Love For My Journey

Facebook showed me a memory today. A picture of me from the brief time I lived in Portland. That time was a pain peak in my life, but the picture says otherwise. I’m smiling, holding a finger with a mustache drawn on it up to my face, ostensibly exuding silliness – a part of me I often show to people. But not always. When I was young I was shy, and then slowly I grew into some loudness. First just with friends – making jokes, singing loudly, dancing weirdly – but soon boisterous became a go to, a brand of armor against the inward pain I dare not show anyone. And then came the story of expectation. I made up that everyone expected me to be happy, fun, exciting, loving life. I played out this story so well it became my truth. I believed no one could handle my pain, and if I voiced it no one would understand. And surely they would all think I was crazy, ready for a strait jacket, some meds, and the psych ward. So when friends asked ‘how are you?’ My answer was always ‘oh good, fine…’ followed by some joke about being single, or a quip about not quite having enough money to do exciting things. I buried pain after pain for years. Not letting it out to breath, not voicing it to honor my emotions and experiences. I didn’t really know how. I did the only thing that made sense at the time. Repress and pretend. Then there was no more room to bury anything. I was oozing pain at the surface. The ooze of pain came out in daily panic attacks, dizzy spells, and crying fits. I tear up thinking back to those memories and realize it had to happen that way. I look at the picture again. My sister took the photo on her trip to celebrate her 30th birthday, which she also used to help me move home. Definitely an act of love. I had chosen to withdraw from grad school, and turned down the path of inward exploration, my journey of spiritual remembering was ignited. Almost seven years later I am looking back and my heart sings with hurt, sadness, and gratitude at these memories. Then with a deep breath I realize my heart is really singing love.

Love for my journey.

For each step on my path.

The pains. And sorrows.

The changes and reframes.

The understandings.

The realizations.

I’m in love for a minute with all of it.

I smile.

Breathe.

And keep going.

I Forgive You

Forgive Yourself, You’ve Done Nothing Wrong.

Whoa. Big words for many of us. Our human-ness wants someone to be wrong and so often it’s easiest if we are the wrong ones. This has come up for me on several levels in my life recently. First was in doing some processing around my last relationship, which ended 11 months ago, but I was still in a place of blame. Blaming him and blaming me. Another in blaming me for not seeing the true colors of a former friend and mentor quicker, blaming myself for allowing her to treat me the way she did. As I dug through these layers with my therapist, I found yet another layer hidden deep in a corner – stuffed away by my Little Darling inner child.

When I was nine years old, I loved so much of life. Like many lucky nine year olds, I was pretty carefree. I loved being a kid – being a girl and running around the backyard barefoot, in soccer shorts, smell of sunscreen mixed with sweat, sound of my dog sniffing behind me, my hair blowing in every direction. Being a wild mess was the best. Free. Joy. Love. That was my life at nine.

And like many nine year olds, I began to hit a few bumps, those small ones before the cliff edges of teenagdom show up. The summer of nine, I enraptured myself in watching the Summer Olympics.  I vividly remember adoring the women’s gymnastics team. They were so cool and hip, their bodies graceful and perfect, I wanted to be just like them. I imagined myself being able to do flips and summersaults, yet knowing I couldn’t really do those things, somewhere deep down I began the fatal mistake every young girl makes. Comparison. I looked at those young women’s legs and movements and had a fleeting thought – how come I don’t look like them? And boom. The ‘not good enough’ trunk that was planted in my closet that was nearly-probably-certainly destined to be opened at some point, flew open retching it’s guts out.  ‘You’re not like them,’ it whispered, ‘you’ll never be cool like that’ it mocked.

I remember one gymnast in particular was blonde hair and blue eyed just like me, but she had her hair cut short. Naturally I excitedly thought about how maybe I could be just like her. So I asked, ‘Mom, can I get my hair cut like her?!’ My Mom agreed, although I pretty sure she cried when she cut my pony tail, which was down to my waist at the time. She firmly stood behind me in support of letting me make my own decisions. Such a good Mom move. School started back and I proudly arrived with my cool and groovy new haircut only to feel out of place and extremely self-conscious. One day, we had a substitute teacher in class and he called out from behind me ‘Young man…’. Naturally I didn’t turn around, and saw a few kids looking around to see who he was speaking to. He called again ‘young man…’, which was followed by some snickers. Then a third time, ‘Young man…’, the person next to me nudged me, he’s talking to you. I looked over and then someone else said, ‘she’s not a boy’. I blinked away tears and swallowed the lump in my throat and said ‘Yes, sir?’ Unbeknownst to me, opening that ‘not good enough’ trunk and swallowing my voice, my wild Little Darling died. To be replaced by my Protectors – control and over achievement.

Now I peel back the layers and listen to the ghost of my Little Wild One.

‘I’m so sorry, I didn’t know. I didn’t know I was good enough just as me. I didn’t mean to become someone else. I didn’t mean to deny that pure love inside me. I didn’t mean to forget. I’m sorry I didn’t speak up to that teacher.’

I listen intently. I take her hand.

‘It’s ok,’ I tell her, ‘You did the best you could. You wanted to try something new on, a new identity. I understand. It’s ok that you didn’t speak up at the time, you were scared, and that’s normal. And I forgive you, you did nothing wrong. I love you.’

Slowly I see color come back to my wild Little Darling. I stand by her. I ask her what she needs. I listen. I realize I have the power to completely resuscitate her. To remember her worth. Her greatness. Her WILDNESS. My inner protector will now always be around, my not enough trunk still sits in my closet, but with awareness I can choose who drives the bus of my life. I choose my wild Little Darling. She is the Divine in me. My intuition. My light. My love.

And I sing to her:

“You’ve got the most unbelievable blue eyes I’ve ever seen

You’ve got me almost melting away

As we lay there under a blue sky with pure white stars

Exotic sweetness, a magical time

Say, say it again

I love you always forever

Near and far, closer together

Everywhere I will be with you

Everything I will do for you

I love you always forever

Near and far, closer together

Everywhere I will be with you

Everything I will do for you”

It’s Just A Thought

What if your thoughts are just your thoughts? That’s it. Nothing more. Just thoughts. Little wisps in the air. Boats on a river. But meaningless.

For me – a person with anxiety this was and is a revolutionary idea. I remember when my therapist first said this to me.

She said, “But it’s just a thought. What if you told that little girl inside of you it’s just a thought and nothing more? It doesn’t mean anything about who you are as a person, as a soul?”

Silence.

Whoa.

I had tears in my eyes and felt a momentary sense of peace. I think I must have had the look of someone who just realized they were in love because she then said to me, “That must be something really wonderful.”

My mind of course kicked back in, but I can still go back to that moment of realization, that moment of peace. A new part of me was listening, or rather an old part of me was awakening – shaking off the deep muddy cakes of what-other-people-think-matters slumber. A giant wave of peaceful excitement crashed over me knocking down the intricate walls of protection I had built around my heart.  My crazed monkey mind swung wildly around on those walls for years making giant leaps from one thought to the next repeatedly weaving ostensibly dangerous and taboo thoughts that my inner little girl translated into believable nuggets of truth. Monkey mind whispering “you’re a bad person-what’s wrong with you that you think that-how disgusting you are.” All the sudden there was some space between the thought and my thinking about the thought.

‘Hmmm,’ my mind mused. ‘Probably wrong, I need to find other ways to torture you’ but the the little girl in my heart was suddenly and very contentedly eating a banana in her tree. La-di-di-da-di-da, she sang, you silly monkey mind you are just that, silly.

My monkey mind screeched!

 

That day with my therapist changed my whole world. I remember a day in college. A dreadful day in a long line of other dreadful days where anxiety was living my life instead of me, I had a tiny moment of remembering this same lesson. “It’s just a thought!” I said to myself. My whole body relaxed, but literally within seconds I forgot again, anxiety was back and I had a sense of loss. I could NOT recall the sentiment that allowed for that relaxation. I stumbled trying to feel my way back to that moment. “What was that?” I kept asking myself. Now I believe it was my soul singing to me – always directing me to the path I walk now. I am so grateful for that moment. And I’m grateful for growing through to the space that day in my therapist office because that lesson is at the forefront of my being now.

It is so simple, I can choose what I think about my thoughts. I may not be able to choose my thoughts or stop them completely. I’ve read many quotes and memes about choosing your thoughts. They all have a similar sentiment of ‘you better choose your thoughts wisely and pay attention to them because they manifest your reality’. For me this is like spitting whiskey on a fire. The sentiment about choosing your thoughts is not wrong, I just simply needs a deeper translation.

My translation: Intrusive thoughts come in and I can’t control them. I have to surrender to that. What I choose to believe about that thought, what I tell myself about that thought I have complete control and choice over.

Yes.

It is simple.

…but not necessarily easy. It takes awareness and practice. Mindfulness. If I try to control my thoughts, resist the intrusive thoughts, tell them to go away, that they are wrong – then my dear friend anxiety is going to take over and do my thinking for me. Anxiety is going to tell me my thoughts are true and then start making conclusions about what that means about who I am. My monkey mind and inner little girl will fight. Monkey mind throwing fistfuls of shit while my inner little girl tries to hide crying in a corner, and I end up with a shit day and shit life.

Instead I practice. I live in a space of ‘ok that’s an intrusive thought, it is just there, and now I can choose what I do with it.’ In that space, when my monkey mind starts throwing shit, adult me is able to parent my inner little girl, coaching her to allow the shit to fly right past her, watch it hit the wall and go back to eating her banana. Eventually my monkey mind gets really bored and tired and decides to go take a nap. Yes that monkey will wake up and throw shit, and yes sometimes I will forget and throw it back causing a fight, but yes eventually I will remember to sit in my tree and sing, la-di-di-da-di-da while eating my banana.

Thank God for the la-di-das. For the tree. For the banana.

Maybe one day I can thank God for the monkey.

Awake

It was 4:26 and I was awake. I’d been awake since 3:30.  Perhaps fitting for the day before I turn 30. I had to pee and then my mind was instantly running miles. It felt like it never really quieted during the night. I felt frustrated at first and then I sighed and allowed the awakeness in.

I used to resist waking in the middle of the night. I’d wake and fear would instantly take hold forming repetitive intrusive thoughts about dying, being attacked, my house getting broken into.  My mind playing out vivid and horrific scenes. I’d dread needing to leave my room for water or a snack. Sleep used to be my only reprieve from my internal obsessive hell.  I didn’t want to be awake at all during those stages of my life, but being awake in the middle of the night was a special kind of hell. I’d turn on the tv just praying that I’d make it to morning. Sometimes numbing out wouldn’t work. Sometimes the heavy hands of a panic attack would find their grip.  Dark slithery fingers curling around me, making it difficult to breath. Crying for hours. Alone. In the dark. Feeling like I was dying. Thinking I can’t live like this forever.

Then I got a little better. The anxiety attacks would lessen. At least for a time. If I awoke in the middle of the night, I had a handle on my thoughts, but then I’d hurriedly try to figure out how to get myself back to sleep. Am I hungry? Thirsty? Need some medicine? ‘I’m going to be so tired tomorrow,’ I’d mutter to myself while trying to force myself back to sleep only to have my thoughts continue to run circles about things I had to do. Everything I did centered around not going back to midnight panics. I attempted to be kind to myself, trying on soothing self-talk – ‘it’s ok, you’re just a little anxious’. A great first step. I can see now that I combined these first steps into self-compassion with an extremely forceful way of being. I still lived into a deep self-loathing at not being able to control my thoughts and fearful survival – knowing that the ‘bad thoughts’ would be back, I just wasn’t sure when. My survivalist mentality would rattle on – ‘I’d better get back to sleep-I don’t want to be sleepy tomorrow-I need to take care of myself-why am I awake-what’s bothering me-I better do things better-eat better-this isn’t good-you’re going to make yourself sick again-’.  I didn’t understand that, to quote Jason Mraz, ‘we all need to see the darkness to see the light in our own eyes’.

Now it’s different. It’s been different for a while now. I move through cycles of great sleep and disjointed to sleep, and now I feel like that’s ok. Now I think ‘If I don’t sleep well tonight, I can sleep well tomorrow’. Now, I feel curious when I wake in a midnight. I can see how the deep inner work I’ve been doing has resulted in this shift for me.  Because I have faced some of my darkness, I feel more comfortable in physical darkness.  Now I love watching and talking with the moon at night by myself. Alone on the many acres I live, I used to stay cooped up in the house with the TV blaring for companionship, it didn’t even occur to me to open my door post sunset. As I create a relationship with my shadow, I feel safe to walk in the night.

Even though I may feel some frustration when I wake in the middle of the night, I feel a distinct sense of understanding and steadiness. I roll over and pick up a book, but more often than not I find myself needing to express. What’s woken me are unexpressed thoughts and feelings. I journal or write on my computer.

Cathartic and wonderful. My midnight is my awakening.