Tag Archive | drinking

The art of just being—Safe in your own skin

Several weeks ago I sprained my ankle.  I have a trick ankle–(I have always wanted to call some body part a trick whatever ;-)–but the only trick that this ankle does is to randomly give out from time to time.  This ankle has given out so many times in my life that I have lost count.  The last time it had happened was two and a half-year prior, and before that three of so years prior, only that time the trick had me tumbling down a flight of stairs and left me with a foot broken in two places.  Of course, the break took priority over the weak ankle, so I never mentioned it to a doctor, nor had I ever treated it properly when it is sprained.  This last time though, I quit what I was doing fairly soon after I had hit the ground, and instead of trying to carry on as I normally would have, I told my client I could not finish.  I went straight to the store and bought two bags of frozen peas, some ibuprofen, and an Ace bandage.

Once I was home, I wrapped the ankle, took some medication for the pain and inflammation, and I elevated my ankle and iced it every two hours and I did this for four whole days.  It was a bad sprain.  My son was with his father that week, so I could actually take care of my poor ankle the way I knew I should have been care for each and every time.   I learned a lot during that time I was laid up.  In the past, I had always hated being laid up.  I am a mover and a shaker.  I had a friend who once told me, many years ago, that even when I was sitting perfectly still, it was as if I was vibrating.  I chalked that up to being a high-strung, expressive, high energy person, and to some degree, I believe that is true.  But these days, I am not strung nearly as high as I used to be.  These days, I can just be.

I had no problem at all laying in bed with my foot up for hours while I read.  I greatly enjoyed laying on my couch just thinking while I iced my ankle.  I felt relaxed and I feel comfortable with just being and I felt more than comfortable with taking care of myself properly.  I felt at peace.  It was lovely.  Of course, I had a lot of time to think and I realized that even two years ago I might not have been able to give myself this  type care.  In fact, I am certain I would not have been able to, and three years ago, there would have been no way I could have held still for even twenty minutes to ice my ankle.  What had changed after a lifetime of moving and shaking?  I finally felt safe in my own skin, and I finally felt safe to be myself fully, and that has only happen in the last year or so.

I thought back to three years ago.  It was shortly after I had left my marriage and I felt happy and free, but I was not relaxed.  I loved where my son and I were living, and I was making life changing choices, but I was wound so tightly that, in retrospect, I am surprised I survived.  I kept having random panic attacks that just came out of nowhere, like the great heart attack that wasn’t a heart attack incident on Thanksgiving night of 2009.  My kids had been home, and we had enjoyed a splendid evening, and a wonderful meal.  With the exception of my little boy, they had gone off to their Dad’s, and I was downloading pictures when I began to have chest pains.  I finally called 911, and there was an ambulance ride, and my adult sons came back over to fetch their brother, and in the end it was all anxiety. As I told the ER doctor, “I think I really just need a good cry.”  After my EKG and lab tests were fine, he agreed, and sent us all home.

The stress of that time still floors me when I think about it.  I had left a hideous marriage with nothing but a child and  duffel bag of clothing.  I knew I was going to prison and I knew I had a horrible divorce to look forward to getting through.  On the outside, I looked fine, but on the inside I was terrified and stressed beyond what most people could handle.  One night I was knitting and I realized that I was sitting perched on the edge of the couch.  I then realized that I never sat back.  I could not relax enough to do more than perch anxiously on the edge of the couch.  When I laid my head on the pillow at night, I had to consciously relax my neck enough so that my head was actually on the pillow, not hovering over it.  Amazingly, I thought I was doing really well at the time, too.

Now I have survived the divorce from hell and all ended well.  I survived prison and while in prison, I got to the core of my pain from age 5 forward and I uncovered my authentic self and have learned to love, respect, appreciate, and care for her—for me.  I know now that the all of that high-strung, ever-moving, vibrating person was me working as hard as I could, with all the power that I had at my disposal, to contain a lifetime of unexpressed emotions and pain.  I certainly expressed emotions, but not the ones that needed to be expressed, and I certainly felt pain, but I drank to cover that up so I could go on for another day holding everything in and functioning to the best of my ability.

Those two years prior to going into prison were like transition in labor.  Things had kicked into high gear, and everything that I had been repressing was screaming to get out, but there was no safe place yet.  Prison was the safe place where there were two very safe people to guide me through the birth of myself and the pain that accompanied the birth.  Now I have no problem just being.  When I work, I work hard, and I move fast, but a lot of the free-floating, hard to contain, frenetic energy is gone.  I do not have to work anymore hold in pain, or sadness, or anger.  It is gone, for the most part, and anything new that crops up is dealt with promptly and easily.  I can and do take care of myself now.  I have no problem setting limits, and it is becoming easier for me to say “no” when I need to say it.  I feel safe because I know it is me who keeps me safe with proper boundaries, kindness, and self-love which is something I denied myself for a very long time.

When I had returned to work after my sprained ankle one of my clients said, “Well, you had a nice little break, didn’t you?”  The comment came from a woman who cannot care for herself to save her life, and the comment was intended to induce guilt.  In the past, I would have felt the need to defend myself, or to justify my actions.  This time I said nothing because I knew I did not need to justify caring for myself.  I just glanced at her, smiled, and kept working.  After a bit, she said, “You really needed to do that, though, didn’t you?  You needed to take care of yourself.”  I replied, “Yes, I did.”

I need to care for myself every day and I will continue to do it, even if some do not understand.  I am safe in my own skin.  I can just be now and that is a miracle.  The true beauty of it all, though, is the fact that now that I allow myself to be me, and I care for myself, everyone else gets to be whoever they are and that is okay.  The only person I have to live with 24/7 for the rest of my life is me.  I get top priority now and by ranking myself that way, everyone in my life benefits greatly.  What a blessed thing it is just being me–finally.  It was well worth the wait.

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Following your own path–How to be a socially acceptable non-conformist

Part of being an inspirational page owner on Facebook, for me anyway, is trying to convince people that they can become authentic and they will still be loved.  It means sending out messages, often in poster form, encouraging people away from that life of quiet desperation and towards a life of their own making, full of love, joy, and happiness.  I work very hard to plant seeds that give people permission to be themselves even if it means not totally conforming to what most of us seem to think society wants from us.  I am hoping to let people know that you can become a socially acceptable non-conformist, but few people seem to trust that.

Follow the road only you know exists.

I often hear, “I would love to do this, but…,” or, “I wish I could do that, but…”  These statements are always followed by why they cannot do this, that, or the other thing, and in the end if comes down to their fear of bucking what society and the media feeds us, telling us all what we should be doing, and wanting, and attaining.  It would seem that we are all supposed to be working ourselves into the ground, squeezing our families in when we can, and most definitely, we should be trying to please everyone even if it means denying ourselves.  I used to buy into that, too.  In fact, I owned the company.  I cannot buy into it anymore and I so wish that more people understood that life is all about choices, and we DO have them in nearly every part of our lives.  The real question is, are we willing—are we brave enough to make choices that others might not agree with, or see as a little too different to fit into their comfort zones?  Are YOU brave enough, if you are living a life of quiet desperation, to make serious changes, and not to follow the pack?

I have a friend who is in her mid 70’s and I do not think she has ever known real happiness and contentment.  She worked herself silly as a younger woman and stayed in a marriage that made her miserable.  She lives in a large, gorgeous, home that is decorated within an inch of its life.  You cannot find a single surface, floor included, where there is not some piece of brick-a-brack every six inches.  Her deck has lovely patio furniture with cushions that must be brought inside every time there is a threat of rain, and under the patio furniture are rugs that get soaked when it does rain.  She is constantly on the go, doing for others at the drop of a hat, never able to relax, or just to say “no.”

If she leaves the house without being well dressed and in full make-up, she worries that people will talk about her behind her back.  When she entertains, even a barbecue, no one can relax because she cannot relax.  She has a grandson who is an absolutely wonderful, kind, giving, and grounded young man and of him she says, “Yes, but he’ll never be rich.  Not enough ambition.”  What must I look like to her, I wonder?  I wonder, but the thing is, I do not care.

She looks tired or scared a lot of the time, and every night she drinks too much.  I know at this point in life chances of her changing are slim, but how I would love to see her relax and just find the joy in herself and in life.  I would love to see her just plain happy, and yet, I used to be just like her.  I was constantly on the go, chairing this committee, or that one, or serving on this board, or that one, or more often, all of them. At the same time, I was raising a lot of very young children, and married to a surgeon which meant frequent entertaining, and when I entertained, my goal was to out do those who had gone before me.

I had to be the best at everything and as much as I truly cared about all of the things that I was doing, the reason I was doing them was to feel better about myself.  I had been raised with the notion that perfection was the only acceptable result, and I constantly missed the mark.  It got to the point, shortly before we moved from the community in which I was the go-to person for most everything, where I was out of steam completely, but found myself yelling at my husband who had already moved, “I will not leave this town with anyone thinking I am anything less than perfect!”  He had suggested I drop a thing or two and I could not conceive of doing that.  And just like my friend, I drank every night after I got the kids to bed to ease the pain of another day of being less than perfect.

Of course, that desire to be perfect was a swell cover for many pains that were far deeper, and in the end, that drive to be perfect took me into some places darker than black, and deeper than any bottomless pit, and it very nearly killed me.  However, I had to be knocked down more than a few times before I became willing to make changes in myself, and how I lived, and to be true to myself, and my temperament, and to get to the core of the pain I was hiding from with the need to appear perfect, and the drinking, and the excessive activity.  It took a lot of work, and massive amounts of courage, and a real commitment, and a long, damn, time, but I have found a place where I fully accept myself and am happy in my own skin.  When you get to that place, anything is possible, but far fewer things seem attractive, necessary, or even close to acceptable.

It is no longer attractive to me to pursue perfection.  I would be lying if I said I was totally over the need to be perfect.  The word perfect is one of my favorite words to hear, especially when it comes to my cooking, or writing.  However, I can now easily accept the phrases, “very good,” and “nicely done.”  Before, those would have been seen as insults.  I no longer find it necessary to please everyone to the exclusion of myself, nor is it necessary to say yes to every opportunity that is offered to me.  I derive my sense of self-worth from within—from God and from how I operate in this world.  It is no longer acceptable to me to strive beyond what is healthy for me, nor is it acceptable to have things I do not need, buy things I cannot afford, live somewhere that is far too big, or act like I am anyone but me–the genuine, essential, flawed, imperfect, happy, joyful, me.

Some may view me as lazy.  I know that I am anything but lazy.  Some may think that I need to acquire more things, or have more of what people think that everyone needs, like cable TV, for instance.  I do not want or need cable TV, nor does my son need anymore exposure to vile programs or inappropriate media stories than he already gets other places.  I do not need anymore things, or shoes to match this, or a handbag to go with that.  I now know exactly what I need and that is God, to love my family and friends, to work to pay the bills, and to write to honor God and the gift He has given me.  I have goals for the future that I pray will be a blessing to many, and dreams that I know I will see fulfilled.  God did not create me to be perfect, or run myself ragged in the pursuit of an illusion, or to deny myself and what He has placed in me.  Add a bit of solitude and quiet and my life could not be better.

I live a life so simple and honest that it is hard for many not to see it lacking in some way.  Yet, I know from what they tell me, that they want the same things.  It is just too scary.  The path to get there just looks too scary to take.  I had to go very far inside myself to find my path and it is only the right path for me.  Today, I encourage you to be brave enough to find your own unique path, even if it does not conform to what society wants for you.  Have the courage to go deep enough inside yourself to know who you are and what you really want and be willing to get rid of all of the rest, even if it hurts.  I encourage you towards a life of simplicity, joy, peace, and genuine happiness.  How badly do you want it is the real question?

Taking time to acknowledge the past in order to truly celebrate the now.

The past week or two I have been a little out of sorts.  I could feel something within me that needed to be birthed, but I could not put my finger on it.  It has been a busy summer, full of lots of fun activities, and plenty of work, too.  I have been feeling tired, not in a physical way, but in an emotional way.  Because there has not been a lot of time to think, or write my way out of whatever it was, I felt stuck.  Last night, it finally dawned on me.  The last few years, or more honestly, the last decade has been a really tough one, and while I have made it through to the other side and into a comfortable way of living, and loving others, and myself, I realized I had done what I have always done.  I got through everything the Walt Disney way–“Keep moving forward.”  When I stopped to look at everything that I had been holding inside of me it became abundantly clear that I had every right to be fully exhausted.

From childhood, it has been my habit to keep moving forward, making my way from one trauma to the next, with varying degrees of success, without ever really taking the time to stop and acknowledge what I have been through.  I can stay it out loud, and know it intellectually, but all of that is done quickly, sweeping the dirt under the rug so that I do not have to see it anymore, or feel it.  I clean houses for a living and I never sweep dirt under the rug when I clean a house, but I am the master of sweeping my own feelings under the rug, and moving on as if whatever it was had never happened.  It has been a survival mechanism for me, but it has left me weary.

Certainly, there are benefits to going through life this way.  I have had to start over many times, and move beyond some pretty huge things that might waylay many people for a very long time.  I bounce back up from every knock that life gives me with the resilience of one of those blow up clowns weighted with sand at the base.  You can punch them and punch them and punch them and they just spring right back up, seemingly indestructible.  So, I bounce back up, I let go, I move forward, and I also pretend like nothing bad ever happened.  I never take the time to honor the battle I have fought, feel the pain I carried silently throughout, or acknowledge that I have every right to be tired, or hurt, or angry, or sad.

I know now that I will continue to be tired until I allow each trial to be fully seen, felt, and honored for what it was at the time for me, and what gifts and lessons I gained from each hurt, and difficult experience.  To continually deny all of the exceptionally hard experiences of the past decade is to deny a huge part of myself, because it has been those experiences that have brought me to the happiness and joy I have today.  Through those pains and knocks, I learned to love myself, and to love and rely on God in a much deeper way.

My little boy is helping me to learn how to do this honoring in order to truly and fully release and heal.  The child has a memory that is truly amazing, and so much of what he remembers are thing I would prefer under the rug.  He has been speaking frequently of our dog, Tanner, who we left when we left the “blue house,” the house of horrors, and my marriage to the sociopath.  Tanner was not a young dog, and I imagine Tanner is no longer alive.  I have no idea what my ex-husband did with him, but my son wants to talk about Tanner and about all of the other animals he loved on our farm.  It hurts me so much, and far too deeply to think about what may have happened to the animals we left behind, but do it I must now.

After I found half of our herd dead, and piled in heaps in a barn the winter before we got out, I shut down.  Twenty-five or more animals starved to death, all the while I was being told they were “fine.”  I will never really know what happened to those animals, and I thought I had shielded my son better, but he remembers so much, and now, three years later, he wants to talk about it.  He needs to talk about it because he has been carrying the horror of all of that around for three years in his little seven year old body.  At first, I was inclined to change the subject when my serious little boy brought awful memories up, but now I let him talk—we talk about it.

He is a much different child now than he was when we left three years ago.  He is far more relaxed, and he is extremely resilient.   He feels things very deeply, and now he needs to talk about those feelings, and as he finally does, there is less of what little anger he has had left every day.  He is letting go the right way, and I will not hinder that process anymore by not being brave enough to feel the hurt myself.  I will not teach him to sweep things under the carpet.  Together we are learning to bring the dirt out into the light so that we can sweep it away for good.  He is a brilliant teacher and a very kind and caring soul, wise way beyond his years.

So now I must stop, and look at it all, and give it all due space and honor and light—the dirt.  I have to feel the hot tears rolling down my cheeks as I think of the awfulness of my drinking, and the arrests and jail time and the time away from my older children, now grown.  I have to feel the pain of the relapses, and the rehabs, and the halfway house.  I have to look at my marriage and the abuse we endure for far too long.  I have to honor the time I spent in prison, having to leave my little boy for six months, and the sadness that brought me, which I hid from.  I have to feel the weight of rebuilding a life from the ground up in the last year, single parenthood, and surviving the mother of all nasty, long, drawn out divorces and custody battles.

I have to feel that crushing pain and heaviness in my chest…the full weight and size of it–and I have to feel the hurt, and the anger, and the sadness.  It has been in there for years now, slowly pushing its way up to the surface.  Now that it is bursting out of me like hot lava flowing out of a long dormant volcano I can already feel the release of pressure.  I have no plans to wallow, but I have no choice but to let it flow.  The flow is all of the pus from wounds suffered but never treated properly.  I am finally really healing and so I am going to treat myself like someone who needs quite a lot of tenderness and care for a bit.  I want to make sure all of the dirt gets swept out for good this time.  If I need someone to talk to so I do not impede my own healing process, I know where to go.

As happy as I have been in recent years, it has not been complete and now I know why.  It is impossible to relax fully into joy and contentment and authenticity while you continue to deny a part of yourself.  I am on my way now to a higher level of all around health and happiness.  No more dirt under the rug for me.  Yesterday, I took my serious, yet wacky, son to the playground.  He sailed down one slide, landed on his feet at the bottom, threw open is arms and shouted, “I love life!”  Do you know how long I have been waiting to hear him say those words–to just feel unbridled joy?

I hugged him hard and kissed him.  Then I said, “You know what?  I love life, too, and I love you!”  It is all true.  I do love life and I know for a fact that were it not for all of that dirt that has scared me so, I would not know the happiness that I do now.  The dirt has served its purpose now.  I stand, with broom in hand, ready to sweep it out as it continues to unearth itself.  A clean start, and cleaner, lighter, fuller heart.  We are really healing this time and we are doing it together.  Yes, I love life!