Factory Reset

January 6th: Factory Reset

What a blur the past two weeks has been! Actually, doesn’t it seem like the clock speeds up sometime around mid-November, when the preparations for Thanksgiving begin? For me it seems that way, especially now that my part is more than just showing up and eating.  The minute Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas frenzy begins- I am not much of a shopper, and even I visited more stores in November and December than I do throughout the rest of the year. Then school is out and with all the weird days off and fragmented work weeks, by the time January second rolled around this year…honestly, I didn’t know what day of the week it was. I thought there were at least four Monday’s over the past two weeks. I’m not even kidding.

For me, a messy, complicated person who craves order and routine all the more for its elusiveness, starting fresh from such a chaotic place as that is very difficult. Unlikely, even. What I really needed was a nap. A chance to recover from all that activity. A little more “back to normal” and a little less “wait, what day is this?”

Unfortunately, due to circumstances I am not even going to attempt to get into right now, that was not to be. I hope that the start to your new year was peaceful and easy, but mine took a running leap straight into facing my fears and dealing with my deepest anxieties. I dealt with it just fine, but it was exhausting all the same.

Today is the first day of what promises to be the first normal week of this year for me- no days off mid-week, no holidays, no weirdness- and I am ready for it. I spent the last 48 hours basically cocooned inside my house, accomplishing absolutely nothing that I hoped I would. I just needed a break. I wanted so badly to tackle my to-do lists and jump into mapping out my goals, but…I couldn’t. I was simply unable to do anything other than rest.

I want to lie and say I’m okay with that, but the truth is, I have no choice other than to accept it. For one thing, it’s already in the past, and we all know you can’t do anything about the past. For another, after all the years I’ve lived in this body of mine, I’ve learned that there are times when my instincts take over and render my busy human brain useless. Kind of like a factory reset- my thoughts are still swirling away, but my body goes offline and…I don’t know, installs updates, I guess. But during that time, while my body is powered down, I cannot think my way into activity. I just have to rest. I can enjoy it or not, but it’s going to happen either way.

Here’s the reason I am sharing this with you: If you are like me, and you are feeling disappointed because the past few days didn’t go the way you’d hoped, let that go. We have all been incredibly busy for the past couple of months, and maybe you, like me, needed a break. I am trying to be gentler with myself and notice when I am not. I hope you can do this too- go easy on yourself. Ironically, it’s one of the hardest tasks for me, being gentle…especially with myself. But I keep trying because I know it’s important- everyone around us is touched by our vibe, be it good or bad. So I keep aiming high…I hope you do, as well.

Looking Back

December 30th: Looking Back

As the year reaches its conclusion, it is natural to want to peer forward into the great, unknowable future and try to plan our comeback- I’m gonna get in shape this year! I’m gonna tackle this mess for good! I’m doing Whole 30 for REALS this time! This is gonna be my year!

And all of that is wonderful. I do it, too. There is nothing this girl likes more than a fresh start- I like them so much, I figured out that I can make one wherever I choose to, though I’ll admit that January first is a biggie.

But while we are here, still in the final days of this year, I encourage you to look back. To thank yourself for the obstacles you’ve overcome in the past twelve months, to love on yourself a little for the good you did and the way you tried so hard, even if things didn’t turn out quite as you planned. I encourage you to forgive yourself if you messed up- you’re only human, after all, and what is easy for others might not come so naturally to you or I. Give yourself some grace, ease up a bit. And if 2019 was truly hard, then don’t forget to thank yourself for surviving it- you did it! No matter how bad, sad, hard, heartbreaking, grueling or awful it was, the finish line is right before you. You made it. You can put it behind you now.

Perspective is crucial. We are on the 364th day of a 365-day year. If you are looking back and seeing only what went wrong, it’s possible, I suppose, that you had the worst year of anyone, ever. But it’s far more likely that your eyes are failing you, not your life. I bet there were a lot more happy moments and good days than you can recall, and that’s okay- this seems to be the default setting for the human experience. I can remember a terrible thing my older daughter’s father said to me in 1998 with perfect clarity (that he doesn’t recall at all, mind you, and has apologized for at least five times), but I brush off and dismiss compliments and praise like I’m allergic to them. We cling to the bad- bad news, bad days, bad situations- for a bunch of reasons. For one, they hurt. Pain isn’t easily forgotten. There are lots of valid reasons we hold onto shitty things. But there are just as many reasons to hold onto, cherish, and value the good ones. In 364 days, some really great things happened too. Don’t forget about those. If you’re busy focusing on the hardships, you’re never going to notice the beauty…and you’ll be doing the same thing at the end of 2020 that you’re doing now- wishing it was behind you. So, check your perspective!

For me, 2019 was…peaceful. I experienced a lot of gratitude. I cried a lot of happy tears, and a few less-happy ones. I grew- more calm, more confident, more capable. I was a good friend. A good mother. I worked through some pain and found healing. I let go of some things that were holding me back. I resolved some fears and set myself free. I had a few revelations. I caught my eye in my mirrors reflection and smiled because I like that person. I love her, honestly. And that’s a big deal. I laughed, a lot. I was kinder, softer, and more loving this year than I’ve ever been. It was a very good year.

Today, I hope that you can look back on 2019 and understand that a year without stumbling and troubles is as impossible as a whole year without laughing or joy. I hope that you can see both, and that you choose to focus on the things that matter most. I hope that you can set down the burdens you don’t have to carry and walk into the new year a little lighter. And if you can’t see the good, remember to clean your glasses! Because it really is there, if you look hard enough.

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.

What If's

December 2nd: What if’s

I have been beset with the “what-if’s” the past few days. I’ve been having such a lovely time with my life lately- enjoying friends and family, reveling in my clean little house, feeling quite content with my lot in life.

Suddenly, the idea of tossing everything I know up into the air and moving as far across the country as I could possibly go without leaving it altogether…seems terrifying! What if I’m making a giant mistake?! What if I’m horribly lonely? What if, what if, what if…?

Luckily, I remembered some very important things. And I asked these new “what-if’s” of myself: What if you stopped looking at everything as if it were the last thing you would ever do, and remembered that your life is made up of many parts, this being one of them? What if you remembered that you can, despite what the old saying tells us, come home again? What if you have the time of your life? What if, a year from this day, you are sitting at your desk, looking out of a snowy window, thinking “This is the most wonderful thing I have ever done?”. What if you just see how it goes?

Because I do, indeed, still want to go. I’ve checked in with myself, over and over again, and yes…the answer is still a resounding yes.

I’m scared to death. I’d be a fool not to be. This is a really big thing I’m planning on doing. But when I think back on all of the really big things I’ve ever done, they were also the greatest things I’ve ever done.

Look- we get one shot at this life, at least, as the person we are this go round. I have no idea who I’ll be next time, or if I’ll come back at all, or if I’ll be the sort of person that wants to do crazy things like pack up shop and move…everywhere. So, sure, fear is natural. But you cannot let it stop you from living the biggest, best, most joy-filled life you are capable of. So, I’m turning those “what-if’s” around, crossing my fingers, and forging ahead. ‘Cause what if this is the exact right thing? How will you know unless you try?

I Almost Forgot (AGAIN!)

As you can imagine, and I’m sure plenty of you can relate, I have been very, very busy today!

I had a regular work day, had lots of housework to finish up, then my mom came and we visited here at my house for a while before going out for dinner- I seem to have forgotten to buy food that didn’t directly involve Thanksgiving, so…And I am not one to be going to the grocery store repeatedly.

I am hitting the sack, gonna finish up this book I’m reading, snuggle with my kiddo, and get some rest. Tomorrow will be hectic.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, make sure you get some rest tonight. Prepare yourself for family interactions, if you’re having them tomorrow, and remember that your loved ones are only human- just like you. If they are hard to be with, try to remember that someday you might not have them around and you’re gonna miss this stuff. Be grateful for whatever you do have, and know someone, somewhere, would probably love to be in your shoes.

And for the LOVE OF GOD, leave the politics off the table, unless you are all on the same page. Life is just too short for that stuff. Wait until Friday to alienate everyone you love. LOL.

Talk to you tomorrow, kids.

Extra Help

November 25th: Extra Help

Late post today- as is so often true around the holidays, I am busy doing all of the things I normally do, PLUS getting ready for Thanksgiving this week. Which I foolishly insisted upon doing at my house. Yikes.

Anyway, I had a scheduled appointment with my therapist today, and I almost didn’t go, but…the truth is, it was too late to cancel on her, so I just went ahead and got down there. I felt kind of blah and didn’t think I had much to talk about…I had my mind on the million other things I needed to do.

HA! Turns out, I had quite a bit brewing in this little head of mine, hiding beneath and behind all of my busy-ness.

We talked a lot about things I could control (my attitude, my responses) and things I could not control (how my mother feels about my housekeeping, how my daughter chooses to show up, or not show up, in the world) and a little bit about stepping back and getting perspective. All things I already know, things I talk about here all the time, but…you know, I’m human. I find it easier to look out than look in sometimes. Aside from these little moments of inspiration and clarity I try to grab onto as they slide by, I’m just a bumbling little soul in a skin suit, freaking out because I have no idea what the hell is going on.

I love my therapist. I have been with her for a long, long time now, and I will tell you this- there is no substitute for a therapist that you click with and have built a rapport with over years. It can be hard to find that, but I think it is truly worth the search. I see her more often when I am struggling, and sometimes as seldom as once a month when I am doing well. She has been with me since before I finally got clean, and through the darkest of dark times. She reminds me often, when I am nitpicking myself, of how far I have come and how much I have grown. She knows alllll of it.

Today, I want to remind you that the holidays can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. The minute you hit adulthood, the holidays aren’t just about seeing your cousins and staying up all night trying to catch Santa coming down the chimney. There are awkward questions, hurt feelings, dry turkeys and drunk uncles. Or, you know, some rough equivalent of that. Don’t hesitate to carve out time for yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for extra help. I know not everyone has access to therapy, but I hope there is someone you can turn to when you need to vent. The better you feel, the more likely you’ll be to create magical memories instead of awful ones that you’ll need…well, therapy, just to get over.

Gratitude

November 13th: Gratitude

Gratitude is very much like a muscle- the more you engage it, the stronger it becomes. And when you don’t use it, it weakens. I’m not talking about those out-of-the-blue moments that occur and fill us with gratitude for a specific thing or person or kind gesture, although those can serve as a catalyst to get the ball rolling.

Nope, I’m talking about cultivating gratitude for the mundane, everyday things we take for granted. The miracle of waking up alive and whole. The breath in our lungs, the warm cocoon of our beds. That first cup of coffee, the chaos of a morning in a house with children.

When I sit down every morning to pray and meditate, my prayer always begins with gratitude- thank you for another day. Thank you for my health, my children and their health. Thank you for this love in my heart and this beautiful life I get to have.

And sometimes, when I say these words, I am overcome. Sometimes I can’t help giving thanks while tears roll down my face because when I say that I am grateful, I mean it. I am not just grateful for where I am now, but I’m grateful for where I was and what it took to get me here, because it makes today that much sweeter. I am grateful for where I am because I know where I was headed. I am distinctly aware of how different my life could have been.

When I choose to live in gratitude, I am choosing to see what is right about my life rather than what is wrong. What is abundant rather than what is lacking. How far I have come instead of how much I still need to do. It’s really as simple as that. In this life, our perception of reality IS our reality. The way we speak and think and catalogue our experiences colors everything. So, when I say that cultivating a grateful perspective changes everything, I mean it.

Problems still exist. People still act up. There are good days and not so good days, and we certainly can’t control many things that go on. But we can control the way we view all those things. We can dig a little deeper, see the silver linings, recognize and find empathy for the pain in the bad behavior of others. We are free to enjoy the good days and find humor or lessons in the bad. We can surrender to the things over which we have no control and let go rather than struggle. We get to choose what is burden or blessing and find something beautiful even when our hearts break. That’s pretty amazing.

I could go on and on about gratitude, I really could, but the bottom line is this- without it, without the ability to appreciate the things you have now, you are setting yourself up for more of the same old thing. People become deeply attached to their unhappiness and dissatisfaction. They shoot down any suggestions or solutions, and when they do get what they want, it is never enough. There is always something wrong, something lacking, something painful. We ALL know someone, or several someone’s, like this.

The thing is…that’s life. There are people who have terminal illnesses or chronic pain or have suffered devastating losses who choose to have gratitude for what they do have and focus on the life before them. And there are able-bodied, healthy, perfectly fine people who cannot find one thing to be happy about and seem content with their misery. Well, let them have their pain. What a sad waste of time.

Today, I hope you can remember that you are in charge of your thoughts, your perspective, and your attitude. I hope you can hear yourself think and correct your thoughts when they start acting up. I hope you can feel overwhelmed with gratitude today, because life is really that perfect and gorgeous and good. I hope you can see it, and if you can’t…keep trying. You’ll get there.