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, well...you 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 green...photo 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?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Day 26: What I'm looking forward to...

Photo by J. Grandbois
Yesterday I wrote about my anxiety surrounding my vacation.  I'm still nervous; still worried I'll over pack, that I'll forget something important.  Yes, I'm bringing my baseball bat.

But anxious as I may be I'm also looking forward to it.  I am looking forward to...

...days without a plan.
...putting my feet in the water.
...cooking on the grill.
...sitting by the fire.
...looking up at the stars.
...seeing birds and wildlife I don't see in town.
...sleeping in.
...quiet.  I'm really, really looking forward to quiet.

And yes, I'm really looking forward to solitude.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Day 25: My vacation is stressing me out...

Arthur Rackham [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Alright, I'll confess.  I am feeling some anxiety over my upcoming vacation.  Okay, fine, maybe I'm feeling a lot, but I've not done this in what feels like a million years.  And, well, have a talent for making myself neurotic over just about anything...but...

Now, the best way for me to handle my worries is to name them so I can then find ways to manage them, right?

1. $$$$$$ . Unlike the last time I took a real vacation, I can barely afford to do this.  I don't have paid vacation time and while I made, and stuck to, a plan to get all of my bills caught up before I went so I'd not feel stressed about falling behind, it has left me pinching pennies.

Money. Stresses. Me. Out.  Blah, blah, mindset of scarcity, blah blah, the universe provides.  No, working and making money to feed myself and pay my bills provides - I provide.  However, I'm doing my best to recall all of the other times money was tight and I survived.  Rice and beans.  Rice and beans.  

2. Transportation.  I'll be at a cabin for a week without a car.  I'm making lists like mad but I'm still worried that I'll either forget something vitally important or I'll so over prepare that I'll bring a bunch of crap I won't need and then I'll have to deal with schlepping it there and back again.  I really want to keep this simple.

I keep telling myself that whatever I leave behind I can likely live without for seven days. And I do have a couple of folks in the area who have offered to give me a ride to the store if I need one.  My lists (food menu, clothing, cat supplies, entertainment...how many drums should I bring??) will hopefully keep me in check as well as prevent over packing.  I did manage to live out of two suitcases for three and a half months, I'll manage. 

3. I'm feeling anxiety over my anxiety.  That's right, I'm worrying over my worries.  I'm also anxious about possible attacks by hillbillies with axes, but that's a whole other blog post.  Truly, my brain keeps playing every what if scenario possible:  What if I have a panic attack while I'm there alone? What if I get there and I realize I hate being alone?  What if I fall down and I can't get up?  What if there really ARE hillbillies with axes?

First off...reminder...I have not had a panic attack in two and a half years, and prior to that it had been about five since since my last one.  Second...I have always managed my anxiety alone, maybe not always in the most productive way, but I did it - and besides, I'll have wi-fi, worst case it's hot tea and HSN until my heart calms down.  As for the rest, I've been craving time alone, I know I need this and I know I'll be fine by myself.  As for the hillbillies, add the Louisville Slugger to the packing list - if there is more than two of them you are doomed anyway...so why worry. 

I want this vacation, more importantly, I really, really, really need it.  I need a space to clear my head. I need a few hours just staring into a fire.  I need to walk in nature.  I need to have quiet.  And, despite my anxieties, I need time alone.

I know I've got this.  Go team.