A New Mother’s Day

It took becoming a mom to teach me about unconditional love. Somewhere along the line, I became convinced no one could possibly love me. Even as a mom, I felt so undeserving of my family for so long. I would constantly push myself to insane extremes to be the best mom because the truth was I didn’t feel like I was good enough to be a mom. To be anything. This constant belief I was a failure, terrible person, etc etc plagued me. My 20s and early 30s were a constant battle of running to and from this belief. I had to prove to myself I deserved this, yet never succeeded. Happiness was in the next milestone.

Thoughts will dictate your reality. They become self fulfilling prophecies. I’ve ruined my life so many times in 2 decades. Yet that’s not true, because I’m here.

What kept me here was them. My kids. Because I knew deep down if I could love them as much as I do, then I cannot possibly be as awful as I think I am. It was learning to treat myself like I treat my kids that taught me to love myself. I don’t go around berating them for every mistake or lording decades of unforgiven crap. I ask them more often than not what can they learn or how can they make better choices. They’re not perfect and so neither can I be. If I screw up, if they screw up, it’s learning.

The most incredible freedom and peace come when you just stop hating yourself and calling it everything else. I wasn’t a perfectionist, I was a masochist. I wasn’t anything but self loathing. And deep down, I was terrified I was teaching them.

I could hate myself for everything, or I could see how much the kids have learned in our journey. They see love in action. That love is not perfect or happy all the time. Love is a never ending series of choices. It’s learning to be human together. Love is there no matter what.

The coolest feeling on this Mother’s Day is feeling the kids love for me, feeling so much love around me, and feeling love within me. I can’t honestly say I’ve felt this way before. There is a peace that I cannot describe. I don’t see my failures, I see growth, I see love and I feel joy. I know I set an example for them, and now I feel like I am a good example of loving yourself – maybe even to the point you finally just don’t give a shit what anyone has to say or think about you.

Being a mom is a journey to yourself. That might sound odd, but we all learn from our relationships and the most profound relationship anyone can experience is raising a child. There is a love that is so transformative, it changes everything. Suddenly the flaws, problems, mistakes, etc take on a whole new depth and real ness. Before, you were just screwing up your own life, now you could screw up someone else’s. I think so many of us try to be perfect, only to realize we’re losing our minds – worse yet – our souls. We forget who we are in light of all the things we want for them. We don’t want them to hurt like us or make our mistakes. Then, you start to see the reality of yourself. You see how much love you have, and hopefully for most you start giving yourself that love. Because you know you’re teaching them. And you want to teach them how to love themselves. And words aren’t good enough. I watch them grow as much as I see me grow. I teach them all the music that has changed my life, I show themAll the things that heal me. We all know letting things go is one of the biggest challenges in life, and no more poignant reminder exists than knowing you’ll have to let them go one day, as they become adults. And knowing I can’t make them happy, I can only teach by example, has let me let go of so much and just experience the beautiful journey of being mom. Everyone does their best everyday. And love and compassion are what makes us all our best. It took becoming a mom to teach me that, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.Being a mom is a journey to yourself. That might sound odd, but we all learn from our relationships and the most profound relationship anyone can experience is raising a child. There is a love that is so transformative, it changes everything. Suddenly the flaws, problems, mistakes, etc take on a whole new depth and real ness. Before, you were just screwing up your own life, now you could screw up someone else’s. I think so many of us try to be perfect, only to realize we’re losing our minds – worse yet – our souls. We forget who we are in light of all the things we want for them. We don’t want them to hurt like us or make our mistakes. Then, you start to see the reality of yourself. You see how much love you have, and hopefully for most you start giving yourself that love. Because you know you’re teaching them. And you want to teach them how to love themselves. And words aren’t good enough. I watch them grow as much as I see me grow. I teach them all the music that has changed my life, I show themAll the things that heal me. We all know letting things go is one of the biggest challenges in life, and no more poignant reminder exists than knowing you’ll have to let them go one day, as they become adults. And knowing I can’t make them happy, I can only teach by example, has let me let go of so much and just experience the beautiful journey of being mom. Everyone does their best everyday. And love and compassion are what makes us all our best. It took becoming a mom to teach me that, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.I am so incredibly blessed to have the best teachers in the world showing me the wisdom of life and love. My children. Being their mother is tough! Being patient is tough! Feeling overwhelmed and outnumbered is tough! Loving them no matter their behavior, choices, etc is easy. And the same is now true for me. So thank you to them, thank you to the people who are walking this journey with me. Thank you to Evan, who has been there for me in the darkest of times. Thank you to all the moms who came before me. Thank you to my mom.

Strong women raise strong families. Women teach and nurture their families and lead by their example of love. I’m so blessed to be surrounded by so many strong women, and if you don’t think that’s you, look around at all the lives you affect and remind yourself it is. And if you’re a dude, switch the genders 😊😉❤️

The Game of Life

If you enjoyed this poem and are interested in purchasing a handwritten copy, signed to you with a number and date, please email me at RoseRoared@yahoo.com. Handwritten prints are $25 (includes shipping and a donation to a local charity)

This work is copyrighted, created, and owned by me. I give no permission for it to be duplicated, but I welcome sharing with credit if you enjoyed it! Thank you for reading.

Frantic is the New Calm

Everything is chaotic and frantic. Busy-ness is held in esteem and stillness is viewed as laziness. For over a year, I have not worked because I am on disability and every day, I give myself a mental barrage of why I suck for how little I am doing. I am not accustomed to life like this. I am accustomed to jam-packed schedules. Frankly, I feel best when I am racing around like a lunatic because I feel “productive”.

Yet, I’m not productive. I’m running around like a lunatic. Sure, I’m accomplishing things, but I’m not producing. Sure, I’m doing things, but I’m not living. To live is to experience. How much do any of us actually experience on a given day? How often do we look around and experience our lives versus doing our lives?

I tend to think in terms of my obituary. Will any of the stuff I frenetically do even remotely go into the paragraph that sums my life? My job most likely won’t even be mentioned. What accomplishments will I even have? Happily, I think on how all these problems that I think are so huge and need so much fixing will also die with me, so I stop stressing about them. My life will be represented by a date – date. What fills the dash?Realistically, the people I am surrounded by will go into my obituary. I will be a “loving mother, beloved daughter, and loving wife (maybe)” But will have actually lived those words? Will you?

How often do we even experience the people around us? Do we experience life and love with them? Do any of us actually understand the meaning of love? We all say it a lot, but do we live it?

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Aren’t life and love synonyms? Our grammar has limited our understanding of both because they have both been filed as nouns, not verbs. Both life and love are experience and action. Yet, how do our actions contribute to either? As we jam pack our schedules, do we create space and time for life or love?

For most of us, we believe love is the opposite of hate. I disagree. Apathy is the opposite of love. Apathy is how most of us exist. How do you feel when you hear birds singing? How do you feel when your children are talking to you when you are trying to check Facebook? How do you feel when you are eating dinner quickly to get to the next thing? Apathy pervades our consciousness more than any other emotion.

It is not intentional; it is worse: it is a byproduct of our refusal to experience life. In our incessant need to get to the future, we lose the here and now. Everything is a building block to some eventual reality where happiness will be. Everything is a means of escaping whatever reality we do not like. Apathy is a relief from misery, which is the more common reality for most of us. Misery is so commonplace now, it feels like happiness. Is it really happy to not hear birds singing? Is it really happy to not have conversations with people where you hear what they say and respond? Is it really happy to be doing as many things as possible at once?

A computer runs multiple processes, and we have created ourselves into the best damn computers in the world. We are more robotic than human. We go from one prompt or command to the other, with no experience of either. It is a fear of idleness that pushes us to constant extremes. We have to have something to show for our lives. We have to do something. We have to be something.

What if the purpose of life is to learn how to live? What if the purpose of life is to learn how to love? If we honestly look at our lives to this point, do either hold true? Are we beloved and loving nouns, or are we dynamic verbs of experience with ourselves and those we say we love?

Until a year or so ago, I operated under the belief I would die and go to heaven and THEN it would all make sense and be better. Then, I came to wonder if earth is heaven. The Buddha sat under a mangrove tree and achieved enlightenment/nirvana, which was right here on earth. Jesus did not say we had to die to get to heaven, he said we had to become like children to know heaven. The Hindi view of life is that we are all gods playing life. No one is pointing up in these explanations. Each is pointing in.

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Each is pointing us to love and innocence, yet even our kids are overwhelmed schedule-wise. They are smaller versions of adults now and not in a good way. Yet, when you watch a child play, you can see the wisdom of aeons. There is no tomorrow or yesterday as they drive a car and smash it into whatever imaginary villain they’ve created. Their imagination is unfettered, and so too, are they. The only fetters that exist for our children are the ones we “wise” adults place on them. All that we have in this life came from imagination. Every tangible object in our existence came from someone’s mind and imagination. The very screens most of us are addicted to lived in Steve Jobs’ mind.

When was the last time we sat and imagined? When was the last time we were productive in the sense of producing/creating? When was the last time we indulged a dream as more than “childish crap”, ignoring the fact that the very man many kill, fight, argue, and hate in His name told us to do the childish “crap”? It’s kind of funny, isn’t it?

We all think of ourselves as wise because we are grown-ups, because we have more years than kids, yet what do we have to show for those years? Anything I created outside of this blog was to make someone else richer or make someone else’s dreams come true. It certainly didn’t make a lick of mine come true.  But my dream of being a writer was silly and unrealistic. We ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, and smile somewhat condescendingly because we all know the truth is we’re going to ruin these kids dreams just like we ruined our own.

It’s not our fault, look how busy life is. How can any of us have time to dream? We have to live! We have bills to pay! We have to make money to survive! We have to work 40+ hours a week to (most of us) exist in an asston of debt, rarely have fun, and rinse and repeat daily. We may go to church and hope for a better reality after we die, or attempt to live as Christians or Buddhists or whatever now, while we miss loving and living. We follow the rules, not understanding they were given to us as guides to help us find life and love at the exact moment of now. Not a minute from now, or years from now, or after our death, it is wherever you are reading this as you read it.

The painful truth we all know deep in the back of our minds, as we race around avoiding it is that it IS our faults. We each created the life we live, because consciously or unconsciously, we create our lives. It is through living our dreams that we can consciously create happiness, but most of us ignore that and blame everything else for our own created misery and imbalance.

It is difficult to realize how imbalanced we are because it is rare for us to be balanced. If we knew what it felt to be balanced, we would not want to feel any other way. The Pythagorean definition of music is “A Perfect Union of Contrary Things”. The creativity and flow of music are balanced by the harmonic precision of each note, adhering to a time and beat, that was created by years of discipline and practice (or autotune). We have two sides of our brains: Logic centered left, and creative centered right. In order to be balanced, both must be utilized, but most of us exist solely in left analysis with all right creativity dismissed as childish crap.

Is there anything more beautiful than a good song at the right moment? Is there anything more beautiful than the spontaneity of a laugh? How often do we allow that experience to permeate our being? The opposite of action would be inaction, and the opposite of busy would be idle. When do we bring these opposites in our reality? Why do we view these opposites with scorn and dismay? Vacations must be earned. Downtime must be earned. We teach this to our children now, and then we wonder why mental illness and diagnoses on the autistic spectrum are rising at alarming rates. How many kids do we know with ADHD? We have to medicate our kids to get them to conform to this sick reality we have all created for ourselves. Can any of us sit still for 8 hours straight? Most of us can’t even do one task at a time anymore, and we are lauded for our multitasking abilities.

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How can we experience anything when we are so busy doing everything? How can we experience balance when being imbalanced is required to survive?

It is time for all of us to make serious changes, and it involves doing less and being more. As Lao Tzu said,

“You should meditate 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy. In that case, meditate 1 hour.”

It is time for the opposite of frantic to come back into our lives, and it is time to live and love life the way we were intended to, as grown-up children. Fully capable of experiencing and appreciating the gift we have in every moment.

 

First World Problems

With this Nor’easter supposedly coming through, I’m really excited to get gardening. I love the site of fresh green shoots of hyacinths bedazzled with old snow. All this talk of freezing rain and heavy snow has me thinking of getting my hands muddy.

There is a dark cloud looming over these picturesque visions. I am completely out of eggs and almost out of milk. This is a Pennsylvanian’s worst nightmare. A French toast-less blizzard.

For me, I’m generally irritated because I WILL go buy milk and eggs before a storm because my coffee don’t get drank without milk, and snow doesn’t fall without baking cookies. These are priorities!

I’m a really bizarre baker – in that I only bake in inclement weather. Is it your birthday? Enjoy this delicious store bought cake. Is it a polite and classy gesture required event? Entemann’s raspberry crumb danish twist thing may not say much, but it tastes of what I’d imagine the nectar of the gods to be. Is hurricane Sandy destroying the East Coast? Well you better believe Zucchini Bread, Pumpkin Zucchini Bread, Banana bread and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are coming out of my kitchen! This storm has a 100% chance of sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies if I can survive the dairy aisle gauntlet unscathed.

It’s inevitable. I cannot explain the compulsion, nor do I mind stuffing my face with chocolate chip cookies while I get snowed in. It’s genius, if you ask me. It’s terrible, if you ask my pants. (That’s a lie, my pajamas love me no matter how many cookies I eat)

Now, I did make a box batch of brownies for my dad’s birthday on Friday and I attempted to get classy and make ganache. I screwed up by not allowing enough time to chill the ganache, and by attempting to be classy on a sunny day. (I only make completely homemade brownies during blizzards, duh) I was also in the middle of making corned beef with cabbage and potatoes as well as sauerkraut in another pot. I wanted my dad to have a Reuben or corned beef and cabbage for his birthday.

As the brownies weren’t coming out right, I was simultaneously convinced my corned beef was tough and my brownies were burnt. I was so irritated with myself, and felt like a completely useless asshat. BUT, then I reminded myself it is actually the thought that counts and maybe I should chill along with the ganache. (Literally my new favorite word)

Once I chilled out (unlike my ganache), I went to my parents and my dad told me my corned beef was awesome. The next day, I ate a brownie and it was the best ganache I have ever had. I literally concocted two abysmal failures in my brain. Neither actually happened or existed. Aww, look how metaphorical cooking can be!

I stopped the drama by making myself laugh at myself. My mom and I tried to bake a cake for my dad forever ago. It was this hamburger cake. It was the most depressing impersonation of a hamburger. I’m talking worse than McDonald’s. It tasted like sugar died. I was ranting to my mom about my illusory failed meals saying my dad choked down our hamburger cake he can choke down my corned beef. It was enough of a chuckle to make me stop the stories.

As the first day of spring approaches, with the traditional raging nor’easter, I’ll hear the chirping birds of wind, see the green tufts of snow, feel the warm kiss of freezing rain, and I will be celebrating new beginnings. New beginnings always start at the end. Now that winter is ending, I’ll hopefully not lose power and bake those cookies. Hell, I’ve gotten better at baking thanks to Pennsylvania’s bizarre weather and my compulsively storm infused sweet tooth. I’ve also gotten better at laughing through the storms – literal or metaphorical.

I had always thought my problems were menial in the face of others, but then I realized my first world problems would have been third world problems to Siddhartha Gautama, a former prince turned Buddha. A man who was waited on hand and foot taught of suffering, because suffering is a gift we all give each other regardless of demographic or storm baking proclivities

So….I just cannot believe I have to go to the store tomorrow. But I appreciate that I can. #blessed

To Be or Not to Be: I Am Not Depression

Our brains like to talk. Thinking is talking to yourself. If you’ve never looked at it that way, congratulations and welcome to realizing you are crazy like the rest of us. Every thought you make is really a judgement. “I like that boulder”, “That smells funny”, “Where are my keys?” These experiences happen without you thinking, you just like to talk about it to yourself. If you said your thoughts out loud all of the time, people would think you are crazy. Since you are “not crazy”, and keep them to yourself, you simply converse with yourself judging away at every little thing: most especially yourself. Judgement is one of the most toxic things for our minds, whether or not you are mentally “ill”.

Diagnoses are descriptions, not definitions. Diagnoses are statistical in nature, people are not. Does a diagnosis affect your life? Absolutely! Any diagnosis is likely going to call for a modification – diabetes causes modifications in diet, exercise and medication. Depression calls for the same. It does not mean, however, that anyone is less than or greater than another due to a presence or lack of diagnosis. Nor does it necessarily impact your entire life. Those are judgements we all make that affect ourselves and those around us greatly.

There is a world of difference between “I have depression” and “I am depressed”. Do you not believe two words can have such a profound impact? “You are a shithead” versus “You are frustrating me” How is your emotional response? How are your thoughts?

When “I am depressed” becomes an internal monologue, you are powerless and in the grasp of depression. It will guide thoughts and actions towards depression. The brain will always support thoughts. If you wake up saying, “I am going to have a bad day, ” you will inevitably find no end of reasons to have a bad day. This is the same as thinking “I am depressed”. In identifying with a diagnosis, the brain will support the diagnosis and find more depression.

When “I have depression” becomes an inner monologue, there is a space between you and depression. Depression is a transient state. It is not forever, although the brain in this state will lead you to believe it is. In all reality, when depression occurs, it is difficult to even realize depression is occurring. Thoughts are often ruminating and circling all of the reasons for misery and all of the reasons you are the cause of your misery. How does reinforcing having depression and being depression change this?

It is easier to see the negative thought patterns as opposed to being the negative thought patterns. It becomes easier to question yourself. “Is it really true that my children would be better off without me? Who would cook them spaghetti?” Questioning thoughts is easier when you understand your thoughts are not reality. It is also easier to communicate your symptoms without judgement. “Today I struggled to get out of bed because of depression” as opposed to “Today I was a lazy sack of shit who did not get out of bed.”

Each of our minds is exquisitely unique different mechanisms. It is not often we get into convos about what our thoughts are really like, and I would propose if we did, there would be far more similarities than differences: regardless of diagnosis. I do not think for a second a woman without depression does not mentally lambast herself for everything she does at least briefly. I do not think for a second anyone does not have thoughts that make them confused and uncomfortable. Yet, a diagnosis of depression will make my brain more suspect than someone who lacks one. Suddenly, all of me is ill/crazy (even the language: mentally ill!) The suffering comes from the thoughts, not the person, regardless of diagnosis.

I have made changes in diet, exercise, seeing a psychiatrist, taking medication, etc. Journaling, meditating, and practicing yoga are all lifesavers. I don’t do any of those things because I am depressed, I do them because I enjoy them or they support me.  They also alleviate symptoms of depression. All of the things that make my life harder during bouts of depression are symptoms: not me. When my thoughts tell me everyone would be better off without me, I can identify a symptom of depression, as opposed to me being depressed. Why? Because I question my thoughts. I know my thoughts are not me, and I do not allow them to run me around by the nose. This is true regardless of diagnosis.

I find the easiest way to deal with having depression is not taking it so seriously. (Get the pitchforks!) If I am depressed, it’s my focus. Why in the hell do I want that to focus on? Even if I focus on “beating” depression, uh… that’s a part of my brain, so I am essentially “beating” myself? I don’t feel like going to war with me, I have enough problems.

When depression becomes a description as opposed to a definition, there is a lot more space to see the light in the all-consuming tunnel when it comes. I’ve stopped fearing depression. Depression used to rob the sun from my skies and the wind from my sails. Happiness could be robbed at the thought of “Oh crap, I’m going to crash!” because what goes up must come down.

Happiness is my ever-present state. Depression is a cloud in the sky of me. There are lots of clouds in the sky of me, some are ugly and shitty and some are quite lovely. Not a single one of them define me. I am boundless and limitless. When I see depression as a cloud in my sky, I can make fun of it. I can make fun of myself. I don’t take any of this seriously because none of it is me. Who cares? I no longer “fight” for stability, as I am under no obligation to be who I was five minutes ago let alone five years ago. Change is good, healthy, normal and aside from death and taxes: the only thing you can expect in this life. This is great when it comes to having a bout of depression. It will go away. If you engage with the thoughts and identify yourself as them, that’s you now. You perpetually judging you which makes you crazy like everyone else either way.

It’s very difficult to engage in ruminating and self-destructive thought patterns when you generally disregard everything your brain has to say. It is, after all, a chattering monkey that we all have. If you give power to depression, it will have power over you. It is the same power as a craving for pasta. Have you ever had a food craving that seemed to take over your being? The more you engage with pasta-based thoughts, the more you want it. That power comes in your thoughts and words and how you communicate with or about yourself.  Am I comparing depression to spaghetti? I suppose.Why be serious?

Depression is a transient state, even when it does not feel like it. I have had bouts that have lasted for months. It is always worse if I allow it to consume me by thinking it is me.  You can substitute depression with literally any other word and it still remains true. The judgements and thoughts are the only thing that will change. It makes it easier when I inevitably am judged for having depression because I am not depression. It makes it easier to not judge myself. I just have depression. Our thoughts and judgement create more misery than anything else, so with or without depression: watch those and you will find the most transformation. Depression sucks, and I would not wish it on anyone, but it’s something I have. Along, apparently, with a hankering for pasta.

And here’s some tips!

Thanks for reading, I would love to hear thoughts and comments, although I would read them and not hear them, but hey. If you want to grab spaghetti, let me know 😉 Share away if you found it helpful, and all of the other good blog-ly things. 

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Tippy Goodness – Depression/Anxiety (How to help, not how to have it)

To Be or Not to Be: I Am Not Depression

How do I deal with depression? Glad you didn’t ask!

  • Understand the diagnosis
    • A better understanding of the symptoms will guide you to see where the symptoms are and where you are not
  • I cannot emphasize enough that you are not your thoughts.
    • Meditation is a tool to allow you to observe the transient yet ceaseless nature of your thoughts.
    • Try to not think, you can’t do it. It does not mean you have to engage with the thoughts. Meditation can strengthen this.
  • Mindfulness is another word for meditation.
    • It is a psychological way to take the spiritual association of meditation away. The tools, methodologies, and reasoning are identical to what Siddhartha Gautama taught in 500 BC and what Buddhists and many other eastern philosophies or religions have practiced for millennia
  • Meditation does not have to imply sitting in lotus with your eyes closed for hours.
    • Any open awareness and focused intention can equal meditation. It is bringing yourself to a state where you are observing.
    • It is not equal to stopping your thoughts, and if you are unable to stop your thoughts, you are not failing at meditating.
    • You only fail at meditation when you try to meditate 😉
  • Pranayama (Spiritual) or Breathing techniques (Psychological coping skill) are powerful tools that can prevent panic attacks and/or break negative thought patterns
    • ALL coping skills (I HATE THAT TERM) are not only for an episode. These need to be part of your routine and part of your toolkit.
    • This will not work if you do not practice when you are not in crisis/struggling
    • 4-7-8 Breathing
    • Alternate Nostril Breathing
  • The Buddha also taught impermanence. CBT Therapy calls this Radical Acceptance.
    • Impermanence means things will always change. Suffering, he said, is caused by clinging or fleeing from that which will always change. This truth applies to everything – you are not always depressed or anxious.
    • If you simply do nothing but wait, change will occur. There are ways to expedite, but change is inevitable.
  • Create a toolkit for yourself
    • Include routines and habits that support you in good times and bad
    • Include anyone you can reliably talk to if you need an ear
    • Create a playlist on YouTube or Spotify of music that helps calm you or lift your spirits and listen to it – I have tons of playlists to help change my mental tracks! It’s a fun exercise and you can create a hell of a habit building playlists for yourself
    • Gratitude – Never forget to be and find gratitude – no matter your mood, make gratitude a constant place to come to in thoughts and communication. It is amazing what being thankful can do to shift your mind.
  • Watch your language about diagnoses.
    • The way you think, speak, and act reinforces your belief system. If you believe you cannot overcome your depression, no one can change your mentality.
  • Do you struggle with basic daily functions during a depressive or anxious episode?
    • Judging yourself and criticizing yourself will only make this worse. If you are berating yourself for not taking a shower, you are making everything worse. You have the power to choose to take a shower or not to take a shower, and thinking about it will not change that reality.
    • If you are unable to do so, accept it. Remind yourself and understand that a symptom of depression IS difficulty performing basic life tasks. Would someone berate themselves for vomiting from chemo? Why are you berating yourself for your symptom?
  • Track your moods in a journal and look for trends
    • Do you find you have increased depressive episodes during certain times? Are there triggers? Is there something you are doing or not doing that is affecting you?
    • A journal is a goldmine of insight into you
    • Take on an observer role – much like a psychiatrist observing a patient. Make notes about yourself.
    • Hell, WRITE about yourself in the third person. Sound crazy? Talk about a way to detach from your symptoms and thoughts.
  • Take everything 1 day at a time.
    • I struggle with every life function during a depressive episode. I can go days without showering, exercising, eating right, etc.
    • I have stopped berating myself because I KNOW I take good care of myself when I can!
  • Create routines that support you every day
    • During a depressive episode: yoga, meditation, and other things may become difficult for me to achieve. Journaling and breathing exercises are easily achieved when everything is difficult though. The more routine something is in your life, the easier it is to turn to because it’s part of your life.
  • Do not focus on what you did not do, focus on what you did
    • If you list out all of the things you did not accomplish during a depressive episode, you will create lots to be depressed about
    • If you focus instead on what you were able to do, you cannot help but feel better.
  • Listen to your body
    • Depression causes psychosomatic pain, fatigue, “brain fog”, etc. It is okay to let your body be the guide. It is not okay to ignore your body.
  • Be honest with yourself and others and ask for help if you need it!
    • I don’t think this needs much explanation
    • This includes basic life functions – if you need help doing the laundry, ask!
  • Lastly, take care of yourself always
    • Like I said, when I am in a depressive or anxious episode, it’s hard to take care of myself. I look at life now as a system of checks and balances. If I cannot do it well when I am not feeling great, it’s okay because I do when I am.
    • I find the more I take care of myself when I’m feeling fine, the easier it goes when I’m feeling not fine – depressive episodes/panic attacks/etc occur less when I am taking care of me.
    • I don’t do it because of my diagnoses, I do it because I want to take care of myself

Got any more tips? I’d love to hear them! I’m always looking to learn 🙂

Gratitude is not an attitude

This morning’s focus at yoga was gratitude. If the massive nor’easter hitting me in PA and surrounding states hasn’t been a huge call for gratitude for all of us; I don’t know what could. I’m so thankful for the teachers at my kids school, all schools that stayed with the kids and obviously put their own safety at risk with driving to make sure everyone was safe. I cannot imagine the fear and anxiety for the bus drivers with loads of (I’m sure noisy) kids driving in this mess and getting them all home safely. There were so many cars abandoned, so many without power, some were stuck in their cars for hours. I’m thankful for the people out in this to restore power. I’m thankful for the doctors and nurses and anyone who had to work regardless of the weather that make our lives what they are. Most of all,I am thankful my family is warm, safe, snuggled up and snoozing while I am up late listening to the wind sing. I’m grateful for the eerie quiet with the roaring wind. It’s breathtaking.

In all of this, we can see a call for annoyance or one for gratitude. In gratitude, we can start to see reality as opposed to the illusions we live under in our ego mind. However, you must consistently apply gratitude in all situations, so It becomes second nature. But really, nature. We were all made to enjoy this world and live it and we often focus on the negative aspects of life. I know I have often struggled. Like every skill or practice, you need to retrain your brain. With consistency and discipline to always seek gratitude regardless of your externals.

My biggest saving grace from the mental hospital was starting to journal again and writing at least 3 gratitudes a day. It became 3 pages and I started feeling huge shifts. It’s an easy practice to forget though. This is why yoga helps us all find our true joy and happiness. It teaches us to slow down and breathe. Feel how much you can do when you breathe. Feel how much you can do in stillness. Accept your mind. Be present, so you can see all the gifts, blessings…. in our lives every day. If you practice this daily, this is an amazing first step in quieting your ego to see your true authentic self. It is a key factor in staying in the present. It reduces anxiety. This is an amazing, low energy/low key way to help starting climbing out of the next unexpected sinkhole or life. I went from wishing for my car to veer into a telephone pole to writing and journaling consistently. This is all a journey of learning.

As the storm was ramping up, I was lying in savasana allowing all I am thankful for to surface. Me. My kids. Evan. Shanteel. All of my new friends and family. The list was so big immediately I started crying. A year ago, and really most of my life, I felt like a dead girl walking. Now, I’m smiling at the wind, grateful I have so many blankets. Grateful I can write this for anyone who likes my writing. Grateful I can write

In the storms of our lives, external and internal, we are always the eye of the storm. We are always the calm in the storm. The best way to see that is to stay thank you for reminding me I am stronger than I think I am and more importantly, thank you for for reminding me how to love.

Gratitude is not an attitude, it’s a way of life.

If you want to stop focusing on your ego, start saying thank you and see how much we all truly need one another to survive. We aren’t islands.

Namaste everyone. Hope you are all warm and safe. So thankful for you all.

These two songs nail it 😊

https://youtu.be/u05S9cq2bLY

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!

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.