Friday, September 2, 2016

I'm not blessed

Life is good right now.

Yesterday I was given a raise, one that I knew was coming but it was larger than anticipated.  It was followed by some very nice compliments about how I do my job.

Said job happens to be one I genuinely love doing.  It is also in the field I went to school for and I'm able to do it from home, another huge plus.

I work two jobs and I realized this morning that I have been at my other job for five years. It is also in a field I worked hard to earn a degree in and it is what has supported me during these past five and a half years of my second round of school.  Money was pretty tight during this time.  Without that job and the flexibility it provided (I also do this job from home) I'd have struggled far more financially.

I start teaching a new dance class next week.  It is a class that I have wanted to teach for several years but could not due to the amount of time school occupied in my life.  It is class that could only be done with the additional help of several other people (some really fantastic musicians).  The class would also not happen if I didn't have a minimum number of preregistered students, which I have.

Along those same lines my student belly dance troupe officially forms next week.  This too is something I have been working towards for sometime.  Now that school is done I have the time and resources to dedicate to it.

I've started a new exercise program and because of it I'm starting to feel okay about my body.  I feel stronger and my endurance is up.  I feel more at home in my own skin.  I'm feeling more comfortable with what I see in the mirror.

My needs are met.  I'm fed, housed, reasonably safe and I have good people in my life.

I will say that life is good.  I will say I am grateful.  I might even say (see below) that I'm lucky. What I won't say is that I'm blessed.  Why?

There are some things that I can't control; some things are, for better or worse, just dumb luck. I was born into a fairly typical middle class family to educated parents; no silver spoons here but we didn't starve either.  I was born with a skin color that gives me a certain about of privilege in this world, but I was also born with a gender that means I'm more likely to be seen as less competent, told I'm being emotional or that it's okay to talk over me.  I am fortunate enough to have been born into a time where technology is such that I can work from home and where, at least for now and thanks to a subsidy, I can afford health insurance.  My DNA, who my parents are and the time into which I was born are things I had pretty much zero control over.

However the rest of it...that's mostly me and the work I have done.  It is my 25 years of experience in the work force.  It is the cumulative seven years of school that I have completed.  It is the hours of practice and study I have put into my creative work.  It is the double down on self care I have done over the eight months to get my head on straight.  It is the community that surrounds me.

To say that I am blessed or that the universe is somehow responsible for  my state of well being to me not only negates the hard work that I put into getting to where I am right now, it implies that I am some how being rewarded for being special.

(Yeah, yeah...we are all special. Here's your gold star.)

It also implies that anyone who is not succeeding or is not in a great place is somehow less favored. The universe has my back pal, but must be doing something wrong because otherwise you'd be in your happy place too.  In the new age world we have The Secret and some Christian sects have their prosperity theology.  Your earthly rewards are because the universe or God looked upon your shining example of a life or soul and is making it rain money and blessings upon your life.

(Right.  Donald Trump must for sure have all of his spiritual ducks in a row because by that logic the Universe/God seems to hella favor him...)

I do not call by myself an atheist, and I do believe that all life is in some way connected, if only that we come from the same source, the same building blocks of matter. I believe our subconscious minds are extremely powerful and more wise than we realize.   I meditate, I even at times pray - though is it generally more a way of finding communion with existence than it is asking for anything.  I find great beauty in ritual and religious celebration.  But I don't believe that the universe really pays all that much attention to us individually.  We are here and we must make our own way as best we can. Thankfully, for many of us, there are others who help us along our way - but for many others that is not the case.

There have been times when I have been hungry, homeless and very alone.  Today, I am grateful for all of the good things in my life.  I have indeed worked hard to get here...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Today I'm looking ahead at my calendar.  This coming month I will be performing in three shows and one festival weekend event.  I begin teaching a new dance class and my student dance troupe officially forms.  I'll have four rehearsals for my troupe and three new performance pieces to create.   Despite the fact that I'm working two jobs, both of which I love and I've several other projects on my plate (including an upcoming move), I'm not freaking out.

You read that right.  I'm not in a state of panic or even feeling overwhelmed (not yet anyway).  In fact I'm very much looking forward to all of these things and...(and this is a big AND)...I actually feel prepared to do all of them.

So what is different?  I mean the past year has not been the easiest ever in my life.  I've dealt with nearly losing a dear friend, uprooting my life for three months, a pretty tough depressive episode this spring and a whole lot of school stress.  There were times I wanted to drop everything, dig a hole and move into it for the next decade or so.

First, a lot of basic stresses are out of my life.  I'm housed.  I've good food to eat; and time enough to prepare it.  I'm in basically good health and, huzzah, I've managed to find affordable health insurance. I've begun to have a regular self-care practice in my life again.  And, I've surrounded myself with pretty awesome people who, while they have their struggles too, are basically honest, kind and compassionate.  My life doesn't have many assholes in it right now.

Second, school is done; at least for now.  Earning my bachelor's degree was a huge accomplishment for me.  It was five years of very hard work.  I thought about quitting often but I made it through. And right now, seeing all of those Facebook posts from friends who are starting the semester again, I'm so very glad that this fall I am not joining them.  I have the time to give the other parts of my life the attention they need and honestly, considering how much of the above listed things I did while enrolled full time in school, I feel like I've a shit ton of open time on my hands!

Finally, I have come to realize that I have more strength than I might have admitted to before.  I might have windged, whined, cried and raged but I didn't quit.  Some part of me must have seen a pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel and kept going.  Strength is one those things I won't often profess to having because, well, what if I'm wrong?  I mean I could easily think that I am strong and then suddenly the proverbial straw appears and I'm the camel laying all broken and defeated in the desert.  Had I known ahead of time all that I would face these past 12 months, I'm not so sure I'd have bet on myself to get through it.  But I did, and that's something.

None of this means that my life is perfect.  No one's life reaches a plateau of goodness and stays there, but I feel that I might, maybe, perhaps, you know there's a kind of good chance that I've become better equipped to handle the rougher times too.

Tomorrow might suck. Another depressive episode could begin, I might suddenly feel neck deep in too much to do or I could feel like I'm failing at even existing.  So, I've written this date down on a piece of paper and I'm putting it on my bulletin board to remind myself to come back to this post to remember what I am capable of.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


I have an almost superstitious fear of saying I'm happy or having a good day.  It's like I'm afraid if I admit to it, that the happy feeling or good day will hear me and decide to run away. So when this image began popping up on my Facebook feed with some frequency this past week.  I thought, "Wow, I can so identify with this."

I mean it made sense.  I feel like if I don't keep my good mood a secret than some vindictive little sadness demon will come curse me and take it away.  Then it appeared again, and after rereading it I thought, "Well, I mean it's kind of true.  Nothing lasts forever. The down is going to come after the up..."

And that is when it hit me.

See here is what happens when you live through trauma.  Particularly if that trauma involves emotional or physical abuse.  You learn to be on the look out at all times because you need to be ready for the next angry outburst, the next throwing of dishes or the next time you will be called stupid, ugly or whatever other demeaning thing will be tossed your way.  You can't allow yourself to relax because you are always, always, always on guard for warning signs of the next event so you can try to avoid it or to defend yourself, if you can, when the onslaught happens.

To be happy.  To fully experience this emotion, you have to relax.  And relaxing means, letting your guard down.  For those of us who have lived through trauma, letting your guard down, even for a moment, is the most dangerous thing you can do, because if the attack comes then (and it often does as abusers can't stand to see their victims enjoying themselves), that is when you are blindsided.  You are caught defenseless.

It doesn't have to be relationship abuse.  If you've ever been attacked, or raped, or if you were raised with alcoholic or drug addicted parents,  or if you have lived through a war...any situation that has left you with that deep seated need to always be ready to protect yourself, you may find that you have a hard time with any feelings that actually feel good.

If you add in mental health issues like depression and anxiety disorder, where it can seem at times like your own mind is determined to steal your joy, the reaction is compounded.  It is after all when you relax that all of those awful things your mind likes to tell you about yourself whisper the loudest. Telling you that you don't deserve to be happy or, in the case of anxiety, you simply start to worry about what to do when the happiness leaves.

This for me is where the fear comes in.  It isn't a fear of happiness, it is the fear of what happens when I stop being watchful.

My abuser has been out of my life for 20 years.  Yet, despite nearly the same number of years of therapy and personal work, I've still so much more do.   Healing takes a very, very long time.


Thursday, August 4, 2016


My bags are once again packed.  At some point early this afternoon my ride will arrive, we will load the bags into the trunk and point the car to points south.  After about an hour of driving I will back that apartment I currently call home and I'll return to my regularly scheduled life.

My regularly scheduled life.

Here is the thing about vacations.  The rare times I've taken them they generally serve to remind me just exactly what I am lacking in my everyday life.  It isn't so much that my everyday life is bad, it isn't.  It is however missing some things; namely silence, solitude and time in nature.

My life is not silent.  I live with four other people and a tiny dog who likes to warn us of every possibility of doom (the UPS man, garbage truck and men on bicycles are all, apparently, harbingers of the apocalypse).  Even if they all stopped speaking, wore earphones while watching television and shuffled about in slippers 24/7 there is no way that our apartment will be peacefully quiet.  Add to that traffic noises, the neighbors weekly screaming matches and the general sounds of urban life and, get the opposite of silence.  

You also get the opposite of solitude.  This is something I've tried to achieve at home by simply keeping my door shut, but this generally leaves me feeling more shut in and slightly claustrophobic, rather than peaceably alone.  I also have my kitty who needs access to her food an litter box, which are both kept in my room.

I suppose I can have a bit more of the above if I take care of the third.  I have opportunity to spend time in the woods and along the river near where I live.  This spring I'd developed a habit of walking each morning, exploring the river and woods.  When I went early enough I rarely saw any people and often had time to sit quietly by the water or under a tree.  Once summer hit my habit was lost and I've done little to reestablish it - something I plan to change when I arrive home.

There are other things I've learned and discovered during this week away.  Some I'll likely share here, others are more private, personal...things I need to keep exploring.  Mostly I've come to realize that there are certain things I need in my life in order to be content.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Day 29: The Kayak

[Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons
Water spiders may not be large but they are rather bold. The way they all appeared as if out of nowhere when the dock was bumped by my clumsy handling of the kayak, and then vanished just as quickly was rather disconcerting. I was left wondering if I had just imagined them.  All eleven of them.

Yesterday, I was given a very brief lesson on how to get in and out of the kayak, but today was my first actual attempt.  I am proud to say that other than the brief questioning of my sanity noted above, I managed both successfully.

I have canoed solo before, and used a rowboat, but the kayak was a new experience for me.  At first I seemed to go mostly to the right and then suddenly was going too far left.  It took a few minutes of paddling before I got the hang of it.  I was sailing along at what I felt was a rather admirable pace when a young man, yes half my age at most, came cruising right on past me.

I stopped paddling to watch him figuring I'd learn something and I did notice that he was handling the paddle differently.  I attempted to mimic his form and while I can't say I went much faster, the paddling was definitely easier.  And I had fewer issues with weaving side to side.

I was about 15 minutes or so into my paddle when I heard the wooofhhh woooofhhh of bird wings.  I looked up and had the pleasure of watching an eagle fly about 15 feet above my head and the off into the trees.  I was also treated to the sight and sounds of a pair of loons.  And on my return to the camp a large turtle swam slowly past me.

I'm willing to call the first full day of my vacation a success.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Day 28: Vacation Begins

All the by J. Grandbois
When I logged in to write today's post I noted that I forgot to write a post yesterday. My first thought was, "Oh, well I guess now I have to write two blog posts to make up for it..."

Followed by, "Wait.  No actually, I don't have to do that."

Yes, I committed to blogging everyday for a month but one of the things I said in the very beginning is that I'd likely make mistakes and that this would a be a good time to practice some self compassion.  Plus, today is my first day of my vacation in this glorious cabin by a lake, where I have seven nights and six whole days that are mine to do with as I wish.

And I don't wish to make being too hard on myself on of the things I spend my time doing.   So, I'm doing what I should probably do with a lot of things...I'm letting it go.  Day 27 in my month of blogging will just have to be left blank.

And I shall begin my first day here as I wish to; relaxing, taking in the fresh air and quiet, and letting myself just be.

Maybe this is progress?