Category Archives: NaBloPoMo

#NaBloPoMo: Anxiety

We had a bit of a scare with Ringo last night. We were watching TV and he was sitting on the couch and I realized he was shaking. He wasn’t cold and he’s never done that before, so I started thinking maybe he’d eaten something he shouldn’t have. This is not unusual for Ringo. He’s always eating something gross, something that isn’t food, something he shouldn’t. We once had a vet recommend having him wear a muzzle on walks. My anxiety spiked, having heard stories of dogs starting to shake, then having a seizure and dying within 20 minutes of their first symptom. I put him and Eric in the car and drove to the emergency vet. They checked him out and drew some blood, determined he’d somehow tweaked his back and that’s why he was hurting. He has been running a lot the last few days and also playing frisbee in our snowy backyard, so he most likely just overdid it. He’s on pain meds for the next few days and luckily I have a direct connection to a physical therapy clinic for dogs, so I’ll be taking him in to get a fuller exam and some treatment. Honestly other than the 10 or so minutes of shivering, he’s fine.

I’m not so fine. I don’t know how much I’ve talked about it here, but I’ve got pretty bad anxiety. Developing complex ptsd only seemed to make it worse. As soon as I realized something was really wrong with Ringo, my jaw started to lock up and my teeth started chattering. This is an anxiety response I get that can be triggered by sometimes something small, and it really hurts. It’s essentially a panic attack, just with atypical symptoms. It only lasts about 5-10 minutes, but the tension it causes in my jaw and head usually lingers.

Once we got home, we gave Ringo his pills and went right to bed. I normally take 10 mg of a THC gummy at night (with the pain in my knees, it’s the only way I can sleep), but I skipped it. I wanted to be “present” if something came up with Ringo during the night. I was having hot flashes all night but also freezing cold so I slept terrible, constantly too hot or too cold or both. My stomach was also a mess. Everything was fine, but my hypervigilance was in high gear. This morning, I feel hung over.

I meditated this morning. Eric did what he could to make me feel better and Ringo is clearly fine. I taught a yoga class. We laughed a lot. One of the vets I teach brought her new puppy, an eight week old Corgi named Henry. I texted some friends and made dinner plans with some others. I’m going to make myself a yummy breakfast bagel and watch a little TV, maybe take a short nap. Later I have therapy. It’s a strange thing — to be a total wreck and also completely fine. To think that things will never get better and to know I’ll be okay, that it will all work out. To want to give up and keep going no matter what. To feel like the world is an awful place and be surrounded by nothing but love.

#NaBloPoMo: Day of Rest

from our walk

I love challenging myself to posting here every day for a whole month. I appreciate how it wakes up and strengthens my creative energy. When I know I am going to write and publish something every day, I look at the world differently. I look for the moments, the stories, the signs, the patterns, and the deeper I get into the month, the more clearly and easily I can find things to write about, the more I understand and accept my own experience, the more things make sense. It also takes the pressure off — if I’m posting something every single day, I can’t expect every post to be good. I let go of expecting ANY of them to be good, and rest in a sense of freedom and spaciousness, a state of peaceful awareness. This is the magic and the medicine of a writing practice, if we can just get out of our own way.

#NaBloPoMo: A Funny, Awkward Sort of Comfortable

Obi died 10 years ago today. Even now, I just noticed myself resisting the memory of it, some part of me saying, “don’t go there, it’s too painful.” Obi was diagnosed with lymphoma at just seven years old. Lymphoma is one of the most curable cancers in humans, but in dogs, while it is treatable it’s ultimately fatal. Obi’s initial prognosis was somewhere between two weeks to two months if we did nothing, and because he had T-cell multicentric lymphoma, his chances were even worse. We did chemotherapy, (he was our first dog and other than a barely swollen lymph node in his chest, he was perfectly healthy, AND we had the money so we felt like we should). He went into remission for six months, but the cancer came back before he finished his protocol. Since we knew we were fighting a losing battle, and any extra time was really for us not him, we spent the next three months spoiling him and watching him really close to be sure he still wanted to be here.

He had been feeling worse for a few days. When you have a dog with a terminal illness, one bad day isn’t enough to end it, but two days in a row when you already know you are at the end is absolutely more than enough. He’d been drinking too much water, couldn’t seem to stop himself. Eating was making him nauseous and he was so gaunt, slow, and tired. Looking in his eyes made it clear. He really wanted to stay, to be here with us, but he was just so tired, so done. I had told him all along that he needed to let me know when it was too much, and he did.

My camera broke the night before we let him go. This was back when I only had one camera, and no cameras on our phones. I’d dropped it face down on our concrete patio, the lens was bent so it couldn’t close and it wouldn’t turn on. I panicked and immediately made a plan to go to Target and get a new one, then had a moment of clarity — rather than waste my time and energy on getting a new camera, taking more pictures, I could just be with him.

The last picture I took of Obi and Dexter before my camera broke on that last day

We still miss you Big Dude, but now it’s more happy that we got to love you than sad we had to lose you. This kind of grief never really goes away though, you just wear it and carry it for so long that it gets a funny, awkward sort of comfortable.

The day we adopted Obi, April 20, 2002

#NaBloPoMo: Feel Your Feelings

raintreepool

Image from Raintree Athletic Club, “my” pool

At aqua aerobics the other day, a woman suggested we wouldn’t feel how cold the pool was if we thought about something else, that this theory applied to everything in our lives: we’d be happier if we didn’t pay so much attention to our feelings.

Because I’m an introverted hsp, it often takes me so long to process what is happening or being said that the moment has passed before I’ve formulated a response. That was the case in aqua aerobics when the “don’t feel your feelings and you’ll be more comfortable” argument was made. I knew it was fundamentally wrong, but was still processing the why. I kept moving without responding, not even a “that’s an interesting theory but I’m not sure I agree.” It’s only after sleeping on it that my response became clear.

This happens a lot. It’s weirdly what makes me a better writer, or at least a better writer than conversationalist. I spend a lot of time deeply processing so when I do have a response, it’s full and complete, more meaningful or potentially helpful than what I would have said in the moment. People often tell me I’m a great listener, but it’s really because all I can do when you are talking to me is listen, stay open to what you are saying and silently process in the background. Of course, I give pretty good feedback, even advice if you are asking for it, in the moment, but it’s some time later that I can give my best response. This works out fine if you are someone I have an ongoing relationship and we can return again to a previous conversation, not so great if we meet in passing.

Back to this notion of not feeling your feelings. The idea that to feel is a problem and to ignore them is some sort of life hack. Wrong. So wrong. The only way to transform feelings IS to feel them, to become friendly with them, acknowledge and accept them. What we feel is always useful information. It can reveal if a situation or person is unsafe, help us set good boundaries, uncover the places our needs aren’t being met, make clear someone’s hidden motives, provide crucial information we need in order to react with right speech and right action.

I spent a lot of my early life being asked to keep my feelings quiet, to myself, hidden away. I was taught, directly and by example, not to trust or honor my feelings. I was gaslit and silenced, told my feelings didn’t matter, that I was confused and wrong, that I must just be hungry, sick, or tired. Not being able to trust or even access my feelings got me into a lot of trouble, allowed me to stay in situations that were harmful, waiting for someone else to tell me how I should feel. It got to the point I couldn’t even find my feelings anymore, didn’t recognize or understand them when they did arise.

Feeling your feelings doesn’t mean you always have to act on them. Along with allowing ourselves to feel, we cultivate self-awareness. We contemplate what might be triggering the feelings, the various ways we might be confused or compromised, and we cultivate the self-discipline to not automatically react but rather wait until we have some clarity.

It seems to be a particularly white female neurosis to believe that we can control our experience through self-denial. To think that things will go better, everyone will be happy and comfortable if we simply pretend and perform as if everything is fine, even when it clearly isn’t. In fact, to deny your feelings, to dissociate, is a trauma response.

It is safe to experience our feelings. We can be trusted to feel, and whatever we feel is perfectly okay. We also have the capacity and wisdom to determine exactly how to honor our feelings. Do we act on them? Do we hear them out, then let them dissolve and go? Do we determine there is a need to get support, work more intentionally with our feelings? Through practice, we can trust ourselves to know.

#NaBloPoMo: Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: Being an introverted hsp makes some things more difficult. Having a conversation for me can be hard. Either someone is trying to make small talk with me, which is hard for me to do while remaining calm and focused, or they want to have a deep conversation with me but won’t give me the space or time I need to process. People often don’t understand or respect my boundaries. Calling someone on the phone to make an appointment or request is the worst! Then there’s going to said appointment, also awful. Having too many things scheduled in a day or a week can be overwhelming. Combine any of these things with loud noises or other variations of environmental chaos and I’m wrecked.

2. Truth: I’m learning to be more gentle with myself. To give myself what I need to prepare for the kinds of things that are harder for me, and to recover from them once done, or to even say “no” if I just can’t. I’m also working on not giving myself a hard time for being “special.” I need what I need, am who I am, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

3. Truth: Sometimes being an introverted hsp is my superpower. In particular as a teacher, I’m able to hold space for my students and what they need, to withhold judgment about it. I think in general I’m a more compassionate person because of it, more patient and loving and sensitive. Even though it sometimes complicates things for me, I’m usually able to see the bigger picture, understand how all the bits and parts are working together. The intensity with which I process things, contemplate and see patterns, helps me to cultivate a deeper understanding. I’m tenacious and don’t like to give up.

One wish: May we cultivate self-awareness, and may that clarity translate to less suffering in the world. May our understanding of our own temperament, our strengths and struggles, make us more compassionate and wise, towards ourselves and others. “What if, right now, we used our human powers of compassion, clarity, gratitude, praise? What if we did it together—opened all those closed doors inside us? What if we let the opening do what opening does?” (from Manifesto, a poem by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer).

#NaBloPoMo: Saving Time

In both yoga classes I taught this week, I talked about how here in Fort Collins, we had a very short fall season before our first snow came and then another big snow hit and we went straight to winter, without the usual lingering color and warmth of fall. Then on Sunday, we moved our clocks, which always takes me (and in particular my dogs) a few weeks to adjust to. The dogs want to still eat at the “regular” time, which is now 4 am, and I walk around asking “yeah, but what time is it really?” and feeling generally wonky.

It’s very confusing, unsettling. It can be hard to regain our balance, our stability, our ground. In times like these, it’s good to honor your need for gentleness, allow yourself extra time and space, give yourself whatever you require to feel some sense of comfort and strength, seeking out whatever support might help bring you back to center.

I shared a quote with my students this morning, a few paragraphs from one of Jena Schwartz’s latest blog posts, Some Words of Encouragement for Regular People. This class in particular loves to be read a poem or quote, either at the beginning of class or the end, (or sometimes both). The way I choose what to share isn’t very scientific. It’s actually a pretty random system — I see or read something that touches me or reminds me of them and I share it at our next class, maybe even theme the whole class around it.

And maybe this is related, or maybe the only connection is that it’s also part of my narrative, but I was paying two bills this morning, the only two I have that still require I send a check. I get paperless statements in my email, but my payment requires at least the first page of the statement in order for my payment to be applied. I’m out of printer paper, so I’ve been printing on the backs of recycled paper. When I printed out the statements this morning, I used paper that had poems on the back side. It makes me happy to imagine the surprise for the human on the receiving end — at work, processing payments for a credit card company, opening my envelope and finding a poem. My wish is that whoever they are, it’s the exact poem they needed today, that it makes them feel somehow better.

#NaBloPoMo: Time Change

When I switched my calendars over to the new month, they were all very autumn-y pictures, which is odd because we sort of skipped from about a week of that here and went straight to winter. All our leaves are either down or dead and there’s still snow on the ground from our last storm.

Then today the clocks changed, we “fall back” for Daylight Savings Time, which means at least two weeks of the dogs waking up before the alarm and us asking each other, “yeah, but what time is it really?” And apparently Mercury is in retrograde and that means something.

I’m teaching a yoga asana class this morning and I think our theme will be staying grounded amidst chaos, honoring what we need, being gentle with ourselves and each other.