Category Archives: Personal Shiz

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.

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).)

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.

Weigh-in Wednesday #12

It’s so strange that we’re at #12. Twelve weeks means three months, which means a quarter of the year has come and gone without us really taking the time to acknowledge it. Certainly my New Years’ Resolutions aren’t as far along as they should be, nor is my Weigh-in Wednesday project yielding life-changing, body-changing results. But, it’s a good point to acknowledge: it’s 25% done, but there’s still 75% left to work with (and that’s just of this year!).

The Good

sleep 12 - goodSleep
Still rocking the sleep thing, though slowly drifting toward the minimum amount of sleep I need to function. I’m not sure what’s been going on this week, but I’ve been sleeping poorly, not dreaming, and waking up tired. I’ve got to figure out a schedule and get on it, once I get moved into my new place (life has been a bit in turmoil, to be honest).

calories 12 - goodCalories
Still solid here, though it was a slightly higher week than last week (actually, just today elevated my average a lot; not sure why I was so hungry today!). It’s good to be consistently below target though–I do see a pattern of low week-mid week-high week, so I’m going to try and prevent that from happening this time around. Must stay committed to making good decisions!

steps 12 - goodSteps
I really wanted to put this one first, because it is THE BEST of this week. I actually beat my 10,000 steps per day goal! That takes a lot of walking, let me tell you. My brother was visiting and we did a lot of walking, and I was out running a fair bit too. It feels good to make the goal though–there was a while I thought it was completely out of reach.

The Bad

fv 12 - badFruits & Veggies
I mean, it’s not bad, per se, that I’ve eaten 2.3 fruits or veggies per day for the last weeks, but there’s just so much room for improvement! I think my intermediate goal here is to just get one month of 3/day each week. Maybe that’s a good goal for April, since I’m working on coming up with goals for that month. From there, I have a feeling I will get more used to relying on fruits and veggies for snacking, instead of other junk.

miles 12 - bad

Miles
Okay so technically this is not even close to my worst week ever, in fact it was the second best. But, I just didn’t put energy in all week long, and that’s why I feel that I have room to improve. The point is to be consistently active, not just to get the 7 miles in one go. So, need to refocus here again (and keep training for my London 10k!) and get my mileage up. My goal is to have all four weeks in April achieve the 7mi/wk goal.

The Ugly

nutrition 12 - badNutrition
This is an improvement: there is a clear shift away from fat this week in favor of both protein and carbs. But, there is still plenty of room for more improvement. I can’t figure out how to get my protein up (apparently my 3oz of chicken for dinner tonight didn’t really help?), and that’s what I want to focus on: long-lasting, high energy foods.

In the end…

weight 12Yeah not too bad! Another week of coming down to hit 147, which is the lowest weight I’ve been able to manage during this whole process. Next month, the intermediate goal is to break through this floor down to consistently 145 each week.

I’m trying to consider too how to supplement my workouts: cardio, strength, running, pure barre, swimming, yoga, walking more, riding my bike to work… once I get my life re-settled, I plan to get moving again!

To My Future Children

I was recently listening to a song and thought of you. I won’t share the song, because I know that you will never like the music I like, unless for some reason vintage makes an eighteenth comeback. The lyrics were more important though:

From adulthood, no one’s getting out alive.

We often talk about surviving childhood, and surviving adolescence. No one talks about surviving adulthood.

Maybe it’s just my getting older, but I think more about death. It’s funny that I say this, because I’m sure when you’re my age, you’ll realize how young I was when I wrote this. You’ll also have your own twenty-six years of experience and perspective, and hopefully realize how old I am too. It’s sad how long it takes us to take ourselves seriously, after years of being told we’re ‘too young’ to understand certain things. Whatever age you are in reading this, know that your emotions and opinions are as valid as they ever have been, or ever will be.

I will say this plainly, so that you can hear it: if you can achieve it, your lack of discomfort with death will cause the feeling in others. The absence of your fear will create theirs. Your work to accept the only guaranteed reality of life–death–will be alarming, even alienating. Strangely though, you’ll find inner peace if you can accept death as a reality now. It will insulate you against a great terror which we all must encounter at some point. Better to get it over with, accept it now, pull off the band-aid, and move on with life (until it ends).

Then again by the time you read this, we may be ‘living forever,’ in some digital place where our consciousness can exist in perpetuity… but then wouldn’t it be horrible to live forever with the human patterns of miscommunication? Avoidance and confusion and misinterpretation aren’t guaranteed to go away simply because we remove the physical confines of our bodies. Human nature, even if not in a human body, is still who we are, and how we define ourselves.

Regardless, accept that some day you may no longer exist. Your consciousness as it exists within your physical body in its current state will one day fail to be, and this constraint will give you great motivation: to do amazing things, to change the world, to overcome great obstacles. As long as you feel the pressure of a final deadline by which your life’s to-do list must be done (not the life anyone tells you that you should have, not even me), you will work toward doing the things on the list. You will throw yourself from planes and scale great mountains; you’ll find joy in small flowers blooming in early Spring and the crunch of falling leaves in Autumn; and you’ll see the world as a precious thing which you must both devour (with your eyes) and protect (with the rest of your body). You will strive to find meaning in life, so that you can find peace as you approach death.

And even if they figure out a way that we’re all living forever, pretend you will die. Feel the finite nature of your current state, and let it spur you to great heights. Be the change you wish to see in the world, so that as your world ends, you can feel fulfilled.