Curiosity and Routines

the roses have bloomed

Why do we struggle so much to remember what works? Whether it’s sleep, anxiety, working in a group, or even going about our day to day rituals, I, (and I have a feeling others,) forget how to manage.

It’s as if all I need is a few days of feeling great, and I assume all is healed and I no longer need the structures to support me. So, the past few weeks meant going back to this:

~getting curious when my mood shifts…why am I feeling sad? why does this make me angry? why am I nervous about this event?

~regularly eating lots of fiber (so easy to forget)

~following my morning and sleep routines, which work!

These days, I am feeling better. But I am prepared for more bouts of sadness or frustration. These feelings, shaped and formed in childhood, need attending to. And they need acceptance. We are who we are, so I take a deep breath and ask, “where is this coming from? what do I really need?”

What I am reading:

How to live with brokenness….Let Your Heart Be Broken, on Marginalian

A passage (which I found in Elise Loehnen’s newsletter) from When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodran:

The essence of life is that it’s challenging. Sometimes it is sweet, and sometimes it is bitter. Sometimes your body tenses, and sometimes it relaxes or opens. Sometimes you have a headache, and sometimes you feel 100 percent healthy. From an awakened perspective, trying to tie up all the loose ends and finally get it together is death, because it involves rejecting a lot of your basic experience. There is something aggressive about that approach to life, trying to flatten out all the rough spots and imperfections into a nice smooth ride.

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. From the awakened point of view, that’s life. Death is wanting to hold on to what you have and to have every experience confirm you and congratulate you and make you feel completely together. So even though we say the yama mara is fear of death, it’s actually fear of life.

Thinking About

Uncertainty tolerance.

I was surprised to see my anxiety levels elevated lately, but I’m coming to terms with it. We are considering moving- either to another house in Fredericksburg or into a retirement community in another town. All this is happening right before we plan a long trip to Rhode Island, my childhood home.

Everything has seemed out of order these days- my sleep, my gut, and my mood have all tanked. When I listened to this podcast at 4am when I couldn’t sleep, I realized my uncertainty tolerance had disappeared. I usually release feelings of control. After all, there is little we can do about, well, most things. But the past two weeks have found me trying to manage stress like this;

  • trying to guess how healthy I will be in ten years
  • structuring my eating on the various books and plans I’ve read about to find the perfect solution
  • reading the MLS for homes at least 5 times a day, “just in case” I miss a house going on the market
  • listening to too many podcasts about how to live a healthy life as an older person
  • buying one more sleep solution (a pill with gaba and juju something or other) to solve my sleep issues

Yes, you see my attempt to control those issues that are causing me stress– are actually causing me more stress. :)

Elissa Epel, author of The Stress Prescription, says “people who tend to be high on intolerance of uncertainty experience experience more stress and anxiety.” A better solution is getting more comfortable with uncertainly and getting used to being “ok” with that, she says.

My intention today is to try to let go, think about what I can control and what I can’t. I’ve let my meditation practice slip lately or I pretend that taking a long walk is all I need. That’s part of it, but I want to be more intentional about my practice.

“Things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

Pema Chodron

Needing an Assist

This poem I wrote for one of Donna’s photographs seems to fit me today. I’ve been struggling a little…so I’m looking for words.

Some days, I am like the turtle
flipped over, struggling,
wanting to fling myself upright.
I've learned to look for small
assists: a vibrant glow of sunrise,
bright tulips sprouting in early spring,
a skein of geese honking their positions,
these help buoy me.
I've been thinking, too, of water,
how sea salt washes us clean,
even when we don't know
we need a cleansing.

Changing My Thoughts

One of my goals/intentions/hopes is to catch myself when I am heading down a dark hole (catastrophizing or other cognitive distortions) and to stop, breathe, and break the cycle. I was reading a blog post today, and the author wrote that she says to herself: This is not a big deal. I like that. Most of what happens to us is NOT a big deal.

I also don’t beat myself up for letting this happen over and over because my mind has been “trained” to do this. Regardless of what the early little t’s (small traumas) were or how often they happened, they had an impact. It’s an automatic response when the negative voices in my head start in. Today I caught myself, and said, “Susie, this is not a big deal.” Then I went to the kitchen and made blueberry muffins.

It worked.


What I’m reading/listening to:

Peter Attila’s new book: Outlive (the last section on mental health had the most impact for me)

Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris and Jon Kabat-Zinn “Tripping Out With a Legend”