I Think I’m Getting It But It Doesn’t Feel That Way

                Okay so it’s been a roller coaster of a day. Well not in the sense that anything major has happened (I do have a sick pet that’s stressing me out but in the weird world of layoffs, the world being broke and people dying from a weird d….ok, you know Covid exists I won’t harp on it anymore, but in a personal life it’s more stress than usual in the big picture of society today…it’s not exactly a massive event). I’ve sat in bed and drove a car but internally I’ve been all over the place.

                I ran a couple of errands this morning and I noticed myself just generally more patient. The….interesting driving of Massachusetts residents didn’t really affect me too much. If a person was driving aggressively I empathetically assumed they were going somewhere important and let them float on by like I desperately try to do with my anxious thoughts while the people driving really slow to turn but not using their turn signal I just assumed were in such a calm Zen-like state that who am I to judge. But I found myself being a little more emphatic with my thank you’s and even in a frustrating situation with an emergency vehicle blocking a one way in which I had no out, but I approached calmly and just turned around and finished my trek home.

The fact is my desire to see a world outside myself is coming to fruition….once I actually go outside into it. The problem is with spending so much time inside I sit with my thoughts and, not to belabor the point as the site is LITERALLY CALLED SCARED DUDE…..I worry. A lot. And the theme of the week is how to I defuse from these thoughts but still accept the anxiety. I’m not there yet but I really do feel an acceptance of mindfulness starting to kick in and get strengthened. I’ve found it’s tricky to decipher between thinking you’re being mindful and just being mindful but, and it’s hard to put into words but that’s literally what I’m trying to do so AN EFFORT IS GONNA FRIGGIN’ HAPPEN!!!!! I basically was feeling the world around me. I was getting lost in my senses and because my thoughts weren’t the analytical breakdown of life and a running dialoguge of every possible thing that could go wrong and why it’s gonna fuck me over….I felt good. I was able to feel this for seconds at a time where as a few days ago I could only capture this for brief moments. I don’t expect to ever have a thoughtless mind. I don’t want to have a thoughtless mind. Same with emotions. I don’t ever want them to leave but there was a calmness I felt when it seemed my mind and body were in sync. I hope as time goes on I learn to describe this better because it’s that sensation I am believing to be the entire reason behind meditation and I want more of it.

Hey Anxiety…Let’s Get Along

                What do you know…I’m anxious again. I suppose that’s why I’ve written in a multi year running blog about me being a scared dude.

                I think my biggest mistake as of late is completely viewing anxiety as bad. I know that it isn’t. I’ve come to grips in the past with the fact that it’s not but I guess part of this third phase of meditation and self improvement is that I have to relearn a lot of things since I decided to stop doing them for years.

But anxiety’s literal original purpose is to keep me alive. If I see an alligator it kicks in so I don’t pet it. If my baby is sick I get scared I’ll kill it and go to prison so I make sure to take the baby to the doctor so it doesn’t die. If I see a car driving at me I get scared I’ll die and jump out of the fucking way. Anxiety is literally there to help me survive. Working against it and treating it like an enemy is literally treating a portion of myself as an enemy. So my mindset needs to shift from “Make this motherfucker go away,” to “Hey, thanks buddy for helping me live BUUUUUUUUT can you tone it down a bit?” So in this last 30 minutes I’m really, really exploring ways to accept it but tone it down. It’s hard because an attempt to tone it down can literally be an act of denying it (actually there’s probably an argument to be made that the desire to tone it down is a denial of anxiety but I’ve had it 34 years.…I don’t think I need to completely solve this in a day) but what I did was explore different ways to do this in my meditation.

                Step one was that I really explored the thing I’m anxious about and answered all the “what if” questions I have. The fact is I ruminate a lot so I used my imagination and took it as far as I could. While it’s impossible for me to cover every single possibility and that’s where I do need to learn to relinquish control on some level, it does help see how ridiculous it can be and at times some of my conclusions can be funny. Maybe down the road it’ll be fun to experiment with this and write it on paper. Some of the shit I can come up with would likely be funny I’m sure.

                Once I did this I started thinking that, HEY WE’RE IN A GLOBAL PANDEMIC THAT HASN’T BEEN SEEN IN 100 YEARS. IT’S OKAY TO BE SCARED AND IF YOU’RE NOT A LITTLE BIT YOU MIGHT BE A FUCKING CRAZY PERSON. Okay the screaming at myself may be a bit much but it’s good to reinforce that again….anxiety isn’t inherently bad.

                But after coming to this realization, even at this moment, there’s a dull bit of adrenaline just sitting in my body and I am looking at it being a little more likely. Kind of like how I feel when I’m a little buzzed from alcohol but instead of going, “Dude, I’m fucking drunk” I’m like “Dude, I’m fucking anxious,” with the same intoxicated smile and playfulness. It might be silly but I think it’s easier to accept it when looking at it from a more lighthearted angle.

The last thing I tried to do was to really look at the actual wording of the thoughts that were shooting through my mind. The ones that are a call to action are the ones I would write down or make a plan to do something about it. After all, the anxiety’s purpose is to give energy to do something to protect myself. The ones that don’t come with a plan of action I try to let drift away. I did this by resorting to mindfulness like really focusing on my breath or focusing on how my body felt overall. It seems to be working and while I’m trying to balance useful anxiety and not letting it consume me I really think going through an actual time of distress is helping me figure this out. I’ve felt in a bogged down with an emotional rut for multiple days and I think it’s easy to think it’s making me fail as I don’t feel the most functional (though there are literal laws in place telling us to be less functional so maybe I need to accept that too) but with these realizations it’s hard not to think progress is being made. So that’s cool.

Whoa, Confronting Emotion Makes You Feel Emotion

I did do my 30 minutes yesterday. Well technically it was around 15 but basically I thought for 15 minutes about Outside the Park Baseball 21 and while I think I do want to write about the fictional universe being created it’s not something I want to write about on a blog about facing my fears.

What I will write about instead is what I think is the most consistent anxiety outbreak I’ve had with no real stressors happening. My last post was from when I was dealing with insomnia from the anxiety that I was experiencing and the hangover from the rum I had drank and the sleep deprivation that took over and I think it made it worse. I’m also hoping that as I do more meditations to confront how I’m feeling I will unearth emotions like this.

The entire experience didn’t feel great. Truthfully I felt physically ill just from being tense the entire day and nothing I could do would break it. I wonder how much my desire to break it just made it all worse. Some real life things did happen as well such as an error with my unemployment that just made me deal with this odd fear of bureaucracy that I have going on. I also was told that my furlough was ending and I would be returning to work which is helping with easing financial stress however there’s fear to go along with that seeing as this pandemic is still going on and the details of where I’ll be working and whether my management position is still intact or if I’ll be demoted. There is a small part of me that was enjoying the prospect of not having to work for a while so there’s some mourning of losing the ample amount of freedom I was getting. Before the furlough I had been working a lot so I was pretty burned out from not having much time off so going back to that will be a little difficult. Plus I’ll be working with new people as there have been a lot of layoffs at my company so that triggers an element of social anxiety but I’m not sure if this was included in my panic or not as nothing specifically stood out though I could easily see me avoiding this notion just thinking “I should be thankful I have a job”.

I did come to a couple of different realizations though. One was with my generalized anxiety I pretty much go through entire days feeling tense and anxious. It’s kind of background noise and will get more or less intense depending on what thoughts or distractions I’m dealing with daily. I’m guessing as I confront these thoughts more and more I’m going to go from dull anxiety spread out over time to more intense clusters that come and go. Instead of letting the very unpleasant feeling of anxiety deter me from doing what I desire to do I’m trying to use it as motivation that I’m going into the right direction. A lot of times in the past I’ve used anxiety as a kind of a metal detector for decision making, the more intense I fear the more I’m going down a path I should be going and I should use that as a gauge. This isn’t always foolproof as I’m sure if I encountered a bear I’d be scared but approaching the bear is not good decision making, but I rarely see absolutes in anything.

Another thing I was doing was approaching shame for my decision making. I realize that the thoughts connected to everything I do are tied to thoughts of judgments that can never be changed and because of that I avoid facing it because I don’t want to be or feel like an awful person. What shifted for me and what ultimately helped me come out of this stretch of anxiety was changing the judgment to something I become less attached to. The things that make me anxious are usually tied with bad decisions. Decisions can be fixed through better planning so that’s what I did. I wrote a list of actions and goals I would take to overcome the things that were scaring me. Once I did that I realized I have more control and things can be fixed.

There is an extra obstacle to this that I now wish to overcome. Some of these involve waiting to complete a task at other times and there’s a certain level of uncertainty to a task that can’t be completed immediately as “waiting” becomes a thing. I’m seeing that when I can’t do something immediately I have to relinquish control to time a little bit and that is scary as I sit and hope stuff goes my way so to combat this a little bit I’m going to focus more on mindfulness and letting thoughts float by like clouds or leaves in a river (sorry if this seems like a connection to something I’ve written before, it isn’t but it’s an analogy I’ve been given by numerous sources) I also have to start accepting that I can’t control everything and with that acceptance I’m certain that some of the anxiety that isn’t useful will fade.

Roadblocks Are Fun

                I had terrible insomnia last night. I went to sleep probably at 2:30 am or so and woke up a little before 6. It wasn’t a great night for me mentally as I got pretty depressed in the early hours of the morning and also drank a little too much rum as I thought I was in a good place before all of a sudden my brain bottomed out. I had some drinks to watch The Last Dance on ESPN because since sports are done the documentary has been my go to sporting event much like when my team plays a big weekend primetime game.

                When I woke I didn’t feel physically the best as I had heartburn and was sore and felt a little hungover which I suppose is what you get when you drink too much rum and don’t sleep enough but I also woke up to loads and loads of shame. The thing is I’m putting a lot of effort into my mental health and getting some mental stability the last couple of weeks and having a “meltdown” for lack of better phrasing feels like a failure. I feel like all the effort at being my “best self” is a sham because I had a mini depressive moment. Because of this though I did my 30 minutes immediately and before the other meditations I’ve been doing throughout the day and while it was kind of an unfocused mess and not in any way what would have got me closer to sleep (which a part of me wanted) I basically waded through surface level thoughts that got to nothing too deep and I wondered if doing what I was doing was going to be worth it for the day or even at all. But I did finally come to some idea of what was going on.

                Before I continue I want to preface this with a disclaimer that what I’m about to talk about will probably come across as a superficial problem. I also want to throw out there that one of my issues seems to be ignoring emotions (it’s hard to control when an emotion comes up. It seems like they kind of just appear) because I don’t think they are significant enough to warrant acknowledging. For example I have issues acknowledging that being bullied growing up caused problems for me because in comparison to kids who had extremely troubled upbringings….it really pales in comparison. This is a little bit different but I think it’s indicative of a deeper issue.

                When I watch entertainment, like a movie, TV show or sports it’s more than just something I take in. I have thoughts and observations about said entertainment and I want to share it with other people. It’s one of the reasons I write movie reviews for another blog (https://joshwatchesmoviessometimes.wordpress.com/ ) Because of this I almost view enjoying something like this as a social event. One of my favorite parts about the Cubs winning the World Series wasn’t just the moment itself it was the fact that it was such a big event I was connected to people I had never been connected to before or with people who I hadn’t been connected to in years. The same thing happens when Iowa football has had a magical season in the past. People talk about the game and I gain a connection with people from my home state in a special way.

                Because of this I have always dabbled in online communities when it comes to sports. I started with AOL chat rooms in the mid 90s, shifted to ESPN message boards in the early 2000s and then to more specialized communities in the late 90s up until the last few years. The thing is though, these communities have fizzled out as the members have gotten older and the way consumption of online content has changed.

                Opinions are spouted all over sites like Twitter and running blogs like SB Nation but it seems the “community” is so broad that ultimately your handle is just one of so many that any opinions spouted on sites such as these just gets lost. The interaction just isn’t there unless you have a certain amount of followers or you happen to post at just the correct time and basically it feels like the events that I used to watch in such a connected way just happen and then they’re kind of gone for me.

                I’ve felt this way about sports, especially since moving away as all of my favorite teams are from the Midwest and I live on the east coast. I try to gain that connection by scrolling Twitter during games but it’s not the same as it used to be when I would interact with other users in a game thread. Obviously what triggered me last night wasn’t a live game, it was a documentary but again, it’s a thing that’s trending on Twitter a lot but I don’t have a community to go to where I can talk about it. Any comments I make on it are ignored, and that’s fine if people aren’t interested that’s totally reasonable, but it makes me feel isolated watching something that I am passionate about. It creates such an isolated feeling for me when I have so many memories tied to watching the Chicago Bulls in the 90s, memories that I can tie to certain social moments in school and with friends at the time, that I want to reminisce but there’s no one there to reminisce with anymore. Maybe that’s partially my fault as I haven’t always maintained relationships and I’m sure there are ways to still be connected to a sports community, I’m just getting older and more stubborn but it doesn’t change the fact that the sadness and feeling of isolation are still there.

I’m ultimately hoping that this moment I had last night was a roadblock. I always expect moments of pain to occur in some capacity. It’s a very human thing and to not experience pain would in a weird way be a let down. Part of the reason I want to continue meditating is to not let that pain control me but rather interact with that pain in a way that continues to allow me to function and be a strong person. I hope going forward I make strides towards doing that because, for now, I feel like a failure.

Oh Yeah…Mindfulness!

It hasn’t been feeling like the exercises I’ve been doing have connected or worked in ways that I’ve remembered them working. I’m not quite sure how to explain what “success” is in relation to this but I suppose I wasn’t feeling like I’m reaching my goals of why I’m doing this, but upon reflecting on this today I had the realization that I wasn’t applying mindfulness and present mindedness like I have in the past. Today when going for a drive to the store I was rather in my head and feeling irritable and started to focus on my senses. Mostly sight. While in the car I focused on the colors and looked closely at the buildings lining the street. I really started paying attention to where I was and what was going on around me and not being so stuck on my thoughts. After a bit my quality of mind changed and my irritability started to fade away.

                I tried to carry this into my 30 minutes and after some time an anxiety took over again. I just went to the store and spent more money than I would like (I guess when I’m not employed any money leaving my account feels like more money spent than I’d like and then I just completed my unemployment stuff for the week which countered my fear of bureaucracies and my ever running fear that I’m going to accidentally commit fraud during this process. I felt the beginning of a panic attack, mostly the tightening of my chest and the rumination of thoughts and I decided to sit with it. I’m going to try to explain what I did as best as I can but I feel a challenge articulating it but ultimately I focused on the discomfort, certain elements of the environment I was in, like the feeling my fan on my skin or the weight of my body on my bed, and also on my breath. Within moments it was gone. I even thought about the same thoughts that conjured it up in the first place and I couldn’t. I couldn’t recreate the fear if I had wanted to. I’m hoping this is the beginning of accepting fear but also letting it pass because in the past this has been the key to helping with my mental health in so many ways. I’ve even gotten to the point where I’ve gotten past my severe social anxiety to small talking all kinds of strangers at different gatherings (ah, gatherings) just through similar mindful techniques so it leaves me in an optimistic moment.

The rest of the thought session turned more into flashing images. This started when Chevy Chase as Pierce Hawthorne told me I was gay for the mindful stuff. It then transitioned to Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in the dreadful Batman v Superman movie (or movies? Did this continue in Dawn of Justice? Batman v Superman broke me so I didn’t continue on after that. Actually did Batman v Superman break Jesse Eisenberg’s career? Has he been in other stuff since?) This then shifted to his sister’s appearances in Pepsi commercials in the late 90s or early 2000s.…whenever it was. (Also, it was mind blowing when I found out the little girl in those commercials was his sister for the first time) This then shifted to the old Diet Pepsi commercials with Ray Charles and the “Uh-huh” campaign that definitely only would have worked in the early 90s. It also shifted to Rookie of the Year when Henry Rowengartner appeared in a Diet Pepsi commercial in the film with Ray Charles (I’m sure this was inspired by the director’s love of Diet pop and not from a cash transaction given by the soda company.) All this kind of led to me wondering how much of my thoughts and world view are dictated by pop culture and entertainment which is leading me to want to look into that more as I continue my third journey into self discovery (there’s probably more but in my head there’s three significant time periods where I’ve done this shit). I’m also wanting to look more into balancing my enjoyment of things that may not be seen as “healthy” but are also pleasurable, and by balance I mean how do I still enjoy stuff like pop culture, entertainment, liquor, unhealthy food but still not let it control me. I guess to further explain I’m trying to discover who I’d be without weird outside crap affecting who I am and those are some of the things that come to mind. Other things would be stuff like my bullying and whatever the hell has triggered my anxiety disorders (if there’s an outside source. It could easily be my head being goofy). Ok, enough nonsensical stream of consciousness stuff from me today!

Apparently Doing Nothing Can Be Too Much

                I had a lot of irritability this morning when I woke up and could not pinpoint why. I did have a dream about being called back to work while they made decisions over who would get to continue working and who continued to be furloughed and I did not make the cut. I keep having dreams about being at work again and I’m curious as to if it’s because I enjoy what I did for work or if it was because this is the first time I’ve been told I can’t work anymore. I’ve never been fired or laid off before so this was an experience I don’t know (though technically a part time job I had in college was lost due to flooding but I was told I could work at a different location and decided not to and my first retail job my hours were cut to zero but this was never an official furlough or anything and I lived with my parents so I hardly counted it).

                I can’t pinpoint if that’s the reason for my anger and low mood this morning and when I thought deeply about it I never really connected the two but if there is a connection I wouldn’t be surprised. But it wasn’t just that connection I couldn’t make, I literally couldn’t pinpoint a subject that made me angry. I did kind of come to the conclusion that I was getting a little irritable as there was a desire to withdraw like I normally do with depression so I kind of decided that I was irritable because I was actually depressed though this was odd as I never actually felt any kind of sadness and even when I told myself it was okay to be sad and depressed and I thought even more in an attempt to unlock depression and sadness but it wasn’t there. One thing I wonder if because I was trying to access depression in an attempt to rid myself of anger instead of truly feeling it I wonder if that made the anger I was feeling somewhat more intense. I also wonder if maybe I wasn’t actually depressed if instead I have depression as something I associate with my personality and therefore my mind and body want naturally are in the habit of depression so because of this I was starting to get a lower mood.

                Regardless it became a frustrating experience where it seems my attempts to confront thoughts and moods actually turned into an act of avoidance which made me wonder if I’ll ever escape my avoidant self but I also wonder if confronting the negative emotions one feels in a day is something that can’t be forced. Accepting them in a truly genuine manner means literally accepting that they’re going to be there and embracing them. The more you push (and I can’t help but feel that a forcing kind of acceptance isn’t still pushing) the louder they get until finally it’s accepted.

What I did, since my 30 minutes brought forth so much confusion and no clarity, was pull myself from it. Usually I write this immediately after but I didn’t for hours because I instead just took a bath and played different baseball stuff on YouTube and I got sad. After experiencing the sadness from missing my favorite sport I felt better. I think I’m still sad about all of what’s going on, which is totally understandable, but because I am trying to strengthen my mind and be a damn sage I kind of pushed the negative emotions aside and started becoming the, “Think positive thoughts only” trope I’m trying to avoid. I guess even if in an attempt to build a strong mind it’s still okay to feel pain and I guess, to use a cheesy analogy, it compares to when lifting weights the muscles are going to get sore. I guess my next step is accepting pain but not expressing the pain in harmful ways like for example feeling anger without letting it make me an asshole. I haven’t gotten there but that’s a big skill I’m trying to learn on this weird journey.

I Wanna Be Every Cool Old Wise Man Trope in Movie History

                My 30 minutes was actually 15 today and part of me feels as though I slacked but I think it was for good reason and I’ll explain later. I also could do another 15 I suppose but again I’m not going to and I’ll explain that. I do think a lot came from this 15 minutes though so that’s probably the most optimal thing.

                I’ll preface this by saying my guided meditation I’ve started doing when I first wake up was productive and I felt rather focused and I’ve ultimately been in a good mood so far today so because of this my mind wasn’t really racing or going in too many directions. The question ended up coming up though; Why am I doing this? It seems to be a fair question and the ultimate answer I always had was I wanted to see what happened but that lack of a clear end goal could make me want to stop. I started thinking about the meditation and mindfulness efforts I’ve been recently making and I think I came to a more clear end goal for who I want to be. I’m going to generalize like a mofo but it’s okay.…I’m still on my journey! When I think meditation I think of two types of people. One is weird (I’m not trying to use such negative judgmental statements less but again….journey….I won’t stop believing that I’ll soon make it there….get it….like Journey….the band…..okay, I’ll stop) law of attraction, positive vibes guy who seems to have the ultimate goal of personal happiness and the other is sensei, monk guy who carries a sense of calm to everything they do. I want to be the second. I realize that pure happiness seems rather impossible, the attempt to attain it at all times seems rather avoidant and the truth is to be able to calmly approach scary things seems more appealing. I feel the moments where I’ve been the best in terms of mental health is when I’m able to have stressful things bounce off of me as opposed to any attempt at being an over the top positive bubbly guy.

                What I hope to also attain from all of this is empathy and compassion. I want to be able to hear disagreements with my philosophies on life and not let such things bounce off of me. I want to be able to shrug off an asshole customer. I want to be able to see more aggressive and sometimes awful behavior more as an expression of pain and give forth love and compassion to all mankind. I want to be able to do this while still recognizing that certain actions are not okay because in this sense there is a possibility of invalidating people who harmed people who do things if this isn’t done correctly. Basically I want to take on the individual goal of doing the most compassionate thing I can do at any moment.

                I reflected back on myself in the past too and I feel this has been a central value for me for many years. When I was a child I was very religious and it was always the love that Christ preached that drew religion to me. There are many reasons why I drifted from religion but I remember at times devoting myself to doing everything I could to provide the most loving act I could at any given moment and this isn’t a value that’s drifted. When I dig deep through all the defensiveness and anger I feel on a consistent basis that value is still there.

                This brings me to one of the reasons 15 minutes was fine. I have a pet rabbit and she recently broke her paw. She runs around in a little cast and it’s adorable but when it was first discovered we learned that her digestive system stopped working correctly and that can lead to fatality in the animal. She sleeps under the bed and comes into the living room when she wakes up with certain expectations when it comes to food and I heard her scatter to the living room while I was doing my silence. Realizing she was awake I thought it important to make sure she was fed as any disruptions could cause her to get sick again so I stopped what I was doing to make sure she was eating. My mentality was the silence I’m doing is for me…if I stuck with doing it the act is now somewhat selfish as I’m choosing meditation over providing for a creature so reliant upon me. So my providing for her was an act of love and in that moment I selected the act of love and ended the silence.

My reasoning then for not continuing has to do with my perfectionism. While my goal is to do 30 minutes every day if at any point I drift from this it could cause me to stop as I didn’t’ stick hard fast to the rule but by giving myself permission to pull from it and then, hopefully continuing tomorrow, I’m ultimately breaking free from that mindset and training my mind to be less of a perfectionist. I’m ultimately giving myself compassion and giving myself the understanding that I too am a human being deserving of those moments of love that I’m trying to extend to others.

Baseball is Pretty Cool I Guess

Today’s 30 minutes of silence was kind of annoying. If I wasn’t thinking about writing about it every day just to document how it goes and because I think that will make it easier to make it a habit, I probably wouldn’t- I’m not sure it’s really anything worth talking about. I did feel a little bit more well rested after the fact, but that’s probably due to my not getting great sleep last night so any time spent just sitting still with my eyes closed I’m sure was useful just for relaxing a little bit. 

When I first sat down, I was really fidgety like how I was the first time I tried this. (I didn’t write about that time, but I tried this while I was in the bath and basically as soon as I put my phone on silent and put it down I got super fidgety. I ended up touching random imperfections on my body like the scar on my knee and spots I’ve missed shaving and overanalyzing them, and while I think I got some good thoughts out of it just in terms of seeing where my mind is at, how antsy I felt in the tub once the distraction of my phone was gone was worse than I would have expected.) So when I instantly started fidgeting today, I thought the same sort of thing was going to happen.

It did at first, but then I became really focused on not fidgeting. I wanted to actually see what my mind would do if I left it alone because the fidgeting I think is really no different than looking at my phone. It’s still a distraction for my mind, albeit a far less interesting one. I did manage to get myself to stop fidgeting and my mind started to wander, but I guess it just didn’t wander as deep as I would have liked. 

I basically just thought about the general state of things; how we’re coming up on two months since everything shut down, and how in the beginning of all this we figured we’d be working from home for two weeks and then things would start to go back to how they were. I envisioned going to a crowded grocery store the night the initial stay-at-home order was announced, back before masks were really even a thought and social distancing was hardly in the news. Then I thought about how much my job had changed, and how while I’m happy to still be working, everything I’m working on is totally different.

At this point my overall feeling was similar to a lucid dream. I was actively thinking of all these things, but at the same time it felt almost like I was an outsider watching the situation and being a little frustrated by it (which is something that often happens when I know I’m dreaming. There’s this one recurring dream I have maybe every other month or so, and usually when it happens I can’t help but think, “This again?” while I’m going through the motions of what I know is going to happen in the dream because I’ve seen it all before.) 

I’m sure the fact that I had that similar feeling swayed where my mind went next, but it really didn’t get much better. For some reason, I got really stuck thinking about how there are so many different theories and opinions about the virus and how I really just don’t have patience for the things that are completely and obviously wrong. My parents are a big problem with this, blindly believing everything they see on the news (and what’s worse it’s usually Fox News….) There have been instances throughout all of this where I try to explain some part of the situation to my mom, citing a variety of legitimate sources of information only for her to simultaneously respond with, “It’s a new virus so they don’t know that though.” I keep finding myself frustrated (in real life) with my parents’ apparent ability to all at the same time believe whatever they see on the news (and I think on Facebook if we’re being honest) while also telling me no one knows anything about it when I present them with actual facts. 

I really wish my mind went somewhere else during my 30 minutes of silence, because I’m well aware that this is an issue with my parents as I’ve been living here throughout all of this so I’m hearing about whatever their opinions of the situation may be every day. What makes it more frustrating is that I’ll spend half of my workday sometimes listening in on webinars where I’m learning more about the virus and what the plans for recovery will be when it’s safe to reopen only to stop working and be met with extremely uninformed quite frankly opinions from my family. It’s draining and I wish I didn’t have to spend so much time just thinking about the logistics of the situation. I know that it’s good to be informed about what’s happening (clearly) but I don’t think it’s doing anything for anyone to just think about it constantly, and sometimes when I get caught up in trying to educate my parents on it that’s what it feels like I’m doing. 

I probably had about five minutes left at this point, and I got myself to snap out of all those thoughts but then it seemed like my mind just didn’t want to come up with anything else to replace them. I felt restless again and thought about things on my to-do list that I didn’t finish at work earlier, and how I wanted to go for a walk but it’s probably too cold outside now- nothing of real substance, just the kind of things anyone would probably think about when sitting alone like that. 

Even writing this out it almost feels more like a journal entry than what I really wanted to get out of doing this, but I guess that’s just going to happen sometimes. I’m totally new to doing this, but I assume it’s like anything that some days you’re just not going to be in the right frame of mind for it and you may not get the ‘results’ you’re looking for.

Some Random Dude Called Me. Then I Got Tired.

Today I’m feeling weirdly motivated but unfocused. Every normal attempt at meditation has been filled with a racing mind and my 30 minutes today has been no different.

            When I first closed my eyes a list of all the things I want to do and all the things I feel need to be done came up and I began to feel anxious and stressed about the invisible list that was starting to build. I kind of had to laugh at myself as I’m currently furloughed from my job so technically there’s all kinds of time to do all kinds of things but with that seems to come a pressure and a need to do, create and accomplish.

            So many times I’ve made a list of ideas but something like a 10 hour shift of work would get in my way and I’d always say to myself, “Well if it weren’t for work….” Now that there is no work to get in the way I feel like maybe it wasn’t work in the first place getting in my way in terms of what I’ve always wanted to accomplish creatively (or I suppose another option is the fact that a global pandemic isn’t exactly what’s going to create the head space needed to do the things I want to do creatively. It is a scary and weird time that literally no one alive has experienced so I definitely want to give myself a break as far as that’s concerned.) But today I did have motivation to create and that of course happened at the beginning of my 30 minutes of silence so because of this I wanted to rush through 30 minutes as fast as I could as though that could physically be done with an already created measure of time.

            Because it’s obviously impossible to rush through an already created construct the only other option aside from skipping the 30 minutes altogether (that’s the last thing I want to be doing) was to just sit with that restlessness. When I finally settled in and focused on the thoughts driving what I was going through and when I finally started to hit an element of breakthrough my phone ended up ringing.

            This became a major moment in the course of my 30 minutes as the act itself was startling, a loud noise when focused on something completely different can be rather startling when unexpected and then there’s the general anxiety I get with a phone ringing anyways, especially when the call is unexpected as I don’t typically associate that with anything positive. I’m always fearful that it’s someone delivering an urgent message, something like a relative dying or falling ill or work calling to deliver bad news. In fact that last unexpected call I received was work calling to tell me I was being placed on furlough until June 30. They also told me that they would keep me updated as to the situation going forward. I’m personally not optimistic that the furlough won’t lead to an eventual lay off though I don’t know if that comes from actual reality or just me general pessimism as while there is certainly not positive evidence of the market doing too great (duh) they did tell me they were doing everything possible to bring back furloughed employees and there were others who were just straight up let go the same day. Seeing as I wasn’t one of them should at least give me some glimmer of hope (not that my life will be forever ruined if I have to find a different method of employment but that also leads me to a different level of anxiety and fear as well. One that I’m sure will be faced at some point and probably some point soon).

            Because of the unexpected nature of the phone ringing however, I ended up having a pretty intense panic attack which is tough to tolerate in a setting where I can distract myself let alone in a setting where I’ve committed to sitting in silence with no distractions. My heart raced to a level that one really only achieves when they are running a full sprint and this caused even more restlessness and a desire to get up to move so I could literally escape my body (again, like that’s actually possible). My arms, which were off to my side, started shaking intensely to the point where if I wrote something by hand somehow it would have been illegible. Because I had no way to distract and nowhere to go I settled my focus on my chest where my heart was beating and because it felt so uncomfortable my thoughts turned to the idea that maybe I was having a cardiac issue and this injected more adrenaline and anxiety into my body. The more I focused on the uncomfortable sensations the more quickly it subsided and the fear disappeared almost as quickly as it took effect.

            The call wasn’t anything important. It was a spam call who left no message. Because of this though the fear turned to anger. I wanted to return the call and cuss out whoever (probably no one) on the other line. I was upset that this time I had set aside for a certain purpose was interrupted and I was building fury on the inside. At the very least I wanted to text, “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?!?!?!” but I knew there really would be no use doing such a thing so instead I tried something that’s really tough for someone with a temper like mine and a level of defensiveness that can be quite strong, I just thought about whomever made that call in a compassionate and kind way. I basically thought that “I don’t know what they needed but I hope they find peace and comfort in their life”. There’s a likelihood that person had negative intentions in mind. They could have even been a scammer whose intentions were to take hard earned money from vulnerable human beings but that’s besides the point. My desire to give that person love and compassion wasn’t really for them. It was ultimately for myself. Allowing myself to be angry about the interruption was something that ultimately only affected me. My dealing with the anger and attempting to send that message their way put me in a place where I could move on from the anger and in doing so turn the thoughts into a physical sensation only that could also dissipate with enough focus. Again, that’s what happened and I was able to move on from the startling, interrupting phone call rather quickly.

            The rest of my attempt at stillness was challenging in a different way. When I attempted to let my thoughts drift a little bit more I found the task nearly impossible as all I wanted to do was fall asleep. With this a new conflict emerged. A part of me wondered if I should just give in to the sleep because after all, maybe this was my body telling me exactly what it needed but another part of me thought if I battled through such a desire and instead focused on what I was doing I could overcome a weakness of mind. I think one of the reasons I deal with procrastination is because once something no longer feels pleasurable I prefer to distract. For example, in college I often would stop focusing on studying because I no longer found it interesting, or I’d be tired, or I’d be sore so my thought process is what if instead of just giving in to the fatigue I slowly train my mind to persevere through more negative feelings to continue doing a task. I’ll likely put more thought into this though and there’s a possibility that I choose letting my body take over and falling asleep to appease my body’s communication with my mind.

To counter the drifting asleep though I ended up doing a lot of the silence with my eyes open utilizing a soft focus in front of me. I ended up focusing more on my breath and weight of my body against the bed I’m sitting on. This is again a strategy I may shift from going forward as technically it is indicative of me taking over control of the direction my mind is going as opposed to the original idea of letting my mind wander which was the beginning intent of this exercise but it’s leading me to wonder how much lack of control of the mind is truly possible.

The NBA and a Naked Dude That Looks Like a Horse. Oh and I Dealt With Fear and Being Sad

                Today was a much different experience for me than yesterday. I want to preface this by saying I got more than 10 hours of sleep and I drank two cups of coffee beforehand. I’m not sure if that impacted the 30 minutes differently or not but I figured it’s important information to present. Overall what happened was a less “psychedelic” experience and one that was more focused on certain emotions and experiences. I did have a couple of “wtf was that” moments but overall I honed in on a few things that at least touch on my personal insecurities, anxieties and general depression.

                When I first closed my eyes there weren’t really any overt thoughts that came into play so instead there was a lot of focus on my body. I was fidgety and restless and getting a little frustrated that no thoughts came to mind. First of all, I do think a lot of those sensations were definitely caffeine related but after a moment I realized that the frustration with not producing thoughts was in itself a thought and that put me in more of a state of calm. Once this happened at first I started thinking of my horse walking around in Red Dead Redemption and that transitioned to the nature scenes of a video game and then that transitioned to the idea of Stephen King talking about when he gets writer’s block or gets stuck on a character he goes on a walk to help him clear his mind and that made me think about going on a walk. Now the idea of doing much in public at the moment still is filled with its complexities in the age of the pandemic but the type of walk I missed I probably couldn’t get either way. Some people like walks through nature or through a big city and while I certainly appreciate those I was really just missing the walks I used to take in high school through my small city of Bettendorf, Iowa. On those walks I used to think a lot about the world and while I was very far from actually doing things like meditation and self-discovery I did do a lot of that unknowingly. I struggled with depression at that age but I didn’t really know it or present it that way, but it was those walks that helped and what came was just a desire to go on that type of walk, in that setting again.

                There was then a transition to basketball players of the 80s and 90s. Images of John Salley, Mark Aguirre, Danny Ainge, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird and others came up. Now, I’ve been watching a lot of NBA documentaries and I’m sure this is what inspired this and while I’d like to say there was a sense of nostalgia to the images there really wasn’t as I either was too young to have watched these players play or too young to have appreciated it. What was really there was a sadness that I didn’t get to experience this era of basketball at an age where I could truly appreciate it.

                That transitioned to an entire basketball essay that I wanted to write that I won’t share on this page solely because that’s not the focus of this blog and then it led to me thinking about a podcast on basketball I listened to last night. What that led to was another moment of sadness because I want to talk sports (or other things) and have people care and respect my opinions. I want to be involved in a heavy dialogue involving topics I’m passionate about and when I present my opinions on such topics on social media there either isn’t much implication that people care or it’s so combative that it’s not a pleasant experience.

                I feel overall this early portion of my meditation was an attempt to work with my depression. I think I have a tendency to ignore elements of sadness in my life if they aren’t big or groundbreaking. If it’s not someone’s death or a major life change I have a tendency to shrug off smaller moments of sadness and treat them as irrelevant. Logically I think it’s okay to mourn over things that you won’t get to experience again or even for the first time and I can’t help but wonder if that’s where nostalgia comes from. I think there’s something deeper rooted in there too. I want that complex dialogue because I’m ultimately craving human connection. As someone who has severe social anxiety I have missed out on a lot of close relationships and I can’t help but wonder if having a conversation where my thoughts are respected is coming from that. It’s ultimately just an expression of wanting to be loved.

                There were moments of confronting my social anxiety that came up as well. I thought of certain scenarios that make me anxious in everyday life and I really sat and thought about them doing whatever I could to actually make myself feel the anxiety. I attempted to dig deeper and really discover why such scenarios made me anxious but no vivid thoughts came to mind. I ultimately am left with the question of if the “Why” actually matters or if just facing and feeling the anxiety is enough. I suppose as I continue this exercise there may be a more clear answer to all of this.

                My motivation seems to be reaching a high point because of all of this though. I ended up remembering an idea for a novel that I wanted to write a couple of years ago and my desire to start writing such a thing grew and then throughout my 30 minutes I couldn’t help but formulate this very piece but that created another frustrating conundrum for me as I couldn’t help but wonder if the idea of writing this was manipulating the whole “free thought” thing I was trying to do, however the idea of writing this stuff is its own free thought so I just let it happen and I ended up formulating this essay as I meditated. The debate within me on whether this is okay or not is making me consider lengthening the 30 minutes to something like 45 minutes or even an hour but that’s something I’ll make a decision on later.

                Like I said, the weird acid trip stuff from the fluid creative brain was much more silent today though it did come up a couple of different times so I figured I’d share the weird as hell moments. This first was me shooting webs as Spider-Man into a setting sun and attempting to swing away. The more logical, structured portion of my brain would not let me/Spider-Man swing away because there was nothing to connect the webs too. I finally stepped in and told my logical brain that it’s doing it again so after it was stuck in some weird loop of trying to swing away it finally happened. Then the mask of Spider-Man was removed and it was discovered that Spider-Man was really Eddie Murphy and the reveal happened in front of a brick wall in an alley in the center of a spot light. There’s an old 70s Amazing Spider-Man cover it reminded me of as the police chased a Spider-Man the public saw as a criminal so if there’s any comic readers who remember that one then maybe it’ll be easier to picture.

                The second was a little more odd. It was of a naked man or woman, gender wasn’t clear as all I saw was legs, booty and back and they were crawling on all fours and after a moment I realized that the butt of the figure moved in the similar way a horse walks and that’s when I realized I’m playing too much damn Red Dead Redemption.

So I’m ultimately trying to formulate a structure to all of this, because thoughts work in such an unstructured way most of the time this isn’t always easy. Because of that, I’m wondering if writing these stream of consciousness type essays are the way to go long term or I’m considering doing YouTube videos that will ultimately make me more raw and rambly. I’m not sure yet but the experience of doing the long periods of silence has been enjoyable so far.

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