Designed to Feel

The time of Covid has been a learning experience for us all. For me it has inspired deeper reflection around grief and connection and healing. I have been processing this through in my art and in my relationships, now I want to lay some of my discoveries down here.

In my twenties when my grief was heavy and the darkness felt too scary to go near, I didn’t. I did not dare take one step towards it, I was certain it would eat me whole and I would not survive it. So I chose disconnection over healing. This is what that looked like:

  • Staying busy. Stillness led to my Truth creeping up on me and I was running hard from those Truths, busy kept those thoughts and feelings at bay, there was no room for them in my life.

I stayed busy at work. I stayed busy after. Social plans and errands and any possible thing I could think of to not be still. It worked. I rarely felt anything and if I did find myself still long enough to start feeling, there was numbing that could take care of that.

  • Numbing. I turned my feelings off with alcohol and drugs, benedryl and red wine were a go-to during my darkest moments, usually though it was beer, vodka and/or marijuana. This relationship was drugs and alcohol was short lived for me, my real go-to, as I have shared previously, has always been food and shopping. I also did not realize until more recently, TV. After I gave birth to little bubby we would not have the TV on in our home from 7am-7pm and I went through major withdrawals.

When I am numbing nothing gets through, it is even more effective than staying busy, it is like a kill switch for emotions.

  • Self-abandonment. Numbing and staying busy are two examples of how I would self-abandon. It was most pronounced in my relationships though. I would chose others over myself again and again. I was not attuned to Self, I was not aware I had needs so zero effort was being made to get them met. I did not experience myself as having value so it was very easy for me to invest myself outside and abandon all feeling inside.

For me self-abandonment meant avoiding conflict to keep others happy, which translated to them accepting me rather rejecting me. It meant forming myself into molds to “fit in” with expectations placed upon me by family, by partners, by friends, and by my employer. It meant hustling for my worthiness because it was always attached to something outside of myself. The outside world had the final word on whether or not I was enough.

Choosing healing was the beginning of my untangling process from these ways of being.

Covid is a global crisis, the whole world is experiencing this massive trauma together. So friends, you better believe we are ALL in our work right now. Whether we are choosing to show up in connection and healing or disconnection and darkness is a personal choice each person is faced with right now.

This is what surviving this trauma through choosing connection and healing has looked like for me.

  • Being aware, consciousness. Everyday I wake up I am faced with all of the same choices I was faced with in my twenties (and earlier in life) – feel it or numb it. Connect to Truth or run from it.
    Let me share this friends – You CANNOT run from your Truth. You cannot run from your Truth anymore than you can run from your SELF. It lives right here (I am pointing emphatically at my heart), it will always be with you and you cannot out run it. You completely unable to live outside of it, just as you cannot live outside of your body. The denial, and the numbing, and the trying to out run it – that is not living.

With that said, I have been choosing connection, I have been choosing to feel. I have chosen healing and Love.

Now before I outline how I do this I have to give you all sides – there have been moments I have chosen disconnection, this is where the consciousness comes in. I am aware of the choice I am making and I am allowing myself to have these moments because the body and the spirit needs breaks. Because I am aware of the choices I am making I know what I am feeling that is bringing on the desire to disconnect and have compassion for myself in these moments. I am not punishing myself for going to the chocolate or turning on reruns of The Office, I am allowing myself grace, and like any good parent I am setting limits with myself. This is the difference between then and now, unconditional love and belonging with Self.

  • Emotional, Mind, Body, and Spiritual self-care. My list is long on how I practice self-care, I do not feel a need to outline it. What is important, the real take away, is knowing what your needs are and taking the steps to get them met. Some of your needs can only be met by you, others require you to show up True, and sometimes vulnerable, in your relationships to voice and advocate for them.

This is what it means to not self-abandon. It is about knowing what you need and making those needs priority. It is about valuing Self first. And before you can denigrate yourself or this idea I am going to stop you and say – No, this is not selfish.

Let me give you an example – I meet with soul friends at least once a week on zoom for deep connection and emotional processing. I am committed to this group, I committed to getting my needs for outside connection met with them. I am committed to the promise I made to be someone in their life they can show up True with. AND I have cancelled and rescheduled with them when needed when another inside need took priority. Like sleep for example. If my body is telling me it needs rest more than outside connection, I listen. I will not self-abandon for these people I love. And my constant hope is that they would not self-abandon for me, because my Truth is, I am no longer interested in being in that kind of relationship.

There is one last piece I want to cover before closing this out. The reason the self-care and the awareness are so important is because connection hurts. It is why we do not choose it, it is why we choose to numb. It hurts to feel the grief, the loss. It hurts to be exposed to suffering and violence and panic and fear.

Making the choice to heal, to be connected, to feel it all – it will hurt.

So this is what I leave you with:

You do not have to feel it all at once, and you do not have to walk this path alone. Set limits with yourself. Give yourself times of day when you feel safe to tap in and hold the all of what is coming up for you. Give yourself safe spaces where you can feel everything you need to feel ( a lot of people love the shower). Give yourself permission to be held in safe relationships while you hold and process it all. You do not have to do it all at once and you do not have to do it alone.

Human beings are designed to connect. We are emotional beings designed to connect, this is our evolution and it is a beautiful design. It is why we have these feelings, all of them. It is why we are born into families and live in communities. We are designed to feel and to feel together.

Denying our feelings, choosing to numb and disconnect, it goes against our nature. It is the true root of suffering. When you numb you are going against your true nature.

You are not a rock. You are not a couch or a chunk of pavement. You are not inanimate. You are alive. You are meant to grow and have experiences (all kinds) and feel and process and connect.

These are scary times. There is sorrow and so much fear. And here you are, already surviving it. You are not alone in this. Take this time to lean in and be with yourself. Take this time to reach out and connect and speak Truth with those you love. This is an invitation to the entire world to Live, really Live. Give yourself permission to accept the invitation and feel.

With BIG Love and an open heart,

Jillian

I Promise.

I am in a place of promises right now. Reflecting on the sacredness of this level of intention.

On retreat in the spring I was guided through a deep meditation and while inside of the space that is neither here, nor there, I had a very clear vision. It was two little souls crowded around a daisy making a plan. This was my spiritual remembering of the soul contract my brother and I made before beginning this human experience. In this space of dark and light where our souls existed first we made promises to each other; mine was to do the job I came here to do – his was to keep me on my path, no matter the personal cost, by showing up in his darkness when needed.

I can tell you friends, this sweet soul who is my beloved brother kept his promises. And these promises came with great personal cost. It is why I try each day to peel another layer back, to go deeper, to stay on the path. I have a promise to keep.

Fast forward to now –

I was given the news that surgery is needed to remove my gallbladder. I have multiple conditions happening at once that cannot be fixed holistically or with medication. Surgery is the best path towards healing.

… I wanted to write “whole body healing”, but that doesn’t feel quite right knowing that a part of me literally has to be removed from the whole for me to heal.

I am going to have to sit with this outside of this post, there is something to explore deeper here.

So I am preparing for surgery. Preparing for surgery goes beyond cleaning my house and meal prepping so I can rest with ease as I recover. It is more than dietary changes and making plans for my mother to be with little bubby while his momma is away.

There are things I am doing for myself that go beyond the surface level details.

I am preparing an honoring ceremony to thank my gallbladder for the ways she held me when I struggled to hold myself. I am taking time to feel everything that I feel in the wake of this news; my shame, my grief, my fear, my gratitude, my love, my anxiety. I am balancing myself between the pause and the urgency given the severity of my condition. I am taking time to plan my path forward, making space for fluidity – this piece is especially important because in the face of the unknown I certainly have a part that shows up wanting to control anything she can. I am holding her and listening to her concerns, she is part of my processing but she is not in charge of this part of my self-care.

There is more happening inside this space of love and care but this enough for now.

A soul friend and fellow momma gave me a beautiful piece imagery to hold onto while my gallbladder and I complete this last chapter of our story together –

“I am picturing your gallbladder taking along with it anything that does not energetically belong with you anymore”.

Yes.

Yes and Amen.

My gallbladder held so much for me, it was so strong for so long. It shutting down and saying “Enough” is not some reflection on lack of strength – it is a very clear message to me that it is time.

It is time. You are ready. 

It was holding me until I was able to fully hold myself. Now that I am here my gallbladder finally gets to rest, her job is done.

So I count my gallbladder in my gratitude this evening, for all she has done for me, my gratitude is immeasurable.

This is my promise to you, sweet organ who held me so devotedly these last 36 years, I will Love. I will Love so deep and so True that every part of me will feel it and every part of me will know – I will Love so purely that the power of it will explode out of me like delicate particles of light and all those who encounter me will know.

I am a soul with promises to keep and I will spend my life doing just that.

 

Being True

A few months ago my therapist gifted me a word of warning;

The bigger you get, the more you stand in your light, the more people will show up in shadow and try to take from you.

She said they will like my message so they will copy it. She said they will like my words so they will use them. She said they will like the way I make them feel so they will try to be just like me.

She said it will hurt.

When she told me this I cried.

I was particularly struck by the thought that someone else would take my words, my sacred words, the tools I have been using since the age of nine to find my way home to myself – and call them their own.

The very thought was devastating.

I know her warning is truth. I have already experienced this very thing multiple times in fact. And she is right, I am hurt when it happens.

Recently I have been feeling the niggle of this fear in the dark recesses of my mind.

My work right now is being True, being Love, and being in my Power. The closer I get to these goals the more I feel the niggle.

This is what I would like to say to the niggle today;

I will be okay. My Sacred Truth will still be True even if it is copied by others. Part of the purpose of living out loud in my truth is to allow my truth to help others find their own. If part of that process involves shadow work in this way, that is their work and I will leave them to it. My thoughts, feelings, actions, beliefs, identities – these belong to me. Nothing changes that.

What I realize is this; these women I admire, Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle, Abby Wambach, Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, my therapist.. None of them are any less who they are because we are all out here admiring them and trying to be like them and even sometimes internalizing their messages as our own until our True voices emerge.

Their lights do not dim because ours start to turn on and turn up.

Their is enough light for us all.

So, little fear, niggling me from dark corners, please know that I hear you and Yes, our Truth is Sacred. I know you are scared and you want to protect it. Staying small will not keep us safe though. We are safe, I am the safety you are seeking. Our light can shine, we can be True, and Love, and Power AND be safe.

Modesty Schmodesty

Last night I attended my first crochet and knitting social group at the library.

I have so many take aways.

  1. It was awesome to drive alone in the car, turn the music up (no little ears in the backseat to overwhelm), and be alone with my thoughts. It was awesome to be alone. I miss being alone. I love little bubby and my husband fiercely, AND I miss being alone.
  2. It felt good to see the world clearly. When I am able to close down all the momma tabs in my brain for a while I am able to see the world so much more intensely again. I m someone who pays attention; I see the variation of greens in the grass, I see the fake flowers sitting on the windowsill of the open window of the church. I SEE my surroundings and am  inspired by all of it. Motherhood has fogged my brain a bit, I am still paying attention but maybe not as closely and maybe not all the time. I felt so myself as I marveled at the long shadows on the pavement and the way the 6:30 sun turned the green leaves gold in the park.
  3. I was not afraid. This one is BIG. In the time before I was in my power, I was afraid. I was afraid of so much. I would have never gone by myself downtown in the evening to a meet up with a bunch of strangers. All of that would have felt scary and dangerous to me. Last night I was not afraid. I was not afraid of finding parking, I was not afraid of walking by myself on the street, I was not afraid of the men on the street around me, I was not afraid of the city, I was not afraid of getting lost, or being new with unknown people, I was not afraid of being accepted or not. I was not afraid. I was not afraid because now I know and believe that I am safe. Let me be very clear about what I am saying — I know and believe I am safe because I know and believe that I am the safety I am seeking. I am safe in the world because I am safe within myself.
  4. I was not afraid – AND, I was nervous. I felt it rise up as I was driving there. It was a little part of me, preschool age, she was nervous about being new and being alone. I told her, I am with you, I am not going to leave you, we are all going to together. That was it. That was all it took. She knew she was safe and the nervous energy immediately lifted. Again, I am the safety I am seeking. If I know that I am wholly connected to myself and have made a promise not to self-abandon for anyone or anything on the outside, I am not afraid to be BIG and there is no room for anxiety because I am safe.

So this was all the internal processing that was happening before I ever stepped foot into the group. Here is what joining a new group looked like for me now from a place of deep self-love and connection.

I did not hustle, I did not prostitute. I am sure for some reading the second half of that sentence might feel icky. This is what social situations used to look like for me though. My insecurities would ride shot gun which would always lead to a terrible hustle to fit in and more often than not I would prostitute a piece of myself to try to experience belonging. This is what happens when I operate from a place of disconnection and shame. This is what it looks like when my trauma and insecurities run the show. This was not my experience last night. I walked in, made eye contact, said hi, found a seat and started crocheting. The library employee who hosts the group introduced herself and then introduced me to the group. Then I sat back and listened and observed while I worked with my yarn. I felt seen even without exerting any force or effort because I felt connected to self.

Something I noticed right away as I sat quietly working was that socializing does look different for me now. It has been years since I have socialized on a very human level, no healing or spiritual dimension present in the social group. My social group now consists only of other souls on their journey towards healing and purpose as well as a few close friends who I have known most of my life and who I can be emotionally and spiritually naked with.

The first thing I noticed was the difference in energy with this group. I felt really strong energy, I felt the hustle and insecurities of people in the group, I felt their wounds. I kept feeling triggered to comment on what I was hearing, seeing, and feeling. I held myself though because none of this was mine to hold and I was not going to set any part of myself down to hold what was not mine. I do not need to do that to belong, I already belong. After a moment of reconnection to my truth about where my sense of belonging comes from I was fine. I no longer felt triggered by anything or anyone around me, I was able to just be. It was pretty fantastic, I was super comfortable.

Overall socializing for me amounted to two statements; at one point to group was having a conversation about something and I felt comfortable sharing my truth that “we are allowed to Love what we Love”. My other contribution to group discussion came when the host shared that she was crocheting “booty shorts” for her son as part of his requested Halloween costume. This brought up the topic of appropriateness to which she replied “his body his rules” (which I fucking LOVED and agree with my whole heart!) so I said so and then said modesty schmodesty because the part of me who responded so strongly to her awesome feminist mothering is apparently a weirdo! Who am I kidding, to the outside world most of me probably seems pretty unusual.

With all of the energy flying around the room and the clear projection taking place I was  amazed to find myself feeling calm. More than that, I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed the group. When I stand in my truth of connection and belonging and allow all other beings to hold themselves without feeling the need to pick anyone up, my capacity to experience joy and Love expands, it is infinite.

I am growing. Everyday I am growing. I am becoming truer, I am becoming more powerful, I am LOVE, more and more and more I am the embodiment of LOVE.

I do not need a single thing from this group except for everyone to be just as they are and for me to be all that I am too.

It was good. It is good. There is so much goodness.

We Don’t Have to Rush

This post is inspired by a memory that surfaced from elementary school;

Sometime during 4th grade, after the death of my Nana, Mom and I had a hard morning.

We were running late getting me to school. I do not know if my Mom was working at the time, so I am unsure if this feeling of rush and force was bigger than just me not getting to school on time, maybe there was more at stake than I knew.

Let me set the scene for you;

None of the clothes I want to wear are clean so Mom has forced me into a pair of jean shorts I am mortified to be seen in and some dumb shirt I do not like.

Here is the thing about these shorts;  first you should know when I was kid money was tight so Mom got resourceful at times. She had a talent for sewing, she made both mine and my cousin’s first communion dresses and you would never have known they were not some expensive store bought dresses like the other girls. What my Mom created for me did not always line up with what 9-year-old fashion was at the time.

These shorts had been jeans that I ripped the knees out of while playing outside the prior summer. We could not afford to throw away clothes that still fit so Mom attempted to transform them into shorts and the end product fell short. I gave it little thought because I had another pair of jeans and a pair of shorts I could wear and re-wear so no one at school ever had to see my Mom’s creation anyway.

This particular morning my Mom had decided I would not re-wear my jeans for what was probably the 11th time in a row, with no other clean bottoms to wear she told me to put on the hacked up shorts.

So I was already sitting in dread of what the day would hold for me, I would surely be a target in these awful shorts, while I frantically tore up my closet floor looking for my sneakers as my Mom yelled we have to leave now!

My sneakers were no where to be found! How was I going to go to school shoe-less? Guess I would just have to stay home.

My Mom was having none of it. She shoved my fancy white church shoes (which were covered in scuff marks from climbing on everything in sight) over my colorful tube socks and told me to head for the car.

I was stupefied. What was she doing?! My protests were fierce and immediate; Mom I can’t wear my church shoes, I have to wear sneakers for PE or they won’t let me participate and I will get in trouble!

She did not budge and with that I was off to school in my rag tag jean shorts, dumb shirt, colorful tube socks and fancy white scuffed up church shoes.

My Mom dropped me off and left. I was so ashamed my eyes were burning before I got out of the car. I did not know how I was going to face the fourth grade, I did not know how I was going to survive the day.

This was my first walk of shame. I was late, the car ramp was empty. Alone I walked through the vacant halls, the little heels on my fancy white scuffed up shoes clacking an echo all the way to the brown metal door of my classroom. I peeked in the slatted window on the door, everyone was in their seats, class had started. I knew the moment I opened that door all eyes would be on me.

It must have been bad because I lose my memory here.

I pick back up maybe 30 minutes later; I am at my teacher’s desk, I am crying, I am asking to go see the guidance counselor. I have become close with our guidance counselor this year, I have spent some time talking with her between Nana dying and my cousin and first best friend being removed from the family and living in a group home.

In the counselor’s office she listens as I cry. She knows my Mother and thinks fondly of her, she tries to balance my feelings for me. There is no balance to be struck, I am wounded and I have no room for whatever my Mother’s truth might be. In my mind she made me prey and then abandoned me  in the lion’s den that was the 4th grade.

The counselor has a pair of sneakers from the lost and found she offers me so I can participate in PE. They are only a small step up from my fancy white scuffed up church shoes. I see another pair, some black Keds with cool mesh sides, I ask for those ones instead – Maybe I can survive the day in those, maybe the kids won’t notice my Mom-sewn-shorts and instead they will just see my cool sneakers. The guidance counselor explains that those shoes are too small for me. I know she is right but I am desperate, I plead and she concedes. I wedge my tube socked foot into the too small shoe and blissfully ignore my cramped toes as I walk back to class.

I know that I do not know this story in full. I know what my scraps of memory tell me, I know what my feelings tell me, but I do not know what I am missing due to dissociation and I do not know what my Mother’s truth is. I can make conjectures and try to fill in blanks based on what I knew of my life at that time but to what end?

This was not one of my big traumas in childhood, it was a hard day. I think the reason this memory has stayed with me is to serve as a reminder now.

I am the adult, he is the child. What will moments like these look like for us?

There are so many times when I have a plan in my head for how the day will go, every minute for the next three hours planned out, then he wakes up from nap and takes an extra long time eating his yogurt because he really wants to work on holding the spoon today. Or we are going to the playground but a few feet outside the door he decides he would rather sit in the driveway and play with sticks.

Here are some things I know;

The first is that I have something now that my Mother did not have when I was 9, security.

Financial security that allows me to be home right now and not working on someone else’s schedule where our mornings would be rushed and potentially stressful.

Security in who I am as a Mother. I am so connected to my truth of infinite enoughness, his and my own, that no part of me can be shaken into believing we are less. Even when I get it wrong I know I am enough. When it is  hard, we are enough, this is enough, all of it is enough. This truth goes beyond my role as Mother, it is woven into every part of my being. This level of security within myself keeps me from falling into places of scarcity where I would value being on time over him or our connection in a moment. It keeps me from valuing “doing” over “being”. It keeps me right here where I am meant to be, in the moment with him.

Of course there are times where we make plans and try to keep a schedule and of course I balance what is going on with him with that schedule. I would not dishonor someone else’s time because he wants to continue playing blocks. What I am very clear on is this; if one day my nine year old child is having a hard morning because we are running late and the clothes he wants to wear are not clean, and he cannot find his sneakers, and maybe I am even running late for work or another important adult commitment… I will pause.

I will be with him, as long as it takes for us to find our way through and out the other side. We will take the time to find the shoes and we will talk about his feelings of anxiety or disappointment, if any, around not being able to wear what he wanted to wear to school. I will put everything else down if that is what it takes to hold space for him.

The way I, together with my husband, love him is the way he will learn to love himself. And if I am willing to do this for him, I have to be willing to do it for me too. That is the other thing I know, my Mother has never fully known how to hold space for me because she does not hold herself sacred.

We, all of us, you, me, our babies, our parents – we are ALL worthy of time. The world will continue to tick away while we exist inside of our pause taking care of ourselves and each other.

I am grateful that my inner nine-year-old has been sitting here next to me riding shot gun and guiding my heart as I parent this sweet soul who chose me.

I am grateful for all the ways my Mother failed me, therein giving me so much opportunity to build the resilience needed to become the human I am meant to be.

I am grateful for my ability to hold space for myself, it creates capacity for me to hold sacred space for those I love most, which is sometimes the stranger walking next to me and sometimes my sweet little boy.

Holding space for myself tonight meant writing this story down because this is the moment it was ready to be shared. Holding space for myself tonight meant asking my husband if he would be willing to hold a little space for me tomorrow by getting up with little bubby so I could catch up on the sleep I will miss to be here with myself and share this story.

As I close I am holding the energy of deep gratitude is for my husband, who holds space for me with so much love, and for every other person in my life who holds space for me and allows me to feel what it is like to be held sacred.

Doing it Scared

Our family motto is We can do hard things.

Before becoming full-time mommy I worked as a counselor primarily with children and teens. Over and over again I saw this theme of victim mentality, self-doubt, and fear play out in hurtful ways in my client’s lives. It was an empowering statement I used daily with clients and I knew I needed to bring it home. I need the reminder as well. We all do.

I am not small and I can do hard things.

Tuesday last week I did something that for me was hard. I attended story time with little bubby.

I have been wanting to take bubby to story time for weeks but have been too afraid.

My fear existed on many levels:

Fear of the unknown – what is going to happen?
Fear of not being enough in some way – something happening and me not knowing the exact perfect way to handle the situation.
Most of all, Fear of allowing myself to be seen in my role as momma. I am afraid of judgment, disconnection, getting it wrong, failing my son in front of an audience.

It is an incredibly vulnerable and courageous thing to become a parent. I am opening my heart to all kinds of ache and there is no escaping it. Being a parent will break my heart.

I know this is true AND I do not take anything back. I am choosing this knowing full well at times it is going to hurt and I have no control.

Tuesday bubby took an early nap that set us up perfectly to make story time happen. I decided it was a time to step into my fear and go. I was still nervous AND I went away. I did not allow my fear to stop me. I channeled one of the women from my soul family and I did it scared.

We showed up 5 minutes late. My perfectionist piece was begging me to call the whole thing off, when we walk in and all eyes will be on us. They will judge us for our tardiness. I will look like a bad mom who doesn’t have it together. We will make a scene.

I energetically held the hand of my perfectionist piece and told her, All of this may be true AND we are going to be okay. This is worth it.

It was worth it. We walked in late, everyone looked to the door as we walked in. We joined the group with ease and the rest was pure joy. Bubby was taking it all in, trying to hold hands with other babies and hugging the puppet being used during story time.

I felt deep connection to myself and to bubby because I allowed myself to be brave and do something that was fun for bubby and I while also ,allowing myself to be seen. I sat in a room of mommies and knew I was worthy. I belong here, I am enough and we are okay.

I am past the point of playing small in my life. Bubby needs me to be big. He needs to see me and know that I am big so he will know that he is big. We are not small and we can do hard (scary) things.

I am grateful for the opportunity to stand in my fear and shine.
I am grateful for small acts of courage rooted in vulnerability.
I am grateful for my commitment to growth.
I am grateful for this wonderful experience bubby and I got to share.

You’re Not Having a Good Day

That is what my husband said to me after I experienced my 3rd major calamity of the day. I agreed. While I was having a rough time my clumsy alter ego, Calamity Jill, was really living it up!

It all started this afternoon.

I drove across town, roughly 35 minutes, to meet with a new family I will be working with and unfortunately the appointment did not take place. I got stood up. No big deal, sometimes wires get crossed. I left a voicemail after waiting outside their home for a bit and once they get back to me I will reschedule. Since my schedule was suddenly open I decided to pay some family a visit who happened to live nearby.

When getting out of my car at my family’s home I turned funny and managed to spill my entire La Croix into my play therapy bag of toys and books. Good Grief!

I went inside with my play therapy bag and spent time catching up with family while I cleaned out and Lysol wiped the contents.

No big deal, these things happen (especially to me).

The real mess took place once I got home.

I let Lu out, brought her back in and started working on some documentation for work. About an hour later I was done and started picking up around the house. I went into the office briefly to grab a canvas and to put away some work documents and went on about my business for the next hour until my husband arrived home.

Upon his arrival he called out for the dog which struck me as weird because she ALWAYS meets him at the door. Maybe she is sleeping in the bedroom and didn’t hear him? We both started calling for her: nothing. My husband asked me if I accidentally left her outback. I panicked! Oh God I hope not! It had rained- hard- in the last hour since I saw Lu, there is no way I could have left her out in the rain.  I opened the backdoor, desperately trying to temper my rising anxiety and terror, and starting whistling and calling for her: nothing. In the background I heard  my husband still calling for her in the house. The terror was really starting to grow. Did she get outside? Is she running the street with no collar and no microchip? Is she dead in a gutter? Where is my baby?

Just as I was reaching the point of hysteria she came bounding around the corner and jumped up to kiss me hello. Oh dear God Lucy where were you???

My husband came around the corner and said I needed to get a take a look in the office. This is what I found:

office

I didn’t even see her follow me in when I had been in the office an hour earlier. Luckily some ripped up paper and a destroyed pine cone was of little significance compared to what she could have gotten into while accidentally locked in the office during a thunder storm for an hour. My poor baby. This is what anxiety looks like. I felt like the worst mother on earth. I can only imagine the panic and abandonment she was feeling. I got on her level and we cuddled for a few minutes. Then I declared the rest of the night The Night of Lucy! to make it up to her (or at least try).

The night of Lucy started with a nice big puppy dinner. Then she and I went for a walk at the park just the two of us where we chased frogs and played in mud puddles. When we got home I carried her into the bathroom and placed her in the tub to wash her muddy feet. After her foot bath she got a treat AND a new toy. My husband and I have a bag of toys that we bought on sale a while back and there are tucked away for Christmas. A screw up like today definitely warranted a early Christmas present.

Lu was thrilled. She and I played chase and fetch and then.. catastrophe. I was ramping up to throw her new toy down the hall for her to chase after and she got a bit to excited. This resulted in Lu jumping on my husband who was minding his own business eating shrimp ceviche on the couch. Lu’s foot landed right in his bowl of fish and vegetables dumping the whole thing into his lap before she ran off down the hall to get her toy.

My husband just sat there in his fish staring at me. He said nothing. He didn’t need to, his face said it all. I quickly saved him from the soggy fish blanket (that thankfully saved him from fish REALLY landing in his lap), got him a new throw, and cleaned up the rest of the mess. He just looked at me, laughed, and said You are not having a good day.

No kidding. I can’t get anything right today.

Suddenly Fuel lyrics flashed across my brain:

Spilled her coffee, broke a shoe lace. She smeared the lipstick on her face. Slammed the door and said I’m sorry I had a bad day again.

Some days that song is my anthem.

Later I sat in my husband’s lap, tears rolling down my cheeks; do you think she loves me even when I get it wrong?

Yes.

Do you love me even when I get it wrong?

Yes.

I am going to get it wrong. I am going to fail. I am still loveable.

While writing this post and sitting in my shame and embarrassment even while trying to minimize these feelings by finding the humor in the situation (a favorite defense mechanism of mine), I thought of Virginia Woolf. More specifically I thought of what Virginia Woolf said about women who tell the truth:

A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life.

I am a clumsy, forgetful, sometimes all together absent minded woman. I am woman who gets it wrong and sometimes hurts the ones she loves most in the world. I fail and I get it wrong and experience excruciating shame as a result from time to time. AND I stand in these truths and love myself, even when I feel so incredibly unlovable. This is my power. This is my strength. Love. My ability to stand in my truth and love myself there.

 

Well Managed

When starting a new job I am normally racked with anxiety the first few weeks and sometimes it lingers over the first few months depending on the learning curve. I am proud to share that this time is different and the last two times have been different as well.

My anxiety levels were low when I officially started both internships during college. I had some anxiety leading up to starting because I was not sure what to expect but once I got into my placement I was fine.

I definitely experienced some anxiety leading up to my start date with this position, again it was connected with general fear of the unknown. When I actually started though my anxiety dropped off.

When I was in the professional world prior to returning to school (and therapy) my anxiety was not always well managed. I would fret over anything and everything, I never felt my work was good enough and was constantly pushing myself for perfection.

My perfectionist piece absolutely lives and breathes in professional spaces for me. These areas of my life are traditionally where I care the most about what others think. It has always felt like there is a Wrong and Right and my philosophy around the AND/Gray area has no room here.

Well not this time. I have been able to give myself so much more room while I learn and figure things out. I am not bullying myself as hard as I used to; the bully is still there but she whispers now, she used to scream and shout. I have noticed that I have a better relationship with my inner critic/bully now too so when she does pop up I am able to take care of myself and not be unwound.

Yesterday there were two items that I could not complete without reaching out to my supervisors with questions. I was bummed. I understand what to do so I wanted to be able to just do it on my own and impress both them and myself. I needed help though. I could not find a template I needed to complete one task and I was given feedback on my work for the other task that didn’t feel right to me so I needed to follow up before making what might end up being unnecessary changes.

I had a moment of feeling let down by my need for help but then I remembered, I have never done ANY OF THIS before. This is all completely new and up to this point I HAVE figured most things out on my own with minimal hand holding. I am doing great! I am not expected to know how to do everything, it is literally my first week.

I mentally patted myself on the back, sent the emails I needed to regarding my questions, and put my work away for the night as it was the end of the day.

In my past life I would not have been able to self-validate and self-soothe in this way and I would have spent the whole night worried and restless. I would have absolutely lost sleep. And for what? The next morning I would check my email, my questions would be answered, and the world would keeping turning.

So this time I validated my good work so far, relaxed with my husband, got a restful nights sleep, and when I got up this morning everything was fine.

I got my first email response and discovered that the reason I could not find the template I needed was because it was never sent to me. This was not me being inept, it was my supervisor’s error. In the past I would have been so hard on myself over my perceived inability and failure just to later find out it was someone else’s error. This time I spared myself all that grief and emotional strife and am thankful because it would have been a lot of heart ache just to discover I did everything right.

With my clients I have them rate their symptoms on a scale of 1-10, 10 being most severe; my anxiety when starting new professional ventures used to rate somewhere around an 8 or 9, now I would say at my worst I am maybe a 4 but otherwise I am a 1 or 2.

I am proud of myself. Words I never used to speak. I am proud of myself, I am doing a great job, I am following my instincts, and I am taking good care of myself.

Open and Ready

I think I am ready. I have done my best to prepare myself for this day and now it has come. I have all my office supplies, my forms, and my in case of emergency pack which includes everything from paper towels to a whole other outfit. You never know what to expect and all I can do is be as prepared as possible and remain open and flexible.

This morning I emailed a friend to release some anxiety, which surprisingly was completely unrelated to this, I took my meditation outside, and now I am going to start printing off documents and loading my car.

I feel ready, I feel grounded, I feel like I am where I am supposed to be.

There is a little anxiety swirling beneath the surface but it is small and related to making sure I get all of the needed information to complete my documentation the way I am expected to. In the past my anxiety was always attached to feelings of doubt, I am pleased to share that as of right now my not-good-enough are silent. They may not stay silent but for right now I feel sure, rather than unsure.

My intention for the day has to do with believing in myself. A few days ago when I was cleaning out one of my file boxes and reorganizing I came across a scrap sheet of paper with a poem by Rudyard Kipling scribbled on it. I remember the day I first discovered this poem, I was volunteering at Hospice. It seems like a good foundation to root myself in today.

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Boundaries and Self-Care in My New Role

My mantra for my new job is I will figure it out. That has helped as I am having training upon training and document upon document all thrown at me at once. I have also applied my mantra to how I navigate this new position with my personal life. I am working from home and on the road, I have to completely rework my personal/professional boundaries.

This balance is imperative for self-care purposes so I am able to do my job well and so I am able to be well in all aspects of my life.

Every other position I have ever held has been in an office which meant at the end of the day I got to physically leave work. I got to leave my work computer, my work email, my work phone, my work forms. I got to disconnect from all of it and leave it until the next day when my shift started. Now all of these things I used to get to leave are here in my personal space, everything has the potential to mix together, no boundaries between personal and professional. I have to create these boundaries. That is part of my figuring it out.

Another part of my figuring it out is my self-care. Self-care has become a popular buzzword outside of the field of social work. I think this is great, to me it says as a society we are experiencing a shift towards self-love or at the very least self-preservation. We are understanding that it does not make sense to run ourselves ragged and that it is neither selfish nor shameful to put ourselves at the top of our priority list, or at least on it if not at the top.

I can already tell that my self-care routine will look different as I transition from full-time student/intern to working professional. I have felt myself tempted by to slip back to negative coping skills I have leaned on in the past when my priority was not self-care, but instead numbing.

I will figure this out.

I feel myself needing nature more than ever. I feel myself needing movement to release emotions that start to feel stuck. I feel myself needing daily meditation to stay present and out of the grip of anxiety.
These were all things I gave myself before and on a regular basis however it was just as needed. I am feeling like these will all become a daily practice for me now.

I know I will figure this out too. I will find my balance in this new place and I will hold it sacred. In order for me to honor my clients and those I work with I have to honor myself.