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”

Now What

Poetry, rather writing, has framed my life as long as I can remember.

As a ten-year-old, I wandered around the neighborhood trying to “sell” my hand-scratched newspapers. Though I never kept a diary or journal regularly, I found myself turning to writing when I needed to figure out what I was thinking. Going through a divorce meant writing my way through it. And then when life became complicated and painful, I turned to poetry.

Having just completed a meaningful poetry/photography project with friend Donna Hopkins about family and aging, I find myself without a plan for my writing. That means putting pen to paper in whatever way feels good– like sketching! I’ve learned to let go of perfection- like the yellow sky in the sketch here that drips into where the water should be. Or the published poetry that should be in a different form. It’s the process, I’ve learned, that matters.

Wherever I am in my life (and whoever I am), I’ve discovered I need to create. I don’t like to cook or garden, but give me a pen and I’m content.

Czesław Miłosz once wrote:

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, 
and invisible guests come in and out at will