I posted something at my old blog, "Mental Health for Humans." Here's the link. Here's the text:
I feel a little numb and confused as I read through some of my old posts. The focus of my life has changed since I created this blog and posted with regularity. I no longer practice as a mental health counselor in any capacity. My interest in the subject has waned. I still notice and parse other people's behavior, and my own, but my thoughts do not linger to solve the puzzles those behaviors present.
Within a year or so of starting this blog, I decided it was time to move forward in my life, for I felt stuck. I framed this to myself in scholastic terms: While I felt an impulse to explore the possibility of pursuing a doctorate or a JD, which would represent the more traditional path of learning, I chose instead to "get a Ph.D. in life."
That's a little keen, I'll admit. But it served a purpose: I felt I needed to venture forth into the world as a full participant. I had learned much in graduate school, but my life had also changed drastically, and I felt a deep need to focus my attention on the corporeal — not to turn away from, or to shun or critique, the intensive work I had done in a more cerebral, or psychological, realm, but rather to complete it.
After all, we live out our lives in the flesh and blood, breathing the air around us, our feet on the ground beneath us — tactile. Earthly matters, or matters of the flesh, if you will, are easy and tempting to shun for those of us who prefer the life interior. But what I learned is that I could never hope to maintain my interior without taking care of matters on the outside. A simple example is my exercise regime, if I can call it that. Never have I felt as grounded in my own skin, and as clear-minded, and as able to access and utilize the various aspects of my persona, as I do now that I exercise regularly.
There are other examples I could share that center on my work and relationships. The common thread among them is simple: by putting what I have learned and cultivated within myself into practice, I have attained to greater degrees of health, satisfaction, and balance.
Lately, I have sensed it is time for the onset of yet another era, the theme of which is "taking it to the next level." If I continue to use the school metaphor (which I am), then it feels akin to having recently finished my freshman year and standing on the brink of beginning my studies as a sophomore. I am still new to this journey, but not as green; now, there is a foundation to build upon — one I am expected to build upon, in fact.
Indeed, the challenge is steeper now, but it is time to meet it. It is time to continue this journey of growth and enlightenment.
Today is one of those days where you need specialized gear if you are to venture outside in relative comfort and safety. It is cold, it is snowing, and the driving, gusty winds are stirring it all together to make a recipe for staying inside. It's a day for sitting on a couch and looking out the window, and for thinking many thoughts, and for wrestling the annoying voice of critical self-awareness that insists upon contradicting you, or on tinging even your simplest, most innocent notions with cynicism.
Today is a day of self-made anxiety. You want to be content, but your inner critic tells you you're a cliche; and then another, haughtier critic looks down upon this conflict gravely and suggests, like a parent to a child, that you continue your work on yourself.
Today is a day where, thanks to the lessons you learned from pushing through your many previous days of confusion, fear, isolation, despair, blank laziness, and harried perseveration, you simply tell yourself you love yourself. You tell yourself you love yourself without condition of becoming or growing into another, supposedly more enlightened, version of yourself. You say that you love yourself exactly as you are right now.
Despite what the snarky whispers of your cynicism would have you think, you tell yourself you love yourself because you know it to be true. You tell it to yourself because you mean it. You tell it to yourself because you respect the fact that it, along with the life you have built upon its principle, depends on your attention and care. Love cannot be taken for granted and be expected to simply show up; it must be made way for. It must be practiced. It must be stated and heard.
"You have to love yourself before you can love someone else" is a cliche, and it isn't literally true. However, the spirit of it is bulls-eye correct. Loving yourself is the foundation and the precondition for building authentically respectful, loving relationships with other people. Loving yourself makes it possible to enjoy your life and the people in it. It makes it easier to accept and deal with obstacles. And, speaking from my own experience, loving yourself makes you feel awake and alive--like a veil has been lifted.
The sky is still covered by an undifferentiated slab of slate-gray clouds. It is still snowing, and the gusts continue to rattle the trees. I am sitting on my couch. I am looking out my window. I am thinking my thoughts. It's quiet now, and only peace.
The Mets did it: They made it to the World Series, and Game 1 is tonight (10/27/15). I wrote a reflection piece on it, on my life, and on the journey of being a Mets fan.
I took the dogs for a walk tonight, alone, and because there was no one else with me to pull my attention outward, I had little choice but to confront my noisy thoughts. They have a way of commanding my attention like little else can. Nothing else comes to mind, anyway.
Now, even now that I've had the experience I haven't yet broached here -- now that I can describe it from a small distance -- my thoughts interrupt the task of writing; they encourage me to doubt what I mean to say and the way I mean to say it. And they are winning. They are keeping me from saying what I wanted to say.
That's tonight's meander, in essence: A harried, distracted mind, leaping from one unpleasant take on my life's events to another. Experiences like these keep me from trusting myself. Of course, this is my greatest weakness. It's the cliche of being one's own worst enemy. I'm happy to report I am that cliche: I am my own mortal enemy.
My sole moment of respite arrived as the dogs and I neared the end of our walk. I asked myself -- as I do, sometimes -- what I would say or ask or give a client who reported an experience like the one I am having. I decided, quickly, that I would probably take a narrative approach: externalize the thoughts, externalize the enemy within, and regard it as if it were separate from myself. The mere act of imagining my troubling thoughts and my inner enemy being outside myself as something I can see and examine was (and usually is) liberating -- instantly. It reminded me that my enemy is not all I am or have been or will be; and it simultaneously offered me a glimpse of a hypothetical reality free from undue worry, fear, self-sabotage, and doubt. I felt confident, relaxed, and clear-headed. It was lovely.
In that moment, I was free. I felt the warm breeze dry my lips. I saw the light in our window across the gulch. The dogs and I found our rhythm as we made the final turns of our trip and strode into the air conditioned mud room downstairs.