Friday, April 14, 2017

on the brain.

 I've had two different posts simultaneously in process, and neither of them has felt quite finished. So. Here I am, combining them into one post that won't really have much of a flow, but sometimes that's okay.

Memories have been flooding my brain space lately. I have a complicated relationship with memories, which mainly stems from my inclination to be both overly sensitive and overly sentimental. I love when a memory seeps into my mind randomly, but it can also mean that I'm overcome with emotion thinking about the time and the place and the feelings associated with it. And because events can't actually be relived, I can sometimes get caught up in that idea rather than the absolute magic of what a memory can do: transport you to a time and place that is in the past (which is kind of like reliving it). My mom and I used to walk to a tiny little store called the Coffee Mill at the end of the school day. I'll never forget when she turned me onto apricots. A small collection of juicy, tart, delicious dried apricots would be neatly organized in a cellophane bag and we would collect a package from the shelf for the both of us to split. That's mostly what I think of when I eat apricots these days.

It occurred to me the other day that it's nice to sometimes remind myself that anxiety is a burden I carry that others do not. Day to day, my anxiety doesn't even register to me as an additional piece of baggage that I lug with me everywhere. In fact, for most of my life, I just assumed that every other person's mind must be filling up with worries to the point of exhaustion and breakdowns and an overwhelming lack of bandwidth to deal with it all. Turns out, they're not! So sometimes it's nice to give myself credit where credit is due: that in addition to what it means to be a human who is alive and feels things, I'm also a human that deals with anxiety on a daily basis. If you also suffer from anxiety, I hope you'll give yourself a pat on the back today because it is hard.

The other day, I was trying to describe why traveling gives me anxiety and I just couldn't do it. Because there's not always a way to pinpoint how anxiety manifests itself. Sometimes it's obvious, but sometimes it's more like background noise: it's just there and you can't locate the source. I can't specifically identify a piece of travel that makes me feel anxious, it's just the entirety of it. And I'm always grateful for travel once I've immersed myself in it, but there's often an undercurrent of anxiety that surges its way through every piece of it.

All this to say that if you're a sentimental person or a sensitive person or an anxious person (or, if you're all three of these things), hang in there. Maybe there's something to be said about the heightened experience these afflictions grant you. Because while feeling everything incredibly deeply can be exhausting, maybe it can also be a way to hold onto moments longer and with more clarity.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

a working definition of success.

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 The other night Jeffrey and I were talking and he said something about how I'm always overworking myself, and for one second my brain computed that as a COMPLIMENT. The intent of his message was for me to slow down, but for a fraction of a moment I was proud that someone I love thought I was overworked. I feel like the amount of time one spends working is a common measure of success. Like, if you don't have time for leisurely, pleasant things then you're probably really successful. But why?

Running myself ragged doesn't make me a better or more dynamic or kinder human being. In fact, I'm pretty sure it does the exact opposite. I'd like for success to be measured in the number of times I laugh in a day. In how many times Woody wags his tail. In a home glowing with candles. In warmth and breeze and freckles on my shoulders. In flowers and walks with my nieces and in mundane trips to Target with people I love. In pie shared with friends. In phone calls home. In making cookies on a Friday night.

When I was teaching and I wanted to leave work on time, I remember sneaking out (sneaking! out!) of the building because I was so worried that my colleagues would see me and silently judge me for not staying beyond my contractual obligation (just to be clear, this had everything to do with my own insecurities and nothing to do with my actual colleagues). When I left teaching it was partially because the overworked part of my brain was falling apart into three million pieces and I could no longer stand the thought of my tired, broken body bending down to collect them.

I've done the work to get to a place where overworking myself is no longer a priority and I've determined where I want to expend my energy. But there's still a piece of me that feels guilty for taking the lunch break or for walking out the door when my work day is technically done and others still sit at their computers.

But I'll tell you one thing: on Saturday, as we walked down to the waterfront to see the cherry blossoms in bloom and talked about our plans to enjoy falafel in a tiny, bustling restaurant, my heart was full and I felt nothing but happiness and gratitude and love and maybe even a little bit of success.
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