Healing Highways & Byways: Highlights of My California Coast Road Trip

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I recently returned from an epic road trip where I traveled from Bellingham, WA to San Diego, CA.  I went with my ex-spouse who is still family to me and a good friend.  To save time, we chose to travel down I-5 until entering California and then used HWY 101 and PCH 1 the rest of my journey.

I was blessed to take in many breathtaking views, absorb some of the culture of the areas we visited, and get plenty of vitamin D from the sunny weather we experienced. It was a great journey full of ups and downs; the camping and being cramped up in a car for many days lead to a few heated arguments where we were both tired and I ended up with some significant back pain towards the tail end of our trip.  All in all, however, it was an amazing trip that provided the much needed break from the slump I was in before leaving.

Traveling is truly therapeutic for me because I am pulled out of my regular routine and environment and thrust into a reality that is foreign to me. I learn a lot about myself and life in general during these experiences. I wanted to capture some of these memories, in writing, before they faded from me. Below are some of the highlights of the trip.

Highlights:

  1. Feeling small among the giant Redwoods. We camped at the Del Norte Coast State Park in the Mill Creek Campground. We were able to walk among the giants and marvel at their greatness. It was surreal. We joked how they must be fake and planted there to attract tourist. I remember walking among the giants, my feet shuffling along the forest floor, and having to bend back, straining to take in their colossal circumference and their dizzying heights. I felt protected in this forest, as if my cares were insignificant and could become absorbed by them. I left my daily preoccupations behind and became mesmerized by their vastness, gaining confidence and certainty that things could change. Sitting among the giants stirred a sense of stability and fortitude. I left the forest, looking up at their largeness and feeling full.
  2. Feeling alive at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. I have always longed to learn how to surf. I grew up around water and was on the swim team and my parents had a boat growing up.  We would visit Myrtle Beach and I would spend hours “riding the waves” with a body board. I felt “at one” with the ocean so it’s no wonder Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz captivated me. I spent more than an hour watching the surfers catch the waves, my eyes glued to the ocean, making my own assessments at the incoming waves of whether or not they were worth catching.  I even become excited writing this now, as there is something so overwhelmingly amazing about being submerged in the ocean, becoming part of the powerful force of nature. It’s scary and exciting at the same time, and for some reason it completely resonates with me. Watching the surfers reminded me of the person I have partially lost due to my illness. Due to anxiety and depression, I haven’t been active in sports for a long time now. I have let myself get out of shape and fearful. I was inspired by the surfing and am hopeful to one day go back and give it a try. It is something to work towards!
  3. Feeling overwhelmed and anxious in Los Angelos: The energy of Los Angelos and the surrounding area was palpable. It seemed to hum and hiss, as people honked impatiently at the tourists as they fought the daily traffic. I immediately acknowledged I couldn’t live in a place where I would have to sit in traffic daily, it is not for me. We went to Hollywood Blvd, Sunset Blvd. and Venice Beach. I was overwhelmed by the diversity and disparity. I appreciated disappearing for awhile and becoming anonymous in a culture of such diversity. I marveled at humanity and our various faces, colors, heights, accents, and languages.  This was RICH!  It made me feel full, stimulated, and connected. My spirits were somewhat dampened, however, by the prevalent poverty in certain area on the streets. We went to take a picture of the Beverly Hills Hotel and right in front of the hotel on the sidewalk I caught glimpse of a homeless person lying at a bus stop where there was shelter. I’m not sure there will ever be a clearer picture of economic disparity as what I witnessed there. My friend and I joked about seeing Ellen or Oprah on the street and when I watched the shows at night in our hotel at Redondo Beach, I wondered how close I was to where they were being filmed.  It was a neat experience overall, but I really don’t ever want to drive through LA again, LOL.
  4. Feeling enraptured by the coastal views and sunny weather. It was on these stretches of the coast, the Big Sur area and Laguna & Jamala Beach, where I let go and relaxed in the natural beauty surrounding me. The weather was warm and sunny and the nights were magical. The palm trees would cut through the orange and yellow sunsets while the stars filled the skies. We were camping some of the time, and I recall leaning back in the chair I brought for camping, gazing at the dark, night sky full of mystery and lure. I remember wanting to connect even further to the vastness of the sky, marveling at a space so foreign to me, feeling somewhat guilty for not spending more time here. It was both beautiful and humbling, where I felt small and insignificant and in awe of a reality I couldn’t entirely get my head wrapped around. You could hear the waves ripping in the distance and crashing as they rushed to shore, which could almost be mistaken as thunder clapping in the distance. In the daylight, the blue-green waves of the coast came racing in dressing the white sand in foam, before pulling away once more leaving the touched shore wet and silver.  My thoughts rested on this ancient ocean and all the life within it that has been busy all along, rich with its own life and stories. There were times I laid my head back, listening to the rhythm of the waves, feeling the warmth of the ocean truly feeling full and relaxed. “Oh, I needed this!” I remarked to myself. I had forgotten that this place existed and it was truly good and pure. Hopefully, I won’t wait too long next time until I visit you again.
  5. Feeling sad at the US/Mexico Border. We travelled all the way down the coast to the very edge of the country and visited Border Field State Park.  I saw the “wall” or fence that separated the two countries.  I went through “Friendship Circle”, a space for people to visit their loved ones, and I firmly planting my two feet on Mexican territory for a few moments.  The area was patrolled by a border agent. I lingered there, feeling a bit uncomfortable for being monitored and went back through the gate. I noticed the border “wall” extended all the way into the water.  You could see families on the other side in Mexico playing on the nearby beach. It felt heavy to me, given the recent issues surrounding immigrants. I also felt it was odd that the Canadian border nearby where I live in Bellingham, WA, did not have a fence, nor the same level of security. I may be a bit of an idealist, but this left me caught up in thought, lamenting to my friends about the presence of borders and how they are man made. Men have the ability to foster peaceful relationships with one another by learning from each other and working together, and yet, walls discourage this type of growth. I left the park feeling a bit somber.

Every time I travel, I feel it opens my mind, challenging and exposing me to novel ideas.  This trip was definitely no exception. It was a long road trip that was both difficult and beautiful. I hope I can see the California sun again one day soon. Road trips are therapeutic and fun and are part of my toolbox for coping and healing. Hope you find yourself on one soon!Screen Shot 2018-09-27 at 2.26.46 PM

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Lighthouse List: My Guide Through Stormy Seas

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I’ve been on an endless quest of forgiveness and self love. I keep getting tripped by various events that suck me into old habits and patterns. I reach clarity only to be pulled back into the fog where I am wounded, raging, and ruminating. To be fair, I am navigating some fairly choppy waters at the moment. The boat is rocking like mad and I have become paralyzed, at times, or am frantically fighting, completely entangled and entrapped.

Initially, I start off swinging, hurling insults here and there, mostly screaming into wide, empty spaces. I have every reason to be hurt and even fearful, but I keep asking myself: “What happen to my promise to disengage?” This on going struggle has been nearly impossible to completely let go of because it involves family members that I love, but continually lose. I’m on an emotional rollercoaster of peaks and valleys that include: hope, rage, self-loathing, forgiveness, despair, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. I would give anything for everyone involved to abandon the rollercoaster and never ride it again.  God, I am tired.

After all the mistakes I have made again, I have decided to write a list here to remind me what to do and not do in crisis. Writing may help me navigate more safely through the next storm, a Lighthouse List to guide me.

My Lighthouse List

  1. Do not stop breathing. Seems easy enough, right? I stopped breathing earlier today and now I am having anxiety and panic which make it even more challenging to focus and respond. Do not stop breathing, remember to take a time out to breath and focus. You will be more effective as a result of doing so.
  2. Stop and ask these three questions before getting involved. Am I in an emotional state? Is it my responsibility? If I do act, is it realistic for me to expect that it will yield a favorable result? For the record, I have never once stopped to ask these questions and I believe if I had they may have allowed me to be more skillful.
  3. If in an emotional state, do something active before responding. I tend to be a highly impulsive individual due to ADHD and Bipolar 1. I cannot count the amount of times I have gone overboard in a rage, when angry, and regretted it later. It has caused a lot of self-loathing. Often the anger is justified, the response is not. I am going to try the next time I am truly triggered to immediately engage in physical activity of some sort in order to decrease the intensity of my emotions.
  4. If it is not my responsibility to act, step back until advice or help is solicited. This can be complex, at times, given the circumstances. But, in general if you are not the one responsible for remedying the situation, then it is best distance yourself. Provide some help and advice if you like provided they are open to receiving it, but keep your distance unless it is requested. This sounds like common sense, but in a crisis, situations emerge that often challenge this reasoning. Emotions are running high making it difficult to execute logically. I believe having this reminder will help in various situations.
  5. If you are uncertain that your actions will yield a desired outcome, wait to act until you are more certain. I think this is a good strategy to have when deciding wether or not to act in a crisis situation. There are times I am so fearful or angry I react without weighing the pros and cons of my actions. Keeping the end result in mind will help me navigate more safely.
  6. Take time out to recharge and take care of you. Even in the midst of a very difficult family situation, try to take some time out for yourself to center. Take a bath (you have to anyway!) or a walk and during those times try and take a time out to give yourself a rest from the chaos and emotional upheaval.
  7. Be mindful and remain in the present moment. Often crisis and trauma will bring us right back into the past and feelings will flood and overwhelm you, making it difficult to act in logical ways. Find time to center yourself and remain grounded in the present as to not bring past habits into the situation at hand.

This is a good list to start with as I navigate the choppy seas over the next few weeks.  Maybe I can do better from this point forward. The last few years have been extremely difficult and I have reason to be upset and even devastated. I am going to be starting Dialectical Behavioral Therapy soon and am excited to learn new ways to manage my emotional state and behavior in times of crisis. Until then, I continue to learn from my mistakes and use the above list. I am hopeful that the worst is behind me as I have been keeping my eyes wide open and when mistakes are made, I make efforts to question my behaviors and intention.

In the past, I would not have been able to quickly pinpoint mistakes made. I am growing. I am trying to be patient with the process. Healing is messy and chaotic, at times, but exciting and inspiring as well. Hopeful and happy to be on the path. It feels like home to me.

We Are Stars: Finding The Center and Basking In It

 

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I am centering. I have found this to be a difficult process where I often backtrack or retrace my steps. The center is where I long to be, basking in light and warmth, finally floating and free. Oh! How my soul fills with excitement when thinking of finally reaching this space. Perhaps, I will be able to dwell in it for long periods of time. I long to just feel ok: safe, relaxed, loved. I did not realize when I started this journey how much I would have to “let go” to feel weightless, free from the shackles that have kept me caged in despair and fear.

I’ve loathed myself over the past decades. Through broken and abusive relationships, I have suffered and felt lost, abandoned, and ashamed. I was rejected, abused, neglected, and left over and over. I became callous and defensive, perpetually caught in the web of other people’s assumptions and ideas. I spent hours oscillating between two realities, the one I defended as mine, and the one that was defined by the reactions of others when I angrily confronted their mindless and abusive behaviors. I became abusive, at times, as a result of staying engaged too long, unwilling to concede and let go. I stayed and fought alone and often with myself. I rarely stopped to think that these people I had invested so much time and energy in did not care about me. And in many cases, these people did not even care about themselves. This recent revelation ironically is freeing me.

I was hooked into their struggles and pain, trying to save them from their addictions. No one listened and the relationship became more and more strained. My assessment was “on point” and sadly their struggle continues to rage on and I am gagged and bound by the addiction and mental health issues that have trapped them.  I saw it coming, I sounded the alarms, and then stared wide-eyed in disillusionment and fear as the storm ripped apart my family, leaving it destroyed. The storm touched everyone involved and pushed me far away, watching helpless. Everything inside of me says the worst is yet to come, but I will hope for a miracle. I was so hurt that I too caused some of the destruction that has wound up lying in pieces, scattered on the ground. And yet, the storm was so brutal it has left the people I love disconnected from themselves, forgetting their past, unable to truly participate in the present moment. They are still stuck on survival mode with little room to reflect on much else.

I feel remorse for the angry words I said.  I have a way of cutting to the core when I am angry. Yet, I have every reason to be enraged, hurt, and disappointed. And quite frankly, two decades of trying in various ways to push for reform with no resolution has left me embittered and empty. I have learned during these times that I did not truly have a family that cared to know and love me. My mother remained supportive, yet even our relationship was nearly extinguished from the high flames and temperature burning it all down to ashes. It is smoldering, but it is ruined. Ugh.

There is a new voice inside of me. It’s telling me that it’s ok. I became too invested and too involved by trying to help and got dragged in by the undertow despite my valiant efforts. It has been traumatic for me. If I had the chemicals in my system blunting my reality and emotions, perhaps I would not be so raw and exposed. My voice tells me that they do care, but its buried deep beneath layers and layers of what trapped them in the first place. I wince in remorse for words shaming their behaviors because I don’t feel they are that insightful. Perhaps they too are scared and sad underneath the rubble that they are buried underneath, suffocating with no escape. I hate myself for beating them down when they already are so low. I’m angry at them for botching the rescue efforts.  Still yet, they would say they didn’t need rescued and deny the destruction. Everything is splintered, confusing and chaotic. There is nothing to be said or done as trust has been lost. They will carry on through the rubble and smoke, never fully leaving the scene in order to ensure their safety. If this sounds confusing and crazy, it is.

And you see how I so easily can get, “off center”. The voice inside tells me that although they are all still fighting alone and among themselves, they really don’t care to know me. It hurts, but it does not devastate me anymore. I think of the hurtful things I have said in anger and compare them to what has been said and done to me and no longer judge myself so harshly. This has been really hard. I don’t want to hate myself anymore and I don’t want to hate them either. I see clearly the benefits of forgiveness.

There is a beautiful, warm light in the center of it all where I can float freely and I must find this space. Everything inside of me tells me now that it exists and that it truly is ok that they do not care. I feel for once in my entire life that I might just stop fighting. I might truly float. All the noise that I absorbed that told me I was bad, unworthy, crazy, mean, etc. was misinterpreted by me. I was fighting so hard for people to love me because I had not yet learned to love myself. I was demanding that people respect me and value me, because I did not feel worthy. The light in the center of my soul wasn’t going to let go of this idea that I deserved people in my life that loved me.

And so, I stayed way too long demanding love from people who also did not love themselves. And now, more clearly than ever I understand the words: “hurt people, hurt people”. I truly cannot put into words the madness of screaming into the emptiness over and over again trying desperately to get my needs met and being unable to move. I did not see at the time that I was learning to love myself. I wanted love from my family and my abusive ex Narc and I was insistent upon getting it. I stood out in the pouring rain for months nearly dying to get it. You will love me, dammit, I ranted and raved. My world crashed around me and I became physically and mentally sick and was unable to work as a result. I was suicidal and enraged. Still the rain fell, steady as strong. The storm wasn’t going to pass until I decided to love myself.

I still have a lot of work to do on “this thing called love”. It’s really hard stuff. I am not sure why it isn’t easy. I feel all the years of crap being piled on higher and higher that tells you that you are unlovable and unworthy traps you. My self esteem needed an overhaul and my mind needed to be cleared from the loads of crap planted there. I guess I had no idea how much I hated myself and how much other people’s opinion of me influenced my self concept. I guess I needed to scream enough in conflicts to others to convince myself that I was worthy. I cringe at hurting people, however, but my nastiness and cruelty comes from a pure place of wanting to be visible, valued, and heard. Now that I know this and feel it, I think perhaps a lot of my anger will subside. I can let go of those people who do not care, because I care.  I care about myself.

Maybe this is simple for some people and even silly. But, some of us miss these basic things because we have troubled and traumatic beginnings and we didn’t learn it along the way.  Some of us are just sensitive and more affected by the constant chatter we receive in life from criticism. I’m happy to be on this little journey.  And, I do feel the light and warmth is coming. A place you can sit in for a time to be loved, rejuvenated, and protected. I was running anywhere, but there. It is inside of you…. this light. I’m so happy I finally found myself, a bright light light in the universe. We are all stars!!

Addiction is Confining: Hop in the Car and Take a New Journey

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When you love someone who has a serious addiction, you always lose.

In the beginning, you are confused and concerned. You have no way of knowing what the future will bring and the only exposure you have had of addiction is what you have seen and heard from others. It hasn’t personally pierced through your heart and dragged you through the mud yet, leaving you cold, exhausted, and alone. It will in time, but first you’ll be forced to stare into the face you love and be lied to, insulted for caring and confronting, and completely cut off. You will beg, plead, cuss, and rage as multiple dramas erupt that place your loved one in danger and strip them of their natural born potential. They will fight to keep you from saving them and throw punches at you as fight to keep them alive.

As the war rages on, you’ll be fighting for someone who is nearly gone who no longer recognizes themselves.  They will be sure to tell you how judgmental you are when you confront them about working, caring for their children, and taking care of their health.

When you love someone who has a serious addiction, they always lose. However, they forget who and what they have lost. They push you completely out of their lives and cannot be convinced that they are lost. You will feel like you are pleading with a drowning man to please take the raft to get safely to shore. He will be screaming at you while choking back water that he is fine and you need to “get lost”.

This illness has just begun to “warm up” as it will now spread throughout the family unit and to certain extended family members who care to be involved. The kids will often grow up confused, sick, and struggling. The sad part is that the kids will defend the addict and the lifestyle surrounding the addiction. Some will have their potential destroyed by drug use, incarceration, and lack of education. The kids of addicts often pay a very high price for their parent’s addiction and many times will not be able to recover from the neglect and abuse resulting from years of living a life where their lives were not invested in and their needs were not the priority. They will often feel uncared for and have poor boundaries as a result of not having an example set for them. Some children of addicts do recover and heal with support. Some do not and end up struggling the rest of their lives.

Family members also become “sick” when the addiction reaches the later stages. Some deny and enable, while others confront and even rage. Everyone loses in the end and the devastation caused can last a lifetime. Sometimes, it is necessary to walk away from the person who continues to use. When help has been continually offered to no avail and all options exhausted, it may be time to let go.

This is where I am currently with my sister and her family. I am still here if they truly want to get well, but their actions have communicated otherwise. They feel I need to trust them and their insistence of that tells me that something is up. It would be abnormal for anyone to trust a person that has lied to them in the past, even if I wanted to trust them. And I do want to believe their words, but I cannot deny myself the time to heal and have trust rebuilt on my time. I don’t feel they are telling me the complete truth anymore. I have been the scapegoat of the family for getting angry and confronting, yet  if we did not have this illness in our family, I would have nothing to confront.  Actions are so much more important at this stage and addiction often yields hot air and little else.

I pray for all those afflicted with this illness and the families it touches.  It is relentless and it erodes the family entirely. The person afflicted loses themselves and everyone around them is able to see them fading away while being blamed and pushed away.  Their illness consumes the family, taking up time and energy and years are lost focusing on a problem that seems unsolvable. This is addiction. It’s ugly, aggressive, and deadly.  It doesn’t come to play games, it comes to conquer and devour.

One day I hope to see more aggressive treatment early on and programs available after discharging from rehabilitation. I believe if you want to quit, you can. The tough part is convincing people that they want to quit. That is the key. You can do anything you “want” to do. They have to “want” it first. People have to fear losing something or themselves in order to want to stop an addiction that chemically distracts and numbs you. If that piece is found, it can be enough for a person to fight to maintain sobriety. Often, I feel people perhaps never felt alive prior to the addiction and they are willing to taste death to feel alive. It’s the perfect paradox and drives people to the edge of madness, always chasing a high that has the capability to put them 6 foot underground. A very low place, turning the lights forever out.

Addicts have to change their lifestyle and their friends who use alongside of them. They isolate themselves, forgetting that most of us long to feel alive and excited. I feel the difference is that in sobriety, one fears the heights needed to continue the ride that may kill us in the end. And the high is fabricated and false, lying to the addict the entire time. It is saying: “Let me erase you, and I will give you temporary pleasure and a lifetime of pain and misery if you give me your soul”.

An addict must divorce it’s “abusive lover”. No, it is not fun. Yes, it is hard. But, if you want it you will take the road to get your life back. At the end of the road of sobriety is you. The you that you left behind. You deserve to be along for the journey. Get in the car of sobriety. Let others drive at first. Lock the doors, keeping addiction out by not having people and situations in your life that will trigger you. Roll the windows up if needed. You will hurt, grieve, and be afraid. But, you will have yourself back in time. It is worth it. you are worth it. Many journeys await with an open road in which to travel.

Among Wolves: When Family is Your Enemy

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I really do not want to remain silent anymore. I’m exhausted from being scapegoated in my family. It’s nauseating to sit and watch the level of denial and complacency that takes place. And no one in my family wants to take accountability for their extremely abusive actions, instead continually laying blame on me for defending myself. I feel defeated by the wolves that encircle me, salivating, dripping of lies and deceit. It’s ridiculously dysfunctional and I was hopeful that someone would be able to see through the dense fog of devastation and despair. No one has thus far and it has left me isolated and alone.

And, still yet, I am brazenly strong and capable, aware enough to see the patterns and sound alarms, that ironically land on deaf ears. The destruction is inevitable as the pack of wolves hang together, making it impossible to eradicate the predatory mindset that enables their survival. It is better to retreat than fight. And, this has been my tactic as of late. Still, it is hard when I check in from time to time to learn that they are still up to their old games.

I have to remind myself to walk away from their addictions and their continual neglect. I have to remember how much I have given of myself in time, money, and advice only to have abusive insults hurled at me when I no longer stroked their voracious egos. I must remember that these individuals, even if family members, are incapable of being accountable and are not a bit remorseful for hurting me. It’s sad, but these people only care about themselves. Why would they care about a person who is confronting their lifestyle when they don’t even care enough about their children to ensure they graduate from high school? Why in heavens name would I feel they would care about me, when they have a young baby and are not immediately getting a GED to ensure that they can provide for their child? These are people who have committed crimes and have gone back to drugs repeatedly, even after experiencing a drug-related death of a three year old and one of them nearly dying of needle use. So, I’m not sure why I have even allowed myself to have any expectations of people who have zero standards for themselves. I do have standards and that is what troubles them. And I had standards for their lives, because I believed that they could do better. I still do. And I consider that a compliment, not an insult.

In any case, I will walk away instead of engaging with the wolves again. I have learned my lesson. I truly am exhausted from trying. I lost my family due to addiction and the dysfunction resulting from years of them using. I’m sad about that and would have rather had a family that actually cared more about maintaining a relationship with their sister and aunt than doing drugs and defending their lifestyle. But, the reality is the one sister I have and the only children I have in my life of blood relation are all extremely strained due to good ‘ole Meth, Pain Pills, and other drugs. They all have demonstrated over and over to me that drugs are so much more important than our relationship. This has gone on now for nearly two decades. So, I am letting go. And, I will heal.

I am so much stronger than this and my life will be joyful as a result of letting go. I’m just going to be me and I am going to spend my time and energy on people who actually can give back. I’m sorry that wasn’t my own family as I would have enjoyed spending sober, quality time with my family over the past few years. It wasn’t meant to be, I guess. I’m nearly 46 and I am ready to spend time with people who show up for the holidays and call me on my birthday and actually do not lie continually to me or play games. I admit I have been imperfect in dealing with the grief of losing them. I haven’t been nice at times and I have often lost my own dignity in the end.

It’s been heartbreaking and enraging at the same time, and still yet, it has gifted me the greatest life lesson of learning to love myself. I’ve had to let go of expectations and embrace “what is”, forgiving myself first and then forgiving them. This painful process playing out center stage in my life while being largely ignored and forgotten by the ones I love has left me devastated and in despair. Through years of trying, I have realized I am only a brief annoyance and an afterthought in their lives which are fraught with the daily dramas they perpetually entertain. It’s these trivial endeavors, often surrounded by drug use, that captivate and demand their time and attention, stunt their growth, and prevent them from connecting in the present moment with those who actually long to laugh and converse with their sober and authentic selves, wanting no more than their precious time and presence.

I’ve been guilty of being consumed and preoccupied with trying to awaken them to the prospect of getting help and healing. I’ve become enmeshed in their dramas, desperately trying to help free them from the addiction that consumes their time and has defined their lifestyle. I should have let go long ago as hanging on hurt everyone involved. And yet, I’m the one in the family who stands alone with too much distance, both physically and spiritually, to hang on and connect. I’m the one getting therapy, getting help, and healing. The only one. It’s difficult, but I feel it is worth it.

It hurts too much. I’m tired of trying only to end up alone, empty, without my family. I don’t feel they have been fair to me in this lifetime. The longer I held on, often through arguing, I realized anger was the only energy left that was fueling any attachment that had somehow survived the ruins. I knew it truly was over. I had fought a war and had lost, but at least it was finally over.

And so I say: Farewell to the wolves! I’m leaving the pack! Howl at the moon all you like, I prefer the sunshine sometimes too!

Living Lighthouses: Be a Light Unto Others

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I’m currently traveling down the coast of California, feeding my spirit with winding roads that hug the coastline, salt kissed air, and stretches of sandy beaches.  Today, I came across this beautiful, old lighthouse, Pigeon Point Light, which is north of Santa Cruz, CA. It stood there in solitude with a presence that demanded my attention, and I instantly felt full of joy, wonder, and admiration. It was in this moment that I was inspired to embody the spirit of the lighthouse.

What does it mean to be a lighthouse? How can I be a lighthouse to others on their journey?

The lighthouse is solid, majestic, and beautiful. It is a beacon of light warning sailors of perilous rocky shores, aiding them in the safe navigation of the sea. There are so many parallels between the lighthouse and the person I long to be as I grow older, becoming more wise and mature with each passing year. When I was younger, I might have been more interested in becoming a “shooting star”, brilliantly bright and bold, cutting through the cold, dark night, bursting forth with speed only to burn out, disappearing as quickly as I came. As I age, I see more value in the stability and strength of the lighthouse.

Lighthouses are built to last, have a solid foundation and can weather most any storm. I think of the storms I have weathered in my life and the insight I’ve gained with each passing one. It is this expansive vision that I am acquiring over time that I would like to pass on to others, by warning them of perilous seas and endeavors that have the potential to cause harm to their infinite and beautiful spirit. I long to stand tall with resolve, in solitude and in strength, spreading light over the landscape surrounding me, not in a forceful manner, but in a majestic one with a commanding presence.

I would say their are so many living “Lighthouses” among us. People who know themselves and are unafraid to stand alone, providing information and advice that can save us from heartache along our journey. Perhaps, you have a few “Lighthouses” in your life. As I heal and rebuild my life, I think of the lighthouse and its strong foundation and mission. I want to stand tall, purposeful, and completely present in a landscape that I built for myself. I will stand alone, in confidence, with no desperation or need to cling to others. And I will hopefully have a heartfelt connection to others in the community that is meaningful and bright.

And so, I not only long to be the “lighthouse” for others, but also desire to seek out the lighthouses and appreciate their contribution in my life. I believe in ways we can all aspire to be the beautiful and bold lighthouse, shining brightly, bringing hope to others on their journey of life.

 

Healing is Hard Work: 6 Tips for Healing

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Feeling at Home

Alone in my sanctuary

Of birds and trees

I strip of earthly blanket

Where no one can see

It’s one of those days

Of sun and of rain

I rest on a rock

My thoughts, unchained

I feel beauty in all forms

Taste it with my tongue

I let it slip though my fingers

My pinkies, My thumbs

The rain washes over me

Drenching my skin

The sun peaks out later

I go for a swim

I am not separate from anything

All at once, not alone

I am living in all things

Finally feeling at home.

I remember writing this poem nearly eleven years ago. It was roughly three years after I had separated from my husband and a few months or so before I began the ten year abusive relationship with my narcissist. I had recently lost a lot of weight and was hopeful and excited to begin dating.  I was in my mid-thirties and was relatively naive when it came to men. I also remember feeling quite vulnerable and anxious at the time because my weight had always been a form of protection for me and my recent weight loss made me feel naked and exposed. It felt exciting and unsafe at the same time.

This poem marks the calm before the storm. Revisiting it now, it is not only bittersweet, but stirs emotions of hope and pride. Often my poems were like rays of sunshine for me, cutting through to the forest floor, scattering light on the trees and twigs, reassuring me that I was still on the path. I felt lost a lot, but looking at past poems and journals reveals that I was always “present”, questioning and searching, even though some periods were dark and miserable. The poem above brings me joy because it displays where I long to be, “home”. And “home” is something I am creating for myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about healing. I’ve made healing an intention of mine for nearly 4 years now. I have struggled along for years never truly thriving. I have been anxious, empty, angry, and severely depressed. Within the past two years things amplified to the point that I was no longer effective at work because I would miss due to migraines, IBS, and depression. Currently, I feel very unraveled and isolated. I don’t feel a part of things and I have chronic pain. And yet, a part of me feels that I am all unraveled because I am in the midst of an exciting and amazing opportunity to rebuild my life in self-love, giving myself stability and a sense of self-worth and empowerment.

I am in the process of carving out my self-esteem based on no one else’s expectations or ideas, but my own. I find this process daunting and challenging, but if successful, my “Decade of Darkness” will have been worth it. I feel I will have the immense blessing of possibly helping others through the “darkness”. I look back and see the people and the practices that blew open wide spaces for me, clearing the psychological debris that was entrapping me. There were living torches along my path that illuminated the way. There were voices that shouted “You are not alone” that reverberated on the walls of that dark, cold, tunnel that I sat in for a time. I hope sharing my story will reach someone, soothing them and giving them courage to keep going.

Healing is hard work.  Life is a struggle, at times, and in that struggle some often feel ashamed to reach out and ask for help. I’m sharing below 6 healing tips. These are things that are helping my now and some of them I have not mastered. If you like, feel free to add another “tip” in the comments section!  We’ve got this!

6 Healing Tips:

  1. Accept where you are currently at with compassion. Embrace your struggle.  Do not try to wish it away or try to “fight it”.  Accept it without shame and without comparing it to others. Notice how it is yours and yours alone. When the storm begins to rage, be still and don’t flee or fight, try listening to what the storm is communicating to you. We cannot always change certain circumstances, but we are able to decide how we will manage or cope given the cards dealt.
  2. Establish boundaries to protect your emotional and physical well being. It might be necessary to let go of certain people or habits to achieve healing and eventual peace. Sometimes, this seems impossible. Some of us are in abusive relationships and we want to hold on to a dream that is not longer a reality. Some of us have family members that hurt us and cause us pain. You have every right to peace and that may mean setting firm boundaries and even leaving a loved one. Ultimately, you deserve to be healthy and at peace. This may mean cutting ties and that might seem intolerable to you right now, but there may come a time when holding on becomes harder than letting go.  It is ok to “let go” and you will grieve and eventually fill the space with things and people that allow you to heal and be at peace.
  3. Put yourself as the priority. You are the most important person in your life.  Without you, where would you be? So, YES! You matter! Putting yourself as the center of your plate and filling your plate with “food” that you choose is so important to the process of healing. Often, many of us have negotiated our “food” away, leaving us scraps to the point we barely can feed ourselves. Go ahead and take a heaping helping of what you find delicious. Maybe that is a hobby of making jewelry or a sport that you used to love, but you gave it up for someone else’s needs. It might be a challenge to do, but work with others in your life to ensure that you have some things on your plate that are just for you! You deserve to have some food on your plate that you find delicious, after all it is your plate!
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others.  Everyone has a different journey. It’s super easy with social media to peruse your friends profiles and feel unworthy or “less than” because you did not achieve this or that! I have been guilting of doing just than and then I realize that I am being silly! None of those people have been in my shoes and what I have accomplished despite the fact I have a mental illness and experienced an abusive relationship, is amazing! We all are on a very unique and independent journey.  There truly is no comparison.
  5. Have FUN! Every day make a conscious attempt to laugh and have fun. I think we forget that it’s ok to just enjoy the moment and “let go”. Go watch some children playing to be inspired to use your imagination more. Kids just jump right in and are totally submerged in the present moment. Ever watch a baby or young kid cracking up? You can’t help but to laugh right along with them, right?  Laughter is infectious and it lifts us. Do the activities you enjoy every day and don’t feel guilty for relaxing and having fun. We are meant to laugh and be joyful.
  6. Be patient. Good things come to those who wait. You are the good thing!! When it seems to be going slow or you relapse into your old ways, be patient and kind with yourself and the process. It’s OKAY. Maybe you needed to go back again, even several times, to truly learn what you needed to learn. We all do this and it is okay. I used to beat myself up and get angry! But, now I am kind to myself and accept the process.

Hope these are helpful!! I am truly a work in progress and I am learning to use the tips above to embrace the process of healing.

Wishing you ample light to illuminate the way for your journey of healing and self love!

cold dark eerie environment
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