Growing up I was different. I wasn’t sure how but I knew it to be true. I spent the early years in a happy bubble of neighborhood kids, all the different cultures nonexistent as we laughed on the swings and ran around the grassy areas. I think I was happy. But then, I went to school. I wasn’t like the others. I only had a mom, and even though I knew my father had passed away, the kids were pretty mean. Some of the teachers were too. So, I retreated. Like a turtle, I burrowed deep inside myself and focused on what I felt made me safe and happy.
In middle school, we moved and again I was faced with unyielding peers, who had more, were more or at least seemed “more.” I spent 7th and 8th grade trying to it in, and I worried much more about what my classmates though of me than what I thought of me. Honestly, I felt very unsettled and anxiety ridden most of the time. I really wanted to be liked, I didn’t have to fit in, but I wanted acceptance.
High school came along, and I embraced the Dr. Seuss paradigm; “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” A great idea in theory. Instead of looking for acceptance, I decided to be true to myself. I listened to “different” music, read the “wrong” books and my uniform of all black with combat boots was enough to discourage most of the materialistic, social climbing classmates. I identified with Winona Ryder in Heathers. I actually learned a lot during this time of my life.
I learned that I love to write, and that I am really amazing when I put my mind into it, and pen to page. I learned that there was a culture of people like myself, and found Greenwich Village and Bleecker Bob’s (Vinyl my friends) and Butterflies (vintage clothing). Sorry non-NY peeps, it was iconic for me) I drank Kerouac and Hunter S Thompson for breakfast, Shakespeare for lunch and varied artists by night. I envied Van Gogh, Kahlo and O’Keefe. I spent my free Sundays wandering the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had found myself and my peace.
College dawned and I found others like myself, but the social anxiety still presented in new situations. No longer caring about the masses of people, I let my inner hippie connect to my outer goth girl, and here I remain. And I’m content. I know who my friends are, and I have found my “Zen” place. In my readings (OK, it was Kerouac and those Dharma Bums) I learned that Zen meant awareness, mindfulness before it’s time. Simple, truthful, Zen. I didn’t need to overthink, to complicate life – and life changed. The anxiety dissipated for a while, and I was happy, content. I want more of that Zen in my life now.
So I began to think about what it was, what I thought about that reduced those anxious feelings and let me live comfortably in my own skin. I think I’ve narrowed it to three things, and I of course want to share them with you dear readers. So (deep cleansing breath) … here goes.
- Let it be. Your mind (and mine) can convince you that any thought, feeling or experience should or could be different than it is. NO WAY JOSE! Things may be different than they once were, but the now, the present is the truth. To find your peaceful space in the galaxy, accept your present circumstance, don’t resist what comes about. Try and stay on an even keel, emotionally neutral. Resistance, is not only futile (ask the Borg) but it can destroy you with negative energy. If you are anxiety ridden, perhaps over a deadline, social outing or just making dinner, let it be. It will pass and you won’t torture yourself. Peace will come. Breathe, and be Zen.
- Meet your Panic head on. (And no, I’m not referring to the members of P!ATD) Let me tell you about Zen. Zen is basically about who we are in relation to someone/thing, and this includes anxiety. It also includes this moment. Right now. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know that you never believe it is happening, even when you’re gasping for air and praying to every obscure Deity for it to be over. And guess what, if you try avoidance, the panic follows, and it grows like a crazed demon. Over time I learned that whenever I faced my anxieties, they eventually disappeared. It goes like this; “Whatever I run from, will most certainly chase me.” So, STOP RUNNING! Think about your life, do you want a life of peace or a life filled with stress? Some stress is inevitable, but positive attention and facing the fears keep most of the demons at bay. You are choosing peace. Zen.
- Treat yourself with compassion. I know, you’ve heard that before, but it stands true. The key to turning anxiety into peace is to not beat yourself up. You are the most important person in your life, and if you remember that, you’ll find your Zen place. Work with your inner self, not against it, if you really want to be comfortable in your own skin. Self-condemnation only gets you what you don’t want; stress and anxiety and fear.
You are so much more than the thoughts and feeling your mind spins for you. You and I each have the power to toss the panic out the door and live peacefully. Accept yourself. Once you can accept and love yourself, the fears will fall away, leaving you to be who you really are, no fear. No social anxiety. Just you. I still don’t fit the traditional norm, but now, it doesn’t bother me as much. Sure in my mind, I’d love to be invited out with all those other people from [fill in the blank] but I don’t want to conform. I choose my friends carefully, wisely with my heart, and those who are true accept the “different” me. Yes, I get scared and anxious about my life, my socialization, my work, etc. But I am facing it, standing up to fear, and yes, I don’t fit the Boca mold. And now, I think that’s cool. I’m Zen.
Stay motivated and caffeinated!😉☕
And for me… a little nostalgia…and a favorite quote…
“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” -Jack Kerouac