Posted in Addiction, anxiety, faith, Goals, Holidays, inner peace, Life, manifestation, Mental Health, mindfulness, People, recovery

With a Grateful Heart

a grateful heart
courtesy of Pinterest and littleleaves.com

I woke up way too early, as usual…but I am not going to get all worked up over it. This is just who I am, and I have accepted it. I’m an early riser who has become a super early riser over the past few months. I think partially it developed as a way to save a few precious hours of peace for myself, while my older daughter and her boyfriend were staying here. This time is so important to me. I’d do just about anything to preserve it, including waking up in what is basically the middle of the night.

I did, however, get to usher in the New Year last night! I set an alarm for 11:55, and Cam and I got up long enough to do the count down, scream “Happy New Year!” once, hug each other, then scramble back to the warmth of the bed. Last night was her last official night sleeping with me. We are both more than ready to go our separate sleeping ways, but with the extra people here the past few months, we didn’t really have a choice. So tonight, I can sleep diagonally, the way I do when she is at her dad’s house. She’s a tall child, and such a bed hog, and I feel guilty for saying this, but I sleep SO much better when she is staying overnight with her father. So, bittersweet though it may be, we are both excited about this milestone. Obviously, she’s way too old to still be sleeping with her mother, and she used to sleep on her own at our old house…not sure what happened. I don’t regret it, though. They are only little for such a short time.

Anyway, I woke up this morning feeling such gratitude for my life. I have such a good feeling about the year ahead. I was thinking about the horrible panic attack and subsequent anxiety I suffered through less than two weeks ago, and I wonder if it was just a giant purge of built up negative energy- shit I needed to get rid of? Because since it faded away, I have been steadily more centered, happy, and anxiety free. Seems like more than coincidence to me- to get to begin a new year wiped clean of the dark feelings that had been plaguing me? Well, whatever it is, I’ll take it. Gladly.

You know…my house is still a mess. I meant to take down my tree last night, and never got around to it. There are dishes in the sink, and…well, it’s pretty much like it always is around here. But for once, none of it is bothering me. Because I have a plan, and I intend to stick to it. Little by little, this house will transform, and be the way I want it to be. By the time I go to bed tonight, those dishes will be gone, the counters wiped clean, the tree gone, ornaments put away. It still won’t be perfect- I doubt it will ever be perfect. But eventually, it will be the way I want it to be. I feel quite sure of that.

The thing is, I have started this year with peace in my heart. I don’t know that I’ve often felt peace like this. It feels solid to me, as if it is not dependent on outside circumstances, but more like it stems from within me. It’s the kind of peace that comes when you have finally started to trust yourself, to know that most likely, you are going to be okay. I’ve survived a lot- I’ve survived MYSELF, which was no simple feat. This is my fourth consecutive New Years clean, and I’ve grown stronger every year. And I am so grateful for that- for the peace, and for surviving myself, and surviving the dark parts of my own mind. I’m so grateful for making it out of that last, awful, dark place, and for the wonderful new spot it wound up leaving me.

I’m starting this shiny, fresh new year with a grateful heart. And I don’t think there is a better place to begin than that.

May your year be blessed, happy, full of hope and laughter. Happy New Year!

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Posted in anxiety, Depression, health, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, mindfulness, Musings, People, women

Light after Darkness

light through darkness

I want to share something with you: Although I would never, ever, ever wish a panic attack of any caliber on anyone, I am sitting here this morning grateful for the meltdown I had last week. I honestly think it needed to happen. Yes, it was scary, and over the top, and it kind of felt like I filled a few short hours with a years worth of fear, BUT…walking around with all those bottled up emotions, trying to be strong and good all the time- it’s exhausting.

I learned some important things, like: even though I might feel like I am alone in the world, there really are people that I can count on in a crisis. People who love me exactly as I am, even at my worst.

Thanks to my heightened anxiety and panic for those few days, when I came back down to earth and my normal worries started kicking back in, they paled in comparison to the shit-show I had just survived. So, I have been less worried about mundane, normal things than usual. This is nothing short of a miracle. Worry is a waste of time, period.

I figured out that I need to be ME. The full expression of myself, not watered down, not held back to be more palatable for someone else. I need to be comfortable in my own life, and if I am not committed to this, certainly no one else will make it so. This is MY life. I must care for it and tend to it and make it beautiful for me, which means being who I am and defending the boundaries I decide on. I must be an active participant. Funny side effect of this is that when you start to be true to yourself, you start to uphold those boundaries, not only do you respect yourself more, but other people respect you more as well. And then it becomes even easier to be happy, and be yourself. It all goes together.

From the heights of panic to the depths of despair, my mini-nervous breakdown left me with a lot of information to process. It also left me with a clean slate, in a place where there has been much peace and gratitude. I’ve returned to my daily meditation practice, I pause many times throughout the day to appreciate the calm, or the contentment, or the quiet within me. It’s been easier for me to be kind, to reach out to others. My picking up on the vibes of others is at an all time high.

I’m no fool- I know that life is not going to magically be wonderful forever now. Ups and downs are just part of the ride, and some of us have more of them than others. I know there will be other moments when I am crying in the bathtub, scared to death of my own mind. But there will also be other moments when I am so in love with life, and so grateful for that same exact mind…and that makes it all a lot more bearable. Knowing that, when it is very dark, the light is on its way. I will try to remember that.

Posted in anxiety, family, Holidays, inner peace, kids, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, parenting, People, relationships

Another Great Christmas

a happy christmas

I woke up this morning (well, this middle of the damn night, really) in my fancy new pajamas, courtesy of my mama, looking about as smart as a half-asleep bed headed woman can look, and I have to tell you- I feel nothing right now except for gratitude for the day I had yesterday. My house, which I scrubbed from top to bottom on Monday, is in utter shambles all around me. There is a mountain of empty boxes behind me against the book shelf, there are tiny little plastic toy packaging pieces- or maybe they are toy parts? I don’t know, but…anyway, flotsam and jetsam liberally litters the floor and surfaces. My kitchen sink is piled high with dishes- you get the picture. It’s a mess. And I’m not even mad- about the mess, or about the fact that I fell asleep at 6:30 in the evening last night, leaving all of this for today me to deal with. You want to know why? Good, I’ll tell you.

Reason Number One: My last two posts involved me having a sort of mini nervous breakdown last week, and though I might have tried to make light of it (perhaps failing to do so) I was REALLY scared about the future implications of what that massive panic attack might mean. I didn’t know if it was just a one-off, or a terrible harbinger of mental problems to come. So the fact that my fear and panic and anxiety seems to have resolved itself and then some was enough to put me over the moon by Christmas day. Not only has the fear, anxiety, and panic receded, but I seem to have come out of it with a much better attitude and my feet more firmly planted on the ground. That intense fear I felt appears to have made my day-to-day fears seem so silly in comparison that I just don’t have time for that shit. I’m gonna live my life. This is very exciting.

Reason Number Two: Christmas stopped being about what I was getting a long time ago. This year it wasn’t even about what I gave to others, either- at least, not quite as much. Don’t get me wrong, I have found a lot of joy in gift giving as I’ve grown up, but now it’s more the feeling of being the mom of this family, being the home that my loved ones show up at to celebrate. Suddenly, I am the “mom”, the home, the destination. For the first time ever, I took so much pride in that. My tree was perfect this year, my home was clean and welcoming, I did it right.

Reason Number Three: Another first for me- I didn’t have a single second of worry about money this year. It’s not that I am rolling in it or anything, but I’m finally in a place where I am financially stable and did not have to stress about every penny. What a blessing this is! I have spent every Christmas of my adult life until now freaking out around Christmas time, worried that I wasn’t going to pull it off. This year was different, and for that I am beyond relieved. I didn’t go crazy by any means- why ask for trouble? But it was nice to not have to sweat it. I have worked and worked and worked to get to this spot, and it’s finally paid off.

Reason Number Four: I didn’t ruin everyone’s day with my own expectations, subsequent disappointment, and then unavoidable meltdown. Seriously, this has been a thing I’ve been known to do. Past years, I have imagined idyllic scenes of love and appreciation, respectful gift openings, and dinner at a perfectly set table…and when that all went to shit, as it will, I freaked out. This year, I just wanted to be happy. I let everyone do their thing. And I was there for it. I just kept being there for it, whatever “it” was. And guess what? I was far happier as a result. When Camryn started ripping into her gifts faster than I could register them, I let it happen. When Aisley didn’t want to sit down at the table with us for dinner, I let that go. When Devon fell asleep- in his car, then on the couch, then on my bed- I didn’t need to get upset. Why did I ever need to? Why let it bother me? I honestly tried to go with the flow this year, and it made everything so much better!

Reason Number Five: Devon and I decided to spend our holiday’s together with our daughter, rather than trying to figure out who gets her when and then one of us having to miss our girl on Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter. Gosh, that seems so sad, and I couldn’t really enjoy my day knowing he was somewhere feeling down and lonely. I’d like to think he feels the same. So, we co-parented like freaking champs yesterday. We cooked a beautiful meal together, we spent a peaceful day in each other’s company, and it was such a massive win for Camryn, whether she ever knows it or not. No fighting (except a brief spat about politics), no animosity, just her mom and dad hanging out with her on Christmas. That was the best thing we could’ve done for her, and I’m so proud of that.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. I am not a religious person, but I do love God, and I am deeply connected to my spiritual side. So I said many prayers of thanks yesterday, and shed a few tears of gratitude, and a few of sadness, for the family and friends I’ve lost the past few years. I went to bed healthy, grateful for my family, my tummy and my heart both full. What more can you really ask for from a day, especially Christmas? Not much. Not much more than that at all.

Posted in friendship, inner peace, Learning, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People, random, relationships

Happiness & Curiosity

curiosity

I’ve been in a bit of a rut, lately, and it’s been hard for me to want to write- not just here, but also on my novel, which is a total bummer. Mostly because I am part of an awesome critique group and I’m running out of chapters to submit thanks to this weird writers block…but anyway, I haven’t been feeling my level best, had some minor health issues that are slowly resolving, and the whole vibe has not been conducive to me writing, I guess. When you aren’t feeling well, it’s hard to think about anything else.

For the last few days, I’ve been feeling better though, and my thoughts have turned again, as they always do, to my happiness and what I might do to improve it. Some people say that happiness is not a destination you arrive at, it’s something that you choose to experience, and I agree with that to a certain extent. But I also know that when you live a hectic, modern life full of children and work and chores to be done…the first thing we throw out of the picture are the things that make us feel the best. Forget about long, lingering bubble baths and walks on the beach with the dog- sometimes I am lucky to take a three minute shower and can’t even manage a quick walk around the block with poor Lucy. The truth is, when it’s getting dark around the same time I clock out of work, I often allow myself to just move from my office chair to the couch and spend the rest of the night numbing out to Netflix.

There may be stretches of time when this is honestly the best I can do. Do I judge myself a little harshly when this is the case? You bet your ass I do. I go to bed, frustrated and disappointed with myself because I feel like I wasted these precious hours of my life, hours I can’t get back. I think a lot about stuff like that- probably a side effect of having lost so many loved ones over the past 15 months. Death has a way of making our own mortality very, very clear to us, doesn’t it?

The good news is that, without fail, my energy returns, and I can try again. Try to fill my hours up in a way that makes me feel better about my life, try to figure out how to experience more happiness. I always come up with the same things: Be outside more, move my body more, connect with my kids and friends more,write, meditate, pray, get the house in order, and go to meetings. Obviously, these are just the little, day-to-day things that work best for me, not the longer term, “big” goals. But doing just these little things make a huge difference in my life. My magic formula for deeper enjoyment of my every day life.

Most of those things are simple enough to slip back into, once I’m back in the right frame of mind. You know what I struggle with, though? The “connecting with people” piece. And I mean this is a struggle on every level- with my own children up to the stranger sitting beside me at a meeting. I know why. It has everything to do with me being judgmental, which is really just a symptom of my own insecurity and fear of being vulnerable, i.e., I don’t want to be judged, so I will judge you first. Well, with my kids, I mean, I’m just being a mom…and to be fair, some of the shit they say is just…lets just say it’s hard not to power roll my eyes, sometimes. But with other people, this can become really problematic. When you are super guarded, or you think you already know something about someone based on their body language, their appearance, or maybe their current shitty situation, you are doing both them and yourself a disservice. When I think back through my life, to all the people who graciously chose to get closer to me when I was just awful…I don’t know how I would’ve survived without that kindness. I don’t think I could have.

Luckily, I found an easy solution to this problem. Instead of being guarded and drawing away, I have been choosing to be open and curious. There is a physical sensation attached to both of these things- being guarded feels closed off, tight, impatient, and makes my eyes look anywhere but at the person. Being open and curious feels…well, open, obviously, and warmer, somehow, and helps me look at and hear someone so much better. When I am not quick to judge, I am much quicker to listen, and when I listen well, it is so much easier to connect. For me, connecting with someone, really hearing and understanding and empathizing with where and who they are, is the best high. When I listen with curiosity, when I am open, when I take five seconds to talk to someone after a meeting and let them know I heard them…maybe it doesn’t mean anything much to them, but that connection means a lot to me. When I have friends over here for a super casual dinner, when I spend thirty minutes walking outside with Cam, playing Pokemon Go- maybe it’s not big deal, but it feels like one to me. It feels like the key to everything, to be honest.

So, this week, and for the rest of this year, my goal is to continue to make time for the things that help me to experience happiness, and to be open and curious about people, rather than closed off and invulnerable. Not a lofty goal, but I don’t know…it feels important to me. I may be onto something.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Goals, inner peace, Life, living, mindfulness, People, recovery, twelve step, women

Peace

peace

This morning, when I took my dog Lucy to the beach, I made a conscious decision to leave my phone in my pocket. I didn’t want to be taken out of the moment by my urge to take the perfect Instagram picture and then cross-post it to Facebook, and subsequently spend the rest of the day compulsively checking for likes. I grow tired of that cycle, but the truth is, it isn’t easy to stop. But I did it- left my phone in my pocket, resisted the urge. Picked up a shell or two, and enjoyed just throwing the ball for my dog. I also met a few fellow beach strollers- something much easier to do when you are looking up, being present.

After the walk, I dropped Lucy off and decided to hit a meeting. I’m embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t been to one in nearly a month! It was just what I needed today. I saw my sponsor, and a few core people that I really love and respect. What a message of hope you can find in those rooms sometimes…it really is amazing, when you think about it. Escaping from the life of depravity that is addiction is such a freaking miracle. If you know, you know. It’s incredible to me that I have somehow managed to stay clean, that I somehow have made a success of what was once a very sad, broken life. I’m very proud of this life I have given myself. I forget sometimes.

Here we are in November, and I am already thinking about the year coming next- what I want to work on, where I want to focus my energy. The theme going forward is going to be “Making Peace”, and by that, I mean with ME. As much work as I have done on myself, I still carry around a lot of guilt and shame, and so many upsetting memories from the past. I still have a lot of anxiety and worry around the future. The past is gone. The future isn’t here yet. I think I need to forgive myself and focus on today.

I was listening to a TED talk yesterday about how to be happy- I didn’t finish it, but something stuck with me: People are happier when they are focused on what they are doing. It’s when our minds wander that we begin to feel anxiety, dread, and unhappiness. This makes so much sense to me! Since then, I have noted when my mind was spinning off, and started focusing on where I was right in that moment, and I found almost instant relief. I think it’s going to take a lot of practice, but if I can master this one, I’ll be in business.

Anyway, I will not so much be seeking peace as I will be doing the things that I know bring peace to me, and doing less of the things that take peace away. I deserve to feel good about my life, to feel peaceful, content, happy. We all do. I encourage you to really think about the content of your life, what is working, what is not, and what you can do to bring your life closer in alignment to what you’d like it to be. This is not a dress rehearsal, and the clock is always ticking. I’m starting now. How about you?

Posted in inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People, random, Uncategorized, women

Openings

It seems to me that there are specific times in my life where I inexplicably begin to feel better. I might not even be fully aware that I wasn’t feeling so great to begin with, but maybe the weight of living felt a little bit…heavier, I guess. Little things are harder. Daily life is gotten through, but joy seems just beyond my reach. I am just muddling through as best I can.

And then there are these openings- times when I wake up, and my heart is lighter, my energy is bubbling up, and life seems full of possibility again. This past weekend has been one such time, and I’m hoping it continues. I have no idea what brings them about, these openings- maybe it’s just some fluctuation in my brain chemistry. Maybe that cracked wisdom tooth I had pulled on Friday was causing me a lot more trouble than I was ever aware of. Maybe the stars just aligned. I do not know, I just know that I am grateful.

I see these shifts in me for what they are- great opportunities to get the ball rolling in the right direction again. These are the times when, if I take advantage of them, I can reconnect with the part of me that I enjoy the most. The part who goes on 6 a.m. beach adventures with her children, the me who opens up the blinds to let the light stream in, who sings while she cooks dinner. This is also the part of me who unflinchingly sorts through piles of old mail and ruthlessly cleans out the fridge until there is nothing left but a bottle of ketchup and one egg.

I am grateful for these times, but I know they do not last forever. They are gifts, and I am happy to receive them. I know that life is always a series of ebbs and flows, and my job is to learn how to ride the waves, however they show up. If I handle the easy, happy, good times right, perhaps the difficult times will be just a little easier. Perhaps. And if not, I know that there will be better times opening up for me again, down the road.

Have a beautiful week.

Posted in Addiction, Dreams, inner peace, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People, random, recovery, Uncategorized

Bloom Where you’re Planted

bloom-where-you-are-planted

There’s this thing I love to do, where I window-shop for houses on Zillow, almost exclusively in places where I’ve never been. I have this obsession with the east coast, and the idea of seasons- autumn leaves in fall and snow on Christmas, the sweet relief of melting snow in spring and delicious summer nights spent with the windows open. And there is nothing wrong with that, I guess…except that I live here, on the west coast, and this is where my life is unfolding.

I notice that I do the Zillow browsing most when I am feeling the least thrilled with my life here. The cost of living in California is astronomical, and it would be really hard for me to buy a house here on my own, something that has become more and more important to me over the past couple of years.

But it’s more than that, I think. I have always been a daydreamer, but there is this other part to these daydreams- the idea that I could be happier if only I were somewhere else, doing something else. There’s nothing wrong with daydreaming, but it’s the idea that the grass is greener elsewhere that makes trouble. Rather than tending to this lawn right beneath my feet, I’m staring across the country, into the yard of someone who has made it look really pretty for the photos.

And then there is this other part- the part where, and I have learned this lesson already- I will still be me wherever I go. No matter where I am, all my troubles come with me. You cannot run away from your own restless nature. You cannot escape a longing for another place…no matter where you are, that longing will just change direction. When I ran away to Reno years ago, thinking that this peninsula where I sit now was the root of all my problems, I would stand in my bathroom late at night and pretend the cars rushing by on the busy road some miles away were the roaring of distant surf. I just wanted to go home.

I am such a strange human. I long for change and for routine at the same time. I want to travel and still, somehow, sleep in my own bed. I want to start over without losing anything in the process. I want to keep everything I have and have everything I want.

But most of all, I just want to be happy.

And happiness is not a place. Happiness is not waiting for me in an empty house in Maine. Happiness is right here, waiting for me to notice it. I found it yesterday in the most mundane things- a morning spent with my daughter, cleaning out the “linen” closet, which held everything except linen, and packing up seven bags of junk to go to Goodwill. It was in the satisfaction of accomplishing something with someones help, and just being together.

I found it working my 11th step with my sponsor yesterday, and really understanding what this journey of recovery has meant to me, has made of me, over this past few years. I am not at all who I was at the start, although the changes have been so gradual and subtle that it’s hard to notice as they happen. We had to take turns reading because we both kept getting so overwhelmed with gratitude and choked up.

I found happiness standing on the beach yesterday- a perfect late afternoon in early fall. The air was just right- not too cold, not too warm, and my daughter flew a kite with her dad as I tossed the ball for the dogs and just took it all in. I feel peaceful and…full, I guess, just thinking about it.

The grass is not greener somewhere else. Happiness is not a place. I am fine right where I am.

A long time ago, I had this sticker that I loved. It said “Bloom Where You’re Planted”, and I thought that was such a wonderful saying. It was easy for me, at 17, to be happy wherever I happened to be. I think it’s high time I get back to that.

Starting right here, right where I am.