Saturday, May 3, 2014

Don’t Hold Your Breath.

No, really, Moll. Relax.

A woman recently told me that the body is the last hold-out. It’s the last place we carry anxiety, tension, fear, even as we’ve worked through it on all other levels.

I hold my guts in tension 99% of the time, even when I'm by myself. I rarely breathe to full capacity, unless I’m reminded to. There is always a slight constriction of fight-or-flight going on in my body.

The few places I can recall this not to be the case are when I’m hiking, walking in the woods. Hm, well that’s the only place I can recall at the moment! Although, it also happened when I would go up to Sonoma to visit friends, an old boyfriend. I would say I could “breathe bigger” there. There was something about the openness, the closeness to nature, the un-cityness of it all that allowed me to open, too.

I’ve done a lot of pondering on how to bring that feeling, that sense of ease, of safety, home.

I realized something significant this week. My fear takes two tacks that leave me hamstrung in a Catch-22: On the one hand, I’m atrociously scared of being boring, being neglected, being overlooked. Yet, on the other, I’m afraid that if I am seen, I will be annihilated, attacked, shamed.

What’s a girl to do?

Well, I can’t control the first part – I cannot control how I am seen or embraced by others.

But, what does the first part really mean, anyway? It means that I’m scared my needs will not be met. Though what I can control is that I am healing in a way that means I’m better able to take care of my own needs, and to invite others into my life who are able to meet them too, without dumping my own onto them.

So, if I can come to believe that my needs will be met, because I and the world around me are meeting them, then I don’t have to fear being overlooked and languishing in the abyss.

To address the other hand, the fear is that I am not safe in the world. That if I peek my head out, if I take ownership of my needs, become brave enough to step out of the shadows, I will be suffer.

How can I dismantle that part? How can I force myself to believe I’m safe in the world, and not the object of opprobrium if I raise my hand and say, Hey, this is who I am and how I want to express myself in the world – isn’t it cool?

Well, I can’t force myself. I can convince myself, my jury, through overwhelming evidence to the contrary that I am safe when I am myself.

I just have to be willing to look at the evidence. And that’s hard. 

Who wants to look inside themselves and declare it good? Who wants to walk with a spine of confidence in their music tastes, clothing choices, reading material? Who wants to feel proud of their contributions in the world? Their aspirations and hobbies and dropped hobbies and efforts and set-backs and dorkiness and naiveté and thirst and laughter?

Who wants to say, "Yes, this is me, and I am good. In fact, I am great"?

Perhaps we all say we do, but the issue to me is that every time I think a thought like that, I have a gremlin born of those ancient fears that croaks, "You think so, do you? Well, here are all the ways you’re not."

Every time you begin to catalogue your achievements, you are slammed with doubt. And so, you stop cataloguing; the doubt wins, and the evidence slackens and dulls.

There is so much effort (it seems to me, right now, and may change) to loving ourselves.

There is so much effort in deciding to face that gremlin, allow its ire, yet continue with our own mantras of belief.

Belief. It’s all we really have, especially when we’re not willing to accept the evidence yet.

On both sides of my fear aisle, I am called to believe: a) That my needs can be taken care of because I believe they're important; and b) That I am safe in expressing myself because I believe I am important.

That’s a lot of work for a given moment! And that’s why my guts tangle nearly every waking moment.

I don’t think I have an anxiety disorder. I know moments of peace and relaxation and ease. I know that it is possible for me to strive to have them more frequently by doing this dismantling and believing and accepting of facts.

But, until then, I will just have to remind myself to breathe. 

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