Month

January 2017

Fear.

This will not be well-written. Or profound. Or unique.

I don’t care.

I’m afraid. And heavy. With a pit in my stomach.

My heart starts to race each time I see a news alert on my phone. What now? I wonder. I don’t feel like I can go more than an hour or two without checking Twitter, in case something has always happened. And something has always happened.

And it’s only been a few days.

And it’s not one of those times where I can say to myself, I’ll step back from the news. Give myself a break. The way I have before in stepping away from horrific coverage of a natural disaster, for example. No, it won’t do me any good to not be aware of what’s happening right now.

Lies are being told. And luckily, we are all calling them for what they are: lies. We have to do this. Because years ago, lies were spread, and horrible things happened because of it. Like: slavery. Like: the Holocaust. Like: hatred of minority groups. But what if people stop realizing that they’re lies? Start thinking, Well, if they’re being told over and over again, they must be true. What if we stop getting access to the truth?

I’m afraid because he/they are already trying to quiet our voices. What’s to stop them from blocking our ability to communicate? Will we wake up one day and newspapers won’t exist anymore? Twitter? The internet?

I’m afraid because even though we can march and we can fight and we can make calls and we can write and we can protest, we CAN’T stop all big legal things from happening. The things that, only a few days in, are already happening. And that’s not pessimistic, that’s just the truth. It’s not to say that we don’t have power, because we do, and I firmly believe that, but there’s also certain executive power that’s beyond us, and it feels helpless.

I’m afraid because this sounds like the beginning of many of the dystopian books I’ve read and used to love. How at the beginning, someone comes to power. And then they make certain rules. And all of a sudden, society is completely different. And we read those books thinking, Wow. That’s so crazy. Thank goodness that would never happen to our world. Except. Could it?

I’m afraid because that isn’t too far-fetched. And the thing is – this isn’t anything that anyone else isn’t feeling. These aren’t unique worries. Most people I interact with on a daily basis feel the exact same way. But instead of feeling reassured that others feel the way I do, it just feels disheartening. Because secretly I think we all want someone to hug us, to hold us, to say to us, Oh, honey, don’t worry. Your worries are just worries. But you can let them go, because they’re not going to happen. They’re not real. Observe them and let them go.

Except nobody can say that to us this time. Because they’re real worries. Real fears. Real things that could happen.

And there’s not a lot we can do about it. Except cling to each other. And hope. And tell the truth until they sew our mouths shut. And refuse to go down without a fight.

Use your voice

And use your voice, every single time, you open up your mouth.

(My Chemical Romance)

One of the most empowering moments of each week is at the beginning of my yoga class. We stand at the top of our mats, with strong legs, rooted down. As we reach up and bring our palms to heart center, our teacher invites us to gaze down or close our eyes. She tells us we are going to open class with the sound of a single ohm, and then she says:

“And as I always remind you: of all the things to fear in this world, do NOT let the sound of your own voice be one of those things.”

That reminder, that statement, sends chills up my spine. It makes me grow a little taller, breathe a little deeper.

I used to fear the sound of my voice. I used to keep opinions and thoughts and worries and fears and dreams and desires and stories to myself. It’s scary and it’s vulnerable to speak, to make noise. It invites in the possibility that we may be quieted, diminished, dismissed, ignored, berated. Amidst those possibilities, it seems safer to wilt and hide from the sun.

The thing is, nobody is every really ready to use their voice. Nobody walks into yoga thinking, “Today I’m ready to chant ohm with my class.” Nobody wakes up thinking, “Today I’m ready to tell the world my story.” If we wait until we’re ready, we will be waiting our entire lives. This is the truth.

So instead, we have to just do it anyway. Sometimes in small whispers and sometimes in loud bellows. Last winter I posted a baby step post, and then I told my stories, and then one day I just said, “It’s time.” And then I wrote it and sent int into the world.

Turns out, using your voice, speaking your truth, doesn’t break you. Quite the opposite, in fact. It sets you free. It connects you with others. It invites in conversation. It helps dispel others’ shame. It sets off a ripple of bravery. It’s all good, wonderful things.

The other day I said to Laura, “Remember when we thought that we would go to the grave with it as a secret? I never, not in a million years, thought I’d be here. But look at me – standing in the sun.”

Using our voice gives us power. It raises us up. Makes us grow. Dispels fear. Washes away shame.

So, maybe you don’t feel ready. It’s okay. Go ahead anyway. Chant that ohm. Tell your story. It will not break you. Stand tall, root down, turn toward that warm sun.

On not fleeing

Last week, my husband and I were flying home from vacation. I hadn’t been feeling well the morning of our flight – my stomach was a little upset and I felt slightly dizzy. On the way to the airport the car was warm and I overheated and felt faint, my pulse was high, and I was emotional about vacation being over and leaving loved ones. When we walked into the airport, Husband asked if I was okay and if I needed a minute, and I said I was fine – because I was, in that moment.

But as we waited in the line for security, I felt it start to come on. Fight-or-flight kicked in. While it almost always happens during medical situations, it can also occasionally happen for seemingly no reason at all. Shit, I initially thought. It’s panic or it’s a vasovagal syncope, but either way this is not good. My heart began to beat too fast, I started to sweat, and I felt that horrible hot sickening feeling wash over me – the one that signals, You’re going down. Literally. So I tried to lengthen my exhales as I took off my coat and shoes and put my carry-on on the conveyor belt. But that hot feeling kept coming in waves and I felt my stomach start to tighten – I was going to throw up, or faint, or need to use the bathroom immediately.

I evaluated my options – I had one person in front of me before I could go through security, and for a second, I turned around, deciding to let others go before me and sit down before it overcame me. But the security guard motioned to me, and told me it was my turn. One minute, I told myself. Hold on for one minute. And then, whatever happens, happens. I made it through security. And the minute it was over, I ignored my belongings, knowing Husband behind me would gather them, grabbed a nearby trashcan, and sat down on the ground, dry-heaving, spots floating in my vision, bowels clenching.

I stayed seated for a while and Husband came to check on me, but I was okay. A few people glanced at me but most didn’t give me a second look. One woman asked if I was okay, and I told her I wasn’t feeling well. She sympathetically smiled and moved on.

And then I was okay. And I didn’t spend the next hour ruminating on what happened and why and trying to understand every part of it. Instead, we got some cold water, walked to our gate, and then moved on.

Years ago, I would’ve fought. I wouldn’t have even made it through security because the thought of Oh heavens, somebody is going to see and someone is going to know, and they’re going to wonder what’s wrong with me, and I don’t even know what’s happening or why, and it’s going to be humiliating would magnify it immensely. And that fear of someone seeing, of knowing, and therefore of deciding I needed to fight it, just made the situation worse. But facing it, letting myself be vulnerable, is what helped it pass quicker than it ever would’ve years ago.

A few weeks ago I was talking with my therapist, discussing an upcoming situation in which realistically I am likely to have one of these attacks/situations, and she asked what my goal was in envisioning how I’d like it to happen. Was my goal to “be okay” with what was happening in the situation and therefore not panic/not have my body respond in this physiological way?

No, I realized. The point isn’t to make it go away. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but the point is to be okay with whatever happens. So if I have a panic attack – it’s okay. If I throw up – it’s okay. If I pass out – it’s okay.

And deciding to float, to face it, and not to run or fight it – that’s what gets you through. That’s the bigger life lesson anyway, right? That we will be okay. Whatever happens. And we don’t have to run, because it will not destroy us.

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