Fear

October 31st: Fear

Ha, I just realized this is a perfect topic for Halloween! Fear! But, as I stood brushing my teeth a few minutes ago, wondering what I was supposed to write about today, and the word “Fear” popped into my head, it wasn’t the monsters-lurking-under-the-bed type of fear that was calling to me. It was more the “Oh my God, what am I even doing?!” type.

You see, even earlier this morning, I booked two round trip flights from SFO to Boston Logan for my daughter and I, for March, to go look at possible places in Maine…or possibly New Hampshire…where we might want to live when we move next year.

I think what this did was, it made it a little more real for me. It’s one thing to daydream about something in a far-off, someday kinda way. To talk about it, say it like you mean it, picture it in your head. It’s another thing entirely to take steps towards that idea becoming a reality. And that is what I am doing- not just making plans but following through.

Now suddenly…I am kind of freaking out. Here are some things that popped into my head after hitting the “complete your flight reservation” button.

“What if there is a snowstorm and I’m too scared to drive?”

“What if I hit black ice and kill both of us?”

“What if it turns out that I HATE the cold?”

“What if I run out of money?”

“What if…what if I am making the worst mistake of my WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE?!”

You see how that snowballed? (no pun intended, but absolutely delighted by it anyway)

So, here’s what I have to say to myself: If there is a snowstorm, you don’t have to drive. You’ll make alternate plans. You can’t control black ice, but you can drive slowly and when it’s light out, and you will be cautious. If you hate the cold, guess what? No one is forcing you to do ANYTHING. You are allowed to change your mind. You will not run out of money. And the worst mistake of your life? Seriously? Have you forgotten where you came from? Settle down.

It’s normal to be afraid when you are making big, or sometimes even small, changes in your life. There are no guarantees that things will work out the way you want them to. I know this. I also know that sticking with the tried and true, while safer, isn’t the way I envision living my life. Knowing this, it will be necessary to accept that I will have moments of self-doubt and fear. And that’s okay. I will press on anyway.

Today, I hope that if you are being called to take a leap of faith, but you are allowing fear to stop you, you can start to see that your fear is not a red light, but a yellow one- at most. Fear asks us to slow down and pay attention. In most cases, it doesn’t mean to stop completely, to give up, to turn around. Fear is a helper, if you let it be. Rather than run away from it, see if you can acknowledge it, hear what it has to say, and if there is space for both your aspirations and a healthy dose of caution. Just make sure fear isn’t hogging up more room than it should. It likes to spread out when you don’t keep an eye on it.

Adventure

October 30th Adventure

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel alive unless I can feel that little spark of joy lit up in my heart. The joy of excitement, adventure, new endeavors, the knowledge of something to look forward to.

When I was young, it was easy to gain access to this spark- there was always a new crush, or a fun outing, or, because I was young, just the newness of life in general that filled me with that rush of fascination and interest.

Then I grew up, and, even though I got a lot more mileage out of my “crazy years” than most, I finally did settle down. I have shown up at the same job for the past eleven years. I have an established routine, times by which kids must be dressed and out the door, times by which I must be at work, clock out, make dinner, go to bed.

I’m not going to pretend that the thrill of conquering the tasks of adulthood mean nothing to me- there is certainly joy to be found in repairing ones credit and paying bills on time. There is definitely joy in financial stability, being insured, not having to use coffee filters for toilet paper until next pay day.

But after a while, and for a long while now, for me, life has been pretty stagnant. A while back, I wound up trying to see if I could buy a house. Much to my surprise, I totally could…only, not here, not in the uber expensive town where I live. I mean, I could, if I were a contractor and didn’t mind living in a shed- which I am not, and I certainly do.

So, I thought I’d move over to a little town in the Sierra Nevada’s where my grandparent’s home still is, which my mother lives in at least part of the time. But one day it hit me- why am I going through all this stuff instead of addressing what I really want to do? And what do I really want to do?

Well, I want to live in New England. Like, really, really bad.

So, I decided to pursue that. And it is actually happening. As soon as I made up my mind and took some steps to go after it, everything started falling into place. Right now, my plan is to stay for one year. One full year in New England, long enough to see every season, long enough to explore many of the things I want to see. What happens beyond that year, I don’t know.

Am I scared? Of COURSE I am! I’m not an idiot. But more than that, I am thrilled. Like, wind in my face, climbing the big hill of the roller coaster thrilled. The possibilities are endless- the friends I might make and the things I might learn. I am wide open, ready to embrace the experience fully. And I feel alive, full of joy, and deeply grateful for the way the Universe seems to want to accommodate me. It’s really pretty spectacular.

Today, ask yourself how long it’s been since you’ve felt truly inspired by your life. Are you going after one thing because it’s easier, when you deeply desire something else? Are you excited about anything? Do you have big plans, something to look forward to? This is the only life you get (as you, anyway). I encourage you to light that fire, take charge, and find your next adventure. Time’s a ticking.

Immovable

October 29th:  Immovable

I want to talk about something a little different today.

In our lifetimes, there are many, many things we get to have a say in- we can choose anything from what career we pursue, to the type of cereal we eat in the morning, to what faith resonates with us.

There are, however, some things which do not allow us the luxury of choice.

We can’t choose to be healthy when we are sick, for instance. We can’t choose not to have a chronic illness, such as diabetes or depression or even ADHD. We aren’t asked permission from our loved ones, or from God, when our loved ones die. We can’t truly even choose not to grieve a loss, not really- it comes out, one way or another. We can’t choose to go back in time and fix our mistakes. Things like these just are.

These things are immovable. Big, looming, cold, hard facts that we must live with.

It’s neither wrong nor right to rail against these things- after all, they suck! They are unfair! It isn’t right, it’s total bullshit, you hate it, and you’re pissed! And sad. And angry. It’s understandable. We’ve all been there.

But we can’t live there. I mean, we can, I guess, but it’s better if we don’t.

I was faced with a little bit of this last night. Something happened- not to me directly, but to someone I love- that was utter bullshit. It just broke my heart. The thing is, there is not a single thing I can do about it. Not a single thing they can do about it either.

The only thing I can do is work with what is. Here are the circumstances, now how can I deal with them the most effectively? By crying and stomping my feet and saying, “This just isn’t fair!”? Or by taking a deep breath, straightening my spine, and saying “Okay. This is how it is, so what can I do to make it as bearable as possible?”

Because even when we don’t have a choice about immovable things, we have a choice in how we show up. Fighting something that cannot be changed is useless and a waste of energy. This morning, when I sat down to pray, I asked the Universe to help me be the person this loved one needs today. Help me show up as a safe place, a strong role model, a comfort. Let me be gentle, loving, soft around the edges. I cannot change these things, but I can ease them a little, perhaps.

Today, I encourage you to take a good look at where your energy goes. You only have so much to give, and if you are pouring it all into fighting something immovable, you are wasting your time. I suppose this is also acceptance, but it is also more than that. It is learning to live in harmony even with the hard things, the painful things. Work with what you’ve got instead of working against yourself, wishing things were different, and see if it doesn’t feel better. If I’m wrong, you can pick up the fight again tomorrow. That’s the way immovable things are, after all.

Trust

October 29th: Trust

For me, one of the most delightful and empowering milestones I have ever reached was the day when I realized I could trust myself.

That day happened about two weeks ago. I’m not kidding.

I was in the shower one morning, reflecting on a situation that had just occurred the day prior. Basically, I had been seeing this great guy for a few months, but it got…less great, I guess you might say. There were many things that I recognized as things that would not work for me, let’s say, and knowing this, I did what was right for me and I broke it off.

A couple of weeks earlier, I had expressed my concerns to a friend or two, and the basic consensus was- “dating sucks, he sounds awesome, try to make it work.” I allowed myself a brief period of being convinced they were right, sort of panicked and tried to figure out how I could make myself be…I dunno…grateful?

Then I remembered that it was ME in the situation, not them, and only I could decide what did and didn’t work for me- no matter how good it might look on the surface. I went to no one for advice, I made up my mind, and I made a really uncomfortable, awkward phone call. Afterwards, I felt nothing except…relieved. I honestly didn’t give it another thought.

So, in the shower the following morning, I was reflecting on that. Not just the fact that I knew I had made the right call, that I could tell by how light my spirit felt, but by the shocking fact that I had taken my own counsel! I had known myself well enough to know that moving forward in a situation where I was ultimately feeling stifled was not going to magically get better. I had done the exact right thing for me. This was new territory for me, boy, let me tell ya!

Following that, an absolute flurry of decisions started being made. I was drunk with the power of having faith in my own abilities to stand at the helm of my life. I was suddenly sure that I could handle the job. That I was thoughtful and smart and practical enough to choose wisely.

Listen, when you have lived a rather crazy life, marred by whole swaths of time obliterated by black marks of bad choices, trust in yourself does not come easy. It comes after a lot of time and testing. But when that day finally arrives, it is, again, the most delightful and empowering milestone you can reach. And it goes a long way towards loving yourself completely, that’s for sure.

Today, I want you to ask, “Can I trust myself?”. If the answer is “yes, of course!”, then you are one lucky duck! If, however, the answer is “Ehh…I mean, it’s kinda hit or miss.” Or “Sometimes.” Or “Fuck to the no, I am not to be trusted.”, the good news is, based on your response, you can surmise a lot about where you are at right now in your life. The reason that’s good news is that when you know where you are, you can figure out how to get to where you want to be. Remember, wherever you are on your journey, you are permitted- nay, encouraged- to see the good in yourself. If you can do that today, you are doing just fine. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, practicing acceptance and forgiveness, doing your best…and trust will follow. You’ll see!

Forgiveness

October 27th: Forgiveness

You know, I was a little concerned about my decision to embark on a multi-day theme here. That was not what I intended when I started this (FYI, I started writing these long before I decided to make it into a blog…so there are plenty of extras should a day come when I can’t write, for some reason)- my intention was to write what my heart and spirit felt called towards via meditation, prayer, or whatever popped into my head during the day that wouldn’t go away. Might sound funky and weird, but…I’m a funky, weird person, so…it fits.

But I worried that deciding ahead of time what I would focus on would interrupt the flow, I guess. Boy oh boy, was I wrong.

Yesterday, I said we’d talk about forgiveness today. Last night, via my dreams, I believe I was finally not only forgiven by a loved one that has been gone nearly twenty years, but I think she was telling me that it was time that I forgive myself. This not only blew my mind, but it confirmed for me that I was on the right path with this.

I know how incredibly strange that might sound to you if you don’t believe in such things. But here’s the thing- I do. I do believe in these things, because they’ve been happening to me my whole life. I’ve been visited by newly dead family and friends, a lot. I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life when I wasn’t even awake. No lie.

So, back to forgiveness. If you are anything like me, you probably carry around a whole lot of extra weight, metaphorically speaking, in: guilt, shame, regret, personal failings, hard feelings, and perhaps even a smidgen of self-loathing.

Might I ever so gently suggest that you consider beginning to let those things go? Because here’s the thing…you are not alone. There is not a person on this planet who does not carry with them those feelings. We are all HUMAN, which means we screw up. We hurt people. We say awful things we can never take back. We embarrass ourselves. We get into trouble. We make bad choices. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.

Forgiveness, especially of ourselves, but also of others, is not something that happens in an instant. At least, it sure wasn’t for me. It’s a place you arrive at slowly, piece by piece. It goes hand in hand with acceptance, by the way- “I acknowledge that this happened, I am sorry that this happened, I am going to try to forgive myself.” And then you begin. You begin to soften towards yourself. You start to try letting go.

One thing that worked for me was, when one of those god-awful memories popped, unbidden, into my mind, more realistic than even the moment it happened, sometimes making me cringe…I would say, out loud, “I’m so sorry.” I did this as often as I needed, and I needed to a lot.

Over time, it really became easier. Time and distance and allowing those memories to surface, not shying away or denying them, has helped a lot. Occasionally, there is still a zinger. But I don’t live in that agonizing space anymore, the constant barrage of “Terrible Things I Did”.

Another useful tool I picked up in recovery was making an amends. There is something to be said for not only acknowledging our behavior, but making an effort to change going forward, and doing something positive to counteract the negative.

Today, I want you to know that forgiveness, especially of yourself, is imperative on the journey to self-love. You can be free of all that weight you carry needlessly, but it is a process. You must face yourself, you must be honest with yourself, you must be gentle with yourself. It will take some time. But you deserve your own forgiveness. You deserve to be happy. No matter what you’ve done, you deserve happiness. I encourage you to start exploring forgiveness today.

Acceptance

October 26th: Acceptance

One of the concepts I have struggled with more than almost anything else is the idea of loving myself, as I am, right here and now, no matter the circumstance.

I mean, how could I love myself knowing the shitty, awful things I’ve done in this lifetime? How could I love this moody, foul-mouthed, selfish mess in this chubby body, in this dirty house? Really, how? Everywhere you look, you see quotes about how you must love yourself before you can truly love anyone else, but no one tells you how the hell to get there, do they?

Well, let’s break it down over the next couple of days, shall we? I’m going to start where it began for me, with acceptance.

Acceptance is a word they throw around a lot in recovery, but as with most things, I had to get there on my own. One day, when I was tired of beating myself up and tired of rehashing all the bullshit I’d pulled over the past however many years, and, most importantly, I stopped adding new shit to the pile, I just came around to accepting it.

That was who I had been. Those were things I had done.

This is who I am now.

Imperfect as can be, I am still better than I was, and improving all the time. Sure, sometimes it’s one step forward, two (or three, or four) steps back…but most of the time, it’s not.

Sure, I’m still moody, and foul-mouthed, and chubby and messy…but so what? One of the things that hit me, when I was working on self-acceptance, was that I was trying to look at myself from the outside, as if I could judge myself by the way I assumed other people were judging me. This is impossible, of course, because A) I have absolutely no idea what anyone really thinks of me, I am not that powerful. And B) Most of the time, people are far too busy worrying about themselves to think about me at all.

Of even greater importance though, is this: WHO CARES? Who cares what anyone else thinks about you or your life or your past transgressions? It LITERALLY does not matter. It just doesn’t. If you go around trying to be someone pleasing to everyone you run across, you are going to be very tired and very confused.

I accepted that I am who I am. I accepted that not everyone would love me. I accepted that as a fact, and let it be okay. Sure, sometimes I do find myself longing to change someone’s mind about me, wishing they could know me now, that I could impress them with the person I’ve become…but the people who matter, who love me and who are in my life- and this includes myself, these days- they stuck around and they know. And so, I get right back into accepting what is.

Today, I want you to try accepting yourself exactly as you are, without exception. No beating yourself up, no putting yourself down, no wishing you were any other way than how you are. I know, I know…it feels awful and unnatural, doesn’t it? But it’s the only way to get to the next step, forgiveness, which is what we will talk about tomorrow.

Your Magic

October 25th:  Your Magic

I am sitting here this morning with candle wax all over my pajama bottoms (it’s a long story) and in a threadbare Mickey Mouse t-shirt given to me by the great love of my life probably 18 years ago. I have spent the morning so far looking at houses on the East Coast, marveling at the embarrassment of options life has spread out before me. Not in my wildest dreams did I consider a life that looks the way mine does today…and this is only the beginning!

For context, for those of you who don’t know, 5 years ago I was coming to the end of my very last “run”, a relatively short- 5 months or so- drug relapse that was very thorough and very, very ugly. I am not going to talk about this much, because that part of my life is over and done with, but I will tell you that I put a substance in my body for the first time at age 13, and I did not stop trying to destroy myself that way until I was 39. That is a long, long time. There were times when I almost lost hope of ever changing.

Almost. But I didn’t, not completely. You know why? Because I have known something about myself from as far back as I can remember, and it saved my life. I have known that there is something in me that is magic. There is something inside of me that is beautiful, it is a gift, it can flow out of me and into other people and make them laugh or smile or just feel better. I knew, deep down in my heart of hearts, that I had something worth saving in me and that when I got there, when I became the person I was meant to be, my life would change dramatically.

Well, here I am. Five years, lots of therapy, lots of tears and deep digging and SO. MUCH. WORK…and I think that I am arriving. Five years! Do you know how little time that is, in the grand scheme of things? It’s nothing! I was so busy doing the work, I didn’t even notice the time.

I’m going to tell you something- I am not special. I am about as average as a person could be. The only difference I can think of is that I am lucky enough to know what I desire out of life, and I am driven enough to go after it. I have a snippet of a famous quote by Winston Churchill on my wall that is my personal motto- “Never, never, never give up”. I was given something with those words on it when I was 29 and I took it seriously. I do not give up.

What I am saying is, we ALL have this magic inside of us. It is inherent to us all, it is part of our very spirit. There is something inside of you, only you know what it is, that makes you light up, that makes you feel more alive than anything else. Something that holds your interest, a dream you’ve never let go of. You know the one, don’t you?

Today, I want you to stop telling yourself that fine is good enough. Stop ignoring that longing in your heart. Take five minutes and imagine what it would be like if you were working towards the life of your dreams…because when you are working towards something so valuable to you, the journey is truly its own reward. I’m not just saying that, it’s TRUE. There are innumerable paths you can choose to take in life, but there is one that will take you to the person you were meant to be. It might have a lot of twists and turns, but man…it is worth it. Choose wisely.