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. 

Journey of self love

For most of my late 20s and 30s, every romantic relationship I entered, after a few months, I felt anxious. Somehow feeling that this person is not in to me as much as they were a week go, a month ago or a day ago. I used to think I am right when I think “he is not in to me anymore”. My proof was that “he was chasing after me last week, telling me how amazing I am and now he is not doing that. he is calling less or he is in his head when we are together. or he didn’t ask to go out this weekend.” This thought inevitability would make me either break up with the guy or act strange (hurt, distant, mixed messages, etc) and somehow the relationship would not work out.

With every guy, I found myself inevitably in the same thoughts, in the same feelings. In the pat 4-5 years, I started to wonder am I just picking all these messed-up guys? or is it somehow me erroneously thinking they are not in to me and they actually are? is it me being insecure?

A friend told me that there is a whole category for people like me. it is called anxious attached. And the doctor in me thought, well this is great, if there is a diagnosis, then there is a treatment. but the more I looked, it seemed to be a cure-less diagnosis. the recommendations were to seek therapy (to see why you have anxious attachment issues) which I was doing for many years and to communicate it with your partner which I tried to do when I could muster up the courage. But with every break up, I felt really defeated. that I am just so wired wrong and inevitably fuck up all my relationships.

About a year and half ago I got introduced to the work of Byron Katie. I was watching a YouTube where a girl was talking about feeling jealous that her boyfriend is in a band with his ex and and every time they are together she felt very jealous. Katie took her through the work (the 4 questions and turn arounds) and I saw how she came to realize the fallacy of her fears, of her fear-inducing beliefs and seemed less jealous by the end of it.

This was so appealing to me. I wanted to let go of beliefs that made me needy and insecure in the relationship. I wanted to do the work of Byron Katie to get rid of those beliefs and be this super cool girl who goes in to a relationship and doesn’t care if her boyfriend is talking to someone else or doesn’t give her attention. I wanted to be this cool, care-free, not-needy girl.

It seemed to work at the moment that I would do a worksheet. I’d feel sad that this guy I was dating hadn’t called and I’d write down “he doesn’t care about me” and then I ask is it true? can you absolutely know it is true?, etc, etc. and by the end of the worksheet I was out of that mental hypnotism where I was convinced “he doesn’t care about me” and I was suffering less.

I started a new relationship and I did the work every time I thought he is losing interest in me. and many times I was able to let go of an intrusive thought by just going through the questions. My relationship continued (unlike all the other ones that would only last a few months). I felt ecstatic. I remember few months in to our relationship, we were traveling together and we had a conversation that made me insecure. I was feeling really anxious and sad thinking that the thought “he doesn’t really love me that much”…. we got home from a day out, I said I want to journal and went to the kitchen and sat and did the work and totally was able to have a different perception. I even was able to tell him about the process and the icing on the cake was that he told me how I had misunderstood him to begin with and how much he loved me.

But sometimes I would try to do the work and it wouldn’t work. I would sit with the intention of getting rid of a belief and it wouldn’t work. I’d feel frustrated and then I’d feel really fearful that this insecure, frustrated, angry, sad (or whatever negative emotion) is now behaving distant or short with my boyfriend and he will leave, that he won’t like me because I am distant and in a bad mood. So I’d sit and try to write and do what work again and again to see if I can get to that blissful and care-free state and sometimes it wouldn’t come……it just wouldn’t come.

And then slowly I realized the most important part of doing the work…..That you can’t do the work to get rid of a part of yourself. You can’t do the work with the agenda of self-rejection, even if that self is the one who is believing a thought that is not true.

I asked Tom Compton (a certified facilitator of the work) to do a session with me and that’s when it started to really sink in (well, after actually 10 sessions with him or more that he kept reiterating the same thing.

Here’s a snip-it of it:

Me: I am in the living room with my boyfriend. He is in his head. he is distant and quiet. I go hug him and he hugs me back but is still distant. I think “he is probably sick of me. he wants his own space. I am so needy”. I asked tom, what do I do when I feel this way?

Tom: Can you feel the needy girl in you and open your arms and welcome her?

Me: hmmm….. ok I feel her. I feel needy.

Tom: Can you welcome here even if she were to never change?

Me: WHAT? hmmm No! not really….. I am doing the work so she will change. if she doesn’t change, she will ruin my life. She will ruin my relationship. I will be alone……actually I hate her.

Tom: Then feel the hate… just really feel it. what is the purpose of this hate?

Me: To get rid of her. to get rid of the needy girl

Tom: has it worked? being at war with her and hating her, has it worked? has it made her go away?

Me: crying, no…. it hasn’t.

Tom: Are you interested in hating this part of yourself? you were under the impression that hating on it would work, now that you see it doesn’t, are you still interested in hating her?

Me: crying, no….. crying (tears of release, tears of sadness, tears from feeling hugged)

Tom: can you open your arms to her?

Me: I am scared that she will ruin my life.

Tom: ask her if she wants to ruin your life?

Me: hmmmmm….. me asking some imaginary part of myself who feels needy “do you want to ruin my life?” and I see this scared girl, saying no, just crying and sad and scared.

Tom: can you welcome her, just at this moment? you will see that these parts of us just want to be seen, accepted and loved. are you interested in unconditional love or conditional love?

Me: hmmmm…. wow, I really do want unconditional love.

Tom: then here is your chance. letting her know she is accepted even if she never changes. that’s really all she wants.

Sessions like this does remind me that this is also what I learned in the mindfulness course I took some years ago. or in the Radical acceptance book by Tara Brach. or what my therapist used to remind me. But somehow during these facilitations, I really felt like Tom showed me the road map. here it is, you wanted to know how to love yourself, here it is….. and only and only after you totally welcome this scared, insecure girl (even if she never changes), then you can say “hey love, let’s do the work together and see if this belief that hurts you so much is true or not.”

Which reminds me of what I read in one of Byron Katie’s books “do the work for the love of the truth, for the love of freedom…..not to change the world”

I am willing to experience this — how to be with one’s own self

This morning I woke up with a whole army of thoughts. Going over a conversation with some friends. Feeling angry of why she said that. Feeling sad at why they think this way. Why do they have this kind of standards. As I was laying in bed, looking at my phone, another thought said I should exercise before going to meet up some friends for lunch. And yet, I was still in bed looking at my phone, while the thought of “having to exercise, shower, get ready and leave and it is not enough time” was lurking around giving me anxiety. 

Then another thought “ugh, I always feel annoyed at this friend”. More thoughts and images of memories of past, so many years ago, when she would say this or that. And how I bet if I tell her this, she’d have this kind of smart-ass remark to give me……. And then I noticed I am having a full-on conversation in my head with her trying to convince her how she is wrong. How her ideas are old. How she should try to have an open mind, and thoughts of her responses that would aggravate me. 

I start exercising and realize I don’t have time. So after 5 reps of biceps curls in one arm, I put the weights away. And decide to go shower. but now I am thinking of how I should have woken up early to exercise. 

As the water pours over my head, I am taken out of my thoughts for a second and realize how tense I am because of all of these thoughts. All of these imaginary conversations that I am having. I am imagining how she would be so adamant in defending her position. How her ideas are so old and how she hasn’t questioned her beliefs. 

In the shower, I say a prayer, please help me see things more clearly. To see how I can be less bothered by these friends, by people. 

I get out of shower. Get dressed. As I am driving, I am still in my head thinking and thinking. But the truth is, I am not thinking, the thoughts are just going and going and going. I want to be present to this moment and yet they come and come and come. 

And all of a sudden, I realize I am kind of at war with myself right now. And what I want more than anything is to just learn to be with myself in peace. How can I be with myself in peace? How can I enjoy my own company? cause these thoughts don’t seem to go away despite all the work I have done on myself, here I am with a million bothersome thoughts. 

And then I had a moment of a miracle. I call it a miracle when a thought comes that is like a balsam to the wound, the peace-inducing thought. And the thought was “what if I was open to my thoughts?” I remembered hearing Tom Compton (who has a podcast and is a facilitator of the work of Byron Katie) say what if you were open to all of it? I said to myself, it is ok Niloo. It is ok to have all these thoughts. They are just a lot of scared little children. They just want everything to be good, for you to be loved, to belong. Even though they sound angry, but underneath it, there is the desire to connect (for my friends to change their beliefs and think like me, so we feel connected). I want to feel loved by them and feel love towards them. This is so innocent. Like a kid that just wants others to play with him and not take away his toys. For us all to agree. 

And at that moment, I felt a release of all that tension. To just be open to the torturous thoughts. Cause they are coming anyways. If I was willing to experience it, somehow the experience of the moment changes when I am open to it. 

I always wonder how to be with oneself? How to not feel lonely? I have heard or read somewhere “if you can’t enjoy your own company and thoughts, how can you expect someone else to?” 

I really think this is the way for me to be with myself, to enjoy my own company. Wether or not I want it, this is my company. These incessant thoughts are part of it. To say “I am willing to experience this” is like saying “I am willing to be here in my body and mind right now” and then feel how it feels to be open and willing to experience something vs. how it feels to not be open and willing, to really not want to experience something that is happening right now. 

Byron Katie’s famous “ Judge a neighbor” worksheet’s last statement is “what is it about this person or event that you never want to experience again?” and then you turn it around and reflect on “I am willing to or are open to experiencing it” why? Because frankly you are seeing it in your head anyways (so you are experiencing it in your thoughts anyways) and why else? because do you want to be free? 

This feeling lonely

Journals from October 2018…. some really lonely days…….

I wonder how many people at this instant feel lonely in the world. How does loneliness feel to them? 

I have realized that at times although alone I don’t feel lonely. And those are the times I feel somehow connected to others or something. That my life matters. 

But when that heavy feeling of loneliness sets in, it feels like I am not connected to anything or anyone. That I am irrelevant.

And today I woke up feeling like that. I had this full week. Busy and full of people and work. And I really enjoyed it. But it is interesting how a little thought comes like “I have no plans this weekend” and then a little phrase or text can … whoosh… take you to that lonely place. Perhaps touch that existential wound that we all have.  At that moment that I heard my sister say she had to get off the phone cause she was gonna have dinner with her husband. This phrase made me think” “Look at how much of a priority they are to each other” and made me feel sad that I don’t have someone in my life that I enjoy his company so much that I would stop my other conversations to go have dinner with him. 

And then while my mind was marinating part consciously and part not so much on “I am lonely”, I got a text from a close friend whom I love to spend time with and haven’t seen in a while. We used to have this weekend ritual together that I looked forward to. Every Saturday we used to start the morning with a dance class, then go to this diner for brunch. We’d share our feelings, laugh and many times cry our eyes out, going through so much tissue paper wiping our tears. But her life has changed. She now has a small kid and has become busy with family plans and even though I know she wants to see me, it doesn’t happen as often anymore. She messaged me telling me that she loves me and that she has seen this beautiful movie with her husband and that I should go see it. Instead of feeling happy that I got this loving text from her, my mind went in to thinking about how these days she spends her entire weekend with her husband and family and makes no mention of seeing me. 

I thought, here I am really looking forward to these encounters. To seeing my sister and to seeing my best friend but their lives are full with their husbands, etc and their priorities are to them. They don’t need me as much as I need them.

So I went from being in peace with my life this past week….Work was good, in appreciation for my medical assistant, my coworkers, my friends who I had spent time with, even how I got to randomly meet someone while on a run and thinking what wonderful surprises you get when you are single….. to waking up with these thoughts, my mind going down the quick sand of “how sad is my life and how un-needed I am to these people I need. And if I wasn’t even here, yes, maybe they would be sad but they’d get over it” 

In the midst of this sad saga, this story of feeling sorry for my self, I thought how can I get myself out of this and went to the only thing that works when I am willing to do it. I remembered the words of my therapist “befriend the loneliness, be with what comes up” so I reached for mindfulness. 

The RAIN practice of emotions – Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurture. I listened to Tara Brach’s guided RAIN meditation. Sat with it and just let it all come up. The waves of sadness so strong it feels like it is gonna rip through my heart and would never end. But then the ability to nurture, like a mother that holds an unruly, needy kid with so much love and tenderness. with no judgement. And then slowly and so slowly it is amazing how emotions subtly shift when we don’t resist them. And as I finished this RAIN meditation and started moving about my day, through the ensuing hours, wisdom became so much more clear and accessible. 

I was able to notice all that I love and is here around me. Like this willow tree by my window that dances in the wind and is so soothing to me. or this little kitty that sleeps so cozily and makes me smile or how I love to go run by the trees and feel the air in my hair.

And I was able to have some clearer thoughts. I thought no one can really take the place of someone else.  Yes, my sister has her husband who is her companion but it doesn’t take away from her connection with me. I remember times in my life that I was so busy with what was in front of my face, wether a relationship or new friends and studies in medical school and I had less time for my sister or other friends. Did it mean they were irrelevant? Did it mean that even if I didn’t see them or talk to them for days or even weeks that their presence didn’t warm my heart and give me reassurance? And if any one of them were to “not be here” there would be a giant hole the size of them in my life; their kindness, their wit, their touch… just like after all these years, there is still a hole in my life the size of my dad, even though at times I didn’t spend enough time with him or didn’t even feel fully connected to him while he was alive.

I think no one is immune to loneliness at least at some points in their lives. And when we are going through it, it feels like it will never end. And some of us have come to see  loneliness either as a deficiency on our part or fault of others for abandoning us or fault of universe for forgetting about us. But the truth is that it is just being human, part our need for connection and part our unhelpful and frankly bullshit conditioning depicted perfectly in the famous song by Dean Martin that says “you are no body till somebody loves you” or more like “till somebody shows you they love you the way you think they should” cause they could love you (like my sister and friends do) and your expectations of them makes you think they don’t.

Such is life, my love. This is what I hear from that wiser part of me, the sane part of my mind…. Such is life. And this is a season that has some lonely days in it. And it is ok. And when these self-pitying thoughts pour in your head and deepen the pain of loneliness, just see them, hear them and forgive them again and again, forgive your mind again and again and turn your attention to love, to that ever-present love that is right here, in the dance of the willow tree leaves, the cozy nap of the cat under that patch of sun, the joy of the wind in your hair when you run. Open your arms to all of life.

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.