Moving The Sludge

Man. The last couple of days have been kind of tough.

I have been waiting for test results for COVID as I have been sick. And they came back negative. I should be relieved but there is a part of me that isn’t. A part of me that wishes I had it so that I could know I had a mild case and I survived and had some immunity and could potentially help others through donating plasma.

I am trying not to let the fear get me. But going back out into the world with a compromised immune system, likely bronchitis, in the wake of a pandemic that attacks the respiratory system… to care for horses….seems fucking pointless and a little stupid to me right now.

I have had a grip on my fear, but as this touches closer and closer to me it is hard to move away from it all. People are really scared. A buddy of mine text me tonight with updates from his friend in NYC where things are really bad. I feel his fear in my heart, his hopelessness at not being able to do more for his friend. It cuts deeply into my humanity.

And I remind myself that this is also nature balancing itself out. That we will survive this. Not all of us will make it, but we will, as a whole, survive.

This has got me thinking a lot about my own mortality and whether or not I would be happy with the life I have lived here. And I honestly don’t know the answer to that. Sometimes I think yes, I am done here. Sometimes the answer is no.

I got into a bit of a sludge today. Part sprang from the above questions, part from this sickness that’s descended on my body. There were tears, lots of them. Loneliness. Stagnation. There was also confusion about what to do, what to think, how to feel.

So I did the only thing that I knew would shift some of this. I moved my body.

Sometimes when we can do nothing else we have to remember we can always take a step. It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect or “right,” it just has to be motion.

Ten minutes of weights, some ab exercises and head stands and I was feeling better. Then I made some fresh juice and a nice meal and I didn’t feel so stuck anymore.

I don’t have the answers to the above questions. I still don’t know what is right or wrong and I am a hot mess in my life most of the time. But I do know that moving helps. So when I need to break the cycle of torturous thoughts, I move.

We are in a time of survival. Something that many of us have never had to face, not in this way. When we are in survival mode we go back to base instincts. To break this we have to breathe. We have to move, we have do something creative or constructive. Some of us have to prepare to feel safe, some of us have to create art or music. Some of us just need to move. Whatever that looks like for you, it’s perfect.

As I look around, in this moment, I know I am safe. I can relax and breath and enjoy my dogs and the flowers that are starting to peak through the dirt. I can feel the Earth under my feet and marvel at the beauty of nature.

I am safe. I am strong. I am choosing something other than fear. ❤ ❤

Day 81: Letting Go… Again

Letting go.

I would like to think it will get easier the more it is practiced. Right now I am not so sure.

We let go of things, jobs, people, places we lived, lovers, friends.

Letting go means taking your hands off the steering wheel, taking a deep breath and just accepting what is. Without fear, without judgement. It means to stop grasping for control.

I talked about this a while back within the context of a relationship and me letting go of Mr. X (still a work in progress). And now I had the same conversation with myself today about this virus situation.

I woke up this morning feeling like utter shit. Not physically, but emotionally spent. It is really taxing sometimes to have to go out in the world, put your feelings and safety aside, council clients and tend to patients all the while having an air of authority and decorum. Sometimes I want a day where there isn’t life and death and where responsibility is nil. I don’t have that luxury in my job and now people are acting even crazier than before. I get it. I hold space for them. I listen to their fears, their stories of people they know who are susceptible, people they know who have died, I hear stories about their animals, their grandchildren, all of the happenings in their life… all within a 3-4 foot radius, and under five minutes? No… that’s not a thing. I have had to consciously put my own safety aside to allow these conversations to happen. Maybe that isn’t right. Maybe I should be looking out for myself more.

It is an interesting phenomenon being a vet. People tell you EVERYTHING about their life. Way more than what we need to know. We act as therapist, social worker, confidante, priest and anything else a client needs. We are in the unique position of not just caring for family members but actively participating in life and death scenarios. We have authority. And as such, clients assume we also have some sort of concrete evidence on the virus.

It is exhausting. Sometimes after work I come home and I just cry because it I have to release all that I heard and witnessed from the day. I have to let go of all of my walls and protections so I can find some calm and peace within me.

In this time of need in our society, letting go is critically important. As I sit here thinking about what tomorrow will bring and already feeling the pull of tired on my mind and heart I realize that I am resisting all of it. I am resisting talking with clients, seeing patients, putting my own safety needs first, the anxiety that I feel about the unknown, the fact that we are experiencing a pandemic.

It is the resistance that creates suffering and panic and hysteria.

The more I am focused on how much I don’t want to deal with any of this, the bigger it all seems.

Here’s the part about letting go. Have you ever been told that if you are in a car crash in those moments before it happens, that flash of time when everything slows down, if you can relax yourself the impact and bodily damage will be much less? Same principle applies.

Every moment of today was about letting go. It was about accepting there is a new normal. It was knowing that there is a virus and it is here and if I am going to get sick I am going to get sick. It was letting go of the resistance to the fact that I may not have a job in a few months, that people I know, or myself, may not be alive.

I took a few minutes today and sat with a friend of mine. He is a really powerful intuitive. We took a moment and he helped me connect back to myself. Not the self that feels overwhelmed and scared and tired but the essence of who I am. The part of me that is love and tenderness and kindness and compassion. He helped me breathe it back into my awareness and when we were done I found that I was able to relax into this new normal a little bit more. I was able to come out of my own flavor of haze and look around and see what was really happening for me in that moment.

I saw sunshine and mountains and flowers and people smiling and laughing, and as my heart filled more I realized I would be okay. We will all be okay.

As we battle the river that rages in each of us, grasping for rocks and trees to cling to we become battered, bruised, exhausted in our effort. It is only with the letting go, the becoming one with the river that we are able to flow with the water, and in that moment find the space to breathe. ❤ ❤

Day 79: Making Choices

Everything in life is a choice. Go left or right. Love or don’t love. Trust or don’t trust.

Fear.

Or don’t fear.

Panic and brutalize people at the store.

Show up calmly and share some love with a stranger.

Choices. We are fantastically powerful. Every decision we make in life contributes to where we are at this exact moment. The empowering thing is that we have the ability to change that trajectory at any time.

We just have to choose different. Displace the known with the unknown. Make the unfamiliar, familiar.

If the usual M.O. is to shut down in the face of adversity, see it, recognize it and choose to stand uncomfortably instead of flee. If the usual tactic when met with an alternate opinion is to become defensive and combative, be aware and choose instead to disengage.

Choosing different doesn’t mean sitting in the wells of depression and deciding you are just gonna be happy suddenly. It starts with baby steps and small maneuvers. It is getting out of bed, taking a shower and sitting outside in the sun. It’s deciding to engage a stranger in conversation when the rest of the world is closing off their hearts and minds to others. It is choosing to buy the last 6 rolls of toilet paper and then splitting the package with an old lady on a fixed income who is standing forlornly in the paper goods aisle.

In these times it is easy to see contrast and easy to choose different. There is such an air of fear and concern right now that choosing different may simply mean expressing a touch of humanity.

It might look like sharing a smile with a stranger, letting someone into a line in front of you. Choosing different might be choosing to refocus internally instead of letting panic boil over.

Choose to shine your light into the world. It’s exceptionally easy right now to make a difference in the life of someone else. Hold some space, share a laugh. We are all in this together. It can become the most isolating experience or one which brings us all back together. Every single one of us has the power to choose.

Choose hope. Choose to rise up and be the beacon that ignites the winds of change. Choose to be seen, to claim your space. And above all, choose to love. ❤ ❤

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Day 78: Cultivating Hope

It would be really easy to get carried away right now with the fear mongering surrounding the Coronavirus, especially where I am at which is the epicenter of the virus in the USA. People here are generally keeping their heads with the exception of sold out grocery stores.

I am usually oblivious to things like this. I am aware it’s a thing, but I don’t watch the news in any capacity. I chose, many years ago, to cut those things out of my life as I think they are hugely biased and based in fear. Fear is an amazing driver. If you get enough people confused and scared, they stop thinking rationally and start acting from instinct. Breakdown in communication and humanity start to happen. This is when powerful people and entities can come in and shift things to their agenda. Do I think that is what is happening with the Coronavirus? I have no idea.

I know there is a flu going around. I know it is most heavily effecting the older populations. I know that people are scared and going into survival mode. I know that now is the time that we need to keep our heads and cultivate hope.

This can seem an overwhelming task when the daily anxiety of the safety of friends and family is at stake, but it is crucial to getting through situations like this gracefully.

How does one cultivate hope??

It starts with a decision. Fear is a choice. As I always say, choose different. Once you shift from fear to findings all of the wonderful things about this life you will be amazed, but suddenly the news coming in won’t be so scary anymore. Your awareness will begin to shine on positives and I guarantee your mood will be elevated.

Start by looking at the evidence. Whether we are talking about a pandemic or an issue closer to home it’s crucial to remember that everything runs its course. We have seen this time and again through history. Humans are resilient as hell and will rise up above this.

When we are talking about things like hope within one’s life it’s the same concept. I know depression and apathy and fear can all seem like they will never end. Realizing that you’ve been through worse or a similar hardship and come out on the other side is sometimes all the evidence needed to derive comfort and tenacity needed to continue forward motion.

Another good way to cultivate hope is to keep an eye on the positives. Find all the shit you appreciate in your life and really FEEL the appreciation. It warms the heart and brings healing. Look to the future and picture all of the really cool stuff you are going to do and find the excitement in those things.

One of the hardest parts about a situation like coronavirus is to not let fear take hold. It’s so difficult to know where to turn for accuracy in reporting and the news and it’s super easy to let fear in. When I am feeling like that I like to take a minute and do a body scan and go through each system feeling how good or off it feels and then asking what can I do to make that system stronger. When there is a feeling of proactivity people can remain in themselves and it makes decreasing stress levels a little easier.

I come back to the teachings of my buddy Mike Kemski. Highest Energy Wins. If we choose to let fear be the highest energy pretty soon panic will ensue, but if we can shift that to something more useful… it’s a whole new world.

Keep your heads, people. We truly are all in this one together and losing touch with humanity will only breed chaos. Focus on the fact you get some time off of work, you get to spend some time with family and children. For me, it’s proving to be a mental reset.

Much love to you all, stay safe out there and wash your damn hands. ❤ ❤

Day 77: Accepting Feedback

I had an experience today with an instructor for my coaching program. It wasn’t a pleasant interaction but because she was of a “higher” status with respect to the situation that we were in, I let her feedback overwhelm me a little bit.

I recognize that I am in a stage of my own growth where I need some cheer leading from people. I need encouragement and I need to listen to those that I know truly have my back, and no one else. I am like a fledgling bird trying to figure out how to fly.

The situation this morning raised the volume on my inner critic. The one I have just recently begun to quiet. The dialogue was not pretty. It came in hard and fast and brutal. You aren’t meant to be a coach, you have nothing to offer.

All because she had given me some constructive criticism that was not delivered in a manner that was useful to what I needed at the time.

The really cool thing though is that I am able to recognize it isn’t what I needed.

I was also able to recognize where I needed to work on some boundaries and be firm in who I am. I took a look at that, who I am, and how I want to show up and sat with that for a bit.

I don’t even remember what she said that set me off. The words don’t even really matter.

I decided that her feedback wasn’t that useful to me because I do not want to show up for my clients like she shows up for hers. There is no anger in it, it is from a place of love and curiosity for who she is and the people that she treats.

It was a good reminder that people will give feedback and criticism based on their own experience. One piece of criticism can outweigh a hundred pieces of praise. Words from a complete stranger can cause internal questioning so deep it can ruin the day. But. We decide how much power we place on those words. We can decide if that feedback is from someone that we trust and admire who show up in a way that we want to emulate. If the answer is no then let the words go. Look for the other things that came from the interaction, the insights and strengths and focus on those.

What I did get from the experience was a lot of growth on my end. I was able to identify an area in my personality where if I do not figure out how to manage and shift it a little better it will end up being an energy drain for me and could negatively effect my clients. I was also able to sit in my own truth and decide what was useful for me and what wasn’t, something that I would not have been able to do a year ago. I was able to accept her world view and more importantly, mine, and make it okay to have had that experience. I was also able to quiet the inner critic and lovingly disagree and come up with all of the reasons that I do belong in the coaching industry.

These shifts are not small. They may seen common sense to some, but for me it is huge. I came from a place, just a year or so ago, where I was so confused about what was me, what was the outside world, where my voice was and if it was even okay to listen to it. This is still something that I sometimes need to decipher.

It is a reminder that transformation is possible. That once steps are taken there is no going back and that one only has to be brave enough to keep moving forward.

I am scared as hell to keep going. I have no idea what happiness or joy or living in those emotions feels like, but I am getting more glimpses every day. Sometimes I want to stop. To stay where I am at and accept that the changes I have made, which have improved my life a little bit, are enough because I have pulled myself out of the deepest depths of pain. I am still in the cave though, it’s still dark here and I am still walking blindly, but for the first time in my life there is a small circle of light starting to appear, a beacon that I can finally see as a guidepost.

If I can share nothing else of my journey it is this, to keep going. I say it as much for myself as anyone else reading it. Change is small at first, but mountains are built on grains of sand and right now I have gathered enough to see the foundation and there is nothing more motivating than that.

Keep going. You are more than enough and more than worthy to have everything you want in this life. And so am I. ❤ ❤

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Day 64: The Loneliest Place

This morning was not going well.

Last night…. didn’t go well.

I was talking to a friend about my anxiety and she keeps pressing me to see a shrink. I have reached out to six of them. Most of them aren’t taking new clients, or have changed their niche. Four referrals have been from doctors, one I found on my own and one a friend recommended. I hate the idea of talking to a therapist. I hate the idea of “working through trauma” because I don’t feel that that totally applies, but this friend keeps pushing. Hard.

I realize it is because I am leaning on her for a crutch, and it’s a lot. A lot for me to handle, a lot for another person to take on.

I tried to step back a bit from our connection so it wasn’t overwhelming as I knew I was in a really bad spot. I said some things that were on the negative spectrum and she said something to me along the lines of she was frustrated because I seemed to be making backwards progress. That the things I was saying were contradicting each other.

It hurt. A lot.

I have spent the last year working on me. I know my language is an issue. I have been told this by multiple people. I do work on it. I sound like a contradiction because the thoughts in my head are negative and then I correct them and voice those. But sometimes the original version comes out too. It is an endless circle. It is frustrating and exhausting. For me and for her.

When she said that… about my progress, it felt like a slap in the face. It felt like I wasn’t good enough or trying hard enough or working hard enough, or maybe it was true that I am just that difficult to love (I have heard this before). A whole lot of negative stuff came rushing in and it was more than I could handle last night. I started bawling.

I am frustrated with me. With my progress, my results. A friend’s voice came in to tell me “don’t beat up the machine, it is just putting out what you have asked it to.” Negativity. Anger. Frustration.

I actually rolled my window down in traffic today to bitch out a lady who made me slam on my brakes. Negativity. Anger. Frustration.

The loneliest place isn’t any place external. It is the space between your thought and feeling. It is in the endless circling of emotion that you feel like you can’t control. It is the knowledge that you are at the bottom of a wave and it’s the size of a fucking tsunami.

Today I feel like I am in a really deep pit. The light at the top is a pin prick. I start to climb the side and get side swiped by something. I fall. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.

Every time a negative thought comes in I correct it. Even in the midst of a meltdown I can be aware enough to say “I love this part of me too.” But… the feeling doesn’t come. So I repeat the process… again and again and again. That is the loneliest place. The moment of waiting when a thought is changed to something better and the heart picks it up… And when the heart doesn’t… it’s pure nothingness.

I have expanded my capacity for pain so much in my life. I know that also expands my capacity for joy, but those muscles are so atrophied that the little moments that bring others tranquility are a drop in an ever increasing bucket. If I am ever able to get myself shifted it will be euphoric, if… if…. if….. I just don’t know right now.

I thought that I was changing the pattern of depression and abuse in my family. Right now, I am not so sure. I am afraid to reach out, because I know I need a lot right now. I am afraid to say too much because I know my words still don’t serve me. I am afraid to just be how I am right now, because people expect (and I expect) something better. That comment about my progress going backwards… I know it was meant to inspire me to move, to be better. I know it was from a place of love and concern. I also know it was exactly the wrong thing for me in that moment. I should have said something, but I didn’t. I let the overwhelm build and I chose to walk away for a while, repeating an old pattern.

The loneliest place is not knowing where to turn or who to trust. It is knowing that your mental patterns aren’t accurate, but your heart isn’t giving you direction. It is realizing that your touchstone or totems are memories and memories fade. It is feeling that you can no longer lean on the one person in this world who has always seen you, always supported you, because you also know space is necessary for him and for you. The loneliest place lives at our very core, in the confusion and overwhelm and the muck of life. It is created by us.

And can be filled…. by us. By me.

In this expanding capacity I know I am too much for most people. I need too much. The only one who can even come close to honoring my capacity is me.

So I took a deep breath. Reached out to someone that I know I can trust and I dug in. I had to figure out a few things. Like, if my heart wasn’t leading the way, my mind had to… but I had to be very selective in what I chose to listen to. It is russian roulette with yourself. Pick the wrong thing, fall deeper in the hole.

I don’t have that luxury any more. It is just me. Fighting me. Leaning into the battle, the resistance, the pain. All to see if there is anything left to help me get to the top.

I will rise, for me. I will climb, for me. I will be happy, for me. I will be my own best friend, my own lover, my own confidante, until I am full enough that other people won’t buckle underneath me. I will survive, for me. ❤ ❤

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

Day 43: Emotional Addiction

There is a lot of information out there on addiction, 12 step programs, the science and psychology behind all sorts of things like addiction to gambling, drinking, drugs, pornography. These “modalities” provide an external focus that lights up the reward centers of the brain and releases this flood of neurotransmitters. We go on a dopamine high and when we come down we need another hit. External addictions can be identified, placed out in the open and worked on. But what about addictions that aren’t external?

What about the addictions of the mind (okay, okay that’s a little bit of a misnomer because all addictions are addictions of the mind, but go with it, okay)?

I describe an emotional addiction as repetitively reacting to situations based purely on feeling or seeing the world through anger or fear colored glasses, for example. There is a little more to it than that, though and many other potential examples. Take love for instance. Falling in love is one of the most compelling and strong emotional pulls out there (at least in my book). I LOVE falling in love. The first shy glances, the piercing of that person’s heart and soul, the rush of feel goods that come with every adorable thing that person does, it’s glorious. The addictive behavior can come in when, for instance, a person routinely dumps every partner as soon as the honeymoon phase wears off, they go from new partner to new partner getting hit after hit, all the while wondering why they can’t find “the one.”

Other emotions are, maybe, a little less obvious. Take anxiety (read: fear) for example. Maybe as a young child you were screamed at and physically threatened so you learned to be hyper vigilant of your surroundings and you learned all of the nuances of the people in your space so that you could help prevent an explosive event. As you went out into the world maybe that showed itself by being labeled as a people pleaser. Maybe you were the friend everyone counted on because they knew you were the one to remember all of the big dates and events because you were hard wired to do it, not realizing that it was a coping mechanism and the body was still residing in fight or flight mode. Perhaps the body is addicted to the anxiety because through that hyperviligance you were able to create safety as a young child.

Any addiction plays part on the reward centers of the brain. We do something well we get a flood of feel good chemicals. We fall in love, we save ourselves from an angry outburst…. all of these activities, though drastically different all release the same chemical response in our body. Our system then starts to create these neural pathways creating habit. These habits turn into addiction.

Is every habit an addiction? Of course not. Identifying intrinsic triggers can be very difficult to do and is a process which many people balk at because, if I am feeling it, it must be true. What happens though when anxiety, depression, anger, or fear start to take over your life? Suddenly one small hit doesn’t last very long and we go into more prolonged states of whatever the drug of choice is, in order to light up those pleasure centers. Soon we find ourselves in a constant fight or flight state looking for the next fix and the fucked up part is that if we don’t identify our emotional triggers, we will create a life that supports our addiction. We will literally surround ourselves with scenarios that support finding those feelings and we will see each situation through that skewed lens.

My family is very fear based. Their entire conversation revolves around all of the scary stuff on the news, all of the hypothetical issues that could arise, all of the perceived dangers. I can guarantee if there is any new story that could even remotely “effect” me per my mother, she will text me about it. It makes her feel good because she is being “protective and loving” and speaks to the lack of security she had as a child. I have spent a lot of time trying to unlearn this and will no doubt, spend a lot more. Each new event or person that comes into my life is met with fear initially. I have to consciously calm my nervous system and realize that most of the threats I am seeing simply aren’t real or worthy of such extreme focus.

Emotional addiction is tough because it’s pretty vulnerable to say to someone, hey I am working on rewiring my addiction to fear, what’s on your agenda for today? There are groups of support for these external addictions that are shown to work in decreasing and eliminating addictive behavior so to me, that says support is crucial which means taking the risk to be vulnerable, to find the group of people that you can say those things to and to work diligently on correcting these behaviors. One must have an awareness and focus that far exceeds the “normal” operating capacity of most individuals, because the trip down to those addictions can be really sneaky and quiet. Even on my best days I often still find myself stuck in a pattern of behavior I know isn’t good for me. The difference now is that instead of having to look back through my day to spot these moments, I am much more apt to catch them in the middle or even *gasp* at the beginning. Those are proud moments for me. I also have some amazing friends that will lovingly, but firmly call me on my bullshit. These are the friends that when I say I am having a bad day don’t say “Aw, I’m sorry,” but instead say, “Oh really, the world is imploding on you? Is that a useful view, what about this other perspective.” Sometimes I get super mad at these friends, because I realize they are right, and to be honest sometimes my diligence is lazy and I am addicted to the feeling of being a victim, of seeking that attention, because then I feel loved. But these friends ask me to stand up to a higher version of me and for that I will always love them.

How does one overcome an emotional addiction?

Become aware. Bring awareness to your thoughts, actions, feeling, choices, language. Find the areas where there are patterns and recognize then, thank them for doing their part in keeping you safe and move through them. And repeat that…. again and again and again, until new neural paths are formed and the addiction becomes displaced with a healthier outlook. Displacement is key. One cannot just say I’m scared so…. go away now. The emotion has to be displaced or it will never stick. I can feel scared to take a new job or I can see it as an adventure and recognize all of the strengths that will come with the journey through that process. Own your emotions, create space between your true self (the being observing the emotions) and the emotions themselves, acknowledge them and don’t beat yourself up when the show up time and time again. Realize that as you move through these patterns, they will not just quietly disappear from your life, they will show up stronger and stronger until there is no longer resistance and they can dissipate. Know that this will make you feel crazy for a while and that you will feel like you are not making progress. This is the time for support and guidance. And know you will come out the other side, a little stronger, a little wiser and a whole lot healthier and happier. ❤ ❤