Successfully Failing at Life

When you finally sit down to write and your laptop won’t boot…I guess you start writing a post on your phone because impatient should be your middle name.

Yesterday, I was watching a Netflix documentary – On Yoga: An Architecture of Peace. This rattled me to my core: “…all of our fears ultimately are a fear of death…I think the purpose of life is learning to accept death…”

It’s interesting because the thing I kept wanting to write (but kept opting to allow OCD to run me by the nose and clean my house instead – seriously, if you wonder why I barely write, I’m cleaning…just call me the Scrubbing Buddha or perhaps Sweeping Buddha) was about failure. Sitting in my messy living room, this concept feels pretty all consuming.

I am in the midst of a complete internal tug of war. The cleaning I mentioned is how I’ve spent months of my life since moving back in with my ex. I used to write for hours and hours daily, and now I’m trying to get some kind of consistency beyond “I think I wrote something a week ago”. When I cannot calm down, I clean. My brain likes order and neatness, otherwise my anxiety goes haywire and I tend to get obsessed with people, memories, thoughts, or whatever.

I talked through this all will my psychiatrist and came to realize this is my mania. Mania has always been described to me as being happy and thinking you are God. When I described myself as feeling as though I’m in a hamster wheel in hell, my psych explained this is my mania. I cried a lot after that session. Mania is not necessarily happy. Mania can also be described as “extreme restlessness” and for me, it triggers OCD. I don’t check the oven. I clean and ruminate, AKA think the same thoughts over and over. Alternatively, I obsess about people – my kids, myself, my exes, whatever.

My moods swing from hamster wheel in hell to “I think I bathed a few days ago. I just need to go back to bed, really”. Intermittently, I’ll have “good” days where I’m not too much one way or the other. More often, I have a combination of a severely depressed hamster in hell. That whole cleaning thing? I am a mom of three kids. Cleaning with 3 kids is akin to building a sandcastle next to a tsunami and telling yourself it will stay just so.

Buddha speaks of impermanence. Every parent knows impermanence so well. It’s that kitchen you cleaned and mopped that now has some form of liquid sugar spilled all over the floor or the sparkling toilet covered in pee thanks to a small child who apparently thinks peeing with their eyes closed is a good idea.

Buddha says the suffering comes from clinging to that which will always change. After cleaning for 6 hours straight just to clean up dinner, I get it. I stopped bemoaning that my house is only clean if no one is home, and hell, my moods change faster than songs on the radio. I wouldn’t know stability if it smacked me in the face. I’ve said for a long time: Motherhood is a crash course in Buddhism. Nothing shows the constant nature of change like looking at your 11 year old who you swear was an infant a couple days ago.

I’ve accepted it all as best I can. I’m human. I am going to get pissed off when I feel like all my efforts are wasted even if I understand the truth is change is happening constantly. My only offense and defense in this is acceptance and awareness. In the time I wrote this, I’ve changed. Cells died or divided, thoughts have come and gone, and I’ve calmed down slightly by typing. I know my obituary is going to say nothing about my immaculate countertops, but sometimes I can’t stop scrubbing them. I am aware of my behavior, but instead of being attached to the outcome, I use it as a form of meditation, so I accept it. “It is what it is” is my mantra.

This is life and it’s what we all struggle with. As much as anyone says they want to change something, their deepest struggle is against changing it…and of course: failure. Suffering comes from fear and fear is often the fear of change. Yet, when you see life is constantly changing, you can see your fear is holding you back from living.

Our egos developed to keep us alive. The notion of “I” is attached to your body, your life, and all that you perceive in your realm of being. When we die, our ego ceases to exist as does our bodies. Naturally, our egos fear change and fear failure.

The Buddha spoke of non-duality. That there is no good or bad, everything “just is”. Our egos are our thinking mind. In our thinking mind, we need judgement and labels. A plant is a plant, that person smells badly, and my feet itch. When we were fighting to survive, these judgements and labels kept us alive. That thing will eat me, that plant will kill me, run.

The thinking mind is always there, and many of us are led by the nose by our thinking mind. If you think I sound ludicrous for spending 8 months cleaning all day every day, (it’s cool, I do too) muse on how much of your life is spent thinking. Thinking, labeling, and judging are parts of our life and necessary. If you are driving and think “I should not run over that pedestrian” and slow down, this is helpful. If you are sitting on your couch thinking you are a failure, this is not.

We have gotten so lost in our thinking minds, we have lost connection with what words actually mean. We rely so heavily on connotation, we have lost sight of the power of our words, actions, and thoughts. The best moments and worst moments of your life are likely inadequately described by words. “Holding my child in my arms for the first time was too beautiful for words” right? What words can you use to describe a sunset adequately? What words can you use to describe how you felt when your lover kissed you for the first time?

Our words truly only have the power we give to them. Calling someone a complete and total douche canoe, on the surface, makes little sense, yet I bet you’d not feel happy if I called you one. This is true of everything in life. Everything only has the power we give it. This is the crux of non duality. Something is only bad if we label it as such and our efforts to pursue or avoid it are the root of suffering. Douche canoe has no meaning beyond what you apply to it.

Did you know the actual definition of failure is: lack of success or the omission of an expected outcome?

To the first definition, the only person who can define success is you. To the second: in this life, we have only one expected outcome. Death. By that understanding, every inhalation and exhalation, you successfully fail. Your life is one successive failure to achieve the only expected outcome you truly have: death. Ultimately, you will succeed by dying. Kinda fucked up to think about it that way right? Yet how much of your life has been labeled with that word?

How can I say the only person who determines success is you? You could argue “if I don’t get my work done, my boss will fire me, he determines the success there.” Yet, by choosing not to do your work, you chose not to be successful, so you did that. Beyond that, we’ve all been told enough times that we learn more from our mistakes/failings than our achievements. So if you get fired, you got a lesson, so there is a success.

“Failure is not an option” – well, death is always an option, but would trying whatever has been pulling at your soul kill you? I opt to clean instead of write because I’m terrified of showing the world how absolutely batshit crazy I am (again). Yet the Buddha has taught me to bring the inside out. That happiness is in being. It can truly be as simple as speaking your mind. “Attachment is the root of all suffering”-Buddha. My attachment to my suffering is keeping me suffering, which means I just need to stop being attached to…me. I’m no one. Me and all my problems have an expiration date. In enough time, the kitchen I scrub won’t exist. I’m not my ego, I could not tell you who I am, but no matter what happens, I am happy, because it is my nature. I just like to think I’m not.

All of this is the only way I stay sane while being a depressed hamster in hell. I have spent so much of my life trying to change, be better, and so forth. Sitting here not cleaning and writing in my “old house” with my ex, I feel like the worlds biggest failure. I would have never expected my life to turn out as it has. I’m not even working right now. There are so many things I can label as a failure. Unlike before, I am glad. As long as I am failing, I’m living. As long as I am living, I am changing. By accepting change, I can be happy no matter what, because I understand my immaculate kitchen will never last. Nor will the bad day. Nor will the good day. No amount of thinking will change that. Without thinking about it all, I have more energy to do the things I care about like impatiently writing all of this on my phone. The true self typing this is inspired, even if my ego is twitching to clean…(Sorry for typos, shitty formatting, etc!)

I hope you all are successful failures today!

21 Days – Tippy Goodness

21 Days Makes a Habit

What can you do in 21 days? Here’s how I helped myself:

  • Black and White thinking is toxic to progress. It doesn’t allow you to see incremental growth in every step of the way.
  • Don’t focus on what you did not do, focus on what you did. It doesn’t matter big or small, your focus dictates where you go. If you focus on what you did not do, you will continue to not do.
  • Don’t think about 21 days, don’t even think about tomorrow. Focus on today and today alone. Today will set you up for tomorrow without you thinking on it.
  • Structure your day around your commitment. This eradicates life getting in the way. If you want to do something at 7PM, plan your day around 7PM.
  • If you can’t make it one day, or something happens, focus on how you can bring smaller versions into your day. If you need an hour and you can’t do it, do 6 – 10-minute versions, and be happy if you only did 1 – 10-minute version.
  • Everything you do is more than you ever did before.
  • Thank yourself and your God, or whoever for everything you accomplish and you will always accomplish more.
  • EXPECT NOTHING. Don’t let your ego run this show. Don’t assign any outcome (i.e. lose 10 lbs) to this practice – whatever it is. You will always disappoint yourself. Your imagination tends to be more creative than your reality.
  • APPRECIATE EVERYTHING. Your ego likes to think you are in charge and you are responsible for everything. Appreciate every step you take in this process – forwards or back because a movement is still movement.
  • Just do the thing – don’t wait for circumstances, don’t carrot your happiness. You have a new beginning every day, every minute if you want. Do it.

 

Shanteel has helped me place the first nut in the right spot. My psychiatrist said the grounding I will find from yoga will make me as unmovable as a 200 lb bull dog. In that case, I guess I don’t need to be worried about nuts at all..

 

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21 Days Makes a Habit

A metaphor for my life is an adorable little squirrel gathering nuts into a precise pile just to have something scatter all those nuts. Inevitably, the squirrel restarts gathering nuts and attempting to figure out what to do with the nuts, and I’ve said nuts a lot now…

In January 2017, psychosis allowed me to see what it is like to actually go nuts. For the last year, I’ve been so fucked up, I forgot I was a squirrel. Or maybe, I am a human who should stop thinking of herself as a squirrel. (note to self)

Not a day goes by that I am not haunted by questions or memories. How exactly does one go back to their day job when they see something and question if anyone else actually sees it too? That’s me, or maybe that was me. I don’t know. Weirdly enough, “I don’t know” is the gift of psychosis. I don’t know what happened to me, I don’t know if it will happen again, I don’t know why I heard demons on the radio, and I don’t know what is wrong with me.  As a type A control freak, those are a lot of identified variables to keep me up at night. For most of the last year, that’s what I focused on. It was eating me alive – mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was paralyzed by fear, sadness, shame, and pain.

quote-no-one-is-more-dangerously-insane-than-one-who-is-sane-all-the-time-he-is-like-a-steel-alan-watts-47-80-69Deep down, I know I have the answers. I fought through this by not fighting. For once in my life, I accepted everything. After my mind and everything that seemed real shattered in a month-long grip of psychosis, I accepted it all. When my car got totalled by yet another shitty dude in a long list of shitty dudes, I accepted it. When I decided I needed to move back in with my ex-husband because I was incapable of caring for myself, let alone my three kids, I accepted it. Most recently, when I was let go from the job I had for over 10 years due to not being able to come back to work, I accepted it. When I couldn’t write, practice yoga, or meditate, I accepted it. I was terrified I was going to become some sort of lazy slob, but deep down I felt that I was supposed to be still, be quiet, and be patient. Every day, I fought a really weird war of laziness. To do something or not to do something, that is the argument. I was going from Type A Control Freak to learning what it means to go with the flow.

It was not until I started focusing on what I did – actually did every day, as opposed to what I did NOT do every day. I realized if I wanted to start rebuilding, I had to start at the beginning. I thought creating this blog would help, but every time I tried to write it was like starting a car with a dead battery. I had no inspiration because I don’t even know who I am anymore, let alone what I want, and so forth.

“I” wasn’t there. Or, I guess the truth is, “I” was there, the real me wasn’t. I – my ego – is completely concerned with success, results, accolades, etc. The real me is concerned with smiling, breathing, and being grateful. The real me sees beauty in every moment, “I” want results.

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Yoga taught me to see my ego results in little ways – instead of seeking instant gratification or pushing myself beyond my limits. Yoga shows incremental growth and impermanence. Every day, something is new and every day, it changes. One day, I might balance really well. The next day, I might fall, but I did a plank really well. It doesn’t matter because really, I’m overjoyed to simply be on my mat. A few months ago, I would wander around my house aimlessly and depressed, and I’m on my mat. So, literally, everything I do on the mat is growth. If I were to practice yoga from my ego, I’d quit right away, because I “suck”, I can’t do this and I can’t do that, and I am fat. Yoga doesn’t let me do that, though. Now my ego can shut up – cause look who’s writing now too?

All of this was not possible until I joined Shanteel Yoga Sanctuary. I joined on January 26th. 1 year prior, I was standing in a mental hospital trying to kill myself convinced I had ruined everything in my life. I went to my first class on the 29th. I was shaking and having a mild panic attack on the way. Worst case scenarios, farting, mooning a studio full of yoga experts, and so forth charged through my head in a 10-minute drive. When I checked out the studio, I had chills and all I could hear in my brain was “home”. I reminded myself of that as I drove, and I jumped in and did my class. I didn’t fart or moon anyone, and at the end, I was a sweaty happy mess. Since that class, I’ve gone pretty much daily. Some days, I do multiple classes.

After the first class, I lost the fear of being in a class. I was surrounded by amazing people in a community. Every class is focused in spirituality. I’ve been chanting to Ganesha (remover of obstacles!) with beautiful people on Sundays in Meditation. I can get into hour long convos after class about Moon signs and astrology. It’s not to say the past year had me doing nothing because I was studying a lot. My obsession with Jung deepened as did my love of Buddha as did a newfound fascination with all things astrology. My circle of people I could talk about this to, though, was non-existent. I think the hardest part of the last year was how lonely I felt. Finding Shanteel eradicated that for me. My biggest fear became that I would do what I usually do: really get into something and give up on it, or have something happen and lose it. I know I’m always my own worst enemy. I found myself afraid I would once again rob myself of the things that bring me joy.

Thanks to the Buddha, I re-trained my brain. Today is all I need to be in. Did I practice yoga today? What am I carrying off the mat with me today? If I didn’t physically unroll my mat today, what lesson am I practicing? Am I breathing? Am I present? Am I moving my body?

All of this is possible by finding a home and a community.  I said today, I did not find a yoga studio. I found a home and a family. I had thought to practice at home was the answer, but I see now that the community and the teachers are what keep you coming to the mat.

Yesterday, it dawned on me that I have been practicing yoga consistently for 21 days. 21 days creates a habit. 21 days creates a routine. For the first time since my psychosis, I created a habit and routine. I created my foundation. I started crying last night at the realization, especially when my brain echoed, “Imagine what you can do in the next 21 days…”

21 days in the face of 365 days of pain. 21 days and I’m just getting started. I can’t wait to write this journey with you all.

What can you do in 21 days? My next post will have tips 🙂 Comments, likes, shares are always appreciated and thank you for reading!!!

 

 

Using a Tough Convo to Empower

I’m a pretty big believer in transparency with my kids. If nothing else, my alphabet soup of diagnoses forces me to be honest about my shortcomings. I can’t exactly smile and be “perfect” when depression or panic attacks are fighting my ability to be a human being let alone a mom.

My kids, like any kids, have these things called ears and eyes. They see all of the goings on, even if I don’t watch the news myself. I realized I needed to talk to them about the shootings. I am not one to brush things under the carpet with a smile and everything is just fine.

My oldest told me he’s scared someone’s gonna come in and shoot him. I overheard the boys discussing what they’d do if someone came into their school and started shooting. Like a normal mom, I immediately felt a rage in me that could make a nuclear bomb seem benign. How the fuck can it be possible that my 11 and 6 year old are discussing getting fucking shot in school? How is this a reality?

I looked my son in the eyes and I gave him the only answer I have. “Ty, the truth is at any moment we can die. There are people who are angry, miserable, and full of hatred and sadness. It’s so bad, they think hurting others is the answer. The only thing we can do for people like that is love them anyway. I refuse to waste my life being scared of mean people or even being scared of dying. I know it will happen one day, and my only wish is I live my life so well – so awesomely – that when I die, I have a smile on my face and all the ones I love know how much and deeply I love them. I feel like the only way I can do that is try to be as kind and loving as I can to anyone in my life and maybe there will be less unhappy people in the world. But I won’t let people take away my happiness. Not by making me scared about dying or anything. I won’t give someone else that power. And I hope you don’t either. I hope you live your life finding everything that makes you smile – to the point you can smile and find happiness even when everything is hard. Because you are strong. You’re awesome. And no one can take that away from you.”

I don’t know if that’s the right answer, but unfortunately there’s no “how to talk to your children about people being massacred in school” section in the non-existent parenting novel. I can’t get rid of the monsters, but I’ll do my best not to raise new ones.

Tree Hugging Hippies Are Cool

Innocent people were gunned down at school, so naturally arguing, blaming, and the media cycle makes a ton of noise but accomplishes nothing.

Fighting and arguing on Facebook and with any human being accomplishes nothing but more divisiveness. “United we stand, divided we fall”

Are guns the issue? I find myself more concerned about why so many are so unhappy, so miserable, so full of hatred, that they would take a weapon and take the lives of innocent people.

On the flip side, I have to remember in many countries, hostile armies/people/etc gun others down for their religion, skin color, etc. There are innocent people fleeing their home seeking safety from the violence and wars killing their loved ones. Children are dying everyday at the hands of hatred and fear.

It’s a truth many shrink away from. It is easy to blame the guns, but the truth is if there is no gun, there’s a bomb, or something else. If you want tighter gun laws – get off Facebook and fight your legislators. But really, our system is broken. Millions upon millions of dollars have been dumped in the pockets of the people we the people have put in power.

We have put these people in power. We forget that we are the ones with the power, even though the system is flawed and broken. We’re not as small and powerless as we like to think, because we are all experiencing this life as humans together. There is pain everywhere in the world. There is joy everywhere in this world as well. What do we cultivate and focus on? Your thoughts and focus create your reality.

I see pain and sadness. I see so many people desperately lonely. Social media has given us an illusion of connection. As we sit with our faces in our phones, we overlook people in general and the ones we love, disconnected from reality and divided from each other.

When animals and people are in isolation too long, they can go insane. Become aggressive and attack. When you say mental illness, do you truly believe inhibited serotonin, dopamine, etc. are causing human beings to take an assault rifle and gun down kids? Do you think even an illness as serious as schizophrenia could cause this?

The highest risk factor for most DSM V diagnoses is suicide. Not homicide.

These people are mentally deranged, but I think we need to stop diagnosing people via media. As awful as this is, we need to consider ourselves fortunate that we don’t live where this is a daily norm. We need to start looking at one another and smiling. Say hello, how are you. Acknowledge human beings as human beings. Hold a door. Say thank you. Be grateful.

Right now, all I see is fear and anger being spread. Fear and anger make picking up a gun and killing easy. Love and unity are our natural inclinations and we are losing touch with that reality. Compassion – not empathy – for ourselves and each other.

I probably sound like a tree hugging hippie but I can vote and write letters to legislators. Beyond that, my circle of influence is small. And in that, I am trying to spread hope and joy. Hope and joy do not incite violence. Maybe if we all felt less alone and isolated, the world would not feel scary and divided.

I’d rather allow my thoughts and focus create a reality where a smile can make a difference in someone’s day. Because that is a truth that is undeniable.

Mr. Rogers taught us to look for the helpers. It’s time for all of us to be the helpers.