Feet First!

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I’m not sure exactly when it clicked for me. The past 6 months, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching. Not just the sitting in silence, pondering life part. I mean the making lists and digging REALLY deep into who I am and who I want to be. Maybe it was turning 44—a mid-life crisis sort of thing. Maybe it was having my dream job and still feeling unhappy and unsatisfied. Whatever started this ball rolling, I am glad it did. I have never felt more empowered, motivated, and aligned as I do right now, in this moment.

This uneasiness I was feeling, this sense of having  no purpose, no path—it literally brought me to my knees. And I’m being completely honest here. I spent much of April and May of this year in bed. In tears. In complete and utter hoplessness. If I had the job I always wanted, the love of my life by my side, two magnificent boys ensconced at top-notch colleges, my elderly parents still alive and living with me, all the material things I wanted, why the hell was I in complete and utter despair? What the hell was wrong with me?

Yes, I’ve lived with depression my entire life. I know its in’s and out’s. I know its lies and destruction. I know how it seeps into your blood and into your soul. I know how that bitch sneaks into your bed at night and steals every ounce of happiness you had, with no reason, no rhyme, no warning. This was beyond that. This was a completely new thing. This was me floating helpless with no idea where I was going. I was no longer just depressed; I was lost. I, the real me, was gone.

I’ve been changing my eating habits and fitness habits since the first of the year. I’ve blown up over the last 18 years. I mean, BLOWN UP. I was about 100 pounds overweight. And I think here is where the moment of clarity came to me. It was on a treadmill, when I thought I couldn’t go any further. I was about to push the “stop” button on my treadmill, when I looked at my time. I was on there for 40 minutes. At a high speed and incline. When I first started in February, I could barely do 10 minutes with no incline and at a low speed.

Wait a second? Did I really do that?  Did I really come this far in a few months?  And I did this on my own. Yes, with support, but ultimately I was in control. It was when I realized how strong I could be physically that I realized how strong I am emotionally and mentally. I have been through so much shit in my life—I mean seriously. And here I am. Still. No matter what life has thrown at me, I’ve gotten through. And there it was, the truth I needed. Everything I needed was inside ME. I didn’t need to look to a job, to my love, to my nice car—-what I needed to thrive was me.

Now, I feel free. Is everything perfect and happy? No. Is my depression suddenly gone? No. But, now I know that the power lies inside me to overcome anything life throws at me. I am scared to death. I’m flying without a lifeline. I’m starting my own business to coach others to find themselves, to harness their power, and to do so with writing. I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself.

I’m jumping in feet first! And I’ve never felt so fearless in my life.

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Fluidity

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I went to the water to find peace–

somewhere in the waves,

where the sun fades and the noise becomes hollow.

 

I went to the water to find resilience–

like the aqua liquidity bending and shaping

to whatever it encounters.

 

I went to the water to find a sense of permanence–

like the lasting effect of years upon years of continuous movement,

that leaves its mark on all it touches.

 

I went to the water to find something, anything–

grasping for something concrete to hold onto

or finally letting go forever.

 

I went to the water to find comfort—

but in between the droplets, I found myself.

 

Droplets of Life

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I had an experience yesterday which honestly rocked me to my core. I was eating a Labor Day picnic lunch with my parents and my husband, when a piece of chicken got stuck in my throat. I panicked, which of course made it worse, and it lodged deep in my throat. I couldn’t breathe. My military-trained husband remained calm and gave me the Heimlich Maneuver…..twice to no avail. I started to see stars, the light started to fade. Finally, as I lay over the sofa, another thrust and out came the blockage. I didn’t stop shaking for hours. I’m still feeling the pain in my throat and my ribs.

Talk about a wake-up call! I suffer from severe anxiety and worry over the slightest things. But, I can tell you, in that instant–I wasn’t worried about if my bills were paid or if my hair looked ok and my make-up just right….I was worried about my husband. I would be leaving him with the care of my elderly parents. I was worried about my boys–would I see Harrison’s National Geographic photo shoot? Would I see Holden’s world-changing invention? What would my parents do if they lost a child? I was thinking about how I would never again feel the sun on my face or the water in my eyes.

Today, as most days, I went for a swim. It is my calming place, my sanctuary. It is where I feel most at peace. With all the chaos that lives in my head on a daily basis, I need a place to quiet the noise and allow me to just be. I find that in the water. My favorite thing to do is to stand under our pool fountain and watch the streams of water hit the surface, as the hot sun beats its rays on my face. Today, I noticed something different. Today, I noticed that these individual drops of water make their way through the fountain and come together in a stream, which then hits the surface and creates a ripple effect throughout the pool.

But, when those streams of water hit the sun, just right, they create this beautiful kaleidoscopic prism effect that looks like a rainbow.  I had never really noticed this before. It was magnificent. Aren’t our lives like those droplets of water? We come into this world as a single entity, but we come together with our parents, our friends, our spouses, our children to form a stream that flows through everything we do. And every once in a while, we get our chance to shine in the sun and spread our kaleidoscope to the world. Our light shines. Then we create a ripple that touches others and impacts them and carries them further on their journey, till we come to the end. Our ripple is gone. But, the effects can still be felt by those left behind.

I keep thinking today, what is my ripple to the world? How many prismatic moments do I have left to share? If I learned one thing yesterday, it’s that our lives truly hang by a thread. We have no control…..we think we do. But, truly, we don’t. I want to leave a mark somehow, some way. I have to find a way to worry less and love more. To be happy more and to give of myself more. To be more forgiving and less judgmental.

And the best day to start is now….the first day of the rest of my life.

Walking Through Fire

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All my life, I’ve been an outsider. Maybe not on the surface, but I was an inside outsider. I never felt comfortable in my skin. I’ve always felt just a little off somehow. Even as a child of 4, I can remember feeling broken. It’s difficult to explain to someone who has never been there. I had what most would call a perfect childhood—2 loving, married parents. Upper middle class family in a nice neighborhood. My parents were always there, giving me all the love and support one girl could ever need. But, it never filled up what seemed like a black hole inside of me.

The first event I remember was when I was 4. We were on vacation at an amusement park and I wanted to ride a kiddie roller coaster ride for the 8th time. My parents just wanted to move on through the park, but I insisted. When I was given that final “no”, I snapped. I tore off my clothes. Right there. In front of everyone. It was the first real “meltdown” in what would become the normal of my life. I had no emotional regulations. I hated everyone one minute and desperately loved them the next. My emotions had more ups and downs than that stupid kiddie coaster. It was constant. It was exhausting. For 13 years, I plugged my way through school. I immersed myself in academics and books and hid my true self from others. To everyone around me, I was normal. Except I wasn’t and I knew it. I knew there was something fundamentally wrong with me.

Relationships with friends and boys were full of constant drama. I couldn’t keep friends. I had a few long-term boyfriends, but they were mostly clung to out of fear of being alone. I didn’t care about them, I just needed someone to help me. After high school, I was sexually assaulted in college. That was the absolute straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. I went downhill from there. I stayed in a mentally and emotionally abusive relationship(obsession, really) for far too long. I went crazy on drugs, alcohol, and sex when that ended. I was on a downward spiral with no escape. Till I saw one on my college adviser’s wall and hopped a plane for a study abroad in England.

It was just what I needed. I got myself together and in the process, got pregnant. My English boyfriend and I got married out of necessity and started a family. I thought having a baby might be the catalyst to bringing what was broken inside of me together, but it didn’t. Nothing did. Those years were full of screaming, crying, throwing of objects, etc. and that was me, not my two toddlers at home. My marriage stood no chance and neither did I. During our separation, I went to counseling for the first time in my life. I never even considered it before, as I was raised to be a strong woman and never ask for help. This is where I got my answer. Borderline Personality Disorder. This was 6 years ago, at age 37. I had walked around for 37 years thinking that I was just fundamentally broken.

As I read more on this disease, I finally understood myself. I understood I was not alone, but felt hopeless, since many of us cannot hold jobs, friendships, and marriages. I was destined to be alone. But, I was in for a surprise. The universe threw my high school freshman boyfriend into my orbit. I kept trying to convince him that I was too damaged to love. Too broken to put back together. But, he persisted. He read everything he could on my disease, bought books, joined online support forums. And in the process, he became the light on my darkness. My now husband walks through hell and back every week because of me and my BPD. I’ve learned through the years and DBT on how to try to control my emotions and quiet my meltdowns, but it’s always there bubbling under the surface.

I just need to thank him.

For taking care of me.

For loving me, no matter what.

For understanding me when no one else does.

For being the one that wipes the tears from my face.

For stepping away from me when he knows I need space.

For ducking when I throw things.

For putting his arms around me, even when I push him away.

For never giving up on me.

For seeing me as imperfect perfection.

For walking on eggshells and knowing my triggers.

For walking through fire and broken glass and never complaining.

For simply being my light through the broken cracks.

For pulling me back from the edge every day.

White flip-flops in the rain.

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First off, I am writing once again after a few months break. No matter what I do, I tend to fall back into my same old patterns of bursts of creativity interspersed between lulls of writer’s block. The past few months have been busy, but really….I have no excuse. I’ve been doing everything BUT writing this summer. My son will be a senior in high school, so I’ve had college visits, getting ready for senior year, driver’s license, etc. I just haven’t felt INSPIRED. I have so much on my plate, emotionally, right now that quite frankly, I haven’t felt like getting out of bed most days. My mom has been having more bad days than good. Most days I am walking on eggshells, which is exhausting. I’ve been stressing about my youngest being a senior.The thought of having him out of the house in a year has been weighing on me.

I feel like the only day I have to relax and forget about all the things that weigh on me is Sunday. So, the past few Sundays, we’ve been taking my photographer son on road trips to find some interesting shots. Anyone that knows me at all knows that I am NOT an outdoorsy girl. Don’t get me wrong, I like doing things outside. I’m not a couch potato. But, I don’t like the great outdoors. I like being in a city. I like exploring shops, bookstores, cafes, food markets, etc. I do like the beach, but in small doses…..under an umbrella….with a drink in my hand. I hate woods, hiking, camping, mud, rock climbing…well, you get the picture.

So, when we do these outings, I sit in the car and wait, while my husband takes my son on hikes. I’ll go on a paved path, if it’s a short trip. But, that’s about it. I keep a pair of “walking” shoes in the car, just in case. Yesterday, we found a cool overlook that is a hawk/raptor watch. It said easy hike. Our car was parked in a bit of a remote area, so I felt a bit uncomfortable sitting there and waiting and since it said easy hike, I figured why not.  I went for my “walking shoes”, but I had taken them out of a car when we packed for a trip a few weeks ago. I was wearing typical “me” shoes—-white flip flops with bows and jewels on them. I thought, ok…why not? Well, easy, short hike it was not. It was a rock climb, uphill.

Yeah, I could have turned around, but I thought….what the hell? If I can make it up this rocky hill in these shoes, I can do anything. When I’m told I can’t or shouldn’t do something, that’s when I’m determined to do it. So, on I climbed. I stopped a few times to catch my breath. By this time, it had started drizzling rain. On I climbed. I stopped and sat once, but then I noticed all the little crevices that snakes and insects could hide in and I jumped up and kept moving. Yep, hate all the creepy crawlies that live out in the wilderness, as well.

I reached the top of the lookout and may I just say, the climb was totally worth it. You could see for miles. It was spectacular. Just as I stepped up on the rock to take in the view, the heavens opened up and it started POURING!!! So, back down the slippery, wet, rocky trail I went in my white sandals. My husband held my hand the whole way down, as now the rocks were soaking wet and very slippery. I made it back to the car, looking like a drowned poodle, I might add. Seriously, my underwear and bra were even wet!! I felt miserable, yet accomplished at the same time. I had stepped out of my comfort zone for a brief period of time, all while wearing my stylish, yet impractical shoes and it felt good!

I will never take up hiking, camping, outdoorsy things as a hobby. I will continue to keep my walking shoes in the car for SHORT walks. But, knowing that I COULD do something kind of pumped up my self-image a little bit. I tend to get stuck in a rut. I love adventure and new things, but those things always tend to be within the same circle. This time, I was waaaay out of that place where I feel like myself and you know what? It was okay. I was okay. I think the reason I’m telling this story is that I feel like a lot of people I know get stuck in that purgatorial place of never really taking a chance. The older I get, the more I have been trying to take more chances. Live more fearlessly. I know that climbing a rocky mountain in flip-flops is trivial. But, one small step can sometimes be a giant leap, even if you’re not wearing the proper shoes.

Suspended Animation

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If someone came up to you and asked you this question: “Who are you?” What would you answer? I guess I’d answer with my name. That’s a start. But what if they said, “No, Who are you REALLY?”  I’d probably pause a minute and say, “A mom, a wife, a writer.”  But, I don’t think that really describes WHO exactly I am . I’m a hodgepodge of idiosyncrasies, emotions, mental issues, memories. None of us can truly be defined in a few words or phrases. That’s what makes us human. But, when I look back at my second answer for a second, I’m struck by something. I said “mom” first. Most of the time that’s the first thing out of my mouth. “I’m mom to two teenage boys.” Of course, that will never change. I’m their mom forever….like it or not. But, I’m no longer a full-time mom. They are independent and don’t need me anymore on a daily caretaker basis. 

I know I’ve written a great extent about my boys and what their growing up and moving away feels like for me. But most of my posts are about how I feel as their MOM. What about me as a woman? The honest answer to “Who are you really?” is “I honestly don’t know.” I got pregnant with my oldest while studying abroad as a college junior. I wasn’t even set on a college major at that time, much less a life path. I did know that I never wanted kids and never wanted to get married. But, when I got pregnant, those were the only two things that happened. So, there I was at 21 years old, with a baby and a husband. I’ve read research that the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the part that controls impulses and reasoning, doesn’t fully develop till we are 25. That explains a lot. I was too young to be a mom, too young to be married. My first marriage failed after 16 years…to be honest, it never should have lasted that long. But, I defined myself as a person, as a woman all those years as a wife and mom. I finished college and went to look for work, but it was always part-time or freelance work. I never was a 9 to 5 career woman. I home-schooled my two boys for 15 years, so that was my main focus. 

So, in 18 months, I will no longer have a child in my house on a full-time basis. No more school functions, sporting events, homework, dinners, illnesses to take care of, no more mothering on a daily basis. It’s started already, the slow move into my non-mothering being. But, once my youngest goes off, that ends. Then what? I keep asking myself that question. And right now I have no answer. I have absolutely no idea who I am as an adult woman. Yes, I have my writing and my husband. I’m an only child to two aging parents, so I still have that caretaker job to fill. But, still that isn’t WHO I am. I think that’s why I sometimes forget I’m a 40-something woman. In my head, I’m still that 21 year old college co-ed wondering what to do with her life. Like I’ve been in some sort of suspended animation. 

There are so many things I want to do in my life and haven’t done yet. I asked my son the other day, “what in the world am I going to do when your brother goes to college?” His response, “Do whatever you want to do. It’s your time.” Wow!! Words of wisdom from my 19 year-old son. I had to stop and think for a moment. What exactly are those things? I think before I figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, I really need to figure out exactly who I am. My mom had me at 40. I was her first and only. I can’t even fathom that. But, she was set in her ways by then. She was a mature, responsible adult who had lived a lot in those 40 years. She was married, had a career, found out who she was and was comfortable in her own skin. 

I didn’t have that. I was a 21 year-old scared to death young woman, forced to become a responsible parent and adult, before I truly was one. I’ve been the best mom I could be to my boys. I think I’ve done a good job. They are strong, kind, intelligent young men who do good things. They’ve never been in trouble. They see the world in all its glorious shades and see everyone as equals. They want to give back to society. I think I’ve taught them well. I wouldn’t change my life for one second. Let me make that perfectly clear. I have never once regretted being a young mom. My kids are the greatest thing that’s happened to me. But, now that the full-time mom part of my life is over, I need to figure out who I really am and where I want to go with this next stage of my life. Let the journey begin. I hope you will come along with me for the ride.

 

Cracks in the Foundation

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San Andreas Fault

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Allison Cline-Saia

 

I wake up wondering if this will be the day–

every single day the cracks get deeper

the crevices  grow                           wider

the space between will never be filled.  Gaps

like the Grand Canyon

years and years of slow melancholy stripping away

the bits of me still there.

Seismic shifts in the tectonics that slam together

and drift apart.

The ever-changing landscape of me morphing

Continuously in cyclic fashion —

Never constant

Yet somehow solid.