How To Burn Down A Life

There’s a moment where you realize that the more you try to help the process of getting your life together, the more it falls apart.  One morning, you wake up, you drink coffee, you listen to the birds, and you realize the answer was there all along: switch teams and burn your life down. 

I didn’t make this decision because I’m sad or because it’s hard to Do Things.  I’ve made this decision while I’m mentally very well (neither depressed nor manic).  There is no space for any life amid the half constructed/destroyed rubble of what I have been trying to build ever since I left Michigan with a backpack and a dream. I have not gone fully toward any of my goals (except school, and that broke my heart to stop going, even though I knew I should) and that is so much worse than not doing it at all.  All of it needs to be ash.

The minute I gave the plan a name, I felt hope for the first time in a very long time. 

Someone once told me that a dream dies three times before it comes to fruition.  I don’t know if that’s true,  I don’t know if I even believe in having a dream any more,  but if it’s true then I am in the home stretch.  At night, I dream of those pinecones that only propagate where there is fire.

I’ve been plotting the arson of my heart for a while. I started seeking an answer in earnest on a weekend at the ocean with my best friend, a month ago. The other week I was horribly sick, and could not read or watch TV I was so ill… and so my mind churned and it all crystallized. So now I have a plan.

Step 1:  Get rid of all the things that are attached to the definition of self you have been living. 

For me, this is getting rid of visual white noise, getting rid of projects I haven’t finished, getting rid of decor that has to do with who I want to be.  Not making things uncomfortable or getting rid of everything, but stripping down to essentials.  Getting rid of anything that I find uncomfortable.  I’m systematically getting rid of things that I don’t want to clean, things that are linked to my journey of creating. I’m going to trash the collage by my bed of things that comfort me, the ideals that I would like to enjoy and live.  They are done.

Step 2:  Let go of people who are not allies. 

They don’t have to be bad.  I just have to pare down my time and attention and increase quality.  Anyone who treats me like the Giving Tree and sits on my stump… i’m burning the stump.  Go sit on someone else.  Anyone who talks about collaboration but really means control.  Anyone who can’t receive love (we are burning a life down, we don’t have time at the moment to teach anyone).  Maybe it’s not forever, but it has to be firm for the foreseeable future.

3. Give up the idea that you are doing your job “just for now”.

I had dreams of doing all sorts of creative things for a living.  Then I thought that I would go to work and use the work to fund creative things.  What this meant in real life is that I did not ever buy into what I was doing.  Even when I found the work interesting and recognized that there was a potential for fulfillment,  the fact that I wasn’t doing what I felt I was meant to do undermined everything whether I knew it or not.  So I have decided to Buy In.  This Is What I Do Now.  Maybe I’ll never do anything else in my life, maybe I will… but as far as I’m concerned, This Is It For Me.  I’m going to figure out how to not only do it better, but do it the best.

4. Stop Being A “Good Wife” and “Good Daughter”

Because I am an enabler.  I am a worrier, I feel guilt that has no basis. I have unrealistic expectations of how I should be.  I have to get rid of all that mess in my head and emotions and daily life and leave a blankness.  I’m not saying to not love and support my husband and parents, but that my ideas of that are broken and can just be leveled.

5.Say No to Everything For a While

This is the one I haven’t really started yet.  I want to get further with steps 1-4.  Once the beautiful blankness arrives, I will Decide What To Do Next.

6. Externalize A Little Bit 

I have never been someone who spent a ton of time on hair and clothes and nails and makeup, but I’ve realized they can be armor.  My natural transparency can be a little obscured by it, and it gives me some breathing room.  It gives me a creative outlet without undoing what I’ve been working on.

7. To Be Determined

Not sure what G-d is going to do with all this, I’m just very sure He is orchestrating all of this.  I’m very sure that I am guided and that I am empowered to make these decisions and that there is a Hope and a Future even though I’ve given up any notion of what that looks like.

All of the sudden, I feel like I can almost breathe again without sharpness in my chest.

Nice to meet you 2015… shall we be friends?

There are times where I am just tired of the constant motion of life.

Usually this frustrates me and I fight it and it increases.  This week I’ve tried a new tactic and let myself off the hook. What this looks like is lounging with kitties playing video games on New Years day instead of packing up Christmas, organizing and reading.  All things that I enjoy, that must happen… but the momentum they create was a more exhausting prospect than the execution.

New Year’s Eve I took a bath and decided it was time to have a little luxury.  I cleaned the bathroom,  lit a guava candle,  poured the hottest bath I could, dropped in a Lush bath bomb,  slapped a face mask on, and read the first chapters of “Yes, Please” by Amy Poehler.  It was lovely.

While in the tub, I promised myself that I would treat myself gently, and that I would practice some self care in January.  I really believe that self care is important when you have people to serve…and I do.  My mother in law is coming to town to recover from a hip surgery in a few days,  work is amping up, and this community has a lot of people who are in need.

I want to be kinder this year,  to be more connected spiritually,  to practice humility, and to truly enjoy successes.

My intentions this year are to carve out more time alone with G-d,  to drink more water, to practice yoga regularly,  to find ways to be kind,  to create less waste, to send more packages and letters. I feel these are all do-able.

Be kind to yourself, reader.  Serve G-d, serve others and remember to accept love. ❤

Lipstick Dilemmas and Mascara Theology

I have a love/hate relationship with makeup.

Random, right?  This blog is usually not about makeup or hair or nails… and it still isn’t.  I’m getting there.

There’s this memory I have from youth group of this woman with some Serious Makeup going on… like, foundation, blush, blue eye shadow, and perfectly coiffed hair telling this goth girl that she needed to ease back on her black eyeliner and dark lipstick (the only makeup she was wearing) because it was ungodly, and wouldn’t God want her to look sweet?

I have another memory of watching church women discuss Tammy Faye Bakker’s makeup with disdain.  I was very little, and I remember thinking that she looked a bit like a princess and I didn’t understand why people were mean to her.

Sometimes I’m really not into the makeup thing.  I like it, but I’m not someone who needs it to leave the house. Sometimes I’m super girly and go on Youtube and figure out what I want to try and Full Face Makeup.  I have thrown out every cosmetic I own, and I have spent $50 at MAC without batting a well mascara-ed eyelash.  Usually, I feel very passionately on the subject of grooming and makeup.. namely I feel you should do what you want on that front.

RuPaul Charles said that “We’re born naked and the rest is drag”, and that’s pretty true.

Recently I visited this young, hip church in the area, and was reminded at how church culture has a Look, and how much you stick out if you don’t adhere to that Look.  I don’t know that the Look itself is bad, but I don’t know that it’s super genuine either. Maybe I’m too judgy about a Look that I don’t fit into.

This is all roiling around in my head because Self Care is such an important practice, and for me sometimes that means not spending any time on hair and makeup and focusing outside myself, and sometimes that means makeup and taking some time to take stock of myself and express myself creatively.

Makeup to me is like painting.  It’s not about anything other than creativity.  However, I have an awareness that it has an association with vanity, pride and selfishness. Is the medium really the message in this case, or is it possible to have a relationship with Appearance that is not too severe on either side?

Then, there’s an ethical component.  Are we using things to make us beautiful or even express ourselves that are slowly killing us, or our planet?  Trying to find even a basic cleanser without microbeads or a plastic base in it is becoming nearly impossible, unless you shell out for organic good quality products… and then one has to ask if that money is well spent?

Is paint a waste of money?  If not, is paint for your face a waste of money?

There is a lot to be said for humility and meekness, but are we using that to stifle?  There’s a lot to be said for the fact that “man looks at the outward appearance”, but are we using that to justify?

Am I going to come to a conclusion about balance once again?

Or am I going to decide that it doesn’t matter as long as I do what seems right before God for me?

Perhaps I just put a little more mascara on, and remember Tammy Faye, who was beautiful and didn’t need all the makeup… but more importantly was kind and creative and loving.

Lists Save My Life

When I say OCD, I get the impression that people think that this is extreme finicky-ness or perfectionism that I have as a personality trait.  But that’s not the case, as people much better at writing than me have pointed out.  I’m fortunate to have a pretty mild obsessive compulsive disorder, or maybe it’s just better handled because my parents were so aware of my genetic predisposition for it.  But the obsessive compulsive thoughts are always my hardest battle.

This morning was a bad one. Depression or stress or anxiety always ups the compulsive loops in my brain.  Sitting at my desk at work with a lot of uncertainty about my future and a lot of just generalized despair and I felt the thoughts go through, like some evil version of Buddhist prayer wheels, poisoning the air in my mind.

I learned a while back that if I made lists, it would fight it.  I figured this out because prayer solves a lot of things in my life, but because of the nature of these thoughts it is so difficult to practice, it become a religiously tinged negative loop.  Making lists works though.  It works as a form of prayer, as a meditative practice… something weirdly obsessive enough to disrupt whatever is going on in my brain.

These lists go from the mundane to the spiritual.  They can be lists of ways I can fix a situation, or things I’m grateful for,  of the LORD’s promises through scripture, they can be a shopping list.  I don’t know why it short circuits the compulsive thinking, but it does, and it offers me relief.

The tricky bit is to remember to do it.  When you are locked in what Allie Brosh calls a “Sneaky Hate Spiral”, thinking about anything outside of that spiral is hard, even without an OCD component.

I don’t know.  Maybe it’s time to go back to therapy, and possibly get medicated.  Maybe I shouldn’t make mental health decisions when I’m on my period and my husband has had a bad week.

But until then, I’m going to make lists, and remember to breathe,

A.C.

Sand Dollars

I spent my anniversary at Heceda Beach on the Oregon Coast.  It was a lovely wind whipped day that made me feel brand new.  I had such a lovely time walking silently on the beach looking for sand dollars with my love.  The ocean did all the talking, as it tends to do.

The first time we went to the coast together, Ian found me a tiny sand dollar.  I just wanted to find one to echo that moment… instead a rubber tide came in and we found ten of them,  surrounded by hundreds of little tiny jellyfish.

I had been feeling gutted lately.  Stressed and spiritually drained and physically tapped out.  But being at the edge of the ocean is like touching eternity a little bit, and somehow it just smoothed my rumpled soul and said “everything can be okay”.

I think about Anne of Green Gables talking about “feeling a prayer”, and that’s what it was like.  I don’t think I prayed much, although I had songs going through my head.  Glenn Kaiser, and Hymns.  My life has been Trout Heart Replica lately.  But now It is Well.

I needed to get out of the city, away from everyone and every thing, and to spend time with the person who knows and loves me most on earth.  I’m so grateful for my husbear, he sees me and loves me anyway.

 

Sleepwalking My Life

I have always felt like I lived in a World of No.  That I was not allowed, that whatever I wanted to do was somehow dangerous, wrong and irresponsible.  That if I got the chance, it would be taken from me.  That if someone was to get in trouble for something, it would be me, every time.

This has gotten a bit better as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been trying to give myself permission… I think my friend Chey telling me I had permission was super helpful and a big step in everything.  But still when I think of things I want to do I think “I’m not allowed”.  Nothing ever controverts that thought, in fact it is reinforced constantly.

When I got engaged I thought “I finally have permission!  I can have children, and write children’s books, and grow a garden and make art!”  but that turned out not to really be the case.  I had to pay bills, and put off having kids for my career (such as it was) and go to school so I can make more money to pay even more bills.  This is life, and it is what it is, I understand it.

This comes up because as I’ve been going to school I’ve hit this wall of exhaustion.  It’s been building for a while, I’ve felt the low level depression, like a low grade fever that you just work through because life has to continue. I was going to be a nurse, but I just can’t see taking a job (even one that I would love and be good at) that would swallow my life and not leave me time for anything else.  There are other things I can do with the schooling I have so far.  I have options.  I am (as everyone is so fond of telling me) young and smart and resourceful and hard working.

But I wonder if I’m really any of those things, or if I’ve just had to come up with it.

I want to cry a lot more than I let myself.  I want to say “No fair!”.

When people ask me what my dreams are I just respond with “I want to have a job to pay for the life I want”, but it’s not the truth.  In my head I have a whole big wide world of dreams, but I can’t even say most of them, because I feel like I’m Not Allowed.

My favorite time of day is after I’ve done my bedtime reading but before I go to sleep.  I get to imagine what I’d like to do, what I’d like to be doing, things I’d like to try, places I’d like to go,  stories I”d like to write down, compose songs… I can lie there for hours and work in my head on my other life.  I would love to actually DO any of those things, were I Allowed, but I’m not.  Also, the time I have to myself (namely whatever time I steal from sleep in the middle of the night) isn’t the best time to get things done.  It’s wasted time, but it affords me some sort of pleasure anyway.

I read my old journals and diaries and find that for the most part, I used to do quite a bit of the things that turned me on.  I suppose that is more than other people really do.

Just every once in a while I dream that something happens to me, that lets me slip quietly away from everything, that release me from all the people I love, all the responsibility and all the trappings of a life I’m uninterested in, and go do the rest of the things I dream about.  It’s a terrible, selfish dream, but if I don’t occasionally think about it during the day, I’ll dream it like five nights in a row.  I’ll dream that there was a fire while I was at work alone, and I just walk away and everyone thinks I’ve died but I just go walking until I get to the ocean.  It’s insane, it’s unlike me, really.

My friend Kezia reminds me that it’s okay to sometimes say things that aren’t positive, that I’m Allowed to have feelings even if they aren’t joyful and good.  I think if she hadn’t said that I would never write any of this.

If I try and think where this feeling of I’m Not Allowed comes from, I think it’s because my parents were really great at the “you could do or be anything”  line of parenting.  Which is great, and not many children have it.  But there was this other super controlled line of parenting too.  If I tried something, and it wasn’t perfect, it got read to filth.  So I started to think “I can do anything as long as it’s perfect and it doesn’t look like a kid did it and I had it all figured out to begin with”.  I know this was not their intention.  They wanted to give me me a sense of excellence, and a sense of I Can Do It.  But I think no one really realized how sensitive I was, or how much I analyzed things.  How I didn’t do things because if I couldn’t do it exactly right while people were there, I didn’t want to do it.  It’s taken me most of my adulthood so far to dismantle that.  Usually I have to actually say out loud “I’m a grownup, I’m Allowed”.

In reality, though, I’m not Allowed.  I am too far into school to just stop.  I don’t have the kind of life/support system to just work from home in a cottage business, write books, and have babies.  So.  We carry on.  But once in a while, in my tiny voice, I get to say out loud that even though I’m blessed and privileged and have a good life,  that I am sad that it’s not the one I was trying to build.

A walk in the rain…

I just like it when it rains.  It feels like Eugene is more itself, and I feel more like myself.

Rain in the desert smells different, it smells wilder, it is wilder.  Lightning forks and thunder rolls off the mountains for minutes on end.

Here in the rain forest, the rain has settled in and has slippers here.  Its toothbrush is in the cabinet.

There are two things in nature that I have obsessed about since I was very small.  One is the moon.  The other is rain.  In my head I am every age I ever was when encountering those two things.

I have been studying so very hard, and working and full of duties, and outside is wonderful for me, even if I’m walking in what is considered inclement weather.  The other night I stayed late at the college to go to a study session, and when I left the building, night had fallen.  The moon was out and the air had that wonderful night coolness and promise that there were Things Happening somewhere, and that those Things could be Anything.  It was this delicious and freeing sensation and it shocked me how strong it was, how cubed in I have been.

I have looked at the moon through the branches of trees all over the country.  I remember some of them specifically… Washington DC,  the middle of the woods in Michigan,  palm trees in Miami.

School must be done, work must be worked, but this weekend I need to get outside and pay attention.

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