Swimming against the current — or the problem with feeling

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The problem with feeling is that once you start, you feel it all. You can’t pick and choose once you allow emotion to enter your being. The love. The hurt. The regret, acceptance, shame, pain, pride, warmth. *warning of major self-disclosure ahead. if you would like to keep your idea of me as a happy-go-lucky, laid-back, always-positive, sunshine-and-rainbows kind of person, you should probably skip this one and wait for the next post. If you want some truth and explanation as to why I am the way I am, read on sister (or brother). so here it is, something I don’t think I’ve admitted to aloud except for on maybe one or two occasions: I carry sadness. heaviness. 99% of the time. Admittedly, I always have. I don’t know if I experience sadness/depression/whatever-you-wanna-call-it as much as I carry it.

 [Slight shift, but relevant, promise]

A psychology supervisor once used the metaphor of the experience of depression like swimming against the current. [...take a sec to picture this. to feel it. to place yourself in the ocean. treading water. continuously. without pause or relief...sit with that feeling a bit]. The imagery is perfect and beautiful and extremely fitting. It is exhausting. It’s exhausting to feel like you have to constantly be moving in order to survive. It’s not even about moving forward, it’s simply about not drowning. Depression can leave little to no energy for fun or ridiculous antics or even for the superficial conversation needed to initiate relationships. Why? Because mental energy is expended on staying afloat. It can be hard to go through daily moments of life because of this. Some days are harder than others. Most days are now much easier. Most days, it takes a good amount of energy to keep me afloat, to get me to a place where my heart is filled with love and light and hope. I’m pretty good at getting there now. Actually, I’m very good at it. It’s pretty amazing considering where I was not too long ago. But it takes work. I’ve figured out what works for me. I have to start each day with prayer acknowledging the undeserved blessings I receive. Then I have to commute to work listening to Christian music, because it is positive and encouraging with messages of unconditional love and this sets me up to see things from that frame. I have to avoid sad music when I feel myself entering that certain “space.” I avoid drinking during those times as well (a history on drinking will be shared…later later). I make sure to surround myself with positive, loving, supportive people as much as I can. I make it a point to smile at the sun, to hear laughter, and to notice beauty daily. But it takes work.

[i remember crying when i first heard this song.. it was strange to hear my experience put so beautifully and melodically.]

But then there are times when more is required of me, and more isn’t accessible. I need time to recharge, refocus, regain whatever was lost. Silence and solitude are helpful for that…but with that sort of isolation comes missing out on social interaction and friendships and experiencing the love and light of others. It sucks to feel the guilt that comes with avoiding others for your own well-being, or having your actions misunderstood because you simply aren’t in the place to explain why you left early or withdrew or just didn’t show up. But self-preservation is necessary at times. It’s a delicate balance that I am not sure others understand unless you let them in on it.

[another shift, stick with me]

[written in a church loft, surrounded by candlelit confessions:] I’m sitting here in the darkened silence of pain and tears and sobs and sorrows of women pained…and I have no reaction. initially anyway. The stirrings don’t start until I begin writing these lines. these.very.lines. Somehow, the ink on these pages allows vulnerability to sneak through, without concern or fear. The emotional stirring happen in other places too…while running or walking in the sunlight-filled trails, while driving down winding roads, while listening to song. mostly, in solitude or when I witness love between family. What I’m finding is that I’m good at shutting if off. like a few moments ago when i felt that familiar tightness in my throat. A simple deep breath and hard swallow. I’m good at going back to the dull faded feeling I grew to learn, the not-feeling that I believe I needed in order to survive hurtful experiences as a child.

It was “easier.”

[shifting again, hold on, we're almost there]

I remember being told on a few separate occasions something along the lines of: “I really don’t feel bad for you because you’ve still got it all together despite what you’ve gone through.” And that’s where the cookie crumbles, folks. (quick side note: this is one of the few metaphors that I can get behind. Because really, no one likes crumbs of cookies. It’s just sad). Anyway, my point is, I don’t have it all together. I am kind of a mess. …granted, my not wanting to disappoint others or myself tends to balance me out alotta bit. and my belief that I have lived an amazingly blessed life keeps me in check so shit gets done.

[and finally, we tie it all together, as promised. thanks for sticking in there til the end].

The point isn’t that I can get my shit done. Or that I can shift caring intensely to avoiding emotionally within moments. The point isn’t that I actively participate in trying to make the world better even when I’m not. It’s not about personal responsibility or attempting to get “better” or gain more tools to successfully continue on the path I’m on. It’s not that I’ve learned how to be better, how to feel better. The point is that it’s. not. easy. Maybe all I’m looking for is a bit of sympathy, someone to say, “Clouds, that sucks. Like, for real. That really, really sucks. And I’m sorry. How are you doing?” So why all this? Why now? Great question. Is it because I want pity or concern or attention to any of the above disclosures? No. Please. none of that. I don’t think “now” is actually reflective of the process it took to write this. This was written in chunks over about 5 months, on scrap paper, in journals, in music lofts, at coffee shops while distracted from work. I’ve written about sad & happy before, about the need to balance the good with the bad, ying and yang and all that wonderfully on point jazz. I guess I figured that many of you could relate, probably more than are willing or able to admit. I have found that it’s often quite comforting to read something and go “yes! That’s exactly it! ” Mostly, I think I’m writing this because I want to encourage you to always (or as much as possible) bring love and light when interacting with others..it’s the safest and best thing we can do as human beings sharing this place given that we don’t know what others are experiencing.

dalai-lama-leader-quote-it-is-necessary-to-help-others-not-only-in

the sound of sunshine

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[music and happy]

I’ve been away from this for awhile, distracted by responsibility and stress, cluttered with thoughts and heaviness. Writing is usually always the answer for all of those things…but i couldn’t get away long enough to write without feeling guilty. And then, today I did. I spent the hours writing. mostly purging my heart of heaviness and other necessary things that I’ll share at some point. but theeen, a song played, about sunshine, and thoughts shifted to this past weekend.

I wrote about my first weekend away last year, a truly different experience as I stripped away my outer shell and revealed most of my being to a room full of strangers, now sisters. This most recent weekend was quite different. It was a weekend spent serving a group of beautiful women through a ministry that envelopes my heart in the most beautiful way: music. This weekend reiterated something to me that i have always known in my heart — music heals my soul.

singing at sunrise..

Someone recently asked me about my religion. Without thinking too deeply, I answered openly and honestly, mentioning a few of the major tenets of my faith. and then I added that I see God in music. and I truly meant it. I heal when I sing, and feel the warmth of the sun through the melody.

a bit dramatic? perhaps. but true, nonetheless. I think we all need more of what heals us…like the sound of sunshine.

 

Thrive…or don’t.

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[acceptance & happy].

Alright, so by now you probably know that I’m all about bettering myself/yourself/ourselves. It’s kind of my thing. But recently/slash/not-so-recently, I’ve been thinking about all the effing pressure that accompanies that that brings.

“Thrive!” they tell us. And by “they” I pretty much mean everyone. …alright, obvious exaggeration but seriously. From the positive psychology blogs to blogs in general, to Christian songs, successful CEOs out there attempting to share their secrets to success and how they made it. Hell, I’m included in this given my frequent attempts at betterment and sharing it with you. I am in no way slamming any of these things. You should read some of these articles (I recommend them for people needed words of wisdom from others), click here and listen to this song (it’s a good one with a good message), and check her out too (I’m pretty sure I’m reading her book soon).

I think I’ve simply come to a place recently/slash/not-so-recently where I’m finding that I’m kinda sorta pretty exhausted at times. Not of life in general or of anything in particular. Simply, I’m exhausted of the constant attempts at better. I am in no way saying I’m through with that journey (trust me, I’ll probably resume said journey by the time you finish reading this). All I’m saying is that maybe, just maybe there are times when I should simply just be. No attempts at improvement or resolution or reflection. Just let myself be. Allowing myself to sit in the shitty moments, recognizing that they won’t last forever, but not rushing to get myself out of them. Allowing myself to acknowledge my flaws, recognizing the beauty in them and potential for growth, and not making excuses or being ashamed of them. I’ve learned that it can be quite exhausting to constantly be fighting against yourself or others. I’ve learned that we all need a break sometimes.

I’ve talked about the necessity of putting in the work if you want the change. And I still believe that to the fullest. I guess maybe I’m just recognizing that sometimes we simply need to be content with the progress we’ve made. To accept what is. To accept ourselves in our currently-flawed-but-perfect states. To take a much-needed break from that. That maybe those moments are the times we can should let ourselves be lifted by others, letting them do the work we are so used to doing on our own.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me…
But really though, thrive…or don’t. because you’re still amazing. as you are.

 

perfectly flawed.

Roots.

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[words & happy]

in love.

*inspired by recent discovery of a thought-provoking lyricist from my hometown, not-so-recent spoken word performances that stole my heart and fueled my thoughts. and moments where words are filling my head in a way that hasn’t happened in a while. mostly, I thought I’d share where I began, with words in the form of poetry. Enjoy.

 

Words
where I started
long ago
Just a kid
whose only wish
was to rid
all the hurt
and the pain
that they felt
day by day
but
unable to say
the words
that I felt
So,
I wrote.
Now back
to my roots I’ll go.

They
spoke of
young love, dumb love
heartaches,
heartbreaks.
They
told stories
of pain misunderstood,
of shame, misplaced
not traced
to their roots,
of the love
and the light
that I sought,
that I fought
for
…perhaps back
to those roots I’ll go

These roots
supported me,
helped flourish me.
They nourished me.
They soothed
my soul,
defined my role,
helped me grow.
So, back
to those roots I go.

 

 

 

*extra inspiration:

 

“if you can’t fly, then run.” — or 27

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27 by Passenger (take a listen)

Pretty good, huh? I’m sort of in love with Passenger. But that’s not the point. The point is 27. yes, 27. It’ll make more sense if you keep reading. Sooo…yeah:

Truth is, I’ve never feared getting older. I’m looking forward to having a head full of gray hairs and a heart full of wisdom that supposedly/ hopefully accompanies aging. Death and dying are inevitable, I’m well aware of this. I do not fear it in the existential way many might. I realize my days are limited (whether it’s one day or 25,000) and there’s a finite number that only my maker knows. ..and I’m okay with that. I figure that my job, with that knowledge, is to make the most of that finiteness by doing good, for others and for myself (hence the whole art of happiness thing I’m working on).

But I’ve got to admit that I’ve found something weird happening as I approach my 27th birthday: panic.

So what happened? Well, I think I let it get to me. Societal pressures, that is. Friends and family are getting married, having babies, buying homes, setting up 401ks and IRAs. All good stuff, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not quite there yet. …and I’m not sure if/when I will be.. [with the marriage and baby stuff mostly. I'm working on upping my financial stability since I kinda probably mostly would like to not be in debt the rest of my life]. Anyway, I think I let what others think I “should” be doing get in the way of what I am and want to be doing.

Momentary relapse, folks, sorry, it happens.

The “oh my gosh I’m going to be 27 and single which means I’m near 30 and not married and there’s this whole biological clock people keep talking about and this timeline they say I need to follow if I want to have babies by 35 because I can’t be too old and if I want to enjoy life after retirement and after the kids are off to college, I’ve gotta start now yesterday” thought entered my head.

Exhausting much? Tell me about it.

“Only thing I know
I know that I don’t know how
To please everybody all of the time,
‘cos everybody’s always fucking changing their minds” (27, Passenger)

The thing is, I’ve NEVER freaked out like that before. (I’ve freaked out in plenty of other identity crisis sort of ways before but that’s totally different. …it is, really). Anyway, I blame getting older on this. Scratch that. I blame society’s imposed idea of what my life is supposed to look like. Scratch that too. I blame myself for getting caught up in it. I’ve never planned out my wedding, or picked out my unborn children’s names, nor do I know what I want my engagement ring to look like (the second time around). Never have. Keeping up with the Jones’ has never been something that’s served me well.

I commented to some friends the other day that 27 will be a better year, that things will fall into place, that life will be peaches and Popsicles. …okay, i didn’t use that last reference but it seems fitting at the moment considering the silliness of that wishful thought without action. One of my friends told me that by anticipating that the next year (or moment or relationship or whatever) will be better than the current, it kinda sorta robs you of the present moment…and of years as they pass because “the next will be better” mentality tends to make you miss the now and live in the later.

My friends are filled with wisdom that saves me.

“I don’t know where I’m running but I know how to run
‘cos running’s the thing I’ve always done
I don’t know what I’m doing but I know what I’ve done
I’m a hungry heart I’m a loaded, gun” (27, Passenger)

So, as I approach the next year of life, I think reflecting on what has brought me here and where I am at the moment might be better than ruminating on where I hope to be someday. Inspired by Passenger’s 27, here’s my 27:

writing since I was 10, singing since 2
attempting to figuring life out with each thing I do
9 temporary homes, countless temporary aches
slowly healing through the sisters I’ve gained
2 “proper” boyfriends, and 1 messy breakup
(not counting the ex-fiancé and catalytic life shakeup)
27 birthdays and 27 New Years
Outgrew drinking liquor, can’t say the same for craft beers
Earned 2 degrees, still working on the third
been saved way more times than I deserved
Lived in 3 cities, traveled 7 states
have no regrets, but made plenty of mistakes
been stood up a few times, cursed out a couple
lost parts of my self somewhere in the shuffle
mostly, i use words to heal and grow
working hard to find out the things I don’t know
and “I don’t know where I’m running but I know how to run
‘cos running’s the thing I’ve always done..”

move.

Can You use me as I am?

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“Can You take me by the hand?
Can You use me as I am?” – Aaron Shust

I’ve been thinking lately that this whole “let me better myself” thing might interfere with my happy if not done right balanced.

Let’s explore.

I still believe wholeheartedly that we/I should always strive to be a better being. We cannot make this world a better place if we simply rely on or hope for others to change. Doesn’t work that way. At the end of the day, the only person you have control over is you. …and even that doesn’t always come without its difficulties. So yes, do better, be better, and all that jazz. It’s good stuff.

Buuut at the moment, while I continue to strive for better, I want to be used as I am. I want to be taken with all my imperfections, with all my flaws, with all those jagged pieces that we have as a result of living life.

I think that that’s where the balance lays. between the push-and-pull that is living and failing and re-attempting, and the stillness of the moment; in the acceptance of the perfection of imperfection.

So yes, I recognize that I will be a better being, little by little, moment by moment. I’ll get there.
But I also recognize that I am also perfect now, able to be used as I am to do good, create change, help and heal, if not others, then at least most definitely myself.

And that is pretty wonderful.

We will rise and we will fall
But you remain after all
You’re glorious and beautiful
You’re beautiful.

So, while striving to be more _____ (insert one of the millions of thoughts you’ve had on how you could be better at one point or another), I think it is equally important, if not more so, to accept that where you are is pretty amazing already. I challenge you ((and myself, mostly bc the whole practice what you preach thing is kinda on point and I shouldn’t ask you to do anything I’m not willing to attempt)), I challenge us to acknowledge one amazing thing about ourselves for every thought of dissatisfaction that comes up. Personally, considering the millions of things that run through my head at any given moment, I’m tempted to assume the extreme difficulty that lies ahead for me with this task. There’s that saying that good things don’t come easy. I’m starting to think that maybe they do, we just have a way of making them complicated. So, let’s not.

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“God knows I’ve failed but He knows that I’ve tried.”

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[failure and happy]

“God knows I’ve failed but He knows that I’ve tried…”

it’s true.

I’ve failed.

lots.

This is pretty much how I’ve felt lately. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.
…but, I’ve also been thinking that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be.

Life and all its circumstances have brought my failures to the forefront recently. I mean, it’s not like I had been completely unaware of my shortcomings before now. …they just hadn’t slapped me in the face as hard. Or maybe they just hadn’t affected me in the same way as they have been recently.

So here’s the thing, I’m pretty sure I’ve recently (and not-so-recently) failed at being a friend, daughter, and sister…among the many other roles I play. That’s not news. I suck at life sometimes. I think we all do. And that’s okay. It’s kind of hard to live it as smoothly all the time, especially when the current comes in a bit stronger. (I pray that those around me understand this to some extent when I’m failing). I think I’ve just been more aware of that difficulty and of my failures recently, particularly given that I’ve had more moments lately when I’ve had to neglect those roles in order to safeguard my own well-being. This leads to a wonderful push-pull between feelings of guilt for not being there for others and the necessity for self-care. It’s not very pleasant and often headache-inducing; I’m sure you’ve had moments where you can relate.

The thing is, I was starting to get really tired of it all. ..of the continued failures. of the unchanging circumstances. of the cycles and planning and never feeling like I was actually getting there anywhere. I was tired of feeling like I wasn’t taking the actions needed to be the person I knew I could become. I was tired of thinking so much and doing so little. hell, I was even tired of the writing [which is why I took some time away from this for a little bit. my bad. kinda needed a moment, which I know you understand. but I'm back now].

A conversation I had with someone brought to light some of that headache-inducing push-pull I mentioned. He said I had too high expectations for myself when I mentioned I was sucking at life at that moment.
Sometimes I agree that I can be a bit hard on myself, expecting more than I can possibly give.
..but then I think of how much I’ve yet to accomplish and of how wrong that he is because I there is so much I should be doing but don’t and of how I need to do more as soon as possible.
and then I see how that previous thought kinda sorta probably adds support to his reflection…but just a little bit…maybe. (okay, it does. a lot).

I got to thinking more about all that and about this whole failure thing as life began to circle back, as it tends to do when you need it most. And I thought about how the cliche “fall down seven times, stand up eight” line, while slightly annoying when you’re on the floor, fresh from having fallen, somehow holds truth and inspiration when you’re on your feet again.

 

At the end of it all, I think of how this isn’t the end of it all, at least not yet. I think about how, no matter how many times I’ve failed ((and will continue to fail)), the lessons come in the attempts. they come in the striving. He knows that. While I may attempt and fail a ridiculous amount of times, I keep trying. And God knows I’ve tried.

and that’s kinda the most important part.

there you have it, folks. you keep moving forward, inch by inch, moment by moment. while it may be five steps forward and two steps back, you’re still making progress, even if it doesn’t feel like it at times.

so keep going. keep striving. keep picking yourself up.
partly because, in doing so, you will find that you change and inspire those around you.
mostly because, in doing so, you will change and inspire yourself.

failure

*music inspiration for post and title. happy listening: