Please Step Away from the Drama

A few weeks ago, I said in passing to my roommate that I don’t like drama. She stopped in her tracks in the middle of the kitchen, turned to look at me, raised both eyebrows and said, “do you really think that’s true?” I squirmed a little and acknowledged that at present I do seem to be pretty well surrounded by other peoples’ drama. On our way to a fundraiser last Friday, my friend Roya overhead a phone conversation which led her to also question me about the drama swirling around me. She listened for a while then asked me, “What are you really doing?” I again squirmed a bit, but she waited patiently for me to admit out loud that I’m intentionally placing myself in situations where I can lose myself in the chaos.
If I’m distracted by someone else’s drama, I don’t have to dig into my own self work and the discomfort of examining my own demons. If I’m sufficiently distracted, I don’t have time or energy to think about what I’m actually afraid of. What am I avoiding right now? I’m avoiding examining my fear of being alone and my fear that I’m not good enough. Phew. Deep Breath. Admitting it out loud is a step in the right direction, right?

Alone does not equal lonely

2014-01-17 22.14.46I have so much to be thankful for. I have awesome friends, a loving family, a great job with several coworkers that I also consider to be good friends, church friends, fun opportunities and as much connection as I could ever want. A romantic relationship is not a requirement for me to stave off loneliness, nor do I need to contort myself to meet others’ expectations of who I should be just to keep them in my life. I have a long list of people I can choose to spend my energy on and I don’t need to adapt and accommodate to “fit in” – I actually need to make an effort to choose relationships with the people that feed my soul, and let go of those who stir up drama and distraction. I don’t need to place my energy in working to fit in, because I don’t need to fit in at all. I need to feel worthy inside my head and heart exactly as I am. I don’t need to wait to be “fixed” or better; I need to learn to accept myself as I am and actually believe that I am enough.

I can do better

Today I realized there is another dangerous side effect of my distraction strategies. They have worked marvelously to prevent me from making significant progress on my self-work, and they have also made it difficult for me to complete my professional duties to the best of my ability. I sat down with my supervisor this afternoon and told her I know I’ve been distracted lately and that I don’t feel I’ve been doing my best work. I owned out loud that I can do better, and told her I will step up my game. I also asked her to please let me know if she notices I’m dropping any parts of my work so I can ensure things are completed. I desperately wanted to fall to pieces and ask her to reassure me that I’m doing a good job, but I didn’t bring this up to ask for her reassurance. I brought it up to admit that while I am completing my work, I know I’m not doing the best work I can do. This is an area I can focus my energy and my attention with a very beneficial outcome.
One thing builds on another, after all. I struggle with feeling unworthy and unlovable and I cope with these feelings by distracting myself with the chaos of high intensity people in my life. In distracting myself from these feelings, I effectively distract myself in all areas of my life – I have difficulty sleeping, struggle to concentrate on my work, and find it difficult to focus on anything well. Not only do these distractions have the very real consequence of compromising my ability to do the self work necessary to heal and move forward, they also compromise my health and well-being.

Today I am letting go of unhealthy distractions. Some distractions are great, when they are engaged in with intention. I am going to focus more fully on engaging in whatever activity is present for me. I will work harder when at work; I will focus more intentionally on my friends when spending time with them; I will focus on self care and on self work so I continue to heal and become stronger. I will intentionally walk away from situations where I’m surrounded by drama, and away from people who drain me but don’t give energy back.

I am worthy, just as I am. I also can make the choice to be better – I will do my work more fully and intentionally, I will  care for children more actively, I will focus on keeping my energy to feed and care for myself and for the people I love. I will also be patient with myself when I slip backwards and struggle with these goals.

One More Moment

How awesomeWe all experience days we can’t figure out which way is up.
When we wonder just what it is we’re meant to do with this life.
When we think the stinging, smarting pain of failure might never leave us in peace.
When we assume, by looking around us, that we’re not good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, talented enough, or just plain enough.
When we feel we must be the only ones struggling with this particular brand of “not enough.”

But every single day we can stop, take a deep breath and appreciate this moment for what it is – one more moment on this planet.

What are you going to do with this moment?

Change is the Way

rivendellIf you spend a few moments perusing my bookcase, you will find dozens of books waiting to be read. Some are resting fitfully until their turn as one of my 42 books, but many others are biding their time until after I finish the project (just don’t tell them it will likely be several more months until that point). Even though I already own several unread books, I can rarely resist wandering through my very favorite used book store, Rivendell Books in downtown Montpelier. Tightly packed with an assortment of current bestsellers, romance novels, general fiction, Vermont nonfiction, children’s books and a vast array of books belonging to miscellaneous topics, I could easily wander their uneven floors for hours.

As I strolled through Rivendell this weekend (doesn’t that sound idyllic?) I snagged a copy of Melodie Beattie’s Journey of the Heart. I own a few of Beattie’s books and find her writing about codependence to be both clear and approachable. While I haven’t personally struggled as the partner of an addict or alcoholic, her work on “how to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself” resonates deeply for me. Journey is set up so each day of the year has a few paragraphs to focus your attention and a brief meditation for the day. Here’s what I found on the date I brought the book home:

Just as the world around us changes and evolves, so do the circumstances and situations in our lives. We live in a universe that is alive, vibrant, and constantly evolving. Change is the way nature, the universe and the Divine move us through each period of our lives and into destiny. We are led to our next lesson, our next adventure. There’s no need to deny change, to fear it or fight against it. Change is inevitable. Just as the earth is constant motion and transformation. So are we.

Melodie Beattie, Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing your Soul

I’ve been feeling unsettled and uncomfortably adrift of late. I recently described it to a close friend as a feeling of anxiety because some of my anchors are not holding me steady. Some are as firmly rooted as ever – my family, my friends – but a couple of the major ones have come loose and are not tying me down the way I like them to. There are changes to the grant that funds my job and I expect the next few months will see a great deal of change to the way I do my work. I recently applied for a different job (unrelated to the grant change – it simply seemed too perfect an opportunity to pass up) and while I received indication that I was one of the top choices, I didn’t get the job. I will be moving in the next month to live with one of my closest friends and while I’m very excited about many aspects of this new plan, there are buckets of unknowns as we move into this new living arrangement.

Several months ago while visiting my sister and brother-in-law, my propensity for frequent moves came up in conversation. My brother-in-law made a comment about how I enjoy moving, and I think my jaw actually dropped open. If you asked me, I would tell you I hate moving and that my twelve bazillion moves in the past 15 years were all because of reasons. Crazy roommates, divorce, too expensive, too small, awful neighbors, no parking, need a change – those are all reasons, right? Though I dismissed it in the moment, as the time approaches for me to make my next move I keep thinking of his casual assumption that I enjoy moving and I wonder if there might be some truth to it. Certainly, the reasons were real and there were uncomfortable and borderline awful situations to extract myself from, that’s not the whole truth.

This time of year, many people engage in spring cleaning – clean out the basement, pull out the clothes for warmer weather, move the furniture and clear out the cobwebs. Maybe that’s a piece of why I move as often as I do; rather than moving the furniture in my room, I uproot the furniture and move to an entirely different space to gently tuck myself into the new soil. I may not know the details of what my job will look like come July 1, but I have a job I enjoy, that I’m good at, and I work with people who value and appreciate me. I may not know exactly what hurdles I will need to jump with the new apartment, but I have signed the lease and I am starting to daydream about how I will set up my spaces and how we might set up the shared spaces. I’m working to channel the excitement and potential for greatness in the change, rather than the anxiety that grows from clinging to what I’m comfortable with.

Today I am letting go of my resistance to change. Change will always happen, even within the happiest and most stable of circumstances. I will focus on letting go and changing with the world around me, on taking care of myself and on giving myself room not only to allow for change, but to enjoy it.

Book #6

enders gameFrom Goodreads:

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Ender’s Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Why This Book: I’ve recently signed onto an amazing science fiction project called Reality Breaks with Charles Barouch of HDWP Books. I’ve had Ender’s Game on my shelf for an embarrassingly long time and decided that while I’m getting myself ready to launch into the shared world of Reality Breaks, it was past time to check this book off my “to read” list.

Keep Moving Forward

When I began my 4(2) Days of Letting Go, I imagined that for 42 days I would write about one thing per day, finishing six weeks later with a lovely list of 42 things I could let slide off my shoulders. Life, of course, rarely follows the straightforward path I frequently imagine. Instead, the path curves in unpredictable directions, doubling back on itself, sometimes skipping up the side of a mountain or hiding irritably in a pool of mud for a while. As my 42 Days have roughly followed Lent, I should be wrapping them up sometime this week, while in reality I’ve only posted 14 up on the blog so far.

Deep breath. Today I’m letting go of the past, so I can keep moving forward.

Several years ago my mother gave me and my sister each a ten year journal. The journal has ten entries per page, one per year for a specific day. This way you can write on April the 21st of 2014 and see what you wrote on April 21st four years ago, and on this day for every year in between. My mother and my sister diligently write in their journals, scarcely missing a day. Mine looks more like a block of Swiss cheese, haphazard entries here and there and large gaping holes throughout. I actively ignore this journal on a regular basis. It squats, toad-like on my bookshelf, staring me down and reminding me that it should be gathering more than dust each day. My internal stress from the journal’s inactivity (see Day 3: Letting Go of Guilt) hunches my shoulders a bit, but I’ve found the journal imparts more stress when I try to buckle down and write in it every day than it does from its lurking on my bookshelf.

There are many reasons why – distaste from seeing the shenanigans of my life over the last several years, discomfort at seeing how lackadaisical I am at completing this seemingly simple task, and the internal pressure I place on myself to try to remember to write in the damn thing. I think the main issue with the ten year journal is every time I pick it up I am quite literally faced with how I’ve often failed at this before. I see the empty pages, scattered entries, and all the times I didn’t write in the past, which makes it more difficult to actually sit down and write today.

Did I manage my 42 days of letting go? Not according to my original plan, but I’m not giving up. I’ll keep plugging away until I complete my list of 42, and I will keep working to let these things go. five minute journalI’m hoping that by fleshing them out into longer blog posts I’ll be able to maintain my momentum and finish off the list, even if I do it at a slower pace.

Based on the recommendations of G+ friends, I’m also thinking the Five Minute Journal might be a good next step to push myself to journal daily, with each day as a new blank page ready for me to fill.

He sat down on a grassy bank and looked at the city that surrounded him, and thought, one day he would have to go home. And one day he would have to make a home to go back to. He wondered whether home was a thing that happened to a place after a while or if it was something that you found in the end, if you simply walked and waited and willed it long enough.

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Music as a tool for letting go

I often get stuck inside my own head. Busy with questions and possible answers, fears and worries about things that will likely never come to pass, unnecessary analysis of the inner workings of my world. One way I can break myself out of this none-to-helpful cycle is with music.

Today my go to is the Chad Hollister Band – their song “The Answer” has played on repeat inside my brain and you can listen to it here. I couldn’t find a version of it on YouTube, so I also included a video of one of the Chad Hollister Band’s other songs that is equally fantastic. Enjoy 🙂


Book #5

american godsFrom Goodreads:

A storm is coming . . .

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. Along the way Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Relevant and prescient, American Gods has been lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose” (Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World) and as a modern phantasmagoria that “distills the essence of America” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). It is, quite simply, an outstanding work of literary imagination that will endure for generations.

Why This Book: When I put the “ask” out to my Facebook friends to help me choose my list of 42 books, this came up more than once. Given my love for Neil Gaiman’s writing both in the literary world and in the world of Doctor Who, adding this to the list was a no brainer.

Even when I began my journey across the South to look into the music that helped awaken me, I wanted to hear Van Zant’s former colleagues tell me yes, he was more politically progressive than he originally got credited for. But they didn’t tell me that, because it’s not true. Those of us who have characterized the singer as a misunderstood liberal have done so only to placate our own irrational feelings of shame for responding to the passion in his music. We do the same with the violence and misogyny of hip-hop – or the drama of a Wagner symphony. When we can’t separate the artist from the art, we make the art fit our own paradigms. Rather than accepting the art for what it is, allowing ourselves to feel it without letting it threaten our sense of self, we’re dishonest in our examination of it.

Mark Kemp, Dixie Lullaby

A Soapbox Moment

(steps up onto soapbox)

Racism still exists in this country. If you grew up in the South you’ve likely seen this firsthand in a way many white people from the Northeast just haven’t, and it’s uncomfortable to admit a similar sort of discrimination due to perceived differences exists separate from race. My parents taught me the heartfelt if simplistic notion that all people deserve equal respect because all people are the same. It took until college for me to realize that many others of my generation grew up with similarly whitewashed notions of equality and that by layering political correctness onto this flawed idea, we effectively looked down our noses at many who were different. Comfortable in our own perceived correctness, we looked down with self righteous condescension without any acknowledgement of the way we were perpetuating the same unfounded stereotypes while feeling smug in our own superiority.

(steps off soapbox)

We are all people, yes, but we are the products of our upbringing, our choices, our family, our relationships, what we read and learn, and how we respond to things. How I was taught to think, believe, speak, and behave can be changed through force of will and years of practice, but who am I to tell you that my way is the right one? Who am I to judge you based on how you experience the world? If your language is rougher, your expressions unclear, or your vehemence inexplicable, this doesn’t make your experience of the world any less valid or “correct” than mine. I have so very much more to learn, but I’m quite content to acknowledge the limitations to my understanding of the world, and keep doing one thing I do exceptionally well; keep on reading.