Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Finding Compassion in the Pause

Sunrise yoga for one...North Carolina.
I am trying to be a good student of yoga. I have a passion for it, not just because some of the poses are challenging and "impressive" but I really, really feel a connection deep inside. The more I practice, the more I meditate, the more I sit and look at the beauty and wonder and ever changing miracle of life around me the more connected I feel. It's a kind of peace and love and warmth that isn't just inside of me, but inside of everyone I meet (they might not all be nice at first but I can feel that there is something good in all of us).

Still though, many times during the day I catch myself being negative and judgmental. I try to use each instance as a lesson to either release the thought (recognize it as a habit of thinking, see that it serves no positive purpose and then let it go) or to find the root (am I projecting my own insecurities, am I harming someone else by speaking negatively just to boost myself). I might not be successful in eliminating these thoughts but it is important to think on them...and even more important to do so before speaking or reacting. Not something easily accomplished in our fast paced, instant gratification based society.

With the advent of social media, like Facebook or Twitter we are becoming blinded to the fact that with the simplicity of that 'share' (or retweet) button we can affect hundreds, or even thousands, of people. With barely a thought about what it is we are actually sharing (which often doesn't take into consideration the possible impact it can have on who the "share" is about) we are actually providing insight into our own character that might not be so flattering. In some instances we become a propagator of misinformation or a free mouth piece for whatever "cause" we are for or against, helping to perpetuate the division in our country, our cultures, our races or our religions. And sometimes we are hurting people...real people.

We complain about bullies and post horrendous stories (sometimes our own) of the pain and/or suicide of it's victims, and then we post a "funny" picture of a 'fat' girl in too tight shorts. The comments make us laugh and we justify our behavior because it's funny...perhaps to everyone except that girl. We 'bend the rules' to fit our lives because we think we are special. We post pictures making fun of other people but how would it feel if somehow, someone posted an unflattering image of us and that it had made it's way around the internet? Even strangers have feelings, believe it or not.

Caitlin Seida found herself "Facebook Famous" after this picture was spread across the Internet. "Why are people like her allowed to exist" was one of hundreds of negative comments about her body left on her picture. Not so funny anymore, huh? (Source)
It's nothing new really. We've always 'bent the rules' to make it work. Otherwise there wouldn't be a $20 billion weight loss industry. Allow me to simplify things here for the sake of argument...thanks to marketing, food additives and media/societal perceptions on weight and/or beauty most of us have forgotten how to eat to live. Now, we want the perfect body (or maybe not even perfect but with 80% of American women unhappy about their appearance we are striving for "better" than what we currently have) but we want to still bend the rules. We want a diet that allows us to eat bacon AND chocolate...preferably with little to no exercise. And when that doesn't work we can blame everything else except ourselves. For the majority of people there's a pretty clear cut way to lose weight, but it's not easy because we can't just eat whatever we want and as much as we want.

We do it with religion, a subject so taboo I won't delve too far into it except to say that we tend to pick and choose which principles we want to follow. A good question to ask before reacting (or posting on Facebook) is how is this going to reflect on my principles and intentions? If my religion is appealing because it is steeped in generosity and non-judgment, will posting negative remarks about another religion reflect those beliefs? Will posting a deeply spiritual sentiment about God's grace have any real meaning if it's followed up by a negative (possibly slanderous) meme about a political figure you disagree with that has no factual basis but it's sole intent is to harm (it's the same as "gossip")?

This bending of the rules (or, as I see it, thinking I'm somehow more special and therefor it's okay for me to do) is something I've become more aware of lately. I recently read a post by a young lady (and devoted Buddhist practitioner)  who says she wants to take her vows to become a Buddhist nun yet she disagrees with the requirement of shaving her head and refuses to do so. I understand the dilemma, I would look awful with a shaved head. However, I cannot imagine putting my vanity (call it a symbol of feminism as she claims but we are female without hair too) above a calling like becoming a nun. I wonder if this woman is really trying to make a stand against what she calls an "outdated ritual" or if this is an example of wanting to have our cake and eat it too? If my calling was to join the military surely that would mean wearing a uniform and abiding by the requirements about hair length even if olive green isn't my color, right?

As our world speeds up and our information stream and subsequent learning becomes more and more condensed we are facing the possible loss of our true intentions and authenticity. We want things to be 'better' but we don't want to have to be the ones to put in the effort. We want bullying to end but we still want to laugh at the People of Walmart. We want to get healthy or lose weight or get off our blood pressure meds, but we don't want to give up our favorite foods, even if we know they are bad for us (we would rather believe the food manufacturers whose sole purpose is to make a profit, not look after our health). We would rather believe lies that help justify our behavior (be it hatred and prejudices or the need to be "right"), and even spread these lies rather than do what might be uncomfortable yet rewarding beyond measure.

This blog is called Learning Curves for a reason. I am learning as I go...and as I grow. I am guilty of doing everything I just talked about but am learning to live with more compassion. I try to pause and ask how my comment or reaction or speech will be of any benefit (or harm). As cheesy as I always thought those "What Would Jesus Do" stickers were I can now see that they serve as that same pause. That's a pretty precious moment, that pause, it's there for all of us to use wisely if we so choose. It's that moment between the inhale and the exhale where we can make massive changes. Even if we don't think we have time to meditate, we can meditate upon that pause thousands of times a day by asking how our thoughts, actions and words are going to be of service before we react, speak, type or hit that 'share' button. Get to know your own pause and see if it's in line with how you want the world to see the real you.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Story of a Runner Turned Yogi...

When I come to my yoga mat every morning I try to leave my expectations behind. This is a practice, a blending of breath with the flow of movement, not something to conquer or master or dominate but something to experience and embrace. It wasn't always that way and I'm not always successful at doing so. Yoga started off for me as a way to earn P.E. credits in college and later turned into a means to "force" myself to stretch when I became a runner. I sought out the more aggressive videos like power flow and later, P90X so that my yoga days would feel more like a workout than a time suck...I mean, can you really count 60 minutes of stretching to spa music as working out (especially when 5 of those minutes were laying on the ground in corpse pose doing nothing)?

My previous mentality...
 In my mid 30's I felt that I was no longer running for health benefits but more as a way to run away from life. I was disconnected from my body and mind, pushing myself into injuries and brushing it off as 'true dedication'..."See how committed I am?? I'm running with a torn hip flexor and fracture in my foot!!". After finally being forced to take 6 months off (via a cast) I found other forms of exercise to fill the void...boxing, cross fit, kettle bells, HIIT, P90X, Insanity, BodyRock, etc. before turning back to running. Yoga took a back seat again (actually, it got left behind at the rest stop). But the disconnect still persisted and I was faced with results that weren't fulfilling me mentally or physically.

I earned my orange headband completing Tough Mudder Norcal.
Crossing the finish line with my BFF Coleen at the Rock n' Roll San Diego Marathon.
 Although I do love the mental and physical aspects of the events I participated in like a full marathon and Tough Mudder, I also knew that these types of physically demanding challenges weren't something I aspired to maintain for the rest of my life (and yes, I am aware of the 100 year old man who completed the Toronto Marathon as well as the 80 year old man who has run 19 NYC Marathons). I'm no wimp, don't get me wrong...but I don't want to continue to dedicate the amount of time and effort into training for marathon after marathon for the next 40+ (God willing) years. My last marathon did a number on me...breaking down muscles and mentally challenging me during long and lonely 18+ mile training runs. While it was an overall positive experience which I am proud of, it's just not sustainable for me.

SIddha Yoga Ashram in Oakland...a turning point.
Over the past couple of years I've learned that yoga has so much more to offer than a limber body and a means to work out the kinks. A visit to an ashram in Oakland opened my eyes to the true meaning of yoga as well as the 7 other limbs to enlightenment...something I was in desperate need of at that point in my life. So, about a year ago (a little while after we officially hit the road as fulltime travelers) I stopped running and committed myself to practicing yoga almost exclusively. And this time my yoga practice would incorporate more than just asanas (although I am going to post pictures of some of these poses, because asana is one of the limbs).

Practicing pigeon pose on Glaveston Island, Texas
In that time I have felt a definite and positive shift in my health and mental well being. I've also not only maintained the muscle mass I had previously acquired but my aches and pains have diminished (specifically in my back, sciatic, hips and knees...some of which have troubled me since I was a teenager). My core has strengthened as well as my upper body and my balance has improved. But the biggest change has been more profound. I feel very connected to my body...its changes, its  needs, its sensitive areas and places of resistance.

Taking an amazing class in Contoocook New Hampshire...possibly my favorite class to date.
I also feel an interconnectedness with every thing around me...the wind, the trees, the water, the seasons...even people I encounter. Rather than jumping to harsh judgements I embrace that pause between seeing and completing a thought and instead, imagine the struggles they are going through...and even if they aren't struggling I can imagine the journey it has taken me to get to where I am physically and mentally and remember that no one can map out another person's journey nor can they force another to even embark on that journey.

Headstand in the Pocono Mountains
Yoga has provided me the peace and serenity that previously came only from a pill or the sheer exhaustion of over-training. I am not begrudging anyone who runs or boxes or finds enjoyment from intense physical activity as I still do enjoy riding my bike, hiking and kayaking when I can...I even ran a 5k distance last month and felt exhilarated. I also still have some big dreams and goals, perhaps to climb a mountain or learn to surf. But for me, yoga has provided the missing element of joining body, mind and spirit (with the side benefit of maintaining or even improving my fitness).
Morning self practice in Pennsylvania
Some days I leave my mat in tears from emotions which have been stirred from syncing my breath and movement with an open minded willingness to to just be...to just feel...to listen to my needs. Some days I leave my mat with so much energy that I ride my bike or go for a hike or clean the entire RV or even add an additional round of practice complete with arm balances and handstands. And some days I leave my mat content, even happy...a feeling that continues throughout the day and spills over onto the people around me.But I never leave my mat with regret for having taken the time to breath and connect with something deeper than myself, for having taken time for myself I have found the link to every thing around me.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Lessons From My Mother Through the Eyes a Self-Righteous Daughter

My older sister, me and my mom circa 1972 in Tokyo, Japan.
I've always loved my mom...but I haven't always respected her. Those are hard words to type and actually bring tears to my eyes. I mean, I don't have to confess this to anyone. I am ashamed of myself. But I've learned so much about her, and myself, since my dad died that I want to scream from the roof tops how amazing she is...and it just wouldn't makes as much sense without telling you that it wasn't always this way.

I've always gotten along with my mom...she's fun, super nice, always in a good mood and seems to never tire until after her family's needs have been tended to. She talks to everyone and always offers a heartfelt compliment...cashiers, bus boys, toll takers, TSA agents...everyone. She's also a great listener and is the type of person who, instead of trying to turn the conversation around to talk about herself, will ask more questions of the speaker allowing them to remain in the spotlight. She's affectionate and thinks nothing of hugging me and kissing me whenever the urge hits her, even in public (and no matter if I am 6, 16 or 42).  If she feels like showing her love she just does it. And her laugh is infectious...you see it in her eyes and you feel it in the air...there's nothing fake about it.

Our family lived in a kind of vacuum. My dad was in the Air Force and consequently we moved frequently, about every 3 years. Growing up without an extended family around and changing friends regularly meant we pretty much relied on each other as company. The older I got and the more we moved, the less likely I was to try to maintain old friendships and make new ones. I am an introvert and the effort was too much.

Our little family...I have no idea why I'm the only one not smiling...
Without the influence of other relationships and without the ability to observe other family dynamics the foundation for what I would perceive as normal was laid for me by my parents. Don't get me wrong, this isn't the old blame game...just an observation. My parents did everything they could for my sister and me...including getting us horses. We always had food, new clothes every school year, pets to play with and we always sat down to dinner together. We played games like Yatzee or watched sitcoms in the evening. We took family vacations...normally to visit family in Pennsylvania meaning a major road trip at least once a year, but we also went camping, visited Disney World and saw pretty much all of the tourist attractions in whatever area we happened to be living in at the time.

So, how is it I lost respect for my mom? Well, my dad was an alcoholic...a functional alcoholic, but an alcoholic none-the-less. I don't know when that happened because in my lifetime, he was always an alcoholic. He grew up on a farm and it was hard work, he dropped out of school in the 8th grade, he was the one who found his father dead of a massive heart attack, he went to Vietnam and saw things no human being should see, early in his career he struggled to provide for his family and he also went undiagnosed as bi-polar for almost his entire life. These aren't excuses but realities. He was the only man I knew and the only man for a very long time who would have any influence on my life and experiences. And he took his suffering out on my mom by belittling her in front of his children.

My mom visiting us in Santa Cruz.
I doubt he understood the harm he was causing from his behavior (god, I hope not) but his disappointment with my mom for various, sometimes petty things seemed never ending. In time I learned that his disappointment was really about himself , something my mom and I talked about during our last visit.

My mom rarely stood her ground, at least not that we could see. The more it happened (which equated to the 'worse' of a drunk he became and the longer he went without treatment for his mental health disorder) the weaker my mom appeared in my eyes. Us kids would test the grounds ourselves, offering a few disrespectful comments here and there, speaking down to her and ultimately feeling superior or maybe smarter than her and we felt no repercussions from our behavior. I don't believe we were ever cruel nor was this an intentional act but more like a learned behavior. Also, it is not abnormal for there to be a sort of  'power struggle' between teen girls and their mother as part of the growing process.

But what gets me is that somewhere down inside I knew my dad had a problem. Yet, I chose his relationship style over my mom's. I saw my mom more and more as a push-over and people pleaser rather than a parental figure and a loving, sensitive person (who also needed to be loved back). I guess I thought that in  order for me to be a success I needed to be more like my dad. After all, he was a middle school drop out who had managed to earn his master's degree while working his full-time job in the military (and still earning promotions) and raising a family. He was smart, driven, sarcastic, condescending, judgmental (yet afraid of confrontation) and moody. He was my hero...and he was kind of an asshole to my mom.

My parent's wedding day...August 26, 1967.
 I know he loved her, provided for her and even she will tell you that if she wanted for something he would be sure she got it. But apparently, his need...the need to feel feel superior and less like a failure due to his own insecurities...required him to belittle her. And she took it. And I wondered why she didn't leave him even though there was no where for her to go. She had sacrificed her own dreams and career to follow him around the world as an Air Force wife. They were married in 1967...things were different then and women just didn't up an leave, especially since my dad's alcoholism was our family's secret due to his military career. The longer she stayed with him, as he spiraled further into the abyss that is alcoholism, the more I wanted her to leave.

But she did stay...for 42 years. And one day they were in a car accident and my dad died. And my mom became this amazingly strong person right before my eyes. Perhaps that strong person was always there but the shadow my dad made snuffed out the light she needed to blossom or for us to even notice.

Doesn't my mom just glow?
I spent 6 weeks with her this past spring and I finally talked to her about all of these thoughts I've had. I confessed to her the misguided judgements I had passed even though my own life was far from perfect and some of my own past relationships were perhaps worse in comparison. It's so easy to tell someone else how to improve their life rather than work on your own.

She spoke to me of the lack of emotion from him early on in their relationship which she led her to shower us with the love that not only she had but also what he felt for us, but could not show. She didn't let his fear of people and crowds (he was painfully introverted) diminish her love for them and she always had friends. She didn't let his moodiness be cast on her like a wet blanket but instead let her joy show not only in her smile but in her entire being. She didn't let his irrational and spontaneous ideas (he once bought a show car with money he had pulled out of an investment with steep penalties for early withdrawal...without telling her) take away from the needs of her children, always finding ways to make ends meet even though it was she who often got blamed for over-spending.

You see, I found that my mom, in a way, has learned something a lot of us struggle with daily. We have the ability (and the right) to choose how happy we want to be...even if we are surrounded by unhappiness. Although she chose to 'stick it out' with my dad, she did so under her own power and with her own principles in mind. Surely she wasn't always happy...and perhaps she wondered about the 'what-if's'...don't we all? But she took a bad situation and not only lived through it but thrived...as a strong woman who is still so full of joy and goodness.

My mom made the bouquet for my wedding in Tahoe.
I don't look at my mom as a weak person anymore. She is strong beyond belief. While I was full of self-righteousness and thought she should be better or different than what she was, she was accepting of all of us just as we were. Trust me, there is a lesson in that. She deserves my respect and then some.

These days, while I still long for the approval from a dead father who was never one to show emotion anyway, I find myself ever thankful that my mother has shown me that it doesn't really matter and to just be happy with what it is I am doing. My hope now is to one day be as strong and loving as my mom.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Online Friends ARE Just As Important As Your Real Life Friends

Have you ever had people in your life tell you that your "online friends" are not really friends? Or that the Internet and Social Media has ruined the meaning of relationships? Perhaps they recommend you get out more and try meeting real people so you can build real relationships because, to them, those are the only kind that "count".

Yes, the Internet has changed the way people interact...sometimes for the worse. But what if, what if that one person you seem to connect with through blogging or email or even Instagram really gets you...and there seems to be so many parallels in your lives that you feel like you could have been the same person.

As some of you may know, my husband and I are traveling around the country in our RV (see our adventure blog here). We've been on the road now almost 11 months and have just crossed our 21st state line. And this past weekend our travels brought us to South Bend, Indiana (well, I'm the navigator so I kinda made sure our paths would cross eventually) home of my all-time favorite blogger, Ellen.

Getting closer!!
I 'met' Ellen through her blog Fat Girl Wearing Thin which I came across on another bloggers "Blogs Worth Reading List". It's true that what keeps people reading your blog is great writing...which Ellen does...but I also noticed that, aside from being the same age, we had so much in common. I left comments here and there on her blog and noticed she had actually started to read mine as well. We began emailing each other because, frankly, I didn't want to sound like a lunatic by sharing some of my personal thoughts directly on her blog (even though I was still afraid of rejection and was sure she would be far too busy to email back I hit that send button anyway...and then second guessed myself and paced the floors). Not only did she email me back but we became instant online friends.

You see, I am a huge introvert and I have a hard time making friends. Don't get me wrong...I am as loyal as the day is long. And I think I'm pretty nice. But I either become a wallflower when it comes to meeting new people or, if I manage to open my mouth, I ramble...and get goofy. Most of the time new people think I am stuck up, but really I am painfully shy. So making a connection, albeit online, is a big deal. And meeting in person...well, that's a sweat inducing, stomach turning, try to find a way to back out it proposition.

But it was different with Ellen.

Other than being worried about utterly ridiculous things...like I should have been working out while on the road, she's going to think I look fat, what if I start to sweat profusely and do I have a booger hanging...it feels like I have a booger hanging...I had no where near the amount of anxiety I normally get in these types of situations. And let me tell you, the moment I saw her I thought I would burst into tears. It honestly felt like I was falling into the arms of one of my closest and dearest friend. I felt this way having never even spoken with her on the phone!

Ellen and I in front of The Mutiny.
We ended up spending the entire weekend together and even allowed our husbands to tag along. Thankfully they got along as well, even if they kept teasing us about how similar Ellen and I are (especially our little 'quirks' which face it, makes us even cuter). We spent hours chatting, enjoyed a few cocktails and I even got to see Ellen's studio and all of her amazing art work. She met my cats Avi and Miso and the devil dog, Cleo and I got to meet the super lovable Emmie and Brulee...oh, and her cool Angel Fish. And there was never a moment of awkwardness. 

The most friendly, interactive fish I've ever met.
Enjoying dinner out with the husbands.
So, I guess what I want to say to the nay-sayers is that it is possible to make a real and true connection with people online. As a matter of fact, we can quite possibly find deeper and more meaningful friendships when we remove the boundaries of distance. If we keep ourselves confined to forming relationships based on how many miles separate us then we might miss out on finding that special someone who shares the same 'quirks', someone who knows how we feel without even uttering a word.

My weekend with Ellen was extraordinary. I am so very fortunate to have a life that has allowed me to meet her in person. Although we already had a great connection, being able to sit and talk has certainly deepened our relationship, especially since both of us are introverts. Honestly, I just can't get over how easily things clicked...obviously our online communication laid down a pretty good foundation.

Being on the road (and an introvert to boot) makes it extremely difficult to make friends. Sure I talk to people occasionally but there is never really enough time to form any kind of bond. And of the few I have exchanged email addresses or friended on Facebook I find myself holding back, afraid to come across 'too aggressive' or needy if I bombard them with messages. Perhaps this experience with Ellen will enable me to take that leap and attempt to form a few more online friendships. 

But what I do know...again, after 11 months on the road...is that if a friendship starts out online there seems to be a better likelihood that we will remain in constant contact than the friendships formed in real life. Maybe it's because emailing, texting and interacting online is what we know, whereas IRL friends are used to just coming over and hanging out. It seems much harder for a real life friendship to make the transition to online friend than for an online friend to become a real life friend. I'm sure I am just as guilty at failing to make that transition but it makes me sad nonetheless.

Friends are important no matter how the relationship is born. So take a moment and hug your friends if you can...and if not send them a virtual hug and let them know how important they are in your life.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hitting Rock Bottom...A Story of Personal Accountability

“Ester asked why people are sad.
"That’s simple," says the old man. "They are the prisoners of their personal history. Everyone believes that the main aim in life is to follow a plan. They never ask if that plan is theirs or if it was created by another person. They accumulate experiences, memories, things, other people's ideas, and it is more than they can possibly cope with. And that is why they forget their dreams.”
Paulo Coelho,
The Zahir
Sometimes I get sad. I know we all do and that it's a perfectly "normal" emotion but I find myself feeling selfish (on top of sad)...as if I don't have the right to be depressed.

Years ago (and who really knows when it all started) I suffered from pretty severe depression. Severe enough that over the years I went from a being hospitalized anorexic to an over-weight binge eater to a self-sabotaging, controlling bitch of a wife to a divorced, needy, recluse who couldn't leave the house for anything other than work since that actually gave me a reason to live. I took Paxil just to be able to muster the "I-give-just-enough-of-a-shit" to take a shower and feed myself at least once in a while.

During my stint in the psyche ward in Anchorage, Alaska (for anorexia) I went to therapy sessions daily. They ranged from one-on-ones to groups with a lot of role-playing, acting as the concern parents or as each other as outside observers. I was only 16 (I celebrated my 17th birthday in the hospital, as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years) so I was still looking for others to tell me how to feel and show me how to act. I wasn't ready to be a grown up and with high school graduation looming I knew I was at a crossroads...no longer the youngest child and certainly not ready to face real life. Still, I learned a lot.

After my discharge I went almost a decade without professional help although I struggled immensely as my weight fluctuated up and down the scale and my life remained out-of-control. I married a military man because it was the only life style I knew. Even though the chaos of moving every 2-3 years had previously worn me down my young self saw no way out of it at the time...I depended on the medical benefits. Instead of trying to find happiness I chose to try to control my husband. Things did not end well.

At some point I decided to search for more answers. I'm analytical...I need to see the map before I can commit to taking the first step. I found an Al-Anon program that met locally as I was sure that the root of all of my "issues" stemmed from my dad's alcoholism. I went 3 times a week to 3 different groups. None of it clicked and frankly, it left me more confused and depressed. I looked at the women in those groups, some of them now grandmothers and great-grandmothers who appeared to still be blaming their parent for their entire lives. I wanted to "get over it" not wallow in pity for the next 40 years. I wanted to heal and found quite the opposite happening in these meetings.

Shortly after my Al-Anon experience I really hit rock bottom (I know, you'd have thought that would have happened when I was in in-patient care barely clinging to life). I worked as many hours as possible, often for free, just so I wouldn't have to go home. I lived alone and was in the most destructive relationship I've witnessed. Had I been my own friend I would have slapped myself across the face and asked "what in the hell are you doing to yourself?? Get OUT!!". But I didn't like myself and felt that the pain of remaining in this relationship was my Karma...and it was quite possible I deserved worse.

I beat myself up real good in those few years. It got so I couldn't leave the house and dreaded the weekends when I knew my boyfriend would make promises to come see me but wouldn't...leaving me waiting from Friday after work until Monday morning...unable to sleep, constantly checking my phone or listening for a car door to slam. I missed so much life by just waiting.

I slept all the time until bruises started to form on my body. Then I got brave enough to see my doctor, sounding utterly pathetic as I explained that while I didn't want to die I also really didn't care if I lived. It was too much work and so exhausting to be. That's when I got the prescription for Paxil.

I hate taking medication and, as a control freak I really hated taking psychiatric drugs. I naively felt that "smart" people didn't need drugs...we can analyze things and figure it all out with common sense. But I lost complete control and was spiraling deeper into the abyss. The Paxil was able to slowly start applying the brakes.

In my new mellow state I turned to yoga and meditation and through much diligence was able to get weaned off of the Paxil (with my doctor's help). There were some rough spots and it would have been easy, if not medically sound, to start the pills again but I wanted a clear mind to face the demons head on...even though it was terrifying. The drugs had made me not care...but they didn't fix anything and I wanted to be fixed. If I stopped them cold turkey I would most definitely get sucked right back down that rabbit hole...it was the self-realization and personal accountability that was truly healing me.

I stopped blaming my dad's alcoholism for my issues...that was a far to easy of a crutch to use as I started to approach my 4th decade of life. I stopped blaming my mom for being co-dependent instead of standing her ground (something I was actually very wrong about and I hope to write about my mom's bravery in a future post). That was her battle and not something I was obligated to become just because she was. I learned to accept and embrace responsibility for myself and my actions. And I didn't just say those words...I mean I embraced it...100%. Yes my dad was an alcoholic but that does not define me!!

So many people have uttered those words..."I take responsibility" only to follow up with "but so-and-so needs to take responsibility too". No they don't. This is our own journey and while there may be people hanging out on the periphery they do not have control over your life, your emotions or your future...unless you let them have control. And then guess what...it's still your fault for handing over that control.

It's a hard thing to accept, I know. It means standing in front of a mirror and having a good long talk with yourself. It means facing every situation and making the best decision for you and accepting the consequences good or bad. It means looking at all of those things you'd like to blame your issues on and realizing that you and only you can allow them to continue to control your happiness.

Use those instances as a crutch and I promise you will never heal. We all have our own lives to live and we all make insanely ridiculous decisions on occasion. But we need to move forward or be stuck reliving those moments for the rest of our lives. My dad was an alcoholic. Some shitty things occurred in my life due to his alcoholism but I have released him from any responsibility for my actions or my current or future happiness. It's only fair. He obviously had his own battles to wage...

I still get sad...and sometimes it scares the shit out of me. I know from personal experience how precarious the edge can be. I have a wonderful life and have been born into pretty ideal conditions. I often feel guilty when I feel the sadness creeping in. Sometimes the guilt is worse than the sadness...as if I have no right to just be sad. Sometimes I try to fight the sad until it turns into an ugly form of displaced anger. But in the end what I really need is just to be sad. Maybe even cry. And no matter how beautiful my life or how perfect the day I must embrace this sadness and let it have it's moment...with no blame and no guilt.

*This is my personal story and is in no way intended to replace sound medical advise. Every one is different and it is ill-advised for anyone to stop taking prescribed medication without professional medical supervision as it could have adverse effects on one's mental state. Please seek proper medical advise from a professional for help if you think you suffer from depression.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Love > Hate

I just spent the last month visiting my mom at her home outside of Montgomery Alabama. We had planned a long stay so that we could do some remodeling in the RV as well as spend some quality time together. What I hadn't planned on was our visit coinciding with the release of the man who caused the automobile accident that killed my father and permanently injured my mother.

A still from the scene of the accident.
My parents car.

The driver's side of my parents car.
March 20th would have been my dad's 66th birthday if it hadn't been for that fateful day October 15, 2009. It was a day that found a man too much in a hurry, too irresponsible to have a driver's license...a man who would illegally pass another vehicle only to collide head-on into my parents car. My dad died a week later, my mom still has physical pain every single day. I miss my dad.

My mom and I made a trip to the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo to bring flowers to dad's grave on his birthday. The dreary grey skies soon turned blue as the sun broke through the clouds. As we walked to his marker my mom pointed out that he would have loved the view...his stone faces a pond. A bird skirted through the reeds and stopped to look at us for a long while. If I didn't know any better I'd say that maybe dad had sent that bird.

The view from his headstone.

We got a vase and set the yellow and orange mums at the base of his head stone. It still seems so surreal...even after all of these year.

His birthday fell on a Wednesday. Two days later we were in court to see, perhaps for the last time, the man who caused this heartache. The man who killed my dad and argued in court that 2 years in jail was too harsh of a penalty for what he had done. I didn't know what to expect...would I cry or break down or scream at him? Would he look at me and know that it was MY dad he killed?? Would he know that while he was going to be released the very next morning and be able to hug his family and live his life I would be longing for just 5 more minutes with my dad?

My dad clowning around at work.
When his name was called and he was brought out of the holding cell my mom and I approached the bench. He never made eye contact but he saw us. He was noticeably nervous. I stared at him trying to read his thoughts...willing him to just turn to us and apologize. Just 3 simple words..."I am sorry".

They never came. I felt numb. My mind wanted me to scream and an image of me losing control and being dragged off of this man flashed behind my eyes. And then a warm calmness seemed to embrace me. Here's what I wrote that day:

  Today I got to stand next to the man who killed my father 3 years ago. He served a 2 year sentence and is being released from jail tomorrow. I felt nothing but pity for this man. I feel that he does not grasp the enormity of his responsibility for his actions and his words, some how it's always someone else's fault or circumstances beyond his control. He, like all of us, is a product of every decision he has made throughout his life. If he wants forgiveness and perhaps even a happy and fulfilling life he can start by understanding that every decision, every action, every thought, every word spoken creates the person we become and life that we live. Although he is not the victim (although he truly believes he is in one way or another) I pity him for the life he took (my dad's) as well as the one he is throwing out the window, his own.
 Trust me...I wanted to hate him. I wanted him to die a slow and agonizing death or have someone dear to him be taken away. I wanted to belittle him, yell and make him feel like he would be better off dead. But what I really wanted was my dad to not be dead...and nothing anyone did could make that happen. So, the next best thing was to not allow this man to take any more life from me, to shift the focus off of him (because he doesn't deserve it anyway) and place it on the love I have in my life...the love I feel is even stronger now that this tragedy has taken place.

I can't explain this shift that occurred. Perhaps it was beyond my control. I'd like to think my dad somehow had something to do with it...I know I dream about him more often now. Certainly getting older has played a part in this new perspective but I think my yoga practice and meditation has also been a factor. I find myself less reactive and more introspective...less willing to allow others to destroy my inner peace and more willing to find empathy. Some might mistakenly believe this is a weakness, that I am being a push over, but its not and I'm not. It takes a certain kind of strength to be responsible for one's feelings and emotions and to forgive those we think we should hate...and in most worlds, have the 'right' to hate.

But fear not...I am far from perfect and I still get into silly "arguments"  with complete strangers on Facebook. I still have 'buttons' that can be pushed and I have yet to really learn how to take a compliment. All of life is a lesson and we are constantly learning. And yoga and meditation are called 'practices' for a reason...seldom, if ever, does anyone attain perfect enlightenment. But it's a journey we all take and we can choose how that road is paved. We can be victims or survivors, we can stay stuck in the mire or persevere until we reach firm ground, we can blame everyone else or take credit for who we are, we can feed the hate or feed the love...for that which we feed grows and what we starve dies.

We leave Alabama tomorrow and I'm really going to miss my mom. It's been great having all of this time with her. She's the sweetest, most loving person you could ever meet...and I'm not just saying that. I'm thankful that out of this pain our relationship has grown stronger and our love deeper. She's an amazing woman and I'm a very lucky daughter.

My mom and I at my wedding (she did my flowers).

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Stumbling Through the Creative Process...

Often times I have so many thoughts and ideas in my head that I actually become paralyzed. And this is true of writing. I'm the kind of person who has difficulty making decisions when offered too many choices...I'm a true Libra. Other times when I sit at the computer and start typing about things I am passionate about the story seems to fall apart before my eyes. As much as I cut and paste and rewrite, I just can't seem to get it to flow. And as we all know, I'm already "bad" at rambling. I have flaws, true...but I also have things I want to say and words I need to type and stories that may be of no interest to anyone else but still must be written. I need a process to be sure.

One thing I found out recently is that when I allow for other forms of creativity, it sparks a deeper desire or connection in all areas of my life. We have been staying with my mom in Alabama for the past month. We wanted to take this opportunity to not only spent time with her but to do some remodeling in the RV. Out of necessity I started to learn to sew (with a lot of my mom's help).

Learning to sew.
Somehow, in the course of sewing curtains, making "new" reusable grocery bags and drastically changing the interior of our RV I got inspired to cook, write and take more photos. After months of falsely thinking I was getting my creative inspiration from pictures posted on Pinterest rather than touching, feeling, tasting and smelling life I realized I needed to actually do things rather than just pin things. As much as I thought I would be moved into action by other people's posts I found I was letting my creative spark die out. It was also adding to the clutter in my mind, something I could use less of in the first place.

Fortunately, I recognized that I was wishing for inspiration rather than actually finding inspiration. For me, the doing is the key to continued creativity which, it seems, can come in many forms. It's a lot like working out and eating healthy...whichever one you start first, the other usually will follow and they will continue to 'feed' off of each other (in a good way). Along the way I gained a different perspective regarding Pinterest...rather than using it as a "If I Were Rich (or skilled or talented or knew how to knit)" wish list I am pinning things that I can use now or in the near future (it was indispensable in coming up with colors and ideas for our RV remodel).

Here are a few creative projects recently completed:

I found these shutters at a local flea market for $3.55. Loved the size but the artwork was not going to work.
After: We separated the shutters and repainted them a coral color and then distressed them for a more rustic look.
This is the other shutter with added mason jars attached by copper pipe straps-used to hold an air plant and my pens and pencils. You can also see a small note card from Ellen at Fat Girl Wearing Thin who sells her beautiful art work at EllenBrennemanStudio.
I modified one of my favorite t-shirts into a little tank I would wear more often (I'm not a fan of crew necks). I love the Eat More Kale guy!
While this is very basic sewing I was glad to be able to re-purpose some old shirts into reusable shopping bags.
Found this chair at the thrift store for $5...it was pretty dirty but otherwise sturdy.
Here's the same chair after painting it cobalt blue and distressing it to fit the 'rustic' ambiance.
I also made some reusable mesh produce bags thanks to a tutorial from blogger Valerie Brady at Tried & True.

Sewing my new produce bags from our old laundry bag.
Now, if only I could get myself to lace up those running shoes once again...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Don't Call It a Comeback...

I've had quite a long (unplanned) hiatus from my blogs (I also write at Tales From the Mutiny). I partially blame our travels...we hit the road October 3, 2012 in our 32-foot RV, The Mutiny, which left us without internet much of the time. But part of it has been sheer laziness. I know I'm not the only one who finds that they can fill their days with plenty of busy work to avoid doing other things...like writing. I don't want to call this a comeback because I really didn't leave my blog or abandon my writing...it's always there in my thoughts...every day. I just got really, really shall we say...sidetracked.

via Pinterest
Although writing is one of my passions I still have mini panic attacks when I write, publish posts or submit articles for Elephant Journal. I'm always afraid that no one will care, my article will be rejected or that failure in some form or another is just around the corner. I also have a problem with keeping a journal to jot down all of the brilliant ideas and thoughts I have throughout the day...the ones I'm sure would make a fabulous entry. Then, when I sit at the computer my mind seems as blank as the screen. And I want to kill that flashing cursor.

via Pinterest
One of my sewing projects, making reusable shopping bags out of old t-shirts.
So, I have been occupying my time with this busy work...yoga, reading articles and books, organizing the RV, remodeling the RV interior and sewing, which is totally new to me. The yoga part isn't really busy work...it's a life line and it has helped me build some confidence. I did a month long yoga challenge (#yogaeverydamnday) and saw so much improvement that I became addicted. I took some time to work on a few balance poses which really helped me understand the concept of beginner mind. We can't start out as pro's in everything we do...there is always a learning curve.

In Mobile, Alabama

White Sands National Monument
I'm still trying to figure out this life balance. Sometimes the full-time RVing seems like a full-time job but then I realize how luck I am to be able to do this at my age. It's not fair to complain. And I know that I tend to procrastinate. I can only beat myself up about this so many times...

I am exploring and working hard at figuring out how to make this all work...the need to write, finding the inspiration and direction, staying creative, keeping positive and being fearless. I am experimenting with new passions and creative endeavors and am thankful for some new friends (and old) who help inspire me. I've also got a new gadget (Karma) which I am hoping will give me more reliable internet once we resume our travels.

I'm also trying to learn that life isn't always go...go...go. But that sometimes there is nothing wrong with taking a nap, laying in the sun, reading a book or doing a whole lot of nothing.

By the way, I am also on Instagram at lynnbonelli (isn't everyone??) and would love to follow you back so leave your user name in the comments!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...