Posted in adventure, advice, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, misinformation, Musings, People

Question Everything

question everything

I’m about to do something I don’t do very often, and that is come at you with some frank instructions. I normally shy away from this, because who am I to think that I am the authority on anything? The answer? I’m not, and I don’t.

But I think this is valuable. My instruction is simple: Question Everything. Everything you’ve been conditioned to think, everything you believe, everything you just assume to be true.

This society we live in loves nothing more than it loves slapping labels and rules on things. It is a phenomenon that has invaded every single particle of our lives, from the way we “should” be setting up our lives, to the way we define success, to the proper way to THINK, even. Our very thoughts are subject to the opinions of others, if we dare share them honestly. And for the most part, we accept what we are given. Life is hard enough as it is without trying to buck the constraints of society, of all…THAT, right? It’s true.

But…maybe, one day, your perspective shifts out of the blue. Maybe you suddenly find yourself wondering “what if that isn’t true for me?” I would just like to encourage you to follow that thread. Maybe you grew up hearing you were lazy, or that you weren’t living up to your potential. Maybe you hate your job with every fiber of your being but you are terrified to make a change because you have been conditioned to place security in the same spot as happiness. Perhaps you were raised with religion and now you fear God, and it makes your life hard. There are more ways that we harbor ideas about life and ourselves than I could ever possibly list, but if you have a moment of clarity, where you think “wait a minute…is that even real?” It is worth examining.

No one gets to decide who you are except for you. No one can tell you how to think, or who to be, or which direction to go. No one can dictate to you how God shows up (or doesn’t) in your life. And, for Pete’s sake, society should not get the final say on how much we count in the world. Be who you want to be, who you REALLY are. If you don’t even know who that is, this is a really good time to figure it out. This world needs people who are living their truth, straight from their heart. And if that’s too weird for the masses, well…fuck the masses, then. They’ll figure it out eventually, or they won’t. Just take some time to examine what goes on in your own head- I think you’ll be surprised to find that a lot of the “truths” you discover might not only be questionable…they might not even be yours to begin with.

It’s worth a look. You deserve the opportunity to live your precious life in a way that is perfect for you. Only you can say what that is.

 

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Posted in adventure, advice, anxiety, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, Musings, People, spirituality, women

Gentle

gentle
From The Desiderata

Gentle is my word for today. I will try to be gentle.

Not only with others, but most of all, with myself. I am my own worst critic, always thinking back to some awful thing I did in the past, or worrying about things that I might do wrong down the road, rarely able to give myself any credit for the beautiful life I have provided for myself, here and now. I am forever berating myself for almost every little thing I do- and even when I do it right, I could have done it better.

So today, I am practicing being gentle with myself. Every time my mind starts galloping off into the future or flailing away uselessly at the past, I am gently bringing it back, to right here, right now. This morning, I was morbidly imagining myself with some life-threatening illness, worrying about how my children would fare if I should die. I had to pull myself back- Courtney, you are not dying in a hospital bed. You are standing at your sink, washing your daughter’s water canteen, absolutely healthy. You are fine. You are fine.

Yesterday, while I was meditating, I was having trouble with the sheer volume of my thoughts. There were so many things my anxious brain needed me to acknowledge right NOW. All of the sudden, I had this immense compassion for myself. An image popped into my mind, unbidden, of big me holding little Courtney in her arms. I ran my hands down 7-year-old-me’s back, and could feel the little knobs of my spine, the little angel wings of my shoulder blades sticking out. I told myself “it’s okay. Shhh…it’s okay.”. I don’t know where that image arose from, but it was powerful. The little girl in me needed that hug, that acknowledgement so badly. I may be a grown woman now, but that child is still in there, somewhere. And if it is hard to be gentle with me, perhaps I won’t struggle so much being gentle with her.

Here’s the thing- I want to fully inhabit my life. I do not have a desire to be bound by all the rules and dogma that I have either grown up with or invited in myself over the years. I want to be free. And all of this is brand new to me- it’s like I woke up two weeks ago and started questioning every single thing I believed to be true. I am starting at zero, trying to figure out who I am, really, and how I want to show up in the world going forward.

And the very first gift I choose to give myself today is this- be gentle. Be gentle with yourself, and with those around you. Let other people have their thoughts and feelings and perspectives, and choose to walk around them- let things be. Just like I told little me in that meditation yesterday…Shh…it’s okay. Everything is okay.

Posted in Addiction, advice, faith, family, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, recovery, women

Trust

I don’t know about you, but trust is a struggle for me. Not so much trusting other people, although lets be real- I don’t do that very well either. Being the control freak that I tend to be, I’ve put myself in a weird position where I don’t generally have to rely on or trust others too much- I just do everything myself.  Which then creates a whole different set of problems, because no one can do everything all the time, and when I am feeling down and weak and need someone to turn to…guess what? Little Miss Self-sufficient Pants has made that position in her life obsolete, so…now what? Well, I get sad and bummed out that I am in this all alone, even though I kinda set it up that way.

But what happens when you are a control freak, like I am, and also have trouble trusting yourself? I mean, lets take a minute to look at my track record, shall we? If I’m feeling down, I might choose to overlook the success and triumph, the massive changes I’ve made, and the hard work I’ve put in, and instead focus on the countless mistakes I’ve made, the cruel behavior, the trail of ruined relationships and bad choices. If I’m only seeing the bad stuff because my state of mind is poor, yeah, it’s really hard to trust myself. It’s not so easy to trust your gut when your instincts were once so chemically altered that they gave out on you.

And then there’s the whole “Trust the Universe” thing that I subscribe to so wholeheartedly…as long as, you know, we aren’t talking about my specific painful life issue, whatever it might be. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to take my hands off of everything and let things unfold as they undoubtedly will anyway…it’s just so damn hard! It’s such classic addict behavior, trying to manipulate outcomes in the way I want them to be- in the way I believe they should be- and boy, this shit is ingrained in me, deeply. It’s a LOT of work. It’s a LOT of useless worry, grief, and pain I put myself through, trying to make sure things go “right”. And you know what? It’s all for nothing, really. Because either way, things always unfold the way they are supposed to, whether it’s to my liking or not. My interference may prolong the inevitable, but is that really a win? If something painful or hard is trying to happen, is it better to keep it from happening for a little longer? Or does that make it worse?

Lets take my daughter for example- she is going through the messy, painful business of trying to grow up. I keep running interference for her, saving her from consequences that are her own, but that hurt me to see her go through. So…here we are, down the road a bit, and the same exact consequences are still coming up, despite my previous help. This time, I take my hands off, and allow life to happen for her the way it is trying to happen. My gut instinct kept pulling me back to reality every time I started to panic, started wanting to step in and fix things for her. For one thing, I needed to have boundaries in our relationship, for ME. But more than that, even, I needed her to see that in life, you must provide and think and advocate for yourself, or you find yourself in deep shit. So I listened to my gut, finally. I was prepared for the worst possible outcome. I let her know I loved her, always and forever, but it was time for her to sink or swim.

And guess what happened? Well, for one thing, she apologized to me. For another thing, she is implementing some big changes in her life- in her very own words, she said “I realized that the way I was going was not good, and that I really had no choice but to change or it was going to get worse.” Listen, I am not trying to take ANY of the credit for her breakthrough. All I did was finally get out of the way, and in less than a week, she figured it out on her own. I prolonged the inevitable, and made it far more painful, because I was trying to save all of us from the very pain I was prolonging. The Universe knows what it is doing. My instincts are telling me the truth.

So here is what I am taking away from all of this- let people live their lives. Don’t intervene more than you absolutely need to. Allow people to experience their consequences- that is where we ALL grow. When it comes to people we love- our children especially- seeing them in pain is hard. But if you want that pain to ever end, don’t get in it. I mean, obviously, use your discretion- I’m not going to let my 8 year old parachute off the house no matter how much she insists, but- you know what I mean. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and let people learn how to live. Trust your own wise instincts. Trust the Universe. Trust God, if that is what you do. See what happens when you finally let go.

Posted in Addiction, advice, funny, health, Life, Musings, People, random

Pain: The Best Motivator

dental pain

Pain has always been a great motivator for me- nothing pushes you into action faster or more seriously than pain does, be it emotional, mental, or, as in my current predicament, PHYSICAL. Tooth pain, to be exact. Boy, I forgot what a nightmare a painful tooth can be. It’s been a long time since I’ve suffered through it, now that I’ve had dental insurance for the past decade. Before that, it was something I went through pretty regularly, unfortunately. A combo of bad genes and drug abuse made sure of that. For the past long time, though, I’ve taken really good care of my teeth- regular cleanings, fillings replaced, I’ve done it all.

All except for one thing. I have this stupid wisdom tooth, you see. It has needed to be pulled for at least a year, but…it wasn’t bothering me, so I ignored it. I have nothing against most dental procedures. I’ve even been known to fall asleep during a root canal. But extractions? Dear sweet baby Jesus, no. You would think, with all the advances in dentistry, that they could come up with something a little less…medieval torture chamber, right? It’s just BRUTAL the way they go about it. So, knowing this, and thinking back to my last wisdom tooth extraction, where, I shit you not, I had a black eye afterwards…I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger. No pain, no point, right?

Oh my God, so wrong! Why, oh why, did I wait? Last Friday, I’m sitting here, innocently sipping my coffee, when all of the sudden, it feels like a high voltage drill is boring into the pulp of my tooth. There was no warning, no hint that anything had changed. Just sudden, shocking, electrifying pain. My hands are sweating as I write this, as I am now permanently braced for the next jolt. I am SO MAD at myself.

But you know what? It motivated the hell out of me, that’s for sure. I have an appointment to get this sucker yanked this Friday, and I’m actually looking forward to it. Funny how pain can change ones perspective, eh? From fear to excitement? You bet your ass. And guess what else? I will not even be awake for the procedure, either. They are knocking me out and when I wake up, one less tooth for this girl.

In the meantime, it’s a steady diet of Aleve and Listerine mouth wash for me, not to mention little pauses while I try to use Lamaze breathing through the pain. Luckily, it only hurts sometimes, not all the time. At least, not yet. Keep your fingers crossed for me. And never, ever wait to deal with your teeth. I promise you, it just isn’t worth it.

Posted in Addiction, advice, faith, health, Life, Mental Health, recovery, twelve step

Patience in Recovery

meth brain

I was sitting here googling random shit this morning, as one does, and somehow “Why are some people naturally more kind than others?” morphed into “Long term effects of methamphetamine on the brain”, which, in my case, aren’t necessarily unrelated to one another. Basically, I was wondering if my inability to be as kind as I’d like to be could be linked to damage in my brain caused by years of INSANE quantities of meth in my body.

It seems like there is good news and bad news. The good news is that, by now, my brain has mostly healed from all the harm I did to it. There are certain parts of my brain that might never be okay again, but as far as my behavior, moods and that sort of thing goes, it’s all me at this point. As far as “they” know, anyway. The bad news is, this means I am just naturally a bit of an asshole, but I don’t think this is breaking news. And, unlike most of the assholes out there, at least I’m trying to change. Actually, I have no idea what the other assholes are trying or not trying to do, I’m just angling to make myself look good. Shocker. Also, thanks to my years of chemical dependency, I have a higher chance of dementia and Parkinson’s, which I’m not thrilled about, but what can I do?

One thing I did find really interesting, though, is that I now have scientific evidence supporting what I have been claiming for a long time- your brain needs ample time to heal after your cessation of meth. I mean, duh, right? But this is not something anyone was able to reassure me of after I first got clean, and I thought I was going mad. If I wasn’t using anymore, why did I still act so crazy? Why was I still so full of anger and rage? Why couldn’t I control my emotions at all? In short, why was I still exhibiting all of the behaviors I associated with my drug use, but I wasn’t even using drugs?!

Although I was seeing some progress in my life in these areas, it was incredibly frustrating how slow it went, and how terrible I felt. I didn’t understand. I thought maybe it wasn’t the drugs after all, and maybe I was just a horrible monster of a person. My doctor strongly recommended that I go on an antidepressant or something, but I was so turned off by the idea of using another drug, even one prescribed to me. I knew that something wasn’t right, but my instincts urged me to wait and see. And so I did.

It took between 18 months and two years before I saw a significant change in my behavior- enough so that I felt passably sane. At 3.5 years, I can tell you that I am probably the best I have ever been in my adult life. I used drugs for most of my entire adult life, approximately 20 years. For someone who did more growing up and less drugs, I expect the recovery time would be shorter.

The point is this: be patient with yourself. Not only do you need time to grieve the time you lost and the damage you did, not only do you have to relearn, or even learn for the first time, how to exist in the “normy” world, but your brain has to heal physically. Meth might not be considered physically addictive, but this does not mean it does no physical, quantifiable damage. It does. Look it up, see for yourself the pictures of a brain six months after cessation of drug use. Actually, never mind, I’ll just post the picture so you can see for yourself.

My advice to anyone in early recovery from methamphetamine is to be patient. The changes will come, but maybe not as soon as you would hope. Commit to stick it out, and before too long, you’ll see the person you had always hoped to be under all the bullshit. With a lot of work, love and faith, it’s never too late to become the very best version of yourself. 🙂

 

Posted in advice, anxiety, Depression, faith, health, inner peace, Life, magic, manifestation, meditation, Mental Health, mindfulness, People, spirituality, the occult

Just DO it.

just do it
Thanks, Nike.

Early, early this morning, because it was a full moon and I am not a night person in ANY way, I did a little candle ritual to get rid of this negative energy that’s been clinging to me like a second skin lately. I also saged myself and my house, and left all my crystals outside to charge in whatever glimpse they might have gotten of the moon through the thick fog that blankets the coast in the summer months. Yeah, I do all of that stuff. I’ve been listening to podcasts about magic and manifestation (they aren’t all that different, to be honest), I’ve been reading books about mindfulness and journaling. I also started taking magnesium, because I’ve heard it is effective at easing depression. I’ve seen my therapist, I’ve gone to meetings, I’ve reached out to friends. In short, I have used almost every weapon in my arsenal to yank myself out of this funk I have been in. There are two things that I haven’t done- well, one, as of yesterday- and they are these: Take TRUE action and take medication. I don’t happen to have any medication laying around to take, obviously, but I am not averse to doing such a thing- going to my doctor and saying “Hey, nothing I am doing is working. I need some help.”, but I will tell you this, it is the very last thing I ever want to do. I’ve been lucky so far and it hasn’t come to that, but rest assured, if it did, I would do what I needed to do. I would never shame someone for needing that kind of help. Depression is an endless-seeming nightmare, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Everyone I’ve spoken to about the way I’m feeling inevitably asks the same question- “Why are you depressed? What’s wrong?” And it is almost funny, but not really, because…seriously? That isn’t how depression works. And I don’t know. There’s nothing wrong, nothing has changed, I just feel awful and I can’t shake it. Trust me, I’m TRYING.

Taking TRUE action though, the other thing I hadn’t done until yesterday, I know isn’t an option for everyone who is clinically depressed. I don’t think that’s what I am, although I certainly have potential (the one instance where not living up to my potential is a good thing!). I am more like…lightly depressed. A salad with a side of depression. Still showering, still getting dressed when necessary, just really upset about having to do those things. So, for ME, I know that if I can just get myself moving, I will probably feel better. Only I don’t want to do that. I want to sit here, in my robe, with my hair in a fraying braid, eating ice cream out of the container and watching “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” with the blinds closed.

My daughter called me the day before yesterday, and I huffily paused my show to take her call. She asked how I was, and I told her the truth. This kid, she has struggled with depression off and on for years, and she had some advice for me. I told her “I just keep thinking ‘tomorrow will be better, tomorrow will be better’  but it’s the same thing!” and she goes “mom, you can’t do that- you have to just get up and make yourself do something- I even wrote it on my dry erase board-‘JUST DO IT’, and I look at it all the time. It really helps!”

Of course, I rolled my eyes (she couldn’t see me) and said “I know you’re right, I will.” with absolutely no intention of doing any such thing. Later that night I messaged a friend of mine- “I really need to get my shit together. I can’t go on like this.” I went to bed, and in the morning, I read his response: “Just do it, then.”

Hmm.

As woo-woo as I am, you won’t find it hard to imagine that I strongly believe in synchronicity, and messages from the Universe coming through in any way that they can. Just Do It. From two people who care about me, two people who couldn’t be more unlikely to have conspired behind my back to get this through to me.

Fine, then.

Yesterday, after work, instead of slipping into my couch-coma as I am wont to do, I grudgingly put my shoes on and ordered my small child and my dog into the car. I drove to the beach, and I grudgingly got out of the car, ordered my whining child and super excited dog out of the car, and trudged morosely up the hill and over the dunes. It was freezing cold and super windy, and for some reason, by the time we made it down to the water, both of us humans were smiling. The dog was smiling the entire time, of course. We didn’t go far or stay long, but that wasn’t the point. The point was just to do it. By the time we got back to the car, my ears hurt like hell from the cold wind, but I felt…alive. As if I were actually existing inside my body and life, rather than from somewhere outside of it.

We went to Petsmart, bought some dog shampoo and a big bone for Lucy, and when we got home I gave her a bath. She hasn’t had a bath in several months- the only one who hates her bath more than I do is her- but I was bound and determined to do it, and I did. She was such a good girl- she got right into her little tub and lay down, and I used a pitcher to rinse the filth off of her. When she was done, I dried her with a towel, and she pranced around, feeling pretty, the way dogs do after a bath. Five seconds before she went and rolled in the dirt out back. Goddammit.

The point here is, I did some things. And after I’d done them, I felt better. I took myself out to dinner, alone, and had a smashing time. I was in bed by nine, and that’s okay, too. So now, my job is not to lose my momentum. I’m not out of the woods yet. As soon as I hit publish on this bad boy, I’m throwing on some yoga pants and heading out for a little while- back to the beach, and then to a meeting.

Do I believe in my candle rituals and manifestation boards and crystal energy? Do I believe that my prayers are heard and that meditation helps, and that talking about what is wrong matters? YES. I believe all of that. But I also believe that we need to meet the Universe, meet God, meet whoever or whatever is out there halfway. Whether that means asking our doctor for help with our brain chemistry, or getting up and out of the house, putting away the ice cream and opening the blinds- that’s a personal decision. We can’t just wait for miracles to fall out of the sky.

So…just do it. Whatever it is. Sorry, Nike, I’m borrowing your catchphrase,

Posted in advice, faith, inner peace, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People, spirituality

Magic

magic
Credit: Danielle Laporte

Don’t you think that life is magical? The beauty of it all, it gets lost sometimes in the routine, I know, but really…do you ever stop, right in the middle of your day, and think about how miraculous life is?

I see it every time I watch my daughter sleep- the perfect slope of her nose, the dark fringe of her eyelashes against her cheeks, the smoothness of her skin. That I get to bear witness to her innocence, that I get to protect it, and to take part in the unfolding of her childhood…what a gift that is.

Last night, I sat out on my porch just before darkness fell, and I watched a sea gull soaring through the sky, bright white and graceful against the darker clouds, and I was swept away by the beauty of it all.

Yesterday, I felt the peace of all these cumulative days of meditation like a living thing inside of me. At any moment, I could call upon that serenity and relax into it. I can do it now, and it feels a lot like magic, to me.

All of this is to say that there is something available, all the time, in all of us, that wants to capture these moments, that wants so badly for us to be here, be aware of them. It’s up to us whether we notice or not.

I struggle, sometimes, against the Gremlin in my head that tells me everything that is wrong with me, and has a list handy, at all times, of all of my personal failings- past, present, and future. I haven’t mastered the ability to evict him, not yet, but I must be getting close…he gets very active when I am clearing another hurdle. The Gremlin doesn’t want me to be happy, or to love myself, because he knows that when I get there, he won’t have a place to live anymore.

I feel bad for the Gremlin. I really do. But this is my life, and I want…no, I deserve to be happy. Everyone does. In a few minutes, I am going to jump into the hectic river of my daily life, scrambling to get ready, to get Cam ready, to do all of the things that must be done to keep this well-oiled machine chugging along. But in these last few moments that are solely mine, I am choosing to remind myself:

Life is beautiful.

This life is mine, and in everything I do, I really do have a choice, no matter what.

I am fine EXACTLY the way that I am.

I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams.

I can choose to be happy, I can choose to let go of anger, I can choose peace.

I don’t have to believe the Gremlin.

Today will be as good as I make it.

Happy Friday. I hope you don’t let your Gremlin win today.