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little posy

Finding my way through life, stopping to smell the posies along the way.

Lenten Goals

I find myself mentally prepared and ready for investment and renewal.  I’ve done my preparation and now I’m ready to put the realizations and lessons into practice. I haven’t been diligent in my self care lately.  I haven’t exercised as I should, and I’ve been careless with my diet.  My emotional and mental health have struggled.  Looking back, I recall that when this happens, it usually calls for rebalancing and grounding. Enter the season of Lent.

As a converted Catholic, I enjoy Lent. The schedule of extra masses and participation of Stations of the Cross can be undesirable as the weeks accumulate.  However, I find this time very productive in terms of growth, grounding, and spiritual connection.  It has a way of clearing out the mental and spiritual clutter that accumulates after the holidays.  It’s a time to come back to the New Year resolutions after the daily grind has worn them away. In past years I’ve given up tv, social media, and chocolate.  Other years I’ve added prayer and devotional time. Much like my resolutions, I don’t always fully achieve my Lenten goals, but I finish the season better than I started.

This year I’m choosing 6 goals. Yes, this is a very lofty list.  A few are common place, and a few are new, but necessary additions.  Hopefully after Lent has passed, I will have gained mental clarity, spiritual grounding, and a healthier body.  With my mind, body, and spirit renewed, I hope to find a more peaceful and balanced lifestyle.  I wish you a meaningful Lent.  Peace be with you throughout this Lenten season.

Busy American Days

Alarm, Snooze, Repeat x 3

I pull myself out of bed and into the shower.  At some point during the hottest shower I can endure, I feel the wake up.  My body and mind begin to wake up and the fog lifts momentarily.  I finish and get dressed.  Take one child to school.  Return home to hurry the next child and myself along.  Pack the lunch, maybe eat breakfast, and do hair and make-up.  Take the dog out and pour the coffee.  Coats, bags, and coffee on and in hand as we rush out the door.  If it’s like most mornings, we are behind schedule at this point.  Drop child off at school, and I’m on my way, praying not to get a speeding ticket or have an accident.

On my commute, I redirect my attention to the current events via NPR.  Oh, how I love NPR.  It’s my daily education.  If you follow my posts, you know how much I enjoy learning.  It’s almost meditative.  I’m able to disconnect from myself and thoughts and give my attention to what I would consider bigger, more important matters.  Then the sleepiness returns.  It’s about 8:20, and at 8:30 I arrive safely at work praising God and hailing Mary.  Seriously.

My anxiety and depression come to their first peak of the day.  With a full day ahead, I do not feel hopeful..  I feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities and highly under-equipped for success.  I attempt to decompress.  Deep breaths, check email, prepare lessons.  The morning is underway and I surrender to the day.  Once the bulk is over, I begin to feel better.  Lunch time not only provides refueling, but a rest, and a relief in knowing that I’m making it through.

Throughout the day there are instructional, behavioral, and professional challenges.  Some days it’s truly overwhelming.  The critiques and demands from administration combined with the challenges each student brings, weigh on me.  I feel pressure to be the expert, the all-knowing guru of my profession.  I’m to know what and how to offer the most effective treatment and cure.  Some days, I do.  Some days I don’t.  Sometimes, I’m able to remind myself that I don’t have a magic wand. Occasionally, I’m able to remind myself that every one, adult and child, bring their unique circumstances with them that are out of my control.  I can only offer my best which is the result of my training, clinical observation, intuition, and human kindness.

Alas, the lessons are done.  Some were effective, others would welcome improvement.  End of the day paperwork is completed.  I pack up and head home.  Once I’m home it’s time to rest, maybe nap, if I’m lucky.  This is not for the lack of other chores and responsibilities that are calling me.  It’s that I simply cannot go any further without collapsing.  By this point in the day I’m ravishingly hungry, or hangry AND tired, which is the absolute worst combination.  Over the next hour, I snack and rest.  Run down the homework needs and play with the dog.  Talk about multi-tasking, and this is my rest!  Husband returns home to an exhausted wife that is a mere shell of the young woman he married.  He is tired and frustrated with the day and life just as I am.  We exchange our pleasantries.  I listen to his daily recap only when he truly answers, “How was your day?”  Most days he opts to not relive it or burden me.  Kids are shuttled to and from their activities.  Dinner is somehow prepared or purchased.  Workouts may or may not have occurred.

At some point, everyone is fed, showered, and fall into bed.  Everyone except for me.  My anxiety and depression peak again.  This isn’t to say that I haven’t had existential thoughts throughout the day.  They just peak in the morning and at a night.  I’m convinced that I will be a sun downer when I’m elderly.  At night, when the house is quiet, the day surfaces and I begin to process it and everything else I’ve had to push away just to keep going, to survive.  Thoughts of running checklists and tallying the day’s events race through.  Judgements are placed.  Memories surface, some recent memories, and some are memories that float up from childhood that give me better self-understanding.  Fears arise.  The what ifs bubble up. Sometimes I can pop them.  Other times, they stick and linger a little too long.   Thoughts then turn to the tomorrow.  I escape through “Friends” on Netflix.  I know it’s silly and lame, but it’s my go to feel good escape.  Eventually, I peel myself off of the couch and go to bed.  I say my prayers, and sleep for about 6.5 all to wake up and begin again.

I know I’m not special.  I know I’m truly blessed.  But I get the feeling that there’s a high volume of folks traveling through life just as I am, and just like me they are very uncomfortable with this passive existence.  I am not worried about water, food, or shelter.  No one in my family is sick, and my relationships lack any abuse.  I’ve learned that is what truly matters.  For these gifts, I am incredibly thankful.  I am grateful that my existential ramblings and wonderings are the greatest of my concerns.  I know it could be much worse.  I am blessed, searching, but still blessed.  Sure, my job/career provides a multitude of conveniences and without them I would have a lot more valid concerns to express rather than, “What do I want my life to be?”  The mere choice is a blessing.

Our parents’ generation did the grunt work for us.  They put in the hours and formed the unions so we could have a better life.  Perhaps, this better life is not wealth, but enlightenment.  Not that I am wealthy, but my needs are met, and now the focus is on my wants.  We were taught that we’d be happy if we checked all the boxes:  got good grades, played nicely, went to college, got a degree or two, and then got a ‘good job.’ I don’t think our parents had any idea that happiness went beyond their main objective to feed, clothe, and house their families without struggle.  That was the goal, and certainly remains.  Repeatedly, my parents would tell me that they didn’t want us to struggle as they did.  This was a financial struggle.  We were taught that happiness comes from survival and financial stability, and that everything else would fall into place as a result.  What I’m now trying to understand is how to truly achieve fulfillment and what role my career plays.

What I do know is that this is not working for me.  My hope is that someday it will pay off.  I attempt to channel patience and gratitude.  Often, I shamefully fail.  Every ounce of me is crying for a change.   I crave more time with my loved ones, and not just more time, but quality time.  I want to be able to welcome them home every day with a smile and a hug.  I want to discuss the ins and outs of their day.  I want to make them feel important, because they are.  I want to create joyful experiences that produce life long memories.  I don’t want to be remembered for yelling about shoes left out or clothes in the bathroom.   I want day-to-day routines and traditions that teach my children what really matters.  I know that 90% of all the stuff in our days doesn’t really matter, but my children don’t.  I want the time to love and nourish them, not just to shuttle them from one thing to the next.  Right now, I feel that I’m teaching them how to hurry, how to rush through life without noticing its gifts all around us.  I’m teaching them not to take time for love and affection.  I find it terribly unfortunate that although it may not matter, it is necessary when you’re in the race.  Right now, I’m teaching them how to race.   Now I wonder, against what or whom, and how do we stop?

 

Post Election Writer’s Block on the Kitchen Floor

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Some people choose the bathroom floor. I choose the kitchen floor. It’s a middle earth of sorts. I can hear the activity in the living room, and hide in solitude all at the same time. This is often where I find myself reading, writing, or just sitting drinking. The kitchen really is the soul of the home.

This evening, I sit once again in post snow day bliss. On the kitchen floor, enjoying a late afternoon coffee, I think and try to process these exhausting few weeks since the election. Everyday I’m bombarded, yes by my choosing, with the news of the president’s actions and the controversies that follow. I’m deeply concerned as an American.  All the while, my personal life remains busy. Children, work, marriage, friendships, and my internal dialogue pull me in every imaginable direction. I attempt make sense of the weight, trying to sort through it all like my equally intimidating pile of laundry.

I sit quietly. Breathe. “Begin,” a voice whispers. Begin what? The new chapter of a book, my career, my life?  Too much, too big.  I think smaller. Begin where I am, with the word. All I have in this moment are the words flying through my mind. “Find the words that will spur action. Find the words that will excite and captivate,” my inner critic rages. The volume overwhelms me . It all feels too deep, like a surreal ocean with new, unimaginable creatures and characters within an alternate universe complete with its own set of “alternative facts.”

I sense that we are the fringe of a new time. How beneficial or detrimental has yet to be confirmed. As most beginnings, it is bewildering. Recognizing the vast capacity of its potential effects is a start. Ignorance has brought us here. Hopefully, intelligence and empathy will rescue us. I haven’t figured out the recipe to healing, or success. I don’t yet have a formed argument or the necessary corresponding solution. Likewise, there is no cure for my own purposes.  Only rambling, blurry thoughts and emotions circle around the center that holds the golden box of answers.

Today, I haven’t discovered the answers, or written a profound piece that will inspire generations. I present only my internal dialogue that may or may not have entertained the reader. This evening, in the safety of my kitchen, I reflect on it all. I sit watching the tie dyed colors of my personal micro vs macrocosm mix and mingle, entertaining me just enough to remain on the kitchen floor. Yet, with the simple act of discussion through writing, I find a morsel of peace.  I put the words down.  I wrote, no matter how poor or eloquent. The kitchen truly is the soul of the home that has fed mine.

 

*Photo credit: Little Posy featuring:  Present Over Perfect by Shauna Neiguist.

Inauguration Day 2017

Foreword:

I typically do not publicly express political opinion.  However, much like many others, I am feeling the weight of the current political climate.  Sitting in silence is not a productive solution, nor is merely spouting my opinion.  Therefore, I’m offering both my opinion and service.  In the near future I will be participating in my local political process by learning what I can peacefully offer and assist with at the local level.  I’m starting with my circle of control, starting small, but starting.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Gandhi

Today my heart is heavy.  My mind is busy as I struggle to find the words to express all that swirling within.  Today history is in the making.  True, that can be said of every day, but today a new global leader takes the stage to represent our citizens and serve as living democracy.

I have disagreed with most of his public statements, his tone, lack of respect, and his incitement of fear and lies.  I have often listened to speeches and cringed at the sound of his inarticulate use of opinions as facts, and sweeping generalizations without substantiation.  Upon his election, I was deeply troubled, saddened, and ashamed of my fellow Americans.  How is it that we chose THIS man to lead us?  How is it that we chose this bully to represent us in the global community?  There are a multitude of things that I do not understand.  This is one of many.  I simply do not understand how the electorate found agreement with his messages.  I do not understand how the working class felt that this swindler, thieving, top 1% billionaire, racist will be the average middle class, lower class citizens’ martyr in our diverse nation of immigrants.  I remain baffled.

Election day came and went.  Everyone survived.  Mr. President Elect and President Obama met publicly and privately.  It was a peaceful, respectful meeting that gave me hope.  I hoped that it was all an act.  I had hoped that Mr. Trump’s campaign was a performance, and that if/when he took office, he would command honor.  After all, he is a showman and businessman at heart.  Was it all a ploy to gain votes, to tell his base what they wanted to hear?  He knows how to tap into mass psyche and sell.  He is indisputably successful in that regard.  Hopefully, if anything, that will be a strength and not a weapon.  Hopefully, it will continue to serve him well and our nation well in the next 4 years.

Despite my new-found hope and open mind, I was soon dismayed once again.  A presidency is more that the man in charge.  It’s an administration.  Mr. Trump began to choose his cabinet.  What?  Seriously?  These are who you have chosen to guide your decision making???  In my opinion, he chose individuals who are unqualified or misplaced by their expertise in their given position.  Why was Mr. Ben Carson appointed for Housing and not the Surgeon General?  He chose someone who previously disagreed with the sheer presence of the EPA, to now govern it.  And let’s not forget his choice for PUBLIC Education.  These selections are riddled with multiple conflicts of interest both in theory and in business ethics. Again, I dive deep to scrape some hope together.  I hold on tightly to the belief that we all want the same principles, but we differ on the ‘how’ best to achieve them. Perhaps, these individuals in top leadership offices will bring about positive reformation that will indeed benefit our nation and better our lives.  Perhaps, these individuals will think outside the box to reach logical compromises.  Perhaps, I am completely mistaken.  Perhaps…

As Mr. Trump peacefully takes his oath as President of the United States of America, it is with gratitude for the process, and wavering hope that I observe the day’s events.  It is my sincere, enduring hope for empathy, respect, and bi-partisanship to guide innovative progress and replace ignorance, fear, and greed.  I pray that my initial conclusions are wrong.  I pray my disappointment and disgust are inaccurate.   Although, Mr. Trump may not be my chosen president, he is OUR president.  May God guide him and our leaders to lead by His Holy example.  May God Bless America.

Realization & Reliance

Your heart doesn’t need a corrector or a rescuer –
it needs a companion. This is why you are here. To be for yourself what no one else was capable of being for you. Yearn to be nowhere else but wherever your heart seems to be; welcoming each concern, honoring every worry, consoling any pain,
and celebrating all inspirations, one meaningful moment at a time. This is the heart of realization.
– Matt Khan

I have found that there are times when there is no cure for sadness. No amount of chocolate, alcohol, sunshine, hugs, sleep, water, distraction, quiet, or anything else can take away the pain. It simply must be felt. There is no hiding from it, and that’s okay.  This is what it is. I can not control it. I can only feel, cry, rest, or breathe in order to honor my needs. Maybe I channel my energies into art or clearing my space. Maybe I walk or run. Maybe I just sit. Either, or all, is fine.

There may not be that one person to hold you and quiet your fears. The friend that you have relied on may have moved on and grown in their own way. I have found times when I need to be my person for myself. I need to sit with myself, give the comfort, space, and love that no one else can give.  Once again, I accept the pain is mine, no one else’s.

There are times that grief schedules a visit, when I feel that I need to brace myself and prepare. Sometimes when it all returns, it slithers in.  Other times it attacks unexpectedly. There is no shame, no judgment. It’s an energy all it’s own. I commit to honoring it and myself. Welcome self reliance.

In the Aftermath, This Is What Getting Stronger Feels like

When he, my father, passed, I didn’t even know it.  I didn’t know how different my world would be, how differently I would perceive it, nor how differently I would interact with everything around me now. The 2 year anniversary is approaching.  I just realized moments ago that like the wine glass that fell earlier in the evening, I am shattered.  Now I’m cleaning up my pieces.  They are sharp, they cut, no longer beautifully assembled as they once were, but spread out, and broken.  The blunt force of my initial grief has faded.  Now I’m in the aftermath, cleaning up the pieces of my being and trying to put myself back together again in some resemblance of my former self; post storm.

As my husband leaned in to kiss me goodnight, he groaned from his post workout pains.  I responded, “that’s what getting stronger feels like.”  The echo replayed several times in my head as it sunk in.  This is what getting stronger feels like.  It feels like pain, like fear, like missing your best friend, missing yourself because you can’t find those pieces that were destroyed in the fall.  It feels lonely and so morbidly sad.  It’s feeling yourself breaking, still.  It’s being lost, not knowing which way to turn, not knowing how to navigate my new world.  It’s an insatiable craving for connection without a cure.

Yet, it also feels like enlightenment.  I’m learning so much all over again.  Step by step and day by day, I find my way.  It feels like the brink of discovery as I rebuild.  It feels like placing my pieces back together, and somehow they fit better than they did before, truer this time.  I am simultaneously weaker and stronger in different ways.

This is the aftermath:  assessing the damage, redesigning, and beginning repairs.  A painful process of rebuilding complete with set backs, delays, and missing materials.  Maybe once I was a wine glass, beautiful and delicate.  Perhaps someday my pieces will fit better as a juice glass, smaller, sturdier, and more functional.  In the mean time, this is what getting stronger feels like.  Come my completion, I will be built stronger.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

This essay was written much earlier this year during a very difficult time. I’m choosing to share now as to be a voice for those coping with anxiety. It’s personal, so it’s even harder for me to put this out. Its an attempt in bravery.

This is for the worrier. This is for the one who is struggling daily or occasionally. This for the one who feels alone. This my story that I’m sharing to demonstrate that we all struggle with one thing or another, at one time or another.

Sometimes you don’t have control, despite your best efforts. There are times that just maintaining is a success. That’s okay. Keep on, keeping on. Please know you are never alone. May we be kind to one another, as we never know the private struggles that each of carry.

April/May 2016

Don’t worry, be happy

If only it was that simple. It suggests that I have a choice. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a worry wart, often making a mountain out of a mole hill.

I’ve always managed through with prayer and self logic, but recently worry and fear have consumed me. This, I believe is the true meaning of anxiety. Not just a hyper examination of potential outcomes, but the belief and preparation of your greatest fears coming true. As if that wasn’t enough, add on grief, life stresses, and the lack of control that life can bring. “Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.” What else would I worry about? If I can control it, I know it will be okay. I can manage that. It’s all of those things I can’t control, including my worry, that bring me anxiety.

I worry about my children, their lives and choices. I pray that they are guided and grounded by the Holy Spirit and my father’s hand. I worry about the health of our global society that they will inhabit. I worry about my husband. He’s been my rock since I’ve met him, and now more than ever. I worry about my mother her health and wellbeing, and if I’m a good enough daughter. I worry whether I’m fulfilling God’s will. I worry about my relationships with others, and if my actions and words are synonymous with my intentions. Now I worry about my health, and the effect I may soon inflict upon my family.

I may have cancer. Yes, the c word. After losing 3 family members in the course of 6 months, and several neighbors all to the big C, I’m truly terrified. So terrified that only a select few are aware of my situation. I’ve hidden my situation out of protecting my family, not wanting to be the source of gossip, and having to provide answers and explanations when I myself only have questions. I’m exhausted. I have no energy to be social. The grief of last year combined with this potential diagnosis has created an all encompassing, debilitating level of anxiety.

I continue to work. Only my room mate there knows of my situation. I put on a brave face and pretend I’m ok. I try my best to not project my worry and stress onto my children. So I continue to pretend. My visits with family are staged. We talk, but I’m very careful to not discuss myself. I dodge anything personal and inquire about my family member to refocus their attention.

Although my husband has seen a couple of my panic attacks, I protect him, too. I don’t complain and hide most of my tears. Instead, I listen to him. I allow him to vent about his very stressful job, because I know how essential it is to be heard. I do rest. I rest a lot. If one was to look for me, I can easily be found on the couch under the blanket. And my husband, he picks up all the pieces for us. I’m a mess and he is our care taker. So if and when he needs to vent, I listen. It’s literally the least I can do.

Occasionally I get invited for a social gathering. That’s a no win for everyone involved. If I don’t get invited, I feel left out. If I am invited, I feel pressured and overwhelmed, and rarely accept the invitation. I am in no state to be social. I have nothing positive to contribute. Who would want to listen to my current events of grief, loss, stress, fatigue, worry, Doctor appts, MRI, ct biopsy? No one. This is not cocktail conversation. So I politely decline. I appreciate being thought of, since most often I feel forgotten. I can no longer blame those in my circle. How many times do you invite someone who never accepts? They’ve surely met their obligatory quota. The loneliness feeds the monster that is my anxiety.

Don’t worry. You don’t know yet. But that’s it. I don’t know. I don’t know, after 6 months of testing, X-rays, and consults with arguably the country’s best doctors, I still don’t know. I don’t know if I will continue to live my normal middle class life, undergo treatment, or have a terminal diagnosis. This is real, and my experiences have taught me that the worst is possible. I watched my father pass. It is terrifying to me that my children, as children, will be forced to do the same with me. I’m terrified that my mother will lose her baby, all after losing her husband and two siblings to same disease.

Recently when my brother lost a dear friend, and I asked how I can help, his response was simply, “stay alive.” Stay alive? I’m trying my best.

So I hide, pretend, protect, worry, rest, and pray.

 

Update: No cancer, healed from surgery, still being monitored, still worrying-but much less so. Still learning, still alive, and counting my many blessings!

Connection Challenge

This is NOT a chain. This is a gesture of mine in attempt to reach out and DO something to create positivity and kindness. As I challenge you, I am challenging myself to come out of hiding.

If you are like me, I’ve been feeling very disconnected lately. With the election season, tragic world events, fast paced living, and pseudo interactions, I can’t help feeling that we’ve lost the connection to one another. I miss conversations that go beyond pleasantries. I miss personalization when mass contacts have become the norm. Ironically, the more social networking we do, the less connected we are becoming. I’m observing that this may be leading to increased judgement that focuses on our differences, instead of our similarities. We are all in this world together. It’s time to reconnect.

So, I challenge you to connect this holiday season. Send a text, or personalized message, to someone you miss. Give that long lost friend or family member a call. Leave a hand written note of encouragement to someone who you know needs some love. That person who you take for granted, let them know how you appreciate their spirit. Maybe contact an acquaintance you’ve been meaning to get to know better. A good deed, a lunch date, a smile, or a compliment; no genuine act of kindness is too big or small.

Silent change

It’s time to step away
Time to sit in silence
Time to clear the clutter and slow the pace
Time to return value to its rightful owner
Time to recharge while disconnecting the cord
Time for human connection
Time for what is real, no more hyperboles or falsehoods to entertain
Time to concentrate on the meaningful while letting the rest filter through
Time to do my part to be the change that I hope to see

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