Thursday, November 29, 2012

There Is No Logic in Depression

Let me say first that I appreciate feedback. There is a certain amount of relief in writing to an invisible audience that I cannot see; that is mostly silent, that simply takes what I have to say and holds it in infinite thought and wisdom; to release my thoughts into the universe and know that it doesn’t matter what happens to them, as long as they are no longer stuck inside me.

As much as I appreciate the invisible audience, I am always surprised and pleased when I discover that someone I know has been reading what I have to say; even more so when they tell me that what I had to say has helped them in some way. While it always feels important to write – and I write every day, regardless of whether I share it – it is often lost on me how my writing is projecting me forward. Sometimes, it seems like the only thing it’s doing is keeping me from sliding backward into an abyss.

Very, very often, the people who read my blog posts tell me that they are impressed and moved by my courage and my ability to share such private thoughts. In this day and age of social network profiles, when everyone is privy to a lot of information about friends and acquaintances alike, it seems that there is a layer to many of us that we are unable to share. While it may seem that my admissions are courageous and deep, I always feel guilty when people tell me they’re impressed with what I reveal, and though I mean no disrespect, here is my deep down honest response: you have no fucking idea how much deeper I could go.

So here’s something that I should have written about a long time ago; something many people have come out to me about; something that should be shared much more often: depression.

I have only dabbled with this disease myself. By this, I mean that I am acquainted with people who suffer much more severely and often than I do. I mean that my depression is usually situational, and the cure for me is fairly simple: do everything in my power to get unstuck. For all of you who have ever wondered why I move around so much, why I can’t seem to stay in one place, why I can’t seem to endure certain situations: it is because I see a storm coming on the horizon, and the easiest way to ensure it doesn’t overtake me and leave me suffocating to death under a blackness that will not go away is to get out of the way before the hurricane arrives.

Before I get too carried away, let me say that there are many people who suffer depression. We are a hidden demographic; we fake it on our Facebook pages, we lie to our friends, we isolate ourselves so that we do not seem needy. Each time I have admitted my depression to someone, I have been told that I am not alone; that either this person has suffered as well, or someone they know has. All this, and yet each depressed person fights their own battle; they lie in the dark, staring at the ceiling, wondering why the world is closing in on them and no one else. We choose not to share because it shows weakness; we choose not to share because we don’t want to burden others with a pain that, deep down, we feel we deserve.

This is has come up again for me lately because I find myself feeling the beginning stages of depression setting in. They are like icy cold fingers that brush at my back: I can’t see this creature, but it has begun to silently follow me. I have desperately begun the sandbagging measures to keep depression at bay: more exercise, better food, talks with friends who understand and can tell me I’m not crazy; that it’s ok to choose my own survival at the risk of looking stupid, flaky, unhinged. I am afraid, and not so much of change, but of the monotony that allows this beast to catch up to me. It drags me backwards, whipping away all positive thoughts of my future, tearing the flesh of optimism off of me, dragging me down into a pit of despair, clawing at the edges of a bottomless hole, willing myself to hold on; to not give in; to conquer this unseen evil that lays waste to the best intentions and feeds on my worst nightmares.

And as I said, I only dabble in this disease. My depression is not constant; I feel better today than I did yesterday. I can still get up and work; I still have motivation to help myself before it’s too late. I am lucky enough to recognize the symptoms and I hold the key to my own release. It doesn’t look pretty, it scares me sometimes, and yet I have a way out. Not everyone is as lucky.

For anyone who has never felt depression’s icy grip, let me try to explain. Depression is like a vacuum. It is not feeling sad; it is not feeling. The things that used to delight me become meaningless; the words that would anger me leave me at a loss for words, and the idea that I should care more than I do. Depression tells me that logically, there is no way out of my situation, because good things happen to others, not to me. Depression steals my desire, my passion, my belief in a greater good, and a belief in myself. It sucks at my laughter and washes out my ability to put things in perspective. Everyone else is right; I am wrong. Nothing I say is worthwhile. I cannot hold my own truth, or answers.

Depression is like a wet blanket that covers me, making it hard to breathe, dampening all my emotions. It makes it hard to get out of bed; it makes me feel disappointed when I wake up, because the oblivion of sleep is the only thing saving me from the pain of inaction.

So there it is for those who have never suffered from depression. Now, to everyone else: you are not alone. I have heard you, and I understand. I have been where you are. It’s a shitty, shitty place to be, and yet there are more people with you than you would have ever imagined. Depression is not something to be ashamed of. It is something you can get help with. It can end. There is no use in asking “why me?” but there is a lot to be said for “I deserve help.” For me, depression is kept at bay by following my bliss: even if it’s terrifying at times, I know that it is possible to feel alive. Exercise, good food, conversations with understanding friends help dissipate the illusion of inadequacy. So does not arguing with yourself when your heart tells you what you need. It may not always make sense, but then again, neither does depression. Depression can turn any situation into one filled with its own logic, and yet there is much in the world that is illogical. Optimism is one example. Even more importantly, so is love. 

This is not a cry for help. It is a cry for understanding. Before you decide what I need or what someone else needs to help them feel better, realize that some of their decisions that may not make any sense to you could be their attempt to stave off a personal black hole. After fighting with depression myself, it’s easier for me to notice the battle in others. Some people throw themselves into their work, some into helping others or exercise. Some people may look like they’ve lost their minds, and yet whatever they’re doing is allowing them to live another day and keep the depression at bay.
So here’s to a little understanding, and a lot of encouragement: here’s to letting each of us follow our own path, and trusting that deep down, there’s some part of us that remembers that we deserve the best, and we’re worth seeking it out.

Love and not-so-depressed kisses,

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Time: All We Have; All It Takes

Hello invisible audience,

I’ve been meaning to write, but the things I want to write about are all the same, and I don’t want to be accused (even by myself) of beating a dead horse. Nevertheless, you are invisible and I have been pondering quite a bit lately, and I find that there are a couple things that I need to get off my chest – again.

One: time. That precious little gem that is really all we have. The one thing that we bargain for, that we trade money for; that we use to buy possessions. How many hours of work is my car worth? How much of a day am I working to pay for my phone bill? How much of my precious commodity am I trading in now in the hopes that the money I make will support my leisure time in the future?

That leads me to pondering number two: why do I worry so much about what others think about how I spend my time, or where? Even more important, why do I think others are even interested in how I spend my time? Yesterday I told my mom that I felt pressure to conform: pressure to want the things so many people seem to want, or already have: stability, 9-5 jobs, company-paid health insurance, houses, kids. “But, you don’t want that,” she said, looking at me with a puzzled frown.

It’s true! I don’t! So why the heck am I constantly berating myself for not wanting these things? It is related to another one of Mom’s statements. “I hope someday you find somewhere that you really like and want to settle down and stay there.” I wanted to hang my head in shame, not because she said it, but because I constantly catch myself thinking the same thing. Yes, that would be great. It would be great if I wanted to stay in one place. It would be great if I wanted a life that was readily accessible to me without any sort of social clash. If I could convince myself despite what my soul is shouting at me, what I am yearning for, that my happiness is found in a house with a yard and a job with x amount of weeks of vacation a year and a benefits package, I WOULD HAVE IT ALREADY. I can’t. Each time I get settled into that groove, I feel more unstable than when I have no idea where I’m going next. I feel hemmed in, fenced in, terrified and depressed. I feel less alive.

I’ve been reading a book that makes me feel guilty about this. You can change, it tells me. Any time that you say you can’t do something, you’re subscribing to your own limited behavior. Except I’m not. I’m trying to buck a deep trend, and move on. I’m trying to let go of a lifetime’s worth of shoulds and have to’s and live authentically, just for me. And God damn it, it’s harder than it looks.

In the soul searching I did this summer, I realized first that I had been listening to a lot of what I thought other people wanted or expected of me. Not even what they said out loud, but what I thought they wanted me to be. This was a big step, but the bigger and scarier one was when I realized that I had been welcoming these impressions, because I could use them as excuses. I kept trying to fit myself in the box because it was easier to complain about how I felt different from inside of it. I have tried to live a life of responsibility and fun based on other peoples’ definitions because it was easier than having to admit that I found nothing they did fun or rewarding. And that leads me to horse-beaten point number three: I got myself here.

And just like I got myself here, I am the one that can get myself out. Over-stated point four: I have to choose to be authentically me, not just once, but over and over (and over and over) again. No one can do this for me. No one else is going to come to my rescue and tell others what I want and need. The only way to meet like-minded people is to continue living and know that my lifestyle will lead me to them. They’re not in the box, so why do I keep looking for them there?  Not only that, but why am I focusing on people in the box when I have so many more friends that are bucking the trend in their own way?

There’s really only one answer: time. I am going over the same things in my head and revisiting the same mental real estate because these realizations are still new and they haven’t quite sunk in yet. I am still in the phase where I am unsure about what I’m saying, no matter how good it feels. At one time I didn’t know anything about writing a recipe; now I could teach a class about it if I wanted to. In between then and now, however, time passed, I learned some things, and I gained the necessary experience to feel confident that I know what I’m talking about. I’ll get there with these poor dead-horse points, too, invisible audience. All it takes is time.

Love and time-filled kisses,


P.S. No horses -- dead or alive -- were beaten in the writing of this post.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Asking For -- And Accepting -- Help

It has only recently occurred to me how hard I have made my life by refusing to accept help when it is offered to me.  I have realized that over the years I usually take the hard, uncompromising road of doing it all by myself. Whether it was moving everything I owned alone – I have dragged a 100-pound handle-less trunk countless times across lawns on a blanket because I can’t lift it – or refusing the gift of a paid dinner from a friend, I have been ungrateful for the gifts that were offered to me in favor of being independent.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot to be said for being able to do things on my own. At the same time, there is a lot more to be said about not holding myself back. Often, independence becomes a guise for shooting myself in the foot. If the answer comes to me in the form of someone offering me a break, there is no need to run the other direction.

Not only would I refuse help, I would run away from it. It’s not only ok to need help, it’s important to take it when it’s offered to me, because it shows I'm grateful for what I’m receiving. 

I am grateful for what I’ve received. I have found that the more I profess my gratitude, the more I realize I have to be grateful for. I am immensely grateful for the lessons learned, especially the ones that include being offered help, and taking it. Acceptance is worth a thousand words. Admitting that I am worth the help being offered – that I don’t actually have to do it alone – is worth a lot. 

I am not alone. I am surrounded by people who love and support me, and they are the ones I need to focus on, instead of the ones that I’ve let into my head to tell me that I’m doing everything wrong. Although those people are actual people I know, the conversations I have with them have never actually taken place. Instead, I have begun inviting in the actual conversations I’ve had: the ones where people tell me that I’m not alone, that I’m an inspiration even when I don’t feel like one; that I am unique, loved and that my dreams can become a reality. When I focus on those words, the entire world opens up to me. 

I will no longer leave the tools I find along the way behind, insisting that I must build them myself. I will no longer forgo shelter in the name of independence. I am grateful for the friends and family that have shown me such kindness, and I am ready to use it, just like any other tool, to make my path that much easier to forge.

Love and grateful kisses

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Self Acceptance and Enjoying Life's Adventures

On the surface, this past year has seemed to be one of the hardest of my life. On the surface, I have never felt that I looked more lost. On the surface, I have often felt that I have little to recommend me. On the surface that may be true, but perhaps just to me.

Almost every day, I catch myself thinking that I should be something else that I’m not: more settled, more secure, more mature maybe? I have friends around me that are married, having children, in good jobs. I see these things, and I think, “I am doing something wrong because I don’t have these things.” From somewhere deep inside comes something else, a faint voice that is nevertheless fully audible: “Says who?”

There is no one that tells me to my face that I am doing something wrong – that my erratic path doesn’t seem to be the right one; that I had better knock it off and get down to business. No one says that to me, but I find myself imagining that there are plenty of people thinking it. I am finally tired of making room for these people in my head, when none of them have actually asked to be there, and none were consciously invited in.

I was recently at a dinner where a woman was lamenting her son-in-law following his dream of being a musician. He builds houses, but hasn’t been able to find much work in the recession, so he took advantage of the situation and has started putting his energy into his music. He’s no small-time player, either: he’s been touring the country, opening for Bon Jovi and other well-known bands. With investments and other sources of income, he is still providing for his family financially. The problem is, however, that while he’s touring, his wife is working a full-time job and raising their three children at home. Although he is aware of how hard this is on her, the fact of the matter is that he’s not there.

When I first heard this story, I wanted to take his side. The courage to get up and follow your dream is hard to gather, and I found myself angry at his wife (and mother-in-law) for not understanding. Then I thought about how hard it has to be for her to still be married but essentially raising the children by herself. I have decided that I don’t need to pick sides in this situation, because there is no right answer: both people have their reasons, and both are right. Fortunately, I don’t even know them, and even if I did, it’s not my problem to fix.

I am lucky enough not to have this problem. I have many, many dreams, but one big one: to write a book about the life I have led over the past four years: all its trials and tribulations and what I have learned. Although I feel a need to write this to process it for myself, I also hope that what I have to say might somehow help others in similar situations.

I do not have to worry about taking care of my family while I strive for my goal; I do not have to worry about the selfishness of making a decision that might negatively affect those around me. Although my friends may miss me when I disappear for months or years at a time, none of them need me to feed them while I’m gone, and none of them rely on me alone for emotional support.

I have often wondered at the way my life has turned out up to this point. In my low moments, I have wondered why I’m so unlovable, so unable to make a commitment that, when seemingly everyone else is in a relationship, I am alone. Often I have wondered why I can't settle into the lives that other people have, even when a part of me knows that I don't necessarily want that kind of existence; that I am not capable of enjoying it. Instead of worrying about this, I am making a decision to accept that it happened for a reason: so that I would have the time, space and freedom to create what I need to create.

So, in rewriting my inner dialogue to better accept this plan, here are the things I have accomplished this last year, on my very unique and adventurous journey:

I finished and published a second cookbook! Savoring Leavenworth introduced me to many amazing people, some fantastic food, and has taught me even more about publishing, marketing and the satisfaction of creating a product that people enjoy.

I am infinitely healthier than I was at this time last year, when I couldn’t eat anything, and was trying to recover from four different stomach problems. I have learned what my body does and doesn’t want to eat, and when I listen to it (which is happening much more often than previously) I live an amazing and active life.

I spent the summer at an yoga retreat center in British Columbia, and learned a lot about myself…a lot more than I expected I would learn, for that matter. Not only did I gather courage to show parts of myself that I used to hide, I also learned a ton of new and delicious vegan and vegetarian recipes, and many alternatives to wheat. 

I have made many friends that I share great conversations, experiences and laughs with in Wenatchee and Leavenworth and beyond.

I have learned how to say no when it will be better for me, and yes when it makes my heart sing.

Related to the last one, I have learned that almost any problem can be solved with solid, healthy communication, where I state what I want instead of wondering why the people around me can’t read my mind.

I have learned the power of positive thinking, of reaching out to the people who can support me in times of crisis, and that burying my feelings and emotions in a dark hole just means that they start to rot and stink and eventually must be dug up and allowed to air out.

Most of all, I have learned what unconditional love looks like, and that I have to love myself unconditionally, despite all the fears and doubts I have, in order to step forward with confidence and pursue my dreams.

So there you have it, invisible audience. I am going to continue on my merry way of living the adventurous life I have to live, and I thank you for your support. I wish you the best of luck on your own journey, and please know that I support it, whatever it is, whether I say it out loud or not.

Love and adventure kisses

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hard-Earned Life Lessons

A week ago today, I walked into a nightly devotional service at the yoga retreat center where I’ve been living most of the summer. A woman stopped me in the foyer, and told me that another guest, Barbara, was having a severe allergic reaction and needed an epi-pen. She didn’t know who to ask for help, so I found the first aid lead, got the keys to the car and drove the first aid woman and Barbara down to the main house to wait for the ambulance. 

I stayed with Barbara while others came in and out of the room, trying their best to make her comfortable and help her. Nothing helped: not the epi-pen, not oxygen. Barbara’s airway slowly closed off; she was at least unconscious, but the paramedics think she had already passed away before they arrived. Although they immediately cleared her airway and performed CPR for 45 minutes, she never responded.

Barbara told me when we first arrived at the main house that she wasn't sure what she had eaten that had caused her reaction. Over the days following her death, it became apparent that there was no single thing that could have helped her; there was a series of things had led to her death, none of which could be attributed to any single person, action or event.

I couldn’t sleep that night, for obvious reasons. What could I have done differently? Could I have saved her? Could I have helped her in any other way than simply holding her hand, telling her she wasn’t alone, and standing by her side as it got harder and harder to breathe?

I have come to the conclusion that the answer is no. After hearing from the coroner, a trauma doctor friend of one of the other guests, and my own mother, a veteran ER nurse, I accept that I did the best that anyone could do by being calm, collected, focused on Barbara, and witnessing her last moments. 

I may know this is true, but I cannot write it without tears streaming down my face. The 25 minutes the ambulance took to arrive are the longest of my life; I may know that I did the best I could, but that does not stop the grief at the unexpected loss of a life in my presence from bubbling up and overflowing in a torrent of tears.

I had introduced myself to Barbara that day; I barely knew her, and yet somehow she has forever become part of my life and memories. I feel that there is a lesson here, and as I have struggled with her death and my feelings at having been there, I have tried to put a name to it. Although many people at the ashram said they realized – as we all often do with death – how precious life really is, and that it should not be wasted, that does not seem to be my lesson.  

Instead, it seems that perhaps my lesson is that sometimes the most you can ever do – the most helpful, positive and loving thing possible – is stand next to someone and witness their struggle; know that your presence in their time of need is important, not because you can fix it for them, but simply because you are there.

There are many times in my life when I have thought it was my job to fix someone else’s problems; that the most caring thing I could do was take away their struggles by applying my own solution. This has rarely worked the way I wanted it to, either because I became frustrated that they didn’t think my solution was the “right” one, or because it truly did not work to apply my experiences and answers to their problem. There are many reasons that trying to live someone else’s life is a bad idea, but mostly, it is because it is not actually my life – the same rules do not apply. 

I have struggled a lot with the decision to publicly write about this. I was afraid of coming across as callous, unfeeling, or trying to dramatize a terrible situation. I hope that this isn’t how it comes across, but the truth of the matter is that I need to write this, not just to process it for myself, but also in the hopes that my experience will help others somehow – that there are more lessons to be learned from Barbara’s death than just the ones that I took away. I hope, invisible audience, that this post brings you something you didn’t already have today – some piece of wisdom or understanding that wasn’t there before. If it doesn’t, however, please try not to judge me too harshly; please try to simply be a person willing to stand next to me, and witness my pain. There is truly nothing that would help me more.

Love and tear-stained kisses

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mourning Who He Thought I Was

Author's note: this is not a post about any single ex-boyfriend, rather an analysis of my romantic relationships in general. This is my view of my experience and should not be taken as a commentary on anyone but myself and my own process.

It seems like a simple concept: you date someone, you break up, and whether or not it’s amicable, you go your separate ways and continue on with your life. In a perfect world, you accept that there are things about you that were not compatible with aspects of your partner’s aspects, shrug it off and go on your merry way, looking for someone whose aspects meld better with yours. Right?

I actually think this might be the case for many people out there, but that’s just a theory. I know people who claim this is their process; I have read books that say that people should feel this way, but I cannot actually claim to have experienced this in a breakup, ever. 

I have only just been able to determine what it is I feel instead: that my persona has been eviscerated. You know…like some witch woman took a really long scary looking knife and slit open my belly, letting all my guts pour out onto the ground, then cackled loudly and kicked them aside for the cat to eat.

Gross, I know. Gross, but please don’t misunderstand what I mean. This has nothing to do with my heart; I am not heartbroken by every man that has ever broken up with me, or whom I have broken up with, for that matter. In fact, there are some men that I haven’t even liked all that much, and yet when the dreaded end of the relationship comes around, regardless of whether it was amicable, there lie my guts, a slimy heap on the ground.

What exactly do I mean by this disgusting mental image? I mean that during a relationship, I have started to define myself by my boyfriend’s idea of me. I have started to keep track of the attributes he has complimented me on and played up on those; I have started to hide my strange habits or insecurities so that he sees only the best side of me. I gather his comments like clues, and use them to build a version of myself that is the kind of woman that I think he wants me to be, for better or worse.

Once I’ve done this, there is little room for error. With each piece I add to the puzzle, I become more strictly defined; confined. It isn’t long before the strain gets to be too much, and I suddenly try to break out of the box I have fit myself in. At that point, my boyfriend is surprised by my outburst because it’s so unlike me.

So here’s the kicker: for better or for worse, this constructed person of me isn’t the right construction. It can be my feelings, or his, or both, but suddenly something is wrong and it’s over. As I said, regardless of how much love was involved, the evisceration scene occurs, because I realize that I have lost track of who I was before the relationship.

I am not this person, and yet this person was dropped by my now ex boyfriend. I am destroyed, literally. Suddenly, there’s room for the real me, but that person is nowhere to be seen – she went on vacation, and has decided not to come back until the tourists are done gawking and she can have her space all to herself again. She must be coaxed, and often, this takes a long time.

I consider myself a slow healer when it comes to relationships; I am not one to jump from one into the other, or even have more than one a year, for that matter. I used to think it was heartbreak, but if that was the case, why was it so hard for me even when I didn’t love the person? Ego? Pride? Perhaps, but it was also the process of recovering my sense of self – of no longer defining who I was in someone else’s eyes. Once I get used to seeing me as he did, it takes a long time for me to find the real me again after he’s gone. In a sense, I am not actually grieving for losing him, I am grieving that the person I built for him was tossed to the wayside, and then trying to pull my real self back in – the one that he fell for in the first place, and that I chose to hide.

Yes, that’s right, invisible audience: I do this to myself. No one asks me to reinvent myself; no one tells me that I must change to be loved. I’m not sure, but I would hazard a guess that most of my ex-boyfriends wonder what happened to the funny, strong, independent woman they met at the beginning, that was less concerned with pleasing them in ways they didn’t ask for and more about wringing the pleasure out of life however she could. I don’t know what they think, but I think that ultimately the breakups have more to do with my inability to be authentic than they do anything else.

That doesn’t really matter, though. What matters is this: it takes me a long time to get over an ended relationship because I must recover the person I was before the relationship, and mourn the rejection of the persona I created FOR the relationship. We can’t all be Sybil: my personalities are slow shifters.

So, what can I learn from this? That it’s ok to be me. That I will ultimately save myself a lot of time and energy if I can be my authentic self, and allow someone to either love or leave me for that person. I can also learn that my worth has nothing to do with others’ perceptions of me and everything to do with my perceptions of myself. If I love me and let the me in me shine, it won’t matter what anyone else thinks. Their perceptions of me can fade into the night, and I won’t even know they’re gone, much less mourn their passing. If I can do this, I can keep my guts intact.

Love and gutted kisses

Saturday, September 1, 2012

All Parts of Me

Tonight I gave a man a hug. I gave it to him because he needed it, but he wasn’t the only one to benefit.
The ashram is many things, but it is not the place to hug. It is a celibate community that does not encourage exclusive relationships of any kind – friendship or romantic relationships. Although it works to encourage introspection and giving people their space, human contact falls to the wayside. A couple days ago I showed my hot sauce stash to another man at the ashram, and he touched my arm in thanks. It jolted me to realize how long it had been since I had been touched like that by a man – not in a sexual way, but a squeeze to show me physically that my generosity was noticed, noted, and appreciated.
I forget where I read it – fact or fiction? – but somewhere, I read that babies can die if they aren’t held, simply from the lack of contact. Even if they don’t physically die, there is certainly an emotional component to this lack of touch. I know it because I feel it now in a way I didn’t before – when someone reaches out to me in love regardless of whether it’s platonic or romantic, my entire being blossoms in response.
It’s unfortunate that this lack of touch is what brought my appreciation for physical affection to my attention, but then again, it’s a very human characteristic to realize how much you miss something once it’s gone. I am still reeling at the thought that I get to hug Kyle Jaynes again because he was found alive after being lost for four days and thought dead after he disappeared on a hike; I ate a hamburger today because I got the chance to eat beef, and I haven’t had the opportunity to do so for awhile, since the ashram serves mostly vegetarian fare.
When I first came to the ashram, I thought it was the first place I had been in a long time where I could be myself, but that’s not true. This is the first place I’ve ever been that I could be THIS self, but that doesn’t mean I’m ALL parts of me here. I have found emotional support here, but not the physical comfort to accompany it; I have found a spiritual path, but it doesn’t leave room for my trucker’s vocabulary or my road rage at tourist drivers (many of whom actually come from British Columbia in their campers and manage to drive in front of me…regardless of where I am!)
Tonight, I feel enlightened, because I can focus on being here, now, without worrying about where I will go next, or what I want to be, when I’m already it…I’m already me. This morning, I didn’t feel enlightened. I will probably lose my enlightenment at some point – like when my alarm clock starts beeping at me tomorrow morning. Someone pointed out to me here that enlightenment comes in small pieces; in mundane tasks and every day moments, where you feel such profound joy to be where you are that all other thoughts are whisked away. In those moments, it doesn’t matter if I’ve reached some far off space that I hope to hold for the rest of my life; it doesn’t matter if I have everything I need or want to live the life I want and deserve. All that matters is that at that moment, I connect in a way that is tangible…as if I put my finger on a thread of the universe and can feel the vibrations resonate through me, as if I were the guitar body, and someone else is twanging the strings. 

Love and sometimes enlightened kisses

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Discomfort of a New Skin

Hello, invisible audience,

Long time no write. Let’s just say it’s been a hell of a year for me, one filled with a lot of introspection, grief, pain and growth. If I haven’t lost you yet, I may lose you soon; this is a post about showing my new self, and she’s a little bit different.
I’ve had a series of epiphanies in the last six months or so, and they culminated in a need to escape to somewhere that I could hear myself think. That place ended up being Yasodhara Ashram, a yoga retreat and study center near Nelson, British Columbia, on Kootenay Lake. It’s beautiful here, and a good place to contemplate life’s bigger questions with other people searching for the same thing. At the same time, it’s exhausting; you’re in it, all the time, everywhere you look and whatever you do. An intentionally spiritual community like this one is focused on seeing what is behind the everyday and mundane; the people here are looking for meaning in the smallest task and the largest life questions, and I am no exception.

The ashram is set up in a way that makes you confront your coping strategies, reassess your communication tactics, and to teach you to watch your interactions as if from afar. If you’re working with someone and their leadership style rubs you the wrong way, why? Why are other peoples’ stratagems antagonizing you? What does your reaction say about YOU?
Needless to say, the types of questions that come up are worthwhile, and shed everything in a new light. I bawl my eyes out or at least wipe tears off my face nearly every day.  Fortunately for me, this is not a strange thing at the ashram; someone told me when I first arrived that anyone scared off by tears would leave almost immediately.
I love it here, and I also hate it. I keep waiting to get to the bottom of all the emotions I feel and why I feel them, but I’m beginning to realize that this whole personal growth thing is a lifelong challenge. As much as I don’t ever want to stop growing, I look at the residents of the ashram – people who have been asking themselves the hard questions for years – and I catch myself thinking, “They’ve been doing it for so long, haven’t they reached the bottom of their well of life’s questions yet? Could there really be that much MORE to look at; a whole lifetime’s worth?”
Well, the answer is yes. Of course the questions change over the years. Of course life becomes different as you go. Once you uncover one emotional barrier, dig it up and break it apart, you realize it was just covering up a bigger, deeper one. While I enjoy all the things I have learned about myself and can see how that knowledge has enriched my life and my relationships, it sometimes seems like I will never get to a point where I will be comfortable with who I am.
One of the things they stress here is the ability to love and accept yourself just as you are at this moment; not the person you wish to become, but who you are, in all your humanness. This seems to go against my very nature. I have realized that I berate myself for things I don’t know; I expect myself to perfectly perform tasks I have never even tried before. It’s amazing I’ve ever tried anything new. I think this is the reason I haven’t written you in so long, invisible audience. I am uncomfortable in this new skin I’ve been growing into, and I don’t know how to present the new me perfectly, in a way that will make her loveable and appreciated, in all her humanness. I don’t know how, so I officially give up. Here she is: the new Morgan. This one has had a hard year, and found it almost impossible to talk about. This Morgan just realized how little her life’s choices have had to do with what she really wanted, and a lot to do with what she perceived others expected of her. This Morgan is unsure where her future is going to lead her, and terrified and exhilarated at all the possibilities. The new Morgan wants your support, but doesn’t know how to ask for it. This Morgan wants to emerge, but is still apprehensive at the thought of stepping out into the light.
A couple days ago, a friend of mine was found alive after going missing on a family hiking trip. The fear and grief of thinking he had slipped, possibly hit his head, fallen into the lake and drowned made me realize yet again how short life truly is, and how important it is to live your life authentically. The miracle of finding him alive – although beat up and still with a long way to go to recover – has strengthened my resolve to let my new self emerge while there is still life to be lived. So here she is, invisible audience. This Morgan believes that life is a miracle, and every day needs to be treated as one.

Love and miraculous kisses

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Steve Jobs Garage Phase

It’s not for everyone. Many people are incapable of having a point like this in their life, simply because they have obligations that do not allow it. For many others, such a phase is unnecessary: the life they want and have imagined is accessible to them without growing pains, an uncharted outcome, fear or doubt. Some of us, however, are not so lucky: we are the chosen few that cannot seem to take the easy way in.
Yes, it’s true: I make my life harder than it needs to be. I feel a need to find a path that has not been tread before; that is barely visible through the underbrush; that many can’t see at all, and that even those with a decent weedwacker would avoid. Yes, it’s true: I want to be Steve Jobs, and develop a fantastic idea in my garage.
Okay, maybe I won’t be able to invent the next big technological breakthrough. Maybe I’m just fooling myself that my ideas, my drive and my dream will get me anywhere at all. Maybe I’m not the next Steve Jobs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to the Steve Jobs Garage Phase.
The SJG Phase is where you’re hunkered down with your project. To passerby and people listening at the garage door, it may not seem like there’s much going on. They may not realize that you’re asleep at 10 a.m. because you were up until 4 a.m. agonizing about the next step; that you’re working weekends and strange hours with little to no pay to try and coax your little dream to life. They don’t realize that your dream is finicky and you haven’t figured out what to feed it yet; they may not know that at the slightest upset, it will retreat into its shell, never to be heard from again.
The most dangerous part of the SJG Phase is the mailman; the friend, the family member. They knock on the garage door, hear nothing, and enter. They see nothing they understand, shake their heads and proclaim that you are not making headway. The tiny dream is hiding from them, so they cannot see its glimmer of intelligence or potential for growth. All they see is you, in the middle of your garage, surrounded by pizza boxes, insisting loudly that you have not lost your mind, that they would understand if only they could see.
This well-meaning person cannot understand, but they try to make you understand that there’s an easier way out. You don’t have to live in the garage, they say. Come out into the light.
At this point, you have a choice. You can turn your back forever on that tiny idea and let it die alone in the garage, or you turn your back on your well-meaning friend and let them think you’re crazy. It’s not an easy choice; some have waffled back and forth, running back to the garage to search for the tiny dying idea, others burying the memory deep because it hurts too much to think about it in the light of day.
If you choose to remain in the garage, you shrug your shoulders, wish your well-meaning friend a good day, and close the garage door behind them. It may not be the most hospitable of places, but the garage is nevertheless home to your idea. For what it’s worth, you’re going to feed that idea and watch it grow into whatever the heck it wants to. When its limbs are strong enough and its little heart beats furiously at its own accord, you will follow it out of the garage, and into the light. 

Love and dingy garage kisses,

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hi. Remember Me?

Holy stringofexpletives, it’s been a long six months or so since the last time I wrote. It may or may not have been apparent, but I was going through a REALLY rough patch. I came back from two months in Mexico with about four different health problems that were all feeding off each other in my intestinal tract. No, it was not the usual Montezuma’s Revenge that we all know and roll our eyes at and get over quickly; I was really sick for MONTHS.
And here comes admission number one: I would much rather not tell you how sick I am. I would much rather you had no idea what I am going through. I would very much prefer that you think I am an invincible super hero.
I take this to an extreme that is unhealthy. For instance, my diet was much restricted while I was sick, in an attempt to starve the organisms in my system to death. Despite the fact that my health depended on it, I didn’t want to tell anyone that I couldn’t eat, well, pretty much anything. I also couldn’t drink alcohol, which was fine with me, but I didn’t want to make a situation awkward by NOT drinking when that was obviously what everyone was EXPECTED to do. (You know, at breakfast meetings and such.)
When I type this out loud (is that even a thing?) you can see how ridiculous is seems. And yet, I was so caught up in not inconveniencing everyone else that I forgot that my primary aim is actually to take care of myself. Selfish, I know, but it turns out being selfish is something I’m really bad at, at least in this case.
I’m still not 100 percent better, but it turns out I’ve NEVER been 100 percent. Why? Because 100 percent is what I consider other people to be: people who can eat regular food and exercise as much as or however they’d like and don’t need to sleep as much as I do, and don’t get sick at the drop of a hat. Turns out, I’ve been trying to make myself into someone ELSE’s 100 percent instead of trying to figure out what mine is. I’m not sure I’ll ever completely figure it out, but here’s what I’ve discovered about 100 Percent Morgan:

I need more time to myself than other people.
I cannot actually recharge my batteries if others are present. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing.
I cannot eat cow dairy on a regular basis, or even semi-often.
I love beer. I shouldn’t drink it.
If I had to give up alcohol completely, I wouldn’t miss it, until I was in a social situation where I thought I should be drinking to make everyone else feel comfortable.
I cry when I feel anything strongly: fear, pain, or happiness.
Writing is essential to my happiness. It doesn’t matter what I’m writing, just that I AM writing.
I’m really bad at asking for help when I need it, especially if it’s emotional help or support.
I need to take the time to sit under the stars far more often than I actually do.
I need to travel – alone – to remember how much I am in love with life.
I often travel to distract myself from painful personal revelations.
I need to be outside, a lot. I prefer to enjoy nature somewhere that I can’t see much proof of civilization.
My body oftentimes lets me know I’m on the wrong track before my mind knows it. I need to get better at listening.
I would like to say that this is the new beginning of a regular blogging experience. I would like to say that I’m going to want to write to you, invisible audience, in the hopes that what I’m experiencing is something you would enjoy reading about, or at least relate to. I would like to say that, but the truth is that I’m tired of doing things on a regular basis simply because I’m supposed to. So, let’s just say for now that I am happy to have something to say to you again, and I hope to feel inspired to keep up the conversation.

Love and revelatory kisses