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.

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 🙂

The Struggle is Real(ly a choice)

Why do we all struggle? Why do we all suffer? Why is everything so hard?

 If you have spent any time reading any sorts of new age, spiritual, Buddhist, even some Christian philosophies too, we collectively have a notion that suffering or struggling is something that is to be overcome – like our egos. In either the ego or suffering, we feel we must “do” something to “get” something.

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We can use many different words aside from overcoming – accepted, given over to God, surmounted, etc. It doesn’t really matter, because rarely is the word “played” or even “enjoyed” applied, yet those are the best two words to both understand and find liberation in.

The ego (I realize I’ve written about this several times now in my ever inconsistent blog) can mean a myriad of definitions depending on the perception of the eyes grazing my meanderings. To me, the ego is the very idea of me. The person who types these words is not my idea of me. My idea of me is very conflicted and ever-changing. My idea of me is a person with very unstable moods, easily distracted, easily overwhelmed, rife with anxiety and depression, and generally a fuck up in every sense of the word. The flow of the words presently, however, come from a calmness that I can only experience when I stop thinking about myself.

In that paragraph, I have nothing positive to say about my notion of myself. However, that notion of myself also includes a very funny, very sarcastic, incredibly intelligent, insightful, excellent chef, and sexy ass bitch. Like cooking, I can sprinkle any of these ingredients in however I’d like. But, deep in my self, I feel and I have always felt none of this was truly me. I feel as though sometimes my notions of me and wardrobes go hand in hand. “I feel like being the girl who wanders the earth in pajamas me today”

Liberation comes from seeing that none of these is you. You are an incredible actor playing yourself in the world. We are so accomplished and effortless at playing ourselves, we’ve made it serious business and hard work. This is how we are so perpetually conflicted. Many of us believe a struggle is necessary. Without hard work, sweat, suffering, etc., we cannot achieve greatness. I doubt my abilities to write because I do it easily, so I literally think anything I write sucks because it flew out of me in a few minutes.

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Most of us feel like we have to fight for love, suffer for love. Remember Self-Esteem by The Offspring? “The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care…” Yet, Buddha and Jesus taught us we do not have to suffer. We simultaneously believe we must struggle and suffer, should not struggle and suffer, and cannot achieve anything without struggling and suffering. As with parenting, most of us kick our asses coming and going. No matter what we do, we think it’s wrong, and we suffer.

I heard this chillstep mix (opens in new tab, if you want to listen). This quote, “It’s not pushing the wheelbarrow that is the hard part. It’s thinking about it.” I have tried to ignore thinking about things, but if I think about not thinking, I create new thoughts. At first, I thought about how hard yoga was as I practiced. I would focus on how much my leg hurt, or how difficult it was breathing, and so on. Yet, if I remain solely focused on my breathing, I do not feel pleasure or pain. I feel sensation and awareness with nothing else. How is this possible?

In yoga, if I breathe, I allow a calm focused center to emerge. My body and mind react continuously, but I become aware of what I struggle to be aware of at other times. I call it the eye of the storm. It is the space within you that you feel looks out in the world, yet doesn’t quite feel like anything else. It’s this part of you that is paradoxically your favourite sweatpants that do not quite fit. The reality is, however, that center is always you, it’s always choosing the wardrobe/ego, you just are the pants telling yourself you are not the pants, or maybe you are? This is us thinking to ourselves. We make a statement, question, statement, and almost never actually make a decision. Decisions seem to come from a place that is not a parrot talking to its reflection.

So much confusion and seeming contradiction stem from attempting to put what you are in words. This is because none of us exist in words. None of us exist in the thinking mind. We think we do, but just because we think it doesn’t mean it’s real. I can think I’m a pirate, but if I dress like one, I might get escorted out of work one day. Our thinking minds cannot comprehend our ability to know and be, because knowing and being are realms outside of words and thinking can only happen in words.

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Pain is only pain because we label it as such in our thoughts.  Sometimes, this is imperative. If someone were to stab you in the hand and you decided to take a zen approach to being stabbed, you may continue to be stabbed and ultimately die. The purpose of our ego is to keep us alive. It is a scanning device ensuring the idea of you is still in existence and protecting the idea of you. The reality of you is that you can hear your own ego, therefore you are not the ego. If you were your thoughts, how could you hear yourself think? This is the confusion many face as they embark on spirituality: the ego is NOT BAD! If someone is stabbing you in the hand, you should not accept that, you should feel the pain and you should definitely do something about it. Pissing and moaning about a sore ass due to chair pose, on the other hand…..Either way, they are sensations and stimuli, and either way, you can choose your response accordingly.

Good and bad are illusions of the ego. They are labels we apply to sensations and stimuli. A sore muscle can be bad because it is uncomfortable or good because you know you exercise. The sore muscle hasn’t changed, just the labels we applied in our mind.  It’s incredible how differently we all see the world. We have no way to prove each of us sees the same blue when we look at the sky. How can you describe a color? That’s where I was missing the fun part. Our egos, right now, controls most of our perception of the world. Perception is our view of the world. It’s like sunglasses for the brain.

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Our egos make us feel disconnected, yet it is through the ego we experience the world. How can we transcend the ego? As we become more aware of the mind, we can see the power that perception has. When we perceive that we are struggling, or in pain, or something is negative, we want to change it immediately. Yet, if you find the way to change the perception of the situation alone, the situation itself will no longer bother you. This is where choice comes in to play.  As the selector of your ego, of your wardrobe, of your thoughts, of everything you allow in your existence: you can either chose to struggle or you can choose not to.

How can any of this be enjoyed or played? I said that is where liberation lies. If your perception dictates your suffering, this means your perception can be attuned to finding the fun, the positive, the joy in every situation. If you are not your ego, then everything you do and view through your ego is a play – in the theatrical sense. You can stop taking yourself so seriously when you see that it is perfectly normal that you are a conflicted confused mess of ego while simultaneously being the eye of the storm of your own creation.

We all strive for more complicated answers: “It can’t be that easy, I haven’t done x,y,z, that’s why it’s all still so confusing” etc. Yet, the truth remains unchanged regardless of the words we put in front of it. The words are what makes it confusing, positive, or negative. Coming back to the sore muscle, you are only aware of that part of your body because it is sore. In any situation that is causing you a negative reaction, it is because you are aware of the negative. You can simultaneously be aware of the positive and become neutral again. This same correlation can then be applied to our ego. If we realize that our thinking is what is causing the notion of the struggle itself, we can see that we do not need to struggle anymore.

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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!

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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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.