Confessions of an Emotional Junkie

If you are over the age of 25 then you have probably noticed patterns in your life.  We all have them, a way of thinking or doing things that we have just assimilated for some reason.  The details of the pattern are really the only difference.  Where mine might herringbone yours might be chevron, or gingham.  I have found a lot of patterns in my life, some are positive ones that I’m glad I have.  Others are negative and end up taking me down a road I don’t want to be again.  It is a slow and agonizing process every time I discover one too.  I would think that there are probably those of us who wake up one morning with perfectly clarity on their pattern but alas, that has yet to happen to me.  It seems like a never-ending path to find the start of a pattern so that I might choose a different road for myself.

One pattern I am beginning to discover is this emotional addiction I seem to have.  It’s weird to think about actually.  How does one have an addition to emotions, but I can’t find a better word to explain it.  I have a need to feel intensely, good, bad or ugly.  And this is not due to an inability to be emotional.  I am actually very empathetic and emotional.  So much so that for most people I turn the emotion button off and they just don’t see that side of me.  It’s too much to be available emotionally like that to everyone.  But man if you are close to me look out because I feel really deep.  And I think I became so used to those feelings (particularly the negative ones) that I started to create situations where I would keep experiencing them.  Cause you know – that was “who I was” or “what I did” or “what my life was like”.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  Does anyone else out there get this?

I became so accustomed to this emotional roller coaster of a life, from my teens on, that I am finding myself on eggshells without it.  I truly almost don’t know how to react to things right now because they are so different.  And the other thing I have discovered is that with the changes in my life that have removed that emotional high I still find myself missing something.  I’m coasting around wondering what am doing and why am doing it.  I have been in this low-grade depression for a while now and the lack of anything to blame it on is what has caused me to stumble onto this pattern in the first place.

My life – is really great.  I have a great job, fabulous kids, a nice home, enough income to be relatively comfortable, companionship and family.  I’m trying to grow a social circle and am active in my church.  Dude – “It’s a Wonderful Life!”.  So then what is causing this feeling of disconnection?

The only thing I have been able to come up with is that without the drama life is sort of boring.  Stable doesn’t necessarily mean exciting.  So I’m missing the emotional roller coaster.  My relationships without it feel different and so I don’t know how to act.  I’m trying to learn to not be a martyr and so I don’t know how to act.  I’m trying to find real intimacy and love and relationship and it is so different from what I believed it to be…so I don’t know how to act.

I’m struggling.  I will have days when I want to pick up on an old pattern and walk down a familiar road just so I will feel something besides this mild indifference.

But I guess those old patterns are being replaced with new ones.  Like crocheting I just haven’t got the rhythm down for the pattern yet so it feels a little awkward.  But with a stable pattern real beauty is created.  With a slow and steady rhythm fewer mistakes are made.  I’ll keep fiddling with it and know that at some point the new will become more comfortable…and I will know how to act.

New Home

Wow, what a crazy couple of weeks. The kids and I are very happy to say that we have purchased a home and we moved in the first weekend of October.  The move went really well and I’m very grateful for everyone that was able to help us get settled in.  It’s a small place, a three bedroom townhouse, but Continue reading

The #IceBucketChallenge

My son was diagnosed with autism at 3 years of age.  It was shattering for me, I will not sugar coat it.  And I still have days where I really struggle with the challenges his autism brings us.  Because it is a part of my life I am a natural advocate for the disorder.  I follow legislation in my state.  I am a supporter of Autism Speaks and my fabulous state autism society.  I hear stories about the major push to help children and adults with this disorder so they can participate in sports and go to concerts and get jobs.  I am glad to see those things but I’ll be honest sometimes I see those stories and I think, “what about the other kids?”.  What about the kids with cerebral palsy, or down’s syndrome, or who are fighting cancer?  Shouldn’t they have the same kind of attention and support for what their struggle is?

So when I saw this #ALS #icebucketchallenge I was excited.  I was glad that I was seeing something being brought to the foreground and looked at.  I am glad that I can show support for it.  We all, every single person on this planet, are struggling with something.  From autism to eating disorders to ALS and we each of us have a responsibility to support each other.  All of us.  To support each other globally.  Take a few minutes and learn a bit about this disease.  While dumping water on your head is good fun, don’t forget the purpose of the exercise.

I have such a huge list of people to nominate.  I would love to see #KevinSpacey do this.  Or my favorite author #JimButcher.  Or how about some great children character’s like: #DoratheExplorer, #MickeyMouse, #BuzzLightyear, you get the idea.  🙂

But I think I will send this out and know I did my part, that I showed my children something important and to have hope that we get better at supporting each other every day.

Below is the video of our #icebucketchallenge I hope you enjoy!

 

A Visit With Sadness

I had a visit from Sadness today.
I was thinking she would be by soon.

Normally Anger or
Denial meet her at the door.
Today I met her
after the first gentle knock.

She looked tired
like she had just spent time with Fear.
She had one hand wrapped around her middle
The other holding herself up on the door frame.

I’ve never really looked at her so close before.

Her face was tear-stained
Her eyes dark and distance.

I invited her in.

I pulled out a chair for her at the table
Brewed some tea.
It was warm.

We both took a deep breath
Then she began to talk.

She talked about things I had not heard about.
Things I didn’t know.

I cried with her
Held her
Told her I was sorry I hadn’t heard her before.

She left sooner today then she normally does.
I had Love and Joy walk her home.

I know I will see her again.
That will be a good visit too.

Labels And Why I Don’t Like Them

Have you ever sat and thought about the labels you use in your life?  I’ve heard it said that labels don’t matter but I have decided that is an all out lie.  Labels DO matter.  We might not want them to but they do matter.  And I hate them….I hate them all.

My life, like everyone’s is full of labels.  Some of my labels include; mother, Christian, autism, introvert, codependent, people pleaser, kind, shy, funny….etc.  My kids have labels.  Labels are how we communicate ideas to one another.  Language is essentially just a complex series of labels made out of symbols that we use every day to explain, interpret, understand and engage with each other every single day.  The problem of course is how our brain uses labels and the limits generated by that.

When I was in school and studying psychology, I had a professor that discussed how the brain organized information.  You may have heard about it; schema?  Well a scheme is basically the map we use in our brains to short cut thinking.  I think of it like little boxes; you have an experience with a person and you notice or learn things about them.  Each piece of data you learn about them is tucked safely away into a little labeled box in your mind; man, woman, mother, single, daughter, white, black, funny, arrogant, and the list goes on.  Each of those boxes has been conditioned with attachments to previous experiences and feelings, some good, some bad, some completely indifferent, and from those attachments and labels we determine quickly what we know about a person or situation.  It happens so fast we are usually not aware of it.  It is way for our brains to be efficient with the huge amounts of information it comes across every minute.  It’s a huge advantage so we can quickly make decisions about safety and other flight/fight circumstances.

Here’s the thing, we forget that people are more than labels.  Even ourselves.  We have an idea about labels; i.e. she is shy so she doesn’t like going out with people.  But that idea isn’t always right; in fact, I’m finding that it often isn’t.  Take a few minutes right now and think of one person you know kinda well…an acquaintance.  Pick one thing you know about that person, it can be anything; the kinds of clothes they wear, their race, their sex, where they grew up, whatever.  Now say a statement about that person you “know” because of that label.  For example: “She lives in a big house so she has lots of money.”  Now, is that really true about them?

Do this same exercise for someone you know really well.  A close friend, spouse or family member.  State a label, they are kind, funny.  Then create your statement.  Is that true for them?  Was it true when you first met that person?  Pick several labels; positive ones and negative ones.

Someone you don’t like?  Is it true for them?

What happens when you do that exercise for yourself?  I’m an introvert.  Introverts don’t like to go out and have a good time – that is not true for me.  I do enjoy going out and having a good time…but wait, I’m an introvert?

My son has autism.  People with autism don’t like to be touched.  But wait – my son would crawl back into me if he could?

I’m sure each person will have a different experience with this but what I found out about myself is that I try to live by my labels instead of allowing myself to just be who and/or what I want to be.  I found that I was acting in some ways because of what I thought those labels expected of me.  I found I was judging myself by those labels and they were definitive.  They were the be all end all of who I was, and in some cases, the other people (and situations) in my life.  And ironically, or unfortunately, finding out that they weren’t right or that I could change them wasn’t necessarily empowering.  It was terrifying.  Who am I if I’m not this??  Right now I’m just scared that I have to take myself out of the boxes.  Boxes are safe.  Labels are safe.  But when we look at our world and we remove labels we must be more vulnerable to learn anything of Truth.  We have to Love (capital L) enough to open ourselves to the possibility that something or someone isn’t limited to the label we have given it.

I want very much to be able to be the person that bravely meets the world that way but right now I just feel like I’m hiding in a corner.  Right now that just looks like a bunch of pain and disappointment and I’ll be honest – I don’t want to hurt anymore.  I’m closer than I have ever been to just turning myself off emotionally to the whole world because I just don’t want to hurt anymore.  I told someone once I didn’t want to live that way, then I hurt again.  I have faith that since my thoughts and prayers have brought me here I will transcend but well, I’m not over the mountain yet.

I would love to hear what those questions brought up for you if you are willing to share.  Maybe we can get rid of the labels together and it will feel less scary.

 

 

Freedom Takes Courage

My children and I spent the fourth of July holiday at the beach this year.  So very different from my Independence Day’s as a child.  What I remember about July 4th growing up are small flags hanging from light posts in a one street downtown area.  There where corn boils in the summer and parades.  I used sparklers and we could see the town fireworks show from our backyard (which by the way, backed into a huge corn field).

This year July 4th was sand and surf.  Small carnival rides like the carousel and Ferris wheel and fireworks on the beach.

We read the Declaration of Independence this year, an idea started from my good friend Andrew Odom, and talked about the meaning behind it.  Why it was important.

All the while the gears in my head are turning and then on church on Sunday our talked focused on how that document can be used as an example of how to make change.  It was very interesting and the impact on my current life was equally interesting.

I imagined what living in that time must have been like.  Not everyone living in the colonies wanted to be separated from England and even those that did, I wonder if they knew what they were in the process of creating?  So many people with different ideas on what to do and after the Declaration was written so many ways to move forward.  The challenges that must have been overcome while something so completely new was brought into manifestation.  It wasn’t just a day of independence or a day of freedom it was a day of courage.

My life is so new…and the challenges that have been overcome to create it are more than I thought myself capable of.  The challenges I still have yet to face, I’m not looking forward to facing them.  Like many colonists, a completely new way of looking at life is staring back at me and I must find the courage to take action to have that life going forward.  I still stand on the brink of something I don’t quite understand.  But I know it is different, so very different I am sometimes afraid of it.  My previous life and ideas stand over me like the King of England and at the same time secret ideas being to gather and make plans for moving forward in a new way.

I think we miss the challenges that must be overcome when change like that happens unless we are living it.  Can you imagine the courage it must have taken to take up that pen and sign your name to a document that said, I will live like this no more?

I am so grateful for that courage in others.  Not only because it brought forth the United States, but also because it inspires me to find that courage within myself.  To take up my own pen (or sword) and say, “I will live like this no more!”.

Go live courageously!

 

Forever…

That word gets tossed around a lot but I’m not sure we can really wrap our brains around what it means most of the time.  I think we stop at the end of our lives but that isn’t forever.  That isn’t everlasting.  I’ve been thinking about what lasts forever recently because there has been change in my life.  I’m starting to feel like I’m getting somewhere.

We talk in terms of forever all the time which is interesting since nothing really lasts forever.  Or at least that was what had been stuck in my head for the last several months.  When you go through transition, particularly transition you didn’t want to go through and didn’t expect, you tend to view the world a little more negatively.  I mean, who feels good about losing a job, a loved one, an opportunity?  So you feel crummy and that the world is out of to get you, or at least I do.  And I somehow got into this very defeated mindset like, why bother…everything ends.

Most people want some sort of stability and just when it feels like we have it something comes along and knocks us over again.  It is possible to get caught in that and fall into a ‘what’s the point’ attitude.  Why work so hard to just get to the next problem, the next issue, the next crappy situation, the next change?  So I decided to really explore that.  I’ve been doing this very Zen thing – be with the pain, take care of the pain, explore the pain.  And I discovered something.

I read in a book (can’t remember name of it now) by Deepak Chopra that talked about seeing eternity in a grain of sand as referenced in the poem by William Blake.  That if you could imagine in your mind time stretched out on either side of that grain of sand and be aware that everything that made that sand has already been and everything it will transform into is what is to come you could look at the sand and see that time doesn’t really exist.  Everything is already in that grain of sand.  It sort of twists my head and he actually explained it very well.  🙂

While pondering that life sucks because nothing lasts I remembered this explanation about time and the world in a grain of sand.  That all of time is in everything around us because nothing can be created and nothing can be destroyed.  I mean at the subatomic level everything is the same and just changes from one thing into something else.  Then I stumbled across something from Thich Naht Hanh that talked about how a cloud can never die…it can only become something else.  I wasn’t feeling like this very practical.  I mean its great in theory but I needed some help with how to deal with daily struggles quickly without needing to put my brain into quantum physics mode.  Plus I was still negative and was so not interested in eternity.  I just wanted my life to not be so crazy…my life doesn’t last forever.  Oh! what an interesting thought, my life doesn’t last forever.  And with that I started to try and figure out what would last my whole life…I came up with my body.  I mean as long as I’m alive my body needs to be working, otherwise I’m not alive.  My breath, my heart beat…

So I guess “they” (there are too many theys to mention here) are right – the breath is constant.  Always there, something to rely on.

Somehow that thought was comforting.  I felt like I had something I could really count on to always be there and in a unique turn of empowerment I realized I have some pretty serious control over that.  I can decide how to breath in each moment.  That thought got me into a better frame of mind.  A place where I could begin to think of what does last forever.

And God does…Universal Law, the Tao, Divine Spirit.  I don’t think it matters what you call it or how you label it.  But there is this something that is always happening.  Always working.  Always there.

Those two thoughts really helped me.  There really is something to rely on.  In a bad moment I can take a breath – something I have control over – and then remember that God is the constant.  All is well.