Posted in faith, inner peace, Life, meditation, Musings, People, spirituality

Redefining Holy

Holy

Holy: adjective; Exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness or righteousness.

When I think of the word holy, I can’t help but think of churches. Churches and bibles and the feeling of a big, scary God that I neither long for nor understand. A punishing God with rules I can’t reconcile, who speaks in a language that must be explained to me by someone deemed more worthy. The book they say he left for us is one of the only ones I have picked up countless times, only to put it right back down again. The God I think of when I first hear the word “holy” is a God that leaves me empty and cold. This is a God made by men, in their image, a God of religion, control, fear, money. A God corrupt.

There is another God for me, and he has been with me all my life. I say “he” only because that is how I’ve always thought to call him, but it’s meaningless. The God I know is neither female nor male, he has no face that I have ever seen. This God has filled me with comfort in moments of great despair. He carried me through the battles I fought against myself for all those years. He never left me, never turned his back. If ever he was out of reach, it was because I was closed off, because I had pulled away.

Most of September and some of October were hard for me. Looking back, I see that it was me who caused the shift. I stopped my morning ritual of prayer, I stopped meditating. I got caught up in other things- new relationships, vanity, concentrating on the way things look and not the way things feel. I held steady for a while, coasting on the fumes of all the months of work that I’d put in before. But soon enough, I was empty. Nothing left to give, aimless and unhappy.

I’ve come back down to earth again. Sat on my cushion, day after day, lighting the candles and saying my prayers until the words stopped sounding forced, until I felt like I was being heard again. Eventually, the conversation seemed to flow both ways, although it was only I who spoke. My God speaks directly to my spirit. I may not hear him, but the message gets through, loud and clear. Meditation stopped feeling like a task to be accomplished and became, once more, a slow fall into peace. I often sit long after the bell sounds, reluctant to let go of the soft ebb and flow of my breath.

And just like that, all the things began to fall into place. The pace of my world slowed, leaving time to linger over sunsets, time to gaze at the sky and the moon. Just like that, peace returned and I felt like myself again.

I think I will change what I think of as holy. There is nothing more holy to me than the sacred hours before sunrise, as I light my candles and sit on my cushion, in communion with the God I know. The God who loves me just as I am, no matter who that might be today. The God who reminds me that it is not he who must forgive me, but I who must forgive myself. My God does not recognize sin, does not judge my mistakes, does not leave anyone out. The God I know asks me to be gentle with myself when I have been hard on others, helps me to soften my edges, reminds me who I am- no worse and no better than anyone else.

When I think of what is holy now, I will think of the orange sky and the blazing yellow sun as it sinks into the blue-black sea. I will think of the cold, salty air on my skin and the sight of my daughter picking her way across the rocks back to me. I will think of leaving the sunset behind me and turning a bend in the road to find an impossibly perfect moon hanging before me in the sky. Holy is the warm light of the lamp in my dark living room, the scent of incense, the alter on my shelf of stones and feathers, sage and shells. Above all else, holy is the depth of the peace in my heart as I write this, the certainty that I have returned to myself.

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Posted in family, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, relationships, women

Unconditional

unconditional

It is 4:42 a.m. and my eyes pop open. I bring my wrist to my face and squint up at the green numbers on my Fitbit, then slide awkwardly towards the foot of my bed to exit, grabbing my phone from the charger as I go. There’s a child sleeping beside me that had not been there when I went to sleep, and I don’t want to risk waking her. This is as much for my sake as her own- maybe more for my sake, honestly. These little hours of the morning are the only ones that are truly mine, and I am not willing to share them with anyone.

Camryn, though, is not the child that sleeps lightly. Aisley was the one I had to tiptoe around to keep from waking, the one who would always wake simply because the warmth of my body was missing beside her. From the moment she was born, she lived her life perched in the crook of my arm, balanced on the side of my hip. She slept pressed against my side, curled herself into my lap as we watched TV. Camryn was different- she wanted to sleep near me, but not too near. She wanted down, she wanted to explore, she wanted to do it herself. I told myself it was a good thing, her independence. It meant she felt safe, that I was doing something right. The truth is, I missed all the cuddling, and it probably had nothing to do with me. Children, in many ways, are born with personalities intact.

Last night was a rough night. Though there is nothing I love more than my daughters, and having them both home, under the same roof, brings a peace to my heart like nothing else, my girls are…polar opposites. Like two ends of a battery, they go together, but they are not the same. Positive and Negative. Cam is happy and hyper, kind and silly. At the far end of those things, she is obnoxious, relentless, impulsive and incapable of pumping the brakes. Aisley is…quiet, calm, practical and sensitive to her environment. The darker side of her is moody, agitated, intolerant and…unhappy in a way that you can feel, even when she is silent.

Her sister gets on her nerves. I can feel the tension building, and it affects me, too. Cam is bouncing off the walls. Aisley is stewing. I am in the middle, trying to warn them both “She’s only eight, be patient.” and “Camryn, you need to settle down.” “Settle down.” “Camryn, THAT IS ENOUGH!” Poor Cam, thinking she can crack just one more joke, and everyone will laugh and be happy, not realizing that every time she opens her mouth, she’s pushing both her sister and I closer to the edge. It ended with me losing my cool, Aisley jumping in, and Camryn in tears, feeling (rightly) that she’d been ganged up on. My poor little peanut.

I apologized, but was not granted permission to hug for several hours. I explained to Aisley that, though it isn’t her intention to do it, her moods are contagious for me. They always have been. I’ve always been pretty empathetic, but with her it’s next level. I’m like a little sponge, soaking up her vibe. All I really want is to be happy with my kids, to treat them kindly, to feel good about our time together. I didn’t feel that way last night. I felt terrible, actually, and ashamed at losing my cool. I went to bed early just to be done with it.

Today is a new day, though. I ran to the store at 6 to buy sugar, and the streets were deserted, the sky still dark as night. At the stop sign down the road, the twinkling lights of Monterey spread out across the bay, and the heaviness in my chest leftover from last night lifted. It’s still early. The possibilities are endless.

It is 7:17 now, and my daughters are still sleeping- the big one in the little one’s bed, and the little one in my bed. I wonder if they know, if they will ever really know…how much I love them? Exactly as they are, whoever they should become, no matter what they do. My love for them is…profound. It is the definition of unconditional. No hormonal “I hate you!” or “You’re a TERRIBLE mother!” could penetrate or even disturb the fortress wall that is my love for them. As a matter of fact, the cruel things said, the unintentional slights, the outright insults? They slide right off that wall, forgotten almost immediately. Ironically, Aisley cries to me sometimes about terrible things she said to me when she was younger that I don’t even remember. It means nothing, I tell her. I forgave you before the words left your mouth.

I am proud of them. I am proud of them, and in awe of them, and amazed by the people they are, knowing it has nothing to do with me. They are their own little souls, forging their own paths in life, separate from me, but entwined also. Most of all, I just feel so incredibly lucky to know them. To get to have a hand in any of this. To have had my life so enriched by loving them, and getting to be part of it all. I mean, I feel so privileged.

Later today, when Aisley is complaining for the fifteenth time about how much she “just HATES people, I mean, they are EVERYWHERE!”, or Camryn asks me what she can eat for the seventh time in two hours, I will forget all of this. I will roll my eyes, I will sigh heavily, I will probably snap “You can’t possibly be hungry again already! You’re just bored! Go find something to do!” If I’m lucky, I’ll go to bed tonight feeling like I handled things okay, that I did an okay job. If I’m not, I’ll go to bed beating myself up and wishing I’d done better. In short, whichever way it goes, I’ll go to bed feeling the same feelings that mothers everywhere feel- the good days could have been a little better, the bad days are the end of the world. You can’t really win.

But at the heart of it all is this vast and unchangeable love. Perfect, but heavier than the world. It fulfills me in a way that I never expected, and that nothing else ever has. Yet it is also terrifying, the depths of it, the way it matters- I could survive many things, but I cannot contemplate a life without them. Anything but that. Given the choice to live my life over, I know I would painstakingly recreate every moment, every poor choice, every failure, just to wind up with these two girls. It’s not even a question. It’s just a given.

I am many things, but none of them matters more to me than being a mother to them. Nothing else even comes close. I wonder if they know?

Posted in happiness, Life, love, mindfulness, Musings, People

These Little Things

little things

 

The other morning, I was driving Camryn to school. We were stopped at a light, and it was quiet in the car. Out of nowhere, Cam says “I love you, mom.”, and it was one of those moments…I don’t know how to explain it. My kids and I say “I love you” ALLLLLL the time, it’s not a rarity at all. But the way she said it, out of nowhere, in this quiet, thoughtful, sincere voice. As if she’d been studying me without me noticing, and she was speaking straight from her heart. I felt it differently, if that makes sense. “I love you, too!” I said, with tears stinging my eyes.

The next morning I got a text from my mom, out of the blue, at seven a.m. “I love you, Court.”

Two days in a row, I got hit with little love bombs, during a time when I needed them quite badly…and there is no way either my mom or my daughter could have known that. I’ve been struggling a lot, but I certainly try not to let my eight year old see it, and I hadn’t spoken much to my mom about it, so…it meant a lot to me.

Friday, the tall, dark, handsome man I’ve been seeing (although I’ve been seeing him so little lately that he’s almost a tall, dark, handsome stranger at this point) called me and asked “Are we still going out tonight?” (translation: “Are you going to cancel on me again?”) “Of course!” I replied (translation: “I am trying very hard to not let this funk I am in destroy our relationship, let’s pretend I am normal, okay?”) “Where would you like to eat?” he asked. I felt my soul wither. “Can you just figure it out?” I asked, “I can’t deal with thinking right now.” “Absolutely. I’ll take care of everything- don’t worry your pretty little head about a thing.” (He actually said that. LOL.)

A few minutes later he texted that dinner was at seven, and he wouldn’t say where. He took me to a Greek restaurant owned by a friend of his, and he’d even ordered some flaming cheese dish ahead of time to cheer me up. We had the best table, right at the front window, and…I just really appreciated the effort he put in. He recognized that I needed a little extra kindness, and rather than be put out by that or turned off, he leaned in and did more, just because he felt like it.

It sounds like such a basic little thing, but it isn’t. It matters. All of these little things matter so much to me. I have been down and hurting lately, and we all know that people are not easy or fun when they are like that. After all, we have our own shit, right? It’s so easy to just get frustrated, or say “You know what? This is not what I signed up for- I have to think about my own peace of mind, sorry.” And in our current culture, this is not only acceptable, it’s kind of encouraged. But he didn’t do that at all. He went out of his way to make my life easier and happier, and I am so grateful for that. So touched by it. I am so grateful and touched by the loving gestures from my family, too.

So now, I’m paying attention, right? Yesterday, my daughter, who is at her dads for the weekend, came home so that I could wash her hair- she had a birthday party to go to, and she needed some help getting ready. I mentioned briefly that I’d forgotten to pick up my bubbly water (you know, the fancy carbonated La Croix that are all the rage now? Yeah, I have an embarrassing addiction to those.) when I was at the store. I washed her hair and got her ready to go, and about an hour later, I took a nap. I woke up hours later and thought I heard someone saying “Mom!”. I was confused, but I listened, and there it was again! I got up, and ran to the door in my underwear…and there she was, with two cans of La Croix she’d smuggled out of the party for me. “I thought you might want these.” She said. She’d made her dad bring her by just to give them to me. Like, how sweet is that?

At the beach yesterday, my dog, Lucy, lost her ball. She spent a good portion of our walk down the beach stalking other dog owners with balls, and I had to keep explaining that she’d lost hers, sorry, sorry, sorry. On the way back up the beach, I passed a man I’d had to apologize to earlier. “Hey! I found your ball!” He said. He’d picked up our dirty old tennis ball in hopes that we’d cross paths again. He didn’t have to do that, but he did, just to be nice. My dog was thrilled, and so was I.

Yesterday, I dropped off two big bins of sea glass to a friend of mine, for a friend of hers who needs it for a project she wants to start. This morning, I sent my brother a book from Amazon-it’s a really long, really involved fantasy series, and if he likes the first one, I’ll send him more. When I’m done with this, I’m going to write him a letter, too.

Because I’ve come to realize something over the past few days- big things are great! Grand gestures and big to-do’s are wonderful things. But it is the little things- the “I love you”s  for no reason, the extra effort, the small kindnesses…they are so powerful. When someone is feeling hopeless and spent, a small gesture is a really big deal. A kind word means everything. Unexpected sweetness is sort of a miracle. Being nice just to be nice, being thoughtful, doing a little more than you need to…it’s just everything.

Today, I ask that you pay attention to the kindness you see in the world around you, and that you receive any that comes your way with the gratitude which it deserves. I hope that you can find a way to do a little more for someone than they expect, so that you can feel your own burdens suddenly become lighter. These little things carry a startling amount of love inside of them, and you cannot really know how much that love might mean, how much it might matter, to someone.

Posted in adhd, Depression, faith, happiness, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, women

Notes on Being Sad (for no Reason)

notes on sadness

September was a hard month. At least, it seems like it was. You know, when things get a little…off course for me, I tend to lose track of time. Everything seems long-interminable, really. The funny thing is, just before this little tussle I’ve been having with myself, I was doing so well! It seems like that is how it goes, though- one week, I’m on top of the world, the house is clean, I’m productive, happy, eating well, having fun, sure that this time I am finally where I’m supposed to be. Feeling so confident that I can’t even imagine how I ever could have felt sad or down before. I look back rather scornfully on my previous self, if I’m being honest- that girl. What was her problem, anyway?

And then that niggling sense of dissatisfaction creeps in- that’s how it always starts. Like I’m searching for something, I need something, but I can’t figure out what it is. I start finding fault with others, and fault with myself. Then comes the internal litany of bullshit- the negative self talk that wears me down, bit by bit. Eventually, I stop washing the dishes, stop making the bed, stop sweeping the floor. I can’t be bothered to wash my face at night. I won’t pick up the phone when it rings, and I cancel plans. Everything feels heavy and sad.

What a lot of people don’t know- I didn’t even know this until recently- is that moodiness and depression are a big part of ADHD. It’s literally part of the deal, part of the chemical function of our brains…or would it be dysfunction? I don’t know, whatever. It’s not imaginary, it’s not a “made-up” disorder. It’s a real, scientifically proven affliction, and they’ve got the brain scans to prove it. It’s a spectrum, as well, so it affects everyone differently. Learning to understand and accept this fact about myself has been far more difficult than I could have imagined.

I have learned there are people who get it and people who just do not. Reciting back to me a list of all the reasons I should be happy does not help. I understand that I have no reason to feel sad…but I feel sad anyway. These feelings cannot be reasoned with. As a matter of fact, telling me all the reasons I have to be happy makes it so much worse, because now I feel guilty about how shitty I feel.

Trust me when I tell you that I would prefer to be happy all the time. That I get no satisfaction from feeling myself sliding backwards into a slump. It’s not a lot of fun to be a person who cannot count on themselves to be steady, at least emotionally, for any length of time. When things are good, they are very good. When things are bad, they are awful.

So, I try. I try really, really hard to slap a smile on my face. To be nice when I want to bite someone’s head off, to temper my tone of voice when I want to snap. I keep showing up, even when I want to stay in my house with the blinds drawn. I try not to try to figure out why I feel the way I feel anymore- honestly, I don’t think there is an outside force at work. I think it’s inside of me, it’s chemical, hormonal maybe…that’s as far as I am willing to go. Trying to fix it seems to only make it worse.

I wait for it to pass. It always does. When it gets really bad, I just remind myself that, no matter what happens, I am safe. It sounds dumb, but remembering that I am “a spiritual being having a human experience”, that this is just school here on planet earth, that, even if I keel over dead tomorrow, I’m still going to be okay…at least, the way I think things are, that’s how it goes…well, that honestly helps a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no interest in keeling over dead. I’m not advocating for that in any way. I’m just saying, it helps to remember that what we humans prioritize, in order of importance, is pretty screwy sometimes…and that being sad, being down, being depressed…those are just feelings. As long as I know myself well enough to know where to draw the line, when I might need a little extra help, I’ll muddle through.

Yesterday, I followed my boss into the office kitchen, and told her I needed to talk to her. “I’m just really sad.” I told her, tears immediately popping into my eyes. “I knew you were, I could tell by how quiet you’ve been.” She said, “What can I do to help?” I shrugged and shook my head. “I just wish I could understand why I get like this.” I told her. “Yeah, but you know that isn’t how you operate, Courtney. For you, it just happens sometimes. Is there anything I can do? Do you need to see someone, or take time off?” She asked. “I don’t know…I just needed someone to know that I was struggling.” I told her.

And just that, just the simple act of telling someone- someone who doesn’t judge me, or try to reason with me, or try to fix it; someone who doesn’t give me a list of reasons why I should feel differently, but instead just hears me, knows me, and treats me with patience and kindness…it really matters. I don’t know how, but it helps.

I came home yesterday and found that whatever this thing was that had been gripping me so hard…it wasn’t gone, but I could breathe at least. There was space all of the sudden that hadn’t been there before. I could see a little further beyond myself, the way you see the forest around you when you turn your brights on in the car, driving down a country road at night. Last night, I made tater-tots and a grilled cheese for Cam- not much of a meal, but I made it happily- I cut it into fourths, and arranged it just so on the plate, piling the tater-tots in the middle, and filling a stolen ramekin with ketchup. I don’t do things like that when I’m terribly sad.

I unloaded the dishwasher and changed the five gallon water jug that has been empty for days. I made my bed and swept the floor. I helped with homework, and Cam and I read together. These sound like little things to anyone who doesn’t struggle with their moods, I’m certain. But those of us who know will get it.

You know, I find it a little embarrassing to tell the truth about this. I sometimes feel like I sound whiny, or I’m being dramatic- when there is so much turmoil in this world, who am I to think my bouts of sadness even matter? But trying to pretend all is well when it isn’t keeps me silent- it keeps me from writing, and it keeps it all inside. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels the way I do. Maybe you can identify with me, and maybe it’ll help you. Who knows?

Here’s to a better day- to people who can meet us where we’re at, bosses who listen, and to telling the truth, even when it isn’t easy. May we all feel just a little better today than we did yesterday…even if yesterday was awesome, but especially if it wasn’t.