Tuesday, October 17, 2017

17. Therapy

One of the most nurturing things I have done for myself is to seek the guidance of a counselor. Under this woman's patient, kind, and professional care, I have peeled back the layers to discover the origins of my pain and confusion and what caused periods of depression and anxiety. She also helped me see the role I played in the suffering I have experienced. She has bolstered my confidence to face it head on and to not be licked by it.

This woman introduced me to the idea that certain behaviors I was putting up with are unacceptable—no matter what my relationship is to the person doing them. She taught me a new vocabulary. She helped me connect dots. She told me she was proud of the hard work I was doing to heal. She even set before me a vision of who I could become as I healed.

I found the person in my corner who told me, “This stuff you've been through, the things you are describing, are not right. They never should have happened to you, but since they did, here are the tools to climb your way out.”

My life is better. It's easier to navigate with her encouragement echoing in my mind. I go with the flow better. I don't shutdown as quickly—if at all. Life feels good and navigable and worth the effort and heartache. I feel confident about who I am and how I choose to express myself. This is a new feeling, and it is wonderful.

My pain has not been in vain. I am now in a position to share what I know about setting boundaries and caring for myself. I have empathy for the pain of others because I have experienced my own. I'm not afraid of my pain anymore. And I know that sharing my experiences gives other people hope that they can heal from their own circumstances.

I mother myself by seeking the objective perspective of a counselor. I love myself enough to insist that I do not stay where I am. I push myself to challenge hard things, and and continue to grow into the person I'm meant to be.

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”

- Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

Monday, October 16, 2017

16. Welcoming the Liminal

"All the buried seeds

crack open in the dark

the instant they surrender

to a process they can't see."

                                                 - The Book of Awakening                                        
                      Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have 
                                                           by Mark Nepo

When I first wrote about liminal time last summer, it was a brand-new concept to me. It's definition—the time in-between—brought immediate relief. It's a transition, the space between when an ending occurs and before something new begins. I could feel my body relax when I heard an explanation of what it is and the importance of leaning into the time. Having a name for the strange place I found myself in brought comfort and made it easier to drop my resistance to not knowing what the future held.

It's a scary, uncomfortable space, but when one surrenders to its possibility, it can nourish, restore, and be a time of preparation for the next season. When one abides this time, it has a protective feature too. It prevents leaping into something before one is ready. It also requires discipline—a letting go of plans, a sense of control, and the need to be assured of what's to come. It also requires a lot of faith.

Now as I write a year later, I feel the benefit, wisdom, and peace that comes with having relaxed into the in-between. I am far better at not knowing what's around the bend. I'm not surrendered to the unknown 100% of the time, of course, but I'm much more settled about waiting to see how the future unfolds than I have ever been.

I mother myself by letting go of the need to know what "the plan" is. I rest easier in the unknown and see it as adventure now. Acceptance of liminal time is one of the harder forms of self-care to practice, but it also reaps more powerful results. It is worth all of the effort, and definitely gets easier with time.

Friday, October 13, 2017

15. Weekend Wisdom

"She is both, hellfire and holy water. 

And the flavor you taste depends on how you treat her." 

- Sneha Pal

14. Weekend Wisdom

"She's a searcher of her own soul; a seeker of her own joy; a discoverer of her own light; finally a friend to her own heart."
- S. C. Lourie  

13. Set Goals. Don't reach all of them.

2015 was the year of the massive goal-setting. I created my 40/40 list in celebration of my milestone birthday. A friend told me later that I approached the list "like a military operation." She's right. I had never been so goal oriented in my life. I leaned on that list for stability when everything else in my life made me feel wobbly, uncertain, and scared. Then I completed the list, and wasn't sure what to do with the free time and mental space that had been absorbed by the task completion of the year before. I rested the following year and reflected on my goal setting. I set an outline for the year. They provided some shape for my days: read more, work on my book, and rest. There were no deadlines, no absolutes. They were guidelines rather than goals to be met. They were exactly what I needed at the time.

The pendulum has been swinging in big long swipes—far to one side with excessive goals, back the other way with barely any. This year I've felt my goal setting finding its way to the middle of these extremes.

I am also coming to terms with the idea and inevitability that I will not reach every goal I set or at least not in the time frame that I imagined. This seemed problematic when I was working my way through the birthday celebration. Now I understand it is an important element of goal setting. If I am managing to hit every goal I set, I am likely not setting my sights high enough.

I have not reached most of the goals I set for myself in 2015--outside of the 40/40 list and 80,000 word count for the novel--seen in the photo below. But the exercise was invaluable. It forced me to take a broader view of my writing life. What did I want to accomplish in the next few years? What steps could I line out to work toward that? This year I have honored the spirit of the goals by writing for submission and setting my sights on specific publications where I want my work to land. Most importantly, the goals pointed me in the direction of sitting my butt in the chair and doing the work. Whether I've crossed off all the items or not, my butt has been in the chair much more than in the past.

I mother myself by giving myself goals to pursue while also extending grace when I don't hit them all. What's that saying? Shoot for the moon and you'll land among the stars.

"Glory lies in the attempt to reach one's goal, and not in reaching it."

~Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, October 12, 2017

12. I am not my blemishes.

I did not have flawless skin in my teens and early twenties. Who am I kidding? Some days, I still don't have clear skin in my forties. In the years when I was under the care of a dermatologist, it seemed bad skin swallowed my entire identity. It didn't matter that I was funny or kind or smart. I was invisible behind the blemishes. Once in high school, my wanting to avoid dealing with the issue caused a really big fight in my home. My need to be seen for more than my blemishes outweighed my desire to find a prescriptive solution to the bad skin. This upset the order of things within the family. The offended parties left the house, took a walk, and subjected me to the silent treatment. This was a reminder that I was on the wrong side of the issue. It also underscored that my feelings were valid only when they aligned with the others'.

Another time, in my early twenties, I was on a long car ride to my cousin's wedding where I was going to be a candle lighter. I was asked if I'd been to the dermatologist lately. When I sheepishly answered no, I was reminded that "no 25-year-old man would want to date a girl with bad skin."

These were the days when a date was hard to come by. When my younger cousin was getting married, and my younger sister was engaged. These words cut more than skin deep.

These days, I take a gentler approach at how I characterize my appearance. I look in the mirror, and notice the high points. My light blue eyes, my gently sloped brows. I appreciate the lines around my eyes and mouth—the ones carved in by a lot of laughter. I see my imperfections too. The bridge of the family nose that others have suspected was once broken. The faint spots and scars leftover from hormonal surges of the past. I tell myself that I am more than my shortcomings.

I worry less about the opinions of others, particularly those who think it's acceptable to say unkind things. Who deliver opinions as facts.

I mother myself by accepting the light and dark that make up who I am.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

11. Yoga

My sister was a sophomore, and I was a senior. Posters hung in our high school hallways about joining each grade's Powder Puff football teams. The guys were going to coach and also cheer lead. I wasn't a fan of football, but I was interested in being part of the hoop-la. The Powder Puff experience looked fun. I also thought that maybe if I was on the field and being given a position, it might finally click how this dang game is played. Powder Puff might help my spectating later.

There must have been a conversation about it over dinner. My sister was going to play for her class. And I was going to sit in the stands and cheer. My parents were firm. Julie would not be playing Powder Puff football. She could get hurt. There was no discussion, and I don't remember fighting the decision. Inside my head, some message was received though:

My skinny body wasn't up to the job.

I labored long and hard to bring my daughter into the world. I was induced, which meant that unnaturally powerful contractions built quickly and did not relent for hours. I met those pains without medication for hours. When it finally came time to push, I machined my way past counts of ten for two hours. This little human wasn't budging. She finally emerged by c-section. I was grateful for modern medicine. I was grateful for her safe delivery. I was also grateful labor was over.

In the weeks that followed, I was met with a variety of comments confirming the need for a c-section.

"You're so little. We knew you couldn't do it naturally."

Again, it appeared my skinny body wasn't up to the job.

I entered a yoga studio weeks before I lost my job. It was yoga that kept my head straight through the fog of grief and fear and extra hours that had once been employed behind a desk. My teacher later told me, "It was an advanced class. I wasn't sure you'd return." And here I was showing up. Me and my skinny body were doing the hard work. And not crumbling as a result.

Over the past six years, yoga has helped me show up not only on the mat, but in the present, often in extraordinarily difficult moments of my life. Yoga has taught me how to breathe and be still in the tricky positions. Yoga has reflected back to me the strength of my body. It has shown me powerful results with hard work.

Yoga unlocked a part of me that had been shut tight. I've lived so much of my life in my head and my heart. I've been shut down and cut off from my body. Yoga gave my body back to me.

I mother myself by moving on my mat, challenging my beliefs about my physical limitations, and taking that new found trust and wisdom in my body into real life. Yoga is squashing the messages that trained me not to trust my body.

This spring when I bought a new bed, friends came to help me move out the old mattress and to assemble the bed frame. My friend bore the weight of the old mattress by guiding it down the steps first. I stabilized it from the top of the stairs. We eased the mattress down the flight of stairs and out the front door. We maneuvered it down my front steps and into the garage. When we set it down in the garage, my friend said, "Girl, you have a strength I'm not sure you knew you had. Wow. I'm impressed. You really pulled your weight."

It was a proud moment. I was glad to have this strong, kind man notice and confirm what I already knew.

She began to measure herself in contentment and laughter rather than in inches and pounds. 
- Unknown