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 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 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.