Wednesday, July 11, 2018


This is what "unclenched" feels like.

About six months ago I was talking to a friend about anxiety -- something we've both experienced on a chronic basis at different times in our lives -- and she described it as "clenching." As in she'd wake up and think of some task that needed accomplishing in her classroom that day and get a tightened-up feeling in her solar plexus that would radiate throughout her body and create a "fight or flight" reaction.

She was clenched. Clenched over bulletin boards and history papers. Like a fist, ready to strike out and get done what needed to get done. I've been clenched at various times in my life, for things both greater and less than those things. 

Those times in my life include, for some reason, the last few years or so, where I felt that way most of the time. Clenched describes it perfectly.

But not anymore. I noticed the other day I am definitely un-clenched. For some reason, I've relaxed, which I only realize when I compare myself to where I was before I came here. 

Our locations, to some extent, define us. And even if we hold ourselves apart from those places, they still rub off on us. We breathe them in, we bump up against them in the market, and we drive along their roads. We pay our taxes to them. It's as if we are water and our location is the rocks around us that we flow in response to. Whether we like it or not, our location shapes us and defines our boundaries.

Rocks that define us (in this case Proposal Rock)

These days, I'm honestly no longer bothered by the little voices that used to chide me always to do more, to be more, to drive faster, work faster, and keep up, keep up, keep up. Make no mistake, although people talk about how "laid back" California is, that's probably the greatest myth about my home state. Californians live hard, drive hard but, to their credit (or detriment, depending on your personal philosophy), they play even harder. Which is why the wine country regions of the state are such a rousing success. Work hard, play harder. 

And I think living in what became one of the "play harder" places in the state just did not agree with me. Hence, a very primal kind of clenching began, which was nothing more than a soul trying to tell its person that they both needed to be someplace else, not soon but rather, yesterday.

And while it's hard to see things that could be in places you are not, pondering/exploring those futures is something worth thinking about if you're less than totally happy where you are now. For years I thought my anxiety was purely biological, or a product of upbringing, or of age. But it turns out a good part of it was where I was living. Not only did I need to slow down, I needed to live in a place which gave me permission to do so. I also needed to live in a place with a more gentle climate in summer. Because most of us are, as it turns out, defined by our location. 
Chickens are clenched, but I think they like being that way.

At this point I'm not sure what this area is all about, but everyone doing their own thing and giving others space, respect, and kindness seems to be high on the list. For me, this made it OK to finally relax and draw inward a little bit more without feeling like I'm either missing out on something or slacking off. 

And so, from an unclenched place, I wish you a good mid- summer.

Neskowin Wildlife preserve is extremely unclenched. 


  1. Thank you for sharing this. You never seemed to be a clenched sort of person.

    I've been clenched for a long time and have been working on it through yoga, meditation and now studying Ekhart Tolle. His works have probably helped me the most.

    I am definitely being called to move on. Our house sale is not going quickly like I thought but it could be that the right place has not yet become available to us. I am going to go with the flow and not try to force things to happen. When the house sells, we will find a place to rent across country.

    I wonder if anxiety is the human condition. I don't know if I'll ever be able to transcend it, but I will never give up trying.

    1. Anxiety is funny; most of the time we really do know we are OK (in our heads) but our bodies still send out the "high alert" hormones, believing in imminent danger. So I think a lot of it is biological. But yoga, meditiation and Tolle all sound like ways to allow the mind to calm the body, so I'm glad they are helping you. Good luck in the house sale, hopefully it'll go your way soon! We're having trouble finding something we like here at the price we want to pay, so I feel your pain. I too like to think of it as waiting for the right house to come along and being patient.