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Dear Anxiety

:: THE LOVE LETTER TO LIFE SERIES ::

Dear Anxiety,

It’s tricky to write to you. To be fair you tend to make it tricky to do a lot of things.
I’ve only recently discovered you, or more accurately - learned about you and then started putting a name to you.
Turns out you may have been with me on this life journey for as long as I can remember.
You might explain some of the fear, the overthinking and the overwhelm induced procrastination.

You catch me out when I least expect it.  You creep in when I think I’m feeling my best and you unravel my mind and then the day in the most unreasonable fashion.
And my-oh-my are you a hypocrite.
When I first resonated with someone else talking about you and then named you for myself, I was a little bit relieved.
Naming you made me feel less ‘crazy’.  In a way, less out of control.  Less like it was solely my fault.
Because you are a reason. You explain some stuff.
The annual existential crisis.
The crippling inability to make a decision when presented with more than two options.
The life on hold behaviour of a fear of commitment - to people, places, purposes.

You might be the reason I don’t like silence. Why I feel the need for podcasts, audiobooks and music to fill the air.
To move time forward without getting stuck in unhelpful thoughts.
You might be the reason falling asleep sometimes feels utterly impossible with the whirring of thoughts, about everything from ‘did i lock the front door?’ to ‘will I ever be financially stable?’ or ‘is my headache actually a fatal illness of some kind?’.
Charming stuff.
Insert more comedy podcasts here...

You might be the reason that believing in myself and my art and my words is sometimes really really hard.
You might explain the overwhelm and the frantic-ness.
But I’m learning how to live beside you. Not without you, not in spite of you. But with you, beside you, ahead of you.

You got ahead of me once. Well many times but this time, particularly harshly.
And an irony appeared.
I have always been such a strong believer in mental health awareness and an advocate for mental illness support.
I believe mental illness is like any other. Like diabetes or a broken arm. Except it is physically invisible. Its on the inside. Its in the chemicals.
It’s some tricky acrobatics occurring in the brain.
I have supported friends, lovers, parents, siblings.
And then you happened to me.

You came on strong. You made me physically ill.
I had taken on a lot of responsibility, personally and professionally, and I had created unrealistic levels of performance for myself.
My anxiety brain, tricked my rational brain into believing everything needed to be perfect even though A) that doesn’t exist and B) the circumstances dictated otherwise.
And so my body got on board.
The headache came and didn’t leave.
The dull yet harsh pang in my stomach came in waves.
The tightness and sharp breathlessness took residence in my chest.
And I didn’t know what it was.
But it hurt. And it stopped everything.
I couldn’t make a client call without crying before or after.
I couldn’t talk to my mum or my girlfriend without getting upset.
Or texting a very good friend without falling apart.
But that was the only way the chest ache went away. Momentarily.
There wasn’t enough ibuprofen in the world to make the headache stay away.
Too much coffee made my hands shake.
Double strength pain killers was the only way to lull my body into sleep.

And I could’t do my job. The one thing I was trying harder than anything to just get through, was feeling impossible.
And I couldn’t ‘snap out of it’ and I couldn’t just ‘get on with it’.
And I was so mad.
I felt so betrayed.
So let down by my body and my brain. By you.
I just wanted to be perfect.
To impress everyone.
To be validated by everyone.
To keep all the balls in the air.
Even the ones I hadn’t been asked to keep.
And I was so mad.
Infuriatingly frustrated with myself. With you.
And unsurprisingly, that did not help.
That made you worse.

And I had to succumb to the reality of the situation.
That I was sick in a new way.
A way I did not recognise.
And it was not my fault.
And I could not ‘control’ it.
And it was not my fault.
And it was not a negative reflection on my capabilities.

So I went to the doctor.
I had sessions with my counsellor.
I kept being honest with my girlfriend, my mum, my best friend.
I told the truth to my thoughtful and supportive bosses.

And I came out the other side.
Talk therapy.
Honesty.
Medical professionals naming and validating my experience.
I was unwell.
You were ahead of me.
And that was ok.

Thank goodness for my people, my support systems and their encouragement to be honest, to go the doctor, to book appointments, to go to be early.
Because i did not want to.
Or more accurately, you, my anxiety, did not want me to.
Thats how it works right.
I need to intervene but you tell me not to, because you're winning.
We’re not side by side, you were getting ahead of me.
And you hurt me.

And I’m still a little bit mad about it.

But you showed me the start of what bad looks like.
And now I’m learning how to try and catch you before you run off without me.
We’re working together.

Im naming you.
I am not ashamed of you.
I know you’re not my fault.
And I am learning about you.
About you and me.
And how our future together can work.

I know you have the capacity to bring out good things in me.
My empathy, my kindness, my emotional awareness.
You bring out a passion for good work and an attention to detail.
And as long as were on the same page we’re ok.

As long as I’m writing you out on the page.
Putting in the self care efforts.
And telling the truth about your sneaky habits.
Around people who love and respect me when you get the better of me.
And sometimes going to bed early to just start again tomorrow.
Then I’m ok.
We’re ok.

Thank you for challenging me to take good care of myself, anxiety, I love you xx

Sarah x

 

Image by Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Dear Adventure

:: THE LOVE LETTER TO LIFE SERIES ::

Dear Adventure,

Thank you for always finding me, challenging me and stretching me.
Calling me to go, seek and uncover.
Thank you for pushing me to learn more about the world and most importantly more about myself.
I love when you surprise me with an idea that unsettles everything I’ve known up until then, and a plan that unravels and ignites me in equal measure.
You bring out the fear and the brave in me.

Thank you for giving me a reason to go. Your allure ensures I’m never in one spot too long.
Your wisdom shows me how to grow, to stretch, to do a backflip into a new version of myself.I love when we go on a walk with friends and it was promised to only be a two hour stroll and then with a haphazard wrong turn becomes a five hour hike.
Across boulders, rivers, a mountain. And when it feels like it’s too much, too hard, too far, you remind me that I can do it.
You remind me that the story of this, around the bonfire later, with cheese and wine in hand, will be worth it.   You remind me that moving my body, stretching my muscles and being still with my mind today, are more important than a blister tomorrow.

I love when you encourage me to move to another country, to start new jobs, to meet new people.
And I never feel ready, I could have always planned more, saved more. But you remind me that ready is never the point.
No one is ever really ready to anything. We just have to do the thing.
You’re the reason I hired a camper van and drove up the coast on my own.
You knew I’d see the majestic pine trees lining the road, and I’d find the reason for being there.
That rush of calm and serenity and insignificance that fills your lungs and your heart.
The beauty of nature. Of solitude. Of unfiltered thinking.

You’re the reason I wander and wonder.
You help me lust after a better version of this life. 
You help me strive for more peace, more connectedness, more self awareness.
You are going to an obscure restaurant with my partner on an impromptu date night and having to learn how to make our own broth.
You are the family camping trip where we forget the second gazebo and needed to huddle together in a rainstorm, and sprawl out on the grass in a heatwave.
You are the story of my grandmother in her 20s travelling solo, on a ship for three weeks, across the globe, to see where she came from.

I love you for gifting me friends in other countries.  Lovers who didn’t share the same language. Family who miss me.
You are a reason to get up in the morning, to go for a walk in a new neighbourhood, new city, new country.
You are what stories are made of.
You are physical adventure and most preciously you are self adventure.
You are what happens in my heart and my mind when I’m figuring something out.
You are the meanderings of my subconscious.

You teach me. 
When I have my first panic attack in time square in New York city, during my first day of looking for work, after my laptop crashes.
You show me how to ask for help.
How to sit with myself and ask myself why it hurts, where is the discomfort, how can I let go, lean in, heal.
You are the ever present sense of living a life that is true to me, even when it feels against the grain. Against the norm. Against the ‘easy’.

You, adventure, are my deep appreciation for going to dinners with good people, hiking towards waterfalls with my thoughts, camping with my family, flying towards friends with my hugs and travelling the world with my love.

Thank you for carrying me everywhere I go, adventure, I love you x

Sarah x

 

For Grandma.

~ Performed live at Camp Good Life Project in upstate New York, August 2016. ~

A year ago today I watched all of you perform wonderful things on this stage with such bravery, vulnerability and talent. And I promised myself that night, that I would come back this year and I would perform something too.

I had high hopes of writing an interesting, moving piece that I would rehearse until it was a melodic, flawless work of art.

But that is not what happened.

As it turns out 2016 was destined to be a tricky one. And jam packed full of lessons I didn’t really want.

My mum has been sick.
I moved countries and houses several times.
I got a new job I didn’t know I wanted, but deep down I knew I needed.
And I let go of my business.
My Nanna passed away 3 weeks ago and my Grandma died at the start of April, at 92 after a short fight with a rare cancer.

I wanted to write a poem that was profound and uplifting and effortlessly entertaining and well written.

But instead I’m here to tell you that you need to let go of how you thought things would work out.
That you need to find ease in change.
That your expectation of yourself and the reality of yourself will be different.

I need to tell that you need to stand in your shit.

And that I’ve realised that I can be both strong and not strong, and that that is ok.

That there is no one way to love, be loved or to grieve.

And,  really what I want to tell you about,  is my Grandma.

This strong woman shaped me.

She was Nancy Harney and she was the epitome of the resilient country woman.
She travelled the world as a solo woman in her 20s in the 1940s.
She was a supportive and generous wife for nearly 60 years.
She raised 5 children in rural Australia and co ran a farm for decades.

Grandma taught me how to be whoever I wanted to be.
She told me to be brave, to push myself outside of my comfort zone and to always keep exploring.
Grandma made everyone feel so loved because She loved deeply and (almost) unconditionally.

She was the ultimate provider.
Even if you showed up un-announced there’d be a sandwich whipped up out of what appeared to be nothing.
And family occasions were always a production of great food on the best china.

Community was everything to her.
She worked for every committee, served on every board, volunteered at every event.

Grandma has always reminded me the importance of the things the modern world is moving away from.  She always wrote letters and postcards. And encouraged me to write to her, from wherever I was.
She always called.
And she always showed up.
She believed in dressing up and being there for the big things and the small things.

My favourite thing about Grandma is that she was the matriarch of our family.
She was strong. She was determined.  And to be fair, a little bit stubborn.
She was elegant, generous, thoughtful, committed all the way to the end.

Spending her last short months with her, was an absolute honour and a gift.
She helped raise me and I will be forever grateful for having such an inspiring role model in my life.

So, love those around you deeply, tell them you’re grateful for them and keep up the adventure.

Sarah x