Posted in adventure, faith, family, Goals, Life, Musings, random, travel, Uncategorized

On My Way!

Well, I’m not really on my way- not quite yet, anyway. This time tomorrow morning, I will already be at the airport with Cam, at our gate, waiting to board our flight. But you and I both know our vacations start well before we ever walk out the door of our homes. My brain has been in vacation mode all week, work nothing more than a bothersome distraction.

Does this mean I’ve been busy packing and preparing? Well…no. Just by virtue of the fact that I know I need to do a bunch of stuff, I have felt less inclined to do any of it. I have gotten all of our laundry done. I finally started packing our suitcases last night. I have dishes to do and one last Target run to pick up the final items I absolutely have to have with me for this trip- like those little tubes of freeze dried Starbucks instant coffee? Those are 100% necessary when staying in a hotel with questionable coffee availability and family who do not wake up anywhere near as early as you do. So, I need those. I need at least one new phone charger as all of mine seem to have stopped working this week. I really need a new fitbit band, but I’m hoping this one will hold up at least until I get where I am going. But I might see if they have one at Target, I don’t know.

Anyway you crack it, I will be somewhere in San Francisco tonight, sleeping in the first of a series of unfamiliar beds, and the adventure will begin.

This morning, I sat on my cushion for my normal prayer and meditation, and I set my intention for this day and this trip. Gratitude that this is my life now- I am a person who can plan a trek across the country and follow through. I can have confidence in myself, for I am capable, smart, and strong. I will be patient, with myself and others, knowing we are all doing the best we can at any given moment. And I will enjoy myself, basking in the love I have for my family, and that they have for me, as we embark on this adventure together.

Am I nervous? I would not be me if I weren’t, but…I trust that all will be well. So, Bon Voyage, my friends! I’ll catch up with you all when I am in Maine- I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to write while I wait for everyone else to wake up!

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Posted in adventure, anxiety, faith, happiness, inner peace, Life, love, meditation, Mental Health, Musings, People, spirit, spirituality

Turning Toward the Pain

If you have been following along on this scribbled down leg of my life’s journey with me, then you know that I have been through some STUFF. Since I started this relationship with WordPress years ago, I have shared my stories of addiction, recovery, relapse, and more recently, my exit from recovery. I have talked about guilt, shame, parenting fails, anxiety, depression, and probably a trillion other things I couldn’t possibly remember right now. I have talked about God, about my spiritual life, about my desire to evolve, be better, do better. I write a lot about the times I get up, and I probably write a lot more about the times when I feel knocked down. These are the things I need to speak from my heart more urgently. These are the things I feel called to share.

If you have ever thought “Man, this poor girl can’t catch a break- it’s always something!” I want to be clear that there are always times when I could choose to take a time-out. There are probably months worth of posts where I have been gliding along, feeling peaceful, overflowing with gratitude. But it is my nature to seek. I feel in my soul the urge to grow and change and untangle the knots of who I am. It is inherently part of what makes me me.

This latest little series of posts is no different- although, of course, it is different than anything else I have been through. It’s just a new set of interesting things I am sorting through and figuring out. I am not lost, I am not in over my head, I am not losing my hold on reality. I do not need to be fixed. I am not broken. To the contrary, I am strong, resilient, capable, and independent to a fault.

On that note, I want to tell you that it is entirely possible to be strong, resilient, capable and independent, and still be a walking vessel for fear. I am still afraid, all the time, about things I can’t control. Most, if not all, of them are made up scenarios in my head that I dream up to torture myself. Why do I do this? I couldn’t say. Perhaps I spend too much time alone and have a bit too much going on in the imagination department. If my life were a TV show,  the scenes unfolding in my head would be hilarious. Unfortunately, this is real life, and they aren’t funny in the moment.

I am going through a little phase of this right now. My anxiety is flaring up, my imagination is firing on all cylinders, and the fear is revving its engine, just waiting to tear off down the track, dragging me behind it. And you know what? WHATEVER.

That’s the word I’ve chosen to deal with all of it. WHATEVER. Okay, brain, fine, do your worst. I’m just gonna hang on and let this thing play itself out. I can survive it. I’ve done it a million times before. I have done therapy, read books, reasoned with myself, tried distraction, prayer, meditation…you name it. So, fine. If I insist on continuing this way, then whatever. I accept it.

No, you know what? I more than accept it. This feeling in the pit of my stomach, the harbinger of nerves to come? I embrace it. This feeling comes from a place of deep, if misguided, love. And how lucky am I to love so much that sometimes it hurts me? I wish that my relationship with love didn’t hold so much fear, but right now it does, and while I am working on a solution, I want to take a moment to acknowledge how brave my spirit must be…to be so afraid, and still be able to love the way I do. At least when it comes to my children, I am an open channel of never-ending love, and it is terrifying, but it is also the best, most beautiful part of my life.

So today, rather than admonish myself for my inconvenient feelings, I am going to turn towards them. Turn towards the pain and the fear, and say “I see you. I get it. I understand why you keep showing up.” Maybe I just need to learn to sit with it, instead of always running away. Show my fear, and the pain it causes, some tenderness and understanding, because it’s a part of me, and it comes from a place in me that is hurting. I am not broken. But there are depths I have not explored and places inside that I keep locked away, even from myself. I’m getting closer, all the time, to letting the light in.

I think it’s pretty human to want to get away from things that don’t feel good. Whether it’s a bad pair of shoes, or feelings that make us uneasy or cause us distress- pain, fear, worry, jealousy, anger, sadness. We always want the sunny ones, but the darker ones we feel the need to change, resolve, hide, analyze, fix. But there is value in the painful stuff. There’s a reason, and there’s growth there…painful feelings are trying to tell us something we need to hear. Sometimes it’s just hard to listen because we can’t be still with them. I’m going to try really hard to listen this time.

Feeling less than okay is okay. Today I give myself permission to feel my feelings without judging them or trying to change them, with no expectation of a different outcome. I just want to see how it feels to do something different. I want to see where this path leads.

Posted in anxiety, Depression, Goals, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, women

Kicking Ass

I told you that I was about to shift gears around here, and apparently, I actually meant it. I don’t have a ton of time this morning, thanks to the 45 minutes I just wasted playing video slot machines with fake money that nevertheless absolutely makes me stress like actual money, but I digress. (PS: that shit is really fun, but I don’t dare connect it to my Facebook account for more free coins because I don’t want anyone to worry that I’m on drugs- trust me, it really is a druggie thing. Also, trust me, I am seriously NOT on drugs. 🙂 )

Anyway, I have been a veritable whirling dervish since we last talked- not a literal one, I just looked up what “whirling dervish” is and it’s some kind of religious thing. So that’s not it. What I mean is, I’ve been kicking ASS around here. Handling my business. Folding laundry, keeping the sink clear of dishes, seeing a piece of garbage on the floor and actually picking it up instead of walking past it forty three times before I realize it’s probably me who needs to dispose of it. I’m serious, that’s a thing I do. I honestly forget that I’m the one in charge around here.

All this to say, I am working hard to change the way I go about my day. I’m not just over here being sad or frustrated that my life doesn’t look the way I want it to- that I KNOW it CAN, if only, if only, if only. Because all that lamenting and gnashing of teeth has gotten me fuck-all. I suppose I’m finally putting on my big girl panties and taking charge.

And it feels good. Really, really good.

Has my anxiety magically disappeared? Am I suddenly glowing with some incandescent inner light born of joy? Um, no. This is more like a grim, head down, advance into war kind of thing I’ve got going on right now. Because I am fighting this bullshit that’s been trying to take over around here for some time now, and I don’t know if that is the right way to deal with it, but…nothing else has worked so far. Self- love, mantras, deep breathing- none of it is getting me the results I need so desperately. But grim determination feels like the start of a solution.

For example, my kitten gouged- I mean, really messed me up kind of gouged, my tender inner arm on Monday. I don’t know if you guys read the post, but a cat scratch was the trigger that started this whole bout of anxiety. It’s kind of horribly embarrassing, but yeah…I wound up in the hospital, demanding rabies shots because of a panic attack. The scratches this time were WAY worse. Super deep, instantly bruised, just gross. I washed them thoroughly, cleaned them up, and…well, I went on with my life. Have I been checking them obsessively to make sure I don’t have an infection, or blood poisoning? Maybe a little bit. Did I double check her shot records to make sure she had all her vaccinations? You know I did. But there has been no panic, no tears, no freaking the fuck out. I’m doing what any reasonable person would do- keeping an eye on things and waiting to see what happens. That is a big, big deal. I’m proud of myself.

I’m not going to let anxiety rule my life anymore. I meant what I said. I’m going to whip this house into order so that I can enjoy my surroundings. When the worry wants to push me until I can’t back up any further, I am not going to give in. I’m going to push back. When the anxiety leaves me weary and worn out…well, I’m just done letting it do that to me. I’m not just tired of it. I’m mad at it. I guess that’s okay, for now. I think it helps me get a hold of myself, and that’s exactly what I need to do. I’ve sort of indulged my fanciful mind a bit too much…let it take me along for some rides that I am not tall enough to be on, you know?

Anyway, don’t worry- I’m not stomping around here, cursing and banging things around. I’m just…I’m just having a growth spurt I guess. Not the physical kind, but the internal kind. I’ve been having the growing pains and now it’s time for me to exercise this new strength. I hope that’s what this is. I’m calling it that.

Okay, off to shower! I have new things to conquer today.

Posted in anxiety, Goals, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, motherhood, Musings, People, women

Raising my Standards

anxiety

I want to tell you something: If you are new to this blog, say, within the past few months- you have not gotten to see a very accurate picture of who I am. For whatever reason, my normally somewhat simmering anxiety got the heat turned up underneath it and started boiling over. During that time, since December I’d say, I had a lot of stuff happen that I couldn’t really control. I have been shaken down to my core, and that’s the truth. My self confidence plummeted, and I often have felt like a passenger in my own life, not really at the wheel, sort of at the mercy of whatever too-strong emotion wanted to drive that day. When your mind has turned on you, it is a very, very scary thing. I have not felt strong, or capable, or well at all.

But I have been working hard to deal with it. I have doubled down on therapy, listened to podcasts about overcoming anxiety, bought lots of books about it, I’ve had acupuncture and meditated twice a day sometimes. I take deep, deep breaths and I talk myself down, and I try really hard to talk sense into a mind that is…well, panicking. Creating fantastic scenarios of terrible events that are unlikely to ever take place. This has been the focus of my life for too many weeks now. And it is EXHAUSTING. I have heard things like “There’s nothing for you to be anxious about” or “You just need to get over it” or “Maybe just don’t focus so much on it” and quite frankly, I’d like to send out a big FUCK YOU to those people. Because anyone who has dealt with it knows that THAT IS NOT HOW ANXIETY WORKS. DUH. Do you think I enjoy this shit, Barbara? No, no I do not. The way my brain is wired, the hormones and chemicals that make up the little ecosystem or whatever of ME, make me a little more prone to slipping off the edge, and believe me when I tell you that I do not have time to be crying, curled up in the fetal position in the corner.

I am a professional. I have a job I work 40 hours a week at and the handsome paycheck I receive every two weeks goes to support my little family of children and pets and myself. I am a mother. I am a single mother at that, taking 90% care of my 8 year old, and by that I mean: I pack the lunches, wash the laundry, run the baths, keep the house, do the shopping, read the books, oversee homework, dry the tears, play drill sergeant every morning, drop-off, pick-up and try to fit quality time in there as well. That doesn’t even include taking care of myself, balancing the books, paying the bills, or feeding and caring for this freaking menagerie of animals I have.

So, even when I am so anxious that I want to sit in the tub with the shower just spraying me in the head, I DO EVERYTHING ANYWAY. Life does not stop just because my thoughts are running wild and my heart is pounding so hard I can hear it in my ears.

Do you know what that means? That I am so incredibly, amazingly strong. That, even with my mental health in the shitter, I am still KILLING IT. I am a motherfucking warrior. I don’t think the people who give me shitty, condescending advice would survive one 24 hour stretch in my mind the way it’s been lately. But it would be fun to watch them try.

Anyway, I am still not 100%. But things are getting better, and I think I might understand a little better where all this ultra-anxiety is coming from. One long, stupid word: Perimenopause. My spell check is telling me that is not a word, so maybe I spelled it wrong, but you ladies of a certain age know what I’m talking about. That’s right- my lady business is starting the long, arduous process of closing up shop. My estrogen levels are plummeting, and my brain is going haywire, and all I can do is hang the fuck on. It’s taken my “normal” anxiety and turned up the volume to like 457.

So no, I am not where I’d like to be. But I can tell you this- I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I am not just surviving hour by hour anymore, which is amazing. I am feeling my fight come back, and oh lord, how I need that fight right now. Without my spunky nature, without my ability to find the silver lining, to overcome every obstacle life throws at me…I am just not me. I lost myself pretty thoroughly for a minute there.

But I am back, and I am DETERMINED to wring every bit of good out of this bullshit I am dealing with, and turn it into something great. And that means it’s time to raise the bar a whole lot. I am going to self-care the shit out of myself, and I don’t mean bubble baths and pedicures. I’m talking about meeting life head on and DEALING with all the little problems I have let slide while I’ve been freaking out, and taking my life back to where it was…and then going way past that spot. I want to be happy. I deserve to be happy.

So, from here on out, I will be posting what I am doing to make that goal a reality, and sharing why these things are necessary for ME to have the life I want to have. I might not have a choice about whether this anxiety stays or leaves, I might not be able to control my hormones and chemistry (completely), but I do get some say in how much I allow myself to be slowed down. And today I am choosing to blast right through the barriers.

Stay tuned!

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, faith, Goals, Holidays, inner peace, Life, manifestation, Mental Health, mindfulness, People, recovery

With a Grateful Heart

a grateful heart
courtesy of Pinterest and littleleaves.com

I woke up way too early, as usual…but I am not going to get all worked up over it. This is just who I am, and I have accepted it. I’m an early riser who has become a super early riser over the past few months. I think partially it developed as a way to save a few precious hours of peace for myself, while my older daughter and her boyfriend were staying here. This time is so important to me. I’d do just about anything to preserve it, including waking up in what is basically the middle of the night.

I did, however, get to usher in the New Year last night! I set an alarm for 11:55, and Cam and I got up long enough to do the count down, scream “Happy New Year!” once, hug each other, then scramble back to the warmth of the bed. Last night was her last official night sleeping with me. We are both more than ready to go our separate sleeping ways, but with the extra people here the past few months, we didn’t really have a choice. So tonight, I can sleep diagonally, the way I do when she is at her dad’s house. She’s a tall child, and such a bed hog, and I feel guilty for saying this, but I sleep SO much better when she is staying overnight with her father. So, bittersweet though it may be, we are both excited about this milestone. Obviously, she’s way too old to still be sleeping with her mother, and she used to sleep on her own at our old house…not sure what happened. I don’t regret it, though. They are only little for such a short time.

Anyway, I woke up this morning feeling such gratitude for my life. I have such a good feeling about the year ahead. I was thinking about the horrible panic attack and subsequent anxiety I suffered through less than two weeks ago, and I wonder if it was just a giant purge of built up negative energy- shit I needed to get rid of? Because since it faded away, I have been steadily more centered, happy, and anxiety free. Seems like more than coincidence to me- to get to begin a new year wiped clean of the dark feelings that had been plaguing me? Well, whatever it is, I’ll take it. Gladly.

You know…my house is still a mess. I meant to take down my tree last night, and never got around to it. There are dishes in the sink, and…well, it’s pretty much like it always is around here. But for once, none of it is bothering me. Because I have a plan, and I intend to stick to it. Little by little, this house will transform, and be the way I want it to be. By the time I go to bed tonight, those dishes will be gone, the counters wiped clean, the tree gone, ornaments put away. It still won’t be perfect- I doubt it will ever be perfect. But eventually, it will be the way I want it to be. I feel quite sure of that.

The thing is, I have started this year with peace in my heart. I don’t know that I’ve often felt peace like this. It feels solid to me, as if it is not dependent on outside circumstances, but more like it stems from within me. It’s the kind of peace that comes when you have finally started to trust yourself, to know that most likely, you are going to be okay. I’ve survived a lot- I’ve survived MYSELF, which was no simple feat. This is my fourth consecutive New Years clean, and I’ve grown stronger every year. And I am so grateful for that- for the peace, and for surviving myself, and surviving the dark parts of my own mind. I’m so grateful for making it out of that last, awful, dark place, and for the wonderful new spot it wound up leaving me.

I’m starting this shiny, fresh new year with a grateful heart. And I don’t think there is a better place to begin than that.

May your year be blessed, happy, full of hope and laughter. Happy New Year!

Posted in Addiction, faith, inner peace, Life, Musings, People, random, recovery

Strength

strength

I have always thought of myself as someone who is strong- not physically strong, although I’m no slouch in that area, either (being a single mother for most of your life will help you develop muscles, trust me) but resilient, tough, capable, able to lift myself out of difficult times and situations.

Yeah, but… I’m just sitting here this morning thinking- if I created all of the difficult times and situations in my life, does that really count as being strong? I mean sure, I eventually got myself out of them, time after time after time, but…what does that say about my character, that I created so much drama and strife and upheaval? Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of myself for never giving up, for always trying to fix whatever I had broken. And I realize that I had issues that had issues, that with all the shit I was hauling around inside of me, there was no way I could have been any other way than I was until I got help. Still…

I view strength very differently now. It is no longer necessary for me to aggressively assert my “strength” by acting out or being demanding or dominating the conversation (although I do still get carried away when I am talking sometimes). I have kids, so I still raise my voice a little more often than I would like, but I don’t feel the need to when I am speaking to another adult. As a matter of fact, when my temper gets away from me these days, I feel the opposite of strong- it makes me feel diminished and weak. Funny how we change over time, isn’t it?

You know what I see as my strengths now? My ability to keep showing up, even when I am so tired of it all that I want to throw the towel in. Strength is knowing that I am just having a moment, and it’s going to pass.  Strength is taking a deep breath or five before I speak, because I know I am too angry to be reasonable. My greatest strength lies in my consistency, and I am reaping the rewards every day because my life, finally, is not an uphill battle. The decisions I make now are generally made more with the future in mind, rather than for instant gratification. And because I have made a lot more good choices lately than poor ones, I have the added and unexpected bonus of being able to trust myself. I can’t think of anything more bad-ass than feeling confident in your own capabilities. It feels really, really good.

Two years and 341 days ago, I was a very different person. I knew I was a mess, but thankfully I didn’t know how much of a mess I was. It would have been overwhelming, and I don’t think I would have been willing to face all of it. But in a perfectly timed fashion, each new layer of bullshit was revealed to me just as I was ready to see it. I am not done yet, but I am much, much better off than where I started. The strength to stay in recovery, to keep going even when I really just wanted one fucking little…whatever was available to just make me RELAX already…that has to be the single most important show of strength that I have ever displayed. Without that, none of these other revelations would have even been possible. This entire journey has been fueled by my recovery, and that is the truth.

Three years. Not even three yet, almost three. In almost three years, my life has been completely changed for the better. Do you know how fast three years goes by when you are still getting loaded? In like five minutes, no kidding. So anyway, if you are new to all of this, and you aren’t seeing the results you want, I encourage you to hang on. To really devote yourself to the process of self discovery and healing, and just keep going. The day will come when you are so much more than you ever even dreamed you could be, and it will all have been worth it. Stick around for long enough to see your definition of what strength is be totally, irreversibly changed. It’s a pretty amazing thing.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, escape, Life, random, recovery, twelve step

Slip Slidin’ Away

slippery slope

Sometimes, I forget who I am. I get a little too relaxed. I walk around my home without seeing how incredibly blessed I am to get to live here, in a house I can afford, where my daughter has her own room, and I get to have my dog, and I have a big old yard, and TWO bathrooms. I just get caught up in living my life without seeing how amazing it is. Same thing goes for my career- I can be whiny about my job, I get lazy sometimes, completely oblivious to the fact that the rash decision I made 13 years ago to go to night school, the credentials I gained, and the amazing opportunity I was handed when I was hired at the hospital where I still work today, changed my life. Completely transformed it. I’m not saying this is unusual- no one walks around in a state of constant gratitude. At least, no one I know.

But one thing I would do well to remember is the reason I get to keep the wonderful life that I have. The one thing that would save me, should the house go away, or the job wasn’t mine anymore. That thing is my recovery, and I haven’t been doing much for it lately. I really need to remind myself that if I didn’t have all these days in a row of not just being clean, but being clean and working on the person I am, working towards steadily getting better than I was before, I wouldn’t be sitting here, writing this right now.

Life can and will keep changing right before your eyes, and it is easy to get swept up in this thing or that thing, and let your focus change. I think that during those times, it’s pretty normal to stray from the path and wander off, but…do I think it’s a good idea? Nope. I think, in reality, when you feel yourself getting off track, you need to double down on the things that anchor you. I do, that’s what I need to do. I should be specific here, I am talking about me, about my life right now. I need to be closer than ever to my program of recovery, not just saying the words, but actively.

Listen, I am not in any imminent danger, but…my thoughts have been a little squirrely lately. Which, of course, is how it always begins- right in your head. I have been wishing for something to take the edge off, or blur the edges at least, just a little bit. I want something that will make me less…less worried about how ME I am all the time. Because I am messy and nervous and insecure, I think way too much, and take things pretty seriously, believe it or not. And my brain has been telling me stories about how much more fun I could be, how easy it would be, the exact way that I could lay all this heavy shit down and just fucking relax already.

Thankfully, I know my brain to be a liar. I know my brain, sensing discomfort, will do just about anything to make that feeling go away. I mean, my brain has been lying to me for yeeeaaars. So I don’t have to listen to any of it. I know there are no shortcuts in recovery, and there are certainly no days off. Not even when you could really use a drink or two. As a matter of fact, all these years that I have put in? This is sort of what I’ve been training for- the day when I really longed for an escape, or an easier way. This is the test I’ve been studying for this whole time. I’m not about to fail, not now.

I made a choice, I made a commitment, a long time ago, knowing there would be times in the future that it would be hard to keep that commitment. There have been these times in the past, and I kept at it, and I wasn’t sorry. There are always two paths, and I know where one of them leads me- I’ve been down it about as far as a person can go and live to tell the tale. The other one, well…the other one I don’t know as well. But I have a feeling that the woman I want to be is somewhere along it. So I think I will stay on that path. I think that is the wise thing to do.

slippery