100: Welcome to My/Your Crisis

9/30/2023

Who’s ready for a mid-life crisis?! Me! You? Come on in for a lovingly honest and personal conversation about those feelings of falling apart –– midlife, or any other time. 

 

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Speaker 1: How to make love. Now, is that from recipe or from scratch?

Speaker 2: This is how to make love. Wow.

Speaker 3: Oh gosh.

Speaker 4: Oh my God. Yeah. A little to the left and

Speaker 2: Faster. A show that tests the edges of what love is, worthiness, empathy, beauty, sex, positive, the borders. It can cross how we do

Speaker 4: Integrity in all of our relationships

Speaker 2: And it's hidden costs and shadows.

Speaker 3: In a world where we other people, where we build walls, we just tear down walls,

Speaker 2: Fuck finding it or falling into it. Our future depends on making it, Hey

Speaker 5: There everybody.

Speaker 2: Hello. Welcome back. Happy fall.

Speaker 5: Happy 100 ish episodes, particularly for the special club among you that have listened to every single episode we produced. I say a hundred ish because we've had some teaser episodes, some mini episodes, some special series, some repeats. I actually don't know what technical number this is, but let's just go with a hundred ish. So happy 100. And today I want to talk about panic, about freakouts, about fear, about midlife crises. And I want to talk about it because I'm in one. I'm having my first of what I think will probably be many more midlife crises and this shit sucks, and we're taught not to talk about this stuff, which makes us feel even more isolated and awful. And so I wanted to share pretty openly my experience in case it affirms our loves on your own experiences. B, I thought I'd share some ways I'm taking care of myself or trying to, in case that's helpful.

Speaker 5: And then c, share some reflection questions I'm asking myself that I'll be honest I think are a little bit better than some of the stuff that we're taught to ask ourself in this midlife point sort of crisis or in crises in general. So I'll start with my own experience basically this week for a series of days I was and have been and still am to some degree, having kind of an emotional meltdown, not kind of a total emotional meltdown. I say that as a technical description of what has been happening, not as a judgment of myself. I was literally watching my thoughts and my emotions meltdown into raw fear. I was struggling to sleep and when I was sleeping, I was waking up in a panic attack with fear surging through my body about the course of my life. And there are definitely some external circumstances that I think have exacerbated all of this and I'll share those in a minute.

Speaker 5: But I want to say really clearly we don't need external stuff to prompt these sort of internal experiences. Sometimes circumstances do spark or pour gas on what we're feeling, but these moments and experiences can happen even when everything seems to be going great. For me, it's been a combo internally. I've been feeling really lonely and pretty down for a few months, actually a few years, but pretty acutely for a few months. And it's not because I'm not grateful for all the amazing things happening in my life, of which there are many. It's just because my emotional landscape has been kind of hermity, really low energy, feeling a lot of depression and loneliness. And then over the past couple of weeks some external stuff, brought some matches and several gallons of gasoline to the party and was like, we're here bitches. So there's just been a lot going on.

Speaker 5: My best friend of 17 years, max, the amazing cat, he's dying of cancer, and that's been pretty hard on both of us. A significant relationship in my life has changed structures in a way that's been quite emotionally difficult for me. Having some shitty health issues that have zapped almost all of my energy, my end of life work has taken a toll on me as I continue to metabolize the losses that I encounter in that line of work. I've had some nagging questions about my purpose and my alignment to it, and most recently I went back to DC and spent some time in the city in a way that I haven't done since I lived there over 15 years ago. It made me face the way that I used to have community and feel like I was a part of my community and how that looks different now and it reminded me of divorce and brought a pain connect to that.

Speaker 5: So that's some of the stuff, and it could have been a very queer and contemporary RA music song, but instead I'm putting it on a podcast. So again, just a reminder, everything can be fine and we can still find ourselves emotionally in a place of chaos, fear, and questioning. And then also sometimes things just aren't fine. Sometimes things are really, really shitty and super tough. So as all this stuff has been going on, I'll be honest, it's been harder and harder to really keep up. My mental health hygiene and the emotions that are there to be felt and processed and metabolized have just kind of piled up. My thoughts and feelings have been turning into more of like a giant and ever-growing pile of dirty laundry versus my smaller loads that get washed and folded very neatly and put away fairly regularly using the Marie Condo method obviously.

Speaker 5: Anyway, with that pile up, my thoughts and particular have been extra spammy and I've caught myself saying things to myself like, what the fuck am I doing with my life? I should be so much further along at age nearly 42. I'm not capable of building the relationships and community that I desperately want. I feel lost. I am lost. I don't know where home is. I can't hack it. I'm destined to be alone and die alone. I'm wasting my potential. What if I made the wrong decision? What's wrong with me that I don't enjoy the things that I used to and so on and so on and so on. This is just a tiny peek into some of the thoughts in my head. So those thoughts plus the feelings they've been generating because our thoughts create our feelings plus feeling utter depletion physically, plus some pretty tough external circumstances.

Speaker 5: They all got together and they threw me a smashing midlife crisis party this week, and then they lit the whole place on fire. Thankfully, mercifully, I have some skills and experience in knowing how to be with my emotions, and I have a practice of working to orient peacefully toward my thoughts and feelings at least most of the time, even when those thoughts and feelings are giant assholes like they have been this week, and I'm not going to lie, it's been tough. It has really tested my skills and my capacities and even my knowledge and expertise couldn't avert the meltdown, which has really, really consumed me for the past few days, and it's been a real struggle. There has been a lot of pain in that place and even applying the skills that I have, I still withdrew. I still isolated. I gave into some of my feelings and fears.

Speaker 5: I numbed out. I shut off. I did the stuff I know not to do, and that's okay. It's all okay. I did take care of myself in some key ways that I'll share in case any of you are having your own midlife crisis or some acute emotional flare up over there or just feeling down in the dumps reminder, you are perfectly normal. This is a part of the human experience. It's not as much fun as some of the other parts of the human experience, but it's perfectly normal and I don't say that to minimize the pain that it can bring up. So some of the things that I did and I'm doing that are helping one as often as I can. I'm reminding myself that I don't have to believe my thoughts. My brain is designed to think often. It thinks shitty things that are unhelpful and I don't have to believe that they're true or react to them.

Speaker 5: So I remind myself of that about 7,500 times a day. I also remind myself not to make any big life decisions in the heat of this experience and in the heat of the emotions that I'm feeling. I've reminded myself that there's nothing dangerous about feeling a feeling and as best I could, I tried to feel the emotions coming up. The key here is learning to feel without adding thoughts, without adding fuel to the flame, feeling without the thoughts. The emotion of loneliness is hard enough to feel on its own, but it gets really hard to feel and work through when I'm saying things like I'm going to be alone forever. That last bit is a thought, a dramatic thought, and a part of why we reach for thoughts like that is actually to justify or explain to ourselves why we're feeling certain feelings. So our brain goes out looking to concoct reasons to justify the emotions that we're experiencing, but the thoughts distract us from simply feeling the feeling.

Speaker 5: And what happens is it draws out the feeling into hours, days, weeks, sometimes years. So I remind myself that I just need to feel the feelings with alpha thoughts, and one way I do that for myself is to try to describe what something feels like in my body. So I'll be like, body, this is shame. It feels like my cheeks are on fire and the sensation in my stomach feels like a free fall. Plus I kind of feel nauseous and really heavy in my body. I don't go into analysis or justification. I just describe it to myself and say, this is shame. This is what shame feels like. This is a shame and it's okay. A few other things I've done that have helped me a little bit. I've opened up to friends and loved ones and asked them to love and care for me in the ways they feel like they can or could.

Speaker 5: I asked my therapist for help and support. I allowed for small indulgences, like I took an extra shower one day simply because the hot water was really comforting. I went to bed at regular times even though I didn't want to, and I tried to get to bed early. I allowed myself some spaciousness and flexibility around responsibilities and deadlines. Hence this podcast coming out on the weekend instead of last week, I cried and didn't add judgy thoughts about it or apologies and gave myself permission to feel what I was feeling. In fact, I cried. I literally wept in front of a stranger that I met for the first time. I went to a Tai Chi clinic at the beginning of what I have named Martha, my partner and I decided that we should name the midlife crisis and give it a name since there will be others, and I've named this one Martha.

Speaker 5: But at the beginning of Martha, I went bless the sensei's heart to a Tai chi clinic and dojo in my town, and it was my first time there and at the end of the session, I'll spare the details. I just ended up weeping, impromptu in front of a stranger, and I didn't make apologies. I didn't offer an explanation. I just noticed, okay, this is what my emotions are calling out of me and bringing out of me, and that was a long-winded way of saying, allow yourself, or I have allowed myself to cry and not add judgy commentary on top of it. In general, I've been working not to judge myself for any of this experience that I'm having it what I'm feeling, why I'm feeling it. I've had a couple of moments of judgment that I've caught, but on the whole, I know that judgment is unnecessary and unhelpful and fundamentally unkind to myself and loving myself looks like having my back, being supportive of myself rather than judgmental.

Speaker 5: So that's been something I've been working to practice. I've taken walks, I've stretched. I've asked for help around the house. I removed myself from unnecessary communication with other people so that I wouldn't act out my hurt onto them. I will say there's a fine line between that, between removing myself so I'm not acting out my hurt onto someone I love. There's a fine line between that and isolation that I myself don't yet know how to gracefully navigate. And also, I tried to be mindful. I'm not acting my pain out onto other people while also being honest, as honest as I could be or had the capacity to be with them that I was in pain. A couple final things I've done for myself. Again, in case any of these things are helpful reminders or suggestions or tips, I eased up on my expectations of myself for things like exercise and chores, while also gently nudging myself to do them as outlets form my emotions specifically.

Speaker 5: So I gave my anxiety a manic cleaning day, for example. I just said Here, have at it. Let this be an outlet for you. I let my grief go to town on a bike ride, things like that, while also removing some of the pressure to do those things diligently in a way that I might if I were feeling a little bit more resourced. And last, I went back and I listened to episode 82, how to feel like shit and reminded myself of some of the basics for how to feel awful as well as possible. From that episode, I hope something in that list is affirming or helpful or gives you some ideas for how to try to be at peace toward yourself or in yourself in the midst of extreme emotion or fear or worry or panic or pain. The last thing I promised you today were some reflection questions.

Speaker 5: Whether you're having an outright midlife crisis slash Martha like I am, or whether you've got some general malaise or on Wii, or whether you're experiencing doubt about some of your choices or your direction, or whether things are fucking awesome right now and you just want to challenge yourself and offer yourself some juicy reflection. Here are a couple of questions that I've been asking myself for the past few days. I've been asking them gently, I haven't been forcing myself to answer them. I've simply lived with the questions and offered myself a little bit of spacious freedom to choose whether or not to explore them. So here they are. Question one, in what ways do I want to allow myself to be seen like little picture and big picture like right now in this pain or over the next year or five years or 10 years or lifetime or whatever, in whatever increment of time makes sense for you, in what ways will I choose to allow myself to be seen?

Speaker 5: Question two, when I'm seen, what do I most hope for others to recognize within me? What do I want them to see in themselves inside me? Question three, who or what am I being consistent with and why are there other things or people that I'd like to be consistent with and what might enable that? Question four, what do I want to remember in moments of crisis or challenge in the future? And how will I commit to reminding myself? Question five, who or what do I want to invest in? I think a question people are often asked to consider at midlife crisis points is around financial investment. I don't mean that. I mean your energy instead of your dollars, your spirit instead of stocks, what do you want to pour yourself into For you? Where do you want to invest your energy, especially if it's limited.

Speaker 5: Question six, how are my relationships helping me grow? In what ways are they doing that? And what are other things helping me to grow right now? Question seven, instead of what's my purpose in life or what are my values in life? Or what am I doing with my life? Again, some of those questions that society prompts us to consider when we're in moments of midlife crisis or crisis. The last question is to break those things down into much smaller increments of time. So what's my purpose in life this hour or just for today? Or what do I value today? I think a part of the overwhelm that comes from times like this is the absurd and irrational pressure we put on ourselves to think we can know the answers to giant questions over large, ambiguous spans of time when who we are is changing. We're never the same person. So break it down, play with it. Try on a life purpose for 15 minutes if you want, and then give yourself permission to try on another. Ask yourself what you want to value for the next day instead of the next 50 years, and just see where that takes you for today. My purpose was to allow myself moments of sweetness in the midst of some of the heavy emotions that I was feeling and to tell the truth in a podcast that only had to serve one person. Me,

Speaker 5: Listen, y'all human is really fucking hard and we aren't taught how to do it, and we aren't taught that there's nothing wrong with us when anxiety or depression takes over. And also friendly reminder, my friends, you never need to wait to reach out for support. Just because something is a normal part of the human experience doesn't mean we all don't need or deserve support through therapy or community or coaches or doctors or whatever it might be for you. So please ask for the support that you need. And no, there's not a damn thing wrong with you. Even when everything feels wrong, the human experience is sometimes awesome and sometimes awful for all of us. Being a human is weird and hard, so go gently, my friends. The most important thing that you can rumble with is how to allow it all, how to be and make as much peace with and for yourself in the midst of all this stuff, all this incredibly scary feeling stuff and challenging stuff and painful stuff.

Speaker 5: Being at peace doesn't mean you enjoy any of it. It simply means you aren't trying to control it and you aren't allowing it to control you. Allow it instead of resist it from a place of wisdom rather than apathy. It's a hard practice being at peace with others and with ourself. It is a really hard practice and it's essential and you're worth it and you're normal, and this is hard. And you've got this and we've got this. I'm loving you in the chaos mine and yours and ours. I'm loving you in the Martha's. So see you next month, my friends. Until then, bye for now.