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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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Today’s the day

Good morning everyone!

I am so excited today! Yesterday I wrote about finding your passions and identifying the obstacles to overcome them. Today, I am going to talk about one of my passions, and the obstacles I had to overcome to get where I am today. Gardening. I absolutely love growing my food. It started as a whim, to be honest. I know, I know. Yesterday I told you that you couldn’t jump on every whim bandwagon that came your way and expect success. I was never aiming for “success” in my gardening adventures. It was just a little fun thing I could do on the side of my regular life. It certainly was never meant to be a business. Even now, it is what I would call a “hobby”, but it has become a grand passion of mine. When I started gardening, it was simply for fun. Because I loved growing houseplants. I lived in a tiny, rent controlled apartment, and I wasn’t planning on growing any produce. I just wanted more houseplants. I started a windowsill herb garden. I started with the basic herbs. Basil, thyme, the stuff every pre-packaged windowsill garden comes with. I had no idea that this little garden would start the adventure that it has, and I most certainly had no dreams of homesteading yet. I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was still just surviving and trying to figure out how I would persevere as a single mom with no marketable work from home skills.

It started with an herb garden. I chuckle as I look at what that little whim grew into. Had I not chased that whim, I may have never realized the passion. I quickly realized how much I love growing things. We didn’t have a garden growing up. I had no idea how much I would love getting my hands into the dirt. I had no idea how thrilled I would be about seeing those tiny greens start to poke out of the soil. And now I wanted more. So much more. But there were obstacles, and plenty of them. In that tiny apartment of mine, Spring would come and I would find myself with no available surfaces, as they were all covered with little plant babies that I hoped to raise up. I did not have an option for planting outside. A third floor apartment, a container garden even felt like a long shot, with just a few small windows, how would I get light to everything? Not to mention, gardening really isn’t cheap, and I was living on a very, very tight “budget” (hardly a budget at all, less coming in than going out). Oh, I had obstacles. I was purchasing the cheapest seeds I could find. And I mean cheap. Twenty cents a pack. I didn’t know about organics or GMO’s yet. Just that I loved growing stuff and needed to do it on the cheap. I knew nothing about raising food, and my plants did not thrive the way house plants did. Some would grow long and spindly as they sought light. Some would shrivel up and die because I over or under watered them. I had a whole lot going on in my life and these tiny plants were for fun, not livelihood, which meant they got neglected when the storms whipped up. But I did not give up.

I started dating my best friend somewhere around this time. He likes to spoil me rotten, so from there my gardening passion took off, as he would spoil me with little gifts. He loves to make me smile. He loves to buy me things, and so my garden started to grow. Eventually, we got married and I moved in with him. Out of that tiny apartment, out of the city, and into a small country home. The land was rented, and we did not have a huge garden area, but for me, it was thrilling to have a piece of dirt I could plant in. I researched tiny gardens. I researched container growing. I looked for every way I could find to maximize my planting space, and by now the gardening bug had fully taken hold. I was officially a junky, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on just one more plant, just one more, two more. How many more can I possibly fit? Hubby continued to spoil me rotten, with things like a small greenhouse for mothers day, shipping containers that came in to work would become my raised beds (and let me add that they work amazing for this). However, dirt is not cheap. Of all things, who would have thought that dirt would be the thing keeping me from moving forward, and so I started looking for alternatives. Ways to get dirt aside from the local home improvement stores. I looked at composting and lasagna gardening. We purchased a little composter. I was so excited! I was gonna grow my own dirt. Oh what a surprise I had coming. Composting wasn’t just throw crap in a black bin and wait. Ohhhhh no. It is so much more than that. And so I went problem solving again. Eventually I came to understand composting and we replaced that stupid inefficient bin with a double barrel tumbling bin. Even that bin leaves something to be desired, and my next compost pile will most likely be a pallet structure. An enclosed bin just keeps too much of the elements out, and elements are a necessary part of breaking things down. Every step of the way, every new project, provided learning experiences. I went into gardening thinking it would be simple. Plant seeds, wait. Harvest. If only you could see how hard I am laughing at myself right now.

We lived out a few years in that home, but we needed more. After all this research, I was learning a lot about seeds, soil quality, and composting. I was learning tips, tricks and tidbits to help me along. Every single season I gained more knowledge. When I started, I knew nothing. I felt like it was so much information to take in that I would never succeed, and my garden would always be a whimsical failure. I was wrong, of course, because I had passion, and I put energy into it every day. When I found my compost to be stinky and slimy, I looked it up and found out why. When I had an bug infestation, I did the research to fix it. When my first heads of cabbage grew so big that they cracked, I thought a deer had gotten into them. I did not know the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. I had so much to learn. As the years passed, I learned a little bit more each time a problem arose. I still do. I also grew a longing for so much more. I felt like I would never have the garden I dreamed of. I also had started to learn about other parts of gardening while researching all these failures. I learned about honeybees. I learned about chickens. I finally came to realize that all I really wanted was a little homestead where I could raise my food and spend my “spare” time writing, crafting, sewing, cooking, and preserving food. I discovered I have an absolute passion for dehydrating, of all things. That passion grew so big that my in laws actually bought me a professional grade dehydrator a few years ago. I have four dehydrators now, and on harvest days of Fall, you can come in to find all four running. There is something so incredibly satisfying about all the jars of dehydrated goods in my cupboards, and they sure come in handy some days when I just haven’t gotten to the market in the middle of a winter storm. One day at a time, I learn a little more with each obstacle. Its been ten years now, and I have more information about gardening than I ever thought I would acquire, and still I learn more every single season. I still have plenty of obstacles to overcome every year. Deer. Bunnies. Mice. Bugs. Space. My husband can’t build me raised beds as fast as I can fill them. We can’t purchase enough soil or process enough compost to keep up with my growing passion. Our honeybees were victims of a freak cold snap. And as I meet each obstacle, I diligently search for solutions. Some are simple, traditional solutions, but most are outside the box thinking. This is Montana. We have a short growing season. Maybe you have heard of growing potatoes in tires? Well, I tried that and wasn’t a big fan, but in the process, I learned that while watermelons are incredibly difficult to grow in the ground here, they do fantastic in a stack of tires.

So, everyday I encounter obstacles, and every day I do some research and try new things to tackle them. Some things work, some don’t, and some just defy common sense and I ignore them completely. Like vinegar for weeds for example. Any understanding of soil quality at all would quickly dismiss this simple “life hack” from your gardening plans. Boiling water kills weeds, if you must pour something on them, but use caution not to get your little babies or they die too. I find that putting plastic down on the beds after fall harvest, and leaving it there until its time to plant in the ground in the spring,does and excellent job at deterring weeds. As far as I can tell, it is impossible to completely eliminate weeds, but you can get control of them. You can also cause weeds to grow where none were before. Disrupting the soil makes the ground quite conducive to weeds, and wind and wildlife means there is no way to absolutely keep them out. And, some herbs grow like weeds. A poorly placed mint or catnip plant will overtake your entire garden. There will always be obstacles to gardening success, and as long as this passion lives in me, I will always seek a way around them.

When I started growing, I focused on herbs and vegetables. I really could not understand why anyone would waste their time with silly flowers. Again, giggling at myself. Flowers are beautiful, they are the first thing to come up in the spring as we impatiently wait for the ground to thaw. They attract pollinators, and often deter pests. I understand, and my passion grows to the flower market.

Today I consider myself an experienced gardener. It took many, many years of daily perseverance and problem solving to get here though. I hit brick walls time and time again. I dream daily of a bigger garden, a bigger greenhouse. A heated greenhouse. More perennials. More annuals. One day, one season at a time, I slowly achieve these dreams. I slowly accept that soil quality and regular watering matter. I learned about seed quality and composting. I learned how to network to find good soil, rather than purchasing it by the bag. Last fall, a neighbor rancher and friend gave us a huge load of composted manure from his horse ranch and I have a giant new perennial bed just waiting for it to thaw so I can get out there and fill  it up. I spend all of the holiday season eagerly anticipating January, when I can finally justify pulling out my seed collection and picking my crop for the year. I was incredibly sick this year, and it did not get done until the middle of February, but now I have this big box of seeds taunting me. I look at it every day, waiting patiently for it to be time. Its frozen outside. The weather is blustery, and Spring just isn’t interested in gracing us with her presence this year. I learned the hard way that getting over excited and planting before it is time will only cost you plant babies as they overgrow their seedling planters. I learned the hard way, to keep my impatience in check and wait for the appropriate time to start my seedlings.

And today. Today my friends, it is time! Over the weekend, hubby and I set up the seedling nursery. Today I get to start planting my seeds. Today is the day I have been waiting so many long, cold dreary months for. Today I start the seedlings that require the longest growing season, and I am excited! Excited in a way words can not describe. Its time!!! Its time to get some of those babies in the dirt. We set up a glorious nursery this year, and I can not wait to see how they like their new light set up! I buy very little from the store. I start  the majority of my own seedlings. Onions are an exception, because I have yet to master growing them from seed. As you can imagine, growing everything from seed (which I recently realized is not how everyone, or even the majority, does it), takes a lot of space in the days before it gets warm enough to wean some seedlings out to the greenhouse as the days warm up slowly.

So, today is my day. Off I go to the nursery to play in the dirt and seeds. I can not wait to share pics of my babies with you as they pop out of the soil. I hope you too, can find a way to bring passion to your day. See you tomorrow!

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Answered prayers

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Good day, my friends! I hope today finds you well. It has been a few days since our last encounter, and my brain is just swimming with thoughts. So many things I would like to talk about today, choosing one subject is hard. Bare with me if I jump around a bit. First, a disclaimer. I did not make that meme, and I don’t know who did, but it sure feels perfect for today.

Its been kind of a rough winter here. Who am I kidding? Its been one of our toughest seasons ever. I have been really sick since December. I have tried every remedy that I can find, from conventional medicine and antibiotics, to every alternative treatment I can find. I am finally feeling a bit of relief with my last two remedies, the two I was most apprehensive to try and yet, they seem to be working better than everything else, and so, while they make me nervous due to lack of scientific backing (I like to research things before I put them in my body), I may have finally found a routine that works. Sweet Heavenly relief!

Its been an exceptionally long, harsh, cold winter for us. It has gotten so trying. Being a single income family, we can’t afford for hubby to be ill. Just two days of illness set us back quite a bit, and the challenge of heating this big old home has proven to be a lesson in patience and perseverance this Winter. Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel. The days are slowly warming up, and we were blessed to receive a cord of wood from our wood company, out of the kindness of their hearts. I cried with inexplicable gratitude for answered prayers this weekend. Somehow, with patience and trust, we are going to survive this winter. The end is in sight.

We spent the weekend processing wood and setting up the seedling nursery. Its time! Yay! Time to start seedlings. My all time favorite season. I used to volley between Fall and Spring as my favorite seasons, but Spring is starting to prevail, because I spend most of the winter impatiently waiting for planting time. Something so satisfying about watching those little seeds pop up out of the soil. Longing for the day I can start to harvest the fruits of these precious babies. My mouth waters at the thought of fresh garden produce.

I find myself lamenting on so many blessings, and so incredibly grateful for answered prayers. For faith and patience. I find myself wondering if any of you felt compelled to look into the ways your food is processed after my last post. Do you want to hear more about food? Do you want to hear about some of the natural remedies I prescribe to? What do you want to talk about? I find myself flooded with topics. We can talk about homesteading, simplifying and slowing down (yes, it IS possible), alternative remedies? What is in your food? I certainly don’t want to talk about politics, although I could rant about them for some time right now. We can talk about special needs, natural remedies, food processing and gardening. We can talk about crafts and sewing or homemade body products, without all the chemicals. For that matter, we can talk about the many ways to reduce the chemicals in your environment. I have so many passions, we can talk about just about anything you can think of.

I am all over the place.

Scattered.

Overwhelmed with important subjects.

What do YOU want to talk about?

What can we explore together?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and exploring whatever topics you are interested in, together. I look forward to meeting you and talking to you. I look forward to finding ways to help each other grow into the most loving, positive, joyful forces we can be. How can I help you expand your joy? I have committed to prioritizing this blog. It is time, and God has made that clear to me, so what shall we chat about? I can’t wait to see what you come up with for me. Until we meet again, much love, my friends, and may your days be filled with the loving light of God.

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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.