My recent post kept my inbox filled with questions for the last couple of days. I think more explanations are needed on why I took certain steps in my life.
I asked a very good friend of mine yesterday if he is afraid of anything. He told me, “Yes, I am afraid of mice and birds!” Initially I thought, how can anybody be afraid of these little, innocent sweet things. But it is the context that matters. Why? We are not just afraid of things without a reason. I observe this with Petit Joel as well. He watches me. Constantly. I am not afraid of X, Y and Z, so he is not. I don’t freak out about a spider or bee and neither is he. I don’t tell him bad things about dark, spooky places and he won’t get afraid. Easy so far? Read on.
Whenever I catch myself in a place full of anxiety, stress, panic, confusion or even self-doubt, the little strength that I built up over time comes up and puts this nice, neat bubble around me for protection. It was not always that easy. I was scared to leave everything behind in Germany and move to New York. I remember this exact moment when I decided to make this switch in my life. This switch from routine, comfort, home and safety to uncertainty, thrill and insanity. I worried (German Angst) to leave my family and friends behind to take this job offer across the ocean and planting myself into a new city, all alone with my entire belongings/my life packed nicely in three suitcases. I was afraid to ride the subway in New York, I did not want to talk to strangers or to even approach them. I thought I will never pick up the language and my English is not good enough. I was 23 when I arrived in New York. Innocent but dumb enough to believe that I can make a living writing a column for a newspaper and have a nice brownstone apartment on the Upper East Side like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. I spent a lot of time with myself. Alone. Thinking and reading a million books. And soon enough I remembered why I decided to make this switch in my life and that I needed this personal growth to realize that Carrie Bradshaw is not real (and sucks;
I mean c’mon, she left Aidan!!!!).
I pushed myself past my perceived boundaries and it was all okay. I looked at my apartment, my life and the strength that I gained which all ignited this little spark of inner confidence that eventually lit the fire. Pushing myself past these boundaries was important but there are also always setbacks and discouragements. Things that threw me back. Bad experiences. Birds and mice? Roaches? There are the victories and then again the self-doubt, the confusion, anxiety and questions like if this was the right decision to leave everything behind and start something new. So how do I deal with these feelings of sometimes exhaustion, discomfort, hating all this here especially the weather and this damn thesis on suicide notes (since I am human and I am not sugar coating anything here) and transform them into energy that will just make me feel good or propel me forward?
My 80 year-old neighbor gave me the answer. She told me to just stop overthinking things. She said that we are so bombarded with stimuli and several distractions in our daily life and that we just lost sight in this incredible benefit of not thinking. She told me that whenever I feel like I am drowning or I am stuck with work on suicide notes, I cannot breathe correctly or I suffer from anxiety to just pause for a second, stop what I am doing and especially stop thinking. She said to just deeply breathe and re-center. Simple as that. I tried to make a joke by telling her that I never tried this technique with roaches in New York since luckily there are none in Canada. She just shook her head and said, “Rule number one, don’t try. Just let yourself be alone and the turbulent whirlpool in your head will quiet itself.”
Since I suffer from, a let’s say milder form of, PTSD and know what fear, insomnia and nightmares are all about, this is pretty helpful. I believe that fear is just an illusion. An illusion that our mind creates which means I can slow down my thoughts, worries and fearful, frightening chatter and especially those eyes that appear almost every night. I believe this is how I can reach mental clarity.