Sunday, November 2, 2014

Fear, Failing, Falling, Flying

In the new age of social media we share a lot, quite often, too much about ourselves.

Writing a blog you tend to share more of yourself with, you know, anyone in the entire universe who can access the internet.  Sometimes it can be a very scary feeling.

I made the decision quite sometime ago, when I first started blogging, to share my story.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  I had this feeling that if I was able to share my struggles, it might just help someone, even ONE person get through theirs.

When I started my blog it was originally called "April walks with autism," and the sole focus of my words was to help other mama/daddy warriors on their journey through autism.  But as I started writing, and as more people began to read, I realized that what I had to say, was actually having an effect on a few people out there, and maybe I should open up and begin to talk about some of the other things I was going through, too.  It was around this time my marriage was starting to fall apart so that seemed like a swell idea.  You know, to open up and talk about that.

And yup, that thing happened.  People started to write to me and tell me that my blog helped them.  So I kept writing, albeit sporadically.  

This year I've made writing a major focus of my life.  It's not yet "the" focus, and may never be, but it is "a" focus and "a" priority.  It feels good.

In recent months I have put a lot of my personal, ugly, junk on this blog.  I have made myself extremely vulnerable for all the world to see.  I chose to share the story of my heartbreak because that is something we have all been though and something, I don't care who you are will go through at some point in your life.  I have written the story over the last several months of how I have hit rock bottom and have slowing started to rebuild my life.  I have talked about using bricks to rebuild my foundation stronger and better than ever. And today I'm going to write about one of those bricks.  But stay with me.....

Let's talk about David for a moment.  Here's the soul crushing truth about why this thing with David continues to eat me alive. I got duped.  I have egg on my face.  I feel stupid.  I'm NOT a stupid person, and up until this point I have been an outstanding judge of character.  I gave this man every atom of trust that exists in my mind, heart, and soul and he didn't deserve or earn one piece of it.  And in that trust I gave the man my life, all of me.  I worked and tried, and pushed, and cried and for two years made sacrifice upon sacrifice to make something work that as never even really there. 
I failed.  I failed myself and I failed my children (They got very close to David and had their hearts broken by him, too).  I failed yet another relationship, which stings a bit more aggressively when it's 4 seconds after your divorce which, while we are being brutally honest, I may not have even been fully recovered from that.

There's this quote from this little book I have mentioned a few times called, Eat, Pray, Love.  It's one of the most famous, shared quotes from the book and yet it has never resonated with me.

I finally get it now.

I can't be sad about what happened anymore.  Instead I must choose to have a grateful heart for the lessons that David taught me, our relationship taught me, and perhaps most importantly, what I have learned about myself during this process.

Because for as broken as I am, I am the best I have ever been.  

So about that brick......

Funny story.  My ex-husband, whose name is Jeff,  and I went to high school ttogether  We both went away to college and found each other again after 7 years and decided to get married.  It was not a very happy ending.

So I thought I would have another crack at it.

You have to laugh at the seemingly absurdness of it all.

So when I was in high school there was this other boy.......... named.............Jeff.  And in high school this Jeff and I were friends and even went out on a date.  I had absolutely zero interest in him.  I loved him dearly as a friend but was simply not attracted to his jock-like nature.   We had our milkshake at the local Big Boy and that was that.  A few months later we graduated from high school and went off to college and begin our lives.  We never spoke again. 

We both went on incredible journeys.   For 23 years.

And through the magic of that wonderful little thing called facebook and a simple message, after 23 years, this Jeff is back in my life.

23 years later, standing in the parking lot of our high school.

I simply cannot get into the details at this moment because this post will be 18 pages long if I do.  But I promise I will share the beauty of how this relationship is unfolding.  
What I want to take a moment here to discuss is vulnerability.  It's such a hot button keyword right now thanks to Oprah and Brene Brown.  It's trendy and hip and cool to say we are vulnerable and stepping into the arena.

Let me tell you something else.

It's the scariest effing thing in the world.

You see, after all of the heartache and disappointment and egg on my face and all that other fun stuff that goes with a breakup, I truly thought I may never trust again.  As a general rule I am going about the practice of trusting people with a more discerning eye.. but to even allow myself to "go there" with a man, to entertain the mere idea of a relationship... made me go into a state of panic. 

Because that, my friends is vulnerability at it's finest.  Of course this happened way way way before either one of us was "ready" for it to (he is recently divorced) but that is how life is; life happens when you least expect it.    So just a few mere months after "the David breakup" when I'm frantically working to pick up the pieces and rebuild with my bricks, here comes one being thrown at my head.
But, as we all know, being vulnerable, being "in the arena" as Brene Brown talks about means to take a chance.  It means to take a risk.  It means to fight for something.  It means you step into the arena with your vulnerability on your sleeve and your heart on your face knowing full well this could end in  disaster.... or not.

I'm choosing to allow myself to find my wings and fly.  Even if I fall.  

Now, you'll have to stay tuned for more details of this crazy relationship because what kind of idiots enter willingly into a long distance relationship?  Jeff lives in Michigan.  I live in Tennessee.  That's not changing in the foreseeable future.  The kind of idiots that know the best things in life are those worth fighting for.  I can't think of a better way for us to get to know each other again after 23 long years while still finding ourselves.  What a gift it is to be able to have the space and time to be able to do both.

Who am I kidding?  It sucks most of the time. However, after 23 years we can throw a bit more time and see where this thing called life takes us both.  

For now, we are allowing our hearts to heal not because of the happiness we have found in each other, but with the happiness we have found in each other.  We are throwing each other bricks of support in which we are both rebuilding our lives.... 

and having a marvelous time doing it.

At the Jason Aldean concert in Detroit.  The man supports my obsession with Meijer.  I didn't say he was on board with it, I said he supports it.  God bless him.  


Editor's Note: (a big tongue in cheek don't you think?) I was hesitant to write about this.  It's interesting.  I have no problem writing about the misery in my life, but when it comes to my happiness I hit the keyboard with trepidation.  But after months of sadness, doom and gloom, I felt I owed my readers, followers, friends and family, what may just be the beginning of a happy ending.  At the very least, a happy, positive chapter in the story of my life.  But that's the vulnerability talking.  It's the fear of failure.  It's that voice in my head saying "What if this one ends just like it ended with David?"  It's the trust.  I don't  even trust myself right now.  But I don't really need to.  At the end of the day, my job is to put my trust in God and know that he is placing me exactly where I need to be.  If I write a blog in an attempt to help others, then I need to write it ALL.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Let's take a break from the bad and the ugly for a moment shall we?  After all, everyone loves a great love story.  And this one just might be. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Doorway to Gratitude Ritual Challenge

It's that time of year again, I can feel it brewing.

That time when people see the month of November right around the corner and are preparing their facebook pages for an onslaught of gratitude.  For the entire month of November, the time of year that graciously hosts the holiday of thanks, we see lists and "challenges" and daily reminders.  Every social media outlet will be barraged with thanks.  Instagram will do their photo challenge, facebook will be loaded with "Day 7 of things I'm grateful for...." ad nauseum.   Our feeds will be full of thanks.

And that makes me so happy.

Kind of.

This has been a rough year for me,  a rough 3 years in fact.  And what I've learned, what I KNOW is that the only way I have survived it, and in fact THRIVED it, is through the practice of gratitude.  Now hold up.  

Before we start talking about "gratitude practice" I want to talk about that phrase.  It's kind of "hip" right now to talk about.  There are even apps for maintaining your "gratitude practice."  Here's why I don't like that phrase.  The words "gratitude" and "practice" simply don't belong together.  Practice, by definition, is something you are working on.  In yoga we say, "It's a yoga practice, not a yoga perfect."  You try and try and try again and it may be ugly and it may not be "quite right" but it's yours and you keep plugging away  at it.  When we learn an instrument or a language or a sport we practice until we become proficient (some may even say we are striving for "perfection") on the subject.

That's not gratitude.

There's no "perfecting" in gratitude.

There's simply thanks.  

You shouldn't have to think about it.  You shouldn't have to work at it, it shouldn't be forced in even the smallest of ways.  

Author Anne Lamott says there are really only three prayers we ever need in our lives.


She wrote a book about it.  If you ask me, 2 of the 3 prayers are gratitude driven, right?

So I propose a change.  (Imagine that)  I propose that instead of calling it a "gratitude practice," we call it a "gratitude ritual."  And here's why.

There have been gobs of studies that show, the act of replacing negativity with gratiude makes the brain better.  I'm simplifying it of course.   Shawn Achor, a Harvard smartie has dedicated his life to the study of how the brain responds to gratitude and posititivy.  I love his Ted Talk which you can watch here.  He's a funny charismatic guy who has some great things to say.  It's 12 minutes long and his "Happiness challenge" will change your life.  It did mine.  21 days.  Do it.  

The basic gist is, that if you replace negative emotions with positive ones, the positive ones will then override the negative ones.  Even more simplified... if you're sitting around depressed thinking about how much your life sucks and all the things that are wrong in your life... then you take a few moments to focus on the things that are good, the things you can be grateful for... an amazing thing miraculously happens.  You stop obsessing about the "wrong" in your life.  You create space to breathe.  You look back and gain perspective.  You realize, you begin to internalize that things really in fact, are not that bad.   And you start to find moments of happiness again. 

I've had moments, no scratch that, days up on days in the last year where I couldn't get out of bed.  It was so damn dark.  Life was seemingly too hard to do.  My emotions completely overcame me and the clouds that came with those emotions made my life black.  The weight was more than I could bear on my shoulders and it was just easier to lay down and sleep.  A  lot. 

I'm not entirely sure how my children survived this time but I'm grateful they did.  (Oh! I can add that to my gratitude ritual)

During this time, I begrudgingly began my gratitude ritual.  I didn't want to.  I thought it was lame.  Above that I simply could not think of anything to be thankful for.  My life SUCKED.  Everything about it SUCKED.  There was absolutely NOTHING good about my life.  NOTHING!!!!!  It was so sucky I couldn't even get out of bed to care for my children so there mere thought of TRYING to  "practice" gratitude seemed utterly absurd to me.  I avoided it like the plague.  I had notepads and journals all around me and even put all these fancy gratitude apps on my phone.  But I still avoided it.  The idea of "thinking" hurt my brain.   The idea of trying to come up with things to be grateful for when my life was pure shit was just stupid.

So I did it anyway.

I thought I would literally die trying to come up with 3 things I was grateful for.

And here's what happened.

I started writing, and I couldn't stop.  My list kept going.  Suddenly, I had 10 things on my list.  But I wasn't done.  I added 2 more.  And 3 more, until the person who thought her life was total garbage suddenly had a cornucopia of things to be thankful for.  

And when I was done..... I had a smile on my face.  And I got out of bed.  And I showered.  And I took care of my children and I took care of myself and I put one foot in front of the other and I climbed my way out of the hole using my gratitude ritual as my rope.  

This is not a "practice."  This is something that we must make as essential to our lives as brushing our teeth and filling our cars with gas.  This is OUR fuel.  Our human fuel.  This is what keeps us going.  

I toyed with calling it my "gratitude routine."  And while that would apply and certainly work, I like the word ritual because rituals are things we love.  Rituals are things that hold importance to us.  Rituals are things that are woven into the very fabric of our lives and become a part of who we are.  Gratitude and thankfulness must be that for us.  

So here's the challenge.

Right here, right now, this moment. 


Choose your social media outlet of choice and start right this minute.  SHARE IT.  Because the more YOU do it, the more other people will do it.  When people start to witness what an amazing effect the power of gratitude is having on YOUR life, they will want to have some of it too.  Posting your gratitude on social media isn't braggy or annoying, it's a gift.  There are some people who are so very lost in the darkness of their own lives that they can't see.  Give them the light.  Show them the way, lead them out of the hole with YOUR gratitude ritual.

Don't wait until November 1.  Start today.  Start RIGHT NOW.  October 22.  Instead of 30 days in November, make it 40 days in October AND November.  And then get crazy.  Keep the momentum going.... make this a RITUAL.

I don't care what this looks like for you.  This is yours.  Some people need to write it down with a pen and paper in a journal.  Some have messy scribbly notebooks.  Some have apps on their phone.  Some have tiny scraps of paper thrown into a "gratitude jar" at the side of their bed.  It doesn't matter what this looks like for you.  What matters is that you do it.  What matters is that giving thanks becomes as natural to you as breathing.  

There is something to be thankful for in every moment of your life.

Hate your job?  Be thankful you have one and you can pay for the roof over your head.
Broke?  Can't pay your bills?  Be thankful that you have a car that is fully paid for.  Be thankful that you already have a gallon of milk in your fridge.  Be thankful that the heat is still on.  Be thankful that you have running water.
Lonely?  Be thankful for who you DO have in your life.  Be thankful for yourself.  Be thankful for the gift of your own company.  Learn to enjoy it.
Broken heart?  Be thankful you tried for something.  Be thankful you gave it your all.  Be thankful you have a heart to be broken.  Show gratitude for the lesson you are learning because it will make you stronger and better than you ever were before.  (Really, it will, trust me)

Just start.  Just sit down and do it.  The next thing you know  you'll have 15 things on your list and you'll be walking around with a smile on your face and that smile isn't just improving your life, it's improving the lives of those around you and THAT is something to be thankful for.

The doorway to gratitude.  A 40 day challenge to creating a ritual of thanks in your life.  

A 40 day challenge to creating CHANGE in your life.  

I have this fantastic app on my phone.  It's called Gratitude! and I love it because you can share your posts, add pictures, get inspirational quotes (no such thing as too many inspirational quotes!) and of course, journal and look back on your gratitude.  I would like to share one day in the life of my gratitude.   

First of all, I had a busy day!  Second of all, I LOVE that I had to log in TWICE and list more gratitude.  LOVE LOVE LOVE that.  

The important thing I really want to share here is that look at how simple some of these things are.  Many of the items on my list are simple conversations (almost all of which took place via text I might add).  Moments.  Feelings.  Seconds.  And by the way, who in the hell is grateful for hot sweaty yardwork?  

Someone who spent far too many days in bed, that's who.  

As I was preparing to write this post, I realized something utterly amazing.  

Some exciting an awesome things are happening in my life.  I think it's safe to say that the ship has found it's way back on the right path.  There are a lot of things contributing to that, which I won't get into now.  But when I look back I realize that it all started right around the beginning of September. And if you look at the date on my gratitude app, you'll see that on September 6 my gratitude practice.... became a gratitude...