We Live in Stuffy Rooms (And How to Breathe)

Sometimes we live in stuffy rooms. Places where the air is stale and old, where it feels hard to breathe but you try anyway. You end up wheezing. Heeee-hawww. Donkey breath. You have it.

But sometimes you get what you need. A good conversation with a friend. A change in circumstance. A piece of writing or music or art that changes the way you breathe, at least for a moment. It feels like new oxygen is being pumped into your room, your life, your lungs. It’s a gift. Remember that.

I felt like that reading this quote. Not like I’m out of the stuffy room entirely. Just like I can breathe a little easier:

“The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.” – Thomas Merton, “The Seven Storey Mountain”

Doesn’t that feel right? I think, for me, my anxiety is my stuffy room. It’s the place where I sit and try to breathe. But I can never really take a deep breath. Not really. It’s always choked.

Here’s one thing I know. Much of my anxiety stems from fear of suffering. And guess what? I suffer from it. Do you do this too? Try everything to avoid feeling even the smallest bit of pain? We do it in all sorts of ways. Numbing out is a popular choice. I do that too sometimes. But I mostly obsess over small details. I do that a lot. I put my mind on repeat until I can no longer hear my own clear thoughts.

And sometimes my thoughts sound just like this “PANIC PANIC PANIC.”

We can’t avoid suffering. That’s the damn truth. But we can have faith we’ll survive it. We can be in the moment, letting ourselves breathe. We can stop the PANIC PANIC and instead tell ourselves peace.

I mean that literally. It’s not any more complicated than that. Now when my mind goes PANIC PANIC I pay attention to it. I hear it. And then I tell it, calmly and sweetly, no mind, peace.  

I don’t think that solves everything. Sometimes I’m still trapped in my stuffy anxiety panic-ridden dungeon. But I know this too:

I’m breathing a little easier already.

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Filed under Letting Go, Taking Risks

How to Put Yourself Out There

Last week, when I found out I was being published my first thought was OMG YES. Approximately 1/3  of a second after that I thought OH HELL NO. Yes because it was a dream of mine to be published. Yes because I’ve worked hard. Yes because it meant people would finally read my stuff.

Oh no because…people would finally read my stuff! It freaked me out. I feared being judged. I feared, you know, my dad reading the essay. It’s very personal. It’s embarrassing. And now it’s out there. For the harsh, cold world to see.

Only it wasn’t so harsh. It was actually pretty warm and fuzzy.

I haven’t always been someone who puts myself out there. I can be shy and anxious. I can have a tendency to hide out. And yet this–this was worth it. It was important enough to me. Important enough for me to risk embarrassment and judgement.

So that’s my first piece of advice:

Find the thing that’s important enough to risk putting yourself out there.

Is it dancing? Is it blogging? Is it a sport? What really, really matters to you? Identify the thing that makes your insides dance (in a good way–not in a diarrhea sort of way) and pursue it. The first step is being brave enough to admit that you care.

When my dad read my essay, he called me and he cried. Not because he was upset and embarrassed but because he was so proud.

When I talked to my mom, I expressed my fears. I told her I was afraid of how other people would react.

“It’s your truth,” she said. “Never apologize for your truth.”

So that’s my second piece of advice:

Never apologize for your truth

Putting yourself out there is tough, sure. But it’s mostly tough because we’re freaked out by other people–you know, those other people with their big judgmental eyes and mean hearts.

Remember that most of the world is kind, though not everyone will be. Not everyone will get you. There will be rejection. There will be negative, shitty people who want to bring you down. But if it’s your truth, then it’s yours. And you need to own it.

*One addendum to this is if your truth hurts others in some way. I’ve accidentally hurt someone before. Yeah, it’s happened. And when it happens, I apologize like a grown-up. Don’t use “this is my truth” as an excuse to be selfish or to hurt others.

I’m still working on it. Every blog post is an opportunity to put myself out there. How much will I share? How deep will I go? I’m not sure. But I can tell you one thing.

I’m not going to apologize.

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Filed under Taking Risks

I’ve Been Published!

0916131914_0001I’m so excited, guys. See, this is my excited face. It’s very eyes closed, fist by my head…it’s a bit fetal, really. But it seems this is what I do when I’m pumped.

One of my essays Grown-up Words has been published at The Nervous Breakdown. I’m a huge fan of Brad Listi’s work, the website and his podcast Other People. You should spend hours (really, waste the rest of this day) checking out all of his  stuff. From where I’m sitting right now I can see his novel on my bookshelf…I couldn’t have dreamt of a better place for this essay to find a home.

Also, you can read my essay. Here.

xo,

Bethany

 

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Filed under Setting Goals, Taking Risks, Uncategorized

On Focus…And Why My Pants Have Chocolate on Them

Lately, I’ve been having a hard time focusing…wait, what was I blogging about? Oh yeah, chocolate. I mean, focus.

It keeps happening. My mind jumps from one project to the next. Like right now: I’m blogging but one small part of my mind is on the book next to me, thinking I should read it. Another part of my mind is on work. And the biggest part of my brain, scientifically known as the chocolorgasmus, is seriously contemplating the chocolate macaroon I just ate. I mean, it tasted like chocolate orange magic. Magic and joy. Like elves made it.

There’s a part of me that wishes I could just eat chocolate macaroons all day long. I want to indulge. I want to eat crap and drink martinis and call it good. There’s a place for that, sure. But the bigger part of me wants something more than chocolate and vodka.

Do you want more than that? Is there more? I think there must be. Right? I mean, if not, what the hell are we doing here? 

Focus. Determination. Courage to see a project through. Courage to see where I want to go and to take the steps to get there.

The other day Jon said something to me that really stuck.

“I think one difference between us,” he said, “is that you’re more focused on the now whereas I’m more focused on the future.”

I thought, yes! And also, crap. Because there’s something beautiful about being in the moment. But there’s also something detrimental. Also, let’s face it: I’m not really in the moment when I’m thinking of the billion things I should be doing and I’m not doing them because instead I’m eating chocolate.

I don’t want to use being in the moment as an excuse to indulge, to be lazy, or to live without striving.

I should probably mention that we had this conversation when we got home from vacation and I was like, “Ehhh…I think I’ll do my laundry tomorrow…maybe.”

This was 3 days ago, folks, and I still haven’t done my laundry. But I am writing this blog post. So, there. That’s something. I’ll give myself credit for that.

Now about focus…

I mean, chocolate. No, I’m serious. I just took a bathroom break and noticed that I sat in a piece of my chocolate macaroon. My pants have chocolate on them, guys. This entire entry was written with chocolate on my pants. Now if that’s not a big, glaring, evil chocolate sign then I don’t know what is…

So guess what? That’s right friends, I’ll be doing laundry. I’ll be doing laundry with all my heart and soul. I’ll be focusing and washing and drying.

And,  damn it, I’ll be paying attention.

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Filed under Find Delight, Setting Goals

“Find a Way” – Diana Nyad

If you haven’t followed this story, you should. The seriously amazing–as in, ‘seriously, you just swam from Cuba to Florida without dying’ sort of amazing–Diana Nyad, at the age of 64, yes…swam from Cuba to Florida. It was her 5th attempt. And guess what? She made it.

It’s a reminder to keep fighting for what you believe is possible. Diana said her mantra was “find a way.”

I think that’s my mantra now too.

-When I don’t think I can handle job stress another dayfind a way.

-When I’m pushing myself on a run, afraid I can’t make it that final stretchfind a way.

-When I’m worried I don’t have time for all the things I have to do AND time to pursue my passionsfind a way.

I like it because it’s simple. No excuses.

When you tell yourself you can’t, then you won’t. When you tell yourself you’ll find a way, no matter what, then you’ll make it happen. The first step is believing.

It’s not easy. In fact, it’s often shitty. But life is sometimes shitty. It’s also beautiful. You push through the crap to see the beauty. You swim on.

Diana reminds me of that and for that I’m grateful.

A few links: 

Diana Nyad Speaking at Ted

 I found this blog post inspiring. I’m not even the intended audience, but I liked it

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Filed under Setting Goals, Taking Risks

On Feeling Stuck and Hopping Lily Pads

0830130955_0001I’m stuck. I’m sitting down to work and my mind is hopping from one lily pad of thought to the next.

I should write. I should work. I should…eat chocolate?

Leap.

My God, the weather! Oh my!

Leap.

Will this work or not? I love my job, but is it what I want? Why am I even trying? Should I just give up?

Leap.

Sometimes the only way to keep yourself from leaping out the window is to plant your butt in a chair and keep it there. Force it to be there. Tell your butt it’s not allowed to move until you’ve finished the good work you were brought here to do.

Right now I feel stuck. I have something that might be good news, a project I’m excited about, but I need to wait a few days to find out for sure.

Stuck.

Life is moving in a positive direction, but my patience is worn. I want life to happen fast. I want dreams to be realized and goals to be reached.

But the problem is this: then it does happen too fast. Then you look back and it’s gone.

Maybe the answer to being stuck is to allow yourself to be stuck. To sit in that stuckness and push through it.

So I’m trying that. I’m not wallowing or giving up. I’m just going “Eh, I’m stuck. Now I work through it.”

So be stuck. Very good. Now get back to work.

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Filed under Setting Goals

My Journey Toward Loving Mornings (Again)

0829130751_0001In my last post I wrote about how I want to love mornings again. It’s been about a week since then and I’ve been cured. I feel 110% happy with my life. I wake at 5:00 a.m. every morning…

Errrr. Okay. So not quite. But things are a bit better.

The Positives

- I’ve been mostly successful waking at 6:45 every morning (I slept in one morning! So kill me!). I’ve been using that time to write.

- I like waking when it’s dark. I love the stillness. Prior to last week I wasn’t waking early enough to experience this.

- This morning I made this Ginger Apple Tea. Our place smells like heaven. Autumn in Heaven. Thank you Portland for being rainy today and giving me an excuse to do this.

The Negatives

- It still doesn’t feel like enough time. I’ve been toying with waking at 6:00 a.m. every morning, but I haven’t committed because uh, you know, 6:00 a.m.

- I’m tired. Yawn. I hate going to bed earlier than Jon. I don’t get a restful sleep. He stays up later and inevitably I wake several times (our place is tiny) because I can hear him banging pots in the kitchen and pretending he’s in a rock band. At least that’s what I imagine he’s doing. What he’s probably doing is typing on his laptop, but still…

The point is I’m a light sleeper. I still don’t know what to do about this.

Conclusion

This experiment is worth it. I’m worth it. You’re worth it. Mornings are worth it! Life is worth it! And I haven’t even had any caffeine.

Seriously, it’s a step toward being a more productive, happier person. It’s also difficult. I’m very sleepy, y’all. But I’m sticking with it. I may be sleepy, but I’m not a quitter.

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Filed under Find Delight, Setting Goals