Today I painted my nails two different colors.
I’m sure some of you are thinking “Girl, what’s the big deal? I paint my nails ten different colors each week!”
But when you are like me, you get comfortable with being comfortable. You don’t stray too much over the lines. You avoid change.
You order the same meals at the same restaurants.
You watch the same tv shows over and over again.
You wear the same clothes week after week — often buying the same shirts and pants in different colors and sometimes in the same colors because you know you like them.
You look for the predictable, the routine, the ordinary — especially in the midst of a pandemic. Those ordinary things became a lifeline for me this year.
As the world outside me swirled into chaos over the last several months, I leaned into the things I could control and the things I could predict. I responded to the daily uncertainty of our lives by choosing to live my life in comfort, a space that sometimes felt like control.
But today I leaned a bit out of my comfort zone. I embraced something unpredictable and different.
I chose change.
Yes, today I remembered that even though it’s safe and cozy sometimes to live inside the lines, sometimes the things that make us feel secure are actually the things that hold us back from living life to its fullest.
So, to those of you out there coping like me — by choosing order, predictability, and ordinary — today might be a good day to stray just a bit outside the lines.
I can’t promise that you won’t regret it but I can promise that it’s an important exercise.
Hey you out there, the woman holding back who she really is, stop.
It’s ok to step into your light.
It’s ok to show up and be yourself.
It’s ok to finally figure out who your real people are.
It’s ok to want more, ask for more, need more.
It’s ok to be the person you really are.
It’s ok to ask for help.
It’s ok to break a little, feel lost, and struggle with the next steps.
It’s ok to make changes in your life.
It’s ok to be vulnerable.
It’s ok to acknowledge that life is sometimes really freaking hard.
It’s ok to be 100% you.
It’s ok to be proud of yourself.
It’s ok to be happy.
It’s ok to be ok.
An important moment happened the other night.
It was just a brief moment, so brief that many people may not have even noticed it.
It was a moment that was so easily eclipsed by the other moments around it that I almost didn’t even write about it.
But just today alone two people have brought the moment up in session. Yes, we need to shine some light on the moment. We need to amplify the moment.
It was a moment when a father from a generation not known for understanding mental health talked openly, candidly, emotionally, with rawness, and with true humanity about addiction.
Yes, I am going to talk about a moment in THE debate. You know, the debate that has been talked about and fought about and debated about incessantly over the past few days.
But, I don’t want to talk about the content of the debate or what led to the moment or what people think about the candidates and moderator.
I just want to focus on the moment.
We all, collectively, NEED to focus on the moment.
It is a moment that so many people who have struggled with addiction yearn for — the moment when their loved one stands up and literally says to the world:
“My son/daughter/wife/husband/sister/brother/mother/father/friend had a drug problem. They’ve worked on it. And I’m proud of them.”
As I watched that moment in real time, I saw all those subtle changes in facial expressions, skin color, speech rhythm, breathing rate, and intonation that I’m trained as a therapist to pick up on.
In that moment, the Earth stopped spinning for just a beat for me. My own breath caught in my throat as I realized just how powerful that moment could be for anyone who has faced addiction and how powerful that moment could be for the topic of addiction itself.
How powerful are those two words for people on both sides of the addiction struggle?
It was an important moment for there still is so much shame and judgment around the topic of addiction, even after recovery.
That moment reminded us that not only is it ok to stand up, even when the whole world is watching, and be proud of your loved one for battling addiction, it’s crucial. It’s powerful. It can be life altering.
Perhaps even more importantly, imagine the power of being able to say “I’m proud of myself.”
To those of you who have been touched by addiction, I see you. I hear you. I’m proud of how fiercely you fight that battle.
Change is coming. The tides are turning. The shame is lifting. More moments are coming.
Share your pride for your loved ones. Share your pride for yourself.
I’m proud of all of you walking through the battlefield of addiction.
It’s hard to find these days.
I don’t think it’s been here for over 6 months.
Between the kids and 2 parents working from home and 3 noisy dogs and 2 cats (or 4 dogs and 1 cat if you count the cat that thinks she is a dog), this house is very loud.
Silence here is simply not a thing.
Sometimes I can sneak away and soak in the bathtub while the bathroom fan drowns out the noise of dogs barking, video games being shouted at, pianos being played, cats knocking stuff off tables, and dishes being washed.
In those moments, I can almost hear silence.
But tonight I found silence that I didn’t know I was missing.
After my oldest and I ate dinner, he left the kitchen to take a shower. My youngest and my husband were out running an errand. The dogs were sleeping peacefully with their recently full bellies. I have no idea where the cats were but they were quiet.
Work was done.
TVs and radios were off.
The street was empty.
All I could hear was the gentle humming of the ice machine and the soft snores of the dogs.
Rather than getting up to do the dishes or flip over the laundry or sort the mail or prep backpacks for tomorrow, I sat.
I took in the silence.
I breathed in the silence, allowing myself to be fully present for the first time all week.
I felt the chair legs beneath my feet (because I’m short).
I felt the smoothness of the kitchen island built by my family during the height of quarantine.
I felt the air fill my allergy-induced asthma lungs and took my first full deep breath all day.
I felt my mind wander but I brought it back each time to focus on my breathing and the sounds of the silence.
I sat fully present in that moment for as long as it lasted.
Gradually the silence was filled. The ice machine dumped its newly formed tray of ice. The shower turned on in the bathroom down the hall. A car pulled down the street, waking two dogs, causing one of them to bark and the other one to tip tap up and down the hallway, her way of asking to be let outside.
As I stood to do those dishes and flip over that laundry and sort that mail and pack those backpacks, I noticed a lightness inside.
The weight I had been carrying all week was lighter, somehow made less heavy just by being in the silence.
Then I remembered an important fact about me. Silence refuels me. It recharges me. It recenters me.
But silence is hard to find.
Tonight I remember that I have to try harder to find it, even if I have to find it in some stolen moments at a kitchen island.
Most days I feel like me.
On those days, I feel great.
On those days, I wonder if that decades-old diagnosis of depression is accurate.
On those days, I feel like being with friends.
On those days, I feel like getting out of bed.
On those days, I feel like working out.
On those days, I feel like eating healthy.
On those days, I filter out the negativity around me without much effort.
On those days, finding the positives is easy.
Then it happens.
The bottom drops out.
Maybe it’s my scale not moving quickly enough in the right direction. Maybe it’s an argument with my spouse or a friend. Maybe it’s something I feel guilty about as a parent. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s a scheduling error.
Maybe it’s nothing.
On those days, the darkness rolls in and hovers above me.
On those days, my motivation is so low that it takes almost all of my energy to do the simple things like get dressed, put on makeup, do my hair, talk to a friend, laugh.
On those days, I become a raw, open wound — super sensitive and vulnerable.
On those days, everything hurts — emotionally and physically — and everything is hard.
On those days, I am grateful for the tools I have to help the lows to not be so low.
On those days, I can find the energy for the people that rely on me, but the other stuff just doesn’t get done.
On those days, I give myself some grace and kindness.
If you have those days too, let me remind you that you are not alone.
You are seen.
You are heard.
Even on the darkest days.
On those days, ride the wave and trust that the dark days will pass.
They always do.
I lost it this morning.
The weight of the past 6 months caught up with me.
My favorite time of the year — the reset provided by fall and back to school — finally made it to my house, albeit 3 weeks later than usual.
It’s my annual chance to reorganize my life, my routines, my systems, and my brain. New clothes for the boys for back to school, expanded hours for my clients, new classes for me to teach at the college level, and evenings spent on a sports field watching my boys play their favorite game usually fill my life this time of year.
Of course, none of that happened this year.
But today did mark the start of the in-person portion of the school year for my boys — the first time my oldest would step foot inside the high school as a student, not a visitor, and the same for my youngest at the middle school. It was kind of a big deal.
But, I lost it.
I slept through my first alarm and spent the rest of the morning playing catch up, racing through our morning to do list with one eye on the clock because they couldn’t be late — not on their first day.
Then the negative thoughts started.
I felt the weight and guilt of having to turn yet another handful of interested clients away because I cannot increase my hours this fall due to at-home schooling 3 days/week.
The state of disarray that is my house with backpacks, school supplies, masks, half-finished projects, dog toys, and a weird blend of clean and dirty clothes was all I could see everywhere I turned.
The bickering on social media flashed before my eyes as I absentmindedly scrolled through my feed while waiting for my tea to steep. Negativity and stress was everywhere this morning.
When I went to wake up my now middle schooler for his first day of school, I found the grumpy, moody, developmentally appropriate but patience-testing version of him before me.
I lost it.
Everything boiled over.
The doubts about whether this hybrid model is the right choice for him, whether this school was the right choice for him, whether this town was the right choice for him, it all rushed to the surface and I yelled.
I lost it.
I imposed an early bedtime, said I would take away all electronics, took away his option to walk home from school today, and I cried.
Today was our big day as a family and I lost it.
I failed to see that everything I was feeling, he probably was also feeling.
Six long months without being in school. Six long months of hearing about this virus. Six long months without the routine and structure that had filled most of his 12 years on this planet.
He doesn’t want this. He wants the world back to the way it was. He wants to play football. He wants to go to school full time with ALL of his friends. He wants to ride the bus while sharing a seat with his friend. He wants to sit across from his friends at a lunch table.
I failed to recognize all of that this morning and instead focused on how he wanted to wear ratty sweatpants with a hole in the knee to school and had a negative, grumpy attitude.
We were sure to say I love you and hug goodbye after our meltdowns but there were no cheerful first day of school photos for him.
Because I lost it.
We all have mornings like I had today — mornings where everything feels rushed and wrong and the choices you make are just the wrong ones. The guilt from those wrong choices is heavy and thick and can stick with us long after the bad moments have passed.
The truth is, no amount of “hold onto hope,” “be patient,” “give it time,” or “find the bright spot” memes or stories can actually take the stress of reality away. Sometimes life is just hard and it all catches up to you, washing over you like a gigantic rogue wave. Sometimes you just have to feel your feelings. I guess this morning was one of those times for him and for me.
So, what do you do after you lose it? What do you do when you regret the choices you have made as a parent, a partner, a friend, a worker?
Sure, I could sit in this guilt and negativity all day but that will probably only set off a whole big chain of further negativity. Today I choose to reflect on it, learn from it, take ownership for my actions, and reset.
Tomorrow is another day and I will try my best to do better, to be better.
Also, maybe I will set a back up alarm.
Sometimes the silence is so loud, it is deafening.
Sometimes in life you expect to hear from certain people, the people that are closest to you.
You assume you will hear things like “I miss you” or “I love you” or “Way to go, I’m so proud of you!”You think that surely they will call you, message you, text you, email you, post on your social media.
But, sometimes, the people closest to you are nowhere to be found.
The silence left in the wake of their absence is so loud that it rings in your ears.
The silence is all you can hear.
Their missing presence is all you can see.
But in focusing on the silence, you miss out on all the things that ARE there.
Sometimes you need to step away from the noisy silence and open your ears to what else is around you.
Maybe it’s not the people you thought it would be, but I bet you will find people there for you — reaching out to you, acknowledging you, appreciating you, needing your presence.
Turn down the volume on the people who are silent so that you can turn up the volume on the people who are present.
Most importantly, turn up the volume on your own inner cheerleader. Be the person that applauds your successes, that encourages you to keep going, that makes you feel like you are enough.
Be the voice that drowns out the silence.
This past weekend I ran away. I took my family north for one last trip to the mountains to take a break before the next chapter of 2020 begins.
There were lots of reasons to not take the trip. My pet sitter wasn't available. The hotel cost more than I wanted to spend. The weather wasn't going to be great. Covid-19 is still a thing and would prevent us from doing the things we usually like to do up there. It would have been easier to stay home, save money, and try again another time.
But, we went anyways.
It was the right decision.
On our final day up there, we stopped for ice cream. My eye fell to the homemade chocolate chocolate chip flavor on the menu. Once again, there were many reasons not to order it. I just worked hard to lose 10 pounds in August. I would probably only eat three bites before declaring it too sweet. I would probably get a tummy ache.
But, I ordered it anyways.
It was the right decision.
A few minutes later, my family of 4 sat at a picnic table overlooking the mountains as we enjoyed our ice cream and talked about our trip, the upcoming school year, and the start of the football season.
Then it hit me.
Life is short.
I’m so glad we invested in the moment this weekend. I feel recharged and ready for whatever September has in store for us. The weekend was just what we needed.
So, what's your ice cream in the mountains going to be this week? What is that one thing you have a million reasons NOT to do but deep down you know it will serve you well? What would it take to make it a reality?
Tonight the feelings of self doubt are big.
That negative voice in my head is loud.
It shouts at me:
“You are a fraud”
“Your kids deserve a better mother.”
“Your friends deserve a better friend.”
“Your husband deserve a better wife.”
“Your family deserves a better version of you.”
“Your neighbors deserve a better neighbor.”
I know all the skills to use to drown out the negative thoughts.
I know how to poke holes in what I am saying to myself; how to find lack of evidence to support the negative thoughts; how to find evidence to support the opposing thoughts; how to identify the faulty thought patterns.
I know that the voice I am hearing does not have to dictate how and what I actually feel and believe about myself.
I know that I am loved, I am worthy, I am good enough, I am deserving of the good in my life.
But, some nights the depression and anxiety are just so damn loud.
Tonight is one of those nights.
So, tonight I write as a way to push those thoughts away.
Tonight I write to tell those thoughts to beat it.
Tonight I write to remind myself that I would never let a friend believe these things about themselves, would never let my children believe these things about themselves, would never let me clients believe these things about themselves, and so I’m not going to allow myself to believe these things about myself either.
Tonight I write because I know tomorrow will bring a new day.
Tonight I write because I know I’m not alone.
Tonight I write so others can know they are not alone
Yesterday I stopped.
My gas tank was completely and utterly empty. I had nothing left to give to anyone.
I closed my computer.
I left the dishes in the sink.
I left the the laundry in the baskets.
I left the mail on the counter.
I left emails unanswered.
I left my to do list undone.
I laid in my hammock and did nothing but listen to the wind rustling the giant tree in my backyard while two of my dogs ran and played.
I pushed away all the “shoulds” and just breathed.
And it was glorious.
We all need to stop a little more.
Mental Health & Wellness
Now, more than ever, we all need a little support to help get us through the rough spots. With all the pressures of life, it can be a challenge to find time to not only take care of yourself but also to truly understand who you even are anymore.