I Am My Own Nemesis Part 2: The Comeback Tour

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Gotcha!!

A funny thing happens when I get what I want and am in a happy place in life. Having not yet mastered the practice of true detachment, any success or gain I have comes with a fear of loss. It’s a package deal. I thought I had gotten past that feeling, the one where I get what I think I want but am still unsatisfied and continue to chase that elusive momentary high. I thought I had progressed. I’ve done SO much work on myself in the past six years. As I leave my thirties I’m proud to say I’m a much different person than I was when I entered them, but it looks like I have more work to do.

I’m in a good place in life. No, scratch that, I’m in a VERY good place in life. I’ve made some gains that I would have NEVER thought would happen for me. Sometimes I can’t believe that this is all real. I had a good day today. Like, an Ice Cube song-worthy good day. I woke up feeling relaxed, ran some errands, and chilled out at home for a while. And then….there it was. BAM! Anxiety and sadness rushed in and grabbed me in a bear hug.

My mind wasn’t necessarily racing with erratic thoughts (it was still pretty focused on one or two things), but I know I was freaked out because my physical symptoms of extreme stress and anxiety manifested: my neck felt hot, I had visible tremors, my breathing was shallow, and I felt the telltale sign of when I’m really in it deep: a squeezing sensation in my chest. The telltale heart, so to speak. The pressure around my heart is a rare symptom and only happens when I’m feeling extreme stress, even if I’m denying that feeling to myself.

“I don’t want to feel this feeling again,” I said to myself as I nervously pawed through laundry. It wasn’t the anxiety that bothered me. It was the attachment that got my attention. That pesky act and thought of attachment has messed up my life in more than a few ways. It has caused me to sabotage my life with foolish actions based on foolish thoughts. Nope, I had worked too hard on myself. I was not going to let this happen again.

I tried to go about my afternoon but I burst into tears when I was chopping vegetables, and I hadn’t even tackled the onion yet. I don’t let myself cry in front of people anymore. I can talk to a trusted few people about things that are bothering me, but there are certain things that I have to work through alone. Processing it, mostly through journaling, helps me take an objective look at the situation and offers both some possible reasons and solutions. Sometimes I’m able to resolve my problem without seeking outside help. It has helped me avoid many unnecessary confessions and more importantly, unnecessary confrontations. I have a pretty good system going. It’s a lonely process, but it works.

Or maybe at least I think I have to do this alone. Maybe I’m making it too difficult for myself. I don’t want to share certain thoughts because I feel it will cloud someone’s vision of me and ultimately condemn me. I’ve been wrong on many occasions, but old habits die hard. I hate being vulnerable, and I’m afraid of being rejected and hurt. I’ve weakened my capacity to trust and have faith in either a person or a process.

So there I was, crying in my kitchen, and then…I laughed. I had caught myself red-handed. I hadn’t defeated my nemesis but I’d found that bastard hiding in the shadows.

About a year and a half ago I wrote a post called I Am My Own Nemesis. I discussed some of the ways doubt and self-sabotage can creep up on us. This line caught my eye:

“Fear: Fear of the unknown, fear of being rejected, fear of physical harm, fear of loss (money, relationships, stability, job, etc.), fear of being exposed or “found out,” which goes neatly in hand with self-doubt.” The very first post on this blog is about fear.

And that’s what I’m feeling: good old fashioned fear. Fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of pain, fear of giving more than I’m receiving (or conversely, taking too much), fear of offering love that evaporates against a brick wall, fear of losing my material comforts, fear of once again having to trudge through all this shit alone. Ha! Here I go again…

The good thing about all the work that I’ve done on myself is that I’m self-aware enough to catch myself when this happens. I’m a big believer in the law of attraction. It has worked too many times for me in my favor not to be real, especially the seemingly serendipitous steps of my (so far) successful career. It’s also worked against me. Like attracts like, and I know damn well if I dwell in anxiety, fear of loss, and fear of rejection I’m going to attract what I dread the most. I have ruined more than a few relationships with actions based on my (sometimes) unfounded fear. And with that fear comes attachment and dependency on something or someone else to make me happy. And with all that, I make choices that cause me to feel more fear and anxiety and pain.

I only allow myself conditional happiness, and that’s the problem. I really want to be in that constant state of contentment and more importantly confidence. I’m getting there one day at a time. When I’m on the other side and have finally overpowered my ultimate nemesis I’ll let you know.

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Battered, Bruised…and Better

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You should see the other guy.

Sometimes when things are going too well for too long my wily mind likes to try and find things to be sad about. “Hey, remember that mistake you made five years ago?” it will chirp sadistically into my ear as it slings its heavy arm around my shoulder. “Let’s dwell on THAT.” My mind is crafty. If there’s any empty space it will fill it with an image or words that tug at my sensitive heart. If I fall for its tricks the descent picks up speed:

“You haven’t thought about THIS person in a while–let’s really miss them, shall we?

Remember that time someone said something mean and you didn’t do anything back? Let’s get upset and defensive about that.

Remember that thing you did last year that at the time seemed like the right thing to do? Well I’m here to tell you that it was WRONG, and you have failed, and life will never be OK again, and you inevitably hurt someone else even though they don’t know it.

I’m going to make you backtrack and obsess until your eyes blister with tarnished memories.

Remember that thing you lost? Remember how horrible you felt about yourself for being so careless and stupid disrespectful towards the person who gave it to you? Yeah, I thought you did. Let’s beat ourselves up over THAT.

I think things are going to get worse, don’t you? You don’t? Well, they are and you’re not ready!

Hang on, let me grab the tissues and some chocolate. Stay put…oh wait you’re not going anywhere, ha ha!”

And that was how I ended up curled up on my bed crying for two straight hours Tuesday night. Dragging myself out of bed to brush my teeth before I went to sleep seemed to be the biggest effort I could muster. I woke up to a puffy moon face and my left eye nearly swollen shut, and true to my responsible keep-up-the-facade nature I went to work and acted as if nothing had happened. Someone has to pay the mortgage and put food on the table.

Lots of seekers including myself have preached about not getting too wrapped up in dwelling on the past or trying to control the future. One person who used to read my blog would probably love to use those words against me to point out what I hypocrite I’m being. Well in case you haven’t figured it out, I’m human and I’m a work in progress just like the rest of us. At least I know when I’m faltering. That’s half the battle.

The nice thing about these dark nights of the soul is that they’re guiding posts for either something deeper that is troubling me or they’re the last pit stops before major changes. Law of attraction folks might say all that crap and sadness can happen as a release of limiting beliefs or negative feelings or resistance before a shift to a higher vibration when awesome things start to manifest. I think it’s a little bit of both. If I’m having a meltdown over something rather insignificant then it usually means there’s something much more serious below the surface that’s picking up speed.

And sometimes I just want to be sad. It’s comforting. It’s easy. It keeps me company. I wrote a guest post on another blog about the allure of rock bottom. My brother said if my version of rock bottom had a low frequency fan he’d stay there all the time. Maybe I was slowly drifting towards rock bottom again. Or maybe I just needed to hole up in my cocoon for a night and have a good cry. But if I had stayed curled up in my bed through the next day and into the next night I would have begun a rapid descent into dulled senses and even foggier thinking.

No surprise, getting the crap kicked out of me was just what I needed. The next night I went to the sparring and red and black belt classes, and my mood lifted instantly. I was back among my friends in my home away from home. I smiled easily and cracked jokes in between dodging kicks and landing punches. In the later class Grandmaster had my instructor try out a kicking combination while I dodged and blocked. He pushed us to try again and again and as we either became more tired or more daring (or a little bit of both) the mini-sparring became a little more brutal each time. The harder we worked the happier I became, each blow was a mini jolt of electricity reminding me that I was very much alive and very much in the present moment.

As I was leaving I joked that I’d have to wear long sleeves the next day to cover my bruises.   Secretly though I was pleased. As it has been for the last two years taekwondo was the outlet and saving grace that helped me escape that comforting but dangerous pit of sadness and isolation. Tonight once again the sadness and regret and obsession are creeping around at my feet as I sit here home alone writing this, but I’m keeping them at bay. I glance down at the small brown welts on my forearms and the purple stain on my knee, give those creepy crawlies the side-eye and say, “I’m tougher than you think.”