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Coming Up for Air

I am starting off this month with a little bit of relief as I acknowledge that I am in a better place than I was in May. The month of May was a month of mayhem and distress. Had you peeked into my brain, you would have seen two thousand important and unimportant thoughts all jumbled up into one messy ball of yarn, feeling irritated, whining for attention, and sitting in the chamber that is my brain with its walls slowly closing in. I could not process anything. My brain threw in the towel, told me “You better clean up this mess if you want me to stick around,” and walked away. My brain let me down, and I could not even process that.

My chamber was loud. Whenever one of my two thousand thoughts were triggered, it would set off its own siren. And since they were all entangled, it felt like my entire Yarn Ball of Thoughts was wailing and in havoc. There was no space for disentanglement nor clarity of thought. It would take me a good five minutes to process that, if I had a 10 AM meeting, I needed to get out of bed by 8:30 to get ready and leave the house on time. I avoided making decisions at all costs. And I still do. I would go with the flow because my brain was on strike. (And, frankly, going with the flow is not half bad).

I tried to give my brain a break. I took every opportunity to go to the sea during the last week of May and it opened a window in my shrinking chamber. It introduced ventilation and elimination. By the end of the month, I was able to identify one of my many thoughts. It was a proud moment. I followed the trail of the thought, and have been working with it, in the hopes that it leads me to more thoughts.

With this, I am kicking off this month with a little bit of relief, a dash of wonder, and a lot of numbness. And I feel immensely grateful for the numbness…

I was catching up with an acquaintance, and when he replied to my “How has life been?” with “Nothing new, same old,” I automatically heard a voice in me say, “Wonderful—no news is good news”. I stopped to ponder if this is the nature of adult life. The punches have been rolling for the past couple of years and I have been in constant trauma-response mode. I forgot what it’s like to take a deep breath and marvel at a full moon. My brain tries to persuade me that this is not the nature of adult life, and that easier times will come. And, for once, I believe it.

Although I haven’t entirely sorted out my Yarn Ball of Thoughts, I think I know how to maintain some space in there for a slither of hope. And I think more space will be built in with more quiet. I find myself drawn to seclusion more than usual; seclusion even from my own thoughts. I find myself spending hours sitting in silence, observing, and with a blank, numb mind. Just breathing.

It is still hard for me to identify and follow a single string of thought. Even as I wrote this post, I struggled to maintain cohesion. I ponder if I need more space; if I should take a fuller break—from work and all other expectations I have of myself. The notion of pausing work puzzles me because I am nearly certain that work is not a stressor for me in these times. In fact, I enjoy doing work (when I am able to actually do work). But, something inside me tells me that time off work will somehow help. I wonder why that would be…

I suppose this could be considered a second string of thought: just wanting a break. Honestly, I am afraid to follow its trail. I do not really know what a “break” is. I have been moulded into an overachiever since kindergarten and for the following twenty-something years. I studied on summer breaks, attempted foreign languages on weekends, volunteered after work, and was constantly enrolled in courses and workshops. Perhaps one of the obvious strings that I have been avoiding looking at is just that. I wonder if I am brave enough to pursue it. I know I have friends and family who would lend me their courage, and I just might put all my trust in them and lean backwards into it… They will catch me if I fall…

So, I start off this month knowing that my brain needs to come up for air more often. It needs quiet. It needs peace. It needs to breathe. I am not sure how I will do it, but perhaps this could be my intention for the month. And maybe, just maybe, my brain would be able to think of a way…


Photo: The sea that opened a window.

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