Connected to Myself

What a difference a week makes.  The dreams about using meth went away after I wrote about them.  I love when that happens. They have been replaced with really weird dreams that probably should make me uncomfortable, but I can roll with most things.  I won’t write about them here because you would probably judge me, but at least they are changing up the scenery a bit.  And they give me something new to say “what the actual fuck” about.  I’ll take anything new and exciting at this point.  I hate to fill you in all things quarantine, but that’s the life we’re all living. I miss the beach.  I miss seeing the sunrise.  Technically the only thing stopping me from seeing the sunrise is my new tendency to sleep in.  I should be really well rested when we get to the other side of this.  I spent the entire winter hibernating.  In my bed. In my bath. In my home. I worked, but I didn’t create new content, workshops or anything outside of my standard schedule.  I felt good about it to.  I said no to so many event invites.  I rested and nourished my soul with zero guilt.  Then one day, I was ready to reemerge into the world.  I was ready to plan, create and live outside of my home. But the world said sit the fuck back down.  And here we are. Sitting.  I have a LOT of practice sitting.  I have a lot of practice with being uncomfortable.  I’m still not good at it, but I know how to do it. My heart goes out to those of you who don’t.  But what a perfect time to learn.   My week was much better because I felt useful.  I found that “purpose” outside of my house and outside of myself that I was looking for. I created my first online writing course. It was so special to connect with a group in that way.  To read their thoughts and feelings every day.  To share tools that are so helpful to me.  To see into their hearts and souls through their words.  I see more of this in my future.  Last night as I was lying in bed, the last thought (and maybe only thought) that went through my head was turning that embodied writing course into a real live studio class.  The thought excited me.   It’s been a minute since I have been really excited about anything other than eating.  Yesterday, a question came up on social media that caught my attention.  The question was “Did you pick one word to focus on this year and how do you feel about that word now?”  My one word is expansion.  It made me laugh.  Then it made me think.  It would certainly seem that this year has been the exact opposite of expansion. I’ve barely left my house.   I haven’t expanded the studio to incorporate online classes.  My circle has gotten even smaller as I have found that there are actually only a few people I wish to connect with regularly.  But, here’s the beautiful thing.  I have a real and true ‘knowing’ of who is important to me.  I have a real and true ‘knowing’ of who I am important to. I actually feel closer to a few people in my life because of this distance.  I suspect I am expanding in ways that I am not aware of yet, but will be so obvious to me by the end of the year.  That’s an exciting thought.  I feel closer to myself today. When I am in a funk, feeling depressed, feeling lonely, feeling all the unpleasant things, I am in need of connection.  To myself.  To my soul.  To God, Spirit, Source, whatever you want to call it.  I know this.  I know this.  I know this.  And I always forget it.   I got away from my meditation practice. I got away from my writing practice. Let me just throw it out there that I did not get away from my yoga practice, you know, in case my teacher reads this. Without taking time to be still every day, my soul doesn’t have an opportunity to tell me what it needs.  Well, technically it does, but I can’t hear unless I am still.  Everything is  a practice right?  I know you’ve heard me say that a bazillion times.  “Discipline is the highest form of self love” runs through my mind a lot these days when I’m doing literally none of the practices that sustain me.  But it’s not discipline is it?   It’s devotion.  Devotion to my higher self.  Back to my cushion.  Back to my journal.  Back to nature.  So simple.  The funny part is that these are all things I taught in the writing course I created.  I always teach the lessons I need.  And then I’m surprised later when I realize that it was all about me.  Every.  Damn.  Time.  I’ll be eager to see which direction the roller coaster moves me this week.  A nice, flat kiddie coaster would be cool, but I’ll roll with whatever comes.

What an uncomfortable time to be alive.

What an uncomfortable time to be alive.  When I open social media, which is way too often these days, I see two types of people.  The excessively grateful and the excessively pissy.  The pissy ones are the ones arguing with everyone and posting nothing but doom and gloom.  Arguing with everyone. I tend to fall on the excessively grateful side.  Don’t get me wrong, I can be all kinds of pissy and I am at some point every day lately, I just don’t spread that out into the world.  I keep it to myself, take it out on my yoga mat, put it in my journal and my husband gets more than his fair share of it.  Sorry Leon.  The world is stuck right now.  What I see is that those of us who have a practice are getting through a little easier than those who don’t.  When we actually practice.  Which is proving to be a challenge for me.  That’s why it’s called a practice, right?  I’m completely off my schedule like the rest of the world I imagine. Staying up late and sleeping in.  I miss my morning quiet time, before the world wakes up.  Some days I set my alarm, but most days I don’t.  Getting up early is one of those things I “should” be doing.  My mind swims in the things I “should” be doing.  I “should” be reading all those books on my shelf, and I am trying, but I’m just not into it.  I have two books that I am currently working my way through, both by authors I know and love. And I hate both books. I’m sure it’s just me and the weird mood and lack of focus I’m experiencing. Maybe I just need some good fiction in my life.  I “should” get my ass off social media because it’s a waste of time and since the studio is closed, I don’t have to promote my business.  But, my friends live there and it keeps me connected.  I unfollow and unfriend people constantly.  The negative Nelly’s.  Limiting screen time is on my list of things to do.  It’s seriously right at the top of my intentions.  I “should” be streaming online classes. I paid for a Zoom account and everything.  But here’s the thing.  I don’t want to.  And I have some guilt about it.  I feel bad about leaving my people high and dry, but the reality is that while yoga is absolutely essential, I am not.  Anyone can lead people through an asana practice.  Every teacher I know is streaming on Zoom.  It might be the Rebel in me that is refusing, but my heart just isn’t in it. I could change my mind next week.  Or even tomorrow.  That’s what I’m noticing more than anything is the way my mind and emotions are all over the place.  I know that’s not unique to me and we are all experiencing that.  I’m just trying to be gentle with myself and the rest of you.  All of this is showing me that I am judgmental AF.  That’s my lesson this week, this month, this year and maybe this lifetime.  I judge myself more than I am judging everyone else, but I catch myself doing that too and I have to stop and remind myself that we are all doing the best we can with what we have.  I just wish some of y’all could do better…….lol.    I “should” be writing.   I “should” be doing my taxes, but now I have that extension, and if you know me, you know I’m not. I “should” be connecting to my community and leading everyone in group meditation because the world needs that right now.  The list of things I should be doing goes on and on and here I am doing none of it.  That’s where I am.  Stuck.  And I know it’s ok.  I really do. I know I’m not alone in this.   Every day is a new opportunity to practice.  Practice moving forward through the stuck-ness. This feels a lot like early sobriety to me.  The being unsure of what I’m supposed to be doing.  The emotional rollercoaster.  The uncertainty.  The being uncomfortable.  All of it.  It’s not my favorite.  But unlike early sobriety, I have the tools to navigate this.  I can be uncomfortable.  I can be uncertain.  It’s about going back to basics. It’s about sitting with myself.  Just sitting.  Writing my way through it, which I will admit I haven’t done.  I opened my journal yesterday and saw that I hadn’t written in it since March 10th.  Which is craziness, but these are crazy times.  And I wrote.  No guilt over all the days that had gone by. I just poured my heart out onto the pages. Back to basics means that I might be taking two baths a day.  Snuggling my boys.  Netflix.  I don’t even watch TV, but here I am on the Tiger King train(wreck).  I even busted out the adult coloring book today.  That took me way back.  I’m getting by the best I can.  I believe we all are.  Whatever that looks like for each of us.  I’m letting go of “should” and doing what works. Giving myself permission to just be. My heart hurts for the world.  Some moments it overwhelms me.  I am one of those excessively grateful people.  I have to be.  Gratitude carries me through.  I can be mad, sad and all the things in between, as long as I bring it back to gratitude for all the things that are right in the world.  Gratitude is my anchor.  I see beauty on the other side of this.    I’ll keep looking for the beauty in every day. I have everything I need plus all the extras for my comfort. I have my family and community for support and love and I have all the free time I could ever ask for. When I feel overwhelmed, I bring it back to this. Again and again.

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.

Self Discipline is the Highest Form of Self Love

Last night I shared a quote in moon circle that I am completely in love with.  “Discipline is the highest form of self love.”  I shared it because there was a woman in the circle who needed to hear it.  There were probably others who needed to hear it as well. I need to be reminded of it constantly.  Someone recently commented on one of my FB posts that I am so disciplined.  And I loved that she saw me that way. It’s more true than not.  I am all about self love.  I am all about naps, and eating to nourish my body, writing in journals and big fat bubble baths.  With snacks.  Self love can look like that.  Self love can also look very different.  I once had a therapist tell me I had to learn to love myself enough to tell myself no.  I have no doubt that I was filling her ears with all sorts of nonsense that was going on in my personal life.  I got away with ridiculous things because nobody ever told me no.  Nobody ever told me I couldn’t/shouldn’t do a thing that was obviously harmful.  In fact, I talked most people into doing those things with me.  I had some pretty unhealthy habits going on at the time.  Loving myself enough to tell myself no wasn’t one of them.  This was just one of many things she told me that I paid no attention to.  Because it was all bullshit.  I really could not fathom living a different way. Until I did. I stopped drinking before I wanted to.  It was a have to.  Looking back, I realize that giving up alcohol was a radical act of self love even though it felt like the exact opposite.  Self love is also saying yes to the things that are good for us.  I had to say yes to AA because that’s where I was going to meet sober people.  Sober people didn’t exist in my world.  I had to go to the weird meetings with “those people.”  I wasn’t like those people.  I was different.  Special.  That therapist assured me that I was not special.  Just like that.  “You’re not special.”  Asshole.  I was pretty sure she was wrong about that one.  I was pretty sure she was wrong about most things.  But, here’s the truth.  I’m not special.  None of us are.  And we all are.  We are all humans doing the best we can with what we have to work with.  Back then, I didn’t have a lot to work with.  But I have had some amazing teachers on this path and I am a completely different person than I was 6 years ago.  Because I pay attention.  This morning I sat down to write about Discipline, but I hadn’t yet been on my mat and I just couldn’t bring myself to write about something I wasn’t practicing.  So I got up, went down on the dock and practiced yoga.  Because I love myself enough to do the things I know are good for me.  I love myself enough to pursue the things that are going to lead to my ultimate happiness even when they aren’t necessarily the things I feel like doing.  My alarm is set for 4:30 am.  On weekdays, I wake my children around 5 am.  This gives me 30 minutes to myself.  I use this time to meditate and write.  My preference would be to drink coffee and scroll on my phone.  I’m not perfect and sometimes that is exactly how I spend my quiet time.  That is NOT what nourishes my soul.  I don’t wake up at 4:30 excited to write and sit in silence, but I do it because I know it keeps me sane.  It keeps me connected. I’m not telling you to wake up at 4:30 am. In fact, every evening before I fall asleep my mind begins to tell me all of the reasons I can’t wake up in the morning and do what I want/need to do. If I listened to this voice, I would never practice in the shala because Wilmington is too far to drive. I would never get on my mediation cushion because I have chores to do.  I would never sit down to write because someone, somewhere, needs me to do something for them.  There are always reasons that I shouldn’t wake up early for my morning practices. They are all very believable reasons.  The little voice in my head throws them all at me when I set my alarm and get in bed. That’s my self sabotage voice.  This voice will have me wasting my time, sitting on my ass, drinking coffee and scrolling on my phone.  Really.  That voice will have me wasting entire days if I let it. I don’t have that kind of time because there are so many things I want to do.  Don’t get me wrong, I really do need days that are quiet and restful.  Recovery time after big “extrovert events.”  I need solitude.  We all know I need my naps.   But, I also need to do the things I know are good for me. Especially when I don’t want to. I only dread these things until I get started.    And then……then comes the sense of accomplishment.  The good feelings.  The joy. I have been practicing this lifestyle for quite a while now, and I know the practices that keep me centered.  I am not a runner, but I am willing to bet that runners don’t jump out of bed eager to go running every day.  I also imagine the people who hit the gym every day don’t always feel like it. Artists probably don’t want to create every day. I could go on and on, but you get it. Everything we do is a practice and being disciplined is no different.  Discipline is loving ourselves enough to say no to the things that aren’t good for us and loving ourselves enough to say yes to the things that are.  It’s dropping the distractions to focus on what truly needs our attention. It’s picking up our tools when we are having a shitty day and using them when we want to wallow in misery.  It’s keeping the promises we make to ourselves.  Discipline really is the highest form of self love.  

Life is a beautiful practice

I took a solid 6 weeks off from writing on the blog.  On purpose.  Because I haven’t had time to be here. Or, I guess I should say that it hasn’t been a priority. But don’t you worry, I’ve been busy writing in my journals.  All 23 of them.  LOL  That “might” be a stretch, but those of you who journal will totally get that.  I have a journal for everything.  My mind is a busy place.  For the past 6 weeks I have been practicing Ashtanga Yoga in Wilmington.  If you know me you KNOW because I will take any opportunity I can to talk about it.  I wrote about my plan to check it out in my last post.  Right here.  I really wasn’t sure I would love it.  But, because I am me, there was a 50/50 chance.  Love or hate.  No in between.  As it turns out, I can add it to the list of things I LOVE.  Isn’t it great how the things we need come to us at the perfect time.  If we are open and paying attention.  How could I not love a tradition that honors the natural cycles of the moon as well as the natural cycles women’s bodies?  In Ashtanga there is no practice on full moon and new moon days.  And then there’s “Lady’s Holiday.”  Not what I would have called it, but definitely a time that I don’t want to be on my mat twisting deeply and locking my mula bandha. I had an aversion to taking this holiday for about two minutes.  Because it seemed like taking the easy out. Which is weird because I constantly tell my students to honor their bodies. I have a yoga period story that I won’t share here, but it helped me in making the decision to take the days off. That and a 5 am text to my new teacher asking what he recommended in that situation. That wasn’t awkward at all. 😂 For the record, he recommended that I honor my body and take the time off. I am learning to do just that.  Slowly.  I thought I had the honoring my body and being gentle with myself part down, but the things that go on in my head at times, make it clear to me that I’m not there yet. It’s also obvious to me that I have come so far.  I’m not my own worst enemy anymore.  Not on a daily basis anyway.  I’m learning to step onto my mat and let go of expectations.  Some days my body pleasantly surprises me and other days it’s like WTF? I’m not the strongest person in the shala where I practice.  I’m not the “best” if there is such a thing.  (*hint* There’s not such a thing) Some days I fall out of headstand. Headstand. Really.  I haven’t yet completely learned the sequence in such a way that I don’t have to stop and think about it.  I still forget poses in the sequence.  I don’t have the opening and closing chants memorized yet. I haven’t yet learned all of the Sanskrit names of the poses. My brain is still busy for at least the first half of my practice. I can’t fully do some of the poses.  But none of that matters.  I have found a practice for ME.  I get to be a beginner.  I get to learn and grow. I get to show up for me.  I come home to myself every time I step on my mat. I am learning the importance of slow and steady and I am reminded of progress not perfection every single time I enter the shala door.   And I am grateful.  My teacher is one of only two authorized Ashtanga teachers in all of North Carolina. His shala is only 45 minutes away.  How awesome is that?  Today I woke up at 4:30 so I could practice in the shala at 6:30.  It was 1000 degrees and so humid that the concrete floor was slick with condensation.  I loved every minute of “trying not to die.”  I can do hard things.  I can do the hard things until they become easier.  On the mat and off of the mat.  Yoga Sutra 2.46 Sthira sukham asanam –  Asana is steady and comfortable.  Learning to find steadiness and ease in the challenging poses on my mat is where it all starts.  I can take that out into the world and into my life finding steadiness and ease in the most challenging times.  Life is FULL of challenging situations. Life is a beautiful practice. Yoga teaches me so much. 

Hiding from the world.

We are well into Janauary and this is my first blog.  I think I’m hiding from the world.  In my bathtub.  I have been avoiding the process of sitting down to write out of fear of sounding like a whiny baby.  But whatever.  I have been in a weird space since 2019 started.  I know I won’t stay stuck in it, but I have also learned to honor my now and allow myself to be where I am.  I’ll tell you where I am.  Lonely.  I am in a perpetual state of loneliness. Not sad. Not depressed. Just lonely.   I’m surrounded by a tribe of amazing people in all of my communities from home and outward into the real world as well as the virtual world.  It would seem lonely isn’t something I “should” ever feel.  See those quotations around “should?”  That’s because I do know should is a bullshit word and my feelings are valid.  So there’s that.  It seems the more connected I am, the more alone I feel.  My brain knows that I am NOT alone.  My heart is learning that not all of my relationships are real.  I am a sensitive soul and lately my feelings are getting hurt left and right.  I’m not exactly sure what that’s about, but I suspect it has a lot to do with actually paying attention to my feelings.  That’s therapy working.  As of late it’s becoming clear to me that some people want to be around me because they think I can do something for them.  Add to their status or popularity.  And it hurts my feelings.  That seems childish as I read it, but I’m also someone who is learning to tune in and pay attention to my inner child. Again, valid.  It’s not such a big deal when it comes from someone I don’t know that well, but when it comes from someone I love, it sucks.   What hurts worse is when someone who IS my friend and I know loves me blindsides me with a passive aggressive comment about my happy life.  I imagine that happens to everyone?  Jealousy?  Envy?  Those words are hard to say and sound harsh, but I can’t find any other words that seem right.  Yesterday I saw my favorite Woo Woo Witch Healer and she informed me that it hurts because it’s opening an old wound that hasn’t fully healed.  The wound of being used? Or jealous people?   I’ll have to dive into my journal on that one, but I have no doubt she’s right.  I learned from trauma informed yoga training that “if it’s hysterical, it’s historical.”  If something is triggering us today, it is coming from our past.  It seems I will never run out of “work” to do on myself.  Soul Detective work. I have put a lot of energy into building a loving and supportive community for myself.  In the early days I called this Team Shannon.  I still have my team. I have come full circle in that area and now I get to be on other people’s teams.  Cheering them on and supporting them.  I find that to be meaningful “work.”  I love to see others succeed.  Seems everyone doesn’t feel that same way.  Lately the word “discernment” has been appearing in my life on repeat.  This is the lesson I am getting hit with hard this January.  Learning how to discern my circle.  I have never been that person who needs everyone to like me.  In fact, I have been the opposite.  Quite content to push people away.  That’s the exact reason I don’t have many friends from my childhood or even my life pre-sobriety. I never learned how to build healthy relationships.  Sobriety has given me that gift.  Sobriety and a spiritual path.  I don’t need everyone’s love and friendship.  I am not for everyone and everyone is not for me.  I’m just trying to figure out who gets to sit at my table.  I also know that when I am feeling lonely, it’s the time I most need to be alone.  The Divine is present within me and I am NEVER alone. And there it is.  There’s my aha moment right there.  THAT is the connection I am seeking.  Funny how putting my thoughts down in a blog can bring me clarity that a journal can’t always bring me to. Beautiful. And now I’ll just be over here, practicing discernment, connecting with a power greater than myself and finding my way.

Allow

In 2018 I chose the word “learn” as my one word mantra.  This has been my year to learn on so many levels.  With all of that learning came a lot of leveling up.  This was my year of cacao, kirtan and dancing.  Opening my heart more, connecting to something greater than myself and being FREE.   This was my year of the inner child.  Listening to her and helping her feel safe.   This was my writing year. So.  Much. Writing.  A year of finding my voice. A work in progress, but I have made giant leaps.  This has been a year of healing old wounds. An ongoing process I am sure.  This is the year I learned that I am an artist simply because I allow the creator to create through me.  I am always creating.  This was my year of connection and community.  I have a full understanding of how important community really is.  This is the year I learned to truly get out of my own way and stop doubting myself all the time.  My year of listening to my intuition which doesn’t seem to steer me wrong.  This is the year I allowed myself to show up and be seen in my ALL of it.  This has been a powerful year full of learning and lessons simply because I was paying attention.   A year of soul growth.  The year my faith grew by leaps and bounds.  A beautiful year.  A difficult year. This is the year of learning to love some people from afar.  Boundaries.  Something I am still learning about.  Most of my big learning moments are right here on this blog and I can see the growth this year brought.  Writing has connected me to some amazing people this year who have reached out to me as they began their own “journey to wholeness.”   A testament to how powerful our stories are.  People are seeking connection and community.  I love to watch people grow.  I suspect a lot of you love to witness my growth.  People are mostly good I think.  Sometimes I think my world isn’t actually reality because it’s so magical and full of so many loving and supportive people.  Healers of all kinds and spiritual seekers.  People who always strive to be the best version of themselves.  But it IS my reality and I have worked hard to build that reality for myself.  Also, I am deserving of all the blessings that flow my way.  I’m not sure I believed that on this day last year, and it is still kind of hard to say out loud, but I believe it.   What’s even more special is that I get to share so much with so many.  That’s the true gift.  My heart is overflowing with gratitude this morning.  I will be carrying all the lessons, all the growth and all the gratitude with me into the new year.  And I will build on that.  New Years is my favorite!  I thought long and hard about what my one word would be for 2019.  Last week as I was making vision boards with a friend, it became crystal clear to me that my word is “Allow.”  Not in a passive or weak way, but as a spiritual practice.  There’s not a thing wrong with having a vision, but what I know is that when I ALLOW the creator to create through me, anything I want to manifest, create or experience will show up in my life as it is meant to.  I allow things to happen without having to control and manipulate people and situations.  When I can do this, the Universe always delivers something more amazing than I could have planned.  2019 is going to rock. 💥

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.

1,700 Days

Guess who woke up 1,700 days sober today? This girl right here! I am not really a day counter so much anymore, but occasionally I check my sobriety app and yesterday I happened to hit it at 1,699.    Last night before I fell asleep, I was thinking about my first AA meeting. Not really my first, because honestly, my first meeting was after a 28 day stay in a treatment center when I was 21 years old. I was battling an addiction to methamphetamine then, and not an alcoholic (in my mind), so I really couldn’t relate and didn’t feel like those meetings were the place for me. (I’ll share more on meth addiction another day) My first meeting on my journey to getting sober was here on Oak Island. I think it was early fall. September or October, but I could be totally wrong about that. Because I was drunk. I woke up that morning to find that my husband had hidden my car keys and wallet. A sure sign that the day before had not been a good one. He had also hidden my bottle of bourbon. Or poured it out. But, he didn’t hide the Mike’s Hard Lemonade (which I typically mixed with vodka). So, at 8 am, I started drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade because that’s what I had.  I was very much drinking it to piss my husband off. I was drinking AT him. That was something I did regularly. Like a child. I called a friend to start a bitch session about what an asshole he was to hide all of my stuff.  She stopped me short to ask WHY I was drinking at 8 o’clock in the morning. She couldn’t wrap her head around it and proceeded to tell me that I was drinking way too early and it was happening way too often. She told me that I might have a problem with alcohol and that I should go to an AA meeting.  She offered to take me to a meeting that was starting at 9 am.  I got off the phone and got ready to go, still drunk from the previous day and working toward a new day’s drunk. A few minutes later she called me back because her car wasn’t in her driveway. She had forgotten that she got a ride home the previous night and didn’t have her car. Immediately, I felt it was shady that I needed a meeting but she didn’t? For whatever reason, I was ready to go and kind of set on it, so I called another friend who came to my house, picked me up and took me to the church where the meeting was. She recognized the blue AA sign in the window, told me this was the place for me and dropped me off with my Mike’s Hard Lemonade. What a freaking mess I must have been. And really, her too, for recognizing the AA sign from her own attempts at getting sober and for letting me into and out of her car with that drink. But, Whatever, I was the one who was drunk at 8 am.  I got out of her car, took a big drink or the Mike’s, and poured the rest out. I walked into the meeting late and disruptive. As soon as someone tried to speak to me, I immediately became angry. Really, really angry.   I had nothing in common with these people. As far as I could tell they were a bunch of miserable old men who were forced to go to these meetings every day for the rest of their lives and that was it for them.   A miserable existence that I wanted no part of.  It terrified me.  I acted like a complete asshole in hopes that everyone would hate me and I would never be invited back. Imagine my surprise when they told me to “keep coming back.” And I did. As it turned out, everyone I knew was incredibly happy that I was going to meetings. In their minds it meant I was not drinking. In reality, it meant I was hiding my drinking and drinking even more because nobody knew. Let me tell you, once a person starts hiding their drinking, it goes downhill quickly. Since nobody knew, I could drink at 6 am. And I did. I just had to keep the ice quiet as I was filling my glass. I drank all day. Everyday.  I even woke up in the middle of the night and drank myself back to sleep.  The next year and a half was horrible. I was never not drinking, and therefore always making poor choices.  My therapist was treating me for Borderline Personality Disorder. Since nobody knew how much I drank, there MUST have been some real mental health issues going on with me. And I went with it. I took that Borderline Personality Disorder and owned it.  I even had the shirt. Seriously.  A shirt with the diagnosis code on it.   It was easier to go to therapy and work towards living a good life with Borderline Personality Disorder than it was to not drink.  I joined a Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT) group and went every week. I sat in that group and judged all of those people in my head. They had real problems. I obviously did not. My life was a constant attempt to be drunk, without appearing drunk. My entire life was a lie. And it was hard. The reality is that I wasn’t really fooling anyone but myself, and at some point I stopped hiding. I landed in the ER countless times. On one occasion, because I no longer cared about anything at all, I went to bed in the middle of the afternoon with a half gallon of vodka. I proceeded to drink the majority of it straight out of the bottle and what I didn’t get in my mouth, I spilled all over myself and the bed. My husband decided I was probably going to die that day and he wasn’t having it. He called 911 and I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. All of those trips to the hospital run together for me and I don’t have a clear memory of exactly what happened next. Some of those trips ended with me locked in the psych hospital. Sometimes they ended in detox or a treatment center. Never was it a happy place for me and never was it where I wanted to be. All through this process I was attending AA meetings and resisting the program because I didn’t believe I was powerless over alcohol and that my life was unmanageable. Can you imagine? THAT was a miserable existence. That miserable existence is one I never want to go back to.  Every day I am grateful for the moment of clarity that hit me on day 5 of my final treatment center.  The day I chose to live.

That’s why I do the work. I choose me. I choose to live. Some days I think it takes a lot to be me. Some days I slack, but there are so many things in my repertoire, that I am hitting on at least two or three of them daily. Meditation. Yoga. Journaling. Meetings. Energy Healing. Therapy.  I’m adding Kirtan and Dancing to that mix because they feel so good to me. There’s healing in all of it. In the past 1,700 days I have built a life that I absolutely love. It is through my recovery that I discovered my gifts, my passion and my purpose. I am FULL of joy today. I know what it’s like to live in the dark, and I am grateful when even the tiniest light shines my way.   Today, the whole sun is shining on me.

Balance

I was getting really good at writing consistently for a minute. Until I wasn’t. Writing is the one thing that always feels like home to me, and yet, sometimes I avoid it. I missed all of April. It was a good month full of really high highs and some really low lows. I’m not bipolar and I don’t need medication. I just feel all the feels in a big way. It’s a good thing. Especially for someone who spent a lifetime numbing all those feels. I hosted Kirtan in the studio last month. It was powerful and it was beautiful. I am so in awe of this life that it occasionally takes my breath away. This was one of those times. To be in my studio surrounded by an entire collection of people I love and am loved by from all the different areas of my life was beyond amazing. AA peeps, yogis, Goddesses and a few friends from way back when. It was pure love. The vibration of that evening was so high that it took me a few days to recover. It was a huge crash after an outstanding high.
That weekend, Leon took me out to a rooftop bar for a concert in Wilmington. I wasn’t feeling it at all. That’s just not my scene anymore. But, Leon has loved the band that was playing since college and seeing him in his glory was fabulous. It was crowded and loud and as the evening wore on people were more and more obnoxious. Read drunk. I was well aware that I used to do the exact same thing, and I really tried to not be judgemental. I stepped out of the crowd and found a corner to chill in. Away from all the people. At that moment the Azalea Festival down below was coming to a close and the festivities ended with a huge fireworks display. I stood away from the crowd watching the fireworks which were phenomenal. What was even more phenomenal is that at that moment, I heard the lyrics of the song from the band. They were singing “Jesus Christ” over and over. They were calling out to THEIR Higher Power. It was like rock and roll Kirtan with awesome fireworks. It was so powerful that it’s hard to put into words. In that moment, in the sea of drunken chaos, I felt God. I shared it with Leon, but I’m not sure if he got it or not. I’m also not sure it was for him or anyone else to “get.” I got it. Loud and clear.
Then there are the lows. The lows for me last month came in the form of more repressed memories surfacing. I no longer feel crazy when it happens, but I do feel violated. It takes my breath away in a completely different way. My therapist assures me that eventually I will start to recover joyful memories once I clear out all the shitty ones. I can’t wait. For now, I’m still dealing with the shitty ones. They leave me feeling raw and vulnerable and afraid. When this happens, I want to hide from the world. Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I have places to be and things to do that I can’t put off. Those are usually the exact things I need in my life to distract me and put me back into the present moment. I’ve always thought gratitude was the quickest way to raise my vibration, but after an experience I had working with another woman last week, I think selfless service ranks right up there. Those AA people were right again. Who knew? Life goes on and I move forward with an entire network of awesome humans who love and support me. I let go again and again and again. As many times as I need to. I remind myself that I am safe. The present moment is a beautiful moment.
My month ended on an incredible high. I was asked to sub “Yoga Church.” People who know me understand why this was so huge for me. For those of you who don’t, here’s a little backstory. The woman who teaches the Sunday morning “Yoga Church” class I attend used to be my therapist. I paid her a lot of money to sit in her office and bitch about how much I hated my life and almost everyone I knew. There were times I would show up drunk for therapy and be a complete asshole. I called her in the middle of the night on the emergency line on more than one occasion because, clearly, I needed her. Her response to those calls was always “oh, it’s you.” Then there was the time she called me out for wearing a tiny skirt by telling me she could see my vagina. Because, obviously, nobody else was going to tell me. I’m sure I called her and bitched at her for telling me that after I got home. I could go on and on with the ways I loved to hate this woman. She was hard on me and she was exactly what I needed at the time. She’s so special to me. Eventually, I started to hear the things she was saying to me. I trusted her and she didn’t steer me wrong. She introduced me to yoga, meditation and a complete different lifestyle. A (mostly) wholesome lifestyle. Sitting in her seat to teach was one of the highlights of my sober life thus far. Not because I did an amazing job and taught a packed class. I didn’t. The class was tiny and I hopefully did alright. The fact that she asked me to do it was everything. I was so emotional on Sunday morning as I drove to that class. I experienced love, compassion and forgiveness for the girl I used to be. I also experienced the soul explosion of joy and gratitude for the woman I am today and this beautiful life that I have worked so hard for. In fact, the soul explosion was so huge, that I took a three hour nap on Monday and used the day to recover. Balance eludes me. I have big emotions. I think it’s just who I am. I know for sure it’s better than being numb.