Do What Feels……

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My sister and I have had extensive conversations about everything and nothing. On my last visit with to her home we were each struggling with what to do in different situations, they were as opposite in response as possible but both were perplexing us. In a moment of scrolling and snooping I opened facebook to find a friend from the other side of the world post a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt,  “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.”  In the moment of reading that all the planets aligned and the universe came into focus and as I read it aloud to my sister, I saw the same thing occur in the expression on her face.  It became our mantra, only to be repeated dozens of times in the subsequent days.

Do what feels right in your heart. How often had I told others that? You need to listen to your inner voice because it is typically right; what feels right is what you are meant to do; if it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t and no matter how hard you try to rationalize it you will always struggle with that choice. In that moment I realized I had been struggling with that for I was not always listening to my heart and the amount of strife it had caused me was immense. I did listen to a point, hearing patience and wait but there were moments when I tried to make it fit a different timeline, different expectations so while I am sure there would have still been struggle and pain I believe I would have minimized it by listening solely to my inner voice. Why had I drifted from my own belief only to be lost in a sea of noise?

You know that your choice is correct when you feel peace in your heart and your soul rests. We often listen to the noise of the world striving to meet someone else’s expectations of what our life should be when deep inside each of us is the only voice we need to follow. Being reminded of that fact, I refocused my thoughts, trying to keep my faith that things unfold exactly as they should, one is the person they need to be in that moment and to learn to listen to my heart. While there will always be moments of struggle, when I quite my mind and the cacophony of the world where I can listen to my heart and soul, if that is the choice I make it typically results in me continuing to build my foundation of peace. Thank you to my friend from France and thanks Sis for embracing my mantra!

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”  Goethe

Reconcile the Disparate Voice

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So in my last therapy session I was confronted by an interesting disparity which was framed in a question. I was sharing an incident that had occurred in a public place which lead the discussion back to PTSD and how that will continue to impact my life at a variety of levels and coping mechanisms.  I get the logic of the healing, knowing that I need to practice my mindfulness exercises and be cognizant of my thoughts and situations. Although this is challenging to process, to say I am a survivor and as a result have my own challenges, that  is not really the disparate thoughts that were a shock. We were discussing the fact I had a confrontation with my ex earlier in the week and how I handled it.

I was picking up my youngest and he held his hand in “that” position, the one where I know he is plotting his approach into an attack. While I am typically at an elevated level of awareness in that situation, I saw that and was at a ten and then he said, “I don’t want to start and argument but….” and I realized what was about to occur. I closed the car door so my child would not hear how I was going to be spoken to, squared my feet and made a choice to speak take control of the conversation. I calmly but firmly said, “ When you predicate a conversation with I do not want to argue clearly shows that is your intention, what do you want to say?”  At my core, I was scared, shaken by my courage and the potential fallout.  I saw control shift, I saw his battle plan fall apart. I climbed into the car and drove away all the while I was falling apart inside. The therapist asked how or why I had found my voice with him. Even through the years of trying to end my marriage I never quite spoke my words with confidence and never assertiveness.

At that moment I realized that for years, I had evaluated every situation as a risk assessment, how can I interact, how safe is it if I respond this way or that. My upbringing was with a mother who pushed me to achieve, to fight for what I wanted to earn and to advocate for what I needed which was what I would often do with the outside world but in my own home that  part of myself was lost in battle. I was a walking example of dissonance, for in public and in my work life I often navigated with what others perceived as confidence, and while there may have been fear of reprisal I often chose to stand up for myself and what was right, usually when risk was minimal.  I have spent my lifetime playing the risk/danger game, at least until about a year ago when I started learning to trust, when I stopped assessing the risk within certain relationships.  I had often kept relationships at arm’s length, never allowing intimacy in any form as a way to buffer and need to explain my private life. My siblings and those few friends I have had for decades had no idea which is common in any type of any abusive relationship. It took a few years in my marriage to learn that my reactions could fuel the situation or at the very least provide dangerous ammunition for me to be more damaged. As a result of that, I had kept many of my concerns, emotions, and fears to myself, tucking them into neat packages and hidden deep in my heart. I could easily take a stand outside my home but in what was to be the most important relationship I was cornered and not permitted to be myself functioning in survival mode. Therein lies the disparity, I put on my mask of bravery and faced the world only to know I had no strength or courage at home.

As I walked from the office I was asking myself why I had been essentially two different people existing in the same body?  I do understand the survival tactics.  I thought of the day I learned to take my stand and the support I received from those in my small circle of friends.  One day the ex arrived on my porch to collect the children only to announce, “You know I do not hate you.” Having spent hours trying to understand the manipulative and abusive behavior, feeling like my entire life had been a lie I could not hold my tongue.  Although I had tried to set boundaries and stand up for myself for some years especially after I had been through therapy and learned of co-dependence and addiction, this is the first time I recall speaking my voice with strength and determination, “You may not hate me but you have never loved me.” I closed the door, locking the deadbolt and crumbled in the floor in flood of fear and tears.  The day I found my voice was the beginning of courage to stand my ground.

My circle of friends would listen and at times note that current behavior was not appropriate. I have a very dear friend who encouraged me more than once to fight back, he reminded me of the importance to make my stand and enforce my boundaries. The subsequent encouragement had helped me finish reconciling the disparate voices into one. I was also thinking of the sad fact I learned to control my reactions, my startle reflex was often hidden, all of my survival techniques have been both a benefit and curse; for in interactions with others, calm composed responses are reassuring but I still tucked my pain away. I am just learning to be vulnerable with intimate relationships, trusting in the kindness of another, that same dear friend. I had worked diligently to face my fear so shift from being guarded to be open and trust, I understood why I struggle with trust and vulnerability yet I had never acknowledged the extent of the disparity of my voice prior to that moment. While there are still moments of fear and anxiety I will never again lose the strength to speak my truth.

“Take a stand and speak your truth. Realize you are worthy of being loved and don’t let anyone treat you less than..”  

~ Melanie Koulouris

Clarification Needed

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As I sit here listening to the night noises while waiting for the sun to rise I think of a conversation that just recently transpired. It was with one of my friend. They offer me the balance of perspective I often need, adding insight I miss and even call me out on actions in a thoughtful but realistic manner; all attributes I truly value. We were spent the afternoon laughing and ranting about life, the absurdity of the state of the world when we arrived at a topic my need for clarification. They had so patiently offered clarification earlier in the day on something I was unsure of but other than that thought I really do not recall how we arrived there.  We had a great laugh over the fact I was asking for clarification of the clarification, enjoying the humor in the irony.

But it has left me thinking about all the places where I seem to stumble. Communication is something I always struggled and  strive to improve, both what is expressed and received.  I often struggle with the subtleties, those nuances between the words and far prefer face to face conversations over electronic ones, at least there I can try to grasp through expressions and body language while even asking when I miss the intent. I have come to realize I also stumble with my words, often getting things caught in some filter of emotion and often feel like a fumbling buffoon. I do so much better writing my thoughts often wondering if others are the same.

I think what I find most disconcerting as of late are all the things unsaid. I was again remind of this as I was driving earlier.  I found myself behind a slew of police vehicles, realizing they had just left the service for an officer lost in the line of duty. As I was thinking of the family’s loss, the loss to his friends, coworkers,  all the things left undone, left unsaid I found  my thoughts drifting to a friend I lost almost two years ago, a mother of my daughter’s best friend. There has not been an event pass since then that I haven’t considered the importance of embracing the now. How many moments pass where there would have been words, laughter, tears, and hugs; now there is just a void.

I think of all the things I have not said. All the words I have quelled for a variety of good intentions now have the weight of a boulder tethered to my soul. I think of learning against the door-frame talking and the things I had wanted to say, those words left in the dark recesses of my heart.  Is that the right thing to do? If I were to leave before the sun rose again would there be any knowledge of or regret over the unsaid, for myself and those who never heard the words? How do I clarify the want and need to communicate what lies within? Is there an understanding of the actions that imply the words left unspoken? Are others the same, carrying unspoken words I will never know? What do they wish they had said?

“Just because something is unspoken doesn’t mean that it disappears.” ― Alice Hoffman

 

Facebook Karma and What Is

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I usually post the quote at the end of the writings but this is the entire purpose of my musings today so I suppose it shall be at the beginning.  “Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.” ― Alan Cohen.

A friend of many decades shared this today which is the third times it has crossed my sight in as many weeks I suppose it is time to pay attention. It is odd that I have found inspiration and insight on such shallow social media but many times this summer posts have been at the top of my timeline when I needed that answer or reflection as if it is something nudging me to pay attention; my facebook karma of sorts.

The truth in the quote resonates so very loudly with me today. I have had more than one loved one struggling this summer with a variety of personal challenges and they seem to either turn it inwardly lashing out at themselves or outwardly is a moment of anger. My daughter is struggling with being independent, navigating the adult world and has lashed out in a nasty way; as if being angry with me will give her the courage to walk the world alone. A friend has had own struggles  and had retreated into a place of guilt and shame while they worked on healing.

Now I again find myself standing at the intersection of empathy and another’s pain. My soul knows the difficulty of standing in silence trying to trust in the love and compassion of another. I know what it is like to have the world  to see you have no worth, to judge you a bit too harshly, to misunderstand you, to devalue you, to discard you so you are truly alone, to be in a place where not even all the wisdom in the world can alleviate the discomfort. In the moment when I see that struggle in another, I feel the weight of my love, the burden of my empathy. I hope and pray they understand that quote for I see their heart and their spirit which carries so much worth, light, beauty, strength, and courage.

What words can you say in those moments of battle, when they see themselves as broken yet those perceived cracks are just letting the light and courage in? What can express your worth is the same if not more to me? How to do find the strength to stand beside someone, holding space when they are in pain; when all you want to do is envelope them in love, compassion, and kindness? How can you explain the difference between misguided self-perception and what really is? How do you have faith that your love, patience, and compassion are enough to possible see you both through?

Finished

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I find my heart is filled with strife;  I am struggling. It may be the lack of sleep, or the lack of structure…. or it just may be. Today I want to find respite from the world. Find some small corner to hide in, from my confusion, from my thoughts, from life.  I am finished. I can no longer look at the disconnected nature of life, the shallow insignificant interactions of people at the coffeeshop, the sad empty expressions of the people at the store, the apathetic look of people you pass. I have come to the realization that my beliefs may no longer be enough to sustain me.

I am exhausted by the continual tests. My struggle with trust has been pushed, trust in others, trust in myself, trust in what I have imparted to the world, trust that the choices I made were the correct ones, trust that life is as it should be. It is difficult to have faith in what you have created. Will it protect those you care for when a loving embrace cannot?  Will it sustain your children as they navigate such a harsh, apathetic world? Despite everything, have I given them enough direction to make the safe choice, enough courage to speak their truth?

It is difficult to have faith in the care kindness and compassion I impart into the world.  Does it even make the smallest of ripples in the water of life? I grapple with having the faith that those you care for understand there is a safe harbor,  a sanctuary they can seek reprieve from the cruelty of the world, a place to return irrelevant of their err where they will be greeted with unconditional acceptance and care. It is challenging  to sustain the faith that I what I have given to the world will create  more good, more love and more peace than it will the negative.

Today I feel adrift, lost in some storm or confusion, lacking the faith in my convictions. We are all human, we all stumble,  all make mistakes, all are broken from time to time. It is how we collect those pieces and face our mistakes that is of essential importance, for the mistake, the brokenness is just a pathway to the learning. So why today do I feel like leaving those pieces strewn about? Why today do I so long to walk away from this life? Why am I filled with doubt that any of this is worth the effort? I hope I arise tomorrow rested with a clear mind, a rejuvenated spirit, an open heart and the courage to collect the pieces and continue.

In deep sadness there is no place for sentimentality.” 

-William S. Burroughs

The Hopeless  Well

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What happens when your well runs dry? I am exhausted not because I am not really sleeping consistently but at my core. I have nothing left to give. I keep hearing the lyrics, “Slipping in my faith until I fall”. Well I have fallen and I am unsure I even have the ability to pick myself up again, not even sure I want to.

Being strong is a blessing and a curse add to that the foundation of empathy and compassion.  I try to be there for others because I know the pain of having no one, That pain can be confounded when you are surrounded by people you cannot let in. For years I thought I could not allow others in because they would know my secret, see my personal disaster, keeping everyone at arms length required effort for a bit. I have three friends that have been around for decades and they really didn’t even know my life. I have come to understand from the other side of this that we only know people as well as they want us to. For their own personal reasons some I too still face, issues with trust and intimacy, their own private struggles, fear of judgement; people only let us in as much as they choose to share. I understand the pain of living with this isolation, I did that for too long in my life.

That is why I always try to be there for others because I know the pain of being alone.  Being strong means I have navigated most of my life with independence, asking nothing of others. Being strong means people seldom ask how you are doing or if you need anything, seldom ask if you are alright. In times of strife I have found it helps me persevere by focusing on others, humility, empathy and compassion have been my best support in struggles.  The most precious of gifts are time, energy, and empathy yet what happens when those are gone, replaced with weariness and emotional fatigue?

It feels as if my well has run dry, there is nothing left to offer the world. I am consumed as of late with anxiety, worry and tears.  I have given up things, my workload is essentially removed, I left my PhD program, I have reverted to bare bones and simplicity but I am still unable to refill my reserves. I am tired of fighting to stand upright. I used to believe I am a tough old cat, I will always land on my feet yet I an no longer sure. Maybe it is not that I cannot pick myself up, maybe it is time to give in. Maybe it is time to not pick myself up. Maybe it is time to stop working so hard for my life; it is time to lay down my armor and walk away from such a long battle. .

“In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs the torments of man.” -NIETZSCHE

the semicolon project

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My sister shared this with me. As i read this I cried a bit, the pain of your struggle and the courage and strength to continue to face the pain. This touched my heart in many different ways. A good read for anyone who suffers or know someone who struggles with mental illness. Thank you for sharing.

hpwritesblogs

FullSizeRender-1FullSizeRender Today I went to a tattoo artist, and for $60 I let a man with a giant Jesus-tattoo on his head ink a semi-colon onto my wrist where it will stay until the day I die. By now, enough people have started asking questions that it made sense for me to start talking, and talking about things that aren’t particularly easy.

We’ll start here: a semi-colon is a place in a sentence where the author has the decision to stop with a period, but chooses not to. A semi-colon is a reminder to pause and then keep going. 

In April I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. By the beginning of May I was popping anti-depressents every morning with a breakfast I could barely stomach. In June, I had to leave a job I’d wanted since I first set foot on this campus as an incoming freshmen because of my mental…

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