Accept & Adapt

I’m not much of a sports person. I’ve confessed my lack of understanding when it comes to the running fad. It’s not that I wasn’t introduced to sports when I was young or that I was completely awful at them (I wasn’t completely good at them either). I just find them lacking meaning. Or I struggle to find the meaning. One of the two.

I’m an introvert (will I ever stop writing that sentence?). I’d rather do things on my own to be quite honest. Doing things with other people is exhausting. Maybe this is why I like writing? Sure, someone can critique or edit things, but the actual act of writing? Solo mission.

Sports tend to be a team effort. Sure, there are exceptions – golf, bowling, etc. Some people argue those aren’t even sports at all. Regardless, one of the things I don’t like about sports are the variables. When I played basketball, we would practice plays every single day. Then, we would play in a game and everything would be chucked out the window, because the defense would do something that made our play ineffective. The coach (usually my dad) would call us into a huddle and come up with something completely new. And so our team would adapt.

Here is where it gets tricky for me. I’m not a good adapter. Sure, in my youth, I would go along with things and try my best to adjust. I’d run the play as it was drawn on the little white board and then, suddenly, I’d have the ball and be clueless. Truly, if I could have yelled “Ahhh!”, dropped the ball and run out the room, then I would have.

In the game of life, I have similar issues. Routine is really beneficial to me most of the time. Actually, I like to call it rhythm, because that is a more creative word for something pretty mundane. Yet, things happen. Sick people, depression, behavior problems, job impositions, etc. Maintaining a rhythm is akin to playing a flute in the midst of a heavy metal rock band. Sure, I might be playing to the beat, but nobody is hearing me and my work feels futile. Maintaining rhythm is an inglorious feat.

Just Adapt

I love the people who think rhythm is easy. It is for them. They flow with the fluctuations of life, letting go of what is not serving them. Such beautiful, fortunate people. I’m not one of them. Typically, when I talk to these people about my inability to adapt, then they will say something like “You just have to make yourself do it.” I stare at them like they have a third eye. In fact, I’m fairly certain they do have a third eye. How else can their resilience be explained? Surely, they are super humans.

I am not a super human.

Usually, when something throws me off my game, then I internally have a meltdown. My inner persona is screaming “What is happening here?!?!” while clutching her head and turning in circles. On the exterior? Smile. Smile. Smile. No one knows you are freaking out. Smile. Smile. Smile.

But First, Acceptance.

I am slowly discovering that problem probably isn’t so much about adaptation. The problem is my inability to accept change. Calling it a problem feels icky. Let’s find a new word.  Juxtaposition? Challenge? Opportunity.

My opportunity is trying to accept change. Remember inner persona girl screaming and clutching her head. She needs a moment. She also needs a steady hand, a comforter. Because I’m smiling on the outside, my inner persona gets ignored almost all the time. I’m the only one who can see her. I’m her only hero.

I’ve got options. I can tell someone what she’s doing, letting them know that the smile is just a mask. I’m getting better at this. The number of creepy conversations my husband has had with smiley, crazy girl should earn him a medal. Other options include listening to her, metaphorically stroking her back with deep breathing, encouraging her, reminding her of her strengths. Also, holding up a giant sign in front of her that says…

Everything’s not lost.

Once she has accepted what is happening, she’s actually quite resourceful. More resourceful than I anticipated she could be. Her adaptability is stellar. She just needs to accept things first. I wonder why that is so hard for her? Oh, that’s right!

I’ve been ignoring her for decades.

Well, I’m guessing it will take some time to help her learn the path of acceptance.

Here’s to the journey!

Candidly,

Ash

Deep Rest

aI heart me some Jim Carey. Honestly, I was not allowed to see a lot of his movies while I was growing up in our religious household. As an adult, I haven’t exactly made up for lost time. I have never seen Ace Ventura or The Mask. Honestly, until I saw The Truman Show, I was not a fan of Jim Carey. Then, there was Bruce Almighty, which I also liked. Somewhere in there was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. My opinion had improved.

Then, recently, I watched “I Need Color” on YouTube and I sort of fell in love with Jim Carey. I think if we met, then I would probably say something stupid like, “I need color too!” Then, I stumbled across this video where he is talking about depression and I loved what he said. Summing it up…

Depression is Deep Rest.

Depressed people have stopped the charade, dismantled the façade. They are weary from being the person they thought they were. He also said some great things about identity. Knowing ourselves is impossible. In trying to know ourselves, we create the façade instead of letting it go.

These things he said remind me of Thomas Moore’s approach to depression. Moore equates depression to the astrological Saturn, which is the slowest moving planet, taking thirty years to transit through all the signs of the zodiac. It’s rings represent the limitations of human kind, offering restrictions and delay. For a long time Saturn was viewed as a sign of loss with fear and loathing. Slowly, over time it became a centering symbol, bringing balance. Other astrological interpretations of Saturn point to great sensitivity and narcissism (great self-interest).

I love these descriptions, because I have come to know each of those facets of depression. It doesn’t just improve one day and I’m instantly  feeling better. With a major depressive disorder diagnosis, depression is a fluctuating entity throughout my life. It moves slowly, coming in and out of play.

Depression has also taught me that I have limits and boundaries. I have learned that there are many, many things of which I am not capable. It has also brought delay and hesitancy to my life. It is the cautioning alarm for my soul. “Do not go there!” It warns me not to compromise my entity and desires, bringing balance to the self-sacrificing mantra I was preached from my youth.

I, too, thought of depression with fear, angst and even hatred. I fought its intentions as though they were an assault on my person. Yet, I have learned this “nemesis” is actually more of a friend – teaching, guiding, equalizing. I am sensitive to its fluctuations and perhaps too often absorbed by my inner state.

This last sentiment ‘absorbed by my inner state’ reminds me of the teachings I heard growing up and even into young adulthood. The consensus tended to be “Get out of your mind and into your life”. I’m pretty sure that is a book title somewhere. I can understand the need to let go of anxiety as it is a vacuum sucking away at life. But what if that is not a possibility? What if anxiety is hardwired into your system by trauma and experiences?

I’ve found in life, through depression and anxiety, that going deeper has been a far more fulfilling answer. I spent years ignoring my mind and my body until the cacophony of my spirit became too clamorous to ignore.    Here, I come full circle to Jim Carey’s idea of Deep Rest. In stillness I have found the path which my soul knows. It is not a path to enlightenment or my identity, but rather a resounding sound which I follow.

What if, instead of whispers such as “Did you hear she is depressed?”, people simply said, “She is in Deep Rest”? How would that change the conversation? Would the stigma dissolve? Or would the words become tainted?

Candidly,

Ash

Talking to Myself Makes Me Less Crazy

We like to ratchet up the stress here. You know, as soon as one problem is solved then another appears. I’m using a tongue and cheek tone, because I honestly don’t want to connect with the way I feel about our latest turn of events.  Alas, the cathartic writing forces me to the keyboard and screen to bleed. y

Today, Evan is home from school because he was suspended for biting the teacher’s assistant. So far he has pulled out three of the floor vents, destroyed 5-6 crayons, climbed on top of the entertainment center (yes, by the TV!), destroyed our soap wand for the kitchen sink by tearing off the sponge pad and then pouring all of the soap all over the counter and opened the oven numerous times to play with the glass on the inside. Yay, an oven obsession! Because that’s not dangerous or anything.

It’s 10:00 AM.

So far I have moved a load of laundry, cleaned our shower, signed up for a fitness challenge with friends and now I’m sitting down to write. The truth is that a day with him, though he is delightful, is exhausting. Add in that he is suspended and that after 10 suspensions he can be expelled? Well, I’m surprised I’ve managed to do much of anything.

Very rarely am I at a lose for words to type, but on this issue I have so much apathy. I’ve shutdown so magnificently. Sometimes, I think that is a good thing, because things still get done and I’m not overwhelmed by my emotions. And yet, I know there will be a fall out.

Repressed emotions = Negative Self-talk

I used to think my inner critic was evil, a virtual gestapo in my head. I mean, if she wanted, that critical voice could convince me I don’t know how to read. She’s that potent.

Then, my therapist suggested that the negative self-talk was really just a giant clue – a clue to what was bothering me. This morning I woke up and went about getting breakfast to the tune of “I hate myself.” Literally, the thought was on repeat. It’s not a new thought and one that I am (unfortunately) accustomed to.

I didn’t really acknowledge it and went about my business. Then, the task “write” popped up on my phone and suddenly I just feel a blank void. I didn’t  have anything to write about. How strange (I always have things to write about)!

What is going on with me?

Oh, that’s right! I hate myself has been the background music for this day. I sit with a  blank stare, looking at the shattered screen of my laptop. I know its time to delve. I begin asking myself a serious of questions.

“Why do I hate myself today?”

The reply comes.

“You are terrible at entertaining Evan and keeping him out of things. You suck as a mother.”

“Geez, don’t hold back or anything.” I say to the negative committee in my head.

“Well, you asked! I answered.” The mean voice in my head says, folding her arms across her chest.

“Great job, self! Way to inner dialogue.” I say sarcastically to her.

I pause. I’m supposed to consider what feelings those thoughts bring up instead of having a sarcasm war with myself. Let’s see…

“When the mean voice in my head says mean things about my mothering abilities, it hurts.” I say.

“Yeah, no shit! I’m trying to get you to do better. The kid can’t even talk, doesn’t know how to play, dress himself, read… Geez, we’re lucky he shits in the pot most of the time!” The angry voice says to me.

“It’s just that…even if I do better, work harder…he might not learn. He probably won’t learn. I’ve tried before. It didn’t work.” I say in defeat.

“Yeah, precisely. We need to get this show on the road, muscle up! Let’s go lazy ass!” Angry voice counters.

“No, I don’t think you are hearing me. Look at all I’ve done this morning, while also cleaning up all his messes and managing not to be angry or cruel to him.” I defend. “I can’t do better than this.”

“Really?” She says skeptically. “Because if you can’t do better, then this really sucks. It really sucks that THIS is life.”

“Yeah, I know. It sucks. This life sucks.” I say softly.

“I was just trying to get you motivated, to make it better for you.” The angry voice softens and turns into a good friend.

“I know.” I say.

“He’s really not going to get better, huh?” She says.

“No – I don’t know. Maybe.” I say resignedly. “At least, there is nothing I can do to make him better. We’ve tried all of the *things* that *they* suggest. Seven years of ABA therapy and he still can’t attend school without the threat of expulsion. He still can’t talk. He has no more skills today than he did at three years old, except the potty training, of course.” I shrug.

“Well, there’s that.” She says knowingly.

“Yeah, he shits in the pot. Go us!” I say half-heartedly.

“You know, I’m proud of you for trying to do stuff today – to be productive. For cleaning up the messes and not losing your shit with him.” My new friend says.

“Yeah? You don’t hate me.” I say to myself in surprise.

“No, I don’t hate you.” Former gestapo girl shakes her head. “I was just out-of-tune with . what was really going on. So we’re just going to be sad today?”

“Yeah,” I reply. “Sometimes it passes – the sadness.”

“You don’t say! Huh,” She shakes her head. “I thought it was forever.”

“I know. Me too.”

And so I go about my day, not thinking I hate myself anymore, but feeling really, really sad. Luckily, it passes when I accidently put the hot dogs in the filing cabinet while making lunch. Evan’s sensory toy ended up in the refrigerator.

Life as a mom – sad, happy, tiring and, as always, hilarious.

Candidly,

Ash

 

Broken Hearts

I play the violin. It frequently, if not always, sounds awful. I’m okay with this. It’s just something I enjoy learning and maybe someday, if I don’t quit, I will sound not half bad. I said these words to my best friend in a text. Then, I referenced that singing is not at all this way for me.

Singing is like a bad ex-boyfriend.

Those were the words I used and they described perfectly how I felt about singing. It has been a twisted, volatile love affair. At times, I have been abused by it and at times I’ve been the abuser.

It is easier not to sing.

I’ve put significant distance between myself and that relationship. No looking back has been my motto. Relapse is not allowed.

A Dream in the Night

The very night after I sent my friend that text, I slept fitfully. I awoke to a strangling feeling in my chest, my heart racing, sweating. A panic attack at 5:15 AM. Sometimes this happens and I have no idea why. Other times, I remember that I was dreaming something intensely. I remembered the dream this time.

A fictional ex-boyfriend was following me around while I waited tables at a restaurant. He was telling me how awful I was at this job. I floundered under the scrutiny and emotional distress, fleeing from the restaurant. Then, as can only happen in a dream, I was suddenly out in an open field, collapsed from running hard.

He came to me then – the ex-boyfriend. He was comforting and said he wanted me back. I should come with him and just tell the restaurant owner I was bad at the job. I didn’t need to quit. I just needed to communicate. The restaurant owner would find something for me, teach me, help me. The ex-boyfriend would stay with me, if I stayed with him.

Lovers Reunited

Maybe it meant nothing, but I think it’s no coincidence that my dream was about a fictional ex-boyfriend. I think my mind was probably trying to deal with the wording I had used to describe singing. Greatly disturbed, I tried many things to comfort myself. After an hour, nothing had helped so I climbed into a bath, turned on soft music and began to read from Thomas Moore, who seemingly always has an answer.

Sure enough, like a sacred echo, he was talking about how we assign values to things – things from our soul. For instance, he shared about a woman entering therapy who wanted to get rid of her dependence. He questioned her about the topic. What does dependency look like to you? How do you feel when you are dependent?

After a lengthy conversation, he shrugged his shoulders at the woman and shared about intimacy. A man’s wife always brought him lunch when he had forgotten it. Sometimes she even brought it before he knew he had forgotten it. Each time, they would hug or kiss and affirm their love for one another.

Then, he shared that the man was dependent on the woman, but perhaps it was not the worst thing in the world. The woman sitting acrossed from him who wanted to get rid of dependence? She was dumbfounded saying, “That’s dependence?!?!” She learned much over the next few years. Once she began to reframe dependence as something besides an enemy, she was able to learn. Instead of getting rid of dependence, she learned when it was appropriate and meaningful.

This is how we can care for ourselves. Perhaps the dark things, the bad things that follow us, are only pointing us to where are souls need care.

Oh yes, Thomas Moore nailed it on the head. Perhaps this vicious ex-boyfriend haunting me, the one I refer to as singing? Perhaps it isn’t vicious at all. Perhaps it simply wants reconciliation, to be reunited.

I’m just not certain that I’m ready to take it’s hand again. For now, I’ll listen though. I will be open to what it is saying. Perhaps I can learn to love it again after all.

Perhaps.

Candidly,

Ash

 

That Great Journey Into Ourselves

Someone suggested to me recently that I don’t have to work for my destiny. Now, I’m not sure I even believe in something as ominous as destiny, but they did pique my interest. This idea she shared was that simply being who we are and doing what we enjoy will lead us to the right path. In fact, we don’t even have to scheme or pull out extreme hustle. Those things actually cause friction against our destiny, she said.

I really loved this, because I have no idea what my destiny is. Hence, my uncertainty that *it* even exists. I look at this blog and I love writing it. I have no idea where it is going though. I’ve been hesitant to share it in my social circles, because I’m worried about the critique, the naysayers and the well-meaning pity-prone people. In sharing my fear with a friend, she reflected that it might be important to know “why” I’m doing this, as a way to hold onto myself when I do share.

That’s when I started churning and ruminating about this Candidly Ash thing. Why am I doing it? Honestly, all that I have is that I like sharing and divulging my inner depths. I, also, really, really hope that people who read it are able to come more closely to themselves and accept what they glimpse. My greatest mystery is myself and I’ve started to find it an enchanting process to know her.

I want that for other people.

Originally, I had thought to focus on parenting a special needs child or mental illness. These are things in my life that are easy writing targets, so to speak. I could write about them endlessly.

But maybe easy isn’t really what I am looking for, but neither is hard or difficult.

And so the mystery of myself comes to mind. It is challenging, at times difficult, but always enriching. The discoveries are worth the pain of exploration. No journey is without obstacles, but perhaps the obstacles also need not be monumental. For instance, I could choose a subject like Montessori education, which I love, and develop a blog around it. Yet, I know down the road the strain would set in – the lack of focus, the ensuing disenchantment with something I love…those are obstacles that aren’t necessarily worth climbing over.

But the mysteries within ourselves? Those are simultaneously infinite and yet knowable. I hope to not only journey into myself through this blog, but also help others to do so.

Hopefully, when the critiques come in or the naysayers chant or the pity-prone people offer to pray, then I will be able to say to myself, “They may have a point and I will reflect on it, but it is also possible that they are not quite ready for this great journey into themselves. And that is okay. But I am and this is my path.”

Here’s to not forcing my path into something it’s not.

Candidly,

Ash

Overcoming Survival Mode

Sometimes victory seems hollow. For the last few months, I have been in survival mode. Our recent move proved to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated. I mean, no one expected the school system here to refuse full day classes to my son with autism. No one expected the bus to randomly not pick him up or not wait for him to make his slow progress up the driveway. They were common ordinary things basic student rights for which we fought.

Being at home with Evan is simultaneously enriching and exhausting. Just imagine all of the things your third grader might do when you are not at home and had no internal safety alarms. Things that toddlers might not be able to do, but would if they had the ability. Right now, I’m struggling to put into words the constant energy, the constant vigilance that goes into caring for Evan.

Nothing is Autism-Proof

Our home is “child-proofed”- locks on doors and cabinets, refrigerator and stove. Really, they should call it “toddler-proofed”, because that is the only age group those locks and latches protect against. Despite all of these efforts, I constantly worry that my son will eat something poisonous/harmful or escape from my home while I’m moving the laundry. He’s a nine-year-old. You can’t child-proof for that ability. They can figure out locks and mechanisms just as quickly as any adult. Our only saving grace are alarms that we mounted above all exterior doors. Literally, it sounds like a bank has been robbed every time I open the door. (Note to self: Video tape our safety measures so other parents can see what we’ve done. Also, how freaking ridiculous that alarm sounds.)

I’m still not sure I’ve given a glimpse into the taxation of daily living with Evan. I love him so, so dearly and sweetly. Yet, the three hours I was getting each day of the week was not enough to care for myself or the needs of my family.

I was in survival mode.

Today, I get to emerge from survival mode as Evan starts his first full day of school.  Yes, I need this desperately. (Mostly, I need it because later today he has a dentist appointment – no picnic, I assure you.) For weeks, I’ve been wondering, considering what I will do with this prolific freedom. Yoga, exercise, bake homemade bread, actually mop the floors (Swiffer can only do so much), file our taxes, go to the doctor, find a therapist, take the babe to the park, grocery shop, run errands, write fiction (that sounds fun), finally watch that last episode of Scandal…

I mean, really, the list is endless. Time has opened up before me like a cool, spring morning. Refreshed, relieved – those are things I might feel.

Overcoming Survival Mode

Instead, I slump around like a sloth in pajamas, fixing copious amounts of coffee and scrolling Facebook. As usual, my mind starts the barrage of insults about my productivity, my ungratefulness at finally being offered that precious diamond called time. I shake my head at my perceived awfulness.

Then, a voice pops into my head (metaphorically speaking, of course). It’s the voice of my very best friend in the whole universe. She says it’s okay to stare at your phone for as long as you need, to play candy crush for hours, to ignore that giant to-do list. This is only day one. Recovery from survival mode takes time.

Here is the lesson I have been learning for the past seven years:

When your basic needs haven’t been met for a long, long time, then you forget what they even are. Coming back into myself, learning to recognize what I need? It doesn’t happen overnight. Remembrance is a tricky thing, because you can’t control it. Its pace and path are valleys and oceans sprinkled with twilight.

All I know is that today, I don’t know what I need. I do know that my pajamas feel really, really good and that the coffee feels very, very warm. I start there and honor those feelings. Perhaps tomorrow or in three weeks or five months, I’ll emerge from pajama kingdom and remember that makeup exists and hair dryers are for straight-haired people. Husbands are for loving and laughing and dating. Children are breathtaking when they try something new. Spring unfolds like fresh wind on dry, packed earth.

This is just one season – overcoming survival mode. There are other seasons coming too. Hopefully, summer, but one never knows….

Until the season changes, I’ll be here, remembering….remembering what is I need.

Candidly,

Ash

Your Future Self Will Handle It

I have goals. Lots of them. Dreams, too.

Yet, I find myself disconnected to them more than I’d like to say. By disconnected, I mean that they don’t seem worth fighting for in the moment. The desire is gone. The push to make it happen? Absent.

I know I’m not alone in this, but I do think that I’m more susceptible than others. I’m a ‘feeler’ much more than a ‘thinker’. My emotions are too often my guide. Ignoring them is like devaluing them to me. I can’t put them on pause and press play later. I do think, maybe, there are people who are able to do this.

I am not one of them.

I also think that, as a parent, I don’t get as many opportunities to feel my emotions as, say, a non-parent. When all four of my children are home, I am constantly in a dialogue with myself to keep things steady, calm. It’s that holding space thing. I do it for my children and sometimes that means I don’t do it for myself.

I’ve spent all my energy mastering the monster within (AKA Scream Mom) and the brownie calls to me with it’s sweet relief. Yes, I have that long term goal to lose weight. I am so very tired though – of not giving into myself, of choosing the right thing, of pressing pause on my desires.

The brownie is gone. Eaten.

I gave myself something, I try to reason. Yet, inside I know.

I know that I also stole something from myself – something from my future self.

My future self…

In my therapy program, there was a phrase that we often said to deal with anxiety.

My future self will handle it.

It was a way of recognizing that in this moment, I could do nothing to change the outcome or sway the future. So many times, there is nothing to be done, but wait for the inevitable hammer to drop. Yet, while we wait, we destroy the present with fictional pain from the future.

Sometimes, too, there are things to be done, ways to prepare for the future. In my scenario above, I could have NOT eaten the brownie. It would have prepared me for the future – a future with a healthier me in the spotlight. Damn, she’s hot!

Yet, sometimes, in fact most times, I find that valuing the current me is more effective. Here is what I mean…

As I ate the brownie, I reasoned that I had given myself something, but it felt suspiciously false. I knew that all I had given myself – was a pudgier gut down the road.

“My future self will handle it.” I automatically reasoned. Oh, well there it is. How will my future self handle a pudgy gut? With debasement and internal angry dialogue of course.

Damn it, future self!

And then, like a dawning morning, a light presented itself. My future self could find ways to meet present desires that don’t include brownies.

Things like watching my own TV show while the children are school. A TV show with romance, swearing and adult themes – something I NEVER do during the day.

I could also go online and find a flourless brownie made with protein powder and applesauce. I could give myself the gift of making something ONLY for me. (And yes, even chalk flavored brownies can be a gift!)sf

I could light a candle and honor all the things I gave up for the small people in my life.

I could spend 15 minutes distracting myself from the brownie urge with something else that I like – something like a game on my phone, one of those cool adult coloring books or knitting a winter hat in spring.

The point I am trying to make is that sometimes giving into your short term feelings is a good way to move forward. If I hadn’t gifted myself that brownie, then I would never have thought of all of the things I could have done instead. I just would have obsessed about the damn brownie that I didn’t get to eat!

(Or maybe I’m just reasoning my way out of my current brownie guilt? Quite possible.)

If today you are struggling with disconnect from your goals and dreams, then maybe find a way to honor it, to give in. Sometimes, it’s exactly what you need to move forward, to reroute your map into the future.

And if not? Your future self will handle it.

Candidly,

Ash