Breathe.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was frantically packing up my desk, trying to rush off to a client meeting across town while simultaneously navigating a document that came in last-minute that morning, I got a text from my partner-in-crime R. At this point in the day, I was exhausted, stressed, nervous about this meeting, trying desperately to remember what I’d probably forgotten, and pretty hungry, despite snacking on more than one of the “emergency” Almond Joys my work friend keeps at her desk since about 10 a.m. The final content of the text is irrelevant, a silly conversation between friends, but the way she started the message made me smile. After a crazy morning, I checked my phone to read “I’m texting you this because anyone else might judge me.”

I will never pretend that I’m not a judgmental person, to the same extent we all are. I do like to think of myself as more tolerant to quirks though, given that I inundate people with my own. Examples: I have a tendency to speak very quickly and interrupt others, I lose my own train of thought way too easily and as Kristen Bell once put so eloquently, if I’m not “between a three and a seven on the emotional scale,” I’m crying. And let’s not overlook that I post questionable life decisions on a public forum, so I’m obviously fine with a certain level of scrutiny and judgment. I like to think that the level of judgement I exude in situations where say, someone pushes past me on a crowded subway, despite both of us getting off at the next stop, will come back to me, like when I order a bacon cheeseburger with a Diet Coke for Sunday brunch. But lately it’s felt like things are off-balance, teetering too far in one direction instead of a happy medium, professionally speaking more than anything.

Something isn’t clicking with me the way it’s supposed to at work these days; things are making sense and then all of a sudden something is apocalypse-level urgent and very wrong. I internalize a lot of professional issues, trying to be the team member with the positive attitude and the one who can handle anything, but that’s just not been me lately. I’m struggling with things that should come easily by now, making mistakes I shouldn’t be making, and my confidence is wobbly at best, completely fucking shot at worst. I feel like everything I do is wrong, just wrong, and at times on one side and then on the other, there are words thrown around like missed arrows, enough to brush past your cheek and leave a mark, but not enough to pierce the skin. I’m letting the bad parts of work affect the other parts of my day, not doing yoga in the mornings, saying “fuck it” to buying coffee instead of making some at home, inhaling a pumpkin muffin despite having already eaten a full breakfast. I’m focusing on what other people are thinking about me and my work, rather than focusing on my job, working to please a judgment rather than rising above it and delivering great work.

It’s in these moments I feel like I’m drowning, unable to surface for a welcome break, a breath of fresh air while sitting stubbornly in the stale confines of my own head. I forget to breathe at times, holding in all of the frustration, the feelings of failure, the despondent haze that’s too comfortable in my life these days; I find myself literally holding my breath when things are really bad, like I’m afraid one quick exhale will put all of this frustration, the feelings of failure, the despondence, out there for everyone else. I can feel the judgement scales tipping in one direction and then another, teetering at one extreme until flipping to the opposite, and my reaction is to hold as much in as possible, afraid to sway things yet again.

Reading that silly intro from R yesterday put a smile back on my face, and I took a deep breath, calming down for just a minute as we traded some TMI. I put my judgments about my situation aside, stepped back from the imagined (or not) judgment from people around me and tried to get back to the grounded place I know is in me somewhere. A deep breath in, a deep breath out, yoga in real life, repeating again and again that I can and will get through this and come out better. I’m frustrated with myself, for certain, and angry that I’ve let things go so far down this rabbit hole. I just need to remember to breathe in times like this, to pull confidence from somewhere deep within and breathe through it all.

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