Joy

The call to joy has pursued me with abandon recently.  Messages from all sides bombard me with reminders of a need to release control and fear and live in joy.  Leaders, advisors, friends, teachers, acquaintances…. all have made fleeting comments that land in that certain place in my mind where the deep stuff happens.

There is a picture in one of the many spaces where I meet with clients about joy.  I couldn’t tell you what it says.  I don’t know that I’ve actually read it and its always behind me if I am using that space.  A few days ago, a client stopped our session mid-sentence to point it out.  There it was again, the reminder that my life’s work right now is to find joy.

I have always seen joy as something that needs to be worked for.  But then again, my pattern has always been working hard for the things I want the most.  The work makes me cherish those things more.  It’s the constant cycle of having to deserve good things.  The ingrained belief that I have to feel the pain of earning to have the honor of fleeting pleasure.  As I’ve found in so many other areas of life, I have been very wrong. Being wrong makes me panic.

What dawns on me today is that the little morsel of panic that I carry around with me is the roadblock to the message of joy being thrown at me.  When faced with something sweet and good, I panic.  I panic that it isn’t really for me, I panic that I don’t deserve it, I panic that I won’t appreciate it in the right way, I panic that it will leave too soon.  For me, a little bit of pleasure is always accompanied by a little bit of pain.  That expectation alone is manifesting a reality that keeps me reeling.

I am in the midst of a break.  I refused to allow myself to rest and it resulted in a full body and mind shut down that lasted for more than a week.  I could not work, I could not go to therapy, I could not spend time with friends, and I could not possibly bring myself to learn another damn thing about myself.  I have fought feelings of guilt about that for awhile now.  I want to do it all and do it well.  But this weekend, I’ve done a whole lot of nothing. Somehow, that nothing is more than I’ve done in a long time.

I woke up today content in the nothingness.  I have no obligations; everything is technically caught up.  I have no major goal to race towards; I’m in the living and waiting part of life.  It’s after noon and I’ve yet to get dressed, yet to hit the yoga mat, yet to work out, yet to even shower. Instead, I’ve blissfully done nothing. In that nothingness I found joy.

I’m sitting in a bed that I’m blessed to sleep in, in comfortable pajamas bought for me with love, drinking coffee made just the way I like it, burning sweet incense that grounds me, listening to beautiful instrumental music played by people so talented it brings tears to my eyes, reading a book that makes me hear race, diffusing the oils that connect me to the deepest parts of myself, and I’m smiling.   It isn’t just the benign smile of having a good day.  It is rooted deep in my being; a measure of true joy and pleasure. There is power in the knowledge that I deserve this and it has been here all along.

Joy is not something I have to race for.  I don’t have to work myself until I break to hope that joy will pick me back up.  I just have to stop.  To truly see.  To really feel. I am content.  I have all that I need.  I don’t have all I will ever want, and when the time comes, I am more than capable of more work to get to that next level.  And when I get there, I will be content again.  There is joy in every part of that journey.  In the work that gets me there, in the plateau that lets me regulate, in the pain that solidifies the lessons, and in the beautiful fear of something new.

I don’t have to go looking for joy, and it does not have to come find me.  This is joy.  I am joy.  She was here all along.

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Glimpses

I love work.  Hard work. I wish this was an exaggeration, but work is one of my favorite things.  I’ve always had a ridiculously high work ethic and a penchant for perfection that rivals the best of them.  I spent years setting and resetting boundaries when it came to my jobs. Learning to give only what I actually needed to give was a decade’s long journey, and one that I have to be reminded of quite often. Truthfully, now that I am living a life in which I get to do my dream job day in and day out, I’m battling that yet again.  But my insistence on giving all of myself to a job has been replaced with giving every fiber of my being to growth.

This is clearly of no surprise to anyone.  Every thing I write, talk about, spend time doing, eventually ends up coming back to an existential discussion about leveling up in existence. Yes, I am fully aware of my ability to annoy people with my constant talk of therapy, healing, growth, messages from the universe, intuition, and all the other constant drivel I’ve come to be known for.  However, the ability to be vulnerable and honest about things that not everyone “gets” has attracted some of the most amazing and authentic people into my life that the world has ever seen. So then, my love for growing goes a little deeper.  I don’t just like growing, or talking about growing. I like cheering others on as they grow and being used as a vessel to get them there.  While I focused on this though, I was blissfully unaware of the parts of my own story that I was neglecting.

Its been a few months now since I ran back to my therapist; another person everyone hears about all the time.  I never stopped seeing her, but I officially hit the wall in my growth and knew what needed to be done.  When I can’t figure things out all on my own, I am grateful for her letting me set up shop in her space and teaming up with me to sift it all out.  This time though, I went in asking for the big guns.  I started EMDR. The trauma-busting, soul-wrenching, biology changing, torture version of therapy.  I didn’t just ask for it, I committed to doing it weekly.  No need to pause for a moment of surprise there.

So enter the former discussion of my addiction to working my self to the bone.  I jumped in with both feet and immediately met a kind of work I don’t truly think I would have been “ready” for.  Ready or not, it was time.  The process of EMDR is one that deserves it’s own post.  I won’t do this journey the disservice of trying to summarize it in just a few words.  That time will come and I will lay it out.  As a therapist, as a client, as a trauma-informed clinician, as a victim of trauma, I will give this blessing the space it deserves when it is time.  For now, I am still deep in it. Getting my ass handed to me every week and then going home to have the hits keep coming.  All in the name of work.  All in the name of healing.

Not only did I jump in full force, but I surrounded myself in my “off” time with all things growth related.  I live and breath therapy.  It is my passion, it is my calling, it is my work, and it is my lifesaver.  But I have learned more than once that I cannot last long if I go to therapy, provide therapy, therapy myself with podcasts and books, and add my spiritual therapy in to the mix.  But that’s just what I did, because some lessons are hard to learn.  In that time, before my mind and body literally gave out and confined me to bed for more than a full week, I was shaken to my core.

We know I love synchronicity. Those sweet moments when the struggles of the past make all the sense in the world and you stare your purpose in the face.  This time of growth brought me visions, reminders, and too many messages to count.  All intertwined in a such a beautiful way that I could never question their purpose.  I mustered the ability to come up for air, reminded of messages to embrace joy, to live life in the moment, and to allow the lessons to settle in to learn some more.  Being knocked off my feet, with no ability to communicate and engage in the work I had been doing, I was finally open to see outside of my own personal tent of change.

Without warning, the light started to come.  When I looked up from my perpetual spiral of learning, crashing, engaging, and growing, I started to feel how different the world had become.  I was gifted with something that I have not noticed for some time.  Little, shining, glittery, exciting glimpses of hope.  Moments in time that let me know that better days are coming.  Confirming that I am doing the work for a reason and I am doing it well.  Moments when I caught the slightest flash of the life I am meant to have and a belly full of hope and excitement upon realizing how soon that life will be here.

I would be lying to say that these moments of giddy anticipation did not spark my ever-present instinct to self-sabotage.  Having yet to give into that urge is evidence of growth in itself.  Instead, I briefly lock eyes with someone that makes my my breath catch and feel confidence rather than terror.  I field multiple requests for my expertise and presentations skills with eagerness rather than feelings of inadequacy.  I say yes to invitations to connect and see them as reflections of something lovable about me.  Life is not where I want it to be, but I also know this is not my stopping point just yet.

I have no way of knowing where all of this work will land me.  In truth, I know that with every step I make my endpoint changes too. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the endless presences of needing to be better, I am overwhelmed with the knowledge that it also means life will taste that much sweeter very soon.  Today, I seek out the glimpses of joy in the mundane, the sparkles of excitement in the work and hold tight to the fact that it’s all leading somewhere amazing.

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Embody

I am a full believer in life giving us lessons to learn.  The universe, or whatever you call that benevolent guiding force, nudging us to overcome and persevere. For me, those lessons lead to healing, growth, revelation, power…. I’ve become one who revels in the stitch of pain I feel when the universe hands me my new lesson.  I know I am in for a world of hurt, raw emotions, night upon nights of tears from my soul. And I get so intensely excited. The discomfort means I am leveling up.  I am on my way to another bout of unspeakable joy when I shake off the shackles of traumas of my past and live in the divine freedom of healing.

As I transition from a summer of learning patience with myself and the world around me, I have been granted the gift of another round of struggling for healing.  For some time I have begun to focus more intently on the physical vessel I’ve been given.  As far back as I can remember, focusing on my body has been accompanied by such venomous hatred and such deep-seated fear reactions that anyone with a semblance of kindness in their soul would wince. Disgust, hatred, bitterness, regret, and shame all come to mind. But, at the combined urging of my doctors and my body, I decided to stare this “over-sized” problem dead in the eyes.

I have been waxing philosophical about my passion for yoga for the better part of a year now.  That is nothing new, but I’ve recently met it with a renewed vigor.  I have returned to joyfully never missing a day of practice.  Slowly I started to feel changes in my body, not to mention my spirit, and have spent more than my fair share of hours weeping on a well worn mat.  Less instantly gratifying has been my quest to attack my disordered eating head on.  The moment I chose to combat eating; my emotional ties and pure addiction to food,  34 years of shit hit the fan.  I spiraled. Hard and with abandon.  My eating disorder fought back with every piece of ammo it had.  Yet somehow, I did not relent.

Irreplaceable friends, my ever present and amazing therapist, my trust for the voice of the universe, and a good amount of refusal to fail means that I have made it 27 days without a binge. Victory as that is, it is not what is rocking my soul tonight.

I sat with a binge urge last night and did not give in.  The urge was strong, but all these years of overcoming have taught me that I am stronger.  I sat with the urge, I pulled out the feelings behind it, I tested out exactly what the sensations were in my body.  Lady Binge is tricky, but I called her bluff. It was not hunger, it was a host of other feelings; anxiety being the loudest.  A phenomenally intelligent friend responded to my stream of consciousness sharing of what I was experiencing, and brought me to the crux of the lesson of now.

She pointed out that my body was in need of a rush of dopamine to deal with the influx of emotions.  She spoke the scientific, matter of fact, purely biological language of us neurocounselors, but her words ripped my soul wide open.  In that moment I realized how much this vessel that I hate so deeply is still trying to care for me in the only ways it knows how.  I needed the dopamine, food gets me that dopamine, run for the food! And I wept.  I have spent so much time spewing hatred over a beautiful creation that loves me no matter what.  It’s job is to protect me at all costs, and that is exactly what it was trying to do.  The divine love I felt in that moment was intoxicatingly beautiful.

Torn open from that realization, I’ve slowly noted this season’s lesson settling in. In the middle of exercising tonight the last bits fell into place. I’ve received my new orders.  I danced alongside a video, meant for all body types and people.  As I moved, I watched a woman in the back of the room seems so uncomfortable in her own skin that I cringed on her behalf.  I stopped in my tracks though, because I realized that she was a reflection of myself in entirety.  Immediately a rush of memories from the last week poured in and swept me off my feet. A random anecdote from a conference speaker about engaging in life, a message from a spiritual adviser about having fun and finding joy, and countless words from friends about not caring what others think.  And now the fire is burning deep in my belly.

I picked myself up, shaken, but determined.  I moved onto my nightly yoga ritual and noticed my how my stretches had grown deeper, how my body fell differently in a forward fold, and how, when I followed my beautiful leader in placing my hands on my belly, I truly felt I was embracing her and feeling her for the first time.  I was not disgusted by the rolls, I was grateful for how hard she has tried to make me feel better.  How she is physical evidence that I was using coping skills, they just happened not to be the healthiest. How, in constant fight or flight, she has demanded all the calories and refused to let go of a single one. All this in an effort to love and protect me.  I embraced her and felt part of her for the first time in my life.

Moving from my mat, I could feel my new mission rumbling through my bones with excitement and determination.  My call tonight is to truly embody life. My call is to feel the feelings, acknowledge the experience of being in my skin, to not give the slightest crap to what others think, and not to judge a damn thing I do.  My days as that sweet woman in the back of the dance video, afraid to jiggle too much, afraid to look dumb by engaging are over.  I will not stop until tolerating my self becomes loving the shit out of myself.  I will embody all the things that I know I am deep down.  I will embody love, light, wisdom, power, and beauty.  I will embody this life.

 

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Intention

I have long lost count of the times I have dreamily wished I was more disciplined. Of times I have shamefully told friends I was working on being more disciplined with my time, money, and health.  It’s as if I envision myself haplessly flailing about without direction, out of control, and on a reckless mission to ruin my own life.  In reality, this is exactly how I see myself. I see myself as unable to handle making choices that will fortify me, unprepared for true responsibility, and incapable of finding fulfillment without overcompensating, overindulging, overreaching, and over-correcting. This is a core truth of my identity, and I have held it dear.

This view of  my existence is leading the pack of beliefs that are dead set on making sure I never reach my full potential.  On occasion, I am sprinkled with realizations that the beliefs hold more power than I would like to admit. Perhaps it is not that I am a serial overindulger with no self control, and more the fact that this judgmental assumption about myself has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe I am not incapable of piloting my own ship through life, but the belief that I am is the iceberg waiting to pull me down to an icy death. It is quite possible that my fear of not being able to handle success is exactly the  roadblock stopping me from reaching my goals at all.  The sobering reality is that in so many ways, I am my own worst enemy.  I am not a victim of my circumstances, but I am a hostage to my own limiting self-hatred.

I’ve spoken of self-sabotage, and am vocal about my deep talent for this skill.  I long for freedom from disordered eating, but the first glimpse of freedom sends me deep into the well of food-based horrors.  I hope for success, but a glimmer of possibility sparks a descent into the darkness of fear and self-doubt.  I dream of true love and fulfillment but a hint of attention sends me racing in terror to my fort of insecurity and disgust.  I hurt myself before others have the chance.  I outline in details my shortcomings before another might notice a single one.  I cause myself pain, suffering, and devastating sadness before any other human has the chance to take that power from me.  I ‘know’ I deserve misery, and I insist on inflicting the wounds by my own hand.  I punish myself for all the things I believe that I am.

However, in the deepest, darkest, most humiliating moments of pain, hope still shines through.  I have been devoted to finding light in so many ways, but I have found that sometimes the light actually seeks me out too.  In the midst of a new spiritual experience, surrounded by nature, beauty, peaceful vibes, spiritual awakenings, and so many messages from the universe, light found a way to needle in.  I sat in a stuffy tent, basking in the glow of pure, genuine friendship and sweet, potent wine.  In the lull in conversation after playfully practicing tarot, dabbling in art, sharing beliefs, passions, and creations, I fell into my normal routine of trying to hide my hideousness.  I continued to try to hide how disgusting and out of control I was, how obviously I try to bandage my wounds with food, how I allow my depression to render me motionless.  I started in on my well-rehearsed diatribe of how I just need to be more disciplined.

For the first time, in the most innocent way, with pure love, I was stopped mid-sentence.  This dear friend, who seems so often to be on a ethereal plane so far from my dark reality, spoke kindness, showed genuine concern, stopped me in my tracks.  She interrupted my rambling about the discipline I needed with a simple, “that is so mean.” I was frozen in that moment. Scrambling to understand what I said wrong this time.  Validating my fears that I would somehow ruin this new friendship just like I guessed I would.  I must have hurt her with my stupidity and lack of understanding of human friendship.  I was confused.  I just stared at her as she painted absentmindedly and waited to see if she might tell me what I did to hurt her.

I did not hurt her.  No, with no ceremony or condescension she clarified, “it sounds so mean to say you need to be disciplined. That makes me think of a punishment.” And in that split second, what were absentminded words of reflection from a fellow budding therapist, a veil was lifted from my eyes.  My coping skills have not been the healthiest, sure. But I have tried with all of my might to make myself feel better with them.  My destructive habits have an origin and a purpose.  Suppose the pain I cause myself is not as intentional as it seems.  What if deep inside there is a scared girl, shaking in a corner, throwing everything she can think of at the door, trying to force it closed.  Would I punish that scared girl?  Would I discipline the fear and pain out of her?  Never.

I sat frozen in time in that tent in the woods. Allowing the gravity of that passing observation sink in. It was as if, just like a movie, I was the lone moving figure in a suspended reality.  It was a moment of change that I did not ask for, a moment of transformation, of light, that sought me out.  Just as quickly as time stopped, it started again, my friend blissfully unphased and unaware of the light she just offered me.  I chose to react in a way that I was keenly aware would change my trajectory yet again.  In my state of awe, all I could say  was “thank you, you are right” and fell silent.  The frantic energy I had been using to try to express the discipline I felt I needed, turned to an eagerness to choose a new truth.

With a deep breath, I was treated to yet another of my favorite moments of life. Those serendipitous moments where you get to watch as dozens of lessons all collide and so many hardships make all the sense in the world all at once. With joy I said, “I do not need discipline, I am living with intention.” Intention.  The word I use to guide every yoga practice, every moon ritual, every spiritual ceremony, even every therapy session I lead.  Intention. In that moment, filled with gratitude and a freeing sense of peace, I was treated to the realization that I get to choose my intention for this journey called life.

 

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Namaste

The last blog post seems nearly a lifetime away.  Life then would prove unrecognizable if compared to life now.  Almost one year and very little remains the same. In summation, a bad job ended, lessons were learned, some people have left, new people have arrived, another diploma was obtained, and a new career was embarked upon. The details, while important, will work their way to the surface in time.  Most notably, the past 9 months have included multiple forms of self-sabotage, namely avoiding healing activities such as writing. However, a journey to reengaging must start somewhere, and so we meet again.

The word ‘namaste’ has become a loose theme for this phase of life. There is beauty in the sound of the syllables on the lips, grace in the salutation bowed between friends, and power in the meaning of the word.  This phase has been a purging. Old patterns, past traumas, pain, toxicity, and negativity have been forced to see themselves out.  As is often the case, a purge is followed by a process of rebuilding. A purge is not comfortable, though neither is the rebuilding.  The power and pleasure lie in the lessons.

It is never “fun” to remove people from your life.  It is never “easy” to feel the devastating emotions of regret or loneliness.  To that effect, it is also not “comfortable” to feel the needle of healing slowly sewing a patch over the broken tapestry of the soul.  My patch has come in the guise of spirituality. A spiritual journey that led not to an understanding of the truths of this grand universe, but to self-discovery, peace, fulfillment, and the release of trauma so deep and dark that the immediate instinct is to flee it’s evil.

Namaste.  The light in me, honors the light in you.  So simple a phrase for the earth shattering meaning in my life.  At the very base of this mantra, is the need to recognize the existence of light in myself. Of goodness, of beauty, of value, of something worthwhile to offer this world. A year ago, I did not believe a glimmer of this light to exist.  Today, my light shines bright. A beacon of hope, peace, invitation, inspiration, and above all, power.

I have discovered my light and shown it on the world around me.  At times, this happened by force.  Swift and with a vengeance, I was forced to find my light and use it to make sense of the wreckage all around me.  In those moments, I faced the sobering reality that I would not have saved myself from the darkness on my own.  Even if my own light was dulled, I wanted to hide away without moving; stay comfortable even when I knew growth needed to come. Slowly, I started to protect the light from being snuffed out. I began to see the darkness looming in the hearts of those I held close.  I began to notice how their darkness would fight tooth and nail to extinguish me.  To work in a job run by darkness, fight for relationships with those filled with darkness, and bend until breaking to appease the darkness seeking to overtake me became too much to bear. In those moments, I was given the gift of the universe ripping through my life like a tornado.  My small and quivering light was all I had to make sense of it all.  To grow the light, I had to understand how to make it bright enough to illuminate the path in front of me.

The journey inside, to the origin of that light, is guided by spirituality.  I use the general term, spirituality, because it does not fit the mold of any particular prescribed belief.  My spirituality is eagerly cherry picked from whatever my light leads me to on a given day.  To some it might be shameful, sacrilegious, a joke. To me, it is bliss. To me, it is a journey of discovery so powerful that no boundaries can define it.  As I journeyed deep inside, following the ever-evolving map laid before me by the universe, my light became blinding.  I had to find outlets, to allow it to shine out onto the world around me. Enter a deep and fulfilling journey through the chakras, meditation, study, discovery of other light holders, and yoga.  Yoga seemed to tie the whole journey together.  Yoga gifted me with the beauty of namaste.

My walk with the universe is not over, and I hope it never will be.  I see her more clearly with every detour.  I trust him more with each step. But now I am not only seeking to simply bathe in the light to protect me from the darkness around me.  I now own that light and shine it as bright as I can. Even more, it is beginning to draw in others on the same journey.  Others that appreciate my view of the world, who have gentle and beautiful lessons to teach me, who are also dedicated to constant evolution, who encourage me to continue to burn brighter and more powerful than ever.  My environments, obligations, and friends all honor the light in me just as I stoke the flames of their lights.  In this phase of life, this period of rebuilding and discovery, I bask in the glory of namaste.

 

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Victory

I would like to say that I have a beautifully scripted post to write, but I have not had a free moment to sit down and find inspiration. All the same, I cannot let today pass without acknowledging it and paying it the respect I feel it is due, especially in the first place I was able to pour my hurt into words. Today marks exactly one year from the day I told my husband that I wanted a divorce. I have struggled to put into perspective just how much my life has changed in the last 365 days.  I have attempted to find some way to summarize how much I have grown and how much happier I am today. Despite all of my effort, I continue to come up short.

I spent 6 years in a relationship that did its best to steal my life. I did not see how much I was losing at it was happening.  It took me being away from it, and hearing the hard truth from those that love me, to start to unravel the web it had weaved around my individuality.  I slowly started to return to who I was before the break up.  I started to feel as if I wasted 6 years and had nothing to show for it.  I was back at square one in more ways than I imagined possible.  But something clicked inside of me.  I realized that I was not done healing yet.  I had grown stronger despite the oppression, and I had knowledge that I never imagined I would.

In the second half of this year, I sprinted past the me I used to be and blossomed fully into the woman that I have become.  A woman full of joy and gratitude.  A woman full of wit and wisdom.  A woman with power and the knowledge to use it well.  I found my purpose in a deeper way than I have ever dreamed possible, and healed enough to see my 6 years of hell as the training ground for the knowledge I would need to change lives.

One year later, I almost do not recognize myself in the mirror.  I am amazed at what I have accomplished despite each one of the trials. I am speechless over the fact that I did it without having to depend on someone else. I know now that I did not lose 6 years of my life.  I was a boxer practicing at the edge of the ring.  Those four words, “I want a divorce” were the bell that signaled my entry into the fight of my life.  The peace, fulfillment, and excitement I feel now is my victory.  I won.

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Aftermath

I know that I am healing.  I can finally read through my previous posts without crying.  I can read through the countless messages from girls my ex-husband was sleeping with over the years without seeing red.  I do not think about whether or not I will be alone forever every second of the day. I do not exist in varying states of pain every moment. I simply focus on my peace, my future, and my joy.

But then, there are random moments that remind me of the hurt.  These random moments do not bring up the obvious memories.  They remind me of the deep damage that has been done. Tonight, I was cooking in my parent’s kitchen, and was debating with my mom about who would do the dishes.  I started to clean up my mess, and she yelled over the water and across the room to see what I was doing, to make sure I wan’t doing the dishes that she said she would do.  I did not make a trademark snarky joke back.  I did not insist that she stay in her chair and relax while I did the dishes.  Instead, I felt terror.  I flipped around and started to plead my case; that I was just packing things up and wasn’t undermining her authority.  I recognized that feeling.  That was the feeling of trying to protect myself and keep the peace in my marriage.

I thought I had started to leave it all behind, but I realize that the deep cuts will be around for longer.  I think back to a car accident I had a few years ago. The sound of squealing tires still makes me panic.  Being in a swerving car can still throw me into an anxiety attack.  I have made progress. I can drive again.  I am able to relax a little more when someone else is driving.  But there are still little remnants there.

My relationship with my first boyfriend was nearly a mirror to the marriage I had.  He was abusive in the same ways.  His anger was out of control.  He cheated. He manipulated.  He took advantage of the giving spirit I have.  He stopped just short of physically hurting me.  And I went into my marriage with those scars.  I was jumpy, and nervous, and scared.  That pattern in my mind followed me.  While my ex-husband told me I didn’t have to worry about those things again, I still had instinctual fear reactions.

Unfortunately, when I let me guard down, he performed a replay.  His was more of a dramatically exaggerated replay.  His anger was forever out of control.  He cheated over and over.  He manipulated every thought and emotion, every struggle and weakness, for his own personal gain.  He took advantage of my giving spirit and every ounce of trust and love I showed him.  With more time on his hands, almost exactly 6 years, he made more physical contact than the original version, but still stopped short of truly hurting me.  (Those are stories I cannot bring myself to share just yet.) And now I am left with those same scars ripped right open again.

I have felt pressed recently to challenge the constructs that have formed in my mind from damaging situations in every area of my life. I have a tendency to take them as truth and project them on new situations.  My reaction tonight scared me. It hurt to feel that again.  My mom is my safest place.  She has been there for every hardship and is always my soft spot to fall.  Still, that reaction came tonight from an innocent question spoken in her voice.  I still have work to do.

I am nowhere near being ready or interested in a new relationship.  But, I cannot help but think that that reaction would have been even stronger if it was a man’s voice questioning me.  In those benign words from my mom, just trying to help me, I felt like I was being set up for punishment.  That if I did not choose the right words to convince her that I was doing as I should, I would be punished somehow.  I cannot bring this pattern forward with me.  It has to end now.  It has to end for me, for my mental health, for my sense of self-worth.  It has to end now for my future partner who does not deserve to put in the same box as abusers.  It has to end now for my future children.  If I have a daughter, she cannot think of men, or more importantly, herself this way.  If I have a son, he cannot see this fear and weakness in women; he will not live those patterns a day in his life.

I always say that I am a fan of the growth process. I love therapy and the way that I can see changes happen to me when I work hard at it.  Just when I reach a new height, I realize it is a plateau and I’ve got some running to do before I can start climbing again.  I am up for the challenge and will break this pattern with every ounce of my strength.

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Power

If someone that truly knows me was asked to share one thing about me, it would be my love of music.  To be accurate, I do not have a “love” of music.  I have deeply intricate, admittedly sometimes obsessive, connection with music. I have learned that it comes with being an empath.  It speaks in a deeper way than I can.  It has a way of expressing the emotions that I cannot articulate and to heal me in a way that I could never do on my own.

I have anthems for different times in my life.  I find these songs at just the right time, and usually end up a crying mess for days on end.  There have been several of these anthems, some more earth shattering than others, but all of them mean the world to me.  Nearly a decade ago I feel into a depression deep enough that it started to unravel major areas of my life.  I heard one song, a song that I repeated nonstop for days on end, and it pulled me out of darkness.  When I filed for divorce, I found a song that spoke to what I was giving up (I shared that one here). When it came time to face my ex toe-to-toe, I was given another that nearly ripped my soul in two with how perfectly it spoke my life.

As I was driving this weekend, from an event that was 100% orchestrated by powers greater than myself, I found the anthem for this season of my life.  Now, I am not a music snob, I like my fair share of trashy nonsense, but I do not really listen popular radio.  On my two-hour drive, I didn’t have much of a choice.  I haphazardly scanned through the stations waiting for the perfect song.  I heard the first notes of a song I had never heard and was stopped in my tracks.  The goosebumps came before the words even started, and I knew I was being given another of my favorite types of gifts.

I have struggled with a deeper depression than I have ever known in these last few months.  But I reached out to people around me when I was scared for my life and was devastated by what I got in return.  I kept the reality of what was boiling up inside of me away from my family.  I did not want to bring my hurt on people that I know love me. But in that choice, I got people trying to prove their depression was worse than mine, I got ignored, I got laughed at, I was blindsided.  Depression tells you that you are not worthy, that no one wants you around.  So, to take the difficult step to be vulnerable, and have no one care enough to save you, confirms every dark thing that depression whispers in your ear.  “You aren’t good enough.”  “They never cared about you.” “They would be better off without you.” “Just do something reckless, they’ll feel bad when they realize you were serious and it’s too late.”

I shook the darkness on my own.  I had to.  It is how I realized my own power.  I can’t expect help from others when I am already a million times stronger and more aware than they are.  I have worked for this power, this awareness, this determination, this peace where others have not. I cannot even put into words how much those moments changed my life.  My relationships were exposed for what they were.  I am adjusting to the realizations, but full of peace and joy as I find a new way of being. In those moments, I realized more and more that I am not a quitter, I was made from leader material, I was born working off of a different plane than most of the people around me.  And thankfully, I am finally reaching a place where I am not only okay with that, but damn proud.

I will end with the lyrics of the song that I cannot stop singing, and still weep over.  As “pop” as it is, and even though I am older than the target demographic, it is beautiful, and perfect, and sums up my last few months in a better way than I ever could.  It speaks of the desperation I felt trying to find someone that loved me enough to help, but realized I held the power within myself all along. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that quitting, giving into the darkness, and standing still is not in my blood.  I was born with something different, something that made it possible for me to kick my own ass into gear with unconditional love.  In my blood is power.

In My Blood
Shawn Mendes

Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t
It isn’t in my blood

Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing
I’m overwhelmed and insecure, give me something
I could take to ease my mind slowly
Just have a drink and you’ll feel better
Just take her home and you’ll feel better
Keep telling me that it gets better
Does it ever?

Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in
Sometimes I feel like giving up
No medicine is strong enough
Someone help me
I’m crawling in my skin
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t

It isn’t in my blood
It isn’t in my blood

I’m looking through my phone again feeling anxious
Afraid to be alone again, I hate this
I’m trying to find a way to chill, can’t breathe, oh
Is there somebody who could…

Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in
Sometimes I feel like giving up
No medicine is strong enough
Someone help me
I’m crawling in my skin
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t

It isn’t in my blood
It isn’t in my blood

I need somebody now
I need somebody now
Someone to help me out
I need somebody now

Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t

It isn’t in my blood
It isn’t in my blood, oh

It isn’t in my blood
I need somebody now
It isn’t in my blood
I need somebody now
It isn’t in my blood

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Perspective

My marriage is officially over.  I am just waiting for a free day to go about changing my name.  I no longer have a home of my own.  I lost my identity as a mother and a wife. I have given up a huge chunk of my independence.  I have felt for months that I was losing control of everything. Giving up little pieces of  my life in an attempt to save myself somehow.  My life has felt like a tailspin.

I talk a lot about my need for control and my fear of losing it.  Admittedly, most of my struggles come from my insistent attempts to control a host of things that are well beyond my grasp.  In the past few weeks, I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I have said “I am just losing control of everything.”  “I feel like I am not in charge of my own life.”  “I feel like I am losing it all.” But what I have failed to remember, is the lesson I have been learning for years now.  What I think is control, isn’t control at all.  It is all in my head.  I think I am controlling the chaos, but I am really just running myself into the ground like a crazy person.

And then I was told to turn around.  I stopped looking at all that I was losing, for just one second.  I opened my eyes to see what I am gaining. What I had been searching for even when I was a little girl.  What I have hoped, and wished, and prayed for.  I left this tiny pile of things I was “losing,” and turned around to see something huge looming just in front of me.  Freedom.

Sure, I am losing my “family,” but I am gaining freedom from abuse, stress, worry, anger, resentment, shame, and pain.  Yeah, I might be losing my place to live, but I am gaining freedom in my finances,  from my obligations, and from feeling as if I am drowning in a pool too deep to swim out of.  Yes, I am losing the way I have always done things, but I am gaining the freedom to make a new life based in loving myself.

Sometimes, when I think about the gift that I have been given, I feel like my stomach falls all the way to my toes. How was I chosen to be given this opportunity?  What makes me worthy of something that so many people would like to have?  I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I know that I am grateful. I know I am determined to embrace it with abandon. I know I won’t take it for granted.

I am grateful that I was fitted with the determination to always be working on growing into a better me.  I am grateful for slowly being able to see my strength.  I am grateful for beginning to see my worth and embrace my power.  I am grateful for this gift. Freedom.

I have been gifted with a complete restart.  People would do anything to be able to start their adulthood over from scratch.  You hear all the time, “I wish I knew then what I know now.”  I AM wiser, stronger, better, and more discerning than I have ever been before.  And yet, somebody hit the restart button, let me keep all of those tools, and I have never been more excited in my life.

I get to start a new career, with a new degree that I have worked my ass off for.  I have found my calling and I get to start doing it now.  I get to find my own style and build a life around it.  I get to find out what it is like to make a life for me and me alone without paying any mind to those I have to drag with me.  Eventually, I will get another first kiss with a man I can spend my true life with, and can savor it for what it is.  I can feel what it is like to be a wife and a partner without being thrown into a type of motherhood I didn’t deserve.  I get to make myself the priority this time around.

I am grateful every moment of the day.  I am slowly falling in love with myself and with this life that I am creating piece by piece.  I sit here and am fully aware that not much has changed in the last few weeks.  Not much but my perspective.  In this new perspective, I can feel my power, see my potential, and give myself the love I have been deserving of for years.

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Control

I am a fan of control.  That makes me sound much worse than it should.  I would never characterize myself as a “control freak,” and my need to be in charge does not really trickle down to those around me.  But, at times, I cling to control like it is my last breath of air. I know that this need to control my own world is a remnant of my past.  A life with circumstances that had massive and lasting effects on the way that my soul developed. Circumstances that I could never have stopped or changed.  This is the crux of my Binge Eating Disorder; the cage that I have fallen back into with every part of me in the last few weeks. The world hurts me, people hurt me, life hurts me, but I cannot stop it all.  What I can do, is hurt myself first.  I can hurt myself more. I can hurt myself for longer. I can sabotage every goal that I have.

I am in the middle of losing it all.  This may not technically be true, but it feels that way.  My marriage is mere days away from being just another part of my history, I am losing the independence of being in a house of my own and all the freedoms that brings, and I am catapulting towards the end of the only “career” I have ever known.  The most blindingly painful part of all of it, is that I am doing it alone.  The friends that helped me in the beginning have all faded away.  Perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy, or a figment of a depressed imagination. There is no longer the support of having my experience validated, only the voices that work solely to convince me that their lives are much worse and that I should not have pain. Most devastating is the fact that many just refuse to acknowledge my presence altogether.  My family is busy.  I feel like I am flipping their lives completely upside down; that the hurricane of my life has bled into theirs.  My ex is off living his life without a care in the world despite the fact that he caused this. So, I sit here, alone, as my world crumbles around me.  I am cold, I am scared, I am lonely, and I am invisible.

I am hurting. This hurt is so deep that I can feel the ache in the darkest corners of my soul.  I have attempted to reach out, but my cries for help have fallen on deaf ears. I have attempted to cope, but my strategies are not strong enough to withstand this storm.  In the end, I have fallen into the dark habits that have been my constant for so many years of my life. While I should have been sitting and feeling the pain, letting it be, holding firm until it passed, I broke.  I took off running to a hurt that was more familiar.  A hurt that I create myself. A hurt that I control. No one and no thing can hurt me the way I can hurt myself.  Friends can try to tell me that I am unworthy, life can tell me that I am incapable, but I can tell myself things that are horrible enough to make any of that inflicted pain fade away.

As my world spins out, and the facade of support falls down, I grab at every possible opportunity to control things.  I cannot control many of my circumstances right now.  There are some I could control, but I no longer trust myself to handle them and have long since shut down completely. However, down here in this darkness, I have nothing to focus on but me.  I hear no other voices but my own.  The one thing that is saving me from diving further, is an ability to step back, and look at myself from the outside.  I may not be stopping this spiral, but I have remained aware.  As I stare down at that hurting girl, huddled in the corner, trying to shield herself from the winds of pain whipping around her, I know I only have to make one move.  It would only take on stomp of my foot and a shout of “STOP” to regain a new kind of control.

I am stuck behind a wall of mistrust.  I could not trust the adults when I was a child, I could not trust the man tasked with protecting and loving me, and I cannot trust those that said they would be here with me as my world shattered.  Most importantly, I am holding onto the belief that I cannot trust myself.  That I cannot trust myself to make sure I am taken care of and not forgotten, that I cannot trust my own words when I say I can accomplish what I set my mind to, and that I cannot trust those fleeting thoughts that I am worthy and much stronger than this.

So, I stand here. I am staring right though this gigantic, barbed wire fence of broken promises. My eyes are not leaving that girl on the floor for a second.  I have waited for too long for someone else to jump in and save her.  The only one here is me.  I have begun to softly speak to myself; to repeat the mantras that will save me.  I am worthy.  I am strong. I am capable.  I am free.  I am enough. Right now, they are a whisper.  They are stifled under the weight of betrayals, shame, fear, and heartache.  But they will get louder.  They already are.  I may be soft-spoken, but I control my voice.  That girl in the corner may not hear me yet, but she will.  The rumblings of my voice taking back my own life are beginning.  Soon enough I will be able to shout. I will be able to move the hands that hold the key to gate that will let me through to her.  I don’t need anyone else. I have the voice that will command the storm to stop, I have the keys that will break me through the wall of mistrust, I will give this control to that girl on the floor.  A control that feels like power and not shame.  Like love and not pain.  Like life.

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