Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: self-care

Pick a Fear! Any Fear!

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Photo by Sergi Viladesau on Unsplash

A magician playing the game of “guess my card” is what I think of when I think to work on my fears.

I know. Everyone faces fear at some point in their lives. Some of us live with it daily. What mine? Ridiculous, to be completely honest. Generally, my mind is filled with “What if?” questions that can never be answered. The ones that everyone tells everyone else to ignore. I try to put them out of my head and live in the moment I’m in, but they creep back in again, along with wondering what would happen if we all paid a little more attention to the potential consequences of our actions instead. Wouldn’t it make the world just a little nicer? I mean, if other people paid more attention to what they were doing and how it could affect the people around them, maybe I wouldn’t have so much to worry about, damn it!

Sometimes I worry about the bigger things. Things like, am I raising my kids to be civilized and responsible adults? Will they grow up and be independent, decent people? If I make the choice to buy a new car, will I be able to afford it a year from now? Can I juggle my relationships in a way that makes us all happier and healthier people, or am I ruining the lives of those around me?

Then there are the silly things that I get stuck on. If I go to the grocery store today, will I just have to go again tomorrow? What if I start buying more things online? Am I bothering the person driving behind me with my slow-ass VW? Should I call my friend and bother her or let her come to me if she needs help? Should I stay or should I go now? …starts singing in her head…

It becomes overwhelming at times, but it passes pretty quickly. I’ve learned to take a break when I begin to feel the creeping sensation of anxiety. I sit alone and meditate or go for a long walk to clear my head. Talking about it helps too. Walking and spilling out all the bullshit ideas to someone who won’t take any of it too seriously and won’t tell me that I overthink things helps me more than anything else.

I can’t just shove it all aside and ignore it or quietly allow all the negativity to release into thin air. It’s just not helpful to me. Those things eventually float back down and attach themselves to my psyche like I’m a magnet for my ugliest thoughts. Not until I voice them do they begin to dissipate and dissolve. In my head and unspoken, they swirl around and build on each other like a snowball rolling downhill. Voiced into the world, these crappy ideas just can’t hold their shape and are crushed by the positive reality around them, vanquished.

So what can I do to create a safe space to release this negative energy without destroying those around me and ruining any sense of peace in my relationships? Two things. The first is to write it out. I type it out in my journal or open up a notebook and get a pen. Pen and paper is my preferred method. I draw pictures, spell out elaborate curse words in bold letters, express all the things I want to say to everyone I want to say it to in the worst ways, without regard for anyone’s feelings or well-being. These paper journals may terrify someone some day. I have plans to put them in a box with an explanation on the lid, so that if I die suddenly, no one will come across that ugliness and wonder what went wrong. This therapeutic writing helps a lot, most of the time. But sometimes I need more.

My second, and most favored, form of release is to walk and talk with a safe person. That’s usually my sweet husband. When I’m walking and talking the words and ideas aren’t nearly as harsh as when I write them. Something about the physical exertion helps tame them. I talk out all the things that weigh on me and he listens and walks beside me. Rarely does he try to fix it for me or express concern for my sanity. He just listens. And I feel lighter at every step. It feels much like a miracle. By the time we get back, my mood has improved, nothing seems so terrible and impossible anymore. We get a drink of water, relax into the couch or porch chairs, rest up a bit, and then continue with our day in peace.

How do you deal with fear? Do you release it into the wild? Suppress it? Reason it away? Or do you give into it and decide fear is there to warn you of danger and avoid what it is your fear most?

Letter to My Grumpy Self

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Dear Me,

I know you’re tired and grumpy. I know you are frustrated with yourself. I know you want so badly to do better, to complete more tasks, to be more organized, to eat better, to be stronger and healthier.

I know you want to run out into the world screaming obscenities. I know you want to connect with other humans on a deeper level, to spend quality time with real friends, and to run away and hide at the same time.

I know you’re thinking, last week was so good, why does this week suck so bad? Why can’t I stay on track? Why can’t I keep up the pace? Everyone else seems to be able to do so much and here I am grumbling. You feel lazy and “out of sorts.”

I know you don’t want to hear this but you are enough right where you are. Your house is clean enough. Your family and friends love you just the way you are. You honor your commitments. You love people unconditionally. You do your best.

Life is a big series of cycles, ups and downs that keep things interesting. Imagine how boring it would be if every day you got up and felt the same way? Even joy starts to get depressing if its all you ever experience!

The kids are distracting you. Embrace them. They’re teenagers. They’ll be gone soon, just like the exhausting babies, the disruptive and messy kids, and anxious and annoying preteens they used to be and that you miss so much when you see those old pictures.

The weather has changed, and you can’t go outside and do the thing you were doing last week. Notice and enjoy it. Remember last month when you sat there crying for cooler weather?

You’re feeling blue and less than productive. Look at the amazing week you had earlier this month and the not so productive one you had before that. It’ll come back. It always does.

Don’t ruin today worrying about tomorrow or lamenting yesterday. Find something positive to focus on. Or, even better, make the conscious decision to enjoy the moment instead. Grab a cup of tea, your book, and find a place to hide for a bit. Sing along with those crazy teens practicing guitar in the middle of the living room where you were trying to vacuum. Write out some words of encouragement to yourself and post it. Forget dinner and order a pizza. Harass your husband to go for a walk, even though it’s cold. And be thankful for what you have, who you have, and what you can do.

Take care of yourself, love. I love you, every messy, tired, pissy, and confused piece of you.

Love,

You

Personal Narratives Can Change

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Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

We all have stories about how things are supposed to work out. We get them from our parents, our extended family, friends, education, entertainment, everywhere. The trouble is, they aren’t always true, or at least they aren’t true for everyone. What happens when we run into a reality that conflicts with our established narratives? Motion sickness.

I’ve always been very susceptible to motion sickness. I was the kid in the back seat of the VW bug complaining that it was too hot and turning green on the way to the grocery store. I was the one that had to sit in the front seat with the AC on in my face. I’m the one using every trick in the book, from deep breathing to focusing intently on the road ahead, to keep from having to pull over and rest on the way to anything. And not just on mountain roads! I can get sick just driving down the freeway if someone asks me to look at the map!

Motion sickness is said to be caused by a conflict between your eyes and your ears. Your eyes tell your brain that you are still, but your inner ear says that you are moving. Conflicting information causes your body to rebel and become nauseous. I’m not sure what evolutionary help this is, but it does cause someone like me to reflect on the bigger picture.

As we grow we all create these personal narratives. They make it easier and more streamlined to deal with all of life. This works like this. He acts like this. This relationship works this way. We don’t need to think about those things as much. We put them in the back of our head and work on the new things.

But what if the story we’ve built in our heads about how things are supposed to go doesn’t match the reality of the situation we are currently in? Anxiety, anger, depression, that nauseous feeling that something is horribly wrong!

Just like when I start to get motion sickness, it’s time to focus on the reality and take some deep breaths because things are about to change. It’s what I have learned to call a “growth point,” the place in my life that I learn something new, my world is about it become bigger. It can be so scary though. What if reality isn’t nearly as good as my fantasy? Then again…how can one live in a fantasy permanently? Life, no matter how complicated, is much easier to deal with when we accept the reality, or at least as close as we can come to it.

Change is unavoidable. How we deal with those changes is what makes the difference in our lives.

Do we hold on to what we believed to be true and ignore reality? Do we get angry and blame the people around us for letting us down? Do we walk away from situations, people, environments when they fail to meet our expectations? It doesn’t seem very productive. If we keep searching for the world that matches our narratives as we know them, we may never find it. We may just keep walking away from the very people and places that are offering us the opportunity to grow into something better.

What else can I do? I could stop, take a deep breath, and make some space for my feelings first. Things are changing, something is different. What is it and how can I see it more clearly? I could ask some questions. Is this person or situation failing me, deliberately hurting me, or causing me some kind of trouble? Or are they only doing what they have always done, doing what’s best for them at the moment? Will it really hurt me? Is it really wrong? Looking at the situation or person with an open heart helps. I want to understand.

What seems to help is talking to a special someone, someone that is as open to change as I am, someone that has no stake in the game. That person is hard to find and changes according to the situation. I’m not really looking for advice what I talk. I’m only looking for feedback, someone that will ask questions from a different point of view and is willing to go down some crazy rabbit holes with me. Talking to the wrong person can make my situation infinitely worse. I’ve learned to be very selective.

When I lack another human to speak with, I write. And I write a lot. I write whatever comes to mind, even the meanest and nastiest thoughts. Writing out the hurt and the angry words, the words sparked by fear and mistrust, seems to release them into the void and make space for clearer thinking. Once my narrative is out on paper alongside of the potential for change, I feel like I can think more logically. I come back to that same writing the next day and walk away feeling stronger and ready to embrace change, only to come screaming back to scrawl on the walls of my paper cave over and over again.

I talk to myself on the pages. I fight and scold and lecture, I listen and give myself feedback. Lord, I hope no one reads that stuff some day and has me committed! Some of it strongly resembles the raving of a very sick person. But maybe that’s the reality of it. At moment, I am sick. What my eyes see and what my inner ear feels doesn’t match, and my mind is reacting violently. But I know from experience, the feeling is only temporary. Focus and adjust, take a rest from the effort, and try again. It’s the only way to grow.

Full Plate

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Carissa Gan

Oh, how I love metaphors! Have you ever talked with someone that told you their “plate was full” and they couldn’t possibly take on another project? I’m sure you have. I’ve said it myself. Have you ever looked at a person that said that and thought, “Not as full as mine, and I seem to find time to help.” It seems we don’t all have the same size plate, the same appetite, or the same strength to carry it with.

From the outside, my life looks simple and full of time to take on new projects. But to me, my plate is balanced perfectly and I work hard to keep it that way. I don’t have too much to do because I’ve made the choice not to, and when I make other choices, like adding to my plate things I think other people would like me to do, I’ve learned by experience that it never ends well.

Here’s a question for you. What if we’re not born with an empty plate at all? What if we have one, we know it because we can feel it in our hands, but the goal of living is to figure out how big the plate is, what’s already on that plate, and how to balance it so it’s easy to carry? When we take more onto our plate before we’ve figured out how to balance what we already have, or even know what we have for that matter, we cause ourselves stress.

Why would people around us give us more to put on our plate? Because they haven’t learned what’s on their plate and how to balance it, so they’re passing it to you. “It’s too much for me!” they say, and they pass it to you instead of letting it fall to the floor.

Many days, I know what’s on my plate and I can balance it easily. When someone offers more, I politely decline. “No, thank you. I have enough.” Some days I see friends and family with their plates so piled high, I feel bad and wonder, “Well, maybe I can take some of that off their plate and help.” When I do, I quickly become overwhelmed and drop it all. It’s not a good feeling.

Some days, overwhelmed friends with plates piled high, see my relatively empty plate and think, “She has barely anything and I have so much! Take some of mine, you have to help me.” I feel guilty and try to help, take too much on and ultimately fail us both.

What if instead of passing items off our full plate to someone else, we just dropped those items away and let them go? What if we did less? What if we produced less? All of us? What if we just did without those things instead of insisting that they exist and that someone pick up the ball?

What if we prioritized mastering the art of doing what we need to do for ourselves first? And then started adding more of what we want until we are at a place of balance for us alone? And allow others to learn and do the same at their own pace, with their own plates? It seems like we would all get more done and feel better about our lives at the same time.

And then there are more questions. Do we think the plate is empty when we first realize we have a life to live? We think we must start fill it with things to feel productive. What if we spent our childhood just learning the size and weight of our plate and how to balance it with the essentials we are born to do on it? What if we are overloading our children with responsibilities, more for their plate, before they’ve mastered what they already have? Could that be the real curse of losing a free and peaceful childhood? Could that be why depression and anxiety are on the rise?

 

Dangerous Roads

She sits and stares.

The desert in the summer can feel like a snowstorm that barricades you inside your house and forbids your exit for days at a time. There’s nowhere to escape to, at least nowhere outside. The sanctuary of an air-conditioned house, car, or movie theater all seem like fine alternatives to most, but what if you desperately crave to be outdoors? Early in the morning, before the sun completely rises, or late in the evening after it sets, are the only times one can feasibly be outdoors and even then, it’s still so hot. It’s oppressive after awhile and she dreams of hooking up the trailer and driving north until the weather is more to her liking.

Staring out at the desert landscape, she wonders…this would be a good time of year to read more. Then it starts…yeah…read more and write more…waste more time. Great.


It’s that feeling again. The one that scares the crap out of me. The one that I know scares the crap out of anyone I express it to. It’s like drowning, you want to reach out for help, but then…maybe you should just let yourself drown. You’re worthless anyway.

I write in my journal on these days. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it only relieves the pain for a few moments, like taking ibuprofen for a headache that’s not just a headache.

When I was younger, the feeling used to last for weeks, sometimes a month. Now…it’s usually a day or two before I’m climbing back out of the basement of my soul, shaking my head and wondering what happened. I read the previous days journals filled with angry scribbles and marvel at it. Who was that woman? I worry about those entries. What if my family found them and realized how sick I really am? What if I scared them with my darkness? What if I inadvertently influenced them into thinking they may have inherited this from me?

There are times when I sit with my phone in my hand. What if I just texted someone? What if I just said, “Hey friend. I’m feeling like a miserably worthless piece of crap. I’m a big fake. Nothing I do matters. And if anyone found out who I really am, they’d walk away forever (and rightly so) and warn everyone else to run the other way when they see me. I’m afraid of myself at the moment. And I need something. I’m not sure what that is. Can you help?”
Can you imaging getting that text? What would you do? Send platitudes of reassurance?

“You’re not. You’re wonderful. We all love you.”

“Have you considered getting professional help?”

“I’m worried about you.”

All of which only make the feeling worse. Now I’ve shared the misery. That’s how wonderful I am!

You know what does seem to help? Confirmation. In these moments, I crave just one person that is strong enough to throw the ball back when I lob it at them.

“Yeah…life can really suck. What’s the point of any of this shit? Let’s go get a drink!” Knowing I can be the ugliest me to someone and it doesn’t make them sad or want to run in the other direction? Priceless!

This time the feeling took me quite suddenly after weeks of positivity. There were so many productive days in a row, weeks even, and then so many wonderful people experiences to go along with it. Then one morning…bam…a text before I wanted one, a positive comment on Facebook…and I’m headed down the rabbit hole with Alice, looking for trouble.

Weird the things that trigger it.

Years of struggle have taught me one important point. It is not logical. It has no rhyme or reason. It is not reality. That realization is what has seriously quickened my turnarounds the last few years. I have reminders everywhere.

“Depression Lies To You” on a paper bracelet I wore for a few weeks years ago, sits on my bathroom counter.

“Watch for the fork in the road.” On a Post-It note above my computer.

“Look at actions not words.” Watching the acts, not the words people use usually makes me happy.

This time I will add “It’s all temporary.” And “Take a deep breath and wait for it to pass over you.”


“A scene change is needed,” I think as I wash the dishes after lunch. Staring out at the bright sky and hot sand outside my window, “But where?” I glance at the thermometer. “107” it reads. Sigh. I need to be outside! Suddenly it dawns on me and my heart brightens just a bit.

“Hey babe?” I holler into the bedroom office as I grab a towel for my hands and head back there. Why do I do that? I know he can’t hear me.

“Sweetness, what time will you be done working?”

“Half an hour or so. Why?”

“Maybe we should drive up to the mountain and take a hike as the sun starts to set. It would be cooler and then we could get something to eat together before we head back. A date!”

He looks up from his laptop, his boots up on the table turned work desk. “I had planned on kegging my beer after work so that it’s ready for the party on Saturday.”

Sinking heart again. “Oh yeah!” I say brightly. “Well, maybe tomorrow.” And I go back to the dishes.

As I’m drying off the last plate and wiping down the kitchen sink, there he is, “When did you want to go? Maybe I can hurry and finish?”

Ahh, my sweet love. He’s always trying to make me happy, which sometimes makes me feel worse, but not this time. An hour later, water bottles in hand, a few nut bars in a bag, and we’re driving across the desert in the direction of the moutains.

“Babe. I have something to scary to say that I need to say out loud, but promise me you won’t be scared or sad. I’m ok. It’s just something I need to voice.”

“What’s that?”

“I think I understand why people with severe depression kill themselves. I can feel it. I feel worthless, like everyone around me would be much better off without me.”

I get the look, the worried one, the one that makes me not want to share the feeling, to keep it inside where it rots and festers and gets worse every day until I explode in anger and frustration about something completely unrelated. Why would I torture the ones I love with this feeling? Better to just sit with it and hope I suddenly die somehow. Then no one needs to worry about how to fix it. But this time, I keep talking. If I can’t share my burden with this man, the man that has loved and supported me for the last twenty years in ways I cannot possibly explain, then there is no hope.

“I know it’s an irrational feeling. I know it’s in my head. I know the reality is far different. I sit with it and look at it from every angle. I have no idea what triggers it but I’ve learned what helps me stop it. Sometimes I write and that helps. Burn those journals when I die, by the way. Or maybe I’ll write a disclaimer on the top of the box!

“The truth is that I what I really want, what I think will really help, is to say it out loud. I want to be able to say all the ugliest things, the things that scare me, the stupid, angry, nasty things I feel about myself at those moments, and have someone just say, ‘I can understand that and I love you anyway.’

“I don’t want you to fix it. I don’t want you to worry. I don’t want sympathy or ‘No, hun, that’s just not true.’ I want agreement, acknowledgement that these feelings exists and that they suck.”

We talked and laughed all the way up the mountain, an hour’s drive of open communication and joy, punctuated by me trying not to get car sick on the winding mountain road. By the time we started walking, I was already feeling so much better. At the top of mountain, standing on a rock overlooking the valley, I took a deep breath. “This is what I needed. Just to speak it out of me. Walk in the sun. And be surrounded by trees. And you.”

It was the change in scenery, the acceptance and love of one of my favorite people, and some exercise that stopped the downward spiral this time. I know next time it may not work, but I know something will and know who I can grab when I need help.

For you out there, depression sucks ass. I love you. I know it sucks. Let’s go yell from the top of a mountain, “This too shall pass.” Even when Gandalf says none shall.

Battles

Something I’ve found very true over the last several years is that people really love their labels and will fight you to the death to keep them.

The biggest battles I’ve heard between good people are over who is a “real” Christian, homeschooler, vegan, etc., and who is not. There are millions of other labels out there. I’m sure you can think of a few that you put on yourself.

I was warned years ago, not to put labels on my children as we raised them without school. We learned to look at that individual child, their likes and dislikes, their quirks, their preferences, their patterns, and love them. We supported them to get they wanted or needed, not because that’s how this label needs things, but because that’s how this particular child learns best at this moment in time.

This past month I’ve been looking at and discovering some new ways of living and relating. I instantly began to label myself and as I looked at that label and the myriad of different people that choose that label, I started to feel bad about myself because I didn’t seem to measure up. I wasn’t “real.”

And that’s when I saw it. Labels really do suck. They tie you down to a prescribed list of details that may or may not relate to you, that may not help you at all but hinder you because you can’t wrap your head around that part of the label.

I dropped the label in my mind. I stopped following and attempting to join groups that called themselves by that label and suddenly I felt so much better.

I’m not a “real” anything but the “real” Michelle.

Words to Live by: “Take Care of Yourself”

There was the cutest video on Facebook the other day. It was of a little girl, maybe three or four years old, working on her car seat buckle. The dad asked if he could help and she just politely and firmly says “You take care of youself.” And then she goes back to work on it, “Thank you.”

“Worry About Yourself”

I’ve watched it at least three times, showing it to my son once as well. Her little voice is so sweet and confident. I was struck by the profoundness of it as well. In her own little way, she summed up a philosophy we should do well to adopt, “You take care of yourself.”

Most of the time we are all more worried about taking care of others whether they want our help or not. What if we waited until they asked for help? What if we let people alone to struggle, projecting an air of peaceful helpfulness nearby until they reached out? How many more people would learn from their struggles and take care of themselves better and with more confidence?

And what if we did take care of ourselves first? I hear about “self-care” online several times a day, but what does it really mean? We need to know ourselves to do that, don’t we?

It seems to be one of those circular problems, to get one we need to master the other, to get that we need to master something else. As an adult, I think starting with ourselves is logical. To help anyone else, we have to be secure in our own person, have our own shit sorted out.

I’m not sure exactly how anyone does that, but I know that it helped me to start with meditating on awareness every morning. Ick, “awareness,” I know. Cliché lately, yes, but it’s true. I started on being aware of myself, my likes and dislikes, my feelings and triggers. I journaled. I started asking why I did things, why I felt certain ways. That has snowballed into some amazing, life changing ways of doing things. I started to just let a lot of things go, dealing with only the most important things, and then most of the ugliness in my life started to sort itself out. It’s been a good five years or so, and it keeps getting better.

I wrote this on my old blog a few years ago and found it today while I was scrolling through old posts. I thought it was relevant to my current thoughts.

Real, lasting peace begins with your own mind and body, extends to those in your home, neighborhood, and town, and then moves out into the world.

Until everyone finds that peace in their inner sphere of influence, there is no hope of that peace finding its way into the wider world.

Pray and meditate on how you can increase the peace of your own home before you worry about what other people are doing.

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