STAY IN THE FOAM
By: Lauren Anderson
So… I don’t know about all of you, but I have a tendency to “pile” on.
I don’t know if that’s the right word for it exactly, but I can’t think of another phrase that fits.
You know, it’s like, if I like something then I REALLY LIKE SOMETHING, and then I tend to read everything there is available about it, and think about it, and write about it, and talk about it with anyone willing to listen.
(Why yes, I AM that annoying person that listens to a song on repeat until it lives in my bones.)
This zest has led me to some very interesting places, like reading dense farm reports about healthy cranberry bogs, to researching in-depth FBI reports about body language, to listening to Mongolian Death Metal at 3 a.m. when the rest of the world is asleep.
And while this aspect of my personality usually serves me pretty well, because I am generally excited about something and can add “interest” to a conversation– it can be, well… intense.
Some people are down for that intensity! And I think there is a certain joy that can be mined from being buoyed along by another person’s enthusiasm.
But for others, or for certain situations–it can be, well… INTENSE.
And then of course, there’s the reverse of that coin. When something happens that hurts, or is shitty, or that I don’t like. I have a tendency to analyze it, obsess about it, read up about it, and question the universe. What is my lesson here? Why did this happen?!?!?!
Even fully knowing that sometimes shitty things happen. I’m always searching for the deeper “Why”.
Again, this can be a really good thing. I am usually hyper-aware of the fault I bring to most situations. I have a tendency to “grow a lot” because everything that hurts is a stretch in another difficult direction.
But this can be exhausting. If I’m always growing and investigating and trying to improve, when do I get the chance to just BE? Has my personality doomed me to a life where it’s impossible to “shake it off” and friggin CHILLAX?
(Haha! Chillax? #sorrynotsorry. It’s a great port-man-teau! Let’s bring it back! Coined in the 21st century, this verb can be used as a noun and shown up in countless movies and— AH! I’m doing it again!!!!)
Anyone else in this boat?
Then there is another part of this struggle. How do I manage this intensity without being or feeling “fake”? Or like I can’t let my full self into the room or the conversation? Cause honestly? I don’t want that either. I don’t think anyone does really.
It’s like, if I was gonna put this into terms of like, say… dating? It might go down like this:
I don’t want to be so shut down or closed off that people can’t even get to me, even if they tried. And I also don’t want to saddle up to a date and be like, “Hi, this is an interview to be my future husband.”
Those two extremes will surely never get me what I want. And it’s interesting comparison, because both of those extremes are honest feelings that can happen. A person may have fear about opening up to love, and also have a desire to share their life with somebody.
Just like with diet (in the ‘what I eat’ sense…not the ‘diet machine’ sense) and/or exercise. If I restrict myself too much, I miss out on a lot of stuff outside of that part of my life. But if I stay too loose and don’t adhere to any kind of pattern or structure, I might never see the results I want.
So, my therapist gave me a really good analogy/metaphor to use to practice “chillaxing” and letting things hang out in the unknown. She told me to “Stay in the Foam.”
Stay with me here.
If I think of myself as a delicious latte, there is all the dark, rich and robust cappuccino at the bottom. Dense in flavor with a high-octane caffeine boost. In other words, INTENSITY.
Aka “my full self”, or even the full achievement of a goal.
But before you get to that, there is the foam on the top. Still part of the drink– in fact, a crucial part of the latte! But it really only holds the essence of what’s to come.
In other words, the FOAM is still part of the coffee, but it’s not the whole thing.
It’s not the whole drink.
And I started to really dig this analogy the more I thought about it, because it addresses the idea that I still want to be myself. The foam is still part of the coffee! It’s just not all of it all at once.
The FOAM could be shorthand for staying in the potential.
So when I think about it terms of me working out– I know deep down in my bones I still have the same desire to lift a car. Just like I wrote about in my very first blog post. And even though I’ve been working out for awhile now, I know I’m still no where near that Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
And I could beat myself up for that – and sometimes I really do— or I could remind myself that I might still be in the “foam” of my fitness journey. And there is still so much more ahead for me.
This kind of thinking is so helpful for a person like me. A person who has a tendency to go too far too fast. Or weigh every interaction with heavy consequences. Or judge and lament that I haven’t gone farther faster.
This helps me visualize staying in the “just started” stage of something. When anything is possible! The breath before the first kiss. And it’s really exciting here. Because anything could happen.
It’s also really light and easy here. It’s the flirt before the numbers are exchanged, so to speak. The foam reminds me that this world and everything in it, is ripe with potential.
THAT ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.
The “foam” part of me, is the me that doesn’t wonder if every “hello” is dorky or unwanted. The foam isn’t judging myself for “not being further along by now”. The foam isn’t concerned with what things will be like 6 months.
I’ve been practicing this for about a week now, and I gotta say, I’ve been feeling happier and lighter.
And even the things that can really hurt, or things that I overanalyze or start to spiral about, I’ve been literally saying to myself, “Stay in the foam, stay in the foam.” And it helps me keep it casual.
I’m not saying this is an appropriate action or reaction for every situation. There are plenty of things still that require full depth and full feelings. The Foam metaphor/analogy is not about denying myself anything. It’s more like a reminder that it doesn’t have to be EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE.
Because the foam is the first sip. The discovery. And it reminds me that I can hang out in the “first sip” for as long as I want and need.
Even if I’ve been doing something for awhile now– staying in the foam reminds me that anything can happen, and there is always more to discover.
The FOAM IS FREEDOM.
I don’t have to have everything figured out. I don’t have to know what my five year plan is. I don’t need to beat myself up for only having done so much or gone so far. Because there is plenty of time, and there is always more opportunity.
There is so much to enjoy and cherish, right here and now.
Right here in the FOAM.