Getting Unstuck

I’ve working on getting myself unstuck from a pretty significant rut. But good news… I found 5 relatively simple things I could do to reconnect with myself & the world around me.

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I’ve spent the past few weeks re-examining my life a bit. I guess that’s to be expected since I’m (ahem) . . . middle aged. (WTactualF?!?)

I first realized there was a problem when I caused a online scuffle on Facebook with some other folks, and I was completely unable to let it go. Like hella unable. As in not-gonna-let-that-shit-ride. As in personal interior devastation and destruction.

Holy shit. Hello, outsized response to criticism. (Let’s be clear: I’m talking about my own outsized response here. I’m not trying to take other people’s inventories.) So, yeah, something was WAY wrong with my internal balance. And upon further examination, I realized my personal growth had kind of stagnated. And I just didn’t feel the same muppet-like enthusiasm for life as usual.

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(Actual footage of me on an average day)

How’d I get out of my rut? So glad you asked. Segues are SO hard.

5 (Relatively) Quick & Easy Ways I Got Emotionally Unstuck

  1. I got me a therapist. I am 100% on board for therapy. We’d all be much happier (and more well adjusted) if we ALL had a therapist. Sure, they require an investment of time, money, and emotional energy. But (and I think as women we sometimes forget this) I am worthy of that investment. So are you. Yes, it’s hard work sifting through some of the past events and current hangups that landed me in emotional quicksand in the first place. But you know what happens if you stay in quicksand too long… (I mean, as an adult I haven’t really encountered quicksand as much as I thought I would. But as a kid, I knew all about the hazards of quicksand. So, I’m always prepared for a quick escape)

2. I delved into my spiritual practice. Over the years, my spirituality has looked wildly different–depending on where I was in my journey. Right now, it looks a whole lot like reading a lesson from A Course in Miracles each morning, practicing the exercises throughout the day, and finding a crystal that resonates with me (I them to set intentions and to return to as a touchstone so I don’t wander during the day). I’ve had to learn about 100 billion times that a spiritual practice is crucial for me. Like, I absolutely cannot exists happily without it. And, you know it’s kind of the whole foundation of my recovery:

It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.

So, yeah, NBD… spirituality is just the key to EVERYTHING.

3. I started striving toward being fully present. During those two days when I was so in my head about a conflict going on in the ether, I couldn’t even participate in conversations happening right in front of me. This undercurrent of ugly self-talk, picking arguments with ghosts, and just general bullshit that my brain pulls sometimes had me miles away from where my feet were. It sucked. So, I made a conscious choice to be more curious about my immediate surroundings. What did I hear, see, smell, feel? What made this moment unique? Where could I find joy, or love, or hope, or connection? The pictures at the top of the post, they’re where I’ve been the past 2 days: physically, mentally, and emotionally. They are real. They are here. The present matters. It’s all I’ve really got. So, I sure as hell am going to make an effort to embrace it.

4. I put down my damn phone. Well, I put it down MORE than I had in any recent memory. Suddenly, it seemed foolish that some flat rectangular object could have that much pull over me. Instead of enhancing my life, it was really bringing me down. So, I cut it loose(ish). And I created some hard and fast rules for myself about engaging on social media. It turns out that it’s MUCH easier to be present if my nose isn’t always pressed up against my phone. Who knew?!?

5. I made it a point to connect. I love people. Which is why I love social media. But nothing beats looking someone in the eye and really connecting with them. Small connections, seemingly inconsequential interactions… they make up so much of our lives. The way we move together in the world and develop empathy and understanding can be truly beautiful. So, I committed to letting more of that beauty into my life–to really see people, to interact with them in ways that are kind and compassionate, and to laugh. In real life.

And these 5 things, well they’ve got me feeling a lot more like this these days:

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So, when you find yourself in an emotional rut, what do you do to get unstuck?

There Is Power In the Seeking

Yesterday, during approximately the last 15 seconds of an AA meeting, a dude chimes in with this nugget:

“The power isn’t in ‘knowing’ God. The power is in the seeking of God.”

And I was all, “Don’t mind me. I’ll just sit over here quietly. Mind BLOWN.” Because YES. It’s this that I have been trying to put my finger on for weeks. This is what called  me back to AA. This seeking.

In theory, I’ve always been a seeker. I revel in pondering big questions about God, humanity, and purpose. In fact, I gravitate to these conversations–but try to engage me in small talk & I’m a hot mess. (SO BAD AT IT. Tragic, really). But I’ve struggled with how to do more than just ponder the big questions abstractly. Distantly. I don’t always know how to engage with them, get hands-on about them, and turn them into practice.

That was what AA gave me the first go-round: a set of steps (a guideline) for connecting with my Higher Power. There was work to be done, it turns out. I mean, relationships are beautiful–but GOOD GOD, they are work. My relationship with my HP requires work. And that work is the seeking. And that’s where the power lies.

For a long time, I stayed connected with the Universe (God…whatever…) through really traditional Christian practices. I had a community that pushed me to examine and expand my spiritual practices–that offered me accountability. That sense of community was central to my seeking. But that’s not where I am at the moment. Right now, church is–for me–about celebrating God, lamenting and rejoicing in community, and striving for more justice & mercy in the world. But I’ve been missing that one-on-one connection that pushes me to do the work, to seek.

I wish I could excel as a solo seeker. It sounds so cool. And mystical.

But it’s really not who I am. I process life by talking about it. A lot. And I strive for stronger connection with my own spirituality when I watch other folks live out theirs in ways that wow me.

There’s a line in “How It Works” in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that says, “If you’ve decided you want what we have, and are willing to go to any length to get it…” I always thought of that line as a “do you want to see the world through something other than the bottom of your pint glass?” situation. And OBVI, the answer was yes.

But, at this point in my own evolution, the question seems much weightier. Like a spiritual question. Am I ready to seek “conscious contact” with God (the Universe… whatever…)?

And that’s how I ended up sitting in AA meetings (after an 8 year hiatus). Because so many of the folks there ARE seekers. They’re examining their actions, their motivations, their spirituality–taking stock of it all and seeking to be better, to be more connected with their own Higher Power (whatever they understand that to be).

There’s power in the seeking. That’s my current mantra. So now I’m curious: what drives you to connect to something bigger than yourself (whatever that something may be)?

Running as Spiritual Practice (Wha???)

Running is sacred for me, like meditation or yoga is for some folks. I check in with myself when I run. I get real. Like, real real.

Running is sacred for me, like meditation or yoga is for some folks. I check in with myself when I run. I get real. Like, real real.

When I’m running, I can’t lie to myself. Who’s got the energy for running AND lying? I get honest when I run. It’s the time I can best see through my own bullshit.

Truth-finding at it’s finest.

This summer, I committed to approaching each run with curiosity & wonder. Atlanta’s got a rich tapestry of complex beauty to explore. But I can’t really engage with my surroundings when I’m tripped up on things like time and distance. So, I stopped struggling to meet goals that required miles of continuous running. And I started taking pictures. Instantly, running became an adventure. Taking time and space to connect with the world around me really upped the ante on running as a spiritual practice.

Now, (on most days) I emerge from a run with an honest, peaceful connection with the space that surrounds me.

Pretty damn cool.

 

Running has also honed my ability to listen to myself. I often set out on a run with some loose goals in mind. But, most of the time, my body has plans of its own. Sometimes that means a farther run, because I’m feeling good or I’m trying to work through something–and I need the mental space and/or the boost of triumph that a long run provides. Or it could mean altering my pace, running faster for a shorter time or plodding along just taking it all in. Running is teaching me to trust myself again (drunks are notoriously untrustworthy. It’s been years since I picked up a drink, but I still struggle with self-trust. Running helps).

Today, on this bright and sunny summer day… I didn’t want to run. It seemed like a helluva lot of work–especially since leaving my house for a run requires running uphill no matter which direction I head. I procrastinated. I rationalized. But I had no good reason to not run–so  I finally hauled my ass out the door. And for the first 500 feet, I was miserable. Then I told my brain to suck it. I needed the time outside. I needed a self-check in. And spiritual practice is, well, a practice–not an if-I-feel-like-it situation.

And I’m so glad I hung in. Because today I found this:

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It’s a splash park, y’all!

I ran through the water (spontaneity! Usually I’m AWFUL at spontaneity). And took a picture. And felt really grateful I’d come on this run after all.

Running’s about discovery for me. And about being a better version of myself.

And, c’mon, a spiritual practice that involves splash parks…that’s rad.

Deep Clean … Keeping it Real (Clean)

LOTS of cleaning happening around these parts lately. And not like the tidying up kind. It’s the get on your hands and knees and scrub the baseboards and the floors kind of cleaning.

LOTS of cleaning happening around these parts lately. And not like the tidying up kind. It’s the get on your hands and knees and scrub the baseboards and the floors kind of cleaning. The kind where you have to take a shower afterward because GOOD GOD who knew a house could require this kind of scrubbing?!?

What are my people doing that they track in so much dirt? It’s like they recruited tiny Tonka dump trucks to haul dirt in and scatter it randomly throughout the house. But, bit by bit, I’m seeing progress. Sparkling white baseboards (before the dog slings slobber all over them). No dirt lurking in corners. Turns out, I really like clean. And, somehow over the past few days, I’ve begun to appreciate the process of cleaning.

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It just feels like plain, old-fashioned hard work.

And at this moment in my life, that feels good. Rewarding. Stabilizing.

It’s a bit like the psychic work I have to do to stay sober. My brain can get a little cobwebby, too. Resentments, doubts, fears start accumulating. For a while, I might try to overlook them. Because who really has the time to excavate them when I’m trying to manage the dog, the kid, the Simon. But dark corners eventually begin to crowd out my happiness. All the psychic dirt makes my perspective . . . gray.

Eventually, when I get uncomfortable enough, I do a psychic sweep. Yes, it’s much easier if I do it every day & don’t let the dust bunnies colonize. But sometimes, you don’t see the dust bunnies multiplying until they’re ready to revolt and take over the whole damn place.

It’s just as hard to get my brain/heart/soul clean as it is to clean this house. But it’s worth it to live in a place where I can let ALL the light in without fear of what it might uncover.

 

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All this scrubbing has unearthed a desire to live in a clean space ALL THE TIME. Not just once a year or so. Which means a lot of work. Emotional work and physical work. I’m still in the middle of the physical work–I swear, two or three tiny dump trucks of dirt made it in overnight. But I’m examining what the emotional work will look like… it shifts, you know. I’ve felt called at different points of my journey toward different spiritual practices.

And against everything I want to do–and I mean everything–I think I might be called to haul my ass back into A.A. Let’s just be super clear: I am so grateful for everything A.A. gave me. I know, without question, that the 12 Steps & the 2 years I spent going to meetings are why I am sober now (almost 10 years later). But I’ve never been in love with A.A. I didn’t like going to meetings. I’m not good at towing the party line. I’m just not an A.A.er.

Yet…

I feel called. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt called, but you can’t just ignore it. It’s nagging, the calling. It resurfaces. Constantly.

People brand new in sobriety–or folks that need sobriety–keep popping up in my world. And then, the other day at church, there I was minding my own business, dropping off some clothes for the Clothing Closet, and I almost literally ran into a sign for an A.A. Women’s Meeting. I’m afraid if I don’t heed the call soon, the Universe is actually gonna drop something on my head. Like an anvil. Or something.

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Let’s be clear: I’m as stubborn as the day is long. So, I’ll probably hold off a little while on the A.A. thing (see: stubborn). But, if you see me walking around like Flat Stanley, you can assume that anvil found it’s way to me.

My Brain Picks Battles for Me

My brain picks battles and wages them solo. And it’s a real crap judge of character. So, I’m taking back the reins.

When something goes wrong (as things tend to do. This is life, after all), I instinctually view the situation as conflict. For instance, if a perfectly lovely handyman didn’t get all the way to the edges in a few spots when he painted the ceiling…well, he must be trying to get away with something. He must be taking advantage of me. He didn’t paint the ceiling properly at me.

I immediately make it a Big Thing in my head. I have imaginary conversations in which I make valiant attempts to stand up for myself. Or I jump to the final dire consequences: small claims court, Judge Judy style.

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All the while I feel victimized. And that sucks. Because victimization = powerlessness.

But, amid the chaos of my thoughts–and it’s hella chaotic up in here–somehow I managed to remember something about vengeance and attack thoughts from A Course in Miracles:

What I see is a form of vengeance.

[This] idea accurately describes the way anyone who holds attack thoughts in his mind must see the world. Having projected his anger onto the world, he sees vengeance about to strike him. His own attack is thus perceived as self defense. This becomes an increasingly vicious circle until he is willing to change how he sees. Otherwise, thoughts of attack and counter-attack will preoccupy him and people his entire world. What peace of mind is possible to him then? 

(Lesson 22, Workbook for Students, ACIM)

The basic theme here: cut that shit out. Because who wants to live their life in constant battle? Not this girl.

So, I tried a different tact (in my own head, of course. All of this is going on in my own head. Apparently, I don’t need other folks to create conflict. My own brain does it for me. Rad.). I assumed best intent. I assumed that, instead of not painting the ceiling well at me the dude just needed to do a little touch-up. And that, instead of trying to get away with something, maybe he just hadn’t noticed because his head had been craned back like an open Pez Dispenser all day long paining my ceiling.

And just like that, all the fight left the situation. Because I wasn’t bringing any fight to the situation. I was just observing a lack of ceiling white paint on the edges of the–ahem–ceiling. But, let me tell you, an observation and a battle are two totally different things.

He knew, by the way. He knew he’d have to touch up the ceiling. And he did. With no complaints. No battle. And no Judge Judy involved.

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3 Lessons from Loss

I don’t think about her often, this baby that would’ve been my second child. But sometimes the missing of her will sneak up, unexpectedly. Sometimes.

I knew, when I lay back on the table, that they wouldn’t find a heartbeat. Even though I still felt sick all day, every day, I knew it was over.

I physically ache when I remember that moment, the silence that filled the room where the whoosh-whoosh of the heartbeat should have been. I don’t think about her often, this baby that would’ve been my second child. But sometimes the missing of her will sneak up, unexpectedly. Sometimes.

I wanted this baby. I’d planned for her ever since Jane was born. And when she was gone, this wanted, planned for, and (already) loved baby, I got smacked not only with overwhelming sorrow but also with the isolation that so often accompanies miscarriage.

And holy shit was I mad.

I was mad that other people seemed to get pregnant so easily. Unplanned pregnancies? Those really pissed me off. And God? Oh, he was in deep shit with me.

I gave myself permission to feel all these things. And, oh, I felt them.

Then, slowly, some other (less rage-y) things began to emerge:

  1. I understood my grandmother more deeply. She lost a child in 1955. A stillbirth. And she grieved that baby. Flowers made their way into my grandmother’s house every year on March 16th, Neva Jane’s birthday. She kept the only pictures of Neva Jane in a little box in her closet. She showed them to me one ordinary afternoon when I’d come to visit from college. In that exchange, I finally saw how much she loved that baby that she didn’t get to raise. It shocked me, the magnitude of her love. And it changed me. So much so that when my little girl was born, I named her Jane.IMG_6014
  2. I realized what a gift my sweet Jane is. It took us two years to get pregnant with Jane. In total, I’ve been pregnant 4 times. I believe Jane fought mightily to get here to be with us. She is my against-the-odds child. And I have been blessed by her and taught by her since our very first interaction (But good Lord, don’t tell her that… she’s bossy enough already). Instead of losing myself in anger about what could have been, Jane led me toward celebrating what IS. And what IS is amazing.14782989940_937a33caa9_o
  3. I saw how shitty our culture is at dealing with loss. I had one friend, who I’d been in daily contact with, ghost me when she found out I miscarried. Apparently, my loss was too painful for her to process. Also, platitudes? They suck. Things do NOT always happen for a reason. It was not God’s plan for me to lose a child. I think God’s plan was more like crisis management… like he was collecting guardian angels to try haul me through this loss. Not planning the death of my child. Because, uh, what kind of God does that? Not one I’m interested in. We can do better than ghosting and platitudes. But it takes opening ourselves up to sitting with people as they grieve, to holding space for their grief. It is emotional work. But it is balm for those who are suffering. The folks who did that for me gave me a place to start healing. And for that, I am very grateful.

When I went to my grandfather’s funeral in south Georgia this weekend, I went to see Neva Jane’s grave. I stood there for a minute, honoring her brief presence in this life. And thinking of my grandmother, who taught me that it’s possible grieve and live a beautiful life–at the exact same time.

Dear Mr. Preacher Man

I heard you yelling at me as I passed by. You wanted me to know about the saving grace of Jesus Christ, it seems. But, you know, I don’t find grace at that volume all that comforting. And I’ve never known anyone who screamed Jesus’ name to be interested in loving me. Saving me, maybe. But I don’t need to be saved. Not anymore. Not even from myself.

Dear Mr. Preacher Man:

I heard you yelling at me as I passed by. You wanted me to know about the saving grace of Jesus Christ, it seems. But, you know, I don’t find grace at that volume all that comforting. And I’ve never known anyone who screamed Jesus’ name to be interested in loving me. Saving me, maybe. But I don’t need to be saved. Not anymore. Not even from myself.

I get where you’re coming from, Mr. Preacher Man. You find power in the name of Jesus. Power to condemn. Power to save. That power feeds your (self) righteousness. I see that. I understand it. Because I’ve felt it. I’ve used Jesus as a weapon, a line in the sand to prove how much better I am. I’ve used Jesus to prove my worth… after all, in the math of salvation saved is always greater than (never equal to) unsaved.

But, Mr. Preacher Man, none of that math added up to love. Not one lick of it. Because the hard truth is that we all stumble and fall. We all need connection. We need unconditional love. We humans have never been good at unconditional love. But God is. God’s got that good, radical love that welcomes everyone. God’s love is where it’s at.

But you aren’t preaching that love, Mr. Preacher Man. I have met your Jesus—and I found him wanting. Your Jesus wants to save me from a punishing God, a God who does not find me worthy. That version of myself—and God—wounded me, isolated me, broke me.

But I have good news, Mr. Preacher Man. God is nothing like that at all. God is this revolutionary, limitless love… God is bliss and peace and breath-taking goodwill for EVERYONE. God left a piece of the divine in me—and in you, Mr. Preacher Man. Don’t believe what they’ve told you… you don’t need redemption. You are already redeemed. You are worthy. You are loved.

So, Mr. Preacher Man, I don’t need you to introduce me to Jesus Christ. I got that saving grace, friend. It was mine all along. Jesus & I, we’re in the business of love. Join us over here. Everybody’s in. (No yelling required. )

Love,

Me

 

 

Photo by DJ Paine on Unsplash