Category Archives: Wellness

Timer Done!

When I meet someone new I like to preface our acquaintanceship by telling them that my life is one long string of awkward events. The reason being that I feel the need to justify the next utterance I speak, the next step I take, or the next situation in which I find myself because I just know it will be, well…awkward.

It’s not that I can’t carry on normal conversation or that I am clumsy. Rather, I tend to over-analyze every word I speak, every move I make and every situation in which I partake to a point where I slap the awkard label on everything in order to conceal the social anxiety I’m feeling. And I really do mean everything. It seems I can’t ever seem to figure out the best thing – or most normal thing – to say or do in a given situation, the problem being that the majority of situations are not a given – they just happen. And they seem to just happen more and more to me.

Although I constantly receive comments about how mature and put together I appear, on the inside I feel like a rubber band ball overgrown so big that I can’t even determine which band to pull off first to relieve some of the stress. In college, while other students could casually stroll into class two minutes late or walk out of class mid-lecture to use the restroom, I would have rather died or peed my pants before disrupting class, which you know would have resulted in 50 pairs of eyes focused on me. Don’t even try to tell me no one notices.

Looking back on it now, peeing my pants would have caused a much more embarrassing scene and yet, the thought of it still wasn’t enough to will me out my chair. I’ve tried to blame it on 13 years of private Catholic school where we were punished for being tardy and forbidden from going to the bathroom during class, the only exception being that if there was absolutely no way to hold it in then only one and one person only could go at a time. You can imagine my shock on the first day of college at the absence of a bell ringing, the emptiness of the wall near the door where a bathroom pass should dangle, and the audacity of that student going to the bathroom while someone else had already left the classroom to do the same thing.


 

My older friends always told me that by the time they reached their mid-20s, they felt secure with who they were and that they didn’t feel as awkward in their skin as they did as a teenager or young adult; despite having 25 years of age, I realized today that I still bear the scars of structure that Catholic school imposed and that I still feel equally as anxious.

Today, what happened, was that a Deer Park Water service technician came out to exchange our office kitchen’s misbehaving water cooler. Of course, he arrived at noon on the dot with just under 4 minutes to go on the toaster oven timer counting down to my perfectly crispy frozen pizza lunch. I immediately became agonizingly aware of the gravity of the situation at hand: the timer would sound at exactly the moment the service guy was bent over, plumber’s crack exposed, in the middle of the exchange. If only kitchen timers were designed to stop alarming on their own; then, I would have sat at my desk, found comfort in knowing the timer would only annoy the service guy for 3 beeps, and let the pizza burn. But no, the Cuisinart engineers couldn’t provide me that luxury; thus, it happened that I pulled up my big girl panties, rose to the occasion, entered the kitchen head held high, owned up to cooking the pizza and excused myself. That was that.

After the incident I sat at my desk eating lunch trying to figure out why I had experienced anxiety over something so irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The guy didn’t even flinch when I walked in but I was so worried about disturbing him. Why? Is it because I’m a people-pleaser afraid of upsetting someone’s flow? Do I not know how to voice my needs? I mean, a girl’s got to eat. Or, what if the situation were reversed? Would I have moved out of the way with a smile? Or would I have huffed and puffed and rolled my eyes at the person trying to retrieve lunch for the day? Maybe it’s not that  everyone else will judge me. Maybe it’s me who judges everyone else. And being familiar with the judgments that go through my mind, could I be living in fear that others will make those same judgments about me?

Or it could be that I know Psychology all too well, fated – no, cursed – to analyze every human thought, action and interaction that ever was.

One thing is certain: I am the common denominator. It’s me who is present in every awkward situation. I am the one that harbors anxious thoughts and it is only me who can turn that anxiety into something productive – the one with the power to stop over-thinking and start doing.

It’s kind of like writing a blog post…sometimes you have to stop editing yourself over and over and just click “Publish”.

 

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Sometimes the best way to come up with an idea to write about is to just start writing. When I saw the Weekly Challenge prompt to write a fifty-word story, that’s exactly what I did. Here’s a fifty-word story about doing yoga:


 

Let go I repeated to myself, facedown, hands rooted into the mat, arms at a ninety degree angle, both knees resting on triceps, one timid tippy toe still on the ground, the other hanging in the air, determined to settle into Crow if only for one breath before falling out.


 

(photo credits: http://www.YogaTrail.com, uploaded by Ella O.)

That One Time: Signs You’re Dealing with Abuse

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Three years ago my therapist told me I was in an abusive relationship.

I didn’t believe her.

I didn’t have bruises on my arms, my face or my legs and my boyfriend had never hit me. Yes, there was that one time he punched a hole in the shoddy wooden door in his dorm room, and that one time he pushed me up against the graffiti-covered metal door of a closed storefront in West Philly when we were in the middle of a fight, and that one time he slapped my hand for picking up his phone to check the time. But each of those things only happened that one time.

I did not, by any means, feel abused.

But I should have.

The signs aren’t always as obvious as a black and blue mark. The signs are subtle – so subtle that they often go unnoticed by even the smartest most insightful people.

The following list is an attempt to help others recognize signs of an abuser that I wish had realized sooner than three years into a relationship.

1. He will knock you down to pick you up: sometimes literally, other times not. He will find what pulls on your heart strings and take over as puppeteer in order to get under your skin. He will then use this power to bring you to your lowest point. The minute the tears begin to well in your eyes he will tell you not to cry. He will tell you that everything will be okay because you have him there to fix things or help you be who you want to be because…

2. He is always the hero: and without him? Well, you would be lost. There you would stay crying on the bathroom floor if it weren’t for him to pick you up, wipe your tears and bring you back to bed to finally get some sleep.

3. He will make you feel guilty: unnecessarily so. Did you go out with your friends for margaritas during the week? Did you friend another guy on Facebook? Because if so, he will ask you if you did even if he already knows that you did and he will ask you why you did it. Note, no answer will be reasonable. Did you order his burger medium-well because you couldn’t remember if he likes his meat bloody or burnt? Because if you tried to do something nice for him like have dinner waiting for him when he got home, well then he will yell at you because you should have ordered his burger rare. How did you not know that he NEVER eats his meat anywhere close to well-done? But when you try to play the questions game with him, you’ll never get anywhere because…

4. He will do whatever he wants, whenever he wants: he’s allowed to after all because he can do no wrong and he definitely doesn’t have to answer to you. He will go golfing all day Saturday and Sunday, show up late for dinner and expect you to be there waiting for him with open arms. He can go out with his fraternity brothers, text you incoherently, flirt with other girls and you best not say a peep about it lest you want to start a battle you will ultimately lose.

5. He will make you question your sanity: because you are the crazy one, not him. He will be so far inside your head that you’ll start to believe him when he tells you you’re the one to blame for his sudden outbursts or unexpected withdraw from the relationship. No, it has nothing to do with his general unhappiness with his own life but has everything to do with how crazy you are and thus how crazy you make him. You’re the reason things were never going to work out.

6. He doesn’t give second chances: because it’s always too late. He will tell you what you should have done differently but not until he’s already out the door – that if you had only turned left when he told you to turn left then he wouldn’t be leaving you. But you went and turned right instead so, now it’s over.

And the cycle will repeat that one time and that one time over again.

You Are Here

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I am here but I want to be there; I am there but I want to be here.

You are here, I have to constantly remind myself.

More than half of my short life has revolved around trying to figure out how to get where I’m not: Philly? Boring. On to New York City. New York City? Claustrophobic. Back to Philly. Philly Round 2? Proud to call it home. But what’s next? Anywhere in the United States won’t do. I need to go to Europe…but only after making a 2 month pit stop in Nashville.

You are here.

But here doesn’t feel like where I am. Sure, my body might be physically here but my mind has already hopped on board a flight to Three Months From Now. And let me tell you, Three Months From Now is starting to feel too real, especially since what started as an improbable dream 3 years ago has now turned into a reality better than what I created in my imagination.

You see, for the past 3 years I’ve been desperately trying to find a way to live and work in Europe. So desperate that after searching for opportunities abroad fell short, I convinced myself I’d be able to get Irish citizenship: Pop Pop’s father was born in Ireland, right? Check. So Pop Pop automatically gets citizenship? Ok, getting closer. Dad can apply for citizenship then I can apply for citizenship when dad gets it – yes! Done and done. Oh wait, what’s that? Dad would have had to have applied for citizenship BEFORE I was 18. UGH DAD! Why didn’t you foresee my desperate need to go abroad and plan ahead???  Depression ensued.

You are here.

That was the last straw. I put my quest on hold and spent some time focusing on more achievable goals. And guess what? That’s when I truly started to be comfortable with being here. I focused on things I love – songwriting, music, yoga – and started spending time with friends and family in a way that was more mindful (e.g. storing my phone in my purse for an entire meal). Bit by bit, here started to feel like home. Dare I say I started to feel happy in the space I was occupying.

But as any good Pisces knows, it’s all too easy to get lost in Dream World and so the itch to live abroad came back, this time with a vengeance because now, time was running short. At the age of 25 with 30 in the not-so-distant future, it seemed like the last and best chance to quit my almost-big-girl job with benefits and go to England to teach for a year.

And now that it’s all happening Three Months From Now, I’m freaking out. While I have a knack for dreaming, I also have a knack for over-thinking; I can’t help but be anxiously excited and wonder if I’m making the best move,

if I will be just as happy there

if I will miss here.

When It’s Cold

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The spiral into sadness happens rapidly without warning when it’s cold. With wintry air comes slippery sidewalks, layers on layers of clothing, and ice cold feet. All I want is to be able to walk down the street uninhibited by bulky boots, mounds of dirty slush, and the Winter Blues. I want to wear my favorite flow-y floral dress without worrying if I’m warm enough. I want to be free, not cooped up in a stuffy office breathing in moldy air while competing in a staring contest with a computer. 

A break sounds nice. Ah, yes, some fresh air always does some good. But it’s too cold to go outside; the sun is useless. So there I sit planted, reminded by the automatic shut off feature of my space heater that I’ve spent too much time at my desk – too much time procrastinating, shopping for the best deal to a place where the sun shines effectively but too afraid to place the order. And although I’m frozen in time, my mind still races:

Where am I going to find the energy to play this open mic tonight?… …Straight hair or curly? …Am I taking care of myself? …Should I do cardio or weights? Or yoga? No, spin …What the hell is her problem? …Where did I leave my keys? …Do I still have to get a gift for my ex-boyfriend’s sister-in-law whose baby shower I was un-invited to because my ex and his new girlfriend of 2 years are drama queens? …Should I move to Nashville for a few months before moving to England? …Will it all work out? …How and when should I promote my new album (who even makes the CDs?)?…  …Exactly how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? 

Je ne sais pas. idk. I dunno. Who knows. No. freaking. clue.

I’m too frozen to move, too cold to think, and too iced to deal. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in bed hibernating, hoping that the answers to my questions come to me at the first sign of Spring when the sun warms worries and turns gray fuzzy thoughts into sharp insights.

Because when it’s cold I just can’t.

Troubleshooting

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There is no troubleshooting life. There is no Help Wizard. And unfortunately, I’m not savvy enough to make the error messages in my head disappear. I keep clicking the little x in the top left corner of the box but the same message reappears: Something is off. Yes, as a matter of fact, I would like more information. What is that something and where is the on/off switch?

This is my first attempt at really writing. I’ve been writing songs for over a year now but the thoughts circuiting my brain have grown too large to be limited to 3 minutes and 30 seconds. I need more space and time to figure out how to turn that something off on – that thing inside me that is off but has somehow had enough power to hold me back.

Writing seems to be the only thing that can move me forward when my system fails. I can ignore it all I want – read advice columns, play silly games, or click the minimize box – but the error message remains, blinking in my toolbar until I face it head on. The only Force Quit option is to write…to open the documents slowly, sift through the data, and spit out words that offer an explanation, even if they only make sense to me.

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Every model is different – I have to keep telling myself that. I’m an upgraded version from who I was two years ago and he is completely different than my old worn out hard drive. He doesn’t overheat when things get hard, freeze when he’s tired, or crash when he simply can’t take it anymore; he is a quality, reliable find. Still, I can’t help but remember what happened with the old machine every time I stroked a key too hard or raised my voice because it just.  wasn’t.  working. I will never forget how he gave up and threatened to leave me alone so many times.

The scars are stored, buried now under new layers of happiness, but filed forever nonetheless. All it takes is one simple search item followed by a strike of the return key to recover them and I can’t will my fingers to stop. I tell my mind to quit dwelling in past folders but it won’t obey my commands. Instead, it processes new input by comparing past and present data and uses it to predict the future. These faulty analyses will not hold up long term. They can’t. Of course the past can be helpful for learning, but it can also be destructive if we wallow in it.

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I refuse to wallow. I’d rather troubleshoot with words.