a genuine sense of feeling left missing out, not a misperception of missing something. I was not purposefully excluded from the social encounter, and I missed what happened because of other plans–I wasn’t just sitting at home watching a movie, I paid the hard-earned money to go sit in the theater and have that experience. Even more so, I loved the experience. I had no idea I was missing out when I was in the theater, I wasn’t plagued with anxiety about it in the moment, and my in-recovery anxiety brain was totally absorbed in the awesome action scenes I was watching.

I did not have FOMO; I just missed out on something else fun that happened too.

When I said that to myself this morning, it was empowering. I had found the emotion: mild regret. Regret I hadn’t been available to go do that thing, but not regret that I had been doing something I wanted to do. Life is about choices, compromises, and an acceptance that with 7 BILLION people in the world, there’s probably other fun things I’d like to do in addition to what I’m currently doing (heck, the whole city of London is something I’d rather be doing). But, I have my life here, full of things I like. Spending too much time in that space of regret is a recipe for certain unhappiness.

I’m allowed to feel my emotions for their time and their place, but not for so long that they interfere with what is happening next. It’s time to get back to YOLO.

(Photo credit for featured image: http://positivechick.com/)

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Breathe

You know that saying about ‘the best laid plans….?’

Actually, come to think of it, I don’t know the saying. For all I know, the saying goes, ‘the best laid plans are always the most awesome, unforgettable experiences of your lifetime so get planning, you schmuck!’

For me though, the best laid plans usually go awry.

turns out the actual expression is ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry‘ so I must have heard it somewhere to have picked the word awry… anyway.

I’ve been sick. Came down with a head cold on Saturday evening which has waylaid me for most of this week. My projects (which I had worked diligently to schedule on Saturday morning) are back in disarray, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on at work, and my body systems are completely disastrous (wait until you see my belated weigh-in, coming later today). Never mind that one mere week ago, I moved into my new apartment with limited internet. I mean, I did make plans. I laid them as best I could. They just… didn’t work.

I’m trying to catch up, between the sniffles and the coughs, the fogginess and the drowsiness. I have lots of writing to do, a ton of planning for London (which is to say, I haven’t done any), and a lot of excitement to build. Right now, I mostly feel a bit windswept in my own life, which is one of the least pleasurable feelings I can conceive of (save for illness, which is lately at the forefront of my memory). I can’t seem to get a firm, sure-as-hell grip on anything, which is incredibly frustrating. I want to feel vital and full of life; instead I feel sinus pressure.

I’ll get there, I’m sure. We’re rapidly approaching another weekend, one which I will take by storm. There will be emails flying and words coming easily from my once mucus-clogged brain, and the apartment will get basically put into place.

In the meantime, sleep and recovery. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that those are the things you really need.

March-in-Review

1. What did you do this month that you’d never done before?
Couldn’t think of anything I’d done this month? Paid for Instagram followers. Survived winter in Seattle. Began to realize how life is so incredibly divergent in every moment. ANGST! Okay I’ve done that last one before.

2. How are the resolutions coming along?
See for yourself:March 2014 Resolutions

The good thing is that the big red block on the right is just my failing to do German. Recommit! I actually thought of a simpler way to display this info. You can see my success/failure rate for each month, ya know? 2014 Resolutions (So Far)Anyway, March was alright on moderately frequent stuff, but I’ve got work to do on the most and least frequent resolutions (daily and monthly stuff). I need to get settled into my new place and start to re-create routines (which I’m sure will be ruined when I’m in London for 10 days), and then hopefully things will get back on track.

3. How did last month’s resolution go?
Well, the short answer is that I failed. I went to 19 food or drink establishments during the month, well more than the 12 I resolved to. But for the first time in a long time, I was under budget for this category! Small victories!

4. What’s a new resolution for this month?
I have lots!:

5. Who is one person worth recognizing this month?
My next door neighbor A, who has been a God-send during my move. I can’t even begin to thank him enough for helping with different parts of the process, and he’s just doing it out of the goodness of his heart!

6. What would you like to have next month that you lacked this month?
One hundred million dollars! Or, just enough to magically pay off my student loans. Also a new project to work on at work. And some motivation for Valise.

7. What date from this month will remain etched in your memory and why?
March 20, 2014: Got the keys to my new apartment! You should all come visit!

8. What was your biggest achievement this month?
Not being stupid? Moving without stressing out (too much)? Staying positive and having a great final ‘winter’ month with my seasonal depression!

9. And your biggest failure?
Emotions? That sounds bad to say… How about, noticing old cognitive and emotional patterns which die hard, and having to work to overcome them.

10. What did you get really, really excited about this month?
Ikea! And LONDON. (The latter of which sounds an awful lot like June 2011, July 2011, September 2011, January 2012, March 2012, May 2012, June 2012July 2012, August 2012, September 2012,… are you noticing a theme here?)

11. What song will always remind you of this month?
Pseudologica Fantastica by Foster the People. Such an epic anthem.

12. What was the best book your read this month?
Erm, I didn’t read any book. I’m hiding in shame, don’t worry.

13. What was your favorite film this month?
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, an oldie but a goodie!

14. What is a valuable life lesson from this month?
People can’t change, but they can add things which make their less admirable personality features easier to live with.

15. Show the month in photos.photo


16. What’s next month’s horoscope?
TAURUS – ✭✭✭✭
“It’s like someone lovingly stroking your arm over and over again in the same place until it just becomes fucking annoying. Sometimes the grate is too much, too harsh. Sometimes there seems to be no break in the cycle, just a continuous spinning with the same ebbs and flows. Yes, the day is different but is anything else? I just don’t know. It’s like constant PMS. Sometimes I want to put a million Morning After pills in the cis-male water supply so that they might understand if only for a day or two the kind of tearing to pieces hormones can do to ones psyche.” She was having an off day, but not without reason. All sorts of ghosts had been conjured up and there wasn’t much substantial to hold onto. But this was what was right now; the light had temporarily gone behind the clouds and all she had to rely on was her gut, some tea leaves left in a cup she drank from earlier that morning and the way the birds had decided to fly. The good news was that this kind of raw emotional terrain was honest even in its disproportion. It was honest because it didn’t care how it rendered one, it just came crashing in like a tsunami and left just as fast. These upheavals would roll in and out for the next month, she knew this. She knew that the very end of the month would also bring an eclipse in her sign. So she took a deep breath and let her exhale be what it was from moment to moment. She was glad that her closest ally, Venus, had come to town to support her through this transition. She anchored her torn heart in the loving salve of good friendships, ‘cause she was wise like that.

I could never be a ‘First Responder.’

There is a part of me that would really like to believe that people can change. After three years of work in the field of psychology, often counseling others in dire situations and with much graver problems than I hope I will ever have to face, I have come to realize that at our core, we cannot change. The way our brains are wired–the thoughts we have programmed ourselves to think by engaging in a series of reinforcement and punishment scenarios throughout our childhood–, these things are fixed.

Yeah, that’s pretty depressing. I assert, after working with others in tough situations, and 26 years in my own head, that my first cognitive reaction(s) will always be what they are. In certain situations (let’s say dating, for example), I will always feel some level of competitiveness, insecurity, jealousy, and discontent. That won’t change, and in some ways, it’s freeing to say and accept it. Instead of trying to change myself, I can focus on other things.

I can focus on my reactions to my own thoughts: since I will always feel a gamut of negative emotions, I can learn to recognize them faster, sooner, and more effectively. I can learn responses to my own thoughts which help me move quickly through the negativity toward a more positive and/or realistic state of mind. After all, both Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (the big two therapy styles) don’t teach you how to stop thinking certain things; they teach you how to respond and reform the thoughts you have. It is therefore very freeing to stay that instead of fighting the negative thoughts I initially have when I start to feel connected to another person, I can instead add in a series of cognitive responses which help me not have the same negative emotions.

Similarly, I can focus on my behavior. I have come to realize quite acutely in the past year that my behavior is always within my control, no matter what emotions or thoughts I’ve got running through me. I am very freed by the fact that I can choose exactly how to display to others what I’m thinking or feeling, rather than having the perception that I am controlled by these things. I can not engage in those behaviors which reinforce my own insecurities, jealousy, competitiveness, and discontent, even as I feel them inside. Damn, that’s way easier than trying to stop myself from being who I am.

I think I’m getting older and more set in my ways, which is what makes me wonder if it is possible that I could ever change. I kind of like the person I am now: the person who admittedly has a pretty bad ‘first response’ to a situation, but has a solidly adaptive ‘second response,’ and an increasingly effective set of behaviors which help me get through the uncomfortable parts of life. I don’t think I can change, and I’m not sure I want to spend my life trying. I’d rather work where I have already been able to see results, and know that I’ll be happy–and less tired–at the end of every day (and my life!).

When I drive myself, my light is found.

When I was soul-searching about living in London after my graduation from Hult, my MBA program, I remember wondering if the novelty might wear off. Would London lose its charm, when then 9-5 grind became habit? Would I find myself in a stupor of work-eat-drink-home-sleep-repeat? I guess ‘wondering’ isn’t the correct term, because I actually found myself worrying that I might fall out of London. Just like in relationships with other people, I find that I have an emotional relationship with the place I live, and each one has both a honeymoon phase and a termination of that honeymoon phase.

With that in mind (plus the increasing prospects that I would not be able to acquire a visa or a paying job sufficient to cover the payments on the alarming student loans I carry), I started to look at coming back to the U.S. To be honest, I didn’t want to come back; I wanted to stay. I wanted to test the limits of my honeymoon with London, and see if maybe there was one place in the world where I simply wouldn’t get sick of being there eventually. But, I needed a backup plan, and Seattle became the only choice I could bear.

I couldn’t be “a New Yorker.” I didn’t want to endure the bitter winters of Chicago or the humid summers of D.C. Thinking I could afford to live within the city limits of San Francisco was a pipe dream, and Denver was too landlocked. Seattle, on the other hand, had several things going for it: a reputation for rain (reminding me of London), a temperate year-round climate, and a terrain and vegetation which reminded me of where I grew up in Alaska without being anywhere near as isolated. Seattle it is, I said, and luckily Seattle wanted me. I snagged a great job at an exciting company, am well rewarded (both professionally and financially) for the work I do, and love the things which compromise my daily 9-to-5 slog… even when I just want to be laying on the couch (I mean, who doesn’t want to be laying on the couch if the terms of payment were the same?).

As I approach my six-month anniversary at my current role, and the slightly more-distant prospect of 10 days in London, I can’t help but feel like I made the right decision. Life didn’t put me here, I made a choice to (temporarily) give up the dream of living long-term in London and come to Seattle. But, I am getting to know great people here, I’m learning a lot, I’m coming to appreciate the life I have even as it develops into something I could never have expected. I don’t know where I will go when my student loans are paid off in six years, if anywhere. I may have roots here in Seattle, and a life too firmly established to leave. I’d like to think that I’m open to whatever options will be presented, and will make choices that make me happy. I can only trust that I’ve been pretty darn good at making these kinds of decisions in the past.

After a gloriously sunny Sunday in Seattle which included spending time with my awesome roommate and neighbor, wandering around a construction site, a great dinner of Mexican food, and some prep work on my new apartment, well,… I think things are going pretty well, and I’m glad to be exactly where I am.

(Even though it will be awesome to visit London (and terrible, because I will undoubtedly feel even more sad to leave).)

Friday Food Truck: 314 Pie

52nd Friday: 314 Pie
Facebook: fb.com/314pieseattle 
Twitter: @314PieSeattle
Website: www.314pieseattle.com/
Price: $$
Food Tried:
– apple cinnamon pie ($5)
– chicken pot pie ($8)

IMG_1712The first time that 314 Pie came to the International District, they sold out so quickly that I could only order a dessert pie and eat it as an appetizer before I tucked into lunch at a nearby restaurant.

The next time someone mentioned going there, I jumped at the chance, not wanting to miss out again. In our group, we ordered the last lamb pie, which tells you how popular food trucks are in the ID (hint, hint, we want other trucks!). That time, I was lucky enough to snag a chicken pot pie, which I gladly tucked into at my desk, since trying to eat it while walking back to the office turned out to be quite difficult.

IMG_1830The key to a good pie, like a good building, is a strong foundation, in this case the crust. The pies from 314 have a moist body crust, with crumbly and flaky ceilings. They’re just the right proportion of crust to filling, and compliment the flavors perfectly–mellowing the sweetness of the apple pie, and balancing the saltiness of the chicken pie.

Next is fillings: in this case, both were quite wonderful. The apples were juicy and perfectly seasoned. The chicken–while unexpectedly shredded rather than cubed as in other pot pies I’ve had in the past–was moist, and balanced with fresh veggies.

IMG_1831Portion size is key too–making a personal size pie is an art since everyone has different appetites. For me, I shared the dessert pie, but ate the chicken pie all by myself. I wasn’t overfull, nor did I feel I had too much or too little for what I was eating–entrees should fill you perfectly, whereas desserts are better in half-sizes.

I was very pleased with my entire 314 Pie experience, and will be glad to go try other pies in the future–I’m also pleased they’ve decided to come hang out with us in the ID, since we get food truck famines sometimes.

Let Me Be Him

Isn’t it funny how we run through sometimes-morbid conversations of what we would say if only we had the opportunity? Or maybe it’s if we only had the courage?

I’m not encouraging anyone to act with harmful intent–emotional or physical–toward another person, but would it be healthier if we could actually express what we mean to the person we mean to hear it? Or what if our conversations might lead to great things–to positive emotions and joyful potential futures–yet we lack the strength to say them for fear that we might be rejected?

The reality is that in every conversation where emotions are expressed, there is a possibility of rejection. It may be outright, such as the person saying “I don’t care what you feel because I feel differently,” or more subtle. Either way there is a strong sting, and it’s heightened by the intensity of emotions going into the conversation. When it’s something we really care about, be it telling a person off for being an asshole or confessing our love, we feel even greater apprehension about being rejected in expressing these emotions. After all, how bad would it feel for the asshole to say “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” or even worse, for the person to whom we’re confessing our love to say the same.

I often play through conversations in my head, working them over and over like clay. I shape them, explore my creation, and then reshape them. I rarely act on the things that come to mind for fear that whatever I’m feeling will be poorly received. For some reason, I’ve convinced myself that it’s better to keep the emotions inside than to share them until I’m more certain that the other person will agree with me (or at least not disagree outright). Like so many other things in my life, I think and re-think and over-think scenarios that A) will never happen and B) would never happen the way I imagine them even if they did happen.

I don’t know if I wish I had the courage to always say what I’m feeling; sometimes letting an emotion sit, simmer, and mature helps me figure out more clearly what the emotion actually is. Sometimes I feel one thing which is covering up another, and if I said the first emotion I’d have to face the consequences of it even if it weren’t the root of the issue. At the same time, there are conversations I’d love to have: hurt I’d like to express, forgiveness I’d like to give, bittersweet remorse and nostalgia I’d like to share… I could go on. Maybe my life–and every life, lest I sound completely self-centered–is a series of these non-conversations. Things left unsaid, undone, and thus dwelled upon.

                The Never-Ending Adventures in the Life of V