Thursday, June 26, 2014

anxiety doesn't become me

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post called Pushing the Button. I talked about how important it is to trust the process. Today I remembered just how important this is as I have been struggling to trust the inevitable changes looming ahead for me. I realized that all of my concerns and worries were getting wrapped around me in a giant blanket of fear. I couldn't eat, I couldn't relax, even sleeping was stressful. 

I remembered that the keys to courage is learning how to keep moving forward in spite of the fear surrounding me. Here are some practical methods I use to acknowledge my fears and move forward without letting them control me.

1. Make a list. Or a spreadsheet.

      Usually when I'm wigging out like this, it's because I can't decide between two options, or I have too many thoughts to consider and remember. This will help you whether you're weighing two options or are afraid of everything. 
      I personally like spreadsheets for comparing things, or pairing actions with status updates, whatever. When I was looking at moving to be closer to work I estimated my cost of living in different towns by rent prices, pet deposits, commuting distances, approximate gas used per month, and toll costs. I compared these expenses for at least six different scenarios. Then I did it again for commuting on public transit. After that, my decision was easy.
      When I was trying to determine whether or not I was an alcoholic I made a list with two columns, one for reasons I was an alcoholic, and one for all the reasons I wasn't. What I found when I made the list was that all of the reasons I thought I wasn't an alcoholic were based on the opinions of other people....which brings me to...

2. Cross off any worries founded in the opinions of other people. 

     These are things we have no control over. People have minds of their own and we have no control over their thoughts and beliefs. If it's going to cause us agony, the only productive thing to do is to let it go. 

3. Group your fears by type according to people, money, love, and material belongings. 

    All fears stem from one of two ideas, "I'm not going to get what I want" or "I'm going to lose something I already have." It's easier to see which one each fear stems from when you group them like this.
    Go through your list and identify each item as fitting one of these two ideas. 

4. List actions you can take for every fear on your list. 

     As much as we like to think we are in complete control of our future, the fact is that other people exist in this world. While they may impact us, we have no idea how or when it will happen.
     What we can do includes anything on this list. Update your resume if you're afraid of losing a job. Hire an editor to work on your book's manuscript. Call a friend to ask for support with a difficult decision. 

5. Work on your to-do list, one fear at a time.

     Do not try to tackle everything at once. It like if you try to wash all of your clothes at once, the machine won't work because it's overloaded. The same principle applies. 
     Remember, put a big, fat line through each action once it's completed. 

6. Remember your FEARs are simply False Evidence Appearing Real. 

     "...notice and remind yourself that all fear, unless it involves rapidly moving weapons, teeth, or claws, is actually bullshit." ~

But whatever you do, don't let your life be run by fear. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

When I feel like drinking...'s usually because I feel like I'm losing control over some aspect of my life. Whether it's money, overbooking myself with obligations, stress or challenges at work, it feels the same.

When I'm craving a drink, it feels as though someone is pushing on my chest, holding me back. Anxiety takes my stomach and twists it, turns it, and pulls it down towards my navel, enticing me to vomit. Then I remember the numbing sensation of intoxicating drinks and I literally become thirsty. Sitting at my desk, in the car, or wherever, all I can think about is pouring something cool and wet down my throat.

Wine. That's what comes to mind next. Ohhhh a glass of wine would taste so good right now.

This is where I usually catch myself.

I fast-forward to the other side effects I experience after drinking copious amounts of wine or any other alcoholic beverage.
Slurred speech.

And then there's the hangovers. Oh. My. Word. Most of the time they were tolerable, but every once in a while the hangovers were incapacitating...usually when I forgot to drink water while boozing, or for some reason I blacked out the night before. Then, I run through some memories of particularly bad consequences from drinking too much. A black eye. Fights with friends. I engaged in a lot of behaviors drunk that I would have never done sober.

Some part of me wonders if it will ever get that bad again. Maybe I can drink alcohol safely now.

But I know that's just a fantasy - thinking that one day I can drink alcohol in a reasonable and controlled manner.  If I didn't have a serious problem with the stuff it wouldn't have been so hard to quit in the first place. The first 90 days of my sobriety were by far the worst days of my life. Daily I woke up tired, feeling as though life was too much work. The return-on-investment seemed non-existent... Life was a laborious and worthless process, something to be endured, not enjoyed. 

No matter how bad my days are, life is nowhere near as difficult as it was in the first 90 days of my sobriety. I just have to remember that and do a lot of work on my personal growth just in case the desire to drink sneaks up and takes me by surprise.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Booby Ban

I am so confused. But then again, I never understood why breasts were idolized in the first place. 

If a woman shows a lot of skin she is either praised for having a positive body image and expressing her femininity...or she's chastised for objectifying all women by using sex to promote herself. 

As I read these different stories I find valid points that I support in all of them... 

Rihanna wore a gorgeous dress to the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards and TLC blasted her for using sex to sell her music. In response, Rihanna found a picture of TLC topless, covering their breasts with only their hands, and tweeted it with a clever remark. (Rolling Stone

Meanwhile, circulating the internet is a beautiful story about a conversation between Mohammad Ali and his daughters. He teaches them that their bodies are sacred and like anything precious on this earth, God intended them to be covered and hard to get to. It's a sweet, metaphorical, and beautiful message. 

Then, there are some very well-supported arguments about the impact of telling girls to "cover up" on America's rape culture. It wasn't until recently that I realized how this idea teaches young girls that they are responsible if raped because they "tempt" males by dressing scantily. 

And don't forget that some people don't want their young, pre-teen, or teenage children to witness women publicly breast-feeding because it's "inappropriate". In response, many women have stood up to lobby for a mother's right to breastfeed her infant in public. 

Seriously? I'm dizzy from reading all these articles. I feel like I'm turning in circles. 
What if the reason we care so much about partial nudity is because we choose to make a big deal out of it? I mean, really, if you think about it, boobs are SUPER COMMON. Approximately 52% of people in the world have them. And if you don't have them, there's a good chance you've seen someone else's...

Does the ban on public booby exposure make them seem more exotic and rare? Is that the real reason breasts have become synonymous with sex? 

I don't know about you, but in my opinion, seduction requires a lot more than just bare skin....there's the sultry pout, suggestive maneuvers, etc. But by themselves, breasts are not equivalent to sex. 

So what's the big deal? If a woman wants to show some or all of her breasts, let her. If a woman wants to wear a headscarf, why do you care? If a woman wants to wear a ball gown to dinner at Denny's, don't stop her. 

Each person has preferences that are personal and unique. Who you are and what you like shouldn't bother anyone else and if it does, that's not your problem.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

How do we STOP school shootings?

The way we're shootings will be nearly impossible to eradicate. 

In any scientific study you cannot select a single element of the environment and blame it as the sole cause of the problem being studied. The scientific process requires closely monitored and controlled experiments. Similarly, you cannot individually blame gun laws, security measures, mental heath assessments or treatment, video games, upbringing, bullying, or school environments for these murders. All of these factors play a role, and because each person is different, we cannot arbitrarily decide how much they each factor in. 

In a way, we are paralleling the shooter's mentality by making these judgments. 

Before you write me off, think about it. The shooter looks at a myriad of life problems and identifies a mass killing as the solution for them all. It's like that phrase about how when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. In the United States we are trying to attribute one root cause to numerous school shootings, all with different attackers with their own life story and mental health problems.  

As a comparison, for anyone who is familiar with addiction and treatments, it's very common for the addict to seek out "the reason I became an addict" with the motivation being that "if I can fix that one thing, I can go back to drinking and using." The fact is, once you've turned that corner, you can't go back. It's like when a cucumber has been turned into a pickle. Pickles cannot return to being a cucumber. Furthermore, there is no singular cause that can be attributed to addiction. Like with the school shooting there are several contributing factors: family history, frequency of use, quantity used, mental state when using, emotional trauma, etc. Not a single one can be taken out of context and blamed as the sole reason for an individual developing an addiction. 

Perceiving mass murder as a viable solution to any problem is illogical. It indicates hopelessness and desperation. If we want to protect future generations from knowing this kind of homicide, we need to take an objective look at our society and analyze why these shooters felt so hopeless and desperate in the first place. 

It is easy to lose sight of the fact that these killers are people too, because they have done something irreversible and unforgivable on most accounts. But remembering that they are like us will be essential to working on this problem.

What can we do, collectively, to minimize the likelihood of hopelessness and desperation in the United States?

  • Listen to people around you. 
  • Acknowledge and appreciate the involvement and opinions of others, even if you don't agree with them. 
  • Encourage and support programs that do community outreach in your area. (Such as Oakland Unite)
  • Show kindness, even when it's difficult. 
  • Have compassion for those you anger you, because they are suffering too. 
We cannot reliably predict the circumstances which will cause any random person to pack a rifle and ammunition to attack innocent people in a public venue...yet. 

We can make small changes in our lives to make the people around us feel safe, appreciated, and loved. That is a start in the right direction...for now.