Embracing the suck

I’m usually an optimist.

When I’m in a good mood, I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Forgiveness. Understanding. I even, at the best of times, extend that same grace to myself. I know we all make mistakes. Sometimes I can embrace that. Accept it. Even laugh at it.

But when I’m down… oof. I go all the way down. I question everyone and everything. Even things I was sure of the day before. I question loyalty. Friendship. What I want. My direction. My heart.

I used to hate this about myself. I’d call it a spiral and just hold on until it passed, but I’ve learned that holding on isn’t as effective as letting go. I truly believe most situations can teach us lessons if we’re open to them, and I wasn’t learning the lessons by plugging my fingers in my ears and screaming. Optimism is great and all, but maybe some things need to be questioned, and maybe it takes going all the way down to be able to look at those situations (or relationships) critically.

It’s possible not everyone deserves my grace and understanding, not all the time, at least. Maybe sometimes I just have to let go and embrace the suck? Learn what it has to teach me. The dark has as much to teach as the light, maybe more, and I might not be able to look at things critically when I’m whistling a happy tune. The dark might show me things I don’t particularly want to see, but I need to see. Not just in the areas of my life I’m struggling, but in a lot of different areas. Maybe what I thought was a spiral is actually an unfiltered, unbiased look at my life and relationships, and not through rose colored glasses. Not everything I thought I wanted passes muster. Not everyone I thought cared about me has shown it. Not everyone I’ve been pouring into deserves my precious time, energy, and attention. In some cases, not everyone I’ve loved has loved me back. In fact, maybe this dark is telling me I’m chasing the wrong things and people, and it’s time to turn around.

Ouch. No wonder I’m fighting it.

Not everything is this complicated. No doubt some of these spirals are just plain bad moods or pity parties. Those are part of life, too. Do they have things to teach? Not always, unless what they’re teaching is that tomorrow is a new day. That’s an important lesson, too. But sometimes it’s worth a deeper look into that dark. You might be surprised what you find there.

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Surrender 2023

Surrender.

I’ve been sitting with the word surrender as my word of the year. 2021 was focus. 2022 was commitment. I was dang sure 2023 was going to be passion. I was so ready to barge into 2023 on fire and light everything up.

But it wasn’t right.

I’ll be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time in silence these days. In fact, you could say I’m scared of it. I’d much rather follow my head than my heart, but that wasn’t serving me. So, I decided to do the scariest thing and spent an hour in a salt water sensory deprivation tank. I had no choice but to listen to my heart. It was all I could hear.

Without being too woo-woo, my heart had a lot to say about forgiveness. Specifically, I felt like I’d failed at commitment in 2022. That fire I wanted to light in 2023? Turns out it was burning behind me, but it was more like a dumpster fire than a rocket launch – and one that had been burning a long time. Commitment? When was the last time you saw me blogging? I all but dropped my business. I stopped writing (again). To be honest, I’m not sure when or in what order I’m going to pick those up. This is a step, but I’m not sure what the next step will be. I know I won’t find it forcing my way forward – like a bull in a china shop as my dad would say. But how do I let go of those reins? And what do I pick up instead?

There’s a lot to be said about vision and direction. I’ve done a lot of work on those things in the last couple years, but everything was starting to feel so forced. Like I was checking boxes instead of finding joy in each moment. What if I let go of my own expectations, and just feel my way through? That’s surrender to me, and it feels right. It’s not surrendering as in giving up. It’s surrendering as in letting go. Flowing. Trusting.

It’s risky. While I’m not a great planner, I do like to maintain some semblance of control and order in my life. Definable goals. Steps to get there. A calendar, even. A budget. But the truth is I’ve had all those things the last few years. Planners. Bullet journals. Goals. Steps. It’s a game I play every year. What if this year, I don’t play that game? What would surrender look like?

You’re looking at it. I quit this blog because people told me it’s too much. I’m too much. Undoubtably sometimes I am. But tonight, my heart had things to say. I’ve always thought this blog served a purpose. Maybe it’s time to follow that through, despite what people say. Despite my fears. Maybe it’s time to trust my instincts and just flipping write.

That’s what surrender looks like right now, at this moment, and I’ll tell you it feels a lot better than pushing myself to reach goals my heart might not even want to pursue. Surrendering is going to be a fight. It’s going to be a slog. I’m going to want to push back, with purpose and with fear. With objectivity. With logic. Emotion, even, sometimes. It’s not easy to let go of control, but I believe there’s something important on the other side of that. Me. My true self.

I don’t have time to sit in that float tank every day, but I’m getting better at finding little moments to tune into my heart and redirect myself in big ways and in small. What that will look like? I don’t know, but I’m willing to feel my way through and find out. Cheers to 2023!

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#Wins

#wins

I text my oils team at the end of every week to review our wins. They’re not always business related. In fact, they’re not often business related.

Several days this week, I was tempted to sit in bed & feel bad for myself. How often do I want to say I don’t have any wins and just call it a day?

Lisa helped me realize that – hello?! – I do have 7 published books and I am getting back to work on #8 (or 11 if you count the ones I haven’t published!) Many of my new friends didn’t even know I was a writer. I fall back on the fact I’m not great at marketing (there is a lot to unpack there about fear & imposter syndrome) but part of it is because I don’t own those wins. So let’s do it….

This week I’m trying to get back to a gym schedule after a few wonky weeks. It’s important for my mental & physical health, especially this time of year. I’m working on that new book. In fact… I brought a passage to my writers group about space pirates and vampires – and read it out loud!! This little introvert went went way out of my comfort zone and did a craft fair for my oils business with Stacy that was so much fun and super successful, even though I was terrified. I’m not a holiday person (bah humbug about covers it) but I’m trying to embrace the season by putting my own spin on it – which turns out to be high on service and haunted Christmas houses. Maybe most importantly, I’m working, always, on my internal dialogue and tuning out what other people think in order to tune in to my own self and intuition. It’s not easy, but I am learning to trust myself after – well, to be honest, sh*tting on myself for a long time. I don’t have any advice there except I’m trying to lead by example, even when it’s hard. And it’s hard to own your struggles publicly, but if you’re going to own your struggles you should own your wins, too.

What were your wins this week?

Seasonal depression

I live in New England. It’s starting to get cold here, and the sun officially sets around 4:15 though sometimes it seems dusky much sooner than that. It’s often dark when I go into work, and dark when I leave. Some days I don’t see the sun at all except through my office window.

Sometimes in the middle of summer I romanticize these short days sitting next to a cozy fireplace. I imagine getting books read and written. Projects done. Crafting. Hot cocoa – or maybe a hot toddy. Cocooning.

It’s not until I’m in the middle of the season that I realize winter isn’t as romantic as all that. I’m inherently an outdoor person, and I miss walking in the woods (it’s hunting season, to boot) and hikes after 4 pm. I miss leaving the house without a jacket, hat, mittens, and boots. I miss being able to get to the beach after work to pick up tiny shells or sea glass or just tell the ocean my problems. I do that, sometimes. The ocean is a good listener.

You can go to the beach in the winter, of course, but my hours are much more limited and I simply haven’t had the time to do those things or visit those places that heal my soul. The fireplace can be healing, yes, but that fireplace has its work cut out in the next few months. And I often don’t give myself the time or space to just sit by it like I do the ocean. It’s different when I’m at home. Sitting by the fire, I see a house that needs to be cleaned. Laundry that needs to be done. Dust. Dishes. They’re all staring me in the face. There are always so many “things” to do there’s just no time for cocooning, which I think is what this season is desperately asking of me. Pardon me, but my soul is crying out to “forget” the laundry (insert another f word there, if you will), and just sit in contemplation or meditation or prayer or blessed silence. Instead, in years past I put a log in the fire and pushed through. Even then, my house was never exactly spotless, and as for me? Well, I was losing in every possible way.

They call this feeling seasonal depression, but I wonder…. is it the season that’s causing my depression or am I doing that myself? It’s a question to ask in the stillness by the fireplace tonight – and I’m going to make time for it. In fact, I have to. It’s what the season is demanding of me.

Is it the season that's causing my depression or am I doing that myself?
Moonrise the last time we went to the beach in November

Show up with love

How you receive advice depends on a lot of things. Your season. The giver. Your willingness to listen. In the past I’ve been both desperate for direction and unwilling to take it. I’ll bet many people have found themselves, at one point or another, in the situation of not wanting advice at all but a quick fix. I wish it were that simple, but it’s usually not.

I asked my online followers what the best piece of advice they’ve received was, and I got wisdom that ranged from practical (don’t talk religion & politics & everyone stays friends), to spiritual (don’t worry about what you can’t control). My friends talked about the importance of perspective and kindness, the definition of success (definitely another blog in the making), how to manage finance and driving advice. All well-heeded. All important (especially that one about politics!)

I usually quote Dr. Phil in my blogs. He’s got some great advice, but today Mr. Miyagi is on my mind.

A quick internet search suggests themes of forgiveness, effort, and growth are most popular, and no doubt those things are important. In years past, I’ve struggled with a sense of self & purpose. I’ve struggled hard, and I leaned on “don’t give up” to get me through some some dark places. But the truth is, there are times you have to give up. Knowing when to dig in and when to let go – well, someone show me that advice. I’m not sure you can. It’s intuitive, but trusting your intuition? That’s up there, too. There’s something I’ve been thinking about lately that trumps all that, though.

Show up with love.

Someone gave me this advice in a roundabout way, and it never really left my heart. I was first introduced to this idea in Marianne Williamson’s “A Return to Love,” one of my very favorite books. You can’t go wrong by letting love guide your every interaction and decision, but it’s not easy. Ego gets in the way. Emotions get in the way. Pride gets in the way, and fear? Just look at Mr. Miyagi’s quote up there. Yes, if you’ve seen the Karate Kid 3, Daniel was in quite a pickle at this particular moment. It’s a dramatic example, but fear can guide even my small, quiet moments if I’m not careful. Fear can shape who I am. It has, actually. I’m trying to unshape that. How? How do I show up in my life with love?

There are a million answers and probably many, if not most, are better than mine. I can’t define love. Better people than me have tried since the beginning of time. I can take a stab at what love means to me, and what it means to show up with it.

It starts with being mindful of the present moment, not allowing the fears of the past or the anxieties of the future dictate what I’m doing. Daily meditations have helped a lot with this. Showing up with love involves checking in with my intuition and following it even if it’s telling me something I don’t want to hear. Your heart knows the way, and the way isn’t always easy or simple. In fact, I’d venture to say the right way is rarely either of those things, but worth it? You bet it is. Daily journaling has helped with this practice too, (thanks to Lisa, my accountability partner, for encouraging this practice!)

The biggest piece of all is empathy. Showing up with understanding and grace. Listening. Granted this is something that comes more naturally to some people than others, but the truth is even those of us who have it in spades forget sometimes. It’s ego again, selfishness… fear. It’s difficult to lead with those things when you show up by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Does this practice get me walked on? Sometimes. Is it worth it? Yes. Always.

I’m an intuitive, empathetic person, but the hardest part for me is showing up in my own life with love. Directing my decisions toward what’s right for me. Understanding myself. Listening to my intuition. Honoring my needs. Loving myself. I’m not sure why that’s so much more difficult for some of us than others, but if that’s you – I see you. And I encourage you to see yourself. To show up in your own life with love, however that looks.

One of the ways I show up for myself is for my health

Going inward

I go inward when I have emotions that are too much to handle.

That’s the reason my blog has been offline the last few weeks, (which is sure to mess with my algorithms, another gift from the depressive episode that keeps on giving!) Going inward is actually not as bad as a depressive episode, it’s a coping mechanism and not the worst one I’ve ever leaned on. There’s a lot of wisdom to be found when you tune outside voices out and listen to your own heart. For however long that takes, and sometimes it’s a while.

In the past, I’d disappear until I felt like myself again. But in that case, I was shutting myself down a lot more than I was being myself, until numbness took over. Instead of being the best of myself, I turned into someone I didn’t know, or particularly like. I let fear take over. I hid.

The difference between going inward and shutting down is so subtle I don’t blame people for worrying about me. In both cases, I’m offline. I’m not connecting as much as I was. I’m unplugged, even from the people, places, and things I was most involved in. The difference is subtle, but huge. In shutting down, I’m unplugged from those things because I don’t think I deserve them. In going inward, I’m unplugged from those things because I’m reevaluating whether they deserve me.

Yikes, that sounds aggressive even to type, doesn’t it? Especially to someone who’s spent her life doubting her own value. Does it make me sound like a huge b*tch? Good. It’s about time I learned to stand up for myself.

Part of what I’ve learned by going offline is that I’ve shouldered weight that’s not mine to bear – a lot of it, actually. I’ve taken the blame for things I didn’t do or cause. I’ve jumped in to fix things I didn’t break. I’ve assumed I was the cause for things I was just a bystander to, or worse – a victim of. I’m so desperate to keep the peace (typical Libra) that I’ve sold myself over and over and over.

So now, in isolation, I get to decide what to do about that. Do I want to go forward apologizing for being myself again and again? As Dr. Phil would say “how’s that working for ya?” Not good, Dr. Phil. Help a girl out.

I’m not, actually, in isolation. Part of going internal is knowing who you can trust, even (especially) if that circle is super small. I recommend a small circle, actually, because trust is so precious and hard to come by. I’m not looking for advice. A shoulder to lean on goes a lot longer than a lecture about what to do. Because the path, sometimes, is individual. Your heart knows the way, but sometimes your world has to be dark (& quiet) for that path to light up. Someone to hold your hand on the way, though? That’s more than invaluable.

That path? I don’t know where it’s leading me. I usually don’t write about things until I’m far enough over them I have some perspective, but in this case? Well, I don’t mind if you walk a while with me. Maybe you need to do some reevaluating as well. Those people, places, and things important in our lives will fall back into place, one by one. Or maybe they won’t and we’ll find entirely new paths. That sounds scary, but it’s a lot less scary than losing ourselves by shutting down.

Take my hand. I won’t let that happen to us this time.

my path this morning was filled with sunlight

Asking for help

I did the hardest thing this week and reached out to a fellow author to ask for help.

What I’m asking for help with is a really small thing, in the grand scheme of things. It’s something I do for other people all the time. It’s something the author community is famous for. Feedback. Encouragement. I’ve shied away from communities of all kinds, largely because of that, but being a lone wolf isn’t getting me anywhere. Not lately.

I’m a giver. An over-giver, many times. It makes me a target for being used. I make myself a target for that. Part of that is because I just can’t ask for help when I need it. There are some previous traumas there, I know. At the risk of oversharing, my hesitation involves thinking I don’t deserve help. That if I can’t do it myself, I should just accept I’m not any good and give up. I’m possibly (definitely) afraid that by asking for any small thing, I’m “too much.” I’ve always been afraid of being too much. Digging out the why of that would involve going pretty deep. So instead, I just give and give and give until I have nothing left. Does that sound familiar?

I haven’t been writing, not like I should be. Not like I want to be. And I miss it. Despite my meetings with my accountability partner who has been patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) waiting for me to get my act together, I just haven’t had the inspiration or confidence. And what a crock of sh*t that is. I’d be the first person to tell you that, if I was on my A game. But I’m not. I’m fluttering around and blaming the universe & my nonexistent muse for my lack of focus and motivation. It’s part of the reason I shut down this blog a month ago. Once you lose your hold on one thing, it’s easy to slide all the way down, isn’t it? It’s easy to tell yourself you’re no good at something in order to avoid trying. It’s easy to quit and say you failed. But I didn’t fail. I stopped. And those are two very different things.

I thought – hoped – that starting again would mean just sitting back at my laptop and typing away, but there’s more to writing than words. At least for me. No one else can write a book for me, but I think, in my absence, I absolutely had to learn how to accept help. How to ask for it. Writing, for me, is more than just a hobby. It’s my life. The problem with that overlap is that a snarl in one area can led to self-isolation, both personally & professionally, which gums up my self confidence and self esteem. Those are both pretty important things. Not just when it comes to writing, but when it comes to being alive and being human. Being creative. Thinking that I deserve to be here and I have value to add.

Those are some big issues, I know. They’re not going to be solved by reaching out to an old writing pal to ask her opinion on my book, or even to ask her to keep me accountable. But it’s a step. And it’s a big step for me. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to put me back together. Or at least a few good friends I can trust.

Last resort

I was looking for a quote about force vs. flow, but I can’t find just the right one.

Maybe because what I’m really looking for is a reason to come back. A reason to write this blog post. I’ve been missing, you see. I was convinced, as I sometimes am, that talking about my mental health and what could be considered my personal problems was problematic and inappropriate. Oh, and my favorite – immature. Did anyone say those words? No, not so much. But I heard them nonetheless. So I did what runners always do and I ran, but I didn’t find what I was looking for when I was hiding. Sometimes I find a degree of peace when I’m alone, but often I stretch it out longer than it needs to be. Or maybe it doesn’t need to be at all? Could I be forcing my own isolation? I’ve pushed worse on myself.

As I dip my toe back into the online world, I’m hyper aware of places I fit in and places I’m trying to force. My balance is sometimes off. I push myself into myself places I don’t belong, then run from places I shouldn’t. Following your instincts can be a real b*tch, especially when your eyes are opened to old patterns. Why did I spend so long contorting myself to fit in? Why did I spend so long pretending to be someone else to please everyone and keep the peace? Why did I stay so small?

Because I was afraid to be alone.

But by doing that, I was isolating myself even further. I always considered myself the last picked friend – you know the one. The one who’s a great listener but doesn’t talk. The one who’s always on the sidelines. Who people think of last and only because there’s no one else around. No wonder I was expandable. I had no opinions or personality except what I reflected. I had no color. Why would anyone choose to hang out with me except as a last resort? I didn’t even want to hang out with me. I sold myself over and over again. I didn’t stand up for myself. I made myself as small as I possibly could until I almost disappeared.

Sometimes, in order to face your fears, you have to meet them head on. That’s not what I was doing by running. I wasn’t embracing my fear of being alone, I was numbing it by being in the wrong places with the wrong people in order to reinforce that I didn’t belong anywhere. It’s a b*tch of a cycle, I’ll tell you that. And guess what? Being alone would have been preferable. I’m aware of the irony, though I prefer not to call it irony. I call it growth.

And I’m still running sometimes. It’s a hard habit to break. But it’s broken, I think, by people who remind me that I belong here, on this platform. That my words have meaning. That I have meaning. Maybe that meaning is what I’m running from sometimes? Or maybe it’s just plain fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of being myself. Fear that I’m not plain good enough. I’m not sure how hard and fast you have to run from that, I only know I’m tired of running. Maybe it’s time to turn around and face it.

A long journey home

How many times have I sat before this screen and wondered if I had anything important to say? There are almost 8 billion people in this world. What makes me different from any one of them? What makes me stand out? What makes me think I have anything of value to add?

I love the idea that everyone has a gift or a purpose. But what’s mine? I think I might’ve been looking so hard that I couldn’t focus on what was right in front of me. I think they call this not seeing the forest for the trees, and… spoiler – this comes close to the plot of the Alchemist, one of my very favorite books. The journey back to yourself is the hardest, but like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, the magic has been in me all along.

There are times when I really, truly don’t have anything to say, or feel comfortable feeling it never mind saying it. There are times, even now, when I want to stay in hiding, and there have been times on this blog that I’ve gone the complete opposite way and shared some really difficult things. Things people don’t talk about. Scary things. The willingness to do that, to open myself up despite pushback (and there is pushback and fear, and even still some shame)… well, I wouldn’t say that’s a talent, or a purpose. I think everyone can do it. But everyone isn’t. So what does that mean?

Do my words matter? Does this blog matter? Maybe. Or maybe it’s another step. I don’t see my gifts or my purpose as a destination, but a journey. A journey, like Dorothy, back to myself. Will I find that magical purpose when I reach Oz? Will I reach Oz, and what will be there when I do? The only thing I can count on being there is what I learn along the way. (Again, props to the Alchemist here.)

I don’t think my purpose is as simple as one thing, but maybe we have a different gift and a different purpose for different seasons in our life? I sometimes wish I was someone who just knew I was meant to be a nurse and save lives, or a teacher and change them. But it’s never been that simple for me. Maybe it’s not that simple for you, either. Here’s the thing – being true to myself is as close to my purpose as I can get. That honesty and authenticity has sure put me on the right path, at least. But who is that? Who am I when I look in the mirror and try to align myself?

Well, it depends on when you ask me. Like everyone, I’m nuanced. But in my heart I like to think I’m kind, forgiving to a fault, a good listener, and a good friend. I’m creative and caring, even if I don’t always know how to channel those. I’m chaotic and passionate – often to a fault there, too. I’m a dreamer. Honest. Intuitive. Empathic. At my best, I’m in love with the world. At my worst? Well, I think you’ve read those blogs. The danger of being a person who embraces their feelings is being a person who embraces their feelings. All of them. But I won’t run from them. Not anymore. They’re a part of my journey, and if you’re reading this, they’re a part of yours, too.

I’m not a guru. My degree in history makes me patently unqualified to offer advice, except for the fact that I’ve been to those places, to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I’ve been on this journey to find myself and my purpose. To find a way to help and make the world a better place. And somehow, I’ve found it in me to write about it. Does that mean something? I suppose it has to.

All these years of seeking, and maybe my gift or my purpose isn’t something I have or something I’m seeking, but something I am? Maybe it was in front of me all along? It seems too simple, unless you think of it as a step. Once step on a long journey home.

Speaking out

I get such wildly differing advice when it comes to writing. Be honest butts up against staying in your lane. Writing what sells vs writing from the heart. Is my story valid? Is it helpful? Does that make it worth putting myself out there?

What is my story anyway, and should I be ashamed of it?

I might have been, some time ago. I’ll be honest, I came here today to delete everything that might potentially be embarrassing, but how do we learn we’re not alone if one person isn’t brave enough to speak up? I don’t think I’m brave. Stupid, maybe. A little naive. Maybe a lot naive. But I made a promise to myself when I started this to be honest. This isn’t a blog about recipes or tiktoks. It’s a blog about getting real. Largely the things I write about I’ve already dealt with, but not always. Things cycle back. I know that. Sometimes you’ll cycle back with me, and by putting this out there you know I’m willing to cycle back with you. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I’ve found that staying silent hurts more than talking, even for this introvert. And if it helps one person? Well, then I guess it’s worth it. Is it?

I don’t worry what people will think as much as I worry I’m not getting my point across. I’ve gone past worrying what people think, but maybe I should worry about it? After all, I still have to live in this world with people who know me. This blog would seriously put a crimp in any presidential plans I have. Fortunately for me, I’m not planning to run for president anytime soon. And if I do, I am who I am. I struggle sometimes. If I can’t be honest about that, everything else is built on a lie. It’s possible to live within that lie. I’ve done it. But that’s not how you grow and that’s not how you heal. I can’t tell anyone else how to grow and heal, maybe you’re not even ready for that yet? But I am. And my growth and healing comes from speaking out, so that’s what I’ll keep doing.