To be Continued

The cohort gathered to the side, waiting for their turn to receive their diploma and thrilled to be in this moment together.  There was safety in this group, they each had grown leaps and bounds. Hearts were filled with adoration for each other, while tummies fluttered with anticipatory butterflies.  There was an aura of disbelief that they had actually made it through grad school and to this point.

Her name was called.  Feeling strong and proud, she went up the steps, handed her name card to one of the faculty and quietly pronounced her last name.  The nod came and she moved across the stage; pausing to have her hood placed by a professor that she deeply admired.  The next stop was the university’s President.  Her beaming smile was ready for their photo as they shook hands and looked into the camera.

Among the graduation attendees were members of her precious family.  The first face she saw walking out into the chairs was that of her beautiful mother.  She located both of her treasured children, her big brother and one of her beloved nieces.  She felt incredibly loved! Her heart was bursting with joy and gratitude that she was really here.

This was graduation.  It would go down as one of the best days of her life.  That evening, there was a celebratory dinner, tears, toasts, laughter and love.  So much love. Friends and family surrounding her, filling her cup to the brim and overflowing.  Her heart was bursting with gratitude and joy.  She breathed it all in; still slightly in disbelief that this was real.

She knows herself intimately; yet she senses there is so much more to know.  She is an onion, peeling back a layer at a time.  This higher education is the first dream she has pursued and seen to the finish line; she stepped into this with full faith and trust that it was exactly where she was supposed to be and all the details would fall into place.

She thinks back to an intensive emotional camp that she and her ex-husband took their two teenagers this last summer, in hopes of bringing healing to the wounds they had caused each other.  During that camp; there was an indoor ropes course.  She was paired with her beautiful 14 year old daughter, a reflection of her soul.  Here is what happened, as told by, ‘her’.

“I was terrified, not of the heights, but that I wouldn’t be able to balance.”  (She had struggled some with balance issues since the stroke many years ago.  In truth, she struggled with looking or feeling ‘broken’ more than she struggled with balance).

“I asked the person assisting us with the ropes course to please check that I was tightly fastened in, several times.” “They assured me of my safety, reminding me that the ladder could move anywhere and give me an out anytime I needed it.”  “I heard ‘C’mon Mom, you’ve got this, you can do this.’ Stella had already crossed the four wide swinging logs and made it to the next platform.  I looked at her sweet face and thought to myself, “I cannot disappoint her, again.”

“I held so tightly to the ropes that my fingertips could’ve become engrained in them.” ‘One…two…three…four steps and I made it.”  Stella was right there telling me what a good job I did.  I watched her cross onto the next platform by crawling through two swinging tunnels.  It looked easy enough.

Pfft.  Stella’s 14 year old lithe self is alot smaller than my 47 year old cushy self. ” In order to cross from one tunnel into the next, I had to squat inside the first one, step onto a square platform in a squat and drop into the next tunnel.”  “This is when my anxiety really started; I could feel my throat clenching as I reminded myself to breathe.  My arms ached from the death grip I had on the ropes.” “Still, always my cheerleader, Stella continued to cheer me on.”  “I stood up on the next platform, legs and arms shaking. ”  I saw the rows of skinny logs that were swinging and began to talk myself into a frenzy.”  “Stella was on the other side and right after this was the zipline, which I desperately wanted to do.”  “I wanted nothing more than to show my daughter that we were in this together, I trusted her, I would do this.”

“My fear gave way and on the next to the last swinging log, I began to sob.  Loud.” “I asked Stella to get a worker to help me.” “She didn’t want to, she told me I was almost there, but I was hearing nothing louder than my fear and doubt.”

“The kind eyed, young girl came to help me.  She assured me she could get the ladder but told me that I only had one step left and I would be safe on the steady platform.” “She held out her hand and I took it and stepped across.”  “I made it!  Disbelief in my success, again.”

“I apologized profusely to Stella.  I felt ashamed of my emotional, loud fear and tears that everyone could see.”  “I don’t know what Stella saw, she hugged me and I hope, even if she was embarrassed, she was proud of me.”

So…okay…”she” is “me”.  This is my own story to own.  Here’s the thing I learned from that ropes course.  It was an exact mirror to my life.  There are numerous things that have been important to me.  I get right on the edge of success and I quit.  I stop.  I freeze.  Why?  Maybe because I don’t know what’s on the other side.  The devil we know is better than the one we don’t know, right?  All too often, I yield to my own fear rather than ask for a little help.  I had no idea that a ropes course would offer me such deep insight to my life.

One week post graduation…

I’m going through all of the graduation cards and gifts I recieved last week and soaking in all of the gratitude.

It’s not about the sentiments and gifts, though I am deeply thankful for them. They are the cherry on top of the sundae. No way, in all of ever, would I have graduated without the constant love, prayers, support, encouragement, and appropriate ass kickings when I needed them.

For so many reasons, I never thought I’d be ‘here’. My brother knows me well. On my card, he wrote, “What’s next? No reason to stop now.” Because it’s what I’ve done so many times…I stop right before I succeed. (see ropes course example)

I realize that the last week I have been a little frozen, a lot sad and slightly discouraged. What is next? I DON’T KNOW! I like to know, you know?

Last night I had a dream. It pinged me so hard that I woke to write it in my journal so I wouldn’t forget it.

The sage and kind therapist my ex-husband and I saw for three years, Missy, was in my dream. I was in her office, telling her of all my woes. Before I left, she told me she had a gift for me.

She reached up on her tippy toes and pulled a small item out from the back of a cabinet. She held her hand out and in it was a key. She asked me what this key represented to me. Odd question, I thought…even for a dream. Yet, I knew. Missy gave me one of her famously warm, reassuring hugs that let me know life would be okay. Better than okay. I thanked her and left her office.

I took a black sharpie, and on the key, I wrote, “OWNERSHIP.” I can’t stop reflecting this morning as I feel joy and pride swelling up inside my heart. This is my life. I must live it and I must live it well.

This journey has just begun. I have the key to open the doors.

I HAVE THE KEY.

 

P.S. Stella and I rode together to my graduation.

During the drive, in Stella fashion; “I want to tell you something mom but you can’t get all cheezy.

Me: “Sure love, what’s up?”

Stella: “I am so, so proud of you.”  (Immediately followed by a hand and, “That’s it!  Don’t get cheezy.”

That is more than enough.

Sprinkle some more hope in, please

I am learning gobs about myself throughout the process of obtaining a Master’s degree, and especially through this CCI. (It’s a Critical Competency Interview and it’s a BIG deal).
 
1) I tend to freeze or give up right before I reach the point of success. This applies to self-care, eating healthy, mindfulness, my children, dating and so much more….but not to school and not to work. I wonder why that is and what I’ve cost myself with this behavior.
 
I guess I’ll delve into that later but first I will finish this CCI and Family Teen Camp.
 
2) If I am scared I won’t do it right, I would just rather not do it.
So many ways to do this but my favorite is to just pretend it doesn’t exist. (I.E. Make a treatment plan, budget, APA questions that I ‘should’ not struggle with etc) In the end, this doesn’t work out in my favor.
 
3) If doing it requires asking for help, it’s very likely not going to happen. This is especially funny since I always encourage others to remember we are made for relationship and connection, and that we all need to help one another. Lifelong struggle…I’d rather be the helper not the helpee.
 
Additionally, if I have been helped in the ways that have touched my heart deepest,, my deep gratitude carries shame. Shame that I couldn’t do it on my own. Shame that you could see I needed help and gave it without my even asking. Shame that I am in this spot at 46 (almost 47) years old. Feeling needy is so vulnerable to me and I hate it. Yet, you all are part of my heart beat and I don’t think I’d ever have enough words to adequately express my love and gratitude for you.
 
4) I am very impatient in the things that matter. I think (in the moment) that I prefer my own timing over God’s timing. I look back and see clearly that His timing is ALWAYS better so I’m not sure why I am so incredibly hesitant to trust Him now.
 
I settle for what’s given rather than wait for what I pray for, and for what I am worth. Nice in the moment…empty soon after. This applies to food, relationships, self-care, etc) Knowing I view myself so much less than sometimes hurts my heart.
 
5) I really am right where I am supposed to be and I truly do have everything I need in this moment. Still, I can be impulsive, impatient, controlling and self-sabotaging. I’m on this journey…learning, growing, loving and evolving.
 
Hope is a beautiful and a fragile thing.  I need a little more of it sprinkled in my life right now.
 
Happy Thursday, I love you all!

Oh life…

It is so strange how our life experiences serve to teach us…I think they do anyway.

I read a quote, “Instead of asking why is this happening to me, ask what is this teaching me?” Instant shift.

It really is an instant shift. I begin to ask myself what my accountability in the experience is, how it is familiar to choices I have made before, and I can explore what is at the root of my choice. Hopefully, even if I can’t clarify the lesson, I can find value in the journey.

Goodness sometimes life surprises me. People surprise me. Sometimes in ways that make my heart sting, other times in ways that make my heart soar…and everything in between. Trying to remember that in many cases, the hurt someone caused is so much more about them than me but my mind has a much easier time grasping this than my silly heart.

So, my questions of the day…what am I learning right in this moment and dear God, where do I go from here?

Happy Tuesday my loves. Enjoy your journey today (and every day)!

TRANSITIONING DESIRES

I NOW WANT

IN THE PAST, I’VE BEEN ATTRACTED TO

LOYAL NAUGHTY; REBELLIOUS
TRUSTWORTHY LACK OF HEALTHY EMOTION
POETIC/PASSIONATE TALL
INTELLIGENT/EDUCATED THIN
SPIRITUAL FUNNY
GIVER NOT TRUSTWORTHY
HILARIOUS INSECURE
WARM/JOYFUL NOT SPIRITUAL
KIND LIVES BELOW ABILITIES
OUTGOING SELFISH/ME FIRST
TEDDY BEAR OF A GUY UNSTABLE FAMILY
TALL POOR BOUNDARIES
THOUGHTFUL LACK OF RESPECT FOR SELF/OTHERS
COMPASSIONATE NO SPOILING ME
LOVING, ENGAGED W/ FAMILY RIGID
SOCIALLY AWARE BLACK AND WHITE
MORAL COMPASS IRRITABLE
INTEGRITY GRUMPY ASSHOLES
REALITY OVER PORN THEY ‘NEED’ ME
CONSISTENT W/ EMOTIONS ANGER IS DOMINANT EMOTION
SPOILS ME SOLEMN
SPONTANEOUS SECRETIVE
SMELLS YUMMY DISHONEST
PATIENT WITHDRAWN
CAN HANDLE EMOTIONS PORN OVER REALITY
UNDERSTANDING I AM NOT A PRIORITY
ROMANTIC MAJOR POWER IMBALANCE
ATTENTIVE NOT IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL
LOVES MY FAMILY NOT AS SOCIAL
OPEN STRUGGLES WITH AUTHORITY
RESILIENT SUBSTANCE ABUSE/SOME DRUG OF CHOICE
TWINKLY EYED & SWEETLY MISCHEVIOUS  LACK OF PASSION/DRIVE

I created this list on a whim about a year ago.  A friend challenged me to write down what I want in a partner and then write what I tend to choose.  I was not to think about it and just wrote what was on my heart.  Pretty much the same today.  Lots to ponder.

 

Resistant Me

I am resistant if you are willing. If you are willing, I am resistant. and so we dance around. and around. and around. Never do we arrive . We memorize the steps so we can begin again. -me

I am currently in my addiction and assessment class at school Fascinating because I have lived my 46 years surrounded by addicts that I love, and still I am learning the process of addiction. Bottom line…it sucks no matter which way you spin it.

One of our assigned projects is to give up something for two weeks. Read all about it…. (I am keeping a daily log/journal…can’t wait to share that). I am learning things about myself that aren’t the most pleasing. I am learning nonetheless.

I have chosen to give up all social media for these two weeks.  This includes for me, Facebook (the biggest offender), Snapchat, Instagram (on these two to keep up with my kids and nieces), Twitter (to keep up with an old boyfriend’s articles) and all online dating sites (to meet ‘those’ connection needs).  Even thinking about doing this for two weeks made my belly clench, so I decided it was probably the direction I needed to go. 

            Although we were not required to begin our abstinence until the morning of the class, I had been prepping myself for a couple of weeks.  I’ve not decreased my social media time but I did let my Facebook world know what I would be doing and why.  I was surprised at the positive responses I got and at the people who thought they might ‘try’ it too at some point.  I know a slip up is a possibility but I don’t want to disappoint them. (or myself)  I asked my best friend to help hold me accountable and I know she will.  I decided yesterday (Thursday) afternoon to go ahead and disconnect.  It had been an emotional day and I was doing lots of introspection…it just seemed like the right time to do it.  Later that night, at home, I opened my laptop to do homework.  Silly thing was opened to Facebook from the last time I had used it.  I was mortified and made my classmate (we were working together) sign out for me.  In no less than 5 minutes, I got a text from my best friend telling me to get off Facebook.  Geez!  She’s normally such an enabler for others, lol!  Anyway, we called her on speaker because I did not want her to think I really was on Facebook.  I struggle if anyone questions my integrity…always have.  The internal struggle when my insides and outsides aren’t matching up is significant so when someone else questions that, it hurts me probably more than it should.

            My ex-husband, left our home for the second time in June, 2016.  My Daddy died in July, 2016.  Going back even further, I had a stroke in 2009.   There was an affair in our marriage in 2013.  We legally divorced in 2017. I think each of these events strengthened the relationship I already had with social media, especially with Facebook.  (lol!  I just noticed how easily I referred to this possible addiction as a relationship). 

            That leads naturally into my next point…why is social media considered my friend?  I don’t think I use it as my only way to connect, but it definitely is a way to connect.  I’m super relational and I love to write.  I post way more than I even look at things.  But, looking back during those times of trauma, Facebook was an outlet for me to escape from my own reality, see how others were doing and post my journey…all of which were healing for me at the time.  In hindsight, Facebook became a grounding connection when I felt lonely or afraid and it was always there for me.  It was a way to disconnect from my own reality sometimes, and other times I shared my reality…but it was always there.  I love the safety knowing that connection is always there and won’t abandon me.  That’s really dumb.  It reminds me of a client I had who struggled with serious mental health issues and constant loneliness.  He told me that he hated when his cable wasn’t working because the people on t.v. were his only friends and they were always there.  I get it buddy, I get it!

            My compulsitory behavior of constantly checking Facebook…I look first thing in the morning and know that this ‘friend’ is there when I wake…even though my once husband is not.  Now I remember toward the end of our marriage the emptiness I felt when I woke miles away from him in the same bed…we didn’t connect but I would connect with Facebook on my phone.  I check it throughout the day and at night and at bedtime, as well as when I cannot sleep. I check it when I’m reading a book or doing homework or paying bills…no wonder I feel unfocused.   I can see things that connect me, I read things that make me think or annoy me, or even touch my heart.  It gives me a sense of being in touch when there is no one there to touch me.  It fills my empty voids sometimes, other times it’s just positive, and often it’s only a distraction from life.  So, I guess it appeals to my senses through the provision of memories of sweet times, tender touches, comforting smells; I can even hear and see the memories play out it my head.  This is triggered through my own Facebook memories and also through current people and what I see.  This refers to the constant clicking and scrolling part.  Honestly, Facebook is also a way to keep up with the guys I date.  Have they been on and they aren’t talking to me?  Are they just talking to me?  Are they honest?  I’m validating my already existing walls and keeping score, whether they know it or not…and I’m feeding my insatiable curiosity.  Writing this out, I feel like a voyeur and like I’m cheating myself from truly moving forward.

            I think I have already addressed a foundation for how my behavior provides healing or is a balm to my emotional wounds.  Now, as I am really healing, I enjoy reflecting on things I once wrote and seeing how far I’ve come.  Yet, those memories that pop up can sometimes sting a little bit. As I just realized above…how much am I healing and how much am I holding on?  I guess there is a fine balance. In sharing, I always hope that I am offering someone else healing and I hear often that I am.  Hearing I am an inspiration is lovely but not what I seek.  I am who I really am on social media but I find it’s easier for me to get my full feelings out in the written word sometimes, easier to find vulnerability there than in person which is probably part of why it continues to heal.  I should be sharing that by working more on my blog or a book, like I always dream of.  I am seeing though that I need to see how much social media is a true healing mechanism vs. how much social media is a band aid.

            I don’t know that my social media addictive behavior really makes me feel helpless, but entrapped, yes.  I guess because I realize it’s such a thing I reach to without even thinking and also that it made me nervous to think about giving it up, even for two weeks.  That means it manages me more than I manage it and I don’t like that.  That’s where the feeling of entrapment comes from.  As I reflect on this with as much self-honesty as I can muster, I am wondering how many feelings social media helps me keep confined.

            My consistent relationship with social media, Facebook in particular, costs me perhaps more than I have considered.  I have goals and one of them is managing my time intentionally.  Facebook clicking and scrolling steals from my time, and time is not a forever guaranteed thing.  I heard somewhere recently that the average person spends seven years of their life on social media.  Seven years.  I don’t want that.  In those terms, it kind of freaks me out. I could be writing, praying, connecting with my kids and others…instead I’m staring at a screen.  How much of my life am I giving to the blue screen and what will the payoff for that be?  Ugh.

Growing up

I have this gut feeling that some intensely real part of me has been hibernating for years and like a baby bear coming out of a dark cave,  it’s beginning to awaken.  2019 will be my last year of grad school.  Working full time, momming, daughtering, schooling, working, interning….blah, blah, blah.  It’s going to be a whirlwind of a year!  I am amazed when I look back and see how far I’ve come (and I am overwhelmed when I see how far I have to go!)  

We humans are ever-evolving, exploring creatures.  I am in awe of our capacity for resilience and growth.  That capacity gives me hope for us all.  It especially gives me hope for myself because I dream of the day I am all grown up in the ways that matter.

Here’s what I am trying to grasp about being a grown up:

  1. Truly, other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.  I spend a great deal of energy trying to ensure that other people are happy and content.  Sometimes, I catch myself putting more energy into their well-being than they do.  Guess who pays the highest price?  
  2. Self-compassion and self-care isn’t all about bubble baths, long walks, journaling and time for me.  It also looks like the icky stuff; hard conversations that need to be had, sticking to a budget, asking for help, making the choices that don’t feel good in the moment but have a tremendous pay-off later.  That stuff counts for loving myself well too.
  3. Structure and routine are not dirty words.  I have to learn this somehow.  I hate being put in anyone’s box, including my own and find myself easily resisting what is best for me because of that.
  4. I am a grown up woman, I was made a sexual being, and that is okay.  Actually, it’s far better than okay, it is magnificently wonderful.  Labels, shame, guilt and not allowing myself to be who I was made to be is nonsense.  
  5. There are people who have wiped my tears away in the most gentle and intimate manner.  There are others who squirm away from emotion because it is uncomfortable for them.  On the lines of people….some will see my scars as beautiful as they kiss them lovingly and see the miracle of life.  Some will see those same scars as a marring of my physical body and they might say less than stellar things.  Some will see my stretch marks and mom tummy as unattractive and displeasing; some will see these things as real and soft and safe.  Some people might not see them at all.  Guess what?  Their thoughts ALWAYS have more to do with them and often nothing to do with me.  That’s a hard one to swallow when one is a master at ugly self talk, but this is truth. 
  6. My God loves me deeper, wider, bigger than I could ever imagine. I have atheist friends who think my God is a made up guy in the sky to serve no purpose but being a crutch.  I have friends who have what I consider to be rigid beliefs, as well as everyone in between.  I love them all and I hope they love me too.  We are all searching and searching is key.  Whether your answer is in logic or faith or anywhere else, it’s your journey.  This is my journey.  
  7. ALL of the stuff ALL of the stuff ALL of the stuff is made to take us to a higher level.  Someday I will learn to surrender to that, trust myself, trust my God and trust the process.  Until then, I’ll keep doing my best.  Mostly.  Sometimes I will screw up in the biggest of ways.
  8. Love Wins.  Every freaking time.  Unless we choose hate.  Ick.
  9. It’s the small things that are really biggest in life.  Some of my favorite small things…When my Momma is proud of me (I know, I’m 46, but still, she’s my Mom!), when my kids surprise me with an unexpected hug, sunsets and sunrises, feeling the breeze on my bare skin, sweet kisses, coffee, yummy smells (of course)….
  10. Gratitude brightens even the darkest, dreariest days.  Drop the mask, feel what you feel…but keep the gratitude going.
  11. Be kind, gracious, loving, tender, merciful and forgiving.  At the same time, remember that boundaries are a beautiful thing and that boundaries and walls are not the same, ever.
  12. I will be unapologetically, unequivocally  me, even when it makes me squirm.  Especially when it makes me squirm.  Simply because I am uniquely, beautifully made and there is only one of me.  I love that quote, “Be you, everyone else is already taken.”  That’s so right!

The magic is in the mercy.  The gift is in the grace.  Over and over and over I fail.  Over and over and over I receive these compassions.  I am surrounded with grace giving, magic mercy making,  lovers of my heart and I am intensely blessed.

Reminder to be grateful

I had no scheduled meetings and no court dates on my calendar today. This was my first clue that it was going to be a crazy day! Certainly crazy and I am certainly pooped.
There’s just too much hurting going on. Two things that I see too often as a culprit of elder abuse are drugs (not marijuana), and a sense of entitlement combine with a greedy heart. Elder abuse and domestic violence are everywhere. If you believe these things aren’t in your neighborhood or nearby…I’d encourage you to wise up. We must, if we want to bring change.
One person in particular is on my heart and in my prayers tonight. I got to spend the better part of my day with them in the emergency room. When you are elderly, transgender, schizophrenic and homeless…the world is a particularly rough place. Please keep your opinions on sexual orientation and alternative lifestyles kindly to yourself, because that is not this post.
This person matters to me and they ought matter to you. They are a soulful being just like the rest of us….traveling their journey in the best way they know how. Love, love, love your neighbor. They are our neighbor.
“Mental illness is a walk in the park”, said no one ever. I’m imagining that being homeless pretty much stinks. I know statistically speaking and from personal observations, the elderly and the transgender population are at higher risk of harm and particularly vulnerable on the streets and in shelters…so it’s tough to decide where the best ‘placement’ would be. Additionally, all the local shelters are at maximum capacity…so there’s that.
So…all of that said. Let’s pray for my new friend as they struggle through this cold night. Pray for their protection and safety, wellness, wisdom and for a glimmer of hope to enter their tired heart. Pray for them and for the countless others among us.
If you have a roof over your head, warmth in your environment, clothing and dinner tonight, remember yourself privileged and blessed. We are so blessed, don’t ever forget that.