Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello Anxiety: “Sometimes It’s Fine to Be Corny.”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

So the other day HR and I bought a bunch of local fresh, Savannah corn. It was the yellow and white bicolor variety (which I refer to as bisexual corn). I shucked it ALL MYSELF. For some reason (childhood issues?), Robert WILL NOT help with that chore. But I find it soothing and therapeutic. Savagely ripping the husks and tassels off and carelessly tossing them into the trash. (Note: Talk to Therapist Rubi about all this.)

We first did corn-on-the-cob—my favorite corn rendering. But we had a bunch left over.

“Google it,” HR said. “Find another recipe.” For some reason, that suggestion got on my nerves a little bit, but I did it.

Break in the Narrative.

This morning, I woke up early, ready to face the challenging world. But two things happened, causing that challenging world to be REALLY challenging.

First, I burned (burnt?) the bacon. Okay, let me explain. For 99.99% of the adult population, burning bacon is no big deal. But for me, today it was devastating, especially when I had just gotten off the phone with my dermatologist’s office (which actually caused the bacon to be burned).

For months now, I have been having pretty severe lower leg rash issues. I was supposed to have had an appointment this morning to look into the problem. But I got a call—my dermatologist came down with COVID-19. And I would have to be rescheduled.

Well, the earliest I could see my doctor would be mid February 2023!! I have a conflict/avoidance issue, so I didn’t pitch a fit, which most normal people would have, and which I should have.

So after the burned (burnt?) bacon, and the dermatologist fiasco, I spiraled a bit. Into anxiety. Of the “Nothing is good in the world variety.”

As we were sitting down for breakfast, HR said, “Well, at least you didn’t cry when you burned the bacon. You usually cry when you mess up your dishes.” (TMI?)

We both laughed at the pathetic yet victorious truthfulness of his observation, and salvaged what we could from the bacon. I should’ve taken a picture of it. But if you can just imagine a piece of black construction paper, that’s basically what my bacon looked like.

Back to the narrative.

I found a recipe for Sweet Corn, Shrimp and Rice Skillet. Initially, I thought it was too fancy for me to try. HR’s the gourmet chef. But then I decided to attempt it anyway. In my grandmother’s 10-inch cast-iron skillet.

First, I cut the corn off the cob.

Then I made a purée of onions, garlic, shallots, red bell pepper, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric and homemade vegetable broth.

I added the corn.

Put it in the oven to cook it all down a bit.

Quickly sautéed the shrimp.

And put it all together.

Beautifully delicious.

But what was best about all this corn-ing around was that it got me out of my downward anxious spiral. Finding the recipe, doing the prep work, especially cutting the beautiful corn, was meditative. Allowing me to pay attention to my bodily sensations—smelling the freshly grated turmeric and ginger, feeling the shrimp as I patted them dry with paper towels, tasting the purée to make sure it was seasoned perfectly, choosing the pretty deer bowls from the cabinet, and calling my husband to lunch when all was ready.

I attended to my body, which got me away from the stories my mind was telling me about my “problems.“

Yes, sometimes it’s perfectly fine to be corny.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello Anxiety: “Hell’s Bells”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

I recently came across this definition for anxiety, which rang so true for me.

“Anxiety — a condition in which the brain’s alarm bells keep on ringing, ringing, and ringing … Long after they have served any useful function.”

(from Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation)

P.S. Just between us, I really don’t like some definitions, truthful though they may be.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello Anxiety: “A Tale of Two Happy’s”

(Or is the plural of “Happy” spelled “Happies”? The jury seems to be out on that question.)

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

I LOVE yellow. It’s such a standout HAPPY color.

Bouquet in the lobby of Resorts World Catskills back in July
Field near the hotel
Atlanta Botanical Garden

I also love Happy. Happiness. Happier.

I even have a Happy Cup! Don’t you?

I like him because he’s always happy. No matter which way you turn or spin him. No matter what you put in him. Even hot coffee! Even with his fine line wrinkles (look at pic closely).

The cute little jokester!

A contributing factor to my ongoing issue/challenge/frustration with anxiety is that I aspire to be that Happy Cup. After all, I write a blog named “NealEnJoy”! So when Unhappy (i.e., breathing difficulty, fear of nausea, etc.) comes a knockin, my first response is often to ignore it (as if) and with gritted teeth BE HAPPY. Or more honestly put, pretend to be happy.

This opposites-competing cognitive dissonance is not fun or … happy. Try though I do to keep happiness wound up.

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Here’s my Happy Holder. What, you don’t have one?

He doesn’t turn around or spin in quite the same way as my Happy Cup.

And he irritatingly tells me that my blog should more truthfully be named “NealDoesn’tALWAYSEnJoy.” Because Neal (or anyone else) doesn’t always.

“Backside” thinks he’s so smart he even quotes Jung.

A DIFFICULT BUT TRUTHFUL LESSON.

But I have to confess that I still prefer Holder’s “front” side …

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety. “500”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

From my NPA (Neal’s Protocol for Anxiety) …

Meditation — Any of my saved meditations from “10% Happier,” “Buddify,” “Apple Fitness+” or meditation on my own without guidance.

I reached a milestone in my meditation practice today …

Seriously? I’ve done 500 days of meditation? Shouldn’t I be like a Meditation Master, Guru or something? And not still a mess.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety. “Now”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

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NOW — One of the most significant words in my life … right now.

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Everything we do happens in the present moment. Thinking happens here. Remembering happens here. Feelings unfold in the now, and so do urges. NOW is where our lives are lived.”

— Forsyth and Eifert The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety

Why, oh why, do I keep forgetting (often purposefully) this dynamic truth?!

If you are a regular blog follower (and why on earth would you not be?), you may remember that I struggle with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), especially as it concerns my irrational fears of breathing issues and throwing up. TMI?

[Side-note: Other than the disgusting TMI above, I’m perfect. Don’t believe me? Okay, just ask HR.]

[Side-note #2: DO NOT try to contact HR for any reason in the foreseeable future. He has disappeared, and I will let you know when I find him.]

Mindfulness practice is trying its best to teach me that attending to right now, just as it is, even with thoughts and feelings of anxiety, is productive. Attending to now steers me away from negatively reacting to my anxiety with doomsday thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Mindfulness encourages me to simply pay attention to those thoughts emotions and behaviors, and to go on with my life.

Well, at least in theory.

My often but always-nonproductive strategy when dealing with the DA (Dragon Anxiety) is to fight it. Fight fire with fire. Denying it, ignoring it, feeling sorry for myself, comparing myself to all those “they-don’t-have-to-joke-about-being-perfect” people out there who NEVER think they are about to stop breathing right now. Or about to vomit. (How I hate that word.)

Whew.

Breathe.

So on this Thursday I set an intention to embrace Now.

I will try to make the best, healthiest choice that Forsyth and Eifert offer in my Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook:

“You can choose to continue your unpleasant experiences with hardness and negative energy. Or you can decide to be kinder and gentler with yourself, to create space between you and what your mind (based on old history) is telling you.”

I’ll try to let Neal’s Now actually be Neal’s Now.

[Side-note #3. I sorta found HR. So I guess you can ask him. I can deal with his answer. Besides his answer is not in Neal’s Now right Now.]

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “Accepting Acceptance”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

Homework from a recent therapy session found me composing “realistic” affirmations or mantra statements. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, which is ironic since I never do anything perfectly.

As with most of us, I suppose, I really want life to bend in the direction I desire. But it often (very often) does not.

Here are a few affirmations I will (sometimes begrudgingly) practice:

“My life IS as it IS right now, and I accept that truth.”

“Everything may not be perfect in my life right now, and I am accepting of that truth as well.”

“I’m okay where I am right now.”

“I am who I am right now.”

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “Truffles Showing Up in Big Kroger”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

If you read my most recent “Hello, Anxiety” post, you may remember that for a variety of mostly sensible reasons, I have nicknamed my anxiety “Truffles.” In a nutshell, I’m trying (gritted teeth) to recognize anxiety as a part of my experience. And to back off from automatically wanting to fight it as my mortal enemy.

Well today HR (Husband Robert) and I were in Big Kroger here in Savannah, stocking up on supplies for the upcoming Easter egg hunt with the grandkids.

Seriously?

“Wait,” you interrupt, “Why call it BIG Kroger?” Because it’s GIGANTIC. I have to use GPS to find Spam. What? You don’t eat Spam? Okay. Whatever.

It’s a twenty minute Uber ride to the cracker aisle.

Anyway, I was walking (exhausted) down Aisle 2043 looking for colorful napkins when I stumbled into Truffles.

She/he/they was/were standing there, resplendently purple. Queenly. Kingly. I tried to walk past, pretending I didn’t see.

But I couldn’t. I stared. Transfixed. I picked Truffles up. Held him/her/them in my hands.

And for the first time in a long time (maybe forever), I was able to laugh, LAUGH, at my anxiety. Perhaps, laugh WITH my anxiety. In Big Kroger of all places.

I placed anxiety back on the shelf. Started to walk away. Finished with the little play.

Robert looked at me, stopping me, and said, “Neal, who knows when we will be back here, or if it will still be on the shelf.”

Irritated, I stood there.

Stood.

Between Robert and anxiety. Then sighed, walked to the checkout counter.

And actually BOUGHT the f***ing TRUFFLES chips.

Like, paid for them/it/him/her.

Is this a new relationship?

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More to come.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “Making Room at the Table for Truffles”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

On a recent long weekend trip up to Atlanta, Robert and I explored and ate and barhopped and went to the symphony and the theatre and even the opera.

Outside the High Museum of Art

We really had a terrific time. Well, most of the time. Except for the time when it wasn’t so terrific for me. (Which means that at that particular time it wasn’t terrific for HR either.)

Truffles (my nickname for my anxiety) showed up (uninvited) on the first evening of our … terrific trip. I don’t have a hold on whether or not I sometimes trigger my anxiety (I suspect I’m a culprit), but I do know that when I get pretty (ugly?) anxious, I sort of lose grip on the usually cool, calm and collected Neal. Together Neal. Funny Neal. Public Neal. Those Neals suddenly skedaddle. I can’t make them stay, though desperately I try.

We were staying in a very cool Airbnb steps from lovely Piedmont Park. Robert had prepared a beautiful roasted garlic chicken penne with asparagus supper. But Truffles was already making his presence known before we even sat down to eat. You see, I had gotten sick at the end of our last Atlanta trip, and I suppose I was a bit concerned it might happen again.

And then I looked closer at Robert’s beautiful food, and my anxiety skyrocketed. Which of course makes absolutely no sense. But neither does generalized anxiety disorder, at least not to me. I didn’t want Truffles there ruining our evening. So I did one of my Two Least Effective Ways to Deal With Anxiety Strategies: Nothing. I said zilch to HR and pretended to him and to myself that all was well. (In case you are interested, the other least effective strategy is to fight anxiety as my mortal enemy.)

Then dinner itself quickly became my enemy. The garlic smelled far too garlicky. And the creamy garlic sauce was leaning toward being alfredo. Which is perfectly fine for 99.9% of the human population, but I have a crazy connection in my mind between alfredo sauce and breath-inhibiting nausea. And the thought of being nauseous electrifies my anxiety. (I know, I know, I need to just get over this.)

The evening was unraveling. I felt bloated, even though I had barely touched dinner. All because of Truffles! I wanted to pack up and head back home. Because of course you can just run away from anxiety. Leave it geographically behind.

Of course Robert quickly saw through my attempted impersonation of “Normal Neal.” It wasn’t hard. I’m an easy read. I wasn’t eating, and my breathing had morphed into anxiety staccato. My eyes were wet.

I tried to explain. But you (well, I) cannot explain anxiety. It’s too person-specific, too nuanced. Too IN YOUR FACE at the moment.

Levelheaded HR reminded me that I had a protocol of strategies (which I had forgotten all about) and graciously told me that I didn’t have to eat. “It’s fine.”

I was so Truffled that I even called my therapist back home in Savannah, and Rubi agreed to chat. (Do other folks harass their therapists the way I do, thinking Rubi is constantly glancing at his phone to see if I need anything?) (No? Why not?!)

Fast forward a bit. You really don’t need to see me at my most anxious and illogical self. Sound encouragement from Rubi, chewable Benadryl, deep breathing and (finally!) accepting that Anxiety/Truffles was a part of me and that I have gotten though this many times before all helped to ground me into the reality that life goes on, that the storms don’t last forever.

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The next morning, after I set the table for breakfast, Robert weirdly placed a third plate down. Pulled a third chair to the table in front of the plate.

HR then dramatically pointed at the third plate and chair and said …

… “I think we need to make room at the table for Truffles.”

I made HR reenact the moment of his Truffles invitation. For posterity.

I’m glad I married a creative genius. But I’m also glad the only other clean plate was a smaller one.

Of course Robert—and Therapist Rubi—are right. (Sometimes I get the advice from my two R’s mixed up. It’s often quite similar.) They are both gently pushing me to recognize and accept my anxiety, Truffles, as a part of my life. And to back off from being so dismissive, unaccepting, hopeless (at least in the moment) and combative toward it.

So, okay. I guess. I’ll try. If you absolutely insist.

“Truffles, I invite you to sit at the table.”

“But I expect you to sit properly at that table. And to use your best manners. And to have taken a very hot shower before you come. With antibacterial soap. We all know Truffles can reek. And do not try to dominate the conversation. HR and I have a few things to say ourselves, you know. And if you don’t have something nice to say about people or things, just don’t say anything. And please do not overstay your welcome. This is not a spend the night party!”

“So, yes, Truffles, I invite you to sit at the table.”

Truffles: “I actually feel sorry for HR and Rubi. They’ve got their hands full with this one. When I’m with him, I’m often on the verge of a panic attack myself.”

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “A Christening — Introducing Anxiety’s Brand New Name!”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

You’re invited to a …

Recently, my therapist “Rubi” suggested that I come up with an alternative name for my anxiety, a nickname of sorts. Why? Well, I’m working through this big, heavy workbook about anxiety …

Here it is, completely taking over my comfy study chair.

TIB (Truth in Blogging, remember?): I have a Love/Hate relationship with the book. Our latest spat centered on the book (it’s not even a hardback) somewhat arrogantly insisting that I begin to recognize and address my anxiety AS A FRIEND!

Seriously? Is poison ivy my friend? Is wet bread? Are the Kardashians my friends? No. And neither is anxiety. It’s my enemy. And it has that hateful “x” in the middle of its name, for goodness sake.

But homework is homework, and I’m a good student, so I dismissed the Kardashians and got to work.

First, some synonyms for anxiety: “worry, concern, apprehension, consternation, disquiet, jitters and agitation.” (Whew.)

And a few words related to anxiety: “alarm, stress, tension, anguish, discomfort, franticness and panic.” (Whew II.)

Both lists anxious-ed me!

And some antonyms for anxiety: “calmness, contentment, tranquility, ease, peace and serenity.” (Much better.)

Okay, that’s all just procrastinating. I gotta name this baby.

My first idea was “Frenemy”— you know, the joining of friend and enemy. But it felt too forced. Too trendy. Too bipolar. Like putting together Friends and CSI.

Next, I considered “Okra.” Wait, there’s a reason why! It’s so frustrating to harvest. I had to do it as a kid. Wearing a long sleeved shirt and wielding a sharp little paring knife, I walked the surprisingly tall rows of okra, slicing off the ripe pods. The sun! The heat! The itchiness! The danger of the blade! But I love okra. It’s actually my very favorite summer vegetable. I love it slimy, fried or gumbo-ed. But I like it too much to give its name to anxiety.

Prune”? It comes close to working. It’s pretty disgusting to look at, all wrinkled and dry. (“Prune” just rudely interrupted me and asked if I had looked in the mirror lately.) But, as with okra, I love prunes! What? You don’t?! They’re so sweet and just loaded with regularity-inducing fiber. Delicious. Nutritious. Okay, maybe they’re slippery. And too yesteryear. So, no, “Prune” won’t work.

So I’m also reading this other book in my study chair …

about fungi …

I know, I know, I need to get a life. But it’s actually fascinating.

And primarily because of this book, I’ve decided to nickname my anxiety … “Truffles.”

Do you know about truffles? Not the candy—which, by the way and coincidentally, I gave to HR for Valentine’s Day …

But, no, I’m talking about the disgusting-looking mushroom which grows underground. Let me properly introduce you.

Truffle—a strong-smelling underground fungus that resembles an irregular, rough-skinned potato, growing chiefly in broadleaved woodland on calcareous soils. It is considered a culinary delicacy and found, especially in France, with the aid of trained dogs or pigs.” Oxford Languages {You can train pigs?! Seriously?}

Truffles are not pretty.

And Oxford Languages was just being polite in their definition. My book Entagled Life: “The word for truffle in many languages translates to ‘testicle,’ as in the old Castilian turmas de tierra, or Earth’s testicles.”

Oh my word! (Literally)

“Truffles are the underground fruiting bodies of several types of mycorrhizal fungi … Truffles are spore-producing organs, analogous to the seed-producing fruit of a plant. Species evolved to allow fungi to disperse themselves, but underground their spores can’t be caught by the air currents and are invisible to the eyes of animals. Their solution is to smell.”

(Please bear with me for a couple more quotes. Think about my truffle candies I gave to Robert if it helps.)

“Truffles must be pungent enough for their scent to penetrate the layers of soil and enter the air, distinctive enough for an animal to take note amid the ambient smellscape, and delicious enough for that animal to seek it out, dig it up, and eat it … Once eaten, a truffle’s job is done. An animal has been lured into exploring the soil and recruited to carry the fungus’s spores off to a new place and deposit them in its feces.”

I had to put the book down and go outside for some fresh air for a bit after that revelation. It was simply TMI. One of the world’s most luxurious and expensive delicacies …

… begins as spores in dog or pig poop?

!

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if naked mole-rats, warthogs and aardvarks also carry it around in their poop.

Naked mole-rat

Let’s pause and …

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But oh my gosh. The similarities I see here between truffles and my anxiety!

1. Anxiety, like truffles, is simply not pretty. And I like pretty. Who doesn’t? It’s not pretty to contemplate or experience.

2. Anxiety seems to hover “underground” much of the time. Part of my issue with anxiety is that I never know when it might pop up, dug up somehow by a trained pig, and make itself known. To be honest, I know (“fear” is a much more honest word) that anxiety for me is usually unpredictable. And that’s frightening.

3. The true power of truffles is in their aroma. When I begin to be anxious, it seems to draw me almost aromatically into its web. As you may know (if you have read any of my “Hello, Anxiety” posts), I have a protocol to help me deal with anxiety. But sometimes, I confess, I simply forget to consider and utilize it. The sour smell is just too strong.

4. Anxiety grows. “There are two key moves by which fungal hyphae become a mycelial network. First they branch. Second they fuse. Truffles’ affairs quickly unspool into entire ecosystems.” And that’s another of my problems with anxiety. It can grow. And grow. It can overwhelm. Like untended weeds in a garden.

5. “Truffle” sounds a bit like “trouble.”

6. Truffles are costly. So is anxiety. It costs me time, energy, happiness, etc.

7. But on the other hand, the word “truffle” sounds a little silly too, don’t you think? Not 100% serious. Almost playful. Much “lighter” than “anxiety” (as long as you don’t think too much about the poop connection).

(Please note that I’m Trying with a Capital T to see some leaning-toward-positive attributes of truffle-like anxiety.

8. Truffles smell good to some people. I admit that I like the earthy aroma of truffle salt. Likewise, anxiety … (Okay, I haven’t evolved enough to complete this comparison. Maybe you can help me.)

9. Truffles taste good to some people. Again, I like the earthy taste of truffle salt. Similarly, anxiety … (Same parenthetical sentence as above.)

10. And even if you don’t like truffles, you don’t have to HATE them, do you? They don’t have to be Your Deadly Enemy Food. (I’m talking to myself here.) “Anxiety does not have to be my mortal enemy.”

So, after all that rigamarole, I hereby christen my anxiety “Truffles.”

My anxiety workbook posits that WAF’s (worries, anxieties and fears) are birthed out of an attempt to protect us (think “fight or flight”), but they have just gone too far, like that “friend” you somewhat accept but don’t want around all the time.

I’m not ready to call anxiety a friend, but like with my NPA—Neal’s Protocol for Anxiety—I do desire to find ways to lessen its destructive impact on my life. To be kinder to myself. And yes, to recognize that my anxiety is a part of ME, not a virus that comes from outside of me.

So, “Hello, Truffles.”

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P. S. I believe all of the above, of course I do, I wrote it. But it’s so much easier to write about renaming anxiety when I’m not experiencing it. And to say, “Hello, Truffles!” when anxiety’s scent is nowhere to be found, deeply underground. But I know that the naked mole-rat is probably around somewhere, just waiting to provide anxiety’s spores welcome transportation. And later, the trained pig starts to dig.