Posted in happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, Musings, random, spirit, spirituality, Uncategorized

Rivers

the way you carry it
Here’s a good summary of what I was trying to say, except it took me like a 1000 words. Sigh. 🙂

In my mind, there are several rivers of thought-distinct rivers all travelling in the same direction, with miles of space between them. In one river are all the earthly thoughts about who I am- the criticisms, the judgments, the pain, the memories, and all the debris and murkiness picked up over a lifetime of living. In the next river, there is the brisk and frigid water of this modern life- societal expectations, the stress of keeping up, the teeming rapids of work, sleep, tasks…the rush of one day careening into the next as time rushes by faster and faster while months and years pass. The third river of thought is older than time itself, much older than the other two. You can tell because it is neither muddy nor rushed, but it flows downstream peacefully, knowing it will always arrive where it is meant to be, that nothing can stop it. Though this river has always been here, it is hard for me to get to. I have spent most of my time being swept away by the other two, and by countless other streams and puddles and creeks that branch off of them. I find that the third river is difficult to reach sometimes, and though I love it most of all, it’s the hardest one to stay at. I am forever being pulled away, sucked back into the muddy waters of one, or the furious pace of the other.

I am not judging this experience, I am simply explaining it in a way that makes sense to me. Have you observed something similar in your own life? Because this is the best illustration for the layers of my unfolding life that I can come up with. There is the emotional and mental aspect, there is the physical, human aspect, and then there is the eternal, spiritual aspect.

In my short-sighted, human way, I have been struggling against the same exact issues since the very beginning of this blog. I suspected that was true when I started questioning the originality of my posts lately. It was confirmed when I took a little walk down memory lane this morning, and saw myself writing about the same feelings, the same moods, the same ideas- with slight variations, of course- over and over. The reason I find this more funny than alarming is a direct result of this spiritual hurricane season I have personally been going through, trying, inadequately, to convey here.

You see, I have been afraid and resentful of the muddy river of my emotions. I have allowed myself to get beat up by the debris of bad memories and sucked under by the weight of my own judgement. I’ve struggled to swim against the current, trying to go back and make sense of it all, not realizing that none of it matters, the past is GONE. This water only goes one way, and all along it’s been trying to move me forward, farther and farther away from those things. I’ve been fighting so hard in this river when all I ever needed to do was let it move me along. All I ever needed to do was let go.

And this cold river over here? The one that sounds like a thousand clamoring voices and all their opinions and expectations? I have been right out in the middle of that river, tumbling end over end, but no matter how fast I went, I never got anywhere. I can’t really get out of this river, not completely. But you know what? I found out that I can stay out of the middle where the rapids are, and along the edges, things move more slowly. I don’t have to keep up with anyone else to be happy- in fact, the opposite is true. The more I focus on just my life, and the people in it, the better I feel.

River number three, that nirvana where we all come from? We aren’t supposed to live there, I don’t think. Not all the time, not while we are earth-bound in these skin suits. That would be nice, but it wouldn’t teach us nearly as much about being people as the other two rivers (and all the other figurative bodies of water we cross, tides we get swept away in, currents that pull on us) do. We all have our own rivers. We all have to learn from them.

I have spent the bulk of my life in these waters and never named them or saw them for what they are. And because of that, I have fought and struggled and nearly drowned, yet never gained an inch. Every time my head breaks the surface and I get to take a breath, I’m in the same spot. I know this sounds grim, but I’m smiling as I write these words. I can break this cycle now and move on.

As long as I am a human being, I will continue to have human issues. I am here for a reason. I have been through what I’ve been through for a reason. The people in my life are here on purpose. That is all I need to know, which means the past can be forgiven, the pain can be released, and I can let go. I don’t need to be afraid.

As long as I need a roof over my head and food in my cupboards, I will have to participate, at the very least, in my own survival. But I don’t have to throw myself into the chaos completely. I do have some say in how much I allow myself to be swept up in the craziness. I can turn off the news, step away from social media, keep my consumption of bullshit low. Listen to my own voice, and let it guide me.

Releasing my fear of the first river, and learning to find my place in the second, I expect that there will be much more peace, much more time that I can choose to spend contemplating river number three. Who knows? Perhaps one day I’ll find the place where they converge. Now wouldn’t that be something?

 

 

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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 Addiction, escape, Goals, inner peace, Life, Musings, People, recovery

Time for Change

IMG_8898

On Monday, I was feeling grouchy and restless, like a caged animal after sitting here working all day long- that’s one of the drawbacks of working at home; when I worked in the office, I couldn’t wait to go home at the end of the day. When you work at home, all you want to do is go somewhere else when you clock out…except, if you are me, you are probably still wearing sweaty-ass yoga pants, no make up, and hair that looks like you stuck your finger in a light socket. So, I either have to summon up the energy to make myself look slightly less homeless in order to leave my house (how funny) or, give in to the beckoning call of inertia and flop on the couch to watch TV which will ultimately do nothing but make me feel even worse.

On this particular day, though, Camryn suggested we go to the library. We had books that were a week past due, and I really did need a change of pace, so I agreed. Plus, bonus- you don’t have to look nice at all to go to the library! After settling part of my outrageous overdue book fees, Cam got herself a drawing book, and grudgingly trailed after me as I wandered up and down every single aisle in the downstairs section of the Monterey library. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I hoped to find something inspiring and uplifting- something to shake me out of the funk I had been going in and out of for the past…I don’t know, 40 years or so.

I grabbed a stack of books, and we checked out and headed home after a quick stop at Trader Joe’s for some chocolate and blueberries, among other snacks. Soon as we got back to the house, I pulled out one of the books and started reading it. It was called “Martha’s Vineyard- Isle of Dreams”, and at first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get through it- it’s written in handwriting-like script, and there are hundreds of quotes and watercolor pictures throughout the book, so at first it’s a little jarring, as it doesn’t read like the books I am used to- books that have very few, if any, quotes, and generally no pictures at all. But within a few pages, I had forgotten all about the strangeness of it and was totally sucked in to the story.

Oh, and it’s not a story-story, by the way. It’s a biography of sorts, the true tale of a woman named Susan Branch who “accidentally” moved to Martha’s Vineyard and bought a house in the woods, after fleeing California when her marriage ended. She was looking for a house to rent, short term, and wound up buying a little house after being there for three days or something like that. The whole story takes place in the 80’s, which doesn’t matter other than the fact that you probably can’t buy a house there super cheap anymore, and anyway…I just fell in love, you guys. The way that she describes the changing seasons, and the beautiful simplicity of her life- her garden, and her walks in the woods, the ocean, the seasons, the quiet. Just talking about it right now makes me want to cry. It stirs such a funny longing in me. And it really makes me think, very hard, again, about the way I am living my life.

I have only been clean for a little more than three years. Which means that I am just now, at 43, learning about what kind of person I am, and trying to figure out what sort of life the person I am truly wants to live. I sort of woke up right in the middle of a life that I had stumbled into, and it is a GOOD life. I have this career, and security, good health insurance, stability…all of these things that people want, right? So when I think to myself “this doesn’t feel like the right life for me”, it is scary and I feel guilty, as if wanting something different makes me ungrateful. I am not ungrateful. I’m just…wondering. Wondering if I could survive, or thrive, or be wildly, giddily, in love with a different kind of life. And I shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to be happier.

I checked out the book on Monday evening. It is now Wednesday morning, and I have finished it. It was 368 pages, and I worked all day yesterday, so when I tell you that I did a lot of reading, you have to believe that I did. Because of this book, I made a batch of blueberry muffins with Camryn, from scratch, yesterday after work. Because of this book, after my meeting last night I went by myself to the beach, and sat on the rocky sand, as evening descended, and just soaked in the salty air, watched the choppy, steel-gray waves crash on the shore, and relished the cold. It really got me thinking.

I need to slow way down. Like, way, way down. Be outside more. Be quiet more. Be on Facebook WAY less. Read more books and watch less TV. Cook more often. Talk to actual people, rather than scroll past their faces online, clicking like instead of having conversations. I don’t have to- and I shouldn’t, I know this- uproot my life on a whim and move across the country to “find myself”. But I do need to examine these feelings, and see what I can do to honor myself, and my one precious life. I have faith that I will find the answers, that they are already there, just waiting for me to discover them. I have to stop losing sight of what really matters, and every time I check out- on the internet, or by binge watching twelve seasons of some stupid TV show- I am doing just that. Losing sight of what really matters. Checking out. No wonder I feel so restless…my spirit is trying to get my attention, and I have been ignoring that.

No more. It’s time to pay attention. Time to make some changes.

Posted in Blogging, fun, humor, Life, Musings, People, random

Work (yuck).

work

I had a funny thought yesterday- I was thinking, as I often have, about how bizarre it is that people spend most of their waking hours away from their families, working at jobs where they are basically forced to conform to weird rules (did anyone ever really die because someone was one minute late to work? No? Then WHY is it such a horrible big deal?) and bite their tongues when their “superior” acts like an asshat- I’m lucky that I happen to adore my boss, but I have had plenty of jobs where I was forced to nearly swallow my tongue in order to keep from losing my ever loving shit. Anyway, no matter how you crack it, I think our entire society is set up wrong, but… that being said, my dreams of travelling the country like a vagabond, with not a care in the world, well…basically ALL of my daydreams involve me not having to work. While also being independently wealthy. Which is why, of course, they are just daydreams. Yes, people wander off and live their dreams all the freaking time- of course they do! But they still have to plan, and save, and figure stuff out. And they also have to live with the repercussions, such as possibly having no health insurance, running out of resources, or realizing that they are really, really bad at being stuck in a small RV with a fourth grader. I mean, I’m sure at least a couple of people have come to this realization a few months too late to take it back.

My point is, unless we hit the powerball or invent something amazing or are born into big money, and maybe even then, work is part of life. Where in the world did I get the idea that I shouldn’t have to work? I don’t know. I am guessing it grew from the depths of my lazy nature, and morphed into some kind of belief that I was being screwed by “the system”. My brain is tricky like that.  It was just funny, because in all of the years I have bitched, internally (and sometimes externally, too) about how unfair/weird/terrible/cruel it is that I am “forced” to work, it never occurred to me until yesterday that perhaps my thinking was flawed.

Sure, I could be doing something different- something I love more, something that feeds my spirit. I have choices. But I have it pretty good, honestly. I love the people I work with, and the hospital I work for, and four days a week I can actually sit right here, in my pajamas, and work from the comfort of my own home. If I wanted to change all of that, I totally could- but that would also be work. I’d need to go to school (which I still will probably do) and give up time with my daughter, and jump through a whole lot of different hoops to get somewhere new. No one is forcing me to stay here, and no one can force me to change. So to complain, when the choice is really mine, is just plain silly. Part of life is work. There will always be a job to do.

Yet another lesson I am learning a little late in the game. Yet more evidence that my thought process can be very skewed, indeed. Sigh. What in the world am I going to do with myself?