August 19, 2011

The Comparison Condition

It was one of those days when all I wanted to do was curl up in a chair and not think.  I didn't want to do anything but engage in a mindless activity, whether it was watching TV, perusing through facebook, or picking up a trashy magazine.

So I mind-numbingly picked up my computer. Within ten minutes, I began to feel "ill."

It had started innocently enough.  I read the Huffington Post and NY Times, checked my gmail, read a few blogs, and then stared at my computer hoping that a cool website would pop into my head.  When it didn't, I logged into facebook (despite the small voice that begged, "don'tdoit").

Ten minutes into reading people's status messages, I began feeling what I can only describe as "weird."  I read about someone's yoga class and felt ashamed at my constantly deprived yoga practice. I read about someone's trip to Argentina and felt antsy to travel.  I read about someone's job success and felt inadequate in my own job hunt. I read about someone's gourmet home-cooked meal, and felt guilty about the fact that I've barely cooked all summer (I've helped people chop vegetables, does that count?).  I read about someone meeting the President of Rwanda (yes, that's you Elizabeth), and was inspired, but then wondered what the heck I was doing sitting at my desk job. The next thing you know, I had contracted the "comparison condition."

My family will be the first one to tell you that I have a tendency to self-diagnose myself with illnesses. Speech dyslexia? Check.  Perpetual Morning Hands?  Check.  Thin Skin Condition that results in me breaking out into a heat rash every time I take a shower?  Check.  Fatty Forehead Syndrome? Check. (No, but really, if you press my forehead hard, your fingerprint will remain embedded in my forehead for a good five minutes. Ask my siblings).

And now, I can add Comparison Condition to my list. This condition is defined as follows:

Comparison Condition:  mild virus caught through social media exposure or direct contract with another person who has certain qualities or opportunities that I don't have.

Symptoms: initial curiosity or inspiration turned into dull pangs of anxiety (often felt in the gut), inadequacy, frustration. Shortness of breath. Deep sighs. Longer blinks. Slumped shoulders.

The at-home remedy? This is what I'm experimenting with.  I'm currently trying the good ole Stop. Drop.and Roll.  Stop what I'm doing (close magazine, turn off computer) and stop the downward spiral of thoughts.  Drop the comparisons (replace comparative thoughts with affirmations). Roll onward (focus on breath and keep moving).

The irony about most of my "mindless" activities is that they are anything but mindless. Are they entertaining? Certainly. Do they require little effort? Of course.  But what happens during and after I engage in these type activities is that I become emotionally drained--I start to compare myself to people and convince myself that I am not complete as I am. I then expend energy thinking (falsely) that I need to be more like "them" to be happy or at peace or successful, as opposed to learning how to utilize my own unique gifts and purpose. If I constantly spend energy and time thinking about what everyone else is doing, I will have nothing left to spend on myself. And when I do spend energy on myself, what type of energy do I want to surround myself with? What if I replaced unkind words with affirmations? What if I replaced thoughts of inadequacy with thoughts of power? What would happen? Perhaps my immune system would be better at warding off the comparison condition, maybe that's what.

August 15, 2011

Stopping to Sit.

After sitting at my desk for eight hours, I decided to end my day with a long walk in Prospect Park. I hadn't yet explored the depths of the park and was eager to get lost amidst a land of green. As I entered through the main gate, I found myself behind an older woman who was, quite literally, dragging her pet poodle behind.  The poodle, a middle-sized black ball of puff, would take three steps and sit down in the grass. "Muffy!" the woman yelped, snapping the lease forward, "come on, let's go." Muffy would then get up, prance a few steps, take a look around, and sit back down.

As this cycle continued, I couldn't help but smile, although I was unsure of who I felt more bad for--the woman who obviously wanted to take a walk but couldn't leave behind her uncooperative pet, or the dog, obviously bothered by the owner's walking agenda, who just wanted to sit and relax in the park.

After a few more moments of watching the owner drag Muffy against her will, I quickened my pace and wandered through the unknown terrain.  As I walked, my mind fluttered with the thousand thoughts that swirled in my mind--what I had to finish up in my last week of work, what cover letters I needed to edit, what outfit I should wear to an upcoming wedding, and which friends I needed to call back. Every once in a while, images of grassy knolls and kites and ponds would interrupt the thoughts, and remind me to breathe. (I have a tendency to forget to exhale when I'm lost in thought). Between a fluctuation of being present and being totally zoned out, my eye suddenly caught glimpse of a man under a tree on a hill.  He sat quietly beside his tipped-over bike with his legs crossed, hands gently clasped in his lap, and his two thumbs touching. His eyes were closed; his lips slightly parted. He was undoubtedly meditating.  A faint breeze gently ballooned his loose fitting tee-shirt as it passed. That looks so wonderful, I thought to myself as I walked by. I should do that some time--just sit in the park and meditate.

Of course, it didn't occur to me right away that I could do exactly what he was doing.  Unfortunately, I have an uncanning ability to convince myself that I should do something in the future, while ignoring the fact that I could just do it now. So, it took me thirty more minutes of walking before it dawned on me that I could sit down in the park and meditate.

Since moving to New York City, I desperately crave moments of stillness. My walks to and from work are often filled with daydreams of finding nooks of quiet, be it on the East River, or a park bench, or a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. It's so rare, however, that I listen to this craving and just sit.  Getting to my next meeting on time is more of a priority than carving out time to sit. At times, it is much too hard to resist inertia. Most days, I am both Muffy and the owner--a part of me begs to sit down and be still, and the other part ignores this desire and drags me along. 

Suddenly sick of being dragged, I attempted to find the perfect place to sit (no shade, no remnants of dog crap, no crying children, no underage kids with flasks, and no random wet spots), and finally settled into a shady spot under a tree. After doing ten push ups (I was still "supposed to be" working out, afterall), I laid in the grass in savasana, took a deep breath, and stared at the clouds.  I hadn't done that in a long time, and let me tell you, it is wonderfully freeing to watch billows of clouds move across a soon-to-be-dusk sky.

                                                                      (Image from Rosier/Daily News)

Once my hunger for stillness subsided, I got up (with a slight feeling of vertigo compliments of low blood pressure) and slowly looked around, eyes awakened to the diversity of colors, ears opened to the subtle sounds of a lone cricket, touch sensitized to the subtle breeze, and breath deepened. I walked slowly, so as not to disrupt the quiet with my footsteps, and cherished the peace before reaching the nightly noise of the Brooklyn streets. Ten minutes later, I neared the entrance. And wouldn't you know, who did I see on my way out . . .  but Muffy and her owner.  And this time, Muffy was pulling the owner along, and I couldn't help but feel victorious.

August 6, 2011


So about this book. Over six months ago, I shared my "DSquaredS" (aka Deepest Darkest Secret), which was that I didn't really believe in myself. Soon after, I started doing the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, a book that encourages us to "unleash our creativity" through a twelve week dedication to morning pages (the process of writing three pages each morning) and affirmations (positive statements about ourselves).

At the end of each chapter, the Artist's Way poses a few questions. One of these questions asked, "if you could be anything, what would you be?"  I immediately wrote down author. Then I paused. "Author?" I asked myself incredulously, "that's strange."  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how often I feel called to write. From a young age, I kept a journal under my bed, filled with poems about my dead bunny, daily concerns, or aspiring careers. (Like most nine year olds, I wanted to be a marine biologist or zoologist. This is strange considering I don't even like animals that much.) I would spend hours planning and writing about what my funeral would be like when I died. (I've always had a small obsession with death). I would write down every positive and negative quality that each of my friends and family had and would try to figure out how I could deal with their negative traits. (My sister Shannon always reminds me of this entry, which now reminds me of one her negative traits: she is a snoop). 

Writing has always been an outlet to me, which is why I felt drawn to blogging two years ago.  The Artist's Way, however, triggered something even deeper in me--and that was to write a book.  But on what? 

As I completed my daily affirmations, I noticed how hard it was for me to write positive comments about myself, particularly comments that encompassed notions of my own power.   The idea of power has always been something I struggled with--internally debating whether it was something I innately had or something I wanted to avoid. In my morning pages, I started to explore what it means to "powerful," not just relationally, but spiritually.  Part of power is the belief that we are complete as we are.  

Most of my life, I have struggled with the feeling of "Inenoughness"--that is, the feeling that I am not enough as I am. I always had to be smarter, faster, more athletic, stronger, thinner, happier, more spiritual, etc.  A constant dialogue played inside my head, whispering that I needed to be "more of this" and "more of that."  I didn't know it at the time, but I was constantly being unkind to myself. 

Through writing and reflection, I discovered that my inherent power was missing—which was the first step in getting it back. Some people are lucky to have a profound epiphany where they wake up and are enlightened, i.e., Eckart Tolle's experience in The Power of Now.  But for me, re-harnessing my power is a slow journey of small and unremarkable conscious decisions.  My power is not always as accessible as I'd like, but now that I realize that I have it, I can't ever return to the state of believing that it doesn't exist. 

So, my book is on Women and Power. I will explore how we define power, when we have felt/feel powerless, and what tools we can utilize to overcome our feelings of inenoughness. This book cannot be written by me alone.  It will also be written by other women who have shared their stories, insights, and fears.  I don’t have all the answers, but I think all of us together, including you who reads this now, have most of them.  Through our stories, we can share the collective journey of power and completeness.

If you or anyone you know would like to share your thoughts on this, please email me and  Any comments or questions will inspire me.