Monday, October 29, 2012

My Therapy Necklace

My first day of therapy was difficult.  I'd known for years I needed therapy.  I wanted to find peace, to settle my heart, to make the fear stop.  But I was scared.

I'd gone to therapy with my husband many times, as his coach.  I was there to help him in his battle against OCD and the toll it was taking on our family.  I liked his therapist.  I trusted him.  And he's the one I chose to see when I finally found the courage (or the desperation) to fight my own demons.

As my therapist explained it, that first visit was about assessment.  We take off the bandage, he examines the wound, and we see how bad it really is.  It starts with me telling my story.

I hadn't ever told my story.  Not all of it.  A few pieces to my husband, but that's all.  I had just lived with it.  Embarrassed and ashamed.  For so many years.

That first session was so hard.  I told my story.  Very linear.  Without much emotion, just facts.  I'd quit feeling about it a long time ago.  I wasn't anywhere near finished with the story when our hour was up.  (It ended up taking three full sessions to get the whole thing out.  Which ended up not being the whole thing because there was still a lot I wasn't ready to tell.)

But the session was over.  He said I'd done well.  He said you can tell how often a person has told their story by how long it takes them to tell it.  The more you tell it, the less detail you need and the faster it goes.

He validated that I was wounded.  He said I should be proud of myself and celebrate the good work I'd done.  I was clueless.  I don't celebrate well.  Definitely not my own accomplishments.  He suggested treating myself.  Again, clueless.  He told me some things others had done.  He suggested that I find a way to mark the moment because it mattered.

I told him I would think about it and see what I could do.  Thus, my therapy necklace was born.

I went to the charm store.  I found a charm to represent everything important in my battle for peace.

*  A simple black cord just long enough to position it right over my heart.  Tied in a knot so I can add or remove charms.
*  A charm to represent me, at the center of the cluster.  Initially this was very nondescript.  It was about an inch in diameter, circular like a washer, pounded dark metal, rough edges.  An undefined shape that each person could interpret differently.  Kind of like I felt about myself.  Undefined.  Interpreted differently by different people.  Nondescript.  This has since been replaced.
*  A charm that says PEACE.  This is what I'm searching for.  This is what the work is for.
*  A small book that opens.  On the cover it says My Story.  This was to mark the fact that I'd finally reclaimed my story as my own and chosen to tell it.  It's my story to tell.
*  A charm that looks kind of like a small metal tablet, rough edges.  It has a zodiac sign on it.  This charm represents the boy who repeatedly abused me as a child.  This is his sign.  I have done the work.  He no longer has power over me.  This is to symbolize my victory over that part of my past.
*  A charm of two clasped hands.  They could be seen as a handshake, but when I look at it I see one hand reaching down to grasp the hand of another and help them out of a dark hole.  Adding strength to the cause.  Lifting me up.  This charm represents all those who helped me in my dark times.  My therapists.  My ecclesiastical leaders.  My friends.  My husband.  My kids.  People in my group therapy class.  All those who made my burden a little lighter, sometimes just by believing in my ability to carry it.
*  A starfish charm.  This charm represents a special friend.  A woman I found at just the right time.  A woman who understands and reaches my soul because she has experienced much of what I've experienced.  She has an affinity for things of the sea.  She calms me in a way others can't.
*  A charm of my own making.  An amalgam of several charms connected to make one.  This charm represents the spiritual element to my healing.  It contains a star of David to represent God; a cross to represent Jesus Christ; and a bird to represent the Holy Ghost.  God is guiding me in this healing process.  He wants me to succeed.  Each member of the Godhead plays an important roll.  Without Them, I would not heal.  It helps me to remember that They are with me in my quest.  On this charm there is also a pair of hands in prayer.  This represents my grandmother.  She taught me to pray.  She was the spiritual strength in my life for so many years.  Without her guidance, I may never have developed the connection I have with God which facilitates my growth and healing.
*  And the new charm which represents me.  The old one broke.  Rather symbolically for me.  The undefined me was replaced.  I now have a charm I earned completing a religious program.  It brought me closer to God.  It helped me understand who I am and the role I am to play.  It helped me understand my value.  And it reminds me that I can do hard things -- because I am divine.

A black cord with a cluster of silver charms.  Probably less that $20 to create.  But priceless to me.

There will be more charms.  I have other things yet to overcome, demons to fight.  And my therapy necklace reminds me that I am powerful.  I am strong enough to face whatever comes my way.  And I don't have to do it alone.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Transitions Suck or Forced Early Retirement

Take your pick.  Either title works.

I am in transition.  Kind of stuck in transition.  At least, I hope it's transition.  I hope it's not my new life for keeps.

I worked very little before I got married.  I got pregnant almost immediately after getting married, was incredibly sick, and became a stay-at-home mom.  We made lots of sacrifices to live on one income so I could be with my kids.  My heart and soul were devoted to them.  As exhausting and difficult as it was sometimes, it was totally worth it and I don't regret a minute of it.

As my youngest child approached school age people started asking what I was going to do with all my children gone.  I joked that I'd probably sleep the first year.  After that I might consider working.  We're old fashioned.  My husband believes it's his responsibility to provide for our family and I believe it's my responsibility to raise the kids.  We've each pitched in a bit in each other's realm, but for the most part we took the traditional route.  My husband left my choices about what to do with my life after the kids went to school entirely up to me.  Work or don't work.  My choice.

Kindergarten was only a couple hours a day, just enough time for me to run errands and get a few things done.  But when our baby started first grade it opened up six hours a day for me.  I wasn't looking for work, but as it happens a wonderful job fell into my lap.  A job I was perfectly suited for and excelled at.  A job full of wonderful people.  A job that helped others.  A job that was very personally satisfying.

I worked there for three or four years.  There were ups and downs as I tried to merge my work life and my family life.  I got to a point where I felt like I had it worked out.  Balanced?  Maybe not quite.  But well shuffled.  I was happy and content and fulfilled.

Then my health fell apart.

Long story short, I had to make a choice.  I only had enough in me physically to work or take care of my family -- not both.  It was a traumatic time.  I didn't want to give up what I'd gained through work.  But my heart told me to go home.  Many other people could fill my position at work.  No one could take my place at home.

So I quit my job and went home.  I'd been a stay-at-home mom for about fourteen years before that job.  I knew how to do it.  The transition back should be easy, right?  Not so much.

I didn't have little kids any more.  The world I left and the one I returned to weren't the same.  I was kind of lost.  Still lots to do in the morning and after school but so much empty time during the day.

Which should sound beautiful and appealing and free.  But it's not.  Because I don't feel well.  Really ever.  So I have six hours a day trying to force myself to do something even though I don't want to get out of bed.  I'm still searching for a purpose.  I would love to have a schedule and plans.  I would love to volunteer or create or make a dream come true.  But each day I don't know if I am going to be able to get out of bed.  I can't plan my day because I don't know if I'll be functional.

I keep thinking I'll find a routine, a rhythm to my life.  I'm still searching.  It's been five or six years.  I spent the first three or so going to doctors and doing everything I could to feel better, hoping in the back of my mind that I could go back to work some day.  Expecting that one day I would feel good again and go back to being the over-achiever I am in my heart.  I still go to doctors and try to feel better, but I now accept that I won't have that life back again.  This is the life I have now.  I need to figure out how to live it and feel fulfilled in it.

But I still feel like I haven't found my footing.  I still spend too much time floating from this distraction to the next trying to find what fits.  Bored and frustrated.  What works one day doesn't work the next.  One day I have a little energy but my mind won't work clearly.  The next day my mind is okay but I can't see well.  And then there are the days that I don't get dressed until just before my kids get home from school, having spent the whole day in bed without actually noticing that time passed.

I'm trying to create a life that fits me.  But I still struggle to know who I am now, in this new form.  I'm still wandering.  Hoping I'm still in transition.  Hoping I'm not just lost in my own life.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Kind of Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a boy.  There was also a girl.  They grew up doing the best they could, feeling their way through this world, just trying to figure life out.  They had friends and family.  They liked some of them a lot and some of them not so much.  But they were each important because they each helped shape who the boy and girl would become.

One day the boy and girl were grown up.  They didn't need their parents the way they had in the past and wanted to be independent.  After dating other people they finally found each other.  He liked her right away;  she didn't think he was as cool as he did (or the other way around).  But eventually, after spending lots of time together, they fell in love.  They each decided the other person was the neatest person they'd met and chose them to be their partner forever.  They got married and began creating their own home.

Life was good sometimes.  Other times it was sad.  Sometimes they fought.  Sometimes they forgot they loved each other.  But they worked hard to stay together, trying to remember how they'd felt in the beginning, remembering that they had chosen each other.

She stayed home with the kids because she wanted to.  He worked because he felt like that was his responsibility and was proud to do it.  But when he lost his job and couldn't find another one, she worked and he cared for the kids.  (Or the other way around.)

They each did lots of work the other one didn't notice and appreciate.  They each irritated the other.  Sometimes on purpose.  They also both learned to forgive.  And to be sorry.

There were lots of wonderful times.  There were also lots of hard times.  Sometimes he rescued her.  Sometime she rescued him.  But usually they rescued themselves.

Most of the time they were glad they'd chosen to walk life's roads together.  Sometimes they walked holding hands.  Sometimes not.  Sometimes he walked further ahead while she stopped to catch her breath.  And sometimes one of them wandered off the road a bit.  But they always either found their way back or one went looking for the other and guided them back.

They got old.  He got sick.  She took care of him.  She wasn't super well either.  Then he got so sick he died.  She was sad.  Really, really sad.  She missed him a lot.  She thought she would never be happy again.

Little by little, the light came back into her heart.  She found happiness again.  Not in another man or a job or anything, just in herself.  She found that she could be whole just by herself.  Or, at least, pretty darn close.

She had friends and family.  She continued to live.  And she thought of him a lot and was grateful for his part in her life.  She still missed him, but it didn't hurt so much.  She was grateful for that little ache in her heart because it meant she'd loved and been loved.

And one day she just didn't wake up.

And she was happy because she was with her partner again, her best friend.  And she'd missed him.  And there was so much more life ahead of them, just in a way they didn't know before.  A brand new adventure for them to share.



This post was inspired by the Ruby Gloom episode Venus De Gloomsville.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I'm NOT Writing a Book

Because I don't want to.

I know a lot of bloggers are.  I know many bloggers blog for this very reason, to work toward publishing a book.  And when I started blogging there was a part of me that hoped to be discovered and pursued by publishers.  A tiny, dreamy part.

Being pursued sounded nice.  Being wanted is cool.  But what comes next?  Okay, that part holds me up.

Right now I just don't have the burn to write a book.  It's not inside me itching to get out.  I don't ache to tell a story, at least not one I can't tell through blogging.  And that matters to me.  Writing needs to come from my gut.  I need to need to tell a story.  Or it's just not a satisfying and cathartic experience.  And that's what I want writing to continue to be for me.

I would love to have my words touch everyone, reach every corner of the world.  I really would.  But I don't think writing a book would make that happen.  I think writing a book would make my words and thoughts and experiences less accessible to those who may benefit from them most.

A book intimidates many people.  A blog is easier.  A book costs money.  A blog is free.  A book becomes too much about me.  My words are for everyone.

And as much as it makes my husband crazy, I don't want to be paid for my writing.  Yes, we could use the money.  Yes, I'd like to feel like I contribute something to our family budget.  But not through writing.

Writing is from my heart.  It's spiritual.  It's how I offer a piece of myself to the universe hoping to make it a better place.  I believe charging for it would cheapen it.  Would tarnish it.

Which is funny because I don't feel this way about other writers.  I have bought many books over the years and (almost) never felt like an author sold out because he/she put their writing into a book.  I've never felt writing had less value because it was bound and sold.  I don't look down on or judge people who make money off their writing.

It's just not for me.  I may change my mind some day.  But today, my words are free.  And I offer them to you.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Simple Joys: My Bowl

My posts have been heavier lately because my life has been heavier.  And while nothing has really changed, I need a little bit of light.  Just some light writing about things that bring me joy.  So I decided now would be a good time to begin a series I've been pondering.  A series about simple joys.

A while back I wrote about finding minimalism and feeling like I was finally home.  Since then I've written about not liking stuff, getting rid of hundreds of books, only keeping one set of dishes for each member of the family, and what to do with all the trophies.  In my efforts to minimize I have taken thirteen trailer loads to the dump or the thrift store.  It's felt great.  And, yes, there is still so much to do.

But one of the best things about getting rid of stuff is what I keep.  Deciding what matters to me and what doesn't.  Letting go of emotional attachments that are more guilt than love and everything kept just in case.  The things I intentionally keep bring me joy.

One of these things is my bowl.  It's ceramic.  It has about a three cup capacity.  It's deep.  It's good for a small bowl of cereal or a big bowl of stew.  It's the only bowl I use.  And it brings me so much joy.  Every time I use it.

There is something about the heft of it.  It's kind of heavy.  I like that.  It feels solid in my hands.  It has a wonderful little chip in it that serves as the perfect place to rest my thumb as I hold it.  It is kind of a dark blue with a snowman head -- wearing a hat and a scarf and a big smile.  It also has white dots scattered sparsely around the bowl.  Raised dots.  I love texture.  The added texture of those dots on my bowl makes me happy.

One day it will break and I will have to fall in love with another bowl.  That's okay.  I've found that the fewer things I own the easier it is for me to love them.

For now I have it and it brings me a ridiculous amount of joy.