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Expectation

Good day my friends, and Happy New Years to you all. I hope that you have safe and cozy plans with loved ones today. I am so incredibly ready for the new year to begin. My goals and dreams are within sight and I have had plenty of the routine disrupting holiday chaos. I am ready to hunker down, get back on focus, and inch my way toward those dreams without constant interruption. So close that I can almost smell and taste them. My mind is focused on a singular mission. Disruptions annoy me. I realize that I am out of line here and I have spent a great deal of time thinking about expectation this week.
Expectations. Sigh. Such a burden. A thief of joy and peace. Expectations steal our control. They steal everything worthwhile and fill us with disappointment.
I know what sustainable peace and contentment look like. I know what true, organic, deep rooted happiness feels like. The kind that even tragedy can’t really break or steal from you. And, that is how I am able to be 100% confident making this claim. Expectation is the enemy of peace and contentment. It spans the entirety of our lives. And when our expectations aren’t met, we are disappointed. We feel betrayed and we start a vicious cycle of negative thoughts. It is such a hard cycle to break, and it is a constant battle in practice. Here I am today, fighting this expectation demon that I learned how to overcome more than ten years ago. It is always trying to get in. The only way to control it is to be aware of it and physically take control of my thoughts. For me this means writing. It has been building in me for a few weeks now, but it was not until yesterday that I realized that it was disappointment causing my lack of patience. I have trained myself how to look at my emotions and recognize them, and trace them like a paper trail,  back to their foundations.
It became clear for me a couple of days ago. I posted on Facebook about being a safe place and that my door is always open. Almost immediately my phone started ringing with people in tragedy. People who needed a friend. And they all had the same problem. Different versions of it, of course, but the situations all led back to one issue. Expectation. Each of them expected a different scenario than they got, and each of them was putting responsibility for their emotional well being on that expectation.
Our emotional well being is our responsibility and ours alone. It is not our husband, roommate, coworkers, children’s, or anyone else’s job to ensure that we are emotionally stable. The responsibility belongs to us as individuals.
As the week draws on, I get more and more calls, messages, and endless conversations, about how someone is ruining another persons joy.
Let me repeat. Expectation ruins our joy. Not other people. Not situations. Just our own personal expectations.
It started as a feeling of loneliness. My phone was ringing all day long, and somehow I felt alone. I am pretty used to this feeling, and didn’t think a whole lot of it. it just happens sometimes. No biggie. No sadness. Just content quiet in my own space.
And then the phone started interrupting my quiet, and suddenly my quiet alone became a nagging sense of duty.
One after another, people started calling in need. Lacking patience and empathy, I navigated these conversations to the best of my ability, but underneath it all I had a sense of impatience and intolerance.
Underneath it all I was developing some expectation.
At first I felt guilty, that I had put up this post on Facebook offering a safe space, and then when people came calling on it, I didn’t necessarily make them feel better. Soon though, I was starting to feel anger. I know, that when I am starting to feel anger, I am failing to recognize and deal with the emotion that is causing it. So, I stopped. I asked myself why I was angry. The rush of responses in my head was clear as a bell and easily definable. I was hurt and disappointed, and I could tell you exactly why.
As it snowballed and grew into anger and sarcastic judgement that just gushed out of me when my husband got home from work, I knew I had to do something about it. Thankfully I recognize that he is not causing this. He is one of the few that I actually do feel I can share with. It was the fact that I needed to vent it to him that got my attention.
So I started processing out loud. Well, lets see. I was contacted by multiple people in the last 48 hours. The majority of them wanted to vent to me. They asked my advice, but when I gave it, I received a whole lot of “but, can’t, won’t” in response. All of them lacked the ability to see that they came to me about themselves, but that they really did not want to talk about themselves. They wanted to talk about how other were affecting them. They had no interest in truth, or me. When I contradicted what they wanted to hear, they abruptly ended the conversation. It is evident they want me to build them up with what they want to hear, because if I say anything that conflicts what they want to hear, they suddenly have to go, or give me excuses why that advice doesn’t apply to this particular situation. None of them took the time to ask me how I was. None of them even wondered out loud a single time, if my life was on track, or if I myself may have something going on too.
Thankfully, the only thing I have going on is a little expectation disappointment, and that is pretty easy to resolve.
You see, I had an expectation that people wanted to hear my perspective, and that they would at least hear it, rather than block me out when there is no easy answer or when it is not what they want to hear. I had an expectation that a friend who asked if they could come over to talk was on their way, when I put away my project to get ready for their visit, so when two hours later, I had to message and ask if they were still coming, it is fair to say that I had some expectation disappointment that they had no respect for my time. I had some expectation disappointment because I expected to get back what I gave to each situation. I expected that if people were going to interrupt my work for their personal drama, that they could at least be bothered to ask how I was doing.
I mentioned this to a friend this morning, and her response was, “well that seems valid”.
I told her it was absolutely not valid.
And then I had to stop and think. Is it possible that this is valid pain and disappointment? Am I beating myself up and refusing to validate myself?
I decided it was not valid. I know what contentment looks like. Content, happy, well adjusted, emotionally stable people, do not place expectation upon others. Plain and simple. Well adjusted people accept others for who they are.
I have had four conversations this week with people who are upset that their partner is not who they want them to be. That their partner has changed and isn’t the same person they were in the beginning. To that I say “so have you”. You are not the person you were when you became a team, and neither are they. People change, constantly. They grow, they gain perspective, priorities change, responsibilities affect our lifestyles, traumas change us at the core. Every. Single. Person. We all change. No one remains the same, and we would be handed an awful sentence to have it any other way. A prison within our own selves. We need to change, we need to grow. Life would not throw us curve balls if we were not meant to learn from them and become a better version of ourselves.
An expectation that I come across regularly in my work, is that people believe that when they do the work to achieve happiness, that suddenly life gets easier. That less hard stuff happens. I see defeat when that is not the case. Happiness is not about life throwing less curve balls, it is about how well you swing at them. How many can you knock out of the park? In other words, its not the pitch that matters, its the swing. The bat is in your hands. Will you hit the ball coming at you? Will you duck and let it hit the ump? Or will you stand proud with determination, say “I got this” and knock that ball out of the park? Happiness isn’t about less curve balls. It is about your attitude as they fly at you.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying there is no room for hurt in a happy life. Hurt, grief, terrible things, are all going to happen to you. We were given emotions for a reason, and it wasn’t to push them down. It was to use them in a healthy way, to help us process a situation, and then to move through them into a functional solution.
If you lose a child, you are absolutely not going to just smile your way through it. If you get a horrible diagnosis or a loved one does, it will hurt. There is just no way around that.
It does not change the fact that you are still responsible for your own emotional health. You can get through tragedy and trauma in emotionally healthy ways. It does not have to be the end all be all that defines you.
The only way to overcome expectation disappointment, is to ditch the expectation. Its called acceptance. It doesn’t come with but’s attached.
Acceptance. It’s a doozy.
Acceptance is realizing and accepting that people are as unique as their fingerprints. That each of us will have our very own set of standards. We may agree with a majority on a lot of those standards, but at some point, you are going to find a standard difference with any single person you come across. No two people are the same, and our standards are as unique as our fingerprints. At some point, every single person will fail to live up to your expectation. And when they do, you will be hurt. It is not because they did anything to you. It is because they did what was right for them, and you took it personally that it was not the same thing that was right to you.
Your partner is going to grow and change as you face life together, and not in the same ways as you. It is your choice to accept who they are becoming and support them, or to try to change them back into your expectation of them. If you decide to try to change them back into who they are no longer, you will be disappointed every time, for you are not letting them be who they are growing into. You are refusing to let them mature into the future version of themselves. The problem with this, is that they are going to continue to change, and your expectations are going to continue to be unmet, and you are going to grow more distant and disappointed in the relationship. It is your choice to focus on the good and support that; or you can focus on the changes that you don’t like, and dwell in that cesspool. The choice, and emotional responsibility, lie with you.
What you may see as a negative change, others may see as a positive. When you are busy pointing fingers at the ways others have failed you, you are blind to the ways that you are failing them.
If we want emotional stability. Happiness. The ability to hold on to peace, even when the bad things happen, then we must look inside ourselves. Your partner, your parents, your friends and loved ones can not provide this for you. As a matter of fact, if they try, it will end up hurting everyone involved.
Codependency comes from a focus on fixing others rather than working on ourselves. I have fought a long, hard battle with codependency, and it rears its ugly head from time to time. Thankfully I can quickly identify it and reign it in. Occasionally it makes me quite intolerant of other peoples bahviors, and I have to check myself.
If there is one thing I am 100% sure of, it is that I am responsible for my emotional stability, and if I am behaving as a codependant, and angry that people aren’t behaving the way that I think they should be, I need a great big reality check.
It is me who is in the wrong here.
It is me who is trying to control others behaviors. (In this instance, I have not actually talked to any of the people about it. I have not tried to control them outwardly or directly, but in my mind, I am upset that they have not behaved in a specific way. That they have not lived up to “my standards”).
How incredibly selfish and egotistical is this??
It is the ugliest part of me.
The part of me that thinks that I somehow know what is the best way for someone to behave according to my personal set of standards. It is my most selfish and ugly part, and I had to think long and hard to talk myself into coming here today and admitting to you all that I have been “shoulding all over” my loved ones.
The situation is causing me pain. Enough pain to distract me from my focus and goals. Enough that I actually took the time to waste my precious hubby time complaining about it. That I let it interrupt my work, and my chores, and my general well being. Shame on me! So here I sit with a decision to make about how to deal with all this expectation disappointment that I have. Clearly I can not carry on with hurt feelings that another person was not behaving within my set of standards. How do I resolve this conflict within me? On the one hand, I am feeling quite taken for granted and unheard. On the other hand, I can not control the way other people react or behave toward me. As far as I can tell, I can choose to confront them individually, but this is just more of me telling them how I expect them to behave, and that I was disappointed that they didn’t meet my standard. I can accept that they are all very good people, and that there are areas in life where different experiences have caused us to have different norms and standards, and let go of my expectation. I can accept that their behavior is a reflection on them, not me. I can face that I may be taking something personally that isn’t personal at all.
I can employ empathy. This is the tool that works best for me. Everyone is different, but I find that if I try to put myself in their shoes, I can empathize it away. Sometimes it is hard, others it is glaringly obvious and simple. While I have used the example before, it still works so well that I will use it again.
Road Rage.
How do you feel when someone is driving too slow, not using a blinker, or doing some other random thing that you don’t find acceptable? Did the man in a big hurry behind you suddenly pass you, cut in front of you and make a sharp turn without his blinker? Oh what an ass, right?
Or is that right?                                                                                                  There are two sides of this scenario to consider. First. How he is behaving, and second, how you respond. His behavior seems erratic, maybe even dangerous. Heck even if he simply followed all the rules but forgot to use his blinker you might find yourself annoyed, right?? How do you respond? Do you slow down? Give him some space, recognize that he is clearly a threat to your well being and create a little buffer room around you? Do you lay on the horn? Flip him the bird? Do you roll down your window and scream angry things at him or even speed up to prove a point?
Remember, happiness is in the eye of the beholder. It happens when you create it. You have split second choices to make. How will you respond to him? If you get angry, defensive, and respond in any unloving way, are you taking the time to put yourself in his shoes? Have you ever needed a pass? Have you ever made a mistake driving? Do you know why he is driving like that? Have you considered that his youngest child may have just been in a severe car accident, or that his wife may be in preterm labor? Is it possible that his mother just fell down the stairs and he is temporarily out of his mind with fear?
Or will you spread anger? If you flip him the bird, scream at him, and act in an irate fashion, will it improve the situation. Will he even notice? Will it affect him at all, or will it just ruin your day? Will you go to work and rant and rave about him to everyone you see? Will you ruin their moment with your negativity too? The only person your anger really affects is you, and the people that you spew your ugly onto. And it never affects them for the better.
Think about it again. What will you do when he cuts you off in his mad panic?
How will you respond.
The choice is yours.
In this exact same way, you have control over your emotional stability.
In every situation. It is your choice. How will you handle it? Will you be the love? The light? The empathy? Will you choose to accept them? Will you accept people who behave in a way that does not meet your expectations? How will you resolve unmet expectations within yourself? Will you give them a little space to be them and not take it personally?
The other choice leads to disappointment. It leads to heartache and unmet expectation.
How will I deal with the hurt feelings of my friends not meeting my expectations? I will remind myself that they are good friends, who have been there for me in the past and are going through a hard time and need my empathy right now. Or I will stop answering their calls, stop giving them my time. If I evaluate the health of the relationship and find that I am being disappointed over and over again, I can surmise that said person and I are like oil and water, and I can choose to spend less time with them. It does not mean that I have to have hard feelings or that I am judging them. It simply means that I am reclaiming control of my emotional well being. I am going to be me. I am going to let them be them. If our paths are meant to cross, they will, and if not, then I am much better off not wasting my life dwelling on the pain of the relationship. Best to break that chain and move forward.
What I won’t do, is compromise my integrity to meet their expectations. I won’t lie to them, so that I can make them feel better by telling them what they want to hear or pampering their swollen ego. I won’t validate blame and accusation. Excuses will quickly bring out the blunt and honest part of me.
I had some guilt about this. About being impatient with excuses and calling fallacies where I perceived them. I am certain I hurt some feelings. I am certain the receiver was expecting a different response from me and is quite upset with me that my answer did not meet expectation, and I am certain it happened with more than one conversation.
I chewed on that guilt for a minute. And then I let it go. I have not done anyone wrong. I was only being me. I did not change who I was to meet their expectation, because I know that that is a recipe for a miserable life. I simply was myself. If their response to me being myself and saying what I see in response to the question hurt or angered them, then much like I needed to evaluate my expectations to resolve my anger,so do they. I am not responsible for their emotional well being and how they respond to me is as much their choice as how I respond to them.
And so, to all of my friends who felt that I was talking about you today, I may have been. Its possible. But I have resolved my expectation. I will be here when you can resolve yours. I have no hard feelings or ill will toward you. I only want the best for each and every one of you. And that is why I can not feed this demon. It is why I can not say what you want to hear. As long as this demon is being fed, it will grow and grow until it consumes you (if it isn’t already). I refuse to feed that expectation demon. I am sorry that you are hurting, and I will do my best to summon empathy. I will not feed the destructive demon that is blame. It is up to you to take responsibility for your own emotional well being.
It can mean any number of things. Maybe you need to decide to get a therapist or some meds for a chemical imbalance, maybe you need to stop talking to someone or consider an alternative to your current living situation. It may require a drastic change on your part. But you, and only you, can achieve peace in your life. And accepting that you can not change others, so how you react to them is key, really goes a long, long way down that path to sustainable peace.

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Mind Control

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Good morning my friends. I often talk about happiness being a choice, and how we need to learn to sharpen our tools to make it possible to choose happiness. I think perhaps the most important factor in this equation is guarding our thoughts, so I thought maybe we could touch on that today. This may be the singlemost important factor in choosing joy, simply because it sets you up to sharpen all of the tools necessary to choosing contentment.

So what does it mean to control your thoughts? I am sure many are reading this thinking “I can’t help what pops into my head”. But, you can. I hope to show you how to do that today. Negative thoughts are always bound to pop up. The enemy at work. The enemy lying to you. But you can overrule them. You can decide that they are lies and you can push them out. It is a critical skill and if you want to master happiness and sustainable contentedness, then it is a tool you must start sharpening right now. It is not as hard as it sounds, and like any skill, the more you practice it, the easier it becomes, until eventually it is habit to look for the positives. To find yourself on the brighter side of any given situation. It is rising above the negativity and lies, and choosing to find a reason not to succumb to them.

It is the action of rejecting the “poor me”. Let me see if I can give an example or two. I know a mom. She has three beautiful, healthy children. She has a loving partner who is there for her. She owns her home. I am sure she has many, many other blessings (a car, food, clothes, and a three month surplus of diapers stacked in her kids bedroom, are just a few examples that come to mind). But, she only see’s her “poor me”. Consistently she talks about how miserable her life is. How she lacks worth and how no one cares for her. I happen to know her family very well, and there is no truth to this. They love her, support her, and are there for her every time they can be. However, if she wants something and there is no one there to comply, she starts projecting shame and blame on those very people who love her so unconditionally. So, healthy people learn to draw boundaries. If there is a day that someone draws a boundary and can’t drop their lives to come give her what she perceives as a “need”, she freaks out, publicly and loudly, about how awful her family treats her and how no one is there for her and blah blah blah. It is quite tiresome to read day in and day out actually.

What she doesn’t realize is that she has a choice. She can choose to take that one little moment where she didn’t get exactly what she wanted, hate and blame the world for not giving her what she wants, and spend the day in a miserable rage about how no one loves her and everyone sucks, or she can chase out those lies. I know her family very well. I have seen how much they do for her, how much they care for her, and how proud of her they are. It is her choice, and hers alone to handle this situation as she see’s fit. However, its possible that she would have a whole lot more joy in her life if she could approach it more like “Oh dang, everyone has to work today. Its really too bad that no one can watch the girls while I run to the store. I am so thankful that I don’t have to do this alone every time”. Or “Crap, mom the babies sick and I really need some toilet paper, no one around to help right now. I would be so thankful if you could grab me a pack after work”. Instead, we all get a tirade about how no one loves her, everyone hates her, she can’t count on anyone, and everyone can screw off. Somehow, I don’t see that public tirade making many want to help her in the future, and so, her stinking thinking defines how tomorrow will go. How things will go next time she needs help. Our thoughts control where we end up. Somehow we need to let go of the notion that life is out to get us when it doesn’t go exactly as planned, and figure out how to find a blessing in it. If we constantly put down the ones who can’t just drop everything and be there for us every single time we ask, how much will they help us in the future? Who will even want to be around us? And our thoughts perpetuate a future. If we spend our days looking at unfortunate events as just that, no more, no less, we can find gratitude and a bright side to it.

Now, on the contrary. Add a bit of gratitude and patience to the situation and it becomes an entirely different path. A little perspective, if I may. What if she turned that shame filled pity party into gratitude. “Oh thank God I have so many people on my side. One of them will be off work in just a few short hours and can help me then”. It isn’t life and death, and if it is, then 911 is the appropriate answer. If she was showing gratitude, then perhaps someone would be happy to help just as soon as they had time. And the cycle continues. Show people you appreciate them, and they will continue to help you. Shame them, and they will walk away. A simple, but obvious example of how our thoughts determine our future.

If we spend our days focused on the “can’t, but, won’t” thought process, we never will. But if we spend our days in the “can, yes, will” thought processes, eventually, success will be ours. Its just simple fact. It may not seem true when you are stuck in the stinkin thinking mindframe, but with a little practice, you can force yourself to overcome this mindset. I am positive of this, because there was a time in my life that stinkin thinkin was all I knew. I was sure that God hated me, the whole world was against me, I couldn’t count on anyone, and I would always fail. Moments of joy were fleeting and always stolen by the enemy and his lies. It constantly felt like “one step forward, ten back”. My life was full of words like “never” and “no one”. Poor me. I would let my emotions consume me. Disappointment felt like defeat. Let me tell you, the two are not one and the same.

The choice belongs to you and you alone. Do you choose to let your emotions rule you? To define your reality? Or can you step outside of the box and see the bigger picture? Is the situation going to kill you? If not, there is a good chance that you might be overreacting. This is training in our brain, and like any habit, it takes hard work and determination to overcome it, but it is still a habit, and habits can be changed. For me, It looked like years and years of therapy and hard work. I had to learn how the amygdala worked and some days no matter what I tried,  I could not force those emotions into a reasonable place, until I learned to walk. For me, the only way I could find to break that pattern was to physically force it away. This was perhaps one of the hardest things I ever had to learn to force myself to do. When you are full of rage and shame and pity, there is nothing you want less than to bundle up your kids and go for a brisk walk. Heck, even without the kids, it can be so incredibly hard to pick yourself up and decide you will not tolerate these awful thoughts for one more minute. The thing about stinkin thinkin, and being so consumed by an emotional response, is that you are essentially in “fight or flight” mode. Our body pumps chemicals into our body that tell us to fight or flee when our situation seems unhealthy. This mechanism is intended to be of short duration, just long enough to get us to safety. When we are stuck in an emotionally driven state, these chemicals pump constantly and are very unhealthy for us. Walking forces them to stop pumping. A brisk walk, or any other exercise that gets your heart rate elevated for at least twenty minutes, signals to your amygdala that the threat has passed, and triggers rational thought. When it becomes habit to live in this emotionally controlled state, we can’t always just talk ourselves down. For me, it took many weeks of forcing myself to get that heart pumping every time the negative thoughts overwhelmed me. I had to retrain my brain that that was not how we were going to live. I had to train my brain to do something different than what it was doing. I had to teach it that the amygdala is not for every day use, it is for emergencies only. Fight or flight. Life or death. When your every day thoughts are controlled by emotion, it becomes pretty clear that you must retrain your brain in order to see a change. No one wants to go around with a “poor me, life sucks and will never get better” attitude, but until you choose to physically take control of it, that is all you will get out of life.

If you want to thrive. If you want to choose joy, then you have to kick out the “can’t, but, won’t” attitude, and physically force new thought processes. Exercise is the most effective tool I know for this. The first two or three times it will be hard. Your pissed. You don’t wanna walk. You want to live in this self righteous, “screw everyone” place. It feels justified. You feel like “why should I have to be the one to change?” Well. Reality is simple. If you want your life to change, only you can make it happen. You can not expect others to do it for you. Its so hard to get up and force yourself out of that self righteous place, find some humility, and decide to walk. But after a few times, the relief you feel becomes apparent, and there comes a day when it is the only solution. When pity isn’t an option and you must walk now. I can already hear it. “BUT I CANT walk now. I have the kids. Its snowing. My foot hurts”. Well, there is the “but, can’t won’t” that I speak of. As long as you are making excuses, nothing will change. Do some sit ups. Jumping jacks? Jump on the bed. Yoga or Tai Chi. Turn on some music and dance. There is always an exercise you can do. Always. Stop making excuses and find one that will work for you right now. That is how you take control of being emotionally and irrationally driven. Nothing works faster. Nothing works better. Your brain learns new behaviors and soon you walk because you want to. Because it feels good and your body knows the relief of stopping the fight or flight mechanism physically. It becomes a longing to walk, just to control the thoughts. Eventually, your brain retrains effectively and you don’t need this at all. Eventually, you get to exercise simply because you want to. Eventually you learn to react with reason and patience and gratitude. Eventually you overcome the stinkin thinkin and are able to apply the positive thoughts without a forced mechanism at all.

And one day, you will wake up on the wrong side of the bed, or life will throw you a curve ball, and rather than freaking out and allowing your emotions to dictate your behavior, you will have the skills to let your behavior dictate your emotions. You will assess a situation with ration and reason. You will have control over your mind and be able to tell those stinking thoughts go away, and you will identify the reasons that they are lies. You are the only person who can affect the changes in your life. If you walk around all day thinking “poor me, life sucks” well, simply put, life is bound to keep sucking. You will walk around defeated and ineffective. You will waste your time ranting and raving about situations that are “beyond your control”, and then later, dwelling on the shame and embarrassment of your tantrum. If you force yourself to consider your blessings, it only stands to reason that your life will be blessed. No one can change your life’s circumstances for you. You must be the change you wish to see. If you want joy and blessings, then you must be willing to see them in your life. If you want to feel good, then you must choose to feel good. We all have the choice. We can wake up and spend our day dwelling on the burdens, or we can wake up and chase those negatives away with gratitude for our blessings. If you have trained your brain to focus on the negatives, to be controlled by emotion, then you must reprogram your thoughts. Sometimes it takes actual, physical effort, not just mind control. Sometimes you have to get your heart rate up long enough to chase those awful thoughts from your mind, and allow rational ones in. And sometimes this takes a physical routine for days and weeks on end to reprogram you, but only you can decide how you want your brain to work and do something about it. Only you can decide to be the change you wish to see in your life, and take the steps required. Happiness is your choice, but it isn’t just about choosing. Sometimes it is about reprogramming. It is about accountability and taking control of your own life. The choice is yours. What will you choose?

 

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Living my words

Good morning and happy Monday, my friends. Its been a few days but I haven’t forgotten you. Just been busy living my words. It was barely moments after my last post that I started getting big, messy gifts from God. One thing after another, they were piling up faster than I could open them. Boy did I find myself having to remember everything I just wrote for you. There reaches a point where there is just nothing you can do but give it to God and trust that He will carry you, and that is where I found myself on Friday afternoon. One baby step at a time, I asked God to lead me through the solutions. We managed to tackle a pretty heavy load of messily wrapped packages this weekend, and here I sit, fresh, rejuvenated, and ready to start the week with a good attitude and full of hope. It left me feeling full of gratitude, and gratitude is one of the tools I feel is needed to have lasting joy, so lets talk about that today.

Giant burdensome blessings have a way of helping us grow our gratitude, but only if we choose it. I could sit around crying about the mountain of challenges that seemed to show up all at once. There was a time in my life that I had forgotten how to see the bright side, and that is exactly what I would have done. I would have cried, ranted, complained, whined, and basically had a pity party, to anyone who would listen. Once upon a time not so long ago. But, today I have tools. I have tools of choice, and one of those is gratitude. I can not tell you what a difference it makes to fight the pity with gratitude. You have something to be thankful for, of that I am sure. You are alive, breathing, and reading this right now, aren’t you? Finding gratitude has a lot to do with the little things. On days when things feel so hard, that you have to force yourself to find gratitude, this can be challenging, and that is why it is your choice. You can choose to feel sorry for yourself. Why me? Poor me? Oh life is always out to get me! Or, you can make the conscious choice to focus on other things. Is the sun shining today? Do you have clothes on your back? Did you have the luxury of coffee with your breakfast today? For that matter, did you have breakfast? Do you have a healthy child (even if they are attached to your hip when you just need a minute of quiet). Are you a comfortable temperature? If you answered yes to even one of these questions, and the thousands more just like it that I could ask, then you too are blessed, my dear. You just have to choose it. You may have to look hard, but you can find hundreds of blessings in your day, week, month and life.

Recognizing your blessings can be a real challenge, especially if you are already feeling defeated by life. Thankfully, this is one of those tools that, the more you use it, the sharper it gets. That may be one of the best things about preparing a good strong tool shed. All of the tools for joy are unique in that the more you use them, the sharper they get. And you can do things, simple things, to help you remember to choose gratitude. I am a big fan of “notes to self”. More than once I have recommended that clients write themselves reminders. Post it notes are cheap, but if you don’t have any, a simple piece of scratch paper will do. Maybe you have some scrapbook supplies and want to make them pretty. Whatever will motivate you to read them. Make yourself reminders, and stick them anywhere that you are apt to read them.  You have to start where you are at. My notes to self look much different than they did ten years ago. Back then, I had to remind myself simple things. To remember that I am loved. To be thankful that I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my mouth, and a car to drive. Having spent some time with a two year old, couch surfing, I know what nothing looks like, but even in those times, I had friends who would let us sleep under their roof. I had this beautiful child to go through this journey with. I didn’t know how to appreciate it at the time, unfortunately. I often say that I try to live without regrets, but if there is one thing I would change about my life, it is the lack of gratitude and perspective when I was a young mother. I realize that there is a point to growing and learning as you age, and that a young mother can’t expect to know all that, but boy would it have had a profound impact on the quality of life that I was able to provide for my child. Gratitude takes the focus off the negative. You really are what you think about. If you spend all day focused on the horrors in a negative light, you will always be a “poor me”. If you must focus on the negatives, then change how you see them. What can you do to change them? If you focus on the positives and the problem solving aspect of them, you will be the change you wish to see. We really do live where our mind dwells, and luckily, we do have a choice to dwell where we want to live. I read all kinds of articles about how anxiety and depression cannot be healed. How they can’t be controlled. How they are a result of chemical imbalance, and it frustrates the crap out of me. I lived with anxiety, bipolar disorder, severe depression. They are not life sentences and I am living proof. You are not doomed to a life of meds and fighting every day. You don’t have to be a survivor forever. At some point you can just live. There are other ways. You don’t have to resign yourself to a life of pharmaceutical care. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti mental health meds. I used them, and if they are helping you stay above water, you should too. What I am saying is, use the opportunity. The blessing of access to pharmaceuticals, to help you get stronger. To help you take the edge off while you develop the tools. But don’t just rely on them. Use the time to get some healthy tools for choosing your happiness. Use the time to learn what people mean when they say happiness is your choice. Get a therapist. Read some self help books. Focus on the things that are blessings in your life. I had several different therapists over the years, and each taught me different skills. If you aren’t comfortable with your therapist, don’t feel bad admitting that it isn’t a good match, and finding a new one. Going to therapy doesn’t mean that you are crazy. Every single one of us has shame triggers, and it is my belief that every single one of us could benefit from some therapy in our lives. Some people need six months, some need six years, but every single one of us has hang ups. The ones who face them are the ones who will see change in their lives. I know that anyone who has been told that there is nothing they can do about their anxiety thinks I am unempathetic and don’t understand right now, but I promise you, I have been in those shoes. I too, was told I would take medication for the rest of my life to control my emotions. I had no choice but to pursue therapy with my child, and this is how I learned that wasn’t truth. It felt like the doctors were right when I was in the midst of it, but with perseverance, I learned that meds are not the only way to stay above water. In fact, there are much better ways. The meds just took the edge off long enough for me to find strength to fight. You are strong enough too! I know you are! I am happy to take the journey with you if you want a little help, or just someone else in your court cheering you on. You got this!

What do you want to change?  The easiest place to start is to write it down. Get yourself a little notebook and write down the things you want to change. The things you don’t love about yourself or your life, and lets get cracking at how to overcome them. Goals. Obstacles. Problem solving. It applies to every area of life. Think outside the box. Realize that your individuality is Gods plan and try to worry less about what others will think and find what is right for you. The other day I wore some fuzzy pants to the store. Far too thick to be pajamas yet not really public appropriate in that they look like house pants. I looked down at myself, and started checking out the other shoppers in the store to see if anyone else might be there with less than socially acceptable pants on. For about 30 seconds. Then I had a very loud thought. “I am covered. Since when do I care if society likes my pants? I am not here to fit the norms, I am here to get groceries”. I have been sick for months and getting myself to the store a half hour away was a huge blessing. I had to choose. Let anxiety about my pants distract me from my task, and probably be much less efficient about it, or let it go and get about my shopping. I don’t have time to be anxious about my clothes being acceptable for everyone else. It was my choice to let that anxiety go and get back to my grocery list. I promise, with practice, you can learn it too. It is a long, arduous road, but boy, when you get to the destination, you are so glad you didn’t wait another day to start the journey. Happiness, and sustainable peace, don’t happen overnight, but they can be yours if you are willing to put in the time and energy. Start by finding as many things as you can in your life to be thankful for, and lets move forward from there. Until next time, Godspeed my friends.

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Commitment/Hindsight

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So I have made a commitment to you, my friends. I made a decision to put my gift of words to use and make a point of staying consistent with it. I promised you that I was going to be here, sharing uplifting words and insights with you, on a consistent basis. Well, it only stands to reason that after a commitment like that, my normally overactive brain, decides its time to go blank. I have spent two days wondering what on Earth to write about. Now if you know me at all, you know I love to research. I have a host of knowledge on all types of subjects, and can learn about any subject I don’t know. I had considered just picking a topic out of the bag and doing some research and doing an essay type entry for the day, but that didn’t sound appealing either. In the end, I decided to just come write and see what God has for me to say today. I decided I would ask you what you want to read about? What topics do you feel compelled to think or learn about right now?  I fit in the “Jane of all trades, master of none” category. This used to be bothersome for me. It made me feel like I had no skills that were marketable. That there would always be someone better at every skill I had and  that I would always come in second best or mediocre with my talents. It is a good thing I am not very competitive. In retrospect, I see all kinds of value in this very defining personality trait, and especially as I get older and come to realize what I really want out of life, this is a blessing, but it took hindsight and healing to see that.

Hindsight. What an amazing tool it is! Hindsight helped me heal more than any other single factor. When I was able to look at the obstacles I had overcome. As I look back at those oh so difficult days, I am reminded that hindsight is the tool that helped me to trust God more than any other tool I could find in my extensive bag of tricks. Let me back up a little bit. I, like most of you, had a few really trying issues to face in my childhood. As a child, I hid behind a smile. Behind the gift of finding the bright side. I always told myself, and others, “I have a roof over my head. I have clothes on my back. I have food in my mouth. I have a family that loves me. I am warm. I am not beaten. I have it better than a good portion of the population of the world” I smiled big. The more I hurt, the bigger my smile. Crying. that wasn’t going to work for me. Self pity. No thank you. I lived behind a mask of denial. Little did I know that those tools for finding excuses to not hurt would end up being some of my greatest gifts later in life. Oh I would have to move mountains to see the blessing in them, but for my youth, they were just the coping skill I needed. Unhealthy at the time, but today, one of my most abundant blessings! I knew how to choose joy all along, I just didn’t understand how the tool worked and instead of using it properly, I was using it to hide from healing.  I spent years in therapy, learning to fill my tool shed with new, shiny, well oiled tools. Ones that would prepare me for any breakdown. Ones that would allow me to fix any malfunction in my life. I learned about faith, patience, acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude, but not in that order, more like, little overlapping bits, all at once. I learned about intention and about being able to choose my joy. All the tools we need to sustain lasting contentment. But hindsight is the one that made trusting the process possible.

Hindsight was the tangible. The rest were just theories, but hindsight proved that they were true. That childhood of convincing myself I had it so much better than so many others, well, that backfired when I hit 19 and ran away to another state. By this time I had started dabbling in some less than savory behaviors and  the unchecked shame that had been building in my youth was in full control of my emotions. At 19, my world turned upside down and inside out. A combination of things affected my emotions and for the first time, I was officially depressed. I had no idea yet. I just thought, “poor me! I got a really crappy deck of cards”. I also started an oral contraceptive at this point in my life.As a disclaimer, I believe that this oral contraceptive played a huge role in the drastic change in my personality and behaviors at this time, but I would not make the connection until years later, when I was 36 and stopped taking birth control. This is a subject for another time. I feel strongly that tri-cyclic oral contraceptives mimic bipolar disorder in many women, and I have a few reasons for believing this, I just don’t know who you talk to about getting this kind of study done, and neither did the doctors and mental health professionals whom I discussed it with.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that I think my birth control pills caused this issue, just that they forced it to the surface where I couldn’t hide behind that big old smile anymore. I spent the next 15 or 16 years wrestling bipolar disorder. Depression, and all of the emotions that come with this diagnosis. I searched for fulfillment in all the wrong places. I projected and blamed others for my misery. I asked “why me” a billion times over. I did not have God in my life, and from the little I learned about Him as a child, I didn’t want or need Him, or more judgement, in my life. I became a single mother. I moved halfway across the country away from all those people and places I believed were making me miserable. I jumped from one whim obsession to another. I cried and blamed and asked “why me” when each of those whims failed. When life hit me hard, I raged on the phone to anyone who would listen. I cried. I screamed. I used all the “but, can’t won’t” excuses I could find. Such a shame looking back, I was awful. I had no idea. No one told me I could change this. Well. I take that back. Alot of people told me I could, they just didn’t teach me how. When you are in a broken cycle of shame and self destruction, and people tell you that happiness is a choice, but don’t teach you how to choose it, you just think they are an ignorant person who is clueless to your very real life struggles and that it desperately feels that you have no control, how could you possibly force life to give you joy.  In a way, it helps to perpetuate the “can’t, but, won’t” attitude. I lost so much respect, so many potentially great relationships, over people telling my that happiness was my choice, and then not showing me how that was possible. They were all “idiots” who had no idea what it was to be a broken single mother with a special needs child and no marketable skills. They were clueless to my plight. At least, that is how it felt at the time. Today, I would not call them idiots, or judge them at all, because I have learned that acceptance is critical in choosing joy, but I would advise them, if you are going to tell someone that happiness is a choice, don’t say it and turn your back to walk away. Teach them what that phrase means instead of just sounding like an unempathetic fool who doesn’t “get it”. To someone who doesn’t have the tools to choose joy, that is exactly how you come across. Condescending and haughty. “Joy can be yours too, if you just choose it”. Clearly, a person in this state of mind does not have the tools to choose it, or they would be doing so. This kind of advice with no follow up just feels like judgement and lack of understanding, to the person who does not have the tools for choosing joy.

But I digress. We are talking about hindsight today. Understanding the journey is an important part of hindsight. You have to just imagine some of the trials I faced as a single mother, with a special needs child, facing dropping out of college, bipolar disorder, and poverty. Most days it felt the world was out to get me, and that nothing would ever go my way or be on my side. I overreacted to every tiny detail of my life. I had no idea what patience was, or that I could be the change I wanted to see in my life. Here I was, in low income housing. A disgusting, gray, poverty stricken, moldy, housing complex. I was surrounded by people with habits at least as unhealthy as my own, many much less healthy than even my pathetic self was. There wasn’t anyone around to show me what healthy looked like, or how to attain it for myself. I struggled through one day after another. As I left school, I found myself without a source of income and somehow, just at the perfect time, God opened a door for me. I didn’t realize that it would forever alter the course of my life. It was a foreign world. One I had never dared to even peek into before. I took that ranch job 26 miles from home because I didn’t think I had any other options. Little did I know, that it was God intervening. It was God saying “It is time for you to see me, my darling child.” Don’t get me wrong. This didn’t happen overnight. I spent years in that barn with my mentor, crying over the wrongs and injustices of my poor pathetic life. And he was so patient with me. He didn’t shame me. He did not judge me. He did not condemn me. He gently guided me with patience, understanding, empathy, and I am sure a plethora of prayers that I never heard him utter. He may never know how truly grateful I am to him, for showing me what a spirit in love with Christ looks like, and for showing me that the God of my childhood was not the reality of God at all. For his prayers for my salvation. I had rejected God for one reason. He was not rational. The God I was introduced to as a child was presented as a hateful, mean, judgmental creature, much like I imagine the enemy to be. I was not willing to embrace that God. But this God. The one my good friend was showing me. Not telling me about. He obviously told me some things about God, but it was his behavior and demeanor that showed me the truth about God. I pray that God rewards him when he gets to Heaven. That man saved my life! By being a shining example of Gods love, he saved me from myself. He opened my heart and made it possible for me to receive Jesus and forgiveness. Its all a new book from there. Day in and day out he patiently dealt with my ugliness, because, I imagine, that is what God told him to do. I don’t know that he will ever realize how much he changed my life, or how thankful I will always be to him for that. I have told him, in the best human words I can find, but the gratitude goes so far beyond what words can say.

And we finally get to hindsight. After a few years of this man’s mentorship, I started to think that maybe I could have this joy? Maybe I could be enough for God? Maybe God wasn’t punishing me for being alive after all? Maybe God didn’t think I was awful? Could this be real? Oh I wanted it to be. I felt the longing in my heart to be good enough for God. I slowly let my guard down. I finally found the courage to step through the doors of a church. I was scared. I was timid. I hadn’t told a single one of my friends. I went out of necessity. A bargain I made with myself out of a desperate need for financial assistance, I made an excuse to take myself to church three times before I would turn to them for help. It is hindsight that allows me to see how I was pulled through that door. I loved what I found. A whole congregation of people who were trying to emanate this spirit I had seen in my mentor. A thing I had only once seen before in my life, in my grandma, that I was too young and lost to recognize at the time. A simple, loving desire, to love because He first loved them. Tears well up as I get to this part. As I think about that overwhelming love. As I remember back to the day that I gave Him my heart and soul and desperately, quietly hoped that He would accept them. Hindsight. On the day I was saved, He gave me a gift of hindsight. He showed me how every obstacle was indeed a blessing. That the bigger the obstacle, the more He was preparing me, gifting me, leading me the way that He wanted me to go. I had no idea I was already fulfilling my mission on Earth. I had no idea I was developing a set of skills that would prepare me for His exact assignment for me. He showed me how He allowed me to feel lost in the dark over and over again, so that I could understand the light, and most importantly, I realized that He had been beside me the entire time, I just wasn’t looking for him. I often find myself telling people ” God will carry you through the dark, but He resides in the light, and to see Him you must turn to it”. You can not dwell on the darkness, and expect to see light. You must open the door to it. He won’t leave you in the dark, but you have to choose to turn to His light. What I saw, when I opened the door to light, was hindsight. It was every time that I thought I was on the edge of falling into the deepest chasm you can imagine, always, at the last minute, something grabbed me and held me from the plunge. I always managed to get by. I always managed to have a warm home and food in my belly. Somehow, against all odds, I always managed to come out of those extremely emotional battles, and survive to fight another day. Time and time again, He let me feel the brink of destruction and pulled me back just in the nick of time. Little did I know that this was a blessing. That every trial He allowed me to face was a gift. That He was teaching me, so that I could teach someone else, what hindsight is. How it allows for trust. How it allows us to see every burden from a different perspective and how it teaches us to trust Him. He let me stumble. He let me fall, just like any good parent would. He let me learn the hard lessons that all children need to grow, and He was right there to kiss my knee when I stumbled. Pick me up when I fell. He never let me face it alone. Even if I couldn’t see Him, He was right there, opening doors for me before I walked smack right into them. And on that glorious day when I opened my eyes to Him, He showed me with hindsight, that He had always been there, waiting for me to open my eyes to Him. That all along He had been blessing me. Carrying me, opening doors and paving paths for me. This hindsight taught me many things, but most importantly, it showed me that I could always trust Him. That even when it hurts, He has a reason, He is still here, and good will come from it. Ultimately, He taught me with hindsight, that burden is our biggest blessing, that our most important gifts come in packages that look like a four year old wrapped them. With struggle. Messy. But beautiful. Too much tape in one corner, not enough paper on the back. The messier the wrapping, the more precious the gift. God showed me, with hindsight, that I could always trust Him to pull me through, and that the messiest packages will hold the most precious gifts. This is how hindsight helped me to heal. To trust God, and to find patience in the darkest of days. I now see my burdens as gifts that I can’t quite recognize yet, but I know that as I come through them, and get some hindsight, God will once again reveal the beauty of His ways to me. That feeling is priceless. It allows me to face situations calmly. Rationally. Without shame and worthlessness. Patiently. The tools for joy overlap and reinforce each other. Hindsight really makes a profound impact on patience, as well as all of the other tools for choosing joy. Hindsight made it possible for me to trust God. I know that I could not have this lasting joy and contentment, through the daily ups and downs, without trust for God. I am full of gratitude for hindsight, and for the gift of understanding what it means. I cannot imagine a complete, functional toolshed, without a nice sharp “hindsight” in it.

So, it looks like I found some words today. I knew they were in there somewhere. I hope your day is full of hindsight, and the wisdom and calm it brings as you meander through your routine today. I pray your day is full of peace, contentment, and gratitude as you ponder the blessings of your burdens. Much love, my friends. See you soon!

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Ahhh, my friends, Fall is here. Well, this feels more like Winter, quite frankly. It has been snowing almost all week, and been quite beautiful at that. I have enjoyed every single flake that I have seen fall. There is so much going on, and I have been absent this last few days, but I found a moment to take a deep breath, and so, here I am. I had my eye on a place, and was feeling quite apprehensive about it, despite the fact that it was perfect for our needs. I had asked for them to work with me on a move in date, for Dec. 1, but she really wanted to rent it by Nov. 1. I knew we would not be ready by then, so I told her that if it was available on Dec. 1 we would take it, and if not, we would find something else. Today, I very apprehensively checked the rentals section, afraid that I would be devastated if it had been rented. Much to my surprise, when I looked and it was not there, I felt a huge sense of relief. Not only do I not have to worry about coming up with nearly 4000 dollars for December 1, but the Holidays are a terrible time to move, and ideally, January 1, would be a great move in date. I don’t believe in New years resolutions, but I do believe in new beginnings, and how fitting would it be to start the rescue ranch the first of the new year? Shocked and overwhelmed at the sense of relief that I have, waiting till January First, and oh, how pleased my husband will be to find that we dont have to move during the holidays. I have until January first to tie up some loose ends, and that is also a huge relief, plus, I just cannot packing this place up in a month, I just cannot fathom doing that, on top of everything else I am doing. We have a spay/neuter event on Nov. 10, that I am an on the planning committee for, and I have a potluck for my little friend with cancer tomorrow. I also have all this RMRR stuff I am trying to do, and a cancer awareness cookbook, and a few other fundraising type things. Good heavens. I feel like never in my life have I been attracted to technology, but never in my life, have I wanted a piece of equipment so badly. I feel a need to buy a tablet. Silly, I know. I have three different committees that I am on, a lot of meetings that I go to, and clients that I need to be able to bill on the go, and I am feeling like a tablet would go a long way in helping me organize it all, and keep it portable. I also have my Bible study to move forward on and well…its all a lot of details, really. Needless to say, I have been busy. Very, very busy. I definitely feel that it would be a business expense, but I am saving every penny, so I can get us into a ranch. I have made do with paper and pen this far in my life, never even really wanted anything but paper and pen, but dang, my binder has a lot of stinkin sections…its not very portable anymore, and well…you see where I am going with this. Anyway, I just might do it. Have to talk it over with the hubby, but I think it makes actual sense.

I have a lot on my mind with three non profits on my plate, and one just waiting in the wings for me to make time for them. I have business licenses and other connections to make. I have a whole lot of details going on. I am trying to do many, many things with my time, and my brain cannot see a list. It sees three lists, swirling around atop and below each other. A tornado of lists, if I may. I have tried to list them all, but the papers just stack up and I cant remember what I have written and what I still need. How do I get all of these details organized?

Once I get the three non-profits organized, I reach a place where I start thinking past them, to what comes after the event is established, and again find myself with a barage of details. Primarily with RMRR. I feel that as soon as I find a place, I need to start planning the respite and foster programs. I need to have everything in place for those to start right away, I need to plan the gardens and farmers market programs, quickly, cause planting is in march, at least for seed sets. I need to plan the RMRR store, and resource programs quickly also. Chickens won’t be far off, once spring rolls around it will be time to get them going. It feels like the next six months is going to be a blur, and yet, I have been waiting so long for this  that I am just as thrilled and patient as can be. Mostly, I am probably just too overwhelmed to be impatient. I can only assume God is using this opportunity to teach me how to juggle the many non-profit programs of my own that I intend to build. I finally found the courage today to make a phone call that I have been dreading. Nothing scary about it at all, I just couldn’t make myself call. Feels good to have faced that beast, and it turned out to be the kitten I thought it would be. Phew, check one more big one off the list.

I have this series of ideas I want to blog about. I learned a lot in therapy, and I think that a lot of people would be alot happier, if only they could grasp a few of these concepts. I also have some ideas about God and the Bible that I would like to share, some unique perspectives, I suppose. I feel as though I should do a “therapy” series. Maybe a “God” series. I certainly feel as though I should blog about some of the more important lessons I learned. A post specifically about being a “special needs mommy”. I always talk about my special needs child,a nd my special needs clients, but never do I talk about the ways in which I relate with these children, and I would like to explore the dynamic that happens when you learn just how easy it can be to “mentor” a special needs child when you understand treating people as individuals and letting go of expectations. I want to post about blame, and shame, and how we all like to think its “mom’s fault”. I would like to blog about shame, expectations, and codependency. I want to talk about the tools we have, and the “lizard brain”, or amygdala. I want to share a concept that was shared with me, and one that I heard someone repeat the concept to, in a very simple way, and how we all have different perceptions. I want to write a letter to all of the folks that I know who are fighting and fighting against simple, honest, real answers. To those who refuse to see whats in front of them, to the “can’t, won’t, but” folks out there. I want to make a plea for Jesus Christ, to those who have been shown, in such a misrepresentative way, what bits and pieces of the Bible say. I want to do so without condemning any organized religion. I want to talk about what it means to love Jesus,and quite frankly, a tiny bit of the anger of the denomination I was primarily raised in, well, that comes through, and I don’t wish to offend anyone. I want to talk to you about health, food, exercise, and a natural way of life, the way God intended.  So much I want to talk with you all about. Where does one start? What do you all want to read about? What are you curious about? Well, friends. Today, you can see, my mind is in a flurry. There is much that wants out, and the avenues for release are scarce at the moment. Until next time my friends…may your thoughts be organized and your days be blessed!

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Co-dependency

Ahhh…..

What a relief yesterday ended up being. In my crabby post yesterday, I spent a good deal of time complaining about helpless people. I actually had a really great, and enlightening day yesterday. I talk every once in a while about things a therapist has said to me. It is no secret I spent many years in therapy. I am not ashamed. Should I be? I don’t think so. Yesterday was a codependency focused day for me, and I have a lot of insight to share today from it. Bear with me if this gets a little drawn out. I have battled codependency my whole adult life, and I assume most of childhood, although I didn’t recognize it. I tried therapy a few times, but they just gave me meds, some of which made it way worse. No one ever called it codependency, until much later. It was called bi-polar disorder. It started when I was 19. One day I woke up, realized that I had had a hard life, and that I had never once cried about it, and man did that open a floodgate. It took years to get that floodgate closed, but I finally did, with the help of two very special therapists, and Jesus. Oh, yeah, and getting off the tri-cyclic birth control. I would like to take a minute to say something VERY IMPORTANT HERE.  If you are on a tri-cyclic birth control pill, and have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, consider stopping them right away. Most likely that is what is causing your problems. It took me forever to figure it out. I started on a very popular birth control pill when I was 19. I have easy cycles, never a problem, and other than realizing I had bi-polar disorder, nothing significant happened. So, a few years back, I stopped taking birth control, and ALL of the symptoms of bi-polar disorder went away. I mentioned this to a friend, and she made the comment that she noticed she didnt need her bi-polar meds any more either, but hadn’t put it together with stopping birth control pills, but that after thinking about it they directly coincided. Here is my thought on the matter. Bi-polar disorder is when you cycle through abnormally strong emotions really fast. One week, manic happy and productive, one week maybe just blahs, and one week severe depression. A therapist explained to me that people have daily “weather”. Normal weather patterns change a little from day to day, but they never go from blizzard to monsoon. Bi-polar emotions go from blizzard to monsoon in moments flat. I think, and I am not a doc or a research scientist, but here is the logic for me. Tri-cyclic pills are three different hormone levels, then a hormone free week. Lets look at the pregnant lady for a classic example of what messing with hormones will do for a persons emotions. I am guessing, that as the hormone levels change each week, they affect our moods drastically, and mimic bi-polar disorder. If anyone out there is a research scientist, I would love to see this study done. So much bi-polar in the world would likely be solved if not for the hormonal birth control pills. Or, at least, if people were diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, they could try removing the hormones before just accepting that they are mentally unhealthy and spending a life in therapy trying to get control of something that could be avoided altogether, or spending years taking anti-depressants and mood stabilizers to offset the effects of the birth control? So, how does this affect my post on co-dependency? Well, in a bi-polar cycle, you are not thinking healthy things, and that just made my co-dependent behaviors that much worse. Not only was I co-dependent, I was emotionally crippled.

So, emotionally crippled, and the young adult emerging from a broken nest, I started my journey. Oh dear. What comes next is twenty very ugly years of me fighting and fighting to regain a sense of the self I lost to that tattered young soul. I did my rebelling and experimenting, I may as well be real about it. I am not ashamed of what I have done in my life. Some of it, I might do differently, given the chance, but I am not ashamed of it. I stumbled through my teens and at a young twenty something, I decided I wanted to be a single mom. Deep in my heart, I knew it was wrong, and I had no idea what was driving this desire. I took it up with the two women I admired the most, and both got excited and said “if anyone can do it, you can”. I went home baffled. I remember thinking “what? No one thinks this is a bad idea? ” I swear I was dying for someone to tell me what a bad idea it was, but nobody did. I went home, got rid of the very great boyfriend I had, and went on a search for the biggest loser I could find, hoping to get a baby, and that the man would leave before it was born (ridiculous, I know, but I was young, dumb, and emotionally compromised). Just to be fair, I did tell the man I wanted a baby, we made the decision to try together, and I did try to make it work with him. As an adult, with a nearly grown child, I understand all of this better now, but it was not till years later when I made a comment to my very “mature” Christian mentor, that I didnt know why I chose to be a singe parent, and he looked at me in utter confusion and said “you don’t?” “I do”. He then proceeded to tell me to look at how the men in my life had treated me, and how, no wonder I would not want one in my child’s life. I have never been the type of person to say that because one or two men hurt me, they are all bad, but clearly my subconscious thought that somewhere, and how incredibly intuitive of my mentor? Understand quickly, that I have been sexually offended by several men in my life, as a child, before I ever even knew what sex was. Again, not my fault, and I am not ashamed of what others did to me that I could not control. People tend to get all sorry for me when I tell them what happened in my childhood. Please don’t. I don’t feel sorry for me. Every single thing that happened was a lesson to turn me into someone who can do wonderful work for God. Everything happens for a reason, and I would not be this girl that I respect and admire today if not for my hardships, and we ALL have hardships. I think yours were as hard as you think mine were. It was ultimately the therapy for my sons special needs that got me where I needed to be. And on that note, you can learn all the healthy behaviors you need to deal with any human being at all, if you just learn what a special needs child requires. Everything about raising a special needs child requires that you look at them as an individual, and treat the behaviors accordingly. If every person in this world was treated the way I was taught to treat special needs kids, holy cow, the world would be an unimaginably healthy and joyful, validated place. The skills transfer to every human beings basic rights. We dont honor the typical human beings rights, but with a special needs child, it is the ONLY way to make progress, and you learn about meeting basic rights. ALL of my relationships have improved since I learned how to validate, give choices, hand over some control of the situation, choose important battles, not ones that don’t matter. Raising an Aspergers kid is where it is at if you want to learn how to relate to people in a way that is healthy for all involved. The skills you learn taking care of special needs kids will last you a lifetime.

So, back to the topic at hand. Co-dependency. Do you know what it is? I thought I did, and there was no way that was me, I was so independent, I couldn’t be co-dependent.  HA! What a fool I was for thinking I knew something. Oh, I knew what co-dependency was alright, I was living a life full of it, but I had no idea that that was what co-dependency actually was. Co-dependency is a deep and intricate “disorder”. Most people don’t even recognize it till a therapist tells them to get the book “Codependent No More”, by Melody Beatty. I know many co-dependents whose lives have been changed by that book. I keep a copy on my shelf too. You open that book, thinking “what can this book possibly offer me?”, and then it changes your life.  http://www.amazon.com/Codependent-No-More-Controlling-Yourself/dp/0894864025

For simplicity sake, here is the Wikipedia definition of co-dependency. It is a good way to sum up the basics for those who are unfamiliar with the disease. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependency

All this background is getting me somewhere, I promise.  So, I spent years behaving like a classic co-dependant. I could not for the life of me figure out why people wouldn’t treat me the way I treated them. I was offended when I was told I was controlling people, but the book put it in a perspective that made me understand what that meant. I leaned about “shoulding all over” myself and others because of co-dependency. I learned that taking care of others is NOT the best way to get ones OWN needs met, and I started trying to take care of myself instead of taking care of everyone else. I had to draw some serious lines in the sand, and it felt cold and callous, but also, so liberating to learn how to put myself first for once. What? I am allowed to meet MY OWN needs? That is weird. I spent years and years in therapy, learning healthy patterns and behaviors, crying about how wronged I have been, just feeling defeated, not good enough, a huge failure, but the answer was bi-polar, and meds, which never helped enough to make life feel good. Once I was given a the above book as an assignment for therapy, it all started to change. I put up limits on how much people could ask of me, I started finding little ways to meet my needs first, and I learned how to say NO to people, which was the hardest part and I still struggle with it from time to time, and in those instances, co-dependency rears its ugly head in just a small way, in my life. I am so aware of it now, that I take control and stop the behavior as soon as I recognize it, but I made it through all of yesterday, before I realized that there were a trickle or two of co-dependency in my behavior, leading me to feel those very same feelings I had so long ago when I did not recognize the behaviors.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s never full blown co-dependency ever any more, just little tiny things that build up when I forget to say no to them, and yes to my needs. Yesterday was all about that for me. If you read yesterdays blog, you know I spent a good chunk of my morning arguing with a very clearly unhealthy co-dependent in my life. I was so angry I was shaking, and told her so, but it just kept going, on and on and on, till I couldn’t take it any more. I spent hours trying to convince her that a therapist could help her with the codependency and she should get help, all the while, letting this girls terrible attitude have a profound effect on my cause she wouldn’t do what I kept telling her was right (if you are at all familiar with co-dependency, you are now rolling on the floor in laughter at the irony of that situation). Still didn’t recognize my co-dependent behaviors of the day, but it continues. My best friend in the world is consumed by her tragedies right now, and I get that. When I try to offer a solution, or advice, I get nothing but “i am not ready to start the healing process yet”. I think that is so unfair. She called me the other day, and I was bawling my eyes out. She didn’t even notice, and proceeded to talk about how emotional she was, yet, she is not ready to change anything, just wants me to carry the burden till she is ready, still, is completely unaware of me. These one sided relationships are VERY co-dependent, and I was feeling pretty angry and hurt. She wanted to stop and visit, but I said NO. Oh, here it is, the magic word that saves me from myself. No. such a simple word, but for some, so hard to learn. I have now said NO, to the co-dependent trying to control me,  and to the person I feel is taking a little advantage of me. I have one or two more big issues to face in my co-dependent battle day. I have been on a spay/neuter task force commitee for years. I love it. I love working with the surgered dogs. I am good with the sick, the needy, the scared, and a natural leader at heart, so it is a good position for me, however, I imagine due to a lot of this co-dependency, I tend to get quite insubordinate when my morals are challenged, and I know it is something I have to work on, meanwhile, its still true. Well, the last several events, I have been feeling quite insubordinate, and as though a lot of responsibility and blame that are not my weights to carry, are landing on my shoulders. It has been a huge stressor, because I really love doing it, but it was clearly taking a huge toll on me, by the way my demeanor went all bi-polar every time it came up. I am talking happy to hurricane in seconds flat. That is a great, big, red warning flag for me, when something causes my now under control emotions to do that. Yesterday, while I was taking back my sanity, I said NO to them too. Oh, that one felt so good! I have been bearing that pressure for far too long now, and what a relief it was to say, “I just cannot do what you are asking of me any more”. I spent my entire day lecturing a close relative about being co-dependent, and at the end of the day, I looked back and realize that I spent the entire day using tools out of my bag of healed co-dependency tricks. I may have fought that battle and won, but every once in a while, the behaviors pop up and get me when I am not watching  for them. I spent my day trying to get some peace and renewal, from taking care of everyone else the last two weeks, and at the end of it all, I look back and think, man, I “should have” recognized this all much sooner this time. Oh well, I recognized it and moved forward. I apologized for being so callous and cold, explained where I was coming from, said I still felt the same way but I could have said it much nicer. I didn’t take it back, just apologized for my method of delivery. I was angry and bitter at what felt like, and still does feel like, several very one sided relationships in my life. The difference today, is that I have a choice between letting those one sided relationships make me feel terrible, or balancing out how much time I spend doing for others compared to doing for me, and how much time I spend doing for others who never notice it. Its all about the choices I make. Not how they treat me, how I choose to be treated. All I have to do is simply choose to treat me better and put less priority on others well being, and I will be ok. I have been trying to put me first, for some time now, and if you follow in the posts, you know that, but always, someone “needs” something from me, and my needs get put off till tomorrow, and tomorrow, there is always something, and my needs just keep getting pushed back further and further, till I have a day like yesterday, where I lock myself in the house and refuse to talk to anyone. I have to be ok with telling someone that I cant listen to her cry today, or that I am happy to listen and understand, but I need a turn to cry too.  There are lots of therapists in this valley. They get paid to do what I do as a co-dependent, and quite frankly, its ok for me to turn folks away or offer a good therapists number if I cant carry their burden that day. Oh so hard to remember that I can say no to the people I love, and that they will still love me, and they will enjoy me more if I take the time to keep me healthy. Learning to say no when someone says they need me has been incredibly difficult, but I am getting it. Yesterady, I said no in a big way to the things that were sapping the energy from me and wearing me down. It was refreshing and uplifting, and I even found time to focus on my Bible study.

A little while back, I started a womens Bible study group on facebook. The first study we chose was on faith. Funny, cause I have strong, very strong, faith. This last couple months though, my faith has been weak. I know He is here with me, but I feel disspaointed in the lack of assitance He is offering me. I had my little tantrum, but then, as I was taking back my peace, I realized in one very brightly lit moment, that I knew I wold be attacked when I started the Bible study, I knew my faith was struggling, but that it would be ok, but it never, ever occurred to me till yesterday, when I finally could see clearly again, that my faith was being attacked because I started a womens Bible study on FAITH of all things. That one made me laugh pretty hard too. I apologized to my good Father, for being such a spoiled little brat, and asked Him to protect my faith while I lead these women through the study. At the end of the day, I looked back, realized I had broken the co-dependent patterns I hadn’t even realized that I was allowing again, figured out why I was having issues with God, and went to bed peaceful, uplifted, hopeful, and spiritually healthy again. Oh what a day it was. Today, I am armed with a new perspective, and I am looking forward to what the day might bring. I am looking forward to continued healing and growth. I wish you all many blessings on your journey. Until next time my friends…