Therianthrope

Sara and her older brother were close despite him living in Chicago. They visited each other when they could and talked on the phone at least once a week. Nick and Sara were more a family unit than their actual nuclear family ever was. Their parents divorced when they were seven and four and they spent most of their childhood being pawns in a power struggle between both parents. Once Sara graduated high school their father moved to Arizona with his girlfriend or “partner” . Their father was a podiatrist who experienced a good deal of success early in his career and had retired at fifty-two, took up carpentry and sold his tables, tool sheds and birdhouses online. Diane, his girlfriend was a child psychologist who was kind but always acted like she saw through both Sara and Nick. As if her experience working with kids made her a of mystic who could read a young persons entire life with one minute of interaction.

The drive from Brooklyn to Pennsylvania was quiet for the first half until Sara realized she was making this awkward for Leo, her roommate who kindly offered to give her a ride to her mothers home. How is he supposed know what to say?

“Hey, sorry for being so silent. I’m kind of out of it, but we can talk about whatever.” Sara knew she had to be the one to break the silence. Leo was too polite and sensitive and she had loved that about him. Leo had never once made a pass at Sara and once he realized she was interested in both men and women she sensed that he viewed her as an asexual entity. To Sara this was a relief.

“Don’t apologize, seriously. Its totally cool, I understand.” Leo shrugged and smiled at Sara.

“So I guess she took pills. That’s what the doctors said at least. Her friend stopped by that day to drop off some of her garden tomatoes and when she went to knock on the door it was unlocked. And, they are pretty close and it’s a small town so of course she lets herself in expecting my mother to be home. I feel badly, like maybe I should send her friend,  Jean, a card or something. So fucked up.” Sara was never close to her mother because she had never seemed like a mom to her. Her mother was not hateful or abusive by any means but she lacked the solid, consistent maternal warmth that Sara had seen in other mothers.

Their mother, Susan Lee Kline was never meant to have children. Not in the traditional sense at least. Susan did not believe in raising her children under a close eye, in fact Susan didn’t believe in being involved much at all. “As long as you are safe, healthy and inspired I will not interfere in your journey!” Her parenting style was supportive but unattached.

Sara’s brother Nick had won a fairly large regional debate team competition his junior year of high school and Sara remembers how happy he had been that night. Their mother did not attend the debate but picked them up afterward and treated them to a meal in the towns nicest restaurant. She kept telling waitstaff how her son had just won a very important debate competition and they were out to celebrate him.

“Look at me gushing, but I can’t help it! I mean, this is a very competitive debate team he is on and he is younger than most of these kids he went up against, so here we are, celebrating a big victory!” She was beaming with pride. Sara remembers her mom looking pretty that night even though she hadn’t bothered to change out of her studio attire. A stiff white button down mens shirt rolled at the sleeves and Levis with pottery slurry splotched on the knees.

After that day their mother never mentioned Nicks debate again though, as if it had never even happened.

“Nick and I both knew she was always a little, I don’t know, emotionally unbalanced. But I never thought she would go so far. Erratic yes, but suicidal?” Sara sighed. Annoyed at the fact that even the way in which her mother died, just as she had lived, gave Sara no indication as to who she was.

As a child Sara had struggled to find a connection that would link them together, anything that would show her that they shared blood. But her mom was not a singular being with concrete personality traits. She shrunk and expanded in ways that made no logical sense and the few times Sara felt a kinship with her, it was always fleeting like a handful of water doomed to leak through her fingers. She would catalog these memories in her childhood journal and reread them time and time again. Like when Sara arrived home in tears after a friend told her her hair was the color of poop and her mom consoled her and took her for ice cream where she told her “Everyone has an opinion but that doesn’t mean they are right. Remember that!” At twelve when Sara needed a bra her mother had made the shopping experience fun. They got fancy drinks at a coffee shop and went to the Valley Shoppes. The nice mall which was a little too far outside of town but was worth the trip. She remembers how her mom made a funny joke about the mannequins in the bra department being too busty. “Excuse me miss?” Her mother had asked a sales woman. “We need some assistance finding a few bras that are suitable for the average human preteen girl, so nothing like this.” She said pointing toward the row of mannequins in lacy bras. They sang to Savage Garden in the car on the way home that day. They had moments few and far between of mother daughter affection. For the most part however Sara’s mothers love was poured into her work and not her children.

Susan Kline was never one thing at any point in time except when she was working. In her youth she had received local recognition for her ceramics but she never took her talents seriously until after Sara was born.

Her tiny shop and online store ended up being rather lucrative despite how poorly Susan had managed it on her own until she finally hired an assistant. Some of her pieces had even ended up in museums. And yet she was always consumed with a mania to produce. “I’m feeling like something is incubating right now and I just need to call it forth!” She would say this each time she was trying a new technique, increasing her hours spent in the studio listening to piano music on cassette.

Both Sara and her brother had given up on trying to decipher their mother and eventually found peace in the distant relationship they had shared. They admired her from afar for her talent of course but mostly for her whimsical way of operating through the world. Her death however, created a kink in the abnormal normalcy that they had grown comfortable with.

“Will you miss her?” Leo asked. He had known of Sara’s unorthodox relationship with her mother.

“I think I’ve missed her my whole life.”

 

 

Meditation

The benefits of meditation are well known. Everyone talks about trying it. The New York Times has covered it. There are apps you can download to help you meditate. Meditation is not reserved for wealthy yoga retreat goers any longer. But as accessible as the practice has now become for many beginners it can still seem daunting. Sitting alone with your thoughts while trying to silent the mind and focus on your breath is not easy for many of us. In fact, it’s the opposite of how we have been conditioned to function.

When you start meditating you will quickly notice just how unruly the mind is. Most people assume that to meditate you have to think about nothing, or “clear your mind”. But when you have it in your head that you have to DO anything when the goal is to quiet the mind, it’s totally counterproductive. So don’t think about thinking about nothing, simply “think neutral”.

When you begin practicing meditation do not be hard on yourself. Some days you will ease into it and other days you may get frustrated with yourself and be unable to defuse the non stop thoughts from coming in. When I first started, I would be bombarded with thoughts , to do lists that I had to get to, work tasks to be completed, an itch on my nose etc. We are so used to moving and thinking and working that when we stop to be still our brains don’t know what to do. It’s like all of a sudden you are tuning into 20 different crappy mind cable channels that click through rapid fire. Click – I should get that mole checked out,  Click – should I get bangs again?, Click – can’t forget to call mom back, Click – am I a good daughter? And on and on.

Tune out, think neutral, focus on your breathe, hold a comfortable posture, and if you are still having trouble I suggest coming up with imagery that helps you. I like to picture a lotus emerging from the mud and slowly blooming. If imagery isn’t your thing maybe focus on a body part. I sometimes will pick a body part, like the top of my forehead or my hands to focus on.

If all else fails, take a seat, and smile. Smile to yourself and think about the things you are grateful for. Take 10 minutes and just dwell in that warm, cozy feeling of gratitude.

The human mind is an infinite journey. We possess the power to go anywhere and do anything but in order to do so, we must learn to tap into the depths hidden beneath our messy thoughts and meditation is a wonderful tool that can help us get there.

Letter from Fear

Dear You,

I know that I get unruly sometimes and that I may have held you back from jumping into exciting and dangerous experiences but know that I did it to keep you safe and sane. I have evolved over the years but there are a few things that will never change. Fear of mediocrity, fear of stagnation and fear of losing control.

Death doesn’t really spook me as much anymore. Violent thunderstorms no longer keep me up at night working overtime. Nightlights have not been necessary for practically 20 years! Yes, indeed, I have evolved in many ways and in doing so I’ve become complex and harder to shake, like a gob of sidewalk gum on the bottom of your shoe that with each step becomes grittier picking up filth along the way, becoming more solid, thicker and stronger with each step.

You’ve done a great job of keeping me in check but sometimes I get pushy and take over. I can linger for days and months keeping you second guessing, unsure and uneasy. I have a knack of sneaking up on you like a trench coated stranger coming up around the corner, keeping pace with you but just far away enough that you can’t make me out to be anything but a shadow cast over your quickening footsteps. For the times I have consumed you and made you obsess over thoughts that tormented you, I’m sorry. I’m intrinsically weak you see, I’m Fear and that’s just how I function. I can be motivating or stifling; I can be logical or irrational. My real purpose is to test you, to make sure that no matter how dark or overwhelming I become you don’t lose yourself in me and can tell me “no” and say “you are wrong”. I’m usually wrong and I like being wrong, please keep proving me wrong.

yours truly, like it or not,

Fear

Don’t Be A Doormat & Learn To Say “No”

Ever find yourself taking on side projects at work that won’t benefit your career whatsoever? Do your personal relationships feel one sided – where you are always the one putting in effort to appease friends, family and partners? Are you constantly kicking yourself after you overbooked another weekend because you couldn’t bring yourself to simply say “no”. People-pleasing is toxic, it’s also a tough habit to break.  Why do we do it? Because people-pleasers want everyone in their lives to be happy and they will do whatever is asked of them to keep it that way. PPs are almost addicted to being needed in a twisted way because saying “yes” to everything makes them feel like they are playing a part in the lives of others.

PPs tend to believe that they will be well-liked the more they say yes to others but often times they’ll end up feeling like doormats.  One thing I know for certain is that if you allow others to treat you like shit, eventually you will start to treat yourself like shit too. Also, saying “no” to favors or engagements you’d rather not attend does not make you a demanding jerk and if anyone on the receiving end of your “no” gives you a hard time, its likely that THEY are the demanding jerks not the other way around!

What many people-pleasers tend to forget is that constantly saying yes to others is to constantly say no to your needs. Not only does it put a lot of pressure on you, but it can literally make you sick by stretching yourself too thin in order to accommodate others. You are depleting your energy sources and this unhealthy behavior will eventually leave you feeling exhausted, used and stressed out.

Here are a few tips to help you be better at saying NO.

 

  1. Remember you have the option to say no.
  1. Think it over. If someone asks something of you, take a minute to think about it. Ask questions and get the details on this particular commitment. After you get all the info ask yourself the following: “Will this be too stressful for me?” “Do I have time for this?” “ What would I be giving up?” “ Am I being pressured into this?”
  1. Have boundaries. Is the person asking something of you being disrespectful in their approach? Is the favor inappropriate? Is there any benefit for you and if not is this a pattern constantly playing out with you and this person? Also, feel free to set constraints on a particular commitment for example if you can only attend a friends bridal shower for an hour because you had already made plans far in advance. Don’t cancel those prior plans! Just let your friend know you can attend their event but for only a certain amount of time.
  1. Try not to feel guilty for saying “no”. It takes time to get comfortable with saying no,  and feeling guilty about it will make it much harder for yourself. Your time and energy is yours to manage!

 

The Anxious Mind

“Hello and good morning. Time to gear up to internally defeat yourself until you are too exhausted to function! To begin, let’s think about everyone you are fairly certain hates your guts and is out to get you. Next, go over everything that is wrong with you. Take your time with this one. There is a lot wrong with you. I’d like to remind you of everything you don’t have and how with each passing day your desires to accomplish your dreams increase while the likelihood of you accomplishing said dreams diminishes. Now, lets obsess over each worst case scenario that could possibly happen, ever. Like your seasonal allergies actually turning out to be some leaky brain disease or your apartment building burning down in a fire with your dog inside. Continue each step until you have convinced yourself that nothing matters and you might not even be real, just some fever dream a five year old in a vegetative state is having until the family decides to pull the plug.”

I wanted to describe how a conversation with my anxious mind would sound like and I can’t lie, I laughed while I wrote this. You might ask yourself what kind of monster thinks anxiety is humorous? Anyone who has experienced it, and works through it, that’s who! Because although anxiety is real and can be crippling it’s also incredibly absurd. It is outlandish, dramatic, pointless, lazy and selfish.

I haven’t experienced extreme anxiety like I used to in a very long time (thank goodness!). Meditation and living a more balanced life has certainly helped with that but I also believe that humor is vital. If you find yourself obsessing and you simply cannot escape your toxic thoughts; embrace them head on. Write out your anxieties. Next, go over each one and REALISTICALLY break down the anxiety. For example, does your best friend of 15 years secretly hate you and is trying to steal your boyfriend? If you can’t list at least 3 reasons as to why this thought could be true, you are probably just a neurotic sicko with trust issues, BUT who isn’t? Now accept the thought, break it down, laugh at your absurdity and move on.

When I was about eight I developed ritualistic OCD that I luckily grew out of shortly after. I was convinced that if I didn’t open and close the door to my bedroom a certain way the world would end, or my entire family would be murdered or both. I can look back and laugh at my young mind and see how pointless my wasted hours of hand washing, finger tapping, door knob turning and eye blinks were. If I can so easily see that now, why do I have trouble getting past any other current anxiety I may face? I remind myself that my anxious mind is a liar and is not to be listened to.

The anxious mind is like a mutant Frankenstein type combination of 50 percent evil genius, 50 percent needy pre-teen who watched too many movies. More importantly the anxious mind is hilarious so drown out its voice with your laughter!