The Tug

At night, when I’m dreaming, I always tug. Not the duvet (although that as well!), the situations. In my sleep things are dragging, go slow, or don’t move at all. It feels very muggy.

My dreams usually have an objective. I end up with a task to fulfil. I don’t know where it came from, who gave it to me and why. I just have the feeling that this task needs completion. And it needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. There is an urge that tells me I MUST complete the task now, whether or not it is possible to achieve.

The dragging and pulling in my dreams is the same as if I was trying to run in my sleep. The dream is like mud, that stretches everywhere. I try to run, but I cannot move. I try, you pull, and pull… In the end I am still in exactly the same place I started at. It is so tiring!

I sleep badly. Well… I sleep loads (I get my eight hours a night on average), but the quality of my sleep is bad. I wake up more tired (in body and mind) than I was before I went to sleep. For years I’ve attributed it to some sort of bodily deficiency. Maybe my brain produces too much of some chemical, or maybe too little of some other? Maybe the mitochondria in my cells leak ATP? Maybe tissues in my muscles take too much energy, and are always “hungry” for more rest?

What if the quality of my sleep is not of physical origin? What if all the tugging that happens in my dreams is causing the morning fatigue? Do you know what I mean? Is it possible that the dream-state-me just gets too tired during dreams, and as a result of it the awaken-me simply does not rest throughout the night, and I wake up knackered?

If that’s the case, the logical solution is for the dream-state-me to just relax, let it go and stop pulling. It’s obvious, right? JUST STOP PULLING, WOMAN. RELAX. YOU’RE IN A DREAM! But she doesn’t know she’s in a dream. Not usually. Lucid dreams are not something I remember happening to me.

So… I can’t tell the dream-state-me to relax. She probably doesn’t even know who I am. She doesn’t know she can relax. To her it’s not a dream, it’s real life, and she has this sense of responsibility, she wants to complete the task. The dream presented a scenario where something, ANYTHING, needs to be done – she will grasp at the opportunity with all her might. She doesn’t rest. Her mind doesn’t rest. She picks up all the tasks in hope of one day “clearing her plate”. She hopes one day all the tasks will be complete.She hopes she will then finally be able to rest. And she needs to rest. She’s very tired. She’s also frustrated, as every time a task gets cleared off the plate, another one takes its place. And the wheels on the bus go round and round… But she doesn’t understand she’s exerting herself. This poor woman is so tired from doing what she think is best. She doesn’t know she’s in a dream. She doesn’t know she can relax and just go with the flow. She’s blinded by the need to push things forward, and she’s very stubborn.

She sounds a lot like… well… ME.

I know I tug at life, the situations don’t change much though upon my tugging. They have their own rhythm, they change when they mature. In the meanwhile I just keep getting tired. The tired me doesn’t easily notice the beautiful things that happen around me. I develop a tunnel vision. I keep on working on my mental task list. The tired me is cranky, impatient and anxious. If I am like this, I know the dream-state-me will be similar. That’s because she doesn’t know any better… yet.

There is irony in life. Whether you push hard, a little bit, or don’t push at all, things will happen. The universe will thread the path of least resistance. This means you CAN change some things by going against the grain, but it will cost you dearly. You will be cranky, depleted and hazy. The question is – will attempting to change the course of a river be worth the price? Will all the energy put into changing the future be really worth spending?

Sometimes it will. Sometimes wrestling with the universe is what you need to do. For the world, for your wellbeing, for a higher calling. And when that’s the case, tugging at life will be totally worth it.

Most times however (or at least I think so) the tugging is not required. It does not change the grand scheme of things. You end up in exactly in the same spot you would have, without desperately pulling at life.

Society tells us (or we somehow feel it does) that we should “shape our future”. We take it as gospel and wrestle with life from as early as primary school. Sometimes even earlier, if we are put under pressure by our parents (who do not know better neither, as they are trapped in the same vicious circle or massive urge to pull at life, that promises great things, but very rarely delivers on its promises).

We take it as gospel and we go with it. We walk through our teens fighting and struggling. We walk through jobs exerting ourselves. We rest very little. The urge to pull at life lies to us that we need to “deserve” and earn the right to rest. It is all very fucking tiring!

What can we do with this vicious circle?

I’ve been reading some books (links below) about this sort of thing recently, and my thoughts are:

  • Stop yourself from tugging at life whenever you notice you are doing it. Stop even for a split second. It will be uncomfortable and you will feel like you’re “doing life wrong” when you first pause, but simply try and see what happens.
  • Say “yes” to situations that present themselves. You now the ones: the ones that universe (or a God/Goddess if you’re inclined to trust in a diety) presented you with. Do that instead of working yourself to the bone to create your own situations. Maybe the universe knows better?
  • Work at the stuff that is in front of you. Don’t let yourself get anxious about all the scenarios that MIGHT happen. Do the work on what you have right here, right now. Do it well. Put your mind to it. Don’t waste your energy on worrying about all the future scenarios. What’s next has not yet arrived, and it may never do. That’s unless you have a great mission, and you’re in what we call flow. But make sure you understand what price you pay for it, and take care of yourself whilst on your mission.
  • Rest. Take care of yourself. Rest on productive days. Rest on days which you don’t think you’ve achieved what you should have. You need the rest and you deserve it. Always!
  • Find something to get back to when you get wound up. Try meditation, walking, hugging a friend (or a tree), sitting quietly next to a fire, pet a cat. Come back to the present to help you re-set the anxiety about what’s next.
  • Detox (not in a diet way, say no to diets! Dies culture sucks.). Detox from things, situations and people that make your stress levels go up. You won’t be always able to do this, but you should try. Do you have a friend that aggravates your stress? Take a break from seeing them for some time. Do the same with places and situations. I avoid coffee nowadays. It was hard to go off it, but I did in small steps – I’ve been so much better (and I accidentally discovered matcha on a “coffee date” with friends. Thank you, universe!).
  • Read more. I find books and articles about how to care for oneself help me remember that I am not the only one stuck in this cycle, and that it’s not all about racing life, but actually living it.
  • Breathe. Mindfully. Try meditation (I know I’m repeating myself :)). Keep coming back to now.

Hopefully in time you and me can both achieve less anxious lives, and more relaxing dreams. Maybe us and our dream-state-selves can let go of the grip we have on life and find ourselves ok in the flow. Maybe the flow of life can become less stressful if we just kick back and let the universe do its thing?

Some books you should consider if what I’ve written resonates with you:

  1. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
  2. First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A new conversation about anxiety

  3. The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection

 

 

 

 

Weltschmerz of a migrant

Weltschmerz is one of my favourite words. It literally means “pain from living in the world”. You can find more about it here.

I’m a migrant. When I was 21 I moved from one European country to another. There was no fear or drama driving my decision. I simply wanted to build a life somewhere else and went, and did it.

Looking like a statistical inhabitant of my newly chosen land and already speaking the language, I was lucky (or trained?) enough to only rarely experience xenophobia (it did get worse after Brexit).

At first, my efforts were concentrated on setting up a new life. Once I got settled in, I changed my job for a better one, then that one for another one, and so forth a couple of times. I was comfortable, adopted cats, met new friends.

Although followed the same steps that most of the people my age around me did, I found myself in an interestingly different position. I could not find the feeling of belonging. I was not yet here, but at the same time not there anymore. Both legs in the (not so) new country, and still somehow not truly “in”. Not in the motherland anymore, but still tied to it with invisible strings. Those strings will pull at my emotions every now and then, reminding me that I am a woman that left one place, to live in another, and still will never feel truly at home. Not here, not back there.

Many times I thought of going back. Especially when the strings attached to my heart would keep on pulling. Would it work? Being back, could I just slip into the familiarity of the nation I grew up in? I have my doubts. I am changed. Changed through both, the there and the here. Belonging to neither.

I have two different lives (although politically and societally they are not that different). I feel like I have no roots in my past, and I feel unable to grow new ones here. Rootless. What does that make me?

This is a problem many people in my generation face. Life is good but it’s also lacking. What is missing is not tangible. It’s a feeling of belonging that you can’t fill with things or surface encounters.

It sounds dramatic, I know. But it’s much subtler than drama. Being always in between makes you a bit on the edge, a bit sad, a bit worried, a bit second guessing, but also a lot more open to new experiences, a lot more grateful, and a lot more bold. I’ve slowly become the type of person that wants to understand herself and others more. I’ve allowed myself, and pushed myself to become more vulnerable. I’ve pushed myself to be more open, more caring and more “here” (have you tried mindfulness yet?).

There is nothing that I’ve found can help with the constant feeling of fitting nowhere fully. Maybe the answer is to move into one of the big, multicultural cities? Would living in one of the world’s melting pots, amongst people with similar experiences help reduce the Weltschmerz that keeps on following this migrant?

I’m not sure if there’s even a good answer to those questions.

NB. Published after midnight, after fruitless efforts to fall asleep. The sort of night where your thoughts prohibit you from getting any rest.

Contentment, Meditation, Rinse & Repeat

Being mindful is hard work. It’s not just about the ten minutes you’ve decided to meditate each day. That’s just the beginning. It’s like being a sculptor for your soul. You have to keep on chiseling at it, be methodical, be patient and keep reengaging with the process.

There are plenty of tools and techniques you can try. But as with all of the tools, you gotta keep at it, otherwise it’s like watching open heart surgery on YouTube. If you don’t practice something yourself, you’re not likely to learn.

Society (and advertisers, rooted in the capitalist set up) tells us we need to fit in. We know it’s not sustainable. We see depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues on the rise. Its easier to fit in. Easier to buy another object to pacify ourselves with. We are not taught any better when we grow up. The cogs are running smoothly only if we consume and numb ourselves. Which in time pulls us away from each other and away from ourselves.

The answer is most likely perseverance. Continuing with the uncomfortable. Letting yourself get bored. Spending time alone. Away from pacifiers. Learning how to be alone.

We are wired to be social creatures, yet we can’t fulfil our lives through others. We need to first work on understanding and loving ourselves without relying on our tribe. It’s counterintuitive. To survive we need others. To feel safe we need others. But we shouldn’t give others power over our happiness.

And we have to remind ourselves to pay attention, put in work and appreciate what’s already there.

Those loose thoughts are brought to you by three books I’ve recently read (and which at many angles contradict one another):

How do I manage to keep my sh*t together?!?

I ask myself this question frequently. Every time I do, it’s because although I have a good track record of keeping my sh*t together (as in, I always do), I am always surprised I manage to pull things off.

When facing a task (an event, an issue, even a pleasant one – like going on holiday), my brain triggers anxiety. Whatever this task is, however many times I have done this “thing” before – it does not matter.

You now when people tell you need to “get out of your comfort zone” – well I am constantly out of my comfort zone.

Now, this does not mean that I sit in secluded place, faraway from everyone and everything. Sometimes I think it would be nice, but then I remember that I also like being surrounded by people, and I like learning new things. See my issue here? 🙂

It means that I am putting myself out there all the time. In my mind I’m exposed, but to others I’m not different from someone who is comfortable most of the time.
It means that I can get overwhelmed, and that sometimes my ambivert ass needs some “alone time” to replenish the energy I need to get up, put my shields up and do this thing again the next day.
It means I keep learning about who I am, why I get anxious, and see what self care I need to invest my time in.
It means I need to learn the patterns, triggers and also the people  and situations that help.

That’s why it is important (for me) to invest time in understanding self and others.
This is the reason I got interested in psychology and sociology.
First to understand myself.
Second to see how different and the same we all are.
And following that rabbit hole has been very interesting…

Level-Hearted

I use the http://www.leavelhearted.com as an address for this blog because, just like the level-headed people, I aim to keep my heart level.

What do I mean by that? I mean that I want to keep my feet on the ground, remember my values, appreciate what I’ve got, even then being deeply hurt by things that are happening around me.

I am an empath. You know what that means. I can empathise with other people’s emotions and states. I can understand them at a deep level, rather than just logical, cold, calculated, information and facts only way. Being an empath can be exhausting. Everything you care about takes so much of energy of your soul/heart/brain. You need to learn to prioritise self-care, especially at times when you’re being bombarded with awful things from all directions.

I am a feminist. You know what that means. I believe that women are people. That people of colour are people. That trans people are people… That we should treat this planet as a place where each of us can feel safe and loved. Being a feminist can be exhausting. And as a feminist you need to learn to prioritise self-care too.

Level-Hearted symbolises a state where I feel I have enough internal resources to care and support the causes that are dear to me. It is a state I strive to spend most of my time in. I want to be able to have enough energy, knowledge and ability in me to help others in finding their best way forward. And I want to feel safe and secure myself.

 

The walk… unfinished

So I walked. For five Days. And then I had to stop. Somehow I got a cold/flu that was so bad, that I could not continue and had to cut the planned Camino half way through.

I walked from Porto (well, from Povoa Varzim – the furthest point to the north that Porto’s metro system will take you) to Tui. I did just over 120 km in five days (not counting the “got lost somehow” detours and the evening walks, as that took me to almost 140km!).

What’s the experience of doing Camino like? Well… it’s many things!

Every day I felt I was stripped to the primary parts. This is in the sense of my body. Aching and blistered feet. Heaviness of the 7.5kg backpack on 20km days. Mosquito bites in places that rub, like backpack straps…

Also in the sense of my mind. Every morning I was up to the challenge. Feeling the energy to bounce out of the hostel I was staying in, and just walk. But then towards the noon, I’d get to first of many crises, thinking I will not be able to complete the walk, that it’s too hard, that my body is too weak. And towards the evening, when I was refreshed, clean and fed, without the heavy backpack to bear, I found myself in the most meditative mood. Emotions would come and go. Sometimes I’d cry. Sometimes I’d be so knackered, I’d fall asleep and wake up in the evening. And in the morning it would all start again.

The experience is very raw. The energy you expend during the walk is vast enough to make you stop worrying about the petty things and pressures that are really not worth your emotional labour. You are tired and cannot concentrate, and at the same time you see and feel things clearer.

I only did half of my walk. I am now back home ahead of schedule, still feverish, still coughing. Still disappointed.

I went through the initial stage. My blisters were finally healing. I finally got used to the weight of my backpack on my shoulders. And I had to stop.

I got a few people suggesting to soldier through (which I did for two days (both over 20km walks). But those people were not in my shoes and I learnt that I have to stand up for me and my wellbeing over the expectancies of others.

Talking of lessons:

  • There are arrows everywhere, showing you which way to go. There’s no need to try and outsmart the path. And if you do, you’re highly likely to get get lost, and have to retract your steps. Trust the arrows. They are there to keep you on track and to free your mind from thinking about the route. They are there to help you concentrate on BEING on the route.
  • You find out who and what is important for you. At the end of a long day you won’t be agonising about things that don’t really matter. You will think about people and things that do. You will count your blessings.
  • You will (likely) cry. Cry from exhaustion if you walked a long strip in full sunshine for five hours and finally got to your hostel, which is cool and has a shower and a bed waiting for you. You will cry in the evening, sometimes unsure about what.
  • You’ll meet a lot of nice people. Some of which you will not be able to verbally communicate with. And you will have great, meaningful conversations with them (even if you have a problem understanding each other there is always another soul that will help you both out).
  • You will learn that there is not much you really need to get by. Some food, a shower, a place to stay and recuperate, blister plasters. Suddenly all else becomes luxury.
  • You learn that you can be self sufficient (providing minimum resources of course!) and that you can find solutions to problems by yourself, without waiting for others to “save you”. You don’t want others to save you. You feel empowered to keep on going and rely on yourself
  • You learn your body is strong. You learn to appreciate it for what it is capable of doing for you.

I am a stubborn person, thoughts going through my head now are concentrated mostly on how and when I can finish my Camino, to get to Santiago and accomplish this achievement.

If I return, I think I’d take someone with me. I’ve experienced it solo, next time I’d like to experience it with a friendly soul.

Meditation

200 days ago I started meditating daily. Not to prove anything – I am not even consciously aware of my reason, but given that meditating helps me calm my frazzled mind, I figured I don’t need to bother myself with official reasons.

Something that I’ve never expected happened. I thought, as time goes by, each sitting will be easier. Oh girl, was I mistaken! For me, the longer I go, the harder it gets. The less sustained concentration I am able to muster. Or at least it feels like it.

Regardless of this (hopefully temporary) hurdle, I keep going, as now my day feels incomplete if I don’t sit and meditate for at least ten minutes.

Have you tried meditation? How did you find it? Do you have any tips?

PS. If you haven’t yet tried meditation/mindfulness, there are plenty of apps there that will help you with it (Calm, Headspace, 10% Happier to name a few). I strongly recommend it. Please don’t be discouraged by my current plateau/dip. Even though I feel I’m not making progress at the moment, the benefits are truly great. Try it and let me know how you’re doing!