Posted in Dreams, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People, random

Acceptance

So, I have been writing on this blog since 2012- that’s eight whole years. In that time, I have written close to 600 posts. That’s a lot! That’s so many posts that, even when I don’t write for a very long time, I get visitors to this site every single day. I don’t really pay attention to which posts they are viewing. About once a week, someone new will discover this place and go crazy, reading thirty or forty posts in a row. I like it when that happens, I’m not gonna lie. There’s some validating feelings that emerge when I see that go down.

But I have changed a lot in that time. So much, in fact, that sometimes I think about going back and getting rid of some of my older posts. Although I can’t recall everything I’ve written here, I know some of it would be embarrassing to me now. I know I have overshared and said things that no longer represent the woman I am today. But…you know, I’m not gonna do that. If you read through my posts from start to finish, I think…I hope, anyway, that you would see the slow evolution of a human being who is trying to find her way. I think you would see a lot of growth, even if it was painful and awkward sometimes. Even if there were lots of “one step forward, two steps back” situations. Slowly and steadily, I have progressed.

I believe, when I started all of this, that there was some part of my subconscious mind that thought I would eventually “arrive” at a place where I would be complete. I would know it when I got there, right? It would be a place where I was generally happy and joyful, my relationships would be easy and healthy, I would be mature and confident, and all of my laundry would be done. My mismatched sock basket would be empty, my bathroom counters would be wiped down at all times. I would know what we were having for dinner for the entire week ahead. Basically, I thought I would be perfect.

Not only was that vague idea incredibly far off the mark, but…it was harmful. Harmful because I didn’t realize I was reaching for perfection, a thing that doesn’t exist, and trying to get there was making me feel like a failure. I have been in so much pain because I couldn’t manifest perfection. I have resented my beautiful life because it didn’t match up to my idealistic daydream.

The chaos and tumult of the world since the beginning of this pandemic has thrown me headfirst into the chasm where my shadow dwells. Already halfway submerged when all of this started, I found myself very quickly sucked under. For a good while, I was afraid that I would drown. I didn’t know what that would look like, exactly, but I won’t pretend I wasn’t afraid. “I shouldn’t be feeling this way!” I kept telling myself, “Look how good I have it, I should be- (enter whatever shiny adjective caught my eye at the moment)” As my old sponsor would say, I was “shoulding all over myself”.

A few things transpired in the past few days that have opened my eyes. One was the word “acceptance” which kept popping into my head. I am not sure, but I’d be willing to guess, that I’ve written on this topic before. Smart as I am, it takes me a while to understand things, though. Sometimes I think I get it, and I will keep thinking that until I REALLY get it. Sometimes your understanding just deepens over time.

Here’s the thing- I’ve been wanting to do all this stuff! Move across the country, maybe for a year, maybe forever. Buy a house- maybe in Maine, but also maybe somewhere closer, for just a while, until I can work out how to get to Maine. But I also want to keep my job, and finish a book, and make money from that, while I work on my mental health, my spiritual life, getting my house together. I was flopping around like a fish on a line. Then the pandemic hit. All my tentative “plans” got blown away, who knows how far. No travel, no freedom, no reprieve, even, from my beloved daughter. Just her and I, this house and work, day in and day out, at this computer. My need to bolt became frantic, the shedding of tears became a daily event, and every single one of my worst qualities came raging to the forefront.

That’s when “acceptance” showed up. Not the act, the word, in my head, over and over, until I decided to examine it. Here is what I discovered: My desire to be different than I was, to have a life I couldn’t have right now, to be someone I am not, was the root of the problem. This is who I am. This is where I am. This is how it is. Be here, embody it, feel it, accept it.

Yesterday, Camryn and I walked the whole length of a long beach at low tide early in the morning. There was only us and a few surfers, a couple, and a dog or two running around. Camryn didn’t want to be there, but she had no choice. By the time we made it to the tide pools, she was the happiest she’d been in weeks. We saw starfish and countless sea anemones, pelicans, sandpipers and one very excited sparrow. Camryn, in that moment, was a perfect example of acceptance. She rode the figurative wave, and, after a moment of resistance, she stopped fighting what she couldn’t control, and guess what? She enjoyed the moment. So did I, a reminder that no one is forcing me to stay inside my house. There are still things I can do, places I can go to escape and to breathe. It’s not really my life that is giving me trouble, it’s my attitude about my life. It’s my fear and my grasping.

And finally, sometimes…there’s this weird thing that happens. Someone will ask a question and when you answer it, you realize it was an answer you’d been trying to come up with for yourself. A truth you didn’t know you knew. Someone asked why she used to be so happy in her twenties, but now, in her thirties, she just didn’t feel so joyful all the time. I explained to her that as you get older and wiser, you view life through different eyes. The rose colored glasses come off, and you see more truth and nuance, more depth. Fighting to return to a place in time that is gone, and a person who has evolved, is futile and painful. That’s what I told her. And then it hit me. That also applied to me! I can’t go back. I can’t jump ahead. All I can do is be here, where I am.

Acceptance does not mean I am giving up my dreams. It just means I can stop trying to force a change that isn’t ready to occur. I can relax and quit flopping around at the end of the line I am caught on, wearing myself out. I can stop pulling so hard at the hook in my cheek, stop making the pain so much worse. I can rest. I can gather my thoughts and my strength, so that when the time is right, I will be ready to set myself free. Today, right now, is not the time for me to move forward.

That is acceptance. That’s my take on it, anyway. This time around. Stay tuned, who knows what my take on it will be next time. Hahaha! Happy Sunday. Stay well.

Posted in anxiety, escape, family, friendship, happiness, health, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, random

Interesting Times

Hi! Since the last time I showed my face around here, I have: turned 45, tried and fell very short when helping my child with distance learning, lost both my bras for weeks at a time. I’ve- stopped shaving completely, then really regretted that when I made myself start again; resumed some weird, nervous habits that I thought were related only to my drug use, but I guess not. I have wondered daily if I were completely going off the deep end, or if…you know, my feelings were warranted, based on the information I had.

I have vacillated almost comically between wanting to make the best of things, and wanting to just throw the freaking towel in completely. Sometimes several times within the same day. Things are hard. They are weird. They are scary.

It doesn’t matter that I’m one of the luckier ones whose life hasn’t even changed all that drastically, really. I still work from home. Cam would have been off school anyway, it just happened a little sooner. It’s the way it feels. I can’t just go do whatever, whenever I want to- well, I can, I guess, but not safely. Even when the restaurants here were open for a few weeks, there was no way in hell I was going out. I knew that it was too soon, and I knew exactly what would happen. It gives me no pleasure to find I was right. Now everything is shutting down again, and this virus is worse than it has ever been here.

It feels like I am in limbo, because I am. Everything is uncertain and on hold. I catch myself holding my breath. A lot. Nothing about this feels good to me, I don’t like it, and…there’s not a single thing I can do about it. Other than keep soldiering on, trying to do my best.

Some days my best looks really great! I get a lot done and go to bed at night thinking “This isn’t so bad!”. Other days, the best I can do is peel myself off the couch and away from whatever I’m binge watching on Hulu long enough to make my kid a grilled cheese sandwich.

All this to say…whatever you are going through, wherever you fall on the spectrum, you are well within your right to be there. I don’t know a single person, not one, who is not struggling in some way. This is the weirdest event most of us have ever, and hopefully will ever, live through. It won’t go on forever. I don’t know what that means right now, but I do know that things will change, because that is simply what things do. They change.

One of the reasons I took a break from all of this was because I was so overwhelmed by the clamoring voices all around me, spouting out their opinions as if they were facts. It got to be too much, and I didn’t want to contribute to that, in case I was making things confusing for other people. I didn’t want to be part of it.

But I do want to check in and tell you all…hang in there. Do your best, whatever that looks like today. One way or another, this will all be behind us eventually.

Until then, I can’t recommend highly enough watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer from start to finish on Hulu. Now that’s what I call a great escape! 🙂

Posted in Addiction, adventure, faith, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, living, Mental Health, Musings, People, recovery, spirituality, women

1,825 Days

On this day, five years ago, I woke up and chose to stop putting drugs into my body. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it both is and isn’t a simple thing. You have to understand, and I know it’s hard if you haven’t lived it, but…when you are deep in the throes of addiction your brain tells you stories, and, because it’s your own brain talking to you in your own voice, and because you are very sick and things aren’t right inside of you, you no longer have the discretion to discern the truth from the lies. Your brain tells you that you can’t just stop on a dime- you have to plan ahead, you need to wait for the weekend, you just need to finish off the rest of the dope you have. You’ll have to call in sick, you need someone to help with the kids, tomorrow would be better, next month would be better. It’s going to be so hard. It’s going to feel so bad.

The truth is, you only need to be ready. Before you are ready, nothing will make it work. And nothing can force you to be ready until you arrive there on your own. That place looks different for everyone.

I want to share a part of my story that I’ve been reluctant to speak about for a couple of reasons; I am not in recovery, not in the traditional sense, anymore. One year ago in February, I made the decision to leave the 12 Step world and live life as a free agent. I was terrified, honestly. I had found myself thinking, for quite some time, that I wasn’t comfortable with defining myself by my addiction anymore. I was tired of rehashing the sordid details of my former life in order to identify with the newcomer. Healing from something while reliving it constantly began to feel counter-intuitive. I had done everything that was asked of me, all of it. Service work, step work, meeting attendance, and I felt I was at a crossroads- it was time for me to start sponsoring women or time to move on. I agonized over this decision. I worried that my brain was lying to me again, that I would leave and somehow, though it seemed impossible to me, wind up on drugs, right back where I’d started. But I knew that in order to sponsor women in their most vulnerable time, I had to be committed. I had to buy what I was selling 100%. Lives were at stake. And that made my choice pretty easy. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell someone there was only this one way to live for the rest of their lives because I no longer believed it was true. So, I left.

At first, it was really weird. But, once I found my footing, I realized this choice was the right one for me. I thought I was endangering myself by walking away, but what I did was…I set myself free, and gave myself permission to live my life the way I chose. I trusted myself to make good decisions. And it was the most loving thing I have ever done for me.

The reasons I have been hesitant to share this are not far-fetched at all. I would never, ever want to encourage another person to follow me out of recovery. Every one of us is different, and I think that, scared as I was of breaking from the norm, I knew in my heart that I was done with dope. I knew I wasn’t going back to that life. So, I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to give people the wrong idea, you know?

The second reason is…I don’t want to take away from the fact that I have accomplished something fucking marvelous. I know what my friends in recovery are going to think about this, because I thought the same exact way- pretty sure I even wrote a rude blog about it here somewhere: It only counts if you do it THIS WAY. Well, I’m sorry, but that just isn’t true for me. You know what is true? That my life is not ruled by substances of any kind anymore. That I don’t have to hide or lie or feel ashamed of myself because of the way I am living. That, in the past five years, I have made fundamental changes to my life that have allowed me to become the woman I had wanted so badly to become. The woman I was afraid I had lost all chance of ever being.

So no, I am not in recovery anymore. But that doesn’t change the fact that this morning, when I woke up and thought about what that number meant- One thousand eight hundred and twenty five days- I wasn’t overwhelmed with gratitude. I thanked God profusely and sobbed because my life is so incredibly beautiful. The freedom, the healing, the changes…they are so precious to me. The difference between who I am right now and who I was on this very day five years ago is profound.

When I shared that I didn’t go to meetings anymore with a friend of mine a while back, she said to me “Oh, so you’re cured?” in that “tone” one can get when they think they know something you don’t. Today, I would like to say this- I might not ever be cured completely, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m free. I’m not afraid of myself anymore. I trust me. I’m so proud of myself. And nothing anyone else thinks about the way I move through life can change that.

So, happy anniversary to me.

Posted in adhd, Depression, faith, happiness, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, women

Notes on Being Sad (for no Reason)

notes on sadness

September was a hard month. At least, it seems like it was. You know, when things get a little…off course for me, I tend to lose track of time. Everything seems long-interminable, really. The funny thing is, just before this little tussle I’ve been having with myself, I was doing so well! It seems like that is how it goes, though- one week, I’m on top of the world, the house is clean, I’m productive, happy, eating well, having fun, sure that this time I am finally where I’m supposed to be. Feeling so confident that I can’t even imagine how I ever could have felt sad or down before. I look back rather scornfully on my previous self, if I’m being honest- that girl. What was her problem, anyway?

And then that niggling sense of dissatisfaction creeps in- that’s how it always starts. Like I’m searching for something, I need something, but I can’t figure out what it is. I start finding fault with others, and fault with myself. Then comes the internal litany of bullshit- the negative self talk that wears me down, bit by bit. Eventually, I stop washing the dishes, stop making the bed, stop sweeping the floor. I can’t be bothered to wash my face at night. I won’t pick up the phone when it rings, and I cancel plans. Everything feels heavy and sad.

What a lot of people don’t know- I didn’t even know this until recently- is that moodiness and depression are a big part of ADHD. It’s literally part of the deal, part of the chemical function of our brains…or would it be dysfunction? I don’t know, whatever. It’s not imaginary, it’s not a “made-up” disorder. It’s a real, scientifically proven affliction, and they’ve got the brain scans to prove it. It’s a spectrum, as well, so it affects everyone differently. Learning to understand and accept this fact about myself has been far more difficult than I could have imagined.

I have learned there are people who get it and people who just do not. Reciting back to me a list of all the reasons I should be happy does not help. I understand that I have no reason to feel sad…but I feel sad anyway. These feelings cannot be reasoned with. As a matter of fact, telling me all the reasons I have to be happy makes it so much worse, because now I feel guilty about how shitty I feel.

Trust me when I tell you that I would prefer to be happy all the time. That I get no satisfaction from feeling myself sliding backwards into a slump. It’s not a lot of fun to be a person who cannot count on themselves to be steady, at least emotionally, for any length of time. When things are good, they are very good. When things are bad, they are awful.

So, I try. I try really, really hard to slap a smile on my face. To be nice when I want to bite someone’s head off, to temper my tone of voice when I want to snap. I keep showing up, even when I want to stay in my house with the blinds drawn. I try not to try to figure out why I feel the way I feel anymore- honestly, I don’t think there is an outside force at work. I think it’s inside of me, it’s chemical, hormonal maybe…that’s as far as I am willing to go. Trying to fix it seems to only make it worse.

I wait for it to pass. It always does. When it gets really bad, I just remind myself that, no matter what happens, I am safe. It sounds dumb, but remembering that I am “a spiritual being having a human experience”, that this is just school here on planet earth, that, even if I keel over dead tomorrow, I’m still going to be okay…at least, the way I think things are, that’s how it goes…well, that honestly helps a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no interest in keeling over dead. I’m not advocating for that in any way. I’m just saying, it helps to remember that what we humans prioritize, in order of importance, is pretty screwy sometimes…and that being sad, being down, being depressed…those are just feelings. As long as I know myself well enough to know where to draw the line, when I might need a little extra help, I’ll muddle through.

Yesterday, I followed my boss into the office kitchen, and told her I needed to talk to her. “I’m just really sad.” I told her, tears immediately popping into my eyes. “I knew you were, I could tell by how quiet you’ve been.” She said, “What can I do to help?” I shrugged and shook my head. “I just wish I could understand why I get like this.” I told her. “Yeah, but you know that isn’t how you operate, Courtney. For you, it just happens sometimes. Is there anything I can do? Do you need to see someone, or take time off?” She asked. “I don’t know…I just needed someone to know that I was struggling.” I told her.

And just that, just the simple act of telling someone- someone who doesn’t judge me, or try to reason with me, or try to fix it; someone who doesn’t give me a list of reasons why I should feel differently, but instead just hears me, knows me, and treats me with patience and kindness…it really matters. I don’t know how, but it helps.

I came home yesterday and found that whatever this thing was that had been gripping me so hard…it wasn’t gone, but I could breathe at least. There was space all of the sudden that hadn’t been there before. I could see a little further beyond myself, the way you see the forest around you when you turn your brights on in the car, driving down a country road at night. Last night, I made tater-tots and a grilled cheese for Cam- not much of a meal, but I made it happily- I cut it into fourths, and arranged it just so on the plate, piling the tater-tots in the middle, and filling a stolen ramekin with ketchup. I don’t do things like that when I’m terribly sad.

I unloaded the dishwasher and changed the five gallon water jug that has been empty for days. I made my bed and swept the floor. I helped with homework, and Cam and I read together. These sound like little things to anyone who doesn’t struggle with their moods, I’m certain. But those of us who know will get it.

You know, I find it a little embarrassing to tell the truth about this. I sometimes feel like I sound whiny, or I’m being dramatic- when there is so much turmoil in this world, who am I to think my bouts of sadness even matter? But trying to pretend all is well when it isn’t keeps me silent- it keeps me from writing, and it keeps it all inside. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels the way I do. Maybe you can identify with me, and maybe it’ll help you. Who knows?

Here’s to a better day- to people who can meet us where we’re at, bosses who listen, and to telling the truth, even when it isn’t easy. May we all feel just a little better today than we did yesterday…even if yesterday was awesome, but especially if it wasn’t.

 

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, 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,  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. 🙂 )

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.