Some of my favorite movies are war movies. From a young age thanks to movies like “The Patriot”, I gained an appreciation for the power of the retreat and how it can be used to actually maintain strength. I’ve retreated these last few days growing quiet externally while my internal dialogue rages on. Without full awareness, I found my subconscious building up my defenses and attempting to hide me away. “Ooohhh this is actually nice!”, my conscious self went along.
I deleted instagram last week from my phone along with the news app. At the time, I didn’t realize I was needing to tap out. It just felt like a natural reaction like taking the trash out when it’s grown too close to the lid. Something had to be done and I did it.
Thursday night I began fully retreating. Usually, I’m one who loves to connect with others in spite of my baseline anxiety. Suddenly, I didn’t want to talk to people I really love let alone the random individuals I interact with during the week.
All I felt was a strong desire to disconnect, to be left alone, and to isolate myself. That’s when the anxiety hit on Saturday and I realized what was going on. I was terrified to return to San Francisco and I psychologically was trying to drain myself of all feelings as a way to protect myself proactively. Numbness would be better than the chaotic feelings that normally flood me at the mere name of the city.
Returning to San Francisco symbolically returns me to a former self I still haven’t quite come to terms with. I’m both mad at and in awe of the person who lived there. I don’t know how she did it and I think she should have known better all at once. “What where you thinking? How did you manage?”. I haven’t been back in 1.5 years and I’m out of practice for dealing with the unique feelings an entire place can have on a person. I sometimes think I’ve nomaded so much just to dilute the strong feelings I have around San Francisco and create other places that carry weight for me (in a positive way).
My conscious mind foiled my subconscious’ plan of walls, isolation, and apathy. It was an amateur attempt at best anyway and I’ve been in full repair mode for the last 48 hours. It started with trying to exhaust my body into submission to get passed the anxiety coursing through me. The gym is my not so secret weapon here and I had some incredible workouts this weekend putting all that energy to great use. Once my body physically has been worn down, my mind has space to process, prepare, and provide me with what I need.
You can’t just retreat and not address what caused the retreat to begin with. That was my mistake. I’m nervous to go back to San Francisco. This caused me to panic and to want to avoid feeling anything at all in preparation for going there. It’s like this quote:
“grieve. so that you can be free to feel something else.” – Nayyirah Waheed
I needed to be anxious and terrified fully in order to feel something else about this trip. Underneath those feelings hide more nuanced ones that still very much exist and count just as much as those initial reactions. For example, I can’t wait to return to some favorite, magical spots. I can’t wait to create more memories there as each time I return another layer is added to the complex story I’ve woven. I’m slowly returning to the joy that I know inevitably comes with meeting new people, hearing new ideas, and thinking through new problems. I’m particularly itching to bust out my “nice” camera there and explore the city with a brand new way to capture how it feels to me. I’m scared to return which is why I must and why I took today to connect with myself to simply feel. For me, this meant reading, cooking wonderful meals, listening to podcasts, taking pictures, walking by the water, listening to music, and flipping through an absurd number of quotes. Perhaps the retreat worked after all :).
In any case, I only go for a reason bigger than my own little self. There’s an awesome conference for queer women in tech each year and in light of what’s happening in the world today I find it ever more important to show up as a way to stand up. I go to connect, to help, to learn, and to be inspired.
P.S. The irony is not lost on me that a city that is a safe haven for so many queer people is a source of such ridiculous stress for me.