Distracted Days

Oh My Gosh! I think too much! Lately, I’ve been getting so lost in my own thoughts I have barely been able to do anything else. I try to read and find myself flipping through the pages arbitrarily highlighting, giving the appearance of reading, but not reading at all. I’m so unfocused. All too often reading becomes “reading” and I find myself hopelessly wrestling with my own thoughts while simultaneously encouraging myself to focus. Always.

Sometimes it feels like I’m in a room and the walls are all my thoughts. If I could find some way out, a way to break down the walls, a way to push past the barriers that are my thoughts, I’d escape into fresh, crisp air. I’d be able to breathe again. Breathing fully, breathing deeply would feel SO good! I miss that.

I’m just thinking too much about everything! I spend too much time reconsidering a conversation with a friend, trying to decide when to send a text so it won’t interrupt people, rereading sent emails for typos and potential misinterpretations that cannot be rectified anyway, worrying that what I submit is barley good enough (that I can only fool people for so long – so therefore rereading and questioning myself until I make myself literally sick), observing and responding to my perceptions of social dynamics, I could go on and on (clearly)! I’m distracted. In one word, #done.

I want to slow down. I want to pull up on the breaks and tell my head “STOP”. I grapple constantly with this paradox, when I’m not working (and I’m doing something for me) my mind is spinning thinking about all the things I need to be doing.  And then I start thinking faster, allocating every minute and attempting to convince myself it will be okay. It feels like a frenzy, like if I don’t harness my thoughts I won’t be able to turn off the anxiety. Conversely, when I start working I can’t even focus on what I’m working on because I’m thinking about a million, minimally important, other things.  So, I think I should flip a switch in my head then maybe my brain will flip-flop.

However, this overthinking isn’t all bad. I’ve realized that I want to “think” for the rest of my life.  I want to be a researcher. I want to explore, question, seek to understand, make mistakes, try again, discover, disprove, and learn every day. That’s what researchers are, they’re professional intellectuals (but we’re not getting caught up in terminology). Researchers think. They wonder. So, it seems only natural, pretty fitting, that I would arrive at this aspiration. So, then, how do I get there?

Owning This: Talking Tough Stuff

Finally posting this after days of allowing my words to linger in “drafts”. I saw these two quotes as I was unwinding from an incredibly long, anxiety filled day. This just feels right.


“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” – Brene Brown


I took a break this week from writing because life got “too real”, and really hard, for a while and I didn’t have words to put to what I was feeling. I still quite don’t but I want to try.

Right now I feel lonely. I feel lonely all the time. I feel lonely even when I’m surrounded by people that I love and care about and I know they care about me too. I’ve been trying to stay busy and to surround myself with friends and fun but, even when I’m seeming like I’m having fun, this miserable mindset winds up creeping to the forefront. And then abruptly, nearly the instant I’m alone, it’s like as quickly as my fingers can snap, I feel defeated, isolated, disengaged. My mind goes into a compete frenzy and things start moving so quickly it feels like I can’t keep up. It’s like children are bouncing a ball on a playground (inside my mind) and the instant my eyes track the ball it bounces someplace else. That’s what overwhelmed feels like to me. And then like an elevator dropping flights too quickly, I hit rock bottom. That feels quiet and cold.

I’ve been noticing there’s a deep and loud sense of “wanting” that I can’t shake. And, I find myself continually “missing” something. It feels like I’ll never it get back. In a way, I’m grieving that type of loss. I’ve lost the spaces where I felt supported, confident, and like I had a purpose. I feel like I’ve lost control and I’m losing sight of myself over and over again. I get this feeling multiple times a day. And every glimpse of normalcy that I encounter quickly diminishes and is replaced by intense, immobilizing sadness and isolation. I can’t recognize myself anymore and, in moments where I feel like I’ve “found me” I too quickly remind myself that this won’t last long. Usually this feeling lasts just about as long as it takes to take a deep, satisfying breath and realize that for a moment I can breathe again. That realization makes even a glimpse seem like I’m watching someone else’s life from the sidelines. I miss my support networks – those things gave me more than I ever realized at the time. Those things kept me going.

And these days it’s more about “keeping up appearances” or “putting on a show” than anything else because I just can’t escape my own head. I can’t ignore what I’m experiencing. This feeling is so absolutely pervasive, so persistent. Now that I’ve given just the smallest amount of attention to and named these feelings I’m experiencing major flooding. For example, I’ll be reading for school and suddenly find myself just completely exhausted because I’m not even reading I’m just staring blankly at the page, flipping mindlessly. Slowly my pace will crawl to a halt. That’s when I realize I feel so bad I can’t even focus on my work. In those moments, I’m not even focusing on how badly I feel, I’m simply numb. My mind is blank and dark.

In an intentional effort to ignore these feelings and seek control I’m justifying and encouraging myself to add more obligations, responsibilities, and commitments or to harness control in any aspect of my life I can. Then I grip tightly so I don’t lose that thing too. I’m slowly shutting myself down completely. It’s no wonder I haven’t been able to write anything recently. I spend my days feeling so small and then I perpetuate this feeling, let it sink in, by minimizing my these negative feelings, telling myself  “it’s not that bad”, expecting to just “tough it out”, and not attending to the experience I’m having.

I am taking this moment to admit that this is real and it is really hard. I’m taking this moment to own this. I am struggling.

Some Thoughts About National Coming Out Day

Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day!

Truth be told, all week I’ve been waiting in anticipation of this day. Actually, I’ve been waiting for  months. But, now that it’s here I’m met with much ambivalence. Mostly I’m challenged with the fact that we have National Coming Out Day at all. This is not an original idea – I realize that. The bottom line is if we didn’t live in a heteronormative society then we wouldn’t need this day. Moreover, why do people who aren’t straight need to come out when straight people are just presumed straight? You want to talk about privilege?!?! So framing this day as a privilege, celebrating that someone “gets” to come out is just so unbelievably frustrating. It’s like EVERY other day of the year it’s not your space, privilege, right, obligation, expectation to come out but today it is? And so coming out becomes yours under whose terms? I don’t need to spell this out but even National Coming Out Day operates under the constraints of the dominant, majority groups. So is it really our day? 

Moving past my rant, National Coming Out Day is also another day that is FILLED with labels. Right? We’re supposed to say “I’m _________” in the vein of solidarity and support. The alphabet soup of the LGBTQIA movement is hard to swallow and the myriad of identities is difficult even for experts to dissect. I star24daa08c97f5b9759ffc1051343da9e3ted considering this more earlier this seek when I saw these three images:9-bi

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I just wonder, how can we have National Coming Out Day and consider that yet another triumph in the LBGTQIA movement when certain identities are still minimized even within minority communities? Someone who is Bisexual feels like they should just say the’re gay because it would be easier. Someone who is Asexual doesn’t know how they fit into the community. [side note: this Buzzfeed video captures that sentiment in a super compelling way: 15 Poignant Asexual Confessions] And then I saw this on Instagram in reference to National Coming Out Day: “don’t you dare come out as an ally”. First, everyone needs allies. Second, this is about the time I want to smash all labels (and all social media). I’m frustrated! These words mean nothing if they’re simultaneously residing in the realms of discrimination and unity. National Coming Out Day is supposed to be freeing. It’s, to me, a demonstration of how large the community is and an opportunity to find support and connections in an unforgiving, hard to navigate world. But instead, I feel like even National Coming Out Day is also being dominated by a majority group. It’s a day for CERTAIN people in the LGBTQIA community. Others stand to the sideline and grapple relentlessly with their positionality. We question “are our identities valid enough to be recognized on this day?” or “have we struggled enough to deserve to participate in National Coming Out Day?” Here’s where it comes back to labels. We decide the meanings we attribute to these words and then we judge. Why should one person who identifies one way fear so violently speaking their label? Owning their identity? Even on National Coming Out Day these wonderings, these anxieties, are real and for some of us they’re amplified.

[Side note: I’m not in any way attempting to minimize any one person’s struggle or journey. I realize that coming out as anything is challenging or even terrifying. I’m not even talking about who people love or who they’re attracted to. I’m talking about labels. And in doing so, it feels like I’m taking a huge risk.]

Labels can give us closure but they can also really harm us. I’m thinking here about a medical or mental health (not sure why I made that distinction – ugh society) diagnosis. These labels follow us and while in some contexts they allow us to receive the services and interventions we need to be our best selves in other ways they limit our potential by attaching an inescapable stigma that lingers long after we’ve felt that we’ve triumphed and moved on or overcome one of our many hurdles. Similarly, in the LGBTQIA community labels speak volumes! Among others, they indicate the level of struggle you’ve endured, who you are sexually or romantically attracted to, and who you love.

I haven’t talked yet about the third image I saw. It said “Be Yourself”. I liked this one the best but I also wish that we didn’t need motivational pictures on social media to remind us to be ourselves. I wish there wasn’t a day where it was okay to proclaim loudly who you really are and then attach a label to it so other people can make their judgement about you or know how to categorize you. I hope that tomorrow people can still proudly and loudly be exactly who they are and how they identify without any stipulations. Our labels are both constricting and empowering when we first speak our truths. However, once society gets a hold of them, we’re leaving our words to be interpreted differently with each repetition of who we are. The threat of misinterpretation makes me breathe too quickly. On National Coming Out Day I can choose my label but I cannot choose its connotation. That’s scary.

National Coming Out Day reminds me there’s still a long way to go in the LGBTQIA movement. We’ve had victories large and small but the whole idea that we need a day for people to say who they are makes me wonder, if I don’t come out today will I have missed my chance?

And now, I’ll resort to homework and hiking today to avoid this social media mess of labels and many, overwhelmingly colorful displays of false or fleeting approvals (which I interpret with a certain degree of insincerity) to someone’s real, breath taking proclamation of self.

This Week I’m Thankful for Shabbbat

Written last night. Revised later.


It’s finally Shabbat! Which means, we’ve made it to the end of the week and a well deserved day of rest. Earlier today, when my friend asked me what my plans were for the weekend I instantly said “I’ll probably do work”. I meant it too. AND I will do work this weekend – I’m a graduate student with four jobs. Every minute counts.

But, something changed for me once Shabbat arrived. Even though I really didn’t want to I pushed down my social anxieties, got out of bed, put on something presentable, and went to Shabbat at the Brown/RISD Hillel. As I was sitting in services, I realized it was the first time all week that I was truly “present”. It was the first time all week I wasn’t running a to-do list through my head, struggling with my perceived inadequacies, recounting or anticipating a conversation, freaking out about my future, or missing UConn. I didn’t dwell on this realization. Instead, I took a deep breath and ceded to this unintended feeling of community and mindfulness.

As the service went on, I found myself stuck rereading one of the interpretations in the prayer book.

“How wise is our tradition to command us to seek rest on Shabbat, and what joy it is for our souls to be refreshed.” 

I read that quote over and over and I kept flipping back to the page to sneak another glance. In most situations, I’m looking forward to what’s next and because of this I usually don’t even acknowledge and appreciate the steps I took to get where I’m currently standing. This is one of the reasons I’m purposely so busy; there’s always something to accomplish next. That’s probably why I never really thought about “resting” as a Jewish value or as a “wise” action. This called for some re-framing!

During the High Holidays I’ve been challenged to reflect, repent, and return to my faith and my Jewish communities both near and far. In the midst of all the change and all the seemingly urgent obligations in my everyday life, I once again, found solace in the familiarity of  the Jewish community.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the paramount theme of returning that we discuss on the High Holidays and how it relates to life. Here’s some background. This past year, I had to learn an important lesson: we cannot know for certain where we’ll be or what we’ll be doing one minute, hour, day, month, or year from now. For example, a year ago I was SURE I’d be going to graduate school at UConn. Some things don’t work out as we’ve planned. Over the course of a year, we may gain some direction in some facets of our life but I think overwhelmingly we’ll miss the mark or end up more lost. This theme of returning, in Judaism we call it teshuvah,  helps us recenter our aspirations and actions. As I struggled to really apply this concept and wrap my head around it, I considered the paradox that sometimes we need to get lost to find ourselves. During the time of the High Holidays we are invited to be self aware, to grapple with our missteps, and recognize or take responsibility for where we went wrong – where we got lost. By evaluating our actions we can return to daily life better prepared for the unpredictable year ahead.

As I was walking home tonight, I was reminded of a favorite poem by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel we used to read each Shabbat at camp.

Tonight is a time to catch our breath.
Whatever we have been doing, making, working, creating
Tonight we pause to catch our breath.

No matter how necessary our work, how important to the world, how urgent that we continue it;
No matter how joyful our work, how fully and profoundly human;
No matter how flawed our work, how urgent that we set it right;
No matter how hard we have worked to gather our modest fame, our honorable livelihood, our reasonable power

Tonight we pause to catch our breath.

So, as I walked with these words in my thoughts I tried desperately (but not anxiously) to recover all the lost breaths and stockpile enough for the upcoming week, metaphorically of course. And as I kept walking (and breathing and thinking) I contrasted this poem with a post I recently shared with my friend from The Belle Jar called “Fuck Busy”. When I shared this insightful, spot on post with her I wrote, “Have you ever read something that is so eerily accurate and it’s like the internet is a mirror?”  [Side note: It’s a great post and I could comment about it for days!]

Here’s the brief version: I know that for me, “busy” is a defense mechanism. If I schedule every minute of every day then I’ll know exactly what to expect. I’m a planner. That’s what happens when you have OCD (for me). I like routines. I like to be able to  anticipate each interaction and mange my time “efficiently”. I realize this is a direct contradiction to what I said earlier, but it speaks to why that lesson was so difficult and necessary for me to learn.

Anyway, I did this busy thing so well in college that I managed to graduate knowing almost nothing about myself other than that I am a hard worker and I am really good at time management. I started to attribute those qualities to my self worth. I found it easy to ignore anything about my life that wasn’t ultimately “productive”.  So, I have a great answer for an interview question some day and some excellent evidence to back it up.

I stay busy intentionally to avoid being “stuck in my head”. I structure my time so I don’t have time to think about me. Which is likely why I struggle each day with impostor syndrome and still can’t attribute my successes to my experience or qualifications (more on this later).  You can probably imagine then how strange it might have been tonight at Shabbat to find myself in a situation that didn’t go as planned but that also wasn’t terrible or accompanied by “flooding”. In the moment  it was really refreshing. Later, I’m definitely overthinking it. [reasons I had to revisit this post the next morning :p]

Part of this project is to become more attuned to myself. The goal is to explore things that make me uncomfortable and rather than avoid the impending discomfort, accept it and learn something. So far, it hasn’t been easy. And, the more I think about what I want to write about and tackle next the more my thoughts race. If you’re sill reading and if you’re wondering where I’m going with all this. I’m getting there. I promise.

So, Shabbat tonight was in the plan but feeling comfortable, happy, mindful, and relaxed was definitely not. I expected to sit through services and watch the clock. I expected to leave quickly after dinner to get back to doing homework, to feeling “productive”. I expected to feel self conscious the entire time and anxious about the conversations I was having. That didn’t happen. Instead, I smiled and took more deep breaths than I have in the last three months. Which is why, when we were asked during dinner to share one thing we’d do differently in the next week I said, “I’m going to try to be intentional about taking time for me”.

I don’t know how it will turn out. I may be totally overwhelmed. I may shut down. I may face more perceived inadequacies. I may make myself so busy so I do not even try it at all. I may like it.

Taking time for me is something I want to be comfortable with not forced to do or reminded about. Too often friends and mentors have uncomfortable conversations with me about “self care”. I’ve been reluctantly having these conversations since middle school. I think moving forward I’ll be more inclined to practice self care once I gain more self-awareness and move into the acceptance and action stages of knowing myself and my needs. Which means, in the coming weeks I’ll likely need to slow down and reprioritize myself in my list of obligations.

I think I’ll start with recognizing and appreciating Shabbat, a built in day of rest and reflection. See how that all comes together?


I touched on a lot here and I realized I didn’t fully unpack most of it. I’ll come back to many of these topics and explore them more as I get more comfortable. Stay tuned!