Words mean so much.

I’m in a graduate counseling class in which we are learning to lead different types of groups.  The experiential component of this course involves us both leading and being a member of a group throughout the term.  It has been a wonderful and eye-opening experience.  I have learned about myself and about how others approach the world and themselves.  The sense of safety and belonging of a trusting group of peers is hard to match.

At the end of class each week, the classmates that were observing the group chime in on what they observed and give feedback.  Tonight, and on other occasions, the sweet souls in my class have said such meaningful and kind things about what they observe me doing and saying as a group member and leader.

It has taken over three decades, but I am now able to take a compliment…and actually believe it.  I’m also more accepting of constructive criticism.  Perhaps it comes from years of tempering my perfectionist tendencies, or from arduous self-work and diligent mindfulness exercises.  Whatever the impetus, goodness it feels good to hear the sweet words of another human and accept them–without reservation, without judgement, just acceptance.

I will eternally be indebted to this group of classmates for their kind words, generous disclosure of their feelings, and their shared participation in this journey towards something greater.  We are expanding as professionals and individuals, but none of it is done in isolation.

And that my friends is the lesson I have learned.  True self-work, for me, cannot be accomplished in isolation.  My soul yearns for connection–to be seen, to be heard.  Anxiety and self-doubt cannot win.

In my life, I have stumbled upon the inner beast of self-doubt, calling it out of the shadows and exposing it to the examining light of non-judgemental inquiry–and what have I found?  That beast I have been careful to avoid is no beast at all, he is a child, he is Me, and he only wants to be seen. Heard. Known.  Fear is an illusion, it is only the lack of awareness of the ever-present Love that is available inside, often pushed into the shadows of our subconscious and neglected.  Love is a child, and this child is waiting to play.


Day 113: Pat Yourself on the Back

I dropped something on my foot yesterday and today it looks terrible. The whole top of my foot is bruised, swollen, and generally extremely painful-looking. But in actuality, it doesn’t really hurt. I rested today just to be sure there were no major injuries but I am fairly certain its bark is far worse than its bite.

I am feeling unsettled about plans and future and security. The logistics of change are much scarier to me than change its self. And I’m trying to remember that just as with my grotesque looking foot that it easy to look at something and it seem a much bigger deal than it is.

I have had a lot of change in my adult life and I have survived it all. It was always scary in the in-between but it has always worked itself out and usually to my advantage.

So here’s to bruised lives… colorful, sensitive and reflective of the active, risk taker that always chooses life. And here’s to discomfort without prolonged pain because it teaches us we are stronger than we know.

And finally, here’s to us, gentle reader, for trying at all…

A very swollen and bruised foot.

Days #98-101: The Struggle is Real

I have developed a catch in my back that seems to refuse to go away. It is bothering the nerves in my right leg so that when I try to exercise my entire leg goes numb.

I have also caught a nasty cold that has the pressure in my head so intense that I feel like it will surely explode and that would be preferable to how I feel.

The snow has been beautiful but plentiful on Monday, Tuesday, and now Friday and Saturday encouraging my hermit-like existence this week.

To top it all off, I took my Love to get a simple medical procedure done yesterday morning. His doctor wanted a endoscopy to see if there was a reason for his chronic acid reflux. As they were placing his second attempt at an IV, he had a vasovagal response and passed out. He fell back on the bed, his heart rate dropped, his breathing slowed, and began to jerk in a seizure-like way. We went from one nurse to five in about ten seconds and they started different things to get him stable and going again. The whole experience only lasted about a minute. Then he was awake again and they had him hooked up on oxygen and saline. But it was the longest moment of my life, thus far. I knew rationally that no one dies from passing out over a needle. But I wasn’t exactly rational in that extended moment of panic and my brain (why do brains do this?) automatically went to worse-case scenario, “What if I lose him?”

Let me be really honest about myself for a moment. I am a wanderer, a dreamer, a doer, a be-er, but I’m not a great lover. I tend to focus too much on the tasks, the to-do list, the future, the adventure, and I have learned through nature or nurture to not get too attached to anything in my life. I have moved several times in my adult life, I have changed jobs often, I have watched too many friends and lovers become strangers. Therefore, some where along the way I decided it is better just not to put too much stock in any relationship because they all seem to falter or fail. I enjoy friends and family but mostly on a pretty superficial level and I’m completely okay with how things are.

But when my Love came along, he demanded differently. He helped me go into the deepest parts of me. He gently teased out my thoughts and opinions on things. He created such an environment of safety for us that I was able to finally let my guard down completely. I love him from the best of me with all of me because I trust there will never be a day he won’t see that in me. What we have is rare and vulnerable and frighteningly everything. Our souls are intertwined as they dance through this life completely individual but always as one. I never knew the completeness of love until him.

So as my mind went to what life would be without him, I could not possibly fathom it. As I sat beside him for the next hour, his face pale, his body trembling, his voice unsure, I saw it in his eyes too.

He looked at me, tears threatening to spill over, squeezing my hand, and whispered, “You are the best person I know.”

And I whispered back, “Thank you for really knowing me.”

Day #92: Mole Hills are Really Just Mole Hills

She lost her tooth today! She dreaded it, begged me not to touch (even though it was hanging by a thread), and cried when I asked her to let me give it one tug. She had built up in her mind as horrifically painful and scary.

I understand… I do that with my training runs. Today was only four miles (cue eye roll here) but I had a tough run Tuesday so I have been dreading today. Strangely, a toe on my left foot hurts and it has made my form difficult this week. Funny how something so small can wreak so much havoc…

I finally convinced her to let me put my hand in her mouth. She gave me permission for one tug. The tooth was laying completely flat on its side so I knew it was beyond ready. I tugged, the tooth popped out, my little love screamed then cried, then laughed, then cried some more. About ten minutes later with a cool washrag in her mouth looking down at her tooth in the tiny treasure chest, she says, “That really wasn’t too bad.”

As wrapped up four miles of nonstop running that I took in small chunks of changed paced, different hill patterns, and awesome trance music — I realized, “I’m done and I could keep running; that wasn’t so bad.”

Little love and I walked around the house tonight with a slight swag that only comes from both facing and conquering our fear.

We are human; hear us roar!

Six year old girl close up of first lost tooth.
First lost tooth. Tears and laughter sometimes come together.

Day #73

Today I failed. I was supposed to run six miles per the training app we are following. We got to the gym one hour before it closed. They turned the lights out on me right after I finished mile five…

I know I should be okay with running the five. I did hills the first three miles. I ran without stopping for a breather for four miles which is the longest I’ve managed thus far. I finished five miles in an hour. This should all be enough…

But the bar was set at six… my Love finished six… and I missed the mark…

As much as I didn’t want to be, I was disappointed in myself. I’ve always been the token first-born overachiever… or at least up until the last couple of years. Then I realized something that shook my whole life up… achievement doesn’t fulfill me. I have been the one to never give up, even when giving up would have served me better. I have been the perfectionist, the dependable one, the “hardest working person in show biz” as my dad likes to call me.

But I realized a few years ago that no one is really going to remember me for my achievements and no one really cares much if I’m the best. I learned the hard way that if who I am isn’t good enough to begin with, then no matter how hard I work to prove myself, I will just never be good enough for that person, that religion, that marriage. And I finally did the one thing I never thought I could do, I quit. I walked away holding my breath and terrified. And when I got outside in the dark in the night in the aloneness, I though I would die, I thought I would be punished, I thought I would crumble to pieces.

I remember marveling at the night when I first left my former life. I would put Adalie to sleep and take a blanket and just lay in the night. And instead of terror, I found hope. Hope in feeling connected without feeling condemned. Hope in the stars that share dust with me. Hope in living by the dark, of not needing to have all the answers to enjoy the day, embrace this life, and love without condition.

My failed run… it is only a blip on the scale of failures I have achieved… I failed huge a few years ago and it was the most liberating experience of my life…

Try it, my gentle readers, fail sometime when failing serves you best… embrace the dark… and just breathe…

Day #55

Today, I … kinda … ran 4 miles.

We went in the morning which is not my best time. It’s like my body hates me for waking it up. So I huffed, and puffed, and wheezed. My legs hurt, my side cramped up, and my stomach revolted on me. I walked, limped, and jogged my way through and … eventually … I finished, but it was tough.

I’m thinking of making some changes in my life … big changes. It terrifies me … I’m the kinda girl that likes certainties and always has a back up plan. I’m the kinda girl who hates to flounder and loathes failure. Because underneath it all I’m a girl who’s scared.

But what is fear and who defines failure? It makes things uncomfortable. It causes self-reflection. It can even be a bit embarrassing. But if you don’t try, you don’t know what it is to lose but neither do you taste the win.

I’m working to overcome the self-doubts. The concern of stability. The drive for easy. The fear … and I think I will … even if I have to wheeze and limp to get there.

Day #23

Conflict… not my favorite word.

Definitely not my favorite thing to do. And although I have evolved in my ability to handle it, it eats away at my body.

I walked today, on the phone most of the time with a friend enduring conflict. I walked and noticed the contrast from the angst in her voice to the peace in the trees… We try to control so much as humans: ourselves, others, the environment… I just feel that in doing so we cause so much unnecessary conflict. Why do we attach ourselves to an outcome, an ideal, a expectation?

Because it’s human, I suppose…

I walk and talk and breathe and hope for the best.

I think there is so much we could learn from nature. It’s so intricate but not at all moody. It’s so powerful but not all arrogant. It’s so vast but not at all demanding. Maybe I should take those characteristics into MY next conflict…

Nature also expresses itself without fail, without fear, and without fakery. It is what it is and never apologizes for what it is not. Maybe I should take that with me as well…
I tuck these nuggets into my jacket pocket and walk along to the human voice that pleads for understanding in a conflictual world…

A vibrant purple and pink sunset over a shadowed neighborhood.

Day #12

Maybe it was the dreary weather for the third day in a row. Or maybe the lack of energy in my bones.

But today just seemed dark from the beginning.

Now I’m not a person who spends much thought or emotion on the darker side of things. I’m a glass half full kinda girl. I avoid scary places, movies, and books. I love parties and romance and magical thinking (such as fairies have to be real somewhere!).

But today I heard stories of manipulations so vast they steal souls, and saw hints of abuse haunting a little girls eyes. I witnessed a shell of a man who’s only wish is family. And I walked at dusk…

My mindset while walking was grim. I was alone and it was getting dark. I was a little nervous because I was at a public park. I was pissed that as a woman I felt the need to look over my shoulder to make sure I was safe. I kept my phone close and my keys closer. Some days no matter how hard I try to sugarcoat it, it’s just a shitty world at there.

But I walked anyway and the path led me around and back to my car and safety again. I never stopped walking and I never let the fear drive me to madness. And I never once thought about quitting.

I realized as I sat in my warm, safe, happy-music-car…

that this was much like life…

We go out into a scary world, bump into terrifying truths, and occasionally are ripped to shreds by horrific events, but the path continues and its our choice to lay down and die or to keep walking, even trudging, to a place of safety.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have a lovely home with food and warmth and laughter and family. No matter what darkness comes–I have a safe, soft place to land.

But not all are so lucky, gentle readers–maybe not even you. And so, I plead that we tread lightly with one another. Because your walk in the park might be another someone’s darkest trails…A gravel path vanishing into a spooky dusk background, with barren grass all around.

Day #10

An inflatible Christmas decoration which says the word Joy.Some days are fantastic–like birthdays and Christmas, vacation days and Saturdays, and then every once in while a fantastical day just sneaks up on you.

Today was one of those days:

  • Plans changed for the better, twice.
  • It was double-punch Tuesday so I got my coffee for free.
  • Lunch with my Love.
  • Appointments cancelled, which gave me free time to get caught up on paperwork.

… home cooked dinner, silly shows, a happy girl who went to bed without a fuss…

Yes, some days it just all seems to come together. It’s like the universe hands you a gift…

As we walked this evening, I thought cheerfully about the warmth of the day. But I also noticed an unconscious thought lurking in the corner of my mind–a small doubt and reservation about good days–and how even at the highest of highs it’s like we are waiting for it to vanish at best, trample us at worst. It makes it hard to really enjoy life when paranoia sets in.

“I’m eating healthy and clean.” But I’ll probably still die of some disease.

“I made some extra money.” But something will probably break down soon.

“He is such a gentleman.” But once he knows me it probably won’t last.

We generally set everything up to fail. We forget to ride the high, enjoy the joy, celebrate the happiness. It’s like we’re afraid that by wallowing in it we invite it to be taken away.

A yard filled with inflatible Christmas decorationsWe walked down a street and made it to the most crowded, silliest, over-the-top Christmas decorated yard I have ever seen. Front to back with blow-up decorations, lights, signs, and toys. And I thought, “This is what it looks like to hoard joy.” People don’t understand it; it costs too much, it’s potentially dangerous, it even seems a little crazy. The longer I stood there mesmerized by each Santa and snowman, reindeer and elf, the larger my smile grew. Joy abandon looks ridiculous, I think, because it embraces the good without tempering it with doubt.

I have no idea what will happen tomorrow or five years down the road, but I know my joy in today and today I’m hoarding joy.