Tag Archive | self love

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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Summer is here. It’s time to lighten up…

The last week or two have been an absolute blur, and the upcoming weeks are looking quite blurry, too.  Anyone with kids knows that, for whatever reason, schools try to jam pack as much activity into the end of the school year as possible.  There are concerts and plays and field trips and book fairs and lots of extra things to remember and make time for in a week.  I got through all of that only to have my 7 year old son come down with Lyme disease over the weekend, causing him to miss his last two days of school, and my last two days of productivity by my own too-high standards.  When my older six kids were school age, I so looked forward to summer vacation, and I am happy it is here now, too, but with more trepidation for some reason.  I suppose it hasn’t helped much that summer vacation began with an extremely sick kid.  Thank God, he is on the mend now and coming back up to full speed.

At the same time, my oldest daughter is getting married in nine days.  Of course, there is a lot of emotion that goes along with that, for her and for me.  I try to alternate my periods of feeling overwhelmed with hers, because my job is to be there for her when she is overwhelmed right now.  It is easier to do today than it was Monday when I had a kid with a fever of 103 who hurt all over, but…  Cake, favors, sashes all need to happen, as does remembering to remember everything.  Of course, I have to continue to work through all of this, now with a child in tow, because for whatever reason, money doesn’t just drop into my lap 😉  The bills do not disappear just because I have a lot going on, or a lot on my mind.  Something gives, eventually, and it has been this blog.

I was talking to a friend this morning who is quite a lot like me, right down to her temperament type.  She is full of love and compassion and understanding and when she has a friend in need she is the first one to listen and then tell them they are being too hard on themselves.  I know someone just like her.  Me.  I afford everyone in my life the luxury of being kind and gentle with themselves, but sometimes I forget to afford myself that same luxury.  God forbid I even have a less than kind thought towards someone who has been less than kind to me.  I feel as if I have lost my personal integrity because some very human thought spent two minutes in my brain.  She and I discussed this tendency we have to be overly harsh with ourselves.  We both know that we need to knock it off.

I know that I have come so far when it comes to treating myself kindly.  I have set boundaries and I keep them firm.  I do not beat myself up in the way that I used to do for mistakes, major and minor, and I no longer expect perfection from myself—unless I am cooking, or writing, or….;-)  Perfectionism is a nasty habit, and a hard one to break, and it is a form of self punishment that looks like something society really loves–productivity, ambition, call it what you will.  I can’t buy into it anymore.  I need to let go of the death grip I have on life.  I need to treat myself like a very good friend.

Just a bit ago, I sat outside as the sun was starting to go down and I could hear the birds chirping, and the “summer kids” down by the lake playing.  It is summer.  In the summertime, people lighten up, relax, and let loose.  From an age standpoint, I am more in the fall of my life, but I need to incorporate a summer attitude of internal simplicity that under girds my day to day living.  I need to continue forward with the work I have done on self forgiveness, and I need to stop trying to make up for lost time.  That time is gone, but what time I have now is absolutely lovely.  I need to lighten up for life and begin, finally, to bask in the warmth of an inward, eternal, summer.  If I don’t blog as much in the next few months, I will be at the beach with my son, or at my friend’s cottage on the ocean, or I may just be laying on the couch enjoying the silence, or the sounds of the loons on the lake, and allowing myself to be tired and to need a little rest.  I hope that you will do the same, my friends.

The theory of enough–The (sweetened) condensed version

There is a theory out there that is known as the theory of enough.  The theory of enough basically says that if you have enough that is all that you need, no more, no less.  The Amish practice the theory of enough and it is the basis for a life of simplicity, which I believe is something that could be practiced a whole lot more in our world.  Unfortunately, few of us believe that having enough is really enough.  We always seem to want more.  In countries like America, we have so much few of us have any idea what enough even is in reality.  It has been said that people will strive for more, and getting more will go on to desire even more.  Yet, once they lose it all, they will finally realize that a little was more than enough. That statement is entirely true, or it has been for me.  I am someone who lost it all—what most people would define as “all,” meaning possessions, reputation, and even my freedom.

It was when I had nothing, by society’s standards anyway, that I came to a realization.  I realized that I had my integrity with God, and I had my integrity with myself, and integrity within my personal relationships, and once I knew that one thing, I suddenly realized that I had everything that I needed for a happy and successful life.  I had more than enough, and I had always had more than enough, even at the lowest points in my life. I was loved.

But how does a person even begin to understand enough without losing everything?  Begin by asking yourself if you’ve had enough to eat today—maybe even too much.  Every minute, it is estimated that 15 people in the world die of starvation.  That is around 50,000 people a day, many of them children.  If you had enough to eat today you are blessed, and if there is food for tomorrow and the next day and the next day, then you have more than enough.  I have more than enough food.  I am blessed.  I also chronically cook too much, so I share with others.  I was raised to always cook more than enough in case someone dropped by, then I went on to raise a large family.  I cannot cook for two, so I share my extras.  Since I live a very simple life, it is what I have to give to others, and it is always appreciated.

Do you have a roof over your head, even if it leaks, or you think your house is too small, or it is in the wrong neighborhood?  In the United States there are over 600,000 people who are homeless, and that includes many, many families with children.  If you have a home and food and clothes on your back, even if they aren’t the latest style, you have enough.  Most of us have more than enough clothes, and shoes, and toys, and books, and stuff.  So much so that we have to work harder to buy bigger houses to store all of our stuff.  As a result, most of us have way more than enough stress in our lives, so we eat too much, or drink too much to try and cope with having to keep up with keeping up.

Now, lest you think I am going to tell you to sell all of your stuff and go live in a little cottage in the woods because if you don’t you are a greedy, selfish, glutton, or you are thinking that I have never had anything more than a little cottage in the woods so I have no idea what I am talking about when it comes to the greatness of having lots of stuff, let me tell you that I have lived on both ends of the spectrum.

My first husband is a surgeon.  He made a lot of money. He probably still does 😉 We lived in a 4500 square foot house filled with expensive furniture, and knick knacks, and doodads, and a very expensive Victoria art glass collection.  I had lots of lovely jewelry, mostly diamonds, and we had nice cars.  In my second marriage, for reasons I cannot fully comprehend, we lived in abject poverty, with no heat in the winter, no working bathroom, no washing machine, and in the end, no running water.  At one point, I had one pair of pants to my name that I had to wash by hand in the sink every few days.  I have truly looked at life from both sides now…  There is a middle ground in there.  There is a balance we can reach and it is called enough.

Not only do not think that we have enough, at the very root of it, we do not think that we are enough.  We are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough, thin enough, liked enough, and the list goes on and on.  We wouldn’t have a “not enough” list if we didn’t compare ourselves to others so much, but we do it relentlessly.  Our eyes are always focused on others, and the exterior things in life.  This draws us right into the cycle of striving harder to have more because certainly you will finally be enough if you have more cool clothes, or drive a nicer car, or have a bigger house, or get thinner, or work harder, and have more fancy stuff right?  Wrong!

You will be enough when you look inside of yourself and decide that you are enough already.  You will realize that you are enough when you stop comparing yourself to others and begin to love yourself for who you are now.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t, and shouldn’t, make improvements if they are needed, but knowing that you are enough will give you the strength and courage to make those changes.  Once you realize that you are enough, some truly amazing things will happen.  You won’t be so busy looking around at everyone else, comparing yourself to them.  That will free your eye, heart, and mind up enough to look around you and see all of the people in your life who love you for who you are, and you will have relaxed enough to love them far better, and more honestly.

As time goes on, you will also begin to know that you have more than enough and you may reset some priorities.  You will worry a lot less, and care about others a whole lot more.  You will begin to take notice of all of the people who really do not have enough in their lives, be it food, housing, clean water, clothing, love, or attention, and you will want to reach out and share with those who do not have enough because suddenly your life has become an embarrassment of riches.

Your world will become much bigger, and far more colorful, and happy, and filled with joy.  Life will simply feel lighter and less burdensome.  You won’t need as much from the outside because you will be at peace on the inside.  You will be enough, and have enough every day, and love enough every chance you get.  You will live in the moment, because each moment we are given to love God, and ourselves, and others will become a precious gift.  Isn’t that really the heart of enough?

Mother’s Day Reflections—A Quickie ;-)

“It seems odd to celebrate one’s mom is just one day. Someone so important should be celebrated every day.”  Anonymous, because he’d prefer it that way.

I have seven gorgeous children who are the light of my life.  Six are adults, and one is just 7 years old.  They are truly amazing, though I admit to a bit of bias.  To say that they are accomplished is an understatement, and that includes the 7 year old.  While their accomplishments are good for bragging rights, they are their accomplishments, not mine, and their accomplishments are not what makes them so special.   As I have always said, I wouldn’t care what they did as long as they are happy doing it.

What makes them so amazing is their personalities, and their character.  They are kind and generous.  They are loving and they are funny as can be.  They can laugh at themselves, and no one can get me laughing faster, or harder, than my children, with my sisters coming in at a close second.  They help me laugh at myself, and we have those family stories that are hilarious to us every time.   We have a secret language of movie quotes that we all understand, and can use to convey a variety of thoughts and emotions.  “Keep the change you filthy animal,” means “I love you,” or “You owe me nothing, it’s a gift.”  We’re all a little nutty, in a good way, of course.  We we are all together, the room vibrates with love, hot conversation, and tons and tons of laughter.  Individually, we are all quiet people, and true introverts, but together we are a gaggle of kindred spirits knowing we are fully home.

However, their greatest gifts lie in their ability to forgive, and to move forward, and to recalculate life, and the people in it, as needed.  This is what means the most to me, because I have required forgiveness more than most mothers.  I have required forgiveness again, and again, and again, and each time it’s been freely given.  They’ve forgiven the years of drinking, and my inability to be there for them properly.  They have forgiven the times I was physically absent due to rehab stays, or jail stays, or prison.  They have forgiven lavishly, with no lingering resentments, and they have moved forward in their view of me as I have recovered.  In many ways, we have been growing up together and they have been as patient with me as I have been with them.  They love me unconditionally, as I have loved them.

Yet, for many years, because of all of the guilt and shame I dragged around because of my perceived poor performance as a mother, I lagged behind them both in my forgiveness of myself, and my ability to recalculate who I am today, as opposed to who I was 10 years ago.   I have been forced to stop and look at myself through their eyes, and actually feel their words, not just hear them.  They did not become who they are today in some miraculous vacuum.  They remind me of this often, and of course, their father has played a role, the older kids having seen the worst, and the youngest having been spared most of that.  Because of my children, and God’s grace, which underpins all of this, I have been able to forgive myself, and I am getting up to speed in the recalculating of my view of me.   I thank God every day for these precious people that He trusted me to care for and love, flawed as I am.

My own mother died over 24 years ago, and I miss her terribly.  Although we had bumps in our relationship, by the time she died, we had reached a place of deep friendship.   She was always the first person I wanted to call when anything happened in my life, good or bad.  Now, I am blessed to have three women in my life who are both friends, and mothers to me.  One woman spoils me silly, and is a grandmother to my 7 year old, though there are no blood ties.  Another is chock full of common sense, and tells it like it is.  She loves to cook, too, like I do, so we share recipes and new food finds.  The third woman is the one to whom I can cry my eyes out, and I discover a bit more of myself every time I talk to her.  There is reciprocity in all of these relationships, which is what makes them so special.

But, the best mother that I have now is myself.  In the recalculating I have had to do—the seeing myself as all of these other very special people see me—I have come to realize that I can, and should, give every wonderful gift to myself that I give to others, and that others so richly give to me.  Knowing that God has fully forgiven me, as have all of the people who matter the most to me, I realized that it is more than a little arrogant not to forgive myself, and treat myself with the love and kindness that I deserve.  What a tremendous gift that has been, and it’s one that will remain.  I am blessed beyond words, and I wish you all the happiest of Mother’s Day’s.  Mothers come in may forms–our own mothers, our children, our friends, our sisters, ourselves.  Even if you have no children, you can celebrate and honor the mother within you today.

That quote up top came from my 20 year old son…  I am sure I’ll stop crying anytime now 😉  Happy Mother’s Day!