Posted in anxiety, Depression, faith, family, happiness, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, mindfulness, Musings, People, spirituality

A Curated Life

A few more eye opening things have happened this week, and I thought I would share them with you now,before they get too far off in the past and I don’t feel like talking about them anymore.

thoughts

One thing, that just occurred to me this morning,is what prompted me to title this the way that I did. You know, it’s funny…in the technological age that we live in, we…or I guess I should say “I”, since I have no idea how you live your life, suffer with an absolute overload of information just dumping into my brain. I get up in the morning, and the very first thing I do is grab my phone off the charger and check my Facebook- before I so much get a cup of coffee in my body. I am checking my likes and my news feed before I even fully wake up. And yes, this doesn’t seem weird to me, but…I really thought about it this morning, and in the midst of my struggles with this beast of anxiety, I don’t think it serves me well.

I really considered it this morning, this habit I have of allowing any and all information into my mind indiscriminately. Things that make me smile and laugh, yes. But SO MANY things that make me sad, angry, disgusted, worried, annoyed. It doesn’t balance out. The same with my news consumption. The other day I listened to the entire days testimony of Micheal Cohen. The whole seven hours. I periodically jumped on Facebook to make a comment about it. Later, I spent time arguing with people who wanted to debate over it. The next day, I read all the news reporting about the testimony I had already heard. And you know, great, it’s good to know what is happening in the world, it’s important. But…not at the cost of your mental health. In the midst of typing out a particularly snappy comeback, my daughter tried to ask me a question, and I bit her head off. Misplaced anger. Tension. Frustration that I was still having the same fucking arguments with the few staunch Trump supporters I manage to be on speaking terms with. So how is this serving me? How does me using my precious time to argue with people who will NEVER agree with me, how does this help? How does snapping at my child because I’m mad serve my family, my goal of being better?

Short answer? It doesn’t. It doesn’t help me, it doesn’t change the world, it doesn’t help my family and it certainly does nothing but aggravate my already inflamed, anxious mind. So this has to change. I’m not going to pretend like I won’t hit up Facebook anymore- that’s not realistic. But the moment I saw what it was REALLY doing to me, I couldn’t help but lose interest in a big way. I’m tired, you guys. I am TIRED of feeling the way I’ve been feeling. I’m going to stop poking a stick at the angry dog of my head, and let it rest.

The other thing that hit me is this- I have been painfully aware of my crazy thoughts this week. So. Aware. Well guess what? I guess that means all my mindfulness practice is finally paying off, doesn’t it? Here I’ve been wondering what is wrong with me, why am I so on top of everything going on between my ears…well congratulations, Court. You just leveled up. I’ve been praying and waiting and hoping for a spiritual awakening, thinking it would be peaceful and lovely and blissed out. Nope. Now the real work begins, it looks like.

Which leads me to this final thing- if you look at my life this week, it LOOKS good. I have been productive and kind (except for that one little snapping incident I mentioned- I am only human) and tending to all the things I need to tend to. But there has been a discrepancy between how it looks and how I feel. I am not entirely comfortable in my skin, I am still having more worry and unhappy thoughts than I would like. But I am choosing to move through those feelings and worries anyway. I am seeing them, acknowledging them, and gently telling myself “You’re okay.”, or “That isn’t true, though.”, or “we can think about that later.”. I am not where I want to be, but ruminating on that is not helpful, whereas hugging my dog for five minutes on the floor might be. Snuggling with my daughter might be. Playing with my kitten might be.

Basically, I am living in acceptance right now. Here is what I have to work with, how can I work with it?Because I know I will not feel this way forever. Inevitably, I will get through whatever this is- I am getting through it right now, even- and life will start to feel really good again. It might even be today. But in the meantime, I am not just going to lay down and let it take over. I will still get up, still shower, still go to work, still laugh and joke and get dinner on the table. And I will choose what gets into my mind more carefully, because it matters. I cannot control what happens out there, but I do have some control over what happens HERE. Right here, right where I am, in this moment. Which is really all that matters.

Happy Friday!

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!

 

 

Posted in advice, anxiety, Depression, faith, health, inner peace, Life, magic, manifestation, meditation, Mental Health, mindfulness, People, spirituality, the occult

Just DO it.

just do it
Thanks, Nike.

Early, early this morning, because it was a full moon and I am not a night person in ANY way, I did a little candle ritual to get rid of this negative energy that’s been clinging to me like a second skin lately. I also saged myself and my house, and left all my crystals outside to charge in whatever glimpse they might have gotten of the moon through the thick fog that blankets the coast in the summer months. Yeah, I do all of that stuff. I’ve been listening to podcasts about magic and manifestation (they aren’t all that different, to be honest), I’ve been reading books about mindfulness and journaling. I also started taking magnesium, because I’ve heard it is effective at easing depression. I’ve seen my therapist, I’ve gone to meetings, I’ve reached out to friends. In short, I have used almost every weapon in my arsenal to yank myself out of this funk I have been in. There are two things that I haven’t done- well, one, as of yesterday- and they are these: Take TRUE action and take medication. I don’t happen to have any medication laying around to take, obviously, but I am not averse to doing such a thing- going to my doctor and saying “Hey, nothing I am doing is working. I need some help.”, but I will tell you this, it is the very last thing I ever want to do. I’ve been lucky so far and it hasn’t come to that, but rest assured, if it did, I would do what I needed to do. I would never shame someone for needing that kind of help. Depression is an endless-seeming nightmare, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Everyone I’ve spoken to about the way I’m feeling inevitably asks the same question- “Why are you depressed? What’s wrong?” And it is almost funny, but not really, because…seriously? That isn’t how depression works. And I don’t know. There’s nothing wrong, nothing has changed, I just feel awful and I can’t shake it. Trust me, I’m TRYING.

Taking TRUE action though, the other thing I hadn’t done until yesterday, I know isn’t an option for everyone who is clinically depressed. I don’t think that’s what I am, although I certainly have potential (the one instance where not living up to my potential is a good thing!). I am more like…lightly depressed. A salad with a side of depression. Still showering, still getting dressed when necessary, just really upset about having to do those things. So, for ME, I know that if I can just get myself moving, I will probably feel better. Only I don’t want to do that. I want to sit here, in my robe, with my hair in a fraying braid, eating ice cream out of the container and watching “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” with the blinds closed.

My daughter called me the day before yesterday, and I huffily paused my show to take her call. She asked how I was, and I told her the truth. This kid, she has struggled with depression off and on for years, and she had some advice for me. I told her “I just keep thinking ‘tomorrow will be better, tomorrow will be better’  but it’s the same thing!” and she goes “mom, you can’t do that- you have to just get up and make yourself do something- I even wrote it on my dry erase board-‘JUST DO IT’, and I look at it all the time. It really helps!”

Of course, I rolled my eyes (she couldn’t see me) and said “I know you’re right, I will.” with absolutely no intention of doing any such thing. Later that night I messaged a friend of mine- “I really need to get my shit together. I can’t go on like this.” I went to bed, and in the morning, I read his response: “Just do it, then.”

Hmm.

As woo-woo as I am, you won’t find it hard to imagine that I strongly believe in synchronicity, and messages from the Universe coming through in any way that they can. Just Do It. From two people who care about me, two people who couldn’t be more unlikely to have conspired behind my back to get this through to me.

Fine, then.

Yesterday, after work, instead of slipping into my couch-coma as I am wont to do, I grudgingly put my shoes on and ordered my small child and my dog into the car. I drove to the beach, and I grudgingly got out of the car, ordered my whining child and super excited dog out of the car, and trudged morosely up the hill and over the dunes. It was freezing cold and super windy, and for some reason, by the time we made it down to the water, both of us humans were smiling. The dog was smiling the entire time, of course. We didn’t go far or stay long, but that wasn’t the point. The point was just to do it. By the time we got back to the car, my ears hurt like hell from the cold wind, but I felt…alive. As if I were actually existing inside my body and life, rather than from somewhere outside of it.

We went to Petsmart, bought some dog shampoo and a big bone for Lucy, and when we got home I gave her a bath. She hasn’t had a bath in several months- the only one who hates her bath more than I do is her- but I was bound and determined to do it, and I did. She was such a good girl- she got right into her little tub and lay down, and I used a pitcher to rinse the filth off of her. When she was done, I dried her with a towel, and she pranced around, feeling pretty, the way dogs do after a bath. Five seconds before she went and rolled in the dirt out back. Goddammit.

The point here is, I did some things. And after I’d done them, I felt better. I took myself out to dinner, alone, and had a smashing time. I was in bed by nine, and that’s okay, too. So now, my job is not to lose my momentum. I’m not out of the woods yet. As soon as I hit publish on this bad boy, I’m throwing on some yoga pants and heading out for a little while- back to the beach, and then to a meeting.

Do I believe in my candle rituals and manifestation boards and crystal energy? Do I believe that my prayers are heard and that meditation helps, and that talking about what is wrong matters? YES. I believe all of that. But I also believe that we need to meet the Universe, meet God, meet whoever or whatever is out there halfway. Whether that means asking our doctor for help with our brain chemistry, or getting up and out of the house, putting away the ice cream and opening the blinds- that’s a personal decision. We can’t just wait for miracles to fall out of the sky.

So…just do it. Whatever it is. Sorry, Nike, I’m borrowing your catchphrase,

Posted in Addiction, advice, alcoholism, Goals, inner peace, Life, mindfulness, Musings, recovery

Radical Change

change

I’ve been extra quiet, here lately. I have been working hard on my novel, and it’s nearing the end, which is incredibly exciting for me- I had planned to be done with it months ago, but that just wasn’t how it panned out. I find it a little harder to blog on days when I am also working on my book, and I have been working on my book every day, but also…I just haven’t had a lot to say. Everything comes and goes in cycles, and in this cycle, the blogging aspect has been less active. And I am not overly concerned about any of it.

I am not overly concerned about anything, to be honest with you, and that…that is not like me at all. But MAN, do I appreciate it. I am just sort of rolling with whatever, happy to float along. It’s funny, though- one of the sharpest tools in the box of every addict is control. It’s very important when you are in your addiction, to be able to control every conceivable aspect of your life so that you can manipulate the outcome in your favor. It’s a necessity, almost. Or at least, it feels that way. The idea of letting go of the end result is totally foreign, and completely unacceptable. I don’t know, maybe normal people experience this as well? I have never been one of those, so I don’t know.

What I do know is that lately, I have made a conscious decision to stop fighting everything all the time, to let things go the way they are going to go, and see what happens. More than just a conscious decision, because decisions are one thing, but action is where it’s at! I’ve made a conscious effort to redirect myself often so that I stay on that path. What I mean is, my habit is still to control things and so, when I feel myself getting bunched up and frustrated because things are not going the way I expected, I take a deep breath, and get back with the program. I let go. I step back. I redirect.

Here’s the thing- I didn’t get clean so that I could just get by. In my heart of hearts, I have always believed I could have this big, beautiful, amazing life. I won’t settle for a life of struggle and mediocre happiness. That’s not what I am after. And I didn’t get clean so that I could find a whole new set of reasons to be unhappy and dissatisfied with myself. I want to love myself and love my life, and love all the people in it properly. But in all those years that I was using, I created a carefully crafted persona- someone sarcastic, tough, invulnerable and sharp, and that is my default now. I am having to learn how to disassemble this person I spent years and years putting together. It won’t happen overnight, but I know that is not who I want to be.

So every morning, I make up my mind that there is a lot to be excited about today. I think about how grateful I am for the life I have, and I imagine myself just being happy. I imagine it so well that I start to feel excited and happy and as if it is going to be a really good day. This may sound incredibly dumb, but it works! And throughout the day, when I feel my attitude slipping, I try to pull it right back to where I want it to be. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it works a whole lot better than when I don’t try at all.

A long, long time ago, when I was still very messed up, I remember driving down a street in Fresno when the thought popped into my head “Attitude is everything”. I remember it because it was such a weird thing for me to be thinking at that particular time, as I was in quite a state. I don’t remember what the thought was even in response to, I think it literally just randomly appeared in my head. But I believe that to be true with all of my heart- Attitude really is everything. I happen to know two different people that have recently gone through the exact same loss of a limb. Their attitudes about that loss could not be more different. One of them is thriving and full of gratitude about being alive, and the other has basically given up. It’s the exact same thing, two different attitudes. Our perspective on our own lives has everything to do with how our lives function. Everything.

So today, I have a plan of action for my own attitude. Love my life. Love the people in my life. Be grateful for everything. Love myself, everything about me. Do not think ugly thoughts, do not say ugly things. Find the blessing in every situation. Take a nap or eat a snack if any of the above gets too hard. Take a deep breath. Start over. Hug someone. Smile at everyone. Pet my cat, hug my dog, do the dishes, take a walk…whatever I need to do to keep the good energy flowing, that is my goal. And beyond that, be okay with whatever else happens. If I can’t be okay with it, let that thing go. I think there is always a way to have peace in our lives, if we have peace in our hearts, right?

And THAT is my recipe for radical change…a whole bunch of little things that add up to me being exactly who I want to be. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Posted in anxiety, faith, family, inner peace, Life, living, mindfulness, Musings, People, random

Calm Inside the Crazy

be here now

Sometimes I think I just shouldn’t leave my house. Or read the news, like, EVER. Seriously, days like today really bring home the phrase “Ignorance is bliss”.

What might be bothering you, Courtney? You might be asking yourself right about now. Well, let me enlighten you- In the very immediate sphere of living, we have a massive flu outbreak here in my little corner of the world; yes, I realize it’s probably also in your corner of the world, but I’m not there, I’m here, and I’ve suddenly become very preoccupied with remaining healthy. The flu sucks ass, for one thing. The last few times I’ve had it, it knocked me on my butt, and I HATE being sick. I am such a massive whiner when I am sick, and there is no one around to take care of me, plus I have to miss work, and I am always treading the line of disciplinary action for one reason or another. Aside from me, if my kiddo gets sick, she gets REALLY sick, like, asthma-inhaler-wheezing-no mom anywhere can sleep when her kid can’t breathe- kind of sick. I work at a hospital, and it is banana’s up there, I am not kidding you. We are breaking records, and not in a happy way. So there’s that. (And yes, we had our flu shots, but they are only about 10% effective this year.)

Going beyond that a little bit, we have fucking Donald Trump for president. I still can’t even believe I am typing those words with any degree of seriousness an entire year later. After my hope that our country were smarter than that had been crushed last November, I came up with the paltry little hope that maybe he wouldn’t be able to screw things up that bad- I mean, we have a series of checks and balances, right? This is a democracy! How bad can it get?

The answer to that is still unfolding, but I can sum it up in one word- Bad. Or three words- really fucking bad. I guess before I got my hopes up I should have factored in Twitter, eh? I mean, can we all agree now that this is not going well? Can someone make him stop antagonizing North Korea? Can we please get a grown up with some sense in there to help out? Because I am feeling very, very nervous about things.

I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to die in a nuclear holocaust. I don’t want to keep reading about the scary, crazy weather happening ALL THE TIME, EVERYWHERE. I’m frightened. I’m frightened, and overwhelmed and pissed off because I have no control over ANY of this shit. None of it.

So what can I do, then? First of all, I can remember that I am here, right now, not sick, not in the middle of a war, and that I am safe and okay, in my own little home. I can be present right now, which is the only time that really exists, right? Deep breath, in and out. I can choose not to look at the news- either on TV or on my phone. Let it go. There is nothing I can do about any of it right this very second.

Most importantly, I can remember that I have faith, not just when things are wonderful, but also when they are scary or dark or weird- you either have faith or you don’t, right? I have to remember that I trust that God, the Universe, whatever you choose to call it- that there is a plan and I don’t have all the information, and that is okay. Whatever happens, I trust in God, period.

And finally, uncertainty is ever present, whether we are conscious of it or not. This only underscores the fact that we need to wake up and be as grateful for our lives RIGHT NOW as we would be if we knew it was all ending soon. How loving would you be, how easily would you forgive, how much more would you savor the small things, if today was your last day? I mean, it changes everything, doesn’t it? And that is really kind of sad, isn’t it?

Sigh…I needed to get that out so badly. Stay healthy, warm and close to your fallout shelters, my friends. Jesus, I hope that last part isn’t necessary.

Posted in Addiction, advice, friendship, Life, love, Musings, recovery, relationships

The Fleeting Nature of Life

I have changed by leaps and bounds over the past two and a half years. Some of it was just by nature of staying off of drugs and letting my brain heal, but a lot of it was intentional and through hard, hard work, deep soul-searching, and honest reflection about the kind of person I am and who I want to be.

I am doing the recovery stuff- working with my sponsor, doing step-work, going to meetings. I am doing spiritual stuff- daily prayer and meditation. I have a therapist, I pay attention to my behavior, and try to reign it in when the way I am acting doesn’t jibe with the person I know I can be.

But nothing- and I mean NOTHING- can shake you up, nothing can clear the cobwebs out of your eyes, like the sudden loss of someone you love. I have never been more heartbroken in my life than I have since last August. That was when I lost my friend Joe, whom I loved so much more than I can even begin to explain, and even if I did, it wouldn’t make sense. That’s okay, though. Love doesn’t need to make sense, right? I always think about the way that most people get on my nerves, their frail human side is always coming to light, ruining everything. His never did. He never got on my nerves, like, not ever that I can remember. I am not trying to say that he didn’t have a bad side, that he never disappointed me or hurt my feelings, because he definitely did. He was just so easy for me to forgive. I wish I could love more people that way, but I haven’t yet (aside, of course, from my kids, but that is a different kind of thing altogether).

Anyway, he died. And it was one of the hardest days of my life, one of the worst phone calls I have ever survived. I remember that my knees just buckled, and I fell on the floor, the tears came in a torrent, and the grief was immediate and overwhelming. There have been lots of tears since then, and lots of times that I am totally fine. I can think of him or talk about him, and it makes me smile or laugh, no tears at all. As long as, you know, I don’t think too hard about what I am saying.

But what has happened as a result of him dying is, I have changed. I thought he was invincible. I know how stupid that sounds, but if you’d ever met Joe, you would understand why.  So, now that he is gone, I guess I view everything with more urgency, through the scope, I suppose, of someone who understands that life as I know it could change in an instant.

You might think that this would make me fearful, or hold on even more tightly to everything than I already do, but no…in a way, it has been a gift. Because I have had to face the fact that there is absolutely nothing I can do about some things. When it is your time, it is your time, plain and simple. Rather than making me cling to everything, I find myself learning to let go. Life is short. You had better enjoy every beautiful moment that makes itself available to you. Tell people you love them. Dance, be present, look up at the stars and the moon in the beautiful sky. Slow down. Say yes when you want to, and no when you should.

Don’t waste a bunch of time on petty anger, rushing through your day, always trying to get to the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. Take a moment to realize that this, right now, is your life. It is happening NOW. Maybe you are lucky, like me, and you are still relatively young, and your whole body works the way it is supposed to, and you can basically do anything you want to do. Do you realize how lucky that makes you? Don’t waste it. Don’t waste a single minute of it.

And that is all I have to say about that today. Carry on.

Posted in advice, inner peace, Learning, Life, living, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People, recovery

It’s ALL in Your Head

its all in your head

 

I’m just going to go ahead and warn you right now- if you are not in the right place to hear what I am about to say, it’s going to irritate the piss out of you. It has been my experience that, when I am being negative as fuck, the last thing I want to hear is someone telling me that maybe I should change my attitude. Also, if you are suffering from legit mental illness (and really, aren’t we all, to some extent), I mean, severe depression, etc., then you are excluded. But for the rest of us, the whiners, complainers, procrastinators, and the “I feel fucked over” population, this is for you. For US, actually, since I am right there with you most of the time.

I don’t know exactly when it started for me, but I suspect it was somewhere in my mid-30’s, when I began to feel this sort of pervasive dissatisfaction with my life. Weirdly enough, if I had to point out a distinct portion of my life as the beginning, it would be around the time that everything settled down for me and stopped being so completely chaotic. You would think, wouldn’t you, that once things stopped being so messy they started feeling better, right? Not in my case. Perhaps I was so used to the chaos and upheaval that, once the dust settled, it didn’t feel very exciting anymore. I think I have written about this in the past, the way I love a good challenge, and overcoming obstacles is so gratifying for me. I have dubbed it “The Phoenix Syndrome” because I get off on rising from the ashes.

But you can only burn your life to the ground so many times before it becomes exhausting. I am 42 years old now, and the thought of starting over, picking up the pieces after wrecking everything myself- it holds a lot less appeal to me. I have evolved into this strange creature who pays her bills on time, and watches carefully her processed food intake. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that I used drugs made partially from Drano, for Pete’s sake, and now I worry about the saturated fat content in a burger. Sigh. I am laughing about this now, but only because it’s true, and super weird.

So, my life settled down, and my mind began to change, and somewhere along the way, instead of just enjoying all the blessings of this incredible life I was living- clean, employed, blessed with a beautiful family, a nice house, enough of everything I needed- a little voice in my head started bitching, complaining, and feeling put out about everything, and it’s tenacity is astonishing.

This little voice never wants to do anything, and I mean anything- except of course, the opposite of whatever it is I happen to be doing at the time. If I am sitting on the couch, blissfully indulging in a Netflix marathon of Ghost Whisperer, the little voice is haranguing me because I really ought to be doing: The dishes, the laundry, or some type of meaningful interaction with my kid. Okay, so maybe the little voice is right. However, should I give in to the little voice, here is what inevitably happens: As I do the dishes, or the laundry,  the little voice will then say something like this: “You spend your whole life doing things you don’t want to do- when is it time for YOU, Courtney?” Or, in case I am playing Go Fish with the spawn, it says “You should really move this along. You could be doing something productive right now.”

In short, the little voice’s mission seems to be to make me as miserable as possible, no matter what I am doing. And, check it out, I am not talking about a psychotic break here. These are not disembodied voices that are barking directions at me. No, this voice sounds an awful lot like me, and I am nothing if not convincing. Much of the time, I buy into that shit, 100%.

And that is too bad, you know? Because the truth is, I deserve to enjoy my life. Every one of us do, to be honest. It is our God given right to be happy in this lifetime, however that looks to you. But every single time we listen to that shitty voice in our heads, we are bound to feel the opposite of happy.

So, what are you supposed to do about it? Well, this is the tricky part where I start trying to give advice about something that I haven’t mastered expertly just yet. I do well for a while, and then I backslide a little, start listening again. But I do know a little bit. Like, for instance, start noticing it. Start really paying attention to the thoughts in your head, hearing the critical voice when it starts talking. Because when you are aware of it, you can have a conversation with it. Your mind may say “You are so lazy. Everyone else keeps their dishes done, what is wrong with you?” And you can say, “I work my ass off all week long, I am the furthest thing from lazy, I am dealing with the loss of Jim right now (Ghost Whisperer reference, sorry), go away. I will deal with the dishes later.” You are allowed to defend yourself, even to yourself. My only advice to you here is that you have this conversation internally, unless you are home alone. People do tend to become concerned when you are having frustrated, one-sided conversations with yourself out loud.

Another thing you can do to combat this is to notice the tone of your thoughts, and, when they are negative and critical, redirect them. This happened to me yesterday, actually, when I was faced with the task of working in my enormous, weed filled yard. It was hot, and there was so much work to do, and I am not a big fan of manual labor of any sort. I started thinking about how much I wanted to be inside, doing nothing, and how shitty it was that I had to work all week and then spend my time off doing something I hated. And THEN, I looked around me. I was spending a sunny afternoon in my own yard, and people who loved me gave up time out of their busy lives to come help me, for free, clean up my yard. There was music playing, and kids laughing, and we got so much done! Suddenly, as I stood there, bent over at the waist, shoes and gloves full of fox tails, I broke through the spell that negativity had cast on me, and I could see the truth.

I was actually having a perfect day. I just had to be able to see it. Changing the conversation we have with ourselves, in our heads, is not easy, it is not quick, and it is not permanent. Like everything else worth achieving in life, it takes a lot of effort. But there are days now when I can nip it in the bud the minute it starts, and I always, always end up having a better time. I would guess that 90% of our experience of life is in the way we view it. If you let that little voice have too much power, you will not be able to enjoy anything. You could win an all expense paid, ten day trip to Disney World, and spend the whole time upset by how long the lines are for the rides, or worrying about your dogs back home.

So, basically- Pay attention to your thoughts. Listen to the way you are speaking to yourself. If your thoughts are lame, change them- you are not only allowed to do this, you are the only one who can. If the way you are speaking to yourself is shit, correct it. Don’t let your head talk to you in a way that you would never tolerate another person to. Remember, you are in charge of which thoughts you believe- it may not seem like it, but it’s true. The more you redirect yourself, the easier it becomes.

That’s it, that’s all I’ve got. Have a wonderful day!