Hard times, come again no more...
This has been a rough year, so rough in fact that I have seen numerous t-shirts that have "2020" painted on a dumpster fire. Sometimes it's more cathartic to have a little laugh about misery than to dive in and burrow down, but the truth is this has been an extremely rough year for everyone and doubly so for those struggling with anxiety and depression.
I'm a people person, through and through. I love to travel and have adventures, I love visiting friends. I go stir crazy when I'm cooped up for too long. And I've been very fortunate thus far to have a job outside my home that I can go to and keep getting paid (I'm deeply thankful for this reprieve). But, this year, I've missed Comicon and PowWow get together with my WGB girls, a trip to Moab that I was so craving, and Sunday night card games with an older couple we've played with for years.
I've watched the news unfold with so much pain, suffering, violence, unrest, and division. I've seen families and friendships torn apart. I've listened as my anxiety tells me that there's no point anyway because it's all going to shit just like it said it would. And some days it just doesn't feel like there's an end in sight. And I'm here today to tell you that it's ok, to not be ok. Feeling scared, or angry, or frustrated, or out of control, or all these things at once is perfectly normal and we are going to be ok. Because, here's the thing, no matter what happens, life is only lived one day at a time. One second, one minute, one hour at a time.
Anxiety lives in the past or the future not the present. It pulls up all the worst memories of what has happened or what might happen and makes it very hard to focus on what is right now. Be kind to yourself, always. Know that it is normal and ok to let yourself feel and process all the emotions you are having, good and bad. Focus your energy on today, and what you can do right now. If you are able and have need, I highly recommend talking to a therapist. Not enough people realize just how important it is to have a mental health professional in their corner.
Be mindful: color, do arts and crafts, meditate, practice yoga. Find something that gets you out of your head and draws your focus away from the things you can't control. Do things that make you happy and don't worry about people's opinions. Use the good china for no reason on a Tuesday afternoon. Wear your formal dress while watching Netflix. Sculpt with clay even if you have no idea what your doing. There's so much uncertainty in the world. Life is too short to worry about matching socks and getting everything right on the first try. Let yourself be, let yourself feel, let yourself live in the moment.
And remember, it's ok to not be ok right now. Take a deep breath, hug your cat, call your therapist, and never stop doing the things that make you happy, because this is not the end.
It's a poem kind of day...
Carrying a load of bricks on my back,
so far, so long.
Everything in me aches,
tired, sore, very nearly broken.
No matter how many times I readjust,
can't get comfortable, no relief
from the wary feeling, the pain
of carrying so much weight.
One for mothers, one for fathers,
one for each mistake, each regret,
each heartache, each unmet need.
Bricks, and bricks, and bricks
Until I fall to my knees and stare at the sky,
The sun so warming on my face.
Has the sky always been so beautiful,
Slip one arm free of the satchel,
then the other.
A thud, and then relief.
Finally stretching my unencumbered body,
I'm taking a moment to get out some thoughts before I turn off the damn computer. If it sounds like I'm a bity edgy, that's because I am. It's been a rough year for all of us and the last week has been immensely stressful, but you know what, it's time to stop and smell the roses. I know, that's a cliché, but it's just so true. How many of you have been glued to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, your television for what seems like every waking moment of your day? (I'm raising my hand very enthusiastically over here.)
There's plenty of brain science out there to suggest that our over dependence on technology and social media isn't doing anything good for our neurons. Does this mean that we should all burn our phones in a bon fire, strip off our clothes, and go be one with nature? No. I mean, not unless that's your thing (then by all means let your flag fly). It means that we need to consciously set aside time without tech. A digital detox (such a buzz word these days). But, seriously. Set aside time every single day that is a 0 tech zone. No phone, no tablet, no laptop, no television. Just you and the sweet smell of possibility.
I know that this often ends up being very difficult for me. What if I miss something funny or important? What will I do to entertain myself? How will I live? (ok, now I'm just being dramatic.) But really, we really need to take time to let our brains rest from the constant barrage of information and stimulation. Color, sculpt with clay, read a book, do some gardening, give yourself a pedicure, gasp and egads, clean the house. Whatever it is, give yourself time away from your devices. To listen and observe the world around you, to feel your feelings.
Today, I'm forcing myself to go no tech until at least noon (after I publish this blog of course). And, to be truthful, I'm probably going to have to put this laptop and my phone in a drawer because if I can see them, the temptation is just too great. The internet and social media can be used for a great amount of good, but they can also become a distraction and an escape from all the things we really should be doing or dealing with. So, take a deep breath, put your phone in the drawer, and go rediscover the joy of being alive (or just the restoration of a little peace and quiet).
I was surfing my Pinterest boards this morning looking for a jolt of inspiration, and I got a high five to the face when I stumbled on this beauty, "Old ways won't open new doors." Touché Pinterest, touché. I'm immediately picturing myself wearing my heavy duty, pink patent leather Doc Martins and kicking down a door with reckless enthusiasm (seems like someone is full of piss and vinegar this morning).
I don't know about you, but I definitely needed to hear this today. Too often, I get stuck in a brain rut and end up doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. So far, I have discovered that the kitchen does not clean itself and that constantly telling myself I'm a failure has produced little to no satisfactory results.
So why do we humans have this innate tendency to get stuck? Because it's comfortable. Even if your situation is less than desirable, there is a certain soft fuzzy comfort to routine. There's no scary outliers, it's just exactly what you expect over and over and over again. We know what is behind this door, every. single. time. But that door? The other door? It could be a sweet pair of spandex leggings and a bucket of money or it could be the sweet smell of napalm in the morning. You just don't know.
But here's the thing, being comfortable isn't the same as being deliriously happy. It's not the same as being passionately fulfilled. And there are some days that comfortable is fine, but for me, I want passion and adventure and the thrill of being alive. And that means that I have to stop over analyzing every tiny little detail and just fly by the seat of pants. Case in point, I need a new coat. I've outgrown my old one and it's unpleasantly chilly this morning which reminds me, that I need a new coat. So, I go online to my favorite shop armed with my fistful of birthday cash and I'm gonna buy an amazing coat.
This experience should have been joyful, and short lived (I already knew which coat I wanted). But then, the hamster wheel started. Well, I can still zip my old coat, mostly, so do I really need a new coat? Will this one fit? Is it too orange? What if I pick the wrong size? Should I really be spending this money? Ok. Stop. Let's just stop. There are only two questions that really need to be answered here. Can I afford it? Does it bring me joy? Quick, go with your gut before your brain can over rationalize. Yes. and Yes. I can afford it, and it brings me joy. So, what does any the other stuff matter? If it doesn't fit, I can send it back and find another coat.
Sometimes, kicking down a door may lead to scary, unfamiliar, or weird experiences. But, it can also lead to the best freakin coat you have ever owned. And I get it, sometimes you've got more to lose than a fist full of birthday cash, but here's the thing, we're all going to die someday and we get this one life, with this finite amount of opportunity, and most of the time, kicking the door down is going to change you as a person. It's going to lead you places you didn't even know you needed to be. So the next time your stuck in a rut, ask yourself, am I comfortable, or am I happy?
Carpe the Freakin' Diem...
It's been months since my last post. MONTHS. I'd like to say I don't know what happened or where the time went, but that's mostly not true. I got hung up, and that's the truth. I got so focused on, what should I write about? And what topics do people care about most? and am I helping people enough? that I forgot why I started doing this in the first place. I'm not here to make money or be an influencer or win a Nobel Prize for literature, I'm here to be here. In the moment. Sharing my experiences to grow and learn and hoping that along the way, I help others grow and learn too. Because that's the thing friends, it might sound cliché, but we really do only have one life. And it's far, far to short to sweat the little things.
Be you, unapologetically. Eat the triple death by chocolate cake, buy a hula hoop and fumble through the Youtube tutorial, sing really, really loudly in the shower and the car (especially in the car), wear your New Year's dress on a Saturday for no reason while doing all these things if that's what makes you happy. Because being happy is the point. Finding what sets your soul on fire is the point.
I know that not every day can be "it's my birthday" level enthusiasm, because some days are just long and hard, but that's all the more reason to go for the gusto when you have the energy, damn it. Don't ever worry that you're being too weird, or too loud, or too enthusiastic. There's no such thing. Be brave, color outside the lines (or inside if that's what makes you happy). But please, please never apologize for being you. Because you are human, and you'll make mistakes and it'll be ok because you'll keep going - like me. I'm not worried about whether this blog entry is gonna change the world. I'm just sharing, from my heart, in the moment, all the very real things I feel and all the things I know in my soul to be true.
So sorry that I disappeared for a while getting hung up on things that didn't really matter. I'm back now and I'm wearing loud multi colored leggings, and tomorrow, I'm gonna sing really loud in the car. Carpe that freakin diem my friends, and as Shakespeare once said, "To thine own self be true".
I deserve joy...
I used to read, a lot. My absolute favorite grade school memory is of reading day. We got to wear our pajamas and bring books and blankets and snacks to school and we could lay on the floor and read whatever books we chose. I often had to bring a back up book on those days because I'd finish the first one and have to move on to a second.
When my mom took me to the public library, I loved checking out a big blue library bag to carry all the books I had checked out. Sometimes, I would burn through three or four books in a week. I loved realistic fiction, biographies, fantasy, science fiction, and distopian literature. I decidedly did not love many of the books I read in my high school classes, but they absolutely shaped my understanding of life, the universe, and everything. So much so, that I went on to get a degree in English and taught to high schoolers for eight years. But now, three years out of being in the classroom, something has changed and I feel like it's a symptom, indicative of a larger problem. I just stopped reading.
I mean, that's probably not a fair assessment given that some people truly don't like reading and avoid it when possible, but I definitely don't devour books anymore. It takes me weeks or even months to get through a book now, when I do decide to pick one up. And, the only time I read with any urgency is right before my book club is about to meet. I currently have four books just waiting in the wings, gathering dust that I bought recently and an untold number purchased on vacations and set aside on the book shelf. This just didn't happen for a very large chunk of my life.
In college, there was a book store that would allow you to return your used books for store credit and buy new ones on an endless cycle. I can't even tell you how many times I traded in or how many authors I read. There was so much joy. That's the thing, I feel like the joy is gone. Every time I pick up a book now, I get snuggled in, read a few pages and think, I should be doing something. Aren't there dishes to wash, or world issues to fret over, or things to be doing? I don't feel like I deserve to read. Like I constantly have to be doing something to justify my existence and the really stupid part is that I binge watch Netflix at least a few days a week. It's like TV is a fun distraction, but I love books, on a deep, primal kind of level and I feel like I don't deserve to give myself the satisfaction. I'm depressed.
Writing, hashing it out here, I realize that having three surgeries in three years, leaving the classroom has me lost. When people asked me, what do you do? I was always able to say, I'm a teacher. And now I'm not. I realize now that I have been carrying around this weight, feeling like I somehow failed the universe. Like my entire identity and value was tied to being in a classroom and now, I'm just floating around without an anchor or a purpose. Like nothing I will ever do matters because I failed at this one, most important thing. And, now it's a mid sentence epiphany, I feel like I don't deserve books, because I abandoned my post in the classroom. I have no reason to read anymore. Because quitters don't deserve joy. Wow. That's a lot to unpack. My subconscious has really been kicking me around on that one and I'm simultaneously realizing that it's a load of crap.
I didn't quit, I evolved. I moved on when I knew that I wasn't happy or healthy staying in the same place anymore. I haven't failed the universe, I have gotten so wrapped up in emotionally kicking my own ass, that I've forgotten to stop and smell the books. I deserve joy, not as a reward for satisfying the universe or fulfilling some grand purpose, but because we all deserve joy. Yes, you. I'm fixing to make myself signs and hang them up all over my house. I DESERVE JOY. You should to. Everywhere. See it and say it every day. Do something you really, really love and when your brain starts yelling, bang on a tin can with a spoon if you have to, and yell back I. DESERVE. JOY. Because you do. And nothing you have or haven't done will ever change that.
It's ok to get stuck...
I honestly had no idea what I was going to write about today, but as I sit here clicking away at the keyboard, my gut tells me it's time to address the big ugly monster in the room. Anxiety. I have clinical anxiety and some days it is debilitating. I also can't take medication because I am very sensitive to drugs with serotonin. The thing is, that in our society, powering through this is like a championship with a badge of honor. Acknowledging your issues or even having issues is considered a sign of weakness, and quite frankly, that's just ridiculous.
People drag themselves out of bed with a cold, or horrible stomach cramps, or debilitating anxiety and just force themselves to function and go to work or take care of their responsibilities because they just have too. There's too much on the line if they don't - jobs, pride, reputation. It's just wrong. It's ok to get stuck. It's human to have days where you just can't. And, on those days, you should rest or talk to a therapist or do whatever it is that you need to get by and not feel guilty about it.
Mental health is so stigmatized. As a culture we sling around the word "crazy", or for flavor add "bat shit", way too liberally. We make assumptions about a person's ability to adult or parent or function based on our limited understanding of what mental health really means. Oh my gosh, you have clinical anxiety? Can you be trusted to do this job or take care of your kids or do life stuff? The truth is everyone handles their mental health differently. Some people do struggle with day to day tasks and others don't. You can't just assume. And some days are way harder than others. But at the heart of it, people with mental health issues are still people and they deserve love and respect and to feel proud of themselves and live their lives just like everyone else.
For me, having anxiety means that I get scared or worried about things that just might not seem that important to someone else. Sometimes, I lay on the floor in the kitchen or under the dining room table curled up in a ball, too terrified to make any decisions. It feels like the entire world is crashing in around me and I absolutely can't rationalize any of it. Sometimes, I'm at the grocery store and there are just too many people and sounds and I all I can hear is my heart pounding in my ears and my head is filled with their imagined thoughts. Is that person staring at me? Have I done something wrong? Do people know what's happening? Am I being judged? And suddenly, I'm standing there in front of the frozen vegetables and all I want to do is run out of the store and get as far away as possible (I don't, but there are people who do and I see you, and acknowledge you, and do not judge your pain).
Talking about my anxiety, naming it and acknowledging it is powerful and cathartic. But I totally understand why so many can't or don't. It's the same reason I don't talk about it at work or bring it up in casual conversations. People judge, and they assess, and they make decisions about you and who you are based on something they don't fully understand. But here's the thing - you are an amazing, valuable, worthy human and your struggles don't diminish that. Don't ever let anyone convince you otherwise.
Surround yourself with people who get it. Build a support network of people who love you exactly as you are. And, if you know someone who is struggling with anxiety or any other mental health issue, be kind. As hard as it may be to understand or accept, know that it has likely been doubly so for the person learning to navigate it. My husband and I have had many, many long nights over the years we have been together and the journey has not always been smooth sailing. But now, he understands that he doesn't have to get it. It doesn't have to be rationalized or "fixed", he just has to love me no matter what. So now, when I'm on the floor or in the grocery store panicking in front of the vegetables, I know that he will be there anyway. I know that when I lose my temper, or break the closet door, or can't drag myself out of bed - I'm still a worthy human being, and I will take a deep breath and do a grounding exercise and try again tomorrow.
I'll say it again, a little louder for those in the back, STRUGGLING WITH MENTAL HEALTH DOESN'T MAKE YOU ANY LESS OF A PERSON. So love yourself, be patient with yourself, and know that some days will be better than others. And, that's ok.
What are we fighting for?
It's easy to get lost or turned around when you're navigating unfamiliar territory. It's also easy to lose steam or let a fire burn down even when you start out with immense passion. The great thing about fires? They are seldom ever really dead. It just takes a little breathe on one ember to ignite the blaze anew. This morning, I'm thinking about a question someone asked me (and a good one at that) - what do I hope to accomplish with my blog? With my Facebook group and social media accounts? What I am I here to do and how will I know when I have succeeded?
So, what do I hope to accomplish? Why do I keep writing week after week? Because I want to inspire people. I want to empower women to live a life filled with passion and purpose and hope. I want women to know that they are significant and worthy and capable - that there are no limits on what they can do and be and achieve. I want women to celebrate their diversity and love their bodies and be confident in who they are. I want to create a community of women empowering women. A place where we can ask the hard questions and find our own truths. I want us all to live proud and strong and never have to apologize for being exactly who we were born to be. So, what does this look like? How will I know when I have succeeded?
I'll know when we stop looking in the mirror and comparing ourselves to an impossible standard. When we love and celebrate our bodies for their amazing diversity and all the incredible ways they serve us.
When we're no longer judged by our reproductive choices. When being a mother is respected as a personal decision rather than a requisite to being a whole person. When we stop asking "when are you going to have kids?" or "Wow, how many kids do you have?" When we collectively stop and realize that family is defined by so much more than how many kids we do or don't have.
When taking care of our self first isn't considered selfish. When our needs, desires, and passions are met first and we no longer feel guilt about it. When we all start reaching out to support each other as instinct rather than bristling up and casting judgement.
When we stop treating sex and sexual health as something dirty and taboo. When we can talk about sex to our partners, doctors, therapists, kids as a natural and healthy part of who we are. When we can speak out against sexual assault without fear of retribution or judgement. When we stop hearing and using words like slut and whore to demean us and take away our power and autonomy.
When we stop assigning gender roles to jobs, hobbies, and activities. When we stop telling kids "that's a girl's toy" or "that sport is for boys". When we stop deciding what qualifies as masculine or feminine and using it to shove people in boxes.
When we have equal representation in the work force and in the government. When female presidents, politicians, CEOs, school board presidents, engineers, business leaders, and scientists are just as common and just as respected as their male counterparts.
When feelings are treated as a normal part of the human experience and expressing them is seen as part of our humanity rather than weakness. When boys can cry and girls can get angry and neither is judged but rather taught how to process those emotions and channel them constructively.
In the words of John Lennon, "You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. And I hope someday you'll join us..." Because we only lose if we stop fighting. Our collective voices can change the world and I will never stop believing that.
Want to be part of the change? Join my Facebook group Conk's Community: Women Empowering Women. All women 18 and over are welcome.
The weight of a poem...
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might know that I write poetry, or at least, I used too. I've never been one for rhyming couplets or following specific rules. Honestly, poetry has saved me more times than I can count in both a literal and a figurative sense. I've battled with anxiety and depression my whole life, and discovered the healing power of poetry as teenager in high school. Poetry is one of the more underappreciated forms of writing because it is so often misunderstood. To be truthful, I had no intention of writing a blog about poetry today. I've been struggling a lot with coming up with the right words to say about everything I've been feeling during this time of momentous change and unrest in our country. That's why I took a break from blogging last week. But here I am, at the keyboard today, and all I can think about is poetry. I'm not sure why I stopped writing, but today my heart and my soul are full and heavy and a poem is clawing it's way out.
The weight of the world crashing down like a tidal wave,
Don't be afraid to ask why....
Have you ever done something for so long that you forget why you even started? Human beings are such creatures of habit. We like consistency and the safety and comfort of routine, of order. Knowing that the there are certain things that are simply so, like the sun rising and setting. But, sometimes we get too comfortable and stop asking questions, and the moment a "why" resurfaces, it opens a door in our minds that simply can't be closed again.
Last week, I was talking with a friend and she was lamenting the fact that she had gained weight. I kept trying to redirect the conversation, but it just kept wandering back to the glaring number on her scale and she said, "I feel like crap, that's why I need to lose weight." And I thought to myself why does a number have to define everything about us ? Bam! Door blown right open and now I can't get the damn thing closed again.
Why do we automatically assume that weight is what is wrong with our body? We've been conditioned to believe that a particular weight or BMI is the key to everlasting success and happiness. But why? There are a million other indicators of health and well being. Why do we not say, I feel like crap, I need to drink more water? Or I need to eat more fruits and vegetables, or I need to talk to a therapist, or I need to go for a swim? But we rarely say those things on their own, they are always in the context of losing weight. I need to drink more waters so I can lose weight. I need to eat more fruits and vegetables so I can lose weight. The obsession is maddening.
And I think what's almost worse is that it is culturally acceptable to lash out at people who ask why. How dare you challenge the system! Don't you know that the obesity epidemic is what's ruining our country? Is it? I mean really stop and think about it. We've created a cult of obsession around a number on a scale. We've taught people to fear having normal bodies with creases and lumps and wrinkles. We've taught people that food is dangerous and that everything about our worthiness boils down to a smooth stomach and a low BMI. We have created a cultural norm that tells us that it is ok to ridicule and judge others in the name of preserving the health and longevity of our people, but are we going about this all wrong?
What if we taught people to enjoy food? To have culinary adventures with vegetables and fruits and to savor the plethora of world cuisine. What if instead of exercising to punish or bodies for non compliance, we moved for the sheer joy of it? Doing yoga, playing outside, going for a swim, playing soccer with our friends. What if we stopped putting all of our self worth into the number on a scale?
There are so many other measures of health and well being. We have to normalize normal bodies. We have to de-stigmatize mental health. We have to stop lashing out and judging others when we don't know the first thing about their personal journey.
Make a conscious effort to stop talking about weight. It's just a number. If you feel like crap, drink some water, move in a way that makes you feel good, hash it out with a therapist, talk to a doctor (preferably one who isn't solely focused on weight). Nourish your mind, love and accept yourself, respect your uniqueness, and listen to your body. It takes practice, but it will tell you what it needs. And most importantly, be kind - to yourself and to others. The next time someone tells you how it should be, don't be afraid to ask why . Sometimes you will agree with the answer, and sometimes you won't, but that's what makes us all so amazing and diverse. We only stop growing when we stop asking questions.
Creating my own sunshine 🌞