Is she happy in her life?

Last week we were sitting in a cafe having lunch. The table next to us looked like a family of four. The two kids seemed to be around 5 or 6 years old. The mom and dad were sitting on one side of the table and the kids on the other .

The mom seemed a bit tired to me. The dad was on his phone mostly. They would occasionally talk to each other but mostly they seemed entertained by the kids. 

The kids were seriously adorable. A boy and a girl who looked like a combination of the mom and dad and they were playing with each other, teasing each other and really fun to watch. 

I caught myself thinking for a second, I wonder if this woman is happy. Is she happy in her life? She seemed entertained by the kids and would smile at times and at one point was kissing her boy really affectionately, and other times looked tired and not as happy, when she was looking at the father or when the kids were doing their own thing.  

Then it hit me, at the core of this question “I wonder if she is happy or unhappy with her life” lies a huge error, a false belief that causes suffering.  

There is no ultimate happy or unhappy. Even though we all, on the surface, know that the “happily ever after” that movies sell you doesn’t exist, however, a part of us might look at people in one instant and take whatever their circumstances seem as “happy” or “unhappy” or “lonely”, or “regretful”. 

And so we fear ending up like that. Ending up unhappy, lonely or regretful of our decisions, as if that will be a permanent state of feeling. 

And it is the same fear that also makes us not want to share. If I call my friend and cry and say I feel super depressed one day, will she think that I am depressed in my life or my relationship is not good? 

If I am single and say I feel lonely, will everyone imagine me sitting in my house lonely, walking around lonely and sad and that that is my existence? Will they pity me? 

This is one of the things that used to bother me about being single. I always wanted to be honest but I felt that if I ever admitted to feeling lonely or sad or god-forbid jealous, that people would think that’s how I am constantly feeling. That as long as I am single, I am feeling lonely and sad. And in reality, most of my moments, I wasn’t feeling that way. I experienced so much fun and joy in my other relationships, with friends, with family,  while dating and flirting, while dressing up and going out, while shopping, while sitting in a cafe, while eating yummy food, while at work feeling like I helped a patient, and so many other moments. And a whole range of positive emotions. 

In reality, as long as we erroneously believe in permanent states of happiness or unhappiness, we will fear ending up miserable (and others thinking we have ended up miserable), and also we will envy those who look like they’ve done it right and are happy. 

I wonder if next time you and I see someone and we think they are miserable and lonely, or that look how life turned out for them, they seem super happy, can we remember at that moment that there is no one total state of feeling? How would this change things? 

After much searching on google for a painting that would go with this blog post, I came across this one. I kind of like it. The woman has this really interesting gaze. It makes me want to guess what she is thinking about. and I love her style. which is kind of how I felt sitting next to that family…..It is by an English painter Bernard Fleetwood-Walker (1893 – 1965)

Notes on jealousy

When I was in my early 30s, one of my best friends of many years whom I used to spend a lot of time with got married in the peak of our friendship when we were traveling together and having fun being single (of course all the while both of us, longing for a relationship and venting about the unsuccessful dates). I remember when she started dating her husband and spending more and more time with him, how I felt betrayed. I wanted to be happy for her. And I was, but I also felt that our lives went from equal to hers being happier and mine being less happy (she gained a boyfriend who was doting on her and not only had I not, but I had also had lost her as my comrade).

I remember me those days. How much I didn’t want to be around my friend, to see her walking next to her tall man, who was kissing and loving on her, her giddy eyes and smile and me wishing I had the same, feeling those unwanted feelings of jealousy, followed immediately by shame and guilt.

So really in avoiding her, I wanted to avoid me, the jealous me, the guilt-ridden me. I wanted to run away from the me that couldn’t be overjoyed for my friend’s romance and her giddiness.

And all these many years later, and watching many more friends giddiness or hearing their stories of adventures with their boyfriends and feeling the same feelings at times, I see that the only choice is to accept me. Because isn’t it true that if I was given a choice, a genie in a bottle that said; you get to pick, you can feel jealous or you can feel happy for her and not feel jealous, pick one! wouldn’t I pick not jealous? yes of course I would. I would in an instant. And yet, the jealousy is here at the moment that I feel it. I can’t get rid of it no matter how much I’d wish it. If I can’t get rid of something no matter how much I hate it and don’t want it, then is it my fault? should I feel guilty for it?

It is interesting that all these years of therapy, learning about different paths of spirituality, mindfulness, and now the work of Byron Katie, just takes me to one truth, more and more, the undeniable truth…. judging me for feeling jealous doesn’t make the jealousy go away. Feeling guilty about it doesn’t make it go away. Feeling ashamed of it, doesn’t make it go away.

On the other hand, what if I loved myself? how would that even look like? What if I imagined opening my arms to the jealous part of me. When I do this visualization, I see that the jealous girl in me, just wants to be loved. That actually the reason she is jealous to begin with is because she thinks she is not loved, that she thinks that her friend walking next to that tall man who is kissing her is eternally loved and lovable and is having a blast and she is not. as opposed to hate, shame and judgment?

I have heard this saying before, you can’t fight darkness, you can only shine a light on it and it is no longer there. Today I was reading the book “A thousand names for joy” and this came up “The darkness, the space that the mind is terrified to enter, is the beginning of all life. it’s the womb of being. Fall in love with it and when you do, it will immediately be taken from you, as you witness the birth of light”

For me, when I imagine opening my arms to the jealous girl in me, the one who wants to feel loved, the one who feels lonely, etc, when I accept her as human and scared and love her, then jealousy is not even there anymore. When I don’t try to make the jealousy go away, but say to it “it’s ok that you are here, you belong, you are loved” then it is not there at that instant, only love is there.

As Rumi says “the wound is where the light enters” When I remember to open my arms to the one I reject, all I find is love. and then I forget again. and then the pain moves me to remember again.

When you feel anything but love for someone you are supposed to love

Rumi says every feeling is a guest. To welcome it smiling. 

I sometimes remember this when I feel hate or envy or resentment.

I find it it easier to welcome these feelings when the person who theses feelings are directed towards is either myself or if someone else, they are not around me. 

But what do you do if you have negative thoughts and feelings towards someone who you are living with, or traveling with, and when you think about it, they have done nothing wrong, they are being loving. 

I find it much harder to welcome these feelings. My first instinct seems to be to hate on myself. So now I am dealing with the negative feeling towards the person next to me, layered with hate towards myself. 

And this only makes me want to go away, to shut down. To at least not have them see it in my face, all this negativity. 

For the past 2 years or so, I am living with my boyfriend and it has been so nice cause majority of my thoughts towards him are positive. I find myself most of the times adoring him, thinking he is great and as a result feeling only good feelings towards hims. If I feel negative towards someone else, they are not around and I take my time dealing with those feelings, allowing them, journaling them, questioning them. I don’t have to be in a rush to get rid of them cause I don’t have to interact with these people on a daily basis 

But this past week, I found myself at times thinking not so positive thoughts about my boyfriend  “he should be this way, why is he not that way. Look, I am kissing him and he don’ts come up and spontaneously kiss me on the lips. Why doesn’t he initiate more? Will I never have what I see in the movies? Why doesn’t he look at me with googly eyes like I see this guy look at his wife in some photo she uploaded?”

And the feelings of sadness, doubt, distance in my heart that I then find myself in. 

But I have nowhere to go hide to process these feelings before I can see him. He is right next to me. And so I blurt out something when I am in the trenches of it that ends up feeling hurtful to him. 

I find this the hardest, what do you do with yourself when you feeling negatively towards those who you are right next to? How do you not let it show in your face? How do you not say something critical? 

But most importantly of all, how do you forgive yourself when you find yourself in anything but love and having already said something critical? 

And when you see that your thoughts, feelings and words can cause the other person to feel not-good-enough and withdraw….. when you then fear that if I have these kinds of thoughts and feelings and words, I may make them go away…. What do you do then? With all that fear? 

How do you forgive yourself? When you think you may make your relationship rupture, how do you still love yourself and trust yourself? 

But as I write this, I think maybe it isn’t in my control anyways. Maybe I am just living this life as it comes to me and I can’t fight with what happens. Maybe I can just love this girl whom thoughts happen to her, feelings happen upon her, and words and behaviors at times slip out of her. Can I still love her? I think that’s at the heart of my journey on this earth. Maybe if I had a purpose in life, it would be this. Can I still really love her if she is “bad”? Besides how do I really know if some outcome is bad? I don’t want to hurt anyone, but how do I know if me, inadvertently hurting someone is a bad outcome?

credit: photographsrenderedinplaydoh

60 seconds of Success!

I often wonder why I write here. And why I write the things I write and not other things. 

Today for example, I feel like writing about this moment. A moment of about a minute or so. 

I turned on my phone this morning to send some photos of the cats to their mom. 

But I should back up for a second. We are cat sitting right now while traveling using a website that lets you house/pet sit in exchange of housing. 

The mom of these two adorable cats is a worrier and has asked me to send several photos and videos of them every day. Also she had some rules about her place, like only vegan food in the house and that we meet before she leaves, etc. 

When we first got here, one of the cats who is very attached to her, went in to hiding and was taking a while to warm up. Mom felt anxious and since her departure I have noted how worried she has been. The mom is an energy healer and believes in energy and vibes and kept saying this cat never acts like this, which I took to mean that she thinks the cat doesn’t like our energy and as a result mom doesn’t trust us. 

Her anxiety has certainly spilled over to me. I want her to be happy on her trip and not worry about her cats. I wanted everything to go smoothly. And I want her to like us.

This morning as I was making sure to record videos of the cats being playful and send it to her, she sent me a message offering me some energy healing (as I was feeling sick yesterday)

After I replied back to her first saying I’d love that, but then I realized if I am honest with myself I actually don’t really feel like it at this time. So I tried to politely say actually I feel better so no need to burden her (not my exact words but something to that effect), my mind went in to a whirlwind. 

All of a sudden I noticed I am super anxious. And when I focused, I realized the thoughts are something like; what if she gets offended….. what is she doesn’t like you…. that was not a good reply……

I stopped for a second. Instead of going over to check with my boyfriend if what I said was ok, or to eat my anxiety, I put the phone away. And sat at the edge of the bed and let all the thoughts come “you are stupid, you are bad, you are stupid, that wasn’t good” …. and on and on. And I just let myself feel all that anxiety that comes up when I think that someone is not happy with me….

And then I closed my eyes and asked myself; focusing on somewhere deep in my head and center, “Was what I said kind and expressing gratitude? Was it just me being totally me? YES! And then the other part said, yes, but what if she doesn’t like what you said. 

And I asked myself again, was it me what I said? Was it me being me as best as I could? Did it have every intention of being kind and honest and expressing gratitude? Yes! 

And that was it! I felt at peace with myself. and felt tears of gratitude for this moment of wisdom and freedom. 

This may seem like such a petty and insignificant moment. or the anxiety I had may seem unreasonable to someone reading this. In essence, it is unreasonable, it doesn’t come from reason. and yet, it comes. It comes at times, not all the time. I have many interactions with people and I have no anxiety. 

But I am in a stranger’s house, I want them to be happy with me, to leave me a good review, for our interactions to go smoothly so that the rest of the 10 days we are here it don’ts become tense, etc….. my mind has many reasons why this is important and why it should make me feel anxious. 

For me this moment of hearing something different within myself, these words of wisdom, this, I consider more of a success than becoming a doctor and passing many board exams. 

A moment where I go from feeling anxious, to hearing what the thoughts behind the anxiety are, to holding myself through it, and then to being able to turn to the truth, that what you did at the moment was you and was kind and that’s all that matters and have this actually feel so true, that the voice of the mind surrenders to it, that’s worth all the money I’ve spend on therapy, self-help books and retreats. This moment of 60 seconds or so. 

And next time if this doesn’t happen, if I can’t find solace, if I run off to ask my boyfriend if what I said is ok cause I am in self-doubt or if I distract myself to not feel the anxiety, that’s ok too. I choose to lover her too. I open my arms to her and love her just as much as the one who successfully hears the wisdom. 

ps. I googled “a moment of success” to find a photo that would go with this blog post and a photo of a man on top of a mountain came up…. well, I chose my photo with the cat instead, cause having a cat come and lay on your lap counts as a huge moment of success in my book!

What hurts when I see that girl getting married?

I came across this Hemingway quote that says “write hard and clear about what hurts”

I write almost everyday for myself. Here in this blog though, I write intermittently, I don’t post most of what I write. I try to make it pretty or put a nice photo when I do post. I try to process my hurt first, then write about it.

But today I felt like just writing it raw. not sure why. but here it is.

I don’t know what hurts right now. Anxiety is here in my heart. The daily low-grade anxiety, and some more on top of it.

Maybe it is more than about my worry about my fucked up knee or what happens next. 

Maybe it is about wether I am making good choices. Am I making good choices with my knee, with my life, with my writing online or not. 

I remember the post I saw yesterday of this girl who is an author and she looks radiant and beautiful. It was a video clip that her new fiancé had posted, with her showing her engagement ring and he had written “my wife”

I have the thought that she is living her best life. She got married to her boyfriend of many years before, then fell in love with this guy, and is now marrying this guy. She is writing about of all of this. I think the thought “She is being courageous. Doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She is saying yes to herself” and am I doing that?

I compare my fears to the post of her and her new man in the car, and she is showing her ring and it is making me feel like somehow I am making a mistake, I don’t know what is the mistake, is it being with a man who doesn’t believe in marriage? Is it that I have somehow come to not really believe in marriage myself, to think why get married? is it that I think I am gonna regret it?

That maybe I am fooling myself. Maybe I want that. I want to be proposed to, by a an attractive man who is independent, has his own life but says I want you to be my wife. 

My boyfriend whom I find attractive, is independent, has his own life, and in essence is saying; I want you to be my partner, to live with me, I accepts you as you are, I let you be you, I don’t judge you, I support you, I cook for you, what I have is yours, I accompany you where you need me, I let you see the real me, I tell you about my life, I plan the next trip and the next year with you and the year after, I want to buy a house with you, one we will renovate together and live in…. but no promise of forever.

And I think, well, it makes sense. How can I promise forever to anyone? I may even feel trapped if I were to actually get married. I haven’t felt consistent love for anyone in my entire life, not my family, not even myself. How can I say I will love you forever? Even this girl who is engaged and looks so happy, 2 years ago she told the other guy “I will be with you until my last breath” and is now marrying this other guy. 

A part of me doesn’t give a shit about getting married, doesn’t believe in it. This part of me has no doubt about my boyfriend’s love for me. I know he wants what we have now, forever but is also open to life and what comes. This makes total sense to me and I believe the same.

But what is it about that photo, this guy who looks like such a free spirit, such a non-marrying type, saying “this woman is gonna be my wife” that makes me feel like I am not loved enough, not worthy enough, not doing the right thing in my life, not making good decisions.

It takes me to that part of me that feels unloved. The teenage girl who was not attractive enough, too olive-skinned, too clumsy, not feminine enough, not savvy enough, not cool enough, not popular enough. 

The one who found out one day that she doesn’t look like the pretty girls. Was told another day that she walks like a duck, was told another day that she is too loud and that this is not lady-like. And remembers so many memories of feeling stupid and uncool.

Then I come to the now, and realize I went from a photo of a woman, a man, looking happy, she showing her engagement ring, him calling her “my wife” to some very distant memory where I heard and somehow believed I am not as lovable, that I am lesser. 

Here is the hurt. The wound in my heart that opens whenever I feel unlovable. The teenage girl. No matter how much better looking I have made myself to be, a nose job, weight loss, better hair style, plucked eyebrows, how many people calling me attractive. 

None of that matters. 

The girl that feels ugly, stupid, uncool, dumb, clumsy, not-feminine, not-desirable lives in me and is ready to feel hurt when “he doesn’t say or do what would mean he loves you and means you are lovable”

Anxiety on Decision Making, what is here now?

Here I am writing, my salvation always. what is here now?

Is there any point in putting out what I write? 

Is there a good choice and bad choice? 

I am anxious about tomorrow. Me going alone to Madrid to see the second opinion orthopedist. Will I be able to get on the plane with my crutch easily?

Will I be able to maneuver getting out of the plane, walking to the cab or metro?

It is too much money to take a cab everywhere?

Will I feel anxious?

Will the surgeon be nice? will he explain things?

Will he say I need surgery right away?

Am I making a mistake with this 11 days trip to Dublin?

Will I get worse?

Will I regret my decisions about my leg?

I saw the surgeon yesterday and he said, we should have immobilized your knee in a brace and you should give yourself blood-thinner injections to prevent blood clot while on the brace. Me and my boyfriend, both doctors, came out of the consult, looked at each other surprised. Never heard of this. I was doing physical therapy and he says it should have been immobilized.

I feel more pain in my knee since the surgeon said it should be immobilized. Am I fucking up my knee more or is this pain psychological? Am I fucking up my knee by walking on it, by all the PT I’ve done?

I don’t have answers. This is a post of questions swimming in my head. 

I am just trying to hold myself through the anxiety. And say to her, it is ok, we’ll get through this together. I am here with you. 

And maybe later, I will ask myself, like Tom, my therapist of sorts, often asks me, something like, “Could it be, could it be possible that you have nothing to worry about it?” Could it be?

But I am not ready for that question yet. I am too anxious to ask that question and just want to let my tears come down. 

And focusing on the tenderness in my heart, the tears that come down, there is a sweetness in this pain. It feels good to let myself feel this. It feels good when tears come. I am so grateful for tears…… The little tears of the little anxiety of the little decisions….and…. The big tears of the big anxiety of the little decisions.

The mean mind

I was just meditating. Recently started it, not regularly but I realize I really like it when I do it. I am using this guided meditation by Byron Katie called ‘you are supported’ or something like that. 

One of the things that is different about it than other guided meditations I’ve tried is that while she is guiding you to focus on the breath, she also guides you to notice when you are caught in a thought/story and to give the story a name and an image, like a book cover, that encompasses the life of that story and then watch it as the thought goes away.

Doing this a few times, I am realizing that the thoughts that come and they are so frequent and so many of them are mostly self-deprecating. For example, I am focusing on the breath and then the thought comes that “you are not doing it right” or “this isn’t gonna work cause you are getting anxiety”, or an image comes up about a post I put up on instagram and how no one commented and the thought will be “it was bad” or “you are an idiot for posting these things”

And the guided meditation is guiding me to give the thoughts/story a name and an image and watch it as moves away and thank it for its life. So I give it a name like “you are stupid” or “fear” or “self-blame” and the image of a finger pointed at me or a face that is disgusted because that is the image that feels like it goes with the words. 

And it is hard to thank it for its life. But I come back to the breath and just watch the book cover as it goes away and as I come back to the breath, the book cover is gone…. and….. whoops, here comes the next thought. 

And after while, I see that I can indeed thank it for its life, because it is kind of funny how repetitive and mean and useless the thoughts are. They come and then they just go and the next one comes. 

And once I am getting relaxed with the breathing, a thought comes that “you should do more of this”, “you should do an all day meditation” or “you should tell so and so to do this meditation”. “She really could use it”, “gosh, she is so unconscious”  and now the meanness is going towards someone else, the “shoulds”. And I watch that too and do the same thing.

And after while of watching all of this and having it come and go and I am just sitting there breathing, I realize why they say in mindfulness classes or books of Eckhart tole or other mystics, that your thoughts are not you. It makes sense. I am not asking for them to come. I am not deciding to think these thoughts. I am not thinking them. I am being thought, passively.

I certainly see that passive thinking (which is essentially what happens majority of my waking hours), is mostly mean and unhelpful and doesn’t make me enjoy life or be a better person in any shape or form. 

No wonder they say the line between sanity and madness is a fine line. One of the features of obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health issues is intrusive thoughts. But in reality, who doesn’t have intrusive thoughts? 

I read somewhere, maybe it was Eckhart Tole saying “Thinking is only a small aspect of consciousness”. 

It is easy for me to hate on the mind, on these thoughts. I don’t want them. I don’t want to hear mean thoughts. But I’ve certainly come to realize hating on anything won’t make it go away. Byron Katie says “I love my thoughts, but I don’t believe them”. She says these thoughts are like little children. 

And when you think about it, the meanness is learned. We have learned that if you are mean or hate on something, you are not accepting it and asking for it to change. So we hate in hopes that it will change. 

I have no solution really here, but to tell you, whoever is reading this, that you are not alone if you have super mean thoughts. You are not alone in wanting to get rid of them. 

I am working on noticing them, not believe them, questioning them, and working on loving them as a mother would love its unruly child that yells and says “I hate you” because it sees that the kid is just confused. Amen to the day that I can keep calm and not be so rattled by my children…. actually put more correctly, the children.

ps. The featured image for this post is a snippet of a big, amazing painting done by my sister of me mediating, which she gifted me for my 40th birthday. I so so love this painting. The monster mind was added by me 🙂

My current antidote to my decision making perfectionism 

I remember some years ago a friend f mine who was getting married called me while she was shopping for her wedding dress. She was torn between two dresses and was having a hard time deciding. In fact I think it had been a few hours of being in the shop with her family and trying one on and then the other and kind of going crazy trying to figure out which one to buy. She was also really determined to buy the dress on this day and not spend any more days on dress shopping. 

She wanted my help with picking the dress. She sent me the photos of both and described to me what she likes about each. I could see why it was so hard to pick one because each was really nice and had their unique features that the other one didn’t have. 

I asked her if she wanted to give it some more time and she said she definitely wants to get a dress today. So the only solution that came to my mind at that time was “then pick the one that you like a tiny bit more than the other, just a tiny bit more. I asked her are you 50/50 or do you think you can be 51/49 with 1% liking the other one? Somehow this helped her. She ended up hanging up, walking back in to the shop, picking one, buying it and leaving. She later told me that her family was stunned of what happened in that conversation that made her make up her mind after having a hard time. By the way, she looked stunning in her dress on her wedding day. It was the perfect dress! 

I remembered this today as I was talking to another friend about both of our own struggles about decision making.  I often myself suffer from decision fatigue. Now that I don’t have a regular 8-5 job anymore and my days are unstructured and made up by myself, I wake up at times with total decisions fatigue. Should I do some work online or should I go for a walk? Should I do yoga or should I read my book first? Should I go to this cafe that has a nice garden or the other cafe that has really good coffee? 

I realize that often I imagine myself in one situation and then the other and my mind wants to figure out what the experience will be like with each decision and which one will ensure maximum amount of enjoyment/benefit/positive outcome and minimize any distress/negative outcome. 

But truth is that just like my friend’s options of the two wedding dresses, all of these scenarios (working on something l like to do vs. going for a walk), (going out with friends vs. stying home and chilling with a good book) all have their own unique features and possible joys/fun and boredom or stress. And the mind, given the task, perhaps by our parents, society, etc, that it should make the best decisions will keep going in this loop of analyzing one scenario and outcome and another and get stuck and distressed and to make matters worse, at least in my case, then the mind will point out that you are so pathetic that you can’t even make a simple decision. You, who are so privileged that you are having to make a decision between this cafe or that cafe. So the mind goes in to shaming. 

So now, level 1 suffering is that I can’t make a decisions, I am in my head and analyzing which is never pleasant and level 2 suffering is that my mind is shaming me for how indecisive I am. And when for example my boyfriend asks me what do you want to do and I don’t know and I keep saying this or that then level 3 suffering which is my mind saying “look at how chill he is and makes decision easily. You are really pathetic” 

But recently, I am starting to use my own prescription that I had given my friend so many years ago. God knows how that thought or wisdom came to me at that time but I had forgotten about it until recently. 

Perfectionism comes at least partly from the belief that “what we decide and do is extremely important and detrimental and can have irreversible consequences and that there is a good way and bad way” 

This thought and belief has only caused me suffering in my life. And I am not even 100% sure if this is true. Just because people say it is or somehow I got this message, doesn’t make it absolute truth. 

In fact, looking at my own life, I have at times tried to make the perfect decisions and it ended up not with the outcome I wanted but later a whole other slew of events that were out my control, brought out a surprisingly better outcome. 

So instead of the belief that leads to perfectionism and stress, I am wondering if it could be that “My decisions are not that important. Things happen in a way that I can’’t really figure out. There are no real mistakes in a bigger picture. And I am allowed to just have fun and pursue what I am interested in this very moment and that is it ok for my interest to change” 

This belief feels a lot better. And who says it is wrong. Who can know 100% that this later belief is completely incorrect. 

So under this alternative belief, when stuck with two decisions, I ask myself which one do you like 1% better than the other right now? 

So today I woke up thinking what do I want to do? Do I want to go with my boyfriend to a cafe that we both sit and work in together. It is fun working with him, bouncing cases off each other, and I’d be making money and we take breaks together and talk. 

And another part of me wanted to be alone today, go for a walk in nature, journal and write. Then the other part said but look at how nice it is to be with him, he is so cute how he is making breakfast and you love being next to him, and maybe you’ll lose him if you keep saying you want to have an alone day, and that it is nice to work sitting next to him. 

Yes, that is also nice but what do I want just a little bit more? I want some alone time today. And it might be that I will go for my alone time and miss him. yes that might be or I may not even think of him and get immersed in my own experience. 

But what helped me this morning, is to think which one do I want just a bit more right now? So I set off on my own and so far I have enjoyed every bit of it. 

 

Lessons from a night of Insomnia

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and then couldn’t fall asleep. Thoughts racing in my head and no matter how hard I tried to mediate, or use all my tools of “I am not my thoughts” and don’t believe your thoughts and even counting sheep, they kept coming back and back. 

I sat up exhausted. My neck was hurting and had been spasming all day and the more I thought about the stressful scenario I was thinking of (or more correctly the more thoughts about the stressful scenario crossed my mind) the more my neck felt tighter and more painful. 

I then started having shaming thoughts like “look at how you make your own neck hurt by these petty thoughts and overthinking. Making a big deal out of nothing”. “Your neck hurts because you care so much about what others think and don’t have boundaries”. “You cause your own stress.” 

As if it is not enough that I can’t sleep and have racing thoughts and suffering from this, somehow the mind shames me and points out how I am failing and adds to my suffering. Isn’t that smart and brilliant? 

At this point I got out of bed, walked to the living room and sat on the sofa. All I wished for was a benzodiazepines or a medication that would knock me out. I remembered patients begging for meds such as benzo for anxiety or insomnia or opioids for pain. As doctors, we don’t like prescribing these meds because they cause addiction. 

But last night as I laid there, desperate for sleep, thinking about how the next day I have to get up early, do a long commute and work all day seeing challenging patients and I need a well-rested mind, I felt more and more stressed and felt more and more tightness in my neck and unable to sleep and wished for something to knock me out or someone to come and rock me to sleep. 

And then I thought, well, this is sooo painful. How can I suffer less? It doesn’t seem like I can make these thoughts go away. So instead of resisting them, I am just gonna actually actively sit here and think about this issue. I said to myself “It is totally ok if I don’t get any sleep. I’ll be tired and miserable but won’t die from it”  

Also I said to myself “It is totally ok to have neck pain. It is here and I can’t do anything about it and maybe it is meant to be here” in other words, instead of blaming myself for having neck pain and not wanting the neck pain, I just said ok, it can be here cause obviously it is here and not going anywhere. 

I remembered a saying “Where there is suffering, there is room for compassion” So I gave myself love. I hugged myself and cried a bit (which always feels better) telling myself “it is ok love. I know this is painful. It is ok.” And prayed to all the unconditional love in the universe to give me some peace of mind. 

I laid on the sofa with a blanket over me, made myself as comfortable as can be and let myself think about the stressful scenario. As I laid there actively imagining the scenario (neck tight, anxiety in my chest), I realized how much I am trying to say the perfect thing in this future encounter. And my mind kept going in circles and not being happy with the imagined conversation. 

I suddenly remembered a friend of mine who had had a similar conversation with me in the past and I recalled how she just was herself and had spoken her boundaries which has made our friendship last to this day as close as it ever was. I felt inspired at that moment. I thought to myself there is no way I can perfect this. I am gonna just be me

Maybe I can take refuge in just being me. Maybe I can just trust whatever comes out. And if I let myself be me and love me anyways, I might be more tolerant of others and however they come out as well. Realizing maybe they have been tormented by their minds as well when they seem somewhat short with me. Maybe they wanted to be as nice as possible but didn’t know how. Instead of perfecting this conversation in my head over and over, I will just be me whatever comes out at that moment, full permission. 

As I had this epiphany, I slowly felt those sleepy waves and images take over me. And next thing I knew I heard my boyfriend get up to make coffee and it was morning. 

I woke up with the neck pain and tired. Even kept snoozing, but I felt triumphant. And a believer in not resisting what it. Just allowing everything and loving yourself through it. And I am glad I didn’t have the benzodiazepine cause maybe I wouldn’t have had this epiphany. 

REGRET

This past weekend I was at a gathering and a scenario came up that has happened often in my life when I have mentioned that I don’t think I will be having children. 

A friend who recently had a baby was there with her mom. This was the first time I was meeting this sweet grandma who clearly loved her grandkid. 

She asked me if I have kids and I said no and that I don’t want kids.

I should say also, that the certainty with which I was saying this was surprising to myself because in the past 5-6 years when asked with similar question, I hear myself say “well, I am really not sure, but I don’t think I want to have kids”

What was really interesting to me about this interaction was that after she made sure that I know I can still have kids in my 40s but don’t want to and my only reason is that I don’t want to spend my days raising children but that I rather enjoy the children and give them back to their parents, the grandma came close to me and in almost a whispering voice, as if she was letting me on a secret said “nooo, don’t say that. you say that now but you will regret it”, “people who don’t have kids will regret it”

Of course this was not the first time I had heard this, especially of Iranians of the older generation or even some of my own generation. 

So this is how the conversation went:

The Persian Grandma: “you say that now but you will regret it”

Me, smiling:  “It’s ok. It’s not like regret will kill me. I’ll live”

Persian grandma looking somewhat surprised “but you will be depressed” 

Me: “It’s ok. I have been depressed in my life before. I didn’t die of it. Maybe I’ll take something if I am really depressed”

Persian Grandma seemed exasperated by my lack of understanding of the gravity of regret and went on to say in Farsi “No you don’t understand. Badbakht mishi” which per google translate is “you will have a wretched life.”

At this point, looking at how hard and with sweet intentions, she was trying to scare me of this childless future, it made me laugh and she laughed with me, and quickly emphasized that I should really think about this more.

Many of us fear regret. This comes up especially about not having children and especially for women. But regret, obviously can come up in many fields of life. What I have realized with doing the work of Byron Katie, is that when someone says “You will regret it” or when we think “I will regret this”, we are seeing an image of a future, where we are for example sitting alone, older, somewhere in maybe a house, looking lonely and sad, and simultaneously seeing images of all these other people who are laughing and having dinner around their tables with their families and multiple kids and the older, lonely us is perpetually sad. 

We, right here, at this moment, see an image of a future (that obviously hasn’t happened and we don’t even know if it will ever happen) of not only a snapshot of feeling lonely and looking with longing in to this happy, lively life of others but what the scared mind offers is that this snapshot will be forever.  What the mind shows us is that at some point, the older you will enter the stage of regret and from that moment on, you will be locked in to that state. Every day, every hour, alone, lonely, sad, miserable, at home alone or walking in the streets and seeing people with their families, all happy, every moment and forever. 

This right here is what people fear and try to scare others with, mostly with good intentions. This is the same fear that comes up when we break up or have the thought that I will never have a partner. Or lose friends or feel like we are losing our tribe or won’t have one if we don’t live similar lives to others. 

The fear of forever lonely and sad. 

What I find comical about this image, only after I did the work of BK many times on loneliness, is that even though we all have heard of “this too shall pass” and even have experienced that our feelings have come and go, we still fully believe the thought and images of “FOREVERNESS”. 

Even though many of us have experienced immense sadness, loneliness, fear, anger, envy, etc, etc and yet maybe later that same day or month or year experienced utter joy, laugher, happiness, connectedness, we somehow think that the regret of not having children or certain other choices, will put you in to a state of forever wretchedness. 

And one might ask this lovely grandma who seems so convinced that childlessness equals wretchedness, how can she know that for sure? Because obviously she has had children and so regret of childlessness is not her own personal experience. Did she do her own personal survey, finding those people, who amongst her circle, I would guess are a few if any, who didn’t have kids and asked them how they feel everyday and every year until they died and observed their wretched lives? Or is it perhaps that she has lived all her life with this image that was handed down to her by some other grandma?

I am sure there are people out there who by choice or chance didn’t have children and may say “I wish I had kids.” As are people who say, I wish I didn’t marry him or I wish I went to school or got that other job. And of course, while they think these thought and see, in their mind, images of their lives and compare it to images of an alternative life, they will likely feel sad.

How can anyone know with certainty what their life would be if they had taken a different path?  In reality, these are all thoughts offered by the mind, comparing an image to another image, taking us away from here and now and creating the feeling that comes up from watching the movie in our head.

Obviously, none of this is to say that having children, for whatever reason, even if out of fear of regret, is bad (or good). 

This reflection is merely a reminder to myself and anyone reading, who has heard these similar comments and maybe felt disturbed by it, to actually look at those scary images that are behind the word REGRET. Our freedom lies in seeing these images for what they are, imagination, not reality.