Write and breathe

Did you know that exhaling activates the parasympathetic nervous system? That’s the part that calms you down, brings you back to baseline. I love that fact. I love it in part because it means there’s actually something really easy we can do when we’re anxious: exhale. Long exhales. I also love it because I knew, for years, that “take a deep breath” was not always helpful. There are about a million reasons why. But I think one of them is because breathing in, in and of itself, actually isn’t the solution. If we aren’t careful, we breathe in too quickly, or too deep, and exhale too short, and we end up hyperventilating and more anxious than we started. The key is to breathe overall. In deeply if it’s helpful and cleansing – but out, slowly, for longer.

I have felt anxious on and off the last few days. This isn’t anything new for me. Anxiety comes and goes, it’s a part of me, and in learning and accepting that, I don’t worry when I’m anxious. I very infrequently panic, like I used to, What if I’m anxious forever? It just doesn’t work that way. There’s nothing to panic or worry about. I will be prone to anxiety forever – I will not be in an anxious state every moment of every day forever. And anxiety in and of itself, while at times unpleasant, isn’t a bad thing.

Anxiety means one of two things: something is happening or upcoming that is on my mind, or something is subconsciously working itself through – meaning I’m not (yet) aware of what it is, but it’s doing its thing. These things aren’t brilliant revelations – but having spent years thinking I was anxious “for no reason”, it’s always a comfort to remind myself that there IS a reason. I just might not know it. And in a way it’s kind of cool (kind of), that my body can work things through even before it has been able to effectively communicate to my brain. Quite efficient. Sometimes unpleasant, yes, but efficient nonetheless.

Oh, goodness. There isn’t a point. I can’t always have a point of writing, can I?? Mostly what happened is that I haven’t written in so long. And the more I don’t write, the more I feel it building inside of me wanting to burst. Kind of like when you have to pee (I know, but seriously, it’s a good comparison). And then today I thought, Ugh, I wish I could just write something, I know it would feel freeing and cathartic. And then I told myself Uh, you can. Just go write something. And then I argued back, But I have nothing profound and no words of wisdom and no good moral or lesson. And then I countered, Right. But. Who cares, remember?

Ah, right. Who cares. Write from the mixed-up middle, and you don’t need an ending, and you don’t need a beginning, and you don’t need a point.

Let’s try this again

I haven’t sat down to write all summer. Except once, one half-hearted post.

I have missed writing so much.

I could attribute it to working 10-12 hour days, or the heat, or being so exhausted, or writer’s block, or my computer breaking, or just simply not having enough time.

But really, it doesn’t matter why, does it?

What matters is that I have missed it. I need it back.

Writing is so good for me.

There’s so many posts that have been swimming around in my head. Words and sentences floating about that want to be collected and transformed into some semblance of coherence.

I’m going to try.

I have so much to say. About work, about kids and meltdowns and strategies and lessons. About life, about authenticity and discovery. About stories and truth-telling and being real. About everything.

And yet.

I think about finally having this time, and I freeze. My fingers freeze, my mind stops. I can’t find the words and the paragraphs I had so eloquently written in my head are nowhere to be found.

But gently, I will coax them out. Gently, I will return to this habit. Gently, I will find my voice again.

I can’t wait.

Mixed-up middle

I haven’t written in so long. Maybe a month. I hate not writing for a month. As with anything, the longer I don’t write, the harder it is to sit down and write. I can’t think of the perfect post. The words won’t come. I have nothing to say, even though I have everything to say.

So why not just start right here, somewhere in the mixed-up middle of words and ideas?

Like: I’m puzzling over the little details I’m noticing about myself. I’m thinking so much about my cravings to be busy at work, and my difficulty with free time. I’m trying to gently figure out what each means and be observant without being judgmental.

Like: Some days a sunset brings me to tears that yet another day is over already. Other days a sunset brings a sigh of relief, that a new day will dawn soon.

Like: I don’t fit either early-bird or night-owl. My energy has been shifting and I can’t quite make out the pattern of when I am most energized and why.

Like: My hyper-sensitivity is off the charts lately. Today: my heart hurting when I stepped on tree roots, fearful that I was hurting them. (Notice, don’t judge, I remind myself. I am who I am.)

Like:  “The world is unsafe” feeling is big. I find myself unable to read about, or think about, the events around the world because it’s just too big for my soul to hold right now.

Like: Books have been my saving grace ever since I was a little girl, and the comfort I find from knowing I can spend 10 minutes, an hour, or a day reading, is akin to what a child gets from clutching their blankie.

That’s it. That’s what I’ve got for now.

It’s a start, perhaps. A foot in the door at writing again. And this quiet period will end, as it always does, and at some point my fingers will frantically start typing the words again. But for now, we wait.

Writer’s Block

I could write about the activities we’ve been doing in speech, but I don’t have anything new and innovative to talk about.

I could tell you the funny things my students have said, but it’s hard to convey the humor in written form.

I could write about how much I hate MCAS and PARCC but it’s nothing that others haven’t said.

I could tell you what’s been going on with Bella, and share the latest social story I wrote, but do people want to read that?

I could write the follow-up from my Musings post, but I’m avoiding it.

I could finish the post I’ve been trying to write about panic and anxiety, but I just can’t get it right.

I could write a “10 Reasons I Love My Cats” post, but really, who wants to read that?

I could do a book review of a great series that I read recently, but I don’t know if I’d do a good job.

I could try to write a fictional piece, but none have come to me.

Really, I just feel like this.

What should I write about? What do you want to read?


I’ve started weaving words together, into sentences. I’ve started toying with the idea of it. I’ve started thinking, “This is what I would say if I told my story.” I’ve started thinking what I would include and what I wouldn’t. I’ve started thinking about how the way in which I write it is more important than giving all the details.

Someone said to me, “You’ll get there, you’ll be ready.” I told her, “I AM ready.”

Which made me pause.

What’s stopping me? If I am ready, truly ready, to do this, to say what I feel is necessary, for my own reasons, then why am I not typing it out and pressing “Publish”?

Because of others! Because I don’t want to offend! Because I don’t want to upset! Because I don’t want conflict! Because I don’t want disagreement! Because I don’t want negativity!


As the Queen of Feeling Other’s Feelings, and working to step down from the job of Head Security Guard for People’s Well-Being, my fears go something like this:

What if reading it makes someone upset? What if it hurts them? What if someone thinks I should’ve been more or less specific? What if someone I love is disappointed in me for sharing? What if they don’t understand? What if they tell me I shouldn’t have done that?

What I’m reminding myself over and over again in the hopes that it will internalize: People can choose what they read. People can stop reading at any time. People are allowed to have different opinions. People can have different reactions. My job is not to avoid doing what I believe in my heart to be right – but rather to do it, in spite of the fear. This blog is mine – mine. I write for me, above anything else. People don’t have to agree with that. It’s all good.

I have lived my life saying and doing, or not saying and not doing, based on how it would affect others. And I’ve justified that under the umbrella of “I am a considerate person who thinks about others’ feelings, which is what makes me a good human.” But as with anything, it isn’t black and white – it CAN’T be black and white. It’s not obsess over it vs. never think about it. In reality, it’s a middle ground, where you take into account other’s feelings, balance them with your own needs and feelings, and make a decision.

But middle ground is scary. 

Yes. It is. Because it’s vulnerable. And I am striving towards vulnerability. Isn’t this whole blog about vulnerability? A year ago would I have ever dreamed of writing the words, about the topics, that I have today? Would I have ever imagined I’d write candidly about anxiety, depression, grief? Haven’t I relished in the feedback I’ve gotten about it? Haven’t people come out of the woodwork to talk to me about things I’ve written about, to share their own secrets? Haven’t I meant it, truly meant it, when someone has told me that they haven’t read a blog post because it’s too emotional or upsetting and I’ve responded, “That’s okay”?

And this – this back-and-forth, this messy excuse of a blog post – this is reality. This is vulnerability. This is it.

All propelling me forward. To write more, to share more, to tell more.

Because I can’t stand the silence anymore. The fear and the shame and the sadness and the loneliness that so many people are drowning under. I know how that felt, I lived it, and I can’t bear the fact that so many others do, too. I sit in meetings, look around at conferences, and know that of all those faces I see, some are feeling it too. Living in that place.

Each voice that speaks heals a piece of anyone who hears. Chips away a bit at the shame. Erases a bit of the stigma. Glues back a bit of the brokenness. Kindles a bit of bravery.

And so.

It’s almost time. Whatever form it takes. However many words I write. However cryptic it needs to be.

Because one person, or the world – it doesn’t matter which –  is waiting.

It’s Hard to be Human

After my last post, urging you to write, hoping you would, an old and dear friend sent me a message, essentially saying, “I’ve never put myself out there, but after your last post, I was inspired to write.” And so she did. I don’t think there’s a single person out there who will have trouble relating to what she wrote. Her writing is proof that we don’t have to consider ourselves “writers” to be a writer. The way in which she conveys her experiences is so uniquely beautiful.

And so, I give you her heartfelt words.

It’s Hard to be Human (posted anonymously)

I was a psychology major in college. I read the textbooks. I listened to the lectures. I know that humans are incredibly complex and that our cognitions often can’t be explained. We’re controlled by an electrical grid of neural connections that fire this way and that, sending us into overdrive. The same systems that allow us to run, laugh, love, causes us to freeze, cry, hate. I know to avoid catastrophizing and all or nothing thinking, and to calm my anxiety by trying to release the things I can’t change and focus on what I can. I have a loving family who talks openly about our genetic history of anxiety and depression and shares tactics for coping. I have a therapist who listens. So I must be doing well…right? Not quite. Having all the tools doesn’t mean I successfully use them. Having all the tools doesn’t equal relief. Having all the tools doesn’t stop the day to day moments of intense panic, sadness, or inadequacy. The hardest part is that I do consider myself a smart, successful person who is so blessed. Sometimes I remind myself that I am doing my best. I am human. But sometimes I decide that I’m therefore not allowed to be depressed, or feel helpless, or struggle, and that’s not fair. Ups and downs, highs and lows. Frustration turns to anger because any glimpse of a silver lining can become dark in an instant. Happiness can become loneliness. Pride can become self-consciousness. Innocent thoughts can become obsessive thinking. I’m trapped, trying to make sense of it, but the harder I try the more out of control I feel. It’s hard to be human.

How can one person experience different extremes so close together? I don’t understand it, I don’t like it and I resist it. It’s an out of body experience, as if I’m watching helplessly from the sidelines. I’m standing on the set watching a scene. I am the actress and she is me, but I can only watch, not do or say. But I feel her emotions. All of them. The director sets the scene and yells, “action!” and I watch her recite her lines. One with ease, then one with anguish. A back and forth between the positive and the negative, the confidence and the uncertainty. Both equally as strong and equally as real. And I can’t look away. It’s hard to be human.

[Scene] Morning mirror
First: “I love my eyes, I love my hair, I look happy. I look healthy.”
Then: “I hate my body. I am fat. I feel sluggish. I’m not good enough. And I never will be.”

[Scene] Breakfast
First: “I’m so lucky to be able to afford food. This tastes good. Nourishing my body is important.”
Then: “I have to be more restrictive. Less carbs. More nutrients. I’ve been eating too much. I’m going to start binging again. I won’t be able to stop. I have no self control.”

[Scene] Office
First: “That event was amazing because of me. I’m good at my job. I’m reliable. I’m valued. I learned something new today. My company is better because I’m a part of it.”
Then: “I messed up. I failed. I should be doing more. I should be making more money. I’m wasting my time and theirs. I’ll never find my passion.”

[Scene] Gym
First: “I’m so strong. I’m impressed with what my body can do. I feel empowered. I can do anything I set my mind too.”
Then: “I can’t do this. I’m too weak. Everyone else can go farther. I’ll never get my body to where I want it to be.”

[Scene] Cuddling with him
First: “This makes the hard times worth it. I love him. I’m safe in his arms.”
Then: “This only feels good because it’s rare. It won’t last. A fight is coming. I’m unsure. Why can’t this be simple? Maybe it’s my fault.”

[Scene] Phone
First: “I’m glad my best friend is happy. She’s finally found someone who treats her right. Maybe I deserve that too.”
Then: “She has it so much better than me. Why can’t he be that way with me? It’s not fair. She judges me because I’m not as happy. Will I ever have what she has?”

[Scene] Bedtime
First: “I had a good day. My family and friends are happy and healthy. I am grateful.”
Then: “I am not okay. This is too hard. Why am I the one struggling? When will it get better?”

Getting this out may do nothing. Admitting how trapped I feel might not make a difference. But all those psychology textbooks say acknowledgement is a necessary step. So maybe, just maybe, sharing these scenes will allow me to eventually accept the actress as she is, even if I can’t intervene yet. Sometimes she is troubled and sometimes she is content. Sometimes she is soaring and sometimes she is sinking. But she is human, and it’s hard to be human.

Will you write for me?

I’ve posed this question casually on Twitter on on the blog’s Facebook page. But I haven’t put it out, as its own post.

In keeping with the spirit of my last post, I’m thinking about how many people out there have stories that they’re not telling. Out of shame, out of fear, out of embarrassment. Or maybe out of having never been asked. Maybe out of not having the space to do it.

Here is your space.

My space is your space.

Let me hold space for you.

Do you have a story to tell? Do you have something you’d like to say? A sentence, a paragraph, a poem? Do you have an experience that you’ve kept to yourself, because you think you’re the only one living it?

Would you be brave? Would you write something for me? I want to share your stories. I want to share your thoughts. A word, a sentence, a paragraph. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be “good”. It doesn’t have to be anything. Whatever it is, is what I want to share.

The idea being – that we all have stories. And we all think we’re the only one with our story. And so it’s time to share them. Because we aren’t alone and it’s enough of thinking we are. It’s enough of feeling shame. It’s enough of feeling constrained.

Nobody has to know it’s you, if you’re not ready.

Share anonymously. Share under a pen name. [If this helps encourage you – there’s a website on which I publish articles under a pen name. Sometimes it helps. Makes it easier to share. If it helps you, do it.] I don’t care. Just share. Write a comment here. Write a comment on Facebook. Tweet at me. Or email me and tell me, Yes, I want to share my thoughts. Post my story. Post my words. Post my experiences. 

It doesn’t matter if I know you now. It doesn’t matter if I knew you then. It doesn’t matter if we talk daily or if we haven’t spoken in years. If you are reading this, and you are thinking, Maybe I have one thing to say – I want to hear it.

There’s no judging, opinion-forming, telling, gossiping.

Just listening. Holding space. Caring. Compassion. Admiration.

The idea being empowerment. The idea being strength. Bravery. Community.

I hope – I really, really, really hope – that following this, I’ll get even one person who shares, even one thing.

Will it be you?

%d bloggers like this: