self-care

The blank page is my refuge

My journals lead me, guide me, remind me, comfort me and show me.  I’ve been keeping a journal since high school.  They often lead me to the answer or solution.  They lead me to insights.  They guide me to the next steps to take or can serve as a gentle nudge.  They can be a light in the dark; a map showing the easy and difficult terrain ahead; an exit to safe passage.  My journals remind me of what I had forgotten.

They are a tool that is portable and accessible.  I find the space to cope, hash out, dissect, examine, vent, relax, pause, slow down and breathe, and integrate:  To be the observer of thought.  My own words can comfort me during times of sickness, heartbreak, anguish, or confusion.  It’s like a warm cup of tea or being wrapped up in a cozy blanket.  I can enjoy and savor the moments.

My journals have showed me how much I’ve changed, my ever evolving inner and outer circumstances and how I dealt with various people, events and places.  They serve as a still frame, a reflecting mirror, a magnifying glass as to who I was on month/day/year and what mattered to me then.  Can I see how I got from there to here?  The most important part of my journals is that it records my timeline and becomes tangible evidence of my life.  My inner thoughts are brought onto the page for time immemorial; like a time capsule if I dare to look back.

The notebook:

In my teens they were one-subject notebooks. “Psychology,” “History,” “Oceanography” in large print on the cover.  Who would want to look inside of that?  Who would care to see my chicken scratch of quickly jotted notes?  To their surprise it would not be.  The subject on the cover was a ruse, a lie to cover up its true contents.  A teenage girl who shared a room in a tiny apartment with five other family members does not have much privacy or space to call her own.

I discovered journaling could be the safety net I so desperately needed to deal with the trauma, the heartbreak, the teenage angst, the big questions, the fears, the boredom of not being able to go anywhere unless it was by foot or public transportation.  Through journaling, I discovered my love of the written word.  I tapped into that creative well and poetry began to appear on the page.  It lit me up to hear my words rhythmically along the page.  Instead of wallowing in despair and hurt or numbing myself with illicit substances, I went within.  I found myself.  I saved myself.

Now in my 40s I still turn to the blank page.   These days I’m not looking for anything in particular to appear but the journals are more like creating an opening.  I’m deliberately making creative space and taking the time to see what’s beneath the surface.  What grain of salt or sparkling spec catches the light of my attention today.   My notebooks lately have been simple composition notebooks that I slip on a pretty cloth cover.

I am the observer, the recorder of thought, and it will always be my refuge.

 

 

 

self-care

Fixed v. Growth Mindset

It depends on how much I “buckle down” and get done.  If I just work a little harder, strive a little more, I will be X:  Happier, successful, loved, fulfilled, accomplished, complete, evolved to be my best, smartest, healthiest, perfect-as-I-am self.  But that’s a cop-out.  I will never fully “arrive” as my life is here for the long haul.  My health, my interests, my friends, work, creative focus and otherwise will wax and wane, as it should in this place called life.

What happens when we get to the end of the road and arrive?  Is that the end of my story?  Do I stop learning, evolving and growing?  Do I want to?

There is no ultimate destination because that would mean the end of the line, the old couple on the porch sipping lemonade as the days quickly pass, waiting for what?  Remembering the past and stuck in story?  Waiting for a peaceful end to a fulfilled life?

I’m not there yet.  I have a lot more to learn, to glean, to create, to love, to be, to serve, to clear way, to relax, to enjoy, to delight, to revel and linger.  It’s too much, too juicy, too soon to stop.

So that fixed narrative sets you up for failure because there is no “done.”

Just be. Just here with life’s lessons, trials and tribulations, joys, mistakes, regrets, loves, memories both cherished and wished to be forgotten, hopes, dreams, pleasures, etc.  My growth mindset says to keep being curious on what lights me up lately.  Keep writing, keep asking the questions, digging and laying the inner groundwork to see what’s in store next.

self-care

I am still fragile

Like most people, I come from a dysfunctional family.  My older brother was addicted to drugs and was physically abusive toward me and my younger siblings growing up.  It was like walking on eggshells whenever he came home.  You didn’t know who was going to walk through the door.  Was he going to be in a good mood today?  Was he going to be belligerent?  Was he going to blame me for his bad day?  And boy was he mad when he didn’t have any drugs.  It was a moment of uncertainty, where you suck in and hold your breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

We were raised by a single-mom who couldn’t control her son.  She had her own physical disability and pain to deal with.  You don’t know any different growing up in that environment or that it is not okay.   My brother probably has borderline personality disorder.  He was not in treatment and he was abusing drugs.  We celebrated the day he moved out and felt anxiety whenever he would visit.

I’m amazed and grateful that my story didin’t follow a similiar destructive path.  I surrounded myself with my friends and I journalled a lot.  I worked part-time and enrolled in college as a commuting student at Johnson & Wales.  I wanted more to life than this.

During the hard times, I focused on school and had a very supportive boyfriend.  I moved out when I was 20.  I graduated summa cum laude with my bachelor in science degree in court reporting.  I found a rewarding career, and I’ve been fortunate to work in that field for the past 19 years.  I found my amazing husband at age 29, and we’ve been in domestic bliss since.

But I’m still fragile.

If I run into a hostile environment, if there’s an aggressive driver, if I encounter a very drunk person, if I’m confronted by an angry crazy maker, I’m re-traumatized all over again.  It will bother me for days.  I cry.  I feel wounded and defeated.  I hit my bottom.  Then I find my way once again.  Talking to my husband and his support has been my bedrock.  I journal.  I go out in nature.  I take deep breaths and try to meditate.  I try to play and engage with my children and their sense of wonder and joy.  I try to read something inspiring.  I start to re-emerge again.  I feel stronger.  I feel that I’ve learned the lesson from the encounter.  I vow to be better equipped next time.

But I’m still fragile.

Life will continue to be moments of bliss, love, and contentment.  Life will be a series of ups and downs.  There will be crazy makers in my path.  They can’t be avoided.  Just like housework, clutter, a roadblock, or a detour.  It’s how we cope with the setback.  It’s a reminder of my power, my grace, my stamina.  It’s my ability to bounce back and to accept the inner wisdom of each difficult encounter, to not be sucked into other people’s bad day or drama.

But I’m still fragile.  And that’s okay.

self-care

When a comment becomes your story

straight hair

I have naturally curly hair. When I get my hair cut every couple of months, my hairdresser will straighten my hair.  She uses a straightening iron and tames my locks into a sleek, smooth style.

Coworkers or someone usually comments on my hair.

“New hair style?”

“I like your hair.”

Or even, “I didn’t recognize you with that straight hair.”

Instead of acknowledging, Yes, I just had it done. I usually say, Well, I have to get my hair straightened every time I get my hair done or else my husband will say – and I deepen my voice – ‘Why did you spend money to get your hair done when it looks the same?’

He may have said that comment to me once a couple of years back. Ever since, it’s been my go-to-response when someone comments on my hair.  I had the revelation that his comment is now my story, my truth.  Even though it was said years ago, I’m keeping it alive and present by repeating the speil.

Today I’m going to change my story. That inner dialogue from a comment way back when will no longer have such a prominent place when I respond to a compliment.

I can think of other examples of compliments that tend to get brushed off.

“Nice dress.”

“Oh, it was on clearance.”

“Thank you” is not always the first response.

Next time someone compliments me, I’m going to accept their compliment with grace and gratitude.

self-care

First blog post – What motivates you?

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As a mom of young children, who recently transitioned from the freelance world to full-time employment, finding the time and motivation to write has been a recurrent theme.  I want to set myself up for success by starting healthy healing habits now before I get too entrenched in the day-to-day, 9-5, monotony.  There’s family-life-work balance.

Connection, clarity and compassion.  My three C’s are my inspiration for writing a couple of paragraphs daily in my journal.  Starting is the key.  Keeping my pen on the page and avoiding distractions.  Some planning helps.  Staying focused on my intention, and consistently showing up at the page will make my goal a reality.  And importantly, being gentle with myself when priorities shift and my writing doesn’t go according to plan.

My life experiences have brought me to this moment:  The good, the bad, the muck, the ugly, and there’s the beauty, the breath to stay centered in the chaos.  As I’ve entered my 40s, I finally realize that I don’t have to prove myself anymore.  I can be true to myself and inspire others.

I’m going to honor the journey of this transition.

What motivates you?