I Think I Am

Today was a gold star kind of day.  Maybe not on everyone’s scale but on my own bazinga monitor, today was the bomb-diggity.  Today I have made coffee, wrote a letter, colored a picture and served my son a pepper-jack grilled cheese surrounding a hot bowl of soup on a cold snow day.  I haven’t had a single panic attack and I’ve only taken about half of the Xanax I normally would have taken by this time for the past several days.  I admit this is a total overshare, but I’m pretty proud of myself for making this mood swing my beyotch. Tomorrow…wait for it…I’m brushing my hair. (cue cymbals).

It’s going to take a minute to accomplish this backlogged personal hygiene objective.  And I’m pretty sure, I’m going to yank out a lot of hair while I’m getting the knots out.  And that means my dog is going to be pooping hair and scooting her ass around on the grass for the next week.  I have a week’s worth of dishes, two weeks of laundry, a month’s worth of unopened mail and a hungry high school wrestler with no clean clothes to wear.  My dog needs to be walked and my Christmas and vacation plans really need to be addressed.  And oh dear…I just came to terms with the fact I have Christmas shopping left to do.  It’s time to shake my old ass up and get moving.  “The valley of the shadow of death is not a place we’re meant to stay. It’s not to the valley, It’s through the valley.”*

Had I not bested my demons on this go round, I would still have a mess to clean up. In fact, the mess would be even more daunting.  I’d have the same dishes, laundry, neglected wrestler and shopping sitting on my “to do” list – those items, however, would be the lightest of my load.  Had I followed my old tired instincts to act out through this emotional journey, I would have a far more disturbing list of of things that needed to be righted.  I’d have apologies to make, guilt and shame to shed and a reaffirmed sense of “I’ll never get this right.”  Instead I’m wrinkled, stinky and knotty…but I’m whole and I’m proving to myself and to those who love me that, while my trains still get wrecked, I am finally learning how to right myself and ride the current of my insanity through to a better place.

While my list of things to accomplish is long and, admittedly, a little scary, I can…and I think I am.

 

*Brian Key, Redeemer Kansas City, Sermon: Psalm 23

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

train-quote

In every situation a person can experience, I think a big part of whether that situation was a “bad” experience or a “good” experience is measured by how the person feels about themselves in the outcome. For example. witnessing and being a party to a train wreck would never really be labeled a good experience on the surface. However the ways various individuals involved in the wreck contributed to, were injured by or were otherwise affected by the wreck will greatly determine how they feel about the wreck itself. The conductor of train will feel much differently than the emergency personnel who arrive to sort out the emergency and rescue others from its aftermath; the former likely to feel guilt or an intense loss of job security for having been involved in the same wreck, while the latter might feel pride and even security in a job done well. The wreck has still occurred and it’s still overall an unwanted experience, but what individuals take away from the experience will depend on the role they played or the actions they took or didn’t take.

I keep reminding myself of this little analogy because I, at this very moment, am experiencing an emotional train wreck. To clarify, I am not a train wreck…but my train has been wrecked and as a result my emotional stability has been taken off the rails. There are a lot of things I could take away from this wreck – anger at the person who derailed me by betraying my trust, irrevocable determination to never trust anyone again, further psychological trauma created by unhealthy behavior in response to having my train wrecked, man-bashing camaraderie with other angry women, substance abuse and addiction, and (maybe the worst) a reaffirmed belief that my train has been wrecked because it wasn’t a good train.

All of these things are easy outcomes…they don’t take a lot of work or mental effort to accomplish. My anger is all mixed up and ready to be felt with a vengeance. Closing up my heart and never trusting again is instinctual for me at this point in my life. Unhealthy self-destructive behavior is something I physically and emotionally crave while “off the rails.” It’s not hard to find angry women who want to bash men and I could have an ounce of marijuana in my hand within an hour if I were to make the right phone calls. And finally, feeling unworthy, or “bad” about myself is my lifelong default – it’s not hard to convince myself that my train isn’t a good train.

See? It is very easy for me to take away the “bad” side of this train wreck and have it added to my list of life events from which I needed to be rescued or by which my children have been scarred. I’m very good at bad…bad is easy. Bad is my forte. It is the place where I am most comfortable and where my tired mind and soul want to run. What I’m not so accomplished at, however, is the aftermath of being bad. As a mother, sister and friend, I can be an exceptionally energy draining person in crisis and I excel at making poor (“easy”) decisions for myself. I am the person standing at the wreckage of the train, screaming and pulling my hair, jumping in front of and onto other trains, running around and bumping into others who are trying to deal with their own trains and generally making a bad situation worse. And when my own train has been wrecked in the past, like it has been this last week, those who love me have had to patiently contain me, love me, listen to me, watch me spiral out of control and finally rebuild me when I’ve calmed down enough to feel remorse for having made my own train wreck so much worse than it actually was.This is, without a doubt, the hardest parts about coming down from a manic love high – looking around at all of the destruction and the tired and weary group of my loved ones who have unfailingly come to my rescue yet again.

I am an exceptionally blessed woman to have such a strong and unwavering support network of people who love and understand me when I can’t love or understand myself. And also beyond doubt, my rescuers have proven over and over they will climb on my crazy train over and over in order to protect me from the damage I am prone to inflict on myself and my life while I’m off the rails. These beautiful people have done the hard work while I took the easy path for myself and I’m immeasurably grateful to still have people who love me enough to say “I’m still here.” Many people who fight mental illness aren’t blessed with such unshakable love and commitment. I can’t even imagine how scary it would be to be a train wreck in the woods where no one can hear you.

So here I stand at the site of my latest derailment and I’m trying something new. I’m whole, I’m healthy and I’m completely and absolutely capable of coming out of this wreck with a good feeling about myself and the choices I make for myself. In fact, if I examine the situation with wisdom rather than unbridled panic, I can see good within this wreck. My train has been wrecked because I was on the wrong train and heading full-steam ahead on the wrong tracks. It’s not going to be easy to clean up the debris of yet another wreck and it’s going to require me to do hard things I’ve never done before, but I think I can, I think I can.

The Other Side of Crazy

In all fairness, I just stared at my wall for over an hour and finally said (out loud…to the wall), “I am doing absolutely nothing at all.” The wall didn’t respond, so I’m feeling pretty confident that I’m still traversing the “good” side of my crazy mind. Yea. Victory.

I was being truthful in my conversation with the wall. I am doing absolutely nothing at all. In fact, I haven’t done anything in days. I’m not a highly productive person on the best of days, but my current life is completely and utterly on hold. Today was actually the best one I’ve had this week – I took a shower. I had hoped that the water would be fresh and invigorating; that I’d step out and dry off with revitalized energy and determination to get things done. I did manage to dry off, put on clean”er” pajamas and start a new pot of coffee before I went back to doing nothing again. I guess things could be worse – I could be cold, naked and sitting in my shower…having a conversation with a different wall

In one of my recent therapy sessions, I lamented to Dr. M. that becoming sane and still experiencing the insanity that is my mind can be somewhat mortifying. Since starting therapy to address my addiction, I’ve only gained an enhanced ability to apply rational thinking and impulse control. I do not actually have either of these things, rational thinking and impulse control; but I’m learning to apply them. What this leaves me with, however, is an increasingly clear and focused view of the way my mind works. And oh dear god…I am seriously fucked up.

I know it must seem almost impossible for a “sane” person to understand, but if you are one of the people who has work hard every minute in order to be “sane,” I suspect you know exactly what I’m talking about. In moments of crisis, I wish I were still crazy. I wish that I could be spinning wildly and obliviously up that same old path acting out from heartache I’ve always traveled in the past. Admittedly that old path was highly self-destructive and brought only more pain in the end, but it was a path I knew well and it never failed to numb my pain through the worse of times. Today I am not numb. I am painfully aware of every thought needling my mind and emotion scratching at my heart. And without the option of using my old unhealthy ways of dealing with heartache, I’m left with a heart that aches and an infantile maturity in knowing how to survive it. But I’m surviving it and I haven’t plotted any evil demises, created any (major) scenes in public or reactivated my facebook page to snoop the other woman. Surely, when I line these small achievements up against the crazy things I’ve done in similar past situations, I can chalk them up in the winning column.

My sister recently sent me the book “Love Warrior” by Glennon Doyle Melton and it was, I know now, a perfectly timed read. In her book, Glennon describes sitting on a yoga mat in a hot room making herself feel the pain inside of her instead of running away from it. I’m not doing Ms. Melton’s work justice by my description here, but in my mind I am vividly recalling how her retelling of this event in her life has met me at the door that just opened in my own life. I’ve been forced to walk away from a situation that made me feel like less than the phenomenal woman I am. And it has hurt. It has hurt a lot. But instead of numbing myself or running away to something that takes the sting out of the experience, I’m sitting on my mat (bed) in a hot room (cold-ass room because there is an ice storm outside) and I am experiencing my pain. Wholly and in a very raw sense, I am remembering, feeling and reliving. And while this is a very hurtful and uncomfortable space to be in, I am in it and I am facing it phenomenally from the other side of crazy.

“I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.”
~Maya Angelou

Staying Real, cuz fuck it

So if I’m going to “get real,” I need to go full balls out and I need to stay real.  I don’t care if I scratch a tender hide with my words.  I’m unplugged, uninformed, and unprogrammed and I have the papers to prove I’m considered unsuitable for the general public. I have plenty of time to write.  I have no fucks to give and I am unsupervised for the better part of every day. I love human beings and the good and the beautiful things we can do for ourselves, each other and the world in which we live.  But as I see it, we are fucking things up.  And it would appear, from my simplified perspective, we are determined to keep fucking things up until they can’t be fucked up anymore.  I’m sorry not sorry, but I for one would like to vote for us to stop fucking things up.  Is there an  enlightened “Unfuck the World” movement I can join?

Sometimes I feel preachy about all my “I’ve got it all figured out” projection.  I am so fucking confused that some of the time I’m not truly certain I’m alive. I literally sit and wonder, “Can this shit really be real?”  I can’t believe I’m the only one who feels this way…there has to be others like me who just…don’t get it, don’t buy into it.  The world is so scary and sad and angry.  And some of our creator’s most beautiful gifts to us as humans are now so corrupted by other humans with icky souls. I just can’t unsee what I see…it’s saddening, maddening and confusing as hell.

I see a world where corporations are in control, employees have become little more than indentured servants, and children are being raised on a processed sugar diets and given water-down normalized programmed educations by stressed out, demoralized and pissed off paperwork processors with shattered dreams and teaching degrees. I see a world filled with women who forget that we give away our hard-earned  liberation from men’s laws when we start creating new laws for each other. I see electronic intercourse replacing interpersonal intercourse and “news” outlets selling fear while promoting ignorance. I see a world where hate, anger, self-concern and greed are present in the same social media newsfeeds as “I’m a Christian.  Share if you’re a Christian too!” memes. I see a world where hookups are Level 1 and love has become the ultimate easter egg. I see a world where some of my dearest friendships will likely end soon, as I build up my resistance to knee-jerk conditioned statements of faith and patriotism  and I start verbalizing what I’ve been thinking for the past five years.

I see a world that overwhelms my sense of comprehension.  There are days I completely understand why people have addictions to substances that take away all their fucks.  If you’re already hurting or in a bad way, our world offers no solace or space for healing. Fuck it…maybe the tweakers have a point.  I’m not promoting the idea…but I am acknowledging the logic.  I mean…damn.  But I have a son to finish raising, an empty nest to plan, and a life to live to its fullest, so tweaking just isn’t an option for me.

So what’s a woman to do when the only thing that keeps her sane is writing? She writes or she goes insane…or maybe, if she’s lucky, both.


Afterword.

So one day I’m sitting in a breakfast cafe writing about getting real and two days later I’m lying in bed writing about staying real.  In a “crazy little thing called life” sequence of events, it’s been a double-whammy kind of a week.  The first whammy made me figure out where real was and the second whammy demanded I find real quickly and plant my feet firmly on it.  And while I’ve managed to keep myself and my integrity intact over the past 48 hours, I have a few chips and chunks missing from my armor.  I’m trying to give myself a break and not be too hard on myself for the times I’ve been less than perfect on this journey to my self.  And in discovery of my self, I’ve discovered my “real”…my creator.  So props to the agape love powering me through these valleys. I am so blessed to be so loved so perfectly.

Getting Real

sitting-and-thinking

My heart is racing and my mind is paralyzed in a self-hating cycle of fear and shame.  I’ve done it again.  I can’t escape from myself.  When am I ever going to learn?  When will I finally grow up and just be good?

I drove around with these thoughts walloping my infantile inner strength and eating away at my soul. I had felt this way before – many times, in fact.  Sometimes the cycle would start from the smallest of perceived hurts and other times it was the direct result of my own questionable decision making.  For a multitude of reasons, throughout my life and on many occasions I’ve driven, walked and talked in circles with these thoughts fueling my downwardly spiraling progress. But this time is was different…this time I remembered that I am a divinely-sparked “ghost driving a meat coated skeleton made out of stardust.”* And when I remembered this quote, I also remembered that I am a soul.  And when I remembered I am a soul, I remembered to give my tired old ass a break, stop driving in circles and grab some breakfast.  And on my way to my favorite breakfast spot to grab my favorite oh-so-not-myfitnesspal-friendly-carbfest breakfast, I stopped and picked up a wide-lined single subject notebook and some new gel pens.  “Self”, I said.  “You’re going to grab some breakfast, figure out why this will all be ok and you’re going to write that shit down so that you will remember it and won’t go home and lose your shit again.”  So I did.  I ate. I thought, I figured and I wrote.  And, without any editing, this is what brought me home. And, so far, I haven’t lost my shit again.


Is it just me or does everyone else battle a voice inside themselves that says “You’re bad” and “You’re not good enough?”  I hear it constantly.  I feel so…impure, damaged and unworthy every second of the day.  Since I feel like a bad person, I don’t trust myself.  And since I don’t trust myself, I can’t truly trust anyone else.  If someone loves me, I consider them foolish.  If someone withdraws from me, I assume they’ve uncovered the truth about me.  If someone doesn’t like me, I agree wholeheartedly with them. “You’re right, ” I say to them silently. “I’m glad you figured that out.”

I want to be a good person.  And all my life I’ve thought that meant I had to be someone else.  I’m still trying not to blink so that I won’t unsee the truth I’m just starting to glimpse.  I don’t have to change or be someone else to be good.  I’m already good…I am a good person.  Yes, I struggle with my demons, but everyone does.  This makes me human. Who I am to others and to the world around me, despite my demons, is what makes up my humanity.  Yet I have habitually persisted in trying to change myself; every time my human-esque shortcomings show up, I see this as some damnation as being, and continuing to be, a bad person; of having a corrupted humanity.

Isn’t it time for me to just stop this cycle of self-hatred?  Isn’t it time for me to just accept myself and try to the be very best me I can be?  How can I start making decisions in my life and let them be just that…decisions?  Mine to make alone without explanation or apologies to anyone else.  What a phenomenal concept!  I am a grown up and I get to make my own decisions! And I get to be ok with each and every decision I make as long as I’m always watching my humanity. And if I’m not okay with a decision I make, I get to make the decision not to make that decision again! I need to throw away my broken internal thermometer that asks the question “Am I good enough?” and start trusting myself to come from a good place.  I need to trust my good source.  From there, I can examine or question individual situations, unique decisions and interpersonal interactions and determine them, independently from myself as a whole, as worthy or unworthy of my humanity.  Wow!  Can I even imagine what life will be like from this paradigm?  Can I hold onto this beautiful view? What can I do to help me remember?….Sunsets.  My sunsets will help me remember.

When I watch my sunsets, there is a brief period of time before when I can see the sunset coming, but the light is still too harsh and the faults of the horizon too obvious and distracting.  And there is that time later when the moon sets up shop and the sun just barely peeps its reminder of the day over the lip of the horizon; making everything look gloomy or ominous.  Then there is that time in between when the majestic spectrum of colors shines just as the sun kisses the horizon…that breathtaking moment when you can remind yourself to believe everything is exactly as it should be.  When you can look at the sky and say, without a single doubt or criticism, “This is good.  And it is beautiful.”

So today I’ll return home a woman victorious – not over myself, but over my fears and shame of being my self.  I’m tired of fighting my own colors and my own sunset.  I am not perfect and I am still figuring things out, but I am good.  And I am beautiful.

* Erica Liebrandt, Elephant Journal