Too Much, Not Enough & Shame

I started a 7 week “Embodied Writing” course on Monday called Too Much, Not Enough & Shame.  What I mean by “started Monday,”  is that on Monday I received my first email with my instructions, looked at it, and then didn’t do any of the exercises.  Yesterday, the second email came with new directives.  I have yet to open it.  This is who I am as a person.  When I lead writing workshops, there are always people who don’t do their assignments.  It’s never my favorite, but I understand it.  Resistance.   In the circles I lead, a common theme for us is “letting go.”  Over and over we let go of that which no longer serves our highest good.  Outdated beliefs we hold about ourselves.  Shame,  being “not enough” and being “too much” are always right at the top.   Not just for me.  For ALL of the women.  It’s a common theme.  Doubt is another biggie, but isn’t that just us telling ourselves that we aren’t enough?  Or too much?  I was having lunch with a friend a few weeks ago, and we were discussing this very thing.  Later that day, I opened Instagram and saw a post advertising the course.  We all know social media spies on us, but in all fairness, this was a page that I actually follow.  And this course was everything she and I had just discussed.  Obviously, it’s not just prevalent in my circle.  This is a real thing.  I emailed her the info and before I had a chance to sign up, she texted me to say she was in.  Signed up, and paid for IN.  I followed her lead.   This week, I have been the girl who signed up for, paid for and was excited for a new journey only to avoid the shit out of it when it was time to actually do the work.  I think this will sound familiar to some of the women who are in the writing group I am currently leading.  I see you.  I feel you.  I am you.  Resistance to doing the work.  Because it’s not fun unpacking these narratives that we have been telling ourselves for so long.  This morning I finally did the first exercise.  We were asked to spend time with our hands holding our heads…..embodiment.  Followed by connecting to our breath. I typically like to come out of my head for these practices, but this asked me to do the opposite.   We were to make two columns on a page (or 7 pages if you’re me) and list the times we felt we were too much or not enough in one column and in where we heard that story or whose voice is telling it in the second column.  I get the method to her madness head holding embodiment practice now.  This is what I discovered.  I carried a sexual abuse secret with me as a very young child.  I went to Kindergarten knowing I was broken and different than the other children.  I didn’t need any other voices telling me I was not enough, or too much, because my own little voice was powerful enough.  Of course, there was plenty more on that list.  That was just the first thing that I wrote down.  My first memory of feeling broken.  My list was long and full of stories and voices other than my own, but really, my own voice is the loudest.  And as I grew, the secrets and the shame grew. That “not enough” story got louder.   In the rooms of recovery the phrase “we are only as sick as our secrets” gets thrown around a lot.  And it’s true.  I don’t hold onto secrets anymore.  I have a full conceptual understanding that for me, secrets are incredibly harmful. I have a team of support people in my life that I am comfortable sharing with.  Women who won’t judge me and will hold my secrets.  Women who will love me unconditionally.  That is exactly the thing I aspire to give back in the circles I facilitate.   The first exercise of this course has cracked me open and brought up a ton of shit that I have already worked through.  And it’s brought up things I haven’t thought about in years, or rather, conveniently misplaced in my brain.  Because that’s what our brains do.   Rearrange things to help us survive.  But I am no longer about that surviving life.  I am all about thriving in life.  And I absolutely AM enough.  I know this in my soul…..my mind questions it occasionally, but my soul knows that’s bullshit.  That leads to how knowing I AM enough can feel a lot like being “too much.”   Whew.  How’s that for some serious bullshit stories I tell myself?  Embracing ALL the parts of me and sharing with the world can feel like I am being too much.  Too silly, too smart, too spiritual, too sexual, too loud, too public, too much.  I’m gonna do it anyway, because that’s who I am.  Unpacking the story of too much is going to be interesting. But I’ll be right here. Embracing ALL of my too muchness and showing it to the world. 

Expansion

Two weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch, making winter playlists for my classes and I heard myself say to my husband that winter is my favorite time of year.  For real. It rolled right out of my mouth. That was immediately followed by, “except being cold, because I hate that.”  So, I’m not exactly sure why I decided winter is my favorite.  I think it’s just the practice of mindfulness in full effect and the fact that winter is almost here so I might as well embrace it.  And I have.  I made winter playlists. Obviously. I bought new boots.  I planned a bomb ass Solstice Celebration.  I put my spring/summer clothes away.  That one was new.  Never have I ever done that before and for some reason, it made me feel incredibly accomplished.  Christmas isn’t stressing me out AT ALL.  I just feel ready for all that winter brings.  I am ready to slow way down. I am ready to spend time hibernating.  I am ready for all the rituals involved in the upcoming weeks. I am ready to spend time with my soul.  Every year I pick one word as my “mantra” word for the year.  My one word for 2019 is Allow.  To be in the space of allowing doesn’t come naturally to me, so this was a bit out of my comfort zone.  I wrote about that last year.  It’s here if you want to check it out.  I just read it myself and it did a world of good for me.  I never go back and read my own blogs.  I should probably spend some time doing that this winter.  Looking back, I think I got exactly what I expected from living in the space of allowing.  Which is great, because some years the word I pick shows up in unexpected ways that make me say “What the actual fuck?”  I have learned to be specific with intentions so the Universe and I are on the same page.  In my year of allowing, I let go of trying to force things that I thought were for me.  I had two big projects on my agenda this year, planned, promoted and floating around in the world.  And guess what?  Those things weren’t for me. They never came to fruition. And I know the WHY in that.  Those two things were never an absolute YES from me.  I went along with them and felt good about them, but they were never things that made my soul scream.   And the lessons in that were HUGE.  It was totally ok to put myself out there and try something that didn’t work out.  Also, I fully understand now that if it isn’t a HELL YES in my soul, it’s a NO from the Universe.  I need soulgasms. Cool.  Thanks Universe.  To be in the space of allowing meant that I just did my thing.  I allowed the path to open up in front of me and kept stepping forward.  The path led me out of therapy because I’m finished healing. Haha. I kid. But, I have the tools to handle myself, my emotions, and whatever pops up in my life. The path led me to The Hanuman Ashtanga Yoga Shala in the spring. If you follow me on social media, then you KNOW I started practicing Ashtanga Yoga this year.  There’s a whole little story of how that happened somewhere on the blog, but I’ll save you and just let you know that I was divinely guided.  Prior to stepping into the shala, I had zero experience with the practice of Ashtanga.  I knew enough to know it was physically challenging and like all things that are good for me, it wasn’t for me.  Until it was.  When the messengers showed up, I paid attention.  I allowed myself to try it out.  It has been my biggest blessing in 2019.  I love the practice.  Most days. My teacher is amazing.  The shala students are all wonderful.  I have learned so much about myself practicing in the shala.   I learned that I am stronger than I think I am. I learned that I can keep going when I am sure I am going to die.   I learned that the pure joy that comes after the not dying is indescribable.  I learned about trust in the shala.  Trust is still a hard one for me.  My teacher is compassionate and kind and I trust him to keep me safe.  And he does.  I allow him to help me when I need it, which is every time I practice.  See?  There’s that allowing again.  I went back and forth with Allow last year, because it seemed a bit “weak” to me, but ultimately, Allowing is all about strength.  Allowing is about having a strong faith that what is for me, is going to find me.  I don’t have to chase it.  What’s for me will always be for me.  Allowing is being ok when things don’t work out.  The strength is in pushing past the fears and trying.  Allowing is living my life, writing my blogs, teaching my classes, all of it, whatever it is, when a new friend shows up on the path and says “I want you to write your book.  I’m a literary editor. You just write and I will  turn what you have into a book.  No pressure.”    And, because I have learned so much about trust this year, I just roll with it and assume she knows what she’s doing.  Feels a lot like allowing to me.  And it seems like the next logical step for me.  I’ve always known it was in there.  I’ve talked about it.  Now I get to be about it.   My word for 2020 is Expansion.   I won’t be getting the tattoo.  I know some of you were going to ask.  I am about to grow on every level.  Sounds scary as shit.  I am ready to do my thing and be open to how that plays out.  I have no real expectations, as the Universe prefers to surprise me anyway.  I am just going to write.  And write.  And write some more.   In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says “The first rule of magic is self containment.  You must hold your intentions within yourself, stoking it with power.  Only then will you be able to manifest what you desire.” I know what she means by that is to not tell people who will doubt you and make you second guess yourself.  I circled that line in the book and wrote NO beside it because I am fortunate enough to live in a world where people believe in me.  I live in a world where I can blast my intentions and people show up to help me make them reality. I created that world. So beautiful. So grateful. I really understood how much people believe in me that time I Facebook shared a photoshopped image of myself doing a handstand on an iceberg in Alaska.  In all fairness, it looked pretty real if you didn’t stare and I had been in Alaska. The comments blew me away.  My initial thought was that these people are dumb asses for thinking I actually got onto that iceberg.  My next thought was WOW.  People believe in me and think I can do anything!  How fucking awesome is that?!  It’s powerful people. I have always had people who believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. That is a true blessing and honestly, it’s the only reason I’m still alive. Seriously. Thank you for believing in me friends.  Expansion feels good for 2020.

Triggers

Last week my husband went golfing.  I never love the days he golfs, which thankfully are few and far between, because golf tends to includes day drinking.  I have not been around any day drinkers that I enjoy.  I was a day drinker and that’s what ultimately took me down.  Once I decided I was grown and I could drink any time I wanted to, it wasn’t long until I was drinking ALL the time because I had to.  Back to last week……My husband was on the family schedule to pick our boys up from the places they needed to be picked up from.  We do A LOT of running in this house.  If you have children, you know.  I was teaching a class that afternoon when I received a text from my husband informing me that he had been drinking shots and wouldn’t be picking up the boys.  I didn’t open the text, but I could see the entire thing on my phone and I was NOT happy.  I texted him back when my class was over and let him know exactly how unhappy I was.  He responded by letting me know that he was on his way home and would figure it out.  I too was on my way home by this point.  And this is what I noticed.  While I was driving, my heart was racing.  I felt such a need to get home before he did or at least right behind him.  In my mind he was completely fucked up, and as soon as he got home, he would leave again. I would be alone.  I felt like I needed to rush home and stop him.  Or something.  And I was rushing.  Heart racing and speeding down the road.  In that moment, something shifted in me for the first time ever.  I was triggered and I knew it.  I knew exactly what the trigger was.  I could feel the familiar feelings in my body.  Fear. Sadness. And the one that really struck me was grief.  I felt grief.  I noticed all of these things and I slowed the car down. I stopped rushing and I took some slow breaths.   These feelings had nothing to do with my husband and everything to do with my Ex husband.  The father of my two oldest children.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still pissed at my husband, but the reality is that he had two shots at the clubhouse in celebration of a hole in one that happened on the course. (Not by him) He wasn’t going anywhere.   Yes, I would have preferred if he had passed those up and went to pick up the boys, but I was also happy that he didn’t drive after those two shots.  Maybe there were beers involved too, I can’t remember.  He wasn’t hammered.  He just didn’t feel like it was safe for him to drive our boys.  I was pissed because I had no plans and would have liked it to stay that way, but on this particular evening, I ended up doing the driving.  Back to being triggered……because looking at it now, I am certain that I have been triggered in this way so many times without being able to identify it for what it was.  I was reacting to the two years I lived with a man in relapse.  The two years that I tried to hold my little family together.  I was married to a wonderful man with a horrible addiction.  We were both clean and sober when we met.  We married and had two beautiful babies.  Then he relapsed.  I actually think he relapsed when I was pregnant with our second child.   For the longest time, I was in denial about it.  I thought he was sick.  He let me believe that.  He saw Dr’s and Neurologists to try to figure out what was wrong with him.  I had a sick husband, a toddler and a new baby to care for.  It was A LOT.  He had been diagnosed as having “absence seizures.”  The reality is that he was taking massive amounts of pills and nobody had any idea.  One evening I had the children packed up in the car waiting on him to come home from work.  We had an appointment with a photographer to have family portraits made.  He was supposed to come home at 4:00, jump in the car and then we would leave.  But he didn’t come home.  We waited and waited until the babies got tired of being in the car.  He wasn’t answering his phone and I was worried and I was getting pissed.  I took the kids inside and my phone rang.  It was one of the local hospitals.  Apparently my husband had a seizure and was in the hospital.  Then, the rest of the story followed.  After work he had gone to the UPS store to pick up a package that had been delivered to him there.  It was a package from an internet pharmacy.  The package contained a bottle of Soma muscle relaxers and a bottle of Loritab pain killers.  He opened the package in the UPS store and took a handful of the Somas and fell out in the floor.  The UPS store called 911 and he was transported to the hospital.  My life changed in that moment.  My husband wasn’t sick.  He was a drug addict.   I mean, he WAS sick because of his addiction, but there was no medical reason beyond the pills he was taking for the seizures.   The Dr asked if I knew about the internet pharmacy, which of course, I did not.  There were a lot of things I had no idea about.  I didn’t tell anyone in my family or his family.  I had no friends to speak of outside of the Mom’s that I sometimes did kid’s things with.  I didn’t want anyone to know that my world was falling apart. I sent him to the treatment center where he and I had both gotten clean.  Over the next two years, I sent him there several times.  He never stopped using.  His using escalated.  Cocaine. Heroin.  All of it.  After spending the majority of my life addicted, I was clean and had no desire to use drugs.  All I wanted was for my husband to choose us over drugs.  All I wanted was to have my happy family and live the dream that we were building before he relapsed.  But it was not to be.  After two years of fighting for him I had to let him go.  I had to save myself and my children from the horror of drug addiction.  I filed for divorce while he was off on a spree.  He never showed up in the span of time that it took me to file, take the parenting class that is mandatory in the state of TN for parents filing for custody, and go to court two times.  On the day our divorce was granted, he called me.  Not because he had any idea that we were now divorced.  He called because he had used up every last resource he had available to him and was ready to go back to treatment.  I picked him up at a local gas station, gave him $10 and put him on a plane to California.  Then I went home and cried for days. I put the children to bed and drank myself to sleep at night.  My heart had been broken a thousand different times in those years.  My heart hurt for my children.  My heart hurt for me.  My heart hurts right now as I write this.  My children saw their father one more time.  The spring before we moved to NC he came from California where he was now working at the treatment center.  And he was high when he arrived.  He nodded out the entire weekend.  It was incredibly hard to watch and of course I was pissed at him and at the treatment center.  I put him on the plane back to California when the weekend was over and called the center to let him know that he was still using.  We moved to NC soon after that weekend and continued to keep in contact with him.  We all loved him so.  My current husband knew him before I did.  A story for another time.  But, when I say that he was a wonderful human, it’s because he really was.  He was my best friend.   He was brilliant, kind, compassionate and hilarious.  Addiction sucks.  In late September of 2009, I received a phone call from my ex mother in law.  She told me that he had been found dead in the bathroom of the halfway house he was living in.   I had to tell my children that they would never see their dad again.  They were too young to understand words like overdose and they didn’t need to know that at the time.  I held my children and cried with them.  Drug addiction sucks.  I hope that he can see how wonderful his children are.  They are all the beautiful things that I loved about him.  I see him in them every day.   Last week, when I felt the trigger of being left alone, it was a powerful and healing moment for me.  It gave me an opportunity to sit with the sadness.  The sadness that most likely will always be with me on some level.  It gave me an opportunity to talk to my husband about the sadness I was feeling.  And he listened.  We had the most beautiful conversation and he was there for me.  As open as I can be when I sit behind a laptop writing, face to face is still quite a challenge for me.  But I’ll get there.

Tattoos and Freedom

EE8BD19E-0227-4798-A822-E9462D48AF13Tattoos tell a story.  Ask anyone about their tattoos and you will likely hear the story of their life, or at the very least a very personal piece of their “story.”  I got my first tattoo when I was 21.  The tattoo that will forever be known as the tramp stamp.  Which is total bullshit, but whatever.  The low back tattoo that every girl my age got in the 90’s.  I wanted to get tattooed as soon as I turned 18, but I spent a few years getting pierced instead and waited for the desire to pass.  It didn’t pass.  I had that one tattoo for years and years without ever needing or wanting another one.  But then I fell in a hole.  A hole I couldn’t climb out of.  I have lots of mantras tattooed on my skin.  Those mantras helped me climb out of the hole and truly represent what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now.  It goes like this.  Once upon a time, I was a raging, hot mess.  I was hopeless.  Hopeless is the worst feeling in the world and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  I had been exposed to the words hope and faith quite a bit in AA meetings.  I wasn’t sober and I had neither hope nor faith in my life.  I was also attending group therapy.  Dialectical Behavior Therapy.  To treat my Borderline Personality Disorder that I don’t actually have.  Being Borderline was better to me than claiming alcoholism and having to give up drinking.  I rocked that Borderline Personality Disorder too.  I owned the shirts and I wore the awareness bracelet.  I gave a face to Borderline, “normalizing” it, much like I do today with addiction and recovery.  And, I got to keep drinking.  The best part of the whole deal.  But, I was dying inside.  Failing at life in every possible way.  Even my liver was struggling.  Every day I would tell myself that today I won’t drink and then every day, usually before 8 am, I would be drinking.  I HAD to.  It was the only way to keep my body from shaking.  Every day was the same and every day was awful.   I was reading a self help article about Borderline Personality Disorder when I came across the acronym for Hope. Hold On Pain Ends.  I fell in love with that idea and knew I needed to carry that with me.  My first mantra tattoo.  I really don’t remember getting it.  Most of those first tattoos blend together in a gray kind of memory.  But there it was.  On my hand where I couldn’t miss it and was reminded constantly that I could get through this.  I was able to get clean from methamphetamine addiction.  Nothing could possibly be harder than that.  That’s what I told myself.  I have since learned that addiction is addiction and it’s ALL hard.  I was going to AA meetings regularly, although I still wasn’t sober.  I was starting to like the idea of being sober.  I kept thinking one day I would be ready and I would just stop drinking.  At this stage of the game I was having little spurts of “sobriety.” Or, rather, I was managing a few days in between being drunk.  Or, maybe I was just waiting until 5:00.  Again, it’s such a blur.  AA people use the term One Day at a Time.  I always hated that term because I knew it was bullshit.  I knew if I committed to a sober life it meant every day for the rest of my life.  I was seeing a therapist who was teaching me about mindfulness.  She kind of, sort of convinced me that it simply meant living in the moment.  I could live with that.  My second mantra tattoo is on my foot.  One Step at a TIme.  That’s how I was going to dig myself out of the hole.  I am fairly certain I wasn’t drinking the day I got that tattoo and I probably thought I was done with alcohol.  I assure you, I wasn’t done.  On another day I was in my therapists office freaking out about something. That was a common occurrence.  I had been drinking before therapy.  Another common occurence.  She always knew when I had been drinking.  Most people didn’t notice strictly because it was my norm.    I am sure she yelled at me a bit because that’s who she is.  Then she taught me about a practice called “calm abiding.” Calm abiding is a Buddhist practice of stilling the mind of any thought that might arise.  I promise you I wasn’t able to reach the place of calm abiding, but I fell in love with the concept and knew that’s what I needed in my life.  I left her office and went straight to the tattoo shop and got the word Calm tattooed on the topside of my wrist.  Not sure why I didn’t throw in abiding, but there must have been a reason.  It’s on my right wrist near my hope tattoo to remind me to be calm and have hope.   Not long after that tattoo healed, I was leaving my house to go somewhere, who knows where, and my husband told me to try not to come home with any tattoos.  I am sure it wasn’t my intention to get tattooed that day, but those words lit me up.  It sounded a lot like he was telling me not to do a thing.  In my mind, on that day, it meant I had to get two tattoos.  What I recall about that incident is that it started at a local gas station.  The gas station was right beside the tattoo shop.  I went inside and bought a cup of ice and a can of ginger ale.  I came out to my car, where my 1/2 gallon bottle of bourbon was, and mixed myself a drink.  As I was mixing the drink there was a knock on my window.  I looked up to see a woman I knew from AA.  In my mind she was a sober woman.  In reality, she was anything but.  She was struggling like I was struggling.  I had no idea.  She got in the car with me and offered up Valium and Xanax.  I hadn’t taken pills or any other drugs in years, but I didn’t hesitate for a second.  I don’t know what you know about mixing pills and alcohol, but I can assure you, it’s not good.  There is not one memory after that, but the two tattoos I got that day are the words “Forgive” and “Love.”  Forgive faces away from me, in such a way that I can hold my wrist out and ask forgiveness.  I found it easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission in those days.  “Love” must have been for me. I am sure I wanted to feel love or feel loved or just feel lovable.   I was quite unlovable that day.  I was quite unlovable for a long time.  That was the longest day that I don’t remember.   It’s weird the few things we do remember in those black outs or brown outs.  I remember calling my therapist and yelling at her.  I was in the parking lot of the hospital wearing one of my shirts that identified me as borderline and realizing that this made me look crazy.  I was yelling at her for giving me that label and more than anything for not calling me out on wearing the shirt.  Then I woke up in the hospital room.  There was a security guard outside of my room and the nurses told me they didn’t know what I had done, but I must have done something bad.  They monitored me and they let me go because it’s frustrating trying to treat a drunk person who doesn’t want help.  I remember leaving the hospital and walking through the parking lot.  I remember the security guards but I can’t remember exactly what they said to me.  I do remember that it enraged me and I screamed obscenities  at them until they tasered me.  I woke up in the hospital room again.  This time I didn’t have a security guard.  This time I had “a watcher.”  The person they place outside of your room to watch and make sure you don’t kill yourself.  I must have told them I was going to kill myself or someone else while I was blacked out. I was “a danger to myself and others.”   I stayed there for three days, refusing food and anything else they offered me.  I was eventually moved to a psychiatric hospital.  Every morning in this hospital it was my job to wake up and talk to the Dr on staff and try to convince him that I wasn’t actually mentally unstable.  Unfortunately, my actions proved that I was mentally unstable.  Also, every other person in the hospital was trying to convince the Dr of the same thing.  Some of them had serious mental health issues.  A scary situation that lasted way longer than I wanted it to.  Eventually I was released into a treatment center and almost got sober.  But I didn’t.  I was back with my therapist and back in my DBT group.  My therapist was pushing yoga on me and teaching me weird things, like how to breathe.  I couldn’t breathe.  I hated the breathing part of yoga because I felt like the more I was instructed to focus on my breath, the more I couldn’t breathe.  It was awful and I clearly needed a Breathe tattoo to help me.  I could no longer go to the same place where I had previously been tattooed because my husband made it clear to the tattoo artist that it would NOT be ok to tattoo a drunk me again.  I want to say I was sober when I went for the breathe tattoo, but I was not.  Had I been sober, I might have thought to put it in a place where I could see it.  Instead, it went on the back of my arm, just above my elbow.  It happens to be great for people who are standing behind me.   I am happy to report that the Breathe tattoo is the last drunk tattoo I have.  A few more psychiatric hospitals and a couple more treatment centers where I finally decided I had had enough Hell and it was time to do something different.  I’ve been living sober for 5 years now and when I get a tattoo, the whole process has more meaning.  My first sober tattoo was “Let it be.”   Obviously I would let it go if I could right?   When I let it be, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me or still exist, it just means that I don’t have to let it control me.  Whatever ‘it’ is.   My next sober tattoo was ‘Learn.”  The intention there is to remind me to look for the lesson.  The short form or “what the fuck am I supposed to learn from this?”  So interesting that after I got that tattoo, I started learning more than I ever imagined about my past.  Repressed memories came back and I learned how to deal with that.  I am still learning every day in every way.  and I know that won’t ever stop.  The memories have stopped.  At least for now.  Maybe I am done with that.  Time will tell.   My last two tattoos are my favorites.  At least they are my current favorites.  I have a little Tt “element” tattoo on my forearm that identifies me as a Tee-totalar.  This one is not at all original. It’s a movement.  A community of people choosing to not be anonymous and recover “out loud.”  I love being a part of a community that identifies in this way. I find it’s much better than wearing a Borderline Personality Shirt and identifying in that way.  On New Year’s Eve I got my most recent tattoo.  It’s a representation of where I am at this moment in my life.  “Free.” Along with the word, are little birds flying free.  I love it so much.   I have found freedom that I never knew was possible.  Freedom to be me, whatever that is in each moment.  Comfortable in my skin more often than not, and able to deal with being uncomfortable when that happens.  There’s a special kind of freedom that comes from living through Hell and coming out the other side.  That freedom shows up as gratitude and joy for my life.  It shows up when I catch myself dancing to the music at the grocery store.  

*photo by Ed Speas*

So Grown

I keep sitting down to write and then deciding that I don’t want to share my feelings with the world.  I have been in protection mode lately.  Protecting my heart.  I am ready today.  These past couple of weeks have been so full of growth for me.  I spent a weekend at a women’s retreat.   I had been looking forward to this retreat for months.   I was the first person to register when tickets went on sale.  I was so excited about the whole experience.  It began on Friday evening with a cacao ceremony and Qoya.  How could that not be fabulous?  And it was.  One of my favorite friends was there with me for the weekend and she experienced these two things for the first time.  I loved being there to share that with her.  A Qoya class has 13 pillars.  One of them is dancing with your shadow aspect.  Embracing rather than repressing our humanness.  I found myself triggered in this piece and had a difficult time integrating my light back in.  We left the studio at 9:15 that night and went to the Airbnb we rented for the weekend.  I was up until almost 11.  One would think that’s no big deal, but one would be wrong.  I woke up Saturday morning already tired before we started our day with a 7:30 am yoga class.  I don’t function well when I’m tired.  I’m like a 5 year when it comes to sleep (and food).  I was irritated and I began to close off and shut down. My intention for the weekend had been to remain open and be a part of.  I was so looking forward to being a part of rather than leading.  I was there, I was in it, but I was resisting every thing about the weekend. Partly because I wasn’t in control.  Maybe fully because I wasn’t in control. I found myself being judgemental toward myself and toward the whole experience.  The things I normally love, I had an aversion to.  So. Fucking. Weird.  But at the same time, the experience was beautiful and just what I needed.  How much sense does that make?  The entire weekend I was acutely aware of my shadow aspect.  The fear, the judgement, the insecurity, the anger the need to control and my lack of trust.  All of it showed up and stayed with me.   I showed up and stayed with all of it.  I lived and I learned and I met a bunch of amazing women.  I processed the experience for a week.  It’s a sacred act to sit in circle with women you don’t know and be open and real and vulnerable.  I see women do this in my circles all the time and they are my heroes.  I thought I was ready and I would be WIDE open, but that’s not how my weekend went.  I was disappointed in myself.  It’s still difficult for me allow myself to be seen and heard.  I was in my comfort zone of a circle of women, but out of my comfort zone by not being in charge.  It’s a control and trust thing that I obviously need to work on.  And I will.  Possibly forever.  That was two weeks ago.  This week the growth is still coming.  I went to therapy (for the last time?) on Wednesday.  My therapist let me know that if I was going to keep coming into her office, she needed to feel as though she was being of service to me.  And she no longer does.  What this means is that I am making good choices, I’m processing my own shit, I have no super secret life on the side and I am SO FUCKING GROWN.  I got kicked out of the nest.  It happened so fast.  I think we both knew it was time, but she is better at assertive and saying what needs to be said than I am.  So she said it.  And I rolled with it because I trust her.  But, I was super sad when I left her office and scared that now something horrible is going to pop up that I can’t handle and there I’ll be, alone in the world.  We ALL know this isn’t true, and I’m not alone, but it’s how I felt.  Now that I have had a few days to sit with that, I’m OK. I’m learning more about my need to cling and how it doesn’t serve me.  More space has been created in my life and the good things will flow in and fill that gap.  I do not doubt that at all.  Now I wait.  Patiently.  Without clinging.   Remember that time I choose the word ALLOW for my “One Word?”  I’m putting that into practice on so many levels.

Letting go

Ahhhhhhhh! I am out of the weird ass moon energy and back on top. Where I like to be. One  might think that after two years of living in sync with the moon cycles, tuning into them and paying attention, I wouldn’t be so surprised or knocked on my ass by a big super moon eclipse. One would be wrong about that. Because whoa.  I know I wasn’t alone in that. I heard it at my moon circle from other women. I saw people freaking out on social media.  I felt it in my soul.  Lost. Lonely. Off.  How fortunate that I have so many practices to keep me “sane,” and so many friends to keep me grounded.  When I remember to lean on those supports. I’m out of my bathtub now and living in the big world again.  It feels great. When I wrote my Sunday blog, I said that my week had been uneventful. That wasn’t entirely true. Last week a 7 year relationship with a very dear friend switched gears. I would say we are finished being friends, but that is a bit extreme. Our roles in each other’s lives have changed dramatically and I’ll be way less involved with this person and vice versa. It sucked and made me sad during an already (overly) emotional time.  After years of knowing this needed to happen, my heart and my head were finally in alignment at the same time. The moon???  After a long conversation with my friend, the letting go happened.  Just like that. It needed to happen so my soul can grow in other directions.  This doesn’t make it hurt less.  I know that “when we let go of the things that no longer serve us, we create space in our lives for that which inspires us.”  We create space for growth and joy and life. I know this. I teach this.  Somehow, I’ve been forgetting to live this.  For years…..That letting go left me feeling more lonely and more lost….but I sat with it. I sat with not feeling centered and not feeling OK.   I sat with lonely and lost. I set an intention for the feelings of Calm Abiding to wash over me and hold me.   Taking it back to basics and knowing that this is the soil I need to be rooted in so I can grow.  I’m growing. On Monday afternoon I connected with a friend in Wilmington.   We hadn’t seen each other in a year or more. She and I did yoga teacher training together. Anyone who knows that life knows it’s a true bonding experience. We had lunch and talked about our teacher training experience, among other things. Life things. I mentioned that I might want to write my own Yoga Alliance program and become “a school” to lead teacher trainings. As it happens, my friend has done that and IS able to lead teacher trainings.  She said she wasn’t feeling quite ready to do it on her own.  We briefly discussed the possibility of doing it together but made no plan. We finished lunch and headed out.  On my hour long drive home, I let the thought roll around in my head. I pictured what it would look like and how it would feel to lead a teacher training with her. By the time I got home I KNEW. I knew it would be intense. I knew it would be a learning experience. I knew it would be fun.  Guess who loves intense?  Guess who loves to learn? Guess who loves fun?  This girl does!  All the details will be available soon as we are just starting to put our heads together.  I can tell you that it’s coming in April. A 3 1/2 week immersion.  Yoga for Inner Peace. It is in complete alignment with who I am and what I teach.  Our special focus will be “Nurturing the Inner Self.” A beautiful co-creation.  I am so excited!   Once again, I am amazed at how quickly the Universe responds when I get out of my own way.   I AM connected and divinely guided.

The Work is Never Done

When you are on a “journey to wholeness” the work is never done.  (Here. Listen.) That doesn’t mean that I always want to do the work.  Because, honestly, some days and weeks or months, I don’t want to.  So I don’t.  I am rolling into the third week of mentioning repressed memories that just came back to me and I still haven’t done anything about them.  My therapist really wants me to write about them to help me process them and move on, but who wants to do that?  Not me.  Not lately. Plus, I’m a busy person with a life to live, a business to run and a family to take care of.  She suggested to me that I am scared to sit down and do it.  It would be great if I just used my time with her to do it, but I can’t.  I freeze and nothing comes out.  That leaves little to work with.  And if I don’t do the work on my own, it doesn’t get done.  But I’m busy, remember?  Also, I really don’t want to.  Yesterday, I received a text from a friend.  Or, as I like to call it, a loud and clear message from the Universe.

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How funny is that?  I am surrounded by so many amazing people and I just need to remember that I am never alone in my struggle.  None of us are.  It sure feels like we are when we are going through some shit, but I have learned that if I open my mouth and speak up, I will find someone who says “Me too.”  Always.  I live in this world where it’s usually easy for people to open up and share their struggles with me because I am so open about mine.  On the internet.  If you know me in real life, “I’m fine.”  I am always OK.  It was only last night while I was journaling that I realized this.  I always throw up the I’m fine wall.  It’s probably not a secret to those who know me and my therapist will probably laugh that I am just figuring this out.  I’m OK when I know I’m not but I don’t take the time to identify what I am feeling.  I wrote myself a little “Notice That” with an asterisk in my journal.  I guess that comes from a lifetime of numbing myself out.  Whew.  Always learning.  The work is never done.  But, now that I have this new information, I can work with it.  One would think with ALL the meditation and yoga and “noticing that” I do in my life ALL DAY, EVERY DAY that I would be an expert by now.  But, it seems, “notice that” is as far as I have ever gone.  Not “identify that.”  Identify that could be a game changer for me.  I tell my therapist all the time that I may be slow, but I am oh so thorough!  And really, what’s the hurry?  As far as I can tell, this is a lifetime path.  I can be healed and still healing.  Someone once left a comment on my blog that I am a “Soul Detective” and that was my favorite thing ever.  If it was you, you should tell me so I can hug you.  😊  I am still my favorite project but you should know that if you are on this path, and lean on me for guidance and support, chances are you are my other favorite “project.”   I root for you and want to see you win.  Complete strangers root for me and it’s the coolest thing ever.  Sometimes those strangers become my friends.  Have you ever talked to or hung out with someone you know nothing about but knows everything about you?  I have and I do often and it’s weird as fuck.   At the same time it’s completely liberating to have nothing to hide.  Boom.  This is me.  And you’re still here.  It’s our humanness that connects us all.  Our “not having it all figured out.”  Our “still learning and still growing.”  Our struggle really is our strength and when we share that we open the door for powerful connections.   And suddenly I am no longer afraid to sit with my deep dark shit and sort it out on paper.  I know someone will come hold my hand or just sit with me if I need that.  I also know that I know how to take care of ME and that I will feel so much better once it’s done.  I’m not saying it will get done today, because I’m busy.  Remember? 😂 But I’ll do it.  And then I’ll burn that shit.

All the Feels

I am in that weird space of having a million things to write about and yet nothing comes up for me.  My thoughts are scattered here there and everywhere.  The “problem” is that more and more people are reading my blog and I get in my head about it. Am I oversharing?  Will my readers like this?  The truth that I need to remember is that this blog is for me.  It’s a great tool to look back and see how things are unfolding for me.  So here I go.
Yesterday was such a weird day for me emotionally.  I joked about everyone crying in yoga, and maybe they needed that, but it was me who I was really talking about.  I was on the verge of tears all day.  But they didn’t come.  I have written about repressed memories coming up for me in the past.  And I processed those the best way I could.  I really figured that was it and I was done with that.  Life is great.  Things are flowing my way effortlessly and easily. I AM connected and divinely guided.  So when more shit from my past pops up, it knocks the wind out of me.  Last week I sat on my therapist’s couch with my journal of “all the amazing things” that are going on in my life.  The amazing things are always the things I want to talk about.  When our time was almost up, I blurted out “want to do the therapy now?”  And of course she did, because that’s her job.  I told her that I have had more memories of childhood sexual abuse surfacing.  When she asked me if I could talk about it, I just looked at her and said nothing.  We both chuckled a little and she told me that “was an invitation.”  My response to her was that I obviously couldn’t talk about it.  Because nothing was coming out.  So weird because I do trust this woman so much.  I have spent some time on this and perhaps it’s the office and the couch that get me.  Like “white coat syndrome.”  Maybe I should ask her to sit on the floor with me.  I bet she would.  She’s cool like that.  Since I wouldn’t or couldn’t talk about the memories with her, she offered up some suggestions as to what I could do to move through it.  Dance it out, write it out, yoga it out.  The things she knows I am comfortable with.  The first time, back in the spring, when she suggested “dance it out” I thought she was nuts.  And now, well, we all know how that ended.  What I was looking for was a definitive answer about why this is happening again and when will it end.  The why is simple. She’s explained it before, but she explained it again.   Because I am strong and healthy and have all the support in the world.  And because I have everything I need to look at these things when they come up and then let them go.  The when will it end isn’t as simple.  I read everything I could find about this subject, but there are no concrete answers.  Unfortunately we live in a world where this is fairly common.  I reached out to a friend who I am able to be completely open with and talked to her about it.  She has her own experience with this exact thing.  Which is what I needed more than anything.  Someone who has been where I am.  Someone with personal experience.  This is what I gathered from our conversation.  Something in my present moment experience triggered these memories.  They are there to teach me something.  And I guess as the healthy adult that I am, it’s not really a big deal.  But, it feels like a big deal to me when it happens.  Talking to my friend helped more than anything. She told me there really is no specific end date.  No magic time. Healing is a lifetime process.  More than anything, just knowing that I am not alone in this experience was helpful.  The specifics aren’t important and I don’t need to share with everyone or maybe even anyone.  My plan is simply to honor the path that got me to where I am today.  I keep telling myself to write it down and burn it.  A ritual.  I love ritual.  Not that I have done it yet, but it’s coming.  The gift in this is that it never crosses my mind to hide from it.  It never crosses my mind to numb myself.  What I have done is take 1,000 baths.  Maybe I am subconsciously trying to crawl back into the womb.  Whatever.  It feels good and it soothes me.  The bathtub is where I spent all of my free time when I first got sober.  It’s still a go to when I am emotionally triggered.  And honestly, I have been super sensitive lately.  OR, maybe I AM super sensitive and I have been allowing myself to experience that. I don’t know.   What I do know is that I am human.  A human with ALL THE FEELS who doesn’t have everything figured out and probably never will.  The good news is that I am surrounded by healers and sensitive souls who will hold my hand when I need that.  The reality is that I really do have everything I need already available to me and I can handle whatever comes my way.  So I lean in to the uncomfortable until it passes because I know for sure and certain that joy is waiting for me on the other side.  I AM a warrior.
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Everything is a Practice.

I have landed on a consistent, weekly writing practice. I say practice, because that’s exactly what it is. The more I show up and do it, the better I get at it. Like everything else. Everything is a practice. That phrase used to piss me off like no other when my therapist would say it to me. Because I couldn’t understand what she meant. I would come to her freaking out about one thing or another and her words to me would be “Remember, everything is a practice.” I am sure my practice at the time was to yell “What the fuck does that even mean?!” at her. She was very patient. Or she wasn’t and she just had really good boundaries and a strong sense of self. I am guessing it’s the latter. My consistent writing practice has been taking place on Sunday mornings as of late, and even though I didn’t write this morning, here I am, showing up for myself. I didn’t write this morning because I went to yoga church instead. Yoga Church is the practice that grounds and centers me for my week ahead like nothing else. It connects me to my past and roots me in my present. The same therapist who taught me that “everything is a practice” is my Yoga Church teacher. If you are familiar with my story, you already know I had a love/hate relationship with this woman. I could always count on her to call me on my bullshit like no one ever had. And I hated her for it. But I paid her good money to (in my mind) be mean to me every week. The reality is that she was honest with me in a way nobody else would be. She didn’t sugar coat the truth and wrap it in a pretty package either. I would have certainly preferred that. I have a head full of her “classic one liners” that were both absurd and hilarious. But spot on too. Nothing is hilarious unless there’s a bit of truth to it. When I first started going to the Buddhist Temple to look for peace and clarity, I mentioned this to her. She looked at me without batting an eye and said “Please don’t fuck the monks.” In my mind that was absurd, but in reality, I understood why she would say that to me. The me I was on that day anyway. I am sure I wasn’t even truly offended until I got in my car to leave and I am equally sure I called her and let her know how awful I thought she was. That was the standard procedure. I would spend an hour on her couch. She would piss me off. I would think about it on my drive home and upon my arrival I would call her and complain to her. About her. Or I would call her in the middle of the night, on the office emergency line if need be, because I needed something. Her.

I needed her.

During the time she was my therapist, I landed in a psychiatric hospital. I was allowed to make phone calls and I called her.

Because I needed her.

She reminded me to “practice my skills.” She was referring to the communication, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and mindfulness skills that I had been learning in my DBT Group. It seemed a little late for me to practice those skills since I was already in the hospital, but I went with it. I practiced my skills and did what I needed to do to get out of the hospital. But I stopped practicing when I got out. I was an emotional wreck, fueled by alcohol. Within a few months, I landed back in the psychiatric hospital. And I called her.

Because I needed her.

She reminded me to “practice my skills.” “Everything is a practice” she said. I was so pissed because nothing about anything seemed like a practice to me. This was my LIFE and I was losing. I screamed into the phone “what the fuck does that even mean?!” She simply repeated that it’s all a practice. Life is a practice. I hung up on her. I practiced my skills, did what I needed to do and got out of that hospital. But when I got home, I stopped practicing. Again, I was an emotional wreck, fueled by alcohol. A month or two later, I ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Again. This time I was committed on an involuntary basis. This was a different hospital. This was a hospital where the steel doors were kept locked and I couldn’t leave if I wanted to. I was “a danger to myself and others.” I saw what real mental illness looks like in this hospital. I was terrified. I called my therapist.

Because I needed her.

She did not tell me to practice my skills. She did not remind me that everything is a practice. She said “Oh. You’re in the Ha Ha Hospital. Why are you calling me?” This was not the response I was expecting and I honestly didn’t know why I was calling her.

I just knew I needed her.

She told me there wasn’t a thing she could do for me. I told her bye and we hung up. She was right. There wasn’t a thing she could do for me. There wasn’t a thing anyone could do for me. I did what I needed to do to survive that hospital. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. Locked up. Terrified. I practiced my skills. I was there for 10 days. I was released from that hospital and eventually I started to “practice my skills” on a more consistent basis. I wish I could say this is the moment I got sober, but it’s not. It took more terrifying experiences to make me understand that alcohol was not helping me and was, in fact, destroying my life and killing me. It was destroying all the things I loved as well. I went back to therapy, and eventually I did get sober. When I rooted myself firmly in AA, that therapist let me go. She had given me all the tools I needed. She had pointed me in the direction of a skillful path. It was my turn to do the work. I was terrified.

And I needed her.

But I knew, it was time. I began the long, difficult process of becoming a sober person. And it sucked. So bad. I kept in occassional contact with that therapist just to let her know my progress and make sure she was still there.

Because I needed her.

Eventually, I needed her less and less, but she was always there when I emailed her, and that helped me let her go. I got sober. I grew. My life changed. Our relationship changed. I don’t need her today, but I am grateful for her presence in my life. She has been a wonderful teacher to me in so many ways. She gave me what I needed at the time even though it was never what I wanted. Today in “yoga church” as she was giving a dharma talk, she made a reference to a scientist who was so ahead of his time, that he was thought to be crazy. Isn’t that always the way it is with scientists? She told the class how this particular man “ended up in the ha ha hospital.”  I laughed out loud and flashed straight back to the day she said that to me. I remembered exactly the way it felt and the person I was back then. But then I came right back to the present moment.  I sat up a little straighter and beamed a little brighter because I am NOT that person today. That one little phrase made my practice that much sweeter. That one little phrase reminded me why I was there. I was there to practice. Everything we do is a practice.

Honoring ME

I saw a Facebook status yesterday that read “Living in process opens you up to constantly seeing connections.” I loved that so much and it resonated with me in the biggest way. My therapist recently said to me that she “loves how I continue to process hours after our session.”  That statement made me laugh so hard, because my life is a constant state of processing. I live there.  It’s the air I breathe.  I love it. I am my favorite project. I spent so much of my life asleep and numb and if I’m honest, blacked out that I love being awake and living with awareness. I love learning about myself and how I work. That’s why I spend so much time “working on myself.’ Not because I am so fucked up. Because I’m not. Most of the time, I am pretty happy with myself. This week I had three separate healing sessions. Because if one is good, three is better. I am wired to be ALL in or ALL out. I know that about me and I’m good with it.  There are others out there. I am NOT the only one. As always, I had a therapy session. My therapist is a spiritual gangster. I got my weekly dose of “where spirituality meets psychology.” My favorite. On Friday, I had a “practice” LifeLine session with a friend of mine who is studying to be a practitioner. I know a few LifeLine practitioners and I LOVE them ALL. But, I wasn’t sure it would be for me. I am always resistant to the unknown. It seemed a little too Woo Woo for me and I had my doubts. But, since I love and trust my friend, I went in with an open mind and an open heart. I didn’t investigate it at all before I went and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Which isn’t like me at all, because I am all about doing the research. I was a complete LifeLine virgin. And I loved it! She hit on some things that blew my mind. And, she did it through kinesiology which is science, not Woo Woo. Who knew?  LifeLine also focuses on aspects of Chinese Medicine, aromatherapy, epigenetics, EMDR, which we all know I’m the best at 😉 and tons of other really cool techniques. I’m guessing most of you are also unfamiliar with the process. You can check it out here.  I also went to an inner child healing workshop this weekend. Inner child healing is something I’ve been working on for a while now and it’s another thing I don’t seem to be the “best” at. Yet. Probably because I disconnected from that child. All of those little children. I went to this workshop on the down low, without telling people and kept it a “super secret” so I could have that space for myself without anyone I know being a part of the group. Wouldn’t you know when I pulled into that parking lot and stepped one foot out of my car, I heard my name being called. There are no super secrets in the healing community. And I hope this woman got what she needed out of this group. My jury is still out. But, I did spend the last two nights with some serious dreaming going on. Or, processing in my sleep, because that’s what it really was. So, maybe I got something from the group. This week I am going to take that child to play. Because she needs that. I had a mini melt down last week. It could have been the full moon/eclipse energy combined with all the celestial happenings. It could have been the PMS I was experiencing. It could have been that I was tired from the bazillion things I do. OR, it could have been that they all hit at once and I was just DONE. Only I wasn’t done because I had things to do. I know we have all been there. We push ourselves and we go and go. At least I do. Until I don’t. Which is exactly where I am. I took a day off to look at my schedule and made a few changes. I am cancelling my Monday and Wednesday 8 am classes so I can have those mornings for myself.  I’ve been on the fence about that for a while now, and I realize it was my soul telling me to let them go. Only I wasn’t listening. If you practice in the studio with me, be on the lookout for those schedule changes. I am down to 6 classes a week and I feel so good about that. I feel good about knowing what I need and honoring that. I have plenty of classes on the schedule and amazing teachers who love being there as much as I do. It’s a great feeling to know what I need and to be able to give that to myself. That comes from a lot of practice and doing the work. That comes from being mindful and intentional. Maybe next time I won’t even have to have the mini meltdown and eventually I will just listen to my soul as soon as I hear the whisper.  Before it yells at me. Practice!