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Emotional CPR (and more)
Letting go, Becoming, and Benjamin Barry
I’ve spent a big chunk of my life doing CPR on myself. But not the good kind. Rather the kind that helps keep those icky feelings alive longer and longer.
It was painted to me this way once and seeing it, the clarity of how it happens, plus the sheer absurdity of it, was both eye-opening and laughable. So here goes for any other self-trained paramedics out there.
Imagine this, you’re walking your kid to school, crossing the street and a car that’s driving too fast doesn’t seem to be slowing down and only stops at what feels like the last second. You jolt. Your heart stops. You clutch your kid harder. Immediately, fear and adrenaline spike, blood rushing through you. But the car did stop and you and your kid are safe. Your body relaxes slightly as you make it to the other sidewalk.
Somehow, noon comes around and you’re raging, your body still on alert, your mind still racing. This is not how you had envisioned your day going; that freaking driver ruined it all! Right?
That’s what we tell ourselves, what we’d like to think. But what’s actually happened in between? You unconsciously performed CPR on your anger, fear, anxiety - you name it - by seeking out reasons to validate keeping the feeling alive. A confirmation bias of sorts.
When you got to the other side of the street, you were still rattled, naturally. Before you knew it your mind started playing out scenarios of what could have happened. [Here we go! CPR starts: Anger’s heart-rate questionable, chest compressions started, 1, 2, 1, 2...] Blood keeps rushing as your nervous system continues to shake. You mumble some things to said driver, quietly so your son doesn’t hear you. ‘What an *&#^%*#!’
Maybe you got to your kid’s school and realized you forgot his show & tell trinket at home. [Boom: Tilt Anger’s head, open airway, perform mouth to mouth on Anger, 1, 2… ]. ‘URGHH.’
Maybe the coffee shop you went to after drop-off was out of your favorite pastry. [Perfect: Bring out the defibrillator, attach pads to Anger’s chest, charge!] ‘URGHH, of course it had to be today.’
Maybe you get home and there are toys everywhere you step even though you could swear you had just cleaned up before leaving.[Cool that works: Continue hand compressions on Anger…beep beep…we have a pulse people!] ‘URGHH typical!’
(I know what you’re thinking. But no I’m not a doctor, I just watch a lot of Grey’s Anatomy.)
And yes, pretty ridiculous examples, but we’re starting with low-hanging fruit here. Normally each of these situations would have barely registered on the Richter scale. But today, they seem to build and build, and what was meant to be an easeful morning has now turned into a comical sad saga for no good reason.
If you’re a CPR veteran, don’t worry, we’re in luck. There’s an incredibly simple thing we can do to just LET THE FEELING DIE at the onset, for God’s sake. And that’s: we breathe. But not just any breath. We relearn to breathe like we were always meant to: deep belly breaths. In through the nose, filling up our stomachs, then chest, then releasing out the mouth as our belly goes in. Do this five times so your body can regulate itself back, telling your sympathetic nervous system that you’re no longer in danger, no longer in fight or flight, and you can just relax.
Imagine if you had done this when you got to the other side of the street instead of holding your breath in and heading to worst-case-scenarios. Maybe there’s a world where you might have even thought “Huh, I wonder why that guy was in such a hurry, I hope he’s ok.” Maybe then you cheekily pick up a fallen leaf for show & tell. You order a new pastry and love it. You get home and smirk ‘omg what a f* mess’ and laugh at what it means to live with a toddler. And you move on to the next.
Yes, just breathe. Breathe, again and again. Perhaps accompany each breath with a mantra like “let it go, let it go”, or whatever works for you. Five times, and your body will do the rest for you. With practice, the small things won’t cause any ripples and hopefully you feel better equipped to work through the bigger ones.
From now on, just focus on your breath and your breath alone.
(Ok, the end. Continue below for unrelated musings.)
A label I’ve never worn but I’m deciding to make my own this year is: creative. In school I was an A-student, but with two big exceptions: PE & Art. Coordinated but slowest in my class (by far), and a good drawer of stills but panic-ensued when having to come up with anything on my own. Strong left brain. Questionable right brain. Whenever I’d read anything describing a Pisces (which was often) everything felt like me to the T, except that one word: creative. Nope, not this gal. This gal stuck to yoga and excels.
But now I think they were right all along. Like I shared in a previous post, I’ve been feeling a fire inside, an urge to create, to give life (and not to another human baby - earmuffs Husband - not for now at least). Launching this platform was a big part of that. And I’m going further. Ready to explore art, poetry, maybe photography. We’ll see.
I have these visions of a higher self but I also get lost in the paralysis of not knowing how to get there. Eventually I come back to baby steps. Step 1: embody the thing. So I got back from the holidays, walked into a Japanese stationary store and bought a beautiful crane-covered journal, a matching turquoise fountain pen, and the cutest little set of watercolors. My new babies have lived in my [heavy] purse since and that alone makes me feel like an artist.
Step 2: do the thing. So I’ve been writing poetry-ish daily. Mainly things that won’t see the light of day, but who cares, a start. Then I chose one to add some color to. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, water was going everywhere, arteries appearing where they shouldn’t (cue need for Youtube lessons, open to recs!) but hey, it was fun and nourishing and I plan on doing more.
And I’ll share more. Not because I think they’re good (I mean HA, my starting point is low - even googling what a haiku is, thinking it’d be fun to change this to one, nailing it, then realizing ‘already’ is al-rea-dy and not al-ready, ayy damnit, ok no haiku for you), but because I’m decidedly sharing the real me with the world even if I’m a WIP. Feedback, tips, love, welcome.
JUDGING BOOKS BY THEIR COVER
When you hear the name ‘Matthew McConaughey’ what do you think of?
For me, scenes from ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’ come flashing into my mind. Cue: Hollywood dude, hot, probably vain, maybe shallow, maybe nice?
But my God, I’m currently reading his memoir Greenlights and am blown away by this guy. His unique upbringing, his introspective & reflective nature, his solo-adventures (including to the Peruvian Amazon yay), his RV life. The fact alone that he kept journals since he was 15 years old says so much. His writing, his poems, his thoughts on life. I mean, what? Benjamin Barry who? Our friend Matty is far from the stereotype my brain had automatically assumed.
All is to say: 1) read his book and 2) let’s be curious to learn more about people. Beyond how are you. Beyond what do you do. Let’s ask about the fires inside. You never know what you find.
I never wrote things down to remember; I always wrote things down so I could forget. - MM
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