I am becoming.
Learning to overcome the bullshit stories in order to find our power.
I went up last weekend with my sister and one of her best friends to Phelps Creek Basin/Spider Meadow (about an hour and a half north of Leavenworth) for what was to be a weekend backpacking trip for my sister’s birthday. We got to the base of the trail around midnight on Friday, set up camp, and then attempted a drive up to the trailhead Saturday morning, after which we would camp for two nights and then come back down.
I say attempted a drive up because we never actually made it. The road was worse than any road I’ve ever been on, and my lower-clearance Prius just wasn’t cut out for it. (When we would go back five days later with a tow truck to retrieve my car, I’m actually shocked we made it as far as we did.) My car broke down a mile and a half from the start of the trail, about 6 miles beyond the nearest campground, 10 miles to someone that might have a radio, and 25 from where we would have cell service. We had two choices.
1, Send one of us down the mountain for help and sacrifice my sister’s birthday weekend because of some dumb car trouble. Or,
2, Go up anyway, leaving our car on the side of the road, and make getting back down a Monday-problem.
Naturally, we chose the latter, trusting in the goodness of the Universe to help us find a way down. Spoiler alert: not only did She send us a Subaru of humans that very kindly gave us a ride the last mile and a half up to the trailhead on Saturday, she also sent us some lovely strangers who drove us (and our three massive packs, plus a ukelele) all the way down to Leavenworth Monday.
I can’t stop thinking about how grateful I am for this weekend, starting with the fact that I was with two women who remained ridiculously positive despite the car breaking down, and who very happily decided to forge ahead without needing a plan, without needing to know every next step, and with no guarantee that we would, in fact, be given a ride back down.
There was so much trust cultivated on this trip, not just in one another, but in ourselves. It was a much-needed reminder of the importance of connecting to the beauty and the stillness without so as to find the beauty and the stillness within. After all, they’re really one and the same. And even in the stillness (perhaps especially in the stillness), there’s an immense amount of power — the sort of power that lifts you up in radical love, wraps you in abundant grace, reminds you of your inherent worthiness, and delights in the music of things.
I learned a lot that weekend — about setting intentions and letting go; about how to have fun and not need a reason for it; of the freedom that comes with standing naked upon a rock after immersing my whole body in a glacial river, sun warming my skin as mountains surround me; of the magic that fills me when I rely on the strength of all creation; of the catharsis of sharing my fears and vulnerabilities; and of the great, great power of encouragement from the people you trust.
Perhaps most of all, I learned from the answers I wrote down to the following question:
“In order to be where you want to be, what do you need to let go of?”
This week, I really want to encourage you to think about that question. Think about where you want to be. What does it look like — internally and externally? Who is or isn’t there? If you put no limitations on yourself, if absolutely everything was accessible, was possible, what would you reach for?
And then in order to get there, what is it you need to let go of?
It might be a negative mindset about yourself — some bullshit story you tell yourself about who you are and what you’re worthy of; a narrative of I’m too fat, I’m too weak, I’m not smart enough, I’m unlovable, I’m not valuable.
These bullshit stories, the things we say to ourselves over and over on repeat, seep so deeply into our bones that they wind up taking over everything in our lives. They keep us in unhealthy circumstances, unhealthy relationships, and unhealthy jobs for far longer than what’s right, or even for longer than we’d like. And the reason we stay so long in those things is because, on some level, we believe those stories — those false narratives. We believe we can’t do better, or perhaps we believe we don’t deserve better.
But you do, my friend. You always deserve better.
Even if you have to, like me, remind yourself of that fact over and over again.
I deserve better, and I deserve to take up space in this world. I deserve to express my feelings, whether I’m feeling incredibly anxious or incredibly happy. I deserve to want good things for myself, and I deserve to ask for them.
We all do.
When we sit in silence and listen to those BS stories running through our minds, what we’re really doing is sitting in shame. We’re sitting in the fear of unworthiness, and convincing ourselves, every minute that goes by, that happiness simply isn’t attainable.
Because oftentimes, happiness sure doesn’t feel attainable. When you’re in a sucky place emotionally, it’s hard to remember that you’ll get out of it. You want to get out of it, of course — nobody likes to be in pain — and you long for the time when you’ll be happy again. When you don’t have to feel like you’re stuck in a vortex that seems to drag on forever and ever.
Take yesterday, for example.
Yesterday, out of nowhere, I felt incredibly anxious from the moment I woke up to the moment I went back to bed. Like… the can’t get enough oxygen no matter how many breaths I take, consistent pain in my chest, extremely vulnerable sort of anxious. I felt it all day, and it was not only exhausting, but a very confusing place to be after I’d spent the whole rest of the week feeling on top of the world from the backpacking trip.
And then I went to bed, I wake up this morning, and today I feel simply… incredible again. I got enough sleep. I got to sit in my backyard with my coffee, feel the wind brush my skin, run my fingers through the long, thick, hair-like grass, and read Jennifer Pastiloff’s On Being Human. It. Was. Beautiful. And yet just the day before, I was bursting into tears over having to go to work. Wtf?
I’ve noticed life is usually a cycle like that.
There are very consistent times of feeling lonely or sad or anxious, and then there are wonderful times of feeling free and joyful and content. I keep being reminded, over and over again when I’m in a difficult place, that it’s just temporary. As heavy as it feels, and as long as it seems to last, it never lasts forever. It might last a long time, but not forever. And we will, and we do, get through it. It just sucks in the meantime.
What helps with the suckiness is remembering to hold space for these two things:
- Acceptance of something that seems unfair, and
- Acknowledgement of its unfairness
For example, accepting that there’s nothing we can do about this damn COVID situation. It’s here, and it’ll be here for a while, and there’s nothing we as individuals can do about it. Which is hard to comprehend, but it’s true.
And then acknowledging that holy crap, does it ever feel unfair. Like, incredibly unfair. As in we had so many plans, so many dreams, so many desires that can now no longer be fulfilled in the way we wanted them to because of this disastrous (temporary, I can’t stress enough, temporary) predicament.
And yet here we are. We can’t fight what is, so we gotta learn to swim with the current — not against it. The ocean never gets tired of pushing and pulling its own waters; the only one that gets tuckered out from fighting it is you. So might as well learn how to go with the flow. Even in anxiety.
Remembering that the anxiety you feel is just a blip on the timeline of your life — that you’ve experienced a million things before your anxiety and will experience a million things after — is monumental in being able to persevere through it.
I keep reminding myself that this is a process. That being human means experiencing joy and heartache, oftentimes at the same time. The duality of feeling afraid and excited, nervous and prepared, anxious and grateful, is all a part of the human experience.
I will also say, however, one caveat: there are certain kinds of depression and anxiety that cannot be simply accepted and persevered through. There are certain kinds that are absolutely debilitating, and that need dedicated work and effort through therapy and/or prescriptions in order to overcome. When it comes to that kind of depression/anxiety, I cannot emphasize enough that needing help, asking for help, and getting help is extremely important. And that you are worth it.
Relying on a medication doesn’t make you any less of a person. If anything, it makes you stronger. Everyone deserves to be happy, and to feel free and loved. Sometimes, our depression makes it such that we cannot feel any of those things, much less accept them. If taking a medication and seeing a doctor helps you find love and belonging, freedom and acceptance, then that’s what you must do for yourself. You deserve it.
And only you can make that choice.
Yesterday, when I was walking the .7 miles through Capitol Hill from my car to work, I was listening to an interview with Glennon Doyle, and I was reminded of this: of the duality of our experiences, and of the natural process of emerging through them.
It was then that I came up with this mantra: I am becoming.
And there I felt it. A tiny shift in my chest. A little particle of anxiety floating away with the warm Seattle wind.
I am becoming, I repeated to myself, and I felt at once grounded in the present moment, anxious as I was, and wrapped in love and grace for that anxiety.
My heart ached at the unfairness of it all, and I am becoming was how I responded.
I am becoming gave me a glimpse of the future, of a time when I would be out of my anxiety, just as I’d come out of my anxiety before.
I had just had an amazing week — where I woke up every morning feeling genuinely happy. Not excited, not elated, just… happy. Content. Even before I’d had my coffee. (What!)
And then here I was after a poor night’s sleep, feeling incredibly overwhelmed, not wanting to go into work, but of course I had to because it’s COVID and because I have no other way to earn money and because I just spent $900 getting my car towed down from a mountain and no matter how anxious you feel, sometimes you have to do things you really, really, really don’t want to do because… it’s unfair. And I accepted it and it sucked and I made it through.
Looking back now to just one day ago as I sit here writing and feeling at ease with myself again, I have to say… I’m grateful. Because that anxiety, that particular elephant on my chest that sat with me and on me as I walked up Marion towards Broadway, taught me a beautiful thing:
I am becoming.
No matter what you’re going through this week, I want to encourage you to come up with your own mantra — something you can repeat to yourself whenever you start feeling afraid, uneasy, angry, frustrated, or sad.
It might be something simple, like, “I am here. I am enough.”
It might be a Bible verse, such as, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” -Psalm 143:8
It might be a quote from a beloved book, “Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will allow it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” -Frank Herbert, Dune
Or it might be something that comes to you in the moment that will help keep you going when you least expect it.
I am becoming.
Whatever it is, keep it like a little treasure next to your heart. Repeat it whenever you’re going through a difficult time, so that you can — if only for a moment — take your mind off of the bullshit story and onto something that gives you power.
And then no matter what, always, always, always, remember to breathe.
Lots of love, my friends,