ON CONTROLLING THE NARRATIVE: ONE REASON I BLOG
Hi, I'm showing up to talk about anxiety. One of the reasons I started this blog was for transparency. I am a highly social person and as a highly social person I'm always putting myself in situations that I later review obsessively for fear I have somehow messed up. Because I am not very in touch with my feelings--or up until 2020 I preferred not to be--I didn't even realize this was classic anxiety until recently.
Once I had an ex tell me I was anxious and I laughed. I don't feel anxious in my heart when I'm out and about in the world. But, when I'm alone I tend to spiral if I'm feeling stressed by my work or relationships. I'll play out everything I've ever done or said to a person in an effort to *get to the root* of why that person probably hates me or why I failed in that situation so that I don't do it again.
To put it simply, this constant, absorbing practice of pacing my house and revisiting conflicts of my past, started getting in my way so I started blogging. I figured I could at least document a concern and go from there. If a person who was mad at me needed answers they'd be readily available on the internet, the place I go for my answers. Foremost, relationships matter to me. They are not only how I seek out support, they are how I navigate my work world. I am always working with friends, networking through friends, or collaborating with friends. Those boundaries can become mighty blurry. So as you can imagine, there is a short string of people in my life that have pretty negative perspectives of me.
One important part of my interpretation of the world is that at the base of every person is a human, a real raw-dough kind of being who hurts and yearns and needs. Sometimes this is the thing that guides our actions and it's not always possible to take back control of self from the human. The core humanity of people is our only commonality. That we all bleed when pricked--both metaphorically and physically.
Seeing the world through this lens has allowed me to forgive a lot of people I would not have otherwise. And truthfully, what a relief that has been. Carrying rage around with me doesn't do my anxiety any good--besides, I have a gnarly demon queen inside me that would gleefully snatch up the opportunity to vanquish mine enemies if I didn't check her regularly. But also, who has time for any of that shit!? I'm partially of the opinion that if you're spending time carrying around rage and plotting people's downfall you're probably not busy enough. Now, that being said *I'll concede that rage is equally a part of that human inside each of us who feeds on trauma, immediate gratification, and carnality. Starting my process with forgiveness helps me--you do what works for you.
When I feel I have messed up--or specifically when I catch myself in one of those all consuming anxiety spirals--I'm looking for information. If you ask my best friend what my advice catchphrase is, you'd probably hear them say, "What's the worst thing you get from having a conversation? It's all just information." I use this when, for example, a friend is concerned their partner is upset with them; I'll say, talk to them! What's the worst thing you get?" The gritty truth of that statement though is that words can really fucking hurt. In this classic American cancel culture cancelling cancel culture ride, who knows what's the real right thing? But in order to survive I'm forming my own opinion, and I'm going to call it the Politics of Listening.
Opening myself to other people is a very hard thing to do. But, in the highly social practice of my career building it's a must! I can't work with and for people without caring what they hell they think! I can't be my demon queen self and stomp over their ideas. I know this and I try to make it very clear. I constantly check in with others seeking consensus; I try if I can to get that consensus in writing so I can refer back to it and clearly understand the rules of engagement. AND STILL. We all have that silly squishy human inside of us who is more fickle than a weathervane on a windy day. So ultimately, no matter how well dictated and articulated the rules of engagement are, you still have to accept that people are human first.
In the end, despite how well stocked your arsenal is with information--things you've witnessed, things you've projected, things you've heard rumored, parentheticals and bulleted lists alike--
the only fucking thing you can do is listen, and sometimes the only thing you get to do is demonstrate your availability for listening. Listening is an unbiased act--or maybe it's biased towards the pair as opposed to the individual? You must engage in true listening with a partner. You must be silent and curve the body into a position that shows your receptivity. You must emotionally engage with the speaker and hold respectful, patient space for their words.
And that's all folks. There is not an action part of listening. It's a passive, receptive thing. You receive and that's it. From there you can act. From there you can ask if repair is possible or if just listening is all the individual wants from you. From there you can take action steps that show clearly you have internalized the speaker's words and "care." From there you can even decide that you disagree with the speaker and no longer wish your paths to cross. All of this can be done in love and patience and gentleness. There is no rush in listening and there is no timeline. The respect present in the act of listening ensures that both parties are in a state to participate fitly. If the receiver can't receive fitly the act does not occur, and just so with the speaker. What is fitness you may ask? Being fit to receive and fit to speak means that both parties are able to communicate without rage animating their language and body.
If I can promise to engage in this process should I hurt someone, if I am always making myself available to receive others, then I can move through the world with grace and confidence. I can put my anxiety away for a morning and prioritize writing out my thoughts or feelings, moving my body, or talking to a friend on the phone. I can read and play music and hang out more purely. These are the truths that I, myself, and me hold to be self-evident because we all must find our truths and out paths and our praxis if we are going to survive.
I mean that. It's weird now. And it might only get weirder. The best we can do is have and extend love for each other. To me, that's what grace is.