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.

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

Peace

peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

Openings

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

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

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

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

Have a beautiful week.

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

Bloom Where you’re Planted

bloom-where-you-are-planted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starting right here, right where I am.

Posted in family, friendship, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, relationships

Yesterday

connection

 

God, yesterday was gorgeous. Not just the weather- although that was gorgeous, too, but…it was the content of the day that left me, at the end of it, feeling loved and valuable and as if I truly have places and people to whom I belong, where I am wanted.

I didn’t know that I was feeling like that wasn’t true. I didn’t know what that emptiness was or why it was there until it started to fill up again, and then I got it. I’ve been lonely, and I didn’t even know that’s what it was. I thought loneliness felt a different way, I guess.

I know that I spend too much time alone. I thought that I preferred to be alone, and it’s true- I do value my down time. But, as with all things in my life, I tend to overdo anything that feels good…and too much of anything that feels good will eventually morph into something that doesn’t feel so good anymore. Balance- I have never been very talented at that. I could use a little bit more moderation in most things.

I attended a celebration of life for my friend Che who passed away a few months ago. He was only 46- just a few years older than me- and he had a heart attack while surfing. I was nervous, as I usually am before any type of gathering, but I pulled myself together and I got in the car and went. As I drove over the hill to Carmel, the sun was shining, and the world was so breathtaking, and the tears started coming…yesterday would have been Che’s 47th birthday. He was too young. What else is there to say? That is just too young.

I got to meet his mama, and give her a big hug. He was her only child, and I don’t know how…I don’t have any idea how one survives something like this. I didn’t know anyone there at first, but then a few old friends of mine showed up, and God, it was so good to see these people. One in particular that I hadn’t seen in…gosh, probably almost 20 years! We were over the moon to see each other after so much time. There was more laughter than tears, lots of love and warmth in that place. I’m so glad I went.

I had to leave a little early to head over to a baby shower- my daughter’s best friend since 5th grade is due in November, and I couldn’t miss out on celebrating with her. We had so much fun! I adore Kristina, although her mother and I despaired over our two wild girls many, many times throughout their teenage years. We laughed about how often we plotted to keep them apart, all of it always amounting to nothing. Kristina has been a steadfast and faithful friend to my daughter, and it’s so wonderful to get to watch her life progress. Oh my goodness, we laughed so much yesterday.

After that, I got a surprise phone call from a friend who NEVER calls me, and we talked for almost an hour. She is trying to cope with the terminal illness of another friend of ours who has very little time left…he has made her the medical decision maker, and she is doing the best she can. I offered to help any way that I could, and we talked…oh, she is one of the good ones, we get to talk about the deep stuff, and I love it so much.

Finally, just to cap off my day, I loaded up the car with Cam and Lucy the lab, and we headed to the beach. We made it just in time for a beautiful sunset, and I…what can I tell you? My heart was so full.

In one short day, I celebrated the too-short life of a friend I’ve known for over half of my life. I celebrated the coming birth of a brand new life. I reconnected with friends I haven’t seen in years, had some deep conversations, reminisced about a past that might not have been as awful as I’ve let myself believe. I witnessed the full spectrum of life, didn’t I? And at the end of it all was a stunning sunset with more people (and pets) that I love.

I dumped the sand out of my shoes last night, and fell into bed exhausted, but, for the first time in so long…I was content.

I want more days like that. Of course I do. Maybe without having to lose anyone else, though. That would be even better.

Posted in anxiety, family, kids, Life, living, love, mindfulness, motherhood, parenting, People

This Beautiful Moment

winnie

Yesterday, against my better judgement, I went to see Christopher Robin, the new Winnie the Pooh movie that is out right now. I had scheduled a play-date for Camryn and her little friend Robine from school- she’s this adorable little girl who is here for three years with her family from the Netherlands, and she is literally my favorite of all the kids in Cam’s class, aside from Cam herself, of course. Anyway, I had wanted to see The Incredibles 2, but as usual, I missed the boat on that one. So the only thing playing was Christopher Robin, and that was that.

I have never been a big fan of Winnie the Pooh. I don’t know why, I was just never into it. And honestly, the movie wasn’t all that great, but…that didn’t stop me from bawling my eyes out through half of it. Why? You want to know why? Okay, I’ll tell you: Because it reminded me of a few things- one of which is the terrible way we lose our true selves as adults, and become these tense, unimaginative people most of the time. We get our priorities so wrong, we place work and money above our families and the things we truly love. I think about this all the time, but I still catch myself doing it, no matter how bizarre and backwards it seems.

Another reason it made me so wistful was the way it portrayed the sad loss of childhood, the way we leave behind the playful, joyful little people we were. Especially right now, especially for me…dealing with all of this anxiety lately, just trying to hold it all together. It doesn’t allow me a lot of room for full-throttle happiness. I mostly feel like I am peering inside myself with a spotlight and a magnifying glass. Which is utter bullshit, because the world is far too big for me to spend all of my time gazing at myself. I need to stop it.

Which brings me to my third reason for crying- my daughter is having her childhood right this very moment. This is such an odd time for being a child, isn’t it? So different than the way it was when I was little. I played outside, unsupervised, for hours and hours at her age. I explored the woods next door to my grandparents house with a friend my age- we found a creek to jump in and a low-voltage fence to take turns touching, we explored abandoned buildings and did all sorts of stuff that was unwise and dangerous. But I never got seriously lost or gravely injured, and I grew up to be independent and mostly unafraid of the world.

With my anxiety being primarily about the safety of my children, you can imagine what the thought of that kind of free time for my seven year old does to my stomach. And yet, I wouldn’t trade my experiences as a kid for anything. What a quandary. If it is my responsibility to provide her with the most enriching and full childhood that I can, but I am scared to let her loose, what do I do? I guess I find a happy medium. Let go a little, but keep her in sight? Spend more time doing things I don’t really want to do because I’m lazy, knowing they will be the best memories for her? Yeah, I think that’s really all there is to do. Because lets be real- I’m not releasing her into the woods to explore abandoned buildings. I don’t know what the hell my family was thinking. LOL.

More succinctly, I was crying because it hit me that my littlest daughter isn’t going to be a child forever- not even for very much longer, really, and we forget, don’t we? We just live through the days as if they will stretch on forever, forgetting how fast it all goes by. The thing is, childhood is so short, but it is so beautiful and so important. I guess I just want to remember, so that I can make hers the very best I can manage. That’s what I am thinking about today.

Also, spoiler alert: Christopher Robin is a total dick to Pooh, and that also made me cry. The kids didn’t cry, but I was a mess. How embarrassing.

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

Good Morning

Outside, the fog has been thick, every single morning for days and days. Just a typical summer here on the peninsula. My garden is in full bloom, wilder than I know how to contain, and the whole world smells like the ocean. It’s not quite daylight yet.

Inside, I sit here at my desk with my little desk light on, writing this. The wash machine is chugging away, and the dryer, too. My house smells like clean laundry. My daughter sleeps soundly in my bed, and the dog is snoring in her own bed. The cats wind around my ankles, demanding attention, and I mostly ignore them. Mostly.

Thursday, Friday, and yesterday I was bogged down in exhaustion. From Cam going back to school to me having to change my whole schedule for work, not to mention getting used to our new computer system and doing all the chores that the new school year entails, it’s no wonder I was tapped out. But I always worry when I start to feel that way, as it’s often the first sign of a new round of feeling low, depression nipping at my heels. I worry. It’s hard to tell the difference between just plain tiredness and something more serious. And I’d only just started feeling better, so…

Luckily, I woke up this morning feeling rested, peaceful, and ready to take on the day. Good thing I did, because I have a LOT to do around here. Being out of the house for the past two weeks during the day, and coming home ready to collapse into bed, things have reached a new level of disarray in this house. The laundry is piled up to the ceiling (almost) and the fridge is full of food that is no longer edible. I have shopping and cleaning and laundry to do, so this would not be a good time to fall into a funk. I’ll do what I can today and not a sliver more.

But for now, for right this minute, I’m going to revel in contentment. Pour myself one more cup of coffee and read another chapter in my book, watch the world wake up. Exactly the way a Sunday morning should be. Hope you are having a good morning, too, wherever you are. 🙂