In 2016, I spent six months working on an outdoor education camp in Canada.
In the Spring season, the site was often rented out by various groups of people who wanted to use the camp’s natural beauty as the backdrop for their events.
As a result, in May, I found myself working on a weekend Yoga Retreat full of people who had found their chackras and could bend their bodies into a variety of complex positions.
At one point, I remember talking to a man who informed me that setting time aside time to connect with his inner self had enabled him to gain control of his mind and banish negativity from his life – or, as he put it, to ‘tell all that sadness and self-doubt crap to piss off’.
The man in question had dreadlocks and was wearing a ‘Live, Breath, Yoga’ singlet so I decided that he was probably a reliable source of wisdom.
I’ve never really been the kind of person who particularly likes spending time with myself but, like most people, I’ve had significantly more free time in 2020 and I thought that it might be useful to spend some of that time attempting to improve my connection with my inner spiritual world.
So I started meditating in April, full-on expecting to have some sort of transcendent experience where I would suddenly feel at one with myself and the universe.
However, my first few meditation sessions were quite underwhelming – as far as I was aware, nothing happened.
I felt slightly disheartened – I had actively attempted to get in touch with my inner self and it seemed I had been put on hold.
This feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that the meditation music I was listening to sounded a lot like the sort of music that often plays when you’re put on hold in what I can only imagine is a vain attempt to make you less likely to get stressed and swear down the phone.
Despite this, I decided to push onwards with meditation, reasoning to myself that nothing worthwhile is ever easy and that the transcendent joy of being at one with my inner self would be worth it in the end.
I guess I assumed that my inner self would be this wise oracle who, once found, would help me transcend above the concerns and stresses of everyday life into a state of zen-like peace.
A few weeks into lockdown, I started to become aware of a part of myself that I hadn’t noticed before.
I was initially excited and intrigued, thinking that I had finally got in contact with my inner self.
However, if I had, she was in no way the peaceful oracle-like being I was expecting her to be.
In fact, if anything my inner self more closely resembled a moody teenager who wholeheartedly resented living under my roof and, needless to say, wasn’t as sold on the concept of working towards meditative enlightenment as I was.
Although my spiritual awakening wasn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped, I kept trying to get in touch with my inner self, thinking that eventually she would open up to me.
However, the more I tried to connect with her, the more I irritated she became.
I had dragged her out of my subconscious against her will and she was NOT happy with it.
As lockdown dragged on and I spent more and more time with my inner self, our relationship started to feel quite tense and I noticed that I was reacting to setbacks in an emotionally dramatic way.
Anything, from receiving a job rejection to dropping a piece of toast butter side down, would make me irrationally upset.
I felt like I starting to lose control over my inner self.
It is strange and unsettling to feel like you are being bossed around by a grumpy teenage version of yourself but I tried my best to be mindful about the whole situation.
I decided that I would sit quietly with my inner self and try and have a calm, logical conversation about how she was feeling.
It soon became apparent that maintaining any form of calm logical dialogue with my inner self was going to be a near impossibility.
Instead, I thought that I would try strengthening my connection with her by engaging in a variety of relaxing hobbies.
Unfortunately, she didn’t seem as committed to the activities as I was.
Dragging my inner self through a series of mindfulness activities made me feel inauthentic and, as a result, my ability to reach a state of meditative calmness was compromised.
Eventually, I decided to leave my inner self to her own devices and instead tried to focus on everyday practicalities.
I thought that if I tried to get on with my life in the way that I had before, she would eventually calm down and my mental state would return to normal
However, as soon as I tried to concentrate on anything, she seemed to experience an inexplicable urge to hang out with me, distracting me from whatever I was doing with a seemingly endless stream of irrelevant and anxiety provoking information.
All things considered, spending more time with my inner self this year hasn’t been the easiest thing in the world.
Just as spend you can only spend so much time in another person’s company before you start to get on each others nerves, spending too much time with yourself can cause things to become a bit tense.
Being a human is complex, confusing and not always comfortable, especially this year and, for me, things became a bit easier when I stopped trying so hard to force my inner self to behave and communicate with me in the zen-like way I expected her to.
Maybe being in touch with your inner self isn’t about achieving a state of eternal chackric calm; maybe it is more about accepting your inner self exactly as they turn up, no matter how annoying they may be.
I’m not very good at dating
This is for several reasons.
First of all, flirting does not come naturally to me.
For me, flirting is one of the most awkward and contradictory forms of communication that you can engage in as a human being – you are trying to play it incredibly cool whilst simultaneously caring intensely about what the other person thinks of you.
Under these conditions, my brain tends to short circuit and I normally end up with something that is the complete antithesis of cool spurting involuntarily from my mouth.
I also spent a lot of my teenage years reading teen romance novels and watching period dramas and, as a result, my expectation of love is unrealistically high.
Although I feel I have matured a lot since my Twilight days, some part of me still expects a potential romantic partner to declare their feelings for me in an elaborate display of affection, something involving a series heartfelt handwritten letters or a moonlit guitar serenade.
Unfortunately, the language of love nowadays instead seems to consist mainly of a series of strategically constructed WhatsApp messages – I always feels like I’m playing a highly tactical game which normally ends with me lying awake at night, debating whether I should substitute an ‘X’ at the end of a message for a generic smiley face emoji to avoid coming on too strong.In addition to my general inability to engage in romantic communication, I also have quite a severe nut allergy which means that I have to be careful before I kiss anyone to make sure that they don’t have any traces of nuts in their mouth.
Needless to say, this doesn’t do much for creating an atmosphere of spontaneous romance.
In an ideal world, I guess it would be easiest if I could find someone who also has a nut allergy, partly because we would understand each other’s dietary needs, but mostly because I’ve been waiting for years for an opportunity to use the phrase:
Overall, I don’t really mind being allergic to nuts that much.
I mean it kind of sucks that I can’t eat certain things, like Nutella for example, mostly because everyone’s always telling me how good Nutella is.
I was once seeing a guy and things were going quite well until we walked past a Crepe stand on a date and he asked if I wanted to share a Strawberry and Nutella crepe with him.
I told him that I couldn’t eat Nutella and he looked at me with an expression of raw shock and anguish, as if I’d just told him that one of my close relatives had died.
As I was speaking, I saw it slowly dawn on him that he couldn’t eat Nutella in the afternoon and then get off with me in the evening – the two thing things couldn’t co-exist in the same reality and he would have to choose.
To cut a long story short, he chose Nutella.
A few weeks later, one of my friends came to me upset because her boyfriend had left her for another girl.
This, of course, was awful and terrible thing to have happened but I found it hard to feel too much sympathy for her.
I mean, at least her ex left her for another sentient being…
I don’t really consider myself to be a competitive person.
In general, I would rather spend my energy cooperating with others, as opposed to trying to beat them.
However, there is one area of life which poses an exception to this rule – playing board games.
Nothing brings out the worst, most primal aspects of my personality quite like participating in a game of Monopoly, Cluedo or Kerplunk.
Logically, I am aware that getting overly competitive when playing board games is ridiculous.
I know, for example, that ‘The Game of Life’ is not as important as my actual life. However, when I am actually playing ‘The Game of Life’, the outcome of the game rapidly becomes the single most important thing in existence and I genuinely care more about the success of that teeny tiny little plastic human in their teeny tiny plastic car than I do about my actual human self.
This being said, most board games are specifically designed to encourage competitiveness. For example, the title of the game ‘Frustration’ is indicative of the fact that it is meant to induce a feeling of mild frustration in those who play it.
However, the phrase ‘mild frustration’ cannot do justice to the raw untamed rage that I experience when I am losing a board game.
It is as if all the competitiveness that I should be using in other areas of my life is stored up and released all in one go. All semblance of respectful and dignified adulthood crumbles and is replaced by an all-consuming desire to win, no matter the cost.
I have a tendency to be quite an anxious person.
I think it’s impossible not to experience some form of anxiety in our interconnected modern world world.
Advances in technology have meant that we are exposed to more electronic stimuli than ever before (eg. emails, online news articles and social media notifications) and it is difficult for our brains to process all this information without becoming overwhelmed.
Humans have highly active imaginations.
On one hand, this is great because it enables us to think creatively, visualise solutions to problems and progress as a species.
Unfortunately, my imagination doesn’t seem to want produce ground-breaking scientific discoveries or beautiful works of art and instead spends a significant amount of its time blowing tiny insignificant things out vastly of proportion.
In the past, I have tried to retrain my brain to think in a healthier, more positive way.
However, I have found that forcing myself to believe that things are fine doesn’t give me space to fully acknowledge and process any negative emotions that I may be experiencing.
As a result, I usually end up desperately trying to maintain a serene and dignified outer image, despite the fact that I am feeling distinctly less fine that I was previously.
All in all, the best way to deal with anxiety is to take time to understand how it works what triggers it so that it is easier to live alongside it as opposed to pretending that it isn’t there.
It is also important to surround yourself with people who can provide you with emotional support and, more importantly, a ready supply of comfort food.
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