15 Good Things From 2015

Everyone’s positive energy building up to the New Year is absolutely contagious. I want to join!

Here’s my list of 15 good things from 2015:

*not in chronological order or order of importance*

  1. I was awarded a Chapter Distinguished Service Key (DSK) in Alpha Phi Omega (APO): Upon receiving this fraternity honor I wrote “I feel like this statDSCN4702us should go something like “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” or “nobody said it was easy…” but actually, in all seriousness, it was truly an honor to be awarded a Chapter DSK today. I am so thankful for the wonderful experiences I’ve had as an active Brother and I cannot wait to continue to serve with APO as alumni!” Just a few weeks later I was offered a position on Region 1 Staff! This fraternity has given me more than I could ever ask for. APO continually shows me the the meaning of brotherhood in ways I can’t explain. I made some of the best friends and learned some of the most important lessons and skills of my life.
  2. I went on Birthright and spent my 23rd birthday in Israel!
  3. I finished my honors thesis: but really 53 pages later! This seemed like an impossible task made manageable only by consuming inappropriate amounts of coffee and working ALL THE TIME. I still don’t know how I did it all. Before this project, conducting my own research seemed like a task that was beyond the scope of what I expected I could accomplish as an undergraduate; my advisors’ commitment to me and my project convinced me otherwise and showed me that I can accomplish more than I expect. Having an advisor who saw enough value in my ideas and capabilities to believe in my project was imperative to the success of this work and was necessary for me to grow both academically and personally. My confidence and pride was ignited because she didn’t tell me no. Rather, she pushed me each day to excel. This project not only taught me the research process but was instrumental in creating a foundation for both my future professional and academic interests. Now, I want to be a researcher! Of course, none of this would have been possible or as fun without my amazing HDFS honors cohort. We were a great bunch and I loved every minute of our learning and lamenting together.11149684_10204024050981885_3863601930795783864_o
  4. I became a runner: I used to have a witty excuse as to why I hated running. I’d say, “it’s physics. It’s just logic. If you start where you end then you’ve displaced nothing. So, why would I run if displacement says at the end I’ll have accomplished nothing?” I clearly didn’t really understand running or physics then. I still don’t understand physics. Now, whether I’m running to escape or running to gear up to something, running is important for me. It gives me time to think. It gives me order, control, discipline, expectations, freedom, and strength. Some days, the best we can do is put one front in front of the other and face the day. That’s what running has taught me. There are no unconquerable obstacles, just different paces with which we overcome them. On June 4th I posted this photo [yes on Facebook] and pulled the caption from the first time I publicly shared this picture during my senior year of high school public speaking class last lecture. I wrote, “In the face of a challenge, face it. You never know what you can do until you try”.Then there were sentiments of continuing to persevere until you 11351330_10204410118993344_5105233088170803531_nreach your goals and never stopping until you achieve what you want. Apparently my 18 year old self was more attuned to grasping at opportunity than I realized and, I may never learn to stop!

    What’s even more important (and timely/relevant) about this picture is this: it’s the first time I ran and triumphed over RSD (circa 2007).  And now, I consistently surprise myself by running farther, faster, and longer than I have in my entire life. Not pain free but, still confident and owning it! In 2015, I tracked 426 miles and ran a 10K (6.2 miles) in 1:04:47.

  5. I was published on The Mighty! You can read my piece: The One Statement I Want to Hear From Loved Ones About My Invisible Illness here. [Side note: I have a forthcoming  piece on Ravishly – I’m really excited!]
  6. I started this blog! When I started this project I said, “I’m starting this project to make space to wonder…I’m also using this blog to find a space to reflect. That’s a word that wasn’t in my vocabulary a year ago but, many great mentors and conversations later, I’m craving that necessary “me space”. However, not even my best mentors or friends would willingly sign on to interact with my every thought, question, challenge, insight, funny link, or freak out moment. So instead, there’s blogging. ” I’ve grown to love exploring and thinking on things. Sharing my work has been exhilarating and making connections through my writing [and my online community] has shown me that even when I’m feeling lonely there’s someone out there who “gets it”. My list of “things to write about” is growing longer and longer each day. These days, you won’t find me without a notebook in hand in case something sparks an idea. It’s been a risk, it’s still a risk but, I’m really loving this project.
  7. I learned about the importance of relationships and gained some amazing friendships: And of course the only appropriate comment here would be from Grey’s, “We’re friends, real friends. And that means, no matter how long it takes, when you finally decide to look back, I’ll still be here.” – Grey’s Anatomy
  8. I practiced saying what I need, asking for help, and being a better communicator: I started with being okay with things not being “okay” or “fine”. I found an outlet through writing and some great, trustworthy friends to express myself more honestly without worrying about being a burden or being a toxic friend.
  9. I graduated from UConn!  It’s true, some of the best learning happens outside the classroom. At UConn I was challenged, pushed, mentored and questioned both inside and outside of class. Rather than feeling inadequate or frustrated I was inspired and thankful for all that I learned and all the ways I grew. At UConn, I truly thrived! I felt supported and confident. I did it all and then some and, I had an amazing network of friends, mentors, advisors, and professors encouraging me along the way. This quote rings true for me and is so applicable right now, “I’ve learned that home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.”― Cecelia Ahern.  I miss UConn *literally* every day and I am SO proud to be a  Husky!
  10. Logically what comes next, I started at Brown University in the Urba10360465_10204185744024110_6042675827618780031_nn Education Policy Program: While this hasn’t been the BEST thing in 2015, one thing is certain, (in a paradoxical way) I know that if I never came here and if I stayed at UConn I wouldn’t ever know that I truly didn’t like it. I mean, beyond speculation. Also, and I guess obviously, the things I don’t like aren’t the things I was most nervous about so I suppose there’s value in that too. Regardless, I’ve had some amazing opportunities here to continue to grow as a researcher and an academic (whatever that means). I also learned the value of networking and connections beyond the colloquial saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. I’m working hard and making it work day by day.
  11. I fell in love with stories and great conversations: I traded social media connections for authentic, personal connections and I couldn’t be happier with that choice. I’ve been listening a lot and also searching for those stimulating conversations that ignite wonder and create more opportunities to learn. The kind that leave you thinking and questioning long after the formal discourse has ended. I craved thinking critically and conscientiously. I’ve learned that when you’re open to allowing a conversation to change your perspective and you’re a partner in creating the space for meaningful, intentional interactions you’re facilitating change. Hence, this year, I adopted the use of the phrase “thought partner” in every, even sort of, appropriate context.
  12. MUSIC: Just music. But really, from country concerts and Broadway musicals, to the sounds and spirits of Kabbalat Shabbat I was reminded of and gained a new appreciation for the ways in which music connects us and fills a room (or a person) with such unique energy. Music fills the quiet space that so often feel lonely. A quote from one of my favorite movies August Rush seems appropriate here, “You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe, a harmonic connection between all living beings, every where, even the stars.” SO TRUE! And of course, Taylor Swift gave me more reasons to love her. Including most recently, topping DoSomething.org’s Celebs Gone Good list for the fourth year. Gotta love her!
  13. I traveled! In 2015 (and the last days of 2014) I went to the APO National Convention in Chicago, Israel with UConn Hillel, New Orleans with Honors Across State Borders, NYC, the first ever ParentCampUSA at the U.S. Dept. of Education in D.C., and more!
  14. I recognized and reclaimed my body: It’s easy to learn to ignore  your body when you’re living with chronic pain. Too much attention to your pain can be detrimental because then you can get stuck focusing solely on your pain. We’re taught (in the chronic pain world) to find ANY strategy to ignore the pain and distract ourselves. In 2015 I reclaimed my body and grew stronger! I’m more physically fit than I’ve been before. I pursued strength for me – starting with an earnest desire to be able to run a mile. Rather than my pain owning me, I owned my pain and I was in charge of my body.
  15. I accomplished everything I wanted!  2015 was the year of doing too much and not knowing how (or when) to stop. With coffee as my lifeline and internal motivation I didn’t even know I possessed (once described as a glowing purple ball inside my body that was constantly radiating energy, and another time described as “robotic” – as I operate with the same amount of energy an11008595_10204092958784537_8915779519335960414_nd efficiency at all times) I did some amazing things! And, perhaps more importantly, I learned that I am more than the list of accomplishments that fill up my resume or the things I do each day to feel productive or worthy. With the encouragement of some amazing mentors and lots of hours spent thinking (reflecting), I found myself when I intentionally took the time to critically consider my experiences.  I started attributing credit to myself for my accomplishments rather than luck. Told myself “I earned this. I did this. I am good enough” and slowly I started to believe it. Judith Bulter wrote, “life histories are histories of becoming” and that notion has been a driving force compelling me to consider what I’ve experienced and why it’s been influential in my life rather than just considering how it’s going to propel me on toward the next “best” thing. I am done quantifying my success by how others view my accomplishments. This year rather than reaching the top step and turning around to find 15 more steps to climb I’m standing proud on the top, looking down with satisfaction, attributing value to what I’ve accomplished, and just letting it all soak in.

Happy New Year!

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A Letter to “Health” Magazine

Dear Health Magazine,

We’re past “the top 10 foods that are secretly making you fat” and “11 ways to stop overeating after a workout”. We’re past “Superfoods that help you stay super slim”. We’ve FINALLY arrived at “all bodies are beautiful” and we call that the body positive movement. We’re reclaiming words like “fat” and “plus size” as descriptors of people rather than critiques. We’re not really into “no offense but that makes you look big” anymore. We’re definitely over mistaking “thin” for healthy and we’re tired of seeing only slim fitting, toned bodies as ideal bodies or how we should aspire to look if we want to be perceived as healthy. Nearly 50% of women in the U.S. wear a size 14 and even with this reality knocking down the fragile notions of the garment and retail industries countless headlines are STILL encouraging us to make more changes, swaps, or restrictions. Change your food, your home, your friends, and your workout. THEN you’ll be better – you’ll be healthy. And yes, some changes sometimes are warranted but, why can’t you tell me I should be happy with who I am or proud of doing enough? Is that too much to ask for? Honestly, we’ve moved beyond the misconceptions about women that fund your initiatives and fuel your subscriptions. Well, we’re trying! You keep shoving it down our throats with promotional orders we didn’t ask for and by flooding the internet with ways I didn’t even know I should be disappointed about my lifestyle and my body.

Here’s an example, last week this article was posted: Here’s How Far You Actually Need to Run to Reap the Health Benefits. As an avid runner I clicked on the link and initially this article met my expectations. Running has a number of associated health benefits which were mentioned in the post. I felt good about my weekly mileage and exercise accomplishments. I thought I was doing enough! What made me cringe, and I’m still thinking about it today, was the end of the article, “But of course, if you’re running to lose weight, the same logic still applies: More steps means more calories burned”. So basically as I’m reading along I’m thinking I’m liking this, I’m liking this and then BAM I’m not liking this anymore. To conflate “here are the health benefits” with “oh yea and you can also lose weight if you do MORE than this” is a BIG problem. Women who read this may start out feeling great about their lifestyle and exercise habits (maybe even encouraged to pursue running) only to feel ultimately defeated to know that if they want to lose weight (which apparently every woman should want to do) then they need to do more.

In the past week alone, the headlines on this site reminded me why we can’t let ourselves be consumed by what mainstream media articulates as the standard for healthy women. It also made me wonder why we think we can “tell” if someone is healthy just by looking at their body and judging their actions. [Side note: BMI is a messed up measure too! – because apparently I’m obese but can run a 10K!?!?] Furthermore, assuming every woman who reads Health Magazine is trying to lose weight is dangerous and insensitive. We’re beyond exclusively equating “health” with weight.

So, based on the unsettling conclusion of the article above, I did some investigating and found more disappointing headlines from that same week! Here are some that are entirely focused on weight loss and food: “12 Foods That Control Your Appetite” and “10 Types of Hunger and How to Control Them”. These articles tell you the “scientifically proven” ways to “reach your weight loss goals” and “say goodbye to unneeded calories”. Why not just put up a sign that says “you only matter if you are thin so you should probably start starving yourself now?” I won’t get into triggers and eating disorders too deeply right now but, for some women, this is where disordered eating habits and body image challenges begin. We’re inundated with new ways to fear food and reasons why we shouldn’t quench our hunger or respond to our body’s natural indication that it needs something – like food! So, we’re being encouraged to listen to our body but, what that really means, what the subtext is saying, is decide if you’re really hungry so you don’t eat for no reason and waste calories. Because calories are evil, food is evil and even your go-to foods should be changed so you can shed more pounds. In fact, we fear “fat” so violently that it’s encroaching on every aspect of our livelihoods.Red apple and tape measure. Image shot 02/2008. Exact date unknown.

Here’s another example: “10 Signs Your House Is Making You Fat”.  Now in your pursuit for “health” you can be averse to your own home too! Probably a deserted island with limited resources is the only safe place. Really, did you know that having stocked cabinets is putting you at risk for being “fat”? This statement is so problematic I don’t even know where to start! Oh also, “family style serving” is another no-no. First and foremost, I just want to scream “check your privilege!” What I’m reading here is a complete inattention to what this article is actually saying which is “your privilege, access, and food security is making you fat” and that’s horrible. Am I supposed to be sorry for your privilege or just ignore it like your editors did when I read this article?

These perspectives, these pseuo-bibles to living “correctly”, are dispelling a version of womanhood that requires us to expect that healthy living can only be achieved if it initially comes from a place of immense, intense dissatisfaction with our bodies and ourselves. These publications encourage constant criticism, crafting a narrative that misconstrues womanhood, and more specifically what/who is a “healthy woman”, to be a compilation of never ending changes and improvements based on overwhelming proportions of articles that tell you how severely you’re doing everything wrong and that you’re doomed to be “fat”. THE HORROR! Kidding. But really, where’s the “you’re doing it right” or “you’ve done enough” article? That’s an article I’d like to read.

Sincerely,

Someone who’s trying to do enough (Me)

You May Now Proceed to “Overthinking”

This blog was a risk. This blog felt vulnerable and scary. But, this blog has also been freeing. I’ve gained a space to think and wonder but I still feel nervous almost every time I post something.

I haven’t posted in a few days (almost two weeks) because I’ve been angry and also buried in school work. Instead, I’ve been scribbling my thoughts in a notebook begging for a moment to make sense of everything. At the same time, I’m really craving a chance to just spew some (possibly) utter chaos and just leave it here so that it’s somewhere and I can move beyond it.

Here I go…

I’ve come to one of the biggest realizations of my life these past few days:

The system is only a system if you buy into it”

[Side Note: I use a lot or metaphors and write in cyclical notions. It’s because metaphors make space. That’s a double meaning. They allow me to explain myself and explore what I’m thinking when either I don’t have the words or I don’t want to confront the words. They provide a necessary element of distance while also providing direct insight into how I’m thinking and feeling. Anyway, these days I’m attempting to make metaphors work because then I don’t have to “own” everything just yet. I can make space and take space through one simple (kinda) conversation.]

What a troubling realization. Basically, life shattering. All this is to say EVERYTHING is socially constructed and things only have meaning if we allow them to have meaning. From grades, to language, to religion, and relationships the meanings we attribute to them and the agreed upon social understanding of these ideas are what perpetuate them. Another day maybe I’ll dabble in a conversation about race, gender, and sexual identity in a similar vein because the same logic applies. BUT, I don’t want to get into that right now.

Regardless, this whole sentiment makes me think a lot!

If I think too much, and allow myself to wander down that windy path, it makes me question if anything matters at all.  Not in a hopeless way, but in a curious way. If we can break down each construct and get to the bottom of all this thinking, underneath it all, we’re just people. I DO realize the danger of a statement like that!

But really, if I think this through enough it’s like nothing is actually real until we make it real. And in so many ways, making it real means attributing a label or value to what we’re experiencing. Remember, “The system is only a system if you buy into it”. This meaning making requires us to create and make sense of arbitrary distinctions and agree to attribute value or worth to them in order to reinforce hierarchies or beliefs that in some ways separate us and in other ways bring us closer together or build us up. Although, even when we’re being built up, it’s always in contrast to someone who is necessarily considered “less than” us. Otherwise, how would we reinforce these systems and structures?

So, it begs the question, if the systems only exists because we allow them to, then how can we say that anything is really real? And, if we’re ascribing to this perspective, and can rationalize that nothing is real, then clearly, nothing really matters. Okay, let’s say there for a second. If nothing really matters BUT we can’t escape the classifications and hierarchies (systems and structures) that are literally the foundational aspects of the word we live in, then does anything matter only because we let it matter? Are we simply learning to live as compliant beings and play our part in systems that we cannot change? Are we upholding the systems by performing our expected behaviors and not challenging our roles?

I’ll concede. Yes, there’s logic and order associated with the extent to which we accept and act out our roles and comply with the understanding that the world works in a certain “way”. But really, I can’t help but wonder what it would take to make it all stop for a second so we can catch our breath and realign our expectations and so we can take a good look at our world and consider what REALLY matters?

It makes my head spin!

The Sensational Appeal of Order and Calm

The title of this post comes directly from a piece I wrote earlier this week: The Number Stares Back. I wrote that piece quickly because the words and anxieties felt like they were bubbling over much faster than I could really handle them. Consequently, that’s not an unfamiliar feeling these days. Things just happen so quickly. And I can’t make it stop. I’m thinking about everything and ruminating over small aspects of each day. So much thinking! I CANT MAKE IT STOP!

Ordinarily, this feeling of “doing too much” doesn’t faze me. I’m notorious for “doing all the things” and doing them well. I don’t settle. So, what’s been most indicative to me that this feeling is different is the notion that I actually feel overwhelmed. Like REALLY overwhelmed. And, I don’t know what to do. And, all this is conflated with immense feelings of loneliness, feelings, perceptions and fears of being burdensome to others, and serious negativity that’s often repositioned through anxious energy as enduring positivity and enthusiasm (I’m faking it!). Paradoxically, my attempts to mitigate the accompanying feelings of any of these conflations often end up exacerbating another. How difficult?!?!

How do I explain this? It’s like, imagine that you’re running a race and each time you’re just about to approach the finish line it appears to be further way. And, since this is a race, you have on your “game face”. Nothing will stop you and you’re compelled to keep running because, after all, it is a race. Amidst this notion of racing is the adrenaline and anxiety that accompanies the “big day”. This helps you maintain your pace and endurance. Actually, in the case of endorphins, this feeling increases throughout the ordeal. The metaphor here, life as a race, isn’t a new one; we all know the saying “life’s a marathon, not a sprint” and we’ve read countless similar mantras. The idea though is that it’s applicable here too and more so because I feel like the race never ends!

So, I’m going a slightly different direction with this. I’m attempting to illustrate what it feels like to be unable to stop. I’m attempting to explain the conundrum and relative consequence of thinking so quickly, so often, so intensely and how this hectic, more appropriately chaotic, state is both tiring and illuminating. Mostly though, it’s really really really overwhelming.

If I were swimming, this might be akin to that precise moment right before you come up for air. The anticipation of a deep breath is quickly quenched by a satisfying inhale. However, if this action is repeated, for example if I were to quickly dart back under the water, then the repetition of anticipation and ascertainment may be associated with a feeling of never getting enough of what you need or incessant wanting. So, the gasp of air may be nearly enough to sustain your stroke and stamina but not to fully satisfy your desire. I’m trying to make this analogy work! I just want a full, deep, satisfying breath of air!

So yes, there’s an inexplicably sensational appeal to finding order and calm. However, my best attempts at capturing those moments of order and calm are often met by many obstacles I can’t yet overcome. And, as I relentlessly seek out this feeling of serenity I’m coming up against tall, sturdy walls of abruptness and urgency instead.

I WANT IT TO STOP!

The Number Stares Back

I used to keep the scale in the closet.

Inspirational post keep reminding me that I am more than the number staring back.

I ask, more what?

Inspirational posts are reiterating their messages of body positivity and healthfulness.

The number stares back.

 

I used to keep the scale in the closet.

Feminist blogs keep reminding me that my body is for me.

I question, how can I be more confident?

Feminists blogs are shouting the atrocities of body policing and fat shaming.

The number stares back.

 

I used to keep the scale in the closet.

OCD tendencies keep reminding me that control and discipline are at risk.

I think, what else can I control?

OCD tendencies are commanding their claim for necessity with the sensational appeal of order and calm.

The number stares back.

 

I used to keep the scale in the closet.

Today, my white scale, fixed, centered on the cold, wooden floor, keeps reminding me of the dissonance I’m experiencing around self-destruction and self-worth.

I demand of myself, what have I done?

My scale is engulfing me when it screams, “it will never be enough”!

The number stares back.

Absolutely Necessary

I love great conversations! The best are the ones that keep you thinking, and questioning, and somehow are relevant and applicable in other conversations days later. I really love those mogood-communicationments where you have to stop and think, “Is the whole world having the same conversation as me?” or “did they know I was just talking about this with someone else earlier?” Suddenly, what seemed like a “one-off” discussion becomes so much more than that. And, with each new perspective, each additional layer, you gain insights and ideas that inevitably shape who you are! It makes you think! I mean really think!

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I linked to “Jew-ography” and I’m still thinking a lot about the important lessons I learned from my time exploring the Jewish community in Cape Town. My experience in Cape Town was iterative of and has been reiterated since then as, during every major transition in my life, I slowly established my Jewish communities and networks. In Cape Town, I was literally moved to tears by the comfort I found once I overcame my apprehensions and attended Shabbat services. It’s crazy how you can be so far away from home and still find spaces that are so familiar and so welcoming. Lately, I’ve been having a lot of conversations about religion. It’s been exhilarating to grapple with my own experiences and learn about others’ connections (or not) to religion and spirituality. This has been especially impactful in the wake of so much tragedy around the world.

When I was growing up, at every bar/bat mitzvah (including mine) there was this song that the choir sang and the lyric in the chorus was “you shall be a blessing”. By this logic, I guess, rather than being blessed you, individually, are the blessing to others (and presumably vice versa). So then, especially when I begin consider all the “adversity” I’ve experienced and also what I know of the experiences of my friends (and generally in the world) and then how I make sense of that ends up making no sense at all (*sigh*). I believe adversity makes us more resilient. Even in the face of adversity we have the opportunity to acquire resilience and find the good, the blessing, in each moment – each interaction.

Lest I digress further, for me, I do a lot of “Jewish things” “just because we always have”. I’m into tradition. I appreciate practices that are a daily reminder of my religion but specifically as it relates to my need for community and connection. It’s the only thing I know (My mom is a Jewish educator (as in runs her own religious school) and my parents met as Jewish youth group advisors). So for example, keeping kosher is super important to me because in the midst of chaos and the hecticness of every day this practice makes me stop each time I eat and reminds me of something that is so fundamentally important to my identity. So the “why” or lack of doesn’t irk me (although I do know why I just don’t think about it every time) because my intentionality is one of community and maintaining a connection to my religion and to other Jewish people. When I was growing up, my mom used to play me this song (I intentionally searched for the silliest recording I could find). That resembled the “connection” piece for me. And so far, it’s been hugely influential and necessary and real for me. For example (as I mentioned), in Cape Town and then again this year, it’s been the Jewish community that has been the consistent, redeeming, allows me to breathe deeply, and smile authentically even if everything else that day sucked, special thing in my life [side note: I realize I’ve written this exact sentence before but, it applies here too].

One essential aspect my experience of Judaism is the music and the associated energy/spirit- in Hebrew we call this Ruach. I’m sharing this (and the above examples) because it reminds me about (and represents) the energy and interconnectedness that what I feel when I pray and when I find that connection – but not always because sometimes it feels like I’m just going through the motions as they’ve been scripted and reiterated so many times before.  Which is why I go each week to services – I fear missing it!

This week, this Shabbat, I definitely didn’t miss it! I was overwhelmingly reminded how absolutely necessary my Jewish community is. The colorful, diverse, emotional, bright, warm, accepting community felt just right. Our voices collectively filled the room with praises and each of us was connected in song and in spirit.

Have you ever stopped to take notice of your body and noticed that you’re smiling so much and in that moment there’s practically nothing that could happen that could make your smile waiver? It’s more than just being content. It’s a sense of belonging. It’s something beyond choosing to be happy. It’s the understanding, the realization, that you’re exactly where you need to be. It’s being so present you don’t even have to remind and refocus your energies to be “in the moment”. I knew I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Even if I have to continually relearn this lesson, I know definitively no matter where I am in the world, no matter how hard I try to “do life” (which apparently doesn’t initially include Judaism) ultimately this one thing, this connection and energy , is a necessity, that simply (or not so simply) reinvigorates me each week and I cannot be without.

Wonderful Terrors

I have writer’s block. I can’t find the words or space or time to write about what I want. I’ve been journaling though because despite the craziness of finals and grad school, I can’t shut my mind off even if I try. What follows is an attempt to relieve and relinquish the swarming thoughts in my mind and reconcile some of the words I’ve been scribbling down over the past two weeks.


 

It feels like my words are shouting what I can’t say aloud:

I want to stop!

I want to feel less crazed.

I want to feel like everything is not urgent.

I want to be okay with doing nothing.

When will it/I be/do enough?

Is this sustainable?

WHY!?

Sometimes people ask me what would happen if I just stopped (stopped rereading/repeating, stopped planning and attempting to ward of unpredictability, stopped surrendering to my watch). Usually, they ask, “what’s the worst that would happen?”  I can’t answer them. I wouldn’t know. I don’t want to know. Instead, I prefer to go through the motions. 

For me, there’s solace in each predictable, planned moment of my day. Knowing each minute will be attended to assuages any concern that my thoughts will distract me.  It’s true that in life there are no counterfactuals but, that hasn’t stopped me from trying to anticipate each situation (and to some extent the various outcomes). It makes things easier to manage.  I need order, structure, and routines. That’s safe. That’s comfortable. It’s incredibly easy for me to rationalize and justify many of these behaviors because I crave that control.

An important, and incredibly influential, role model once said to me, “What wonderful terrors await you 😀 hehe!”. In response to her I said, “So, basically what I derived is that it’s okay to be scared. I hope that this fear will actually fuel me to make the most of this opportunity rather than cripple me. ” I hoped that the concoction of terror, excitement, opportunity, and the unknown that I was about to swallow down by choosing (and eventually coming to) this program would propel me and ignite something in me. 

I wish that I could give in to this terrifying and exciting time but instead I find myself consistently searching for a way out. Instead of embracing this fear I find myself tirelessly attempting to ascertain control wherever I can in an environment that too often feels unsupportive and makes me feel small (apparently that’s how you know you’re doing grad school “right”). So I need to fill my time. I need to over commit. I’ve written about this before but, it’s still relevant. I know it’s still relevant because I can confidently say to myself and others I’ve been “fine” for the past few weeks. But that’s not honest. 

Fine means I haven’t let myself experience any of what’s been challenging me. Fine means I’ve successfully occupied my mind with distractions. Fine means I’ve exerted sufficient effort trying to keep up appearances and be “productive”. Fine means I’m operating more like a machine than a person; I’m operating with the same level of energy and proficiency each day. The never satisfied need (more honestly the compulsion) to make to-do lists and accomplish everything (regardless of the consequences for my body or my mind) is keeping me grounded. But, it’s keeping me grounded. I cannot thrive. In the midst of crossing off each item and feigning fine I’m losing myself by simply, compulsively, chronically going through the motions just to make it through the day, week, month, year, etc. I think I’m trying to say, as soothing as this is, I’m not letting myself encounter any “wonderful terrors”.