Posted in anxiety, faith, family, health, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random

Gratitude, Fear, and Compassion

gratitude in hard times

Here is a question for you- do you think gratitude and fear can coexist? Can they live in the same mind, spirit, body at the same time? If you would have asked me that question two weeks ago, I think my answer might have been different. But today, my answer is yes.

I know this to be true because I am living it right now, right in the chair where I sit. I am grateful, so incredibly grateful, for my health. For the fact that, in a few minutes, it will be time for me to start work and I get to do it in the comfort and safety of my own home, while my daughter sleeps peacefully in the other room. You have no idea what a blessing that routine and normalcy is for me today! I am grateful for the food in my fridge. And for the first time in my life, I have a true sense of gratitude for the people who are keeping our country intact- the nurses, the grocery store employees, the truck drivers, the delivery drivers. I just never gave it much thought before. But today, I am. I am so very grateful for them.

And right beside my gratitude is fear. I am afraid for my parents- my mom, especially, because for whatever reason she just isn’t taking this seriously. I’m afraid for myself and also my daughters, especially the little one who has reactive airways- in other words, asthma when she is sick. Losing all of the things I take for granted, the little luxuries in life like…running to the store, grabbing dinner out, visiting farmer’s market…that is scary, and surreal and weird. The last time I was in the grocery store, I ran through as fast as I could, wanting nothing more than to wash my hands. Counting the days past my last interaction with the world, hoping I don’t start getting a sore throat or a fever. Because it’s just Cam and I in this house, and I need to be able to care for her. This virus is in our community- I think it has been long before we got our first positive test- and I am not ashamed to admit I’m afraid. I think, if you are not a little nervous, you really should be. A little bit of fear, in this case, is healthy.

But from this gratitude and fear, a third thing was born, not just for me but for lots of people all around the world, and this has been the most beautiful part of all. Compassion. Compassion that makes people more generous and giving at once than I have ever seen. We are collecting money for families in need, giving whatever we can wherever it is needed. My sister-in-law started sewing reusable masks yesterday, and I bought a whole bunch from her so that I can give them away. She was making them for free for her family in the medical field, but she’ll need money to buy the stuff and now she’s probably got more orders than she can handle. People are donating blood, fostering animals, checking on neighbors. Giving and giving even when our lives are so precarious.

And how can that be? How is it that two weeks ago, we didn’t have it to give, and suddenly now we do? And I’m sure you gave what you felt you could before, right? I know I did- I gave my donation to the ACLU, to the United Way. I’d throw my extra dollar to St. Jude’s or whatever when I was asked. But suddenly, we are finding ways to dig deeper and give more, right? How is that?

Well, to me it’s pretty clear…when we get a reality check like the one we are getting today, you understand well- it’s people who matter. Our communities matter dearly to us. Our neighbors, our favorite local restaurants, the grocery clerk whose name we never learned- they matter to us. And by extension, their families and lives matter to us. Our protective instinct has been awakened, and though the circumstances are awful, our response is pretty breathtaking. We are remembering how to be a tribe. We are aware that we are a global community- some of us understanding it for the first time ever. What harms our neighbors, whether across the street or across the globe, can harm us as well. We’d do well to remember this when the danger has passed.

And so, as I sit here this morning, a bundle of nerves and love, gratitude, compassion, and fear…I will say to you what I have been saying to everyone lately. I love you all. Please stay safe.

 

Posted in adventure, anxiety, faith, happiness, inner peace, Life, love, meditation, Mental Health, Musings, People, spirit, spirituality

Turning Toward the Pain

If you have been following along on this scribbled down leg of my life’s journey with me, then you know that I have been through some STUFF. Since I started this relationship with WordPress years ago, I have shared my stories of addiction, recovery, relapse, and more recently, my exit from recovery. I have talked about guilt, shame, parenting fails, anxiety, depression, and probably a trillion other things I couldn’t possibly remember right now. I have talked about God, about my spiritual life, about my desire to evolve, be better, do better. I write a lot about the times I get up, and I probably write a lot more about the times when I feel knocked down. These are the things I need to speak from my heart more urgently. These are the things I feel called to share.

If you have ever thought “Man, this poor girl can’t catch a break- it’s always something!” I want to be clear that there are always times when I could choose to take a time-out. There are probably months worth of posts where I have been gliding along, feeling peaceful, overflowing with gratitude. But it is my nature to seek. I feel in my soul the urge to grow and change and untangle the knots of who I am. It is inherently part of what makes me me.

This latest little series of posts is no different- although, of course, it is different than anything else I have been through. It’s just a new set of interesting things I am sorting through and figuring out. I am not lost, I am not in over my head, I am not losing my hold on reality. I do not need to be fixed. I am not broken. To the contrary, I am strong, resilient, capable, and independent to a fault.

On that note, I want to tell you that it is entirely possible to be strong, resilient, capable and independent, and still be a walking vessel for fear. I am still afraid, all the time, about things I can’t control. Most, if not all, of them are made up scenarios in my head that I dream up to torture myself. Why do I do this? I couldn’t say. Perhaps I spend too much time alone and have a bit too much going on in the imagination department. If my life were a TV show,ย  the scenes unfolding in my head would be hilarious. Unfortunately, this is real life, and they aren’t funny in the moment.

I am going through a little phase of this right now. My anxiety is flaring up, my imagination is firing on all cylinders, and the fear is revving its engine, just waiting to tear off down the track, dragging me behind it. And you know what? WHATEVER.

That’s the word I’ve chosen to deal with all of it. WHATEVER. Okay, brain, fine, do your worst. I’m just gonna hang on and let this thing play itself out. I can survive it. I’ve done it a million times before. I have done therapy, read books, reasoned with myself, tried distraction, prayer, meditation…you name it. So, fine. If I insist on continuing this way, then whatever. I accept it.

No, you know what? I more than accept it. This feeling in the pit of my stomach, the harbinger of nerves to come? I embrace it. This feeling comes from a place of deep, if misguided, love. And how lucky am I to love so much that sometimes it hurts me? I wish that my relationship with love didn’t hold so much fear, but right now it does, and while I am working on a solution, I want to take a moment to acknowledge how brave my spirit must be…to be so afraid, and still be able to love the way I do. At least when it comes to my children, I am an open channel of never-ending love, and it is terrifying, but it is also the best, most beautiful part of my life.

So today, rather than admonish myself for my inconvenient feelings, I am going to turn towards them. Turn towards the pain and the fear, and say “I see you. I get it. I understand why you keep showing up.” Maybe I just need to learn to sit with it, instead of always running away. Show my fear, and the pain it causes, some tenderness and understanding, because it’s a part of me, and it comes from a place in me that is hurting. I am not broken. But there are depths I have not explored and places inside that I keep locked away, even from myself. I’m getting closer, all the time, to letting the light in.

I think it’s pretty human to want to get away from things that don’t feel good. Whether it’s a bad pair of shoes, or feelings that make us uneasy or cause us distress- pain, fear, worry, jealousy, anger, sadness. We always want the sunny ones, but the darker ones we feel the need to change, resolve, hide, analyze, fix. But there is value in the painful stuff. There’s a reason, and there’s growth there…painful feelings are trying to tell us something we need to hear. Sometimes it’s just hard to listen because we can’t be still with them. I’m going to try really hard to listen this time.

Feeling less than okay is okay. Today I give myself permission to feel my feelings without judging them or trying to change them, with no expectation of a different outcome. I just want to see how it feels to do something different. I want to see where this path leads.

Posted in anxiety, Depression, family, happiness, kids, Life, love, Mental Health, mental illness, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, women

It’s Not Just About Me

I come to you this morning with my messy pony-tail and my ratty old robe, having not left this house once since around 3 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, and only then because I had no choice. I was out of kitty litter, and the house was starting to smell pretty bad. The only reason I even noticed this was because I shielded my tender little eyeballs from the sun and ran a bag of trash out to the cans in another one of my weird surges of efficiency earlier that day. When I came back in, the smell about knocked me over. Apparently, sitting in the reek all day was fine, but discovering it after a brief moment of fresh air was unacceptable. So, to the store I went.

Of course, I went to the store in my beat up old sweatshirt I’d slept in, didn’t bother with my hair, and had a face so free of makeup that it looked as if I’d left my eyelashes at home on the bathroom counter. I have absolutely colorless eyelashes, I tell you. Anyway, it follows that I ran into a “friend” from Facebook in the produce section at Target. I say “friend” in quotations because, although we have interacted quite often, and for some length of time, this was our first time meeting in real life. At least she recognized me. I was about as mortified as I am capable of being at this point, which is to say, not much.

Here’s the thing. My anxiety has been strangled into submission by pure stubbornness, it seems. But left in its wake has been something I can ONLY describe as depression. Like, I have never been so disinterested in everything before in my freaking life. I’m even bored with the idea of being depressed. Like seriously, what the fucking fuck? Can I just pull it together for five minutes or WHAT? I’m sure it has everything to do with my period showing up Sunday, and that the minute my hormone levels start rising or falling or whatever they’re supposed to do, I’ll feel marginally better, but…my God, I’m OVER IT.

I’ve even been grouchy to my pets. It seems like Lucy (my black lab) is forever nudging her head into my lap, probably sensing that I desperately need some kind of support. And I am forever perfunctorily patting at her ears for half a second before pushing her away irritably, telling her “GO!”

I watched this little video snippet yesterday of a mother reading aloud a little thing she wrote about the fleeting nature of childhood- the way our babies turn to toddlers, then children, then adolescents and so on. And how, at every stage, we think we have so much more time…but really, we don’t. Take it from me, with my 21 year old and my 8 year old who were both, somehow, born like a year ago. It feels that way, anyway.

That video jarred something open in me. You know, I’ve been so incredibly busy being self-obsessed, trying to figure out not only what is wrong with me but how to fix it, that I had completely forgotten that I am shaping the life experience of others. Namely, my small daughter and my pets. I wasn’t thinking about anyone else because I was thinking so much about me. You know, I don’t have forever. Camryn won’t be small for too much longer, and Lucy…well, she’s 7 already. For a Lab, that’s up there in years. I may not be Camryn’s whole world, but I’m a huge part of it, and for Lucy, I AM it. I have no right to push her away when she needs a pat or a little reassurance that I’m okay.

So, just like that, I changed my attitude. On my lunch break, when I jumped in bed to take a little snooze, I patted the bed and invited Lucy up there with me- a rare treat- and we snuggled for 30 minutes. It didn’t escape my notice that she yelped a little bit in pain when she attempted to leap up onto the bed. I don’t have forever. I am her person. She deserves my love, even when I don’t feel very loving.

Cam, who’d spent the day with her dad, came home to find a big sign I’d made for her- big bubble letters of her name, decorated with flowers and vines, and various declarations of love. Just a little dumb thing to let her know I was thinking of her.

Here’s the thing- it made ME feel a thousand times better. Loving on my dog, playing with the kitten (who, incidentally, has the best, loudest, juiciest purr you’ve ever heard), petting the more stoic and reserved Frankenstein (my black kitty), taking a moment to do something sweet for my kid…I did it for them, but it helped me. I forgot how that worked. I forgot that when we think of and do for others, it takes us out of ourselves and fills us up with something wonderful.

So, I’m a mess- there’s no getting around that. I’m a mess that is always working towards a solution, though, and I am proud of that. But I figured something out yesterday at least- I’m not going to find happiness searching the very place where all the trouble is originating. That happiness I want is not inside my head. It’s over on the couch as we speak, snoring way too loudly for a dog, waiting for me to stand up so she can follow me anywhere I happen to be going. It’s in the little body in my bedroom, drooling on my pillow, waiting to see what adventures this day holds. Yes, I’m a mess. But I have the best tools in the world to lift me up, out and over. People and creatures who love me far more than I probably deserve.

Today, that is more than enough.

Posted in anxiety, Depression, Goals, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, women

Kicking Ass

I told you that I was about to shift gears around here, and apparently, I actually meant it. I don’t have a ton of time this morning, thanks to the 45 minutes I just wasted playing video slot machines with fake money that nevertheless absolutely makes me stress like actual money, but I digress. (PS: that shit is really fun, but I don’t dare connect it to my Facebook account for more free coins because I don’t want anyone to worry that I’m on drugs- trust me, it really is a druggie thing. Also, trust me, I am seriously NOT on drugs. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Anyway, I have been a veritable whirling dervish since we last talked- not a literal one, I just looked up what “whirling dervish” is and it’s some kind of religious thing. So that’s not it. What I mean is, I’ve been kicking ASS around here. Handling my business. Folding laundry, keeping the sink clear of dishes, seeing a piece of garbage on the floor and actually picking it up instead of walking past it forty three times before I realize it’s probably me who needs to dispose of it. I’m serious, that’s a thing I do. I honestly forget that I’m the one in charge around here.

All this to say, I am working hard to change the way I go about my day. I’m not just over here being sad or frustrated that my life doesn’t look the way I want it to- that I KNOW it CAN, if only, if only, if only. Because all that lamenting and gnashing of teeth has gotten me fuck-all. I suppose I’m finally putting on my big girl panties and taking charge.

And it feels good. Really, really good.

Has my anxiety magically disappeared? Am I suddenly glowing with some incandescent inner light born of joy? Um, no. This is more like a grim, head down, advance into war kind of thing I’ve got going on right now. Because I am fighting this bullshit that’s been trying to take over around here for some time now, and I don’t know if that is the right way to deal with it, but…nothing else has worked so far. Self- love, mantras, deep breathing- none of it is getting me the results I need so desperately. But grim determination feels like the start of a solution.

For example, my kitten gouged- I mean, really messed me up kind of gouged, my tender inner arm on Monday. I don’t know if you guys read the post, but a cat scratch was the trigger that started this whole bout of anxiety. It’s kind of horribly embarrassing, but yeah…I wound up in the hospital, demanding rabies shots because of a panic attack. The scratches this time were WAY worse. Super deep, instantly bruised, just gross. I washed them thoroughly, cleaned them up, and…well, I went on with my life. Have I been checking them obsessively to make sure I don’t have an infection, or blood poisoning? Maybe a little bit. Did I double check her shot records to make sure she had all her vaccinations? You know I did. But there has been no panic, no tears, no freaking the fuck out. I’m doing what any reasonable person would do- keeping an eye on things and waiting to see what happens. That is a big, big deal. I’m proud of myself.

I’m not going to let anxiety rule my life anymore. I meant what I said. I’m going to whip this house into order so that I can enjoy my surroundings. When the worry wants to push me until I can’t back up any further, I am not going to give in. I’m going to push back. When the anxiety leaves me weary and worn out…well, I’m just done letting it do that to me. I’m not just tired of it. I’m mad at it. I guess that’s okay, for now. I think it helps me get a hold of myself, and that’s exactly what I need to do. I’ve sort of indulged my fanciful mind a bit too much…let it take me along for some rides that I am not tall enough to be on, you know?

Anyway, don’t worry- I’m not stomping around here, cursing and banging things around. I’m just…I’m just having a growth spurt I guess. Not the physical kind, but the internal kind. I’ve been having the growing pains and now it’s time for me to exercise this new strength. I hope that’s what this is. I’m calling it that.

Okay, off to shower! I have new things to conquer today.

Posted in anxiety, Goals, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, motherhood, Musings, People, women

Raising my Standards

anxiety

I want to tell you something: If you are new to this blog, say, within the past few months- you have not gotten to see a very accurate picture of who I am. For whatever reason, my normally somewhat simmering anxiety got the heat turned up underneath it and started boiling over. During that time, since December I’d say, I had a lot of stuff happen that I couldn’t really control. I have been shaken down to my core, and that’s the truth. My self confidence plummeted, and I often have felt like a passenger in my own life, not really at the wheel, sort of at the mercy of whatever too-strong emotion wanted to drive that day. When your mind has turned on you, it is a very, very scary thing. I have not felt strong, or capable, or well at all.

But I have been working hard to deal with it. I have doubled down on therapy, listened to podcasts about overcoming anxiety, bought lots of books about it, I’ve had acupuncture and meditated twice a day sometimes. I take deep, deep breaths and I talk myself down, and I try really hard to talk sense into a mind that is…well, panicking. Creating fantastic scenarios of terrible events that are unlikely to ever take place. This has been the focus of my life for too many weeks now. And it is EXHAUSTING. I have heard things like “There’s nothing for you to be anxious about” or “You just need to get over it” or “Maybe just don’t focus so much on it” and quite frankly, I’d like to send out a big FUCK YOU to those people. Because anyone who has dealt with it knows that THAT IS NOT HOW ANXIETY WORKS. DUH. Do you think I enjoy this shit, Barbara? No, no I do not. The way my brain is wired, the hormones and chemicals that make up the little ecosystem or whatever of ME, make me a little more prone to slipping off the edge, and believe me when I tell you that I do not have time to be crying, curled up in the fetal position in the corner.

I am a professional. I have a job I work 40 hours a week at and the handsome paycheck I receive every two weeks goes to support my little family of children and pets and myself. I am a mother. I am a single mother at that, taking 90% care of my 8 year old, and by that I mean: I pack the lunches, wash the laundry, run the baths, keep the house, do the shopping, read the books, oversee homework, dry the tears, play drill sergeant every morning, drop-off, pick-up and try to fit quality time in there as well. That doesn’t even include taking care of myself, balancing the books, paying the bills, or feeding and caring for this freaking menagerie of animals I have.

So, even when I am so anxious that I want to sit in the tub with the shower just spraying me in the head, I DO EVERYTHING ANYWAY. Life does not stop just because my thoughts are running wild and my heart is pounding so hard I can hear it in my ears.

Do you know what that means? That I am so incredibly, amazingly strong. That, even with my mental health in the shitter, I am still KILLING IT. I am a motherfucking warrior. I don’t think the people who give me shitty, condescending advice would survive one 24 hour stretch in my mind the way it’s been lately. But it would be fun to watch them try.

Anyway, I am still not 100%. But things are getting better, and I think I might understand a little better where all this ultra-anxiety is coming from. One long, stupid word: Perimenopause. My spell check is telling me that is not a word, so maybe I spelled it wrong, but you ladies of a certain age know what I’m talking about. That’s right- my lady business is starting the long, arduous process of closing up shop. My estrogen levels are plummeting, and my brain is going haywire, and all I can do is hang the fuck on. It’s taken my “normal” anxiety and turned up the volume to like 457.

So no, I am not where I’d like to be. But I can tell you this- I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I am not just surviving hour by hour anymore, which is amazing. I am feeling my fight come back, and oh lord, how I need that fight right now. Without my spunky nature, without my ability to find the silver lining, to overcome every obstacle life throws at me…I am just not me. I lost myself pretty thoroughly for a minute there.

But I am back, and I am DETERMINED to wring every bit of good out of this bullshit I am dealing with, and turn it into something great. And that means it’s time to raise the bar a whole lot. I am going to self-care the shit out of myself, and I don’t mean bubble baths and pedicures. I’m talking about meeting life head on and DEALING with all the little problems I have let slide while I’ve been freaking out, and taking my life back to where it was…and then going way past that spot. I want to be happy. I deserve to be happy.

So, from here on out, I will be posting what I am doing to make that goal a reality, and sharing why these things are necessary for ME to have the life I want to have. I might not have a choice about whether this anxiety stays or leaves, I might not be able to control my hormones and chemistry (completely), but I do get some say in how much I allow myself to be slowed down. And today I am choosing to blast right through the barriers.

Stay tuned!

Posted in anxiety, escape, family, fun, happiness, kids, Life, Musings, People, random

Vacation Brain

So, today, at 2:00 p.m., we leave for our long awaited trip to Tahoe! I am so excited! We had to postpone going in February because it has just been dumping snow in the Sierra-Nevada’s, but things have mellowed out (fingers crossed!) and we should be good to go now.

Anyway, according to my reservation, I have been upgraded to a suite, which is SO cool, because at the last second my older daughter decided she wanted to go. I am really looking forward to a couple of days with both my kiddo’s! You have no idea. We never really do much as a family now that Aisley is out on her own…she’s 21 and doesn’t have much use for her 8 year old sister. So, this will be cool. Well, hopefully it will be. We do have a five hour car ride to get through.

Anyway, I should have been preparing all week for this. I should have been cleaning and doing laundry and packing, but…true to my ADHD nature, I haven’t done shit. So today, while I work, I will also be doing laundry and trying to leave the house in a decent state. I have Cinamon coming over to house sit for me…maybe I’ll just offer her some money to do some cleaning while I’m gone.

So, we are going to be up in the snow, skiing and snow-boarding, sledding and hot tubbing, and we’ll probably take a trek into South Lake Tahoe so that my 21 year old can gamble a little for the first time ever! I’m just really excited to be getting away. I need it. This year got off to a rough start for me, and I’m ready for some fun. Trust me, pictures will follow.

In other news, this bout of anxiety seems to be relinquishing its hold on me, bit by bit. I think, when you are going through something like I have been going through, you begin to fear the anxiety so much that it creates a new kind of anxiety- anxiety about anxiety, if you will. You become nervous about it coming back, and therefore continue the cycle. Sort of a horrible self-fulfilling prophecy. You know, I have always been a tightly wound person. No one would ever describe me as “mellow” or “laid back”. That just is not who I am, no matter how much I wish it was. I am trying really hard to learn to accept myself the way I am, to not strive for an ideal that just is not me. There is plenty to love about who I am, and I need my own love right now, very much. So I am trying to change the running conversation in my head to one of love and positivity rather than despair and disappointment. This is no easy task. But like every hard thing I’ve gone through, I have no doubt I will succeed, and be better and stronger for it.

And that is how I know I am on the upswing- when I can see a glimmer of hope, find some excitement for the future, then I know the worst is behind me. I am going to go into this trip with no expectations and lots of love for my beautiful kids and myself, and just let things unfold as they will.

When I get home, I have some pretty big plans. I can’t wait to share them all with you. In the meantime, may your weekend be blessed, may you be surrounded by people and things that make you happy, and may you love yourself madly. Talk to you soon!

Posted in anxiety, family, friendship, fun, happiness, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, People, random

Unexpectedly Good

So, I’m going to have to make this quick- I just looked at my watch and realized with horror that it’s already after 6! This time change has me all screwed up, as usual. Anyway, I had an unexpectedly good weekend- a big deal, considering how hard things have been for me lately, at least internally. I wrote a few other blog posts this weekend that I did not end up publishing. Maybe someday I will, but I’ve made the unusual decision to keep certain things in my life private. I know that is out of character for me, but I think it’s a good idea. See? I CAN change.

Friday night, I drove to a neighboring town to pick up my eldest daughter. She had a photo shoot the next morning that I was supposed to go to with her. We drove home, and the two of us spent the evening watching a documentary about the Black Dahlia murder (She’s a true crime junkie like her mama) and eating steak with cauliflower and broccoli that we picked from the backyard garden. We had some good talks and it was just pleasant- one of those really great times that you hope for but can never predict.

Saturday morning, she realized she’d forgotten her clothes for the shoot and we didn’t have time to go get them, so ultimately, the shoot was cancelled. I did not allow myself to get all worked up about this, as it was not my problem, even though I had many, many opinions about how it might have been handled differently. Instead of going on a modeling shoot, we rearranged my bedroom together, cleaning along the way. Unfortunately, I don’t love the way it feels sleeping with my bed in this new direction, so I might have to move it again, but this is a big deal. I NEVER move my furniture around.

Saturday night, I met up with a friend of mine and her huge family for her birthday dinner at Benihana. I was nervous about hanging out with a bunch of people I didn’t know… I don’t know why. I forgot who I am, I guess. I had a ball. Every time I go out, just about, I have the time of my life. I made it home by ten, was asleep by 10:30. It was awesome.

Yesterday, the rain stopped for long enough that we could do our beach walk in Carmel with the dogs (I say dogs because I talked my daughter into leaving her Chihuahua with me for a while so I could take her to the vet and get her teeth looked at). It had been over two weeks since I’d been to the beach, and that is far too long! I need my outside time.

After that, we came home, I did some housework, and then I made dinner for us and my friend Cinamon and her daughter. I made a yummy veggie stew and also homemade macaroni and cheese for the kids. She brought bread and parm so we could have garlic bread, and we spent the evening talking and watching “oddly satisfying” videos on YouTube with the kids.

It wasn’t the most interesting or adventurous weekend, but it was just what my little anxiety riddled heart needed. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I feel like things are on the upswing. I really, really hope so.

Hope you had a fun weekend, too. I need to get ready for my day!