Friday, September 8, 2017

Self, I Will Love You

Oh, my friends. I was afraid to tell you how good I was feeling after my anointing because life is messy and full of set backs and not as clear in improvement as the before and after photos I post of my house. 

Not at all.

I long to be living in a pretty after shot. 

But I recently got a news flash from a book called How to Be an Adult in Relationships, by David Richo. Life has phases, much like weather patterns and in reality (verses fantasy), those phases are healthy and good - even the ones that feel like I do now. 

I've been exhausted lately. I can point out reasons why that may be, but it's discouraging no matter how I explain it. Just when I thought I was on the cusp of something much brighter with a lot more energy, I'm back to working on making that possible. It feels like hacking away at things that cage me and sometimes getting my head out to breathe real life, like that first crisp fall breeze pushing out the heat. When I get a whiff, I go a little crazy, blessing everything I see. My mental persona's always on the verge of a jig and my heart is easily warmed. It's heady stuff.

Then it goes away and there's nothing I can do to hold it. They say the ego is grasping and only the immature heart doesn't understand it's not good to freeze things the way they are. Do you realize the romance stage is actually a time when our adrenaline is high and if we COULD make it last, it would do our bodies harm? It also happens to be the time when we're unaware of each other's flaws, so unconditional love isn't possible. Much better for a relationship to go through the natural cycle of romance, conflict, and commitment. 

I've experienced this in marriage and even achieved some level of security with it. I don't believe everything is shot to hell if we have an intense face-off. I believe in our commitment that circles us around and closer to each other, if we can find a way. I know we always both want it, even when we don't know the way and that helps me weather those times with more grace.

However, I'm new to being in a loving relationship with my self and there's been cruelty that causes me to feel like the bridge back to harmony with myself is freakin' rickety. 

Because it is. 

Tonight, I'm looking out over that bridge. On the other side is a sweet lady who keeps putting on the pounds and I'm not sure what to think of her. Embracing her hasn't caused the weight to "just fall off" (my secret hope). I've been trying to trust my body to let the weight go when it was ready, but faith isn't this big. Yet.

Maybe tomorrow. 

Maybe she's waiting to see if I can do this; love her either way. 

We're both scared I can't. I throw fits regularly, stomping from my side of the bridge, wishing she would get her act together. I keep refusing to put her on a diet and punish her with work outs or shame her for what she eats for fun, but I still do it sometimes. For a while I justified her size because she had more energy, which wasn't real love either, but it gave me a break from trying to love for no reason at all. 

My unconditional love muscles are apparently atrophied from long misuse, but I still believe in them. I know they're there. I was created with them and I'm determined to give them a chance to come back to life. 

So here's to the daily confusion, not knowing what to say to my self that would be loving and healing. Not sure how to act around myself. Feeling awkward and staring into those dark brown eyes that need love so badly, and feeling like I don't have it to give. 

I will find it, by God's grace. 

I promise. 

I will make my way to you and embrace you exactly the way you are today.

I actually love you a little bit already.

P.S. If you want to see what kind of bridge I'm picturing, go here

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Handling the Unknowns

Confused is a word I've used to describe myself so many times, I can't even count. There are pluses and minuses to literally everything and sometimes I'd give anything for a little thing called certainty. Here are some questions I've been pondering for years. 

How do I get from seeing fat in the mirror to loving my body unconditionally?

How do we give our kids/spouses/friends the five A's (attention, appreciation, acceptance, allowing and affection) when it takes a calm heart to give those and a busy heart is a distracted heart?

How do we navigate requests with integrity when we know something is not a priority to us, but it seems hurtful to say so?

What do I do with the strong feelings that there's a formula that would create a healthy me and all I do is wonder what it is and feel sure I'd fall short even if I knew?

How do we reconcile our people's need for us with our need to be alone? 

How do we make room for our spirituality when we will appear rude, not a team player, etc?

Believing I can do life better and healthier than I've ever done it gives me hope. I don't have to stay here. Light is coming. Truth will set me free. Jesus isn't scared of any of my dark corners and he's the ultimate shit sorter. 

My method for finding a better life has been learn a lot of stuff and try to do it. My generation's all about intentional choices. We don't just go with expectations and check all the boxes. We think and ponder and learn and decide. What do WE want? What will be meaningful for us? We've watched generations who assumed meaning and connection would be there if they went through the motions of life and realized it's not a given. It takes work. 

And that's kind of true. It is work to learn to say no so you have time with your people. It's work to let go of trying to please everyone and do what's true and right for you. It's work to unearth the prejudices you hold over yourself and others. 

I think it's great we don't expect meaning to just happen, but all our work can't force it. It's a gift. And my learning and STRESSING ABOUT APPLYING IT gets in the way of the gift.

Which is where spirituality comes to the rescue. I regularly see it's too much for me - that creating this life I've dreamed up is too hard. I call on strength and wisdom and goodness that surpasses my own. 

And while it's not a formula that stacks up neatly with answers to all our questions, we can go back to truth and not be too proud to let it sustain us. (Which requires NOT inwardly saying, I will continue to freak out until I get answers.) 

I will choose my people over my hectic, just for today. 

I will try again when I screw up, just for today.

I am blessed and loved which is proved by my existing today.

I don't carry my people. My job is to bless them, just for today.

I can hold onto my dreams, just for today.

I can hold onto my dreams when I have no freakin' idea how to make them happen, just for today.

I can rest in the presence of the Knower of all my unknowns, even if she doesn't tell me all the secrets.

I can trust. Every time I'm stressed, I can choose to trust. 

You notice I say "just for today" a lot. A yoga teacher introduced that little phrase as a way to take life in bite-sizes we can handle without panicking. It aligned with what Jesus said about each day having enough worries of its own. I may not know how to make decisions that support real connection for all the days, but knowing what to do right now is enough. 

So back to certainty or clarity. If you find yourself lusting after these like I do, we have to remember we don't actually NEED to know the things we don't know. If we did, we'd have those answers. What we NEED to know, what we need to be clear on, is those statements of truth. I'd rather know I'm loved than what foods cause inflammation in my body. I'd rather know I have forever tries than how my kid's friend drama will play out. I'd rather know Jesus is all over that situation than know I handled it perfectly. 

So be clear about this. 

You are doing just fine. 

God is proud of you. 

You are not falling short because you don't have all the answers.

We're baby birds hopping around, trying to learn to fly and he thinks we're wonderful.

Right now. 

That's all I really need to know.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

I'm Well

About fifteen years ago, I learned that when someone asks how you are, it's not proper to say, "I'm good." It should be, "I'm well." A lot of people don't care about these things, but I thought, Hmm...I'd like to say that right. But habits are habits and I could never remember.

Some of you have been hearing about my struggle with fatigue since I learned a name for it and shared it way back here. After trying the current fads and typical adrenal fatigue treatment (and getting worse), I began eating a healing diet last spring. I believed it would give my body the best chance at solving its' own problems, since medicine didn't seem to have the answers.

It helped me lose my excess weight, but I didn't experience more energy. I added EMDR therapy to help me sort things on the emotional end and made some great strides. I figured, in time, the two would create a magical synergy and I'd find myself feeling better. I did experience more energy right before Christmas, possibly the joy of the season and being engrossed in preparation for it, but when it was over, my energy plummeted. I felt more tired than I had in a long time and outside stresses took a toll. I gained the weight back, even though I was still eating the healing diet.

I felt angry and fatalistic. Eating such a restricted diet for a year had been hard. How would I ever gain momentum when things I can't control come and trample all my progress? I started asking God what to do next, and didn't hear anything. 
Then we read James in Bible study. 

I wondered, "Why haven't I done this?" and proceeded to listened to stories of people who had. Some were healed immediately and some found healing later. It was interesting, but I didn't resolve to do it.

During times when I feel lost, I sometimes let songs be my prayers. Artists find words when I can't, so one day at work, I picked a worship playlist on Spotify to listen to. I had low expectations since I'm not a fan of Christian radio. I like things a little more soulful and earthy, so I expected to enjoy maybe every sixth song. But each song was a surprise. I found myself saving song after song to a playlist of my own, which became the soundtrack of my life. I listened constantly and began noticing themes the songs shared: 

The immense power of God - of his name
Her miracle-working ability
It is well with my soul
I will trust him - even if he doesn't fix this

That's when I realized God was my DJ that day. She picked those songs to nourish me and through each word, funneled faith into my heart. As I'd listen, I felt sure of those truths. I'd sing as loud as I could in the car because I wanted the universe to hear (and maybe the deepest parts of my soul too) that I'd love God no matter what happened. The faith I've wished for and prayed for filled me up and I had NO REASON to feel that way. I still had no idea how to help my body. I still had no money to spend on further treatment. I was at a dead end and I was bursting with hope.

I told my pastor about it and he said, "That's why they call it the peace that passes understanding." 

One morning I was showering and listening to my playlist. I started imagining who I'd want there if I were anointed. I pictured where I'd want to be and who would pray. I started crying when I thought of all the people who love me and would probably drop everything to come pray over me. I remembered my mom was anointed when I was a kid. Absorbed in my thoughts, I felt God say, "I want to do this FOR you." 

So I marched myself into the church and asked to be anointed. It was easy because for once I knew what the next right thing was. It was hard because I'd been ashamed of my mom when she'd been anointed and asking for help still didn't FEEL strong. Mom had complications after a surgery and doctors said the only solution was another surgery. She'd been in a robe when the elders came over and I was in junior high, so obviously, this was mortifying. I was so embarrassed I had either missed the fact or forgotten that she was healed instantly. No surgery needed.

Well I was anointed with my family around me, my mom, my in-laws, and a few of the precious friends who've walked with me through this struggle. They prayed over me and cried over me and put oil on my forehead. I wanted any healing Jesus had for me and didn't doubt some healing would come, whether it was freedom from guilt over napping or crazy amounts of energy. I just wanted him to touch me. 

The next day my inner voice drove me crazy asking, "How are you feeling now? How 'bout now?" All. Day. And I got scared. What if she didn't show up? That's the part about putting yourself out there in all your raw need. You know how devastating it will be if God doesn't come through. 

I've learned that sitting outside is therapy in itself, so I sat on my patio and prayed. Well, I held my aching heart up to God, but there weren't a lot of words. Then I looked up at the trees and saw two squirrels chasing each other through the branches. One of them was my black squirrel. (That's another story, but black squirrels remind me that Jesus loves me and in this difficult time, one seemed to have moved into our yard.) I watched him a long time and felt my soul quiet. It would be okay. God would always show up for me. 

And he has. For a while, I felt wide awake when I woke in the morning and could take or leave my usual nap. If I chose to take my normal (90 minute) nap, I'd be unable to sleep when I went to bed. I felt inspired and did projects I've wanted to do for years. My energy isn't quite so high or erratic now; it's more steady and I'm able to do a day without a nap and not be a zombie all evening. There's just more there. It's amazing. 

During the anointing, my husband said, "If this journey is like rowing across a lake, you've been rowing hard. I think it will feel different if you put the oars down and just ride." That's exactly what it was about and it's not easy. I reach for the oars every day, wanting that feeling of being in charge and taking myself somewhere. But I don't. 

And remarkably, after fifteen years of wanting to remember to say, "I'm well," instead of, "I'm good," I've been remembering ever since the anointing. Maybe it's because it's finally true. I'm well. Not fully healed, not fatigue-is-only-a-memory, but I'm definitely well in places I've never been before.

God showed up. 

In all her power and love.

So I'm well.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Guest Room Reveal

I've very slowly been working towards a new look for our guest room. The whole room was originally inspired by that spruce green lamp in the corner, but I paired it with brighter colors. It felt a little off to me, but it took me a while to think of a better color combo. Then one day, I pulled things I'd had in the family room way back when, and found some new peach items (especially art) from thrift stores. Remember when peach was in years ago? 

This bench was a project that held me up for a long time. It was a 70's dark wood veneer coffee table and I never had enough energy to take it on. It would make a great bench guests could put suitcases on or just sit on to tie shoes. Adding a cushion is very similar to recovering a chair seat, which I've done quite a bit. So when I had extra energy this spring, I spray painted the base and bought green foam from Joanns. I covered the foam with a layer of batting and a remnant of fabric. 

Here you can see the fabric a little better. It's wise to choose a heavier fabric, but not too stiff, as that will make the corners difficult. This one is a nice middle ground and while it seems durable, it feels soft. I went for REALLY soft when I did the one for my bedroom in baby blanket material. The green pillow was made from a two-sided place mat. I seem-ripped the bottom edge, added stuffing and antique buttons, and sewed it back up. The buttons are blush pink, but that's perfect because I don't want everything to match. A room that matches TOO well feels forced. Another way to keep it from looking too stiff (if you don't actually want to throw different colors in) is using multiple shades of your colors. Don't be the person who takes a paint swatch and matches everything to it, unless you want your room to look like a page from a JCPenney catalog! I was thrilled to find the second pillow because it has so much personality and anchors the boho feel. 

These baskets got the same spray paint as the bench. We put an extra blanket in one and guest towels and toilet paper in the other. I make sure toilet paper is in plain sight to prevent any stress on the part of guests. Or the embarrassment of asking. ;-\

Part of the reason it took so long to put this room together is it takes me forever to find funds for bedding, even from Target's kid section. The grey comforter and cacti sheets came from there and the bedspread at the foot of the bed was thrifted.

This old desk was free on the curb and though not all it's drawers work, it gives guests a comfortable place to put a laptop and work. I keep art supplies in the drawers that do work, since this is where I'll paint, if I ever do a large project.  

The opposite side of the bed looks like this, with my easel and canvases. Those two coral bowls are an example of how another shade looks great in a room where peach is the main color. This is the only mirror in our guest room, so I'm on the hunt for a full-length one. Guests have to come to the dining room to see how their outfits look... 

These are fake succulents. Since I don't go in this room much, it's not safe to have anything living in here. I found this spruce bowl at a thrift store and filled it with beans. 

This is my favorite art in this room. There's so much I love from the art deco era, including our house and this lady. Below is a favorite postcard from our family in northern California. 

I struggle to photograph art without a glare, but wanted you to see what pretty things area available second hand in the art department. I love the botanical print above, mixed with the other pieces on that wall. And to fill the wall opposite the bed, we used our house's original attic windows. 

So there's our guest room! A door knob and a mirror away from being completely done, but I love having a little boho retreat to offer our guests. What features make you comfortable in a guest room? I'd love to hear! 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

When Guilt Gets Too Heavy

Guilt has been heavy in my life. At the best, it's because I'm an idealist with an ideal way to handle every situation, but can't always make it happen. I believe wastefulness is passive violence, denying the truth that others don't have what they need. I'm aware fresh water makes up less than 1% of the earth's water, so even though water's cheap where I live, I don't like to use more than I need. I've got strong opinions about parenting, religion, effective management...the list goes on, creating high standards everywhere I turn.

At worst, it was because I believed God was moping around until I decided to spend some time with him. More recently, I think she's less than pleased when I'm trucking down a perilous path or even if I'm just listless because I don't know which direction is right. 

In other words, there has been a right way and a wrong way to do EVERYTHING. 

Which made me crazy. 

Which made me a failure.

Which made balance impossible. Because, if it's always right to show up to a fast food place with reusable cups, how do I treat myself kindly when I don't have them? If it's always right to get to yoga as often as possible, what do I do when my body says, "No." 


There's been a lot of that. 

Other common names are perfectionism, legalism, falling short, self-condemnation.

Well I'm sick of it. If there's a peace that passes understanding, I need to get in that line. Because there is NO PEACE when you obsess over what's right or best all the freaking time. 

Here's a real thing. I wrestle every day with whether I will make it to yoga or not. Some days I know from the get-go it won't happen, but I can't admit that to myself, so I bounce back and forth about it in my head ALL DAY LONG until every class is over. I weigh pros and cons. I ask myself what will I be happier about after the fact. Will I wish I'd gone? Will I be okay with it? How the hell do I know?! What do I look like? A mind reader? No. Apparently, I can't even read my own future mind. And that is a failure on my part too. Just add it to the list. 

I wrestle every day with what I eat. Will this Dr. Pepper make me a hunch-backed old lady? I've always believed in good foods and bad foods and I could feel good about myself only when I was eating the former. But if you do any reading or get any advice from anyone, you'll no longer be sure ANY food produced in the US is good (except organic veggies) and what are you left with? Guilt. Because...who eats only veggies.

I wrestle with how much we spend. My therapist said, "I hate to tell you this, but you don't have a healthy relationship with money." It's true. I've thought spending more than you make was pure evil. Being in debt, especially credit card debt, was a sign you did something terribly wrong somewhere along the way. This became a new guilt-either-way game for me because my healthcare costs more than we make, but shy of becoming a martyr and not taking care of myself...well, I feel guilty about that too.

So you see, this is madness. 

I've known it was madness a long time and I've known it was making me miserable, but what I didn't know what was throwing me off. 

Apparently I've been moralizing. Marc David talks about moralizing food in The Slow Down Diet, "Food is morally neutral. So is every other object in the universe. Is a baseball bat good or bad? It depends on how you use it. It can be used to hit a home run and make thousands of fans deliriously happy or it can be a tool of destruction, used to smash someone's car window and ruin her day." 

This is why there are variables. This is why the right answer isn't always the same. This is why my strict rules paralyze me - I can't decide anything without breaking one. Decisions can feel like the WORST THING EVER, when really, my freedom to choose is a blessingI've been painting a color picture in black and white and acting like it was so simple. 

I know where that comes from. It's a scarred little human hoping if she does everything right, she'll never find herself alone. Or destroyed, with no song to sing and no one to enjoy it.  

But I believe the stage I live on is lovingkindness. I will never step out of the spotlight that is God watching me and delighting in me. He thinks it's cute when I tie my freakin' shoes. He's made my guilt (real or imagined) a non issue, so we can be together forever. 

And since that's the case, I can stop judging every move I make on a moral measuring stick. I can journey and experiment and try things with curiosity to SEE IF they are right for me this time or not. And if not? NO BIG. I'm learning, questioning and discovering. And that's exactly where I'm supposed to be. 

At yoga or not. 

In debt or not.

Eating veggies or not.

No guilt. 

Just free. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Obsessed With Speed

This is the third of my trifecta. 

If I were writing a comic strip, I'd say something like, "The Invincible Ones are skinny, strong, and fast." Or maybe swift, for alliteration's sake. Definitely not speedy, because it sounds road-runnerish. Beep, beep.

Not impressive.

So, to be impressive, I work hard to be these things. Yes, there are others, but these are pretty painful right now. I may have gone on, blind to the third, except I recently experimented with eating slowly. As a kid, I did this naturally. It's one of those gifts grown-ups think are a curse. When I became a mom, I finally found the ability to eat at the speed of light and I've never stopped. 

But eating slowly gives your body a chance to absorb nutrients from food, which my fatigue suggest would be useful. I'm also hopeful it will also help me turn my experience of food inside-out. So during a meal, I told the rushing voices, "No, this is important. I'm going to take my time and there's nothing you can say about it." 

After a slow breakfast, I was driving to work and the pushy voice said, You're stopped at a light! Grab your phone and check your email! Normally, I'd probably say, "Brilliant! I'm so efficient. Look at me go!" But this morning's breakfast woke me up to having options and I told that pushy voice, "No." 

I felt pretty saucy about it too. 

The voice started blathering about getting behind and what people would think... 

I said it could shove it. 

In all these years, I've prided myself on being efficient. God's actually asked for my Rush and I've told him to shove it. Not in so many words, but with my actions. "I like being this way," I told myself. "I like going fast." And that's partly true. I like to go fast when I'm inspired, but that's because I'm in the flow and it comes from excitement about what's happening. It feels nothing like the Rush. Rush is pushy.

I had a moment of clarity during this little exchange. I realized the voice rushing me isn't a neutral, if-it's-best-for-you kind of voice. It's a my-way-or-the-highway voice. It's the jerky boss. The impossible coach. And I've been hustling to impress him far too long. 

He gets me all hyped up sometimes, telling me everything is riding on this one afternoon. He can get me low, berating me for how I blew it and all that that means. He's never pleased with anything and never gives me time to celebrate when I manage to do something well. He just pushes me on to the next thing. When things flop, he doesn't care how hard I tried. It counts for nothing. I count for nothing. I'm always trying to make the cut with him and know I never will. 

Well, not anymore. 

I see you, mean coach. 

I'm done hustling and going crazy for you. 

I'm out. 

Who knows what that looks like - I'm just glad I finally know that behind your "Go, go, go!" was a "You're not enough!" Because every time I tried for you, I unwittingly agreed with your premise. I taught myself, little by little, that it was true. 

But it's not. I am enough. I'll go when I go and I'll stop when I stop and none of it will have anything to do with whether I'm enough. 

My soul is free and I will untether myself from you as many times as it takes. 

Good-bye, Rush. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

I'm Also Obsessed with Strength

Some people are saying strong is the new skinny. Well, crap. That just happens to be my other obsession. 

As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be tough. I didn't cry easily as a girl and believed there was virtue in suffering silently. I hoped pretending my skin was thick would make it so, and everything would hurt less. If I got strong enough, I'd be safe.

I equated strength with muscle. I chose the hardest workouts and felt proud when I finished them. If I went to gentler classes, I'd wimped out. I wanted to feel good about myself and the only time I felt good about myself was when I was being strongI also felt weak when I opted for a c-section delivery. A real woman would push two babies out! When I met a woman who'd delivered twins vaginally, I felt a pang. See? She did it. I could've too, if I'd just been brave enough to try. The stupid thing is, I developed HELP syndrome and couldn't have delivered vaginally, even if I'd planned to. But logic doesn't help you feel better when you're afraid, does it? 

Childhood trauma taught me, You're never safe because the people you need most will hurt you on purpose. Unless...

Unless you're stronger than them. And the fantasy was born. 

A couple weeks ago my yoga teacher said, "You know it takes strength to be soft, right?" 

Yeah, yeah. I see it on other people. The strongest let you see how they feel, pushing past stigma to be honest and real, even when it means crumbling. But when it's my turn to crumble, I look for another way. A stoic, tidy way - those are my favorite. Crying til I need to blow my nose has got to be my least favorite. 

But that happened with two sweet yoga teachers. It didn't feel okay at all. I felt apologetic for the chaos I was feeling. While I hugged one teacher, the other teacher whispered, "This is strong." 

And do you know what that felt like? 

Trauma was like choosing between standing in a fire or submerging myself in a pool of water. Obviously, I dove for cover. It's not safe up there, I will stay here. Everything was muffled and blurry, but I couldn't stand being up there, fully alive in the face of so much pain. 

It seems nothing short of miraculous to come out of the water after so many years. But to come out of the water and find I'm safe?? 

I have no words.  


Well, maybe just a few: 

I'd really like to be a bad ass, but even more, I want to be alive and realize I'm loved and safe.