The ‘Right’ Way

Our whole lives we are taught to do things a certain way. We’re told this is the ‘right way’. But what if how we chose to do things was defined as the right way?

Today I took my first yoga class. During one pose a student asked how the right way was to hold the block and what the instructor told me has been stuck in my heart ever since.

She said, however you chose to do it is the right way.

 

What if we all started living life this way. However I choose to feel is the right way.

However I choose to live is the right way.

However I choose to exist is the right way.

 

Can you imagine what a radical change that would be?

 

Never feeling like you are ‘bad’ because you do things differently. Never being told that how you stand, walk, talk, dance, create, is the wrong way. Because it isn’t. It’s just your way.

We teach our children this is how you tie your shoes, this is how you hold a pencil, this is how you draw. We tell them that this is how you do ‘x’ and if you don’t do it this way then you’re wrong. But how can it be wrong if it works for you?

I have spent most of my life trying to do things the ‘right way’. Trying to gain everyone’s approval. Somehow trying to turn myself into a mirror that reflects the things other people like.

 

But what if I stopped.

 

What if I started telling myself, this is how I choose to live my life and what I choose is right for me. There is no wrong. Only different.

 

And different is beautiful.

Should

Today I cancelled plans to have lunch with friends. Instead, I am staying home so I can cry.

At first I was mad at myself. I felt like a failure. I was cancelling at the last minute on friends who love me because the fear inside my head was getting too big. Fear that had nothing to do with being around them but was present nonetheless.

But then I realized that these people love me.

They LOVE me.

And if someone I love is struggling I would want them to take care of themselves. Just like they want me to take care of myself.

So often with mental illness we get trapped by the word ‘should’. I should be able to do this. I shouldn’t feel this way.

And in the past few weeks, I’ve discovered I hate that word

should

It has a connotation of guilt. And I’m tired of feeling guilty about my emotions and my needs.

Did I want to go to lunch with my friends? Absolutely! But I know that what I needed was to stay home and take care of myself.

AND THAT’S OKAY

So that’s what I’m doing. Today I am able to have perspective and know that it is okay to do what I need. Tomorrow I might not remember that, and so that is why I am writing this down. To remind myself. And–hopefully–to encourage someone else.

Ignore the should. Do what you need.

 

Today

There are days

Days when I laugh so hard

so hard that my cheeks hurt

Days when just existing is so wonderful

that I want to make the world laugh with me

 

But  today

Today isn’t one of those days

Today is a day when i have to force myself out of bed

When I have to force myself to eat

A day when I start 50 things and finish none of them

because

the anxiety and depression overwhelm me

until I just.

can’t.

focus.

A day where I count down every minute

 

But

 

I do eat

Because even though my brain is hurting me

I know hurting my body won’t help

I do get out of bed

I do get dressed

And tell myself that I will get through today

because no matter how hard a day it is

it will end

and when it ends

even if i hurt for the entire day

I will be thankful

 

Because

 

Because I am still here

Because even though i’m struggling, I will keep living

Because each day I am one day closer to being okay

7 Years Ago

Seven years ago today.

Seven years ago I chose to tell someone. For the first time I didn’t feel compelled to tell, as if the words couldn’t stay in any more. Seven years ago, I wanted to tell.

Seven years ago, I opened my heart, just a little, but more than I had ever done before.

Seven years ago, I decided something- someone- was more important than my fear. I decided to listen to my heart instead of the destructive voices that had controlled me for years. I decided that the regret of saying nothing would be worse than the fear I was feeling.

Seven years ago, I received love, patience, and understanding. Seven years ago, I was accepted for the beautifully broken person I didn’t know I was.

Seven years ago, I started down a path that would not only change my life, but save it too. Seven years ago, I finally started to live.

Seven years ago, I made the best decision of my life.

Happy 7th anniversary Robby. Here’s to 70 more.

Have a Sweet ’16

I’ve seen lots of posts about how people hated 2015, or about their resolutions for 2016, but I’ve only seen one post that I like.

Make a list of things that make you happy. Then make a list of things you do every day. Compare the lists and adjust.

And I love that. It’s such a better idea than a resolution. To me, a resolution is telling yourself that you have to live up to a certain standard. That you have to be a certain way. It almost feels like you are telling yourself you aren’t good enough. As if you need fixing. But this way seems like you are working toward joy.

So I guess my joy list is something like this

  1. Art- I love art, but I don’t usually give myself the time to do something so frivolous
  2. Being strong- I love knowing that my body is capable of greatness. I love surprising others with that greatness. Gym, here I come!
  3. Robby. We spend lots of time together, which is fabulous, but I really want to work on just enjoying the moment with him.
  4. Education- I love to learn. I really do, and always have, so I want to learn things this year. Whether that means learning a skill, going to a museum, or reading a book, I want to learn things.
  5. Nature- I love everything to do with nature, and I want to spend more time in it. Plants, animals, the great outdoors, I want to enjoy it all.

And I guess that’s it. Those are the things I want to focus on in 2016.

What about you?

The Best Words

Today, one of my kids at work said the best thing to me.

I’m the homework teacher. Which means that on any given day I help 18+ kids with their homework. At the same time. It’s a non-stop barrage of “Miss Laura, I need help”, “Miss Laura, I don’t understand this”, “Miss Laura, I was next” and “Miss Laura, it’s too loud”, naturally all being yelled across the room at the same time.

But I love it. I love watching the kids learn, and helping them see what they are capable of. I love that they know that they can turn to me with their problems, and not just their homework problems. Most days, it just fills my heart.

But some days. Oh, some days.

Some days, the kids who have finished their homework can’t seem to stay quiet so the other kids can keep working, and there are a few kids who are just at each other’s throats, and someone just has to have my attention right now, and BLARG!

And today was a little bit of that. Nothing too bad though, thankfully. But there is this one little girl, M. I love her to pieces. She is in 4th grade and super smart, but also super distractable. She is in advanced placement classes, but she gets lost in her own head (yes, she has ADD) and just can never seem to focus. She has good days and bad days and man, today was a bad day. We would be working on a problem together and she would drift off while we were talking.

And I just felt that I was failing her. I knew she had homework in three subjects, and that she needed to make a significant dent in it if she wanted to avoid getting in trouble at home, but I just couldn’t get her to focus. I was getting frustrated and I wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding it, and it was finally time for me to close my room so she asked to pack her backpack back up. I told her she could, because she wasn’t going to get any more work done and that I had to leave anyway. But after she finished, she came up to me and said, ” Thank you for doing all you could to help me Miss Laura.”

It just kind of made me stop.

I had felt myself starting to go over the my time with her in my head, wondering what I could have done different, what I should have done. What the ‘right thing’ was, because I felt that I had failed. I was starting to beat myself up because I felt that I couldn’t help this wonderful little girl, and yet she still appreciated that I took the time to try.

I went over to her and put my hand on her head and said “Thank you for saying that. That really means a lot. I was just getting frustrated because I felt like I was failing you because I couldn’t get you to focus.”

And she looked at me and nodded. She went over to get something she left at a table and said, very matter-of-factly, as if that’s-just-how-the-world-works “But not focusing is my issue, not yours”

This little girl gave me a life lesson in a 2 minute conversation. Because that is how the world works. I’m not responsible for her actions, only my efforts.

I don’t know if she will ever know how much I will cherish her words.

Snowballing into Shame

So often, I feel like I’m doing fine and then- BAM- something happens and everything snowballs. It brings up things that I’ve already dealt with throughout the day, stuff that I felt I had conquered. But when they snowball, they just all seem to pile on and they get so big that I’m left huddled in a ball crying at what a failure I am.

Seriously.

Take today, for instance. There had been some bumps- the cat peed on the floor, I locked myself out of the house and didn’t get as much done as I had wanted because of that, but nothing catastrophic. There was the normal body image struggles, as well as a bit of a headache that I had in the morning. Again, nothing major. But getting locked out put me on edge, because I was locked out for over an hour since my husband was sleeping and had his phone on vibrate. And I was frustrated, but I was still doing okay. I had a back-up plan for the side dish for dinner, since (thankfully) the pulled pork was already in the crock pot. So I was a little stressed, but still good, until the final straw. The big, giant event that pushed me over the edge and eventually led to me huddled in a ball and crying.

Dinner wasn’t ready on time.

Completely serious. The pork was cooked, but it wasn’t cooked enough to fall apart and shred. And so I gave it another hour, but it still wasn’t ready. At this point, I was ready to come out of my skin, I was so anxious. Every detail throughout the day kept coming back to me, reminding me how much I had failed.

I hadn’t cleaned the litter box on time, so the cat peed on the floor: failure.

I left my keys in the house and got locked out: failure.

I got locked out and didn’t get to make the original side dish: failure.

I wasted time being locked out and didn’t get all the laundry and dishes done: failure.

I am overweight: failure.

I got upset at my hubby for not waking up RIGHT THEN to let me in the house, even though it was my fault for getting locked out: failure.

I was busy trying to fix my failures and didn’t eat a real dinner: failure.

And it just kept going. On and on and on, until I was reduced to an anxious ball of self-shame huddled on the bed with my arms wrapped around the comforter with tears leaking from my eyes. And I hate that I do this. That one event–a comment taken the wrong way, a plan that falls through, any little thing–can send me over the edge into pit of self-shame. Of being so trapped in the belief that I am a failure that I can’t see anything else. It colors everything I see about myself and about the world around me. It makes me believe that other people must see me this way too, and that everything I do must reflect failure.

After all, how could I possibly do something good?

And I hate feeling this way about myself. I don’t want to spend my Sunday night writing and crying while questioning every single interaction, decision, and action, trying to discern if they add up to failure.

Writing Submission for MEND

I belong to a support group called MEND, which helps families who have experienced the loss of a child. They put out a newsletter, and they take submissions from readers. The next newsletter is about Holidays, and that is something that really resonates with me, so I want to submit a piece.

It’s is a modified version of something I wrote last Christmas, and it means a lot to me. I hope it touches someone’s heart and helps them heal. Even if it doesn’t get published, I hope it helps someone here.

 

Today is Christmas, but it’s not how it is supposed to be.

You’re supposed to be here.

We were supposed to make cookies together, get to watch you unwrap presents, and take you to see Santa. We should have gotten to help you decorate the tree, hang up the stockings, and unwrap your presents. We were supposed to get to hear you laugh at all the Christmas fun and see your eyes light up at all the wonders you would be understanding for the first time. We were supposed to feel our hearts fill with love and joy when you ate the frosting and candy toppings while decorating cookies, when we helped you hold your candle at the Christmas Eve Service, and when we all snuggled up to read The Night Before Christmas together.

But that’s not how it is.

Because you’re not here.

Instead we try and hold it together when we see the kids at the mall, excited to see Santa. Kids that would be about the same age as you. Instead, we feel an ache in our heart because the traditions we wanted to share with you make us miss you even more. They just remind us that you’re not here.  Some days are easier, and some are so much worse, and so to cope with the holidays, we cling to each other. We tell each other that’s it’s okay to struggle, that Christmas never will be the same, but some years will be easier–maybe even almost ‘normal’–and this just happens to be a rough year. We know you are having a wonderful Christmas in Heaven, and it soothes our hearts to know you are there, but oh, we wish you were here. So we spend time together, just the two of us, because even though it’s been years, the loss of you still hurts as much as it did the day we lost you.

Because we never stop missing you.

Inside Out

“The structural decision to do without a villain, and ultimately to do without one of the easiest elements to make entertaining and marketable, means that the process Riley is undergoing — adolescence — is visualized as … normal. Her mind is not a space that’s been invaded by something that must be driven out, but a new environment to be mastered. And if other kids’ stories are there to teach kids how to be brave when they see witches and giants, Inside Out is there, maybe, to teach them how to be brave when there’s no witch and no giant, but things can feel broken anyway.”

Linda Holmes, NPR

Today, Robby and I saw Inside Out. If you haven’t seen it, go see it.

Seriously.

I’ll wait.

.

.

.

So, assuming that you watched it, I’m now going to talk about it, so if you haven’t seen it, go see it now, cause otherwise I’m going to blow the plot for you.

*Spoilers*

In the movie, a young pre-teen girl (Riley) starts to realize that her days aren’t just filled with joy any more. That she is growing up. But her mom–in an off-hand manner–asks her to keep being her ‘happy little girl’. So when Riley starts struggling, she begins to hide it, and that’s when her emotions get out of whack.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Through all sorts of adventures by her little inner-emotion cartoons, Riley starts to lose parts of who she used to be. When those pieces of herself start to be lost, she stops being goofy, she withdraws from her parents, she cuts off her friends, and she abandons the sport she has loved her whole life. In a desperate attempt to try and find herself again, she decides to run away, back to a place where she was happy.

Through all of this, Joy has been desperately trying to keep Sadness at bay, to keep Riley from being sad, but Riley is so mixed up that she ends up not being able to feel anything.

She goes numb.

Until Sadness steps in.

When she was a child, Joy had always been able to cheer Riley up, but she can’t go from feeling numb to feeling joyful. She has to feel the sadness. The pain.

Because it’s part of life. It’s normal.

It’s not fun, but it’s normal. And as she realizes that the different emotions can mix and form new emotions, Riley rebuilds the pieces of herself.

Riley’s Personality Islands at the beginning of the movie

To be honest, I cried a lot during this movie. I remember those days of joy as a kid, and I remember feeling my world fall to pieces. And going numb. Except that I was numb for years. I didn’t get to rebuild thepieces of myself right away like Riley did. I didn’t start learning about those ‘new emotions’ until I was in my twenties.

And seeing the childhood that most people had, the emotions that they went through just hurt so much. Because it’s not fair. It’s not fair what I lost, what I missed. My personality ‘islands’ broke and I was just blank for years.

Riley’s Personality Islands falling apart

My ‘Friendship Island’ turned into ‘Distrustful Island’. I shut down my ‘Athletic Island’ because people kept making fun of me whenever I would do anything athletic. And my “Girlie Island’ was completely buried under self-loathing and fear of attention. I used to love to wear pretty dresses and jewelry, and having my make-up put on for dance recitals was so much fun, but once that island broke, I ran from all of that. I couldn’t bring myself to be a little girl anymore. I hid behind baggy boys clothes in dark colors. Nothing bright, nothing that would draw attention.

And I want to open those islands back up. I don’t necessarily want to dance on a stage like I did when I was 5, but I’d like to have the confidence to take a Zumba class now and then, because I genuinely enjoy it. I don’t want to be so afraid of ridicule that I don’t go to the gym on the off-chance that other people will be

Riley’s re-built personality islands at the end of the movie

there. And I’d love to be girlie sometimes. Maybe wear a pretty hair clip. I’ve always wanted to dye streaks of color, like blue or purple, into my hair, but I’ve never had the courage to do it, because it draws attention, and that’s something I am so afraid of.

I know that life isn’t all Joy, and that’s okay. I just want to rebuild myself.