Chaos

 

IMG_7396My life is currently in boxes, covered in bubble wrap, and running on caffeine and meditation. The show I’ve been working on since March is coming to a close and, along with my apartment, is being packed, boxed, and moved. Though I don’t have to actually move until the end of the month, I find it easier to just do it now, little by little on my weekends, so that my brain has one less reason to wake at 3 a.m.

I am not a good procrastinator. Once I make a decision, I just want to get on with it already.

I recently read a great book entitled “first, we make the beast beautiful” by Sarah Wilson. IMG_7606

In it, she takes us through her struggles with anxiety and, though mine differ from hers in several ways, I found myself having “aha moments” throughout and passing the book along to several friends. Though there were too many such moments to mention here, and you really should just read the book if any of this sounds familiar, the ones that  stood out were about the need for a non negotiable morning routine, how not making decisions can increase our anxiety rather than the other way around, and the idea that anxiety can not survive in the present moment; thus when people find themselves in real legit crises, when one might think their anxiety would spike, instead it ceases completely.

Having a morning routine is a certainty anchor with really sturdy stakes….once the certainty anchors are in place, the day starts and all kinds of chaotic decision-making can then ensue. (p 217-218)

I know my morning routine has not only gotten me through the past few months, but has helped me to be kinder and more patient, with myself and others, as well. I wake 1.5-2 hours before I need to leave (that can be really early when working on a film set) which  this gives me enough time to stretch for 10 minutes, meditate for 20, make my lunch, and get ready. I use the ‘Insight Timer’ app on my phone for guided meditations or as a meditation timer and, as of this morning, it told me that I have meditated for 96 consecutive days. I remember the day I began meditating after a long break; it was right after I returned from a month of working in Monterey County, in May.  I woke one morning, looked around my apartment, panicked and knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be, physically, spiritually, or emotionally. Meditation helped me to get clear about the direction I wanted to go.

The funny thing is that behavior studies show that we think making a decision is more anxiety-riddled than not making a decision. But, in fact, the opposite is true…when we decide to do something and it turns out badly, it mostly doesn’t haunt us down the track…failing to act on a decision, however, will haunt us. The infinite possibilities of what might have been get us into all kinds of anxious messes. (p 223)

Once I made the decision to move back to NM, even though it temporarily threw my life into chaos, I felt an overwhelming calm. In the past, I have been known to passively make decisions by not making decisions (fyi, it’s still a decision and the consequences I was hoping to avoid by not making a decision in the first place were still mine to deal with in the end). And, I have also been known to make decisions and then feel trapped by that decision, forgetting momentarily that I am always free to simply make another decision, to choose differently, and to change my mind.

Los Angeles was a choice I made that I knew would haunt me on some level if I didn’t give it another try. I am glad I did. Moving back to NM is a choice that feels good right now, but who knows? Will it in a year? We will never know the answer to these questions so, just take the next right step and see where it leads. Trying to figure it out ahead of time is a guaranteed anxiety producer!

You can’t be anxious and be in the present. And you can’t be anxious and attend to genuine fear or catastrophes. And you can’t be anxious and walk mindfully or breathe deeply. (p 230)

I should be anxious right now, but I’m not. Anytime I wake up in the middle of the night, wondering what I am doing, I just breathe and remind myself that it is all an adventure.  People move, change careers, get dogs, and come up with the plan as they go, all of the time. But, “first, we make the beast beautiful,” and therefor less scary.

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Integration

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Two weeks into my first full time job since August and the black hole that is a film set has yet to totally suck me in and, if I have my way, this one never will.

I went to the dentist recently and she asked how I was sleeping. Well, I replied, I’ve been sleeping well. I can tell, she said. You haven’t been gritting your teeth.

Am I finally learning to balance it all?

Two days until my 39th birthday; well timed to fall on Good Friday, a union holiday.

The lessons keep coming- Let it be. Be present. Communicate. Create daily, even when I don’t have time or energy to “be creative”. Cook on Sundays so I have healthy, home cooked food to eat throughout the week. Write even when I don’t know what to say, like today. Have gratitude for this amazing little life I’ve been given. Take it day by day. Enjoy. Lighten up.

And don’t forget the CBD! Ha, I am not kidding. I began trying different kinds of CBD products in October and have felt a profound shift in my body and mind over the past six months (google it, I am not expert, but it works!!!!!!) Because it helped lower my overall anxiety, my sleep, and therefor my health, has dramatically improved, giving me more energy for all of those previously mentioned lessons.

And, as I look towards 39, I choose Integration as my new word. For 2018 I chose Love and now I will combine the two… Creativity/Love/Work/Friends/Food/Exercise/Travel/Fun/Service/Action/Relaxation…

These are the days and I want it all mushed together into one big, awesome life package.

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Present Tense.

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October 2017 is almost over. Wow.  With two months left in which, as the previous ten have demonstrated, anything can happen, give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far, for taking a minute to sit and read a blog post, and for continuously doing the best you can.

I recently spoke with a few friends and loved ones who each seem to be asking the same questions, their own versions of the ones I’ve spent the past two months pondering at 2:14 in the morning, instead of sleeping.  What am I doing? Does there need to be an end goal or is this enough? Will the dots ever connect?

Because of my nervous system and brain’s penchant for insomnia and pondering instead of REMs, I have been writing and blogging less than I’d like.  As anyone who doesn’t sleep well knows, the dull, dream like state left behind after a night of tossing about, does not lend itself to creativity. I have had no choice but to turn it into another lesson in acceptance. Acceptance of what is. I can do what I can to try to sleep, but in the end it is out of my control and no matter that I-  1.turn lights off at dusk,  2. take melatonin, 3. meditate, 4. exercise, 5. don’t look at any blue lights (phone, computer, TV) before bed- sometimes I sleep like a baby and other nights I literally never fall asleep. It is what it is. But, letting go of the idea that there is more I can do or that I am doing something wrong, that somehow I can control it, is not easy.

But, as with all lessons we don’t choose but which choose us, they come bearing hidden blessings. My life has become shockingly present. I can almost not see past the end of the month, which is only next week! I am planning a trip to India for this January and you would think it was for the year 2090 by the way I have been unable to wrap my head around the idea of just three months from now. My work schedule changes week by week, I have an improv class starting on Saturdays and a writing class on Wednesdays. And that is it. As scheduled and planned as I can be right now. I’ve tried buying concert tickets or plane tickets to visit friends, only to give them away or end up with a credit for future travel, because in the course of two weeks everything changes.

At least for now, I’ve given up on planning more than a week in advance and concentrate on steering my thoughts and actions in small, beneficial directions. What should I cook today? Today I will call my friends and check in, go for a walk,  write something or finish reading that book, be kind to my grumpy and tired coworkers who are just as sleep deprived as I am,  let that person merge into my lane, try that recipe, do my morning stretches, meditate, turn off the news and turn on music, and do what I can to keep my side of the street clean,  thereby being of service to the world and to myself.  Even as I write this, I laugh at how unambitious and yet totally ambitious that list is. What a paradox that the most basic things we do for ourselves can also be the most difficult to do regularly, for simple does not mean easy.  If anything, it’s often easier to make elaborate, future based plans in an effort to avoid the present, with it’s frequent discomfort.

In a recent email from a friend, she mentioned that amidst huge upheaval in her life and lots of unanswered questions, she is happy that she lives near an open air market with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale. Another friend told me that her afternoon plans involved going home to lie in the grass in an effort to calm down and enjoy the fall afternoon. Yet another was excited because she had absolutely no plans for the weekend.   It seems that if 2017 has been good for something, it has helped us get back to the basics. What do we value? What kind of lives do we want to live? What makes us laugh or what calms us down in the midst of chaos? How can we benefit our communities on a small, human scale? What would we take if a wildfire or flood gave us less than one minute to grab our most important item and run? How do we listen to news of possible nuclear war, global warming, sexual predators, and political ineptitude and keep on smiling? How do we stay present?

These are the questions that run through my head when it is dark and the palm frond shadows dance against the window and I can hear my downstairs neighbor’s snores through the floorboards. It is only by becoming totally present, listening to those snores and to my own breath, that life seems manageable once again. What CAN I control tomorrow? Eating toast and drinking tea in the morning, while listening to my favorite radio show, and then taking a walk? Ok, cool, I’ll do that.

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