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.

 

With Tears Running Down My Street

People run for all kinds of reasons, some people don’t need a reason – I do. I have never enjoyed running but twice in my life I felt compelled by every fiber of my body to do it anyway.

The first time was over a decade ago. I was in my early twenties and I had recently been destroyed by the ending of a toxic relationship. Then I was running away. I was running from myself, from everything that had happened. I was obsessed, I wanted revenge. I was running to punish myself. Each footfall was filled with rage. My run was fueled by anger and frenzy.

Now I am running again. This running is different. This time I am not running away from my pain, I am running toward it. I am running to connect, not disconnect like last time. I am running to help me get back into my body, to hear her stories, to feel her painful truths. I am running to bring myself home and be whole. I am running into my future, the one I am creating with my own two hands and my heart. This run is fueled right now by sadness and grief, there is also love and honesty here. I am holding myself in this run.

My playlist is short:

Running:
Praying – Kesha
Rescue – Lauren Daigle
Control – Natalie Taylor
Hero –  Regina Spektor

Cool Down:
Amen – Natalie Taylor

 

The titles of these songs say everything about the kind of run I am having now. My pain is with me the entire time, just like last time, only this time I am holding it, not trying to escape it.

As a result I cry when I run.

Yep, out in the open for all the neighbors to see. Sometimes it is a trickle and sometimes it is a snot filled waterfall. I do not care one ounce about what anyone thinks. I am done hiding. No more crying in closets. I exist out in the open now, all of me, even the parts that are hurting. Those parts need the sunshine and birdsong more than my pretty parts who get to witness the glory of life every single day. I will no longer banish any of my parts to darkness, we all get to live in light together now.

So I cry when I run, and I feel connection, and love, and completely alive.

with tears running

This is All I Get

My father popped in to say hello to little bubby and I. It was kismet because I was actually preparing to call him.

I miss him. He has always been the the closest thing to a calm in the storm of my family for me. He is the only one who has ever felt even close to safe. I have never doubted his love.

He held little bubby and we chatted casually for a few minutes then I told the truth.

Dad I don’t know how to communicate with Mom and I do not know what else to do. I do not mean to drag you into the middle of our relationship issues but I am at a loss, I do not know where to go from here.

Then he told the truth and it broke my heart wide open.

If you are waiting for your mother to take responsibility for anything, you will be waiting the rest of your life. It is never going to happen, it is not who she is.
She is not interested in having honest, difficult, uncomfortable conversations even if it would mean deeper connection, healing, and growth.
She does not want to lay anything out on the table and deal with it.
She is not okay with what you are doing.
You have to accept her for who she is and stop fighting for something different; this is it, she is never going to be different.

I am 35 years old. For 35 years I have been fighting with this woman. I have been energetically and directly/verbally begging to be seen, to be allowed to be who I am and that be okay and enough. I have been DESPERATE for connection.

But this is it, this is all the mother I get, she is never going to be different. It is time to stop fighting.

I am devastated.

I feel ripped open. I feel orphaned, motherless. The loss is immense.

I do not hate her for this truth. She cannot give me what she does not have, she has never been able to. My mother was wounded by her mother and I believe that her hurt is so great that she simply does not have anything left over for me. She cannot give love she does not have to give, and I know now that there is a difference between someone telling you they love you and them actually loving you. I know what love feels like now and she is not it.

All of this true AND I am still devastated. My pain is so deep and so vast, I feel I could cry every minute of everyday for a whole week straight, and not be through it.

She has always been the raging water and I have always been trying not to drown. There is a piece of me that wants to slip beneath the surface now and sink. I have been fighting for so long for something I know now will never be different. I feel defeated.

I will not drown in my mother’s rage. To do so would be to agree to carry this pain with me forever. I will not. I will not pass on my mother wound to those I love, I will not.

I will feel my pain. I will grieve. Then I will rise off this branch and fly. I will stop trying to fit somewhere I do not belong.

After my talk with my dad, the pieces of me that want to play small showed up and tempted me with numbing habits I like to engage in to avoid my pain. Here eat this, go buy yourself something nice, watch TV all day, call someone and gossip.

No. It is time to feel the pain. I have been numbing for 35 years, no more. Someone has to take care of me, I am that someone. I will not destroy myself as a way to avoid my pain.

After my conversation with my father I felt closed in being in my home. I needed some space to process. Little bubby and I ran an errand together to accommodate this need. While we were out I was seeing cacti everywhere. On blankets, bowls, bags. Cactus symbolizes self-love for me; it is a plant that relies heavily on itself – even when there is a “love drought” the cactus can survive because of the inner supply of love.
I appreciated the reminder but did not connect too deeply with the message because cactus are in fashion right now, this is less of a message and more of a fluke.

Wrong.

The Universe showed up for me twice in my pain. Driving home from our errand I looked out the window while at a red light and there was a single cactus plant growing alone on the side of the road. Message received. The love I am longing for is my own.

Then at the end of the day little bubby and I went outside and watched the most dazzling sunset I have witnessed since his birth. The sky was on fire. Reds, oranges, pinks, peaches, purples, and deep magnificent blues. There was one solitary star in the middle of it all shining its light bright enough to be seen even in the midst of this glorious display of color. Again, I see this as a message that I am okay on my own. I am enough, I always have been. My love will sustain me and once I have felt my pain and am freed from this burden I believe my love and light will shine so bright that I will be that star.

This gaping wound was caused by lack of love, it will be filled and healed with love, that is the only way I know. I will love myself, I will give love freely, I will accept it gratefully, without shame. I will be love.

I will close this difficult post with the same words I used to hold myself after my last post because I understand it is my job to hold me now, that will never be her job again.

I am my own salvation. I will use these words to rescue/save/heal/connect/love myself.

I see your pain. I am here. You are not alone. This was NEVER okay. I will protect you. We will get help. This will not continue. 

I love you.

You are lovable.

You are loved.

And once more.. I love you. You are lovable. You are loved. You are love.

 

Nelsonian Knowledge

I am alternating between two books right now, both from the little free library near my home. Both Sides Now was my book of choice last night mainly because I accidentally left my other book in the car and I was not in the mood to go retrieve it in my nightgown.

Both Sides Now is an enthralling read, it is the kind of book that makes you lose time because you are so in it, AND it is intensely anxiety producing for me. Last night I could feel the palpitations wanting to start, my levels of panic rising with each mini chapter I would complete.

It is a memoir that details the intimate moments of excruciating loss. Loss on a level that most of us hope and pray never to experience. Loss that we do not want to even recognize can exist because then we have to see a truth no one wants to face: if it could happen to them , to could happen to me.

This morning I woke up thinking about how I do it, the thing we all do. I sit secure in the knowledge that I am going to live to see the end of this day, that everyone I love is going to live to see the end of this day. That my health will be with me for years and years and years to come because I am only 33 and have my whole life ahead of me.

I do know better.

I have worked with individuals and families that had their lives uprooted by a new reality when death and illness came to their doorstep in unexpected ways. I have been of the front lines of a cancer diagnosis, I have been in the fox hole with the families and individuals during certain aspects of treatment, I have co-facilitated caregiver support groups for other terminal illnesses, I have experienced the fallout – sat in the emotional aftermath of loss with family members and loved ones.

I have also experienced much of this first hand in my own life with family and friends.

So I do know better.

I know better because I have sat in the hospital room with my 20 something year old family member who was about to undergo treatment when just a few days before the news came that the cancer was back. I know better because I carry the stories of a close friend who lost all her hair because of the meds she had to take, I know better because time and time again in my young life I have witnessed and experienced my own suffering stemming from this broken illusion of time, and control, and certainty in a future that none of us have ever truly been promised.

Still, I sit in my willfulness ignorance as often as possible because I am not ready, and I am not sure I ever will be ready to face the truth: All we have is now. That is all we ever have. This exact moment. That is it.

This morning I sent my husband to work with a silent prayer on my lips that the Universe will bring him home to me this evening. I prayed for this today and that everyday this will continue to happen until we are old and ready to face our mortality with many happy full years behind us. I said this silent prayer to the Universe all the while secretly knowing that there will never be a time in my life that I will feel as though I have had enough, I will always want more from life no matter my age or experience.

So I will go on making plans, and planting gardens, and dreaming dreams of things to come. I will look to the future with hope and certainty AND I will be thankful right now, this very moment, for all that I have. Love, connection, the privilege of knowing what it feels like to be wrapped in my husband’s arms, every experience I have had in this life of mine because none of it was promised, not one day, not one minute. To argue with my husband is a privilege that I take for granted while another person might be willing to give up everything to argue with a loved again. When we both return home tonight I will remember this and I will  be grateful.

Sitting with this uncomfortable reality, allowing myself to set down my willful ignorance about life’s harsh truths, makes it so clear just how truly entitled we all are every single day. One of life’s fundamental truths is that nothing is ever promised yet we walk around every moment of every day so sure of the next.

now