Allowing Myself

…to feel, to love, to be.

Tag: therapy

I Am Not the Voice

I’ve come to understand that all the chatter inside my head is not useful.

A few years ago, when I first started therapy, I had a breakthrough. I was panicking about my to-do list, about how I’d power through the beginning of a week, running on the reserve of energy I gathered over the weekend, and experience this intense despair by Wednesday evening.

My therapist suggested that I was setting this unreachable bar for myself. No one else was asking these things of me. That it was completely unfair because even though I would reach my mark, completing my to-do list, it would never be enough. My mind would turn right around and find the next thing to obsess about accomplishing.

If I sound dramatic, it’s because I am was.

My therapist said that instead of becoming more efficient / effective / productive, I needed to learn to deal with the anxiety of not accomplishing things. Because that is the actual state of our days – things need doing, things get done, and we start again. There will never be a day that everything is Done.

When I read Hand Wash Cold it reiterated this idea. That I am here to do (and not freak out about) things like laundry, paying bills, and kissing my husband. That these daily tasks were a path into self-awareness and a type of enlightenment. Very much the basis of the human experience. To love, to be.

That was a light-bulb moment.

Then I found Byron Katie and her ideas of questioning our thoughts. That when we attach to, and believe, our thoughts, we bring ourselves into chaos. That negative feelings are a reflection of our mind believing thoughts that do not line-up with reality. She’s created something called The Work, which allows people to question and reconcile their thoughts with the world.

That was a light-bulb moment.

And now I’m reading The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. From the start, Singer focuses on the idea that you not only don’t have to believe your thoughts, you don’t even have to listen to them at all.

Our inner dialogue can be like living with a manic-depressive, a crazy roommate who continually grabs our attention. Singer suggests:

“The best way to free yourself from this incessant chatter is to step back and view it objectively…the only way to get your distance from this voice is to stop differentiating what it’s saying. Stop feeling that one thing it says is you and the other thing it says is not you… You are the one who hears the voice”

I am not the voice. I am the one who hears it.

An holy wow, doesn’t that create some distance between the craziness in my head and the gorgeous view of life I have when I’m not feeling insane?

It never occurred to me to disregard the internal chatter completely. To just separate from it, in my mind. To stop arguing with it, or trying to soothe it. To just, be.

As I’m reading, I understand.

“True personal growth is about transcending the part of you that is not okay and needs protection”

WIth each lesson learned, with each experience, each light-bulb moment, I am moving away from controlling an protecting myself, to living my life.

And it feels really good.

Ode To SoCal

 

When I first moved to LA, things were cool. Newly graduated and living 3,000 miles from my family and boyfriend, I basically was freaking out. But the city was huge and I did what I could to explore, meet people, find a job.

Once the job was secured, life calmed down a bit. Kind of. The sublet I lived in was perfect, romantic even, and I started running to fill my free time. But as is habit, I put way too much pressure on myself. I had yet to learn the SoCal way of living – which is, just live.

A job and apartment change found me working and living alone. This could’ve been the perfect time to dig down into what I really wanted to do, to lounge and relax and pursue personal goals of anything I wanted. But I was paralyzed. I didn’t allow myself to do much of anything.

Then H moved to LA, we moved in together, and things moved along. I decided to get a therapist and focus on myself. This was an immense move, one that I thank my past self for. I wouldn’t be where I am today if she hadn’t hung onto that idea with both fists.

Soon after, we moved to a different part of the city, one where it was was cooler, our apartment was nicer and I could ride a bike to the beach. I tried giving myself some space, and a break. We adopted Carter. I took up photography for the first time in years. I started this blog. Somehow, all of this personal work influenced my professional career and I was promoted into a brand-new position created for me. Then, Henry proposed and we were on to that whirlwind.

And all the while, Los Angeles in all it’s entertainment industry, hippy-beach-culture, sunny days and warm nights was growing on me.

When we were on our honeymoon, and people asked where we were from, I wanted to say Los Angeles like I’d grown up here. It felt like home. So much of the east coast work-is-your-worth-must-not-stop culture was fading into the background.

Now I know much of this has to do with me growing up, taking responsibility for my life, and the beautiful leveling out of things that happens as one nears their late twenties… but I think I would be ignoring a major factor if I didn’t point to Los Angeles as a supporting character in all of this.

And now that my sister lives here, I can see that change happening for her too. She’s brighter, happier, more active. That’s us in the photo above, on a hike, right near her apartment. She’s got the mountains, I have the ocean.

Something about this city allows us to be ourselves and enjoy life deeply. And I am so grateful for that.

The Ups and Downs of Things

Been feeling a little blue. Been needing more help / support than usual. Thought seeing my therapist yesterday would help, but it took a whole lot more. After crying in the car because my self-care plan of doing work at my fav coffee house back-fired, I ended up just putting myself to bed. An hour long nap was the key. Afterwards I felt healthy enough to vacuum the entire house and get my shit together for my event that evening. And then I got a mani / pedi.

The event itself was fabulous. I should never doubt the power of hanging out with other women.

I didn’t get home till after midnight. This morning I have a hangover. But I’m packed and ready to travel again. It’s so weird to me the ups and downs of things. How I can be hysterical and alone in the morning and surrounded by community and love at night. Do you ever get that?

So grateful I had the time and flexibility to take that nap. Not sure I would’ve reset to myself again without it.

Hope you’re having a lovely Thursday. xo

Therapy After Therapy

Today I went for a little retail therapy (after my traditional therapy appt) at Urbanic Paper Boutique. Definitely spent too much, but it was worth every penny. 5 wonderful people will be getting some sweet mail in the next week, I have two new pens, one new journal, a polka-dot role of washi tape and a sweet smelling candle to burn.

I haven’t spent any money at a paper store since I bought guitar valentine’s back in January (another awful sluggish time), so I don’t feel too bad. Writing encouraging notes to people I love is great self-care too. Give what you’d like to receive.

Sometimes I think my sole (soul) purpose in this life is to reflect people’s light back to them.

It’s important I record these fluctuations so that I can come back and revisit my own guidance for support. I’ve felt great like this before and I’ve felt shitty like I did the past month. Maybe it was Venus in Leo as that planet just shifted yesterday. I kid. Kind of…

Obviously life has ups and downs, but I’m really proud of myself that I worked this knot free on my own. Well, not without help but that I was my own best support, finally, and once that clicked, I felt better.

So, yes, I’m feeling better. Tomorrow’s a very full day with work tasks, meetings and celebrating a friend’s birthday. Hoping the energy release continues.

Did you feel a shift in energy this week? xo

This Grateful Season – Therapy

Boy oh boy did I just get my butt kicked! It started in the first few weeks of October, right after the craziness of running a bunch of events. I felt uneasy, anxious, exhausted and starved. And my logical brain was all, “We totally got this!” but as the days wore on I was sinking fast.

In no order, this is my past 5 weeks:

  • 36 hr trip to Vegas to see my parents, including a flight
  • Week working in Boston, cross-country flight plus 30 degrees and snow
  • Work trip included back-to-back meetings, lots of talking and too many drinks. Also see “no sleep” below
  • Less than 8hrs of sleep per night for more days than I realized
  • Halloween, including my fiance wanting to actually rent costumes and go out
  • Being without a cell phone for 3 weeks
  • Overseeing an event, on a Sunday night, after falling asleep on a couch at someone’s football party
  • 15 day long death cold
  • Panicking about the guest list’s lack of RSVPs for a larger event
  • No exercise, besides walking the dog. See “death cold” above and include foot injury from last month
  • 5th day back into town and running a large event for work. See “lack of RSVPs” above

This isn’t to prove how “productive” I am or play the I’m-busier-than-you game. Instead, it’s a marker for me to see the ridiculous amount of stuff I took on while not allowing myself any rest. WTF?

The same friend who repeatedly suggested for 2 years I try therapy gave me his therapist’s card. (You may remember that my beloved therapist went out on maternity leave in March 2011 and has yet to return to work). A week after coffee with him, I was sitting in my new therapist’s office, having no idea what to DO. (Don’t we always want to do something?)

That session was fine. She’s a petite Asian woman who speaks softly while gesturing with her small, tanned hands. Words came flying out of my mouth, revealing my anxieties and struggle. I could feel her eyes on my hands, moving rapidly with my thoughts, like I was trying to wave down help on the side of a highway.

After, I didn’t feel much. Later, I felt annoyed. She’d commented on my anxiety level and didn’t give me any insight into what I was feeling (or so I thought). Turns out, I was using her comments to beat myself up even more, about how I wasn’t just anxious / stressed, but she was going to diagnose me with some anxiety disorder and fears of being prescribed drugs flooded in. (Not against drugs, just loved talk-therapy with my former therapist so much that I didn’t want to have to deal with someone jumping that solution for a prescription. And I don’t even know if this new therapist can prescribe drugs!)

No matter how that first session went, I made sure to book a second, and show up.

I was in tears from exhaustion, arriving from Boston the night before, not getting to bed until 1AM, but banked on therapy as being some sort of medicine. I made myself go. Thank goodness. Thank goodness. Thank goodness.

In this session I was spent. There was no speed talking to impress, no comments about why this or that. If I could’ve just slept in her comfy chair in the sunlight of the office’s big windows, I would’ve been happy. Bone tired and yet, talking. Crying still, turning the “problem” of “all that I have to do” and “not having the energy for any of it”.

And here is where all the intangible benefits of therapy flood my body and I am OK again.

I cried, I laughed. She said things like, “It seems like you have an inner-taskmaster” and then she drummed her fingers on the arm of her chair to demonstrate my demon. “It all sounds very life or death” in regards to the crazy standards and pressure I’m putting on myself. “You may want to get some sleep before you have that conversation”. And my favorite “You just show up and let me do the work”.

Oh emm gee. There is no place in my life right now where I have someone else saying, “You just show up and let me take care of it”. My body relaxed immediately.

After the session, I walked a few blocks of Westwood, enjoying the sun. Then, I headed home where I let myself lounge on the couch, watch TV and napped the heck out of my afternoon. And guess, what? I finally started to feel better.

The truth is, my funk was driven by all of those events plus being sick plus not sleeping, but it wasn’t until I spoke in therapy that I realized the ridiculousness of how I was treating myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to sleep for God’s sake, worrying that it was a true sign of depression that I wanted to crawl into bed, when I was feeling terrible b/c I wouldn’t let myself go to bed!! It seems insane now, but going through it I just can’t see the trees from the forrest. It’s all one big blur. I’d forgotten my one important lesson I’d already learned via therapy and it was only in going back to therapy that I remembered.

Treating yourself like a precious object will make you stronger.

**For the month of November, I’m posting something each day that I’m grateful for. It may be as long as an intricate post, as short as a quote, as simple as a link or as wordless as a photograph. Join me? #gratefulseason

My 100th Post… and Why I’m Allowing Myself to Get Back Into “Productivity”

A while back I wrote about my obsession with productivity and how it wasn’t doing it for me anymore. Since then, I’ve continued on a more creative, less productivity path. This requires a lot of riding my bike around the neighborhood and gluing pictures into a notebook. My planner only appeared again when the new job kicked in, lifting me up in a wave of activity.

With Mercury Retrograde and all attempts to slow down, reassess, and feel the rhythm of this new chapter of my life, I find it interesting that I’m gravitating right back to productivity. This has Pros and Cons.

Pros = feeling organized, calm, productive and in control.

Cons show up with the pressures to “whip myself into shape” and measure myself against some standard that not only is unhealthy, but does not exist. I repeat, does not exist.

I used to look to productivity resources for answers to questions like, “What should I do with my life?” and “How can I not feel like shit every day?”. The answers do not lie in books, especially the kind that tell you to do a brain dump or sharpen the saw. Granted, these are useful tools, it’s just I was bringing a chainsaw to cut a birthday cake.

What I needed was an anti-hack. As Clay Collins writes in the link, I didn’t need to optimize myself, I needed to be fundamentally reconfigured.  There’s lots of way to do this. I did it through therapy – I literally talked myself into being, the way a storyteller conjures up a tale. I learned to listen to myself, to feel my feelings, to know what is good for my soul and what is disastrous (read: more beach, less “have tos”).

But my new job requires a lot of organization from me – I’m literally creating the position, planning major events and dealing with daily admin work. It’s much more than I’ve ever been responsible for and it’s thrilling! A year ago, I would’ve floundered but the past year primed me for this new stage. It’s awesome.

So I know I need the tools. My hope is that I’m coming from a new place of maturity, self-worth and purpose. I don’t expect these tools to make me feel better. They’re there to help me track my projects and accomplishments, but I’m the one in charge of my peace of mind, always.

 

Morning

For 15 weeks straight, I’ve written morning pages.

For 11 weeks I’ve follow the Artist’s Way.

For 10 weeks I’ve been without therapy.

Each morning, whether my eyes drift lazily or snap open, I wake up. Sounds swirl – car horns, the dog stretching, showers running, and microwaves chirping. I stretch out my legs and then turn over, curling up on the side that I neglect because I share a bed. Like Byron Katie suggests, I try not to think too much about being in bed or, more importantly, how I “need” to get up. I’ll get up when I sit up, and I usually do, right on time.

My journal rests in a corner of the headboard. Maybe I use the bathroom before I begin. I smooth the sheets out and pile pillows behind my back. The dog stares at me most mornings with excitement, he’s ready for breakfast, but I leave him in his crate, asking him to “Rest your head & be quiet. Good boy”.

This was an important shift that had to happen before I could really give 100% to my morning pages. They needed to happen FIRST. Before anything else, besides maybe a quick pee / hand wash / sip of water, I need to start writing. No dog walks, no breakfast, and certainly no stupid technology. I leave my phone OFF. I have the luxury of usually being home alone, but if not, I don’t speak unless spoken to.

This is my morning ritual. This is how I greet the day. With therapy on hiatus, I am dependent on this 40min segment to hold my worries, rearrange my fears, give me perspective and light my hope.

“We have this idea that we need to be in the mood to write (create). We don’t.” AW

More importantly, we think that sitting still, doing a small action, and meditating are things that, on one hand we can somehow do “incorrectly” and yet, on the other, are “pointless” (aka I have “better” things to do with my time).

My MPs are neither pointless nor perfect. I do just what they say – I write 3 pages, long hand. And then I start my day.

It’s my practice. It’s not something I fret over or improve, not something I judge or critique. It’s just something I do that somehow allows me to feel heard. I write down my dreams, my complaints, my moods. It’s suggested that it could be seen as prayer or meditation. At first I found this too “woo-woo” for my liking, but now I really do feel it’s something deeper than just blurting thoughts onto a page, even though that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Just in the way yoga is more than holding down-dog for 5 breaths, morning pages are an asana for my mind and my spirit. And I’m not entirely sure how to explain it yet, but I think it’s opening up a space for me and God.

Assignment: Medium-Size “Love To” List

For a super planner like me, addicted to busy-busy-busy, planning a day of absolutely nothing seems like the perfect antidote, luxurious even. If Monday is jam-packed then Tuesday is rest, creating a balance logical to most people.

Turns out, when it comes to free time, I am not most people. This approach is too overwhelming for me (hence yesterday’s mood). And yes, I see the irony is being overwhelmed by too much free time. Apsht.

A few weeks ago, I started making little lists. When the empty space of the day would start to crush my work-a-holic soul, I would jot down simple things that I enjoy and could do with my free time. They became Love To lists (I just made that up. I may change it). This was working, but again, yesterday’s mood was not overthrown. In fact, all day my mind was blank, like I was in a fight or flight panic over WHAT TO DO with my time and I couldn’t think straight enough to even name “Take a bath” or “Read a book”.

Pathetic, I know.

Of course I bring all of this to therapy. And here is where we both decide that if I’m going to to go all CT on this problem’s ass, then “doing nothing” isn’t going to work. I need some type of structure.

My little assignment, which I don’t usually receive b/c that would just feed into my issues, is to list things I enjoy doing to replace the sessions I’ll be missing as my therapist heads for maternity leave. Then, I’ll use some of the $ I’m not spending on sessions to essentially treat myself.

Aka: Me Time. And doesn’t that make the shame gremlins swirl?

It’s like a bigger version of the Love To list I mentioned above and a smaller version of a Life List (too daunting right now). Oh and you know so much crap is coming up around thinking I don’t deserve that time or that I don’t work hard enough to earn that time or that, ahem, I don’t give myself enough credit. All topics I’m sure we’ll be visiting in the near future.

I’m also seeing a connection between this medium-sized task, the pull to draw inward during this Pisces vibe and the possibility of doing the Artist’s Way during that chunk of time I’m off of therapy. All the ideas point to “Take care of yourself” and “Create“.

I’m trying – I’m blogging more, trying to listen to my body, and now I’m drawing (some of my doodles are in this post). It feels right to grow in this direction. Even my horoscope says:

Artistic activities or those involving healing are enhanced today, Pisces. Whatever you try is going to be more a part of your very being than it would be at other times. Love, art, psychic or spiritual activities – all should take on a new meaning for you at this time. This condition should last for a long time. Make the most of this energy now and your skills should continue to grow.

And my new mantra, also courtesy of my horoscope:

Change does not have to be intense and traumatic –

but it does take work.

Wisdom Therapy

Honestly, the wisest decision I made this year was therapy. Not “start”, not “try” but just full out get a therapist and do it. It was an instant shift, like other smart, intuitive decisions I’ve made, but a friend had floated the idea for a long while. He mentioned “resistance” and that I’d do it when I was “ready”. This April, I took the leap.

I’ve learned so much. It’s so funny how just talking to someone for an hour once a week can change your whole outlook, but I feel I’ve moved up a wrung on the ladder of life. I am not better or worse than anyone, I just know myself better. I make connections that I don’t make when writing or talking with other people.

If you need to love yourself first before loving others, then therapy is as selfish as anything and I am thriving under my own attention. I’ve been everyone else’s faux therapist for so long that I couldn’t hear a word I was saying in my own head.

(No joke – a month or two into therapy, I was napping on the couch one afternoon. I wasn’t dreaming really, I was in that half-asleep mode where the noises of my house could enter my conscience and I wasn’t dreaming in pictures yet. My whole head was flooded with the noise of the busiest crowd, like you’d hear in a rush hour subway station or the commotion before a theater show. I woke up abruptly, knowing full well that all that noise was from everyone else in my life, in my head. I couldn’t hear my own voice and I certainly didn’t have a quiet mind. But, awareness is the first step, right?)

Therapy has given me: This blog – a major theme we work with is “allowing myself”. Perspective. More energy for others. Gratitude. The chance to connect the dots. Space. The ability to let go a bit. Understanding, about myself, my needs, my habits. Rage disappeared, anger is infrequent. Support. The feeling that someone cares.

I don’t go to therapy to find out if I’m a freak
I go and I find the one and only answer every week
And it’s just me and all the memories to follow
Down any course that fits within a fifty minute hour
And we fathom all the mysteries, explicit and inherent
When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent
And she’s so kind, I think she wants to tell me something,
But she knows that its much better if I get it for myself… ~Dar Williams

Byron Katie writes that the world is our projection. It’s not that the image is fuzzy, but that our lens is. When you see a spot on a movie screen, your first instinct is to clean the screen, the surface that the movie is being projected on to. But if you look closely, the spot is really on the lens and it’s the lens that needs cleaning.

Therapy has given me a way to clean my own lens. It’s a weekly hour where I can be the center of attention, where I can work on focusing on my own problems without the input or judgement of anything else.

And it’s made me so much happier. Best.decision.ever.


One Blog Post Away

I started posting hours ago and then my draft disappeared. Gone. (Stupid Mercury retrograde) It had something to do with the mental struggles of my day – how on paper my job looks like a precious gift that I keep trying to return. How I have co-dependent tendencies. How today I tried to disconnect from the pressure I put on myself to do something when there is nothing to be done. And I feel a whole lot better.

Read the rest of this entry »