Are You Writing Your Own Narrative?

Disclaimer: Do yourself a favor and if you’re not watching “West World” on HBO–do it. Now.

The show has done an incredible job at blurring the lines of real and artificial intelligence; what distinguishes us as “human beings;” exploring what fundamental human nature is; and whether it’s really just as simple as being put into neat little boxes labeled “good” or “evil.”

A large motif of the show is the concept of narratives and how the AI’s are not meant to veer off the path of their backstories, purpose(s), or loop(s). Modest improvisations are, of course, allowed but if there’s any inclination that they’ve gone off track a bit too far, they get “reset.”

The most recent episode had a scene that resonated so completely with me that after a long (unintended…ok fine, a little intended) hiatus I had to write about it.

The self is a kind of fiction…We live in loops as tight and as closed as the hosts do. Seldom questioning our choices, content for the most part, to be told what to do next.

When was the last time we questioned our choices? Is this good for me? Is this mindful of me? Is this the right attitude, emotion, or energy I should be emitting right now? Am I surrounding myself by the right people? Am I following my instinct(s)?

To be content is certainly not a bad thing (see previous blogpost: “What’s Wrong With Contentment?”) but too much of it may not ever allow us to go off the well-worn path of our every day and think creatively outside of what we think we know. What are my curiosities? Have I followed them and explored them? What is important to me right now? Do I do things that are in line with what is important to me? Can I see myself elsewhere? Doing something else?

We are inherently a culture of followers and leaders. But, even the leaders were taught to lead by following another leader. Doing what they were told to do and listening, in order to learn. Some of this is normal and should exist as part of a functional society (I am not advocating for anarchy…not today anyway). But, when was the last time you said “no” to the thing you were told to do? When was the last time you made your own rules?

When was the last time you picked up the pen and wrote your own next move, next witty line, next big leap?

When was the last time you were mindful of the current loop you’re in?

Happy #mindfulmonday !

I’m Coming Out…With My Anxiety Disorder(s)

We are all broken…that’s how the light gets in.

On Sunday, I will be participating in a 2.5 mile walk called “Out of the Darkness.” This walk is specifically meant for suicide-prevention and awareness. One of my coworkers lost her 13 year old son to depression and subsequently suicide. But beyond that, it is to help bring attention to the important conversation of mental health in all its forms. This blogpost, is my way of adding to the conversation.

When I started this blog, it was never meant to be an airing of my grievances (nor will it ever be) but, I’ve had some pretty traumatic experiences in my life. Perhaps no more than the average human being, after all, many of our stories remain untold. Traumas and tragedies of love lost, broken families, physical and mental transformations. And, it is through the sum total of all those traumatic experiences and walking the path of healing that I began to know myself.

And I know this: I suffer from anxiety.

The conversation around mental health, though improving by the day, is still one that is highly stigmatized and not one that is readily accepted. It is deeply engrained in us to bow to societal pressures and social mores set upon us by our forefathers (and mothers). Let’s not forget that women were diagnosed as “hysterical,” and the cause was believed to be a wandering uterus. Now, I may have an anxiety disorder and I may be a woman, but I assure you, my uterus is fully planted in its place.

That being said, I still keep most of the challenges that arise because of my anxiety to myself. Even as I am writing this, I think about the reactions of the people who will read this, whether or not it’ll “come out” at work, whether or not I should be really revealing my personal challenges to the world wide web. Remember everyone, I just told you I have anxiety–this post wouldn’t be authentic if it wasn’t riddled with it!

My anxiety disorders have been debilitating in a variety of ways. To scratch the surface: I’ve felt like not wanting to go to work, I’ve had an inability to rationalize thought, I’ve felt like I couldn’t get off an emotional rollercoaster, I’ve experienced painful and uncomfortable physical symptoms for long periods of time, suffered from panic attacks, participated in incessant and obsessive thought processes, catastrophized situations–you name it, I’m living it and I’ve thought it.

I started therapy over a year ago and have been mud-crawling the emotional trenches for much longer than that. I will be the first to tell you that therapy changed my life. I believe it is one of the most valuable experiences I’ve ever participated in and I am finally on the path to healing. But, here’s the thing: I will always have an anxiety disorder. It is a lifelong burden that I must learn to manage, to navigate, and to accept as part of who I am.

My friends and fiancé have been crucial as my support system. Through my work to understand my self and how I am a product of my experiences and my anxiety disorder, I have slowly but surely started to learn how to talk about this piece of me.

The next time you people watch, the next time you meet that extroverted person who seems like she’s got it all together, the next time you see or think someone might be struggling, the next time you are annoyed by that person who seems endlessly perky, remember that they too might suffer with their mental health–more than you could possibly imagine.

So, participate in the conversation, own your imperfections and struggles, and always always remember to breathe.

The light in me acknowledges the light in all of you.

The Mindfulness of Exercise

I creak open the heavy door into the small and smelly room. I take a mental count of who has joined me in this soon to be sweaty battle of man (or woman) vs machine.

I climb onto the beast and am met face-to-face with a panel full of choices. Do I want “training”? Do I want “fat burn”? Do I want “keep going until you throw up or die”? Oh wait, that’s not a choice.

I begin a slow walk to warm up. The sound of my “drop-a-beat” workout playlist starts to mirror my increasing heart rate. Reverberating louder and louder in my ears as I pick up speed.

I press the “increase speed” button with my index finger. Beep! Beep! Beep!  I arbitrarily pick a speed that (hopefully) won’t send me flying against the opposite wall.

This is it. I am now in it for the long haul. The long haul being at least 30 minutes.

I try and control my breathing, huffing and puffing feeling things moving that I wish wouldn’t. My legs feel strong, my arms pump rhythmically as I feel the belt move in circles underneath my feet.

The sweat begins to bead onto my nose. And like osmosis is want to do, it travels and collects in my suprasternal notch at the base of my neck–evidence of my exertion collecting in a salty puddle.

My achilles tendon starts to pull. I have a whole new appreciation for that oft-forgotten Greek hero. That spot is a b****.  With every step, it feels like a rubber band being stretched tighter and tighter, tenuously close to snapping.

I keep going. Sweat now running into my eyes temporarily blinding me every few minutes. I am suddenly very aware of my breathing and I wonder whether or not my companions think I’m breathing too loudly.

The muscle in the crease of my elbows is tight. My lungs want to burst. I am so hot, I feel volcanic. I remind myself that when I first walked in, I had goosebumps all up and down my arms because it was so cold. What I would give to feel those bumps again!n

And, I continue. I hit 15 minutes and scream victoriously inside my head “HALF WAY THERE!

And like a wall, a huge red brick wall, it hits me. Suddenly, it feels as if I am 300 pounds and climbing a mountain. Heavy, so heavy.

I slug through, breathing in and out, shaking my arms out, keeping my shoulders down, opening my chest, feeling my feet hit the ground over and over again. Every minute feels like a minute closer to what dying must feel like. Death, dripping all over me. I concentrate fully on surviving my final 15.

3-0 minutes shines brightly onto the panel, I quickly hit stop. My legs feel like jello and the sweat has traveled further south. I wipe the beast down. I collect my things and walk bowlegged and wobbly to the elevators.

And, I realize: I was in the present, in the moment, those entire 30 minutes. Every breath I took in and out was the only thing I concentrated on in that moment. Every step I took was the only thing I could focus on in that half an hour. Getting through that next 60 seconds was the only thing I thought about. Perhaps, could it be–I was mindfully meditating the entire time I was working out and didn’t even know it?!


Mindful Living and The Search for Personal Fulfillment

I know that I haven’t blogged in quite some time (close to a month!). I used to feel guilty about it and then I remembered that writing is one of the great pleasures of my life. I never want to feel as if it’s a requirement. That, to me, connotes duty and responsibility and I think we have enough of that in our daily lives.

Additionally, part of mindful living is focus on the present and on one (ok, maybe a few) things at a time. It is so easy to slip into a habit of stressful check-lists in an attempt to exert control and feel productive when stressed or major life events happen. Mindful living, in my opinion, first and foremost asks for a sustained gentle awareness of what matters most to our mind and body from moment to moment. So long story short, I had to get through the past few weeks as mindfully as possible to come back here.

So, I got engaged! It was simple, intimate, and pure. Everything I had hoped for in a proposal. I’m also moving in a few short weeks and will be sharing a space with someone again for the first time in six years. All this to say that keeping myself centered, holistically healthy, present and aware is just as important to me as finding the perfect rug for my bedroom, packing, and organizing.

The other day, I was talking to my life coach (yes, that’s a thing and I would love to be one). We were discussing how each and every time I find my life ramping up in stress (both positive and negative), I knock out my meditation practice. And then she asked me: “Is it because it’s for you?

I paused. And I realized–sadly–that yes, so much of my focus tends to be on my commitments that I made/make to other people that trump anything that I’ve committed myself to. 

I would venture to say that this is a common theme in our lives. How often does the thing that you love, you know betters you, know is important to you, gets moved down to the long list of “everything else?”

Shouldn’t our practices, our interests, our hobbies, our training that provide fulfillment in more ways than one be just as much a priority as that project that has an upcoming deadline?

YES. It should! My practice is for myself and therefore a priority.

Do you prioritize your personal passions and curiosities in the same way as your duties and responsibilities?

Perhaps, your dedication to your personal fulfillment would allow you to be a better employee, daughter/son, mother/father, boss, significant other, friend, and partner.

Perhaps, the betterment of you is for the betterment of all.

Happy #mindfulmonday !


To love is to be vulnerable

The act of vulnerability is one of the most difficult things a human must do. That along side being able to say “I don’t know,” and not go immediately searching for the answer(s).

I’ve had my fair share of toxic relationships: platonic and romantic. I do believe there is a time in one’s life where self-awareness and the love for yourself trumps the need to continue relationships that are unhealthy or unyielding.

To be your authentic self in love means that you are authentically vulnerable with your partner. This is absolutely utterly terrifying for most everyone I know. But it’s especially terrifying for the people that have been through a traumatic heartbreak (or 2…or 3). Because the idea of moving on is difficult enough, the idea of truly being vulnerable and revealing the wounds–some still gaping, some scarred hideously–is one that is intimidating on all fronts. Plus, who’s to say this person won’t do the exact same thing.

I once read that vulnerability is accepting of the uncertainty of the human condition and of life itself. Here’s an excerpt:

The hope for unconditional love is the hope for a different life than the one we have been given. Love is the conversation between possible, searing disappointment and a profoundly imagined sense of arrival and fulfillment; how we shape that conversation is the touchstone of our ability to love in the real inhabited world. The true signature and perhaps even the miracle of human love is helplessness, and all the more miraculous because it is helplessness which we wittingly or unwittingly choose; in our love of a child;, a partner, a work, or a road we have to take against the odds.

In essence, because we live in a conditional world, the concept of unconditional love is an inherent risk we are taking on and moreover an unrealistic expectation. This conditional world in which we live in means there is no possible path where we will not be met with some kind of heartbreak, difficulties, and joys that is under the great umbrella of “love” (and subsequent vulnerability). We must embrace helplessness with the condition that we are choosing to do so to give ourselves the chance of experiencing authentic love.

So, all of you, love without regrets, love fully, love freely, love authentically, love mindfully, and above all, just love