Archive for the 'In Search of Joy' Category

18
May
12

Kids. Gotta love ’em. Mostly.

I love the shit out of my kids.

I really do.

But holy hell. Sometimes they (kids) take you (me) for a ride to Bolivia and back and you (I) don’t know what just hit you (me.)

I am not alone in this. (Please, dear-sweet-baby-Jesus-in-a-manger-all-swaddled-up-for-some-spices-and-dudes-a-comin’-your-way, tell me that I am not alone in this. Because I’m not sure I could survive that blow too.) I know I am not alone in this. And if I’m wrong, please don’t correct my delusion.

Most of you already know that I am a single mum. Being a mother is a very, very hard job. Being a single mum, depending on your situation, can be both easier (WHAT?!?) and more difficult. Let me clarify that one…

I am incredibly blessed. Don’t get me wrong, I (we) have worked very hard for these blessings, and they didn’t always come easily. But when my ex-husband and I were first married, there was someone in our lives who was going through a terrible, nasty separation and ultimately divorce. As in, these friends split up while we were away on our honeymoon. And that got an interesting conversation started between us.

On our honeymoon, we talked about what we would want it to look like if we were to eventually split up.

Slightly morbid, yes. But I think that conversation set some things in place so that, fast-forward three kids, five years, and a move to England, when we did decide to separate, we had already decided that we wanted to remain a family. Our family would be taking a different shape, undeniably. But we would always be a family.

And I think that’s one that a lot of people miss. It doesn’t actually matter who has done what to whom, or how angry so and so is, if you have kids together, you will ALWAYS be a family. Period.

Now, our situation was such that our relationship just didn’t work anymore. No one had had an affair. No one had gambled away the life-savings. No one had done anything along those lines that brings out the kind of anger that can be hard to move through and get to the other side of. I soooo get that. In that sense, we had a much easier time than lots of people separating. But we talked it through and we decided that ultimately, our kids came first. We wanted to eventually be able to have family gatherings that included each other and new significant others, when the time came. The point was to give our children two happy parents living apart, but who were still a family, rather than two miserable parents living together, destroying any semblance of family unity. And I am so grateful that we both turned out to be the people we hoped we would be throughout the process of splitting up our lives. I credit part of that to the fact that we chose to pull the plug before we hated each other. There was still love. It was just not the kind of love that could sustain each other and a happy, healthy household.

And we have been successful at that. We still have some holiday dinners all together. Birthdays are a common affair. He still has a key to my house, so that he can come in and out with the kids when needs be. He got remarried last summer, and his new wife and I are each other’s biggest supporters, both recognizing that we have tough jobs. My Mother’s Day message to her was this: “Happy Mother’s Day. Thanks for being such a great stepmom to my kids. It takes a village, and I’m so glad that you’re a part of it. ♥” Her message to me was: “Happy mama’s day, sista. I couldn’t have asked for better kids in my life and you’re to thank for that.”

You see, I am blessed. I have three fabulous kids, and a friendly and supportive relationship with their dad and stepmom. We are all still a family. This is what I believe is best for the kids in a divorce situation. It’s not perfect – they still have to go back and forth between two houses, and of course, we still have our issues from time to time. (If things were perfect, we probably wouldn’t have split up in the first place!) But there is a mutual respect and I am forever grateful for that.

The upside to being a single parent? My kids are at their Dad’s house 40% of the time. That means that I have 40% of the time “off.” When my health is acting up, that is a blessing – I don’t have to try and take care of anyone else, and I don’t feel guilty that my kids are taking care of me. When I am in healthier times, I get to be a regular grown-up. I can go out with friends for a meal or a movie. I can stay up late writing. I can make decisions that only affect me. There’s the blessing.

The challenge (or for sake of the phrase, the “curse?”)

I have my kids 60% of the time. I adore my kids. And the older they get, the easier it is getting. HOWEVAH….

It also means that when they’re being little shits (as all children can be, come on now!), there is no one for me to trade off with, no one to back me up, and no one there when I need to take a time out. Parenting requires the patience of Job. And you make concessions you would not make if you were parenting as part of a household team, because there is just not enough energy to police 3 kids, by yourself, in every aspect that you otherwise would.

You pick your battles.

For instance, my kids’ rooms are generally a high holy mess. In fact, most of my house is usually a high holy mess. But, I have only so much energy (less than most, due to my health crap) to mete out. And I choose to spend it with my kids, not against them. That being said, sure they have to clean up their rooms once in a while. But I am not one of those people who will spend my entire day following my kids around, picking up after them (again, I don’t have the energy). So our house is far from a Better Homes and Gardens showcase. The mess makes my skin crawl. When it starts giving me anxiety attacks (which it does), then we attend to it, usually after I’ve lost my shit with them. (Not always the best parenting choice. But there you go.) But I’d rather they got their homework done and we eat a healthy, balanced meal than they have clean rooms. Because I also think it’s important for them to have playtime to just go out and be kids too. Striking a balance is always…something we strive for, and usually miss by a long shot. I’m just picking my battles.

When I get angry, I really struggle through an inner dialogue about whether I am going to stay engaged and in control, or whether I am going to abdicate my parental responsibility, disengage, and go hide in my room, basically just saying, “Fuck it.” Again, maybe that’s because I have less energy than most people to spread out throughout the day and use to meet all my parenting responsibilities. But I’d guess I’m not the only one out there who goes through that process.

Like I said, I love the shit out of my kids, and being a parent is the most important job I have (I did, after all, CHOOSE to bring these three little lives into the world). But it can be a bitch, this parenting thing. Hardest fucking job around.

They push your buttons. They come at you from three sides at once. They are all teenagers, I swear, although none of them are 13 yet. They NEED this and they NEED that and they forgot their lunch and canyoupleasedriveforthisfieldtripmummy and can I have this friend over and I want, I want, I want!!!! Buttons, ladies and gentlemen, buttons.

And then they crawl into bed with you at night, or first thing in the morning, and they fall asleep in your arms, snuggled perfectly into the crook of your shoulder. They look at you and see that you can’t handle even one more tiny thing, and they lift up on their toes and wrap their tiny arms around you and just say, “I love you, Mummy. I love you.”

And suddenly, every challenge you’ve faced along the way, every battle you’ve had to fight with or on behalf of your children, every wet towel on the bathroom floor…they’re all worth it. With that one touch of little body against Mummy’s body, little arms around Mummy’s neck, and that sigh, that exhale, that…release of everything heavy in the world, because they know that you can shoulder it for them for a little while…and it’s all worth it.

I love the shit out of my kids.

Even when they take me to Bolivia.

16
May
12

I Want To Fly.

I don’t trust easily.

Whether I’ve learned that or whether it’s innate, I couldn’t tell you. But the result is the same. It’s very hard for me to trust people.

I open myself up easily. Yes, I know that seems counter-intuitive. But I am a pretty open person. That’s because I conduct my life in such a way that I am willing to stand up and speak for what I’ve done, my choices, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It in no way is reflective of my trust level of other people. It’s simply a willingness to take responsibility for my actions.

So, it would seem that openness does not equate to trust.

I am, however, also tired. I am tired of not trusting. I am tired of the isolation that creates. I am tired of the life that creates.

Because you know what? The further into this wacky life I get, the clearer one thing becomes: you get exactly what you expect. Do you expect people to treat you like shit? Oh, look at that, they treat you like shit. Do you expect people to be confrontational and in your face all the time? Oh, step off, and get outta my face.

But here’s the sparkly thing that I’m learning. And I mean unicorns and fairies and tea with the Queen of Magicland kind of sparkly. So huge I want to find some rooftops to climb and do a little Dick Van Dyke tap number up there, singing it from the chimneys. Ready?

What you expect, you get.

What, I already said that? Right, but we were talking about all the negative things in life. Now think about all the positive things in life for just a moment.

Do you expect people do be decent and treat you kindly? Guess what? People are really quite lovely. Do you expect that people will help you when you need a hand? Look at that hand being held your way. Do you expect your dreams to come true? Do your part, and watch them thrive.

(Wait, what was that last part? Do your part? What do you mean…we can’t just sit back and wait for shit to land in our entitled laps? Fuck no. Ever heard that phrase, “God helps those who helps themselves?” Well, regardless of your feelings about God, the Universe responds to action, not inaction. So waiting to receive will get you nowhere. Starting your own train in motion will start your own train in motion. But that is a whole blog post unto its own…)

Yeah, I know we’ve all heard this shit before. You create your own reality. But all of a sudden I’m seeing it spring to life in a way I can’t even define. I see people around me complain about “always” coming up against this brick wall or that impasse. And I’ve started to look at things a little more closely. And I realize that those challenges they speak of are not even in my sphere of consciousness, nowhere in my realm of being.

Yes, I know we all have our own individual challenges. I am taking nothing away from that concept. However, sometimes I think that maybe some of those individual challenges are such because we are creating them.

Stop for one second. Imagine…just imagine if we were each creating our own challenges. Unconsciously.

Do you realize what that would mean? That would mean that if we got conscious about it, we could choose NOT to create those challenges. We could choose to create pathways and solutions and love in those places instead.

Soak that in for a second.

Does that one hit you like a fucking freight train the same way it hits me?

For instance…on more than one occasion, I have heard a woman complain that she cannot get close to other women, and she doesn’t have any close female friends. Women are just so catty and two-faced, bitchy and nasty.

I know this is some people’s experience. I know this is a lot of people’s experience. And every single time I hear this I stop and have a moment of gratitude. I am so grateful that this has never been my experience. And I mean never. Maybe there was the odd toying with it in my group of friends in high-school, but ultimately, even my privileged, kilted and knee-socked highschool girls didn’t go there. My college friends most certainly didn’t go there. And not once in my adult life have I chosen to hang around with women who fit that bill.

Maybe that says something about the choices I’ve made in friends. Maybe that says something about the expectations I have of friendship. But any way you slice it, I have always been blessed with outstanding female friends, all of whom I adore and would trust with my life. I guess I choose not to put my time and energy into (female) relationships that don’t live up to those standards. Period.

So it seems entirely foreign to me when people start talking about the cattiness and untrustworthiness of their women “friends.” Until it hits me. This is their expectation. So this is their experience.

On the other hand, I complain about not having enough money. It has been a constant and pervasive challenge in my life, from the time I became responsible for myself. I know other people who seem to have a horseshoe up their ass, for all that I can tell. They live the life of their dreams, and make the money they need to do so. With no struggle whatsoever. What. So. Ever. This is really just the shoe on the other foot. This is their bone-deep belief and expectation of how life functions, without even a flicker of doubt. Without so much as a whisper of a question. That’s just how life works for them. And yet it is such an ongoing struggle for me (and lots of other people out there too.) But what if that’s just because that’s what I believe? What if that’s because, although it’s not what I want, it is what I expect?

And that’s what really got me to thinking. Because I get that. I get it in my bones, I get it in my cells and on a gut intuitive level. I’ve heard people talk about it before but it hasn’t really resounded…now it makes sense. Therefore…

What experiences am I EXPECTING that I am therefore MANIFESTING that simply don’t need to be there? What are my challenges? Where are the hills and humps I struggle to make it over?

  • TRUST (lack)
  • MONEY (lack)
  • LOVE (just not easy and joyful yet)
  • JOY (lack)
  • CAPABILITY (lack)

So that’s my homework. Expect the best. Truly. At a bone-deep, soul-dancing, accepting without a flicker of doubt level. Because I’ve watched unconscious expectation become reality over and over. This time I’m going to work on CONSCIOUS expectation becoming reality.

There is a bit of a chicken and an egg syndrome…because I have to have trust in the process. Ultimate, unflagging, unwavering, absolute faith in the process. The process of creating trust. I have to trust to create trust. Ha. Yeah. Take that to the bank and cash it!

The light at the end of the tunnel is there, however. For the first time in years, maybe ever, I can feel myself cracking open. I can feel myself understanding how to get from here to there. I can see a pathway, I can feel my body engage, and I can hear my heart dedicate itself to beating with passion.

God, it’s so welcome. Living an excited, passionate life is so very welcome in this heretofore stone, lifeless body. Cracking open that mantle of discontent, that shell of faux protection, the creation of which has left me exhausted and disillusioned, that is true birth. That is the beginning.

Enter the delivery room with me. Let’s take this journey together. On the other side is flight into unrestricted, wide open sky.

And I want to fly.

13
May
12

Beauty In The Little Things, Sunday, May 13, 2012

So, I’ve had a number of you send me Tweets about finding it inspirational that I always find the good in everything and my positive attitude is to be admired. First off, thank you. Second off, we all have our off moments when things aren’t so pretty. But I do believe in my heart of hearts that if we can look for the glimmer of beauty in any situation – the learning, the fact that it’s over, the smile that happened along the way, whatever it may be – that life is a little easier to bear. Sometimes it’s even enjoyable. 😉

I often tweet photos when I’m out and about. A few days ago I tweeted some photos I took down at the Pier at White Rock, on a gorgeous, sunny afternoon. Someone replied to me that all the beautiful photos I took only reminded them that they lived in Place X (somewhere in middle America.) The insinuation was that there was no beauty there.

And I had a lightbulb moment.

Inspiration. Beauty. Love. It’s all around us, all the time. It doesn’t always come wrapped up in big fancy packaging. Sometimes it’s humble and easy to miss if you’re not aware. So I put it out to all of you, #BeautyInTheLittleThings:

Take photos of whatever you find beautiful and send them to me. Simple. Look for beauty every day. Take a pic. The only rules are that you have to take the photo yourself. It can be with your phone (most of mine are taken that way!) Or it can be with a big fancy-schmancy camera with all the bells and whistles. It doesn’t matter. All that I care about is seeing where you find beauty. What makes you smile? What makes your heart swell? What makes your soul settle just a little easier?

Send them to me. Send them on an ongoing basis. I would love to be able to put up a Beauty In The Little Things post every Sunday.

Here’s our first Sunday together. And I love you all for it. I love seeing the beauty you behold. Thank you for sharing.

xoxo,

Sara

08
May
12

Fat is a Four Letter Word.

Ok, so I shared in a recent post that I got to a place of being about 100lbs overweight. Saying that number aloud, I’m front of God and everyone…well, that was a little scary. I had to go hide under the covers and be an alien for a while before I could talk about it any further.

But talk about it we’re going to.

Because I know damn well that I’m not alone. Some of you have left comments or emailed me telling me your stories. And the parallels between us all are really quite overwhelming.

Does anyone want to be overweight? I suppose it’s possible, but it’s nothing I’ve come across in my sphere of experience. To really desire to be overweight? Desire and acceptance are two different things. But to start with, we need to get very, very clear on one thing.

Wanting to maintain a healthy weight – whatever that is for you – and being judgmental about body size are two polar opposites. Let me say it again: there is no place for judgement on this journey.

Zoinks! Bam! Pow! (Think Batman & Robin sound effects and cartoon speech bubbles here.) That’s a hard one, isn’t it? I have, at times, been my own harshest critic. Anyone who has ever dealt with weight issues can probably relate to that. I judge myself more harshly than anyone else ever could. And in turn, I’ve probably done my share of judging others.

I have, eventually, realized that all those awful things I’ve said, and sometimes still catch myself saying, in my head about other overweight people…those are really just criticisms of myself I’m making in my own head before anyone else can say them out loud.

“Fatass.”

“Just back away from the table, asshole.”

“Are you sure that bike can actually support you, lardass?”

“Whoah, wideload.”

These, and worse (far worse), are all things that I’ve said in my head to myself. These, and worse (far worse), are all things I’ve said in my head, and maybe to a friend, about people I’ve seen out and about.

Sometimes I’ve said these things (and worse) to be “funny.” None of these things are funny. Not in any way, shape, form, or context.

Thank goodness the older I get, and the more conscious I get, the more I catch myself earlier in the process. It’s not that those thoughts don’t come (about myself, and about others – which is really another way of criticizing myself), but my immediate response now is to interrupt them, to cut them off, and replace them with compassion.

“Good for them. They’re out getting some exercise. That’s more than I’m doing.”

“You just never know somebody’s situation unless you’re in their shoes. Stop being so judgy, asshole.”

“Send them some love vibes. Just love them. That’s all.”

Notice anything about all those sentiments? Yup, they’re all focused on someone else. I’ve managed to interrupt the negative assault on others and replace it with positive and supportive thoughts. Which are, by the way, entirely genuine. Now that I recognize my own process, when I interrupt it, I genuinely feel love and support for others. But I still have a little more trouble showing myself compassion. I can break into the cycle of judgement and shut it down (sometimes), but the compassion doesn’t always flow so easily, not towards myself. But I’m working on it. One step at a time, right?

One of the most terrifying experiences of my life was being at an amusement park while overweight. Now, at this time I was probably about 70 lbs overweight. I adore roller coasters. Rides that flip you upside down. Adrenaline shit. Love it, love it, love it. But going on rides when I have been quite overweight has been the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Not because the ride itself was scary, but because I was terrified that I would be that story in the newspaper the next morning:

“Obese Woman Falls To Her Death.

Fat, Not Roller Coaster To Blame.”

And instead of enjoying any part of any ride, that’s all I could think about. And it took all the joy out of an experience that should be nothing but joy and laughter.

Did I fall out? Am I here telling you this story? So…obviously no. But was there any joy in the experience? Also no. You know what there was a great deal of?

Shame.

That one’s a powerful word. Shame. Total gut hit. A little bit pukey. Teary. Constricting. Terrifying in every way. Doing something like getting on a ride with a bunch of other people, and having to deal with seatbelts that don’t fit properly, or chest bars that won’t cinch down all the way until the attendant comes and leans on it? That’s shame. And I can never decide which is worse: doing it in front of a bunch of strangers you don’t know but being alone, or doing it in front of people you know but having someone you love there to support you. Both are godawful. And ultimately, I just stopped doing either.

I have talked to more health professionals than most about the issue of my weight, given that it comes up as we talk about all my other trillions of ailments (and the bajillions of doctors, etc. I’ve seen for them.) And they always say the same thing: reduced calories in = weight loss. Throw exercise in there and you’re golden.

Guess what?

After almost 30 years of struggling with my weight and body image issues, and dealing with my body on such an intense, intimate level, I have learned one thing about myself. Yes, there’s something to the above equation. But for me, for this body I live in, my weight is determined by something far, far more deep-rooted than that.

Self-acceptance and gratitude.

Seems like a weird thing to control weight, right? Well, for anything long term or significant to shift in my weight, that’s where it’s at.

At various times in my life I have participated in a lot of eating-related regimes aimed at controlling one’s weight. But I call bullshit. Diets don’t work and the control games played out in dieting wreak havok with my self-acceptance, my self-confidence, and my trust issues. Yeah, you heard me.

I have read a lot of Geneen Roth, who espouses trust as being the number one issue in getting your body to it’s ideal, natural weight, and staying there. Trust in your body’s innate wisdom and trust in yourself and your ability to nourish yourself. Not through a set meal plan. Not by following someone else’s instructions. By listening, really learning to listen and trust your body, and give your body what it’s asking for, and learning to trust that what you want will be there when you want it, so you don’t need to eat it when you don’t actually want it. I’m paraphrasing, and I’m simplifying quite a bit. But ultimately, these are the core beliefs that changed my life. Reading Geneen Roth’s books (pretty sure I’ve read all of them), and working for a stretch with a therapist who specialized in eating disorders (I’m a compulsive eater and an emotional eater) and worked on the same premises that Ms. Roth speaks of, these things made a huge impact on my life. Still, for years my weight went up and down.

And then I had an epiphany moment. (I must say, they’re weird when they strike, but I got over it. I epiphanized.)

I was sitting on my bed one evening, and I felt this overwhelming surge of gratitude for my body. This body that I have fought and hated and judged. And I sat there on the edge of my bed, naked (I was getting ready for bed), and rubbed my thighs. I was enveloped ingratitude for these strong thighs that had carried me through so much in my life. So many struggles, so many trials and tribulations. But there they were, strong and large, keeping me safe. And I just sat there with tears streaming down my face. Instead of wishing them away, I was drowning in thankfulness for a body that had protected me when I had been unable to protect myself. Taken care of me when no one else had been there to take care of me. And I felt love and gratitude for this body as I would a friend who had stood by me through thick and thin.

Now, it’s difficult to write, to explain without sounding cheesy. But as I sat there, running my hands up and down these amazing legs that had brought me from there to here, I really was overcome with emotions beyond explanation.

And that turned the tide.

Once I felt gratitude for my body, love and appreciation, totally devoid of hate or fight or shame, I could release whatever bound that body to me. And the weight started to fall away. At the time I swore I wasn’t eating any differently than I usually did, but the pounds were falling away. 45 pounds, actually. I got to a weight I could have been comfortable being for the rest of my life. At most, 20 pounds away from the lowest I’d really want to go and feel healthy.

Life throws you curve balls, though. After about a year at that weight, I injured my back, became quite immobile, and due to a particular medication, I gained 40 pounds in 6 weeks, and over the ensuing 3-4 years, and various medications, it crept up another 35-40 from there. And that, right there, put me smack at 100 pounds over what I would consider a healthy weight for me. It was within 5 pounds of the weight I saw on the scale just before I gave birth to twins, my full twin pregnancy weight, the highest I’ve ever been in my life. Due to another medication, I am now down 30 over the last 4 months, which puts me right back about where I started when I was having a love-fest with my legs. But I am finally, finally, in a place where I can see straight to appreciate my body for what it has given me. How it has protected me. How it has taken care of me as best it could.

And now, my job is to love my body. Every imperfect roll. Every wrinkle, every line. Every muffin top and chafe-worthy thigh. Every gobble-arm and double chin. Because it’s not about judgement. In fact, if my experience has taught me anything, judgement does the polar opposite of what we are striving for. Acceptance, yes. Love and gratitude? Now we’re talking holy trinity.

This is how I started to send love to people I saw, who I guessed were probably hurting and struggling inside, the same as I have/was/do. And the people who were acting brave and not showing it to the world. And the people who were super-duper badass and had already figured out how to love themselves for what they were, knowing that the package doesn’t matter. Because, as far as appearance goes, I don’t care if you’re 88 pounds or 388 pounds or 688 pounds. We’re all fighting the same demons. And for the precious few who’ve won that battle, who’ve learned to put their demons in their place and love their body, I commend your bravery, your honesty, and your heart. I hope you can help gently guide the rest of us home too.

There does come a time when our health becomes a bigger priority than proving our non-judgementalness about body size. Sometimes losing some weight would make a striking difference in our ability to function. I know that since 30 pounds, my blood sugars have come out of the pre-diabetic range, back into the regular-old-joe range, for instance. I haven’t had my cholesterol numbers checked yet, but I am expecting to see some of the same there too. Most people have an easier time with their joints once they lose some weight.

And that all comes down to a choice, I guess. What’s the priority for you? Staying in a nonjudgemental place about your weight and keeping the status quo? Or staying nonjudgemental about your weight and trying to improve your health? Getting a little more active? A doctor will tell you there is only one right answer. I don’t agree with that. I think that you have a choice, as long as you are clear about the consequences and you make a conscious choice, knowing that there will be a price tag to pay, and you’re willing to pay it. But that requires some very intense self-examination and brutal honesty, because it’s easy to bamboozle yourself into thinking that you’ll pay the price tag because the change is too scary to contemplate. I get that. I’ve been there. I’ve done that.

Either way, we can all strive towards a more accepting, loving, nonjudgemental place when it comes to bodies.

We can probably love each other better. We can probably love ourselves more. It’s so worth doing it. And once again, it starts with gratitude.

{The following is a song I wrote the night of the naked, crying, thigh-rubbing, love-fest with my body. It’s a thank-you letter from me to my body. Maybe you can relate, or use it in your own process. If it helps you in any way, then I’m happy to share it with you. xoxo}

{One caveat: please know that this is a very rough writing demo only. Less than optimally recorded. But seeing as I’m still having MBox / ProTools issues, I couldn’t record a better version of it in time for this post. So you reeeeeally get to hear the nitty gritty! And, for your listening pleasure, you also get to hear many guest appearances by the fan on my laptop. Because that’s cool shit, yo. Click the song title and it’ll take you to the track…fancy, right?)

Fragile Emotions

Thank you for proteecting me when the world fell apart
Thank you for connecting me to the fear in my heart
For sheltering a lonely soul, who had nowhere safe to go

Thank you for keeping promises better left unsaid
Thank you for for the trust I felt, twisted but nonetheless
You kept me safe and when I hated you, took care of me the best way you knew how

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh, I love you
And so I free you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through

Thank you for the walls you built that kept it all at bay
Thank you for the padded cell that kept them all away
Fueling the fire, yearning and burning within

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh, I love you
Yes I adore you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through

The harder I tried, the further we’d collide
A slow angry burn at their failure to provide

Thank you for speaking up for me when I couldn’t find the words
Thank you for your loving curves and the beauty I have learned
The journey has been much bigger than ever I imagined

Now I release you
Now I embrace you
Oh, I love you
And I forgive you
Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through

04
May
12

Gratitude. Can you feel the love tonight?

Gratitude. Get into it. Feel the love. Make it your jam. Every day. Every moment. Because that’s where shit happens. That’s where things start to move and rearrange and fall into place.

Even if nothing changes, your outlook on it does. That’s what gratitude can do. That’s what gratitude does do. So the same old shit can go from feeling murky and bitter to feeling manageable and yes, maybe even sparkly. That’s right, you heard me. Sparkly.

Remember how I wrote in my last post about processing anger? Well I spent the rest of that day, and the next, still stuck in my angry place. Which, no matter how enlightened and conscious one is trying to be, still feels like ass on a stick. Maybe Pluto is in the 6th house or Venus is in retrograde, or some other shit. But I was hanging out in my angry place.

After 3 days of that, which included calling one of my kids’ teachers “bugfuck crazy” while speaking to another parent (which the teacher – who absolutely is bugfuck crazy btw, whether I’m in my angry place or in Mexico – may or may not have heard as she walked by), it occurred to me that for my own sanity, and my children’s educational experience, perhaps I should try to find a proactive way to help my anger start to move.

Observing your anger is great. And I honestly do think it’s an important part of the equation to be able to observe it without trying to alter anything. But you also have to make sure you don’t get stuck there…and I was starting to feel pretty damn stuck there. (As an aside: yes, ideally you can spend more than three days in observation mode and let shit runs its course. However, the reality is that we all have lives that need to be lived, and so there is a balance to be struck between not doing and doing. It was time to do.)

Gratitude.

It’s simple. I’ve done it before. But like so many other things, sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle.

One of the reasons I like doing My Favourite Thing Today is because there’s an element of gratitude inherent within it.

But I now want to make gratitude MORE of a compass point in my life, the one that determines my own true north. The one from which everything else flows. And those things will happen without any increased effort on my part. My job is simply gratitude.

Here’s the plan. You can do it with me. A l’il extra gratitude in our lives would behoove all of us.

1:: So, first and foremost, take a little extra time, a little extra consciousness, when doing My Favourite Things. That’s really just another form of a Gratitude Journal. Now, just simply a little more mental space and concentration on feeling grateful for whatever is your favourite thing that day. And that one’s key:

FEEL THE GRATITUDE IN YOUR BODY

Sounds a little woo-woo. But try it. You’ll know what I mean. Not just lip service. Actually feel grateful with your body. It’s almost a tingly feeling.

2:: Next, do this more than one time a day. Meaning, stop to really feel the gratitude another two or three times throughout my day. I’m talking maybe a minute at a time. Not a huge undertaking. You don’t have to write anything down, necessarily. Just feel it in your body. The only catch is remembering to do it. Set an alarm on your watch or phone if necessary. Because we can all, even the busiest of us, find 60 seconds, two or three times a day, to stop and feel grateful for what we already have. Whatever pops up for us. It might be the people around us. It might be the animals we love. It might be food and shelter, or decent weather. Take stock of what you have around you and feel the gratitude.

3:: Here’s the advanced level, when you figure you’ve got steps one and two under your belt comfortably and regularly. This one requires a little imagination and a leap of faith. Remember when I was talking about attracting vs. allowing? Well, here we go! Imagine what you’d like to attract into your life. Instead of focusing on the absence of it in your life, imagine the abundance of it, all around you, offering itself to you. And your job? The way you both attract it and allow it? Simply feel the feelings of gratitude in your body. Down to your core. Sparkly, shimmering, tear-jerking gratitude. Even if you just sense a glimmer of that, work with it…it will grow.

So what was that last one again? Imagine what you want and feel grateful for it, just as though it is already yours.

And that’s it, that’s all. Reasonably simple, right?

We can all get on that gratitude train. I would love to hear what your experiences are with this exercise, or any other types of gratitude exercises you’ve tried in the past. What’s worked for you? What hasn’t resonated for you? Do you feel any different doing the exercises I outlined above? I’ll be doing them too, and we can all share our thoughts…

Love and Gratitude. I’m already feeling sparkly.

02
May
12

It’s OK To Feel Angry. (I’m just not very good at it.)

It’s OK to feel angry.

I just don’t know how to process it.

So the fact that I’m feeling a little angry about all these fucking hurdles is leaving me…in no man’s land. Intellectually I know that it’s OK, and in fact it can be quite healthy, to feel angry and work through it. But not having the tools to do so just makes me shy away from anger most of the time. Except sometimes I can’t. Then I’m screwed. And so we meet.

Three-ish years ago, when I was working and had saved up some money, I bought myself an MBox so that I could record demos of my writing at home. We have a studio, yes. But honestly, I have no idea how to run that board, and every time I have tried to go in and do something, I would spend 5 hours just trying to get the sounds out of the board before leaving frustrated. Plus, as time has gone on, it has been getting more and more difficult to schedule time in the studio, because although it started out as a family studio, it has become a working studio with a professional life. And that’s cool. I have no issues with any of that. Thus, I purchased an MBox, figuring I could run that myself, and it was all I really needed anyway.

Josh had been using my Dad’s MBox for working at home, but it bit the dust. He had some stuff he really needed to be able to do, so I happily offered to lend him mine. I knew it would take a little while for me to get around to installing it anyway. But, as has a way of happening, it was about 3 years before I got it back from him. Shit happens. That I’m not upset about.

But that’s where things get a little murky. Unfortunately, in that three years I moved. I knew exactly where the ProTools install disk was in my old house. I have turned my (new) house upside down looking for said disk, and…nothing. It’s possible that it mistakenly got thrown away when we were moving. I have no idea. It might still be packed in some box, although I think I’ve gone through every possible box three times now. You see, there was no point in installing the program, because it won’t run without the hardware plugged into the computer. So until I had the MBox back from Josh, there was no point going any further.

Now that I have the MBox back, I have at least gotten it running with GarageBand. (I won’t do my album on GarageBand, however. I am so much more comfortable using ProTools, and it’s just a much more comprehensive program, with way better editing capabilities.) So I can throw down a quick writing demo. You’d think.

Except that tonight, when I was trying to do just that, everything was all good for the first hour or two. Then, out of nowhere, the MBox started making this hideous feedback-y, awfully loud, buzzing noise. Nothing I did would stop it. Well, that’s not true. Some buttons pushed did stop it, but unfortunately when I pushed them again to set things where they actually needed to be, the noise was still going strong. My only option left was to take my mic out of Input 1 and plug it into Input 2 instead.

Ahh, problem solved.

For another hour or two.

Then, wham! Same bullshit started happening again. Of course, I tried reverting to Input 1, but it was still reacting the same way there too. So now two of two channels were fucked. My only possible brainchild of a solution was to try a different mic cord. So I did.

Ahh, problem solved.

Except.

Except that now it sounded like ass. Instead of a lovely, present sound, my guitar or vocal tracks recorded with the new cord sounded like I was halfway down a tunnel. Far away. Strangely echo-y, although there were no effects on the track.

Oh, that’s about when I got angry.

And maybe I’m having a little pity party.

I’m a single mum, unable to work, on disability, with barely enough income to pay the rent. Literally. Scary, paycheque to paycheque kind of existence. (I know I am absolutely not the first, nor will I be the last to go through this. But anyone who’s ever been in this position can attest to the awful fear that it holds hanging over your head on a constant basis when you are responsible for three other little beings as well as yourself.) I did what I was supposed to do: I saved up the money to set up a creative outlet for myself. And now it’s not working. And I can’t afford to replace it with something new that does work. And this is too old and out of warranty and probably not worth fixing. And now that I’m finally, after 20 years of NOT getting off my ass, doing the one thing I’ve wanted to do since I was 5 years old, I feel like there are hurdles where there shouldn’t be. And I’m pissed. I kind of want to have a tantrum all over the floor like a toddler.

And I’m not saying I won’t either.

Will I figure out a solution? You bet your fucking ass I will. Will I let myself have a little pity party and feel angry about where I’m at right now, and the hurdles that I have to jump…again (it’s a recurring fucking theme in my life)…yup, probably. What would be the most constructive? To figure out how to feel angry without sliding into a pity party. Because anger and self-pity are not the same thing. But it sure is easy to intertwine them.

In the past, this is when I would self-medicate with food or cigarettes or booze or a few other things…anything to stuff down those angry feelings and Not. Feel. Anything. Anger was too scary. That may have had a little something to do with getting to be 100 lbs overweight. (Yeah, haven’t ever really said it out loud in quite those terms before. That’s probably a whole other post on it’s own. But for now, just realize that those were big words for me to say out loud. Or type out loud. Or, well, I think you get the idea.) Sure I have had some health issues that more than contributed to my weight. But an awful lot of it has had to do with stuffing my feelings – lots of different feelings, but surprisingly often it comes down to anger – down my pie hole.

Tonight I made a salad for dinner, a very specific one that I was honestly craving, and had been all day. I did not eat the box of Oreos in the cupboard for dinner. Or toast and butter. Or any of the things that would not have been listening to my body and honouring what it was asking for. Tonight I did not pour a drink. (This one hasn’t been an issue for a lot of years, and really, really isn’t much of an issue these days because my medication doesn’t combine well with alcohol. It just makes me feel ill after one or two drinks. So I’m a lightweight in this arena these days.) Tonight I did not light a cigarette. (I quit in September of 2009.) You know what I did?

I sat down and I wrote this post.

I stayed with my feelings, even though they were uncomfortable as hell, and they really…um…sucked.

I observed the vibrating, gnawing, slightly nauseous ache in my belly. The one that is somehow attached to the pull and tightness through my shoulders. The one that gives me slightly painful heart palpitations. And the same one that is all pulled together by the pain in my head, the throbbing in my temples.

And I waited. I waited to see how it would process. I waited to see how I could or could not let go of feeling angry. I waited, but I did not try to change anything. I just waited and observed.

Now, to be fair (and realistic), I should be honest with you. I’m still waiting. And I’m still observing. And nothing’s changing yet. (Maybe I’m just not that evolved. A distinct possibility.) But I’ve also made up my mind not to “do” anything about it. It’s been about 2 -3 hours. And I’m just simply trying to get more “conscious” of the process of observing and not trying to change. It’s a weird and uncomfortable things to observe yourself feeling angry and not try to change it.

Anger is so uncomfortable, and our society has made it so unacceptable, that we try to skip out on that place as quickly as possible. Get. The. Fuck. Out. But maybe this is how you successfully process it? By just allowing yourself to be there, no judgements, no actions. (On the other hand, it is entirely possible that I’m talking out of my ass. Just keep that one in mind.)

Time will tell, I guess.

How do you process anger? What are some of the healthy and unhealthy ways you’ve worked through, or gotten stuck, in anger?

29
Apr
12

It’s about fucking time for this labour of love

I’ve wanted to record an album for as long as I can remember. Literally, not figuratively.

The time has come.

Ash Ambirge and her Intoxicate 2012 project lit a fire under my ass. If not now, when? So, now then.

Whittling down a lifetime of songwriting into 12, maybe 15, songs is heartbreaking. Being brutally honest with yourself and assessing whether, after all that writing, you have 12-15 songs that are strong enough to compose an album is…humbling. And that’s only the beginning.

Then there’s recording. Or what I like to refer to, so far, as “The ProTools Debacle.” It’s a long, long story (about 3 years long) that started with me lending my MBox, new out of the box, to my brother, and ends with me getting it back from him (it’s been sitting in a corner at his house, unused, for quite some time now), only for us to find out that it isn’t really working all that well. It works OK for about an hour, and then starts to make the most hideous noise I’ve ever heard. Which is delightful. And in the interim, I lost my ProTools install disk. Maybe it was because I moved. Maybe it wasn’t. Who’s to say. But I am now at a point where my recording vehicle only sort of works and I’m fucked for the software, even though I paid for it. So I will be turning my house upside down…again…looking for it, so that hopefully I can get rid of this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Next.

My homework now is listening. Listening, listening, listening. Because I have to figure out how I want these tracks to sound. What instruments, what effects. What drum beats for god sakes, because the reality is that I have to program drums, and I am soooo not a drummer. I have to know everything that I want, because I’ll be producing myself. So I have to listen like mad. And I have to listen to an enormous width of music too, not just the same few albums I tend to rotate, and at a closer level. I have to listen to a vast variety of music from both a production standpoint AND a writing standpoint, because there exists every possibility that I will be writing more tunes as part of this process.

So I asked y’all for listening suggestions, and you sure did come through! Here are some of the suggestions you guys have given me for listening. Haven’t heard most of these yet, but I know what I’ll be looking into. And please add more suggestions in the comments!

  • Rupert Blackman
  • City And Colour
  • Ally Rhodes
  • Ron Pope
  • Passenger
  • new Train album
  • Cady Groves
  • Lights
  • The Icarus Account
  • The Pretty Reckless
  • He Is We
  • M.T.L Band
  • Brighter Brightest
  • Young the Giant
  • Meg & Dia
  • The Cab
  • Safetysuit
  • OneRepublic
  • We The Kings
  • Parachute
  • Stay – by Mayday Parade
  • All Time low
  • Therapy
  • Courage My Love – Anchors Make Good Shoes (If You Have Issues) (@couragemylove)
  • The Beatles
  • Lydia
  • Lost in Paradise – Evanescence
  • Good Enough- Evanescence
  • @hollywoodkills
  • @Halestorm
  • Nicki Minaj
  • The Pretty Reckless
  • Hot Chelle Rae
  • @kerlimusic
  • Marianas trench (OK, a LOT of you suggested this. Who are these assholes anyway?)
  • a few of you suggested me. While I totally appreciate it, I think for this exercise, me listening to me is rather circular…YOU listening to me, on the other hand, is purely delightful!
  • Artist vs Poet
  • Nightwish
  • A Day to Remember
  • Chiodos
  • The Color Morale
  • Paramore
  • This Wild Life
  • Acres of Lions
  • Emarosa
  • Silverstein
  • The Deadhands
  • Escape the Fate
  • There for Tomorrow
  • A Change of Pace
  • Amanda Clemens
  • Of Monsters and Men
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Fun.
  • Stabilo
  • Two Door Cinema Club
  • Death Cab for Cutie
  • Bedouin Soundclash

I’m not content to shoot for the middle. I recognize that I will be making this record under circumstances that are less than my ideal. What would I like? A full band, a producer, and a studio full of wicked gear, and an engineer. What do I have at my disposal? My MBox, ProTools (hopefully), my Mac, a Shure 57, an old Roland synth, a couple of guitars, and me, myself, and I. I have a bass player friend who will probably play bass tracks for me. My brother will give me some technical help where he can. But really, it’s mostly down to me.

This project is about removing my own obstacles so I can do it anyway instead of seeing only roadblocks. So it’s not an ideal set of circumstances. It’s still better than not doing it. Which is exactly what I’ve done for the last 20 years. And that’s been lame. There’s really no other word for it.

So, given my parameters, I have to shoot for the moon. My own personal moon. This has to be the absolute best I can make it. It won’t be finished tomorrow. I have an extra hiccup in that my health challenges make my work love schedule on this project entirely unpredictable. I’ve had a lot I questions about release dates, and to be fair, I have no freaking idea at this point. Not one clue. I don’t have a team working for me, a machine turning the cogs behind the scenes.

You guys are my team, my machine.

Which is to say that your patience, and your support through each step of the process is unimaginably valuable to me. My promise to you is this: I will stay in conversation with you, keeping you updated on the whole process as I navigate it. And we’ll enjoy the finished product together. You’ll hear about the challenges (there have been some, as I told you, but the process is also bringing up some emotional ick that I have to wade through, and I’ll let you in on that too) as well as the successes. It’ll be a journey, a process. But I think that’s kinda cool that you’ll all be with me along the way.

Deal?

So here we go, jumping in with both feet. Break Until I Bend will get made if it kills me. Which it just might.

Apt album title for me, wouldn’t you say?




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