Traps


There are many ways that I gain insight, some are as simple as noticing a spiderweb, some are as complicated as working through a problem with a friend or patient. Mostly, it happens when I’m talking to myself.

We all do it. Some do it out loud, some keep it silently cerebral, but there’s always some chatter going on. Well, not always. I have had moments of complete quiet- they never last too long- but still…. Anyway, I like to talk to myself, especially when I’m not stressed with worry or fear or anxiety, then it can be fun to throw out ideas and see how I like them. When I am stressed, my voice becomes unreasonable and strange, then it often takes a self-intervention to get me back on track- that’s why I’ve designed my day to hold at least three opportunities for those.

The first one is my walk/shower time. It’s usually when I’m always alone and can check in. I do this thing when the water hits my skin: “I’m clean, and this water is a gift.” Corny? Maybe, but it works for me.

The second is my meditation time in the afternoon- and always before a nap, if I have one (I lived in Italy for five years, and the native habit has sort of stuck with me). If I can calm down and check in with my breath, my first question is “How’s it going?” and then I meditate on my mantra: “nothing can go wrong”.

The third is when I get into bed or just before I get ready to sleep. I make a mental list of three things I’m grateful for that day (sometimes I write it down) mull things over a while and then I say, “Okay God, it’s your world, I’m going to bed.” (Pope John XXIII gets credit for the idea behind that one).

But there are those times when my talking to myself gets out of control with stress, worry, anxiety and fear, sometimes anger. It seems like my safeguards slip easily away and the stress trap is sprung. It seems. Because these daily routines create something- something that kicks in like an extra immune system sensing diphtheria. Organic and instinctual. And because I do these things, my response time is shorter, my time wallowing is lessened, and I’m less convinced I’m crazy for talking to myself. I have learned that when I’m feeling trapped to remember that I built the cage, and, like every architect, I know the secret strengths and weaknesses of my creation- I know how to get out. It just may take some time.

It just doesn’t take as long as it used to.