Saturday, November 4, 2017

How I escaped social anxiety & depression without drugs

This is a dramatized version of my first major synchronicity, which I've written about elsewhere on this blog in other forms

I keep having the same nightmare.  In my dream, I’m stuck in cold and dark place, completely alone; and thirsty, so thirsty…the dryness clicks and snaps in my mouth.  In the dream I’m trying to fall asleep, but I’m shuddering and my teeth won’t stop chattering from the cold.  I can’t get warm and I  can’t get comfortable because I’m pinned behind a giant boulder—the only way to lay down is to lean forward and drape myself over the rock.  Every time I start to fall asleep in the dream, I jolt awake in real life with a sense that I’m about to fall out of bed.

It’s no mystery what’s causing this recurring nightmare…it was brought on by Aron Ralston’s memoir, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”… I’m haunted by Aron’s story.  He’s the guy who went hiking alone and had to cut off his arm after a boulder fell on him.  He spent 5 days trying to engineer a way out from beneath the rock before realizing that his only escape was to (action: slice arm below elbow).  The worst part was the nerve…he plucked it out like a guitar string with the tip of his knife, the unmediated pain coursing through him.  Ugh, I can’t even think about it.

Yesterday something strange happened.  I was telling my therapist how upset I was one evening and ended the night in bed reading.  Her response?  “Sounds like you’re between a rock and a hard place”.  I was stunned…had I just told her that the name of the book I was reading?  I concluded that I must have.  But then something else happened which shook me to my core.  A few hours ago, I woke up from one of my nightmares and grabbed a book to help me fall asleep.  I started reading and instantly connected to a story about a woman who was stuck in her life.  In the book, the woman’s therapist tells her that she is between a rock and a hard place.  I felt like I’d entered the twilight zone.  Cue eerie music.  I can’t even believe I fell back asleep after that. 

It seems to me that the universe is trying to tell me something.  And I understand now that I’m stuck, just like in my nightmare; just like Aron.  That’s why his story is haunting me.  like Aron, I’m alone…alone because I can’t connect, backed up against a wall of shame and self-loathing, of social anxiety and awkwardness.  And now a new weight is pressing down on my chest…I’m in charge of another life, of growing my baby into a child.  It is a boulder of responsibility heavier than anything I’ve ever lifted.  So for two years now I’ve been scraping by, zombie-like, paralyzed in this hole. 

And it’s just occurred to me.  I’ve been trying to engineer a solution like Aron, to maneuver myself out from under this rock.  But that won’t work…it’s me that’s got to change…to change my mind and see my life in a new way.  To start believing that there is meaning in the world and that I am tied up and connected to it all.  And I do believe it…how could I not after getting a wake-up call from the universe?  And you know, that’s the cure...the knife which can cut me from my psychic bindings: believing wholeheartedly in a deeper meaning, in an underlying order and network of connections between every living thing.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Past, Present, & Future Coexist in the Unconscious

Tonight I watched the first episode of the TV series "Touch".  It gave me shivers.  It was absolutely gorgeous (though at points I was rolling my eyes over some of the drama and use of stereotypes).

I watched it because my husband (who has always been critical of my synchronicity experiences) told me that there was a show about my subject.  He has already watched the first 24 episodes.  He told me it gets better after the first episode (which he also rolled his eyes at).

He came in when I was about halfway through and asked me if I understood what it was about.  He said it was about this idea that there are four times: the past, the present, the future, and the "now"--which is different from the present because it is everything rolled into one.  And I kind of knew what he was talking about because that's how synchronicities sometimes make me feel--like I've glimpsed that connection between everything, stepped outside of time.  After he left, I thought to myself that I wanted to figure out who had written about the topic of "now" as described by my husband.

Rather than jumping right into the second episode I found myself thinking intently about Frank Conroy and his book "Stop-Time".  About 11 years ago I went to a gala put on by the Des Moines Public Library to honor Iowa authors.  That year Frank Conroy was one of the 4 or so authors being honored.    Before the dinner and speeches there was a silent auction and an opportunity to purchase books and have the authors sign them.  I was clueless that it was the authors sitting behind their stacks of books--I was rudely picking the books up, flipping through them, and returning them to the piles while the authors watched me, probably in agony as I tossed away their books with no intention to buy them.  I was glancing through one when Frank stopped me and said, "here, this is the one you want--I'll give it to you".  He handed me his book, "Body & Soul" and signed it for me.

In the months that followed, I thought about Frank a lot.  Just a few months later he died and I attended a memorial service for him.  As a reader, I often start things and don't finish them and that was the case with the book Frank gave me.  I made it about halfway through "Body & Soul" and then decided that I was more interested in another of Frank's books "Stop-Time" which I ordered or found in a used book store (I can't remember which).  But I didn't get very far into that one either.  I filed both away for another day.

I was primed to start thinking about Frank again a few weeks ago.  I was standing outside of my library where I have worked for the past couple of years--I think I may have gotten locked out and I was waiting for security to let me in.  So I had a few minutes to waste.  Outside of the library there is a life-size bronze statue of a man reading a book.  I have looked at this statue several times, but this day I happened to observe it more closely.  I decided to look over the statue's shoulder at the book he was reading.  I was shocked when I saw that the page had real words on it and even more shocked when I realized that it was an actual book and that the book was "Stop-Time".  I decided at that moment to dig out the book and actually read it.  Later in the week I was walking through the foyer of my library and realized that there was a photograph of Frank Conroy on the wall with a little note about his book being used in the statue out front.

So tonight after watching the first episode of Touch I said to myself "now is the moment to dig out "Stop-Time"."  So I went into a far corner of my basement where I have a shelf of books covered in spider webs.  I pulled out "Body & Soul" and "Stop-Time".  And then, after a long conversation with my husband, I started reading.  On page 19, 9 pages into the book, Frank mentions as an aside: "(past, present, and future coexist in the unconscious, says Freud)".

It was my husband's definition of the "now", attributed.  Just 10 minutes after I had decided I needed to go and read these sources to better understand what my husband was referring to--after I had wondered how I was going to do a search for it without knowing the right keywords.  Did my unconscious remember reading those words 10 years ago and know that this was where an answer waited for me?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

I have been in the flow, riding the wave of synchronicity, being washed along by it's current to new discoveries this summer.  It has been an amazing reawakening of what is possible when I follow my curiosity, my intuition, my sparks of inspiration.

I've been working on a speech about finding myself and overcoming anxiety.  I can't turn around without being nudged by synchronicity to check out another writer, artist, speaker, stranger, or acquaintance.  Everywhere I turn I glean some new insight into what my journey has been about and where it has brought me.

What I've discovered is the importance of social communities to find our authentic selves.  I've been reading Sen's Identity and Violence.  Today I discovered Spiro's description of Ubuntu.  I stumbled upon John Hain's word cloud art, one piece of which describes the dualistic mind--and despite my best efforts to be inclusive towards everyone, I draw the line at the point where I begin to question my physical safety.  I found   I read Durant's overview of Spinoza's metaphysics which describes a philosophy of a merged inner world (thought) and outer world (action), a pattern which Durant seems to say is repeated on, fractal like, in larger schemes.  So I've been thinking about how the human race, with all of our social networks, could be like a larger version of our brains, with it's neural network of nerve cells.  So that the more connected our social web, the more we resonate together as a species, the sum of our parts magnifies to larger effect--whether negative of positive depends on our individual identities and the social identities we choose to inhabit.

It's all connected, all these resources are talking about different facets of the same things and I've come upon many of them in the unlikeliest of places.  

I've been working on a speech and the concept of Ubuntu is what a month of reflection working on this speech finally culminated in for me this morning.  After finishing my speech, I stumbled upon Natalie Spiro's TED video in a kind of funny way (I was quoting another TED speaker in my speech, Ali Binazir, and at the beginning of his talk he summarizes the other talks from the day and mentions Natalie Spiro.  I immediately looked her up and couldn't believe that she provided a name for exactly what I'm talking about in my speech: Ubuntu.).   

Another breakthrough came through A Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowlings novel for adults.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Too many apologies

I've been thinking a lot about my friend who was lost last Tuesday in a tragic car accident.  I'm remembering the lessons he taught me.

This friend of mine loved people and he loved listening.  He kept his schedule flexible so that he could be there for you whenever you needed him, regardless of everything else he had going on in his life.  We were going to build an amazing friendship...we had this connection which made our conversations flow so naturally.  I was endlessly curious about him and who he really was underneath his constant joking...he sometimes came across as not all that serious but every now and then I would ask him a question about his field he would quote all of the top scholars on the subject and instantly articulate a gem of an answer.  He always commented on how much he enjoyed talking with me and I was curious about that too...about exactly why he enjoyed talking to me when I could never articulate my ideas...could never remember who I was quoting or the words I wanted to say...always rambled from one subject to the next and never asked him questions about himself but was always going on selfishly about my own ideas.

On April 29th he came to an event I was helping with and we just fell into this conversation and kept talking for I don't know how long...I was completely immersed.  At some point I think I apologized for rambling or talking too much.  And I think I mentioned an article I'd read about how women are always apologizing, and how I do it too.  And he just looked at me with all of the sincerity you can imagine and said I should stop apologizing.

Later that same night I was running over to pick up a few groceries and was listening to a live set of the Well Pennies on public radio on my drive to the store.  Sarah Vanderpool, who makes up half of the band, kept cutting herself down (for example, "You are probably sick of hearing my voice" when of course I was in love with the sound of her voice and with the stories she was telling) and it really brought home to me how horrible it is to doubt yourself, or to worry so much about saying the wrong thing or to stop yourself from being authentic due to your fear of offending or annoying the people you are talking to.

This is one bit of wisdom which my dear friend (and synchronicity) left behind for me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A tragedy...a shock....

In my last post I wrote about a synchronicity which was meaningful enough to get me to return to post to my blog after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.  The synch I described was related to my strong connection to a colleague, which became even stronger over this past month, June and July 2016.  Earlier this month I was struck by the sudden realization that he was married to my old therapist...a therapist who changed my life and was integral to one of my first major synchronicities in 2011, a turning point in my life which I wrote about here (in the post I referred to my therapist as a friend--she was the one who told me I was between a rock and a hard place and also the one who had recommended Lerner's book).

On July 4th I got to attend a party and sit down with my colleague and my old therapist.  I gave her a book about the use of synchronicity in therapy and a letter describing the role she had played in my transformation.  I was eager to sit down with my colleague after the party and find out if I had embarrassed him or caused any awkwardness.  But he was on vacation the week of the 4th and I was at a conference the week of the 11th.  Yesterday was our first chance to chat since the party.  He stopped by my office.  He was overwhelmed and stressed out and couldn't stay long to talk.  We decided to meet for coffee later in the week when he had more time.  I rambled on about something silly as he stood outside my office door...he was in a hurry to get on to the next thing.  I wish I had focused and stuck to something more meaningful.  I wish I had offered him something to get him to relax and be happy on his last day.

This morning my colleague was hit by a car while riding his bike.  He died this morning.

I didn't find out until after 11 this morning.  On my way in to work at 7:40 I was driving in on the road where the accident had happened an hour before.  It was on a busy highway right outside his neighborhood and the road was closed so I had to backtrack to get to work by another route.  Several hours later I got an email announcing the tragedy.  After some moments of shock I decided to go home early.

I returned by the road where the accident occurred.  I pulled over and picked a bouquet of wildflowers.  I walked out towards the road and suddenly felt afraid because the cars were coming past so fast and I didn't want to cause a second tragedy.  I stopped at the intersection and laid the bouquet on the ground on the corner...but they weren't enough...I couldn't tell where the accident had happened...there were no skid marks so I didn't know if I was putting them in the right place.  I had a vision of picking the entire field of black eyed susans, which were in full bloom at the edge of his neighborhood, and covering both shoulders of the road over the 300 foot distance where he might have been hit.  I wanted his wife to know that she was not alone in her mourning.  A few minutes later it started to rain.  I got back in my car and started to drive one last time over the road where it had happened.  And then I went home to try to work out what it all means...because there must be some layer of meaning hidden in this story.  Some reason why I reconnected with my old therapist 4 or 5 years after I last saw her; connected via her husband in the same month she became a widow.        

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Synchs have not stopped

Sorry for my long absence.  I just wanted to make a quick note that my life is still full of synchronicity.   Since I last wrote I found my dream job in a seriously synchronous way--and it happened just a few weeks after getting rejected for another job which I thought was going to be perfect for me (I wrote about it in a previous post).  Even my skeptical husband pointed out how weird the circumstances were.  I have now been in the job for two years and have grown so much as a person that I can hardly recognize the new me.

Today a huge synch hit me and nearly knocked the wind out of me.  It was so awesome.  I've met many people at my job and connected really well with many colleagues.  One in particular that I always seem to be able to have an awesome conversation with is a professor of psychology.  Yesterday we met for coffee and I told him that I liked chatting with him because it was like therapy for me.  And he replied that I get what I pay for because he's an experimental psychologist, not a clinical psychologist.  He's mentioned to me that his wife is an introvert and doesn't like to attend parties or go out and I've been musing for the last few months that I wish she liked hanging out because it would be fun to get to know her.  Meanwhile I've also been reading a new book about synchronicity written by a therapist who believes the experiences are non-mystical creative breakthroughs from our own minds.  The author advocates for the use and discussion of synchronicity in therapy.  (I love the book so more on that later).  As I've been reading the book I've been thinking about reaching out to my old therapist who was involved in one of my very first synchs to share it with her.  And I've been wanting to get to know her on a personal level rather than as my therapist.  Today the pieces all fell together when I saw my colleagues wife's name on a party RSVP and realized that she is my old therapist!!!  Whom I adore.  (Of course I'm also a bit concerned about patient privacy as well...).

Update July 5, 2016: So, I saw my old therapist at the party the week after writing this post, and sat down with her and her husband (my colleague).  I told him that she was a fantastic therapist.  I gave her a letter detailing the original synch and a copy of the book.  She told me that she was happy for me--that she'd seen my name on an announcement when I first started my current job two years ago and has known all along and been happy for me, but hasn't been able to mention it to her husband.  I can't imagine how hard it is to maintain patient confidentiality and to have to block off a piece of yourself and your experiences and not be able to share everything.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A four-year old's way of knowing

I've written in the past about synchronicities involving my four-year old son.  My son is very perceptive in general and this weekend he has again blown me away--this time by inspiring me to continue learning to cook.

My husband is a great cook who can whip up a nutritious dinner out of nothing and I am a very insecure cook who has learned almost everything I know in the kitchen directly from him.

Every once in a while I will get into a cooking-kick--once when I checked out Anna Venturi's "Secrets from an Italian Kitchen" from the library, once when I began following recipes from Rick Bayless' "Everyday Mexican" and for several years using my husband's recipes.  I've been taking a MOOC the last two or three weeks (Just Cook--Child Nutrition & Cooking) which has kicked me into action in the kitchen again.

On a coworker's suggestion, I checked out Aaron Sanchez's recipes, and printed off his recipe for Birria on Friday.  My husband LOVES birria--it is basically meat in broth I suppose, but it is the food frequently eaten for big celebrations and/or on weekends in his town.  For my first Christmas in Mexico, my husband got a goat and had birria prepared for the celebration.  I've never attempted to cook it, and I don't think my husband has either.  So when I saw the recipe, I figured I would surprise him.

On Friday night I spent hours preparing the soup--having fun and making a bit of a mess.  There were a few things that seemed strange--the salsa ingredients included A LOT of onions, had the tomatoes "cored & quartered" BEFORE charring, and none of the veggies got very charred or even cooked after the recommended time under the broiler.  The ancho chile in the ingredient list was not mentioned in the preparation instructions and there didn't seem to be a sufficient number of guajillos to make a "deep-red stew" as described by Sanchez.  And what's more, the recipe made an overwhelming amount of Chile Colorado salsa--far more than I can use before it goes bad.  But I tried to follow the instructions as written, thinking that it would all come together in the end.

By 11 PM it was done and I unveiled the soup, but the reception I got was not at all what I had expected.  My husband turned his nose up at it.  First, it didn't look like birria to him.  There was too much water and who had ever heard of tomatillos in birria?  "Where is this Sanchez guy from?" he asked.  He's from Agua Prieta, right on the border, but grew up in the US.  The soup had two kinds of meat--beef stew meat and pork ribs.  And my husband was highly skeptical--he'd never heard of anyone putting PORK in birria.  He eventually ate some of the beef and said the meat was good, but wouldn't touch the soup itself.

But my son, who rarely eats anything I cook, and always takes his cues from my husband about what is good, decided to eat the beef.  "Yum, this is sooo good--can you cook this again for me mama?"  I couldn't believe it--was this really my son talking?  After that, I didn't feel so bad.  And, even though my husband didn't like the soup, I thought it tasted fine.  Maybe it wasn't birria, but it was still pretty good--besides all the onions and chunks of garlic floating around in it.

Now this is usually how my cooking kicks end.  I give up after a marathon cooking session which ends in disappointment.  But this time, bolstered by my son's praise, I pushed through.  I woke up this morning, feeling a bit down and cranky about food.  I wandered around trying to decide what to do with myself and decided to scrub all my pots and pans and start a load of dishes--erase all the negativity I felt about the failed birria.  When my son went in to wash his hands he said "Wow, the kitchen looks so nice and clean!"  Again, my son was pushing me back to feeling better.  

We finished the meat from the birria for lunch.  For dinner, I went back to the basic stir fry recipe I learned in my MOOC: garlic and onion sauteed until aromatic + whatever veggies you have on hand, stir, pour in soy sauce and oyster or plum sauce, serve.  Easy, quick, creative, healthy, and fun.  I enjoyed it so much that I made it twice today.