A day in the life of a not so typical 23 year old woman...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wait Baring

For the past couple of weeks I have experienced a persistent headache that outlived my regular excuses of the weather, sleeping habits and PMS. This headache was blunt, steady, and at times I could feel its pulse in the back of my neck; its vibrant tune buzzed its way through my concentration each day. This headache was different than most I have experienced.

As a child I used to get migraines right around the time my parent's separated, but dark rooms, a good cry and lapsed time all served as my crutch, and slowly the pain and  the migraines seemed to fade. In my later adolescence I would occasionally get a headache staring at the whiteboard for hours on end in school, but nothing a cold washcloth,  and a nap couldn't fix. In college I didn't get headaches, I got straight hangovers, which are much worse! So when I woke up with my room spinning I conditioned myself to continue on with my self-medication; pounded some Aleve, got a blue Gatorade and ate a greasy burger. Yep, that usually did the trick. But now, today, the only headaches I get are predictable when I don't drink at least 16oz. of caffeine within the first hour or two of awakening. I've learned how to prevent headaches. I make sure to take my daily vitamins drink a lot of water, and get a sufficient amount of sleep, and always have a stash, and back-up stash of Ibuprofen. But this headache was different. After a few days of pounding 1600mg of anti-inflammatories with no results, I resulted to my old medicinal tactics. Time, extra sleep, Gatorade and greasy food, I tried them all, but none of them worked.

I began to worry a bit. I had dealt with the normal stresses of everyday life, but didn't think that those issues could have been enough to cause physical pain. I was wrong. Apparently I had been carrying around some very heavy weight that was working sideways internally in the form of an ongoing headache. Consciously I couldn't pinpoint the cause of this irritating skull throb, but subconsciously, I've been carrying around enough weight that literally laid heavy on my mind.

I've been dealing with a personal issue in my life in the past week or two which has caused me some stress. I have been carrying around the unbearable bag of judgement, resentment and emotional despair, without consciously knowing it, and in turn, my body processed the stress in the form of a headache.

On Monday night I had a pivotal session with my therapist. I have voluntarily been engaged in  some form of therapy since I was six years old, but I'd never experienced the kind of out-of-body experience as I did on Monday night. I went to a really dark place in my childhood Monday night, faced some things in my life that I thought I had already dealt with and sealed away. The key is that I actually never processed these  things then,  and they have recently come up for me once again. So, in turn the judgement, resentment and pain, in conjunction with the consequential headaches opened up Pandora's box. After an intense  50 minutes in conversation with a person whom I trust, respect and seek, I was able to talk opening and honestly about the 500 pound monster that was causing me back pain, fatigue and headaches.

You want to know something ironic? After that very session I came back to reality and realized that my headache was gone. The release of that pent up stress was the key to my comfortable liberation. Decades of emotional baggage surfaced the past couple of weeks. Years of judgement, resentment and emotional pain. Years of waiting. Waiting to forget, waiting for someone else to bring it up, and waiting for the unbearable memories to wash away. But in the midst of leaning into my troubles, and my uncomfortableness I found the most gratifying relief. By embracing my feelings, talking about them out loud, and hearing my life as a narrative I was able to process some unfinished business, and in turn, I could set down the weight.

For anyone who isn't familiar with therapy, in touch with their own feelings, or willing and able to strive towards personal improvement, then this post might seem a bit bizarre. But for anyone who knows what its like to have that pit in your stomach, that voice in your head, the relentless thoughts and memories, the hurt, stress, tingling palms, pain or headache- then you can honor the stride I made Monday night when the pounding stopped. When I accepted my baggage, let it sit there with me in my therapist's office for a bit, I was able to  then leave it behind when I walked out the door. Phew!

Easier said than done. I just felt compelled to write about this experience. Stress effects us all in different ways. Judgement of others is a heavy load to carry around. Its counterpart, resentment, is even heavier. The longer we hold on to these things the heavier they get. A longer wait equals more weight. I am slowly learning that in my life procrastinating on laundry, cleaning my bathroom and organizing paperwork are less detrimental than procrastinating with my emotional processing. Stuffing my feelings only adds more weight to the baggage, and creates internal circumstances that are hard to bare.

Remember to honor and take care of your WHOLE self. Mind-+Body+Soul.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Honoring Our Imperfections

I'm sitting here by the fire tonight trying to convince myself that there are positives of enduring this winter weather. The only positive that I can think of is that I am inside wrapped up in three expensive faux fur blankets (from Target) with our Pit bull Pacino snoring on me. I was staring at my blog for a bit before I started writing, trying not to feel guilty about the fact that I haven't written in quite some time. I am trying not to get down on myself for the fact that I haven't worked out since Thursday, I have a 'to-do' list as long as my arm, I ate a cinnamon roll for dinner, and I refuse to get help for the chronic headache I have had for a week straight now. In the midst of a quiet night at home, in moments of boredom, or in glimpses of contention I am most comfortable beating myself up. I know better than that. Or so I thought.

You know, I am learning slowly but surely that we don't get any say when we have situations thrown our way, we don't get to chose the details of our future, and we don't have the power to change our past. As someone who struggles with perfectionism I know first-hand how hard it can be to constantly chase my own expectations, and how grueling the consequences are when I frequently fall short of them. In a material world, where a society tells us that our weight, monetary worth, and popularity define our self worth- it is no surprise that the key to a fulfilling self-esteem is a never-ending circle.

I had a conversation with a mentor of mine a few weeks ago where I was able to safely talk about the many imperfections I often feel watered down by. I talked about how sometimes I over exaggerate even when it doesn't matter. I shared that the loss of my vision is really scary, and it is truly affecting my everyday life. I confessed that I thrive off procrastination and that at least once I day I tend to overindulge in something edible. I'm not always 100% honest (even though I am trying to be) and that I tend to screen phone calls and text messages way more than I should. I am really scared of a committed relationship, I am scared of failing, and am motivated by external factors. Sometimes I forget to wear deodorant, my feet tend to smell like rotten eggs after a good work-out, and at 23 I have had to pluck a few chin hairs already! I'll never have a six pack of abs, my ass is flat, my left leg is slightly longer than my right.

(Exhale). Yep, these are some of my imperfections. Some of these characteristics I have been fighting, resisting and denying for many years. This mentor of mine changed the way I think about my shortcomings drastically when she told me that rather than dwelling on the things that don't make me perfect, that it is possible to embrace my quirks and honor my imperfections. Ar first I was really taken back by the idea of that. Instinctively my mind tells me I am a slacker, lazy or not good enough; that I can be different that I can look better and feel different. But now, there is this notion that I can embrace my imperfections as a part of the whole me, and that the very things that keep me from being perfect are what keep me sane.

Each and everyday that I walk the healing path of life I allow myself to stray further away from the righteous ideals that I have for myself, and creep closer into the comfort of my own imperfections. I don't have a perfect family, I don't have a perfect body, mindset or outlook on life, I have proven these things to you, but what I hope you can understand is how precious these qualities are, because they make me unique and set me apart from the rest. They are the very nudges that teach me how to love myself a bit more each day.

Self-love, self-worth and self-acceptance are complicated subjects that don't come naturally to most of us. You don't have to like your imperfections, you don't have to accept them as permanent or flaunt them  publicly, but just think about honoring them today. Think about acknowledging them as a part of who you are, as a part of your progress rather than your lack of perfection.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Serve-us Work

In the program of Alcohol Anonymous we have some simple sayings, mantras and words of advice that don't always make sense to outsiders or even newcomers. 'Keep it simple, stupid', 'first things first', 'and 'let go and let God' are some examples. When I came into this program of recovery I didn't understand why fellow members were suggesting that I do routine tasks such as attend meetings everyday, recite the serenity prayer and to find a sponsor. In my own complex world, these tasks seemed too elementary to be the true keys of serenity. Ironically, you would be amazed at the power that such simple actions have on one's journey to living a happy, joyous and free life.

Not only am I a recovering alcoholic, but I am a full-blooded Irish woman, I am the oldest of three, I'm stubborn, a Taurus, and a McCarney; therefore, I tend to think that I am better off doing things my way rather than listening to the compelling advice of God's 'little helpers'.

Ah, I have to stop and literally laugh out loud at how twisted my thinking can be sometimes! The truth is, there are miracles, yes, miracles that happen everyday in my life when I get uncomfortable, step outside of my box, shut up, and do what I am told. When I let go of all the control I so desperately try to wring out of my life, and do what has been suggested to me, I truly feel on fire, I feel useful, and spiritually fit.

For example, I was in the program of recovery for probably six months or so and had heard numerous members talk about the physical act of surrendering their will to God. ( Insert your Higher Power in wherever I write God). People would talk about not just praying in the morning, at night or in moments of sheer depletion, but suggested to physically get on my knees and pray. I used to laugh to myself whenever I heard that. In a new-aged, modern life it simply felt too 'old-school', until I tried it for the first time. As awkward as it felt, worrying if I was doing it right, it started to have an impact not only on the way in which I prayed, but on my life in general.

I stopped getting on my knees to pray after a while. It seemed too repetitive. And boy, did my life suffer without that spiritual connection. So I recently started again. And you want to know what I have been praying for every night the past two weeks? I have simply asked the God of my understanding to use me to be of service of others, because left to my own devices, I am not good on my own. "God, please use me to do your will" I say,  "to be of service to others, to help serve as it is the only thing healing for my busted heart". Here are some of the miraculous things that have happened this past week.

Last Wednesday I had a couple of cases cancel, my work schedule opened up, and I was able to help a dear friend complete some house work that seemed to be an overwhelming roadblock for her. In return for my physical labor, I was able to hear her personal testimony, and was introduced to the power of forgiveness. This week I took on a service commitment with my home group- and with some organization we may have a more effective group for women in recovery to meet. I volunteered today at a middle school, worked with 8th grade girls, promoting leadership in women, and hopefully will have a positive role in at least one girl's life. I felt compelled yesterday to reach out to a woman at a meeting, met with her today for coffee, drove her to a meeting and am temporarily sponsoring her.

Now, please know that I am not posting these deeds for hope of a compliment or the chance at winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Rather, I want you to know how moving it has been for me to get out of my own head for short moments each day, for me to be of service to others rather than be so consumed with my own man-made challenges. I have felt so full, soft-hearted, and useful these past couple of days.  In a time where mere struggle, anxiety and panic would be comfortable, I am making a conscious effort to step outside of myself and reach out to someone else. The effects are healing.

I don't have the influence or power to change someones life, cure cancer or stop starvation. I am not a Saint. My point in this post is to remind my reader's how fulfilling the gift of giving is. Sure, it would be easier to engage in selfish behaviors, to get loaded, smoke a bowl, spend some money on material things or bathe in self-loathing thoughts. But all I know is the more I can service others, the more I reach out, and stay willing to do God's will, the more spiritually fit I stay. And to be frank, that is what is keeping me sane today.

So tonight, I will get on my knees and ask God to continue to allow me to be of service to him as he sees fit. So in your moment of frustration, of angst, stress or fear today, think not what you can do for yourself, but what you can do for someone else. Don't overt-think it. Keep it simple, stupid! For me, getting outside of the chaos that goes on inside my head is what is saving my life today. So I will continue to kneel down and pray for more opportunities, more divine appointments, and more chances to serve others.

'Tis the season to get involved people!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Forgiving Me

A dear friend of mine is a forgiveness facilitator and once a month she hosts a free workshop open to the general public where she teaches the general philosophy behind forgiveness as an 8-step model. She calls it, 'Unconditional Love and Forgiveness 101'. I spent some time with her last week helping her paint and I was able to ask some general questions about forgiveness. I had no idea that there was so much scientific research behind this process and its power over our own mind, body, soul and society as a whole. I was intrigued to learn more so I went to the coffee shop on University Ave. where two other strangers were eager to learn the secrets of letting go to old resentments. The two hour session was not only mind-provoking, it literally changed my schema in regards to  the power of forgiveness in our lives.

The information that Diana presented was drawn from the Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training. Accordingly, the institute defines forgiveness as 'releasing an expectation that is causing one to suffer. To cancel expectations, conditions, and demands of the mind that prevent free flowing extension of unconditional love from source shared between oneself and another'. In A.A. we keep it simple and say, 'Letting go, and Letting God'. We were taught that as humans in order to forgive we have to be willing to take our attention (the here and now) and focus it into an intention (capacity to heal).

There are three levels of consciousness that we have, the Subconscious (sleeping, dreams, core beliefs given to us as children), the Conscious (our senses, the here and now) and our Super-conscious (our inspiration, and highest ideals). The basic theory that Psychosynthesis captivates is that there is a barrier between our Subconscious and our Conscious; that in most situations there is not a free flowing synergy between what we experience and what our operating system (Subconscious) tells us. For example, you may get a promotion at work which seems like a positive thing, but inside you may feel guilty, anxious or non-deserving. This is a clash between the Subconscious and the Conscious, and what is so fascinating is that we all have a number of sub-personalities in our Subconscious that make up our core beliefs and you probably aren't even aware of them. These sub-personalities develop throughout our childhood and tend to be barriers to the way in which we relate throughout life. They are barriers to the free flowing energy that the Universe was meant for us to have, and in turn we tend to build up an armor around us that prevents the energy of unconditional love from flowing freely through us.

Take a minute and re-read the last paragraph. It is a lot to take in.

So in the process of forgiving others, and ourselves, the goal is to break down that barrier between what we experience and what our sub-personalities are telling us. Through the process of forgiveness we can explore those sub-personalities. recognize them, and work towards changing the way we think about our experiences in the here and now. You would be surprised how much power and control our sub-personalities have. They tend to drive the bus of our lives; the 4-year old girl who fears abandonment, the 8-year old girl inside me who can't ask for help, the 12-year old girl who craves external approval, or the 18-year old girl who is driven by fear. All of these sub-personalities of myself have driven my bus by mere instinct throughout my life, and it will be a process to slowly face each and every one of them to convince them that I am capable to driving the bus now, and that there is a new way to think about life in general.

This may all seem a bit far fetch for you. I would encourage you to check our Diana's website to learn more about the theory of forgiveness. Visit http://www.meetup.com/Steps-2-Forgiveness/  and learn more about Psychosynthesis, the 8-step model to forgive another person, and the overall power of forgiveness.

When Diana and I started our discussion about forgiveness I immediately started to think about the handful of people that have done me wrong, who have pissed me off, hurt my feelings or broken my heart. I had the audacity to think that there were a number of external factors to forgive, but didn't realize that the person I need to forgive the most is me. What a concept? Self-forgiveness? I mean, what did I do to myself that was that bad? Hmmm....how about the years and years of self-destructive behaviors, the lies, the guilt, the shame, the mistakes, and lack of self-respect to name a few. You would think that by attending therapy, by working a 12-step program, and by a spiritual connection that no form of forgiveness would be needed. Wrong! I have spent a year and a half on my new path of life, but I still am my own worst critic, I am still hard on myself, i still suffer from the brutalities of perfectionism, and I don't allow myself much room for mistakes. I have a lot of amends to make with myself, the many facades of myself that exist; that innocent child (little Jilly-Bean) who so desperately deserves unconditional love and forgiveness.

Self-forgiveness is a whole separate process so when I get to it, I will fill you in.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Honesty Heals

I've recently encountered a few situations in which I was asked to be brutally honest with myself, with those around me and asked to come clean about some issues in which I have been avoiding. I don't know about you, but for me the idea of being 100% honest, of fully opening myself up to vulnerability has always been far more scary than telling a few white lies here and there. I've always done a really superb job of compartmentalizing my life; choosing to reveal bits of myself in certain ways to certain people and hiding behind simple lies to protect my self image.

It is easy to tell this person this thing, and that person that thing. By building up an armor of lies I can protect myself and others from being hurt by the unbearable truth I feel I have deep inside me. However, what I have found is that the maintenance of keeping my lies straight is far more work than just being brutally honest. Not only have I been lying to those people closest to me, I have been lying to myself for quite some time now.

Why is the truth so scary? Why does vulnerability seem so unmanageable? The truth is, when I fully envelope myself into the simple act of being honest and up front life is less complicated. I have conditioned myself throughout life to put others' needs before my own, to take care of everyone else around me rather than doing what I need to do for myself. Like I have said before, taking care of myself has been a new endeavor, and it takes a lot of practice. The thought of putting my own needs before others' seems selfish, unjust and down right uncomfortable.

For example, when I was diagnosed with Stargardt's five years ago, the first thing I said to my mother was, 'I just don't want anyone to worry about me'. I spent the majority of my time taking care of everyone Else's feelings around the subject and neglected my own. I coped in my own way. I would roll around and smoke weed alone- and truthfully I believe that is what got me through that dark time in my life. I never allowed myself to be taken care of by anyone else. The upkeep of this facade was so exhausting. I spent all of my energy making sure that everyone Else's needs were taken care of, making sure that everyone else was coping alright, and neglected the fear, anxiety, grief and pain that I myself felt inside. Rather than being honest with the people around me, rather than just telling them how scared I am and how much I was struggling, I chose to front a bucket of lies to protect them. Well- that didn't work, and in turn I ended up suffering even more in the agony of my own isolation.

I have had a couple encounters this past week in which I was able to be fully open and honest with a couple of women who are very dear to me. As my nerves set in, the pit in my stomach grew, I swallowed my pride and got honest with what has really been going on inside me lately. And you know what- no one fled, no one got angry or upset, but rather a greater respect was gained and a deeper connection grew. I felt a 500lb weight lifted off of my shoulders, and by being brutally honest- I've found a healing process taking place.

Honesty heals the soul. To have the courage to be honest with yourself and those around you is a tact that isn't learned overnight. It is easier said than done, and it takes practice. Honesty doesn't snowball into deceit, it doesn't lead you astray and most importantly it allows you the ability to lead life with a bit of integrity and self-love. I've never felt so close to another human being as I have this past week when I was able to wear my heart on my sleeves and be honest. You can't expect to grow, to change or to heal stuck in a mud-pile of lies; in fact the only way to deepen your roots is to acknowledge your feelings and experiences for exactly what they are. I truly believe that the only way to grow is to practice consistent honesty.

Easier said than done. But I will tell you this- I've been able to look at my reflection in the mirror with love and compassion as a result of my own honesty. How healing!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A case of the "-itis"

Living with three teenage boys has been one of the best experiences I have ever had. I left Iowa City last spring where I had lived in a dorm, sorority house, and an apartment with 4 other women for two years- so some adjustments were necessary when three teenage boys became my new roommates. I thought girls could put down on food- but rice cakes, turkey sandwiches and salads were nothing compared to the frozen pizzas, microwavable bacon and Cheetos that n ow fill my pantry. Guys might be a bit messier with their Gatorade bottles, video games and hats consuming our common room- but trust me- it sure beats make-up, bobby pins and locks of hair all over the bathroom! Living with the boys has also taken me back to the uncomfortable place of puberty, braces, puppy love and raging hormones. My eldest cousin, Michael has a severe case of senior-itis and honestly I feel for him.

It is easy to forget what it is like to be 17 again. Thinking that you know it all, that you have life figured out, that you are responsible, and that you don't need any help from your parents, because then again what the hell do they know?! Even though most of us look back at high school in rosy-retrospection- I admit- halfway through my senior year I couldn't wait to get the hell out of Verona and start the rest of my life. I had a bad case of senioritis myself not only in high school but in college as well. It got me thinking though, now that I am done with school can I still have a case of the "itis-isms" regarding my day to day life in general?

When you think of "-itis" you may think of the medical term which suggests that you may have irritation of a particular organ. "-itis: may mean a discomfort or irritability with whatever you want to put before the suffix. For seniors- the "-itis" may refer to straight boredom and exhaustion from the routine of school, the anxious feeling that occurs while going through the motions when you know that the end is so close. For me, my "-itis" creeps up on me with life in general. Perhaps it is a certain relationship, a job, a schedule or the simple routine of life. Sometimes I get the itch of irritability, I lose all serenity and angst for a little chaos in my life.

Unfortunately, I don't have a time period on the rest of my life. I don't see an end in site. I don't have four years to deal with my addiction until I reach the phantom finish line. I don't get to endure Stargardt's for a while, conquer it and be done. I get myself in trouble if I think about life as a long blank sea with no end. Some days I have to break my life down not only day by day, but hour by hour. My restlessness is an ugly enemy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Dark Side of Addiction

Not in a place worth writing tonight. I intend to get into some of the raw and tragic truths of being an addict...

I have been struggling lately with the dark side of my addiction. When I decided to indulge myself into sobriety a year and a half ago I had no idea that life without drugs, alcohol, egotistical thoughts and selfish behaviors would still be so challenging. I had expended every outlet of mood altering drugs that my body could handle, and when I hit my rock bottom I hit so hard that I was willing to do anything to get the sour taste of shame out of my mouth for good. Sure, I have had spells of intense cravings to take the edge off, to take a puff of green, to drink an ice cold miller light and I miss the productivity that amphetamines gave me. I missed the party scene, the fun spurt of excitement that the fast lane of sex drugs and rock and roll brought to my life. I listened to hundreds of suffering addicts and alcoholics talk about relapse, about using dreams and the type of cravings that make your palms sweat. But I never thought that I could slip so easily back into my old habits. I convinced myself that once I reached serenity I had it for good. But unfortunately this wicked disease of addiction is something I have to deal with every single day for the rest of my life.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that we must shatter the romanticized pedestal that so many of us put our drug of choice on. I have to forget about the good times that I had drinking with friends, the laughs that came out of a lit bowl with my best friends, and had to let go of the idea that any pill can make me feel better. The truth is, for me, there is no such thing as a glass of wine with dinner or a couple of beers at a ball game. There is no such thing as smoking in moderation or saying no to a mood altering drug. I'd being lying to myself- and to you- if I told you that these things aren't appealing to me anymore. I think about them every passing minute of the day- luckily there are ways in which I have learned to quiet the voices enough to be able to function. But the thoughts, the fantasies, the memories, and the cravings are with me every breath, of every minute of every single passing day.

I have experienced a life of serenity, moments of organic happiness, a clear vision and a justified reason to live. You know I have learned a lot about myself, and I know that I am a really great actress. I can easily convince those around me that I am working an honest program, I can convince people that living a sober lifestyle is easy, and I can even convince myself that I've turned a leaf and have the will power to face addiction when it is convenient for me. Unfortunately- I won't be up for an Oscar anytime soon- ha, I can't even convince myself that things are O.K.

Today I went to an A.A. meeting and bounced my leg anxiously for the entire 56 minutes and 27 seconds that it lasted. My palms were sweaty, my mouth was dry, and I couldn't get the thought of marijuana out of my head the entire time. I didn't want a drink- that would require too much work to get drunk. I didn't want pain pills because they would take too long to kick in. But weed- shit I wanted nothing more than the THC to fill my bloodstream which would have only taken about two or three inhalations and a few rough exhalations. Even though it would only take me a few hits to get high- I would have smoked an entire Edith if it was in front of me. Not because I consciously wanted it- but because that voice in my head would have convinced me that I needed it- that I deserved it- and that God dammit I had to have it.

I went to get my tattoo touched up this afternoon and the cravings followed me. I was driving into Dinkytown and found myself categorizing the civilians on the sidewalk. I rolled my window down at one point at a stop light because I was convinced that I spotted a man that had to have been a pothead and maybe he could spot me a bowl. But the light turned green and I didn't have time to converse.

The insanity continues. It is always there. I don't want to smoke weed, feel out of control and spiral back down, but when I comply even for a second to the thoughts in my head- waving down a junkie in the middle of downtown Minneapolis is where I end up. This disease is so exhausting. Some days are better than others- some days are more manageable than others, and there are moments in which I can have peace. But not today. Today I am enduring the darkest facets of my addictive tendencies. Some days I want to throw my hands in the air and give up. Some days I think to myself- what is the point? Some days I would do anything to be a "normie".

I can't even think of time on a day-to-day basis right now. I am taking today minute-by-minute trying to get through the next breath without enacting on my cravings. You see, the dark side of my addiction is not that I don't know when to stop drinking, its not that I have a physical allergy to mood altering chemicals- but rather the dark side of my addiction consists of the persistent thoughts I think leading up to that first drink, that first puff, snort or swallow. Most days- I am my own worst enemy. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

The idea of you

I have quite a bit to write about I feel like. I have been straying off the straight and narrow path of perfection lately, and have been putting off my regular coping mechanisms. I've just been experiencing this breath of fresh air- this change, morphed version of myself- and I kind of like it. One of my new tactics is changing up my routine- so my blog has been put on hold. I apologize- I promise this week I will put more of an effort into letting you all in to the ring of chaos that envelopes my mind.

I had a pretty intense therapy session tonight. One of Oprah's critically acclaimed, 'Ah-Ha!' moments. I swear- just when I think life is boring and that I could use a little spice- I go to therapy, share my experiences, think my thoughts and feel my feelings- and I seem to always come through with a spit of exhilaration.  You know I have explained the black/white phenomenon that I frequently instill my schema with- that staying in the gray, living a balanced life- takes practice, and a lot of getting used to. It is easier for me to jump to conclusions, to loath in self-righteous behaviors, reward myself one minute and punish myself the next. It can be exhausting. It is a mental battle I struggle with on a daily basis. That is why I need my therapist though- to remind me that i am exactly where I need to be. I am perfectly on-time on my journey in this life- and I often times need such outside perspective!

So I took the long way home tonight. As I was driving I was shuffling through my iPod until a familiar song by Dave Matthews Band came on. The title of the song is 'Idea of You'. For some reason tonight this song sang right to me, and I haven't been able to get these simple lyrics out of my head. In his chorus  Dave sings,
' I fall so hard inside the idea of you
That's why with you can't say what I mean
Wanna to stay but I think I'm getting outta here'. 

OK- so I switched topics in the car tonight. I went from being self-concerned to wondering about love and intimate relationships. I feel that recently I have been stuck by a midst of lust and this song helped me process the feelings. I am not at a place in my life where I am actively searching for a companion, I am not holding onto long distance interactions, and in my world there is no such thing as a biological clock. But how do you know when you come across love? How can we recognize it without mistaking it for a blanket of lust. In thinking about my most recent intimate relationships I think about these lyrics and wonder- how do you decipher loving someone or just loving the idea of them?

I realized this weekend in talking with some long-time friends that I have had a lot of fleeing relationships- typically with men who are unavailable or in different zip codes.I can fall hard into the idea of someone. Thinking that maybe this person, the way we met, the divine appointment, the reason our paths were crossing is because we were meant to be together...then I take a deep breath and realize that that sort of commitment scares the shit out of me- that I would never be able to fully commit to a relationship- and which is why I don't ever give myself away emotionally. 

In thinking about relationships I can honestly say that in critical moments when I want to share how I feel, I shut down, punish myself before anyone else has the chance to hurt me- and bail. Obviously this cycle doesn't work. I recognize what goes on, and I am learning to understand why I act the way I do. 

Like I said, this blog is up close and personal. No shame- no gain. I just wanted to admit to the fantasy and story that I can comply to in my head.Creating such scenarios prematurely can lead to disappointment- and let down. Besides- someone you meet might just surprise you and surpass the preconceived notions you originally created. 

I'll just stay in 'la-la' land until Mr. Right shows up.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Get involved: Part 2.

So I need to catch everyone up on where I have been the past couple of weeks. I have been all over the place, from the Gulf Coast back to Iowa City. I've put some miles on my car, too many dollar signs on my credit card, and threw my new gained experiences in my knapsack and am now getting settles again back here in the Twin Cities.

Two weekends ago I made a trip down to Bonita Springs, FL for a little work rondevu. Oh, I also attended the Arthrex National Sales Meeting. :) It was great, it the one time a year all of the reps from all around the country get together with Corporate, other Surgeons, and celebrate a year of hard work. I probably love it so much because there aren't too many other girls, I am surrounded by outgoing, interesting men ranging from the age of 24-50 years old, I got my own King size room (with a balcony!), and had my choice from 4 outdoor pools. I ate like a queen, stayed up late and got involved. The last night we were staying at the Hyatt most everyone left to go home- but I stayed with my two closest buds- members of the program, they actually occupy the inner nest that only few are privileged to be a part of. Brian, Donny and I convinced the reeption-ers at the Hyatt that we needed to impress our oh so important docs in town for the night, so for no charge- my boy Andrew upgrade us to the Penthouse Suite! The 'Island Suite' had 5 balconies, a full bar, pull out beds, and a breathtaking view.

All you can do it ask- the worst thing that anyone can say to you is no. That was a job well done. With live music outside, the ocean breeze and good company- we lived like champions- and at least for one night I got to forget about myself as a recovering addict, as a saleswoman, as a niece, a daughter, a friend or mentor- for one night I got to let go. I laughed so hard my belly ached for day after my trip. I didn't sleep much, but I will hold on to those memories for months to come. What a pick-me-up!

This past weekend I traveled back to Iowa City for the first time in a year and a half. Megan, Holly, Cole, Dani, Eric- respective family and friends were all in town- I had to go. I finally felt like i was in the right place to go back and face the place that left a bitter taste in my mouth for almost a year.

Driving 5 hours through the state of Iowa leaves someone a lot of time to think. I had a lot of time to process the situation and suit myself up for familiar faces and comfortable places. I had such a blast while I was there though. I got to hit up some of my favorite spots, and walk my old stomping grounds. I got to tailgate in the black and gold and share my growth and perseverance with some people who probably thought I would never make it out in the real world. I got to make some amends and share some explanations with others. It was a fulfilling trip. I got a drink thrown on me, made the sober walk of shame, ate a greasy pizza at 2am with my two best friends, and got no sleep. Such a warm welcoming back to the place I used to call home- the weekend was complete.

I'll admit though- I had the Sunday blues on my drive back home. It was an emotional highway. Leaving the friends, and that city just made me so sad. I never got a fulfilling closure with Iowa City- and it just felt really good to leave there on a positive note and with a contentious feeling in my heart.

I got involved in Bonita Springs, and in Iowa City. I met some great new people, visited some old wounds, laughed my ass off, cried a few tears, but showed the world that no matter how high the highs, and no matter how low the lows- i am always constantly growing. Are you?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Get involved.

I know, I know, I know. It has been too long, I have been gone for a hot minute. I apologize. I haven't forgotten about you though. I have been mustering up some well thought out blogs in the time being. I have been pretty busy the past couple of weeks, visiting with some great friends, traveling to the Gulf coast, and expanding my social stature here in the Twin Cities. Ha.

After a breath of fresh air I am happy to inform you that I am starting a new series I've entitled, 'get involved'. The series will focus on the ways in which I am paying it forward in my life. This is my mantra. These are the rules I live by. Whenever in doubt, find your friends of the program, be in, not out, and get involved. It is an optimistic, upbeat way of saying, 'just do it', 'say yes' and never look back .It is the answer to those split seconds where we hesitate on a decision, resist an answer, or delay activation. Something has come over me in the past three weeks. A new leaf has turned, I got my wind back in my pipe, and I'm all in, ready to get involved!

So first segment of this series I will break the news that about a week and a half ago, Megan and Holly were visiting from Chicago for the weekend. These are my two best friends from college, and the three of us together = the bad girls club of _(insert city). We have a blast together, are continuously laughing, and I am the best version of myself when I am with these two women. They met me in my prime, saw me make mistakes, make the walk of shame, explore myself as an adult, and act as study buddies. These girls helped me cook my first home-cooked meal in our broke-ass apartment, they picked me up after falling down, and they stood by me in during my rock bottom. These are women are the types of friends that are irreplaceable, that know what I am thinking before I say anything, who can convince me to change the world, and who give me the confidence I so desperately long for. I am merely a reflection of my myself through the eyes of the people I surround myself with, and I know that when I am in the company of Megan and Holly, I am the Jillian that I so easily fall in-love with.

We had a hell of a time in the twin cities. Saturday when they were here we were making our way around town, and we were driving through Dinkytown which is where the U of M campus is, and we saw a tattoo parlor. So naturally, we pulled the car over and walked into the shop open-minded. Now anyone that knows me, knows that I have been wanting to get a tattoo of a tree for years now. I have dabbled in a few parlors here and there around the country, but haven't clicked with any of the artists. Until Saturday. Rich, the Irishman, with sleeves, a nose piercing, and scar alongside his left face looked just like my kind of guy! There was great synergy between us, and after I gave him my painting to trace I didn't even think twice before saying, 'Get Involved'. Rich and I went out front, had a smoke and then I spent two grueling hours laying on my side with Rich straddling my side. Kinky I know. I mean I can handle physical pain, the emotional shit is unbearable- so I thought. After two hours, my jaw hurt so bad from clenching my teeth that it hurt to relax my cheeks. The needle felt like it was piercing my rib bones ever so slightly,  yet left a stinging prick like a bee's thorn. But the finishing product couldn't have been more perfect. Take a look for yourself. It is magical, I can't stop looking at it in the mirror. It is me, through and through.

Oh- Holly got a tat too, bucked up and 'got involved'. Now I look like a tough cookie with a tat in the most painful place on the human body. I feel like a badass chicky babe, with a new attitude and a fixed crave for adrenaline.

It is a reminder to me that no matter how deep our roots, how shallow our egos, how painful our experiences or how far our achievements reach, we are all changing and we are all constantly growing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

If I knew then, what I know now...

Ah, I love Mondays. They used to be the buzz kill to a great weekend 'trip', but now they are the day of the week in which I gain the best perspective. My therapist was out of town last week, so I went two weeks without a 'me' sesh, and as I was moving through my day today  I couldn't help but to feel a little off kilter. Now most people have their own preconceived notions about someone who is in therapy once a week; however,  before you get to judge me I will let it be known that I don't have to go to therapy, but rather I get to work on myself in therapy. Out of the 168 hours that consume my week, I allow myself 50 minutes to focus on nothing but me.

So, that brings me to the hot topic of tonight's conversation. One of my biggest struggles is is maintaining a balanced perspective on life. It is easier for me to jump to conclusions, for my mind to go to an irrational places and for me to comply to my dramatic story rather than to surrender to the moment. I am more comfortable in the black or white than I am in the grey. I tend to get ahead of myself a lot. I often unconsciously wear a 40 pound weight on my shoulders by convincing myself that after all I've been through, after all of the work I've done, and changes I've made- I should have it all figured out. (Insert therapist here). This is why I pay the big bucks- to be reminded that I am just where I need to be right where I am, and no- I don't have it all figured out. Oh, and news-flash, most people don't! Phew.

So after the relief wore off, i began to wonder- what am I missing? What is it that only time and experience can teach? I don't want to wait another 25 years to figure it out! I need the instant gratification, I want a quick-fix for the fear that tells me I am missing something.

So I decided to ask some of the older, wiser, more mature people in my life how they would answer this question; If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell the average 20-something year old about life in general? I mean picture meeting yourself at 23 years old- what would you say to that person standing before you? What advice do you have for those of us living in a vulnerable place? In ten words or less, what words of wisdom can you offer the men and women in my demographic? Here are a couple of the responses I got tonight.

The worst thing people can tell you is NO.  True that. Although not if you are asking if your jeans make your ass look big, or if you offer to pay the tab for a dinner party of 12. 

Get to know yourself. Easier said than done. Sometimes taking a raw, hard look at ourselves in the mirror is painful. However, you are bound to be delightfully surprised by something learned. I can check this one off my list- I am getting to know myself, inside and out. So far I've learned that I am an introvert not an extrovert, I enjoy writing, I am more productive when I am busy, self-care is hard work, and I am not perfect. That is just what I know about myself solo- not in relation to other people. Nah, I don't want to go there...

Don't be afraid to change. I like to think of myself as an adventurous,  adrenaline, risk-taker - but really I am terrible with transitions and am uncomfortable with change. The thought always sounds good, exciting and fun, but when push comes to shove, I like a little stability in my life. I am young and single though- when am I going to take that leap of faith, move out West, and dare to shake things up? Can't I just change my diet, my clothes and my attitude? What am I afraid of?!

Pace Yourself.  On Sunday I cheered on thousands of runners participating int he Twin Cities Marathon. The challenge seemed exhilarating, and I would love to someday say I completed a marathon, but I couldn't help to think how in the world these people could pace themselves for 26.2 miles! Once you know where the finish line is, don't you just want to get there as soon as possible? You mean the patience in the first half of the marathon makes up for the potential pain in the second half? Huh, what a concept.

I just took a deep breath- I can't live life in such a rush. Things will happen as they are supposed to...

As a general note- the peanut gallery made it clear to wait to get married and have kids for as long as possible! Ha!

I am really curious to know that other readers have to say. Feel free to respond with your own advice. I want to soak this all in sooner rather than later. These simple mantras gave me the perspective that I needed today.

Life is about living, it is about experiencing circumstances organically...but as Mary Poppins said, 'a  spoon full of sugar, makes the medicine go down'.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Taking a Personal Day

I want to introduce everyone to a concept that might lower your stress level, mentally and physically re-energize your batteries, point you to your true north, remind you of the power of free will, allow some room for self love, and possibly increase your libido. 'Taking a Personal Day' is the art of knowing when to listen to that little voice inside you that speaks with a contentious tone and reminds you that indulging in personal pleasures is a part of living a balanced life. 

I used to take personal days quite often at a time in my life when things were unmanageable. I would usually sleep off a sheet of shame, a gut of guilt or a bad hangover. Sometimes I just needed a day to check back in with myself, get grounded and rebel against the structured life that had depleted me. Sometimes I just needed a reason to hang out with my best friends. Taking a personal day involves diving into your inner most guilty pleasures without feeling guilty. It means eating whatever kinds of food you want to without counting calories, or worrying about the aftermath effect. In fact, on a personal day you are highly recommended to eat only foods at the top of the pyramid that include high volumes of salt, sugar, and fat. You should stay dirty and grungy on your personal day, sleep, watch sappy movies, turn your cell phone off, and slip into your most comfortable pair of sweatpants. Oh, and it is essential to have a heating pad!

I wasn't feeling down and out today, I wasn't hungover (thank God!), I'm not stressed, feeling rebellious or overtired. Nope. Today, I just gifted myself with the freedom to move through the day seamlessly. I slept in until about 9an, and lied in bed for a while enjoying the process of waking up, rather than jumping out of bed in a scramble to get going. I went to Costco with my Aunt, bought unnecessary items in extreme quantities. I walked around my favorite place in the Twin Cities, Lake Harriet, and enjoyed a 16 oz. coffee. Sun shinning, leaves falling and the sailboats anchored on the shoreline were barely moving. I met some local vendors at the St. Paul farmer's market, and got a much needed manicure and pedicure as a late afternoon delight. I took a nap on the couch, ate apple crisp crumb pie (1/4 of it) before dinner, and ended the night with a hot bath with sleepy time bubbles and silky oil. 

Today I didn't wait for things to snowball to take a personal day. Rather, I treated myself to 'free time', the opportunity to take care of myself emotionally, physically and spiritually. You see, I practice a kind of self love today that I never thought possible for myself. I escape reality just for today, to get solid in my roots and to spread the oxygen evenly within my body. I let thoughts move in and out of me gently, I soak up the moments of stillness and absolutely hold on to the feeling of pure serenity that results in a 'personal day'. 

It is kind of nice not waiting until things get way out of hand before I take a proactive approach in cleaning out my sandbox. 'Personal Days' are not meant for habit, they won't cure painful situations, and they don't stop the world from turning. But if utilized properly they can bring you back to life, they can replace the negative toxins with fresh rejuvenated endorphins, and at the least they will allow you to remember the simple pleasures in life that are worth living for. 

You will notice that at the bottom of this page I have a variety of lists in which I list specific things that I am grateful for on that given day. I recommend that you begin to think about the small things in life that you appreciate, but forget to acknowledge. Interesting that the more we experience, the older we get, the more we change, and the deeper we grow; our personal pleasures seem to stay more simplistic. 

So treat yourself to your own 'personal day'. You're worth it!

Ah. Deep breath inhale, 1...2...3...4, and exhale. 1...2...3...4.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blades of Surrender

I am just sitting down from finishing some yard work outside. What a beautiful past few days we have had here in Minnesota. Sunny, 60's, light breeze. It is the time of year where Midwesterners are optimistic, productive and energized; sucking every breath out of nice weather that we can before heading into the 5 month frozen tundra.

When things in my life aren't really busy I tend to get a bit stir crazy. I finished work relatively early yesterday and attempted to tackle my to-do list. After cleaning out my car (junk drawer), paid my bills, completed my laundry and sent off some emails, I decided I would mow the front yard and enjoy the wonderful weather. Now, I live on Summit Ave. in St. Paul, which for those of you who don't know if a historical street in the city, about 5 miles long that includes the Governor's mansion and the Cathedral. During the late afternoon rush hour the streets, sidewalks and median are filled with respective cars, bikers and runners. To paint a picture it is busy, so I am right in the action with my lawn mower. Now the grass was shin=high, and was clearly in need of a clean trimming. I got around the perimeter a couple of times when I  noticed that the blade kept getting clogged, the mower slowed down and the engine started smoking.

The wheels were too low, and anyone with a green thumb knows that you can't cut that much grass at one time- hence why cutting the grass is a weekly routine, right? My stubbornness kicked in about the third time the engine died and I was determined to finish the job. Naturally, I don't raise the wheels because I wanted the grass to be the same length. I wish I had pictures of the people's faces as they went my our house watching me crank the choke repeatedly, sweating, pushing the mower as hard as I could while thousands of blades of grass were flying all around me. I haven't been a walking mess since the last time I took the 'walk of shame' one Sunday morning in Iowa City. One runner passed me when I had just a small patch left, he stopped and said, " Hey, do you know you can raise the wheels and make your life easier?". Really? Thanks Smartass!

So once I finish mowing I spent another hour raking the dead grass that created a sheet over the whole front yard. 23 mounds of grass I raked. Mounds, not piles. With blistered hands, droplets of sweat clogging up my sunglasses I didn't know if I should scream, laugh or break down crying. Conveniently the 6 o'clock A.A. meeting was starting across the street and the cars began to park in their designated spots in front of our house. In my moment of frustration a fellow member of the program got out of his car and came up to me, laughed and said, "Shit that's a lot of grass! Need any help?". My ego was too big to say yes, but as the man walked down the sidewalk I began laughing hysterically. Here I am in my big ass yard raking 23 mounds of grass  because I wouldn't change the wheel settings.

In that moment, there were a couple of things that happened; I laughed rather than cracked, and I surrendered rather than complied. Thank God for my women's meeting this morning! I was reminded how powerful surrendering is for me.

As an alcoholic, I don't struggle with a drinking disease, I struggle with a thinking disease. If I allow myself free reign, my mind can start running full speed in the wrong direction, I can easily get so caught up in a story of the 'what ifs' and 'why nots'. If I comply to my thoughts, to the story I create or to the insane behaviors my mind intrigues me with- then all bets are off. But if I can stay present, and fully surrender to the moment I am in, then I am able to laugh rather than flip out over some blades of grass.

Surrendering myself is to fully accept myself in whatever situation, predicament, or moment I may be in. I have the ability to now step back from my thoughts, name my emotions and recognize why I am acting the way that I am. A woman today in my meeting shared with the group the way in which she envisions surrendering. She held up her hand, opened her palm and told us that in moments of angst, on the brink of compliance she holds up her hand and gives whatever it is she is feeling to God.

So this afternoon I picked up 23 mounds of grass, bagged them in 8 hefty trash bags, finished mowing the back yard, and swept up the sidewalk.

Today, the neighbors were probably wondering why I was doing yard work with my hand help up in the air...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Capable of Being Wounded

Even though I haven't written in a few days doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about this blog. I don't really have a good excuse for not posting, I have just fully enjoyed rebelling against my regular schedule lately, and apparently that meant not following through with my nightly routine of a virtual moral inventory and a few moments with God. Rest assure my friends, J-mac is back!

As I sit here in my bed tonight I am trying to restrain myself from getting up and preforming my version of the quick-step as if I were made up in a glitzy costume and mesmerizing the crowd with my slick kicks. That is what watching two hours of ABC's 'Dancing with the Stars' will do to you. I mean I intended to get up from the television and do other various tasks this evening, but that show sucks me in. Why? Is it because like me, millions of other viewers really enjoy watching ballroom dancing, or is it that we can't turn away from well-known celebrities subjecting themselves to raw vulnerability? I mean, there were literally points of that show that I found myself making facial expressions on the couch, clinching my teeth, squinting my eyes, and biting my lip in a spurt of angst to watch these people perform. Right before the routines begin the camera zooms in on each contestant; you can hear their heart racing and feel their sweaty palms. As the judges and fans rave about the celebrities and their courage to come onto the show, I can't help but wonder, is it courage or pure vulnerability that is so enticing?

If you look it up, you will read that the definition of vulnerability is described as the capacity of one to be physically or emotionally wounded. Considering that, I've realized how much vulnerability I  am subjected to on a daily basis. In my job I see patients get cut open, operated on and casted up as means of being physically wounded. I volunteered at a Recovery Center on Saturday where I dozens of women were healing both physically and mentally from the painstaking disease of addiction. I watch Michael, the rebellious teen, come home after a long day and cuddle and lovingly stroke Pacino to sleep. And tonight In my 12-step meeting I was surrounded by a dozen grown men who were pouring out their emotions, talking about their feelings and exemplifying their wounded souls.

In our society we put such a negative connotation on the idea of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. It is a really scary thing that most people try to avoid because their fear controls their reigns. I know what it feels like first hand. I've lived my whole life trying to keep up the facade that I thought was my reflection. I spent so much time and energy tyring to hold everything in my life together, when really it was all falling apart. I fought vulnerability, ran from it even, fearful of rejection, judgement and abandonment. But the ironic thing is that I didn't feel confident, grounded or comfortable in my own skin until I was willing to let go and be vulnerable.

I have so many physical and emotional wounds. I have a bite mark the size of a quarter on my arm that was a result of my rock bottom (literally getting my ass beaten), and I see that physical wound everyday. With my visual impairment I am forced to make accommodations on a daily basis- my attempts of trying to hide it have worn out. I can't hide it anymore. Every morning when I take my 'happy' pill I am reminded of my emotional wounds and the help that I NEED. And every night when I go to bed, when I say the Seventy prayer out loud I am reminded that I am a walking, talking breathing addict and alcoholic and that my sobriety directly depends on my ability to be vulnerable.

But vulnerability is not a demeaning thing. It is actually in moments of vulnerability that people gain pure strength. Think about it- have you ever been turned off, felt contracted or rejected loved ones in moments that they exposed themselves fully and have showed you that they too are capable of being wounded? Or in moments of their vulnerability have you felt understanding, appreciation and closer to them than ever before? The truth is, we are all humans, and for that fact we are all capable of being wounded both physically and mentally. We all have our faults, our character defects and imperfections. But the more we take chances, expose our inner selves and open our hearts to others, the more power and confidence we gain, and the less scary being vulnerable becomes.

Vulnerable situations are still never comfortable. They aren't easy, and I am not saying that they are all positive experiences. But as I have found, the more open and honest we become in our reflection of ourselves, the more love and compassion the world will show us. Embrace your wounds!

So I've got a wake up call for those of you who still have reservations about being vulnerable and who this is a crock of shit: You're not perfect, you never will be, and as a part of growing, we all must wear our scars on our sleeves.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bare Essentials

It rained cats and dogs here today in the Twin Cities. I mean it didn't stop all day. The clouds didn't let up, the sun didn't come out, and the raindrops seemed to get bigger as the day went on. Now that I haven't been in Seattle for 5 months I can honestly say that I love a good, hard rain. It is relieving in a sense. Think about the anticipation that people have when it hasn't rained for a couple of weeks. At least here in the Midwest, we enjoy every sunny day and don't take them for granted, because we know that a plethora of rain (or snow) will surely make its appearance, whether we like it or not. On a gloomy, dark, eire day like today I felt relieved.

A steady rainy day like today is like a good, long. hard cry.You know the kind of cry that creates tracks of tears down your face. The kind of cry that makes you whimper, gasp for air and tightens the back of your throat. Rarely, very rarely I get to have a good cry. We physically release pent up emotions, captured tension and a bit of our heart. Our insides literally come out of our inner being in the form of tear drops. Isn't that ironic? It takes an emotional breakdown, a tragedy, weeks or years of pent up resentment even for  us to get out what we have been holding inside ourselves. I experience moments of anticipation every so often, where I think I am going to crack, I can feel a rainy day coming on. I used to have a lot more rainy days of my own before I discovered how to thoroughly take care of myself. I prefer a few daily sprinkles here and there because it helps cut down my anxiety in anticipation of a rainy day.

It is relieving once you can come out on the other side of  a raw emotional experience. But what I find challenging is how to be supportive, loving and present when the people I care about most are struggling themselves wit stormy weather. It can be an uncomfortable place can't it? If a loved one, a friend, co-worker, parent, or child is struggling to the point that you can literally envision their dark thoughts and rain clouds beginning to hover. I used to live a life in which I exhausted myself trying to provide shelter for these people to protect them from the rain. The truth is, not even my umbrella can prevent the storm from coming. There is no easy way around it. Not even rain gear will keep you fully dry. Each of us have to trudge through our own emotions, allowing them to organically take their course.

I have spent a lot of time in the past year learning how to create and maintain my own healthy boundaries from some of the most important people in my life. It is a psychedelic concept really. I mean here I am once again in my life getting caught up in the black and white. Wanting to be the caretaker and endure other's pain for them, or completely disregard them as if their pain and sorrow doesn't exist. But like a typical rainstorm I need to show up, willing and able, in the gray.

Unfortunately I have learned the hard way that there is nothing I can do to fix any person, any situation or prevent any kind of rain storm from coming. I am a sympathetic person though, empathetic and compassionate. I feel more comfortable if I can take on your pain for you rather than watch you muscle through it. I'll tell you that my vision is fine, when really I live a life with a cloud of fear following me around, constantly. I'll order you a round of shots and a cold brew just so you don't feel uncomfortable not drinking around me. And the thought of even my most loved ones making an accommodation for me puts a pit in my stomach.

But these are things that I face in which I am responsible to deal with. I think that as we all continue on our own separate paths in life it is key to recognize that no one person, place or thing can prevent a rainy day from pouring down on us. But our loved ones will be waiting for us with a warm towel when the rain lets up. And I keep my stack of warm towels with me at all times, because mother nature is unpredictable.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

HeY MA'AM, you got PUNkeD!

Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week. I get to start my day spending time at my favorite women's meeting which meets at the coolest little coffee shop in St. Paul. We gather in a our own private room which has warm glowing lights, hot coffee and is nice and snug for intimate conversation. I spend time each week with women who are all probably twice my age, twice as wise, understanding and compassionate. I got to walk in there today feeling raw and share everything that i posted on my blog yesterday. I'll tell you what, there is noting more comforting than a room full of smirks and nodding heads. I was able to talk about my anger, irritability, and discomfort in a safe place with no judgement coming back my way. I get to share my thoughts and feelings with no opinions, no one trying to insert a solution and the respect of full attentive listening from a room full of strangers.  A room full of people who smile, nod and send a sense of understanding your way- that is the healing ointment that can aid any wound.

All we really want as human beings is to be understood though, right? Women, men, addicts, '-holics', strangers, friends, lovers, we all want a sense of comfort in knowing that at our core, we are not alone. A simple nod, eye contact, and active listening- it all contributed to the release of frustration that I contracted inside me all day yesterday. I don't know why it works, I can't explain the click that goes off inside me, but waking up at 6:30 in the morning and gathering with a bunch of women is what keeps me grounded. These women remind me of my true north, and they don't even have to say a thing to me. Their presence is the key. And for that I am forever grateful. Rather than picking up a pipe, or slamming a bottle of wine, I talk about my feelings, am rigorously honest, open my heart and show up. Go figure!

Another reason I love Wednesdays is because I get to hang out at one of my favorite hospitals for the day where the staff of nurses, anesthesia, support staff and Docs are 2nd to none. A Doctor brought in 5 assorted cakes and pies today. So naturally I tried all of them (only just a sliver!) and found personal pleasure in my work day. Chocolate pound cake, cheesecake, raspberry pie, key lime pie, and peach berry pie. I literally have not stopped thinking about those damn pies all day. I get emotionally attached to my food, its my quick fix, soothes my soul, and is an orgasm to the mouth. 

Then after dancing my booty off in my Hip-Hop class I was walking to my car, in the dark, windy pouring rain. High on life, and my sweet moves and happy to head home for a little R&R. 

"Ma'am, Ma'am! Please! Please! I need help. I am here with my mother, we are stuck, our ride left and we need to get home back to Red Wing. (Teary-eyed, looking desperate). Please Ma'am, please I need your help!"

This woman bull-shitted a pretty good story. Told me she miraculously didn't have her license, didn't bring her purse to St. Paul, but happened to know where an ATM was. And in the midst of my doubt and questions I couldn't help but see the desperation that this woman's eyes were beaming  with. So, naturally soaking wet, I grabbed my wallet and went to the ATM and got this woman $20 cash. The convince store manager looked at me like, 'you idiot! you fell for it!'. Part of my knew it, but I couldn't help my own screaming conscious. If I ever get in a situation like this I hope I could get some help. Besides, maybe this woman was telling the truth. Either way in our 2 minute walk around the block together I was able to tell her about some of my own personal changes that I've made in my life. Deep down, I think I could relate to this woman, I knew what it felt like to be in a desperate state of mind, and I couldn't walk away from her. 

Soaking wet, in the pouring rain, this woman gave me a hug, and we embraced. In that split second I swear she could hear me, and I didn't open my mouth. Maybe it was a divine appointment. Maybe it was a GOD thing. Or maybe when she turned the corner and walked away she laughed her ass off thinking, 'Ha, Ma'am you are a fool! You just got punked'!

OK fine. Worst case scenario this woman scammed me out of $20, plus a $2 ATM fee, I fell for a scam and I add some deb to my tuition of life. Or maybe I helped a woman, cut her a break and gave her a bit of hope. 

At the least bit, I hope some good karma will be sent my way. I like to store my karma in a jar on my dresser, and save it for a rainy day. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fury Flurries

I have a list of things that I would really enjoy blogging about, and I promise that there are some topics to come that will be raunchy, touching, personal and ironic. But tonight I can't get past some particular feelings that are worth exploring via my public journal.

There isn't anything in my life right now that is significant enough to upset me. I had a wonderful weekend, relaxing, fulfilling and productive. My week is off to a great start. And I found myself in therapy last night dozing off a bit, trying to find a few things worth talking about, but I just seemed to be doing fine. Bored if anything, actually that was the word of the night. I am getting a bit bored with life, and for me, that means that things are going smoothly. I like chaos, I am used to the ups and downs, and when I'm not in the midst of commotion I tend to get restless. (I am working on it though. Trust me. Over a year now I have been working my own personal therapy on a weekly basis, and being content in the even-keel  is still something I struggle with). But this blank, dull, Blah feeling of boredom took a turn today and turned into a bit of irritation.

It started when I missed my alarm this morning and missed a great 12 step meeting at 6;30am. My day started a bit off. As I drove to my first case this morning there was nothing on the radio, and all I wanted was to hear one good 'pump-me-up' song before I hit the ground running. Nope, nothing more than phony ads. everything was annoying me. The pace people were carrying on at, the looks I was getting, perky people, blank people, the people I usually enjoy being around were getting to me. I even had a bit of road rage today! I haven't experienced that since I have lived up here in the metropolitan area, and I drive at least 100 miles on a typical work day. I even flipped some guy in a green mini-van the bird because he wouldn't let me in his lane! How disgusting of me!! (Although, it felt a bit liberating). When I got home I wanted a 30 minute nap, and Pacino was going ape-shit over a ground squirrel out the window and ruined my quiet time.

Tonight at yoga, the part of my day I was looking forward to the most, I couldn't hold a pose. I was losing my balance, getting aggravated. Some woman came in late, messed up my chi, and the instructor was being slow and making us stay in uncomfortable poses for an ungodly amount of inhalations. I came home to my room in the basement and in the dark felt and heard crunching Frito Scoops in between my toes. Ugh, can't the boys pick up after themselves? Not be slobs in MY space?  (Irrational). Then I got agitated because I sounded like my mother in my own head.

WTF? Why today? I couldn't even relax in the shower. So here I am writing a blog, moaning about how angry I am over the most petty, insignificant, stupid incidents ever. I can't shake the feeling. It is my personality to want to control every situation, people, placed and things. I know that. I admit it, accept it and work on it in my daily life. But some days I am sick of working so hard. I am frustrated.

Some days I get pissed that I have to work twice as hard as my peers because I have half the vision. Sometimes I am resentful that I can't enjoy a beer like a normal drinker, and that I will forever struggle with my addictive behaviors. Some moments I feel so much pent up anger that I swear I could put a fist through a brick wall, and some passing breaths I wish I could get out of my own head.

Yeah, yeah, at least I get to experience these feelings though right? I am not numbed out to them, it is a part of learning and a part of growing. I just haven't felt the raw burn of anger for a long time and it is really uncomfortable.

I'll pray on it tonight, go to my women's meeting first thing in the morning, and hopefully when I face the day these feelings of rage will be lifted. Maybe boredom leads to anger. Maybe I am just feeling this way because I am filling space. Either way, I know I don't want to live filled with fury, and as much as I hate winter, I hope this feeling  passes as flurries do across a dashboard on a cold night in Minnesota.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Seasons change, self changes

As I sit here tonight in our office writing this Blog, I can't help but wish I was somewhere by myself, a dark room, with a fresh breeze, maybe some light music, a cup of sleepy-time tea would be nice, and perhaps there is such a place where my spirit could feel free again. Just for tonight. 

I went to the movie 'Eat, Pray, Love' last Thursday afternoon after work. It was the first time I had been to a movie by myself, and it was incredible. No more than three of us in the old theatre, clearly we were all trying to escape reality, we were all alone. What a perfect movie for someone to see alone too. The movie struck some personal chords though, and these feelings have stayed with me all weekend. In the movie, Julia Roberts sets out for a year long journey to three different countries to fight a burning itch within her and hopes to find an answer to her dissatisfaction in life. 

Don't you ever have those kinds of thoughts? What is my purpose in this life? Is this all that life really has to offer me, is this as good as it gets? What am I missing, how do I make these uncomfortable feelings of discontent stop? I swear there were times in that movie when I couldn't see the screen because my eyes were filled with tears, thinking to myself, 'how did they know what I was thinking'? Today I went on a run up and down Summit Ave and I was noticing how much the trees here in Minnesota are changing colors. The green oaks now have bright orange and brilliant red frosted tips. Fall is really here, and with a new season comes a chance for a refreshing reinvention of the Self. 

I couldn't help but think about my trip in '07 to the South Pacific, all of the people that I met, the places I saw, the experiences I had and the person I transformed into. 'Eat, Pray, Love' reminded me of how much life is out there, how many experiences are waiting to be had, and how insignificant my little life is. I was running from a lot of things when I left to go to Australia, and unfortunately it was all waiting for me when I returned back home. In retrospect, my arrival back to the states marks the downward spiral of my destructive behaviors, the brink of my addiction and the evidence of why my life was unmanageable. 

I slept in ancient huts in the mountains of Fiji with no electricity or running water. I traveled the Eastern coast of Australia, camping, sailing, kayaking, surfing, driving, floating my way around. I went black water rafting and tried extreme sports while living in an RV through the country of New Zealand. And I have my motor license in the Cook Islands, where i rode around the entire country in less than 2 hours. I was on the ultimate adrenaline rush, high on life, and when I came home I chased that feeling for two and a half years. I immediately developed an eating disorder, smoked cigarettes regularly, drank away my grief and got high to make it through another day. 

As I look back, each season seems to have its own 'monumental' moment. Something big that happened that directed my frame of mind for the months to follow. Some good, some tragic. But I can't help to think about the changing seasons and how refreshing they were. The smell of a new start, the sights of falling leaves, or falling snow, the ability to take a deep breath, or the chance to set new goals and standards. Some stuck, some mattered and some made a difference. Until the next season came and I felt an excuse to make a break, to let go, and clean my slate. 

 I couldn't help but to think of that today while i was running. Fortunately I now know that you don't have to travel half way across the world to find inner peace, to make a clean break or start over. It is a conscious choice we all make. But perhaps the changing of a season might give you a bit of motivation. 

I hope that this fall I will be more lit up than I was this summer regarding my work, my drive, my passion for making a difference in this world. I hope to stride for living in the gray rather than the black and white, and I pray for a little bit of that adrenaline that I know life has to offer. 

You see, we need the seasons to be able to grow. We need the change, and the excuse to re-evaluate and re-invent ourselves. Be hopeful, think of all the things that this Fall season will present you, both the good and the bad. As the seasons change, the self changes and we continue to grow. 

Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I’m aiming for, how will it ever occur? Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention. If you don’t have this, all your pleas and desires are boneless, floppy, inert; they swirl at your feet in a cold fog and never lift.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert

From 'Eat, Pray, Love', Author, Elizabeth Gilbert

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reasons i am blessed

                                Some highlights from August with some of my favorite people.

Michael and I in Rocky Mountains. 

Visiting Pat in Laguna Beach

Iowa City will never be the same again...

Downtown Chicago with Coleslaw

some things never change <3 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Healing Laughter

When I finally left my office tonight around 8:30 p.m. I stepped outside into a torrential monsoon. Minnesota style. I had a good day, I was productive with work, closed some deals, shook hands and kissed babies. I got up and made my morning women's meeting at 6:30, and got a work out in all before tackling my 'to do' list.

I have been living with my Aunt Mary and her three teenage boys for just over a year now. Originally I was going to live here temporarily, to get my feet wet, find a job and get settled in to my new life in the Twin Cities. Before this I went from living in a single dorm room,  to a sorority house, to backpacking in hostels and open beaches in the South Pacific, to living with four college women. Not to mention I had a number of hard core roommates when I lived in Plymouth, MN for 28 days!

The truth is, I love it here. Even though it has been a transition getting used to living as part of a family again, it is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Today's example is that after a long day, after feeling tired, worn out, and drained, I get to come home to people who love me unconditionally with open arms. I am greeted with no judgement, no dependency, no assumptions, or expectations. I am my rawest form at home. I walk in the door, get a big hug from Mary, a hug from Devin (and a smart ass comment), and "what's up?" from Michael, and a kiss from Garrett. By the time I put my sweatpants and over sized t-shirt on I have a spot on the couch waiting for me. This is my favorite part of the day. I get to snuggle with Pacino, and let go of everything and unwind.

Tonight we spent a good hour and a half playing with Pacino, which usually consists of teasing him and playing games. These boys make me laugh so hard! The kind of laughter that makes your belly ache, that makes you skip a breath, and snort/grunt/wheeze/giggle. Laughter is contagious, it is a good form of peer pressure, and at the least bit it keeps you grounded.

I used to laugh a lot as a child. I have vivid memories with my sister and brother, with my friends,, mt parents, just laughing, and laughing, and laughing. I used to have a grunt to my laugh, which I still do sometimes. Laughing is the best high you can experience. It is authentic, pure, natural, organic and individually unique to each and every one of us.

If you are feeling down, need a quick fix or a pick me up, think about that child inside of you. Think about the innocence and the joy that illuminates laughter. All I know is laughter gives me juice, it stimulates me in ways that no other emotional experience can.

So today keep your eyes peeled for the many diverse, humorous interactions that surround you, listen for the sounds of smiles, and treasure the gift of pure, genuine laughter.