Archive | September 2015

Shades Of Blue, writers on depression, suicide and feeling blue Edited by Amy Ferris

A REVIEW AND A BIT OF MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE ON THE SUBJECT

http://www.amazon.com/Shades-Blue-Writers-Depression-Suicide-ebook/dp/B012277YIO/ref=zg_bs_tab_pd_bsnr_2

 

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How expansive and amazing my life is becoming. This is the first nonfiction book I’ve read in I can’t even remember how long and I am humbly grateful and honored to have read it. On the surface, it would seem that a book with stories on these weighty subjects may be depressing, discouraging and dark. I know quite a bit about depression, feeling blue, addiction, and alcoholism. I didn’t count on the immediate recognition of empathy and identification with editor Amy Ferris introduction: The Balls-out Truth About Depression. I didn’t expect to be so sucked into the stories of struggle, despair, loss, renewal, irony, acceptance, amusement and hope. Yes, amusement. I surprised myself at how a select few of the stories made me laugh out loud as with the tragically absurd rock bottom point of Samantha White’s: The Dialectics of Suicide. Or haunted, absolutely haunted by Jimmy Camp’s: A Slip Of The Noose and Jenna Stone’s: Upon Being Told To Be True To Myself.  The order of the stories is quite perfect, ending with the absolutely attainable and sustainable hope written about in Pam L. Houston’s: A Kind Of Quiet Most People Have Forgotten.

I’ve read that this book was conceived in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, even in response to it. It’s an important book that sheds much-needed light on the lingering stigma of depression, suicide, mental illness and feeling blue. The reading of it for me was like experiencing the combination of a 12 step speaker meeting and group therapy.

I haven’t read any books in quite some time. This is because the books I used to read, or more accurately re-read were familiar themed romance novels. Time traveling Highland Scottish romance, Cowboy romance and Regency era romances were my preferential escape for years. If I ventured from that genre, it wasn’t very far and it was always fiction. I really never wanted any part of non-fiction, interesting biographies or New York Times important bestsellers.

Ah, but then you see, my spiritual and personal growth began to pervade all areas of my life. I had no interest in any of my usual romance books so I gave away 95% of them in the recent move to my new home. This laptop, my blog, the welcoming community of writers, spiritual leaders and coaches on Facebook are what fuel me now. Somehow it started with the beautiful light and love that is Jennifer Pastiloff– the yoga teacher, writer, facilitator of retreats and workshops on manifestation. I still can’t recall exactly how I came across her page or exactly why I started watching her videos when it was not in my nature to pay attention to those things on Facebook before. But her light, her energy, her magic caught me, encouraged me and challenged me from the very start. Her story in this book, Someday This Pain May Be Useful is so honest and vulnerable. Through her and her phenomenal online community of beauty hunters, writers, yogis, and editors, I came across the amazing Amy Ferris– Editor extraordinaire and fantastic writer in her own right. I’d seen Jennifer post that she was proud to be a part of the community of writers attached to Shades Of Blue a while back, put I wasn’t sure what it was about. I know now and I am better for it.

I have personally lived through some very dark episodes at various points in my life, dragging my poor helpless children and a clueless young husband with me at times. Soon I will have an essay of my own published on Jennifer Pastiloff’s website The Manifest-Station that covers some of the subject matter in this book. These stories are authentic, with real life solutions, conclusions, endings and hard fought new beginnings. It’s well worth the price and the time. I urge you to check out the link at the top of this blog. Buy a book, expand your knowledge of important subjects brought to light.

This entry was posted on September 29, 2015. 1 Comment

Where I Live…

Looking into the open concept kitchen of my new home

Looking into the open concept kitchen of my new home

I’m very comfortable in my new home. Notice I didn’t refer to it as my new place. This is because I’ve taken the time, spent the money and made the effort to make it feel like a home, my home. It’s something I admired and envied about my friends’ homes over the years, but never bothered to do for my own. When I walk in my back door after a day at work, I really see my home and I feel at peace. I love the fact that I have a ground floor apartment with a front AND back door. Easy access too, no security gates to hassle with when friends want to come by.

Let’s back up a little. Before I moved to this new home I lived in a 90-unit apartment complex with security gates for cars and foot traffic. You had to use a key to get in and OUT of the security gates for foot traffic, which was inconvenient. Plus no guest parking inside the complex parking lot. Trust me it was a huge pain in the ass when out of town family came to visit and stay overnight. I lived in that complex for nearly 14 years in 3 different upstairs apartments. When I first moved to this small mountain valley town I was a single mother with three children aged 14, 12 and 7. The safety factor was a plus but I also isolated and lived a very withdrawn, secluded life. I was friendly and outgoing at work, but I was still a pretty negative person. I had not allowed myself to become connected with the 12 step community yet. My meeting attendance was sporadic at best, so I got to know a few faces and people over the first four or five years. Yet I never wanted anyone to come to my place to see where I lived. In fact, I’d been with my spiritual advisor at the time for six years before she was invited to my apartment. Only after she realized she’d never been to my place and kept pressuring me, gently but firmly. She lived here too. My kids and I always went to her house for holidays and special occasions. Her house which was really beautiful and very well decorated. It took me nearly a year to unpack most of my moving boxes and I was never a good housekeeper, so my place was almost always disorganized, cluttered and dirty.

cocoons-329070__180Living inside that complex was both a cocoon and a cage of my own making. When I’d come home from work with fast food for dinner most nights, I barely looked at where I lived. I couldn’t stand to. I would spend evenings on the couch zoning out on television or have my nose in a romance book. I almost never let the kids have friends over to play, and they knew better than to ask if any could spend the night. It was all I could do working full time, still in the early years of recovery/sobriety, raising three children. I knew I was not doing it well, but it was the best I was capable of. I could barely stand myself, so I truly believed no one else would if they really got to know me, deep down where I lived. I went in and out of depressive, isolative states over those first four of five years. Always running back to the 12 step community when “my ass was falling off”. About nine years ago, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired- in sobriety no less. I went to a Sunday morning meeting in the park and fell apart one more time, or really, one last time. My spiritual advisor was there and gave me some very sound advice, which I was willing to follow wholeheartedly.

I stayed connected to my 12 step community this time. They are my spiritual kin. It was through them and strengthening a conscious contact with God that helped me grow. It helped me develop the courage to slowly, oh so slowly, begin to look at myself. Just myself at this point. I had moved to another apartment across the hall about three years earlier. I did a little bit with the place, not much. The television, cable, and the internet were hooked up. My books were unpacked on a few bookshelves in the dining room area. That was the place where my spiritual advisor got an invitation to dinner. I made spaghetti and cornbread because she had never heard of that combination and insisted she wanted me to fix it for her. She obviously was not Southern or African-American. It was a start, this having others, personal friends in my place where I lived. She loved the dinner and said she like my place.

My third and final place in that complex was on the other side of the complex. It was an exact mirror of my old place, but it had been modernized with faux granite counter tops, popcorn ceiling removed, new linoleum on the kitchen and bathroom floors. A new start of sorts as I’d been in the old place about nine years and it was pretty thrashed. Over time and shortly before that move, about eight of my spiritual kin had moved into the complex. I was close to a few of them and I had to get comfortable with friends that had access to me because they were INSIDE my cocoon/cage! That was an adjustment, but not nearly as much of one as I thought. I started to allow Baby Bub to have friends come over and spend the night, as long as we had the place cleaned up. I was still doing my television vegging or book oblivion because I still wasn’t happy with where I lived.

The thing with spiritual and emotional growth is that even when it feels like your stuck or not making progress, you actually are. Like a cocoon, a lot of the work is going on inside, where the world or you can’t see if you’re not willing to look. My avoidance of looking at the place where I lived was actually a Divine Dissatisfaction with how I lived at the time. Through a therapist I started working with nearly 2 years ago and my 12 step work, I finally got to a place where I was brave enough to be honest about how I lived, where I lived and started to do something about it. When my old complex sent a notice in May of this year that they were raising the rent once again, I’d had enough. I reached out to a dear friend, who literally helped me find a place on Craigslist that same evening. I contacted them, arranged to see the apartment, completed a rental application and had the place within three days. It’s a small 5-unit complex with no security gates, on the ground floor. I have no need for a cocoon or a cage anymore!  It has an open concept kitchen with front and back door access to the apartment, with a huge front patio that runs the length of the living room and my bedroom! I had a TON of help from friends at every stage of the move from packing, moving, unpacking and shopping for decorations. My home came together within the first six weeks.stock-photo-freedom-concept-escaping-from-the-cage-102249463

I’ve had drop-ins from close friends since I’ve been here and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each visit. I’ve had Dawny over for dinner a few times and I even hosted a Pampered Chef party! Really all of this is possible because I learned to love where I live, inside my spirit and by extension in my own skin. From that love, I have the willingness and energy to create an outward manifestation of it in my home. I have plans to continue manifesting this in other areas of my life. Stay tuned…

This entry was posted on September 26, 2015. 3 Comments

Am I Right Where I’m Supposed To Be?

Twelve-step programs are chock full of slogans and phrases. “Keep coming back”, “It works if you work it”, “Take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth”, “Dealing with life on life’s terms”, “This is a spiritual, not religious program” to name a few off the top of my head. The mantras were easy to remember and keep in mind. They made sense when explained and they helped to break through the fog of fear, insecurity and raw emotions of early sobriety and recovery. stock-photo-a-conceptual-look-at-responsibility-duty-accountability-liability-143745571The one that truly resonated for me was, “through our inability to accept personal responsibility, we were actually creating our own problems.” Kind of easy to see how that one stuck with me right? My inability to accept personal responsibility created problems well into my sobriety. Like the time, I got my electricity turned off for not paying my bill on time at four years clean and sober. Or the time I unknowingly drove around on a suspended driver’s license for over a year because of an unpaid parking ticket. Or up until six or seven years ago how I used to regularly bounce checks. Yes, I related to that phrase closely for a long time.

But the one I absolutely could not stand to hear, especially when directed at me specifically was “you’re right where you’re supposed to be.” I hated that phrase for years. What did it even mean for fuck’s sake? That’s right, that phrase brought out the f-word (although it doesn’t really take much). People usually said it to me after I’d expressed intolerance, frustration or outrage over something or someone’s behavior. It used to set my teeth on edge. Looking back, clearly I didn’t like where I was emotionally or mentally or spiritually. So it never helped to tell me I was “right where I was supposed to be”. You see, it was my lack of willingness to accept people, situations or myself that caused my frustrations or intolerance. Back then I didn’t know any better.

Today I feel like I’m much more accepting of myself and my life. But is it right where I’m supposed to be? I keep feeling like I should be further along in my spiritual growth, in my search for a new job (hello, I’ve sent my resume to one place as a referral from a friend with no results), in my physical fitness endeavors, in my personal relationships with family, in implementing my ideas to do more with this blog site and I can go on and on. Ah, dear me, here I am “should-ing” all over myself. This is where I go back to the phrase I most related to years ago and turn it on its ear.

Today, through my ability to accept personal responsibility I’m actually creating the life God wants for me. I am committed to maintaining a fit spiritual and physical condition, one day at a time. I am working on what direction to take my job search by looking and searching within myself. That takes time, effort and insight. My personal relationships with family are contingent upon meeting them where they are, not where I think they should be. Not an easy concept to live, but it’s working slowly but surely. As for the blog site, I’ve managed to consistently post in the manner I’ve intended for now.  I do none of these things perfectly or even as consistently as I’d like, but I keep at it no matter what. Eventually, that yields progress, which is always the better thing to aim for. Progress, not perfection- one of THE best slogans EVER! So I can say with mild reluctance that I am right where I’m supposed to be. work-in-progress-24027__180

This entry was posted on September 24, 2015. 2 Comments

It’s Time To Replace My Old Stories

meditation-833864__180How many old stories do you tell yourself that are just no longer true? Seriously think about them because I know I’m sick of the ones I’ve been telling myself for years. At best these stories were once how I survived the reality of my life. At worst now, they feel like delusional sabotage.

My most recent case in point? Last month I signed up for a TRE, Tension Releasing Exercise workshop at my yoga studio on Sunday, Sept. 20th. I thought I could use with some tension releasing. The facilitator, Tracy,  says the body stores traumas and unreleased tension/bad experiences in the psoas muscle (Google it folks because I’m not going into a long drawn out explanation). The TRE is a set of exercises designed to hyper arouse the  psoas muscle into LOTS of intense shakings and trembling which releases emotions stored there for years in a lot of cases. I had already experienced a small version of it in my first 5-6 yoga classes so I thought I could handle it with no problem. Well the story that began working on me started with propaganda or misinformation. The TRE workshop is from 1 pm to 2 pm, but for some reason in my head I thought it was from 1 pm to 3 pm! I went to a lecture the week before about the heart chakra (Anahata) and that was 2 hours, but all of the posts about the TRE workshop say it’s from 1 pm to 2 pm. Telling myself the workshop is 2 hours long was the beginning of dreading it. Could I even sustain that kind of physicality and emotion for two hours? I woke up this past Sunday morning not feeling so great. Nothing major, but it didn’t help thinking I had a 2-hour exercise workshop that was supposed to help release stored negative emotions or trauma. When I arrived there were a few women who had already set up their yoga mats, so I set mine up accordingly. I was assured by the owner of the studio that I was going to be fine when I admitted I was nervous. I laid down on my mat and did some deep breathing. My head was telling me I was crazy for doing this now that the workshop was here, it wasn’t safe(old story)! I continued to breathe and thought about how wrong the story was. This studio was safe for me because as I wrote earlier, I’d been having emotions come up during yoga classes, from the beginning in that very room. The teacher arrived and there was a lot of activity getting everyone’s mats comfortable with blankets and keeping them away from the walls because we would be using the walls for our exercises. From the start of the workshop, my head would not shut up, and that is not a good thing. It was telling me I was too heavy to do the warm-up exercises. I started to feel like the voice in my head was right and I couldn’t do this. Then we did the first exercise and I did not handle it well. My head kept telling me I couldn’t do this until I felt like it was right. We were to hold a certain pose with our backs and head against the wall in a squatted position, the deeper the better. We were not supposed to straighten our legs or take our backs off the wall and come out of the pose (I did, many times). By this time, I was actively fighting the urge to roll up my mat and run from the studio. I couldn’t breathe deeply and rhythmically either. I was fighting this with all I had. Geez. My teacher went around the room checking in with everyone, mind you, we’re still supposed to be in this pose! When she got to me and asked how I was doing, tears flooded from my tightly clenched eyes and I whispered to her that I couldn’t do this. She assured me that I could and asked me if I could squat a little deeper and widen my stance. She was so calm and reassuring about my tremblings and shaking. She got me breathing even though I was really doing deep sobbing by this time. It seems either my psoas muscle was activated despite my best efforts at resisting or I was just an emotional mess. Either way the tears and tension were releasing. We ended up holding that pose for twenty (20!) minutes! A lot less for me but I did keep going back into the pose and holding it as long as I could with my thighs screaming and my low back/hip area quaking. Next we moved to the mat and did a more familiar exercise and the quaking involved with that is beyond intense. Again the emotions came up, spilling over in tears and clenched fists. When the teacher came around, she gentled my fists until I relaxed them, all the while deep breathing through the quaking and crying. After that exercise came the soothing stretching and Savasana (resting corpse pose). It was over before my head could get back to squawking. I thanked my teacher while hugging her and confessed that I wanted to leave earlier. She quietly said she knew and thanked me for staying. The reality is that despite the vicious conflict within myself, I stayed for that damn workshop and did the best I was capable of. I am capable.

I also need to be careful with taking on other people’s stories as part of my own experience. My parents split when I was seven years old. My mom raised my sister, Michelle and I as a single mother. She held a lot of resentment against my father for not helping  to raise us and for not helping with financial support. I’m sure his drinking didn’t help. She had a right to feel the way she did, but she also passed along that resentment to me with her stories about him.  The resentment passed on to me never kept me from loving my Dad, but they were there because of someone else’s story. The reality was I grew up to develop my own resentments of him based on my personal relationship with him, but he loved my sister and me. He was entitled to our love and resentments based on our own experiences with him.

 

 

book-419589__180I just know that I’m exhausted. Not just from the TRE workshop, which worked despite my best (worst) efforts to sabotage it. I’m exhausted from the awareness and presence of my old stories. My old fear based, restrictive messages designed to isolate and keep me from the growth God has in store for me. It’s time to replace the stories with the reality of life. A reality faced with curiosity, willingness, trust, and faith. Shit, let’s not forget to put some humor in there too!

This entry was posted on September 22, 2015. 3 Comments

What Is Your Practice? Do You Have One?

practice-615657__180I ask this question because I keep coming across people in my life, who I respect and look up to, that mention their “practice” when referring to certain areas of their life. For example, my spiritual advisor, whom I talk to every Monday evening for up to an hour, refers to the time that she sets aside to meditate as her meditation “practice”. My yoga instructor suggests if we have a certain asana or pose that we get a lot of benefit from, we may want to jot it down in a notebook for another time if we have a yoga “practice” that we adhere to. I have a childhood friend, named Shileste Morris, who has written books, has her own blog site and Facebook page. She likes to encourage people to “practice your purpose”. I’m encountering the phrasing so much that it’s been sticking in my mind, tugging at my spirit and circling my heart. I needed to check out the definition as my 12 step work over the years has taught me the value and clarity of knowing the meaning of words.

prac·tice

noun

  1. the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use.
  2. repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.

verb

  1. perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.
  2. carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.

Well, that does clear things up. Now I turn the blog topic and question towards myself. What is my practice? DO I have one? And why is this concept sticking in my head, heart and spirit?

What is my practice? I want to say “off the top of my head”, but the truth is I’ve given it quite a bit of thought and I realize I do have a spiritual “practice”! The principles I’ve learned in my 12 step journey are what I “practice in all my affairs”, to the best of my ability in any given moment. Principles such as honesty, hope, faith (surrender), courage, integrity, willingness, humility, brotherly love, discipline, perseverance, awareness and service (charity). That may seem like a tall order, however, it  really isn’t at this stage in my recovery. The longer I practice these principles the narrower the road gets for me. This simply means that when I am confronted with a situation that demands a response or action from me I am able to fall back on the principles of my spiritual practice. When I act contrary to my principles and trust me, even now there are times when I react dysfunctionally before I think, it feels awful and wrong. Here again, I use my principle of awareness of what I’ve done and attempt to make it right as soon as possible. My self-care rituals are a part of my spiritual practice too. Prayer, meditation, yoga, walking/hiking and now, blogging/writing.

I feel the concept of “practice” is sticking with me because this new phase of my life requires I be more diligent in the application of my beliefs. This journey to my heart, my true self is demanding I exercise my principles to maintain and improve my spiritual growth. The reason that is so important is because I’m chartering new ground for myself. I am living in the land of little to no television, and I mean mostly no television. A land of sustained emotional, mental and spiritual presence where there is a marked decrease in emotional eating, and I mean a substantial decrease! I don’t even seriously entertain the thoughts of mindlessly stuffing junk food in my mouth. Because the thoughts still cross my mind, but I am AWARE in a way I’ve never been before so I don’t act on them. Or I eat a healthier alternative, or I indulge in a small amount. About the only thing that surprises me is that I’m NOT surprised by all this as if I’ve been ready or working towards this. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. However, to continue forward through what life can and surely will throw at me, I need to be diligent about my spiritual practices. mind-767583__180

My old way of dealing, or more accurately, not dealing with life no longer serves me. While it didn’t feel good to hide or avoid life through too much television, rereading too many romance books and mindless emotional eating, it served a purpose for a time. That time is over and when I discover what my Mission in Life is all about, I will practice my purpose.

This entry was posted on September 19, 2015. 1 Comment