Writing Again

I realized I’ve got all of these blog posts (yes, I just totally dated myself) in my head and short-form social media isn’t doing it for me, so I’m going to be here again sometimes. I don’t think anyone really pays any attention to this blog, so it’s truly mostly for me, but if you’re reading this blog, maybe you’ll related to something I share.

i want.

My whole adult life (and probably life before that) I have been a prisoner to obligations. Not real obligations, but obligations I put upon myself. Obligations that start with the emphatic “I need to…

lose weight.”

exercise more.”

be kinder.”

work harder.”

eat better.”

sleep more.”

drink less diet coke.”

drink more water.”

stop spending money on stupid shit.”

stop dating guys I don’t actually like that much.”

I think you get the point. So last week in therapy, I was dealing with some pretty shit news. No, I don’t want to get into it. The news itself isn’t important. What’s important is that it led to another obligation. Another “I need to…” And I don’t need anymore fucking “needs”. The weight of one more was just too much. And I broke down. Well, let’s be honest. I had been crying almost since crossing the threshold of my therapist’s office. But talking about this additional need I just…I was done. I felt so overwhelmed.

My therapist then reminded me that I don’t “need to” do anything. We revisited a conversation we’d had the week before about eating. I have this constant voice in my head telling me I need to eat better/less/healthier/etc. And he talked about how important it is, in those moments, to remind myself of what I want and to reframe what I’m saying to myself in that way. “I want to eat healthier because I feel better when I do.” “I want to eat less because I hate how I feel when I overeat.” The main thing is how empowering it is to focus on what I want and not make it an obligation.

So, for the past week, I’ve been focused on reframing and restating. It’s not easy. Being raised in a family of overachievers and a religion of obligations and a woman who wants to do everything “right”, “need to” and “have to” are what I know best. But this week has been so eye-opening. And when I can remember to reframe and focus on what I really want, it’s so much easier to live my life in a way that’s congruent with those wants.

I like to joke frequently that, “I do what I want.” And in my head, when I hear that voice saying, “You need to eat better,” or “You need to get more sleep,” my response is exactly that. “You don’t get to tell me what I need to do. I do what I want.” But guess what. When that’s my internal dialogue, I’m NEVER DOING WHAT I ACTUALLY WANT TO DO.

The truth is I want to eat better and I want to get sleep and I want to exercise and I want to be vulnerable and I want to be kind. But the obligation of “needing” to do something was blinding me to that because I was so busy fighting against…myself.  And when I can say, “I want…” I’m much better at remembering why I want to do something and making it about me and not about society and external expectations or influences. And when I state what I want to do the fight against myself never happens because the weight of obligation is no longer there…there’s nothing to fight against. What am I going to say to myself after I say, “I want to eat healthier”? No, you don’t?

So here are a few of the “wants” I stated this week when I was reframing.

“I want to go to be now because I am much more in control of my emotions when I get enough sleep.”

“I want to stop eating now because I do not want to feel stuffed.”

“I don’t want to buy that because I want to have more money in savings.”

“I want to be more vulnerable because I want to connect.”

“I want to ask for help with this project so that I don’t dread going to work.”

Such a difference.


pulling the andon cord

For anyone in manufacturing or who works at my current company, you know the andon concept. For the rest of you, it’s basically a way of calling attention to a problem (and in many cases, stopping “production” while the problem is investigated) that originated in Japan…and we all know I love Japanese everything.

I think I’ve needed more andon in my life. Especially in dating. It’s not that I don’t notice that there’s an issue. I always know when something is off. I can’t always tell what’s off, but I know it’s off. But I have a massive problem pulling the cord to investigate. Because I generally I assumed that if I pull the cord to investigate, it’s probably going to mean abandoning “production”and starting from scratch. Or it feels like it’s way to early in the relationship to need to investigate anything. Like, ” this just started up…let’s let it run for a while and see what’s really going on.”

It’s not that I don’t understand the concept of sunk cost, because I do. But it’s so hard to walk away when I combine the investment with all of the unknowns. Or when the issues seem minor. Or when we’ve just started running things and there’s no guarantee that the next iteration is going to be any better. (I am definitely a believer in the idiom “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”) So, I don’t pull the cord. I stick it out. I think, “Well, I know this isn’t looking exactly right…but maybe with more time it will iron itself out.” Frequently, my strategy has been to not ask any questions about what’s going on; to just wait until things are so bad that the whole relationship completely falls apart. Spoiler Alert: Things rarely iron themselves out in relationships without some kind of intervention.

Here’s the example that popped into my head when thinking about how I do this. Imagine you’re a car manufacturer of these amazing custom cars. You’re watching production of the current order and everything looks good. But then you notice that the equipment to install the gas and break pedals is sitting on the wrong side of the car. You think to yourself, “Huh, that’s weird,” but you assume that there’s a reason for it. You start to explain to yourself all of the reasons this might be. Maybe this is an order for a car that’s going to be shipped to the UK? Or maybe it’s one of those “teaching” cars that have pedals on both sides? It kind of nags at the back of your mind, but you don’t want to slow production, so you don’t ask any questions. In fact, subconsciously, you stop even looking at the manufacturing floor because the more you look, the more it bothers you. And the longer it goes on, the more you convince yourself that it must be right, and the less you want to ask because now, if it’s wrong, the whole thing will have to be scrapped. It’s not just some quick adjustments. It’s not just realizing the plans are right and you need new plans. So you say nothing. And then the car is finished and it’s not a car for the UK or a teaching car…it’s just a complete waste of time and materials. The steering wheel is where it should be, but all the pedals are on the passenger’s side.

That has been my approach to dating. I want so badly for it too work that I ignore the little signs and I don’t stop to really evaluate what’s going on. (Side note: it’s not even really about wanting to be in a relationship…but that’s a post for another day.) Not only that, but lots of times, even once I know what the issue is, I convince myself that it’s meant to be that way. And when the guy starts to indicate he is seeing the same issues, I start to try and convince him that he’s not seeing those issues. Or that it will be fine. “This way we’ll always have drive together. I’ll run the pedals. You steer. We’ll be the most in sync couple ever!” It’s completely ridiculous.

Well, I’m happy to say this week I started to see an issue with a guy I’ve been seeing and I pulled that andon cord like a motherfucking bad-ass. We had plans for tonight and I was super excited to see him, but I saw that there was a potential issue (not with him, but with communication and expectations)…so I stopped “production” to ask a question. I got an answer that didn’t work for me. I said as much and explained why. And now, chances are good, considering I’ve heard nothing in response, that I’m going to be scrapping the whole thing and starting over…which kind of sucks. But it sucks way less than if it had been a month from now…or even a day from now.


the wild

This Mumford & Sons song might be my favorite right now. I’ve had it on repeat for a few days. Music is definitely the quickest way for me to connect with my emotions. It doesn’t necessarily help me understand them, but if for sure helps me feel them. And I love the way music can take me right back to a time and place and all the emotions come right back; the good and the shitty.  And I want to remember this song and this moment in my life. I want to remember the “birth and death” that I’ve experienced over the past few years; the denial, the anger, the sadness, as well as the excitement and the newness. It feels very much like the wild.

The Wild
We saw birth and death
Can’t we be still
What makes you kind
From where comes your sparkling mind

Was it under the earth?
Tied up in a knot
Which I forgot you were ever there

Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid

What’s that I see?
I think it’s the wild
Puts the fear of God in me

And was there a grudge
Up from the dust
Inconceivable lie

What’s that I see?
I think it’s the wild
Puts the fear of God in me
–Mumford & Sons

And as I’ve been typing this, I had one of those memories and songs pop into my head. Shortly after my mom died I went for a drive. I did a lot of driving in those days and weeks following her death. I was driving up Provo Canyon near BYU, where I was a freshmen in college, in my little green Mitsubishi Eclipse with Tracy Chapman’s The Promise blasting from my CD player on repeat. I parked in one of the little turnouts part way up the canyon and just cried. I know that sounds kind of depressing (and it is pretty sad), but I love that if I ever want to feel close to my mom I can just turn that song on. It makes me cry every time. But sometimes I just need to miss my mom and cry. Even 23 years later.

The Promise
If you wait for me
Then I’ll come for you
Although I’ve traveled far
I always hold a place for you in my heart

If you think of me
If you miss me once in a while
Then I’ll return to you
I’ll return and fill that space in your heart

Your touch
Your kiss
Your warm embrace
I’ll find my way back to you
If you’ll be waiting

If you dream of me
Like I dream of you
In a place that’s warm and dark
In a place where I can feel the beating of your heart

Your touch
Your kiss
Your warm embrace
I’ll find my way back to you
If you’ll be waiting

Oh, I’ve longed for you
And I have desired
To see your face, your smile
To be with you wherever you are

Together again
It would feel so good to be
In your arms
Where all my journeys end
If you can make a promise
If it’s one that you can keep
I vow to come for you
If you wait for me

And say you’ll hold
A place for me
In your heart
–Tracy Chapman

too much

One of the themes that keeps coming up for me in therapy is, “Am I too much?” This fear plagues me. It keeps me from asking for help; like the “sit in the trenches and cry with me” kind of help. It keeps me from asking for what I need in relationships. It keeps me from being vulnerable. It paralyzes me.

“Am I too much?” It’s not even a question, really. It’s not, “Am I too much?” What I hear in my head and feel in my soul is, “I am too much.” And because I believe that, I hold back. I put up walls. People think I’m super open because I share facts. I’ll give anyone the rundown on the details of my life; the good stuff, the shitty stuff, the embarrassing stuff, all of it. In fact, most people probably know more facts about me than they ever wanted to know (definitely more than they needed). But the feelings…the feelings are mine.

People get glimpses. My closest people. The people who have proved over the years that they can be trusted. Who have shown me they love me no matter what. And I am so grateful I have those people. I have to relieve a little pressure now and then so I don’t explode. But even then, I’m usually telling them about my feelings more than letting them see me feel. I don’t even know if that makes sense to anyone but me, but I know what it means.

And I’m finally recognizing how this hurts me. How what I want more than anything is to feel connected, but that fear of being too much keeps me isolated. And I feel like it’s a total Catch 22. If I break down the wall, my fear is it will drive people away. But if I don’t, then I am still alone. Only one of those is actually real. So I’m trying.

I told my therapist, as we were talking about these feelings of isolation, that I just wanted to be able to solve this on my own. He responded with a wry smile, “So, you want to solve your isolation problem alone?” To which I replied, “Fuck you.” And then we both laughed. He knows me so well.

So, I’m taking steps. The first one is to get in touch with what I’m actually feeling. To lean into it. Let whatever it is just be. Not try to fix it. Not try to numb it. Not force it behind a wall. And not wrap it up in a package and say, “Look. See. I have this thing and I’ve placed it in this box and put a bow on it. And I can tell you what it is, so everything is okay.” Step one is to let myself feel and be curious about it. Compassionate curiosity is what my therapist calls it. And it’s fucking hard. I’m a problem solver by nature, so just letting myself be scared, or sad, or tired, or hurt, or whatever is a huge step in the right direction. It definitely doesn’t align with my problem-solving nature. But it’s helping.

Maybe I am too much for some people. Maybe I’m not. And maybe it doesn’t matter because I won’t ever be too much for my people. That’s what I want to believe anyway. Unfortunately, the first person that has to believe that I’m not too much is me. I need to be “my people” before anyone else really can be. And I just might be the hardest person to convince.