Oh, How I Run from Myself!

It is Monday afternoon and, truthfully, most Mondays I am eager for the day. I’m ready to get back into my to-do list, accomplish things. See here, where I disclose being a total productivity fiend. Monday is the one day that always seems to be productive for me. Maybe it’s because I’m fresh, unjaded by the previous week’s letdowns.

This Monday, however, is very different. Today, I didn’t want to pick up this laptop with a  cracked screen. I knew what was waiting for me. I say it often, that writing is like bleeding for me. Sometimes its extremely cathartic, like how people say acupuncture is great. I’ll never know about acupuncture though, because…needles.

There it is – needles, perceived pain.

I can’t get past the idea of needles, many of them in my face. A good friend of mine once told me that the needles are so very small that you don’t even notice they are being placed. Maybe she doesn’t notice. I, however, would be writhing in the anticipation of the pain and no needle would ever graze me.

Because that is what I do. I run from the pain.

This morning, I wanted to run from the pain. I didn’t want to sit here and bleed, cathartic or not. I wonder how thirty-three years of my life have passed and I am still afraid of that benevolent teacher known as pain.

Why do I not befriend her? Call to her and say, “Come, I will hear you out.” How long will it take for me to set the welcome mat out permanently.

I do not know.

I do, however, know that I will keep trying. Today, I will sit down at these keys and not run from myself. I will listen and honor the voice within.

She is saying….

I feel dead inside. Not like the autumn leaves returning to the ground, but like the decomposition of a slaughtered animal. Left too long in the sun, unburied and festering, I feel dead inside. How does a soul emerge from such noxious smells and grotesque twists of flesh? In nature, the decomposition is slow and lengthy, the byproducts nourishing.

Maybe that is what I need to expect from this sadness and angst that I feel – a slow and lengthy process that nourishes the world around me.

I wonder who is nourishing me, though. Ah, that is right, dead things don’t eat. They don’t need sustenance. They simply rot away, no one giving a thought to their sacrifice in the life cycle. Who will remember them?

I chuckle to myself, remembering my dear gardening friend, Lori. She loved her compost like it was a living thing and not quite the opposite. She marveled at the worms flocking to the pile of the dead and rotten. Their slimy, writhing bodies inching so slowly, purposefully in the direction of the deceased, the unwanted. I never knew anyone could love worms until I met Lori. I never knew compost could be an interest and passion.

Perhaps all that is dead inside of me, simply needs a farmer or gardener to see its worth. Perhaps I can be my own farmer, tending myself through a slow and lengthy process. I am reminded of how Lori explained all of the different ways to compost, the different tools. Maybe, if I don’t run from the dead things inside me, I can find the right process to enrich the earth.

That is, after all, what I most desire from my pain and the death I feel – that it live on in the things which grow.

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

 

 

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?