Friday, October 30, 2009

Reflecting on VISTA

I'm sitting on the couch drinking some coffee before getting ready for my last day as a VISTA. It's been a wonderful, wonderful experience. I have learned and grown so much during this past year (err, 11 1/4 months). Seriously, I feel like a took a huge leap of faith when I became a VISTA. I wasn't sure at all how it would work out. I just knew that it felt right to me, and my previous place of employment didn't feel right at all.

I didn't just jump into it though. I did a lot of soul-searching before deciding to be a VISTA. Even after being offerred the position I didn't accept right away. Instead I said I had to think it over and talk it out with Liz before giving my answer. We went over our budget a couple times to make sure it was okay. It was so good to think things out and to confirm with myself (and Liz) that this was really the right thing to do for me. And in doing this right thing for myself, I feel like I've really been able to be a better partner for Liz and a kinder person to everyone with whom I come into contact. I really believe that if you take the best care of yourself that you can, you are that much better equipped to serve others and be kind and compassionate towards others. It's kinda a win-win situation--I just love those!

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Body Has the Answers

I attended the Jill Satterfield Mindfulness Meditation and Movement weekend on Saturday and Sunday. It was pretty fabulous. Lots of meditation, some yoga, which, though I really love long vinyassa sessions, I found that I loved. Even though it was wonderful and the time flew by, I found myself feeling lots of emotion at this workshop. I guess that's to be expected, but I was surprised at how powerful I found this emotion.

I did not do well in how I dealt with this emotion on Saturday when the workshop ended and it was time to go home. Well, at first I did okay. I came home, baked pumpkin bread and chillaxed. At 6:30 Liz stopped studying and we began talking about evening plans. We had planned on going on a date. I realized at that point that I was utterly exhausted. I chose to ignore that and we went out in a torrential downpour complete with strong winds to eat. I found myself fighting off a panick attack the whole way there. We left at 7:20 and didn't make it to the restaurant until 8. Hypoglycemia had set in. I kept snapping at Liz. The weather unnerved me. Driving in the weather unnerved me even more. And then I spent the rest of the evening apologizing--especially after I got some food and my blood sugar went back to normal.

On Sunday Jill reiterated something that really got me thinking. It was something to the tune of you have to do what's best for you, what feels right to you in order to be good to other people, or that's how I interpreted it anyway. This helped a lot. I left the workshop on Sunday and went home to have a snack and rest for a while before trying to tackle any chores. I asked Liz to go with me to the grocery store because I knew that I was too tired to really handle it well myself. Then I got home and put away all the groceries and made dinner and felt very rejuvenated after eating it, enough so that I cleaned up dinner and did other chores.

I checked in with myself and listened to myself and did what was best for me and it really did allow me to do what was best for my family. Liz was able to study a ton and I was patient and kind about it and I think all really felt good.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Goal Setting Session One

As I've said before, I don't really have too much of a history with setting goals. To recap, I just began doing so around Spring 2007. So far my goal setting has been pretty unstructured. So, I'm going to use this space to set more specific goals today.

I plan on following-up in a few months to see what progress I've made and also to put down what my goals are at that time so I can see how they've changed, if they've changed at all. I am going to make Personal, Professional and Spiritual goals.

Personal Goals:
1. To move into a two bedroom apartment in August 2010.
2. To have a baby by August 2011.
3. To focus daily on being more compassionate towards Liz.
4. To volunteer with Pathways' VITA program during tax season.
5. To begin putting more money in my savings account each month since I'll be making more now.

Professional Goals:
1. To be organized and on top of all of my work at my new job.
2. To take advantage of the free classes my new employer offers. I will sign up to take a class beginning in January 2010.

Spiritual Goals:
1. To continue meditating every day.
2. To read The Power of Now.
3. To do another yoga/meditation workshop

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dealing with Change

Well, I am now positive that I did get the job I've been excitedly wondering and worrying about for a while now! I gave my two weeks notice on Monday, and it's a little bittersweet. I am torn over being excited about this new job and feeling sad about having to end my VISTA year a few weeks early, something I never anticipated doing. It's funny where life takes us, or where we take ourselves.

I've been utilizing meditation a lot lately to deal with my sad feelings about ending my VISTA year early. I wasn't nervous about telling my supervisors, but then after I did meet with them and I told some of my co-workers I felt pretty sad. Like, tears were welling up in my eyes. I don't know if that's because I'm weaning off Zoloft or what, but tears don't usually come to me at work. So I took deep breaths that morning, lots of deep breaths. And I meditated as soon as I got home and I also took extra care to be mindful of each task as I performed it. It helped. It definitely helped. I did not have a full blow anxiety attack or even a minor one!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More lululemon Inspiration

I'm still sick so I'm going to make this brief:

This is another item from the lululemon website. Maybe it's silly how much a company influences me and makes me feel better, but I appreciate it nonetheless. Maybe I should look at it as more of a whatever works type thing. It's interesting how being sick influences my view of the present moment. I am planning on writing at length on this subject just as soon as I feel better.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Three Posts in One

I just called out sick from work. I've come down with yet another sinus infection; however, this has been the first in a while, which is a big improvement. You see, after I got very sick my freshman year of college (respiratory failure, coma for a month, etc.) I found that I got sick much, much easier than before. Namely, it's sinus infections, but I'm always just a tad concerned that they'll spread to my chest. So I'm home today, and this sickness is also why I haven't posted since Monday.

Also, the job I posted about earlier, the one I was sure I had gotten. Well, now I am not so sure. I received an email late last Friday night that said "We are very interested in having you join our team." Sounds good, no? Then I got another early this week saying that I, along with the other applicants, need to come by an sign my official application for the job. Other applicants? Does that mean I don't have the job? I am so confused! Beyond confused, really.

I've also realized that reading just a little bit of a spiritual book each day really helps with my anxiety. For instance, lately I've been picking up "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle or "Awakening the Buddha Within" by Lama Surya Das and have found it to be infinitely helpful. It's kinda like how all the very devout Evangelical Christians I grew up around would do daily Bible devotionals. Perhaps I've taken a page from them.

Monday, October 12, 2009


I'm tired so I'll expand on this later, but one of my goals for a while now has been to be compassionate towards all people/things. I think this will be a life-long goal, one that I'm continuously working on because I can't see where I could ever really reach a point where I'm able to say, "okay, done. I am compassionate."

I think compassion is more a thing we must continually work on and commit to. I also think that concern for others has the added bonus of reducing anxiety. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but I think it has something to do with getting your mind off of "I, I, I". However, I'm not advocating self-denial, but more of a middle ground, a take care of yourself and your needs so you can better take care of others policy.

"All the happiness there is in this world comes from thinking about others, and all the suffering comes from preoccupation with yourself." --Shantideva

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keep Your Goals Away from the Trolls*

I did go to yoga at lululemon this morning. It was fabulous! I left feeling absolutely amazing, and everyone there was very nice. So, a win-win, definitely.

Lululemon has a tab on their website called "education." Under "education" there is a link entitled "goal setting." I did not really learn about goal setting until mid-way through my senior year of college when I read a book by Jack Canfield. Perhaps you're laughing now because you find him to be a little hokey, but he really did help to convince me that I'm worthy enough to set goals, worthy enough to have preferences. Sure, I had heard reference to goal-setting when I played different sports, but nothing very detailed. In short, I did not understand how to do it or what it was or how big of an impact it can make. I was just sort of floating through life, and was pretty unsure of where I was going.

So, I sat out to set some goals. I think number one was just figuring out exactly what it was that I wanted, and learning that it's okay to want. The second, but equally important, goal was to become more friendly with my friends. I know, second semester senior year is not the most logical time to do that, but it was what I had. The third goal I set for myself was to stay on the East Coast after college and live with Liz. I also wanted to get a "real" job. Funny enough, I did not specify to myself what this real job would entail so I ended up taking pretty much anything I could get to fulfill that goal. Lobbying. Yep, I was a lobbyist.

So, fast forward about two years later, and turns out lobbying was not my cup of tea. I did not like working for the highest bidder. I did not like not having any say in what issues I would be supporting. It was time to set new goal. I decided that I needed to pay less rent in order to be able to work in the field I wanted to work in (social work) and still have a roof over my head. We moved, and we're still in that apartment. It's awesome (even if it is small)! I ended up taking an AmeriCorps* VISTA position to help me change career paths. Now my VISTA year is almost over, and I'm about to start my dream job. Goal setting, it's where it's at.

*Inside joke

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Judge or Be Judged? I think not.

For the past two nights I have encountered individuals that have had pretty opinionated or black and white responses to different things. It upsets me. I think part of why it upsets me is because I'm still afraid of people judging me, and, in turn, I'm still judging other people. All day today I was worried what people thought of my shoes. This is something that used to worry me a lot, even after I began taking Zoloft.

I know, I! So silly! I just cannot walk in heels, and most flats hurt my feet, too. I've been wearing comfy shoes or whatever is bearable for me, but I know that, really, I just need to own whatever shoes I choose to wear. I want to be able to move around without thinking about how my feet feel. Instead, I want to think about the book I'm reading, how good the crisp, fall air feels. I want to be able to focus on the friends I'm with and their funny stories, not my feet.

I want to be able to realize that it doesn't matter if I'm wearing comfy, supportive, whatever shoes and my friend is wearing a really cute pair of heels. She is choosing to wear heels just like I'm choosing to wear whatever it is I'm wearing, and that's okay. I guess it's like with any choice anyone gets to make--it's their choice. I can comment or choose to react in a negative way, but it's probably not going to make any impact on what they're doing.

On a completely different note, I bought a cute pair of pants at lululemon, and I think I'm going to go to Sunday Yoga there tomorrow morning. I'll leave you with a copy of their amazing manifesto.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Racings Thoughts

I just got home from a quasi-stressful day. I didn't hear anything about "the" job, and work got really busy as the day was supposedly starting to wind down. A client came in at 4:45 instead of 4 for her appointment. And there's always so much paperwork! It really got my mind going, and it wouldn't stop. I walked home, and that just seemed to get it going faster. I think I missed my long bus & trolley commute/reading time! :)

So I came home a little grumpy, and immediately sat in my chair to go online. I almost just started to mindlessly surf the internet, which is not a good thing for me to do when I grumpy. Time and time again doing that has just proved to make me more anxious. Then, when I had the internet open and was already to make myself feel worse, I remembered Positive Pause. It's a great website that just slows things down for me when my mind is moving a little too fast for my liking. The website plays music, but since Liz was studying (anatomy...eww, gross and boring) I decided to listen to my iPod while watching it, and I have to say Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes is a great accompaniment.

Do We Ever Know What the Future Holds?

I am currently still waiting with bated breath to hear about this job. I know my references were checked yesterday. I know that's a good sign, and yet it made me feel a little crazy. I just could not stop thinking about maybe.perhaps.possibly getting this job that would definitely be a dream job for me. And, yet, at the same time, I'm trying to focus myself more on the present. I'm trying to not think about how it would be a dream job for me. I'm trying to prepare myself for, well, not failure, but a let-down, a rejection.

I also spontaneously got chicken fingers today for lunch. And that's all I had. Five chicken fingers. That's a lot of fried. I then proceeded to read an article in the New York Times about a calorie restriction study. Perhaps not the smartest thing I've ever done, but I was able to focus on what the researchers found to be the negatives of extreme calorie restriction. That was good. I probably should not have read the article to begin with, though. Even still, I think it's a good sign that neither event (chx&article) bothered me too much.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What Will the Future Hold?

I had a job interview today because VISTA is winding down and I need to think of something to do when it's over. I'd like that specific something to be focused in the social services. I think the interview went pretty well. I have my fingers crossed super tight right now, so tight that they're maybe not even crossed. The Director is interviewing 3 other people, and I should know by Friday or Monday at the latest.

I've definitely noticed that I've had more anxiety today because of the interview. Having a job interview just causes me to always get a million times too excited about the future, to the point where I almost cannot focus on the present. In fact, after my first post-college job interview (2.5 years ago) my anxiety was so high that I felt like I could barely breathe. I definitely don't feel like that today, and right now I am so thankful for that.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Too often we cannot tell other people our innermost hopes and dreams. I think for me, and a lot of others, this creates a sense of alone-ness and anxiety that doesn't necessarily need to be there.

For the past year I have focused on fostering a community for myself where I can express me without fear of judgment. I've also focused on judging others less. Though I still fall prey to judging and worrying about being judged, I am better able to catch myself when these things start to happen. A year ago I also quit my job in lobbying to work in social services, a career where I am much more free to be me, and I am lucky in that I found a wonderful, fairly non judgmental organization.

Another big thing I did was distance myself from my parents judgments about me. I was not able to do this by distancing myself from my parents. For so long I tried to rid myself of how much their judgments bothered me by creating more and more actual, geographical distance between us. I was still miserable that they chose to judge me so often via the phone or email. When I was finally able to stop being bothered by their judgments, I was free. And I was not just free from their judgments, I was also free to stop judging them and appreciate them for what they are. I was able to respect their recommendations while acknowledging that even though they're my parents, they don't always know what's best for me.

I'll end with this quote from Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie:

"I was plunged into a green, glass-cloudy world filled with cutting edges, a world in which I could not longer tell the people who mattered most about the goings-on inside my head; green shards lacerated my hands as I entered the swirling universe in which I was doomed, until it was far too late, to be plagued by constant doubts about what I was for."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stopping It Before It Starts

Since beginning to wean off Zoloft I've had some minor anxiety attacks. I say minor because I was able to calm down and get through them fairly quickly. I must admit, though, a few times I have definitely found myself thinking that it would be so much easier to just stop weaning off the Zoloft, to just keep taking 100 mg for the rest of my life. But then I do some breathing exercises and talk to Liz and take a walk and just keep gently encouraging myself to do things on my "has reduced your anxiety before" list, and so far it's worked.

I think a big part of my anxiety attacks stem from me overreacting and then just running with that overreaction. If I focus on staying in the present and paying attention to my actions, I find that I am much less likely to overreact and then, in turn, much less likely to get carried away on an anxiety attack.

I'll leave you with this story I found on the FML website. It's quite funny and shows how reacting before thinking is generally bad.

"Today, I was running late and realized I had locked my keys in my car. Frantic, I threw a rock through the drivers side window to retrieve them, just before noticing the passenger side door was unlocked. FML"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On the Subject of Parents

"We honor our parents by taking what was good and leaving the rest." -Bruce Springsteen

This quote is from an article by Mark Epstein in the Summer 2009 edition of tricycle, The Buddhist Review that really helped me change the way in which I view my parents and my relationship to them. Once I had read this article, I hungrily searched for more Buddhist writings that would enlighten my perspective towards my parents and my pretty dysfunctional childhood. This helped immensely with my anxiety issues because so much of my anxiety was tied up in my relationship with my parents--in what had happened in the past and also in how they still acted.

I cannot remember where I read it, but on my search I came across something that said helped me to understand that my parents' behavior was not such because I had done something wrong. Maybe they had difficult childhoods...actually, I know for a fact my mom did and I can pretty much say for certain that my dad did, too. And then I realized that the same probably went for their parents. They weren't mean to their kids because their kids did something wrong, something must have happened to them, too! Or maybe it wasn't their parents at all, maybe their parents were perfectly wonderful and caring, but some other thing affected how them and this in turn affected their children.

It was a big moment for me. Everything just seemed to click. So much of my anxiety and anger towards my parents instantly disappeared in this moment. I understood that what they said or how they acted towards me was not about me. It was about them, about something that was going on with them. I stopped taking their uncaring comments personally. I started appreciating the positive. I stopped overreacting when they were rude, and instead found that I was able to calmly but forcefully explain how their statement/action hurt me.

So tonight, as I have been working on weaning off Zoloft for 6 days now, I re-read this original article and re-affirmed for myself that I will focus on taking the good and realizing that the rest is not about me.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Thoughts on a Wedding

As you saw from my last post, I recently got married. During the planning I was relatively calm. However, on the big day itself and the week leading up to it, I was a bit of a nervous wreck...even with Zoloft, meditation, etc. I think a big part of why I was such a wreck is that I was only able to do the very basics to keep my anxiety under control.

Unfortunately the basics were pretty much just one basic thing...taking Zoloft. I tried to keep my meditation practice up, but there were days that I wasn't able to do it because my family was in town and I just didn't feel like I could take 15 or 20 minutes to meditate even when we weren't in the same physical space.

The day turned out to be amazing--even with all of my stressing and even with our wedding coordinator not showing up! So, things went wrong and it was still fabulous. The only thing that wasn't fabulous was the amount of worrying and stressing I did in the week leading up to the big event.

Moral of the story is this, and other big stressors like this, is going to be a big challenge for me as I wean off Zoloft. If I didn't feel like I could take time away to meditate while on Zoloft, will I be able to do so during a big stressful event when I'm off of it?

I'll leave you with a wedding inspiration board I made...just because I like it. :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Somewhat New Beginnings

Oh the first, I've just started tapering off Zoloft this week. For all of your who may not be aware, Zoloft is an SSRI that helps with anxiety, etc. For me it's helped greatly with anxiety and also obsession. I've been taking it since June/July of 2007. I can't recall the exact date.

Why am I going off of it since it's helped me so much? Good question! I would definitely say that the main answer is that my partner and I want to have kids in the not too terribly distant future and it's not advised that you take Zoloft while pregnant or breastfeeding. Another big reason is that I just am curious to see if I can manage my anxiety on my own.

I currently feel like I'm in a good position to try to stop taking Zoloft for a few reasons:
  • I completed the Penn Program for Mindfulness in June, and it basically alleviated any of the anxiety that did not go away through using Zoloft alone.
  • Then I began going to Philadelphia Community Acupuncture weekly. It's amazing and has helped with my anxiety also. It also makes me feel like I have an extra layer of support while trying to stop taking Zoloft.
  • The Penn Program for Mindfulness also made me more aware of my own spirituality. While I was interested in Buddhism before I took the course, I have really been reading a lot of Buddhist literature since April. This has also helped me incredibly.
Plus I have my wonderful partner who has just started med school. I wasn't sure originally if de would be supportive or not since de's pretty "if Western medicine works, then why not use it," but de is always supportive of me and understanding of what I feel like I need to do. I'll leave you with a picture of us at our wedding this past summer.