In this month’s Open Letter, I made the following claim;
Velociraptors do not respect boundaries. They actively avoid them and work skillfully to get around them. Even people with the best of intentions can step all over your boundaries. I also wrote about the many ways people can react to being asked to respect your boundaries. See: Temper Tantrum
Sometimes when someone says, “Please respect this boundary.”
I hear, “You hate me. You don’t want to be with me. You think I am terrible and awful and fugly.”
This seemed like a good time to bring back the word ‘fugly’.
It’s easy to recognize the velociraptors in others. It’s not so easy to understand why we start tapping electric fences for weakness when someone asks us for a little space.
And there will be sorrow across the lands. It is time to report to your office. Even if you LOVE your job, going from living on sugar cookies, wine and cheese while watching movies and playing with new toys can
Here are 5 things you can do right now to make this week less awful:
Make a plan. Get your planner out and review what’s coming around the bend. Take out your highlighter and block off time for lunch, breaks and the 2 times a day you’re committed to checking your email. Yes, twice. That’s all you need.
Eat well. Pack your lunch. Pack several lunches. Put snacks together for the week. No one on the planet functions well hungry. Why spend your day feeling like a cranky toddler with a case of the hangry? Plan to eat. Your body will thank you. Your coworkers will too.
Get some rest. Speaking of cranky, go to bed at a decent hour. It’s really over and staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning won’t bring your vacation back. It will just make you tired and miserable for your first day back to professional reality. Get yourself comfy and sleep like it’s your part-time gig.
Pace yourself. If you happen to be an overachiever (like me), the starting line can feel super sexy. It’s all shiny and new. The race is just riddled with endless possibilities. You can jump tall buildings in one leap or whatever. No. You can’t. You can only jump normal. You still only have 24 hours in a day and only 8 of them are for work. This is a relay not a sprint. Take it easy Jesse Owens.
Bring the magic. I’m not talking about casting spells here. I’m talking about bringing an amulet to the table. I love to take reminders of my amazing holiday with me when I’m about to step back into the hustle of
my day job. I love my Glacier National Park coffee mug. It reminds me of Lake McDonald and the mountains I woke up to behind it. Grab a little magic to take with you.
You are going to be awesome. And remember, there’s always the weekend.
PS – For more tips on #militantselfcare head on over to the Facebook group and click JOIN.
Thank you for reading my stories, thoughts and feelings. Your readership has given me the gift of confidence in my words. Your comments, likes and shares encouraged me to keep telling stories. This blog was a stepping stone in discovering the treasure that is my written words. Thank you.
My life has evolved.
You’ve seen the changes. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ve seen my children grow. You’ve watched my relationships thrive, struggle, end or become more weatherproof. You’ve seen me advocate freely and build a nonprofit that is a reflection of what I would have wanted for myself as a child.
You’ve seen my snapshots.
It’s time for this blog to make a transitional move. It is time to reserve my words for publishing. There’s only so much time in a writer’s day and I’m already managing an organization that has quickly become bigger than me. I need to focus on those things that will serve my dreams for the future.
My intentions for the future are as follows;
You can expect that I will be writing and that I will be published online. You can expect that I will be published in print too. I will be working on my memoir and a few secret side projects. Outside of family and friends, you will always be the first to know when and where you can read my work. You’ll be able to find short reflections and rejections* here too. Topics will revolve around nonprofit, survivorship, #militantselfcare and every now and again, my family.
You may also be invited to attend workshops that I create based on lessons I learn along the way.
Which reminds me. There’s still time to sign up for my Militant Self-Care Workshop on December 2, 2015.
I’m getting super professional in my old age.
*rejections = things I tried to publish elsewhere but were rejected because some people are just intent on discovering me after I am dead and gone.
I arrived wearing yoga pants covered in dog hair and my slippers. The yoga studio is 2 minutes from my house and I was 2 minutes late. I was thirsty and rushed as I unclasped my watch, dropped it into my purse and headed in to select a mat. I grabbed a pink one, took a step forward and stopped. Definitely not pink today. Where’s that black yoga mat?
Yes. Black like my soul.
I’ve been having trouble getting my feet underneath me since Soulfire 2016. I’ve felt sluggish, disconnected and turned inward. Invitations are lost on me. Pajamas are all I want on my body and my bed is the only place I want to be.
I’m not depressed, I’m emptied out. My charge is depleted. I’m exhausted.
I’ve been trying to do the bare minimum with the hope that my come back is on its way.
Do you hear the upbeat music kicking in? Here it comes! It’s almost…Nope. I’m going back to bed.
I’m laying on my deeply dramatic emo black yoga mat thinking;
I’m just not feeling okay. I’m just not okay with how I’m feeling. I’m not okay with working right now. I’m not feeling quite right. Why can’t I get my mojo back? I’m not feeling okay enough to do much these days.
My thoughts distilled: I am not okay.
I usually take a week off after big time events but this week went awry. I made some commitments that I shouldn’t have and then one of my children had to stay home from school sick. A come back is not in the cards for this week.
Things are not quite where they should be in my soul.
I’m invoking a Do Over for next week that will include auto responses, critical tasks only and loads of leisure time with the people I love the best.
While gently leaning into a yoga pose and reflecting on my feelings, this is what I heard myself say. I was shocked at the lack of compassion in that voice. A voice that found its origin somewhere inside of myself.
It made me angry. Who even says that? Oh, right. Me.
In the hours leading up to the yoga class, my heart had been aching and I felt like I was going to cry. Two separate events had come careening towards me threatening two different kinds of catastrophe. Although I had managed to fix the problems, I was emotionally spent. Despite my fears of inconsolably crying on a yoga mat in a room full of people, I decided to take all of my feels to a yoga class.
I’m so glad I did. In the process of calling myself on my own bullshit, I learned a few things I thought you could benefit from too.
3 steps to disrupting your own negative inner dialogue.
Quiet your surroundings. Hear yourself speak. Had I not found some quiet time, I may not have ever heard the voice in my head telling me that I deserve to be in pain for choosing to do the work I do. I needed to be on my mat and in my breath to hear that super awful message loud and clear.
Some tips: Go on walks without your iPod. Turn off the radio in your car. Fold laundry without Netflix. Get on your mat and practice or meditate. Journal before bed.
Listen to yourself. What you say to yourself is important. That very simple phrase had the power to prevent me from asking for help or seeking compassion from those around me. If I’m constantly telling myself that I deserve to suffer, than I will suffer. The end.
Tips: When you’re approaching heartaches, obstacles, emotions, what are you saying to yourself? Are you calling yourself nasty names or telling yourself you’re unworthy? Are you saving your compassion for everyone else? Listen for patterns or reoccurring themes.
Challenge yourself. When I heard that phrase float through my mind, I nearly bolted out of my yoga pose. It was mean and unhelpful. Once I challenged it, I found it completely untrue and can now dismiss the thought if it ever comes around again.
Tips: When you hear yourself being negative, challenge the statements that you throw at yourself. Respond with the opposite sentiments. Where there is a lack of compassion, give yourself some loving kindness.
That phrase has now evolved into this one:
“With my heart work comes personal transformation but only when I am brave enough to inspect the wound.”
What will your negative inner dialogue transform into once you challenge it?
I didn’t. I had been rambling about my boys. I leaned back into the chair in my therapist’s office to think. The tree branches behind me snatched at my curls.
Yes. My therapist has a tree in her office that is constantly getting stuck in my hair.
I love it.
“That your boys are physical….”
She paused like a teacher giving the pupil a moment to catch up.
“Yes?” I said with my brow furrowed.
“And…you love it.” she said slowly.
My hands shot up to my face. I peered at her between two hands pressed against my cheeks. I repeated the answer.
“And I love it.”
I whispered those words in disbelief and then the tears came. I bowed deeply in my chair and beneath that listening tree with relief. Tears of joy spilled forward and then I wiped my face and said,
“I almost made it through an entire session without crying.” Laughing I continued, “You fucking ruined it.”
She laughed but her eyes were harboring quickly escaping tears too.
You may not remember but there was a time where touch felt like the enemy. Connection and intimacy felt like a cheese grater on my soul. My healing required an end to passive consent. My soul needed some time to seek out it’s true loves. My body needed to learn what is safe, safe, safe…I am safe here.
I am safe here.
The little girl I was, the little girl in need of a constant barrier between her heart and connection is leaning into connection and intimacy. She is letting go of her shield. She is slowly backing away from the tools used to fortify walls. She is coming out to play, love, gaze, connect.
I love this girl. I love how she gazes into the eyes of her children. I love how she understands that criticism doesn’t mean that she is bad, dirty or broken. I love that she listens and can lie under a pile of freshly bathed and pajama dressed boys with wild abandon.
I love that she doesn’t seem to feel trapped anymore or not as much.
I have learned that healing happens in a place of safety.
I feared that my trauma was stealing joy from me and my children. Honestly, it did steal joy for a time until something shifted.
The story I told my therapist:
I held one of my sons in my arms. I gazed into his eyes and I simply paused. I didn’t move. I let him bathe in my love for him. It was like a freeze ray. He couldn’t remove himself from my adoration. I felt like I might be staring at him like a creep.
“Children don’t stare. They gaze.”
My therapist interjected that tidbit. Science has proven that when you are making eye contact with an infant and you stop, there is an immediate change in their brain chemistry. That chemical reaction identifies our basic need for attachment.
I held him and gazed at him until he was ready to go. All filled up with love.
My oldest son feels no shame about kissing his mother goodbye. My middle son starts his days by leaning into me with his face tilted upwards for a kiss.
“Good morning, momma.”
My boys are physically affectionate and I love it. It has taken 3 years but I am the mother I always wanted to be.
Fearlessly affectionate, hilariously embarrassing and stingy with the ice cream.
I’ve been struggling all day with how I am going to break this story down and give it to you in short form. This weekend I went to the Bronx for my first official research trip. *trumpet blast*
It was a trip full of deep emotions and strong words. Words like;
Villain. Deliverance. Refract.
Other phrases followed me in the door as I arrived home. Like the scarves you tie to luggage to help you identify your belongings in a crowded baggage claim, they wafted off of handles and out of pockets.
The Land of Make Believe. Parallel lines.
Let’s begin this story with a new platitude that I feel very strongly could become the next big thing.
Nothing bad ever happens over a slice of pizza.
Like all other platitudes and positive affirmations, there’s exceptions to this rule but dang, don’t you agree that this should be a universal truth. If bad stuff happens, it should never happen over pizza.
Over a slice of pizza, my friend Jena told me that she was shooting a wedding in New York and asked me if I’d like to come along. I said I’d check my calendar and see if I could swing it.
“I have to do some research there anyway.”
It took a few weeks of moving things around on the calendar but in the end, it worked out. I didn’t tell anyone I was going. If you know me, you know that there’s not often a thought that passes between my ears that I don’t blurt out.
I was nervous.
Technically, this was the first trip I had accidentally planned for the specific purpose of researching my father’s life. At the time, it seemed like a convenient, economical way to begin the process. Plus, I’d have the support of my friend to help me through any of the rougher spots.
Every idea seems like a good one at the time. (It was a good idea but we’re not at that part of the story today.)
After 15 hours of traveling, Jena and I approached the city in our rental car. She squealed, “Yaaay, we’re almost there.”
I sheepishly squealed back. Or maybe I said,“Baa…”
Nope. It was definitely a squeal.
Suddenly a tsunami sized wave of self-doubt came crashing into me. Hard. I felt a shortness of breath as I looked at the city stretching out around us for miles of darkness marked by sparkling lights. I was suddenly confronted with a very harsh and unrelenting interrogator.
Who do you think you are? You think you can just come into this city and ask questions? Who do you think you are that you deserve answers at all?
The voice in my head kept berating me and I slowly leaned over, put my head between my knees and started to do some deep breathing. I steadied myself and eventually, the voice quieted down a bit. At least it quieted to a volume that allowed me to hear my own thoughts.
The days that followed found me challenged. I asked questions that resulted in 3 different reactions.
Here is your answer.
You don’t want to know.
I don’t remember.
And maybe there was one more.
4. You’ll never understand.
For the answers, I was grateful. For the rest, I was insistent. I tried to balance being respectful of a place in time many didn’t want to revisit and honoring my own right to know about my father.
It felt like balancing on a tight rope at times. The tension in my own spirit was difficult to carry and the self-doubt kept revisiting me every time an answer was hard to extract. Always reminding me that I would never find the answers I was looking for. Always cajoling me to move on and let it go.
I was not my father’s only victim. I have known that for a while but I was not aware of the full story. I was able to hear more than I ever heard before. I was able to look into eyes, hold hands and drink in the energy in the room.
As a side note, that story only came to be known through my willingness to share my story. From that, there was a seeking of deliverance and healing.
Dear Self-doubt, Suck it.
I learned that they called my dad by the nickname, ‘Country.’ He came to the city by way of Anderson, North Carolina. He was a big, strong, country boy that people feared and loved. I saw the hospital where he was born. I met friends who knew him as a teenager. When I asked one friend about his gang life, he told me that my father was a villain but he loved him very much.
It lead us to have a conversation about how we all have a dark side. It made me think of all of the people in my life that I had loved regardless of serious character flaws. It made me wonder how his friends would feel if they knew what he did to me.
I didn’t tell them. I’m not sure why.
I think we all tend to think of good and evil as parallel lines. We think of them as living in a 3 dimensional space and never intersecting. But they do. They are as intertwined and inseparable as bones and flesh.
I am tired today. I’ve spent much of the weekend trying to do the opposite of what I want to do: shut down.
I’ve cooked healthy foods for myself. I’ve allowed myself to get completely sucked into mundane tasks. I’ve listened wholeheartedly to my children. I’ve been to yoga and gone on walks. I’ve returned to my blessed present.
I even watched a few movies and was hit by this phrase from Cold Mountain.
Bird has a job. Shit has a job. Seed has a job.
As I stood outside of the housing projects my father lived in, I listened to others talk about their experiences living there. I remembered how much my father wanted the lives of my brother and I to be better. He never wanted us to return to the place where he lived as a villain.
He wanted us to live in a home where the Cosby’s were our role models. He wanted us to live in a community where drugs wouldn’t be involved in our daily interactions. He wanted us to speak properly and stand up straight. He wanted us to be educated and took us to museums we passed on road trips.
He gave us a good life amidst the evil he was doing in secret.
Shit had a job.
On Sunday afternoon, I practiced yoga in the back of the class with 3 young survivors of sexual trauma and their parents and guardians. On their way out the door, I gave them new art sets and neon sparklers. I chose not to write them a note inside it. I left the pages blank in honor of their ability to tell their story in the way that they want to.
Seed has a job.
After my travels were over, I said goodbye to my friends and sat on my couch. Other than to meet my basic needs, I didn’t get up again until that yoga class forced me up and out the door. I sat shell shocked watching episodes of Parenthood.
If you’ve ever seen that show, you probably already know that as far as a tool to wrench choked back tears from your body, that show is the top of the line. On a normal day, I cry at the end of every episode.
Seriously. The show has some tear inducing magic spell attached to it.
There’s always a sort of hangover effect that comes with doing this research. It’s like my heart gets locked up, my tears are frozen to the inside of my eyelids and I can feel my body twisting into the knots sailors must’ve used to keep their sails tied down in the worst of storms.
I have learned through this process that it’s my job to unlock, defrost and untie. It’s my job to unbind myself from any negative energy, any scary remnants of the past and any emotions waiting to be released in a safe space.
I sat on my couch and I waited to cry. It took an episode or two but sure enough, Max got into that really great school and I cried. Once the dam was broken, I jumped into the waters that rushed through. I was gone. Crying my eyes out and it felt good.