Monday, December 30, 2013

Resolutions

It's that time of year. Time for pressure to start penning goals and setting down aspirations.  Time for to-do lists of grandeur and bucket lists for the upcoming year. Why we do this for an arbitrary date and feel pressure to uphold our plans, I'm not really sure. Regardless, it's that time of year when my fellow humans join me in the list-making profession and resolutions are unearthed from the back of the closet.  

I'm actually not big on new years resolutions.  Sadly, there’s nothing new to aim for, nothing different from last year’s problems that still need fixing.  Or from the year before that, or the year before that.  And that’s just too depressing.  Plus, to have a goal it would seem that one actually has to believe that goal can be achieved. Or have a smidgen of hope that by Dec. 31, 2014 they’ll be at least closer to the finish line.  I don’t know what happened, but my smidgen of hope has obviously gotten misplaced, perhaps in one of the moving boxes tucked high away.
 
I could resolve to be healthier, be more open-minded, be more flexible or more relaxed.  I could resolve to meditate daily, start the day off with a swim, volunteer or go back to school.  I could vow to treat myself as kindly as I do others, or to be a better friend, sister, daughter, cousin, niece.  I could. And yet, I don’t dare write them down on paper. 

It’s too real, too binding, too final.  Written down, I have to admit failure if I don’t succeed, hanging my head for yet another year gone by.  It’s not just run of the mill fear of failure, although I’m sure in a 50-minute hour, some psychologist could twist it that way.  It’s the cumulative spiral of decades of struggle, too many nights vowing never again and too many mornings woken in regret.  It’s the lack of faith that this year really will be any different, can be any different. 


I wish I were different.  I wish to be more “normal” and whip out the tired list of resolutions to go to the gym more or eat more salad or read more books.  I wish that I could ignore the past inertia and instead believe that despite it all, 2014 is going to be the year of change, the year of life, a great year…I’d settle for even just an okay non-crisis mode year.  I wish that January 1st felt like some kind of new beginning, a fresh slate available for carving out joy.  I wish.

Instead, I have to remind myself that Wednesday is New Years Day, and I can’t pick up my library books.  I have to make an alarm in my phone to watch the ball drop on Tuesday night at midnight.  Forget about the pressure to make big New Year’s plans.  I’m just aiming to remember the correct date when I sign a check.

I seem to have lost my hope, misplaced my faith, and let my goals slip out of my pockets.  As much as I hate clich├ęs, perhaps this is one of those times to “fake it til you make it.”

So, pretending that I did believe, pretending I’m more normal, pretending I’m someone else,
what would I dream for in 2014?

1.     Treat myself and those around me gently, kindly, softly and with love.
2.    Nourish my soul’s only vehicle
3.    Feed my heart and my spirit with meditation, meaning, classes, and inspiring pages
4.    Leave my corner of the world a little better than I found it on December 31, 2013
5.    Make a bathing suit my morning attire and glide through the water with the purpose of strength and relaxation rather than achieving a certain distance.
6.    Show up to be a better sister, daughter, friend, cousin, and niece.
7.    Learn what living feels like rather than merely existing.
8.    Choose life.
9.    And actually Live.




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Saturday, December 28, 2013

There's a reason she's my favorite author...


And she just doesn't stop...I finished Anne Lamott's new book in a day and then yesterday this was her status on facebook...it's amazing and beautiful and worth reading!!

Status Update
By Anne Lamott

We need to talk.

I know you are planning to start a diet next Wednesday. I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, " Oh, that's great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?"

I got rid of her sorry ass. No one talks to ME that way.

Well, okay, maybe it was ten years later, after she had helped lead me back home, to myself, to radical self-care, gentle Self-Talk, to a jungly glade that had always existed deep inside me, but that I'd avoided by achieving, dieting, people-pleasing, multi-talking, and so on

Now when I decide to go on a diet, I say it to myself: "Great, honey. How much are you hoping to gain?"

I was able to successfully put on weight on book tour by eating room service meals in a gobbly trance in 13 different hotels. So that was exhilarating, to make myself feel like Jabba the Hut.

And then I accidentally forgot to starve myself in December, or to go back to the gym, which I've been meaning to do since I had a child, 24 years ago.

So I am at least five pounds up--but praise be to God, I do not currently have a scale, because as I've said before, getting on a scale is like asking Dick Cheney to give you a sense of your own self-worth.

I can still get my jeans on, for one reason: I wear forgiving pants. The world is too hard as it is, without letting your pants have an opinion on how you are doing. I struggle with enough self-esteem issues without letting my jeans get in on the act.

By the same token, it feels great to be healthy. Some of you need to be under a doctor's care. None of you need to join Jenny Craig. It won't work. Some of you need to get outside and walk for half an hour a day. I do love walking, so that is not a problem for me, but I have a serious sickness with sugar: if I start eating it, I can't stop. It turns out I don't have an off switch, any more than I do with alcohol. Given a choice, I will eat candy corn and Raisinets until the cows come home--and then those cows will be tense, and bitter, because I will have gotten lipstick on the straps of their feed bags.

But you crave what you eat, so if I go for 3 or 4 days with no sugar, the craving is gone. That is not dieting. If you are allergic to peanuts, don't eat peanuts.

So please join me in not starting a diet January 1st.

It's really okay, though, to have (or pray for) an awakening around your body. It's okay to stop hitting the snooze button, and pay attention to what makes you feel great about yourself, one meal at a time. It's an inside job. If you are not okay with yourself at 185, you will not be okay at 150, or even 135. The self-respect and serenity you long for is not out there. It's within. I hate that. I resent that more than I can say. But it's true.

Maybe some of us will eat a bit less, and walk a bit more, and make sure to wear pants that do not hurt our thighs or our feelings Drinking more water is the solution to almost all problems.

I'll leave you with this: I've helped some of the sturdier women at my church get healthy, by suggesting they prepare each meal as if they had asked our beloved pastor to lunch or dinner. They wouldn't say, "Here Pastor--let's eat standing up in the kitchen. This tube of Pringles is ALL for you." And then stand there gobbling from their own tubular container.

No, they'd get out pretty dishes, and arrange wonderful foods on the plates, and set one plate before Veronica at the table, filled with happiness, love, pride and connection. That's what we have longed for, our whole lives, and get to create, now, or or on the 1st. Wow!

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It's hard

It’s hard to…

I should just stop there.  It’s hard.  Everything is hard today, yesterday, this year.
It’s hard knowing that a year has passed since we watched fireworks out of my hospital room in Denver and nothing has improved.  It’s hard marking holidays and birthdays amidst days spent imitating life. 

 It’s hard to know what to do.  What the right thing to do.  What I want to do.  It’s hard.  Especially when nothing sounds appealing.  There’s the off-label treatment that involves getting stuck with an IV and receiving an infusion of a horse tranquilizer. There’s the use of a certain smoke-able plant, legal here, though often used more recreationally than I would attempt.  There’s therapy.  There’s doing nothing.  It’s hard to set down a plan on motion when it all appears futile and inertia is the default mode.  It’s hard to decide when you have no hope of success.

It’s hard to opt for another stab in the dark, especially when he thinks it’s the absolute right thing to try and she’s convinced it’ll kill you.  It’s hard to muster up any emotion over who’s right. 

It’s hard to believe that any of them are the answer. It’s hard to believe there even is an answer.

And even when I stop the mental pro/con tight rope dance and book an appointment, it’s not over.  Because that’s when she proposes her new idea, backed by research, convinced it’s worth a try because “what do I have to lose?” And I’m at a loss to defend myself.

Which is how I found myself driving downtown on a Friday night to a hole in the wall doctor’s office after having stopped in at the closest “pharmacy” filled with pizza boxes in the lobby. Crossing into an alternate universe, I filled out the paperwork, forgoing actually reading what I was initialing after “I understand that this product could cause hallucinations…I understand this is not approved by the FDA”. Instead I just scan for blank lines in need of ink and hand it back to the guy behind in the window.

And if only all doctors appointments were so speedy.  Five minutes later I was back at the window, waiting for my cash-only brand new ID.  It really was a very strict policy they have there.  Lots of hoops to drive thru.  The doctor was very thorough.

The requirements? Blood pressure of a living mammal and the ability to stand with your eyes closed and not fall over.  After those three minutes, the crusty doctor wished me a happy year before I’d need to come back and see him and I was on my way.  Who knew?

If anything, the recreational benefits will be appealing to certain family members I’m sure.  I’m sensing an influx of visitors with a whole new tradition for dessert after the mandatory kosher Chinese dinner.  Then again, we’ll probably do that in reverse…

So we’ll see.

It’d be easier if there was a talking burning bush or if my meditation cards could be a little more instructional: “Lauren, go to Arizona” rather than “I embrace the world with love”.

It’d be easier if the peanut gallery agreed or if I actually had an opinion of what to do. 

It’s hard when she’s so sure, he’s so sure, and I’m not sure about anything.  It’s hard to know what to do when it takes all my mental energy to remember to breathe and walk the pooch.  It’s hard when the ground shifts unpredictably.

And all of the bushes on our morning stroll were smoke-less and the rune stone of the day was “acceptance.”

So for the moment I’ll take the guidance and attempt to accept that this is where I am, rooted in the snarly mess of uncertainty and hopelessness.  Accept that for this minute, nothing is so drastically wrong. Accept that it’s hard and try not to drown in the unknowing. 

It’s the quote that I apparently haven’t learned my lesson from yet because it keeps popping up after decades…

“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, in Letters to a Young Poet

Living in the question…I’m awful at it. 

So it’s just hard.  I accept that.


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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I QUIT

And she does it again...sucks the jumbled pondering of meaning and import right from my heart and publishes a slip of a book that leaves me folding down every corner to mark some phrase that strikes a forgotten chord.

She hits the nail on the head (oy, again with the cliches), driving home her wonderings, speaking exactly to what my quandary is:

Where is the meaning during the bad times? How do we escape the trite cliches and find purpose for our days when the world seems to crumble around our ankles?

I was saving it, her newest book "Stitches: A handbook on meaning, hope and repair", having forgotten the title I pre-ordered it so long ago, saving it until i finished with the library books attached to a due date and the pile of magazines overflowing in my closet. But for some reason, for the seven minutes of a morning cigarette, I pulled out Anne Lamott's newest book and settled under the burning sun in the end of December, slowly forcing my jaw upward after dropping open on her first paragraph.

"It can be too sad here. We so often lose our way."

I want to highlight each sentence, underline paragraphs at a time, raise my hand and say "yes, here I am, the one you wrote this for."

And the silver lining is that my favorite author wrote this book, so that must mean they're not just my troubled musings and depressed hopelessness but hers too.  Because we write what we need to hear, what we need to learn, what we are dying from if we do not say.  So Miss Lamott and I are branded with the same hollow hole of longing, she just further ahead, wiser, older, still struggling with the same existential unknowables, but finding some energy to keep trucking.

Am I willing to do that? To hold on to this senseless, messy, often meaningless life? Just keep holding on, dog paddling along even when there's no shore in sight?

I don't know.

Do I have the courage to seek answers and purpose even when fibers scream in protest that it's all an act, faking smiles to hide the grey vortex of emptiness that swallows me whole?

I want to say no.  I want to say I'm too tired, I give up, I give in.  I want to say I surrender, I'm done. I want to say enough.  I quit.

And yet, I'm still here.  Despite my overwhelming struggles and dark hours, I'm still here, waking up to a new day, reading books and folding down corners.  Maybe I've had enough.  Maybe I've given up.  But for the moment, it doesn't seem to matter.  For the moment, I breathe in and out and wonder what to fill my hours with and if any of it will make a smidge of difference when I wake up tomorrow.  Wonder if there is anything, any one, any action that will cause an inner tetonic shift to match up my uneven parts and make living a blessing rather than a curse.

I quit...and yet, apparently I'm still rolling the dice and plodding along.
I quit...as I reach out for a hand, a hug, printed inspiration, a warm puppy lick.
I quit.

Oh yeah, prove it. Perhaps I'm bluffing.  Perhaps I just want to quit this particular definition of life and not life all together.  Perhaps I'm not.

I quit...as I sip my coffee and crack open the spine of my book.

I quit...as I take a deep breath.

Trapped in the potholes of cliches

Perhaps that's the writer's curse of depression: everything is defined by cliches...accurate, true, and utterly devoid of any individual slant. 


Boring and trite, they sum up the roller coaster days and meaningless minutes without actually saying anything new, without owning my own letters, expressing to the world "this is me." Instead i'll just point you toward the book of quotes on the shelf or the cute posters on the wall and instruct you to read.

Then again, who am I writing for? 

I write because it's what I know to do, because it stills the ceaseless motion of cleaning and to-do lists and text-tapping thumbs.  I write because otherwise i lose my breath among unsaid words, suffocating on stomped down phrases, traveling through life on autopilot unable to calm the tangled panic that blooms.

And alas, if it's cliches I must start with, so be it.

Prompts of not "counting the minutes but making every minute count" only induce guilt and having the "power to create my own reality" leaves me labled as a failure.  I can't "act as-if" or "fake it til I make it". I can't "turn my frown upside down" or "put on my big girl underpants" to create a life unknown. 

There's no frame of reference.  No starting point.  No picture in the photo banks of my mind that says - there, that's what I want, that was a life worth living, that is what I need to get back to.  I literally have to create the wheel of an actual life; one spent living and not merely surviving.  And that looks like an insurmountable mountain, too icy to trek alone, too steep to manage on weary legs.

The other option is to stop with the trying, the experiments, the trials, the new ideas and innovative plans.  To continue trudging along, filling hours with tasks and errands, jealous of a grandmother living on borrowed time.  But treading water isn't my forte.  It seems my constitution offers me two choices - forward or back.

I choose back.  I'm too tired, too hopeless to start over yet again, too worn out to try to find my footing only to be blamed when the outcome falls short of a miracle.

And yet, I look into the eyes of those who inexplicably love me and don't have the heart to break the news. Despite it all, i care more about them than myself, care more about what they want.  

What do I want?

I don't even know.  That piece of my brain that should think independently and seems to function for all other adults as they practice self-determination has gone missing, vanquished by too many strong voices and institutions dictating what to think, how to act, when to breath.



So left to the quiet corners of my mind, I get lost and hunker down, overwhelmed by the maze toward an unseen light.  Perhaps someone will find me who knows the answer. 

Perhaps that someone is me.  

Perhaps.