This “Anxious Attached”

I have a love and hate relationship with the beginning of dating, when you meet someone you like. After a long time. someone who all of a sudden activates all that bundle of hope, longing, desire, excitement, anxiety, fear, obsession and shear terror that was filed away somewhere in the archives of my psyche while i’ve been living in my semi-comfort zone.
The comfort zone that I have so ardently clung to for over a year, not wanting anyone to disturb it by bringing out this bundle of emotions.
And now I find myself in it again. From the moment it hits me that I am drawn to someone. It really feels like an instant moment. At first my mind is just evaluating and analyzing “this is good about him and this is not” and then something somehow shifts and I am not even thinking anymore and just liking this person in front of me. Somehow as I find myself feeling drawn and attracted to him and just as I am starting to enjoy the feeling of liking someone, quickly and oh so quickly my thoughts start again and this time they are evaluating and analyzing me “does he like me? Am I interesting to him? Am I still interesting to him? does he still like me?”
And maybe that’s what makes that bundle of emotions. This constant shift of the mind from me to him, from him to me. The mind that constantly and vigilantly discerns every word and every move and attaches a meaning to it. This means he doesn’t like me, this means he does. This means he would be this way or that way. All of this formed by years of learning how things should be. How things look when someone likes you.
How did this bundle come to be? I remember when I met my first boyfriend when I was 18. I remember I had what I guess was called “butterflies”, these little jittery feelings in my solar plexus while I thought of him. Butterflies were not the most comfortable feelings but they were signs of excitement and meant I liked him. The butterflies finally stopped moving around so much and the jittery feeling gave way to ease and comfort when he showed me his vulnerabilities and I realized how much he liked me.
Some years later, I found myself with butterflies again. This time, though, the butterflies couldn’t calm down because the guy, unlike my boyfriend of age 18, didn’t hold my hand, telling me his vulnerabilities and leading me to the shore of ease and safety. He’d shower me with affection and attention, only to withdraw in to his shell and disappear, and then bring his head out briefly enough as the butterflies were disappearing, for them to come pouring in to my chest again. Maybe as this book “Attached” calls it, he had
Avoidant-Attachment where he just wasn’t comfortable with emotional intimacy or maybe he was just confused.
However, more than a few of these encounters with the Avoidant-Attached types through the years, has been enough to take that girl and throw her in to a bundle of emotions that seems to have a life of its own. This bundle that seems like a monster and comes alive with vengeance when I start to like someone, comes alive like a thief of sanity.
How I wish I could get rid of it. Just inject some high dose sedative in to this bundle to go to sleep forever, to not constantly be in fear and wonder what is gonna happen, what does this moment or that mean.
Reading this book, “Attached”, recommended by my friend who also seems to suffer from some relationship anxiety, which I would have never thought given how cool, calm and amazing she always is, until I shared with her about my anxiety, I realized my attachment type is “The Anxious Attached”. Great! That sounds lovely! The other two alternatives in this book are avoidant attached and secure attached.
How I would give anything to switch to that secure attached. But as life has it, this is where I am right now.
But the truth is that at the moments when for whatever reason my anxiety rises up and envelopes me again, knowing my attachment type is of no help whatsoever. It is as if my mind goes in to a seizure, repeating the same mantra over and over.
No amount of trying to talk myself out of it is that helpful. It just spirals down to “look at how anxious you are. you are horrible, he will pick up on your energy and know you are anxious. you are a turn off”
One night, early in this relationship, when I had not heard from him and was particularly feeling anxious and no amount of self-cognitive behavioral therapy was helping, I just felt so desperate about my anxiety and just started begging every deity I have ever known to help me with it; God, universe, my Soul, higher self, divine mother, Guru Ram Das and even my own dad who passed away some years ago, reminding him that my anxious attachment is at least party due to him and if he has any power to help me, to do so.
And somehow in the midst of that surrendering, I started to hear the sane voice, that which I call my Soul’s voice which is the only solace for me, reminding me “It is all good my love. There is nothing to worry about. You are loved and taken care of” which of course the minute I hear this I start to sob. It is like coming home.
That calm, wise voice that reminds me, that no matter what my attachment type is or how anxious I am or how this way or that way I am, I am also a million other things. That I am all of me.
And that the only way out of this bundle of emotions is through it. And that even though it feels at times, like those butterflies have turned in to monstrous birds, clawing inside my chest, that I can get through this and it is worth it.
My Soul, who tells me that my anxiety is not my fault. That the more I forgive myself for it, instead of hating myself for it, and forgive life’s experiences that have led me here, the more this bundle dissolves. That instead of hiding in shame about these anxieties, fears and attachment style, to own it, write about it and accept it.
And that the right man for me will love me for all of me.
That this is life. We come in a package with all our “good” and “bad”. And that real love is not just to love the “good” but also the imperfections of the other person. And that the only way this will happen is to allow all parts of you to unfold as the relationship unfolds and trust. Trust! Trust that wether he will be there tomorrow or not is all in divine unfolding.
That you are carried through it all, the single days, the dating days, the relationship days, the scary days, the exciting days and the anxious days. You are carried even though it doesn’t feel like it.

This Being Single – “Finding Love”

While driving home a few week ago, I was listening to a podcast I recently came across in which people write letters about a topic of conflict and the hosts give them advice. I had listened and liked a few of their episodes, so, when I saw an episode titled “The One”, I was intrigued. It was an episode on single women ages 20-50, who had written to the hosts about feeling very anxious regarding not finding “The One”.

As the episode was coming to an end and they kept reading snippets of the letters, the final thoughts of the hosts (who are incidentally both married) were something like “Well, some of these women will find love but maybe some of them will never find love.” I literally felt my self reaching to turn off the volume as I couldn’t bear to listen anymore.
Later I reflected on what had made me feel such resistance to their words that had conjured up this mixture of anger, sadness and shame. I realized what was affecting me was this notion that you either Find love or Not. It was of course not the first time I had heard these words but somehow it was the first time the meaning behind the words really hit me.
I remember a few years ago, when laughingly, I told one of my yoga teachers that my love-life is nonexistent. He asked me why do I say that, that do I not feel love in my life, to which I responded that of course I do feel love but what I mean is the romantic love.  He knew what I had meant, but was trying to get me to pay attention to my choice of words and phrases.
I obviously didn’t think much of what I said and even thought he was being fastidious. But as I reflect on my emotional reaction to this podcast, I realize that the sense of shame around being single is directly tied in to these phrases and these beliefs.
This phrase “To Find Love” somehow denotes that the feeling of “being loved” only comes with finding and being with a romantic partner and if you happen to be single all your life, then you have basically never found and lack love.
Is this really true?
Do all married or paired-up people experience a constant feeling of being loved, connected, desired, understood and supported because they have a partner?
Do they never feel disappointed, frustrated, angry, sad, disconnected or even lonely?
If you have any honest married friends they would tell you, that they have a mix of all of these emotions on different days. They would tell you, that sometimes while even sitting next to their significant other they feel disconnected and lonely. And these are not marriages or relationships that are “not working”. These are the realities of human-ness.
I even wonder how many people go in to a marriage with the notion and expectation that once married, you should feel loved at all time and if not, then the marriage is not working. I know I used to think this during my long term relationship.
A truly brave married woman, once told me, that at times she has felt lonely, even though her hand is in her husband’s hand, who is being loving to her. But she is not really feeling the love because at that moment she is feeling insecure or not good about herself.
And this being single… this supposedly “not having found love”. Is this really true?
I ask myself; do I not, many times, feel loved by (and for) all those who are in my life, or come in to my life, from family and friends to many other experiences that bring that feeling of connected, understood, supported, and even desired? And do I not feel the same spectrum of emotions?
Why is it that we have come to think, agree and believe that being single means “lacking”? Especially for a woman.
I realize the desire for companionship can be a very intrinsic and even primal desire and may even come from a desire for having children with a partner. And not having found that companion or that imagined future with children is a disappointment.
But every time I have felt more than just disappointed, every time I have felt shame and despair for not being in a relationship, I have come to realize that it isn’t just about the desire for a companion, but to a much larger extent, it is because being single is looked at as “lacking” and that I am in this boat of “singles”, the boat of those who are unloved.
 
This book “The Four Agreement” comes to my rescue so often. It says that there are these societal agreements that somehow everyone has agreed on (maybe even unspokenly and unconsciously) and yet everyone suffers from them. Somehow throughout the years we made this agreement that if you find a partner, you are ok, you are loved, and basically you are on the right track to “happily ever after” and if not, then you are not.
It is becoming really clear to me that there is no emotion that is exclusive to the single life that I will not have once in a relationship or married. Sadness is sadness. Envy is Envy. Joy is Joy, Love is Love and even loneliness is loneliness whether single, in a relationship-but-not-married or married-with-children. Maybe the reason or subject bringing up the emotion will be different in single life vs. married life but the emotion itself is the same.
Today, I say to myself and to all of my fellow single sisters, that while looking for that life partner, just remember there is nothing lacking about you because of your single-ness and when and if shame or despair comes creeping up on you, just befriend it and ask it why is it here. Because it will not lie to you. It will remind you of the agreement you have bought in to, the agreement that has no basis, the agreement that blocks you from feeling love. And Love is Love!
As the great Persian Poet, Rumi says “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it”

Nothing Means Anything!

What does it mean to live with your mom when you are turning 40 and single?

A few months ago I decided to move in with my mom. I don’t know why exactly. I loved my apartment in MarVista so much. It was my sanctuary. But maybe because I felt like I needed a change and it would help to save some money to be ready for that change. And  I would get to be close to my mom and my favorite furry creature, Hooloo, my mom’s kitten.

So I moved in December. And even though I was worried I may regret it, I have not really missed my former beloved apartment at all. But despite having made this move voluntarily and with really no financial necessity, and despite having actually enjoyed it so far, from the kitchen’s view of these beautiful birch trees where I sit and have my breakfast, to the recent snuggles when Ms. Hooloo allows it, to my mom’s sense of humor and her home cooked meals, to the shorter commute to work, to this adorable room that my feng-shui master of a friend set up for me, despite it all, this move has given my monkey mind a field day whenever it goes in to that self-critical mode, adding to my list of inadequacies how not only am I turning 40 but I am living with my mom. And even when I remind my mind that I have chosen this not because of a lack of career or money but it still insists that none-the-less this living situation leaves much to be desired.
I was having dinner one night with a friend of mine before the move and when I told him I am moving in with my mom, he reminded me of a Seinfeld episode when George is moving in with his parents.  Jerry’s stand-up line was that it is never a good sign when you are moving in with your parents… like you never say: “my career is going great and I am moving in with my parents or I am in a new relationship and I am moving in with my parents, etc”…. It was a funny episode and my friend was merely trying to make me laugh. I know he thinks no less of me for moving in with my mom.
But it reminds me of the book “The Four Agreements”. How we have made these agreements for certain things to mean something and even when it doesn’t mean that, the mind is so fixated on it that it can’t see it clearly any other way. We make everything mean something.
Another night I was at dinner with some new friends and when I told them I moved in with my mom, a few of them voiced their disbelief of how I was even capable of living with my mother at this age. But one new friend who is from Spain actually praised me saying: “This is a great sign that you can live with your mom, most people in this country can’t stand their families.” Clearly what “living with parents” means to him was different than what it means to Jerry Seinfeld, my friends and myself or at least that part of my mind that is saying all of this.
I have had multiple patients of mine in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and even older tell me in such shame that they live with their parents. Many of them have made this choice for financial reasons or other reasons, even to take care of their parents, but this living situation is one more thing they add to their list of failures. I always remind them to not listen to this voice and not make their living arrangements mean anything more than it is. And although I mean what I say to them it with all my heart, but I guess my own mind is still entangled in the same unhealthy agreements.
The agreement that my mind has learned, the one that it uses to subtly torture me is that at every stage in your life, your life has to be in a certain place and have a certain look and if it isn’t there, even if you chose it not to be, then at least it has to be justified by something else more amazing. Like if at 40 you are not married with kids doing DIY projects with your kids and renewing your vows with your husband who dotes on you, then you should be a renowned professor, or have published several books or be traveling the world or be a high-ranking progressive political figure or like my beloved uncle, be involved in many philanthropic, creative projects around the world.
Whaaaaaat? I ask my mind; so you mean that being a physician, even a sub-specialist who sees the most rare cases, treats patients in pain and suffering every day and tries to treat them like her own family is not enough?
How about someone who tries to be honest and say I don’t know when she doesn’t know and to try to look for the answers, who tries to be real, tries to practice mindfulness, tries to do right as best as she can? Isn’t that enough? Isn’t it more than enough? Isn’t as enough as anyone else?
Mindfulness says to watch your thoughts non-judgmentally and to not identify them as you. To basically see them come and go instead of totally being in them. Like you are standing in that space between the water in the waterfall and the rock behind it. And when I watch these thoughts, sometimes I totally see their bullshit. But what really helps me, what actually changes these thoughts to completely different thoughts is remembering and literally tuning in to the voice of that Wise part of my Self, or what I call my Soul.
Soul, who speaks in whispers and I usually hear it best while on a good run or something meditative or maybe after a good cry. This voice that is so incredibly loving and says: oh my love, of course it is enough. Not because you are a doctor and not because of your education or degree or what you are accomplishing or even because you are practicing mindfulness, but because you are you, you are here, you are a living, breathing child of this universe, you are part of the universe and the universe itself. You are enough because you are alive and trying. Waking up every morning and taking another step on this journey.
My Soul’s voice reminds me that nothing means anything, only what you attach to it, only what meaning you give it.
It is not where we live, who we live with, what we do, what we have accomplished and what we haven’t, what we look like, how many friends we have, how many likes we get on our posts. It is not any of these that makes us lovely, lovable, and loved. It is because we are here, we breathe, and we try our bests even when that best is not perfect.
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A Life Candy or a Partner? 

I remember that weekend day in Spring of 2010 so vividly when I was down and disappointed over my last relationship which had not worked out. My dad who had been sick for a while but tried to go for daily walks asked me to go for a walk with him. As we slowly walked to his pace, he asked me why I was down. I normally didn’t like sharing my emotions with my parents especially my dad because there was always a lesson he would give me in it, but my dad had changed in the last years of his life. He had stopped preaching and started being more real.  So I took a chance. I told him I was disappointed… why was it so easy for my friends to be with someone and I couldn’t?…. I remember how angry I got at his answer, when he said “well, maybe you don’t really want a relationship, subconsciously”… I interrupted him in frustration “what does that even mean? that my conscious wants something and yet my freaking subconscious is leading my life. That would seem like a cruel punishment”

I wish I could go back to that day and hug my dad and just listen to what he had to say. He died a few months after that and I was left to figure out all this on my own.
In later years I pondered my dad’s words over and over again. If my subconscious doesn’t want a marriage then what does it want and why does a part of me thinks she wants it…. I analyzed it in therapy and with myself….and I journaled and wrote and asked myself why did I want a man? why really? I started putting in to practice what I learned from that healer and lovely teacher I met in 2012, Siri Gian, who taught me how to ask questions, listen and differentiate between the voices of that Wise part of myself (Soul) and the other every day-self  or ego and write down the answers.
And the answer was kind of mind blowing and kind of really obvious. I thought I wanted to have a relationship. I even thought maybe I wanted to get married but when I got honest with myself I saw that the desire wasn’t so much to find a partner in life. It was really to have someone whose love, affection and attention would make me feel good, someone that with him I would never feel lonely, someone who would be my arm-candy and life-candy. The candy that would take away any of life’s bitterness and replace it with only sweetness.
And really come to think of it, that’s what I thought love is. Someone who will sweep you off your feet and then love you every day. And any time you feel down, he will lift you up by his love. Just like all the books I had read growing up in Iran which all started with “he saw a glimpse of her and fell in love with her, not with one heart but with a hundred hearts” And the movies I had seen and the couples who seemed to have that at least from a distance and on the outside.
And yet all the marriages around me growing up seemed to not have that. Women close to me whose marriages seemed tumultuous and flawed. Women who always seemed not happy from what their husbands did or didn’t do.
To me it seemed either people are trying to tolerate a marriage that is unhappy and love-less or there is this perfect love where the imperfections are even cute and the girl will pull away and the guy always chases her…. always!
When those bits of my subconscious finally became conscious, my initial reaction was that of self-judgement but eventually with mindfulness and sitting with it all, the voice of that Wise-Self came to my rescue every time. and here is what I realized. That this kind of expectations of a man as a life-candy is exactly the recipe for bitterness. For disappointment and heartache when I’d inevitably come face to face with his insecurities, with the moments that he is in his own head, or in self-doubt.
At these exact moments, if I am in it for him to make me feel better when I feel insecure, to make me feel loved, then it will feel like a love-less marriage.
Yet, if I am able to hold space for my own insecurities, to be aware of all the human parts of me that want affection and attention and feel lonely at times, if I can hold them like little children, then even when my partner is in his own insecurities and unable to hold me in his love, I can just see it for what it is, not project more to it, not make it about me and go in that downward spiraling and reacting. And when he is feeling good about himself and can give love, then it is just the icing on the cake of my own self-love.
I still don’t know exactly what that healthy relationship would look like for me but I am starting to realize that a life with someone else, no matter how smart, kind, cool and confident, will be marred with the same highs and lows of feeling loved and cared for and then feeling unloved, insecure and lonely that paints the canvas of my single life.
And here is what I wish I could tell my Dad that I am even starting to understand that this subconscious mind of mine is not an unfair, cruel punishment keeping me away from that ultimate happy marriage but it is the mystery of me that unravels in this journey of my life, one experience at a time, one disappointment at a time, one reflection at a time, and one breath at a time.

Insecure or Confident?

I don’t know what age I was…maybe 18… maybe younger, when I heard phrases like “Confidence is the most important thing”, “Confidence is sexy”, “Confidence is the most attractive attribute of a woman”
Whenever I had insecure thoughts in my head, which were not uncommon, especially when it came to how I looked, it would quickly follow by the acute realization that I am not confident since I have these thoughts.
I would sometimes see these women who seemed to somehow embody confidence in my eyes. Most times I didn’t really know them well. Maybe it was at a party, I would see a girl who didn’t seem shy, was beautiful, had a perfect body, or dressed beautifully, or seemed to have an air of detached-ness about her, or maybe a handsome or seemingly “cool” man next to her, looking at her with desire.
Without really knowing anything about her, merely based on her demeanor or looks I would think  “Gosh, she looks so confident. I bet she doesn’t care about what anyone thinks of her. I wish I was confident like that” And of course, having been told how confidence is important, I tried to hide all those areas where I lacked confidence. In fact I didn’t even see it as some areas of insecurity. I didn’t see it as shades of gray. I saw it as black and white. That this person has confidence and I don’t. Either you have it or not.
So, I just learned how to hide it. I learned how to never show my insecurities. I learned to act the opposite of what insecurity wanted me to do. I tried to make friends with confident people. And I tried to be social and outgoing and make it seem like I don’t care about what others think. And I don’t know if I did any of this consciously.
What is ironic is that everyone I chose to be friends with, based on how confident they appeared, when I actually got to know them well, I realized they also have insecurities. And the more they were aware of their insecurities and allowed me to see them, the more I connected with them and the closer our friendships became.
I remember I was talking to a friend who was telling me about how she has felt insecure about this or that in herself and realizing the insecurities makes her feel even more insecure.
This friend is a woman who is an amazing surgeon and one of the most beautiful women I know. She is someone I wished to be be friends with when I first met her in the hospital and saw that same air of confidence in her. She was quite and kept to her self and I took this as confidence and even slight detached-ness which I had come to associate with “coolness”. Little did I know that this was her “shyness”.
I don’t know at exactly which point in time, this big, impossible mountain of misconception about “insecure” vs. “confident” started to slowly chip away. Maybe it was after meeting my teacher, Siri Gian, the healer who taught me how to listen to that inner wisdom, that loving voice that speaks in whispers and for most of my life I wasn’t hearing it over the shouts of the other insecure voices. Or maybe it was in Azita’s yoga classes; a yoga teacher and psychologist who would open the class by genuinely sharing about her own vulnerabilities and emotions. Or maybe it was watching Brene Brown’s ted talks. Or maybe it slowly happened through all of these experiences and still happening as I sit with Homeira, my beloved therapist and teacher every week.
And that mountain started to chip away to this realization; That confidence is not a lack of insecurity, just like courage is not a lack of fear. It is wether we are aware of the insecurity, can accept it, not judge ourselves for it, love ourselves despite of it and look at it honestly and see the unreality of it.
After having talked to many brave women; doctors, artists, lawyers, engineers, dentists, journalists, housewives, mothers, etc, everyone seems to have insecurities around something or other. For someone it is around a body part that they try so hard to perfect, or around money or career or family or children or lack of children or status or partner or lack of it or health or a personality trait or so many other issues.
I know I have many insecurities of my own, but here is the amazing part of this past years of awakening to all of this, that the more I accept where I am, the more I get honest with myself instead of putting up a facade, the more I stop labeling myself as insecure and projecting perfection of confidence on to others, the more I breathe through any insecure feelings that come up and remember that this isn’t real, it doesn’t define me and is merely based on what I have bought in to, the more the insecurities release, shift and transform to real confidence. Not confidence based on having it all, but confidence based on accepting it all.
Thank you all the women (and men) who have bared your Souls with me, putting down the masks we all wear for some seconds or minutes or hours, showing me a piece of your insecurities and helping me heal mine. I am passing it on.

 

This being single

For the past 12 years or more, since my last relationship of almost 10 years ended, I thought I’d just meet someone and get married like every woman I know. And although secretly marriage and kids scared me but the idea of that woman who is 40, alone, unmarried, no kids, pitied and judged scared the shit out of me.
So in these years of confusion I kept wondering why I can’t, like most of my friends, just click with someone. Why is it so hard?
 And of course every friend or aquaintance who learns that indeed I do want a partner but don’t have one yet, offers advice. “You are probably too picky”, “You probably pick the wrong guys”, “You must not really want marriage subconsciously”. A teacher told me that once I fully loved all aspects of myself the right guy will show up right in front of me.
And so I psychoanalyzed myself. I went to therapy. I kept wondering if I feared marriage. I tried to ask myself if I really wanted to get married. That do I really want children or just think I should have them to fit in? Do I want to have children of my own or adopt? Is a woman’s life defined by motherhood? If not, then what will define me? I tried as much as I could to love and accept myself more and more.
And through the years, friends or relatives whom I would run in to, always asked: “Sooooo, have you found the one?” and the “No” that I would have to say felt like such a failure. That I somehow have to justify it by saying “No, but…..” “No, I am not married yet, but I am a doctor and doing yoga teacher training”, “No, I don’t have kids yet, but I am taking this course and starting meditation classes for my patients at work” or “No, but let me tell you about the last guy I went out with and what lessons I learned”
And I just felt a sense of shame. Every year that passed and I am STILL single I felt more shame. And here is what I learned about shame, that once it builds up, you either go hide yourself so you never have to confront with the shame-causing issue or after enduring it and trying so hard to change the “shame-causing issue” you look it really hard in the eyes and say to it: shame, I see you! I see your pain. I see that you have totally bought in to the bullshit, but if you don’t let it go, it will destroy you. If you don’t wholeheartedly embrace the truth it will literally make you want to jump off a bridge.
And so today after years of this, here is what I have to say.
I am still single. I am still hoping to find the right guy some day. I am still probably picky and still probably making “mistakes” and still not sure if I fear marriage or if want to have kids and STILL probably not as loving and as accepting of myself as I should be.
But here is the thing, the truth, is that I am, with my whole heart, grateful for this past very many years of single life with this quest. The quest to find the answer to my “defect.” The quest to find out why I am single.
This quest has taken me on this amazing, beautiful, priceless journey so far. The quest that took me to meet a healer who taught me to connect to my higher self and forever changed my life. The quest which took me to meet many teachers and therapists and finally made me realize that the best therapist and teacher is that higher Self within my own being. The quest that took me to hours of shedding tears of release and exaltation in Kundalini Yoga classes and learning meditation and mindfulness which has changed my life’s moments to richer and more real.
And to putting myself out there and meeting some great men whose encounters taught me about myself and gave me the opportunity to come face to face with my own fears and biases.
And this quest which has brought me to to this day, a day that I thought would never come in to my life. No, I have not found “THE ONE” if that is even such a thing. But the day where I can practice being brave and writing these words. To look shame in the eye, hold its hands and say, let’s open the door and not hide. A day where I am deciding to be humble with my vulnerabilities and write that yes, I am single and I am turning 40 in a few months and sometimes it can be lonely and sometimes it can be scary but most times when I am not in the trance of the messages I’ve gotten from the society I am actually in love with life and this messy and alive journey of being here.