Category Archives: Uncategorized

I Wonder Why They Didn’t Just Change Their Story…

Every month, I meet with a small group of friends and we discuss our financial goals for the next month. I have taken on the role of secretary, keeping track of what each person has accomplished and marking their aspirations for what is to come. I enjoy typing these up, as I like adding some goofy humor.

Recently, after sending these out, a friend responded saying, “if my entire life was so wonderfully and amusingly summarized by you, it would be the best record/diary ever!” I found myself thinking, “I wish that I could describe my own life that way too.” I then realized how silly that was, as it was my own brain that had written the notes, so of course I could describe my life that way.

The importance of story has always felt resonant to me. I love listening to podcasts like “The Moth” and “This American Life” to hear what stories people have to share. In my life as a therapist, I always found myself listening for people’s stories. There is power there.

I think about this as I think about the story I’ve been telling myself for the past few years: “I don’t know what to do with my life;” “After coming back from Grand Cayman, I’ve failed at figuring out my life.”

A few months ago, I noticed I was tearing up at a song from Matilda, the musical, called “When I Grow Up.” The song elicits emotions in me for various reasons. One part that particularly stands out to me is when Matilda sings:

“Just because I find myself in this story

It doesn’t mean that everything is written for me

If I think the ending is fixed already, I might as well be saying

I think that it’s ok

And that’s not right

And if it’s not right

I’ve got to put it right.”

This is my story to write, and I get to decide how I want to tell it. I write this as I sit on a plane. It’s the first plane I’ve been on in over a year. I find myself holding back tears as I think to myself, “right. This is me. I’m a traveler. I’m an explorer. I am a receiver and teller of stories all over the world.”

What’s your story?

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Dreams, I have Dreams

Last night, I had a dream about my apartment. I don’t often remember my dreams, and I’ve never had a truly repetitive dream. That said, I do have two themes that have visited me in my dreams throughout the years. One is elevators. These often show up when I am feeling stuck. Being stuck on an elevator, or an elevator taking me to the wrong place, has been a very clear parallel indicator of how I’m feeling those moments in my life.

The second theme that shows up in my dreams is the idea that there is another room or part of my apartment that I had forgotten about, never used, or was surprised to find. That was the case last night.

For context, I have lived in the same studio apartment for the past 12 and a half years. It’s a good size apartment, but there are no rooms, per se, nor are there secret hiding spaces. Last night, there was a staircase. It was a very tight staircase, hard to maneuver as I tried to climb the back and forth pattern it used to get people up and down. After squeezing through that staircase, I met others on what seemed to be a roof. Sadly, my dream took a turn towards the unsettling, as a character in my dream grew unsteady on her chair, and plummeted many flights onto a concrete landing below.

I woke up feeling a bit unsettled.

Because the theme of secret places in my home has come up in dreams before, I have learned (through internet searches, and the internet is always right), that these dreams are often showing you that you have parts of yourself that are hidden. Your unconscious is playing with the idea of opening up those parts of yourself.

I’m thinking about this as I think about where I am right now. Currently, I’m working several jobs to make ends meet, some of which I like more than others. Amidst all of this, I’m finding myself pulled towards glimmers of joy. A friend encourages me to seriously consider making travel more a part of my career. I get excited talking to others who are making travel a part of their life story and the story that they are sharing. I want to move myself towards that joy. My dream is telling me that too, though it seems there’s some fear living there.

So, where does that leave me now? I haven’t been able to travel in the way that I love since I moved back from Grand Cayman. I’ve grown a bit discouraged by ideas that haven’t worked, connections that haven’t come through, possibilities that have felt thwarted. But the pull to get out and live in the world more fully still burns within me. I want to fan the flames.

You Think You’ve Gone as Far as You’ll Ever Get

Anxiety has been a companion for much of my life. People don’t always easily see it, as one of the ways I’ve coped with it is to not let others see. When I was a child, I would sit with worry, eventually bursting into tears, with my mom having no idea that anything was wrong in the first place. I still find anxiety in my life, often in little things, “what if I’m late?” “I can’t talk on the phone, I have no idea what to say.” “I don’t want to bother them; I can figure it out.” I sometimes feel like I have an antennae for anxiety; when a highly anxious person is around me, it feels like an aching, raw nerve is excited within me. It’s a much more familiar feeling to me than I care to admit.

As I look at myself, I realize that I have often let this trait define me. I find myself judging that I haven’t walked through more fear in my life. I’m very aware of the pockets of fear that currently hold me back. I want to try creating my own programs to share with others, but more often than not, I let myself be distracted, as I’m afraid I will fail.

The other day, I was sharing a story from my childhood with a friend. The house next door to me growing up had a steep hill that led into the side of the house. This led to the potential for exhilarating, though frightening, sledding after a good snowstorm. I remember my brother and his friend telling me that I had to pay them a penny to sled down the hill (why I needed their permission can only be explained by the unwritten rules of siblinghood, I suppose). I paid them two pennies, with the idea that I could go twice. I went down once, and survived (I’m sure you guessed that already). But I decided to not go again. (For those of you wondering, there were no penny refunds, so that second penny was indeed a lost investment.) I’ve always looked back at that story with judgment toward my younger self. I knew I could do it, and yet I didn’t. My friend had a different perspective. She simply said, “you went once, and you didn’t enjoy it, so you didn’t do it again.”

Her words had shifted my narrative from one of cowardice to one of knowing myself and choosing to operate from that place.

As we talked further, I explained that I’d been thinking about that sledding story recently, as I’ve been equating it to my decision to quit my job and move to Cayman (which felt bold) and then returning, and feeling like I’ve done nothing with my life (yes, perhaps dramatic, but self narratives aren’t always gentle). I felt like I tried something, and then ran away in fear.

Again, she looked at my life, at my experiences, and gave me a different way of thinking about it. “You’re a risk averse person, yet you still take risks.” Looking at things I’ve done, IMG_20180120_070015_717climbing Kilimanjaro, completing an overnight camping trip on my bike, moving some place where I knew no one when I graduated from college, traveling around the world, quitting my job to move out of the country, none of these felt easy. I did them anyway. It helps me understand a bit more why others have more than once called me brave, even though I’ve never really felt that way.

So when I feel the anxiety, rather than letting the narrative be that I’m a person who succumbs, and hides away from life, I think the new narrative needs to be that I’m afraid, but I’m a person who is strong enough to do it anyway. That’s a person I’d like to be.

Only Guessing ‘Til I Get There, Then I’ll Know

As I sat on the bus on New Year’s Eve, tears were running down my face. I was feeling anxious. The fact that my being always seems to hear the message that New Year’s is a marker of all the things I haven’t done, all the ways I haven’t grown, all the loneliness that hasn’t melted from my life, left me feeling a bit of a mess.

This past year has felt like a hard one. There was nothing grandiose that left me feeling that way. It was a combination of a voice saying I still hadn’t figured out my life (that “still” there feels like a harsh critic), my finances were still tight, and honestly there was some medical stuff that left me feeling sad and fatigued for the majority of the year.

All of that left me here, on a bus, going to meet people for the first time, on a holiday that left my soul feeling a little tender.

I turned to a place of solace that has felt a bit more absent in these past several years: music. While music has been my emotional companion for much of my life, something in my relationship with it has shifted within the past few years. In this moment, I reached through my memory to find a song to give me solace. I settled in as I listened to Gabe Dixon, as he sang “All Will Be Well.” As the chorus played, I heard the words, “all will be well, even after all the promises you’ve broken to yourself.” And I let that resonate.

I don’t know what I expected my life to be. If you had asked me at various times, I probably would have given you different answers. I do know that I didn’t expect to be here at this point in my life. Feeling stuck. Feeling like I don’t know what direction to go. I hear all of these feelings as a failure.

So I listened. All will be well. Even if I haven’t taken the path that I thought. All will be well.

And for the past week and a half, as I’ve entered the new year, I’ve been listening to the messages in the music that I have loved, that gave me peace, that reminded me of the beautiful parts of myself. I’m feeling a bit more refreshed, a bit stronger.


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I’m trying to remind myself of that strength that I’ve felt before. Even these words, and the words I have written here in the months and years that have come before are evidence that I am not a failure. I’m just a person who has fumbled at times. I’ll find my way, hopefully remembering the best parts of myself as I go. I’m optimistic that this year will be a better one.

Walk on, walk on, walk on

You’re doing it wrong.

This is the message I keep hearing. From my friends, who I assure you are not saying that, even if it’s what my brain hears, and from the voice in my head.

It’s amazing how persistent that message feels right now.When I fall into the cycle of these messages, I tend to feel even more stuck. Stuck. I use that word lot in my life.

When uncertainty meets me face on.

When I feel like I’ve made a mistake.

When the critical voice in my head decides to speak up.

This week, a friend brought me camping in Burlington. She’s been wanting me to travel with her for a while now, but my finances have felt constricting.

Stuck.

IMG_20170704_144407_892I agreed to come up here, as a tent felt like a modest way to explore a new place. “Maybe you’ll like it there,” she had encouraged. “You could move there.” While here, we’ve been exploring the city, tasting maple cremees, and watching the signs of Americana (this is the week of July 4th after all). And each time my friend has suggested I talk to someone or consider something new, something has pushed back, “don’t tell me what to do.”

Stuck.

On Monday, my friend and I went to a donation-based yoga class. As always, I appreciated the chance to be in my body. To slow down, breathe, and remember the lessons yoga brings me. As I bent and stretched, reached up and grounded down, I faced a window. Framed in the window was the flowing river and a metal statue of a woman’s form. She stood in dancer’s pose, one bent leg raised behind her, held by one hand, the other hand reaching in front of her. Beautiful in her complex simplicity. I felt calm. I’m realizing that despite the fact that I’ve had more open time these past two years, I haven’t allowed much space for myself.

As I folded forward, the teacher came over and asked if I had any more room in my neck. I wiggled my head and felt my neck elongate. “There,” she said. “Sometimes you think there is no more room; you’ve gone as far as you can go, and moving just a little can free you up.”

Stuck… move… unstuck. The process and the solution appear to be one and the same.

Two days later, I walked up a mountain, and I remembered how good it felt to move.

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All of These Lines Across my Face, Tell You the Story of Who I am

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of story and narrative these past several weeks. I’ve heard stories people tell themselves about who they are and who others are. I’ve heard how easy it can become to hear what one wants to hear. I’ve heard how a viewpoint can totally shape an experience, and how that can impact people deeply.

I was recently talking to my therapist, who commented that I am brave. “Really?” I responded. At this point in my life, I’m having trouble seeing it. I feel like I’ve spent the last year wasting away time, living as a shadow of my best self. As I write that, it feels extreme to say, but I know that this is the story I have been telling myself. I’ve been doing a much better job of telling myself that I can’t do things than telling myself that I can.

I have barely traveled. I’ve struggled to figure out my next steps. I’ve used up savings accounts. I have felt discouraged and disheartened, as I have felt the best parts of me slip into hiding. While there have been beautiful experiences, such as spending extra time with my sister-in-law just after my nephew’s birth, I find myself hearing the story of a failed year (which I sometimes forget is not the same as me being a failure).

That said, as my therapist challenged me, she reminded me of the other parts of myself that I tend to discount with speed.

“You went to Africa and climbed Kilimanjaro,” she commented.

“You’ve traveled the world,” she continued.

“You quit your job and moved to the Caribbean! I wouldn’t have done that.”

“Yes,” I find myself thinking. “These are all parts of me.” Somehow, I’ve let myself believe that this past year of uncertainty negates all the other things I’ve accomplished in my life. My narrative has become quite limited in its scope. I find myself wondering how I can shine a bigger focus on the moments of pride and joy. How can I let these points in my life carry equal weight in my personal narrative? And perhaps more importantly, why don’t I give them that measured weight naturally?

It’s fascinating to me how my mind creates this story around who I am, and how often it doesn’t account for the parts of myself that I most value.

In another conversation with my therapist, I mentioned qualities in others that I so much admire. I find myself drawn to people who have broken from the stereo-typically straight path in life. I find myself drawn to people who follow their inner voices. I tend to admire those who are brave enough to step out of their comfort zone. As I talked about all of these traits with my therapist, she commented that when we are inspired by others, we are recognizing traits within ourselves that have yet to emerge. This idea totally shifted my mind. I was immediately drawn into and in love with this idea. I went home and wrote out a list of traits I admire in others:

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Exploration.

Telling untold stories.

Taking risks.

Following a passion.

Creating something new.

Taking the unusual path.

Listening to your heart.

Is it possible that all of the things on this list are actually descriptors of me? I hope to think so. And I hope that I can continue to weave them into my story. That’s a personal narrative I would feel proud to live.

Open Your Heart to Me

About a week ago, I had the feeling that I was in line with the universe. Somehow, I felt open to what it had to offer, and I found the universe seemed to understand and reciprocate in turn.

As I walked through the park, I ran into a former colleague, and was able to express some percolating ideas for the first time. She gave me positive feedback, and I was grateful for the opportunity to articulate my thoughts in that manner.

I texted a friend to say I was thinking of her, and she responded that she was a mere block away. It led to an unexpected meeting with a friend I rarely see.

I saw a play by an amazing playwright, whom I admire greatly, and was reminded that so much of what I admire about him is his ability to give voice to those who don’t always have one in our society. It ignited an ember of passion in me. “This. This is what I want to offer to others,” I thought.

I volunteered to sing at a large mass meditation, and found myself amidst hundreds of people, coming together where the World Trade Center once stood, to connect and foster community. I sat, as the leader elicited images of the ashes that were once there in contrast to what stands there now. The phoenix. Rising from the ashes. How much have I felt this past year that I was that pile of ashes. Could I have faith that I would once again rise?

As I meditated, I found myself sinking into images of gratitude. The eight minutes we sat meditating seemed to fly by, as I thought of all of the people who have touched me in my life. I thought of the fortune I’ve had to see so much of the world. I thought of my family, who has supported me through my less than typical life choices. I felt gratitude. And tears fell down my face.

This past week, I decided to end a connection I had been a part of for several months. The dynamic had felt familiar, but it hadn’t felt healthy. I worked it. I navigated it. And I realized that it was  leaving me exhausted and angry. So I said what I needed to say, and ended that connection. Less than twelve hours later, I felt a new, healthy connection form. It was a such a clear reminder to me that when I’m able to let go of things that aren’t serving me, there is suddenly room for things that will.

So I think about the things that I may still be holding onto- old relationships, ideas of myself, ideas of how my life should play out- and I think about how to let them go.

Open myself up.

Let myself rise.

And continue to feel gratitude for the gifts the universe sends my way.