The Soft Spot Between A Rock and A Hard Place

Lately I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. I’m tired. So tired. My house is a mess, we’re running out of clean dishes and counter space to stack the dirty ones, and I haven’t had a shower since Thursday. Thursday!

Often it feels like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.  I’m single so I have to work to support my son and myself. That’s a given. I left my last job after 11 years because it was so stressful. I didn’t enjoy working there. When I got my current job almost two years ago, I thought I’d found the answer. Something I would enjoy doing while I figured out my passion. Three months in I was so exhausted by the end of each day, all I could do was crash on my couch. I hoped it would get better. It didn’t.

The intensity, the pressure, and the long hours finally got the better of me. As many of you know, in May I was diagnosed was diagnosed with Adrenal Exhaustion. The only way to heal myself is to eat better, get more sleep, and lower my stress level. I was on board. Good health is important. And I was so tired of feely lousy.

So in June I announced I’d be leaving my soul-sucking job by the end of the summer. I felt optimistic, as always, that I’d find something better. But it’s October. And I’m still here. I applied for jobs and got no interviews. I put together a website as an online resume and beefed up my LinkedIn profile. I reached out to people I’d like to work with. While I’ve gotten some response and met some really great people, no opportunities have materialized.

So I decided to shift gears. In September I finished the life coach training course I’d been taking since January. I was ready to take on the world! I started put myself out there as a coach. But I have to be honest. Building a business seems daunting on those days when I don’t even have the energy to make my personal hygiene a priority.

This has been vaguely reminiscent of a time in my life when depression was my constant companion. When just getting through the day was the best I could do. And I feel guilty because I’m so exhausted I sometimes take it out on my 15 year old son, Kyle. When I’m feeling really frustrated with my situation, I’m not as patient as I’d like to be. There’s only so much of me to go around and he sometimes gets the short end of the stick. In those moments I feel scared and weak and small.

But the one difference I can see between those early days in the dark cloud of depression and now, is hope. The most devastating part of depression for me was the utter hopelessness that I would never be happy again. And even though I have no idea how this is all going to turn out, I know it my heart something good is on its way.

The soft spot is hope. And that hopefulness keeps me moving forward. As long as I keep moving toward my goals, I have succeeded. I only fail if I give up.

Some days I just fall apart out of sheer frustration. And some days I recognize the smallest thing that holds it all together. The nights I actually do cook dinner instead of getting take out. The days I take a shower and get dressed. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but some days you have to take the small wins. Some days, the small wins are all you’ve got.

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It Had to Happen This Way

Thank You (Photo credit: thoughtfulbeliever)

Recently I came across an old email from the man I once believed was the love my life…my soulmate. I wasn’t looking for it. I was searching for something else. I thought for a moment about not opening it. Just going on my way. But it had been a while. And I was curious. You know how that goes.

His words were so sweet. My heart softened as I read them. It was from the beginning of our relationship, a time so full of hope and promise. A time when we both believed we would be together forever. A time when we thought we had found that ever-elusive fairytale in our love for one another.

Some would argue (and have) that I should delete those emails so I won’t be reminded of the pain I felt when that relationship suddenly ended. I see their point. No one wants to feel bad. But I look at it differently. Just because the relationship ended doesn’t mean I have to close the door on those feelings. Love isn’t so black and white. And sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly low, it’s nice to be reminded that someone loved me that much. If only for a short time.

It’s been two years today since he broke my heart. I’m not focusing on it, but it’s there…lurking around in the back of my mind. The anniversaries of significant life events are hard to shake. Maybe you’re not supposed to. Daphne Rose Kingma wrote in her book, Coming Apart, “Next to the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship is the single most emotionally painful experience that any of us ever goes through.” I can attest to that.

Sometimes I’m still angry with him. He handled it so poorly. But in his defense, there was really no way he could have ended things that I would’ve agreed with. I didn’t want it to end. And yet, there are moments now I feel I should thank him. When I lost the thing I thought was most important to me, when I no longer had someone to focus my attention on, I was forced to focus on me.

So much has changed in the last two years. I’ve taken risks and challenged myself in ways I previously hadn’t though possible. I’ve realized I have a calling as a writer. This blog is a direct result of experiencing something so painful I felt my whole world was falling apart. I am also completing a course to become a life coach. A course I had no idea when I signed up how I would pay for. I’m leaving my current job to find more fulfilling work. I’m still scared all the time, but now I don’t let that stop me. Life is short. What you think will last forever can be gone in an instant.

I still feel sadness from time to time. And I often miss having him in my life. It hasn’t been easy, but I know it had to happen this way. Though I would not have chosen this path, I am grateful for where it has led me–and for the person I continue to become.

Suck it Up. Push Through. Don’t Complain.

This is the mantra I’ve lived by most of my life. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. It has enabled me to accomplish many things I’m proud of. My ex-boyfriend used to tell me “you always come through in the end…that’s your way.” It feels good to know I can be counted on.

The problem lies in taking it too far. In moderation it works. It’s when I take it to the extreme that it becomes harmful. To my health. To my relationships. To my sanity. So the irony of my post about learning to unplug is that I didn’t really learn a damn thing.

Sadly it took several more months of pushing myself, working long hours and finally enduring daily physical pain, headaches, and exhaustion for me to make a change. After a particularly difficult weekend where I literally did not leave my couch, I decided to see a doctor. I had been reading “Tired of Being Tired” by Dr. Jesse Lynn Hanley and I had gotten to the point where I feared if I didn’t do something soon, I would either be bed-ridden or hospitalized. It was that serious. The doctor confirmed I have adrenal fatigue.

It’s not surprising. I’ve been going non-stop for about three years now. And if I’m completely honest with myself, I have not been feeling well for at least the last year. I attributed my lack of motivation and energy to many things, but not to actually being sick. I kept kicking myself for procrastinating, being lazy, sleeping or watching TV instead of doing all the things I say are important to me. And all this just made me feel lousy. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I get my act together?

I think the expectation on women to ‘do it all’ and do it well and with a smile on your face and while looking beautiful is something we all struggle with. We believe we should be able to pull off the impossible and when we fail (and we often do), we berate ourselves for not being enough.

Many days I feel tired. Really tired. Completely unmotivated. I push through the workweek vowing to get to my personal to do list over the weekend. Then the weekend comes and I don’t want to do any of those things. And I feel guilty. I should clean my house. I need to get caught up on my coaching course. I should work harder at finding a new job. Sometimes I force myself. We all know how great that feels. Not.

I have bought into the societal stigma of needing to prove my worth. If I just ‘do’ enough, I’ll be ‘good’ enough. I kept pushing myself to prove something to other people who probably wish they could slow down too. You know what I’m talking about.

But what if I’m already good enough–without doing a damn thing? What if we all are? No matter how hard I work, or how much I get done, there’s no merit badge I’m going to earn that proves I’m enough. As my friends have often told me, the ‘S’ in my name doesn’t stand for SuperWoman. There’s nothing for me to do. So I’m learning to listen to my body. To rest when I need to. And not give in to the voice in my head that says I’m being lazy.

Jeanette Maw nailed it in her blog post, The Art of Not Getting It Done. She said, ‎”When the world wants more from you than you care to deliver, know that overextending yourself doesn’t do anyone any favors.” Breathe that in. Let it sink into your soul. And then…go take a nap!

Mother Nature Knows Best: Learning to Unplug

IMG_0848I wrote this back in January when we had a crazy ice storm that knocked out the power for four long, cold days. I took the time to describe that experience, but for some reason, never posted it. My guess is, the power came back on and just like that, the crazy pace of my life was back. Ironic really, considering what’s happened since this day. But we’ll leave that for another post. While it seems a little strange to talk about an ice storm just as summer has arrived, the underlying message is as pertinent as ever. So dust off your imagination, turn up the air conditioner (if you have it) and pretend it’s the dead of winter. C’mon…work with me here!

January 22, 2012

The last few months have been crazy…insane, really. Working 10, 12 hours or more a day to still feel behind is depressing at best. Being without power for the last four days has not been easy. But it has its upside. There were a number of things I did that I might not otherwise have made the time for given the choice. I did realize how completely dependent we’ve become on our electronics. And how we seem utterly unable to entertain ourselves without them. I know the panic I felt when I couldn’t work…knowing I was expected to. I almost couldn’t enjoy that first day because it felt so stressful. But looking back it feels like the best thing that could’ve happened.

I spent Thursday afternoon just hanging out with Kyle. We played Mouse Trap, which he did not enjoy. We threw the Nerf football around the house. Well, really he mostly threw it at me when I wasn’t looking then laughed at me when I didn’t catch it. That seemed to be entertaining for him at least. I found a mini Frisbee I didn’t know I had and we played with that for a while. We made dinner on the BBQ so we could have something warm to eat. We watched a movie on the remaining battery power of the laptop. Then camped out in the living room in front of the fire.  While it was frustrating trying to entertain a 14 year old with no electricity, all in all, it was some of the nicest time we’ve had together in a while. I couldn’t work and he couldn’t play video games. We had to interact.

Friday we found out my mom had power at her office so we packed up and spent the day there. Kyle got to play his video game and I got some work done. But we were in the same room together at least…and we were warm! I got to visit some with my mom and my uncle, who also happened to be at her office that day. I don’t remember the last time I saw my uncle. And other than the holiday, I haven’t spent that much time with my mom in a long time. I’m ashamed to admit we’re both so busy with work, we don’t make the time for much else.

Saturday Kyle went to his dad’s and I spent more time with my mom as we worked and visited in her office. That night there was more camping out in the living room with Mitch and Celeste. Hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps made by boiling water on the BBQ. S’mores in the fireplace. All things I could do any time, but don’t. Not having power forced me out of my normal routine into something slower, more deliberate, more thoughtful.

As I sit here watching the battery on my laptop slowly die, it occurs to me I’m not sure I want the power back. I mean, of course I miss being warm in my own home and not worrying about keeping the food cold in the fridge. I have become very attached to my modern life. But I am also loving the slowness. The quietness. The stillness. When you can’t do much, it forces you to rethink things. To question what you’re doing and why. And I’ll admit I haven’t done much of that in the last year. I’ve been going so hard and fast, I hadn’t realize I’d lost the ability to slow down and enjoy it. It just hit me that for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel anxious, worried, in a hurry. And even though I’m sitting in front of my fireplace all bundled up, it feels nice. I can think again, enjoy things, breath.

So thank you Mother Nature! For forcing me to do what I wouldn’t do myself. And for reminding me of my true nature. Do I want my heat back? Of course I do. But am I dreading that fast paced life I’m used to living? I am. While I wish I could say I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll never go back to that harried life again, I know that’s not really true. But I hope I can hold onto the feeling the last few days has given me. And remember that the beauty of life is not in the busyness, the running, the doing. It’s in those still, small moments when time seems to stand still. When I can’t do anything else except notice how wonderful it is to just be.

There Might Always Be Days Like This

You’ve heard the phrase before, “time heals all wounds.” I think it’s been said so long and so often by so many we don’t even question it. But is it really true? Does time really heal everything? Or is that just what people tell you when they’re uncomfortable with your pain?

I think what bothers me most about what this statement implies is that there will supposedly come a day when you will never feel that pain again. You’re healed! Hallelujah! And if after said magical period of time you haven’t ‘gotten over it’, well, there must be something wrong with you. But I just don’t think it works that way. No matter how much time has passed or how much work I’ve done, it seems there are still days when the pain comes flooding back. I’ll be doing my thing, minding my own business, and suddenly something sparks a memory. A good memory. And, like an unexpected storm on a sunny afternoon, I find myself in a torrential downpour of emotions.

Often the pain is accompanied by a chorus of thoughts such as, “what’s wrong with you?” And “you should be over this by now.” And for a split second I am tempted to swallow the tears and push on through my day. But I know resisting the pain won’t make it go away. Resisting only tightens its grip. Actually, the opposite is true. It’s when I give in to the sadness, the grief, the sorrow–when I lean into the pain–that it is able to move through me.

If you’re reading this and are concerned I’m wallowing, I’m not. I believe there’s a reason for everything. Even when we can’t see it or understand it. Even when it hurts us. And most days now I can see that dark cloud’s silver lining. Can I recognize the positive things that have happened since that day? Of course! Am I grateful for the many amazing people who’ve come into my life as a result of this new path? Absolutely! Does the pain still bring me to my knees from time to time? It does.

So does time really heal all? I guess it depends on how you define ‘healed’. It is my belief you will never be the same again. That experience will always be a part of the person you are. There are just some things in life that leave you forever changed. But that doesn’t mean you’ll never be happy again. I’ve discovered pain and happiness can coexist. Each weaving in and out of your life creating the tapestry of you. I don’t believe you get over anything…I believe you go through it, and feel it, and talk about it, and little by little you start to feel joy again. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen. In its own time. Really.