The L Word

Hi I am Terri, I am 48 and I walk with a cane.  Imagine the story I could tell myself about this.  Instead I am choosing to see that this is truly where I am right now and focus on how it is helping me, rather than  judgment.  I just don’t have the energy for judgement anymore.

It’s about accepting and loving yourself as you are, warts and all.  How do I know this?  Because I have gone from self loathing to learning, slowly, that caring for yourself and looking after your own health and well-being is essential before you look after the needs of others.

As my health took a downturn in late 2012, I felt like I was losing control.  It was a combination of stresses really.  I see now that the Fibromyalgia was showing up then with various symptoms but it wasn’t until I was literally forced by my own body to pay attention that I started waking up from the ‘unreal’ life that I had created.

This has not been a smooth process.   The more stressful things became, the more I found ways to manage.  Perfectionism, judgment and anger to name a few.  Coping mechanisms and mindfulness are like a marriage made in…well..…reality.  With mindfulness, you are met with the reality of your life moment to moment.  So what happens is that you are faced with your own shit.  The dramas that you create, or play a part in.  Situations created with the habitual patterns of thought and behavior built on fear, but the fear is protecting you in a sort of fight, flight, freeze way and that is not helpful unless you are up against a bear in the woods, alone without bear spray shitting your pants.  Just saying.

I have been working at untangling myself from these sorts of patterns and question anything that doesn’t feel good.  I recently recovered the ability physically to actually feel in my belly so that means the tightness of my breathing, the spasms, and my ‘gut’ feelers (intuition)  Each step has to be met with compassion.

If you have read this far, then chances are that you are a compassionate human and you feel something towards me like empathy.  That feeling is what I have to turn towards myself.  At each step.  Literally. I have slowed myself down even more in an effort to truly start from the bottom up.  Walking without support is difficult for me because at any time I can be hit with fatigue. If I rush  through or try to ignore the fatigue it just hits me even harder.

I have struggled mightily with this in the past year and a half and it has only come to be in the last few months as my despair reached a new low, that I am able to start rebuilding myself.   I don’t have it figured out.  I will never have it all figured out and neither will you.  True story.  One of the key things that I have learned about life through this journey, is that it is really all about the love.

Unlike self-criticism, which asks are you good enough, self-compassion asks what’s good for you? – Kristin Neff

The rubber meets the road

The stress of late has been too much for me to handle and it reached my body in an intensely painful way. Over the holidays when I experienced feelings of deep despair, I woke up to the connection that I was creating more suffering for myself with the out of control stressful and anxious thoughts. Since then I have been relating to my thoughts and outside stressors much differently. It didn’t happen overnight. I have logically known this since I started practicing mindfulness, but it takes time to work through old beliefs.

My intention is to get to a place where I consider my physical pain an outside stressor, and as such be able to relate to it much differently. As it is I have been relating to the pain as something that I am creating, therefore I should be able to fix it. If I can’t fix it then I’ll just try ignoring it again. Except that hasn’t been working and I am left feeling more physically helpless than ever.

So I am accepting that I am essentially disabled right now. To really not care if you agree with me or not. Or my doctor. Or the insurance company. That this is how it is. It’s been such a bitter pill to swallow and I’m sure there will be remnants of bad taste.   Letting go of what anyone thinks of me is a necessity. Sadly, this wouldn’t be as big an issue for me or any of my fellow invisible illness warriors, if I had a visible disease.

It’s ok sweetheart

As I got into my car after a Dr’s appointment and was feeling so broken open I thought…I will write about this.  The self-blame, self-loathing, guilt, resentment and self-pity.  Like a box of chocolates, depending on the day, the trigger, or the moon cycle I didn’t know which one my day would open up to.  The longer the wait for the disability decision, the more the feelings of unworthiness crept in.  I was tying my worth to this outcome just like I have tied my worth to my physical state, and my job before this. 

I know logicially that I have no control over the claim decision or over these symptoms of Fibromyalgia that I am experiencing, or the effect all of this has on the people in my life.  It didn’t matter one bit.  It has never mattered in those times of despair. It felt like a big whirlpool of negative emotions that was challenging to get out of.  The stress manifesting at night in the form of hot flashes and nightmares.  Good times.

Through practicing mindfulness, I have started dealing with these difficult emotions. Thankfully there is built in self-compassion in the form of loving-kindness. It has been difficult for me to access this at times though. For the most part it just takes my hand over my heart and a silent it’s ok sweetheart but that wasn’t cutting it this time.  

I was at my Dr.’s appointment after visiting my parents.  I had also just had a call with the insurance company regarding my disability claim.  Managing my emotions in that particular stretch of time was very difficult, so I let her know just how hard it was; mentally, physically, financially. This decision holds weight in my immediate and long-term future. I felt heard in a way that I had not before. As I walked out her assistant that I spoke about last post came out and gave me a big, soft, all enveloping hug. I cried as she held me, feeling her compassion towards me.

That evening brought exhaustion and I turned away an impromptu visit offer from my son. A visit at that particular time in that particular state, would have brought me more suffering.  I had a choice in the moments after the text exchange on what to do with the guilt that I felt. Did I want to add more suffering to a day where it already felt there was going to be no end to the pain? Or can I put my hand over my heart and remember that it’s ok sweetheart. I chose then to remember. I opened up my mindfulness course and turned that shit around before going to sleep.

Loving and accepting all parts of you is a life-long practice. Self-compassion is needed at every step, especially when you are dealing with difficult emotions. It can feel hard to find sometimes, but it is always possible.

 

Dropping the story

The stories that I have been telling myself since spring of last year is that I am no longer worthy because I cannot work; I am a shitty parent judging by how my son exited the house; and I am no longer the wife to my husband the way I used to be.

I had wrapped up so much of my identity into my job.  I really thought I had a good work /life balance and I told myself that story for 3 years through physical symptoms of joint pain, muscle fatigue and brain fog to name a few.

My son ended up going through some pretty major stuff before I kicked him out, and he had to do it without a Mom that could be all there for him.  I am still telling myself that story but really working on changing it.

It has been hard on my husband and I. We didn’t have the right tools to handle the shit-storm that came our way, but we are now learning the skills to help us.  I am so grateful we are on the same page philosophically.   He has been on a crash course in mindfulness.  You bet I tried to lead him there, but this was a massive lesson for me to leave people alone and focus on your own life.  He ultimately got there on his own time.  It is so much easier now without the stories, but rather really communicate (who knew?!)

With the recent decline on my disability claim, I was held in a negative storyline for about a week.  It was very hard for me to see how we were going to make it through the month of December, no matter what Russ said to reassure me. It was only as I was preparing for an approaching Doctor’s appointment that I started seeing light and feeling the gratitude again.  I remembered what I have been learning this past year, that all I was doing was creating a storyline that may never happen.  Creating stress and my body does a great job of that all on its own thank you very much.25 of my symptoms

I had to prepare for this appointment because I don’t have the best Doctor.  I knew I had to stand my ground very firmly. I had to prepare to stay calm.  It so happened that I had a Mindfulness Morning lined up for the Saturday before my appointment.  In walks my Doctor’s Medical Office Assistant.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  I took it as further proof that I was on the right track.  I saw her humanity and our common suffering.  I felt a new compassion towards her. If I can see the humanness in what I had always kind of considered a grumpy MOA then I can do this appointment.

I stayed in the moment the best that I could.  It worked.  I came out of there having felt really good for sticking up for myself.  I know what needs to happen in order to take the steps to achieve long lasting healing and it is not returning to work at this point in time.  No story, just the facts Jack.

Relating to life without as many made up stories in my head is providing me a lot of relief.  I am doing this within the safe confines my marriage before I take it to the streets.  Making sure I fill up on gratitude for the beautiful sights around my neighborhood and our own urban farm. This is where the healing starts.

qual-eggs-coming-soon
Quail eggs coming soon?
queen-latifah
Queen Latifah
farmland
Farmland
view-from-dog-park
View from the dog park

Waking up

This post had a much different topic yesterday.  My day started off well, I was writing, it felt good and I was looking forward to posting.

Mid-morning I received a call from my insurance company informing me that my application for long-term disability benefits was denied and I would need to appeal their decision.  I literally begged the woman to try to understand. I didn’t know how many more times I could explain what this fatigue feels like, how it and the stress of my physical symptoms is impacting me and my return to work.  I felt like I was justifying my existence.  Afterwards I cursed, cried and threw shit.  I felt very low in those moments. In my eyes our world had just come crashing down.  I now have zero income coming in.  I was so thankful to Russ for catching me.

Fast forward to evening where I continued on with my first week of a 7 week online mindfulness course called Power of Awareness. The course is put on by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield, two well-respected mindfulness teachers as well as psychologists.

I am so grateful I made that decision.  I found answers to lingering questions I had about my meditation practice as well as learning how to really be with those negative feelings that I had learned to disassociate from.  I learned that trauma makes us does this, and that it is natural to contract your body when you are afraid.  Aversion to negative feelings is normal and so is grasping at positive feelings and wanting to hold on to them.  But they both cause unnecessary suffering.

My life has been spent between aversion and grasping and because of this very little of it has been spent in the present moment.  Boom.  To realize that I raised my child from this place is heartbreaking.  I understand now though that to beat myself with this just adds to my suffering.

I need to focus on forgiving myself and relating to my feelings of shame and guilt with tenderness instead of more shame and more guilt.  I believe that this is what is required if I want to heal.  I see that even though this disease causes me a lot of suffering at times, it can also be my way to freedom from unnecessary pain and healing of a different kind.

The Transformation of ‘T’

I finished setting up my studio space yesterday and throughout the five week process remembered something about myself.

I am more of a creative being than I thought.  I want to create things.  I have been creating things!  My job was filled with organization and planning, I just didn’t recognize it as creative. With the final touches coming into place yesterday, the inspiration truly flowed.  I now see that if I just trust in myself than what I need in any given moment will be there.  A serendipitous drive yesterday resulted in a stop at a local thrift store where again I felt inspired and came home with the LOVE mirror (a whopping $7) and a few other cool smaller pieces.

studio
Studio

studio-workbench-and-view

Studio workbench and view

As Russ and I were chillin’ in my new happy place, I opened a package with some important certificates and a plastic envelope.  Inside the envelope were copies of the result of my session with a graphic facilitator 13 years ago.  I was 35.  Adam was 5.

It was to help me form a 3 year plan, but first we needed to work through my blocks like doubt and unworthiness to get to the cheerleader inside who wanted to be brave and to love.  I saw myself happy, content, grateful, in love and proud. I would have a wedding on a beach with painted toes and a skimpy wedding dress and lighter, longer hair.  Adam would say “I’m happy for you Mom”.  He would be happy and wise for his age.  My husband would be youthful looking, close in age – maybe a bit older.  I would be a supportive leader. Spunky.  Wise.  A good role model for Adam and other young people.  For people who are struggling.  An inspiration.

the-t-strategy
The T Strategy

Are you freaking kidding me?!  I knew I manifested the wedding on the beach but the other stuff brought tears to my eyes.  Some of the detail is crazy.  So much from that final vision has either happened or is happening right now.  And not in the way that I ever imagined.

I have always wanted to live in this area.  To see the leaves changing.  I get to see that every day now in my yard and neighborhood.  I feel grateful every time.  I am a sap.  And proud of it.

leaves-and-feeder
Leaves and feeder

My old vision had a farm.  I got a large yard with fruit trees, a large garden and a chicken coop. Close enough.

My point is that sometimes you can get in your own way. Trust yourself.  If you can’t trust yourself, then work on it. Reach out.  Have a vision and keep it up to date.  Believe, in yourself but also something larger.  Whatever it is.

So much goodness

It feels like too much goodness sometimes.  I have to remember I am worthy.  It is a daily mindful practice for me.  This place is everything I could have dreamed of and more for a home to start fresh after years of too many stresses.  The medical stuff alone is enough to make anyone cringe.  Suffice it to say, a break was needed.  The break came in the form of a phone call from my sister with a lead on a house on 1/3 acre that sounded like a dream.

When we were viewing it I felt the fear creep in, in the form of doubt.  But only for a minute. This is not a place that I could handle alone and I think that is what it was.  Then I remembered I didn’t have to do it alone.  The ‘independence‘ streak that I have so proudly shown through the years, I am now recognizing that it is just another way for me to cope.  But things have been rough with Russ and this particular doubt was valid.  I just wasn’t sure how much he was up for. He is on medical leave right now.

I have said before that I believe this house presented itself to us in this form so that we could take advantage of it, and that is what we are doing.  While also trying to pace.  I had to bow out of the fence making after physically crashing.  I felt bad leaving it all to Russ but the garden needed to be protected from our fruit and veggie eating dog.

Dixie protection
Dixie protection

The previous tenant, who was also an integral part in our securing this place had planted some veggies for us.  Thanks to her we have had many feasts and have been able to harvest so many things.

Harvesting
Harvesting
Pears from one of the pear trees
Pears from one of the pear trees
Post juicing pasturizing
Post juicing pasteurizing
Drying onions and shallots
Drying onions and shallots
Playing around with preserving swiss chard
Playing around with preserving swiss chard

Studio view

Studio view

We speak gratitude multiple times a day around here. We came from 3 years of panhandle lot gone wrong.  It was a total fishbowl existence.  We had no privacy and certainly no growth, besides a fully used baseball park behind us.  I loved the path beyond, but oh my the noise!  We have some traffic and plane noise now.  I am welcoming it all into my existence.  Grateful for this opportunity to have somewhere to heal.  Grateful for all the angels involved that made it happen.  Thank you.

 

I am what I am

I have carried the fear of failure around with me like a shroud.  I have always felt an underlying current of … there is something wrong with me. Does this sound familiar to anyone?! Apparently this is common for us humans and someone hasn’t let us in on it.  If you don’t already know it you really are perfect and worthy just as you are.  If you don’t feel it right now, it doesn’t mean you won’t.  The more choices we make that take us farther away from living a life that brings us authentic happiness, the more we are going to hurt mentally and physically. It sounds simplistic doesn’t it? It sure did from my overcrowded & overthinking brain.  Just like any other problem put in my way – ‘I’ and my current physical state are something that need solving.

Upon serious mindful reflection and investigation, some of my unconscious choices have led me down some challenging pathways.  It is the strength that I have built up from those challenges though, and now a real faith in myself that I can and will bring me through whatever life brings.  (I would say that based on current life events though my life is running on a positive upswing.)  So I understand now that life will bring both the good and the bad and that some fear of failure is normal.  I am aware now that my body is requiring time to get up to speed with my brain.

I am waking up these days and making a conscious choice to let go of the story of struggle, and the need to be at the controls all the time – that is what is bringing me peace and an amazing display of abundance.  Some of which will be posted in the the weeks following the move.  There is a serious ‘grow’ to the Grow Your Gratitude happening right now as I start thinking about next year’s growing season.  The irony has not been lost on me and further proof that going with the flow and being open instead of full of fear will bring you serious magic.

 

Self-help Trifecta

Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Glennon Doyle Melton.  I didn’t seek these teachers as much as they showed up in my life at the right time.  For as long as I can remember, I have turned to self-help and spiritual type books to get me through periods of crisis.  The funnynotfunny thing is that if I had just kept on the self help/spiritual path instead of losing myself in relationships and motherhood, then things might be a tad easier for me.

I read Brené’s Daring Greatly when I was still working and trying to find some sort of happiness.  Work was hard physically and mentally.  I was experiencing the transition from living as a single parent to living with 3 boys and it hit me like a tonne of bricks. I felt lost immediately.  Everyone seemed to have found their place in the house and I couldn’t find mine.  That was 3 years ago.

I found my place the beginning of this year after I started the mindfulness program.  I was trying to pull myself through what was going on around me, and accept what was happening to me.  So I finally staked my ground.  That seemed to be when the boundaries started showing up, which included kicking my son out.  Never in a million years did I think that would happen.  But it did.

Enter Liz.  Her Big Magic book, a treasured gift from a bff that cemented my belief that I was on the right track.  I have always had the desire but it has been stuffed so far down it is only now as I am creating space that I am seeing it again.  There is a lot of self acceptance for me to work through but I am getting there.  Each time trying to show more of myself.

Enter Glennon’s Carry On, Warrior –  The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life which I am currently reading.  I don’t share the belief in her God but I believe in her Love.  I have never read a book where someone tells the truth so hard and so funny at the same time.  I have found something of myself in each essay.  By her writing this way, it is giving me permission to open my heart up that much more.

I know in my soul that what I write about has value to someone besides me.  That is enough.