Finding Calm

Captiva Blue(c) Open Hearted

I spent the other week on a little island in the Gulf of Mexico, a place that holds a lot of magic and healing for me.  The sunshine and humidity warmed and brightened up my spirit from the inside.  The salt water washed away the sadness, grief and depression that had been plaguing me in San Francisco.  It was a little staggering how quickly my depression receded.  I felt like myself again – real laughter, real rest at night, moments of real joy, and real love in the arms of my daughter and husband.  While I’m so grateful to have had that time in Florida to find myself again, it made coming back to San Francisco unbearable.  This angry, overtired, mean and grumpy person, I felt desperate not to let her take hold again. The answer is that I need to put taking care of myself (and my sobriety) at the top of my list.

I’ve been plodding along in recovery from alcohol for the past two years with the help of a twelve step program, and now that I’m solid in my sobriety I’m feeling a nudge to go further.  I found a psychiatrist that deals with depression and anxiety, a counselor who works with addiction and now it’s time to make the changes that I’ve been avoiding.  In the beginning, I did whatever I needed to not to drink. Everything else could wait, and I’m so glad I did that because it let me find freedom from drinking. Now, the things that I have been looking to for relief – sugar, comfort eating, TV – aren’t helping me. They’re keeping me stuck. I want to get back to that joyful, easy going girl I remembered on that island. So I’m posting here for some accountability.  These are the main stays of my self-care.  (Not to mention, the holidays are here so having bullet proof self-care is a good plan.)

Casting a Spell

Essentially setting an intention is always the beginning for me.  The inner witch in me likes to thing of it as casting a spell. I want to heal from the emotional pain I’ve picked up over the course of my life and move through it, rather than drag it behind me.  That’s why I’m doing this.

Sleep

At minimum, 7-8 hours of sleep keeps me on an even keel.  With a toddler that often wakes up at night that’s not always possible.  In that case, I nap whenever I can.

Exercise

Running, yoga, dancing anything that gets my body moving and my heart rate going I count.  For some accountability, I took a little risk and reached out to find a running buddy.  Now I have two women that I meet twice a week to run and it’s the only thing that gets me out the door on the cold, dark nights of winter.

Eating Well

I have a lot of issues around food.  In the past I’ve obsessed about calorie counting, restricted and binged, and stuffed my face with food hoping it would make me feel better.  What’s working for the moment is focusing on structure – three meals and one snack – as well as getting enough protein.  These two pieces have been helping the most.  My energy is better and I feel like I’m eating for nourishment.

Spiritual Growth

I try to do one little thing every day that makes my spirit happy – reading a poem, going to recovery meetings, or reading recovery literature.

Creativity

Maybe it’s a strange one but when I’m not creating something I feel really angry, like there’s something inside clawing at me to get out.  Writing in a journal, cooking a new meal, writing a blog post, singing anything that helps me feel like I’m living a creative life.

Meditation

This is the one I don’t do, but makes me feel immeasurably better when I do.  Time to start doing it…

Gratitude

Every morning I write a list of the things I’m grateful for right when I wake up.  I’m also part of a private gratitude group on Facebook.  A small group of women friends all post each day about one thing they’re grateful for.  It’s been a really powerful way to connect and stay grounded no matter what happens.  Each day I’m reminded that I have everything I need, and a lot of things that I want.

 

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Finding Bliss

Morning View from the Lanai (c) Open Hearted

Morning View from the Lanai (c) Open Hearted

I found pure blissed out heaven this morning. We woke up to this view from the back porch of the tiny cottage we rented in Kauai.  H and I planned this trip with about five days notice deciding on a whim that we needed to get up and out of San Francisco for a while.  H is in between jobs and headed in to a challenging work environment. We’re staring down the last three months of my pregnancy before our family becomes three. Time keeps rushing by us at breathtaking speed.  We needed to create a calm moment for ourselves. I’m hoping we find even greater joy on the other side of this birth, but the uncertainty and total relinquishment of control is stressful.

We came to Kauai for our honeymoon a year and a half ago and it was less than a perfect trip.  The hotel was like a parking lot in the middle of a golf course (stay away from the Westin Kauai).  We hadn’t done much research on the weather and weren’t prepared for the dramatic thunderstorms common on the North Shore.  The emotional overwhelm of the wedding made it really hard for me to relax and enjoy. I was overjoyed to be married to H, but the sheer overload of feelings around the wedding left me a little shell-shocked.  Ever since we finished that trip, I’ve wanted a redo on our honeymoon.  Now became the perfect time.

Coming back I had a completely different attitude, open to whatever experience was in store for us.  This morning I found the peace and stillness that I usually only get for a moment or two at the end of a really great yoga practice.  I wish I could find this kind of joy and stillness in the midst of my every day life in San Francisco – tap into gratitude and find the beauty and joy in the every day.  We’re only on day one of the trip and I know I’ll come home restored, my well filled up again to overflowing.  It will be more than enough to sustain me through this next transition and I’m very grateful for that.

Home

Dream Home

Home.  I’m such a homebody. I love having a place to come back to every day that’s familiar and has touches of our family in each room.  H’s latest painting that he’s working on in the back bedroom.  My notebooks scattered about each and every room.  The small imprints we’ve left on this place, a nick in the door frame a repaired window.

We’re losing our home and it’s thrown me for such a loop.  H and I gave “us” a real shot in this home.  It’s the place where I put a post it note up on the fridge telling him I was ready to get married.  It’s the place he hid my engagement ring for three whole weeks before asking me to marry him in Tuscany. It’s where we fought and cried and laughed our way to get ready to be married.  The place we came home to as husband and wife for the very first time.  And it’s no longer ours.  We’ve rented our place so in a sense it’s never been our place though we’ve lived here four years.  Our landlord is renovating and kicking us to the curb and I didn’t realize how attached I’ve gotten to this place until I’m forced to leave it.

It’s hard being in the in between.  I have no idea what our home will look like two months from now.  Is it in our same neighborhood? Or did we move out of the city? Can we finally get the dog we’ve longed for?  Do we have space or a yard where we can grow things?  Between the then and now it’s hard for me to find any content or stillness.

Sitting in the in between time is the hardest for me.  I hate not knowing.  The truth is though, we will find a new home.  It will be ours when we move into it, and it’s a new place where the next chapter of our lives can unfold.  I try to hone in on the possibilities rather than the worries. It can be so hard to hold onto though.  So tonight instead of thinking too much about it, maybe I’m not ready to be a grown up.  Instead I’ll pull the covers of my quilt around me tight, snuggle into our bed and escape into a good book.  (Maine, it’s excellent.)  For tonight, that’s alright.

Our next home. might not be a our dream home. (Read: cottage nestled in the English countryside, complete with barn and two horses that keep each other company, and maybe a goat and cow also please).  We will make it ours and it shall be.

Finding My Tribe

Admission: I have no good friends.  It would be great if you could just, you know, pretend to be surprised about this fact.

I had a pity party for myself on my birthday a few weeks ago about this very thing.  My husband might describe it a touch less gently as complete and total nuclear meltdown.  All this clearing out stuff I talked about though, it’s led to more doing.

After I cried my eyes out, I asked myself what I should do about making friends.  Instead of Facebooking, I texted an acquaintance to get sushi out of the blue.  I set up a dinner with some women who seemed pretty wonderful that I’m taking a Hebrew class with.  I was shocked at how easy it was and that everyone responded really enthusiastically.  Everything I was afraid of – that no one would respond, that people would think it was a stupid idea… none of it happened. (You may have this unnerving sense that you’re all of the sudden reading the blog of a 12 year old girl.. Rest assured, still me.  My social skills, however, have not evolved past sixth grade.)

I put myself out on a limb, exposed myself, and felt all vulnerable and all that yuckiness.  But that discomfort was all worth it.  It led to a few really fun nights.  Taking small steps, doing little things, ended up making me feel so much better.  I remembered that I had the ability to change my circumstances again.  It was awesome.

What do I want?  I want a tribe of women. A group of women who know me, who see me, who I feel comfortable with.  Real friends, who really love me, who help hold each other up. I’m working my way there step by step.

Update: I also started reading MWF seeks BFF to get a little more perspective on this whole making friends thing and I’m pretty excited about it so far! Will post a review when I’m done.

Showing Up for Yourself

Bloom (C) Open Hearted All Rights Reserved

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

I’m so not in the mood to write anything at all right now.  Pretty ironic since I want to write about the importance of showing up for yourself.  I got a very nice reminder about how achieving your dreams is really up to you, it’s not magic. It came in the form of a post from Positively Present.  (It’s hard not to link to that blog in every single post I write…)

I find myself feeling envious when I watch other people quit their day jobs, to pursue full-time writing, or land an amazing book deal.  I get this strange feeling that there’s not enough room for me to be successful, that there are “enough” writers out there already.  I’m not sure where that feeling comes from. I know truthfully that the idea is just plain silly.  There’s plenty of room for me to succeed too, if I really work hard at it.

If I show up for myself, then my dreams are in my reach.  Making it real, making it happen is up to me.  The universe will meet me halfway, but I need to figure out how to get across my half.

Part of it is moving out of my comfort zone.  When people ask me what I do, for example, I’ll try owning that I am a writer.  I’m also incredibly fearful about sharing my work with other people, making up any excuse to revise to avoid showing it.  I’m afraid of sending it out into the world, with my name attached to it.   To tackle that fear, I’ve outlined some baby steps for submitting my work over the next month. Taking new risks will help get me there.  Starting this blog and keeping it up has been one of those risks that feels pretty good on the other side.

Expecting more from myself is another thing I’m working on.  I’m possibly the world’s best procrastinator.  I can come up with an excuse for anything.  I’ve started trying to develop new habits with Creative Recovery.  Through the process I’m hoping to remove some the of creative blocks I’ve developed.

Most importantly I’m trying to shift my attitude.  When I procrastinate I can get stuck in this self-defeating cycle.  Say I’m watching TV instead of writing.  When I realize I should be writing, this super negative, critical voice comes up.  It points out that I’m lazy, and worthless, making me.  I feel more depressed, and get more and more stuck on the couch.  I’m trying to change my attitude. When I realize I’m berating myself, I’m trying to shift to a more gentle, nurturing, encouraging voice.   That’s the only thing that really gets me off the couch.

Reminding myself that my dreams are important, and that the little things I do add up puts those dreams back in reach again.  I owe it myself to honor those hopes, wishes and desires.  Well here I am showing up today.

Side note: The quote above might seem a little out of place.  I included it though because this whole process of showing up, feels a little like blooming.

Overflow

Self-indulgent overflow of any and all feelings follows below, woah boy.

I feel so hopeless sometimes. Like there’s nothing, nothing I can do to make myself feel better.  I numb, and I numb, and I numb, and I know I should stop.  But I’m more afraid of what will happen if I stop numbing.  What feelings are laying in wait for me to swallow me whole.

I just feel sad and tearful and I can’t think of any reason why.   I’m lonely a bit for a friend, a girl friend.  I still don’t really have any in this city.  I’m also so stuck with my writing.  My dream is to become a full time writer, and part of me knows I’ve got what it takes, but the other part is stuck.  I get so frustrated.   I wonder why the hell do I think I could be successful? I wonder why the hell I think I should be successful if I can’t even get my ass off the couch, and write a few sentences.   And I know in my heart the truth is that I won’t achieve my dreams if I don’t try to.  But I’m so paralyzed right now.

I’m afraid I’ll finish this book that I’m writing and it will be crap.  I’m afraid that I’ll never find anyone who will want to publish it.  I’m afraid the book publishing industry is falling apart so there will never be any space for me to succeed anyway.  I’m afraid that even if it’s published I don’t have the marketing platform to sell any copies.  I’m afraid I will fail in full force.  I’m afraid I will burst the bubble on my own dream, realize I can’t really make it happen after I’ve tried.  That I’ll be stuck forever in a corporate job, doing what “responsible” people do. Then I’m afraid that having any of these fears means that I don’t believe in myself.  How are you supposed to succeed when you don’t believe in yourself?

One glass of wine and I stopped tonight. I really, really wanted that second drink. I wanted to numb out and check out and not deal with anything.  But then all of the sudden the desire to feel something, anything was greater than my urge for a drink.  And I made a cup of tea.  I’ve been having that second drink for weeks.  So whatever I’m feeling hasn’t caught up with me.  The tears are coming and I’m not sure entirely why.

I’m just afraid that I won’t be able to make any of my dreams come true.  That I don’t deserve any of them. I used to feel that way about finding someone who would love me for all of me.  But if I look now, I see that I have a wonderful husband, who loves me and see me for all of me.  He believes in me more than I do sometimes, and inspires me.  He comes home and comforts me and helps me see the light again.

I feel some hope, because I’m sitting here feeling these feelings tonight.  I’ve spilled them out there.   With love, I learned a lot about needing to love myself before I found someone who loves me they I deserve to be loved.  So I’m going through a growing stage with writing I guess.  I trust that I’m where I need to be right now.  I will still show up though.  If I show up and do my best for the day, that’s all I can ask. At the end of it all, I love writing and if I follow that nudge of intuition I can’t fail.  I can only grow.

Funny how those feelings of doubt and despair, when I finally open them up, and named them, they move right through me.  All it took was the end of this post to get them all down.  I still have those fears and doubts but they’re not holding me hostage anymore.  I will need to relearn this lesson over and over and over, but when you acknowledge the feelings they loosen their grip on you.  Thank God for that!

A Weekend in a Dream

View from the Cabin

A few weekends ago I had a chance to live a weekend from my dream life, the life I would lead if I had no responsibilities and could do as my heart desired each moment of the day.  Ahh I wish.

I work for an environmental organization that helps protect beautiful open spaces.  My husband and I got to spend a weekend at a cabin on one of those preserves, on the coast of Northern California.  It was built in the 1950s or 1960 by a man who was a sailor and then later a writer.

Chunked into the side of a cliff, the little place is surrounded on three sides by oceans views.  It was simply stunning.  The cabin was pretty much a wooden shack, with two walls of plexiglass windows. We had the bare necessities to get by over the weekend, galley kitchen, closet bathroom, fireplace and cot.  That was all we needed.

The sun was shining, it was warm for February and the whole place was simply gorgeous.  H and I couldn’t stop smiling at each other, we were so overcome with giddiness. “This is ours, for the whole weekend?”

The original owner’s presence was definitely there.  His books lined the bookshelves, not a splinter had been changed since he built the place.  It was a nice feeling, not a sinister one.  Kind of like a pushy notion to remember that life is short.  (He died suddenly in his sixties while working on what he felt would be his best book.)  I stayed up late that night scribbing away in my notebook, writing more than I had in the past two months combined.  It was magic.  All of the sudden it felt like my dreams were in reach again. That yes, if I actually did something, made some moevement towards what I wanted, it was possible.

It’s amazing what a change in your every day scenery can do.  If only I could live in the cabin every day… I’m trying to find little ways to recapture some of that joy and freedom I felt – taking a walk outside in the sun, trying to notice small details around me and be very present.  It’s tough to get back to the grind of everyday and maintain any of that creativity.  It was a kick in the pants reminding me that I need to take action, do something. Intention is great and all, but you’ve got to make a move towards what you want.