Brain retreat

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The last few weeks have been hectic. Weekends have involved trying to prep our house to put on the market and the work weeks have meant some long, extra hours, just to stay ahead of an onslaught of issues and responsibilities.

Writing has taken a back seat, unfortunately. As well as reading posts by others and interacting with my community of people here on WordPress.

No rest for the weary appears to be imminent, but I’m going to try to do better. Writing is a stress reliever for me, and I’m feeling the effects of not having exercised that skill in my mental and physical health. This post, for example, feels….rough. It is entirely unplanned and off-the-cuff. But when writing is hard, that’s when I should be writing the most. Pushing through. Writing crap. Just exercising the muscle that gets lazy so quickly and easily.

My philosophical side is lately overridden by my practical side. So my mind is doing its best to convert these thoughts into a post.

Most people will say that building a house is one of the most stressful things a person can ever do, and can put extensive strain on a relationship.

We haven’t starting the actual building process yet, but I find that the opposite seems to be true in my life.

The future project gives me somewhere to take my mind that is away from my work/life stress. I am a daydreamer, so when I find myself in the midst of a crazy, aggravating day (of which there have been many lately) I mentally escape to the construction. Or visualizing the successful sale of our existing home. Somehow these brain retreats boost my mood and spirits – give me something positive on which to focus. Future gazing, as it were.

Sometimes that can be a treacherous path, but I’m finding that, in this instance, it is more than gazing, it is planning. And there is nothing like making plans with your life’s partner, and working toward the same goal, together.

When my husband and I first began to discuss the possibility of building a house, it seemed like such a grand undertaking. Overwhelming, really. In many ways, it still can be a lot to process. But, somewhere along the way, it felt like our hearts and minds aligned.

We are very different people, Shey and I. But I’m finding that, when we are focused on a goal like this enormous life change, and we have unity over it, we lean on each other more. I believe this process has already made us better, together, and I have no reason to think that will change.

I know there are more stressful days ahead, but I don’t fear them, or the circumstances that will create them. I have peace. And hope.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting a local small business. This shop had recently relocated into a new, remodeled building. The proprietor had brought in a new selection of merchandise, and I fell in love with one of the pieces of metal art work.

I came home and told Shey that I had found the first piece of art work I wanted to hang in the new house. This house that, for now, only exists in our minds.

Now, my husband is a great guy. Patient, steady, thoughtful. But he doesn’t like change. He is a creature of habit and he likes it that way. So I have been incredibly surprised at his enthusiasm over the prospect of leaving the house where we’ve shared our lives for the last 13 years to build another.

I think a part of me has worried that he would just shut down our plans and decide it wasn’t worth the stress and uncertainties that exist in the process of selling, then building.

But I came home one day last week, the 13th, after a very aggravating day to find roses and candy on the kitchen table. “Happy Early Valentine’s.” he said.

Later that evening, I headed to our bedroom to change clothes and there, propped against the wall, was the art work I mentioned to him weeks ago. This beautiful sentiment of what I want for him, myself, and our family.

It was more than a gift. It was an affirmation of our joint commitment to each other and the life we want to continue to build together.

It was a promise. A reassurance. And the most meaningful gift he has ever given to me.

So, no, I’m not writing as much these days. I won’t slack on it like this often, but just like when I left Facebook, absence from WordPress these days simply means I am trying to be more present in my actual, physical life.

I’m still here, but, right now, I need to be here. And right now, my journey is taking a new direction. I want to embrace it. Live it. And enjoy every moment.

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All Things

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There has been an internal struggle within me. For years. Of being all things to all people.

At times, it felt as though my empathy would swallow me whole. Seeing others hurt, lost, misunderstood – these things rattle my very core.

I want to fix. But if I can’t heal, I’ve tried, at the very least, to provide comfort. Understanding. Presence to anyone that I felt could use it.

In caring for my own mental health, and in the daily goings on of my profession, I’ve had to learn detachment. Put some distance there. And sometimes it spills into places unintended. But, just as often, I have been purposeful about it.

I don’t want to be so self-consumed that I only concern myself with….myself. But I’ve had to learn my own limitations.

In that learning curve, I’ve tried to draw closer to the ones that I felt needed that, while pulling away from those that would only, either willingly or even not, drain me of my entire wellspring of emotional energy.

I’ve been on the side of being depleted, but also being rejected. Sometimes, in empathetic moments, I might do the reaching, but it wasn’t willingly received. Sometimes, wires got crossed and miscommunications abounded.

So I’m trying to learn from all of these. For some, just the interest in them and knowing “I’m here.” is enough. For others, it is never enough. And for those latter souls, I often don’t know what to do or say anymore, and that detachment kicks in. Almost unwillingly. Unknowingly.

It takes time to understand another. To know what they need, or don’t. To differentiate between rejection, and just simple silence, because that is what they needed in that moment.

My own mental health is, for the moment, more stable than it has been in a long time. There are stressors, sure. Always. But either through medication, life experience, or the daily practices of my job, I find that I’m not as “on”, emotionally, as I have been in times past.

This can be beneficial for professional focus and decisionmaking, but detrimental to relationships. So where I once sought balance on one side of that emotional coin, I find now that the scales have shifted, and I must now make extra effort in the other direction. Seeking that ever-elusive balance in being the kind of person I want to be. For myself, and for others.

The “Suck Zone”

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Some 10 months ago, during the worst battle with depression I’ve had in my life, I opted out of Facebook.

My mind was a mess. My heart was a mess. I was overwhelmed. Not just with the discourse and bullshit that thrive on social media, but just with my own feelings of hopelessness, anger, frustration, and fatigue.

Depression doesn’t make sense. And it took me about 6 months or more before I really began to feel like a human being again, and not some self-loathing, world-hating creature trapped in the body of a 36 year old woman.

I started some new meds. Changed some things in my life. And now, here I am, feeling mentally healthier and more stable than I have in a long, long, long time.

Maybe ever.

I feel……in control. My racing thoughts have been shushed to a minimum. My obsessive thoughts have quieted to a “Meh, it’s cool” kind of mellow place. My energy level is fairly stable (it’s now up to me to start working on physically healthier habits – bleh).

All in all, I’m just in a mentally better place.

Even though writing is my “thing”, I find that my struggles with anxiety and depression can often be difficult to convey with words.

These things are just……hard. Because they don’t make sense. They come from genetics and life events and chemicals and trauma and environment…..the mind and the health of it are very complicated parts of us. And, even though I’ve struggled with some form of mental illness for the last 20 years, it has only been in the last year or so that I have seen how deep it actually runs within me. How much it has affected every part of who I am and every role I play in my life.

Finding stability and a better mental state required a long process. And I don’t have delusions that it can’t be fractured again. So I continue to do the things that I know I need to do to take care of me. Even when they don’t necessarily make sense to others.

I rejoined Facebook yesterday. Not permanently, but to exploit it for personal gain. My husband and I have decided to list our house in the next few months and the access to some resources for selling off unwanted/unneeded items was too much to pass up. I made a few bucks yesterday for my “interior design” cash jar and will be promoting the hell out of our house on social media once we finally get it on the market.

But it’s amazing, as I logged on for the first time in almost a year, how….heavy….it felt. Like plunging back into a hole that it took me months to finally crawl out of.

But there were also happy things. I have spent a little time reading through some friends’ pages. Looking at photos.

And there were sad things. Losses. Sickness. Loneliness rising up from the screen.

Our lives go on. Whether somebody is watching or not. Whether people reach out or not. And I can honestly say that my in-person relationships with certain people have deepened, even without that “constant connection”. Because I rely more on a text. Or a phone call. Or a specific message to someone instead of a comment getting lost in a thread that will become a memory.

And I stop when people talk to me. I listen more closely and remember more clearly. My mind is not distracted by the clutter of all the conversations and observations happening in that little screen.

I do miss some of my friends on Facebook. I do miss some of the more frequent interactions we had. But yesterday reminded me that I still don’t feel at home in that world. I appreciate the new way of life that I’ve carved out for myself, away from the likes, comments, or absence thereof.

My writing hasn’t suffered either. I’ve connected with more writers and less people only concerned with being nosy.

I still have some lurkers. I know they are there. And that’s fine. They know how to reach out and make a real connection if they ever want to. But I don’t write for anyone’s approval. This is me. Raw, real, authentic me.

And I got some friend requests too, in just a few short hours after I opened my page.

I accepted them.

But Facebook, for me, is just a place to sell shit I don’t need. And I think it’s probably going to stay that way.

Just a means. A tool at my disposal. And I like it that way.

A Witness to Joy

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When my daughter was little, one of my favorite things to do was to watch her. Just…observe.

Kids are fascinating creatures. They try and fail so many times, yet they remain persistent until they can grasp that toy, or walk without falling, or get that food on a spoon without assistance.

As a parent, our assistance is required less and less from a “hands on” perspective with each passing year, until we are almost solely in an observing role. A safety net of sorts.

Last week, I took my daughter and cousin to their first “real” concert. Panic! At The Disco was performing in Nashville for 20,000 screaming fans at Bridgestone Arena. And my daughter was in the crowd. 11th row from the stage.

Reagan worked several weeks over the summer and surprised her cousin bff with floor seats. She’s kept the secret since August. Finally, the night before the concert, she couldn’t take it any more and told her where they were sitting. Emma’s eyes got wide with disbelief and she just wrapped my daughter in a big hug and thanked her. It was a sweet, special moment to witness. I honestly can’t express how thankful I am that these two girls have each other. They are the truest kind of kindred spirits, and I can’t imagine how different our lives would be without Emma being such a fixture in them.

I accompanied the teenagers to the venue, then found my seat in the nosebleeds to sit back and take it in. The concert, of course, but also, the opportunity to witness my daughter experience something she’s been dreaming about for quite some time.

From my vantage point, I had a good view of the girls. Their elatedness was palpable. I didn’t attend a real rock concert until I was married, but I remember how exciting it was to absorb that energy for the first time. To quite literally feel the music. It’s an incredible experience.

As I watched my daughter, and then caught up with her after the concert, there was nothing but pure joy on her face. An excitement behind her eyes that I don’t glimpse as often as I did as when she was little.

On this trip to Nashville, I also brought my mom. She declined on the offer of attending the concert (traitor) but she was my shotgun rider and roomie for the duration of the adventure.

Since my dad retired and my grandmother moved in with my parents, I don’t see or talk to my mom as much as I used to. She stays busy. I’m busier now too, with a job that demands a lot of my attention, even when I’m home. Having the opportunity to just embrace some time with my mama was precious to me.

We stayed up late. Talked more than we probably have in months. Reconnected. And laughed. I love to watch my mother laugh. In my job, sometimes I have to throw out an occasional phony chuckle in the course of small talk, but I have never seen my mother fake a laugh.

I know, from observation, what a stressful situation my mom lives as a caretaker. The relief from that role, if only for a few days, melted off of her as soon as we crossed the state line. I feel like I got to witness some joy in her, just like I did with my daughter.

And just being there, watching these 3 women, all excited over different things and expressed in different ways, it made me joyful.

Joyful that I was there.

Joyful that I know them.

Joyful in my love for each one of them.

2019 Randoms – 2

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I find that, more and more, I squeeze in the things in these articles where I can. I have no set schedule for any of it.

Sometimes it’s a podcast on my way to work or an episode of a new tv show during lunch or a snippet of a book before bed. There is no set routine. They truly are “randoms”.

What I’m Watching

After seeing ads for it, I set my DVR to record NatGeo’s Valley of the Boom. This “docuseries” of sorts follows some of the untold stories of Silicon Valley in the early days of internet pioneers.

It’s been highly entertaining and a bit nostalgic, remembering what it was like to use dial-up and visit “chat rooms” and thinking we were hot shit because we had AOL.

What I’m Hearing

I’ve taken a bit of a break from any particular podcast series, but I do find myself drifting back to This American Life again and again. There are so many fascinating stories that I’ve only scratched the surface of hearing.

Over the fall months, I listened to other series as well. Two of my favorites were Dirty John and Dr. Death. I highly recommend both.

What I’m Reading

I’m still reading the two books I posted about last time on Randoms. I have had little time to curl up with a book, but it’s a 3 day weekend baby! MAYBE I can get one of these finished because I have about 3 I want to start!

Something Special

Some months ago, my husband got our family tickets to the MSO (MS Symphony Orchestra). Every time I go to hear them I say I am going to make it a habit (much like my live theater intentions), but, it would seem, time is never on my side when it comes to trying to have some art and culture in my life!

Tonight, however, will be Reagan’s first trip to the Symphony. It is a special performance of the music from Harry Potter. The film will be playing as the orchestra accompanies, live. It should be a fun and unique experience. I can’t wait!

Poetry Pause

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We seek to lessen the impact

Mend hearts broken

Ascend to higher roads

But the past pushes back

Reminding of what is already written

We are not rewriting

The story simply continues

It will not be changed from the beginning

And the beginning shaped what came after

The end remains unknown

But malleable

Soft

Fluid

Ink, not yet shaped or dry

Tragedy, or triumph

It is not merely determined by chance

The end of the story.

In the present moment

The past pushes back

Reminds

Recalls

Teaches

The present listens

And the ending was better for it.

2019 Randoms

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One of my favorite things about blogging is the connections it allows me to make all over the world. I wrote recently about my contentment, after years of aching for a bigger world, to find that there was one at my fingertips. I just had to be brave enough to venture out into it. Because there, on the other side of a screen, are people, just like me, writing about their lives, their hopes, their disappointments, their victories and their reflections. Just like I do.

One of those people is Claudette.

Claudette and I “met” through a mutual blog that we follow and now, months and months later, we are blog buddies.

From posting parts of her memoir to sharing the ups and downs of parenting, I love hearing Claudette’s perspective on life.

I tell you about Claudette, Writer of Words, to give props to her for her fabulous writing, but to also properly credit her for the idea I’m about to steal.

As a weekly segment on her page, Claudette will share what she’s been reading. Everything from recipes to fascinating articles on nature, parenting, tech – all sorts of interesting subjects.

I intend to do the same, except, y’all know me. It won’t be weekly. And it will likely be a hodgepodge of “stuff”. But maybe you’ll find it to be interesting. At the very least you might find a new recipe to try or a new podcast to listen to.

So, without further adieu, I give you:

2019 Randoms – Episode 1

1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Last weekend, this show won a couple of Golden Globes. It’s an Amazon Prime original, and if you don’t like sex or profanity, just skip on down to the next item. If you can handle such things and not take yourself too seriously, I highly recommend this show. It’s funny. It’s different. It’s charming. It’s casted perfectly. I’m only halfway into Season 1 and I’m in love.

I’m not a tv junkie, but I have taken to watching episodes of this show during my lunch break, so I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious. Seriously funny.

2. Serial: Season 3

I just finished listening to this podcast having loved season 1, leaving in the midst of season 2 and returning for season 3.

The episodes in 3 are all centered around one courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio, and the ins and outs of the justice system and how it does and doesn’t represent courthouses across the U.S.

I found the stories shared this season deeply moving. There is so much underneath each and every narrative that makes one wonder how we get at the roots of the problems in society to fix the issues that lead to criminal activity by both cops and citizens alike.

3. Books I’m reading

I always said I wouldn’t read more than one book at a time, but I find myself doing it more and more. I am simultaneously reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (who attended my Alma Mater, woot woot!) and this month’s book club selection, Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

Both of these books are difficult to read at times, but both have female main characters and an interesting array of others sprinkled throughout.

Both authors, so far, have done an amazing job and setting their scenes. I feel like I’m with them in the streets of their riot-filled city or on the banks of a rural river. Maybe that’s why I am able to do what I’ve never done before and be in the middle of two books at once, on purpose. Because they are so vastly different.

4. Something special

I’m going to throw in an extra here because I think everyone that loves books and libraries should listen to this episode of This American Life.

It’s rare that I chew on things for days like I did the episode of this podcast, but it deeply resonated with me.

I remember the library, as a child, being one of the first places that I looked forward to going. My mom used to take me and my sister all the time, and I credit my mom, that library, and a children’s librarian named Doug for instilling a love of reading within me that I still have and have passed on to my child.

If you carry heavy nostalgia about libraries also, or you’re just a fan of books or interesting stories, listen to this podcast. You won’t be disappointed.

Would love to hear about any recent favorites of YOURS in the comments!

A Heart at Home

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Isn’t it strange? When I was young, I couldn’t wait to leave Mississippi. At least, my corner of it. But the older I get, the more I cling to what I love about it. I’ve come to appreciate its simplicity. The ease of living where I do.

It’s rural. Small. To get to any metropolis means a 35 – 50 minute drive in any direction.

I spent years promoting this place in my last job. Singing its praises and touting its virtues. But it’s taken me a long time to really and truly appreciate them in a personal way.

Hubs and I want to build a house. Whether or not it’s in our budget is still something we’re waiting to find out. Thinking about it, making some preliminary plans, has awakened a realization in me just how much I love my home.

Not the building, though, this house has been a home, the only home, to our blended family, for nearly 13 years. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one house. It holds a lot of special memories. And there is a lot that I do love about the building itself.

I went outside one night last week and took a picture of it. All dressed in Christmas lights, letting the thoughts and emotions hit me that it might be our last Christmas in this dwelling.

Before new adventures.

I know people that have moved a lot. And I know people that have never moved. But I fall in the middle. The only big moves coming after many years in a single place.

I was 11 years old when we moved from Oklahoma to Mississippi. Nearly 10 years on the Oklahoma plains were all I had memories of. And then the piney woods of Mississippi began to fill them, until this is now the only place that I see myself ever living. Permanently.

I love my multi-annual visits to Mobile. I love to sit on a balcony and hear the waves of the Gulf. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that those are temporary pleasures. And if I ever made the leap to make them permanent, my soul would always be longing for the quiet, hushed sounds of a mourning dove across a pasture, or the soft whispered breezes through the pines.

It has become home. Without my trying. Without my consent. It has caused me to take root. But I no longer fight it. I embrace it. Because it seems my heart knew what it was doing all along.

Contentment has never come easily to me. I’ve always been a forward thinker. Maybe my age is slowing that down a bit. Maybe it’s the realizations of fleeting time with a daughter on the cusp of leaving the nest and parents that, though I still see them as the 30 and 40 somethings that raised me, are, in actuality, aging just like I am.

Whatever the reason, I feel like I am getting better at day-by-day living. Which has been a goal of mine for a long time.

So as the first week of the new year comes to an end, I’m looking forward, as always, to new things.

There might be big changes, there might not. Time will tell.

But for once, time no longer feels like something I have to conquer. Stay ahead of. It feels like a quiet, steady companion. One that moves without my prodding or planning. I’m simply walking beside it, waiting to see what she reveals next.

Participation Trophy

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When December starts drawing to a close, I generally go back through the year’s posts and spend some time reflecting.

2018 was a busy year, and not like many others before it.

I saw places I didn’t think I’d ever see, I did things I thought I’d never do, and sitting here, preparing to turn the page on a new year, I feel like I lived 2018 to its fullest.

One of the things that I wanted to do this last year was not just write about life, not just read about other peoples’ lives, but to be a more active participant in my own.

I know that might sound strange, but so many times I have felt like I was on the fringes. Looking in at my life from a distance. Not truly living it.

Hubs surprised me last year with a trip to Mobile to watch the Moon Pie Drop on New Year’s Eve. It’s something I had wanted to do forever, and I think making that one change in our normally mediocre NYE experience set the tone for the rest of the year.

I worked harder this last year than I probably have in my life. Tried to learn as much as I could. Become a better professional.

But I played hard too. I’ve tried to get better at separating my work life from my home life, which isn’t easy when everybody has your cell number and you and your spouse work for the same company.

It took a while, but I’m improving in the area of leaving my work at work. When I can.

I took my daughter out of private school and watched her thrive and be happier than I’ve seen her in years, now a homeschooled student.

I taught her, and continue to teach her to drive. She’ll have her license next year and is preparing for experiences that used to seem so far away. And yet here they are, knocking on our door.

I removed myself from Facebook. Maybe my greatest decision of the year. In doing so, I wrote more. I looked at life with different eyes. And I began interacting with people, and not their pages.

I tried, and continue to try, to learn what it means to be a good wife to my husband. I don’t write about our marriage much, but he and I would both agree that it hasn’t been an easy one.

The dynamics of having a blended family are so difficult, yet can be so sweet when it works. And, after 12 years of marriage, I feel more at peace in my relationship than I ever have. Some of it is medication (ha! No seriously…) but some of it is both of us trying to better ourselves in order to be better for each other. I think our efforts are paying off. We wouldn’t be having the conversations we’re having if that wasn’t the case.

2019 promises more changes. Big ones, possibly. And always lots of small ones. But I don’t fear them. I have nervous energy, always, when on the precipice of life decisions. But I don’t have fear.

I always look forward to starting a new year. I love beginnings. Fresh starts. So many times, in years past, I have been anticipating the new just because I was so tired of the old.

This year, I simply have hope for more of the good. Appreciating the difficulties of the past along the way, and how they’ve prepared me and made me better able to handle whatever life dishes out.

I hope to have another post or two up before 2018 officially ends. But in case I don’t, I want to thank you, my readers, friends, fellow writers. My connection to you and with you matters so much to me. I look forward to more of that in the coming year.

I don’t know that 2018 has been a stellar year for my writing, but I will say that what I’ve written has been honest. Authentic. And I appreciate all of you that come along for the ride. Even when it’s garbage.

I hope you each have a pleasant a peaceful end to the year, and I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2019.