Recently, I was getting a massage and the masseuse was having some trouble getting me to relax my shoulder muscles. She tried placing a warm pouch on them for a while, then she tried using balm to heat them up, but nothing seemed to help. At one point, she told me very simply “Your shoulder muscles are in deep anticipation of what I might do to them, try and let them relax”.
I’d like to be able to report that from that moment onwards I was able to breathe deep and release all the tension, so that the massage could continue satisfyingly, but what really happened is that even when actively trying to relax, my muscles remained tense and only by working her magic could the masseuse slowly reduce the tension a little, by the end of the one hour appointment.
Since then, I’ve had the sentence “deep anticipation” resounding in my head. It was like finally putting words on what has basically become my default way of living life. I am pretty much in “deep anticipation” about everything, good or bad: catching a flight, an upcoming work meeting (even the most trivial ones), going to the theatre, meeting with friends… I wish I was more carefree, but somehow I find myself reflecting beforehand on what it may be like, making sure I have timings right, playing it out in my mind, wondering if I will have enough energy, fearing unexpected hurdles… Perfectionism and control making me feel I need to do things according to high (unrealistic?) standards, instead of just relaxing and trusting I can handle things as they come. I still enjoy things, but I’d like to feel a bit less anxious and it would do me good to keep my “deep anticipation” for the few moments when it can really be of service.
So now when I find my mind going into what I know refer to as “deep-anticipation mode”, I’m trying to breathe and remind myself that “IT WILL WORK” (my words for 2019) and that even if it doesn’t go as planned, no amount of anticipation will ease what will happen. It’s a daily practise, a kind of awareness building leading to kindness to myself, permission not to be “on” all the time trying to be in control of everything. Let’s see how it goes.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #131
In August last year when I was on the edge or in burnout, everything felt like too much. I wanted to do fun things that interested me, but I just had no mental space for anything except the bare minimum (which was pretty much only work). I realised this week that in the last months I’m starting to find more joy again in extra activities, like boxing, and helping colleagues who are performing the gender scan in our organisation, and of course writing…
I want to stop and appreciate how far I’ve come and how much better I feel, especially since there were moments when I deeply feared I would never feel like I had energy again. It’s not perfect, I still experience nights where I lie awake too long or anxious mornings, but I feel like by being more mindful of self-care, I’ve managed to carve out some space for the things that I enjoy or spark my curiosity. These activities do take some energy, but in return they also give me satisfaction and a feeling of contributing with my input and voice to a slightly lighter and more joyful world.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #129
I am grateful for an intense and satisfying week in my new position at work. It was one of those weeks where you start out feeling very uncertain and clueless and then look back flabbergasted at how much you learned over the course of the last few days (whilst at the same time becoming more aware of how much there still is to figure out!)
This week I consciously tried to shift from that inner-voice that repeats like a broken record “I have no idea how to do this, what if I don’t manage and let them down!!!” to “what is the next small step I could take to move this forward? I’m curious how that will pan out”.
This is a major change for me. It starts with getting really mindful about how I am feeling, especially when anxiety holds me in its grip, making me double guess everything. It takes deep breathing and scraggly morning pages (or should I call them morning rants?) scrawled hurriedly on the tram in my green moleskine notebook. It takes the leap of faith to just show up every day, believing IT WILL WORK… and in the end, it turns out having that approach brings just a little more ease to everything.
And now, some quiet time on the weekend, to process all this info and emotions:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #124
I am sitting on my sofa, with the sun streaming through the wide-open window, warming my skin and I am wondering what to write about today. After a few false starts where I type and delete a couple of paragraphs, I decide to consult my angel cards and see if they have any suggestion about what I should focus on. I shuffle the cards carefully and choose one of the 80 glossy cards from the tiny stack spread out in my left palm, I turn it over and… the word on the card is GRATITUDE! Hahaha, OK, so much for that;) I guess it is a luxury problem not to know what to concentrate my gratitude on.
So here are a few things from the past days that I am particularly grateful for:
- having time to write Morning Pages at home while drinking coffee (and feeling light anxiety release its grip when I lean into it and write out my thoughts, making the day ahead so much easier)
- seeing a gripping and original play about 9/11 terrorist attacks (and the subsequent discussions with Paolo about it)
- gorgeous sunshine (and enjoying a lovely walk with a dear colleague and her son, discovering favorite spots in their neighbourhood)
- attending an intimate Q&A with author Kristen Roupenian (and learning all about her approach to the craft of writing, extremely inspiring!)
- keeping up the rhythm of writing two pages per week (and getting precious feedback from Paolo about which parts work and how to move the piece forward)
Wishing you all a great weekend!
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of writing: daily Morning Pages, writing here twice a week and weekly exercises for my creative writing course. All this writing takes time and effort, whether I am scribbling away in my journal on tram 24 on the way to work (often finishing my third page on a bench in the one heated corridor of Amsterdam Central station) or whether I am typing away and editing on my computer sitting on the sofa (or squatting Paolo’s desk, my favorite spot in the early afternoon with the sun warming my back).
Next to that I’ve realised recently that I’m finally starting to feel less anxiety, after many rough months. There are several reasons for that: less work pressure, results of getting to know myself and my boundaries better through therapy, better self-care… but I am convinced that writing is one of the key factors leading to this improvement.
When I write I am most often in flow, that magic state where I don’t feel time passing, ideas are coming naturally and I’m problem-solving in a concentrated state. Especially with creative writing, I seem to lighten up and find myself having a little fun with the process, not so worried about the results.
It’s up to me to choose what I focus on, and these days I prefer not to spend my energy worrying about whether what I said in that meeting might be misinterpreted or other petty concerns, when instead I can enjoy the challenge of coming up with a two-page text based on nothing less than Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, using a similar omniscient god-like storyteller narrator… Life is a question of priorities;)