I’m struggling with my work today, and it’s due to a sense of increasing overwhelm and despair. A friend of mine died yesterday, ANOTHER friend of mine, and he was way too young. There are children being torn away from their parents in my country, which is currently being run by what seems to me like the Antichrist himself, and all of the many minions an Antichrist could ever need. On social media, people are either heartbroken and sickened over the direction our country is headed, or defensive and sickening. Discord is everywhere. Things are Not Good.
I think a lot. Probably too much. But some of those thoughts are helpful, and those are the ones I want to share today.
1.) Save your outrage. Save it up for something worthwhile. I figured out a while ago that it might feel good to get it all out on your Facebook page, but it doesn’t do any good there. Find a place to put it where it helps. Email your state representative (I did this today, and it was super easy), find an organization you can align yourself with, donate money or time. Channel that outrage into something productive.
2.) Step back. You can only know so much before it’s too much. At a certain point, you may find yourself reading the same bad news four or five times, or a slightly different version of it. I decided today that it’s time for me to get off the social media circus for a while, maybe even just for the rest of the day, maybe longer. My energy is not needed there. It helps no one, and it hurts me. I am not strong enough to not read the awful comments, I’m not smart enough to know when to shut up. So I need to be in charge of myself, and step back.
3.) This one is the most important: Love your life right this very second. Love that you are upright and breathing, and love every part of you that works. Love your shitty car, and your too-round middle, and your dog who thinks the bathroom garbage is his personal snack tray. Love your irritating kids and your boring job, find something to love about every part of your beautiful life. Because we are truly blessed, to live in this time, and to have what we do. And one day, it’s all going to stop. One day, there will be no more of any of it. And we don’t get to know when that day is. So fill your life with all the joy you can muster, right now. Don’t wait.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again- this world needs all the light it can get. Shine as brightly as you know how.
There is something strange and beautiful going on with me…I don’t know what in the world it is, but I am not even going to try to fight it. As a matter of fact, all I want to do is dive into it, explore it, see what this thing is that is calling to me. I’m going to try to explain it to you, and then you will probably think I am losing my mind, but I don’t know…to me, it feels much more like I am finding my place than losing anything.
I think it might have started a few weeks ago, when I caught sight of my (much maligned) nude body in the mirror. For maybe the first time in forever, I thought “Oh, wow, I’m actually pretty sexy!” Which is so strange, considering that I mostly tell myself what a mess I am. But, I caught myself off guard, and those were the words that popped into my head. You know, we are so conditioned, as women, to seek this crazy ideal of perfection in our bodies, and…I mean…I’m 43. I’ve given birth to two daughters. I don’t think I’ve ever seen evidence of an abdominal muscle in my body, EVER, not even at my thinnest. But I am also allowed to be sexy. Even if it feels almost embarrassing to commit those words to “paper” right now. This is what I thought, and how I felt, and I stand by it.
Then, I began this whole campaign to see my life with new eyes, to find the beauty and the joy and the magic in all of it. To really start my day with great intention, to meditate and be centered, to have my eyes open, to bring happiness to others whenever possible. In other words, and this just hit me right this very second, but to stop living as if there was something wrong that I needed to fix, and to start living in all that was already right. I honestly did not realize that was the shift that was happening until I was writing this. Which makes sense why this next thing happened:
So, as I meditated the other morning, I began to focus on my breathing. As I did so, it was as if I were separate from my body, observing my body breathing. Suddenly, I was filled with this crazy, tender, loving admiration for this body of mine. That it did everything I needed it to do to keep me alive, without me even having to think about it, every single day for 43 years now! My God! What a miracle. I had a memory then, of myself as a little girl of maybe six, sitting in the bathtub with my knobby little knees and pale skin, and I realized…that was the same body that I have right now. It has been with me through everything, and it still did everything for me. I’m not kidding, I know how silly this sounds, but even writing about it right now, I am getting tears in my eyes. For the first time in my life, maybe, I just feel this deep love for my body. If you are a woman, especially, you will understand what a mind blowing experience this must have been. I have never felt this way so deeply before. I’m so grateful! Because somewhere along the way, I got the idea that it was okay and normal to dislike my body…and that is so backwards and wrong. Our bodies literally keep us alive. I just can’t hate a part of myself like that, not anymore.
And then…and this is where it gets really weird…I started feeling this urge to build an altar. Like, I didn’t know what for, exactly, only that I wanted to honor this spiritual shift that was happening in me, and I didn’t know quite how to do it. So I ordered some books, and I thought it out…started looking into Paganism and Wicca and straight up Witchcraft (which isn’t what you think, unless you really know) and I just got more and more excited. Turns out, I already had an altar…my little shelves of Tarot card, bits of bone, rocks I love, feathers, sage, little statues that called to me…hello! Guess what that is? Yep, totally an altar. So today, I will be moving it into a more prominent spot in my living room, so that I can meditate there and really explore what it is that is happening with me.
Yesterday, my meditation was full of the most lush, incredible things- pictures that flashed behind my eyes and faded, one into another: Falling flowers, tangled, green vines, starry skies and still ponds, lotus flowers, and a woman with the beautiful wings of a moth. I don’t know what any of it means, but the energy around and within me is incredible, especially in the early morning hours. I can almost hear it humming through me.
It feels like I have broken through something. Like I am finally where I am supposed to be. I don’t know what it is, but I know I am safe here, and headed in the right direction. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
***Note: if anyone has any experience with something like what I am describing, please let me know, I am eager to learn more!***
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.
Two thoughts have made their way into my head lately, and they are having a kind of profound effect on me. I don’t even remember where they came from, whether I read them somewhere or they just occurred to me on their own, but I can’t seem to shake them. The first one, I’m pretty sure I read it in a blog somewhere, and essentially it is “How will people feel about you long after you are gone?” Like, what is your emotional legacy, the emotional “fingerprint” you leave on the people you love and care for? The second one, which goes hand in hand with that is really random, but…it popped into my head yesterday, and I keep going back to it, and here it is- no one really knows whether they have more of their life ahead of them than behind. Well, I guess some people do- for instance, if you are 93, you can can be pretty sure you have more of your life behind you than ahead. But for average, healthy people, the point is, you don’t really ever truly know when it’s your time, or how much more time you have.
I am not particularly afraid of dying, and that’s not really what this is about, but for me, dying is not something I get too worked up about. I am not religious, but I have a lot of faith, and some pretty comforting beliefs. What I do worry about is dying before I am ready, before my children are grown enough, and before I’ve had time to become the person I want to be remembered as. And that’s where things get troubling for me, that last part- being the person I want to be remembered as- because…well, what in the world is stopping me from being that right now? If I really don’t know (and hardly anybody does) when this whole life of mine is going to end, then why am I not just being the person I want to be right now? Because it doesn’t cost money, and there doesn’t need to be a different set of circumstances for that to happen. It’s not about any of that at all.
What it is about, and what I’m learning that everything is really about, is my own behavior, my own attitude, and my own willingness to engage in my own life and the life of the people I care about, on a deeper level. How hard is it, really, to respond more lovingly? To have a bit more patience, to answer with a nicer tone, to treat someone a little more kindly? Well, when your deeply ingrained habit is to be terse, irritated, impatient and sarcastic, it can be pretty challenging, I can vouch for that. But challenging is not the same as impossible. Do I want my children, friends, and family to look back on all their memories of me and laugh about how difficult I was? Well, I mean, that ship has kind of sailed if I die tomorrow, but…it’s not too late to temper that with better things. It’s never too late to get better. I should know! I’ve been slowly improving all the time in these past few years.
But there is always more that you can do. If you are lucky enough to live to be 100, there will always be another thing to work on, another thing you can improve. It never ends. I have been actively trying to spend more time with the people who matter to me, in ways that THEY enjoy, and as a bonus, I try not to whine about it the entire time. What I am finding out is that I can enjoy myself quite a bit when I stop listing all the reasons why everything is stupid and sucks, even if I’m only doing it internally- so if you do that, just stop it. Just relax, just go with the flow, just see what happens. Because guess what? No one ever died from doing something they find mildly unpleasant, and when you keep an open mind, you might even (gasp!) start enjoying yourself.
Recently, I cleaned off the catch-all surface of my kitchen table, and started insisting that Cam and I sit down at it at least a few nights a week to eat a meal together. At first, she was confused and upset by this-“But WHY?! And why does the TV have to be off, I’ll be BORED!”- but now that we have done it a few times, I think she kind of likes it. It’s just the two of us, sitting face to face, eating dinner and having no choice but to talk to each other about…whatever. Sadly, at first, it was a little awkward- I mean, the first five minutes, but still, it seemed longer to me. All I could think to ask was “So, how was school today?” A question that all kids in every part of the world just relish being asked, you know. But really quickly, we forgot that this was different for us, and we just started being our normal selves, and now we both really enjoy it. It was important to me to do this thing with her, this normal, family thing, and now we are doing it, and it is nice. Little changes, big rewards. This is something that she will remember.
Every morning, before she wakes up, and every day before I pick her up from school, I have a little talk with myself. I remind myself to be patient, kind, and loving, and to treat her in a way that will make her feel happy and loved. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but for me, someone who’s natural state is a little more snappy and self-absorbed, this is important, and it helps. Last night, I was craving a dark chocolate pecan turtle, and I asked her if she wanted to go down to Fisherman’s Wharf and visit the candy store and maybe take a walk around after dinner. Of course, she was into it, so after we sat together and had dinner, we did just that. It was a chilly, overcast day, but we got our candy, and we wandered around in the shops, and then we took a little walk down the bike path and watched the otters play and the seals zip around in the harbor. We took lots of rests, because she is not much of a walker, but it was okay, we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be. And on the long walk back to the car, she held my hand and gave me a million hugs, and told me what a fun time she was having. It wasn’t a big night I had planned- it was just a dumb thing I thought of last minute, a tiny outing. But it was a happy moment, and we were happy in it together. These are the things I want more of in my life. This is the way I want to be remembered.
Just a super quick check-in post to let my wordpress friends that I am doing okay, despite my silence these past few days.
Mother’s Day, my last post, was an emotional one for me. I spent a good chunk of the morning crying over years that I lost, and trauma I still carry in my heart. Most of the time, I don’t carry those things so close to the surface, but sometimes they emerge, and I deal with them as best I can.
This has not been the best week ever. I am dealing with some things that make me feel uncomfortable, angry, and scared. But I know that I am growing, because I grow the most when I feel the worst. I have every reason to believe that I will come through these current trials stronger than ever, but for now, I have to be okay with sitting with my discomfort. It’s just part of life. You can’t just stick your head in the sand forever, and ignore your problems- that’s the way they grow bigger! I am still learning, and even though this is a lesson I have learned before, I guess I didn’t learn it well enough because here it came again.
Thankfully, my mom is still in town, and I got to spend a really nice evening with her last night. This has been a rough few years for us- me working through a lot of stuff that happened a long time ago, and her trying to be patient with me, and trying to understand. There was a time, not too long ago, that I worried our relationship would never be okay again. But I realized this morning that my fears were unfounded- I felt exactly the way I want to feel with my mom last night: Safe, loved, understood. We laughed and visited and just hung out, and it was so nice. Now she is getting ready to head home, and I find myself wishing she could stay here forever, so that I could see her all the time. I really love my mom.
To sum it all up, I’m just tired this morning. The kind of tired that comes from being bombarded with too many feelings, too fast. It drains you, doesn’t it? But I know it is only temporary, as everything always is, and that I am truly doing everything that is within my power to fix what is broken. No matter what the end result is, I will know I did my very best. That’s really all you can ever do, isn’t it?
Seems like my most clear thinking happens right when I wake up in the morning, somewhere between my first and second cup of coffee. The house is silent, the world is silent, and I don’t have the energy yet to argue with the sensible half of my brain- the one that will tell it like it is.
Some things that came to me this morning, for instance, are that I need to have better boundaries- I mean, at least I have SOME now, which is more than I can say for myself a year ago at this time. But there is a point at which you kind of have to go “You know, this is just more trouble than it’s worth.” and hang it up. I have such a happy, peaceful life. Yeah, that gets boring sometimes- I am, after all, a tried and true addict who once thrived on a full drama diet, but…that’s just not who I am anymore. I don’t want to feel bad or weird about anything I do.
Another thing I realized is that you only know as much about a person as they are willing to show you. There is always, always more to the story. You can count on that. And this is where your gut instincts come in. I can’t recommend anything more in life than listening to your gut. I’m a little slow at processing things for some reason, but eventually I do come around…I’ve never understood this about myself. I consider myself to be relatively quick witted and smart, but when it comes to emotional maturity, I struggle. I really do. This morning, my instincts are talking to me, and I have no choice but to listen. What I will do with that information remains to be seen, but I hope I can make myself proud.
And finally, the thread running through all of these thoughts is just love for myself. What a strange new thing this is- that I can look at myself so lovingly, even when I am struggling to figure out what I’m supposed to do. I have a long history of beating myself up for just being a person trying to live life…to actually maintain some affection for myself no matter what is pretty astounding. I am handling my business with grace, though, and a really level head, and like an adult woman, and this makes me extremely proud of myself. I can be upset and still not be ugly- did you guys know this was a thing?! Because I’d heard of it, but didn’t think it had anything to do with me.
I know this is kind of random, and maybe it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but maybe for someone it will. It does for me. And that’s all I have to say. So just go out and have a wonderful day, would you please?
I have always thought of myself as someone who is strong- not physically strong, although I’m no slouch in that area, either (being a single mother for most of your life will help you develop muscles, trust me) but resilient, tough, capable, able to lift myself out of difficult times and situations.
Yeah, but… I’m just sitting here this morning thinking- if I created all of the difficult times and situations in my life, does that really count as being strong? I mean sure, I eventually got myself out of them, time after time after time, but…what does that say about my character, that I created so much drama and strife and upheaval? Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of myself for never giving up, for always trying to fix whatever I had broken. And I realize that I had issues that had issues, that with all the shit I was hauling around inside of me, there was no way I could have been any other way than I was until I got help. Still…
I view strength very differently now. It is no longer necessary for me to aggressively assert my “strength” by acting out or being demanding or dominating the conversation (although I do still get carried away when I am talking sometimes). I have kids, so I still raise my voice a little more often than I would like, but I don’t feel the need to when I am speaking to another adult. As a matter of fact, when my temper gets away from me these days, I feel the opposite of strong- it makes me feel diminished and weak. Funny how we change over time, isn’t it?
You know what I see as my strengths now? My ability to keep showing up, even when I am so tired of it all that I want to throw the towel in. Strength is knowing that I am just having a moment, and it’s going to pass. Strength is taking a deep breath or five before I speak, because I know I am too angry to be reasonable. My greatest strength lies in my consistency, and I am reaping the rewards every day because my life, finally, is not an uphill battle. The decisions I make now are generally made more with the future in mind, rather than for instant gratification. And because I have made a lot more good choices lately than poor ones, I have the added and unexpected bonus of being able to trust myself. I can’t think of anything more bad-ass than feeling confident in your own capabilities. It feels really, really good.
Two years and 341 days ago, I was a very different person. I knew I was a mess, but thankfully I didn’t know how much of a mess I was. It would have been overwhelming, and I don’t think I would have been willing to face all of it. But in a perfectly timed fashion, each new layer of bullshit was revealed to me just as I was ready to see it. I am not done yet, but I am much, much better off than where I started. The strength to stay in recovery, to keep going even when I really just wanted one fucking little…whatever was available to just make me RELAX already…that has to be the single most important show of strength that I have ever displayed. Without that, none of these other revelations would have even been possible. This entire journey has been fueled by my recovery, and that is the truth.
Three years. Not even three yet, almost three. In almost three years, my life has been completely changed for the better. Do you know how fast three years goes by when you are still getting loaded? In like five minutes, no kidding. So anyway, if you are new to all of this, and you aren’t seeing the results you want, I encourage you to hang on. To really devote yourself to the process of self discovery and healing, and just keep going. The day will come when you are so much more than you ever even dreamed you could be, and it will all have been worth it. Stick around for long enough to see your definition of what strength is be totally, irreversibly changed. It’s a pretty amazing thing.