b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: gratitude

What if

What if
You are not your Ego
What if you are not your exterior, your physical form, your reflection
What if you are not the identity you have formed, piece by piece, layer by layer, year after year after year

What if
You are the Light
Bright, piercing, blazing
Larger than the Universe
Connected to everything that is, ever was, ever will be

What if
You are Love
All the oceans combined
Always present, available, infused, no matter what
Surrounding, supporting, solid, strong
It can’t be earned, because it is already there, already given, already received
Already a part of everything, inside and out, every atom

What if
You are Whole and Complete
Nothing missing, nothing cracked, no chips, no gaps, no limping
Underneath the frail, tattered layers of who you think you are
Solid and powerful
Simple and elegant, beautiful and perfect
Every cell exactly where it’s supposed to be
A delight, a joy, a Life
Uniquely formed, special
Exactly as you are
Not defined by society, your parents, your internal record,
But already, before it all, behind it all
A You that is a Gift
Imagine it
It is Truth

what is this

My anxiety and depression used to be textbook perfect.

My panic attacks always came on like a tornado. The sucking building pressure and then the mind crushing explosion as the storm hit. Shaking and crying and a surety that the end was upon me. It would blow through me, devastating me, then leave me in a scattered pile of jagged pieces on its way out.

My depression was the bottom of a dark hole, miles away from the light at the top. Feeling completely worthless, a burden, disgusting, a waste of space, deserving of only misery. All willpower crushed out of me. All self-advocacy erased. I had no say, because nothing I could say would ever have any value.

But lately I think I’m dealing with a completely new beast. There are things that scare me, that demand action in my life. I can see them clearly. But it’s like they’re down at the end of a long tunnel. I can’t reach them. They’re so far away. And I’m so very, very tired. I try to push forward. But it’s not so much mud or sludge, as it is hardened concrete around my legs. I know I should be screaming and waving my arms to get attention. But instead I just try to keep the oxygen going in and out of my lungs. And I aim some darts in its general direction. So something kind of gets done. Why can’t I be aggressive? I used to be so good at that. Get in your face and demand. And instead I’m mostly paralyzed. Dragging forward, some.

But I’m not sad. I’m not value-less. I’m not filled with self-loathing. I’m not terrified. I’m not covered in knives of fear and worry. I’m not crying nonstop for no specific reasons. I don’t wish I could just disappear. Every day, for at least one moment, I feel the flame of joy in my heart. (I remember going months without any light or warmth inside me.) I am grateful to be on solid ground, instead of beneath it.

I wonder if it’s the “new” me, or a transitioning “current me.” That’s what we’re told to expect. You won’t ever be the person you were before. So figure out how to appreciate the person you now see in the mirror. I’m trying, I’m really trying.

blessed

This morning was yet another tough to wake up, tear myself out of sleep, drag myself out of bed, push my leaden self forward. But then I get to school and everything difficult about existing falls away, like shedding an outer layer and floating forward with new, fresh, plump skin. The children’s energy renews me, fills me up, fuels me so that I’m pushing forward with energy I didn’t even realize I had. I see their progress, it’s tangible and exciting, and I’m so very proud that I’m filled with buoyancy and delight. This is right. This is where I’m supposed to be.

Autism

Last Friday I subbed for the first time in a classroom for severely autistic kids. I want to say I was filled with compassion and felt like the work was meaningful, but mostly I just felt traumatized by the experience. These are children that will never be normal, that will always need help from others, that are far far far from anything resembling ‘normal.’ I felt for the parents that are filled with ambivalence for a child they both love and see as a burden. My heart was heavy. The day dragged, every little thing they did is an uphill challenge. Every single thing they did is painfully slow and difficult. It was exhausting to be around. I pitied them, found them to be pathetic, and felt ugly for feeling that way. I felt ashamed that I didn’t find the work meaningful and fun like the other women working in the classroom. I spent the weekend tormented by the experience and my thoughts and feelings.

Then I went back.

In the last 3 days I have spent in there I have been able to see these kids as more than their external behaviors. I have seen humor and subtly, frustration and anger. When they refer to autism as a spectrum, they are literally describing how unique each of the children are. Yes there are similarities, however each of the children presented a unique combination of interests, levels of interaction, intelligence and behaviors. Once I was no longer shocked by the strange sounds and movements they make and do, they became fascinating to me.

I need to understand to connect. And initially it was all so foreign, loud, strange, intrusive, that I just couldn’t process it. But it’s amazing how the strangest things can become normalized just by being exposed to it for a while. And just like that the noises they made, the arm waving and flapping, the rocking and body ticks, all faded into the background scenery, and I was able to really see them, who they are on the inside. The intelligence trapped inside a body that won’t cooperate. I also judged the program that is designed to have them restrict themselves in order to make the socially ‘normal’ feel more comfortable. I don’t have a background in any of this. And my experience amounts to a book I read (partially written by a severely autistic girl), some articles, and exactly 4 days in a classroom. But I have to wonder if all the things we were making them do was really for their benefit, or ours.

I started to really care about them, feel sad when they were sad, and feel joy when they experienced it. I started to bond, and then it ended – such is the experience of a substitute. And next week I go back to a classroom full of ‘normal’ kids. The teacher asked if I wanted to come back next time my school is on break. I’m actually considering it. I prefer to help students academically. I love watching them ‘get it.’ I feel joy when I help them understand. I know that’s my calling, my bliss, what feeds my light. And yet, this hidden world was a fascinating break from the daily grind, the rushing to and from minutia, the annoyances at mundane discomforts we take for granted. It has clarified and strengthened my gratitude for existence. I am taking them back into the rest of my life, carrying them in my heart, incorporating them into the full human experience of the world around me.

I knew that children like this existed, I just didn’t think about it in depth. I didn’t want to imagine the day by day and minute by minute struggles. I didn’t want to care. When I have seen them out in the community, I have felt uncomfortable and pity. But not anymore. I will never reduce them again. My eyes are open.

 

 

what pieces, all put together, help keep you up

It takes a crew of about 100 people to help keep my mood up. Just kidding. But I’m lucky enough to have many different people in my life that help support my mental well being.

My husband. Even though he doesn’t fully understand my experience, he hangs around. He takes care of the things in our family that need to be taken care of so that I don’t have to. He’s not big on supportive words (I can’t remember the last time he specifically said something supportive), but instead shows his support by doing. It takes a little bit of effort for me to translate his method of love, but it’s valuable nonetheless. Knowing he’s there taking care of things allows me the space to fall apart if I need to. I don’t have to share how far I’ve fallen, but I can dive, and then I can climb back up, knowing he’ll still be there.

My friends. I have the best friends anyone could have. Not all of them know about my struggles. And only a few know how dark my night can get. But all of them love me no matter what, just as I am. I know that I can call on them (or, rather, text them), and they would do just about anything for me. I don’t reach out that often (rarely, really), but knowing they’re there and available if I wanted to reach out, can be such a lifeline when I’m sinking fast. It means that even though I feel like I’m utterly alone, I know I’m not. I hold onto the tether, the rope, because at the end of it is love, the anchor. I know they love me, no matter what. Even if I feel like I don’t deserve it, I know it’s there anyway.

After-care group. This group has literally been a lifesaver. I have lost count of how many times I have broken down, crumbled, split open. I have “lost it” in a place where so many others know exactly what that feels like. I have come apart at the seams, looked up and seen others holding up their threads too. I have never felt judged here, only complete support. Here is where I am reflected back to myself as someone strong, even when I’m feeling like wet cardboard. Here I’m told how far I’ve come and how much better I’ve become. Here is where I can measure my health, because these people, these walls, have seen my dark, crumbled core. Here is where I’m able to help others. Where I get to be a lifeline. Even when I’m empty for myself, I’m able to find hope for others. And even just offering up a tiny spark to someone else, helps refill my own tank. We’re in this together. We’ve got each others’ backs. We’re an army of strength and hope and love. We will survive, we will thrive.

have a mother’s day

I am deeply ambivalent about today’s hallmark holiday. Even with this beautiful girl sitting in front of me so full of life and love, I am flipping through the list of ways I have hurt her or failed her. Thank goodness she’s so resilient. But mostly, thank goodness I’m not my mom. She showed me over and over that I was worthless and undeserving of respect. She chose everyone and everything over me. She took my childish worship for granted. She whines that she loves me, she misses me, but her “love” is limited and unhealthy. And it hurts. Sure, you miss me now, now that you’re old and lonely. Her neediness makes me angry. What about when I needed you. Yes you feel guilt for so many of your choices. But I remember your face when you first made those decisions. Completely unapologetic, proud even. Ugh, stop, I don’t want to waste my time dredging up the ugliness again. I forgave you long ago, not that you’re off the hook, but that I chose to not carry around my resentment anymore. I set it down, and decided to accept you just as you are, limited, selfish, OCD, and not welcome in my life except when I feel like I can handle your immaturity and disconnectedness. And I decided to look at my current life with relief and gratitude. This is Motherhood 2.0 – my turn. I get to create a new mother/daughter relationship. In this version, the mother is present for her daughter, listens to her, treats her like a complete human being and shows her she believes in her. This time when the mother makes mistakes, she admits them and apologizes for them, and doesn’t make excuses and doesn’t laugh about the pain she’s caused. This time the daughter is able to ask for her needs and get them met. This time the daughter knows how much she’s loved both in actions and words, over and over. And this time the daughter has a very loving and supportive and fun and safe father who would never harm her, never torture her, not in a zillion years. I am so lucky and so grateful for my family. We are imperfect. But we are good people. Sometimes I forget that I’m part of the good. Sometimes it’s helpful for me to look back at the bad, and see how much I am not that, not by a long shot. Then I can go through my list of successes instead – and realize that I am a part of making my child’s life good.

Describe an event that changed your life forever

My life has been peppered with life-changing events, like signposts on a long and windy road. The first, and possibly biggest, was my parents’ divorce. It was only once we escaped that I realized a brutal and terrifying childhood was not normal. My understanding of my life and the world was turned upside down, and so many objects were thrown loose. It was exhilarating, the drama, the freedom. I was encouraged by therapists to let it all out – and so I did, everywhere and to anyone who would listen. I realized my story had value, like currency. In exchange others would share their struggles. And I was able to connect with many on levels deeper than the usual shallow exchanges. I was free, I was wild. I was the bad influence many parents wanted to keep away. But not because I did anything illegal or immoral – quite the opposite. Due to my mother’s neglect, my younger sister and I had to take care of ourselves. We were and continue to be very responsible. Many parents didn’t like me because I spoke my mind. Because I didn’t keep to “my place” as a child. I was honest, too honest. My eyes were open. Perhaps I was disrespectful. I didn’t see, nor wanted to acknowledge, arbitrary boundaries. There were also many parents who adored me, who figuratively adopted me and became one of my surrogate moms. Sometimes (often?) I liked them better than their kids. I connected better with them, I felt like they understood me. Memories fade, and I no longer remember the details of time spent with them. But they gave me guidance, acceptance and love that I so desperately needed. I carry them with me in my heart, even today. And I am forever grateful that they were placed in my path when I needed them.

the most accurate description I’ve ever heard

a new year

It’s Rosh Hashanah. The head of the year. The couple of days that are supposed to represent the rest of the year. The beginning of the 10 Days of Awe. The Book of Life is open. At the end of Yom Kippur it is closed, sealed. 10 days to repent, revisit, review. 10 days to think long and hard about the year that passed, the lifetime that has passed. Time to decide on how the new year will be. So much pressure. No wonder I fought with my sister and mother every single Rosh Hashanah growing up. Where’s my life now. A husband that is working hard, doing what he always does, taking care of us, and is just a little bit out of reach, distant. My fault? A gorgeous 5 year old daughter. Super creative and a non-stop talker. Non-stop. Non. Stop. My poor brain tunes her out so I can have head space to get the every day banal necessities completed. No room in my head otherwise. I still see her as an adult-human sometimes. I forget she’s 5 and I lose my patience, lose my temper. “Stop acting like a 5 year old!” Oh wait, right.

Another set of meds I’m testing out, ever the lab rat. Is it working? How can I tell? All I know is the side-effects and how they impact my day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. Have I improved? It feels like running in place most days. How long has it been since the last breakdown? 2 years? 3? That’s pretty good. I’m not gibbering and rocking and sobbing in a corner. So that’s a definite improvement?

What do I want for the new year? More patience. Less hurrying and adhering to the clock. More in-the-moment experiences. Those fill me with gratitude. Gratitude, the high beam that banishes my darkness. The electricity that wakes up my heart. The surge of hope that makes it possible to see more days, more moments filled with more gratitude.

I want more closeness. I’ve been holding myself out at an arms reach. Sure it’s safer. But it’s also lonely.

I want more energy. How do I achieve that? Probably not on my current meds… More walking. More yoga. Less cell phone and tv time. An easy time waster/time sucker, that brings me to bedtime, and morning, and a repeat of the repeat of the repeat. Which is not a motivator.

I stopped wishing for my old self back long ago. Who or where she is, I don’t know, she’s long gone. This me is a little more serious, a lot wiser, and a bit more compassionate. I’m okay with the current me. That surprises me. I never thought I’d think that. I’m glad I do. Acceptance is way smoother and easier than the alternative, fighting and thrashing against the perceived loss of the stronger, stabler me I used to be. I remember taking for granted the day to day, it was so easy. Was it? I don’t really remember. Everything’s a blur. It’s not helpful to imagine a time that I can never get back. I’ve mourned it already. I’m ready to be in the now. I’m ready to look forward to the year. One year at a time. One day at a time. One minute at a time. So far, so good.

Gratitude

Everyone is doing it on Facebook, so I’ll do it here.

I am most of all grateful for my husband. He’s not perfect, but no one is. But he is in it for the long haul. He took his wedding vows seriously, he is committed. And with that perspective, he will do whatever it takes to keep our family unit safe and healthy and running. Even when I can’t. And, when I can’t, he doesn’t judge. He simply keeps on keeping on. He hangs in there, even when I’m swinging all over the place. He holds steady. He is calm. The calm of a mountain. Immobile, unshakable. (At least, on the surface.) He is sweet and adorable and kind and generous. Our 5th wedding anniversary is coming up, and I still have a huge crush on him. Something about the combination of strength and shyness is wildly attractive to me.

My daughter. Oh how you test me. Like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, constantly looking for a weak spot in the fence. You mirror me, so I see both my positive and negative qualities reflected back in my face. You’re an eye opener all right. So stubborn and so persistent and such a drama queen (er, princess). Oh how you are able to hurt me. Oh how you are able to crush my heart. But then just a moment later be sweet and adorable, and utterly unaware of the consequences of what you do or say. Because really, my reactions say more about my own demons and ghosts. You are the ultimate test, lessons after lessons, forcing me to prove my life philosophies are practical. I am exhausted by you, but also obsessed with you. Your eyelashes. The fuzz on your arms and legs and cheeks. Those cheeks. Your chubby fingers, delicately posing as any princess would. Your breathing, your heartbeat. Through you I have wielded the knife of judgment against myself – having had lots of practice using it on my mother. I have cut myself violently. And through you I have laid that sword down. I have hugged you and rocked you and loved you, and in doing so have comforted my inner child. So much healing through you. I want to run away, and I want to scoop you up and put you back inside me. What a crazy mix of emotions this parenting thing is.

My friends. Oh my friends. You are my family. You have seen me so ugly. And you have seen my successes. And everything in between. And still you stay. I was sure you’d run screaming, many times. But here you still are. And you love me. Warts and stench and all. How or why, I don’t know. But I do know I am beyond grateful that you exist. That you have always stood by me. That I know you will always stand by me. That you will cry with me and laugh with me. And that you love me, as is, just the way I am.