Wash the Dishes

It took me an hour to clean up the kitchen. It took me an hour, so it must have been some big mess, yeah? No...No. The kitchen was generally tidy to start, and the stack of dishes, short. It *should* have taken me 10 minutes. It took me an hour.

I could not focus on tidying the kitchen. 

I could not focus because lately, I've been depressed and anxious.

One of the many delightful ways that depression and anxiety show up for me is the rapidly explosive fireworks spiral of thoughts-turned-potential-crises that ultimately lead me to land on THIS shiny winner of a thought -- That I am the World's Shittiest Person.

Here's a fun, and fuck it, TMI example train(wreck) of thought that knots its way through my brain when I'm deep in the depression/anxiety loop (note: this is an abridged snippet of the real thing):

Molly. Wash the dishes. And wipe down the counter. Oh, and sort through the mail. And go to the bank, that check from your client finally arrived. Oh -don't forget, you have to renew your LLC filing soon. And on the topic of work, you have those proposals to respond to, don't forget. Don't get overwhelmed, remember you chose this career path. And fold the laundry. And we need milk. And Cloud needs a vet appointment. Don't you care about your cat? You're not acting like it, or it would have been done already. Selfish. And there's that email you never answered, how long has it been now? You're a shitty planner, you should have responded to that note, already. And you need new clothes. Yeah, you need to add shopping to your already busy list because you've gotten so fat and you've gained so much weight, and what a slug you've become and you did this to yourself you know you did.  And Christmas is coming, you better think of thoughtful gifts and buy and send cards because otherwise everyone will hate you and why are you so inconsiderate, Molly, remember all that TV you watched when you could have been productive, you do this to yourself, Molly. Oh, are you frustrated now? Grow up. You gonna whine about it and cry? Molly. Focus. And, you still haven't made that appointment with your doctor to figure out what's wrong and I'll tell you what's wrong its because you're so unhealthy and so fucked up, and it's never going to happen for you can't have a kid or be a good parent or be a good partner or live in peace and be free from anxiety and good things aren't yours to have because as it turns out youareahorriblepersonwhocannotdoanythingrightandohmygodohmygodohmygodyousuckatlife.....

You know, delightful thought trains like that. Yay brain.

Slow Spiral. Picking-up-speed Spiral. Rapid-barrel-headfirst-into-oblivion Spiral.

Epic proportions Catastrophe.

When I feel depressed and anxious, every thought in my brain becomes a priority of urgent measures. And my inability to respond to them all at once somehow leads me straight to the belief that I am a terrible person. And then nothing is a priority. And then I am a puddle on the floor, awash in shame.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen, I began the slow spiral. But. BUT! I did not take it all the way to the end-shame-game. Not this time. After 45 minutes of the slow and strange and draining spin and subsequent wandering away from the kitchen to tackle random other "priorities", I was finally able to rest my mind and my efforts on one simple task.

Wash the dishes.

And, It became like a form of meditation for me, standing in front of the kitchen sink, hands drenched in soapy water.

Wash the dishes.

A brief meditation because, as I said, the dish stack was short. But, it was long enough to ease the tension in the line, to dissipate the spiral.

Wash the dishes. 

Over and over, I was able to steer my mind to just that one thought. 

Wash the dishes.

To create some space and quiet around that one thought, to soften the shouts of a thousand other thoughts.

Wash the dishes.

Thinking about that single mundane action was enough to steady my breathing, to gently pull my shoulders away from my ears, to feel my feet on the ground, and to re-enter my full body vs cramming myself tightly into the over-crowded space between my ears. 

I did that. I created my own place for calm, and in those moments I chose not to believe that I am terrible, because I know that's just the depression echo chamber and it's not valid. I'ts not fact. It's not me.

And, I've decided that "wash the dishes" is now going to be the mental bell I ring when I sense I'm heading into a spiral, to serve as a reminder to myself that I am not a terrible nothing, that depression and anxiety do not get the final say in defining me.

It's not profound and it doesn't need to be.  Just...wash the dishes.

Avoid Failure, Avoid Success.

"Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
- Robert T. Kiyosaki

It's Day 11 of my 17 days in Nor Cal, and I'm starting to feel pretty settled in. I'm grateful that my sister E was able to join me initially, and I've gotten over the loneliness hump that swept over me after she left. I just wrapped up a chill weekend with my friends W+D who came down from San Francisco to visit me. I, in turn, popped back up to SF to spend a night in the city at their place, and to meet one of my clients in person for dinner. I'm now back here in Santa Cruz for a few days, eagerly anticipating B's upcoming visit. I'm feeling pretty upbeat, and not at all lonely this time around on my own.

I know part of that reason I'm not so lonely is that I broke my TV fast. Tonight I watched last week's Bachelorette episode. Don't judge the swift conclusion of my detox; I lasted a week! And I wasn't sure I'd even hit that milestone, so yeah, GO ME!  I committed and I stuck with it, and I am going to continue to work to cut back my overall viewing. And, I KNOW you're not judging my consumption selection! Bachelorette Rachel and her suitors made for excellent company this evening. AND we're even hanging out again tomorrow night (minus a few suitors) when I catch up on tonight's episode. I do what I want!

It's obvious that I still love TV. And tonight, I appreciated having TV companionship. However, I recognize that, too often, I use it as a way to avoid my 'real life' And, I recognize that when watched in excess, TV makes me feel sluggish and unproductive. Yes, earth shaking revelation, I know.  What did I tell you about not judging? And, in the absence of TV, my brain starts seeking out other time sucking, low productivity activities that may or may not rhyme with browsing mocial sedia . Ugh. Gross.


But, brain, I get it too, and now I'm sorry for yelling at you and shaming you for your TV coping mechanism, the one you've been trained to seek out. Because I know it's scary to face the real shit in life, and how overwhelming it can be. I know what it's like to fear failure so much that you seek any distraction to keep from entering into the game at all. We'll work on this together, brain, and we'll forge a new neural pathway.

In related news, this past Thursday, July 13, I hit a very big milestone.

A little backstory: Just over 3 years ago, I wrote about my cold turkey breakup with my favorite caffeinated beverage, the unbeatable sweet, jolty fizz of fireworks in a can, Diet Coke. My goal was to kick the habit for a month, and I ended up abstaining from that sweet nectar of the global corporate branded gods for 240 days. At that time, I consciously chose to lightly step off the wagon, and scamper along behind the wagon for a while. 

And then a year ago, I decided to jump back on the wagon. I've now been diet coke free for a 365 straight days (370 days actually!) and I'm still going strong. In fact, I haven't had any soda pop in the past year. Unless you count the delicious nectar that is San Pellegrino. Which I don't. And I rarely drink anyway. So - diet coke and soda sober for over a year!

So, hey! That's kind of a big deal!

And, along with quitting TV for a week, achieving my 1-year diet coke sobriety milestone is kind of a big confidence booster for me, too. I was beginning to think that I had lost my capability to self-motivate, to set challenging personal goals and commit to the hard work that it takes to achieve them. That I was falling back into my familiar pattern of being so concerned about failure, that I wouldn't even put in the effort. Write a blog entry? Work proactively on building my business? Immerse in becoming a yoga teacher?  Practice Spanish and learn a new language? Well, just one more episode. Procrastinate a little longer.

If you don't play, you can't fail. And...you can't succeed either.

And these goals, giving up TV for a week and cutting diet coke out of my diet, as silly and inconsequential as they may be, have helped me to get back on track, to rejoin the part of myself that desires striving for success, even if it means stumbling and risking failure.

I have a renewed oomph to keep recommitting to myself and what matters to me. To keep my head out of the sand (where it's watching all that dang TV) and live above ground.  Most of the time anyway. Someone's got to watch the Bachelorette, and I think that someone should still be me!

Movement and Stillness

Greetings from sunny Santa Cruz! Technically, I'm in neighboring Aptos, but it's pretty darn close. So, in any case, greetings! I'm feeling just fabulous!

Well, fabulous with a side of anxiety, a direct result of too much alone time with my thoughts. Maybe it's more accurate to say that I'm feeling just 'anxious' with a side of fabulous. fabulous with a lowercase f.  Hm...ok, so maybe fabulous isn't quite the right feeling at all.  

Let's just say, I'm having highs and lows out here on the West Coast, and over these last two days, I've been all on my own with these thoughts of mine. And sometimes my thoughts are a cool companion. Other times, my thoughts are a bunch of angsty little shit-stirrers.  And, since I decided to be all, let's get introspective and take a TV detox while I'm out here, my thoughts can get pretty moody and rowdy and altogether impossible to ignore or shut off.

In times like these, these overwrought-with-shit-stirring-thought times, thank goodness for yoga. My peaceful sanctuary, my way to quietly enjoy the presence of others while breathing space and silence into my pounding, jumpy, thunderclapping brain. And hey, It's California right? The land of yogi hippie vegan people! So, there must be TONS of Vinyasa classes available just around the corner at any hour of the day.  Not exactly, as it happens. 

With my Vinyasa options practically nonexistent, today I decided to break out of familiar territory and take an Iyengar yoga class. My first ever Iyengar inspired yoga class.  

We are, like, soooo not in Kansas anymore, Toto.  

If you're not familiar with Vinyasa or Iyengar, here's a simplified set of descriptors. Vinyasa classes tend to flow to the rhythm of the breath, with movement linked to each inhale and exhale. Some postures are held longer, but usually not for more than a few breaths. Iyengar is not like this at all. The focus of Iyengar yoga is on in-depth and detailed alignment, using a bunch of props for support, and holding poses for many breaths. Many many breaths. Many many many breaths.

The class began with a collective AUM, some additional call and repeat chanting (the Invocation to Patanjali), and a brief analysis of one of the yoga sutras of Patanjali. I don't remember which one, but it had to do with the intensity of faith and effort. How's that for vague? I admit I wasn't 100% plugged into the yoga sutra review because my monkey brain was busy kicking up the anxiety about the asana/posture part of the practice and the not-knowing quite what to expect, mixed in with some lingering self-consciousness from the previous chanting.

The movement and postures portion of practice began with a highly detailed, guided downward dog, and a series of half-sun salutations. We then moved into set of hip-and-hammie focused postures, held at extreme-to-my-unaccustomed-brain-and-body lengths. Several of the postures involved standing on one leg, with the other leg parallel to the floor, foot flexed up against the wall. During these ultra-intense standing balances, the instructor gave several incredibly useful, highly descriptive, rich and detailed cues to focus on, and plenty of encouragement to help calm the mind and keep the breath flowing. These poses all looked so still on the outside, but SOOOO much was swirling beneath the surface! It's amazing how much of a sweat you can work up by simply standing with your foot pressed against the wall.

We also did some bat-like movements. Now what do I mean by that exactly? I mean that with the support of a bunch of thick ropes hanging from the side walls and a stack of blankets, we created these little personal cradles and hung upside down and folded up like bats.  We contorted into a set of funky upside down floating positions with both feet or shins pressed up on the wall, and our heads dangling toward the ground, like bats hanging from the S. Congress bridge in ATX.

For me, going upside down is a strange mix of terrifying, invigorating, and even soothing. Once I got positioned and properly supported in my upside down bat fold (a feat in and of itself) and let go of (some) my fears about the ropes giving and landing on my head, I was able to tap into those deep forward fold benefits, and relieve some of the anxiety and negative thoughts I'd been carrying.

The way we were folding was also very intense on the hips, a place I usually tend to be quite open...but in this position, I realized I may not be as open as I think I am. The instructor talked about the vivid and concentrated emotion and anxiety we often carry in our hips..and indeed, I think this is true for me. I tend to associate the physical manifestation of my stress as living in my shoulders and neck, but these upside-down bat-like folds helped me to gain a whole new level of awareness of the stress and emotion I'm likely carrying around in my hips.

I guess Shakira was onto something. The hips don't lie. (Sorry, couldn't help myself...cue eyeroll).

Class wrapped up with seated twists, a simple bolster-supported restorative pose, shavasana, and a final collective chant of AUM. The whole experience was so incredibly different than the style and format of class I usually take...and yet so extremely familiar.

And you know what? I LOVED it! Iyengar is such an incredible compliment to Vinyasa. For me, Vinyasa is meditation facilitated by a fluid, wave-like movement, each breath signifying an ebb and a flow, a give and a take. My mind clears space with each wave of breath and movement. Iyengar is meditation facilitated by the intense modality of stillness, a focus of the mind to be fully and utterly attentive to the sensations in my body, aware of how subtle adjustments can completely alter my physical being and emotional feelings.

Two different paths, two harmonious perspectives. In the movement of Vinyasa and in the stillness of Iyengar, the breath still flows...clearing space, inviting in freedom, delivering clarity, offering strength, gifting support.

I've been anxious these past few days on my own with the rapid, constant giddyup of my mind here in this unfamiliar California setting,  But it turns out that opening myself up fully to the new experience of an Iyengar influenced yoga practice was just what I needed. Today through Iyengar, I reconnected with the importance of stillness. Stillness as a catalyst for focus, calm and renewal.  

Greetings from sunny Santa Cruz! It seems I might be feeling just Fabulous after all. With a capital F.