Waiting to Exhale

I think sometimes life is like tugging on a rope. So many things to do, so many places to be – responsibility. 

I grip the rope too hard. All of the freaking time, I grip too hard. The rope burns my hands, scarring them for days to come. How do I pull without holding so hard?

I think the key is breathing while doing. Breathing at each interlude. Breathing in the heat of the moment. 

Exhale. A word said to me over and over in therapy. I hold my  breath and it only makes the tension worse. Breathe in strength. Breathe out exhaustion, frustration, ire. 

Breathe out. 

That is the key. 

Candidly, 

Ash

The Shape of Emptiness

When was the first time you felt empty? When did you notice a void in your life? I think these attributes – emptiness, meaninglessness, void – they can be feelings too. I remember the first time I felt meaningless. I had gotten in trouble for something and was sent to my room. I felt so badly that I took a belt down in my closet and tried to hit myself with it. I want to say that this memory was about the age of eight, but I fear it may have been even younger.

Emptiness came later. I was in at least eighth grade. I sat desperately reading  my Bible, devotional journals. I was looking to God to fill a hole in my heart. I wish my faith, my devotion had filled that hole, but there was a problem with that pursuit.

The hole wasn’t God-shaped.

There is a saying I’ve heard at some point in my life (not sure when or where). It goes, “Everyone has a God-shaped hole inside of them.” Perhaps that is why I devoted so much time and energy to pursuing him early on.

I thought God would fix me.

Now, in my head, I hear an angelic chorus singing, “God didn’t fix you, because you didn’t need fixing.” Okay, not an actual chorus, but it is what I imagine a good Christian would say or think while reading this story. I really wish that they would be right – that I don’t need fixing. I really do.

Some Things Remain Broken

If there is anything that I have learned from adulthood, then it is that some things can’t be repaired. I have seen it with our son’s autism, my mental health and our finances. I imagine a lot of people would simply say that I’ve lost hope. I don’t think that is true, because, believe me, I really dream of waking up to my son’s words and songs. I dream of a year in which depression does not affect me 330 days out of 365. I dream of a world in which we have a home to live in with a mortgage we are able to pay.

Oh yes, I hope.

Yet, I would be stupid not to prepare for a future in which my son needs full-time care. Facts are facts. If he hasn’t spoken by the age of nine, then things aren’t looking good for independent living. My depression? They say that the first time you have a season of depression that you should remain on medication for at least a year. The second bout of depression should be met with 3-5 years of medication. The third time? You should remain on medication for life. They also classify your depression as MAJOR and a legit DISORDER. I qualify for lifetime medication. I.E. This is thing is MAJOR and DISORDERED.

Some things remain broken. My friend has a dead plant in the landscaping at her new house. Initially, she thought to pull the ugly sucker out and replace it with something pretty. Then, she texted me a picture of it and said, “I’m keeping it”. You see, for her (and me) the dead plant reminds us that ugly and beautiful coexist, pain and joy coexist. Perhaps broken and whole can coexist too.

Sitting with Emptiness

In my life, I’m learning to sit with emptiness. You see, I’ve realized that I’ve been trying to fill it for years and years. I’ve tried relationships, careers and jobs, schooling, children, religion, success, popularity, leadership, etc. The truth is that I’ve been trying to fill the empty space with a square puzzle piece.

I’m guessing my emptiness is upwards of a dodecahedron. That’s the largest 3D shape I can recall.

**Excuse me, I just looked up the spelling for dodecahedron and discovered it is actually a polyhedron. Are polyhedrons different than 3D shapes? What is a polyhedron? More than one face, my search tells me. Well, I’ve concluded that most, if not all, 3D shapes are polyhedrons. Geometry has never been my strong suit. Is this geometry? God, I hope so. End digression.**

You can’t fill your emptiness until you understand it, know its dimensions. In order to know those things, you can’t be trying to solve for ‘X’ or running back and forth with objects to randomly fill the space. You have to stop. Be present.

Experience emptiness.

And all I have to say about experiencing emptiness is this….

Damn it! Pain is coming, confusion is coming. This is going to hurt like hell!

Panic aside…

Pain is a teacher. Confusion isn’t a crucifix. And Hell was made for rebels.

Candidly,

Ash

P.S. I wrote this post while listening to “Hold On” by Sarah McLachlan.

 

The Top 3 Things I Learned This Year

A lot of people look back on the year and remember various accomplishments or memories. I like to look at the year from a different angle, because so often the lesson is way more significant than success or social time.

Deep Breath.

What did I learn this year?

If I were going to sum up this year, then I would say it was a year of change – a transition year. This year I quit a business I had started and moved out-of-state. To say I am ready for a fresh start in 2018 is an understatement. At the same time, I know 2018 will fly by just as fast as this year did. Here is are the top 3 things I learned from all of the upheaval and jostling of 2017…

  1. We all quit in different ways. I was raised in a house in which quitting was not allowed. Literally, I suffered through various sports seasons and band simply because I had started those things. I think there is merit in finishing something to which you have committed. I also think there is merit in saying, “This isn’t worth it.” and “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Truthfully though, I’m not good at saying those things and then quitting. I tend to need *something else* to move onto. I think its a way for me to circumvent the rules I have in my brain about quitting (rules my parent’s placed there). If I’m onto the next, latest and greatest thing, then I’m hardly quitting, right? Wrong. I’m still quitting, but I need to do it in a round-a-bout way to prevent feelings of unworthiness. This year, when I quit my business, I said I was moving onto a new clothing supplier. In my mind, it was a wise move and will help the business in the long run. I think that my sub-conscious was probably laughing hysterically and saying, “You silly lady, you just don’t like providing customer service.” Sure enough, I quit that supplier too and we moved out-of-state. Pattern repeat.  Reflecting on this, I’ve decided its okay that this is my way of quitting. Sure, it would be better if I were completely honest with myself, but maybe this is the start of being honest with myself? I like that so I am going with it.
  2. Don’t suspend your life because of big decisions. We spent three months of this year waiting for an official job offer. By the time we got to our new residence, school was starting and the entire summer had passed with only one trip to the pool. I love the pool. The pool is my spirit animal (er….spirit location?). I think it is easy when something big is coming to stop living, stop creating, stop doing. Waiting can become an all-consuming effort, but the truth is that waiting is easier when you are preoccupied. This summer, I didn’t buy our pool membership, because we would be moving *soon*. I only went to my spirit location once. So the next time I’m waiting? I plan to buy the membership (aka live in the present).
  3. The power to restart and reset are essential. Once we had moved, we faced endless roadblocks and most days I found myself crying tears of frustration. Slowly, as the months passed. I learned that, while setbacks suck, the reset is always easier. Example. The first week our boxes were here, I unpacked about 20 of them. Then, all hell broke lose and the boxes sat for four weeks untouched. I slowly started to have “unboxing” anxiety. What if I never unpack these boxes? What if I buy something that is in one of those boxes? Eventually, I got up the gumption to work on the boxes one afternoon and took out 5 in one day. And then all hell broke loose. Unboxing anxiety returned with a vengence. This pattern continued to repeat itself until finally one day, I only had 7 boxes left. Suddenly, it occured to me that each time I stopped unpacking and had a setback…I restarted ahead of where I was the previous time. I think this is probably a principle I need to apply elsewhere in my life too. For instance, career choice – everytime I’ve tried something and failed/quit, I would be restarting ahead of where I was previously. At least we know that career didn’t work and we don’t need to go back and try it again.

 

So that’s it. My lengthy lessons learned for 2017. What have you learned this year?