Showing Up

Peace in Place of Chaos

My brain freaks out when things are going well. When life is calm and peaceful and every day is routine and the normal I craved growing up.

When there’s no drama or chaos, my brain sees it as a vacuum. Like something is wrong. Why is no one screaming? How is everyone getting along? This whole not fighting thing is fucking weird. It’s time to change that.

I become paranoid and the paranoia leads to me trying to control everything which leads to overthinking and catastrophizing to the extreme. Silently accusing John of hiding stuff from me. Thinking maybe he’s cheating on me or wants to divorce me or thinks I’m gross now because I’ve gained weight and can only have sex with me if it is dark outside and he can’t see me.

My brain has to find something. And when it creates something in the wake of not discovering anything to latch onto, I become resentful, bitter, mean, critical, angry, and my anxiety skyrockets because I’m so ashamed of the shit my brain has pinging around throughout my body that I am withdrawn and can’t talk about it. It shuts me up until it shuts me down and I feel like I’m being suffocated by my own mind and body.

I told John two weeks ago that my anxiety attacks were creeping back into my life, and he said he had no idea I was even anxious because I wasn’t talking about it and hadn’t shown any signs of distress. I told him it is because I am tired of telling people about my anxiety and feel like people are tired of hearing about it. Same old, lifelong song and dance. Amy is worrying again, tell her to stop because, you know, that works.

I have PTSD. I grew up in a battlefield. It was predictable in that fighting would occur but unpredictable in exactly how or when. I had to tiptoe around every word that I spoke because when someone in my family – often my parents – was in the mood to hurt someone because they needed to offset their pain, I was an easy target. One false move, one unintended tone, and I was belittled, shamed, gaslighted, projected upon, and criticized.

And it wasn’t just me. The air was so taut with tension that fights grew like thunderheads and clapped so violently they shook my great grandparents’ house, which was probably the closest thing to my childhood home since my parents moved us around so often. There was always something to fight about. The police knew my great grandparents’ and the uncle who almost always started the fights by name, they were called so often by neighbors.

Peace was superficial and temporary. When my great-grandfather Brophy died in 2004, my uncle Charles gathered us all in the living room of Brophy’s house and gave this moving speech – moving but inauthentic or maybe just ineffective – about how we had to get along from then on, that it’s what Brophy would want; that it was time for us to love each other. By nightfall, he and his sister, my aunt Carol, were cursing each other out in the dining room of the house, just feet from where he made that speech.

Peace doesn’t feel trustworthy. It doesn’t feel genuine. It doesn’t feel dependable. It feels like a set-up. Like if I set down my armor for a few minutes to rest and revel in the quiet, my head will be knocked cleanly off my shoulders.

Like right now…for the first time in now four years, I have a job that I really like with people I really enjoy working with. It is nice to look forward to going to work. Sure, I might have to deal with rude customers from time to time, but I have a boss who is fun to work with and who has my back.

John and I are getting along pretty well, have been more intimate and open with each other, and coming off the pill, I’ve never been more attracted to him. (Not sure if it is just getting adjusted to my own natural hormones again – more testosterone with my PCOS – after eight years of being on the pill, being in my late 30s and all aboard the last call on the baby train before menopause or both or just becoming more comfortable and settled in our marriage, but damn he’s been looking extra good to me lately.)

Things are good. We moved back to Smyrna. I love our apartment, love where it is located, love that my job allows me to schedule my shifts around John’s so we’re often off on the same days (though that is changing a bit with John’s new schedule that changes weekly), etc.

So of course my brain is on the catastrophizing super speedway. All day long, it’s running through “what ifs” and scenarios where I could lose everything. I went through a two-week period in January, hot on the heels of finally deciding I don’t believe in Christianity anymore, where I was terrified I was going to die every single day. Not terrified of dying, though that was there too, but terrified it was actually going to happen then. Every ache in my body was a heart attack or cancer or kidney stone or something else waiting to kill me when it was really just being so tightly wound and clenched that my muscles ached. (I think a lot this started from some slightly abnormal bloodwork in December that I have to get retested for at the end of February that my doctor really isn’t concerned about, that is probably just something random.)

When my PTSD brain is tired of worrying about dying – or thinks mission accomplished – it moves on to worrying about my debt or weight or John leaving me. Anything it possibly can to stir up chaos around me since chaos was the “norm” for the first quarter or so of my life.

During this point, I am accused of being too negative, complaining too much, stuck in my head, overdramatic, and never satisfied. I feel myself grasping for something to control. I think about going on diets and trying to lose weight. I question John about what he’s doing on his phone or ask him about his finances and get mad when he won’t tell me anything. I ramble on about nothing. I forget what I’m talking about, what I’m doing, and find myself repeating myself or doing things like putting Missy’s medication in the fridge when it goes on top of the fridge.

Anxiety and PTSD leave me with a foggy head, upset stomach, and stiffness throughout my body. I am hypervigilant of my own body and everything around me, but then find myself with my car in two lanes on the way to work.

I am no longer at war or on the battlefield and haven’t been in over a decade now, but I still wear my armor and I still jump at anything that reminds me of war. Still have flashbacks. Take the way John responds to me at times as being exactly how my dad responded to me growing up even though they’re too very different people when it comes to their feelings and behaviors towards me. Feel self-conscious about my weight gain around my brothers and flinch at just the thought of them making fun of my size again (like my brother Adam addressing me as “fat” instead of my name for about a year there when we were in our late teens). Chastise myself for having a part-time job now when I “could” be making more money and being a better partner financially to John (even though what does that even mean and how am I better if I’m miserable?).

It sounds so melodramatic, but all I really knew was war growing up. The armor I developed to survive it has varying degrees of effectiveness from empathy, resiliency, and sense of humor to codependency, people-pleasing, and putting the need for approval and acceptance from others over my own self-validation. I told John tonight that my giving love language seems to be Acts of Service because I like doing things for him and giving things to him, which is good in its own right until it veers off into People-Pleasing territory where I’m suffocating him, he’s irritated and tells me to back off, and my feelings get hurt. I read recently that codependency’s roots lie in not feeling wanted so you decide to do all you can to feel needed. This is exactly how it started for me, especially with my mom.

Growing up, I was not taught to self-soothe. I was taught that if I cried, I’d be given something to cry about and that it wasn’t worth doing, didn’t accomplish anything, was childish and stupid. If I was afraid, I was taught to pray, read my Bible, or listen to church sermons on the radio, and that if I was afraid, it meant I didn’t trust God. If I was angry, that anger was shamed or matched and outdone. When John and I went through marriage counseling in 2017, our therapist told me I needed to learn how to self-soothe. I got some ideas on how to do it, but I think most of the time the only thing I have the energy to do when I’m upset is cry. At least I know now how healing and relieving it is to do that.

This week, while crying in the shower because I’ve been so overwhelmed with racing thoughts, paranoia, and panic, I thought, Amy, when are you going to take care of yourself? When will your approval of yourself matter most? When will you stop trying to be who you think everyone else wants to be and be yourself? When will you stop hiding your desires and needs because you don’t they deserve to be spoken or that they’ll be heard or acknowledged? When will you realize you have the same rights as everyone else around you to live your life in a way that makes you feel fulfilled and peaceful?

I can’t continue to respond to my anxiety the way my family did either: anger and criticism only serve to make it far worse and more shameful, which makes all of those fears that much stronger and more incapacitating. My mom still tells me to pray but 30+ years of it never really made it go away. I do miss talking outloud and the weight lifted off of me when I thought someone was listening to me even if the only person listening was actually me. Reading my Bible never helped and I haven’t owned one now for four years. Church helped some, but when you realize that it is religion and its associated legalism and shaming that has you feeling imprisoned and even more afraid to be yourself, that relief is temporary.

I know I need to go to therapy again, but I can’t afford it. I’ve looked on Open Path Collective for someone who specializes in trauma, but no one popped up. I still feel like this was some kind of filter error on my part because there has to be someone affordable in Atlanta, but I don’t know.

I think the silver lining is that I am self-aware. I understand what is happening. The lack of peace growing up makes it unfamiliar territory to a brain so used to chaos – whether from family or jobs or other relationships – and my brain, like most human brains, doesn’t like the unknown. Fears it. Our brains like predictable because predictable is safe. Or feels that way. The hell you know is better than the hell you don’t know, so the saying goes.

Writing it out always helps. Writing in my 20s is what helped me survive them, made me self-aware, and helped me break through the patterns I saw growing up. I guess it is a way of self-soothing because once I get everything in my brain out, my thoughts slow down to a somewhat manageable pace. I am keeping my blog as part of my Instagram of the same name but no longer broadcasting my posts so I can focus on more stream-of-consciousness writing and not curating my content for social media. I’m craving authenticity so much, and I feel unable to be wholly authentic when I know more people could be reading. It all goes back to the need for validation and approval mentioned above and not wanting to burden people with my pain or alarm them with my fears.

In the meantime, I am talking to myself more. Trying to find the right words and tone to help myself through all of the emotions and racing thoughts. I started snapping at myself to quit all of this “nonsense” earlier this week when I stopped myself and said, “I’m sorry. That was Daddy talking, not me. That was his voice. Those were his words. I’m not talking to you like he did because that was neither helpful nor loving.” Sometimes I feel crazy doing all of this, but I know how I talk to myself is going to be one of the best ways to work through the PTSD I have from all of the trauma I’ve incurred.

This is how I will learn to trust in the peace and calm and let go of the need for the familiar chaos.

Letters to Myself

Letters to Myself, #3 – Happy Birthday

I originally meant to write this blog post around my 37th birthday in mid-October, but between moving from Marietta back to Smyrna, going to Destin, spending time with my brother Caleb, getting adjusted into our new apartment, and finding and starting my new job, this post never happened past me uploading the photos included in the post. Maybe this is a good thing though because being 3 months out from turning 37, I have more to say to these younger mes.

This will be a very, very, very long post, so if I am the only one who ever reads it all, that is totally fine with me.

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October 1989:

Dear 7-year-old Amy:

Oh, sweet girl, happy birthday. I wish I remembered what I got for my birthday this year, but I’m sure it was something along the line of more Barbies for our 5-year-old brother Adam to rip the heads off of, dresses from June like the one in the picture above (as she was the only one who seemed to remember you are a little girl who should have pretty dresses and not be dressed like her brother), maybe some books.

This will be the year you start writing your own short stories, stories about tornadoes that you dreamed about and had to write down as soon as you woke up. Tornadoes are the shared fascination between you and Daddy, the one thing you can talk to each other about, the topic you get his attention on as you squeeze in next to him on his Lazyboy and watch hours of the Weather Channel together. The only other time you get his attention is when you are being yelled at for misbehaving, which usually involves fights with Adam. 

You’re going to be a big sister again soon too, and you will love it. At least at first. Ben will be your twin born seven years later in so many ways. He will be your baby. You will fall in love with him at first sight and even now, 30 years later, he still holds such a tender space in your heart even as all the things you dislike about yourself drive you crazy in him. 

I know you’re already worrying about your weight. What was it this morning? 60-something pounds? Amy, I wish this number wasn’t already so significant for you, but our mom, who struggles with her own body insecurities, can’t seem but help to pass them along to you.

I want you to know right now, in the middle of everything happening now and what’s to come – like your first major crush whom you’ve possibly met by now but whom you will befriend in the coming school year – you are so perfect just the way you are. Your bangs and straight hair with the flipped up ends are so sweet. Your mouth full of transformation and emptying of baby teeth is so adorable. I love your imagination, energy, singing voice, smile, tenacity, and sense of humor. I still smile when I think of the Barbie soap operas we came up with inspired by the soap operas June and Lib loved to watch. 

I’m so sorry you’re being forced to behave as if everything is fine and no one understands that your acting out is your inability to live so inauthentically. I’m so sorry no one understands you are processing so much dysfunction between your parents and at Lib’s house and that your sensitive heart can’t help but absorb the anger, shame, and pain all around you. I’m so sorry you are characterized as the bad child because you cannot sit still and be quiet and passive like Adam. That you’re told that your stubbornness, needs for affection and attention you can’t get met, and your emotions are all “too much,” and Mama and Daddy don’t “know how to handle you.” 

This year, you have a schoolteacher named Ms. Taylor who will tell you and your parents how much she loves having you as a student in her second grade class. She will tell you how sweet and smart you are. Listen to her. Don’t listen to your dad asking you why can’t you be that well-behaved child she speaks of at home. You are that child; he just does not have the energy nor focus to see it. Ms. Taylor will plant and grow those seeds in you that develop your love for reading, writing, spelling, and grammar that you carry with you for the rest of your life. 

Please know that I see you even when Adam gets all of the attention at home, and I understand why you lash out at him even though he does not deserve to be bullied just as you didn’t. I want to spend time with you even as it seemed our parents did not want you around and always waited until you were away for the weekend with June to go out as a family with Adam. 

Mama doesn’t know how to “handle” you but that is not your fault. This is about her upbringing and insecurities. Daddy only demands perfection and quiet from you because it was beaten into him by his abusive father. You are not broken. You are not wrong. You deserve so much love that I know you don’t ever really feel, at least not from your parents. You belong even if you feel left out from your parents and Adam. You are a sweet, innocent, stubborn, fiery little second grader who is growing her own little world inside of her imagination and becoming the author of the story of her life. You are good enough. Your body is perfect the way it is, even your little pudgy belly and round cheeks. 

Thank you for plucking those story ideas out of your dreams and getting them on paper as fast as you can because you taught me that I am a writer. Your excitement for becoming a big sister again and your natural maternal instincts will help you not only raise your upcoming baby brother but the one who will follow him as well as help you nurture and care for friends and, mostly importantly, yourself. 

I love you so much just as you are, sweet girl. Happy 7th birthday. 

October 2000:

Dear 18-year-old Amy (because I couldn’t find a picture of 17-year-old Amy and had to skip ahead a year):

I still remember when this picture was taken in the student center at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. You’re a freshman in college now, living 182 miles away from home and about 45 miles from the beaches of Dauphin Island where you’re going to spend way too much time (but love the hell out of it). 

On this birthday, June drove by herself to take you out to TGI Friday’s both for your birthday and to comfort you because you didn’t make it as a Diamond Girl, basically a cheerleader for the USA Jaguars’ baseball team (because you weren’t a sorority girl or thin like the other girls who auditioned). Pretty sure June also took you to Sam’s Club and got you a pallet of Cherry Coke because she loves you and wants you to have whatever she can possibly buy you. Cherish this.

You’re physically free from all of the bullshit at home – your divorced parents who can’t seem to understand you are their daughter and not their mediator, your mom who chose her second husband over you and your brothers and who treats you like shit because you’re fat (and that’s the worst thing you can be to her) and likely because you’re now the mother she can’t be to Ben and your youngest brother Caleb, all of the fighting between Lib, Brophy, and Robert – but emotionally it’s like you never left. 

You’re numb, I know. After so many years of absorbing so much anger and shame, numb is your survival method. Well, that and your sense of humor and food. Your weight is less than it has been since it piled onto your body in high school, but it still isn’t enough for your parents to tell you that you’re worth loving and beautiful and that they are proud of you. Nothing is enough for that. Not your advanced diploma or good job after high school or getting into college or making the Dean’s List your first semester. The only person who calls and checks on you is June, who loves you but who gets annoyed because you don’t have enough going on to talk about daily. 

You have an awesome roommate named Kelly who is going to introduce you to a tall, broad-shouldered, blonde-haired junior with a nice smile and blue eyes whom she says is exactly your type. He will be. You will think “this is the guy I’m going to marry” as soon as you see him. You won’t talk to him until January 2001, but you’ll cross paths a few times. 

You will so badly want this tall former linebacker, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Christian man with a sense of humor like yours to like you back, but he won’t. Not the same way you like him. And it’s not because of anything about you, despite what your mom later tells you. Unlike what your mom says, you are not ugly or smelly, you don’t need to be thin to be loved or happy, and there is nothing wrong with your body. I know you want to dance and be more outgoing, but fear of being made fun like you have been your whole life plagues you. That’s okay. We will get there. I mean, we will actually get there, like, we will dance in front of 100+ people at a belly dance student show, and no, we won’t feel or look stupid. We will feel so proud and amazed. 

This year, you will start online journaling for the first time, mostly to write about that boy mentioned above and your struggles to lose weight, but soon it will progress to recording what is now the good, bad, and ugly of your family history. A record to back up their gaslighting that keeps you from buying their bullshit about you. The greatest gift of this blogging will be how much your self-awareness skyrockets. Yes, sometimes this makes us overanalytical, but overall, it makes us much more compassionate and empathetic. Over time, that numbness that plagues you will fade as you begin to validate your emotions and learn about your sensitive nature and what a gift it really is. 

You are so starved for attention and affection, but you will find friendships that give you some of both. You will give so much of both to Ben and Caleb that they will develop into men who are comfortable being both emotionally available and deeply affectionate. And that boy who breaks your heart so deeply is an unanswered prayer you will be grateful for in the future (though, eyeroll, I know you will think, I’m so sick of hearing this), trust me. 

You are doing so much better than you think. You are so beautiful, smart, funny, and kind. You can run circles around those skinny girls who think they’re in better shape than you because you’re heavier than them. You write like you think, and today, I’ve been told I write like I’m writing to a dear friend. This is all thanks to you. The fanfiction you’re in the middle of writing now is real writing and developing dialogue skills as well as your songwriting skills, an original in the type of fanfiction you’re writing. (Oh and guess what? You’re going to meet Nick Carter. Eeeeek, I know, right?! You won’t marry him though, sorry.) 

Keep writing those songs that come to you in the middle of the night like the stories did when we were seven years old. Keep singing in the shower and at your desk (even though you might want to keep it down at 2a). Enjoy your friendship with the boy who will love you but not the way you love him, but also don’t allow him to mistreat you because you are so much better than that (and he really, really, really doesn’t deserve you, I promise). 

Enough with this heavy shit though – happy 18th birthday, Amy! You’re legally an adult now though you’ve felt like one for the past four years! Go to the beach. Take in the quiet of the Gulf of Mexico at sunrise before you drive back to your dorm with the windows down to breathe in the salty air and pass out and miss your first of many classes over the next four years. Go dancing with your roommate and her friends. Enjoy dinner with June. Enjoy the first steps of your freedom. You are so ready for this.

And again, I love you dearly, sweet girl, just as you are. 

October 2009:

Happy 27th birthday, Amy. Wow, what a birthday. You are currently in Mobile with Mama, who invited you to come down with her for a nursing continuing education conference she signed up to attend. I know, things with her are so tumultuous right now, as they’ve been pretty much your whole life. Ugh, I also know that she is the middle of her affair with her married boyfriend and you’re trying so hard to convince to break up with him until he finally divorces his wife of 25+ years. (She won’t.)

Let’s not think about that right now. You are DAYS AWAY from quitting the state government job you’ve had since you graduated high school nine years ago, and in just about three weeks, you’re moving to Atlanta. Wow, so much going on. I really want to commend you for taking on a summer part-time job to make extra money as well as selling as much as you possibly could so that you have money saved up to help you in your first few weeks in Atlanta. I’m so grateful for Sia and Zach for taking you in and letting you live in their townhouse in your first few weeks as well because we really would not have done this without that. 

I know there are people in our family coming out of the woodworks at the news of you moving who are telling you how bad the economy is, how high unemployment is (because you obviously don’t know this working in the unemployment compensation division of the Department of Labor where these numbers originate), how you’re stupid for leaving a steady, stable government job, and blah blah blah, but their comments are about them, and these are people who haven’t seen or talked to you in over a decade so they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about or who the hell they’re telling all of this to. Disregard them.

Moving to Atlanta is going to change your whole life. Amy, you are on the cusp of finally, finally, finally being on your own and living a life that is yours and yours alone. I am so excited for you just thinking about it all. Yes, it will be so freaking hard, but you are going to start healing. All of your scars and wounds will become like the broken jars in the Chinese proverb that are put back together with gold which only makes them stronger. You are being filled in with gold, Amy, with strength, determination, courage, wisdom, and beauty. It hurts, it might always hurt, but it is what makes you real and makes me love you so much. And goddamn, you’re hilarious. That definitely won’t change. 

Happy 27th birthday, Amy. Happy first birthday to the rest of your beautiful life that is beginning now as you stare out at downtown Mobile and wonder if you’re doing the right thing. You are. You so are. This is the most right thing you have done your whole life, even now. Thank you for being so brave. I admire the hell out of you. 

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October 2009:

Happy 37th birthday, Amy. God, this has been a rough year. I know how tired you feel. Your lifelong faith in God has been severed completely, and now there’s a void along with a bit of anger at how Christianity has been used to belittle, demean, and shame you in every area of your life from your gender/femininity, sexuality, emotions, physical shape, marriage, finances, writing, speech, outgoing and strong-willed personality, and more.

There is also fear that you will be rejected and abandoned by those you love who aren’t on your deconversion journey, including John, or that their fear for your eternal soul will lead them to intentionally or not-intentionally gaslight and shame you in the hopes of “bringing you back to Jesus.” It is so hard to write these days because you don’t have it in you to deal with the feedback of others. Not about your lack of religious faith, four months now of unemployment, 50-pound weight gain, or really anything else. And really, does it even matter when Trump is going to get us all killed anyway? Oops, can’t talk about that either.

Everything feels so hard and dark right now, I know. You and John have had some horrible fights this year, and it feels like you will forever fight about the same things – sex, communication, how you’re in touch with your emotions and he’s not so yours seem overwhelming, and money. You both said “fuck you” to each other this year when you said years ago that would be a sign that something is deeply wrong and vowed to work through whatever led to that moment before things got that bad.

Nope, he said it, you said it back, he told you to leave, you did, and he didn’t come running after you or blow up your phone with texts or calls. He later apologized for not checking on you, for saying those words and telling you to leave, but that apology did nothing to change how deeply hurt and alone you felt and still often feel in this marriage. All it brought up and back was how much you felt like you and your feelings didn’t matter growing up and you heard your own mind gaslighting you and telling you that somehow this is all your fault and, oh, because you’re so much fatter now, he probably doesn’t love or want you or to be married to you anymore and now you’re screwed because you have no money of your own anymore. It feels so far away from the way your relationship started eight years ago, when he was so excited about you and couldn’t stop telling and showing you how happy he was to have you in his life, like maybe all of that never really happened or was all a ruse or maybe you just fucked it all up because you’re not that woman anymore, whoever he thought she was.

Take a deep breath, Amy. I will pause and breathe with you because that is some really hard, painful, heavy shit.

Let me remind you of what I wrote to 7-year-old Amy: you are not broken, there is nothing wrong with you, there is nothing about you that deems you unworthy of love, your words/feelings/everything about you matter even if no one else seems to acknowledge this, especially the ones you love most.

Right now, this year, has been a really shitty one. Let me validate something for you: You have experienced a shit-ton of trauma, you have PTSD, you have survived some really fucked up shit, and none of it was your fault. How others treat you is a reflection of them, not you. You are not responsible for their behavior or words towards you. You did not and do not deserve to be abused or mistreated.

You are so strong, Amy. Stronger than I think you will ever realize when you’re so lost in all of those critical thoughts from voices in your past who could, from their own pain, tell you they loved you but somehow also how wrong and inadequate you are in one breath and without apology. You are so brave to keep pushing through all of this trauma and pain, for picking each piece of your shattered heart, acknowledging its existence and searing pain, crying with and for it, and putting it all back together again. With so many broken pieces, this is a very lengthy, possibly lifelong process, but you are here for it, and that means so much for the future Amys, however many there will be.

I know that with the loss of faith in God, everything feels so meaningless right now. Nihilism feels comforting in a way. So this is it? I’m just a product of evolution, collection of atoms, pieces of the universe, and a speck on the plane of this universe and time? Great! So everything is temporary and nothing really matters and someday I will be oblivious to it all as I was before I was born. This has done wonders for my anxiety.

But seriously…that also seems so dark and hopeless too. 

Your life does have meaning even if there’s nothing else but this (and I’m not totally discounting spirituality here, just religion).

Amy, you’re a product of evolution, such a rare miracle! Do you know how many eggs and sperm that have ever existed in the bodies of all the humans who have ever walked this earth? Do you know how much had to come together (no pun intended) at just the right time and in the right way for you to be conceived, carried to term and delivered? How amazing it is that you’re alive today in your fragile body in a grueling, lethal environment? How many lives you’ve touched and made better just by being yourself? You are made of the same materials of this vast, infinite, magnificent, astounding, beautiful universe! You, and everyone else, are just as incredible to look at as the moon, stars, and planets in the sky. 

Yes, everything is temporary, but you matter. Your life matters. Your thoughts, feelings, voice, and words matter. Everything about you matters and is a miracle. Same with everyone else, even though their behavior doesn’t alway lend to feeling as such about them.

You are so smart and so well-read. You absorb knowledge like you absorb emotions, and you are thoughtful when discussing what you’ve learned. You’re still so funny, especially with all of the songs you make up about the dogs or to make fun of those dumb prescription drug commercials. John’s right, you’ve really missed your calling here. You’re introverted and need alone time to re-energize, but man, you come ALIVE when there are people to talk to. You are so good at encouraging others and making them smile and laugh, and this is going to come in handy in your new job. You really are charming, thick southern accent and all. It feels weird to say all of this about myself, but damn it, it is about time, and if no one else will, it is up to me to make you shine. 

Your body will change for the rest of your life in size, shape, height, width, wrinkles, lumps, bumps, colors, and more, but it is always working hard with and for you to keep you alive because it loves you unconditionally. I know the weight gain is hard for you and you miss your smaller belly, leaner arms and thighs, and seeing the dimples in your cheeks that have been covered over with your plumper face. I know everything and everyone around you screams that your body is wrong and you need to make it smaller ASAP. I know you’re hearing that inner critical voice tell you that there’s no way John could love or be attracted to you at this size, and this is putting you into survival and defense mode as you await his eventual criticism and rejection of you. (That voice is so wrong, I promise you.)

I know you feel so left behind now as another job failed to work out for you and you’re on what feels like year 50 of trying to pay off your debt and you can’t afford to travel or buy clothes and you feel so much guilt and shame because you’re not currently working and all of the financial burden is on John and you remember how that felt when it was on you and…. it all really fucking sucks, I know.

Some good news though: You’re about to move out of that almost literal sewage dump of an apartment in the middle of nowhere Marietta that you’ve hated for the past two years, you’re about to go to the beach (though that feels undeserved because John has to pay for it on top of all the moving stuff), and soon, you will have a new job, one that you really enjoy even though you will wish it paid more. And Amy!! You have stood up for yourself so hard in these past two “failed” jobs because after the office job before you moved to Chicago, you said no more to asshole bosses and jobs that don’t fulfill you, and you stood your ground and made the best decision for yourself: no more shitty, toxic office jobs with mean, narcissistic bosses. You saved enough money to help you pay your car payment and minimum credit card payments for these four months of unemployment too! And paid off half of your credit card debt before quitting!

I just had a thought: Do you remember your final summer semester at South Alabama when June promised you that if you put in the hard work, went to all of your classes, and made good grades, she’d take you to the beach? Do you remember how even though you put in more effort than the last several semesters combined, you still failed one class by merely not going to it enough and your grades, minus your nutrition class, were still shitty, but she took you anyway because she knew you needed the trip because she knew how fucking depressed you were and how you were hanging on by a tiny shred of a thread? 

That’s love and grace, Amy, and I am here to tell you that even though you feel like a loser, burden, and failure because you keep comparing yourself to everyone else and falling short, and you’re certain that you’re repeating all the mistakes you swore you never would growing up and that everything gone wrong is all your fault…you are loved, you’re not falling short, you’re tough as shit, you’re brave, and you deserve a fucking trip to the beach, no matter what else is going on right now.

What you don’t always see – and I totally understand why – is that no matter how much you feel like pain and sadness have filled your body, mind, and heart to the brim, and then some, you always have room for joy. Your smile always lights up any room you’re in. Your laughter is contagious and melodic, as cheesy as that sounds. You always find something to laugh at and something to admire. You rarely forget to look up at night, and you always notice something beautiful in your daily path, from the colors of the sky at sunset to your dogs’ sweet faces to how good and at home it feels when John puts his arms around you and holds you close whether it’s in bed as he’s falling asleep or you’re cooking dinner in the kitchen and how beautiful his eyes, smile, voice, and laughter are. (Remember how I said earlier that you dodged a bullet with that guy in college? John is everything that guy could never be and more even when there are struggles like you’re going through now. Also, he’s way better looking than that guy.)

Nothing is perfect, yet everything is. I know I am rambling on now, but I also know I tend to talk to you less in this way during these more introspective times; instead, echoing the vitriol, anger, and shame that still sits deeply within me though it has been over a decade since I unwillingly soaked it all up like a bone-dry sponge dropped in a basin of dirty water and filthy dishes. 

I’m only three months from this birthday, so I am still in the trenches with you, but I can feel things improving little by little. This is yet another mountain to climb and I am trudging along, knowing I can’t stop because continuing to move forward is the only way I will get home.

I love you so much for the girl you were and the woman you are now. We are one and the same. You matter, you are perfect just the way you are, and all that matters is how you think and feel about you. You are my most important relationship, and I will continue doing all I can to make it the best one. Here’s to many more birthdays and many more versions of us to come.

Love, 

Amy

 

Beautiful You, Showing Up

Day 16 – Beautiful You – Realize Everything is Just Information

Have you ever thought about how the way we describe ourselves, even to ourselves, affects how we feel about and perceive ourselves?

One way I’ve been thinking about this lately is when we use “I am…” versus “I feel…” and “I have…”

One way attaches a feeling, judgment, and even a diagnosis to encompass our identity which almost sets up a permanence in our self-perception and maybe how others perceive us. For example, saying, “I’m so dumb” when we make a mistake or “I’m a worrier” when we struggle with anxiety.

Another way is a description and observation. It could describe a chronic, permanent condition in your life, but if you say, for example, “I feel depressed” or “I have diabetes,” it feels more like we are describing just a small part of the wholeness of ourselves, like, “I have blue eyes and brown hair.” It solely describes us without trying to tell our whole story. In regards to chronic health issues or disabilities, it can put a responsibility on us that we don’t deserve and don’t need to bear beyond managing them with self-care.

This isn’t a “you aren’t fat, you have fat” type of thing or me trying to politicize how we describe ourselves. I AM tall. I AM fat. I AM white. I AM a cis-het woman. But that’s not my whole story. I have chronic physical and mental health issues, but they don’t identify me, just name how my body responds to my DNA and environment. I have privileges, but they don’t define me and they aren’t something to feel ashamed of. My identity is not wholly wrapped up in nature or nurture. You get what I’m saying, I hope.

It is about expanding, not diminishing, ourselves. Not narrowing ourselves down to a few words. Seeing what happens to us and how we perceive it is important. Attaching our identities to temporary experiences like making a mistake or permanent conditions like chronic mental or physical health or something traumatic that happened to us growing up limits us and can invoke unnecessary shame. Narrows our story.

It is totally okay to acknowledge the experiences we’ve had. To share what we feel and experience. I’m not trying to diminish that or silence anyone. Telling others what we feel, have, deal with, and are healing from is part of the human experience. All of our feelings and perceptions are valid and happen for a reason.

A few weeks ago, on my way home from a weekend at my mom’s, I decided to skip the 30 seconds it would take for my apartment complex’s entrance gate to open and go through the exit gate. Chewy, my dog, had to pee and had whined about it for 50 miles, it was 12:30a, and I was tired. All I could think about was “I hope no one tries to come out as I go in.” It was as I pulled over the tire strips that I realized what I’d done and why you don’t enter that exit gate.

“Oh, fuuuuck” came out of my mouth as air began gushing out of my front left tire. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten, the first time in the nearly two years we’ve lived here. How could I be so stupid? I chastised myself.

But I had been thinking about the topic Rosie wrote about in the prompt at the. Bottom of this post, so when I walked into the house with Chewy, I looked at John and said, “I did something really stupid and I need your help.”

Calling running over the spike “stupid” is still a little shame-inducing, but separating my actions and my identity in the moment helped me realize it was a temporary experience, a mistake and lesson learned. I was tired and ready to get Chewy and me out of the car and I made a mistake. Shit happens, ya know? And thankfully John is a kind and compassionate husband. He and I immediately started making jokes about what happened while he put the spare on, and the next day, he took my car to Walmart and bought me a new tire. Crisis averted, gratefulness and relief felt, lesson learned.

It is so easy to allow shame, trauma, health issues, and abuse to reduce who we are and cloud our judgment and perception of ourselves. We can’t control a whole lot in life (but I struggle with control issues; I’m not a “control freak”), but we can decide how to perceive ourselves and how to live our lives.

One exception (but not the only one) in this I am vs. I have/feel/do idea I’m writing about here is when we want to label ourselves by things we do but feel like we can’t because we haven’t won public accolade for it. If you write, you’re a writer even if you never get your words published. If you sing, you’re a singer even if you never sing outside of your shower. Dancer, if you dance. Hiker, if you hike. Runner, if you run. This is where participation awards totally count. If you want it and do it – or sometimes not do it because creativity is vulnerable even with us as our only audience – you are it.

This is all just a little newborn idea in my head so I’d love to hear what others think. I like the idea of holding thoughts at an arm’s length and observing them, not immediately absorbing them. Being curious about them. Curiosity is how we keep ourselves open to what life has to offer and helps us expand and grow. Shame and judgment are the opposites of curiosity, creativity, and vulnerability.

Like Brené Brown says, while paraphrasing Teddy Roosevelt’s grand speech, if you are brave with your life, if you live in the arena, you are going to get your ass kicked.

Don’t be an extra foot in your ribs and face in that arena. Use those feelings instead to pull yourself back up to persevere. There’s a lot of beautiful life to be lived in between those ass kickings.


Today: I want you to continue to shift your energy away from judgment to curiosity. When you feel inclined to judge yourself, shift your words. No longer condemn your choices or reality. Instead, I want you to gently ask, what information is this experience giving me? And prepare yourself to powerfully move forward with that information as a guide.

Showing Up

Self-Care is Hard

Last week, I signed up LA Fitness and went through the fitness evaluation. I did not sign up for personal training, but I told the guy who evaluated me that I would be coming to the gym and working out on my own.

I haven’t really started doing that yet.

Why?

Because I realized that if I go to the gym every night during the week immediately after work, the only days I will see John are Saturday, Sunday, and Monday because he leaves for work around 6:30p and gets home around 8:30a, after I have left for work.

And I felt guilty. Or felt like if I go, I am abandoning some part of my marriage by choosing to do something for myself over seeing my husband every night before he goes to work.

This is not even close to the only time I go through these thought cycles.

My issues and struggles in our marriage that come up every time we have a fight are that I am resentful because I am putting him first and trying to meet his needs and expect him to do the same, and he doesn’t and really, honestly, can’t. Not because he’s a terrible husband, but because a lot of my frustrations I am putting on myself. I do resent him at times for my perception of him as unavailable and closed off, but I mostly resent myself because I see myself as doing all of the work, getting nothing in return, and I am putting myself and my needs on the altar to be sacrificed for the sake of our marriage.

It has always been way easier for me to put all of my focus on my relationships and trying to make other people feel wanted and needed than to focus on my relationship with myself and my needs and desires. It is ingrained in me and has been from the very beginning.

In college, I saw my first therapist who listened to me tell her about my family history and everything I’d been through – and was still currently going through – and she listened, took notes, then recommended a book for me by Melody Beattie called Codependent No More.

I think I need to read it again now, some 17 years later.

Catching up on Shameless last night, I heard Fiona and Lip talking about the questions for Al-Anon, and one of them was about putting the needs of others before yourself. I went to see if I could find the actual questions online and I found Codependents Anonymous instead.

On their website, there is a list of patterns often seen in codependents, and I can check off quite a bit of them. Here are the ones that I know I do:

 

  1. Denial Patterns:
    • minimize, alter, or deny how they truly feel
    • think they can take care of themselves without any help from others
    • mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation
    • express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways
    • label others with their negative traits
  2. Low Self-Esteem Patterns:
    • have difficulty making decisions
    • judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough
    • are embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts
    • value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own
    • do not perceive themselves as lovable or worthwhile persons
    • seek recognition and praise to overcome feeling less than
    • have difficulty admitting a mistake
    • need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and may even lie to look good
    • are unable to identify or ask for what they need and want
    • look to others to provide their sense of safety
    • have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines, and completing projects
    • have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries
  3. Compliance Patterns:
    • are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long
    • compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger
    • put aside their own interests in order to do what others want
    • are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings
    • are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others
    • accept sexual attention when they want love
    • give up their truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change
  4. Control Patterns:
    • have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others
    • demand that their needs be met by others
    • use blame and shame to exploit others emotionally
    • adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes
    • pretend to agree with others to get what they want
  5. Avoidance Patterns:
    • act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward them
    • judge harshly what others think, say, or do
    • avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance
    • allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships
    • use indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation
    • suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable
    • pull people toward them, but when others get close, push them away
    • refuse to give up their self-will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than themselves
    • believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness
    • withhold expressions of appreciation

 

A lot, huh? And unfortunately, John bears the brunt of a lot of this behavior. When we had our fight and I finally said a lot of the things I had felt unable to say, he asked, “Why don’t you talk to me like this to begin with?”

Because I don’t know how to. Because I’ve never felt allowed to. Because I feel like I will be judged or rejected for it. Because I still feel like a burden and too much and like I can’t ask for what I want or express how I feel. I just expect eye rolls, heavy sighs, and projections of shame, resentment, and anger like I always received growing up. “You’re the one with something wrong with you, not me.” That sort of thing.

I don’t speak up soon enough when my feelings are hurt or when there is something I want or need. I want sex but I don’t initiate so the only time we have sex is when John initiates which isn’t as often as I’d like to have sex. My reasoning for not initiating is that I fear rejection and I struggle so much to feel like I deserve sex and pleasure or like I am desirable because I still have such deeply rooted issues with my body shape, size, and weight.

But yet, I push all of that down and continue seeking validation, affirmation, and acceptance from John. I also don’t talk about what I really think or feel with my mom because if any of it goes against how she thinks or feels, a fight ensues and I feel completely powerless and feel like I have to earn my way back into her good graces so I continue to feel loved and accepted by her.

I am someone who desires being known wholly, but who is also afraid of this if it means by doing so, I create conflict with the people who want me to be who they want me to be. To believe in God the way they do. To have the same political opinions. To go against this creates a backlash, and I find myself scrambling and pretending to agree and pretending to believe something I don’t so I’m not once again rejected and abandoned.

During our fight back in January, I told John I too often try to meet his needs and ignore what I want. That year and a half that I lived on my own before I met John was the one brief time in my life where I had only myself to worry about. I could move freely. Go where I wanted. Do what I wanted. Sit in my pajamas all day, all weekend long and not worry about being seen as lazy or unattractive or boring. I ate what I wanted. Went to bed when I wanted. It was quiet, I was alone, and I really grew to love it.

Being married with two small, very needy dogs, life is a lot different. I love both of our dogs (and I loved Louie, who recently passed), but oh my god, they need so much. Sometimes it is sweet, and I like being on the couch with them on each side of me. Other times, it feels like way too much, and I want to go into another room, and I can’t stand the idea of anyone or anything touching me.

So much of this is because I spend so much energy trying to meet others’ needs and keep others happy that I am overwhelmed. I know no one has asked me to do this. John doesn’t want me to be his mother. He knows he has a great one. I have dug into my maternal instinct for so long, I don’t know how to dial it back.

I know I’ve seen myself as a martyr and victim to this, I still do sometimes. I know why I do it. I know it can be manipulative as well as controlling. I also see how I use it to avoid taking care of myself.

Self-care is hard. It has always felt selfish and like I’m not supposed to do it but allow someone else to do it, though that is way too much to put on another person. I’m not saying I shouldn’t allow someone else to be there for me, listen to me, or help me. It’s not black or white, and John shows up in so many ways to do those things. I lose sight of it sometimes because I still carry a dysfunctional view from my dysfunctional family of what it means to be in a relationship with someone and to love and be loved by them.

I told John last night how I felt torn about going to the gym after work and not seeing him. He said, well, you can get up and go early in the morning. I said, yeah, no, I value my sleep and don’t want to go to bed early. He said, well, just go after work then. Simple as that, I guess.

I don’t think he worries about our marriage the way I do, but maybe he also knows I’m worrying so much about it he doesn’t have to. He also doesn’t seek validation or approval from me, which I just realized it this week.

I love John and want to be married to him, of course, but I also want to get back some of what I stopped doing (of my own volition) when he and the dogs moved in. I am not the sole guardian of our marriage nor the sole gatekeeper. I don’t have to do all of the work. I need to understand that I am safe to speak up and I will be heard even if I don’t always get the response I want. I am still figuring this out.

I’m going to go to the gym after work. I need some exercise for my self-care. I also need to learn to differentiate self-care from the diet mentality, but that’s another post of its own that is likely coming. I need to put my oxygen mask on.

I put in a request for that Melody Beattie book so I can read it again.

I know I need to try therapy again as well as see a HAES/IE nutritionist to help me work through my dysfunctional history with food and my body.

I know I need to work on my relationship with myself and stop doing my own projecting on others, especially John.

It feels so uncomfortable and difficult, but I know it is necessary. This is just another level of all of the work and healing I’ve already done. I guess the closer to the center of the pain I get, the harder the layer is to peel off. This feels like the hardest one thus far, but I guess so did all of them as I progressed through them. Healing is the hardest thing we can do in life.

Showing Up

2019 Words: “Show Up”

Image Source: Canva

My words for 2019 were originally going to be “Focus” and “Finish.” The thought behind this was this was going to be the year I focused on things like my debt and health and finished the bad habits that got me in debt and have been detrimental to my health.

But those are impossible, black and white, all or nothing goals, and that kind of thinking is the most detrimental of all and allows no grace or room for failure and growth.

Grace and room for growth are what I’ve starved myself from most my entire life and why life feels too hard to live most of the time.

The past several months, basically since my last blog post in December, have been quite challenging.

There has been some good, like I have a new job that pays well and offers benefits I haven’t had in 3 years, and we have a new dog, a 5-year-old terrier mix named Chewy:

But there have been some challenges:

  • When I went for my annual exam back in December, my OB-GYN did bloodwork, which showed my thyroid was very underactive again, my triglycerides were high (though my overall cholesterol was great), and I am pre-diabetic.
  • The worse hypothyroidism is likely the reason for my intense and chronic exhaustion and weight gain/struggle to lose weight over the past year, along with the hair loss and scaly and dry skin and hair I’ve had.
  • My PCOS-related insulin resistance is leading to diabetes, and I have felt really betrayed by my own body while also beating myself up for not eating better foods and not exercising. Trying to get a grasp on IE when my insulin levels and blood sugar are all over the map and I am constantly exhausted and craving carbohydrates feels really hard too.
  • John and I had our worst fight ever in mid-January to the point I worried our marriage was over. In hindsight, it was a fight we needed to have because we both said a lot of things that needed to be said, but it felt so awful and scary in the midst of it.
  • My mom and I had a big fight at the end of December because she wants me to believe in God the way she does and I can’t and she won’t try to understand where I’m coming from and accused me of being defensive and combative when I tried to explain my feelings and it just reminded me so much of our past fights and how powerless I felt in them.
  • I also feel like I will never be able to talk to her about my struggles with Christianity, as I know she feels I will never understand her faith. I do understand how much it has saved and comforted her in her pain, and I am grateful she has that. It is the close-mindedness and political side that I can’t understand, that pains me and makes me feel like I can’t be totally open or safe in our relationship.
  • I started the year with $9200 in credit card debt and felt very frustrated all of January because the whole transition with my new job kept me from really paying anything off right off the bat.
  • The driver job I had for the week of the Super Bowl turned out way differently than as advertised, and I lost a week’s pay from it that I didn’t really recoup.

In the midst of all of this, I have had this little voice inside of me telling me, “Speak up for yourself. Stop just going along with everything. What do you want?

In the fight John and I had, out of anger, he said, “If you just had more confidence, everything would be so much better.” He also said everything was going well and I just “had to fuck it all up.”

That little voice led me to tell John two things:

  • Just because things are going well for you in our marriage DOES NOT mean they are going well for me.
  • While I struggle with confidence in my body and how I look, I am very confident with who I am as a person. I know I am smart and strong and extremely capable and I am confident to show this to others which is one reason I beat out over 600 applicants for my current job. I know I am a good person and know I deserve to treated with kindness and respect.

I have allowed people to run me over for so much of my life. To tell me or shame me into what I believe, think, feel, and how to act. To cause me to shrink and shrivel myself down to nothing. I have allowed people to keep me from inhabiting my whole body, no matter what it looks like, and to convince me it is not and I am not good enough. I have allowed people to convince me that, like John said, I am always fucking everything up with my feelings and needs and words.

That voice telling me to speak up is a small one in a cacophony of a lifetime of self-criticism and self-loathing that demands that I stay small and quiet. But it is growing louder.

After two jobs, one for 6 years and another for 6 months, where I allowed abusive and demeaning behavior because I felt like I had to, just as I did growing up, I am finding myself thinking more of what I need in my new job and how to speak up for it. It’s still tough though. I still feel timid asking my new boss for things and telling her when I am overwhelmed and need help, especially because my tendency is to just suck it up.

My new boss seems to be a very genuine person and doesn’t try to be formal and definitely doesn’t micromanage. She says what she thinks, comes to work in flip-flops, khakis, and a polo shirt, and she believes in me. Said I was her first interview of the day and I set the bar for the rest of the day so high no one else could reach it, and she had to hire me as soon as she could.

But then again, after being burned twice, I have new boundaries when it comes to work.

I started to go with “Speak Up” as my words for 2019, but no, it is more than that.

In speaking up for myself, I am SHOWING UP for myself.

And that is what I need most, to show up for myself in all aspects of the words.

I am showing up for my health by rejoining the LA Fitness gym by my job so I can exercise after work. It is funny how we can feel too tired to exercise but it is by exercising often times that we gain more energy. I also want to feel more wholly inhabitative (is that a word?) of my body and exercise helps me do this.

I have also followed my doctor’s suggestion of increasing my Levothyroxine dosage to light a fire under my thyroid. I started the 175g dosage in mid-January and when he did follow-up bloodwork in mid-February, my thyroid hormones were already improving. It takes about 6-8 weeks to start feeling better, so I am trying to rest more/get more sleep overall and in the meantime.

I also got a much-needed haircut (and went back to my natural brunette color so I can grow out my roots without it being so obvious) to help with the health of my hair and the hair loss.

In addition, I started taking a multi-vitamin again.

I can recognize that my insulin resistance is causing my constant up and down with hunger and this is triggering all of my fears about gaining more weight, becoming diabetic, and that I need to restrict foods which will just lead to more disordered and likely binge eating. I have started looking into seeing a HAES nutritionist and maybe a therapist but I need to figure out if I can afford to pay for either since I’ve found neither that are covered under my insurance.

I am showing up for my financial health by taking a proactive stance with the money I make and how I spend it. I have a spreadsheet with probably 10 tabs detailing how much I make and how I make it (regular job, selling stuff, side gigs like the Super Bowl gig) and how I spend it.

My two main goals for this year are to pay off my credit card and save at least $2K. Since January 1st, I have paid off $960 of credit card debt and will probably end the month at over $1000 paid off because I get paid weekly now instead of bi-weekly. I have also saved up $400 in the past 6 weeks or so.

I will get two paychecks from my Super Bowl gig, one for regular hourly pay which I got in the mail last Saturday and one for the 20% gratuity of each job which I will get in the mail a month from now. Both checks are going straight to my credit card debt. Any money I get outside of my paycheck like from rebate apps I use goes straight to savings. Same with money I make selling stuff online, like over $100 from selling clothes, a purse, and shoes on Poshmark.

I also spoke up and asked John for his credit card to pay for Missy’s mouth infection surgery this week (4th one since July 2017, sadly, and no idea yet why it keeps happening) when I picked her up after work. I’m glad he paid for it because the $815 her oral surgery cost was more than I had in the bank and would’ve wiped out all the progress I’ve made on my credit card debt payoff.

Like many Americans, we learned we owe money to the IRS on our taxes this year thanks to the new tax bill. Because John was smart and maxed out his IRA contribution last year, we owe a lot less than we would have. He paid the $994 tax bill since he has the money from working so much overtime and paying off all of his own debt, and he wants me to focus on paying off my debt this year. We are getting $886 back from the state of Georgia, which is massive and more than we’ve ever gotten back before. He said I could use that towards my debt too, which I will be. I am very thankful for John’s help in this.

It is hard for me to say no to myself just as it is for me to say it to those closest to me. I still want to shop online when I’m bored or sad. I still get tired of eating a sandwich every day at work and want to go to Chick-Fil-A or something.

I am also so incredibly impatient. I know just like with weight gain, the debt accumulation didn’t happen overnight. And in the same way, I won’t pay it off overnight either. Even slow progress is progress, and I am trying to focus more on the present and what I can do now instead of thinking so far ahead.

Showing up for myself allows for me to acknowledge and validate where and who I am in my life. It helps me see me. I so often want to feel seen by others, like John and my parents, but I neglect to really see myself. It allows me to recognize failure is not the end but a re-route to a new road in my journey. I can stop myself in the middle of catastrophizing I am prone to doing and say, Hey! Shit happens, okay? How can you learn from this? What can you do differently?

I was not taught to explore and be curious growing up. I was taught to be rigid and small-minded and always on alert. To rest was being lazy and worthless. To think outside the box or question anything was being disrespectful or ridiculous and isolating. To feel and ask for anything was being burdensome and shameful.

June is the only person who really showed up for me growing up, and even she had her limits when it came to emotions, affection, communication, and needs, and the environment we lived in together was an endlessly volatile battleground where to be vulnerable could damn near kill you or make you wish you were dead.

I am so grateful for that now small voice that whispers to me to speak up for myself and cheers me on when I do. I don’t know where it came from, but I am thankful it is there now. This year, I want to encourage that voice to grow louder and for me to trust and follow its directions.

This is not a year for more rigidity and self-defeat, self-doubt, self-loathing, and allowing myself to be trampled under the expectations and opinions of me, and needs of others.

What do I want?

Who do I want to be?

How can I think, behave, and live differently?

How can I fully live in this body I have as it is?

How can I finally see myself exactly as I am and stop sending myself the same hateful messages sent to me growing up and still all around me in our society?

How can I have a job I like that doesn’t become toxic?

How can the money I earn finally become mine?

How can I focus on each day alone as it happens and stop getting ahead of myself?

How can I do my part to have a healthy marriage with John?

By showing up for myself.

I know by proclaiming these words this year, God/the Universe will throw lots of opportunities for me to prove I am on my team, but I have known for a long time that conflict creates growth and fosters healing. I just pray for some grace and courage to be packed in with those opportunities.

What is/are your word(s) for 2019?

Beautiful You

Day 13 – Beautiful You – Define Beautiful

Beautiful you, flowers, roses
Credit: Unsplash//Jonathan Meyer

I have really not felt like writing over the past week. The weather has been dreary. I had to drain half of my savings account to make my credit card and car payments for December and I have about $700 left to my name. I am still applying for jobs, but with the holidays coming, my email and phone have been radio silent in terms of getting interviews or any real responses to my applications.

When the weather permitted last week, I took Missy for a couple of walks and went on one by myself. This time of the year feels so brutal both in the wet, bone-chilling cold and wind and emotionally. I don’t do well with early sunsets and shorter, cloudy days. I only love cold when it snows and as a reprieve from the intense summer heat. If it doesn’t snow, I require sunny and at least 65-70 degrees to feel good in the winter time.

But on these walks, I started talking…to God, I guess. I don’t know. Sometimes I really miss the faith I had growing up because it felt so comforting and I trusted I was being heard. Now, I just talked out loud (because thankfully, due to the cold, no one else was on the trail) and hoped Someone was listening. I obviously don’t trust God because when I ask for change, I say, “But hey, please don’t take that as let something bad happen to me so I lean closer to you or whatever because that just sucks and seems so narcissistic of you.”

I am angry at God. I can’t fully not believe in God, but I can’t believe in the God I was raised to believe. And with that, I have no idea who God really is or what to believe. But it feels good to be out in nature, wrapped in trees with the sky above, and to just talk. Speak out my hopes and wishes and unload my pain and fear. Maybe if anything, just talking whether anyone hears me or not is a gift in itself because it releases the pressure valve of anxiety in my brain just as writing always has.

When I can’t think of anything else to say or when I start worrying God is going to bring something devastating into my life that makes me wish I was where I am now, I just start saying out loud what I’m grateful for. My family. John. My closest friends. My healthy and capable body and brain. A warm apartment. Hot water. Food. The ability to buy what I need even if it’s with a credit card. Internet. Books. My tiny little Christmas tree. That John has a good job even if he’s working extra hours and we still don’t get a lot of time together to do stuff because he’s so tired when he’s off. Being able to have all of these feelings even though I feel so overwhelmed at always feeling things so acutely.

My mom asked me last week if I know what HSP is. I said yes, highly sensitive person. She said, “Did you know you are one of them?” I said yes, very much so. I feel fucking everything. I’m like Cyclops in the X-Men series where if he doesn’t clamp his eyes shut or wear the special googles, his eyes burn through everything. I feel like I need some sort of shield to protect me from all of the feelings that are burned through me everywhere I go and with everyone I’m around. Maybe I’m not Cyclops but a victim of his, haha.

But anyway, on to the writing prompt from Day 13 of Rosie Molinary’s “Beautiful You”:


Today: In your “Beautiful You” journal, write down what the word “beautiful” means to you. When are you compelled to use that word to describe a person? What has informed your definition? Knowing and owning our personal definitions of beauty is an essential step in celebrating one’s own brilliance.

What does the word “beautiful” mean to me?

When I think of the word “beautiful,” I think of words like “radiant,” “colorful,” “vibrant,” and “open.” A sunset that paints the entire sky in an array of oranges, pinks, yellows, and blues. Flowers. The constant ebb and flow of the waves crashing thunderously along the beach. Seeing the world around me from the top of a mountain or hill. Nature’s inhalations and exhalations in the form of clouds and storms. Christmas lights. The morning after a snowfall where the snowpack muffles all of the sounds around you and the world seems quiet and still for once.

When are you compelled to use that word to describe a person?

Those same synonyms can be attached to my definition of “beautiful” in people as well as “kindness,” “compassion,” “passion,” “perseverance,” and “strength.” I saw this picture on Reddit over the weekend of Hugh Jackman meeting an older lady who was a dear fan of his. There was so much joy in both of their faces as he kneeled down to her in her wheelchair and held her hand. He took a moment of his very busy life to show such kindness and that really touched my heart. It made me cry as much as all of those “People of New York” stories do. Honesty and openness in times of sorrow and great strife is beautiful. When we see the fruits of those struggles in a marriage, the birth of a child, recovery from an illness, and etc. The way John shows up for me, especially in darker times like now where my depression threatens to swallow me whole, is beautiful. Yes, there is physical beauty, but it means nothing without a story behind it. It is a book cover, a book jacket, without a book. The book itself, the story, is what is most beautiful.

What has informed your decision?

For me, beautiful is not what something looks like. It is an action. Like love. A choice. A story. A whole picture. Not just the sun itself setting along the horizon but the colors it projects as it burns into Earth’s atmosphere. Not just a giant supercell storm cloud but the way nature uses weather to keep our planet habitable. Not just a beautiful face but the story and emotions behind it.


Our stories don’t really feel all that beautiful when we are in them. They feel dark, looming, ugly, and we feel fucked up, lost, destroyed, and broken. We see the cracks, we don’t see the gold filling those cracks. It is when we look back that we see the hope, love, character, compassion, and strength that were defined in us during those times.

I can’t wait to see the beauty in this chapter of my life. I know it is coming and that’s the only thing that keeps me holding on.

You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful You here.

Beautiful You

Day 12 – Beautiful You – Realize That Your Dissatisfaction is Not About Your Body

Stories

The past several days have been really rough for me. I let my depression and anxiety and the negative thoughts that come with them destroy my peace of mind. I shut myself off from friends and John. I woke up crying yesterday and then really broke down when John pulled me out of bed and asked me what was wrong.

While thoroughly soaking the shoulder of John’s nice shirt with my tears (and snot, sorry), he told me about an article he read on a study of learned helplessness in dogs (it is so sad, I can’t even write it out here, but look it up if you’re curious) and how the only way the researchers could get them to get up and eat and move instead of cower in fear of being shocked over and over again was to grab them up by their back legs and pull them up.

When he finished telling me about the article, he said, “I’m not sure how this applies to you, but it came to mind.”

I replied, “Are you saying someone needs to grab me up by my legs and make me move?”

He responded (paraphrased because I can’t remember his exact words), “I think you feel like you can’t go anywhere or do anything because you don’t have a job yet or extra money so you wind up doing nothing and feel like shit.”

This is true. This is the story I’ve told myself over and over again. I don’t deserve to do anything. I can’t afford to do anything. I need to be applying for jobs 24/7.

This past week, I think I got dressed and left the house twice. My sleep schedule got all screwed up. John said when he left for work at 2p, I was in my PJs in my usual spot on the couch and when he got home at 4a, I was in the same PJs and in the same spot, and to him, that screams that I’ve given up even though he says he knows better. I don’t think he’s totally wrong though. In a lot of ways, I have given up lately.

This past week, I let the negative, critical, demeaning stories I tell myself break me and leave me sobbing in my husband’s arms for 30 minutes. (Progress though: I used to never be able to cry in front of anyone else, and John has grown in leaps and bounds at showing empathy instead of immediately trying to fix the situation.)

The crying helped though. Right before John pulled me out of bed, I was lying there picturing a town filling with water, flooding with no way for the water to escape. And as soon as I started crying, I saw the dam break and the waters flow out. Sometimes, no answers can be found, no relief can be felt until the tears come. This is something I wish I knew and honored growing up, but with my family, I understand why it took so long for me to know and honor.


From Beautiful You, by Rosie Molinary, the Day 12 prompt which plays into a lot of what I’ve been feeling most of my life:

TODAY: In your “Beautiful You” journal, consider that your dissatisfaction is not about your body. When you accept that thought, what comes to mind? What is your dissatisfaction really about? What is trying to tell you? What part of your life could you address to foster more overall contentment?

All right, let’s do this.

When you accept that thought, what comes to mind?

That I’ve made my body my excuse and scapegoat for most of my life and punished it for something it never did.


What is your dissatisfaction really about?

Fear. I often blame my weight and body for why I can’t do the things I love, like sing or dance in front of others. I blame it for an unsatisfying sex life. I blame it for not allowing me to be stylish and beautiful even though there are plenty of adorable clothes in my size. I blame it for not being able to do the physical activities I love without struggle, like hiking and running, even though I can definitely be athletic and fat because I was for the first 20 years of my life. I blame it for why I didn’t get to have fun in high school and have boyfriends and etc. and kept myself at home instead.

My dissatisfaction is in my fear of being seen, making mistakes, looking stupid, being a beginner and what others think of me. What’s crazy is, John told me yesterday that NOT doing what I want to do, and not my weight gain, is what causes him to be less attracted to me at times. No one wants to be around someone who lives like a bump on a log. I definitely don’t like me when I am being a bump on a log and can totally understand being unattractive to others for being this way.


What is it trying to tell you?

That it is not my body I often dislike, it is me. Because I know I am better than the person I allow the bullshit lies in my head make out to be. I know I am smart and capable. It’s telling me hiding myself with the idea that my life will finally be perfect and everyone will love me when I’m thin or out of debt or whatever is really what is wasting my life. It is telling me this is all I’ve got – this body and this life – and I can’t keep waiting for something that will never come.


What part of your life could you address to foster more overall contentment?

Like John told me yesterday, I GET to go outside. I have nothing keeping me from walking out the door and going wherever I want. I might not be able to afford the dance classes I want to take right now, but there’s YouTube and just putting on music and dancing in my living room. I want to work on realizing that there is so much I can do without a job or money and in my body as it is and to actually do it. Sitting in my dark apartment all day and night with no concept of time sure as shit isn’t cutting it for me and only adds to my greatest fear of wasting my life and not living it to the fullest.

You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful You here.