Here’s to the Dark Bits

Image credit: www.tbquk.org

Image credit: http://www.tbquk.org

For some time now I’ve been questioning my path and wondering what’s next. The old ideals stopped making sense somewhere along the way. Belief structures quit resonating. The foundation started to crack, then crumble, then fall away completely.

In short, I don’t know what’s true for me anymore.

I scratched and clawed to find something—anything—to hold onto so I could feel safe again. But there wasn’t anything. It was as if I was floating in the ocean with nothing and no one in sight. Which direction do you swim when you don’t know where land is?

Alone, in the dark, I just had to wait. Fuck.

I’ve wanted to write about where I’m at, but I didn’t know how to explain what was going on. I still don’t. I’ve felt this general sense of malaise. This total lack of motivation. This utter directionlessness. Just blah. I haven’t felt particularly turned on by anything. I have felt alone, but didn’t necessarily want to be around anyone.

I’ve been irritated, annoyed, prickly. I hesitated to write when I felt so pissy. It’s hard to seem enlightened when you feel like shit.

I’ve tried to surrender to this…whatever it is. To not follow that compulsion to put a happy face on it. In the past the happy face was the way to turn around a low mood. Always look for the positive, I would remind myself. And that did help, or so I thought…until it didn’t. But lately it just started to feel a little delusional. Like I was lying to myself.

What’s wrong with admitting something is hard? What’s wrong with being honest with yourself?

I am no stranger to the dark bits. Depression is an old friend of mine. And while it’s just an occasional visitor now, I still fear inviting it in for a long weekend. Partly because I’m afraid it might decide to take up residence again, but also because our social and cultural conditioning leans toward happiness at all costs.

In our uber positive society it’s not acceptable to admit life sucks sometimes. It’s not okay to not only recognize I’m having a hard time, but do nothing to change it. To just ride it out and see where it takes me.

And that’s the part that bothers me. I don’t want to put on a happy face just because it makes you feel better. When I don’t say how I really feel, it’s like I’m being smothered. And honestly, that feels worse than the dark bits ever could.

There’s all kinds of advice about how to feel good when you don’t. Turn that frown upside down, change your attitude, be grateful, get outside, exercise, help others…and on and on it goes. But all that trying to change things insinuates it’s not okay to feel bad, alone, confused, angry.

I used to have a friend who, when I was down, insisted I would feel better if I went out. At first I believed her. I thought there was something wrong with me if I didn’t feel happy…something that needed to be fixed. But after a few evenings of me either crying in a bar or wanting to punch people in the face, I realized this was not the answer.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with positivity in general. Where I think it can be harmful is when I use positivity to not feel anything uncomfortable. I need to feel bad when I feel bad. Denying that is like rejecting a part of me.

Life is messy and things don’t go according to plan. And sometimes it sucks. But the dark times aren’t just to be tolerated until we can figure out how to be happy again. They should be revered the same way those joyous times are…as just a part of the experience of being human.

I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t know what any of this means. But I’m here. So I’m going to let this be whatever it is…dark, scary, uncertain. There’s still the urge to try to change it so I can feel better, but now there’s an even stronger pull to let it crack everything open. Let it all fall apart and see what comes of the broken pieces.

There comes a time when you can’t sidestep the shadows with positive thoughts anymore. You have to sit in the darkness, the nothingness, the not knowing, without trying to change it. Feel as bad as you feel. And wait. And listen.

I read this quote from the Bruce Cockburn song, Pacing the Cage in Sonja Alarr’s blog and it sums things up perfectly for me. “Sometimes the best map will not guide you. You can’t see what’s ‘round the bend. Sometimes the road leads through dark places. Sometimes the darkness is your friend.”

Here’s to the dark bits…may we welcome them with open arms.

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

The Winter of My Discontent

I’m sitting in my living room with the sun streaming through the window. It feels warm on my face and I close my eyes in an effort to take it in fully, soak it up, hold onto it. This is a rare moment of peace these days. A moment when it feels like things are going to be okay. There’s room to breath. The sun is shining…all is well in the world.

This has been—and may continue to be—‘the winter of my discontent.’ (I’m sure Shakespeare will be cool with me borrowing that line from “Richard III”.) But for those of us on the positive thinking track, it appears negative, ungrateful, destructive. Many days I have shut myself off from the world believing I should feel better. Other times I’ve written about it and then felt guilty for focusing on it. Truthfully I’m just trying to learn how to navigate—an ultimately accept—this is a part of my life.

As early as middle school I can remember having these feelings—fear, anxiety, depression–and wondering what was wrong with me. In my 20s and 30s I took anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications to quell the thoughts and feelings that seemed too dark to face. But taking medication to ‘fix’ the problem left me feeling like there was something wrong with me. So I stopped. It’s been almost 14 years since I used those drugs to get through the difficult times.

But something else has happened; something more insidious than the low moods themselves. Over the years and in the reading of self-help books too numerous to count, I am back to believing there is something wrong with me; that I need to be fixed.

I do believe positive thinking can be vey helpful. I’ve seen it in my own life. But the downside of taking positive thinking too far is that when I’m feeling angry, fearful, frustrated, or sad, I beat myself up. Mentally and emotionally I kick my own ass. And I gotta tell you…it’s exhausting!

What do we say to someone who’s feeling down? “I hope you feel better soon,” right? Because we believe (myself included) that ‘feeling better’ is the goal. But what if ‘better’ is part of the continuum between suffering and joy? Neither one of those states is superior to the other. They are equal participants in the human condition. What if we could say instead, “I love you no matter how you feel and I’m here if you need someone to listen”? What if we (and by we I mean I) could be more accepting? Especially of those feelings that are uncomfortable to us.

Moods are just like the tides…they follow nature’s rhythm. Sometimes they’re high, sometimes they’re low. But you don’t think there’s something wrong with the ocean just because the tide is out. And if it feels like it’s been low tide for far too long, don’t worry. High tide will return when it’s supposed to. In the meantime, think of all the treasures there are to discover when the tide is out—seashells, creatures of all kinds, the occasional message in a bottle.

The treasure I have found is writing.

Writing, for me, has become a way to talk about the things I don’t really know how to deal with. It’s also my way of finding ‘my people.’ Not as a vehicle to commiserate or feel sorry for myself. But just to feel heard and understood. This is how I can do something constructive with what I’ve learned; how I can help those who have similar struggles and feel like no one understands them. I write about my life to say, “I get you…and there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Like me, you may be sensitive and not realize it, feel things more deeply than other people and not know why. That’s okay. Really.

For most of my life I’ve tried to understand what I thought was wrong with me so I could fix it and be like other people I’ve admired. But now I’m taking a different approach. I’m learning to find more acceptance and love for myself. To be honest about what I’m feeling or thinking and not force it to be any different. To realize this is the way I am and I don’t need to apologize for it. It might not always be pretty or seem ‘in control’, and that’s just fine.

The irony is in accepting the parts of myself I’ve worked so diligently to fix, I realize more and more there was nothing wrong with me to begin with. And in the wise words of The Beatles…I’m learning to “Let it be.”

**This post is in memory of Debbie Ford who taught me to accept all of me…the good and the bad, the light and the dark. She believed our gifts are in the shadows. And it is only in accepting the whole of who we are that we will really become all that we are meant to be. I am forever grateful for that lesson and for the many other ways she changed my life. Wherever you are, Debbie, I hope you realize the impact you have made on the world. But most of all I hope you know how much you are loved.**

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

Go On…Have A Bad Day

Source: shinyfortheshow

Source: shinyfortheshow

I’m feeling down today. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t have any energy or motivation. I don’t want to sit in front of my computer. And I’m having a hard time being okay with that.

I’ve been reading other people’s Facebook posts and emails about planning and goal setting and making big changes in 2013 and I’m comparing myself. The ‘shoulds’ are out in full force:

  • I should work on my coaching business
  • I should get to my To Do’s
  • I should be encouraging others
  • I should feel fine
  • I should make plans before the week gets away from me
  • I should get dressed (at the very least)

Yesterday I gave myself a day to do nothing. I was tired from all the holiday hubbub and needed to rest. My system is so run down, I have to be extra careful how I expend my energy. So I laid on the couch all day watching TV. It was lovely! And I thought if I gave myself permission to do that, I would be raring to go today.

But I’m not.

Last night as it got dark out, I plugged in the lights on the Christmas tree. I love how they twinkle and sparkle. It feels so magical. But for whatever reason, the lights didn’t work. I’m not sure what happened since they had worked every day up to this point. And it sort of feels like a metaphor for how I’m feeling. For some reason, my internal lights won’t turn on right now either.

This morning as I sat drinking my coffee and looking out the window, I felt a deep sadness. Tears welled up in my eyes and I let them fall. I didn’t realize until that moment I needed to cry. And even as I write this the tears start to come again.

As I think about what message I want to share with you today, it’s the message I most need to hear myself. That it’s okay to feel bad…even when things are going well. You can have a good life and still miss the pieces and parts that didn’t work out the way you’d hoped. You can have a wonderful holiday with friends and family and still miss the one who left a hole in your heart.

I know the more I resist this, the more of a hold it will have on me. And judging myself is just another way of resisting. So I’m letting myself have a ‘bad’ day, knowing it won’t last forever. I’m learning to accept whatever this moment brings me.

For me and for you…sometimes there’s a reason we feel down and sometimes there isn’t one. You don’t need to figure it out. You just need to feel what you feel.

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

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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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

Leaning Into Pain | Take 2

This is one of the first things I wrote and posted publicly on Facebook in January 2011. I’ve been thinking alot about the lengths we’ll go to in order to avoid anything we perceive as negative. But pain is really not a negative. It’s just the other side of joy. And you can’t have one without the other. So I’m reposting this because I think it’s worth saying again. The pain will not kill you, even though it might seem that way at the time. If you let yourself feel it, really feel it, one day you will discover you had the capacity for it all along.

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I have been experiencing a fair amount of pain these days. Not that occasional out of sorts, down in the dumps kind of feeling. But a gut wrenching, tear your heart out and stomp on it kind of thing. I won’t pretend it’s been easy…it hasn’t. And there are days I don’t know how I’m going to keep moving forward. But I do; and this experience has helped me look at pain in a whole new way.

Up until now, I have had two ways of dealing with the inevitable pain that life throws at us from time to time. One way was to hurtle myself into a deep, dark depression. A place of hopelessness and despair where I feared I would never feel happy again. The other was trying to get rid of the pain by pushing it away, stuffing it down, numbing it, fighting it or running from it. I’ll be honest…neither of these were great options. Because I never allowed myself to feel the pain in a way that could ultimately heal my heart.

This time around I’ve discovered a whole new way of being with pain. Whenever those moments of overwhelming sadness start to wash over me like the waves of the ocean, I simply lean into it. That’s all…just lean in. I don’t try to figure out what its here to teach me; or what I’m supposed to be learning from all this. I don’t try to talk myself out of my pain. I simply move toward it. I lean in and rest my head on its shoulder like a long lost friend. I cry until the tears are gone and the wave moves through me.

This isn’t to say, it doesn’t hurt or it’s not difficult. It’s just a different way of relating to pain. I’m accepting these feelings as a natural part of grieving any kind of loss. And I’m allowing myself to feel what I feel and trying not to judge myself for it. As with everything, it’s a work in progress and is often two steps forward, one step back. As Stephanie St Claire so beautifully put it, ‎”Sometimes you have to take it on blind faith that your heart is healing. It may not feel like the pain is going away. You might still cry just as hard as ever. But strength, confidence, and wisdom grow invisibly and you must trust that it is there. Rock the world Steel Magnolias!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.