Putting it all together when things fall apart.

I used to think I wanted to write myself into a happy ending. I know, finally, that the ending isn't the point. It really is so much about how you just do stuff everyday. How you get up and start over again or how you get quiet in the middle of a tense moment and re-group. It is saying over and over as many times as possible in as many ways as possible that you can do this or that and you choose to do it with all of who you are. It is staying inside of every moment rather than floating away. It is not questioning other people's motives, but rather examining your own. What do I want, need, desire from this particular minute? If you care about this at all, it takes constant vigilance. Paying attention is work. I think that is why I have avoided certain things- because I know they will force me to pay constant attention to something I do not want to pay attention to. One is the collection of essays I am working on....it's hard to go to certain places because getting inside those places is just like having it happen again.


People who exercise on a regular basis are tapping into a very intimate connection between their mind and body. Many people aren't connected to their bodies. Sometimes I am one of them. I can look down and see what I might be doing without really feeling what is going on.


The internet can take us away from ourselves. For many, it has taken the place of a book. This scares me though  I am just as guilty as the next person for using too much time reading something I had not intended and here I again, I have to say, "I do not choose this."


In the journey with my daughter learning how to feed herself, we have had to go back to some basics. What does hunger feel like?  Are you hungry? Here is some food. After you eat it, how does it make you feel? She can answer these things, but she can't yet ask for the food. We are still working on that part.


It's been a twisted sort of gift, unemployment and health concerns, fear of moving, loss of innocence. All of it has forced us to be in every moment sometimes quite raw, quite overwhelming in all of it's FEELING. So many times, I wanted to sink myself.  The depression I knock away most days really wanted to settle in and I had to pay attention to my mind, my body, my spirit and feed it only good stuff. Friends and family who comforted and listened and encouraged, food that fueled and walks that energized and words that released. I failed many times. Over and over again, I failed and then got up and tried again.


You might say blchhh when I share that I am more in love and loving toward Big Man than I have ever been. It's not popular to sing about your own love story. If you are happy with your mate, it seems you keep it to yourself.  He regrets so much, but I keep telling him about the gifts we received. The renewed sense of this one life of our own making. The sharper focus on our tiny little family of four who love each other without question. The way that we turned toward each other rather than away. The way he accepted my help and admitted he needed me. The way we each fought different battles and held each other up. UP! Neither of us are rock star gorgeous or particularly unique, but together we are something I can't find in any book and it's just hard not to put that down in print.


My head spins at times. Lately I have been struggling to take in the beauty, the striking orange leaves all over the valley I live in. Often, my eyes settle on that one leaf still stubbornly green. I feel that way sometimes. Not willing to change or let go and yet it is inevitable. I am changing. I have changed, but I am me.


Big Man and I don't always agree on what I write. He holds his cards close. Part of me figuring out life is putting words on the page. Part of what I get out of my writing is learning that through reading about my questions, people relate to me. They appreciate my honesty. What, it seems, people are drawn to, is my willingness to question parts of my own life. It feels a constant dance to honor those in my life who are part of my journey without overstepping. Kids add another layer. I have listened to this very conversation in a room full of published writers whom I greatly admire. They have the same concerns as I do.  What I have settled on is that as long the perspective remains mine I feel good.


I had to re-read this piece ten times. I posted it. I took it down and now I am posting it again. It is true and it will stay. 


All people have doubts, even when we speak from our truest place. I think this is good because it means we care. In the end, though, our truth must speak loud enough not just for others to hear, but to affirm to ourselves that we matter. And that is the real truth. 

Meet Lois

So I have this terrible little voice in my head. She kind of looks like this and is certainly not my friend.
I have named her Lois simply because I do not know anyone named Lois. Lois doesn't work for me. She works against me and she has been driving my life for some time. She doesn't say kind things. If I heard her speak to a friend the way she speaks to me, I would be embarrassed. And so in this journey I am on, I really trying to work with Lois. It is sort of like training a dog. And I am no good at training dogs. If you met my dog, you would clearly understand what I am up against. But the deal with my brain and Lois, is that she really has just ruled for too long.  I am in charge and she just needs to know that. Here are just a few things that Lois has said to me over the years:

Why is this so hard for you? Everyone else can do this.
You have really let yourself go.
Why are you yelling? You are such a bitch.
You can't do that.
Scaredy cat. I knew you wouldn't do it.
That was dumb. How could you lose the keys? or your wallet? or that important piece of paper?
Why did you say that? People will think you are nuts.
You can't.
Compared to other women your age, you really haven't done much.
Get a life!
Your kids are a mess.
All talk, no action. Again. You will never change.
Why aren't you more organized, pretty, fit, smart, put together?

She's a gem, isn't she? So, yeah, Lois is really a witch and as much as I would like her to be gone, it really isn't that simple. I have to retrain her.  I have been working on this ever since we started helping our daughter through her issues. She has a mean voice, too, and it was driving her to do some really awful things. Part her training was to simply recognize when this mean voice was talking and notice her and then replace her voice with something that the strongest version herself would say. So I am doing this, too. And since I have started, I have noticed lots of people talking about similar techniques. They envision this voice as someone who is only a very small part of them. It's important to recognize they exist and try to find a place for them. The reality is that our frenemies like doubt and fear will always be around, but they do not have to be in charge.

I wish I could tell you I am having this PHENOMENAL experience and my life has totally changed. It's not like that at all. It is a journey and it takes practice. I have gone to a meditation center to learn more and what I am realizing is that my brain has been out of whack for quite some time. I also have to keep practicing and noticing Lois and being gentle with Strong Lisa. When Lois starts talking smack about how I meditate, I know I have gone too long without working at it. 

In a doctor's visit yesterday, my practitioner actually PRESCRIBED meditation. When she saw my history of depression, she started discussing mindfulness and meditation and practically jumped out of her chair when I told her what I had been working on. Strong Lisa wanted to shout, "Bring back the high five because I am on this!" 

But I just smiled and Lois glowered... which was totally fine by me. 


As aside, I have to admit that Big Man suggested I try meditation during the heart of our unemployment months. He did because his ego was out of whack, We have different struggles regarding negative thoughts and even different methods for meditation. But none of that matters. It has helped each of us in different ways.  All of this is to say, hon, YOU WERE RIGHT!

On Football and Life

I went to listen to Steve Almond discuss his newest book called Against Football. It wasn't so much that I am a passionate hater of football. More precisely, I was wondering what a former fan of the game had to say about how he arrived at the topic. Steve is a talented writer who has really forged his own creative writing path. I knew this book was not a diatribe in the formal sense....I knew it carried some weight. What he said was that it really came down to the fact that he was ashamed of his love for the game despite the growing evidence that football harms people for life and that the industry itself does little to protect those who play it.  Furthermore, he said, "We need to write about what brings us shame."

This stopped me so much that I scribbled it in my notebook.

I looked up the official definition. Ashamed: embarrassed or guilty because of one's actions, characteristics, or associations.

I started thinking about all of which I feel shame for--times when I did not speak out are only the tip of the iceberg for me.  Here is an incomplete list:
1.  Yelling at my kids.
2.  Leaving the house when I am angry.
3.  Digging up the past 
4.  Forgetting my parent's anniversary.
5.  Being overweight
6.  Watching my daughter get sick and not being able to stop it.
7.  Asking my husband to interview for a job that did not deserve him. He made himself vulnerable by admitting to some problems he'd had and they did not treat him with kindness and if I think too much about this, it still can make me sick. 
8.  Believing in feminism while I stay home to raise kids while my husband is the primary breadwinner. 
9.   Having a garden but buying Quick Trip pizza because I wanted a night off.
10. Sending my son to Boy Scouts though they don't really support gay rights as a national organization.
11. Not attending funerals of people who were important to me to important to someone I love.

I am not saying these make sense. I am only saying that my shame comes from something not ringing true for me in each of these things. 

So Steve got me thinking about how shame arrives when what we believe and think and feel does not line up with our actions.  One of the speakers I heard last weekend said this very thing. She was discussing living a life of integrity. When what we do and say and believe all line up, we are walking in that sweet spot. Something wasn't ringing true for Steve and that is when he began his closer examination of football, it's culture, and so on.

And yet walking with integrity at all times is hard. I mean, I don't think it's always hard. I just think that our world has really gotten haywire- we trend, you know? There is a trend and we jump on or off ,and we just don't really think it through. Everything has become so political- food and football and feminism and religion and school. Somehow it ends up being a right or left thing, and yet isn't all just a human thing?

We are full of dichotomies.We are black and white and grey. And I mostly feel grey. I have rarely drawn a hard line in the sand for anything. It was my biggest struggle as a teacher and lately, I have had to develop a hard line for my son. He's in a phase where his tone toward me is less than respectful. I simply cannot tolerate it and because I love him more than anyone I want more out of him. He needs to be constantly corrected and there are ramifications for him. I want him so badly to see how he hurts me and then get it so he simply stops.

But lessons are hard to learn and they keep coming at us until we get them and I am not in charge of his time frame. I want to be and that is my lesson. My impulse is to feel shame for his behavior and yet, it is his behavior and not mine. I can teach and he can learn...or not. His behavior does not fit into the life of integrity I wish to live and yet all I can do is stay the course and pray that he will join me. 

I admire Steve for just plunging in and investigating and trying to go forth in a way that speaks of integrity for him.

That is our journey, right? To figure out a way that rings true to us and for us and deep inside us and then, have the courage to live it.

Who knew I would get all that from a brief talk about football? But lessons are everywhere if we are paying attention and I guess that is just part of it......paying attention.