Tiny Atrocities

#theupsidedown

Ever been in such a strong life rhythm that you have somehow muted the swirling static brewing underneath? Welp, that’s me and this thing- this kind of depression I am emerging from.

I am calling it a Facebook Depression. Everything is so seemingly normal on the outside but on the inside, my brain was eating Facebook Cheetos every day, numbing out on the junk food of social media. There are many constants I have constructed- all of which would give anybody the idea, nothing but happy lives here. I traditionally call these the “non-negotiables”; eating well, sleeping enough, getting regular exercise, and practicing self-care. Got all those in place and it would seem that it’s all being done well, maybe even great. Somehow, I lost sight of the deep down darkness and rather than keeping it close, it slipped shut to the underneath.

Perhaps that sounds lovely- to live within the light. However, that naiveté sounds more like being emotionally asleep at the wheel. For the emotionally awake human, that should petrify us more than dipping into our own upside down. And yet, I had successfully placed a wad of sweet cotton candy between me and my darkness. I tricked myself into thinking my life was a daily success when in fact I was sucking down the social media nitrous.

I genuinely cannot place the Why? And it could be simply a lack of neurotransmitters executing the appropriate happy party in my brain. It has all been so sneaky and undercutting, I have to say I am half fascinated with how devious the mind can be. And although the why is elusive, I am beginning to understand what has been missing. Given these revelations, it would seem careless on my part to not write down and share those tiny atrocities that created the cotton candy barrier of numbness.

I won’t lay blame solely at the feet of Marc Zuckerberg, he may not be very happy about that. But really, when social media takes over our brains we don’t have to face the fact that focusing becomes lost on us. I felt like my social media turned into a modern version of the body snatchers! For realz- my brain after hours was just pure mush. It also becomes the presiding excuse as to why so many other things are not occurring.

I stopped enjoying and doing many of my regular things- like reading and writing. When we set down our passions and grab handfuls of Cheetos, we are in trouble. I was “reading” stuff on Facebook, but not the pile of books growing like kudzu in my room. I wasn’t even writing about the fun stuff, much less examining my upsidedown.

I stopped crying. I get that for many the crying would become the problem, but I am a feeling person in a suck it up world. Losses in my life have passed me by without a tear. Another close friend was sucked away by a better town and job because sustainability in a small town is so difficult. I witnessed another divorce massacre and many were lost in the process. Through it all- not a tear.

I stopped dancing. It is a common phenomenon to dance in the kitchen, the bathroom and certainly in the car! Just a few days ago I discovered a new artist, Ben Rector and flung myself around my bathroom floor, doing a jig like I had new legs! Before- Nada. No matter how loud or poppy the music, that spark just did not ignite me, instead I was drool and unimaginative as I got ready for the office each morning.

I made myself believe a different future stopped on its axis. Perhaps for some, happiness is sought in the regularity of life’s rhythms, but for many the consequences are great. I am left without freedom of choice. I can wish for nothing and dreaming starts to become a distant pastime. Worse yet, I convinced myself that the consistent drumming without the variation of change was a good thing.

I was constantly worn out at the end of the day, at the end of the week. This gets sticky with the number of medical issues I have that straight F.U.C.K. with my ability to master the difference between interacting physical and emotional difficulties. Keeping up with the physical ailments are a necessity, but when physically I am ‘all clear’ and still carrying around invisible sand bags- there’s a definite problem. Perhaps the larger discussion is around doing what Shauna Niequist calls “fake-resting” in her book, Present Over Perfect. I may be at home in my pajamas being comfy and having the appearance of lazy, but I’m cooking, cleaning and tidying up all day. Noticing the spots of dust and clutter and “gravitating towards this inside movement” that really turns out to be nothing less than work.

I spent more time feeling like intimacy was unpaid labor rather than a fun night at the private disco. This part of life is always tricky because for us trauma survivors, many other things are wrapped up in intimacy and I recognize no matter how hard I work at this part of my relationship, it will always remain work.

We all have a completed shadow self that resides right below the brightness we share with others. When we stop taking the time to reflect and notice, the pain can slip away into the depths of our deep down darkness. It’s worth our while to see both and be both. It seems an important part of ourselves is lost when we attempt to live in either for too long; the sun will give me cancer and hanging out too long in the dark upsidedown will be like being force fed forgetting.

You may look at these and think, “Uh, lady-I never did dance, how could my lack of coordination be a depression problem?” Of course, these are just my little depressions. What we actually need in our lives goes beyond getting sleep and exercise and dancing just may not be your thing. There is value in going beyond the non-negotiables and seeking out those telling signs that inform us about our health- mind, body and spirit. These tiny atrocities occur when we fail to embed the simple soul work. Do you relish in the last trickles of warm water running down your face as you turn off the shower water cleansing you? How often do you take the time to notice the created atmosphere while your kiddo dances wildly to music, you sing with broken abandon and all the while the smells of homemade food bubble in the back drop? Perhaps you may find just the right dance steps flowing between the dark and light of your life, relishing in the many reasons for our own created happiness.

My 25 Truths

My 25 Truths, Challenge Accepted

  1. I believe in Love and relationship. The deep messy ones where we are left with grime on our faces, but we can say without doubt; we have loved fiercely. It seems to be all we have when everything else washes away. And for me, it is the only thing that makes all the other pain of life worthwhile.
  1. I am not in love with children. I like the idea of them, but they seem so grabby and handsy that I get anxious and worried they will just slide through my hands like Jello. It’s not polite for a woman to say she would rather not hold your kid or gush over its smooshed up face, but I would rather not. Now, when they are mine- it’s different. I experience this electricity in the bond. That seems to override the fact that I feel like I am holding a gigantic chicken nugget.
  1. My body is a vehicle not an ornament. I love how strong and graceful it can be. I get excited by the experience of owning power in my bones, like there’s hidden magic I can unlock by building muscle. I am not impressed by corporations selling me skinny and I am certainly not interested in people who judge me by some odd made up standard of beauty.
  1. Vulnerability is beautiful and sexy. Breakdowns are beautiful. I know it seems the opposite of sexy, but we were not meant to line up like drones in the “I’m fine” crowd- that is made up crap to keep us sterile and lonely. Being vulnerable will mean taking risks and making mistakes. It will mean being bold with our love and daring ourselves to have the kind of relationships we deserve. It will remain as superficial as jam on toast if we don’t dig deep and share the guts of what we’re made of.
  1. Food is the most amazing gift! I love to eat and although not entirely true (see #3), I do exercise, in part, so I can eat. Given that women are supposed to be small and invisible, it’s generally wrong for a woman to even act like she likes food! We are supposed to pick at it and pretend we aren’t starving. I get hangry if I skip meals so, not to worry, I will enjoy EVERY bite!
  1. Being judgmental is a kind of toxic venom that we slowly inject ourselves with. But I am still guilty of it. Just noticing when we are sizing another person up and sending them kindness instead can change your entire perspective on yourself. I realize when I am super judgey, I am simply caught in my mind with MY junk taking up precious real estate in my head.
  1. I am truly silly and love to laugh- especially at totally inappropriate and clever things. Like REALLY inappropriate things. And given that being happy is the most rebellious act, I love to be silly in public and make others laugh- or worry.
  2. Practicing yoga is the one thing that keeps me from committing murders. It would be nice if I were as even toned as my husband….but I’m not. The price of passion is getting fiery mad at shit you don’t like. Yoga reminds me to come back to my center, sit and be quiet.
  3. There are some people who are just more lovely and special than others. I have the distinct pleasure of loving many of them.
  4. Writing cleanses my soul. When I am not doing that in some way- I lose sight of the observer in my own life…..and am likely going to be in trouble.
  5. I like my music loud and to drive my car fast. My husband rolls his eyes so far in the back of his head when he gets in my car, I swear they roll into the back seat. In the recent years of spontaneous dancing, I have turned into a pop princess. Sometimes the bass in my Prius (yes, you can laugh) is up so high the back window bounces!
  6. I think my choices in cussing are simple. It’s my daily ‘Fuck You’ to the patriarchy that continues to attempt to tell me I should remain a silent bystander to some other man’s life. I even have a ring to go with it. I like to point at it when my trainer tries to tell me what to do (although I do pay him to do that).
  7. Although I readily sunburn like a mutha-fucker, the ocean is a healing place. It’s a sanctuary in the blistering oppression of people.
  8. I like things. I don’t generally have issue with things. I like to shop for things- especially shoes. However- I am not attached to them. They can come and go- if you need it, it’s yours. I value the expression and meaning behind those things much more than stuff itself.
  9. I don’t believe in soulmates- but I am a complicated bird so I do believe it’s tough to really get me. Not because I pretend, but mostly because I don’t. Men generally appreciate confidence only if they can capture and box it. It takes a special human to take the risk to love a wild bird. I believe my spouse is a rare soul who can weather the death and rebirth.
  10. I am a most tender soul. I will cry at commercials and cuss you out for an injustice. Both are an alert that I am hurt and I may get stuck in those painful feelings for days at a time.
  11. My daughter says she believes I could beat someone up. I half palm plant my face and am half impressed with the astute observation of my 11-year old. I am happy she can see women who are self-assured and are not afraid to take a stand.
  12. I believe in equality. ……. every kind, without borders or exceptions. My middle class white mind continues to need to learn. I find listening with an open heart serves this conviction.
  13. I believe we are both human and divine. The many stories we hold precious speak to this desperate desire to know the divine within. We struggle instead to worship others rather than follow our own divinity.
  14. I believe in therapy. Next to being a mother, it is the biggest privilege to be in the presence of another person’s emotional sanctuary. Given that we are all feeling humans- we should not do this alone. Having a special person to walk the journey who will have your interest at heart over EVERYONE else is an experience we should all have in this messy life.
  15. I believe in kindness. Given that I still struggle with my judgey pants and my daughter is aware of the asshole prowess, it is always a work in progress.
  16. Life is stunningly harsh and joyous. I’ve learned that when people are seemingly “fine all the time” – they are truly not showing up in their lives. If things don’t fall apart a few times, I am afraid you are just not doing it right. Rigging it all together with tethered strings makes for one holy monkey mess (as my friend would say) when the shit hits the fan.
  17. I am a trauma survivor and I know I’m not alone. I know that so many of us carry the deep shameful burden of a past that haunts us. If we only gave ourselves the freedom to speak our most breath taking truths, shame would die and the war we rage on inside of ourselves could wave the white flag of surrender.
  18. The need to stop and reflect is like needing the breath. Therefore, I believe in therapy. And Yoga. And Writing and pajama days!….and whatever allows you to slow it down, and watch the wind. We need all the kinds of self-compassion our minds can muster. I try to speak to myself with kindness and give myself the same kinds of breaks I do to others I love.
  19. I accept ambiguity and change. I try to hug them like old friends and offer them a seat at my table, give them warm food and yummy treats. Occasionally, I want to starve them out with stubbornness. It never works and is a clear reminder that growth’s invitation can’t come without them.

 

Fierce Friends

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She sat across from me trying to be a million miles away. Hiding her face behind a tissue as if she could just disappear like an infant playing peek-a-boo. Be blissful and innocent-where there’s no pain. No words like death. I grabbed her hand against her will and collapsed it into mine. Allowed it to melt and the world wash away for just a moment. I asked for us both to take a deep breath and talk about IT. Talk about death.

Now who in the hell wants to lay in that pile of shit? And like all smelly things, its messy.

Death means body parts stop working, things breaking down like a salvage junk yard. “Welcome to Pull-A-Part! Where you slowly loose yourself against your will!” Parts fall off along the way to the back door. First the front end. Then a carburetor. Then the whole damn transmission. The rest of us are left standing on the side lines having been invited to a show we did not want admission to. With not one DAMN thing we can do; helplessness is like swallowing a box of rusted nails for dinner with no chaser.

I asked her what she needed. She finally sobbed and shook her head unknowingly. How do we ever really know what the reaper will leave at the feet of the living? Perhaps just more rusted nails to swallow. And although I cannot swallow them for her, I can be the chaser that makes the pain sting a little less. I can SHOW UP. You don’t leave your people to stand in the wasteland on their own. You show the fuck up. Not in the let me toss a casserole at you while I whiz by your house, but the kind where you are there. In IT.

As a friend, I am fierce. It may be intense at times- and it’s not uncommon I get that look of, ‘WHY oh why are you saying this hard-ass thing to me right now?’ But I will. I have made the mistake of letting it pass by and it is one of the few regrets I live with today. I think it’s a regret that at the end of of life, we all think about.

I hear story after story of humans attempting to make another human connection. Craving that rich, deep sense of good love shown in bright eyes staring back at them- smiling, laughing and maybe even crying. What is so painful is how often the moment gets lost in the business of life and soon the friendship is lost because one too many moments have crept on by.

I can’t say I won’t be guilty of some moments- but I refuse to not show up when it matters. It is the sugar of life that makes so much of the bitterness melt away. When moments are difficult, we cannot cut and run. If we do not want to be left in the wasteland lonely, eating our rusted nails of grief and loss, then we are called to do the same. I said to my spouse recently that we are entering into the season of our lives where death is knocking. If we are friends- I will be your fierce warrior. I could also be a little intense and annoying (like I am licking your face non-consentually), but I will be there. And I hope you will too.

LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

Where Is The Love?

Today I made myself sit and stare at it. Just sit and look- see it more closely. Normally, I would flip past it, hide it and even become angry about it. Why did I have to see this? Why am I being tortured with the notion of having a seemingly mindless moment to only be flooded with memories of his face- HIS FACE!

But today, I just examined without judgement of myself or him.

I took a moment to wonder about the lives of those that did care about him, those that suffer because he is gone and remember that his (possible) children lost him for so long because of what I did.

Just a year ago my brother and perpetrator took his own life. My sweet sweet sister told me, I suppose knowing that I would want to know- but not exactly why. I looked at the message and slumped down onto the bedroom floor and began to shake with grief-relief. Maybe we call that griefalief? All my life I have been attached to this person whether it was in my heartache and rage as an adolescent to the rebirth out of the ashes of his abuse as an adult. I have learned how to carry him with me inside the story I tell, one of pain and loss; one of redemption and passion. Like my very own tiny tale of life and it’s my story- my ending.

Since that time, my sister, who shared a relationship with him ongoing over the years, has posted pictures of him on social media. The devil that it is, Facebook too offers us growth if we decide to accept it. And at first, I said, “FUCK THIS!”, had my verbal tantrums and avoided seeing his face like it would some how burn mine off. Like really Alicia- you give no one your power, why would a photograph get yours now? But his face……. Burned in my brain like the scar on my forehead. I thought I had done all the embracing of my story in his, but like all of life….there is always more to learn.

And as I cried on the floor, my daughter and husband sat on the floor to comfort me. They were confused as to why I would cry and frankly, so was I. And yet I realized his time of potentially haunting me at some future family gathering was over. I would not have to discern between my mental health and making my family happy. But I was also so very sad for him- unlike some- it was a shitty and fucked up existence from what I could see from a distance. Life had never really let up and he had no relief or redemption. And although I will never stop saying that the best revenge in this life has been my happiness, for him, it would have been a nice ending to hear he had gotten help or maybe just some relief.

All this may sound crazy, but I have learned more about his life. My mother told me about how he had come to live with her and my stepfather at a young age after being left in cars for hours as a toddler so his mother could party and gamble. He was locked in closets and hurt by other people…..abandoned by his own mother. He came into this world broken and the only thing he knew to do was break others. He often drank, smoked marijuana and did terribly in school. I was just another thing on his path of destruction.

I have grown so bold with my mother that I told her about how much it hurt to see his face invading my phone screen and how others’ kind and sweet sentiments about his life were like puke in my mouth. She was understanding and I was able to ask about him further. She gave me a gift in that moment. I asked her why she did not think to recognize his potential to hurt others? She told me of stories of how she knew to look for adults- she knew to be weary of the sweaty conniving men who may hurt and abuse little children, but no one talked about the cycle of sexual violence occurring from one child to another.

And that’s just it. Here we are once again crossing paths with the three-headed Dragon of Shame. It seems I am doomed to the role of broken record, pleading with people to see how our silence shreds through the option of healthy existence. And here with him and his face glaring at me through my phone, I am reminded of how we have the capacity to destroy one another. We pick one another off like ticks on mangy dogs inflicting as much pain as we can muster in the hopes that we can squeeze out our shame onto another human and rid ourselves of ours. Or worse yet, we cannot bear witness to the happiness and innocence of another human and instead whittle our way through their bodies until we successfully excavate their soul.

I suppose all that truth is a little harsh. We are not all by nature mean or cruel and I remain well aware of the fact that most of us would crash our cars before hurting that squirrel hurling himself onto the highway. And yet I demand answers. This is one of the reasons I say ‘WTF!’ to myself twenty times a day! When are we going to catch onto the idea that when we see ourselves as unworthy humans, it is not a play option to physically, emotionally, spiritually or sexually violate another? At what point in my lifetime are we going to stop failing ourselves? When are we going to get together as a collective and do whatever it takes to nurture, grow and create a sustainable world that promotes the FACT that there is NOTHING that removes us from our worthiness of love and belonging. NOTHING and NO ONE- not even my stepbrother.

Sure, there was an incredibly long time I would have rather stabbed his eyes out and there is no doubt justice was never served. But then again, who am I to actually be angry at? Can it really just be him? For myself, the answer is the Dragons of Shame. I am not bad and neither was he. The people in my life who did nothing were responsible, but who gave them a sword of vulnerability to be the Dragon Slayer? How far back in the generations do I go seeking a courageous people? It is so risky to show up in our lives and even more risky to turn up the volume on vulnerability. I can only imagine what it would have been like for my brother to have had the freedom to say that he was ashamed of his existence. Perhaps he would have not made me feel ashamed of mine.

So just for today, I stared at his picture. I stared without judgement of myself or him. And for the first time, I realized there was a time he was somebody’s baby. Maybe he earned being a shell of a human for all he did, but since our stories will never be separated, perhaps he can finally live in peace in my story.

I will never forget. But I forgive you brother. I forgive my people for passing up the swords of vulnerability lodged in the stones of life. As Maya Angelou said in her most dignified God like voice, “We do what we know until we know better”. I know better and I will do better. I will not be silent and no matter how heavy the words of vulnerability, I will practice taking the risk as often as I am able.

I AM ENOUGH. Broken but Whole–glued back together with the sticky, messy words of vulnerability. And this is MY Story- I get to decide how this will end. I do not have to live inside generations of shame before me. And guess what? Neither do you.

LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

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Regret is a Bitch of a Teacher

Remember when that teacher just stayed and stayed on you to work through a task feeling like a hot sticky hell only akin to the deep south? And perhaps there was a part of you that just wanted to reject what they were saying for the sake of being a rebellious pain in the ass (and a heaping side of avoidance)? And then you did just that? If this has ever been your experience, this is what regret can feel like. Sometimes I stay stuck in the awkward yoga position until I chew down through all the pieces of the puzzle my brain has not figured out.

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And if I have ever had regrets, its in my friendships that suck the most. I find that trying to be a friend can feel like endless attempts at recognizing that I need to be brave and say stuff I am struggling with….and I just don’t. I have come to realize that when I decide I want someone to like me, I will break rules in order to be liked. I will also do the opposite; when I need to NOT forge a relationship and I know it. I will push down many of the signals that are saying ‘there is no glue here, what ARE you doing?’

I have some REALLY incredible friends, ones that love me with a kind of generousity that surpasses any expectation one can verbalize. Occasionally I say to myself that since I have these friends- why would I need more? And truthfully, I don’t. I guess I am an adventurist and want to not shut out the possibility of someone fabulous, but when it doesn’t work out…GAWD! The gremlins are unreal and I hop right down that rabbit hole of ‘who do you think you are, someone who needs 100 fabulous friends? You should be so lucky to have three?’

Once again, I am learning and regret is a fabulous, albeit a taskmaster of a teacher. We have not lived if we have no regrets, but I won’t lie, rumbling around with them is my least favorite part of being an emotionally awake human being.

So here is what I want to live better: I want to take a deep breath and say out loud the struggle I see in front of me without judgement or unkindness and not allow it to build or stuff it down. Brené Brown talks about different ways we can off load hurt- chandeliering can sometimes be a terrible favorite of mine. There are many kinds of ways we can vomit up all the tiny cowardices we did not speak. Each have the potential for devastating consequences in relationships. We wait to long and well, we may have just waited too long. Chandeliering just leads us to hang from the ceiling screaming (I imagine you get the crazy here.) But what if understanding that reality of hurt is just unavailable to us until many? Many. MANY. Moments have passed by? What then? Will that other person be willing to stay present with you and work through that recognition, still owning their part of the story that may have led to the disaster that is before both of you? Unfortunately, my experience is that this does not often happen and makes me terribly sad. If you realize that you have been stuffing and stuffing and attempt to express anger around that- do you deserve to be shunned or turned off? I genuinely would hope not- but there it is, a cranky, invisible demon living inside of you that you had no idea was eating your lunch- like a bully. And now you just got to talk about the pain that has been building, but its like a fire cracker to the other person who may have been sleeping when you let the vomit out.

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I believe this is a space where courage beyond grit rests. If we discern that the pain is real and sit through that, even if it still means the end of the relationship, new growth sprouts. When we shut down or shut out the conversation the moment for growth can get lost. And perhaps every relationship is not worth this, but I can say that WE are worth the work. So if I have to be fully honest with myself, the suck lies in knowing that I don’t get to work that all the way out with another person. I am left doing that on my own and at times, can only be left with questions unless I want to make up a confabulated story with more holes in it than the Eiffel Tower.

One of the wonderous places I have the privelege of witnessing this very experience of everyday courage is in the couples I see. Often, the regret is like a sea of green sludge that is above their eye balls, making it feel almost impossible to even witness their partners actual presence. And yet, it is possible to get yourself dirty and sit in the filth that has been mutually created in that relationship. It is possible to wake up to our lives and dig our way out of the mountain of regret. It is painful and so excruciating at times that most will not.

One of the leading researchers in the country on couples,John Gottman, formalizes the threshold of regret and trust that a relationship cannot return from. It is true that some cannot make their way back and so I do not want to apply some false hope that with just enough courage every relationship can return to glory and beauty. I, however, wonder sometimes if the exercise, even if it ends, is not worth the immense growth? I inform couples that if they are not willing to do the work here, they run the risk of simply finger wagging at their partner as the problem and then run to the next relationship. They often believe their problems are all solved because they left that son/daughter of a bitch and now are free from the conflict. What really happens is that we are clumsy and fall into the lap of some chump who has a different name, smiles at us brightly and we start the pattern all over again. Once we realize that…..That is the real Bitch. Or as my beloved Dad would say, ‘Isn’t that a biscuit eater?’

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So here’s a potential pattern to chew on. For some of us, we spend an inordinant amount of time trying to undo the patterns of intimate relationship failures of the past. As I have fessed up to before, I come from one very long pattern of marriages and divorce- each three times going back three generations. As you might imagine, I had little thought that I could undo a wicked curse, but so far, 19 years and counting with my partner. However, what I did not realize was that the struggle would ooze over into another area of my life. So, I continue to battle the pain of poor choices in relationships, just in another area of my life. Consider the person who grew up in an alcoholic family that vows to never be nor marry someone who has an addiction to alcohol…..Oops, they wake up one day and realize their partner has an equitable addiction, but perhaps to work, pornography or the internet. The depth of the necessary work to break from patterns is daunting. Discovering this makes me half relieved because I know I can change it and the other half wants to say ‘Fuck It!’ and crawl under some big squishy covers and NEVER come out again!

Whether in an intimate relationship or friendship, when the struggle to maintain connection gets lost, the threshold of trust can detrioriate at such a staggering rate, it cannot return. A relationship is just that- an awkward dance of emotions and one must attempt to stay emotionally aware of both ourselves as well as the other. Lots of toe stamping and perhaps dancing alone on the other side of the room can occur. I imagine myself sometimes a little like Elaine from Seinfield. I want to dance, I want to get things started, but LAWD!- there are not many who will dance to beat of that drum! If we are lucky enough to find life long friends/partners who will, keep them. And know that sometimes, there will be regret, the teacher like no other. May the regret not outlast the courage to try, try, and try again.

LIVE.OUT.LOUD.  AGAIN & AGAIN ❤

Reflections and Lessons on Turning 40: 10 Lessons that Light My Way

I had no plans for life, much less bliss. It wasn’t always a conscious choice, but I recognize I didn’t intend to make it very far in this life. It was so painful and sometimes felt like I could not remember to breathe, much less live. Often, it seemed taking my own life would just be better. Then the awakening occurred and although much of it was like wrestling through a cocoon of boogery goo, the rebirth has been a blissful (although very messy) internal discovery. As a result of the recognized mess, the lessons I reflect here remain in flux. Some days I completely loose my way and others it seems like there is a special flashlight shining on my path, just for me.

Number One:

I have learned the art of severing foreboding joy’s snakey head. This lesson has been one of the main gifts from immersing myself in Brené Brown’s work. Put simply, the definition of foreboding joy is waiting, even expecting bad things to happen. Worse yet, while experiencing something beautiful, we take it away from ourselves by rabbit holing our minds into scenes from the Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.

Creating a gratitude practice is a one way ticket out of the insanity of waiting for everyone to die. Until I started talking about my foreboding joy, I thought I was a nut job! But guess what, other people spend an ungodly amount of time sending loved ones to the funeral home too! Oh, the sweet relief from shame. Thank you baby kittens everywhere!! Stealing your joy can end with a real life practice of ‘thank you’ (just like I did right there thanking kittens around the world). Gratitude jars, journals and consistent acts of kindness are the salve of imaginary and frankly cuckoo-ka-roo death.

Like fo-realz people, I used to not sleep cuz a gang of machine gun wolves were going to bang up our house. WHAT. (Maybe the whiskey drinkin’ wolves from Bugs Bunny were bad for children after all).

Number Two:

I am still not sure I am a good therapist and I am sure I am a mediocre mother. However, neither worry or really bother me like they once did. Because I do know- I AM Enough. I couldn’t say that with confidence for like- EVER. Now, I try to stick to what I know best and I figure I will get called out for my ongoing fuck-ups. In the meantime, I will keep changing and growing the only thing I will ever be good at and that is myself. Our journey is all the control we will ever have and probably why the role of therapist and mother will always mildly allude me. Really, some other people think I know them better than they know themselves? Worse yet, my kiddo thinks I am the bearer of all the survival magic? Nope. Not this girl.

I will try to share what others have taught me and what I have learned in using myself like a life time human experiment with a smidge of theory just for sprinkles. But beyond my own milky way, hell, I don’t know.

Number Three:

Not knowing is okay. I am keenly aware that even after collecting thousands of rich and juicy stories – I still know so very little. I have always liked the myth that we are only using a small percentage of our brain because then I could imagine stuffing it with more crunchy goodness.

Most everything I do know, say or even write did not originate from me. Yes, perhaps I package my life in this particular way, but the glory goes to those before me, with me and even those who have lost all respect for me. My brain is full of other people’s stories, ideas, wisdom and theory. The wisdom I can impart is often built upon the lives of those I have come to love. Throw in some decent schooling for good measure and Presto!- out comes the words from my mouth. If you think my words are witty or clever, they likely came from another. I just decided their beauty had to be shared with you. Other people’s life and wisdom are often the vehicle for the next person’s growth. I am the compost and my existence relies on the squishyness of our lives being mushed up together. Sure, I may be the smelly one that some initially want to gag on, but those seeking change return again and again to make the ground fertile for new planting.

Number Four:

I am accepting the difference between genuinely making a difference and being a famous author. I would like to publish, but one trip into the book store is a scary reminder that I am not alone on this wish. It’s just not a big enough boat to fit everyone. I still struggle with the belief that unless I was the next canary singing Anne Lamott or Glennon Melton, I would never make a meaningful contribution. I am certain that if Kali could help me lop off this hunk of my ego, I would be a happier person. I have to maintain my corner slice of the world- stay in my lane as many of my clients say- and I can have an impact on those I can physically touch.

~And So Can You, making the domino effect the most brilliant part.

Number Five:

Being a trauma survivor is not a state of uniqueness. I get no prize for being the girl who survived sexual abuse. Now, showing up and being vulnerable about my trauma, bravely maintaining my trauma as a part of my whole, now that I give myself prizes for all the time. I believe being a survivor allows me to experience connection with others. I have come to believe (and yes, it is biased) that every therapist would benefit from having clinical expertise in trauma because it IS the red thread of humanity. It is a rare sighting of a human being to not experience some form of trauma. Perhaps that sounds horribly nihilistic, however, I believe in those moments of inevitable drowning, lies our own personal salvation. Yes, you like chocolate, cats and yoga just like I do, but to know your deepest heart is to be present with the shame of existing. I want to hold space and more space and EVEN more space for that which makes our hearts crack wide open. I believe holding space is our super power.

Number Six:

I know for sure the trauma of being invisible is one of the most painful to swallow. So many of my people grew up NOT getting the physical smack around or severe punishment with belts for breathing, but instead were treated as if they didn’t matter by the people that mattered most to them. Physical abuse may have been sweet relief from being touched by nothingness. And as I witness this on a larger scale, I sometimes loose sight of my own ability to do good. It seems sometimes the majority culture has adopted the belief that if you exist outside the norm, you are just invisible. Treating another human like the underside of garbage is a perfectly acceptable option. I can barely tilt my head in that direction and I certainly did not fully understand the culture of invisibility until my clients taught me how it exists inside the family system. Deprivation is real and it is a kind of mind fuck like no other. Whether found in the petri dish of the family or the discourse of the public, it is one thing that readily clenches my heart and lungs- leaving me fearful and breathless.

Number Seven:

I am pinpoint clear about what I love. I am totally oily on how to keep my focus on it, but damn do I know what matters to me. I struggle to be brave and rise from the stringy mess that I often create from my own stagnate emotional starvation. I am clear I know what water trough I am refusing to drink from. I see the beautiful marble at the bottom of the creek, but Damn! I will not go in after it! For example, it literally took me two years to get my shit together well enough to figure out my part in a relationship. The belovedness of my relationship never wavered, however, my ability to sift through the sewer of my mess paralyzed me.

Number Eight:

I like being on the fringe of normal. One mentor said, “We gotta learn the rules so we know how to break them.” I wanna go my own way and although you may find me bitching about being found out as the ‘different’ one, I recognize that I prefer it. I would benefit from following along when it’s in my best interest and I continue to seek out balance. I do tend towards weed whacking my own path when the declared one may be useful. So I keep my colorful hair and personal style both in life and in the therapy chair, but I am learning to listen a little more to those wiser than me.

Number Nine:

I am in the frightful stages of stopping myself from sounding like a know-it-all. I believe others need our love and support and especially our presence, but only when asked do they need our advice. I totally get that as a therapist I am by default being asked to share some possible wisdom, otherwise, I gotta learn to shut it. I trick myself into believing I am being helpful. People generally already know what is best for them. Hell, I honestly believe being a good therapist is the simple act of reflecting back a person’s best Self. Really. Everywhere else, this lesson is still bitter on my tongue. I still throw up my fancy fix it words and worse, when someone else does it to me, I am irritated! And why? ……Because when we do this unsolicited diatribe of pretend helpfulness, we are judging the other person pretending “to help” and are essentially saying that they are too dumb to know what you magically do.

Swallowing the bitter pill and shutting up…..to the best of my ability. Perhaps I can report some more growth here at 50.

Number Ten:

I have come to believe there is no greater gift than being emotionally awake. To be able to stand outside of myself and know I may not be like living at the Ritz….Hell, I am sure my partner would disagree it was like living at the Holiday Inn some days~ Still, I get me and I am full of gratitude for being able to get into the balcony and watch myself interacting in the world. It is why it remains the ONLY thing I can confidently write about. All Other Things. Just Fuzz.

The glorious part of not designing your life at such a young age is the ability to forgo having to tear down a shallow house. I never dreamt about being a rock star or saving the planet. Sure, I have vision now, but perhaps some can be simple reflections in the water. Some may grow into the painting of my life. Others will ripple on by. I do know; the story is not over. Maybe, just maybe I can be a lantern on another’s journey and offer my light as a reminder that their story isn’t over yet either.

Here’s to beautiful 40 and possibly 40 more years of wisdom to come. Here’s to all of us who have chosen to stay and say ‘the story isn’t over’.

 LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

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