Zazen Day 8 – hollow

My mind was kind of numb last night, so I didn’t get this off in time. I had a lot of day job work yesterday, the kind that makes you reexamine all of your bad choices. Okay, not really, but mind-numbing nonetheless. I resolve to leave the house today at all costs. (read: a $3 cappuccino)

Before I sat last night, I was thinking again about Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind. In the book he talks about the theory that anxiety is best described in personal terms; Kafka describes his as tiny strings under his skin being tightened at his core. (paraphrasing) After reading this passage – on the train to visit my father who has been struggling deeply with depression, among other illnesses – I started to think about what my anxiety is like.

I came up with this horribly dramatic description based on the primary symptom of tightness: before a panic attack, or when I’m lathering with self-doubt or reproach, it feels as if someone is making a plaster cast of my chest, just a little too small. As it dries, it tightens. Then the cast goes out into the world and is me — takes my place.

This sounds like something I would have journaled when I was 16 (or, honestly, 25) – but it’s the unfiltered image that immediately sprang into my mind. Later that week, I had dinner with my old roommate in Brooklyn and we got caught up on the twin markers in our lives – writing, neuroses. A few glasses of wine in, I was honest and spilled the above. She nodded and agreed…there’s a fake you you send out into the world, but the real you ends up feeling fake. This is something I’ve always wrestled with. At times I’m mercurially honest and emotive, to a teary fault. Other times I say whatever other people want to hear, the perfect yes-woman who fit in only when tamping down anything true. More than two years into my old job, I cracked a joke at a social event with my boss. She laughed, surprised, and said “You’re funny!” I’ve relied on humor as a defense-mechanism for so long it has just become second nature, yet after working closely with her for a significant amount of time, she had no idea.

My personal life came crashing in about two and a half years ago and compartmentalizing just got too difficult. Still, I kept my head down and did my job – aimlessly furious most of the time. I was frayed, and the edges showed to those I trusted, but I could never disappoint those who were counting on me – despite having earned it years ago. I looked down upon a co-worker who couldn’t hide her own distress. She’d cry at her desk, I cried in corners or on the subway or in bathrooms. Part of it I chalk up to work ethic – you show up for a job, you SHOW UP. But a large portion is control. Showing weakness is just not an option.

I still have a hard time speaking up and I find myself afraid to open my email. I’m months late with a project that ran concurrently with the latest family-illness event horizon, but I’m giving myself slack. Hand over hand I’m pulling myself out of the abyss.

Best online thing I read today: The New York Rangers 2013 Schedule
(That’s cheap, no matter how true, so how about this: Teemu Selanne! … Plus Nine Other Dudes to Watch This NHL Season by Sean McIndoe / Grantland)

Song I loved today: Tangerine / Led Zeppelin

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