Practicing Mindfulness

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Something I’ve found very helpful to combat anxiety and negativity is a concept called mindfulness.   Mindfulness is acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, and then doing something to help process the emotion, thought or feeling.

I use this in several ways.  If I’m feeling resentful towards someone, I take a minute and try to figure out why this is, and then I try to change my attitude.  I read somewhere that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  I’ve found this to be true.  Resentment is not compatible with good mental health.

I also use this when I have an anxiety attack.   My anxiety attacks always have some sort of physical aspect, so I try to accept these physical symptoms (struggle to breathe, dizziness, coughing, whatever) and then remind myself  that 99.9% of the time they will go away if I stop panicking.   After I’m calm, I then try to determine what exactly caused the anxiety.  For example, traveling triggers anxiety in me because following my daily schedule makes me feel safe.   It is also a trigger for me because I feel as if I have to be on my best behavior because I’m seeing people I only see once or twice a year.   To combat this stressful thought pattern, I create a little mantra.  For example, something like, people’s opinions don’t define me, or changes of plan aren’t dangerous.

This concept has truly changed my life.   Mindfulness keeps my anxiety from becoming debilitating and it also helps me not dwell on negative feelings.    I have a choice about which thoughts to invite in and which ones to shut out.

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All Apologies

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‘I’m sorry’ comes out my mouth way too much.   I’m not talking about sincere apologies.  I’m talking about saying I’m sorry when I didn’t do or say anything that I need to apologize for.

For example, I say sorry when someone bumps into me, or if I almost drop something.   I even say sorry to furniture when I bump into it.

I also apologize when I think someone is going to be angry, before I’m even sure what I’m apologizing for.  It’s a sort of reflex for me, like how you put your hands in front of you when you trip.  It’s a safety net.  People get less angry if you seem like you feel bad.

The odd thing is, when I actually need to apologize for something I did, I have the hardest time.

There is something wrong with this.

Why do I feel like this need to apologize constantly? 

Maybe it’s because I bully myself.  I tell myself I’m stupid, or not good enough.  I tell myself that people are angry at me.  But, this is all my own perception.  This isn’t a definite truth.

Or maybe it’s because others often tell me I’m wrong.  I’m not a confident person, and for some reason, confident people prey on people like me.  They ‘advise’ me and tell me all the ways I’m wrong, all in my best interest, of course.  So I guess I’m used to feeling like I’m wrong.

But, I think it also comes from a desire to please. I don’t want anyone to be angry at me.  There are many angry people in the world, but taking on the blame for all their feelings is both arrogant and dysfunctional.   By saying I’m sorry, I make myself responsible, whether I am or not.  Why would I add this unnecessary burden on myself?

I don’t want to live that way.   I don’t want to be constantly apologizing for things that don’t deserve an apology.  Don’t get me wrong.  Apologizing is great, but only if you actually did something wrong.   But, you don’t need to take blame for things that aren’t your fault.

To combat this, I try to practice mindfulness, a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts.   From here, I can see what is clearly mine to deal with and what is not.   Gradually, I notice these meaningless and disordered apologies leave my vocabulary.   And when I realize that I have done something wrong,  I try to say I’m sorry and mean it.

 

 

The Perks of Being Alone

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High-school is supposed to be a time of friendships and partying, but for me, it isn’t.  I’m pretty much a loner, though I never tried to isolate myself.

I was like anyone else, dreaming of going on my first date at sixteen, going out with friends every weekend, all that we associate with teenage years.   But this didn’t happen, despite my best efforts.

I joined groups.

I tried to be likable.

I got in, somewhat, but not quite.

Not enough to be asked to go places on the weekend.

Not enough for the person to call me instead of me calling them.

I used to berate myself, wondering why I could never fit in.  I cried.  I used to look at acquaintance’s social media and all the social, fun things they do and feel anger, a deep, resenting anger.  I hated them for not including me.

So, I watched the world go on, without me, from the outside.  Then I started living.

I stopped being angry. I stopped pining for what I don’t have and started appreciating what I do have.  I became friends with me.  That’s who I’ll be taking everywhere I go, no matter what friends come my way, so I figure I might as well like her.   And when I stopped resenting, I realized there are some perks of being alone.

 

Let me explain.  

This time has been a time of a lot of personal growth.   I’ve learned a lot about me, and had time to give myself some time to breathe, to observe the world before I plunge into it.   When I look back at the girl I was, I wonder how she’d fare with the social life she dreamed of.  She was naïve, and insecure, immature.  She was unprepared for the demands of having a social life.

 

So what have I been doing?   Lots of things.    

I started playing guitar about two years ago.    I’ve been able to give it 100% since I have the time to invest in it.   It’s been a lot of hard work, but it is well worth it.

I’ve gotten really serious about my writing.  I’ve read many how-to-write books and practiced a lot, in all styles, from essays to fiction.   Right now, I’m writing my first novel, in addition to this blog.

I’m learning how to learn with my learning struggles.  This is a life-long journey, so I might as well start young.  I’ve realized that when I take the time to learn how I learn, I really can do it.

I also learned to knit, something I’ve wanted to learn for a while now.  Right now, I’m making my first knitted sweater.   I’m also experimenting with sewing clothes for myself because I rarely find clothes that fit or flatter me in the stores.

I’ve become friends with my mom, my dad and my sisters.   They’re my squad.   They’re who I spend my Friday nights with and my weekends.

I’ve learned to see all this time in my life as a blessing, not a curse.  To quote a cliche, I’ve bloomed where I was planted.  Yes, I’d like friends.  Sometimes I still feel envy when I see my Instagram feed, but it is passing.   It doesn’t consume me like it used to.  Besides, pictures on social media are such a fickle thing to judge one’s success on.  What does three hundred likes really mean?   And just cause you smile and have friends, who knows if you’re really happy?  A life can’t be explained through a few pictures on social media because how can a picture show the growth of a person over a year?  Or the measure of your maturity, or the worth of your thoughts and ideas?   The truth is they can’t.

So don’t feel sorry for me.  I’m content right where I am.   I’m not depressed or angry or bitter anymore.  I’m okay.  Maybe one day, I’ll get these friends I’ve always dreamed of, but for now,  I’m happy where I am, with the company of myself.

Accept Yourself

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I’m dyscalculic.

I learn slowly.

I need a lot of repetition to understand things.

I struggle to process the world around me.

I fight depression and anxiety.

I’m clumsy and forgetful.

I become overwhelmed easily.

 

This is who I am.

Yes, these traits are frustrating, but there is an upside to all of this as well.

 

I’m creative and passionate.

I’m curious and I want to learn.

I understand complex ideas.

I can be articulate.

I think deeply and feel intensely.

I’m empathetic.

I’m intuitive.

I try.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It can be easy to forget this, and see only the flaws. I’m trying to accept myself and be at peace with who I am.  This is a process. I find it frustrating that I learn slowly and I need so much repetition, but this is how I learn.  This is okay.  I need to give myself extra time to learn and process.

People misunderstand me. People criticize me.  Yes, it’s painful.  It’s confusing.  It’s frustrating.

 

Don’t misunderstand accepting yourself

with giving yourself excuses to wallow in weakness.

 

There is a difference. Let me show you.

I wanted to play guitar, but I struggle to memorize, have no natural sense of rhythm and I believed that I could never learn to read music.

So it seems like I shouldn’t play an instrument, right?  No, it means I’m going to have to compensate for my weaknesses.

Will it be a painfully slow process? Yes.

Will I learn?  Yes, eventually.  Maybe even learn, forget and relearn.

Because of my poor memory, I’ll always have to have my music in front of me when I play, even though it seems like it should be memorized after playing it hundreds of times.  I forget chords often, so I look at my chord chart, however many times I need.

So what?

The bottom line is I can play guitar.

I do this because playing music makes me happy.  Yes, I learn slowly, but I am learning.  My only other option is to never learn anything and I don’t like this option.

Does learning slowly mean I’m wallowing in weakness?  Are compensations for the way I process information ‘crutches’?

I don’t think so.

Here’s another example.  I write, despite the fact I can’t spell, despite the fact I’m not good at remembering grammar rules, and I struggle to organize my thoughts into writing.

You know how I do it? I’m not afraid to ask for help.  I have my friends and family proof read for me, to catch grammar and organization issues.

 

I’ve realized that don’t have to be all things for myself and this is okay.

 

I know people say, “In the real world, you won’t have help,” or in the “In the real world, that’s a crutch,” or “in the real world, you need to be independent.”

This is a lie.

In the real world, people are meant for each other.  We aren’t meant to rely only on ourselves. Let people help you.  It’s good for you and it’s good for them.

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So, don’t try to climb the tree because that’s not what you were made for.

Get in the water.

Be a fish.

The Never-Ending Cycle

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Courtesy of: Clipart Kid

 

 

There are three traps that I often fall into.

  1. I want to find a ‘cure’ to ‘fix’ how I am.
  2. Once I find this cure, no ‘maintenance’ is needed.
  3. Fast = Good

 

But in reality, none of these are true.

There isn’t a cure for how I am, because it isn’t a disease.  It’s simply how I was made.

It’s tempting to look for the one thing that will ‘fix’ all my problems, but I won’t find it.  It won’t just be one thing, because many different factors contribute to them, so obviously the help needs to be multi-faceted as well.

Compare this to owning a home. If you stopped regular maintenance (mowing the lawn, cleaning, repairs) it would become overgrown, messy and costly.  The same is true with my mind.  I need to remember that this maintenance isn’t messing up or failing.  No one expects a house to maintain itself, so why would I expect that from my mind?

I may find mental tools to manage, or new thought patterns, but there is no cure-all magic potion.

There will be ongoing ‘maintenance’ for as long

as I want to be a functional person.

 

I’ve come to notice that my life goes something like this:

Feel bad, regulate, feel better, repeat.

Yes, it’s messy. It can be discouraging.  But it’s all part of a process.

I know that messy, slow processes make people very uncomfortable.  But this is a wrong viewpoint.  Everything comes from a process.  And sometimes this process is a messy, slow one.

Going back to our home comparison, now you are going to declutter. Well, in order to declutter, you need to take everything out of the room and put in somewhere else so you can sort through it.  Temporarily, your house will be messier than before, but in the end, it’ll be cleaner and more organized.

This is how it can be while you are maintaining yourself.  The process of wrestling with anxiety or with learning disabilities, etc., can be a messy process. Wrestling with this issue is uncomfortable for you and for others watching you, but for the moment this is how it needs to be.

Let it be slow.  Let it be messy. It’ll be okay in the end.

 

Maintaining myself emotionally  is a daily choice.

 

Repeat your coping methods as many times as needed, even if it’s always, every minute of every day at times.  But don’t be discouraged, because, you know that a better time will come.  It’s all part of a cycle.