Posted in adventure, inner peace, Life, meditation, Musings, People, relationships, spirituality

My Past Life Regression

It has now been about three hours since my regression, and it was recommended to me to write out the details, as I could probably remember far more than I was able to describe to Ann, the woman I went to for this experience. I’d like to mention that she is also an LMFT and has many years experience doing this…it wasn’t some roadside shack I went to, LOL!

You guys will have to forgive me if this isn’t as well thought out as I might normally write, but I have a ton of information in my brain wanting to come out, so bear with me.

The first thing you should know is that I have ALWAYS been interested in having a regression, and I have ALWAYS believed in reincarnation- even before I knew what that was, exactly. I was one of those creepy kids who could remember several of my past lives as a child, and it was natural as could be for me- I joke when I say “creepy kids” because I know for a fact there is nothing creepy about it in the slightest for the kid who is remembering. It’s as natural as picturing your bedroom when you are away from home, or your mother’s face when you are at school- just normal. Frustrating, though, when no one remembers what you are talking about except you- not even the people you know were there with you, albeit with different bodies than they have in this life. As a kid, you don’t question that odd fact, again, it just is what it is.

But I finally decided to seek out regression for myself in hopes of dealing with an issue that has been plaguing me in this lifetime. For whatever reason, when both of my daughters turned six, in their respective times, I developed a crippling, horrible anxiety about something terrible happening to them. Every illness, in my mind, was something terrible. Every moment they were out of my sight was torture. I was positive, deep in my heart, that some terrible fate was about to befall them. This lasted until my older daughter was 13, and then, poof! It was gone. Then my little one hit six, and it started all over again.

I found Ann Barham online, after doing a little research with Google. I was thrilled to find out she was only half an hour away from me, and even more excited when I realized I could just book an appointment with her simply because I wanted to. It wasn’t out of control expensive, there wasn’t a year long wait…I couldn’t believe it. I went ahead and read her book “The Past Life Perspective” prior to seeing her, and it was very interesting and informative…I highly recommend checking it out if you are so inclined. I told her, via email, what my issue was, and she agreed it was worth looking into.

Which leads me to today. You guys, I was so excited for days preceding this appointment. I was thrilled this morning. Then, as the time got closer, I started to get scared. What if it didn’t work on me? What if I couldn’t be hypnotized? I am, after all, a mega control freak (nifty side effect of my anxiety) so this wasn’t totally an unreasonable worry. I got to her home office thirty minutes early, and sat outside in my car, trying to get a hold of myself.

At 9:55 exactly, I rang her bell. She came out, brought me inside, and we chatted a bit while I filled out some paperwork. She explained the process to me, let me pick out a blankie (seriously) and had me get comfy on this awesome chaise lounge, and then it began. If you’ve ever done any guided meditation, that’s what the whole beginning process is like. There were plenty of moments when my panicked brain kept going “This isn’t working!”, but then I would focus back on her voice and find myself lulled again.

Finally, it was my turn…I’m going to be 1000% honest here and tell you that I really wondered at first if I was making it all up. She asked me to look at my feet, and I clearly saw pointy black leather boots on a pair of very dainty feet. They had hook and eye buttons, and they were standing in a dusty road. I was wearing a dress with many petticoats, a fitted bodice, and eyelet-looking sleeves. I could see my own face, with delicate features and curly blonde hair pulled up. I also had a hat on, though I didn’t mention that at the time.

So there I was, on that dusty road, and I was mad. I was mad because I’d married a man I thought I loved and followed him across the country from a life where I was very privileged, to a town where there was nothing. Here’s the thing to know about this lifetime as this woman- she was spoiled and petulant. I kept getting the impression of her stamping her foot, sulking and pouting like a child. When asked where they were, I immediately thought of Arizona, but also New Mexico, so…I just looked it up, and oddly enough, Arizona was called New Mexico Territory until 1863. That was a really cursory bit of research, so don’t quote me on that. Oh, I should mention that when asked the year, I thought 1860. So that kind of fits, sort of.

Ann asked me about my husband at that time, and I said that he was pleasant and really a happy guy, and that he didn’t respond much to my fits, which made me furious (this girl sounds like a peach, doesn’t she?). She asked me to look at him and see if he was anyone from my current life time, and I was shocked to feel sure that he was my little daughter, Camryn, now.  I wasn’t destined to stay long in that place, however. My husband died relatively soon after and I went home to the East Coast, back to my family.

I could see my family home very clearly, but it was like I was looking through the window in at the people inside. The only person I could see clearly was my father, who was a jolly, portly man who indulged me way too much. I was the apple of his eye. I sensed my mother there as well, but could not see her clearly. The house was of a well-to-do family, with a big window looking into the sitting room. There was a fire in the grate and art on the walls. I had pretty much everything I could have wanted, but I was not a happy or grateful person. When I returned home, I got the sense that I did not mourn my husband at all, but talked a lot about what I had been through.

Finally, we moved forward to a time when I met another man, a very tall man named James. We went on to marry, although I was considered a little old by then- I feel like I was maybe 27, definitely no more than 30. We had two children together, a girl and then a boy.  I felt that, with the birth of my children, I was a whole person for the first time in my life. I had a purpose outside of myself. I had a very clear picture of sitting on a chair in my bedroom with my small daughter, perhaps four or five, standing right in front of me, and the baby boy on my knee. I felt truly happy for the first time ever.

Of course, we needed to see why this life was the one I’d chosen to view, so she asked me to move forward to the next important event in this life. Sadly, it was a terrible one. My son had died, I believe from a fall where he struck his head very hard. I had been caring for him at the time, and I blamed myself. My husband also blamed me, or at least I thought he did. My daughter, who was six by this time, suddenly became my sole focus in that life…keeping her safe, while simultaneously keeping her at arms length, because I was terrified of losing her as well.

Now, I should mention again that I really wondered if I was making this all up right up to the time when my son died…that’s when I started bawling. To be honest with you, I cried the rest of the time, because I could see so clearly how broken-hearted that woman was, and how misguided her efforts were afterwards…the way her daughter felt so obligated to tread carefully with her mother’s fragility, how bound she felt to her, and how much she resented her at the same time.

I cried because I could see what a wonderful life it might have been, but I chose to close my heart and build up walls around it, to keep myself safe. I tried to control every move my daughter made to keep her safe. In the end, she married and left home, and for her it was probably a relief, but I went on to knock around in my beautiful home, with no real relationships to speak of. I was lonely and empty, and it was in some way by design.

There was a lot more stuff after that, but the overall message I received was that choosing not to love because you are afraid of being hurt does not make your life easier, it makes it hard and sad and lonely. Hiding behind walls keeps you separate. You cannot prevent or prepare for everything by trying to control it. Life unfolds the way it unfolds. You just have to relax, and step out from behind those walls, knowing that you do not need to do a single thing to deserve to be loved, and that it is safe to give love. It’s really the only thing that makes life worth living, honestly.

So, here’s the deal- was it real? I mean…the feelings I felt were absolutely real. I’m not much of a crier, and I honestly couldn’t stop the tears. And it was so strange…when we got to the part about the little boy dying, I thought “oh, that must be it!” but my mind immediately knew it had much more to do with how I treated the girl after he died. His death was awful, but the impact of it on my life and on hers was what was important for me to see.

So…I have no reason to believe it was just made up. I wasn’t famous or fancy or even pleasant, to be honest. I was a sad woman with a life I would never want for myself. And it was not at all what I thought I’d see- soooo completely different than anything I expected. I learned some important things in those two hours, more than I have even shared here. I think it was real. What do you think?

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Posted in Blogging, family, happiness, kids, Life, love, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, random, relationships, women

Babies, Kittens, & Change

they-grow-up-so-fast

So, I guess Camryn has decided to grow up over Christmas break. I mean, I knew it was starting when she would wait for me to leave the room before jumping in the shower. My daughters are both exceptionally modest about their bodies (I literally have no idea where they picked this up, unless it’s just one of those things where they are as opposite of me as possible), but still…she’ll let me come in and wash her hair once she’s in the tub. She just doesn’t want me in the room as she gets in the tub. So whatever, I play along.

Well, now she is washing her own hair, too. I’m not sure how well it’s being washed yet, but it smells okay. And I’m glad for it, I really am. These are things she should be able to do for herself, of course they are. But now she’s totally sleeping 100% in her own room. Just like I wanted. I’m proud of her, and glad that she just made up her mind and did this thing- this thing that I’ve been complaining about for at least the past year. I really wanted her in her own bed! Except…except last night, I had to threaten to make her come sleep with me if she didn’t settle down in her room and get to sleep. Sleeping with me is now a punishment. Sigh.

And yesterday? Yesterday, I said “Hey, can you do mommy a favor?” to her, and she said “Sure, but can you stop saying “mommy”? “Mom” would be fine.”

Well, shit. Why don’t you just stab me straight in the heart, you little beastie?

Only I said nothing, because she is doing what she is supposed to do- she’s growing up. Not too much, it’s just happening sort of all at once, and it’s alarming, and what’s more, it’s very, very sad. She is my baby. But she is not a baby anymore, and that is a fact. Trying to keep her there would be harmful and wrong, so…I’m just trying to mourn in private, and let her enjoy her tiny bits of independence.

Last night when her dad brought her home, he waited until she was in the other room and he was like “What is going on with her?!” I didn’t really need to ask what he meant. She’s been a little prickly, a little extra…extra, if you know what I mean. I said “Well, she’s growing up a little, and we need to be patient with her, but firm…and whatever you do, don’t tell her she’s a bad kid. Tell her she’s a good kid, and we expect better behavior from her.”

Because I remember being that age- that age where you just aren’t a sweet little angel anymore, and you do have an opinion, and you’re trying to figure out how to have some autonomy…and end up looking like a little jack-ass. The adults in my life were horrified, asking me “what happened to you?” or “This isn’t the Courtney I know.” and reinforcing what a monster I’d become. This was not helpful. I honestly believed the things I heard- and I’m sure no one intended it meanly, but it was how I HEARD it, and internalized it. I thought something had gone wrong with me, and I was a disappointment, somehow. But I was just growing up, trying to figure stuff out. Just like Cam is now. My job is to parent and love her through it, to guide her, watch her, and be firm with her. What a trip to be able to understand what is happening. I hope I’m up for the challenge.

In other news, Milo, the cat who didn’t have rabies, has come over from the dark side. The formerly hissing, spitting, scratching, biting little demon has started sleeping beside me in bed, and purring every time I touch her. She cries when I go outside. Proof that if you shine enough love on the saltiest of creatures, it will eventually get through to them and they will change. It’s easier to do this with animals than people, but it works on both. Just love the grouchy ones…they need it most.

So there it is- babies and kittens grow up and change, and who they become depends a lot on how much and how well they are loved- because you can be loved very much, and still not be loved WELL. Another lesson I’ve picked up along the way. Another thing I wish I’d known sooner. But I know it now, and that will have to be enough.

Have a beautiful day.

Posted in Blogging, family, friendship, Goals, Holidays, Life, manifestation, Musings, People, relationships, women

Ready for What’s Next: Part 1

connection

I don’t want to jinx myself, but it looks as if I will be ending 2018 on a high note- I’ve had a fabulous past few days, filled with fun interactions with old friends that I haven’t seen in years. Lots and lots of laughter- the kind you can only really have face to face, with people who truly get you. And there is nothing better to me than people who not only laugh at my funny stories, but can make me laugh just as hard with theirs. Humor is just the top thing for me. I also went on a date that 100% did not suck- just easy conversation, not awkward, really nice…we all know how awful a first date can be, don’t we? Enough to keep me from going on very many, that’s for sure. So whether we go out again or not, it’s just really good to know there is hope- well mannered, funny, gainfully employed, grown up men do exist. I’m just happy for the experience.

But what really stands out to me about all of those things is the common thread of connection, and how it affected me. As you may know, I work from home about 95% of the time- I only work in the office for about 16 hours per month. The rest of the time, I’m here, at this computer, alone. There are many days when the only other adults I see are the mailman, if he has a package for me, and my friend Harmony who picks Camryn up from school for me. This generally seemed okay to me- I didn’t realize the impact all my isolation was having on my mood, my motivation, and my life. Until now, that is. After spending some real-life time with people recently, it was hard to miss the elevation in my mood, and the subsequent rise in my motivation to do things even later, when I was alone. I’m still basically an introvert- I will always relish time alone to recharge and decompress. But too much time alone is just as bad for my spirit as too much of anything else, and I intend to be mindful of that.

In 2019, my mission in life will be to continue in this fashion, spending time with people who make me laugh, and who laugh with me. People who I can talk about anything with, and never feel weird or bad. I want my friends to know that I care very much about them, and I am going to make a real effort to be there for them when they are struggling or in pain, and to reach out when they need someone. In 2018, I thought I was ready to come out of my cocoon, but looking back, I can see that I still had some resting to do. I do not feel any kind of way about this- it’s over, basically, and I must have needed that time or it would have been different. But I feel in my heart that this coming year will be different as can be, and I look forward to a lot of joy and good memories to be made.

There are certainly other goals I have in mind, but I think I will leave it at this one for now- connecting with friends and family, and looking forward to how it will color my life. That is 2019 Goal Number One. Stay tuned for the next few goals for the New Year!

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

Another Great Christmas

a happy christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in anxiety, Depression, friendship, health, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, People, relationships

Looking for the Lesson

So, I have to go in for my next rabies shot this morning. Even though I’m like 99.8% sure at this point that neither the cat nor I have rabies, I figure I still might as well finish what I started. Who knows when a furious raccoon might charge me as I’m walking to my car at 5 a.m., right? And when/if that happens, I’ll have a super power- the rabies vaccine, POW! Bite away, you frothy mouthed trash demon. Can’t kill me! Well, unless you sever an artery or something with your fetid claws.

As you can probably tell, I’m feeling a little less terrified and a little more back in reality than I was. Do I feel sheepish at all? Eh, maybe a tad. But listen- I am nothing if not a hypochondriac, and if I hadn’t gone ahead and handled this, I’m sure I would’ve only prolonged my misery and panic. Anyway, even though the odds of that cat having rabies were pretty low, what I may not have mentioned was that she WAS in some sort of altercation with another animal the week prior, and we do have a dearth of raccoons and skunks that frequent our yard. Those animals are notorious for carrying rabies, and the cat wasn’t vaccinated, and ALSO, there have been rabid animals in our county withing the past year. So…still, a bit (like a big bit) of an overreaction, but for me, too much knowledge, paired with a big imagination and a healthy dose of anxiety equals a real bad scene.

Thursday morning was the day of my rapid unraveling. It is now Sunday, and I am not yet 100% myself. I continue to wake up jittery and nervous, I’m avoiding my normal routine of coffee, coffee and more coffee ( I just stick with 1-2 cups, rather than endless), and everyday tasks such as changing my clothes and accomplishing anything much have been a bit beyond my reach. I did change from my pajamas into regular clothes yesterday, but they were the same clothes I wore the day before that, so…not really an accomplishment. It’s not like I was out rolling in mud or anything, but still. I finally began to feel almost regular by about noon yesterday, yet in terms of energy and drive I am still flagging. I’m sure such a rapid increase in adrenaline in ones body, along with whatever else might be happening, causes a big crash. I’m just speculating, but it seems logical.

I’ve been looking for the lesson in all of this- that’s just something I’ve always done, since I was a very young woman. I try to figure out what I am supposed to be learning from the thing that I am going through. Right now, I am taking from this that the effects of stress on me, mentally, will eventually come boiling to the surface. It is up to me to put my foot down and protect myself. That stupid and trite saying about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first absolutely applies here- I was trying to help other people when I have been seriously in need of some care, myself. My body, my brain, my spirit- they all got together Thursday and declared a state of emergency. I had no choice but to listen anymore. So, even if the thing I did to care for myself seems strange & over the top, it was a rational reaction to the crazy feeling inside of me. I honored myself by listening, even though I was embarrassed and scared.

Another thing I am learning from this is stop looking for help in people who refuse to be available to you. When you reach out to someone and they are not able to hear you, stop reaching out to that person. The toll it will take on your already vulnerable self is devastating. I have been incredibly sad about the rejection I felt from not one but two different people I have tried to reach out to, lately, and I know that added to the mini-breakdown I’ve had. But you know what? I found exactly what I needed, and BECAUSE I was so desperate at that moment, I did something unusual for me, and I kept reaching out. I called my friend Donna, and she came immediately to take my daughter so I could go to the hospital, EVEN THOUGH she thought I was out of my mind (not wrong) she humored me because she could see that I was hurting. She then brought my daughter to me at the hospital so they could examine her for bites or scratches, and after that, took the cat to the SPCA.  My boss, who is amazing and so supportive, sat with me on the phone at least four times and listened to me cry and told me it was okay to feel how I felt, and it was okay to not work, just to try to get better. My Ex, who I have a difficult relationship with at times, is currently sleeping on my couch so that I feel safe, and so I can have hugs, and also, so he can help with our daughter. I have incredibly good friends who go above and beyond for me. I don’t have billions of them, but I have a few really good ones.

Yesterday, I dropped off a few little gifts for people that weren’t expecting them. My neighbor who’s had a really rough few years, my boss who ought to have expected it…that went a long way in cheering me up. I really fell apart, you guys. I’m putting myself back together. I don’t think I will be exactly the same person when all the puzzle pieces are back in place. I don’t think I am supposed to be. I think maybe that’s part of the reason we fall apart to begin with- so that we can come back a little differently, and maybe a little better, than we were. Maybe that’s the lesson.

Posted in Addiction, family, Holidays, kids, Life, motherhood, parenting, People, recovery, relationships, women

Trying Times

I’ve been avoiding trying to post anything here for the past little while, as I am slogging through a whole bunch of uncomfortable life stuff, and can never trust myself to not say too much. I can’t guarantee that I won’t do that now. So to preface whatever comes next, I would just like to say this: This is my experience, this is my space, and this is my truth. Okay, lets get on with it.

After this many consecutive days, months, and years in recovery, I figured life would get easier, my close personal relationships would be healed and warm, close and vibrant. I really thought that if I could change myself enough, that would change everything. The truth is, changing myself only changed ME. I am the one actively working on myself, and due to that, sometimes it seems like it’s actually caused more trouble than ever before. Why? Because I have some respect for myself, and therefore, I expect other people to as well. Because I am cognizant enough to see clearly when someone else’s behavior is not okay, but smart enough now to know when I might as well keep my mouth shut about it. It seems like I am having deep issues with all the people I love most in my life, and I’m not going to lie, it hurts.

It’s made especially bad because it’s Christmas time, and this cheery little tree all lit up in my living room seems like it’s mocking me. I don’t have tons of Christmas spirit on my best days, and these are far from my best days. But I do have a happy little eight year old who deserves to feel all the magic of Christmas, so I will do my best to plaster a smile on my face and keep things light.

I also have a twenty-one year old daughter who isn’t speaking to me right now. She blocked me on social media, and told me she wants nothing more to do with me. And, listen, I know…I know that, chances are, she’ll get over it soon enough. I also know that her anger, though she might disagree, is misplaced. There are times when you have to draw the line and let people know you mean business, for REAL this time. I drew my line. She doesn’t like it. And that’s okay. She has to go about this business of growing up on her own, and sometimes that means learning some hard lessons. This is how we figure things out, most of the time. Through stark reality and pain. I wish it could be some other way, but I feel deeply that I need to step back and let her find her way on her own.

Still…it hurts. It hurts a lot. I’m sad, and angry and worried sick. I’m mad that things feel so uncomfortable. I blame myself, knowing I didn’t raise her the right way, and I have so much guilt, guilt I don’t think I will ever be free of. And it hurts like a motherfucker that I can’t even talk to my own mother about these things that are causing me so much grief, because she simply will not hear me. She has made it very clear that she just can’t handle it. So…what in the world do I do?

Well, I guess I write this. I tell the truth, and wait it out, hoping for the best. I put a smile on my face and go ice skating, telling myself that things will surely get better. They always do. And most of all, I let myself feel all these feelings: Anger, sadness, disappointment, fear. I’m lucky to get to have feelings I can name today. For so long, I didn’t feel at all, and when I did, I couldn’t trust those feelings.

Doesn’t mean I have to like them. But I can at least recognize that knowing myself, and knowing how I feel- I can see that having boundaries and holding fast to them- all of this is progress. Even when it feels like the worst thing in the world.

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.