Falling in love with solitude

I sat on a covered porch in a rocking chair with my knees to my chest and listened to the thunder tear through the silence and watched as lightning cut across the sky between the gaps of the trees.

I sat, and I contemplated life and love and the state of the world and everything in between. I had just hiked, and the woods always make me pensive. The trails were wet and overgrown from days of afternoon rains. I’d stripped off my muddy converse, and I sat in complete contentment feeling the fresh air and listening to nature.

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I’ve realized lately that the moments I feel most desperate and frantic to be surrounded by people are the times I most need to be by myself. They are the times I need to submerge myself in solitude, usually amongst the trees, in order to sort out my brain and calm my anxieties.

It’s one of those things that I always knew, but it took me a long time to realize, if that makes sense.

Like sometimes you know that certain people or things are good (or bad) for you, but you aren’t quite ready to do anything with that information. Then one day it kind of dawns on you, and you finally incorporate that knowledge into your life.

It’s the difference between knowing something and realizing something. I wish I had more words to explain that concept, but it just is.

Anyhow, this difference between knowing and realizing is why I’ve spent so much time in the woods the past week or so. I always knew it was good for me, but after my anxiety attack a couple of weeks ago, I realized I had to start prioritizing it.

I’ve done a great job of surrounding myself with the most incredible people, but I’m only going to push them away if I make them responsible for my issues.

I can hear him in my head, “I’m not going anywhere, but you can push me away.” I would hate that.

I’m grateful to have had someone to take care of me, but it wasn’t his problem to solve. I’m not his person to take care of, and I refuse to let my anxieties ruin yet another relationship.

So I go to the woods. When I’m desperate for a hand to hold, I hold my own, and I go to the woods and I walk and I take pictures and I braid ferns into my hair. Sometimes I sit on the side of the trail in a puddle of tears because I have to get my emotions out somehow. Sometimes I stop in my tracks to scribble down a thought that comes into my head, a story idea, a poem lead, something I need to tell someone –whatever it is. I just surrender and let it happen.

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I’ve submerged myself in self-care the past few weeks.I buy myself flowers because it’s a hell of a lot better than sitting around wishing I had someone to do it for me. I deep conditioned my hair. I had quite a few sessions of shower karaoke (sorry you have to listen to me terribly sing Whitney Houston, mom, but not that sorry). I’ve taken naps. I’ve buried myself in the things that make me feel whole and alive.

It’s made me less desperate for and dependent on other people. I’m still an extremely social person and crave human interaction, but I feel less like I’m going to fall to pieces every time the anxiety strikes and there’s no one there to hold my hand.

I used to long for someone to share my hikes with, and while company still would be nice, I’ve come to look at it as some sort of sacred alone time. I’m picky about who I’ll let be in those spaces with me, the vulnerable spaces.

It’s an incredible feeling, this contentment. I’m documenting it here so when life gets hectic, and I forget, I have it written here in black and white to remind me that I am enough for myself.

It’s really easy to get caught up in what everyone else needs from you. A lot of times I feel like I’m being pulled in 100 different directions, and everyone needs something. But I’ve realized that the people who love and care about me will want me to take care of myself first. This doesn’t change my undying loyalty to those I care about, but it does mean that I don’t feel compelled to do things for people who don’t appreciate it or who continuously take advantage of me.

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So back to the story I started out with: sitting on the porch after my hike as the storm came in.

I was lost in my head. I had thousands of thoughts competing for attention. There are boxes in my notes of things I had to separate because I was trying to write down three different ideas at once. The woods (and swamps) are abundant with inspiration. It’s the best kind of overwhelming.

So I’m sitting there, and everything feels so loud. There are crickets and frogs and birds and my own thoughts and so many sounds I couldn’t name.

But at one point I looked up from my notebook, and the ringing in my ears went silent. It had felt like everything was screaming at me, and then they’d either thought I got the point or realized I wasn’t listening to them and gave up. I sat there and listened to the thunder rolling in and watched the sky grow darker even though it was hours from sunset. A mosquito pestered me lightly brushing my skin as it tried to find a place to latch on, but I didn’t want to leave my chair or the trees because I’d found silence amongst the craziness of life and this city. I didn’t want to let it go.

I’ve found that my attachments to things usually come because I want to live in my happiest moments forever because the ones in between often hurt too much to handle.

The storm came, and I had to leave. My moment of bliss interrupted by the earth’s temper tantrum, but I sat in my car and watched the rain and found bliss there, too.

When anxiety attacks

I had a full fledged anxiety attack the other night.

A drunken, crying on the floor of the shower level anxiety attack.

In the process, I made someone I care about feel like shit. I’ve apologized to this person several times, but I will again. I’m sorry sometimes I lose my shit (for no apparent reason), but thank you for dealing with me. Thank you for listening to me rant and letting me sleep it off and still wrapping me in a giant bear hug and staying up until 2 a.m. talking to me about everything under the sun.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

It used to be much worse. As much as I needed someone there for me the other night, I knew I would be okay. I used to cling to Christopher. I would scream and yell and beg him to fix me. I would tell him surely the anxiety would kill me, or I would end up doing it myself. We may have had our issues, but Christopher never deserved that, and neither does anyone. 

The other night was different. I knew I just had to keep my head above water long enough for the wave to wash over me and take the parts it needed and I would be alright. 

I didn’t need anyone to fix me. That’s a ridiculous amount of pressure to put on a single person. No one can really fix anyone, that’s absurd. I don’t want anyone to ever look at me, even in my most broken, and think I need fixing. I’m a little bent, a little bruised up, but I don’t need a first aid kit or a savior.

I’ve learned to take care of myself for the most part, but sometimes I do need someone to wipe the tears and remind me that I’m stronger than this.

My poor friend got the brunt of my insecurities.  He stood there asking me what to do, how to help, how to make it stop. He thought it was about him, and it wasn’t. He just happens to be a place where I feel safe and cared about so I broke down; even though as I did, I was sure I was destroying everything that felt so effortless about us. 

The thing about anxiety is that it can creep in at any time, even when things are okay, and it turns even the best of us into self saboteurs. This friendship is one of the things that makes me the happiest.

Sometimes, though, I don’t think I deserve it. I don’t think I deserve to be deliriously happy. I don’t think I deserve someone who is so undoubtedly there for me, not out of necessity or obligation, but because they legitimately care.  

I’m always looking for something to be wrong. I get it in my head that surely things will blow up in my face so I might as well light the match and do it now, that way I’m in control of it. That way I decide how deep below the surface the flames get to burn.

I’m aware of it so I can usually rectify the situation before I blow the whole thing to smithereens, but I have to stop doing the same things or I will lose the people I care about. 

So I went to walk in the woods. 

I forget sometimes, how much it helps. Mostly because it sounds so silly, but there’s a solace I find in nature that I can’t find anywhere else. Not in any person, not in any bottle, not in any substance, not in any book store or library.

Nowhere.

I even let my anxiety ruin that, too. I tossed and turned last night imagining I had an anxiety attack on the side of the trail and ended up surrounded by five hungry alligators.

That’s what anxiety does. It makes every single thing seem like a huge deal.

It makes you feel like the world is spinning and you are in a pool or a lake or an ocean or a gator swamp and you’re splashing around just trying to get your footing or even just a solid tread but waves keep coming and you think surely you might die because even the smallest things are so goddamn overwhelming.

I think that’s why I’m so drawn to water when I get anxious. Why I end up on shower floors or throwing myself into the ocean or the pool: if I feel some real water crashing down on my skin, I can focus on that instead of all the “what ifs.” It’s the way I take my power back.

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I might lose everything, who the hell knows. All I do know is that if I keep obsessing over losing everything good in my life, I definitely will.

So I cleared my head. I realized that sometimes the anxiety creeps in, and I can’t explain it. There usually isn’t a reason –other than not trusting things to be good.

 

As I drove home, the sun was shining but it was raining. Pretty hard considering the sky was still so bright.

It was bizarre and beautiful and was the perfect metaphor for all the ridiculous anxiety I’d been feeling lately.

Everything is bright and beautiful, but sometimes I get so overwhelmed with emotion that I cry anyways. 

It happens. I break down. I lose it. I make people around me worry that they’re hurting me when they aren’t.

But it’s okay.

Today in the woods (swamp, really), I was reminded that everything doesn’t have to be such a big deal. That things are good. That I don’t need to push situations or people.

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I spent so much of my life being defined by my anxiety and depression. To my parents. To my teachers. To my boyfriend. Everyone always had to watch out for me having a panic attack or falling into the pit of depression.

I get it, and I’m grateful for the countless people in my life who have helped me or saved me or been there for me, but I don’t need it to be my defining factor any more.

When it creeps in, I let it take over because it feels so familiar. I forget that I don’t have to do that anymore. I’m stronger than that.

I’ve said all year that “I believe in good things coming.” I’ve written it in almost every blog post. I write it down on pastry bags at work. I fill pages with that single phrase when I’m overwhelmed and need to write but can’t find more specific words.

I need to get that inked on my skin.

I believe in good things coming.

The good things are here. They’re here. No matter what the voice of anxiety says in the back of my mind: good things are here, and good things are coming.

Writing, blocks and the woods

I went to the woods today, and I didn’t come out overwhelmed with inspiration.

Normally, I go in with a million thoughts swirling around in my grey matter, and come out with dirt stained pages of ideas, snippets, new directions for existing projects, lines that may fit places and just an overall clarity about life.

Today I went in without much of importance on my mind, and came out feeling kind of bleh.

It’s just been that kind of week, honestly.

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It’s still so beautiful, even if it didn’t clear my block.

I’m coming down off a crazy creative high. I rode the wave, got all of the things in my head out on paper, and now the wave has deposited me back on the shore with a lot of stuff to work through and not a lot of motivation to work through it.

I have pieces of poems stashed in random notebooks, some poems that right now are two, but are likely different drafts of the same piece. I have some I’ve literally cried over because I can’t get right. Some I’ve spilled beer on because I’m frustrated (and also clumsy).

This is the time when writing feels like work. When the words don’t come smoothly sailing out of my pen and on to paper. When I don’t feel like a creative genius. When I feel like everything that comes out sucks and is worthless.

I hate times like this.

It’s not even writer’s block, it’s…editor’s block? It’s a lack of motivation? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what it is. All I know is that it’s testing me.

Testing my resolve to make this work and make something of myself.

That’s why I went to the woods. It’s my happy place. The place I can usually find clarity and direction and all of the things I need to be successful.

Today I just discovered I’m really dehydrated, and that hiking three miles in direct sunlight with no shade was not my brightest idea. I miss my mountains terribly.

The trees in the woods I hiked in today valued their personal space too greatly. I didn’t feel enclosed in a comforting blanket of branches and leaves and Spanish moss. Today I felt exposed. I felt like anything I stopped on the trail to write down would be instantly out there in the universe not simply scrawled on a dirt-stained page of my notebook.

I have a strict no music rule when I go into the woods. I like to connect with myself, connect with nature, and let’s be honest….listen to know if any snakes/gators/bears/cougars might be trying to plan a sneak attack.

Anyways, today I didn’t even have thoughts swirling around in my head. I didn’t have anything I was overthinking about or anything to even get out. So I turned on the music to simply have something to occupy my brain other than when this steaming hot, seemingly never-ending hike would be over.

It was that kind of hike.

It sucked.

I’ve word vomited everything. I’ve said all that needs to be said so now it’s just working with it.

I don’t know how to do that. I’m good at the initial dump, and I love the catharsis that comes from that. Once it’s all out there? I’m not good at that. I’m not good at doing something about things, or in this context, polishing poems and other pieces.

It’s an interesting space to be in creatively. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of work it still takes after I have everything down on paper. The projects I’m working on still have so far to go. It’s terrifying and exhausting.

The woods didn’t work for me today, but maybe that isn’t their job. Maybe I need to stop looking to so many outside things for motivation and validation in writing and probably a lot of other parts of my life, too.

But that’s a different story for a different time.

If anyone has any motivating tips, playlists, suggestions, etc., send them my way. I’m always open to suggestions!