What to do with all these thoughts?

This morning I woke up with this subtle not so great feeling. Ugh what is the thought. What if I like him more than he likes me? What if I am more attached than he is?…. No in reality, the thought doesn’t even have a maybe in it. It doesn’t come as a question. It comes with certainty; “I like him more than he likes me.” 

So where the fuck is this thought coming from? I really don’t have any objective evidence for it but I know this is how my relationships go down. With this exact, subtle thought. It starts little like this and then festers. If I believe this thought, I subtly pull back. And then of course they react to me pulling back and then I get my self-fulfilling prophecy indeed fulfilled. Then I am sure he likes me less and I pull back more. 

So I do the only thing that I know usually helps me. Write and write. Write all my thoughts. What little word or phrase did I hear that has made my mind go there? When you are a sensitive person with a past that you believe as “failed relationships” and get attracted to unconventional guys who value their independence, it is easy to take little things as evidence for your story. The story I have in my head. I will need him more than he needs me. 

It was helpful to look at the little thoughts that were there as evidence behind this thought and to really ask my self; Is it really true what I am thinking or is it just habitual thinking? Just water down the old river. What is the habitual pattern of thinking for me? I start a relationship and slowly start to have thoughts like these that make me anxious or eat away at my peace and I can’t enjoy getting to know this new person that universe has brought in to my life. 

My habitual pattern is also to get really mad at myself when I have these thoughts. Why they hell do you think this way? Why can’t you not be so sensitive and just not take every little word as meaning something or other. But truth is that getting mad at myself does not help anything. 

So while struggling with all of these thoughts and feelings while trying to go about my day, I stopped and just remembered what I learned in this course I took “mindfulness self compassion” and I also remembered the promise I made myself a few months ago “I will never abandon any part of myself” and here is a part of me that is in pain (meaning anxiety, fear, confusion, etc) and the course said whenever there is pain, there is room for compassion. So I held this part of me that is so scared and confused, telling her she belongs too. It is ok if she is sometimes so sensitive towards every little word and is scared and even wants to pull back. I literally held that part of me like a scared child. It’s ok. You have the right to be here, even thought ultimately you are believing some thoughts that are not valid but still, you are here and if you are here, you deserve to be here. 

I would have never allowed myself to do this before. I used to think that if I am giving room, or saying ok to a part of me that says “I am not liked” or “victim” or “needy” that it will get worse, but what I have realized that it doesn’t. In my case, accepting and loving all of me, even the parts I really wish I didn’t have, actually feels much better ultimately and makes me be able to think more clearly. 

I realized the thought is: what if the kind of closeness I want in my relationship is not what he wants. What if I am fooling myself and making it seem like I want a more distant relationship. The truth is that I don’t exactly know what kind of relationship I want. It’s been so long since I was in a a long term relationship. 

We walk around together talking about how unconventional our lives are and I find myself out of the blue saying “I don’t think there is anything wrong with living in two separate houses and having a relationship like that, some people do it”. Or that “we don’t have to label anything” and I totally and utterly believe it when I say it. 

And then out of the blue I wake up and I also have thoughts like “what if we are dating for months and months and he never introduces me as his girlfriend or what if he wants tons of space to himself, or what if I want to live with him and he doesn’t” Which one of these thoughts are really me? When I am thinking the former thoughts I feel ok about myself. I feel independent and when I think the latter thoughts, I judge myself for being needy.  So realizing this, again, I decide to not judge the thoughts, but see them as my children.………  if you are here, you belong…. It’s ok for me to want more closeness and if he doesn’t, then we want different things and maybe I won’t be with him ….. it’s ok… it’s ok… it’s ok…. It doesn’t make me needy or lesser or not as strong….. it’s ok” 

And that’s exactly what happened. After having this brief moment of accepting all my children; the needy, the scared, the confused, the one in doubt, the one who wants to pull back, the one who may want more closeness than this guy may want, I reached some moments of clarity. 

I realized that the opposite of this could be true as well. In fact I’ve also been there. I could be with a guy,  and he is dropping his life to be with me every moment. He is only wanting to spend his time with me over his other friends. He is telling everyone I am his girlfriend after only some weeks of knowing each other and asking me to do the same. He is planning his entire life around me….. and I can easily imagine the thoughts I would have at that time. Of course I would initially be happy that someone I so admire, is so in to me but I can see that I will probably have thoughts like “do I really want to be with him everyday of the rest of my life? Do I really want to only be with him and have such an exclusive relationship where I am not free to meet and experience conversations and friendships with other men (and I don’t mean sexually but even just friendships) ….. I started to remember my first relationship of almost 10 years and how enmeshed our relationship was….. no room to meet anyone else, no room for new experiences, only me and him all the time and our small circle of friends. I know I don’t like that. I know I’d feel suffocated in that. 

And then the clearest thought hit me. These are all just thoughts. None of it is real. The mind is always looking to improve our situation by pointing out possible “threats”. In the first scenario my mind is trying to look for how I can get hurt, how I can be more attached to him than him to me and can get hurt that way, how my needs may not be met. In the 2nd scenario (remembering my first relationship), the threat is losing my independence, losing my experiences of fun and new, being bored, mundane-ness. 

But what is real? Reality is that at this very moment, I am sitting very comfortably on this seat, typing my thoughts on my laptop, in this adorable, cozy cafe where everywhere I look gives me a good feel, sipping really good coffee in no physical discomfort.  Looking up, there is a few people here in this cafe. There is a plant hanging, a dog curled up comfortably sleeping on the floor, the barista busy pouring coffee, a woman at the bar sipping her coffee. It’s a cold day here and I have my jacket on and feel warm. 

What is really missing? What is the problem? Nothing. 

And what was the problem this morning when I was having all these thoughts. Nothing. I was in the shower, warm water with perfect pressure pouring over my head. Nothing hurting in my body. I had soap, shampoo, everything I needed. And yet, my thoughts about what could be in the future, and what that or this means is exactly what was taking me out of realizing the comfort of the present time and in to discomfort of the unsatisfactory imagined future. 

Really it comes down to this; observe your thoughts, question them, don’t identify with them and in my case, don’t hate on yourself for having the thoughts. As one of my favorite teachers, Byron Katie says “I love what I think, and I’m never tempted to believe it.”

….. and if I can be brave and honor where I am, then also talk to the person I’m in this relationship with, ask him my questions from a place of kindness, and trust what unfolds.

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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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.