Why is it so Hard?

Before I get started, get your mind out of the gutter! 

In all seriousness, why do we make things seem as if they are so difficult? Well, because they are! Duh!! 

Actually, no, they aren’t. They can be anything you want them to be. In my case for this episode, I’m going to talk about work and life in general. Now, I know that there are genuinely some problematic aspects to life; I’m not denying that. What I am referring to are the things that we can control and how we react to everything in life.

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Episode 19: Why is it so Hard?

Failing Imperfectly
Episode 19: Why is it so Hard?
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Why is life so difficult? Why can’t we just get a break? There are things about life that we cannot help, but there are so many that we can. I’ll tell you how I am working to overcome my mindset about the difficulties in life.

Fear of the Unknown

Since I opened the door to talking about mental health, I want to continue on that theme and talk about fear, specifically, my fear of the unknown. In his paper published in ScienceDirect titled Fear of the unknown: One fear to rule them all?, R. Nicholas Carleton defines the fear of the unknown as “an individual’s propensity to experience fear caused by the perceived absence of information at any level of consciousness or point of processing”. Why do I want to talk about this? Because it is something that triggers my anxiety and I’m sure it also affects some of you in one way or another.

I recently realized that I was experiencing my fear of the unknown and challenged myself to push against it. I am a beginner with landscape photography, but when I’m in nature experiencing it, I love taking pictures of scenes that nourish my soul. Someday I would love to be good enough to sell some of my photography. But I can’t do that if I don’t get out into nature to take the pictures to edit. Once it dawned on me that I need to get outdoors more to get better at taking pictures, I set a goal to go into nature at least one day per month every month of the year. I know that when it is warm enough to camp again, I will be taking more, but during the winter, I don’t get out much. 

The first weekend I set that I was going to go out, I didn’t because it was supposed to be overcast. I used the clouds as an excuse instead of a feature in whatever pictures I could have taken. The second weekend in January that I said I was going, I woke up and decided that I wasn’t going to go because it was partly cloudy. There was that excuse again. 

Those aren’t the only times I’ve made excuses to not get my ass into nature and enjoy the beauty that lights my soul on fire. It happens all of the time. Getting into nature isn’t the only thing I’ve made excuses for lately either. It happens for stupid shit around the house and for things as simple as taking the dogs for a walk. 

As I was laying in bed telling myself that it was okay that I didn’t go out into the cold for pictures of things I didn’t know I would encounter in cloudy conditions I realized what the real issue was. I was running into my fear of the unknown. I immediately identified it as anxiety, but I wasn’t getting the typical anxiety response that I get. It was fear of not knowing what I would encounter or experience or fully knowing how I was getting to the place I had an idea of going.

Fear of the unknown is a real thing that we experience. Sometimes it leads to more intense anxiety responses such as panic attacks. R. Nicholas Carleton posited that fear of the unknown is a fundamental fear. So how do we manage this fundamental fear? R. Nicholas Carleton didn’t provide specific things to help, but I can tell you what helped me that morning I was giving into a cloudy day.

The first thing I had to do was identify what was happening, and I did. The next thing I did was run through the what-if’s. What if you don’t go? What if you do go? What if you don’t find what you are looking for? What if you find more than you are looking for? What if it is crowded? What if you are the only person there? What if getting up and going this one time gives me the confidence to go next month or even next weekend?

I ran through the what-ifs and realized that all I was doing was holding myself back. And so I made a deal with myself. I told myself that if I get up and do my meditating and journaling and then go, I can stop and get an Americano on the way out. It was a simple cheap thing that I rewarded myself with for pushing past the fear. 

I had to challenge myself. I am competitive and a little competition with myself made my plans happen. And the best reward of it all was getting an absolutely beautiful sunrise and being able to play with settings and my drone. I realized on my way home that I’ve been succumbing to my fear of the unknown for quite some time. It’s with stupid little things like walking our two dogs by myself. Or doing something without my husband. I actually think I’ve become kind of codependent. That’s neither here nor there though. I’ve succumbed to my fear of the unknown with other things like reaching out to people to have different conversations that we normally do or reaching out to family members that make no effort to reach out to me.

My fear of the unknown holds me back. It held me back for almost a year with starting my podcast. I was afraid of what I didn’t know about how to create and post a podcast. Of course, I’m also afraid of failure, but that is a secondary fear for me.

What unknowns are you letting your fear hold you back from? Have you identified them? Are you open to identifying them? Why not?

Open your mind and start figuring out what is holding you back. If it is your fear of the unknown, then start with my what-if questions, see if those help you. If you are truly paralyzed by your fear or resulting anxiety, please ask for help. You are not alone and there are things you can do to overcome your fear. It can be done, little by little.

Episode 14: Fear of the Unknown

Failing Imperfectly
Episode 14: Fear of the Unknown
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My fear of the unknown holds me back from so much in my life. I recently realized this with a specific event and want to share how I overcame that fear.

My Love Hate Relationship

I’ve talked in multiple other posts about when I quite alcohol and when I quit quitting. Ever since I decided to quit quitting, I’ve allowed myself to imbibe responsibility and in drastically smaller quantities than prior to taking about a year off. But, even with the lower quantities, I have realized something, my body and taste buds are not on the same page. I have a love hate relationship with alcoholic beverages.

I love the flavor of wine and some mixed drinks. I really liked the flavor of select craft brew seltzers. My body does not like the effects of alcohol. In fact, my body hates it. I’m not talking about hangovers or headaches or the typical effects you hear about. I’m talking about the whole body inflammation and increased anxiety that I get. I didn’t realize these were a thing until I all of a sudden had a drastic increase in them.

It took some time to realize that the alcohol is what is making these things worse. One of the worst ide effects is with my endometriosis. All of a sudden, the pain has started coming back and in the oddest time of the month. I couldn’t figure out why my uterus started hating me again. My joint stiffness and pain increased. My resting anxiety level (not a medical term) is drastically higher. My bloated feeling just won’t go away.

The only thing that has really changed is that I brought alcoholic beverages back into my life. This love hate relationship is really annoying because I can’t find gluten free, non-alcoholic beverages in Utah like I’ve heard other parts of the country has. I would love to have all of the delicious drinks I love without the alcohol included.

Does this mean I’m going to completely quit again? Probably not, but I won’t be drinking a glass of wine just because I feel like it. I’ll reserve drinking to special occasions or random date nights out (whenever those return). I will absolutely make myself virgin bloody mary’s because they are absolutely delicious. I will still cook with wine or other alcohols. But, you won’t find me just sipping on an alcoholic beverage because it is Friday and I can. I need to get rid of this inflammation and anxiety. Life was so much better without it.

Taking Up Space

Just like most people my age, or even those older than me, I was told that kids are not meant to be heard. I was yelled at for running, for stomping, for being too loud, for being bossy, for almost everything. Because of that, I developed a complex. I new that if I was noticed in whatever I was doing, I was doing something wrong and I was taking up too much space. Everything about my life was about everybody else because I got the worst anxiety attacks if I felt that I was ever the center of attention. To say it was uncomfortable, rather to say it is uncomfortable, is putting it mildly.

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I Have a Lot of Empathy

What is empathy and how do I know if I have it? Is it really something I can “have?”

According to Psychology Today, empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character. Empathy is not to be confused with sympathy. Sympathy is the feeling of concern for another person or a desire for the other person to be happier. When a person exhibits empathy, they are feeling the grief or sadness or angst of another person. When a person is sympathetic, they are recognizing the feelings the other person is having and are wishing that person well. You can by both sympathetic and empathetic at the same time, but they are not interchangeable.

Yes, empathy is something that every person can have. Empathy is something that is generally developed as children. There are some people who do not know how to be empathetic and then there are the empaths who are so empathetic that they sometimes aren’t able to distinguish an empathetic feeling from a personal feeling. People can have a lot of empathy and still may not be true empaths.

Those of us who are empaths struggle with the feelings of others’ situations taking over our life. We may end up with anxiety or depression. For example, I am an empath who has to cautiously determine what shows or movies I watch because I take on the stress or pain of the characters. I really enjoyed watching Sons of Anarchy years ago, but my empathetic response left me feeling extremely stressed the rest of my day. I had to stop watching the show. This was the first true example of recognizing what was happening to me that I could identify as a trigger. Even still today, I started watching Outlander and had to pause and maybe even stop because of the reaction I was having to the show.

Shows are just one example. When my friend lost her father recently, I took on the pain and feelings and emotions of losing a wonderful father. It was as though I personally lost a father. Maybe it didn’t help that my dad had just overdosed and proved how far gone he is. Either way, I had a rough few days around my friend’s father’s passing.

When my friend’s are going through hell, I am right there in hell with them. When family is struggling, I am struggling too. I absorb the feelings of what other’s around me are experiencing and experience it with them. This is not something intentional that I do. In fact, I don’t know how to minimize it or even prevent it. I have not learned of any method of potential control over my empathetic response.

So, how do you tell the difference between having a lot of empathy and being an empath? It may be simple, it may not. I truly believe there are different levels of empathy and different levels of being an empath. If you are at all concerned that your level of empathy for others is causing issues in your life, I recommend speaking with a professional. As for me, right now I can generally identify when it is happening and I can work with it.

Empathy is important in our lives and in our society. I wish more people were just a bit more empathetic towards others. We might see more people caring for other’s and helping each other more.

Live in The Moment

I’m sure you’ve had someone tell you this a time or two. Or you’ve been the one telling someone else. Is living in the moment easy for you? It is, then this post may only help you understand those of us who can’t. If living in the moment is a struggle for you, you are not alone my friend. This is one of the most difficult things for me to do in life.

Glennon Doyle summarized it perfectly in this explanation in Untamed:

It’s just that living with anxiety — living alarmed — makes it impossible to enter the moment, to land inside my body and be there. I cannot be in the moment because I am too afraid of what the next moment will bring. I have to be ready.

Living alarmed.

Those two words explain so much about my life without going into great detail. I live alarmed and on edge every single day. I have to be ready. I have to be prepared. I have to know what is coming next so I can be ready for it.

I have to be observant and watchful.

I have to be inconspicuous and calm.

I have to divert the crisis that is about to happen.

I cannot live in the moment and enjoy it because I have to be ready for the next moment that is almost surely going to be some sort of disaster.

Anxiety tells me that something bad is always going to happen next and that I need to be prepared to control it. I need to be prepared to take action. Anxiety leaves me living in constant vigilance of what is coming next.

Not just next in the next second. Next in the next minute. In the next hour. In the next day. In the next month. In the next year. In the next five years. In the next eternity. Whatever is next, I have to be ready.

Spontaneous fun? No, that is not acceptable. I can’t be prepared for it.

Just chilling and hanging out. Mmm maybe but I’m still going to be considering what is coming next once I stop chilling. Also, this must be planned. It cannot be spontaneous.

Why does everything just want to be spontaneous and live in the moment when there is surely something that will go wrong?!

Because they are wired differently.

It doesn’t mean we are bad people because we can’t live as free as they can. I know we have times that life seems easy and spontaneity is possible and living in the moment is possible. We can all get there occasionally. But when we can’t, we are in a constant state of panic.

Some people call us high-strung. They are wrong. We are sensitive people who just want to make sure everyone we love with be alright. And that everything is put away where it goes and done exactly as we think it should be. That’s how we stay safe.

Living in the moment sounds delightful and terrifying at the same time. If you live or are around one of us who carries anxiety with us, give us a little grace as we navigate spontaneity and working to live in the moment. We are working through more than you can see on the outside. We are struggling and happy at the same time, most of the time.

Living in the moment will work for us sometimes and not others. It is nothing against you, it is merely how we are wired. We are working through it. We are struggling. We are overcoming. Take our hand and help us through it without condemnation or some smartass comment. That doesn’t help.

We want to live in the moment, but we also want to hide from the moment so we can prepare for the next one.

Why Am I Stressed?

I have been asking myself this a lot lately and haven’t been able to put my finger on a specific answer. Then I get more stressed because I can’t figure it out. Stress is a vicious cycle for me that comes out towards others. Stress is a battle I have fought all of my life and will continue to fight every single day. For me, stress is like bad heartburn that never leaves.

But it isn’t just stress. My stress enables and exaggerates my anxiety. When I’m stressed, I snap about things that aren’t perfect or my anxiety about what might go wrong or who I’m offending is quick to escalate. A lot of people say “get over it, just relax” and I wish I could. I fight every single day trying to figure out how to just chill out. I watch other people act like they have absolutely no care in the world and I am almost envious of how easy it is for them. At least it looks easy from my point of view.

Right now, as I’m writing this, why am I stressed? I can’t nail down one specific thing. I feel like it is a smattering of multiple triggers that keep compounding on each other.

Seeing that we are coming out of quarantine, you might think it is because we can’t go anywhere. Nope, I am LOVING staying home. I am an introvert who likes my freedom at home. I mean, I do like to travel, but as I turn internal and search, not traveling is not even bubbling as a potential trigger. But I think I might have just identified one thing from a previous sentence. “My freedom at home.” I haven’t had my freedom at home because I’ve had house guests for over a month. Maybe this is one of my triggers. This introvert hasn’t had her space or things exactly as she wants them in her house so she is triggered.

I did tell Eddie the other day that I am over-peopled. You know, it’s an extension of being over-stimulated but because people have been around too much. I can kick Eddie to the basement or outside or even to a friends’. I can’t boot house guests. It’s not like I don’t like these people, hell, I even love them. I think I’m just coming to a realization that I can only tolerate extra people for so long and then I need space. This may sound rude to the house guests, but it isn’t. It is a personality and self-care acknowledgement. I’m not going to boot my house guests at all. I will just space them out a bit further next time they might be here one right after the other.

Work has been so busy that it is definitely a stressor. I feel like I haven’t been able to get anything accomplished even though I have. I know this is one of my stress and anxiety triggers so I am making sure to disconnect and not review every email that comes in after I’ve logged out for the day.

Why am I stressed? I think I found a couple of reasons, but I think there are more. For me there usually are.

While yes, stress is a bad thing for us, we can’t always prevent it. We must work through it and keep going. Or take a break and fully disconnect. Both are necessary, but sometimes only one is possible. The most important thing about being stressed is to work on not living in that stressed feeling. If we can do a little work and a little more to overcome the stress, we will get through it. The day that we live fully in the stress is the day that we start shutting the door to coming out of the stressed mode. Don’t live there. It won’t do you any good.

How do I get unstressed? It depends on what is happening in life. Right now, I am breathing through every moment that I feel the stress coming on and taking over. If I miss the onset, I apologize for the flip out I just had and reflect on how I could have identified it without demeaning myself. I also try to remove the direct stressor or something else to allow more room for whatever is going on. Crying helps too. Let it all out.

Life can be stressful. Life can be beautiful. My life does not exist without both the stress and the beauty. I choose each day to work past the stress to see the beautiful life that I have created.

Inconvenience

What does inconvenience mean to you? Is it about things? Or time? Or ….. you?

Whaaaattt did she just say?

Have you ever felt like you are an inconvenience?

No? It’s just me? Okay…

Well, I want to talk to you about it anyway. A lot of women feel like they are an inconvenience for just about everything. Sometimes we can go days or weeks without the feeling, other times it doesn’t feel like we can’t go minutes without feeling like our existence is an inconvenience.

I’m not early? I’m so sorry I inconvenienced you.

Will you please help me pick that up? Thank you, I’m so sorry for inconviencing you.

No, I’ll be just fine after surgery without extra help. Silently thinking “I don’t want to inconvenience you by letting you help us”.

Why? Why do we feel this way? Chances are it stems from our childhood. There can be many situations we encountered as kids that made us feel this way. Mine, well I was always the child who got in trouble for everything. And my parents relied on absolutely everybody else to take care of them.

Fast forward to me living on my own and going through shit adult life throws at me, and here comes the inconvenience feeling. Over and over again. The most impactful, most recent instance is coupled with my upcoming surgery.

My mother-in-law said she would come help us. I said okay. We went about life and I went through the scheduling process and she planned to help my sister-in-law with the kids during that time. I read the text as she was conflicted so I responded that we would be perfectly fine and not to worry.

Well, her original plan changed for that time, and I felt less than. I did it to myself. She probably felt I didn’t want her around for my surgery when it is the complete opposite. I don’t want to be an inconvenience. I don’t want her to miss on time with her grandkids to sit here and help me get food or pick something up or walk to the bathroom or shower. I don’t want to steal time from her. I also don’t want to rely on anybody for help.

I am a serial avoider of inconveniencing or relying on other people. It makes me feel so, so fucking horrible inside.

Sound similar?

How do we overcome it?

By letting people help. It doesn’t have to be big gestures to start. Something small. Let someone bring a dish the next time you invite them. Let someone help setup chairs for a BBQ. Let someone cook instead of you. Ask for someone to grab you a beverage. Little things can get us used to the feeling. Little things can chip at the wall we have built.

My little thing? I let my husband set the egg plate down for BOTH dogs yesterday. When I fry eggs for breakfast, I always make the dogs one each. We give the eggs to the dogs after we finish our breakfast. We put the dogs plate on the floor, but we go through the sit and stay process to try to teach them manners. I get Chloe and my husband gets Radar. Eddie has offered to take both dogs for many weeks and I keep saying no.

Yesterday I let him. And it killed me. Today I asked him to de-tail the shrimp at the sink so I didn’t have to stand that long.

Inch by inch. That is the only way I can heal and learn how to let others do for me.

When others offer to help or when we occasionly ask for assistance, we aren’t sucking the life out of others. Most of the time, they probably don’t even notice. We only notice because of our fears and anxieties that we haven’t grown through.

To be able to grow, we need to challenge ourselves. I don’t believe there is any such thing that will heal us instantly as if a switch is flipped and we lose our fears and anxieties. I don’t think every method to overcome them works for every person. What I do think is that the only way we will heal is to try. Sometimes trying hurts. That’s okay, try again another time.

In my case, I fear relying on people and being an inconvenience, but I also fear losing those same people. Pushing them away.

Competing fears makes healing more difficult. But with determination and time, with trying different methods, it can be done.

You are not an inconvenience. I am not an inconvenience. We are human and humans need each other. There is a fine line of accepting graciously and abusing kindness of others. Why stay in the dark and push people away when we can accept love?