Posted in adventure, advice, Blogging, friendship, fun, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, manifestation, meditation, Musings, People, spirituality

Hi There!

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Me, excited to share my new endeavor with you all.

I just wanted to pop in here real quick and let you guys know that I am in the process of setting up a whole new WordPress blog! I am still trying to iron out all the kinks- the set up has changed a whole lot since I started this blog a million years ago, and it is making me feel like a goddamn dinosaur…maybe I should enlist the help of my 8 year old? She’s basically a part-time coding expert, thanks to countless hours of Roblox and freaking…what’s it called? That other one all the kids are gaga over? Anyway, whatever.

So, this will be something different for me! You know, my life has changed so very much over the past five years. I’ve grown up, finally, in so many ways. I will always still come here, to After The Party, to share parts of my life. But I am wanting to try something new, and I thought “Why not?”

For the longest time, every morning, before I would pray and meditate, I would read a…well I guess you could call it a devotional? Those short little daily readings to sort of set the tone for your day? I had trouble, eventually, finding ones that resonated with me. Too Christian, too cheesy, too out there. So I just stopped looking.

Well, lately, I have been keeping this running Word document where I would write (for myself) a little nugget of inspiration that sort of filtered into my brain from the ether. Sometimes it happened during or right after my prayer and meditation, sometimes it just popped into my head randomly out of nowhere, but whenever it happened, I knew that was the one- that was my idea for the day.

So, I’d run over to my desktop and pull up the document, and flesh out the little sliver I’d been given. I found that I was suddenly able to keep things relatively short and sweet (which you all know, if you read anything I write here, can be a bit challenging for me) and get to the point pretty easily. I’ve been collecting them for a while now.

They aren’t doing me any good just sitting in my computer. Well, they might be doing me some good, but I’m all about sharing. Plus, what a great way to make sure I write something daily, right?

So PLEASE, keep your eyeballs peeled for the updates, and follow my new blog when I post a link, if you feel like you might get something out of it…even if it is just a laugh. Look for “Notes From Elsewhere”. Coming soon to a WordPress site near you. 🙂

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Posted in adventure, advice, aging, happiness, Learning, Life, Musings, People, women

The Best Part

the best part

There’s this funny misconception about aging that has infiltrated basically every nook and cranny of our consciousness. I mean, it is pervasive. I see posts all the time in different groups I am in, women who are paralyzed with fear because “I’m already THIRTY and I’m still single!” or “I’m 27 and I still have no idea what I am doing with my life!”

Yes, I know- it’s weird to me, too. But in all fairness, most of us have been conditioned to believe that there is a formula of sorts to follow- a path we should take, reaching certain milestones along the way: 18, graduate high school, attend college. By 24 or 25, nail down a career, maybe settle down with someone. 27-29, we are thinking about marriage, children, all that jazz. Our 30’s are devoted to what? Saving, buying a house, raising kids, building our empire, investing in…whatever people invest in, I don’t know.

I don’t know because I didn’t do ANY of this shit. I did graduate from high school, albeit in a somewhat roundabout fashion. I basically dropped out somewhere along my sophomore year (laws were less restrictive then, and I had way too little supervision, quite frankly) and went back towards the end of my senior year to adult school, plus took the GED for high school credit. I am proud to say I got the highest score on my GED that they had ever had at that time, and I was 100% stoned out of my mind when I took it. So that was surprising. I didn’t get to walk with my class, but that was okay since I didn’t technically have a particular “class” to walk with. I spent nine months at one school and maybe four at another, so I didn’t exactly form life-long friendships. I have never been invited to a reunion, which is kind of sad, though.

Immediately after high school, I enrolled in community college, went twice, then sold all my books back for beer money and dropped out. At 24, I was one of the only one of my friends with a kid (she was two) and the thought of a career never entered my mind. By 29, the only thing I was thinking about was the fact that I was making really poor life choices and maybe I needed to figure out how to be less gross. What I’m trying to say is that I made some impressively bad decisions, followed absolutely no kind of path at all- unless you consider the equivalent of running blindfolded and naked through a forest a “path”, and you know what?

I still turned out pretty great. Yeah, I suffered a bit more than average, and yes, most of it was ultimately at my own hand. Sure, I had moments where I felt woefully behind, and definitely heard my share of “spinster” and “cat lady” jokes. But in all honesty, I have had a freaking incredible life. Even the shitty parts. My life has not been boring. I have LIVED it. Every stupid thing I did, every bad relationship, every relapse and stumble and heartache, gave me something invaluable: Wisdom.

At 44 years old, I have weathered a lot of stuff, and that stuff made me smart. But I didn’t just go through stuff and do nothing with the pain- as many of you know, I got help. I went to rehab (twice), I devoted myself to recovery and did ALL the stepwork. I might not be in recovery anymore, but I still learned so much about myself and how I wanted to show up in the world because of it. I went to therapy- I STILL go to therapy and probably always will. I learned about meditation, about diet and exercise, parenting and running a household like a responsible adult. Learning how to run your own life well is honestly a lot of fun.

There have been many times when my friends have sought me out for advice, and I love nothing more than getting to mull over an issue with them. Perhaps I am not the one to come to if you want sugar-coated bullshit, but if you want the truth, I will try to find a nice way to give it to you. Honestly? I really enjoy getting to share my hard-earned knowledge with someone who is ready to hear it. Not only does it make me feel like maybe I am helping, but it also makes me feel grateful for the things I have learned along the way.

When someone asks how they can get their boyfriend into recovery, I can tell them point blank “YOU can’t. Only he can do that for himself. Don’t take that shit on, because if you start now, you are going to get mighty resentful real quick.”

Yesterday, a girl I do not know posted something anonymously saying she was sure her boyfriend was up to no good- he basically slept with his phone in his pocket and never let it out of his sight. She went on to say he’d cheated in the past, etc., etc. Everyone who answered her seemed to be giving her tips on how to play detective, how to find out what was up.

Dude.

She hadn’t even tried talking to him about it honestly.

Lord have mercy. I told her to think about the bigger picture! This was her one precious life! Is this how she wanted to spend it, sneaking around, trying to gather information on a person she didn’t even trust? How would that benefit her in the long run? In my opinion, even confronting someone you don’t trust is a waste of time because you aren’t going to believe anything they tell you. At that point, it’s really already over. Yeah, with lots of work from both sides, you might have something salvageable. Maybe. But is “salvageable” really the way we want to describe our love lives? Ehh…I don’t know about you, but that’s not the stuff for me.

Wanna know how I arrived at this conclusion? Scroll back through my blogs to the very beginning, I’m sure you’ll find something. But if you can’t, I’ll just tell you- I lived it. I was that girl. And it sucked, it hurt, it drove me insane. I lived through it, I learned from it, and I am healed now. It took a long time.

Here’s the thing- I would not trade the experience I’ve gained for anything. My life was a colossal mess. Sometimes it was so bad, it hurt so much, that I didn’t think I could survive it. I didn’t follow the rules. I messed up a lot. I’ve still never been married or bought a house or even finished college. But I’m happy, and I’m secure, and I know myself. Once upon a time, the thought of relying on myself terrified me. Not anymore. The idea that I can depend on myself today is empowering and reassuring.

At 44, I like myself more than I ever have. I think this might be the very best part of my life so far. I am truly grateful for everything that shaped me into the woman I am today. And that really is the best part of all.

Posted in advice, happiness, Life, Musings, People, social media

You’re Allowed to be Happy

okay to be happy

The other day I was just brimming with happiness- I am sure you know what that feels like, but I want to tell you what it is like for me, in my wacky little ADHD brain, so indulge me, won’t you? I have what my therapist likes to call “BIG Feelings”. I get really, really excited, super bummed out, terribly disappointed, extremely angry, and incredibly happy. Even when I am feeling just blah, I am the most monotone blah there is…in other words, I’m a lot. One might even say I’m what the kids these days call “extra”. Except, not for, like, my nails and clothes and shit like that. Just emotionally.

So, much as I try these days to keep my personal life to myself on social media (excluding my blog, obviously, which I only occasionally post links to on Facebook, depending on the content), on this particular day I was just bursting-out-of-my-skin happy, and I wrote a vague-ish post about it. It said something like: “I know the world is weird right now, but I am happier than I’ve been in…I don’t know if I’ve ever been this happy, honestly. Like, Disney Princess happy. Not one part of my life is acting up right now and I am just so grateful.”

That was it, that was the post. I want to tell you that I hesitated before I hit “post” because…well, because I felt a little bit guilty for being happy. I mean, the state of things here in the US are NOT GOOD. Mass shootings. Mass deportations. Children sobbing for parents that have been rounded up and shipped off like animals…you’ve seen the videos, right? Then the comments. Oh, fuck, the comments make me sick with outrage. Accusing the kids of acting (I’m sorry, I have an 8 year old daughter- I know the sound of a heartbroken child.), saying how the parents “should have thought of that, it’s their own fault.”, or just plain cruelty-“Oh well”, “too bad”, etc. I don’t get it. I don’t understand people like that. And then there are the people still in cages, thousands of them. The corrupt government. Trump. God, he’s a nightmare. Climate change. Racism. Even the goddamn social justice warriors on the internet that jump down everyone’s throat the minute anyone says anything, however innocently, that might be the palest shade of offensive. I mean, I am on THEIR side and I find them intolerable. It’s just a big fucking mess here these days. I could go on and on.

But I posted it anyway. It was how I was feeling, with my big, big feelings, and I HAD to get it out. My friend Jen commented “I’m glad you posted this- I was feeling the same way today, but I felt weird posting about it with everything going on in the world. I’m happy for you.”

So, I wasn’t a weirdo, at least, for my strange guilt about feeling good in spite of the troubles in the wider world.

Then, another friend responded with “I’m glad you are happy. But I’m afraid you are not paying attention.”

Man…wow. Sooo…I am not allowed to be happy while there is chaos and tragedy unfolding in this world, is that it? Because that’s what I took from that. If that’s the case, I suppose I better forget about being happy ever again, because, as humans, the one thing we are really excellent at is inflicting misery on one another.

Honestly? I’m glad that person responded the way they did. It revealed to me how absurd it is to believe that anyone should feel guilty, ever, about being happy simply because unhappy things are going down in the world. It doesn’t mean we are happy about the tragedies and wrongdoings going down. Of course it doesn’t. But you know what? You sure can deal with a broken world more effectively from a place of love than from the dark. I can find the right words to speak to someone with an opposing view point far more easily when I am happy than I can when I am simply angry. I have access to empathy and kindness and gentleness when I feel good about my life, and can therefore find words that might make someone hear me. I don’t have to resort to insults and mud-slinging as I might when I am down.

My point? If you are happy, share it with the world. We need to find happiness in these bleak times- like attracts like, right? Contribute something useful, say something kind, do not feel guilty about feeling a glimmer of hope, or shining your light, or sharing your joy. Up the vibration. Find the good. Create some if you can’t find any. This world needs it more now than it ever has.

And when someone else shares their happiness out loud, for Pete’s sake, don’t knock them for it. Be happy for them- then you have a little happiness, too, for yourself. And that’s all you need to get started.

Posted in advice, Goals, happiness, health, inner peace, Learning, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, relationships, women

To Health!

to health

Everyone wants to be healthy, right? I mean, isn’t that true? When we talk about any aspect of our lives that we want to change, what we are really saying is that we want to see that area in alignment, we want it to be balanced, we want it to be healthy. We want healthy finances, healthy relationships, a healthy mind, and most of all, healthy bodies.

But have you ever stopped to think about what that might really look like? In some areas, it might be more easily definable than in others. Healthy finances, for instance- depending on where you are in life, this could mean anything from being able to pay your rent and bills on time without having to ask your parents for help, to building savings, improving your credit score, and having enough to take a nice vacation once a year. Hell, for me in my early thirties, I just wanted to have enough money that searching the couch cushions for spare change wasn’t something I had to resort to on a regular basis. (For the record, this level has decidedly been reached for me. Thank God.)

Still…even with wishes that are more quantifiable, we often remain oddly vague about what it is we are really after. I know I do this, anyway. I’ve had the same job for eleven years now, and it wasn’t until about two or three years ago that I started to formulate an actual plan for my money. Before that, it was just a wish. I “wished” I wasn’t broke all the time, I “wished” things were less scary, less scarce, and less overwhelming. One day, I made a decision that I was fed up with my money problems, and I wasn’t going to live like that anymore, and TA-DA! That’s when my financial problems went away. I wasn’t making more money, I wasn’t working more. I just stopped wishing and started taking charge. The more involved and aware I became, the easier it was to deal with, and the better things got. It wasn’t the money that was the problem, it was my feelings about money…especially my fear of not having enough of it.

I think the same can be said for whatever area of our lives needs improvement. Wishing things were better is not very helpful. Figuring out what is out of place, and how to resolve it, is.

When I put it like that, it sounds super easy, doesn’t it? Well, let me be clear about that: IT IS NOT EASY. It’s not easy to face your issues, it’s not easy to own your shit, and it is not easy, or quick, changing. I have spent the past five years (Oh, I so wanted to use the word “tweaking” here, but quickly realized how bad that word choice would be in my case. LOL.) doing so many different things, trying so many paths, just so that I could feel comfortable in my life. The financial part was the least of it! My mental health, my spiritual health, my relationships, my body- everything needed an overhaul. There were days when I thought it was useless and I might as well give up. There were days when I felt so good that I thought I would never get off track again.

I was learning, through all of it, what “healthy” looked like to me. Along the way, I have been lucky to learn that my new idea of what healthy is for me was not at all the crazy, unattainable picture in my mind that I started out with. That’s the great thing about taking charge and leading your own journey- you get to reevaluate and adjust your goals as you grow and learn.

Today, my ideal healthy body doesn’t require a pair of size five jeans to fit perfectly, and it doesn’t require a flat tummy, or even a particular number on the scale. My ideal healthy body is…confident in clothes or out. Strong. Sturdy and capable. I know that last part sounds a lot like a help wanted ad for a farm hand in 1890, but it’s true! I just want to keep working on how my body feels, because when my body feels strong, I feel pretty good about it. I’ve been 120 pounds and felt terrible in my skin because I was so unhealthy. Today, I eat pretty good, I move a lot more, and I feel proud of the changes I’ve earned.

A healthy mind and spirit doesn’t require me to spend hours on self analysis or aura cleansing or prayer and meditation. I just need to keep an eye on the content of my thoughts, be gentle with myself and others, and keep doing the things that have eradicated my anxiety (miraculously!) for the past few months. Healthy relationships? Well, I’m still learning here, but…basically, what works best for me seems to be just not being a grouchy asshole. Be nice. People just want to be treated nicely. Oh, also- pick the right people! The wrong people will be much harder to be nice to.

I guess my point is, yes it’s been hard. And even though I’m still evolving, as I’m sure I always will be, in the big picture five years is not all that long. Also, most people don’t start from where I started- I was really, really behind and really, really messed up. So, it might be easier for someone else. I like where I am in life, and I like who I am for once- I like who I am a lot. I mean it. That wasn’t something I could have said even a year ago. I might have tried a lot of stuff that ultimately didn’t pan out, but it all led me here, so…it was worth it.

Today is a great day to examine the parts of your life you’ve been avoiding, stop wishing it was different, and start taking steps to make it better. I promise you, you won’t regret it.

 

Posted in advice, family, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, Musings, People, random, social media

If You See Something, SAY Something

Last Sunday evening, I was sitting, sun burnt and happy, in this very chair, scrolling through Facebook when I saw an alarming post in a women’s group I’m in. “There’s an active shooter at the Gilroy Garlic Festival-local birds, please check in so we know you’re okay.”

I thought surely there must be some mistake. I mean, that is twenty minutes away from my house! I had almost gone this year for the first time ever, but we opted not to for whatever arbitrary reason. I quickly jumped onto a local news site, and sure as hell, it was true.  Right here, practically in my neighborhood.

It was just a short time ago that I was frantically messaging my friend Stephanie in Virginia Beach after a man there opened fire in a government building where he worked. That was right there, right in her town. She couldn’t believe it was happening in her hometown.

Yesterday, I was at Jiffy Lube, getting my oil changed, when I was alerted that there was a mass shooting in a busy Walmart in El Paso, packed with families getting back to school supplies. The stories I read were from people who were just grabbing unattended children and running for their lives…There was one other man in the waiting room at the oil change place with me. “There’s been another shooting.” I said, “In El Paso.” “Huh.” he said, and went back to his magazine.

This morning, I woke up to find there was another shooting, this time in Ohio. I haven’t read the news about it yet. I will, but I don’t really need to. I can make an educated guess that it was a white male, most likely in his late teens or early 40’s, though not always. He probably doesn’t like people who aren’t the same color as him. Maybe I’m wrong, but probably not. Chances are, he’s been posting something somewhere- maybe Reddit, maybe Facebook, Instagram, or some other, less well-known, more “white nationalist” flavored site. This will come out after the fact, as it always does.

I’m not even going to go into my feelings about how our current administration (and by that, make no mistake that I am pointing directly at the so-called leader here) is fueling the fires of racial tension with his behavior and words. If you can’t see that, I won’t be able to convince you otherwise.

What I want to talk about is this: Right now, there is going to be an upsurge in the same outcry we have heard time and time and time again- GUN CONTROL! We need GUN CONTROL! When are THEY going to DO SOMETHING?!

Kids, I hate to break it to you, but “They” are clearly not gonna do shit. We are on our own here. It is you, and your neighbors, and your communities full of people you love, children, elderly, families, teenagers, outcasts and recluses- all of US, against a few bad and dangerous, sick, volatile few.

It is up to US.

If you see something, SAY SOMETHING.

If someone you know posts something online that could be a joke, but also might not be- it is your responsibility to bring it to the attention of someone who can help.

If your SON is troubled and you worry about what is going on with him, maybe he says things you don’t support and he’s a little more angry than usual, but he’s your son, and you know he would never…it is your responsibility to step in.

It might be nothing. You might feel stupid, and like a snitch, and worry about making trouble for someone for no good reason. With nothing but love, I tell you this: Fuck that. This is no time for giving people the benefit of the doubt. Innocent people are literally being gunned down while they eat calamari at food festivals, while they wait for the next band to come on, while they buy their kids wide rule paper at Wal Mart. If there is even one billionth of a chance that you could somehow prevent the next slew of pointless deaths, you better jump on it.

In this weird era of disconnection from not only our neighbors but our loved ones- often loved ones living under the same roof- I think all this violence is a very good reason to reacquaint ourselves with our surroundings. Check up on your adult children. Make sure they are doing okay. Sit down with your high school kids, find out what is going on- REALLY going on- in their lives. Reach out to your neighbors. If you are like me, you probably know three or four people on your block, and only remember one of their names. We need to be better neighbors, better parents, better friends, and better community members. Because we are the eyes and ears. If we paid attention, maybe we could slow down these events. If we used our voices, if we spoke up when something made us worry or didn’t seem right, maybe we could save some lives.

I’m not placing the blame on anyone for these things except for where it belongs- squarely on the shoulders of the people shooting these guns. Ultimately, they are responsible. But the things THEY have heard and the way they interpret that information matters. And the people surrounding them, the people who know them, who read what they write and hear what they say, they matter too. Do not be afraid to speak up.

If you fucking see something, SAY SOMETHING. No one is coming to save us.

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.

 

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.