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?

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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 adventure, anxiety, Dreams, family, health, humor, kids, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, motherhood, Musings, People, random, travel, women

What if Something Happens?

anxiety lies

Two nights ago, I had a stressful dream that my purse was stolen. I was with my boss, at a restaurant, and realized it was gone. I was so upset! It had EVERYTHING in it- my ID, my credit cards, my makeup, my money! I didn’t know what to do. And then I realized it had my car keys in it, too, and now the thieves could steal my car. What a nightmare. Literally. But, I woke up, chalked it up to another one of my weird stress dreams and moved on.

Last night I dreamed that my car was stolen. It was a new Nissan Pathfinder (in my dream) with leather interior and all the bells and whistles. I was extremely proud of that dream car. I went down the coast to see my sister in law, and I asked her if she wanted to see my new car, which, of course, she did. We went outside, but there were suddenly so many cars, and I couldn’t seem to find mine. So I thought, hey, I’ll just click the alarm button and listen for the sound, but…my keys were gone. Eventually, I realized my car was gone. I knew who stole it, but there was nothing I could do. I freaked out. I woke up, again, very stressed out.

A single dream like this would be par for the course for me- but two? Two in a row? I know what is happening here. As my trip grows closer, I am spending my waking hours planning and being excited, and for God’s sake, not imagining every single thing that could possibly go wrong while I am an entire continent away from my children. But deep in the dark and morbid recesses of my brain, the “what-ifs” are hatching, like terrible gremlins on a gremlin-hatching conveyor belt in the fear factory of my mind. If I refuse to give them any space in my waking-hours mind, they will come out wherever they can.

This morning, as I desperately googled “stolen car dream meaning”, seeking to reassure myself that my dreams weren’t a harbinger of crashing planes and imminent death, I realized that my anxiety had me right where it wanted me. Alone, afraid, and miserable at five in the morning. Wondering how mad my friend would be if I cancelled on her two days before our trip. Hoping I came down with strep throat so I had no choice but to stay home. My anxiety is so ridiculous that I wished illness upon myself to avoid doing something fun and wonderful. Let that sink in for a minute.

So, I took a deep breath, and made a plan. When my anxiety asks “What if something happens?” I will say, “Something will happen! I am going to have fun, and see a new part of the world, and expand my horizons a little bit.” And when my anxiety insists, “Yes, but what if something BAD happens?!” I am going to say “Something BAD could happen just as easily with me here as it could with me gone- something bad could happen at any moment of any day, but mostly, it doesn’t. So stop it.” And when my anxiety continues to pester me with thoughts and images too awful to transcribe for you, I am going to fight fire with fire, by reading and remembering all the wonderful posts about women who travel all the time and make it home safe, happy, and healthy. Other people do it every single day. I am no different.

My anxiety will tell me I should just stay home. But my therapist, who I happen to have at least a bit more faith in than my own anxious brain, told me that my anxiety is dishonest…but that I will never know that if I don’t stop listening to it all the time. The only way to combat anxiety is to do the thing it tells you not to do. I mean, unless it’s telling you not to kill someone. In that scenario, your anxiety is 100% correct, and you should definitely listen.

Because my anxiety doesn’t just want me to stay home. My anxiety wants me to stay home, keep everyone I love in the house with me, close the blinds, and board up the windows. If we leave, we leave in a group. My anxiety wants not only me as a prisoner, it wants everyone I care for imprisoned as well. My anxiety calls it “being safe”, but even I know that’s not honest. That’s not living. So I will take my trip, and I will not let anxiety win this one.

And if something happens? Well…what if something wonderful happens? You can’t stop living because you are afraid. You can, actually. You can stop living because you are afraid. But I have no intention of living that way.

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.

Posted in family, Goals, humor, inner peace, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People, social media

24 Hours in.

getting stuff done

I’m not saying that Facebook is the root of all evil…I mean, I’m not going to blame it for all my problems. That would be silly. But, I am going to give you a little list of the things I accomplished yesterday:

1.) I finally called and made a dentist appointment to get my last remaining wisdom tooth pulled. It’s basically on the verge of disintegration, and I have been putting it off and putting it off for months now…because I am scared to have a tooth pulled, as it is damn near Medieval, and you would think they would have come up with a better way to remove a tooth by now (can’t they melt it out with a laser or something?!) than by wrenching it out. With full bodily force. And my dentist is a tiny little woman, I don’t know how she will manage…but, I digress. I’m going to get that sucker yanked next week. Honestly, had I not been so starved for human interaction, I highly doubt I would’ve called.

2.) This one is really embarrassing. I can’t believe I am even going to admit to this, but…I have been paying car insurance for over a year on two- not one, but TWO- cars that I no longer own. It’s not much. 60 bucks a month, total. But…come ON. I finally called my insurance company and asked them to remove these cars from my policy. It took five minutes. And guess what? I can actually send in some paperwork and get credited a bunch of money. I bet if I stay off Facebook, I might actually do it!

3.) I went on a long, leisurely, electronics-free walk with my kid and my dog down by our Fisherman’s Wharf here. Did you know that dogs are totally allowed on the wharf? I didn’t, and I’ve lived here forever! So, we walked along the recreation trail that borders the harbor, and on the way back, we stopped off on the wharf, got a little treat from one of THREE candy stores on that tiny row of restaurants and shops ( I found out that the turtles are way better at the first one on the left, but I feel like a traitor for trying out a new place). My kid was happy, but my dog was over the moon to be included on this little outing. I don’t know why I never did this before.

4.) Washed, dried, folded and put away THREE loads of laundry. Fixed dinner. Washed all the dishes, wiped the counters, and just generally kept moving until it was time for bed.

5.) Read our full required 25 minutes last night, as opposed to our normal 10 and then pretend like it was 25 routine. My daughter and I are reading The Boxcar Children series last night, and to my surprise she loves them, even though they were written in the 40’s! She can’t get enough.

Am I in full on Facebook withdrawals? Absolutely. That’s how I know it’s a problem. And do you know how I would feel if I went ahead and hopped over there right now to see what I have missed? I’d feel: excited when I saw all the notifications, then deflated when I saw that most of them were not even for me, but other comments on posts I’d commented on. Then I’d feel annoyed that I had forgotten how useless Facebook was (to me) already. Then I’d scroll through and see 40 things I’d already seen, 10 things that were factually incorrect, 5 things that pissed me off, and maybe 1 that I really loved.

So, basically, no. I’m not going on there, not even for a minute, not even to check. Who knows what I might accomplish today! My baseboards are looking pretty dusty. Stranger things have happened.

 

 

Posted in Addiction, family, friendship, Goals, inner peace, Life, living, mindfulness, Musings, People, social media

I Forget…

disconnect
courtesy of google AND Tanmay Vora, as listed above. Thanks!

I forget that living a full, happy life involves leaving my house. I get lazy from sitting still and want to keep sitting still. I spend way too much time in this house, by myself, and I think it is bad for me. I need to push myself a little harder to get outside, and to interact with real people.

One of my best friends showed up at my door yesterday (because she knows that’s pretty much the only way to get a hold of me- I can ignore phone calls, texts, refuse to make plans, but you can almost guarantee to find me at my house) and at first I was annoyed. I didn’t want to see anyone! But after a few minutes, we got to talking, and by the time she left after my lunch was over, I felt happier than I had in a while. I need to be with my friends. So why is it so easy for me to forget that?

I don’t know…I will tell you this, though. I spend way, way too much time on Facebook. This has come up again and again, and lately I have been fantasizing about how good it would be to break free of that site. I don’t want to know so much. I want to know the bare minimum about people again. I don’t want to know how different we are, and how bad your spelling is. Please, God, take me back in time. I think being on social media so much makes me think I don’t like people, when the truth is, I LOVE people, I just love real people. People who, in real life, aren’t so eager to vomit up every little dark corner of their heart. Trust me, I do it too. I’m just as guilty. So I am signing off of Facebook, again, for an indeterminate amount of time, and I am going to try to get out in the real world.

I want more laughter with my friends. I want to go to the apple orchard and pick apples with my kids. I want to fall into bed at night, exhausted but happy. I want to sit outside around my fire pit and talk to people I love about things that mean something to us personally.  In other words, I want to change the way I have been living. It is time. It is way past time.

Now I just have to figure out how to invite people over without using Facebook…shit. I might have to use my phone to make a phone call. That will be interesting. 🙂

Posted in anxiety, Depression, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People

Changing Your Mind

change your mind

Yesterday, I had a little breakthrough. It all started because I made up my mind on Sunday (statistically, the day I am most likely to make up my mind about things because, as you may know by now, I am the one person on earth who loves Monday’s, since they are the start of a fresh, shiny new week) night that I was going to have a good week this week. Anyway, I woke up yesterday feeling groggy but hopeful, and within an hour or so of waking, I had worked up a little enthusiasm for the week.

Would I allow my anxiety to get started? NO. Would I be enthusiastic and engaged in my life? YES. There is a little cheerleader who secretly lives in my brain (don’t tell anyone, please) and she comes out when I let her, to get me all excited about the possibilities. Yesterday was a good day for her. Which usually means it will be a good day for me, too. Obviously, we are one and the same, it’s just that I have a hard time identifying with a cheerleader, so I like to compartmentalize. Anyway…

Some things that have been troubling me were examined and re-framed. One of them was this whole worry about my kid thing- I talked to the principal last week and found out that there are at least two teachers present during pick-up, one of whom is usually him, and the fact that he knows Cam, and is aware that she is being picked up after school, and who is picking her up- that went a long way towards soothing my worries. Plus, this is the second week now, so it has become more routine. You know how I love my routines. So, that is under control for now.

Another thing has been work. Since we have gone to a new computer system, work has been chaotic and so very different. What I thought would be an easy transition has actually been like starting a brand new job, and after ten years of doing the same thing every day, it has been a major disruption to my routine (there’s that word again). But you know what I realized yesterday? There has never been a task set before me that I could not master- not ever, not once, at least not at work. I can’t think of anything outside of work, either, to be honest. I’m not saying I am great at everything, but I am teachable. I am smart enough to figure things out. This will be no different. So my goal now is to learn this system and become proficient at it, and I think that will come with time. Knowing that, I can relax a little bit.

Finally, yesterday was the one year anniversary of my friend Joe’s death- I’ve written plenty about him, but in case you missed it, his death shook me pretty hard. I’ve made peace with it- what else is there to do? But it occurred to me how blessed I am to be alive, to have all of these opportunities to evolve and change and get better. Rather than sit in my shit and expend all of my limited energy being upset, worried, and critical of myself, I should probably find a way to celebrate my very life, reflect on all those blessings, and be attentive to the things that I get right. Doesn’t that sound so much better? Yes, I thought so, too.

Which brings me, finally, to the point of this post. I am not naive enough to believe that simply making up your mind to be happy will solve all of your problems, believe me. Mental illness, to whatever degree you may suffer it (and seriously, we all have our shit) is REAL. But the mind IS a powerful thing, and on a good day, we can get ahead of the game a little bit if we set ourselves up in the right way. I do believe that is possible. I have gotten really good, over the years, at noticing the ways in which my thoughts go wrong and lead me to trouble. I used to think the most awful things about myself until I really started paying attention, and now I am much less likely to go off the rails thanks to my inner mean-girl insulting me- but it took time, lots of time, and lots of noticing it.

Well, yesterday, I noticed that my mind tends to focus on all of the things that I couldn’t get to in a day, or forgot to do, or could have done better. The thing is, I have unnaturally high expectations of myself, and of other people, if I’m being totally honest. Which makes it hard for me to like and accept myself, and doesn’t make it easy to be my friend, either. Passing acquaintance, yes. Good friend? Not so much. But that is a blog for another day. Right now, I want to tell you how, once I started noticing my tendency to fixate on what hadn’t gone right in my day,  it was super easy to change my mind to focus on what I HAD done, and what HAD gone right. I simply changed my focus. Again, and again, and again. I congratulated myself on everything that I had accomplished. I said out loud how proud I was of myself. I called myself a good mom. I’m really glad no one could hear me, because I probably sounded crazy.

The thing is, by the time I threw my happy ass into bed, I was all aglow with my own praise. I know, I know- this sounds weird as hell. But you know what? Who cares? It worked for me. It felt good. And honestly, there is no one else around to give me the positive reinforcement that I crave as a human being, so why not provide it for myself? It’s certainly not hurting anyone.

Replacing a negative thought with a positive one. Noticing an achievement rather than a “failure”. Giving yourself props instead of tearing yourself down. Exercising your power to change your mind, to choose your thoughts and perspective. What a concept, huh? Maybe all this mindfulness bullshit isn’t bullshit at all.

Have a wonderful day!