January 18, 2013 § 3 Comments
I never mentioned my One Word for the year this year. It’s no secret I haven’t been blogging about personal stuff anymore – it has been a private struggle that I haven’t wished to share; the internet has not felt like the place for the things in my personal life lately. Simon and I continue to blend our lives together and the wonderful, frustrating transition that results from that isn’t something I can share: the story is no longer solely my own, and I wouldn’t want to infringe on that copyright. Too, all the processing I’ve been doing has been going into the Work; that is, my fiction, my revision, rather than the Internet. I trust you won’t mind that.
Not that I’ve stopped blogging; I’ve just begun to focus on my second passion, food. There will be more recipe posts. Once I get a camera, there will be a LOT of recipe posts. There will be more book talk, and it will continue to focus on books I love and not much else. But the personal posts? They’ll be limited to the things I think are universal, or need to be shared, or the like; my blog is not my diary or journal; it’s a public space and I’m treating it as such. (Not that all the posts I wrote last year that are personal shouldn’t have been shared; many of them I’m proud of, just that the flavor has shifted a bit.)
My Word this year is Love. I have a necklace that says it that I’ve been wearing every day. My Words have in the past been a combination of writing focus with personal applicability, but this year is different. I’ve talked about my struggle with anxiety disorder in the past, and when I thought about what I wanted for myself this year, conquering it was the main goal. I’ve taken other steps, too, but choosing Love as my action word of the year is the one I want to talk about.
There is never a situation, no matter how wronged I’ve been, where choosing to love is not the best option. Love doesn’t mean ignoring boundaries, but it does mean rising above pain, fear, and insecurity. It simplifies things a lot when I don’t give myself the option of being petty. Not that I don’t have kneejerk reactions to things anymore, but as far as my long-term response, I must choose love. I was rereading Tiny Beautiful Things, one of my favorite books of last year, and two ideas jumped out at me this time. In the essay, “I Chose van Gogh,” she writes of a painter friend of hers who had been raped, and when she asked that friend how she had been able to move on from it, to have healthy relationships with men, her friend replied, ”I could allow myself to be influenced by three men who screwed me against my will or I could allow myself to be influenced by van Gogh. I chose van Gogh.” Most people, myself included, forget we have a choice. Take that power back.
The second idea is the exact opposite, and equally freeing: we do not have a choice. In “Tiny Revolutions,” Cheryl writes to a woman with body issues,
There isn’t a short cut around this, sweet pea. The answer to your conundrum isn’t finding a way to make your future lover believe you look like Angelina Jolie. It’s coming to terms with the fact that you don’t and never will (a fact, I’d like to note, that Angelina Jolie herself will also have to come to terms with someday).
There is no shortcut. My therapist (my Christmas present to myself) told me that anxiety is pretty much just cognitive dissonance, when our heart and head don’t agree. We know we should respond with love, but our primal urge is to curl up into the fetal position and scream. Etc. When you accept that there is no shortcut, you stop looking for a shortcut. The cognitive dissonance of fighting your own process stops. You don’t have to find a way to avoid sadness, or insecurity, or pain; there isn’t one to find. If you admit that you need to go through those things to get to where you need to be, suddenly they aren’t the enemy anymore; they’re just the journey.
I’ve had problems with night terrors for a few years now. About half an hour after falling asleep, I will bolt awake in bed thinking I am dying. My heart will be hammering out of my chest, adrenaline pumping through me. I typically fear I’ve gone blind, my head is confused, a rushing in my ears, and I may or may not be screaming. At one point, this was happening five out of seven nights. I contacted a therapist friend of mine for help. He sent me back a bunch of articles. The gist of them was to minimize stress (ha) and to accept the panic attacks. Fighting them makes them worse. Before going to sleep, instead of worrying about having one – increasing the likelihood you will – think, if I have one, I will be okay; I always am. There is nothing I can do to prevent it, if it happens it happens.
And you know what? It worked. There is no shortcut. We don’t have a choice in the matter of going through hard times, or whatever it is your anxiety focuses on (I have a doomsday problem). By accepting that, I’m free to make the choice to love in response.