And now I just sit in silence

Sitting in the hospital, waiting, with hunched shoulders, I am finally fully aware of what I feel.
After two of the three scheduled examinations, the doctor in charge was called to an emergency. And so we, the scheduled patients, are waiting.

And in the back of my head, there is this song playing, which, in fact, has been since I got on the train this morning. And is becoming true for me once more.

Watching people in a hospital waiting area – while not being the most pleasant of sights anyway –  doesn’t keep the mind entertained forever, at least if you try to not give yourself over to commiserating thoughts about what particular misery all of the other people waiting are going through here. Eventually the mind doesn’t find anymore sights to distract it. And justgoes blank.

And now I just sit in silence.

I have this emergency program that always kicks in when something in me – my self? – feels threatened by an extremely frightening situation. Whenever this happens I tend to go numb and am completely disconnected from my feelings.
Thinking of it now I get the impression that this is the usual state most of us are in while hustling through our daily grind, being completely unaware of what goes on beyond the surface.

Sitting in silence did the trick today.

All the emotions – fears, pain, memories from past hospital stays – everything just popped up at once and I found myself drowned by a massive surge of it all.

I’m forced to deal with what I feel

And this is a good thing, I think. It may not feel so at first; in fact, it was horrifying. And yet I am thankful. Because I believe that our fears and emotions are trying to tell us something. To impart some knowledge to us that we somehow have forgotten or suppressed. So with this outbreak of emotion I have something at hand I can start with.

As soon as this third exam is over…

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Hold your own

So life has sent me a friendly reminder.

It is almost ironic how so often when I have written about a certain topic that has been on my mind life seems to throw it back in my face just a little more fiercely.

Are the details in the fabric/ Are the things that make you panic/ Are your thoughts results of static cling?

So, talking about safety and sticking to it… I happened to come across the latest findings about my heart condition recently. And what I read was devastating. I know I am no expert in statistics, but what I read just made me feel as if I had long exceeded my expiry date and I started wondering why I was still here. It felt as if life must have made a mistake and that it was only a question of time that this error would be corrected. And all the safety I had clung to before in this light appeared to be just vain. That was quite a blow.

Hell, no reason, go on and scream

Although I have drawn my lust for life and energy from the knowledge of life’s being finite, having these studies bring death, or the option of it, so close to me that it was almost palpable was a completely different thing and I felt overwhelmed by a fearful emotion so big that it didn’t seem to fit into my body.

Only rarely do I seek help in moments of crisis, and usually if I do, there is someone around. But this time there wasn’t: none of those I reached out for was available.

I had no choice but to face this moment of existential forsakenness on my own.
And in this time of crisis, I turned to this particular song

Because it gave me comfort and encouraged me to keep going. And because it told me exactly the things I would have wished my friends to tell me:

Calm down
Deep breaths
And get yourself dressed instead
Of running around
And pulling on your threads
And breaking yourself up

And this helped. And step by step the days got better.

If it’s a broken heart, then face it

I want to share this song with you to remind you that the dawn does break eventually. However dim the light might be, it is there. And maybe you are stronger than you think. Just hold your own and hang on a little longer.

My friends got back to me the next day and since then have supported me by simply being there. Like that song had before, when nobody was available. And so, somehow I survived.

Hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way
And everything, everything will be fine
Everything.

 


 

If music just isn’t enough, there are plenty of other things you can do in times of crisis. I loved this article by Annie Wright:
101 Self-Care Suggestions for When It All Feels Like Too Much

 

Image "At the break of dawn" by Abhijit Kar Gupta, CC BY 2.0

Good enough to fight for second place

Everyone I know, everyone I know's got plans
But they all just play the keys in shitty bands

Are you actually living your dream?

Or are you one of those many people whose answer to this question contains something like “I’d love to…, but…”?
Because, after all, it’s all just airy-fairy daydreams. Right?!

When talking to a friend last weekend he happened to bring up that familiar and somewhat corny quote everybody has probably heard at least a thousand times and yet so few seem to be acting out. Which goes:

“Don’t dream your life, but live your dream!”

And I asked him the same question I am asking you now and which, in fact I’ve been asking myself over and over again.

Are YOU living your dream?

In my life I have encountered so many people who seem to have settled for less than they would actually want. And who seem anything but happy, at least to me.

Everyone I know, everyone I know is great
Good enough to fight for second place
Everyone I know, everyone I know can talk
Until their lives get outlined in chalk

I’ve been wondering what keeps all these people from pursuing the goals they once had, and forget about the dreams they have been dreaming all along. And it has even made me angry, because I see so much potential wasted in this world by people’s rather playing it safe than stepping outside of the live outlined for them.

And of course I know what keeps them.

The city’s gonna kill me, throw me from a building,
shoot me in a drive by.
The city’s gonna stalk me, knock out all my front teeth,
drown me in the high tide

Replace “city” with whatever you like: my friends, my partner, my boss, society…
But how real is this threat, really? And which is our part in its being present at all?

Like many others, I want to live my dream, to live a life that means something. I really do.

For a couple of months now I have been taking steps in a direction as to move closer to that life. Which was fine as long as the goal was lingering somewhere far ahead, hardly assuming a definite form.
However, since everything seems to be working out better than I had ever imagined it has been dawning on me that, with every step I take towards my goal, I am moving closer to the point where I will have to take that next big step into uncharted waters and move way out of my comfort zone. While, at the same time leaving safe and familiar ground behind.
And to be honest: it scares the hell out of me. I am still not entirely sure if I will take that big step eventually. In fact, I have caught myself several times considering less adventurous options which would imply at least some of the safety I have now. And which, of course, are far less exciting.
For the time being I have solved this problem by pushing all fears aside and focusing on one step at a time. Hoping that I will know what to do when the time has come to make that decision.
Still, already now I have the dim feeling that, after all that has already happened, going back would mean paying a high price. Which doesn’t really help with the fear.

What about you?

Have you settled for living the life that has been laid out for you?

Or are you one of those who are already living the life of their dreams?

And what is really going to happen if we decide to step out of the well-trodden path?

Come around if you’re feeling frightened
I can see that the noose is tightening fast
Way too fast, way too fast…

…..

…..

…..this could have been it. Had not this one song come to my attention just today, right before I wanted to hit the publish button. You could almost think it was meant as an answer to what I had writen earlier…

…but the world keeps spinning around.

 


Credits:
Image Wings of the fallen by Garrette, CC BY 2.0
Songs: Everyone I know by K.Flay - High Hopes by Kodaline


The wrestle

I was born with a condition physicians refer to as congenital heart disease. I myself like to call it my unconventional heart. In the course of my life the two of us have become best friends. It’s my heart that reminds me each day that no day is for granted and so in a way I am thankful.

The crumpled ocean is no boat trip

Being reminded like that, however, doesn’t come for free. I know my condition to be tied to a certain risk that I carry in particular, which is, basically, the risk of dying. Or, to put it less dramatically, the risk of my state deteriorating at any minute; and nobody can tell me when this will be. So I just live with the vague certainty that it will happen one day.
Twice a year I go to my trusted heart center to have everything checked, always hoping to receive good news, meaning nothing has changed. Things have been stable for years and these follow-up exams are actually no big deal. But to me they always feel as if the physicians renegotiate my life.

So, as every year, my 2016 started off with the first one of these appointments a week ago. This time I found myself to be especially nervous and the day before the appointment I felt fear building up inside of me and sneaking into every corner of my being. With all my plans and dreams and new projects I have just started, suddenly so much was at stake. Besides, being aware of the fact that by some means or other I will have to face another surgery one day, I suddenly felt my time running out. And who knew? After all, I am approaching the 40, an age nobody had ever expected me to reach when I was born.

So here came the fear…

The clotheless wrestle with the clotheless animal

I’ve known for quite a while that it doesn’t help to suppress feelings. In fact, I have found it to be true that you might succeed in muting them for a while, but you cannot block them out forever. So what I tried was to accept my anxiety and acknowledge it as a part of myself.
And still there are these unpleasant physical sensations that come with being frightened.
The night before the appointment I couldn’t sleep. I felt agitated, my heart beating nervously in my chest, and all kinds of thoughts started to flood my brain, thoughts of bad things that might happen, of existential situations I might have to face and of all sorts of things that might just go wrong. I knew if I followed this train of thoughts it would bring me straight to panic land. So how to deal with this? How to finally calm down and get some rest? I probably don’t have to mention that none of the relaxation techniques I had learned once worked. What they helped me with, instead, was focusing even more on my body and all its creepy sensations.

My enemy, please stay close to me

Finally, when I was already way past the time at which falling asleep would have granted me a good night’s rest before the exam, tired of trying I just gave it up. It was like telling both my body and my mind that, fine, if they wanted to freak out freak out is what they should do. I wouldn’t bother objecting to it anymore. Which was, when, finally, I fell asleep.

It was only a couple of days later that I came across an article that described the handling of fears exactly the way I had done it. Apparently, accepting fear as a part of oneself can be much bigger than I had thought. Maybe it is more about embracing fear as a natural part of life that will always be there. And about surrendering to its presence without bowing down to its logic. In this light it seems only natural to also accept all the negative sensations and thoughts that usually accompany fear; and to, at the same time, take a look at them and recognize them for what they are: a natural consequence of being frightened. And to thus take your fears with you, but without letting them influence your moves.

I received good news at the heart center the next day. Everything appears to be stable and so I can relax for another half year. And oddly enough, one of my nurses told me how deeply and soundly relaxed she found me to be. And so for now I am happy.

I am an anxiety person. I have grown up this way, not least due to my unconventional heart. My fear has been keeping me company for as long as I can think. With every new step I take, at the beginning of each new project or endeavor, it is there, by my side. I take it with me. And yet, I have the feeling that we might get along. And that I will be fine.

Continue reading The wrestle

Even if I wanted to

So here I am, back from New York.

The ten days I spent there were so amazingly rich that, looking back, it feels like I have been away a month.

So here I am, in Berlin again. And yet, still in New York. And so I have spent my first week back in my old life trying to find my way back into it. After experiencing this feeling of ultimate freedom, happiness and anything being possible so intensely for those ten days I suddenly found it hard to confine myself again, to all the tasks and to dos and duties, which were still here, pending in the air and impatiently waiting for me to tackle them. Without me having the slightest idea where to start and what to do next to achieve…well…everything. To at least start moving again and resuming my life. And to find pleasure in the things I so loved again.

And so, panic took over. That reassuring part of me that always knows that life will go on and phases such as the one I am in right now will pass eventually suddenly seemed to be lost in the depths of my fears and doubts. And everyone around me, all my friends and my role models, seemed to be successful with such ease, while I could not even figure out my next step. Let alone follow suit. And while I stood there being paralyzed, my mind went havoc in its search for possible solutions. Which all did not seem to fit. So, in the end, this only added to this grim feeling of helplessnes.

Not being able to make sense of my life I felt that, maybe, I did not make sense. And that maybe I, with all my talents and gifts, my ideas and dreams, just did not fit in with this world.

Needless to say, no matching song found me. This seemed to hold true even for the Lollapalooza Festival, which took place in Berlin for the first time and which I attended with my friends. In fact, the first day turned out to be a series of mishaps leading to my friends and me missing most of the first part and then losing each other without any hope of finding each other again in the crowd.

And when things clearly could not feel any more disastrous – after spending half of the day on my own, frantically writing text messages which did no get out, after actually being peed on by a drunk guy who missed the bottle in which he tried to relieve himself, and while being harrassed by another drunk guy with the worst cockney English I have ever heard  – the final act saved my day.

I remembered loving this song a couple of years ago. And tuned in with the chorus and started singing along just like that. My world went a little brighter. The drunk guy was gone. And at that moment I just knew that life, however, would go on and the wheel would start turning again eventually.

I am aware that this is actually a song on gay love. But I am sure that Macklemore would not mind me borrowing it. After all, the central message, as I understand it, is this: that you are who you are and that you are perfect the way you are. No changing required.

So on that very evening, that song reminded me that I and my way of being do make sense. And that I would not be here like I am if I was not meant to be. Even if sometimes I feel like I do not fit in with this society. And even if I do not feel able to follow my friends’ suit. Since they all have their way and I have my own. Which, I am sure, will open up eventually and show me the next step to take.

As that quote by Shams Tabrizi, that close friend of Rumi says, which, fittingly, I found on Facebook today:

“Whatever happens to you, don’t fall in despair. Even if all the doors are closed, a secret path will be there for you that no one knows. You can’t see it yet but so many paradises are at the end of this path. Be grateful! It is easy to thank after obtaining what you want, thank before having what you want.”

So this has been my hymn for the past few days. Which keeps assuring me that, in the end, things will start moving again. And for the moment, this is enough to keep me going.

Because I can’t change, even if I tried. Or even if I wanted to.

(And I don’t want to anyway 🙂 )