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.

 

Teaching Fish to Swim

Our thoughts, our emotions, and the people in our lives have literally no impact on happiness. We think they do. We say they do. This is an illusion. If we make our happiness contingent on something, we will never be happy. “If I think less I will be happy” – no. We are already happy. And once we see this, feel this, and acknowledge this, thoughts will
be less of a bother. We all go backwards. We think if we do X, then y(happiness) will come. It’s not how it works. Happiness is always x, and y will be whatever y is.

We place conditions on happiness and quite Literally drive ourselves insane. Our thoughts will never cease through our efforts. If we exert effort to cease thought, we’ve successfully created more thoughts. There is no such thing as thinking thoughts away. It’s like beating water to make the waves calm. If we attempt to fight flee or watch thoughts
always be there. It is what it is. We can allow them to pass like clouds in a sky. Or we can engage with them which is what many do. People and busy-ness can serve to distract from emotions and thoughts, but there is no greater distraction then thinking we need anything to be happy.

Mindfulness is not “no thought” it’s awareness. Awareness is open and non analytical. We see a tree and it is a tree. We don’t need to judge the trees goodness badness or aesthetics. It’s just a tree. This is how it can be with life. We don’t need to judge a person’s qualities or labels. We can just be aware. Nothing can distract from Awareness. Awareness is all of us. It’s all part of experience. Experience is the only purpose of Life.

Judging experience is a distraction. People, TV, radio are not bad nor is distraction meant to be a bad word. It means we can lose our focus on awareness by mis-identifying ourselves as other, as emotion, as thought. We forget we are responsible for ourselves and suddenly another person’s emotion becomes a burden. This is Not So. Another person’s happiness, anger, sadness is theirs and theirs alone. It has nothing to do with us. We cannot make another happy no more than we can breathe for them.

The great paradox for most: Don’t change. Don’t fix. Don’t do.

Allow. Allow. Allow.

The observer changes nothing; just observes. By observation alone, change occurs. All that anyone could desire or want to fix will happen organically without force without effort if it is allowed.

The trap of spirituality is the desire to change, the desire to grow, the desire to know. We all set on a path with a need to stop some form
of suffering without seeing we have always been on this path and that very suffering was necessary for us to grow. Change will come if it’s just allowed. A snake doesn’t force himself
out of his skin. He sheds when it is time to shed just like Ram Dass has said.

The Buddha spoke of not even seeking the fruit of karma. Desiring nothing. Karma is not a celestial scorekeeper of rights and wrong. It’s not a bitch. It’s not a payback. Karma is action. The fruit of karma is the result of action. If practicing yoga is karma, my lovely butt is a fruit, but I don’t practice for a butt. I practice to practice. I read to read. Whatever changes occur or knowledge I absorb I do. It will apply when needed. I don’t change, I don’t plan change. My diet is changing because it’s changing. I’ve cut almost all meat out. It wasn’t planned or structured. Just happened.

That’s how change happens truly. We just think we do it. None of our thoughts do anything. None of us do anything. We’re all guided along our path. We just think it is the other way around.

I think that’s what is so difficult to grasp. Nothing changes of our volition or will or
effort. All you do is become aware of that which has always been so all along. Like a fish learning what water is. The fish has always been in water, spending his life seeking water. The fish can only become aware of water, the water did not change. The fish did not change. The fish now sees the water supports it and is the very means he swims. Awareness and experience.

That’s us.

Lies Are Rarely Intentional

Words are so powerful and paradoxically completely worthless. We give all of the power to the words but fail to see if we give them power, we can take them away. In truth, almost every word we share with ourselves and each other is a lie. I’d like to play a game, shall we?

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About 2 years ago, I climbed a mountain for the first time. There are two important facts you should know: I am terrified, and I mean out of my mind terrified, of heights. I was also wearing heeled boots. I was not expecting to climb a mountain. My boyfriend at the time and his friends decided to climb a mountain, and I tagged along. In my boots with the heels, not fur. I was out of my mind terrified. Visions of sprained/broken ankles danced through my head. I could feel my lungs tightening as a panic attack started creeping on me – both because I was short of breath (I’m a heavy smoker) and because I was going up high (I have literally had a panic attack going up a slip and slide at a carnival. Ask me about the time I climbed the Brigantine Lighthouse!) I focused on my feet with Tetris-like precision. Every rock formation and my foot were precious combinations I was not going to screw up. When I got to the top of the mountain, the scene was breathtaking. The sky was a combination of pink, and blue, and orange. I’ve never seen or felt anything like it. I had never hiked before, either. My enjoyment was only marred by my fear of going back down the mountain and breaking my ankle. I forced myself to sit on the rocks and quietly take in the scene. My purpose in climbing the mountain, if I’m honest, was trying to impress my boyfriend. I remember him looking back at me as we climbed, and saying, “She can do it, she’s a fucking bad ass.” I remember the smile on his face and for the first time in a long time, a rush of feeling like someone believed in me. I think his words had helped me climb higher than my fear. Looking back now, I climbed higher than my fear.

Sounds great, right? I write well, I think.

Let’s try this:

I climbed a mountain in heeled boots. I thought I was going to break my ankle, and I could not believe how stupid and irresponsible I was. The entire time I climbed, all I could see was 2 dudes carrying me down a mountain with a broken ankle. Visions of all the other times I’ve sprained my ankle by the sheer act of walking were flashing through my head. Strangely, all I could see was Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Glass with my face on his body. My boyfriend was being a dickhead that day. He had been giving me attitude all day, and even after we climbed, he bought all of his friends a banana but me. I don’t know why that bothered me, its’ a 33 cent banana, but it really kind of hurt me. He had told me before I met his friends not to “be weird” so that told me to just “be quiet”. He finally acknowledged that a) I existed and b) I was climbing not too shabbily for a woman wearing heeled boots. When I got up to the top of the mountain, my brain went silent because it was so beautiful. I was still scared to climb down especially because I knew the sun was setting, and darkness with heeled boots felt more like suicide in fancy footwear. As I went down the mountain, I felt confused. I couldn’t understand why my boyfriend was the way he was, why I put up with how he was, and so on. Fortunately, I was so terrified of breaking my ankles, I forced myself to focus on my footing, and in doing that, I experienced quiet mind for the first time.

Or this:

I am equally an idiot and a jackass who climbed a mountain in heeled boots. Looking back, it was one of the craziest and coolest things I ever did. It started a love for hiking that I never had, and it was too beautiful to describe.

We put so much weight into the noise of words and emotion, but the reality & truth is this:

All of these stories are lies of omission because I cannot give you the full story. My memories and words are being placed to align (intentionally or unintentionally) with the emotion. This is how we all communicate. None of my words adequately convey how beautiful it was up there. None of my words even adequately convey how I felt. If I close my eyes, I can see it and feel it as clearly as if I was there.

If we live purely in the realm of our thoughts and words, we omit reality. I don’t think anything can be more harmful than missing our reality. It does not mean coming up with better words to describe a situation. It means being fully present to experience it. Your focus (awareness/consciousness) dictates your reality. When we experience the world, we do not need words for it. Anything that is put into words is inherently a lie of omission.

Try this for yourself. If you think back on something you did that was hard/challenging/sucked, depending on how you speak to yourself or others about it, will determine your emotions on it. From paragraph to paragraph, the same experience changes with the emotion we express. If you focus on any positive in a memory, the memory will have a pleasant association, just like a word. Look at how different my ex-boyfriend and I seem? Yet both are equally true, only what I shared and how I shared it changed.

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Definitions, connotations, and context will always change depending on who is hearing it. Context and connotation mean something different to every person, regardless of what Websters tells us. People who are “literally dying” are a great example. We don’t even use words according to their definitions anymore.

download (2)My favorite definition of a metaphor is “a beautiful lie” (hmm…feels like I used that somewhere) Literally every word you use is a metaphor for your existence. You are using metaphors with every syllable. The key to being happiness is not to confuse metaphors with the point.

In either way, a metaphor and words are grammatical and literary devices. We confuse our reality with grammatical and literary devices, making ourselves hapless victims of an unseen author instead of being our own authors.

Actions and experience are all we have in this life. By choosing our words and memories, we can turn any experience into a lesson or an opportunity for growth. By seeing how powerless words and memories are, we can see nothing in this life is actually bad. That is an illusion of our thoughts.

It doesn’t matter how I describe it because climbing a mountain in heels made me see I can climb mountains on my couch with a laptop. I can climb anything anywhere, but in the future, I will be more mindful of my footwear. I hope this game shows you a deeper understanding of the game of life and the games we play with ourselves. Don’t confuse reality with metaphors, and just climb.

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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 🙂

TMI is never TMI (unless your word count is too high)

So, one of my favorite bloggers – JokersWild – here on this pressing word site told me to answer some questions. Seeing as I am a cup of joe in on a lazy Sunday morning, let’s see how many giggles I can give myself. (If you laugh too, that’s great, but really, I’m here for me :P) Here are his responses 

And now, here are mine:

What are you currently wearing?

  • So, I fell asleep in my clothes last night. You can call me lazy, slightly intoxicated, or overly exhausted mom. All apply. I’m currently wearing a thick cable knit black sweater with black leggings. I also am rocking a mild afro, because my curls can’t be tamed by any product known to man…All of my ensemble is now wrinkly and slept in, but damn is it cozy
  • Upon further reflection, I didn’t have to admit I fell asleep in my clothes…but the cat is out of the bag. 

Have you ever been in love? 🤔

  • I have been in love more times than I can count. Yet, if I might get a little on the deep side: in the past, I have erroneously viewed love as something tangible…transaction like even. “I love you” should merit “I love you too” But…isn’t that idiotic of all of us? Regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs, we all inately seem to hold a notion that we are beings made in the image of god, stardust, energy, love, whatever. My point is: If I am love, then I am always “in” love, or more accurately “Of” love. Like a wave is of or in the ocean, the words are relatively irrelevant.
  • This paragraph is a result of years of introspection, research, and “what the actual fucker-y” as related to my “love” life, which sucks more than a Dyson. It sucked because I did not understand love – for myself or another. So, my love became dependent and needy, in the sense I looked to another for happiness. I confused being “in love” with being “happy” which is another gross mistake. So, I am currently of love, in love with me and anyone who comes into my path. If some of those loves tend to walk beside me, I am grateful for the companionship. I look forward to connecting with someone who gets it, because I am very very tired of being a possessed noun.
  • See all those words? That’s a REALLY eloquent way of saying: I am as single as a one dolla bill hahahahahahaahahahahaha

Ever had a terrible break up?

  • Oh man, have I.  My marriage ended in a fist fight, so there’s that. Yet, amazingly, my ex husband is (as he’s always been) my best friend because the past is an illusion we cling to to avoid the present and happiness. 
  • After my husband, I became “in love” with a dude who I became obsessed with and kind of became a stalker and totally made an ass of myself, hence the realization of the above. 
  • So grateful for all my bad/good relationships, how else would I have figured out I gotta love me first 😀 My ex’s have all been wonderful gurus to help me find the best damn guru on this blue and green orb – ME!

How old are you?

  • I am 35 going on 80

How tall are you?

  • I am 5’5″ which means I am tall enough to trip over my pants, but petite clothes are too short, and the top shelves of cabinets are a mysterious land to which I will never lay my eyes on…

How much do you weigh?

  • I’m going to guess somewhere in the 230’s presently. Thanks to 20+ years of eating disorders, I avoid scales because if I measure myself in numbers, I’ll go crazy(ier)… I have gained so much weight in the last year with stress/emotional eating, that I woke up and realized I had to get my ass back to yoga and stop eating everything or I will put myself right back in old self-destructive cycles. 
  • I could be all sad about the weight gain, but now I have a butt. I never had a butt before, more like a vague suggestion of a butt, or perhaps the bottom of my back got into a fight and decided it was time to go their separate ways… Now, I have a butt. It’s there, I can feel it, and I admire it a lot.
  • This was supposed to be TMI, so I’m going there. Seriously, I look at my butt in the mirror all the time, I say hello…I got a thing for butts – my old blog was “MahButtItches” and my self fulfilling prophecy 2 years ago was “The Butt will Grow” I should have been more specific that “the rest of me will not” 

Do you have any piercings?

  • Yep – I have 6 on one ear and 5 on the other. I also have a nose ring. Until it eroded my gums, I had a tongue ring as well. I am currently itching to pierce my tongue again as well as snake bites, but I doubt I’ll do it. Because I want more tattoos. Also, I can’t shake the notion I’m kind of old for impulse piercings…impulse tattoos on the other hand….

What’s your favourite drink?

  • When I’m being “healthy”, water with lemon or oranges or cucumber or strawberries or whatever. Produce water.
  • In the realm of alcohol, I am an avid IPA nut (which according to research, makes me a psychopath, so watch yourself), I love mojitos too, and margaritas…I tend to avoid liquor now because I end up drunk, naked, and occasionally howling at the moon on a roof…or puking in a car, or puking anywhere…LOOOTS of puking. Actually, I just stay away from Vodka…it’s just bad news bears. 
  • So…hot.

What’s you favourite song?

What’s your zodiac sign?

  • Libra

How long does it take you to shower?

  • If I’m running late, as usual – 5-10 minutes
  • If I have time, I can be in there 45 minutes…well, probably more bath that way, I love baths. I dump all sorts of good smelly shit in there (shit being of the colloquial sense, I do not bathe in feces) and I soak my troubles away

What’s your favourite show?

  • I finished Sons of Anarchy not that long ago, and I am still in love with Jax Teller… #whyIAmSingle – I am in fictional relationships with fictional characters OR vocalists of assorted bands…Just call me Mrs. Maynard James Keenan, if you will…

What’s your favourite band?

  • You know…this has made me realize how useless the word favourite is…”too many to count” would really suggest I do not have a favorite, in that there are so many I love equally? I don’t know, just seems a useless word. Or at least, for me. I guess I do not have a favorite, but here’s an insane amount of bands:
  • TOOL, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, Stone Sour, Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold, Mudvayne, Portishead/Beth Gibbons, Coheed & Cambria, Notorious B.I.G, WuTang Clan, Eminem, Katy Perry, Machinehead, Trivium, Elvis Costello, David Bowie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, King 810, holy fuck I sound nuts hahahahahahahahaha
  • Independent Artists (making this separate because I really want to emphasize artists changing the paradigm of music…although Puscifer is the same, but I’m babbling): Widetrack L.A.W (Love All Ways)Leo Moracchioli – Frog Leap Studios
  • how about this: I love everything music except country. Hard, hard pass on country. I just can’t even.

Where do you go when you’re sad?

  • I go to my therapist, her name is music. I play songs that echo my emotions so I can feel, accept, and release. Then, like my mind, I change the track and move on. 
  • Sometimes, if things are really tough, I go to my other therapist, my car. I play music and I drive for hours to nowhere. As the scenes change before my eyes, I can let the scenes change inside as well. 
  • Shanteel Yoga Sanctuary where my breath and movement can cultivate my true nature: calm in the storm. 
  • My Journal or blog to give voice to whatever needs a voice.

How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

  • Ha, how presumptive, you think I get ready in the morning…
  • Seeing as I tend to wander the earth in my pajams (unless I sleep in my clothes), there is never really “getting ready”. You could call this lazy, I would call it perpetually prepared. 
  • That’s a lie, I call it lazy too. AND might I add, comfortable 😉

Have you ever been in a physical fight?

  • Yes..I used to be pretty violent. My walls lost a lot. 

What turns you on?

  • People who can introduce new perspectives, HUMOR (that should be first, oh well, we’re not deleting here), people who aren’t afraid or ashamed of their scars/bullshit/crazy/whatever, authenticity
  • Neck kisses/bites
  • RESPECT
  • Did I say funny? Funny people. Funny people are the best. I wish I was funny 😛

What turns you off?

  • Idiots, Stupidity, Ignorance, SMALL TALK (EW), disrespect… actually take everything I said above and make it opposite. there you go.

Qualities you look for in a partner?

  • Hmm…seeing as necrophilia is wholly frowned upon, I will go with a pulse and respiration. 

Loud or soft music?

  • Loud baby, if it’s too loud, you’re too old…unless it gets too loud, in which case, I’d prefer soft. It really just depends on how I am using the music. If I’m driving? Sunny day? Windows down and blast that good shit.

Favourite quote?

  • “No one is more dangerously insane then one who is sane all of the time” ~Alan Watts (AKA my dead philosopher husband…#WhyIAmSingle)

Favourite actor?

  • If you followed my blog MahButtItches, you will know this answer very clearly would be Jeff Goldblum. 
  • Also: Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jonny Depp, Mike Myers, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Omg, whatever, all of them…

Do you have any fears?

  • My only fear is not having lived before I die. Seeing as I am dying every moment I’m living, I suppose I am deathly afraid of spiders, and weird creepy crawly things, and small rodents and whatnot. I just don’t need to be surprised by something in my mouth or bed or whatever that I wasn’t expecting.
  • That sounds SO dirty. No delete. Also accurate. I don’t think I’d appreciate waking up with a random penis in my mouth either. Buy me dinner first, sheesh.

What’s the last thing that made you cry?

  • I just finished reading The Book of Joy, and reading the Tibetan children describing leaving their families behind to journey to India…I’m going to start crying now. There was this one little boy talking about saying goodbye to his Mother…these kids are 5…his father brought him to India and said he would be right back and he never saw him again.  Can you imagine? 
  • I also weirdly teared up during Thor: Ragnarok last night when Thor was talking to Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin and he was saying how Thor is stronger than him…
  • If you think that’s weird, I sobbed, and I mean SOBBED when King Kong died..
  • I’m vewwwy speshul

Last time you said you loved someone?

  • 5 minutes ago when I said goodbye to my friend
  • Then I kissed my wee man and told him I love him too. 
  • Aww fuck it, whoever you are reading this: I love you too

Last book you read?

  • The Book of Joy – Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams

The book you’re currently reading?

  • Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris
  • The Yamas & Niyamas – Deborah Adele
  • The Bhagavad Gita – (actually just bought Ram Dass’ version because I wanted to see his thoughts on this…previously I’ve been reading a passage at a time and letting it marinate, but his is called Paths to God Living the Bhagavad Gita)
  • The Dhammapada (kind of same as Bhagavad Gita, I’m reading a passage every so often and letting it marinate
  • A Course in Miracles

Last show you watched?

  • I guess Sons of Anarchy, oh and Last Week Tonight – it’s like the only show I actually watch with regularity until Westworld FINALLY comes back and of course Game of Thrones

Last place you were?

  • I was at this super awesome adorable wonderful cafe – Down To Earth Cafe – all local/organic food, amazing coffee, it’s just so cool. I have a Sunday Breakfast/Brunch date there with my soul sistah who is going to be joining me on this writing journey as an author on this here blog, so woot! That’s what we were nomming and talking over today.

Last sport you played?

  • Does yoga count as a sport? If not, I have no frigging clue. Probably mini golf. Is that a sport? 

Who’s the last person you talked to?
My wee man – which I mean, my youngest son, not some sort of dirty double entendre or anything. 

The last song I sang?

  • I was just belting out “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes, but covered by Leo Moracchioli. Prior to that was I’m Too Sexy…

Favorite chat up line?

  • WTF is a chat up line? I talk to people on Facebook Messenger and text a lot. I have snapchat, I use it randomly.

Do you have a crush?

  • Uhh…. I would love to have an Orange Crush right about now. 

The relationship between you and the person you last texted?

  • My soul Sistah!

Favourite food?

  • See again with the favorite thing. All the foods. Except the foods I don’t like.
  • Italian especially
  • Although I can’t forget Sushi
  • Omg and Indian – ALL THE KORMAS
  • I’m hungry now

Place you want to visit?

  • It would probably be easier to say where I do not want to visit and that would be an uncleaned port-a-potty. Ugh.

What’s the last time you kissed someone?

  • I kiss my children on the daily, yo
  • I think this was meant to be more scintillating, and in that case, I don’t know, probably a couple weeks ago? Maybe? 

Last time you were insulted?

  • Uhh…probably same timeline as above. We are all shittalkers, yo. Some of us are more honest/verbal….

Favorite sweets?

  • All of the sweets – except cake. I’m not much of a cake person, I don’t know why. Unless it’s rum cake, because that is delicious.

What instruments do you play?

  • I am an avid skin flutist
  • I’m just kidding

Favourite piece of jewellery?

  • I wear a mala pretty frequently, when I don’t forget to put it on. 

Last time you hung out with anyone?

  • This morning, cause i’m super popular and cool and whatnot
  • Who should answer these questions?
    Your Mom.

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!

Tree Hugging Hippies Are Cool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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