For someone who doesn't consider herself overly romantic (Well, in the candlelight, candy, and flowers sense, I suppose; I do often fancy myself a female Heathcliff, roaming the hills, all dark and mysterious. Anyway.), I've been chasing romance my whole life. I just sort of realized this. I chase dramatic, idealized landscapes--California, Arizona, Maine--the mountains, the desert, the ocean, thinking that what I'm missing must be there. Or that I'll be complete once I'm matched up with the perfect circumstance.
Yeah, that sounds pretty ideal and romantic to me. The problem (more's the pity) is that we'll never be completed by something outside of us. It's impossible. We can only build and rebuild from the inside-out. The rest is just, well, bonus. It's complimentary. It enhances; it doesn't complete.
And now that we know that, what next? I don't know, but I have a feeling the first step has something to do with romancing ourselves.
Most of us do something that frightens us every day--sometimes getting out of bed is daunting enough. But how often do we attempt to tackle something that frightens us straight to the core of who we (think we) are? I reckon, for me at least, it ain't that often. You can't be brave without being frightened, and I consider myself pretty brave for someone who *really* enjoys a good comfort zone.
But yesterday I did a thing that frightened me so much, I wasn't sure how I would navigate, not only the rest of my day, but the rest of my days. Perhaps that sounds dramatic, but for me, it most certainly was.
So. There are levels of bravery and levels of scary things and I think we must judge this journey on our own merits. No one is doing this living for us--everything we feel, everything we navigate, if it's true to us, it's legitimate. Don't let anyone downplay or belittle your achievements. You are one fierce warrior and your journey is nothing but epic.
When my anxiety was at its worst, it would often manifest itself as hypochondria. And when one is in the midst of an anxiety attack, they are obviously unable to see the bigger picture, trapped in the free-fall of that moment's clutching terror. And while your rational self may be telling you that this moment, this pain, this difficulty, this test result is far more normal than your perception of it, there's no way your captured mind will believe it.
One of the resources I read recommended that, instead of panicking, have a hard and fast two-week rule: no matter what you're experiencing (honest to goodness emergencies aside), give it two weeks. In most cases, whatever your acute sensation(s), they'll disappear or remedy themselves within days, if not hours. Still around in two weeks? That's a good indication that something needs attention.
This was the most freeing advice I've ever received. The two-week safety net not only pulled me out of the mania of anxiety,...
I've always liked being alone, but lately that aloneness has begun to feel hollow, fragile, no longer shatterproof. It's like bingeing on sugar until your body finally rejects it--a solitary nature can eventually, I'm finding, become loneliness and isolation. I once said to a dear friend that I had never felt lonely--and it was the absolute truth until this year. Then something shifted, and suddenly it's like having to learn a new language--the language of interaction, of finding how and where to meet people.
This is incredibly scary stuff, as I'm sure any one of us can attest. Life was so much easier, earlier, when we couldn't help but spill over each other in chance meetings and hastily assembled outings. Life as an adult is infinitely harder. Infinitely hard.
So I don't know, but I guess I'm open to a new way, open to turning the telescope around because right now, the view from here does nothing for my perspective.
I talk to myself all the time. All. The. Time. It's a habit that began in childhood, which I think is pretty common. I'm sure there are far fewer kiddos who don't talk to themselves than those who do. Actually, I'm sure most of us probably still talk to ourselves on a daily basis. I know, for me, it comes in quite handy whenever maths are involved. Or editing (my jobby-job)--reading out loud is an essential aspect of my work.
But I also find that I spend more time than I ever imagined talking myself out of/down from x or y, peppered here and there with a much-needed pep talk or the so-very-tired, go-to mantra, 'you can do anything for an hour.' (Thanks for that one, btw, Amy G--it's been of enormous use).
Beyond those rather obvious applications of conferencing with oneself is this: I think cultivating a deep friendship, a trusted relationship with oneself is vital to wellbeing. Keeping information about ourselves to ourselves serves as a vital buffer between us and the rest of the world...
I prefer things I can fix myself. Granted, that limits me to clothing, woodwork, and a simple hinge or door knob, but I do what I can and I learn what I can. And while I won't, say, give up my car (if only!) because I don't know how to fix it (yet!), I can choose what I bring into other corners of my life. I'd rather use the cracked piece of pottery I picked up at an artisan fair ten years ago to hold my pencils than some plastic thingamabob hands never touched in a country I've never visited.
This kind of collecting makes for a slow life, and one in which I may spend months sitting on the floor before I manage to get a couch or a chair, but that's okay--it's a material-gathering meditation. It's about living in a space and filling it only with what your two hands (or an expert's two hands) have made or can fix.
I don't want to throw something away at the end of its life. After all, our usefulness, ideally, doesn't end with death. Perhaps that's an odd way to make a life. I don't know....
There's this little saying from the Great Depression that I've taken to chanting as my own personal mantra: use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. There is so much I love about this, not least of which is the challenge of it and its inherent useful creativity.
But there's also the history, the this-too-shall-pass-ness of it, the reassurance that there's a whole generation behind us who lived their lives, not in a moment of history, but in a day-to-day reality that, while difficult, probably also felt very much like normal life--siblings fought, books were read, holidays were celebrated, people laughed, babies were born, communities brainstormed ease and relief where they could, art was made, music and books and poems were written, people died, people fell in and out of love, and days passed until they didn't.
Living in an historical moment feels, day to day, no different than some mundane year where things went more or less as expected (has there ever been such a year?)...
I love quilting--I love the order of it, the timelessness, the age of it, the practicality and artistry of the project, the lines, the geography of pattern. But for my brain to settle, I need one of two things: a piecing pattern to follow or a limited palette of fabric with which to work. I am, alas, not the caretaker of a brain that can sweep into the fabric shop, pick pieces at random, and then--without plan, without pattern--arrange them into some kind of original, beautiful piece. I've tried. My brain just shuts down and asks for Netflix.
What I've realized from this, well, many things, but mainly that it's okay to like patterns. It's okay to like subtlety, to adhere to the lines in the coloring book, not because we're *supposed* to, not because there are rules (there aren't), but because it pleases the eye and soothes the soul. Obviously, this isn't limited to quilting or ceramics or painting or whatever your hobby, but our crafty/maker leanings inform us a great deal about what wo...
I talk about strength a lot, I know. I think it's one of those whistling-in-the-dark tactics, like when I used to sing loudly to myself if I were alone in my grandparents' haunted house. You know. Scare off the ghosts. But that's a post for another time.
It's the same thing, though, right? Talk about something enough, explore it, turn it over in your hands, and innately understand it enough to either realize how easily it can be attained, or that you've already possessed it in the first place.
Now, I'm not a fan of the whole fake-it-till-you-make-it philosophy. I hate faking anything and I hate lying--they do not make for firm footing. I'm much more a fan of authentic transparency. If I don't get it, if I'm not comfortable, I'm not going to pretend I am, even if, with practice and time, I could be. I mean, how will we ever get to know each other, our exquisite faultlines, our unique jury-rigged attempts at survival, if we're taking refuge behind some flimsy wall we've thrown up until we...