Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fly

I’ve just finished my first real, connected, long, deep yoga session with myself in a while. I’ve been doing yoga off and on for about a decade and sometimes, I feel like I fall away. My journey with yoga has been a great teacher: surprising and challenging. Yoga taught me again today, reminded me of personal truths and inspired me to have faith.

While moving, I felt my body in a way I hadn’t since before I hurt my back in Boston, when I was running. When I was running like I was, I knew my body very intimately. I had to. I had to be mindful of how my muscles felt, how my back felt. I paid attention to how I moved, when I was running and also when I was just using my body. I was mindful that I was eating in a balanced way because even though I wasn’t ultra-marathoning or anything, I was using my muscles enough and burning off fuel fast enough to have to pay attention to things like that otherwise I would feel horrible and be exhausted all the time. 

I knew my body, worked it and took care of what I was putting into it in a very intimate way. 
It’s been almost a year since I could run like that. I may again someday but that day wasn’t today and it isn’t tomorrow. I still feel quite a bit of pain most mornings and I struggle with a lot of routine movements; healing takes time. But today, I connected with how I used to feel, listening to my body how I used to, through yoga. In yoga, you ask your body to move in certain ways; I gently push my body to go deeper but it’s not in the asking that I connect, but in listening; listening to how my body responds to my request. I listen to what I expect of it and what I accept.  What I need and what I support. Is it too tight here? Did that feel right? What happens if we try this alignment? Should I stop here? Please don’t push me so I hurt. Push me so I open. 

So I let go. Of doing anything but listening. I wasn’t trying to go deeper for the sake of going deeper.  I was going as deep as I could in that position, today. I was pushing myself as far as my body wanted in that moment, today. Bit by bit I opened and in opening, felt more free. 

I think how your body feels is a mirror to how you feel in some ways. If I am stressed and anxious if affects my body, my back and hips get tight for instance. It also affects my stomach; I don’t want to eat when I’m anxious. If I am sad and depressed, it affects my legs and my chest.  They are heavy and tired. If I feel happy and excited, my chest feels more open and my shoulders light, relaxed. If I’m depressed, I can’t seem to even feel if whether or not my appetite even exists. If I feel hopeful and loving, my chest feels warm and my back open. After I injured my back last year and up and moved suddenly from a place I loved to a place that challenged me, I’ve felt a lot of stress, heartache. I’ve felt some beautiful joy, and hope and gratitude, too. But, there has been a lot of persistent stress and heartache as transition is not instant but a process. I don’t think I’ve taken the time to take care of the body-affects the stress and heartache has caused. 

I wasn’t taking the time to listen. I was trying to find work, trying to find a place to live and trying to be a good mom, trying to grow and heal relationships. I abandoned myself in a way.I think we all do from time to time. We give up on ourselves first, to give to our career, or to our lovers or to our children. To our addictions. We say no to yoga or whatever yoga is for you.

Today, I didn’t Today I came back to the mat. And I stretched myself into a place where I could find comfort in my being. Faith in my strength. And grace, in my ability. I existed there for a while, rooting myself while moving, slowly, through the poses. Stretching, ..supporting, ..strengthening ..deepening. Listening. 

I remember doing tree, in a way I had never done tree. I remember when I first started doing tree, the balance was tough. But after I started practicing it, which started in the beginning of my time learning from yoga, I learned to balance in it easily. Over the years, I’ve kind of allowed myself to sit in tree without really getting out of my comfort zone. I test myself in many other poses; tree was just one that had become more easily remembered by my body and I’d kind of rest in it during vinyasas.  Today, though, I didn’t; I pushed myself to grow in it. 

Feeling the energy, from the root of my foundation, stream upward, I lifted, through the strength of my mid-back, up.  Up and out of my base through my extended arms and fingertips.  I felt the energy strong, shooting up and out through my palms and fingertips.  I felt both a lightness in reaching up and a strength in rooting down I hadn’t in a while. In a way I had forgotten. 

In that moment, I felt like I could fly. Feeling rooted while lifted, I felt like I could fly. And I thought…this is where you are. This is where you can always be. The stressful events happen. The changes, the volatility, the fear the whatever. It’s out there. But this, this is in here. And to exist out there, you have to grow yourself from this base, this root, this energy. You can fly. You are flying. We are all flying. You lose sight of the sky when you are too focused on anything but this moment. Spend more time in this moment, which is every moment once you let go. You don’t have to stress over tomorrow, you don’t have to rethink the anxiety of yesterday. You can accept what is behind you, have faith in the path you have chosen and continuing soaring into tomorrow, moment by moment. 

Shortly after I was done with tree, I began thinking about my experience in it. I stepped out of the moment and started thinking about how I used to feel, about what I might do next. I caught myself and pulled myself back in, trying to practice the lesson I’d just learned about being present now by living it. I smiled, as this practice, of flying, living in the moment, is like that. At least for me, in this moment, on my journey. It’s a practice; and smiling, I am accepting where I am, at this moment.

As the yoga session ended, in the last few moments after 90 minutes of being connected to my body, of pushing and listening, I was surprised by a breeze that came in from the window. My first thought was, I should shut that; my heat is up and it’s a waste. But thought, wait, what’s a minute of staying right here, feeling and connecting to myself to the extra $1 on my bill I’ll see next month?  I took a breath and chose to lay connected to my body, listening to what it needed, resting from the time I spent with it pushing, deepening, opening. 

Sitting here, writing, I am practicing listening.  Listening to what my body needs, what my muscles, my bones, my heart need while I write.  Soon I will practice listening while doing what I need to do to get ready to sleep. Tomorrow I'll practice through working.   My needs are evolving and changing as I live and grow but how I listen can only deepen.  And, how I listen, is how I learn. 


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Holding Steady

I was traumatized over and over again at a very young age.  It didn't last all my childhood, but long enough in the beginning that I habituated certain reactions, reactions to things that triggered me when I felt discomfort or pain.  Like a heightened sense of anxiety and fear, a dread for feeling uncomfortable or hurt. Because I had learned at a young age that I didn't have control and couldn't expect when I might feel hurt and uncomfortable; I lived for years thinking it could happen at any time. And during that time, I learned that my voice was meaningless in stopping the truama from happening.  I could say nothing or do nothing to stop it.

When the worst of it ended, I was around 5 or 6.  And I began getting upset really, really easily. I remember feeling infuriated when someone physically or emotionally hurt me.  I got even more upset when the people I felt hurt me didn't seem to listen  to me telling them I was hurt. Or when they refused to acknowledge my pain.  I became obsessed with getting those closest to me to understand me, to hear me when I felt disrespected. But, I was not trying to get them to understand me in an easy to digest way. I am naturally a very emotive, expressive person.  How I showed anger and urgency was not quiet or light.  It was hard for some of my family.  What they didn't see, was that I was terrified most of the time, terrified they'd hurt me, hurt my heart which had learned to live in mostly fear. I didn't let them know that, though. I learned that showing people that I was scared or hurt made me vulnerable and feeling vulnerability was so terribly uncomfortable.  Hurt and discomfort and fear seemed to be what my life was all about as a kid.

So, instead of showing people when I got really scared, I reacted by becoming mean. I'd lash out, push away.  I was physical with my younger siblings a few times; I remember working through that in therapy as a teenager and just crying so deeply for how I hurt them.  Just balling and balling. I've asked for forgiveness and am not that mean little girl anymore.   I remember feeling like a monster, as a kid.  A monster who was alone and misunderstood. I don't feel like a monster now, I am a long way away from feeling scared all the time and not being able to get close to people.  But I did, feel so alone, so hurt, so scared and so mean for much of my early life.

Most of the abuse didn't happen in my parent's home.  My parents are amazing people who have always supported me and have helped me insurmountably on my healing journey.  But, my family home was a home trying to repair itself from abuse.  My mom divorced my physically and emotionally abusive biological father when I was a baby and although he disappeared and wasn't really at all a part of my childhood experience, the ramifications of his abuse were felt pretty deeply in my home growing up.  At least by me.  We were seven children, most of us traumatized in some way or another and things were explosive. I wasn't the only mean one,  we all hurt each other. But, we were also all healing.

We are all still healing.  We have all grown, so much.  And my relationship with my family and the relationships within my family are very deeply founded on a strong sense of love for one another.  I am so proud of my family.  For the strength within us, the love we've cultivated and the love we trust.  Each of us is so different from each other but we are all so deeply rooted with good-hearts.

And, I am still healing.

I still work on not pulling away when I feel hurt and I still work on not getting short or sharp when I feel disrespected.  I've made big strides but I still feel my own version of 'monster' today.  It's not 'monster' anymore.  It's broken.  It's a voice that tries to get me to see a different, fabricated reality.  A reality I used to live in so it's allure is pretty strong at times.  And that fabricated reality is that I am broken when it comes to being able to sustain a close and intimate relationship; that I'm too much. Too intense. Too reactive.

It's strange because that same intensity is also such passion, about great things in life.  And that intensity is sometimes so deeply loving. But sometimes that intensity falls into fear-based reactions, like pushing away.  I'm not mean anymore, I just, close off.  Shut out.  Not nearly as much as I used to and I grow more and more every time I resist pushing away; every time I trust in being vulnerable with someone.  But I struggle.

I've recently encountered that voice, telling me I am too much.  That I can't control how I react in relationships when I am hurt. At 29, with years of hard work, I don't let it root in me but it is hard during the downs of my life to keep it from taking up a residence. It is hard not to think back to the many years in the most formative part of my life where my habituated actions called the shots.  I see that time, sometimes right up close in front of me and I practice, over and over again and say, that was then, this is now.  I am not there anymore and the future is open.  \

I've had some big downs, which is why the allure of that fabricated reality has been strong.  It's hard to not believe in those detrimental voices we hear about ourselves when we are feeling low. And I lived in a deep low for a long time, consistently, so battling off that voice, that reality was a daily struggle for years.

Looking back, it kind of feels like I have been living in a kind of lifelong volleyball match; between a storm and sunshine.  For the first twenty years, I felt pretty strongly stuck on the stormy side.  This voice, this fabricated reality, got me to believe that my life would always be a storm; relentless.  And that thought, railed on my spirit plunging me into such deep, deep periods of darkness.

But, if you know me, you know I persevere, I keep going.  And, that my commitment to healing has never wavered.  I think it was exactly that, my connection to some kind of faith that I could get through, however small or fleeting, that sometimes was the only thing that kept me from taking my own life, during the times I was severely suicidal. During the deep, deep downs. So, I've worked hard, really hard and facing this voice and others that try to pull me into dangerous places.  Places I used to live in.

I haven't lived in dangerous places like that for a while; but I'm in a bit a storm right now and while on the stormy side I get reminded of life when storms were raging one after another; times when I couldn't remember the last time I'd felt any reprieve from sunshine.  What I am in right now, is not that kind of storm.  Not by a long shot.  It's challenging at times, sure, but it's not hopeless. It's not taking over.

Earlier tonight, I was cleaning, because cleaning helps me weather storms sometimes.  I've learned to listen and practice things that help. I've worked on finding hope and strength from outside myself, and inside, to help keep me from falling into feeling like the storm has come to root itself in me forever, to keep me from feeling broken.  To keep me from hating myself for how I feel.  Cleaning helps me love the part of me that is productive.  Running helps me love my strength.  Singing connects my voice to my soul in ways the soothe me.  I've grown to love and respect myself through the ways I treat myself; I've learned to love and respect myself in the ways I needed when I was younger but couldn't feel.  And that love sustains me through the storm.

But, I still struggle.  Pretty intensely sometimes.

So, this week, which has felt like a shipwreck with the storm still raging, I've been trying to do some of those things that help.  Cleaning while listening to music, crying whole-heartedly, singing, sleeping, being gentle with my expectations of myself.  And while walking into the kitchen to put some things away, an image of myself flashed before me in my mind.  I was sitting, legs crossed, in the rain.   It was cold.  The sun was gone.  But I wasn't empty. I was exhausted, I was sad.  I felt like I had been crying with my whole body for a while..  But I wasn't empty.  I had hope. I was holding steady.

And I thought, I'm proud of you, lady.  Because holding steady isn't running away. Holding steady isn't falling into a fabricated reality.  Holding steady onto hope.  Holding steady onto love.  Holding steady, feeling strong.

The storms haven't disappeared and they may never disappear, but it's not as tough anymore; it doesn't feel hopeless. They don't rage on and on and on.  Still frequent, but the sunny side of my lifelong volleyball match gets the ball more often than it used to. I'm working on a career, I've got an amazing son and I have people in my life who love me and challenge me to grow, to heal, to get closer.  I stumbled, I make mistakes, but looking at myself, I'm holding steady.

Standing there in the kitchen, thinking about holding steady, I thought about my journey. My healing journey. And, realized that the thing about a journey is that you're moving, you aren't static.  I smiled, thinking of myself sitting there, holding steady, feeling hope in my heart, not fear. And I thought, hey look at you.  You're moving. Look at how far you've come. Holding steady.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Choosing not to Widen the Gap: Eradicating the R-word

"When employing this specific language, the objective is to separate and distinguish the 'user' from those being 'used.' The user in this case, of course, is the person spewing the words: 'retard,' 'retarded' and '-tard.' Those being used are the original population of special needs individuals who served as the catalyst for this kind of disparaging vitriol in the first place. They are those kids who ride on the smaller school bus. The ones who have personal space, proximity issues. The ones who talk funny. The ones with flat faces. The ones who drool. The ones who talk to themselves. And most importantly, many of those with intellectual disabilities are defenseless to this word."
Many people jump to: "whatever, they don't know/can't understand me so it's ok." But it's not.
Later in the article the author asks anyone who uses the R word, or versions of it, to take a second and choose compassion. S/he asks, why "other" someone else?
People matter. Words matter. Words fuel actions and actions shape our reality. Why not stop, take a second, and choose words that shape a reality that brings us closer together, to be stronger, more accepting and compassionate? A simple change of habit is all it takes.
The Buddha is said to have had three thoughts: unity and polarization. With polarization being two thoughts against one another. To me, the truth of the matter is that we are all in this together and we make a choices everyday to grow closer in unity or to widen the polarity gaps between us. Using the R word is choosing to widen the gap. Judging people based on race or sexuality is choosing to widen the gap. Stigmatizing people with mental illness is choosing to widen the gap. There are many opportunities in the world we live in today to widen the gap. But using the R word is a particularly unnecessary one.
And if you don't think contributing to polarized societies affects you, I think you are wrong. The more we try to separate ourselves, polarize ourselves, "other" each other, the more we all suffer. The weaker we become. Because no one lives on an island; or we all live on an island. Together, and it's called Earth.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Paradise

Earlier today, I walked by a man sitting on the street with his knees bent, his feet flat on the ground.  His hands were wrapped around his neck, loose but not still.  He bent his head, down to the side, I could see he sides of his eyes, looking down at the pavement. In that moment his hands were almost massaging his neck, not fast and frenzied but in a way that seemed sad and self-comforting. I felt such fierce sadness coming from him.  Anger and sadness but mostly sadness. He had a sign at his feet and it read, "mad as hell because you all are in paradise."

My heart stopped, startled at the wave of emotion that swept through it. I felt the urge to give him some cash. But just as quickly, I felt both surprised and suddenly ashamed at that impulse.  I am not ashamed to give to people who need money or food but he didn't want my money. He wanted something I couldn't give him. He didn't have anything but a cardboard sign, no cup, no hat. He was out there, sitting alone, nearly crying, opening his heart full of pain to the world around him.  To a world he didn't feel a part of.  To show them, to show us, his pain.

I felt ashamed because to him, I was a part of the "you all." Walking by in my work clothes to home, listening to music on my iphone moving from one part of my day to the next.  To him, I wasn't anyone but a person living in a paradise he didn't feel like he was a part of.

I felt the urge to turn around, walk to him and tell him, that wait, I feel like you too sometimes. There are times that I've felt so angry, so hurt and just so goddamn sad about how I've felt in the world that I think I'm living in a hell no one else is too.  That sometimes, it does really hurt to live in this world because you can feel a lot of pain as a person, that there is a lot of abuse; and sometimes the sadness and the fear and the anger around us on the news, in our lives, in our homes, in our communities, in the world is just overwhelming.

And, I wanted him to know I wasn't in paradise, either. But that,  even though I don't live in paradise, sometimes it can feel so blissful and I can find happiness.  I wanted to look him in the eyes and from deep in my soul say that you may not be able to see it right now and I really get that, but hold on. I know it hurts now, but hold on. So you can try to see something different, later.

I know that just holding on isn't good for every situation, for every person.  I know when people used to tell me that, after over a decade of frequent, long standing bouts of serious depression, it made things worse. Much worse. I felt guilty and blamed myself thinking, I've been holding on for years and it doesn't change! I thought there was something wrong with me, my life.

But it's been in learning to trust that holding on is what's gotten me through and what will get ;me through. That holding on is powerful. It's what has helped me get to a place where even though I'm not in paradise, I am ok.  Still feeling the horrible, but also feeling the great.

That the thing about holding on, is that you are holding on to hope. A hope that it will end and when it does the sun might come out and you might feel different, better.

I kept walking, feeling a guilty I didn't stop but the farther away I got, the harder it was to turn around.  I walked down the road past where the buses are.  I looked into the eyes of a man sitting there and he just looked back into me. I felt a sense of emptiness between us, not in a sad way, it's just here I was in this quick second looking into another person's eyes and I feel a moment of vast emptiness. Not sad entirely, more honest; we didn't know each other. It was like we were living in totally different worlds just connecting for that second to see one another.  And seeing an ocean between us.

Turning a corner, I started walking up a set of stairs. Feeling, more than thinking, about connection. A spit second later, as I placed my first on the first stair, an ambulance raced by, loud, intrusive and startling. And very close.I jumped as my heart skipped a beat.  Thinking about the ambulance, the sounds coming from that truck only mean one thing: pain.  Somewhere, someone is in pain of some kind and they need help.  An ambulance, an answer to a call for help.

The last few moments from the man with the sign to the eyes to the ambulance opened up to me the how I can sometimes feel living in this world, and it feels like anything but paradise.  I let out my breath, just letting it go as the ambulance passed. I took a deep breath and held on to the railing and continued up the stairs.

Man in hell: it's not easy and it's not paradise. But the loud and intrusive and startling parts of pain pass.  Reach out for help if you need to, that's ok.  But just hold on, in whatever way you can. To whatever railings you need to keep you standing though this.  Breathe, cry, scream, whatever. Just hold on. And thank you for trying to connect.  Thank you, for being brave enough to open your heart, especially when it was full of such pain and show the rest of us how you felt.

Friday, August 14, 2015

"Slave Market"

For most of my life I couldn't read or watch things about sexual abuse. My heart would beat really fast and my head would spin and I couldn't breathe. I felt like how I imagine deer feel when all of a sudden they see headlights in the road.  But it wouldn't stop after the car passed so to speak, when I was done reading or watching, it would replay in my head and my body over and over again, sometimes for weeks.

I began being able to read and watch and talk more about it after I admitted to myself, what happened to me and committed myself to stay on a path of healing, however confusing, difficult and illogical a person's path toward healing can be. I still feel the same way when I come across stories, experiences or videos about sexual abuse; sometimes it's worse than the time before, sometimes it's not as bad. Reading this article by the NYTimes about the sex "Slave Market" run by ISIS, it felt like my heart was beating so hard that I was going to explode into what I can only imagine as a geyser of tears, fears and pain.

But, I read it.  Honoring what I felt, by facing it. It was hard and I am still shaking a bit but I can't close off from what's happening out there...or I can but I feel like I would be hiding.  Sometimes, healing is "hiding." There was a period in my recent past where I needed to block out things that re-triggered me into feeling traumatized because that's what I needed to get more solidly on my own healing path.

But now, it's like I'm looking these, literally thousands of girls and women that ISIS is forcing into their "Slave Market," right in the eyes, seeing their pain, their tears and their fears and walking away by not reading, knowing....and I just can't do that.  I will likely never actually look them in the eyes, but by standing witness to their experience, their abuse, I can stand with them.  I can know. And by knowing, I can do. And through doing something, it will change. Maybe little by little, maybe a little by a lot.

I may not do anything directly related to stopping ISIS' Slave Market, I hope I do in some way, but by staying awake to what's going on in the world about these things, maybe I can see more opportunities more clearly to do something.  And by standing witness, I am doing, in a way. Because by standing witness, by listening, I feel.  And similar to that famous quote by Maya Angelou: "people will forget what you said, what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel"...by feeling something about this, I will remember.  And through remembering...maybe I can be apart of making progress on eliminating the injustice of using people as sex slaves. If I don't see, I don't hear, I don't stand witness, I don't feel.  I won't remember. I won't know.

Now, I know. And I am going to continue to know.  Sometimes with more presence than others.  But I won't walk away.  Whether in person or in spirit. Because I do believe that we can eliminate this.  I do believe that a world where we don't hurt each other, physically, sexually, and emotionally can exist.  I don't think it's inherent that we hurt each other. I think it's taught and unjust social norms and systems are passed down in action and belief.  Action and belief can change.  I am not interested in looking at data indicating that this has been happening for hundreds of years, thousands of years, or whatever, because focusing on those things isn't focusing on a path toward a future where women and girls aren't sexually abused.  What was and has been doesn't have to be what is and will be.

I believe, however naively, however optimistically, that we can coexist through respecting, loving and supporting each other, all the time.  We are far from that, yes, but closer than we used to be.  I am going to keep soldiering on and some may ridicule me, some may abandon me, some may not understand.  But, of the very small amount of things I truly know, I do know that we can get there. And it starts, by standing witness.  So we can feel. And by feeling remember. And by remembering do.  And by doing, change.

I hope you stand witness too..in your own way at the right times for the right reasons.  I hope your eyes stay open and you stay present. Feeling through it all. Holding on to hope.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/world/middleeast/isis-enshrines-a-theology-of-rape.html?referrer&_r=3&ncid=newsltushpmg00000003

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Just Cheer Up"

I wish everyone, everywhere read, digested and understood what's outlined in this Huffpost article: "12 Things You Should Never Say to Someone with Depression."

Depression is not a choice, it's an illness.  As the article says, "You would never tell someone with a cold to just stop coughing. Depression is also a physical ailment beyond our control; the problem is just in our brains rather than in our throats."

I know there is a stigma, I know that really, really well I just hope we get over it soon. Every one of the 12 things in this is entirely on point and so important.

If you are with someone who is depressed, I know it may be uncomfortable and you may just want to say the right thing to fix it, yes because you care about them, but also maybe because it makes you uncomfortable?...but, really, the best thing to do for someone you love who is feeling depressed is not try to get them to "feel better." If we could all just feel differently when we wanted to no one would ever be heartbroken...

Trying to get a depressed person to change what they feel can easily cause that person to think it's their fault they are feeling depressed because the reality is that with depression, you can't just "feel better." When I've been depressed, I've tried and tried and tried.  But, happiness isn't a choice if it was we'd probably all be happy all the time. Depression isn't a choice.  We can choose what we think about how we feel, which can encourage more opportunities to see joy than other things, but we can't control it.

It's complicated and we don't understand all of it...but if we could all get a good handle on the basics of depression and how to respond to it, I think we could make some good progress on letting go of the stigma of having it.  And if we do that, I think we'll see many more people healed from depression, and addiction and less suicide and suffering in the world.

12 Things You Should Never Say to a Person With Depression


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Ultimate Connection

We all have a evolving story, but for many of us, it's either hard to tell or hard to know how to share.

I was speaking with a friend over the weekend about writing, which is how I've often shared my journey before. I was talking with him about how disconnected I've felt with opening up to share my story. Opening up to share it with you, but really...to share it with me.  A very wise mentor of mine taught me that when you feel disconnected to those around you it is usually just a mirror showing you how you are disconnected to yourself.

I have struggled and sometimes when I struggle, I don't want to look inward. Or outward. And as a result, I see...nothing. In the past year, I've often found myself saying to my best friend that I feel like I'm lost in a dense fog, drifting away from what I once knew but not seeing anything before me.

But really, what it was, wasn't that there was nothing.  What I've realized is that there is never, nothing.  There is only nothing if we are not looking inward. Because if we are not looking inward, what we see outward is, empty. What is inside us shapes and molds how we see what is outside of us.

And, if we are not looking at what is inside, the void left in that lack of connection is quickly filled by distractions full of whatever catches our fancy; TV, sex, food, drugs.  These distractions feel good for a bit, filling. We become so good at fixating on the outside to get something that we forget about focusing on what's going on, inside.

Focusing on the inside can become scary. We don't know what it's like in there anymore.  It's unpredictable.  What might come up?

What's funny about the fog I've seen this year is that I have looked inward. A lot. I've had to. I've had to work from the inside out to keep myself here, in this life. It was my inside that hurt so much, for so long that without working on it, it was eating me alive. With anxiety, depression and fear.  So much so that it was hard for me not to embrace the idea of giving life up in the hopes that my insides would quiet. But I've worked on my insides, cultivated a relationship with myself that is, sustaining. It's not constant, as not much is, but a practice.  And this past year, I let go of that practice of connecting to myself.

This past year, it wasn't that I let go not of my desire to live but I let go of hope. Hope that I was capable of riding the waves.  I felt like I'd ridden so many waves and these new ones, from this year, almost seemed too much on top of what felt like the history of big waves.  And, this year, the waves seemed big again, for me at least.  I lost a job I loved and was passionate about, I lost my ability to run which has been a very large part of my emotional wellness since my son was born and very suddenly, moved out of the only city I've found that I truly felt connected to. Away from the only place that has ever really felt like home.  

The move and the struggles that came with its suddenness and its stress blinded me for a little while. I moved into an uncertain situation and was living in a space I felt constantly judged and criticized in; from everything from my eating habits to my spiritual practices.  I found myself going through the motions, just to get by.  Trying to get back on my feet and on my own. But, through that process, I stopped taking care of myself. Stopped listening and looking inward.  Because everything seemed so much, and all at once.

I've started to listen again. Because it's a practice and you can always pick back up.

But, I'm not writing to you today to share a part of my journey that "ends" with a happy ribbon attached that radiates sentiments of success.  There are no "I did it, worked through and now I am great!" bottom lines to this post.

Connecting with yourself is a practice. It's a relationship. And, actually, I don't think you "do it" to anything in life.  I think you are doing it.  I am not at a finish line but I am not lost at sea anymore either.  I am working.  Working on connecting to myself and my purpose.  Amid change and amid challenge.

Sitting down, writing, to you. To me. I am helping to clear the fog.  I've  have found some hope in the last few months.  Sometimes, it was others who helped me to hold on to hope.  Sometimes it was me, having faith that I could.  Which hasn't been easy for me.  That too, is a practice and the more I do it, the more I believe I can; hold on to hope.

Sometimes my story is hard to tell and hard to share.  Might be hard to believe if you know me.  But it is.  I am looking inward, finding ways to connect to myself.  Through yoga. Meditation. Love. And now, after regaining some practice at that since my move, I feel like I can try to connect, with you.

Sitting here, the shore is coming into focus.  And I see waves of change and challenge lapping up against a ground rooted in connection.  I am not standing strong in connection yet. But I see it. I see it again. And you are there. Everyone is.  Sometimes I focus on the waves and not the ground because the waves can mesmorize me into thinking the ground does not exist.

But it is when I see the ground that I see myself.  And in sharing my evolving story, I am sharing my ground with you. And I think, if we all look inward, connect with ourselves, and through that place, connect with others...we are sustaining the ultimate connection.  The connection that has propelled us as life forward, for so long.

My mentor always says that life is experienced in spirals.  Sometimes you dip into the shadow but if you can keep your gaze strong long enough through the darkness, through the fog, you will see the light and the shore again.  Wherever you are in your spiral, if it's in the light or the darkness or somewhere in between, I hope you take the time to connect. To yourself and the life you see around you.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Adult Myth

We are taught a myth as children about what it means to be an adult.  When I was a kid, I was told being an adult was about “paying bills.” Or sometimes, I wasn’t given an answer at all, but rather a chuckle followed by, “you’ll know soon enough.” I was encouraged to just “be a kid.”

It’s funny when you think about it; when you are a kid, you look ahead to becoming this adult so you can make your own decisions about what to eat and when to sleep. You yearn for independence! Responsibility! But, when you become an adult it’s that very independence, attached to decisions supporting that independence, and that very responsibility about maintaining that independence, that stresses many of us out. Many adults I know don’t want to burden kids with the weight of adulthood. They want to let kids, be kids. They want them to enjoy their childhood.

As do I.

But what about preparing them for what’s to come?

Raising our kids in this bubble, devoid of independence and responsibility and further, what that looks like and feels like when you are actually completely on your own, I just don’t think is working. Because kids, they don’t get it on their own. They haven’t experienced bills and deadlines, securing food or shelter. Not to mention one of the biggest aspects of being an adult: engaging in and managing adult relationships. How do we prepare them to face the hardships of exploring this world on their own, while giving them space to enjoy being kids?

And as a parent now, I question that often. How do you deliver such adult information to a still evolving and developing brain? How do you not scare them into not wanting to become an adult?

While pondering answers to those questions, a deeper question has surfaced. What does it mean to be an adult?

I’m 28, so legally yes, I am an adult. I’m a divorced mother, a fact that for many points to “life experience” evidence supporting a claim to adult status.  I have been paying my own bills since I was 17, and buying my own clothes since I was 14.  I've been a working member of American society for over 15 years. But, I still struggle at defining what it means to be an adult. These external facts show a sense of independence, sure. A sense of responsibility. But what else does it mean to be an adult?

Let’s get back to this myth.  Because although it isn't talked about much, I do think we are led to believe certain things about what being an adult is supposed to mean. It’s simple: by a certain time in life, you should find yourself in a place of relative stability and be able to sky rocket up, for the rest of your life, toward success and happiness! No holds barred. Or if you are held back, you bounce back with such speed and resilience that it doesn't phase your upward growth. And no one should know otherwise. I think we are encouraged to hide our struggles.

Because, struggling, doesn’t seem to be a part of the adult myth. At all.

I moved recently. Suddenly and without certainty that it was the best step forward. I was in a tough place and had to make a decision. So I jumped.

The transition has been hard. It’s tested me. In so many ways. For the last month, I’ve been looking for a job, my own place and a car.  Three things in American society that many might say you should have as an adult.

I’ve faltered. I’ve stumbled. Insecurities surfaced about being an adult and having it all together. Fears about whether or not I was following my purpose. If I could see it anymore. If I knew it at all in the first place. I’ve questioned everything.  

And in this questioning, I’ve realized something. That the questions aren’t coming from within me. They seem like they are. They feel like they are. But instead, I’m finding that they are coming from what I think society expects of me. As an adult.

So, here I am. Struggling. Learning. Growing. Questioning. And I’ve realized something. Something big. Something I’ve been trying to integrate into my understanding of myself, my understanding of society, since people started calling me an adult.

And it’s this: that struggling, that faltering needs to be a part of the adult reality. Because, we need to be shaken. So that we can resettle and build from a new perspective, from a new experience. That’s how you build strength. By testing your foundation and finding ways to grow.

And while we are shaking. While we are shifting, we need a society that looks upon that with compassion. That understands that. That see that as a part of healthy growth. Not just a few people. Not just your mom or your boyfriend. But our community. We need this not only because it sounds nice, but because it’s the best way to foster healthy personal growth.

And fostering healthy personal growth, fosters healthy communal growth.

Living in an American society, I’m not often encouraged to see beyond myself. But, the fact of the matter is that we need each other to live. We do. I don’t make my clothes. I don’t often kill my food. I don’t build the electronics I use. I didn't create the space that shelters me. Human society has developed over thousands of years because we need to grow together to survive.

And I think we need to better prepare our children to not only understand struggle, and challenge, and hardship, but to appreciate it. And to do that, we need our society, our communities, to better prepare for, understand and appreciate struggle, challenge and hardship.

Let’s change the narrative. Let’s tell our kids that being an adult is a process. And throughout it you will likely struggle. Maybe in finding work. Or finding a home. In maintaining meaningful relationships. Or finding love. And that being an adult is something you reevaluate over and over again as you grow.

Because growth is not linear. Growth, organic sustainable growth, is full of twists and turns and back steps and questioning. Let’s support that. All of it. So that we can all grow tall and strong. Together.

Let’s spread the narrative that struggle and challenge is not only healthy, but supported. Not stigmatized or something to be embarrassed by. But something to be appreciated. Valued.


Let’s appreciate our journeys. Pushing forward toward growth, however that looks, whatever that means: for each of us. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Upside Down, Moving Forward

I was writing a moment ago and realized that I was writing upside down in my journal.  Not in type but that the journal, that is hard to tell which direction was upright and what isn't, was upside down. Which is funny to me, as life feels like it's been turned upside down.  Here I am, outside D.C....just made the big move.  To a new state, looking to grow into different career field and living in the living room of my brother's apartment.  Something I am so grateful for but also has it's constraints.  I've always been particular about space, schedule and all that.  I am sitting here, at a pub, writing.  I am going to jump in, to something!  A novel maybe?  Creative fiction? A collection of poems?!?! I don't know yet..but I'm diving. And I thought about "warming up" which is really just my way of holding onto those last few seconds before diving, just that much longer.

In looking at posts I've half-written or just saved, I came across this post I wrote, I don't know...maybe four or five months ago and never published.  It fits.  Well.  I called it: "After I learned to listen deeper."

And maybe that's what I need right now. No stories about the choices I've made but living in now....not in the past where I decided to up and move or the future full of unknowns...but listening deeper, now.

I am also soothed, reading about an experience I had that I didn't know where I was going.  That I couldn't see...but kept moving forward because I could still feel. Here it is:

After I learned to listen deeper:

Closing my eyes, I saw, through my left eye at first, in tube-like vision, a wide open field of wheat with the sun shining bright.  In the distance there were Mountains but this place was huge.  Filled with space and sunlight.  I was flying through the tunnel of vision, getting closer through to the field, at the end of the tunnel.  When I reached the end and was out in the open air above the field, I saw with both eyes.  It was as if I was looking through a lens with just my left eye. 

In the field, I touched down.  Tall grass was everywhere and I started walking.  I was walking with my heart and although I could see, all I could see was tall grass.  But I could feel.  I walked like I already knew the place.  Like my feet were on a path, a running path and knew when to turn and where.  I was expecting to come, almost by surprise to my head because my eyes felt like they were just along for the ride.  I didn’t know where I was going but I knew there would be a lot of open water somehow.

Out of nowhere I turn and am on a rock cliff very high, looking down at huge waves cascading against a long beach.  The beach is narrow with stone cliffs behind it and the ocean is very wide, very big. 

There is a sense of comfort, security, joy that just fills this place, from everywhere.  On the field, now here in this space, everything is still huge and it’s awe-inspiring.  There is a majesty about it. 
I look down and I see people – people are in the water.  Living.  This is where they live it seems.  They are masters at navigating and working with the waves.  It is beautiful and empowers me to see it. 
All of a sudden, I take a running jump off the cliff and soar down to the beach.  I land, unhurt because here, my body can do that.  It feels ageless and limitless in ability.

I am down on the beach and it is misty but sunny.  I cannot see too far in front of me but I notice light coming from my palms and head and looking down I see lines of light, of strength it feels like shooting through my heart.  From behind, in front, on the sides.  Everywhere.  And I can feel them connected to others.  I can feel energy surging through me.  Of support.  Strength.  Strengthening bonds that invigorate and empower me.  I feel connect.  Loved.  Supported.
 

I feel the urge to speak.  My voice warms and after a few sounds, I say, I am here.  Not quiet, not loud.  I am present in this space.  I am back it feels like.  It feels like I am affirming I have returned and I am here.  They are returning the affirmation that they are there.  I see a swirling network of connection of people coming on at different moments, each being as connected and supported and love.  Looking beyond at more of the network I feel love and strength from everywhere.  I am full of it all.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The eye of the storm

I've been marveling at this snow storm all day. I have my blinds wide open and as I work, meditate, cook, pass the day. And it's beautiful. How powerful something like the weather can be.

I grew up experiencing very powerful weather events. Storms or blizzards that shut down everything, like this one is doing now. And I feel more closely connected to the energy around me during it.

Storms that can do that have so much power. To stop society as we know it, that's big. Bigger than us, bigger than anything we know because all we can do is brace ourselves and basically hide. I am in a kind of awe, really. It reminds me that I am a part of something much, much greater. I don't have many answers to what that is, more questions. But I can feel that I am just a part of this whole thing - life existence, the universe.

Then I realize that, I can observe this storm in awe because I am warm. I am not in it. Watching it.

What about the homeless people in this area? Boston shut down an island where most people who received homeless services lived and were cared for earlier this Fall and so a large number of homeless people are without homes or services right now. I feel so sad, so hurt really. That there are likely people somewhere in this city not observing but surviving through this. Probably not even a mile away.

As this is happening, we know we have a ways to go in building a more compassionate society. And in recognizing that, it's actually to it - the energy of the storm, the power behind it, the unknown, the part of something so much greater - that I opened myself. Do my kind of prayer. Hope, light, strength and love.


My first cousin, Martha, died recently on the streets in Fairbanks. We were the same age. We had sleepovers. She told me things when we were young that I don't think I've told anyone. I send her spirit, my family at home and anyone anywhere struggling for warmth, for healing, for food, for life - I send them, from my very being my prayer. Hope, light, strength and love. In this, I am never helpless. And honestly giving these things feeds my soul. Soothes the pain.

I had no idea that was all going to come out. Woah.

Thanks for reading :-) I hope it made you feel safe enough to open your heart maybe a little more than it was before. Opening your heart truly is one of the greatest things we can experience as humans and I think, something that can heal the world.