Last night’s weird dream: ancient tea.

I have a proclivity for very unusual dreams.  Extremely vivid, surreal scenarios, often with multiple complex storylines.

Last night, I woke up abruptly in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep after experiencing a dream that was rather odd:

***

I walk into a very plain, white, unadorned kitchen and start pulling various ingredients out of the cabinets.  Before long, the counter is full of various herbs, containers and appliances.

Suddenly, a man, dressed in a long white tunic walks in and asks me “What are you making?”

Even though I had no idea who this man was, I was not disturbed by his presence and responded “Oh, I’m making this ancient tea I keep hearing about”.

“I know how to make that, I’ll show you”, he responds.

The strange man starts grabbing certain ingredients and a white electric kettle from the cabinet, and brews the tea.

After a few moments, he takes a sip.

“Can I try it?”, I ask.

“No, it’s not ready yet”, he replies. He adds a few more ingredients and brews it again.

“Now?”, I ask again.

“No”.

This goes on for several rounds. My impatience grows as he tweaks the tea, brewing it again and again.

Eventually, my frustration boils over.

“I want to try the tea now!”, I yell at the strange man.

“Your hard work and love and care will pay off. But you have to be patient. You have to wait”.

He sips the tea. And I wake up.

-C

dropping baggage & welcoming 2018.

For years, I’ve sworn off the entire idea of New Year’s resolutions.  They often feel so trite, futile even.  Perhaps you’ve witnessed how packed the gym is the first two weeks of the new year, only to eventually return back to normal.  Or maybe you’ve noticed a new musical instrument, leaning inconspicuously in the corner of your friend’s apartment, unused, unlearned, slowly collecting dust.  Another casualty of unfocused, New Year excitement.

The unfortunate, unspoken truth is, if you had to wait until the stroke of midnight to start your goal, you probably didn’t want it.

I know this personally as I have been that New Year’s resolution fanatic, guilty of walking past that pile of brand new unused workout gear day after day, letting perfectly good bundles of kale rot in the refrigerator and…what did I ever do with that mandolin I just knew I was going to master?

***

If you’ve visited my blog in the past, you’ve read about this introspective journey I’ve been on the past few years.  It’s involved a lot of reflecting on past events, some of them exciting, some of them unpleasant.  It’s also involved me taking a hard, uncomfortable look at my habits, thought patterns and emotional reactions.  Purging resentments, validating past hurts and disappointments, but also gradually letting them go.  The whole process has been a little messy, even painful at times.

But ultimately, I feel a better, stronger, more resilient self emerging in the process.

***

This past month, instead of picking goals to start on January 1, I decided that I should start focusing on what I really want out of life.  The experiences, careers, friendships and general energy I want to surround me.  I became devoted to cleansing negativity from my life, but also being grateful for all of the positive things I already have and looking forward to all the exciting things emerging for me in the future.

In essence, I had to drop a lot of old baggage before I even got close to the New Year.

So, dear friends, instead of your New Year’s resolutions, what did you leave behind in 2017?  And what are you looking forward to in 2018?

Now to go look for that damn mandolin…

-C

Night terrors.

Night terrors.

For a lot of people, this phrase means absolutely nothing. For me, it’s been a plague to my well-being and health for several years.

For the first time in a long time, I had the unfortunate experience of waking up in the middle of the night with a feeling of intense dread – sweating, crying, fearing that I was in peril and thinking that I was in danger of dying.

This routine is so familiar to me.  Checking every door and window, ensuring that my domicile is secure.  Making sure that I am safe.

My last horrible dream prompted me to go to the gun range to learn how to defend myself.  I considered buying a rifle.  These nightmares are no joke, I promise you.

I sat up last night, listening for the attacker that wasn’t there, trying, in vain, to coddle myself, reminding myself that he doesn’t know where I live.  Telling myself that he can’t find me.

Thank the Universe.

Safety is an often forgotten luxury.  In these moments of intense anxiety, trying desperately to remember that I now have a family of loved ones who will work to protect me, I have to tell myself that these nightmares are fleeting.  Strength comes from overcoming this darkness and fighting the fear that sometimes plagues my mind.

One day, I hope these nightmares will go away.  I didn’t ask to be on the receiving end of an abusive relationship, but I know that every time I share my story, I weaken his hold over my life.  I strengthen a woman who is experiencing something similar. I know that my words have power and meaning, and that I can bring positive change, even in my darkest moments.

This morning, I am thankful for this night terror.  I am thankful for this opportunity to share my darkest secret with you all.  If I can rise from the most horrible and haunting experience of my life, I know you can too.

Your eternal friend,
-c

guest post: A Long and Winding Road

Recently, I asked a few of my fellow writer friends to contribute guest posts for this holiday weekend with the theme of renewal, rebirth and resurrectionAs you read the entries this Easter weekend, I invite you to think of a time in your life when you had to start over or make a significant change.  Was it a long time coming?  Or was it unexpected and sudden?  Was this many years ago?  Or is it happening right now?

Today’s post comes from a good friend and colleague who has asked to remain anonymous.  Please enjoy their entry “A Long and Winding Road”.

-C

A Long and Winding Road

road

 

One of the beautiful and scary things about life is how many possibilities we have each day. It is beautiful, because each moment we literally have an infinite amount of decisions we can make. The terrifying part? We literally have an infinite number of roads we can take.

I was recently reminded of this due to my living situation needing to change in the next couple of months. It has awakened the inner reminder of how important it is to examine my life, and reexamine, similar to a hiker and their relationship with a compass. Am I living a life I feel called to, or just one I am able to. What brings me joy? Do I spend time doing the things that bring me joy? Who am I helping day-to-day? How did I pack into the stream of life? These are just some of the questions I use for those inner surveys.

The life I want to live, is not always the life I am currently living. My path has definitely been a long and winding one. The last year has been full of sadness and grief, and as I have started to come out of this place, it has given me a new perspective. With the gift of time, I am grateful for how the last calendar year has played out.

As a past contributor to CYLFriday.com I feel called to carry on a tradition this Good Friday. We always had a call to action, and this week, who are you becoming? Take some time today, and take an inventory of your life, good, bad, and indifferent. What area of your life do you want to change? Share some of your thoughts and ideas in the comment section.

 

an ode to worrying.

My brain is weird.

At any given moment, even if I’m already performing a task during the day, I’m always thinking ahead to something else.  Usually, this means I have a perpetually running checklist of things that need to be done that day and a strategy to complete them in the most time-effective way possible.  Efficiency is kind of my thing.

On top of the normal checklist, I also have a steady background noise in my head that is dedicated to looking into the near and distant future.  “If I make career move A versus career move B, how will that affect my earning potential in 20 years?”.  “If I start saving now, I can probably take a trip to Japan next year”.  That sort of thing.

As you might imagine, this kind of thinking is a bit of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, this trait has served me well in certain areas of my life.  Being able to think ahead and predict how a project could get derailed and then be able to come up with a litany of contingency plans to resolve those potential issues has, oddly enough, proven helpful in my career as a project manager.  Additionally, worrying about potential danger has most likely kept me safe in a variety of situations, especially on the days and nights I was by myself, working in New York City.

However, in my younger, more anxious days (mainly high school), this kind of thinking caused a great deal of distress.  Looking back, I realize that it was my mother, the World Champion of Worrying, who set the example for me.  As I got a little older and a little more independent, I started to realize that not everything is a crisis.  Some things simply don’t need or deserve the same expenditure of emotional energy.  Many times it’s necessary to not give even one single fuck about certain things.

As bad as worrying can be, and it can definitely be very, very bad, I’m still thankful for this little defect.  If I wasn’t prone to worrying, I probably would have never discovered meditation, yoga or even the simple joy of walking through the woods to clear my mind.  Essentially, worrying has taught me to how to relax.  And while I’m still not always the best at it (many thanks to my loved ones who remind me to live in the moment), I now see Worrying, not as an enemy, but as a somewhat annoying, lifelong friend.

Chill,
-C

the perfectionism lie.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Back in college, as a prerequisite to graduating, we were required to spend several hours in the Career Center.  There were a variety of sessions we had to sit through, most of which revolved around how to write a cover letter and resume as well as job search strategies and networking.  In one session on interview skills, our Career Counselor told us that a good way to answer the popular “greatest weakness” question is to say that you are a perfectionist.*

“Weakness?”, I thought. “That’s my greatest strength!”.  Or so I thought.

I certainly did pride myself on being a perfectionist.  It was simply how I was raised.  In my household growing up, anything less than perfection in terms of schoolwork, job performance or behavior simply was not tolerated.  Mistakes were not just frowned upon, but unacceptable.  As I got older and moved away to college, I certainly internalized this, striving for 100% excellence in everything.

I was able to balance multiple internships, side work, and DJing/news-casting at the local radio station all while maintaining a very high GPA.  Perfectly executing every task in front of me, I thought, was the path to success and happiness.  However, I quickly found out that aiming for perfectionism is not only destructive but also counter-intuitive in the long run.  Why?

Perfection doesn’t exist.

Sure, you can put on the facade of perfection and you can certainly obsess over the most minute of details in every single project you ever work on.  But you won’t ever be perfect.  Your work won’t ever be perfect.

Eventually, you will start to realize this, but, like an addict, you will continue to reach for that thing that is just beyond your grasp.  And then procrastination, burn-out, stress and a crippling fear of failure or rejection (all common side-effects of perfectionism), will start to take over.

As I started dealing with those perfection related problems, I realized that chasing after such an unattainable goal was not only making me miserable, it was killing me.

The truth is, deep-down, I knew that perfectionism was a lie.  I never, ever held any other person to the standard I held for myself.  I loved seeing my friends and colleagues reach their goals and gain new skills and when they stumbled, I told them how these mistakes were simply life-lessons that would help them do better in the future.  Physician, heal thyself.

I’m still learning that being less than perfect is just fine.  In my more stressfed moments, many times on nights when my insomnia relentlessly keeps my awake, I have to remind myself  that life will continue to have ups-and-downs, failures, successes and setbacks. And that’s OK.

To being super human, not superhuman,
-C

*By the way, this was and still is horrible interview advise.  Telling an entire group of students to give the same, canned, played-out answer to a common interview question is ridiculous.  Seriously, don’t use this in your next job interview.

the importance of doing “nothing”

Most people who have known me for more than two seconds, know that I’m one of those “doers”.  Whether it’s my career, a hobby, a new topic I want to explore or some new project I decided I need to conquer, I’m always doing something.  I don’t tend to sit still, which can present a pretty significant problem – one that I run into fairly often.

I work hard.  I challenge myself. I try to reach new goals. I achieve many of them. But then, I get burnt out and I start to get sick.  That’s where I am today: sitting on my couch, drinking tea and trying to nurse myself back to health.

Lately, I’ve been funneling a lot of emotional energy (read: stress) and time into some of my life goals, namely:

  • Adopt a dog and train her to provide therapy for my hospice patients
  • Lose some weight/get back into shape
  • Work on my career goals/network
  • Save up for a trip to Italy
  • Learn self-defense
  • Bake more

While these are all good things to work on, they’re all for naught if I don’t take care of myself.  It’s almost as if the Universe is trying to tell me something:

“Pace yourself. Breathe. Slow down. Relax.”

Having a strong work-ethic is a virtue, but so is self-care.  Looking to the future is good, but so is living in the moment.  Wanting to grow is admirable, but so is appreciating what you have right now.  Maybe drinking tea and watching funny videos on YouTube is important and vital to me being able to achieve all of the wonderful things I want to do.  Maybe kicking my feet up and doing “nothing” is not only acceptable, but necessary.

Lesson learned, Universe. (for now)

Peace and Love,
-C

P.S. Adorable mini cupcakes coming soon…