Let The Fog Roll In

Day one of  the idea “blog daily in August using the daily prompts” started out with the prompt toothbrush. I had little time and less inspiration of how that connected to any thoughts in this head of mine…so on to day two I have come. The prompt, foggy, is fitting on so many levels, I barely know where to begin.

Which is pretty much what fog does to you, right? Literal fog makes it difficult to navigate, obscuring your vision and disorienting you from the familiar landmarks and guidelines that help you know where you are. You barely know where to begin. So you go really slow, straining your eyes for the familiar and daring to trust that you are mostly in the right lane as you continue down the highway.

So what about when the fog is figurative, not literal? Like when your vision is obscured regarding a particular relationship or situation, only its not fog hindering you – it’s fear, ignorance, judgement or full-blown denial. Sometimes we live in this valley of fog for so long that we don’t even realize our view is unclear.

Another type of fog I’ve experienced has occurred when I’ve allowed my ideas and beliefs to shift around as I consider new possibilities. This can take place in small and big ways, from reconsidering my view of a person to reimagining my spiritual framework. Choosing to reconsider can be a significant act of courage. Choosing to allow what you thought you knew to become less certain in light of further information gained- this is brave.  As this process unfolds, the fog rolls in and you begin to strain your eyes for the familiar and dare to trust that you’ll remain mostly in the right lane. In my experience, the fog may stay around for quite a while. So long that I wonder if it was worth it to kick up all this dust. Because life is often easier when things remain where and as they are. Familiar. With reliable landmarks for navigating this crazy life.

But the thing is: I want a life that is bigger and wilder than the landmarks that have grown familiar. I don’t want to always be able to make sense of my experiences, perceptions, and life as a whole. So perhaps the fog is at times a signal that I’m onto something good, or at minimum something beyond my control or current level of understanding. A sign that I’ve dared to ask questions for which I don’t yet have answers. For most of my life I have placed a very high value on knowing what’s going on and being in control. But lately, I’ve come to realize this understanding and control is a) impossible to maintain at all times and b) often at the expense of being fully alive.

So when the fog rolls in, sure- slow down and look for what’s familiar as you navigate down the road. But also be willing to lose sight of what’s familiar. Trust that you’ll stay mostly in the right lane as you wait for the way to clear. Let life surprise you.

 

Daily Prompt:  Foggy

Things Change

The other day I had a lollipop for the first time in a few years. It was my childhood favorite: A Cherry Blow Pop. Perfect combo of “cherry” flavor and chewing gum that makes your jaw ache in the 3 minutes it takes to lose it’s flavor. It was especially satisfying to reach the tipping point from sucker to gum that would leave me picking candy from my sore molars.

This time around, as I tasted that “cherry” sugar stuck on a stick, disappointment quickly settled in. A few more half-hearted licks and it went into the trash as I thought about how many I’d eaten in my life, never expecting that one day they would lose their appeal.

There are other items on this list of “things that have unexpectedly lost their appeal”.

  • Somersaults
  • Cilantro
  • Keeping my house really clean
  • Idolizing other people
  • Getting stuck in my head
  • Green Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Christianity

Some things have lost their appeal due to changes in my body (spinach = tummy ache), others because they reached a point where the negatives began to outweigh the positives. For instance, I discovered that a house cleaned to my preferred standards requires time that I want to give to other things…so now the dishes and dust are plentiful, but so are my hobbies. What’s interesting is that there are times that I look around my house and think “Who lives here? Surely not the me?!” I still can’t quite believe that I, a life-long cleaner of all the things, am now able to (almost) peacefully co-exist with piles of all the things while I make things or play with my dog. I still want a really clean house- but I want other things more.

It can be unsettling to gaze around my external or internal landscape and wonder: What has become of the self I once knew? Some changes have brought a lot of pain even as they ushered in freedom. Many relationships didn’t make the journey into this new place I call Me. And the transition time from there to here…sucks. There’s just no easy way. But change we often must if we are to remain true to ourselves. Or perhaps more accurately, if we are to become ourselves.

When I look back on all of the years that I was deeply committed to the Christian faith, I see myself. My authentic self. Arguably it was a self less able to think for herself, so perhaps authenticity was a times lacking. But truly: My commitment to this belief system was life-long and genuine. I could never imagine a life outside of those beliefs, rhythms, rules and comforts.  It was the common thread between myself and nearly everyone I knew. It shaped many daily thoughts and actions. And I was always striving to learn, grow, and live a good life – just like I am now. I was thoughtful and caring and serious and hard working – just like I am now.

And yet.

This is the first public space in which I’ve acknowledged that I am no longer a Christian. But even as I type these words, I am reminded that the process was very much an acknowledgement. It was not an intentional move from there to here. I didn’t one day decide I wanted to move away from the belief system I had always called home. It was more that, slowly but surely, I had to admit to myself that this was happening. I was changing. What used to fit, didn’t. Ideas that had never quite fit were now safe to discard. The worldview I had always considered “it” was not, in fact, it. And much of it is no longer appealing.

568 words ago, it was not my intention to discuss this change. I hadn’t realized it was time. But it is.

So there it is. Here I am.

And there you are. Be you. Even if it means changing in ways you never imagined.

 

Daily Prompt:  Lollipop

Meddle in Your Own Life

For much of my life I have struggled with the aching fear “Who am I to decide what I want/where to go/what to do/how to be.” To make a decision for myself felt like I was meddling in affairs beyond my scope and ability. For many reading these words, you will have no idea what I mean. Sure, everyone has their moments of self-doubt when they look to another for support or example because they aren’t sure how to proceed. But the desperation I have felt goes far beyond this typical human experience of inadequacy. For much of my life, I have fundamentally not understood the power I have to chose how/who/where to be. While I’ve managed to live a pretty good life, it’s often been with the help of an idolized person or two that I’m seeking to emulate and please. I’ve been oblivious to the power and knowledge within to live my own, good life. And I’ve been desperate. Desperate to know if I’m on the right path…have I made the right choices. I have spent countless hours analyzing, fearing, wishing, wanting, unable to connect with what I want or consistently live a life that is authentically mine. Some of you that find this blog will know exactly what I’m talking about.

I am incredibly grateful to say that I’ve got a lot to learn– but my life is becoming my own. There is hope alongside the desperation. I am learning the power, knowledge, and light that are within….not just in other people– but in me.

Here’s one part of this journey.

Seven years ago I “broke up” with a friend that I’d idolized for years. She and I had journeyed together through some really rough years of my life. She helped me get out of an abusive relationship and provided space in which to heal and find my feet again. She was a cheerleader and support in many ways, and we had fun together- vacations, cooking good food, hosting parties. But from the moment I’d met her she’d been up on a pedestal and other types of mess grew through the years. Co-dependent is the name for our kind of relationship. Pleasing her, acting like her, even looking like her…it quieted the desperation. She became a voice in my head, a guide when I was unsure what to do.

It pained her that I did this, to the extent that she was aware, but she was also a partner in making this unhealthy bond. When I finally cut myself free she insisted someone else must have put me up to it. But for one of the first times in my life– there was no “someone else”. I had begun to discover ME and the power I have to decide. To know something within and take action to create the life that I want for myself. I didn’t break up with her well…there was so much I didn’t know how to articulate and so much I didn’t understand about the conviction I felt that this relationship was no longer a good fit for me. I was so new to making those kinds of choices.

I did it, but messily. It unfortunately went on to cost me several other friendships because they couldn’t handle that I’d dumped our mutual friend. If I’m fair, they had their own stuff to sort through. They ignored my calls and letters after years of life lived together. Perhaps they feared I’d break up with them too, so they got there first. I will never downplay the pain and confusion they must have felt, but I do wish they’d pushed through to ask me what they surely wanted to know: why. Why had I broken up with someone who I’d been so loyal, so close with?  Perhaps we all would have found a bit more clarity and healing together before going our separate ways.

I did it because I had to. There was just no two ways about it.

That’s all I knew at the time- and it was enough. Not enough to save the other friendships. Not enough to save me a lot of pain and turmoil over the decision. in the coming years. But it was enough that day to say the words I could scarcely believe I was saying. I said yes to me in a profound way that day. I have not been the same since.

I’ve uncovered many layers within this necessary decision. I do not doubt or regret the decision, or even the other relationships lost…only how it was executed. This regret must remain paired with grace regarding the lack of skill, lack of knowledge in charting my own course, and lack of experience being brutally honest about what I think and feel when it will disappoint someone else.

I share this to be honest about my story. It’s messy and at times confusing, certainly not perfect and painful far more often than I’d like. But my life is becoming more beautiful than I’d dared ever imagine… because it’s becoming mine, not an image of someone else’s crafted with fear and desperation. I want to share anything I can that will help anyone reading these words who shares my desperation, my propensity to idolize another vs. live authentically, my lack of skill and knowledge regarding the power and light within. Never compare yourself to me- don’t you dare. But you can let the things you read here and in other blogs/books/lives be a light to you on your own path.

May the long time shine upon you. All love surround you. And the pure light within you guide your way on.

 

 

 

Daily Prompt: Meddle

Burn These Ships

We’ll burn these ships…and we ain’t going back!

La la la la la la la la.

Inspired by the story of Cortez, a band called Bethesda once wrote these lyrics. The story goes that once he landed in Veracruz, Cortez ordered that the ships be set ablaze in order to prevent retreat. It forced he and his crew to remain in the new world and forge ahead in their conquest.

Now, if you remember anything about the way Cortez and other “explorers” behaved, it may completely ruin this image for you. I understand. But even the worst behaved humans can offer something of help, even if unintentionally.

So let’s take what we can from this guy and consider the idea of burning our options of retreat. Taking escape off the table. Maintaining our refusal to return to how things were…regardless how difficult the way ahead becomes.

For me this means recognizing when I’m not “all in”. Standing on the edge of full commitment to my marriage, job, or even a craft project or other endeavor, I move forward with one foot lingering in the possibility that I can just turn back or quit if it’s too hard/confusing/scary, etc. But the problem is, I can’t actually live this way…not in a way that is sustainable for very long. Sooner than later, I’ve got to decide: In or out, yes or no. S*** or get off the pot. The longer I remain in the limbo state, aching to move forward but glued in place by fear/uncertainty/doubt, the more of this one wild and precious life that I waste. And that is a real shame.

The alternative is detonation.

Blowing up the path of least resistance.

Burning our escape route so the only option is forward and through.

If you are an edge-waverer like me, take a moment to consider the cost of that escape route you keep in your back pocket. Are you really invested in the here-and-now? Are you giving your all? You can’t be, if you’ve also got one finger on the ejector seat. The more you tell yourself “I can just quit if it gets too hard”, the less of a chance you have at achieving success. Whether your goal is intimacy in a relationship, achievement at work, or pursuit of a dream — the only sure way is “all in”.

Playing safe is only playing and life’s too short for that. Burn that ship. It doesn’t mean you can’t make a change down the road- but you’ve gotta see this choice through first. Forward is the only way.

via Daily Prompt: Detonate

Off With My Head

There are some days when I would like to just chop off my head.

Suicide not being the goal, only a reprieve, I imagine this only in theory. The desire surfaces in moments in which I am truly present in my body, or living from a deep place in my heart, and I realize how much I have been missing with Mind being so frequently in charge.

These days it’s been harder to identify that Mind has overtaken things again. My emotions, once a daily rollercoaster of overwhelming proportions, now have a degree of balance and no longer scream for my attention every 5 minutes. I have also learned each emotion need not be analyzed– which could mean Mind would take a break..but it doesn’t mean that. Mind is now occupied with the 5,724 other things that could be analyzed, controlled, or otherwise decided without referencing what Body or Heart would like or deem wise.

Years ago, a professional Counselor I was meeting with offered a helpful tool for understanding these three aspects of myself as a human.

Think of yourself as a triangle. The three corners are Thinking (Mind), Emotions, and Body. For most of us, the preferable type of triangle these form is an equilateral triangle, so that each part of us is present and involved, but not overwhelming. Balanced. So we can use this image to check in on a given day to how we are doing, and then use this information to make adjustments. If you are feeling “stuck” in your emotions, do something that engages your Mind or brings awareness back to your body and you may find yourself moving towards more of a Balance.

I have shared this image with friends over the years and used it countless times myself. At times this means nothing more than thinking about which end I am feeling stuck in and knowing I am far too (overwhelmed, tired, depressed) to do anything about it. Often, I also have some doubt that the obtuse angle my Emotions have a monopoly on is really all that bad. I feel so consumed in it that life outside of it is hard to imagine.

Mind is charge far more than I would like. It allows Heart and Body to have a voice, but there’s no mistaking who will win in an argument. Strangely, Mind even wins regarding things Body or Heart are the experts on. Like Mind making me go on a walk “Because remember, I decided this was a good thing to make myself do” even when Body knows that the energy just isn’t there. Maybe Heart is onto something when laying in bed with a good book would be much more restorative. Often I’ll look at my journal and walk on by, knowing that Heart has things to say but Mind has decided it’s too complicated, too risky…only to have Mind later fret over how I can live more authentically and why don’t I feel more ALIVE. Mind wants to have it’s cake (control) and eat it, too. Mind wants to have a FULL life, but without the vulnerability, passion, challenge, and complexity Body and Heart bring to the table.

Talking through the antics of my innerself in this objective way (it’s Mind, not me) can provide some perspective and actually comfort. Because I can see the whole circus for what it is: the reality of an imperfect human being trying to become more authentically alive and whole. And that’s actually a really good thing.

So why don’t you give it a try yourself? If my wording doesn’t quite resonate but you like the concept, try out head/heart, head/heart/soul, mind/body/soul, head/intuition or whatever way you make sense of the various parts of your beautiful human self. The next time you are feeling stuck and at war with yourself, take a step back and watch what the different parts of yourself are up to. On with the show.

Daily Prompt Reprieve

Making Muffins

One year my roommate formed the rhythm of making muffins when she was having a difficult time. Sometimes from scratch, sometimes from a pouch, always eaten with coffee or tea.  Life was rich, beautiful, and often painful that year. We ate a lot of muffins.

My go-to has always been to clean or organize when dealing with unpleasant emotions or life events. I can remember doing this forever, back to when I was very young and cleaned the house while my mom napped under the dark quilt of depression.

I have since added several activities and rhythms that I can turn to: journaling, going on a walk, gardening, deep breathing, yoga, talking with friends, drinking something warm, and making muffins.

I find it helpful to have a mix of coping mechanisms. Some that are so engaging there’s not space for other conscious thinking and others that allow both the front and back burners to simmer. I often do these same things when life is peachy and I find this helps strengthen their effectiveness when being used as a life preserver to survive.

Having a go-to coping strategy can also communicate to those in your home that you’re wading in something difficult, without the bothersome burden of having to explain before an explanation has been found. Yes, I am cleaning out this closet again I’m just feeling a lot, alright?!?

When I turn my mind and body toward muffins, cleaning, or digging in the dirt, I am telling myself: It is okay to be feeling/thinking the way that you are. Let’s indirectly engage it so that the quicksand doesn’t begin to form and then we’ll enjoy these muffins/clean house/tidy garden. If what feels heavy right now still feels heavy after that, we’ll figure it out.

Needing to utilize a coping strategy isn’t a crutch or a sign that you’re weak. Rather, it is accepting responsibility for yourself and whatever in your life is feeling heavy or sad or just too much – and taking action to get yourself what you need. That sounds pretty strong to me.

DailyPrompt Survive

Variations of Impression

First.

To be held with open hands, available for edit based on further experience.

Many form quickly, often with the help of assumption and stereotype.

Others build up over seconds or centuries: denture mold, body shapes in the mattress, fossil.

New grooves of calm formed by a regular yoga or meditation process.

Some last far beyond their welcome.

Some are never welcome.

Violence through metal and heat on skin.

While yet others are temporary.

Fingerprint pressed into silly putty.

Carpet squiggles on my knee-cap.

Pillow face.

Revealed by movement or removal.

Last(ing).

 

Daily Prompt  Impression