That Knot In Your Stomach

Anxiety is a funny thing. For me, I didn’t manage to put a name to that erratic feeling that made me mess up and fail on so many important occasions until my mid twenties going into my late twenties. People talk about it, and you hear about it. It just made me think about people who were of a  nervous disposition. It’s hard to recognise that clenching of your stomach and the tightness of the chest you unknowingly feel is the same thing.

Recognising it for the first time wasn’t a formal process, the first time I recognised it as such, there definitely was a feeling that I was making it a bigger deal than it is – a running comment on the British culture I’ve been brought up with. Now that I’ve accepted what it is, it’s been helpful and freeing to realise all those job interviews I messed up at at the last hurdle, or the time I broke down in my grade 8 piano exam, or my three failed driving exams at 17 were all products of a deep anxiety that had not been managed and not because I was weak, or stupid, hopelessly flawed or a failure. It’s allowed me to do less beating myself up and put that energy into increasing self awareness and trying to manage the real cause of the issue.

It’s taken me a while to be able to catch my anxiety rising. The way I can best describe it is that I catch myself feeling erratic, like my lung capacity has diminished and I can’t breathe like I normally do. This usually causes my brain to panic and in the past has been the zone where my mistakes occur and I feel out of control. Once I recognise that feeling, that allows me to push my self awareness through my body and look for the tension I’m holding in my stomach and chest – the energy pushes my body forward and like it gathers on my forehead and chest. The main way I find I can combat it is to sit up and back (because usually I’m slightly hunched over) and take a long and deep breath in and then out. Repeat a couple of times if necessary but the breaths need to hit the bottom of my stomach expanding it down and releasing the tension that it held before. And that allows some calm to wash over me and neutralise the frenzy.

I now do not view that it is weak to have anxiety. It is just something that I know I have and that I have to conquer, every single time I put myself in a stressful position. That can be in work, in job interviews, whilst climbing, whilst out and about, whilst shopping. It is a part of me, but it doesn’t have to control me. And for being equipped with the self awareness and the tools to help combat it in the moment, it makes me feel more capable. I have learnt to conquer an obstacle within me and I will continue to conquer it each time.

New Decade… huh?

Feels bizarre to hit a new decade. The realisation hit me only two days before the new year began. This year I will be three decades old, which is quite an overwhelming thought for some. It’s interesting speaking to friends in similar situations and seeing the breadth of reactions. One friend admitted they had gone to therapy because of anxieties about turning 30. They weren’t where they thought they’d be in terms of career or relationship/family. I guess that’s why it’s important to manage expectations and see the importance for setting goals (to encourage motivation and ambition) but accept that things may not quite go to plan.

For the most part, I have always had fairly little long term expectations of where I would be. At my roots, I am a dreamer so I have a thousand things I want to be, but the realist in me knows that I cannot be all of those things at once so I compromise by having an attitude of trying to be the dandelion puff that rides on the wind. Except, perhaps with a tad more self-determination.

A decade is a long time. 2010s saw me grow into an adult and learn some hard lessons. I wonder where 2020s will take me.

The Person You Are Today

I remember when I was a young teenager, when coming across someone who was in their mid/late twenties and thinking “Wow, that’s so old! I’ll never get there”. It just seemed like such a distant concept that my mind couldn’t quite comprehend how I would get there.

Today, as a 28 year old, I look back and recognise that version of myself. I am no longer that person, but that person is part of me. The person I am today encompasses every single day and every single version of myself I have been but I am more than them. And the person I am today, will be less than the person tomorrow, next week and in a year’s time.

There is no wasted time, for all that you’ve learnt, thought and gained comes from the people you have been whether that’s been the life you wanted by design or lived but desperately wanted to get out of. Those circumstances have left you with the motivations and viewpoints you have now so as with so many things in life, acceptance is the key to be able to make peace with who you have been and are. This will enable you to harness all the powers you have in your fingertips. The person you are today is magnificent and I look forward to seeing who you are tomorrow.

London

Having never wanted to move here in the first place, never wanted to stay, never wanted to come back after travelling, I mean every word when I say I do not want to stay in London. I will truly be heartbroken if in ten years or maybe even five years time I am still here. But no matter how much I mean that, I also know there will always be somewhere in my heart for this city. Like a long term relationship, it has shaped and moulded my life in my years as a newly fledged adult. That will forever remain part of my identity. Like everything else that has influenced me in my life, I would not be the person I am without having been here. With nearly 7 years since I moved here, that’s a significant proportion of my life.

I write this as I sit on the bus home just going past Tower of London and going onto Tower Bridge. It is these moments when there is that moment of stillness as the almost empty bus sits in momentary traffic just in front of Tower of London that I think “I’m pretty lucky to be here”. This city swallows and spits out people everyday, and I am here, still standing. It’s a reaffirming message – you’re alright, you’ll be fine.

Breathe and Let Go

Expectation is such a double edge sword. On one hand, it helps give the motivation and confidence to fully commit to things because you expect to be able to do it. On the other hand, it does create this discord within oneself when you fail to meet your expectations. It’s so easy to fall into that rabbit hole of berating yourself and falling deeper into the vicious circle.

We all would do well to remind ourselves from time to time that we are not invincible and we are not limitless. To be able to listen to oneself and to take a more overview perspective to be able to see the upwards trend in progression is so important. Yes we should set goals and work with expectations but we are the only person we will ever get to be in this life. If you are keep knocking yourself down from not meeting expectations, to what purpose does that serve?

Mourning a Ghost

I still miss you. I can hardly believe it myself but I do. I’ve always found it tricky to let go and move on after relationships but I’ve never stuck around for long. It’s coming up to five months and I still feel a deep sense of loss when flashbacks ambush me or when I wonder about you. It’s slowly dawning on me that maybe it will always be that way.

It’s frustrating to be in this circle. I think about you, feel the sadness, get frustrated that it’s still so dominant but allow myself to feel in the hope that I’m working through it and thus it goes round.

I’m not pining. I’m pulling hard hours at work, see friends, climb, yoga and plan trips to escape the city. I joke, laugh, rant and cry. I’m a different person to the one I was already but emotionally I am still there.

I’ve worked through it rationally as much as I need to. I know I’m fine on my own, and I understand from an overall perspective things as they were, why things happened. But nothing helps this sense of loss that hits me in the core and I can’t shake.

The worst part of it all is that the person I miss isn’t even the you that you are now. Or even the you who you were five months ago when we broke up. I miss the you from almost a year ago (doesn’t time fly quickly?). The worst part of it is knowing the person I miss doesn’t even exist right now. I am mourning a memory. I have no precedent of how this goes. All I can do is see how it goes just to keep going.

April’s Fool

I recently went through a wobble in relation to my work and lifestyle at the moment. Coming back from travelling into a full blown long hours London lifestyle was something I chose for several reasons:

– because I craved working in the mentally stimulating environment of the business sphere

– it was a good way for me to support myself with a decent wage whilst trying to figure out what it was I ultimately wanted

– because it was familiar

Having seen that I don’t need a lot of money to be happy, it’s felt wrong to be here since I’ve been back. I got so caught up trying to use this period as a stepping stone that I had a mini freak out at the idea that I might be settling back down. The last thing I want is to get too comfortable and then never leave. What is it with my mind and always thinking like each new development is the end all and be all?

I am slowly accepting that the person I am today is similar but not the person I was last November. I think it was just harder this time round because I had such hopes and expectations built into that version of me and the path that I would take. There’s no reason why I couldn’t go back down that path again though.

There is no rush Louisa. You can enjoy your time whilst you are here. As the tattoo on your leg reminds you, “this too shall pass” so you may as well try and be present whilst you can.

It Baffles Me

Just how the guys I date all seem to have the same recurring faults. Why is it none of you seem have any sort of emotional maturity? Or even know how to deal with emotion? And then those of you who don’t know how to communicate, who just shut off, how have you managed to get this way? I really struggle to understand.

If you think it’s easy to find just a male who can communicate competently and can express their emotions I think you’ll find you are very wrong.

I’m not sure I even know what to think anymore. I would love to find someone who can communicate, who possesses empathy and is comfortable expressing emotions. Along with all the other criteria, reliable, affectionate, intelligent, self assured, adventurous. I think I’m chasing a ghost, better off just focusing on that comfy sofa and big dog.

A Game of Flee and Return

Currently on an airplane off to Spain for a couple of days of climbing. It’s just dawned on me that this is the first time I’ve left the country since I got back from the US in November. That might not sound long – it is only the end of January – but it feels like a lifetine ago. All the joys, feeling enthralled, hurt, sorrow still echo inside me but have become more muted. I suppose that’s an advantage (or disadvantage) of being based somewhere fast paced like London.

I suppose I am fully back now. And yet, every single step I take, I don’t feel like I fully returned. I am physically here, but not all of my soul is. I like to think it’s because I’ve scattered it across the world in some sort of romantic but really quite impractical manner. The urge to leave that resonated with me before my travels is akin to an elephant tripping and crashing into a pots and pans store.

Sit down Louisa, think up a plan and execute it. One day, this game of Flee and Return will become Flee and Visit.

Saying Goodbye

I’ve never found it easy to let go of things. I think that’s probably why I usually default to cutting people off when relationships end. It’s hard to go from being romantically involved with someone to being friends without having been that in the first place.

I miss you. It’s frustrating how much I do but I know I need to give myself time. I don’t want to ruin all the memories that I have in order to move on when it was the relationship I’ve treasured the most. I want to respect the fact that despite the low I’m in now because of it, I also had a high I never had before. Even though in my mind it ended when it shouldn’t have, it doesn’t change what was.

You said you loved me but weren’t in love with me, and I absent-mindedly wonder whether you truly understand what it means to be in love and in a relationship. One day you may meet someone you grow to feel more for than me, you also may not. I accept that but it no longer matters to me. I know what our relationship and you were to me and that’s all matter to me now.

And whilst there were plenty of things about me you deemed “not right” for you, that also works in reverse. You scorned at the fact that I have a city background, to me you couldn’t even begin to fathom half of the situations that I deal with day to day living and working in London. I grew up in a countryside town, city life has only been applicable in my working life – it certainly doesn’t define me. But whilst I don’t envisage my future being city based, I do greatly enjoy the things they offer. Sometimes just as much as I enjoy being outdoors and going on adventures in isolated places. I like to adapt and I want to do it all. You certainly didn’t fit in all that – although I fully accepted this. I guess what I’m trying to say is, in some ways I’m glad I no longer have to limit myself in order to make our relationship work. We would’ve certainly widened each others horizons to say the least. For someone who likes to think of himself as open minded and self-aware, you are hypocritically small minded – your obstinance in leading the life you planned out for yourself blinds and limits you.

I do hope you are well and I have every faith you will execute everything you have in your plan. Thanks for the memories and I hope you find what you think you’ll find.