Turning Points

December 12th: Turning Points

I just got home from seeing my therapist, whom I adore and respect, and who I’ve been seeing regularly for over five years now.

Tonight, I finally told her the story of my life- the part that happened before all of the things that led me to her. The part before the drugs and the craziness and the dysfunction. I told her the story of my childhood, what it was like to witness domestic violence on a more and more regular basis. How helpless I felt, the way I was so often frozen with fear.

Five years, and tonight was the first time I’d thought to mention any of that to her. There was more- things I won’t talk about here because they are too personal- yep, even I have certain limits. But I told her all of it. I didn’t mean to…it just came up.

I cried a little bit. It’s hard for me, when I think about that little girl that I was, having to cope with the terror I felt. I would sometimes go to bed at night wondering if I would wake up in the morning, or, if I did wake up, if I would still have a mom. I’m not exaggerating at all- this is the truth. I look at it now, from this perspective, and it’s like I’m watching some other little girl…and I wish I could save her.

But you know what? I did do that, didn’t I? I did save her, in the end.

For a while, I had some pretty shitty coping mechanisms, but…it’s no surprise, when I think about it. The funny thing is, I didn’t even think I was hurt by it. I didn’t think it mattered. I thought “Hey, it’s over now, it’s in the past, I’m fine.” And I didn’t really think about it after that.

I have shared my story with other people before. Often, they would say “It’s a miracle you turned out as well as you did.” But I just shrugged it off. First of all, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Second of all, I didn’t think I’d turned out very well.

Tonight though, it hit me. I finally saw it. I finally understood the amazing truth. I am a goddamn miracle. I really am. I fought so very hard to be this woman sitting here, writing these words. I just didn’t know…I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I had no idea what I was really trying to overcome. And when it became clear to me all of the sudden, I was so amazed at what I had accomplished. I honestly don’t have the words to describe it to you.

Tonight was a turning point for me. I had no idea it was coming, and I didn’t expect it, not this one, not ever. I suppose it is yet another gift of my perseverance, my desire to heal. I have no idea what else may show up, what other gifts might come. I just know that I am so grateful. So very, very grateful.

What I want to share with you right now is this: keep going. When it is hard, and when it is easy. When it hurts and when you feel nothing. Wherever you are in your journey, whatever you are seeking, whatever you are healing, processing, grasping or releasing…keep going. Right around the corner might be the turning point you never saw coming. Five minutes from now, you might see yourself in a completely different, lovely way. Keep going.

Happiness

December 11th: Happiness

I was talking to my daughter’s boyfriend yesterday. I’d asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he said he just wanted to be happy. I told him I’d give it to him if I could, but that’s not how it worked. I still don’t know what he wants for Christmas. He made me think, though.

All my life, I’ve just wanted to be happy, too. It took me until recently to realize that happiness is not a destination. It’s not a place you finally arrive at, and then everything is magically great forever.

Happiness is found in a million little moments every day, constantly flowing by. You can notice them or not- it does require you to be present and observant, that’s for sure. I can’t remember ever being happy while I was in go-go-go mode, trying to check things off my to-do list.

As a matter of fact, happiness asks us to let go of our expectations and just be okay with where and who we happen to be at this moment, don’t you think? Happiness happens when we stop worrying about how we look, what other people think, how broke we are, how busy we are, how tired we are, what freaking losers we are…just, all of that nonsense.

I was happy as a clam this morning as I strolled the beach with my dog. No makeup on, grubby sweats, not trying to impress a soul. My thoughts tried to intrude there for a minute when I caught my eye in the rearview mirror on the drive home, tried to start in with some BS about the way I looked. “Nope.” I thought, “I love me exactly the way I am.”

I was feeling overwhelmed and lost as I wandered the aisles of Target looking for things I needed and Christmas gifts, but I was happy when I visited with the clerk who rang me up. I am happy right now, writing this. I was unhappy when I checked my credit card balance this morning and realized I’d forgotten to cancel two very expensive annual memberships and that they’d both charged to my account this week. And I will have moments of both throughout the day, I’m sure.

That is the way life is. Weird moments, awkward moments, stress and exhaustion, elation and numbness. And dotted all through our days, chances and glimpses and opportunities to be happy…or not. You can notice it, or not. You can see the beauty, or miss it. You can be here, or lost in thought. You can grab onto that happy moment and enjoy it…or you can let it slip past you. Today, I really hope you see them. I hope you hold them in your hands while you can. Because happiness is not a place. So stop waiting to get there. You’re already here.

Give

December 10th: Give

This time of year, we are bombarded with requests to give what we can to others. We have a United Way drive at work, the Salvation Army dudes are out ringing their bells, our mailboxes are filled with envelopes asking for money. And you know…if you have it to give, it is a nice thing to do. But not all of us have it like that, especially around Christmas time. We have families to travel to, gifts to buy, dinners to plan.

You know what you always have to give, though? Yourself. Your time. Your ears and your arms and your love. Just by virtue of being the beautiful person you are on this planet right now, you are a small but mighty giving machine.

A girlfriend of mine is going through a terrible time right now. I know she is scared and sad, lost and confused. There’s not a lot I can offer her that will make anything better…but I do have time. I have that. So, I went and sat with her for a while the other night. I promised to keep my ringer turned on for her, and I have. I keep checking in with her several times a day.

A young friend of my daughter’s is also really struggling right now. Lots of heartache and hurt, all the pain of growing up compounded by feeling abandoned by their family. I spent a good hour just talking about stuff with them yesterday. Offering the wisdom I’ve gleaned over the years, and letting them know that they are doing an excellent job. And that I am here, always.

Yesterday, I helped an elderly woman pull her garbage cans in. She had a really long driveway, and she was trying to pull in the cans while walking with a cane. I was running super late and I had yelled at Camryn for going so slow, and I sat there at the stop light, and it hit me- this was one of those moments where I could just go on with my day- no one would ever know the difference, right? Or…I could do something decent. I pulled up, jumped out, asked if I could help. I put her cans by her porch, said goodbye, and went on my way. It took less than a minute.

The thing is, acts of service feed our souls. These things do not feel like chores by any means. I love being there for my friends, I love having this young person turn to me and feel safe talking to me. It makes me feel useful and connected and…loving. The love I give somehow fills me rather than takes anything away. Giving fills me up.

I don’t know about you, but that five or ten bucks they take out of my paycheck doesn’t make much of an impression on my heart. Showing up for people always does. Always. Without fail. If you don’t think you have anything to give, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Give a smile, a hug, a moment of your time. Make someone’s day a little brighter. Make someone feel seen, heard, acknowledged. You have so much to give…if you are feeling a little empty, try to give a little of yourself. See how that feels.

What Do You Owe Yourself?

December 9th: What Do You Owe Yourself?

Recently, I saw some great stuff about self-care not always being about bubble baths and pedicures and let me tell you this: I agree wholeheartedly! Indulging ourselves from time to time is absolutely important, and you should make time for these things, yes- but is that truly the essence of self-care?

Uh-uh. No, not by a long shot.

As the little blurb I saw went on to say, sometimes self-care really means taking care of your finances, sticking to a budget, giving up some luxuries you don’t need so that you can accomplish something you do need or want.

Sometimes self-care means taking a good hard look at the negative patterns in your life and figuring out where it started, or, more importantly, when you are going to see it end. Caring for yourself means to look after yourself the way a good parent would- limiting your intake of bullshit and putting yourself in time out when you are acting up. Being loving, but firm.

Self-care means getting your shit together. Facing your problems. Seeing yourself as you truly are and owning that- not blaming it on your terrible childhood or your ex-boyfriend, your trauma…because the truth is, we ALL have trauma. We are ALL recovering from something that has wounded us. There is not a soul on this earth who doesn’t carry scars.

Getting better, healing- it’s a lot of work. It’s a job that never ends. Not everyone is even aware enough to undertake it. Lots of people are comfortable with their familiar routine of turning a blind eye to the truth, hiding their heads in the sand, identifying with their less than ideal lot in life.

I’m going to tell you something- the past five years of my life have been the hardest, the most grueling years I have ever known. They have also been the most rewarding and happiest. The work I have put in…when I look back, it blows my mind. While I was going through it, it seemed bumpy, sure. But when I look back at all of it, it’s hard to believe I made it through. But I did, one slow step at a time. No one will ever know, really, except for me, the things that went on…because 90% of it was internal. Yet I am more proud of the way I cared for myself, the way I carried myself, through that, than I am of anything else I have ever done.

So…what do you owe yourself? You owe yourself the best life you are capable of giving you. That will look different for every person reading this, but…I encourage you to really ask yourself “How’s it looking?” and “Where am I now? Where do I want to be? How do I get from here to there?”. Look, this is not a dress rehearsal. This is it. This is your life, right now. Take care of you. And I don’t mean taking a bubble bath.

Yesterday & Today

December 7th & 8th : Yesterday and Today

When it is very, very early in the morning- long before most people have risen, and long before the sun decides to make an appearance…I can sit and write and feel like I am telling a secret to a room full of sleeping people. It makes no difference, because no one is listening anyway.

But if I wait too long, I lose my nerve, I suppose.

Also, the day begins to weigh me down. The things I have to do, the things I didn’t get to. It all starts to feel a little heavy to me, and so, by the end of the day I’m not much good to anyone. When you get up as early as I do, the end of the day comes a lot sooner.

I’ll tell you another secret, sleeping people…when it all gets to be too much, do you know what I have been doing lately? I have been scrolling through Instagram, looking at beautiful pictures of snow in Maine. I have an overwhelming desire to look out at the snow. Last night, I spent some time describing it to Camryn- what it is like when the snow falls. The silence, the utter quiet, of a snowy night. You can wake up and, without even looking out the window, know just by the light, by the silence, that the snow has fallen. And when you look up at the sky on a perfect night with the snow an unmarred blanket all around you, if it is clear, the stars look close enough to touch.

My heart is already gone. I am homesick for a place I have never lived. As good as my life is here, I am ready for something new. So, all of my energy and my resources, from this point forward, have to be dedicated to making sure I have the best possible chance of succeeding in giving myself this gift. I absolutely deserve to chase my dreams. We all do.

Is there something you want so badly that you can almost taste it? Some dream that seems inconvenient, but totally possible? What if I told you that inconvenience was a terrible reason not to go for what you wanted? The important things are not easy. We do not learn and grow from the mundane. We cannot stretch the boundaries of who we are by following the path of least resistance. It is, of course, up to you the way you want to live. But for me…the answer IS easy, even if the way forward is not.

Different

December 6th: Different

We cannot change the world- at least, not in the way we would like to, right? Every day, I am privy to crazy happenings all around the world…people doing the most heinous, awful things, things most of us cannot comprehend ever doing to another human being. Hell, my own government here in the US is so corrupt it is painful and stressful to bear witness to! If I could, and I think many of us would do the same, I would put a stop to. Just like that. “Hey! Knock that shit off! Didn’t your mother teach you better than that?” In my fantasy, it would be that simple.

The truth is, not only can we not change the world just like that, we cannot change most things. Almost everything is beyond our control. Even changing ourselves is very difficult.

Yes, you heard me right- me, the one who is always going on about self-acceptance is now talking about changing. Listen, you can love yourself exactly as you are while still working on yourself. As a matter of fact, I think that might be the only way we can create lasting change in our lives- by loving ourselves through it. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t gotten very far by hating myself into change. Trust me, I’ve tried.

My point is, we can really only change ourselves. But when we make positive changes in our lives and become happier, it benefits everyone we come into contact with. You have no idea how you might inspire others by bettering yourself. I am constantly surprised by the people who tell me that my words have resonated with them, that they needed to hear what I had to say, that it made a difference in their lives. Even if I just make someone laugh, that’s still a positive vibe I helped create that wasn’t there before. What we do and say, the healing we pursue, the changes we make to evolve matter. A lot.

Today, I hope you can do one thing differently than you did yesterday. One thing that you wish you could incorporate into your life, one little thing that you think might make your life richer or more peaceful or just run more smoothly- I hope you take the time to do it. We don’t change our lives overnight. It’s always one small thing, one building block upon another. That is how we build the life we dream of. So…I challenge you to start here. Today, do something different.

FLOSS!

TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH.

For the love of Christ, floss. And not just for the few days before you go to the dentist- like, all the time. Get a water flosser (I have one and they are super awesome), get an electric toothbrush, brush, brush, brush. Go to the dentist.

Do NOT be like me and be cursed with teeth about as strong as Play-Doh, use drugs for ten million years, and ruin teeth that were probably going to suck anyway.

On Monday, I have to go and get, like, my 47th root canal. Look, I know that is not possible, but it sure seems like it to me. I am so sick of having dentists root around in my mouth…I think I have dental PTSD.

So, here is my sage advice for today:

FLOSS. Yes, you, reading this right now- floss your teeth tonight before you go to bed. Brush one more time a day than you do right now. Use Listerine (it smells so bad, it has to be beneficial, right?). Seriously, though…this is truly good advice. Maybe the best I’ve ever given anyone. You will not regret listening to me about this, I promise you. Do it. 😊