Here’s Looking At You, Kit

© a rainbow at night

This will not be a lighthearted post, but it has been a long time coming, as many of you have probably already suspected. The ole “I’m leaving this blog behind” announcement that’s been a couple years in the making, but of which I’ve only been certain I needed to make within the past six months or so.

For years, everyone has watched me say things like, I’ll post in this way, or that new way, or I’ll try this… But even though I have dozens of half-finished blurbs in my personal writing app (31 to be exact), most of what I’ve scribbled will never make it to the public eye. And I’m okay with that.

I imagined when I got back to a place where I wasn’t trapped in an isolated hell of cognitive confusion and anxiety, I would naturally gravitate back here, to the writing outlet and the people and the support groups that used to keep me going. Then I thought, maybe if I just quelled the desire to explain so much of my thought process, things might flow more easily to the page, while also being more digestible for my readers. Turns out, no, and furthermore, I love explaining my thought processes, and trying to make the breadth of my worldview smaller for some perceived idea of what my “audience” might be able to tolerate, is just another example of how I chronically shrink all that I am and all that I feel so as not to disturb the state of others.

When it comes down to it, as far as I can tell, I really have said everything I needed to say here. It is simply time to close this chapter.

Besides, the ultimate goal of any supportive community is that the members are supported so earnestly and wholly that they cease to require that facet of the community at all. It leaves room for those who still do, and makes room for those who will soon join.

Surely my own aging has a lot to do with things, too. The generation of people with myalgic encephalomyelitis who came before me are now slowly dying out, if not mostly already gone. And my own generation of people with M.E. are becoming less and less well-known; soon we’ll be entering into the years of early deaths, ourselves. Maybe no one will remember that we existed. Maybe no one will have learned from our plight or remember how hard we fought to help each other and society at large stay aware of the truth, believing wholeheartedly that to cure a disease you have to know which damned disease you’re actually studying. Maybe we will never get the help that we have always deserved from those with the most ability to give it, especially as the waters encompassing the ever-changing categorization of “chronic fatigue syndrome” become murkier year-by-year; especially as the knowledge of which disease M.E. actually is fades into history along with us. Because let’s face it:

There’s a reason people with myalgic encephalomyelitis die 25-30 years earlier than the rest of society, even if medicine doesn’t (or claims not to) understand why that is. People labeled with CFS probably do, too, because they cease to ever get diagnosed with whichever disease they actually had. And don’t even get me started on all the terminal diseases untreated Lyme bacteria will morph into! But my point is: For people like me, even if they cured this tomorrow, it would not undo decades of living with systemic disease. And a cure certainly would not save those who are already on their deathbeds.

But aging affects us all, and even as I aim to become more whole in spirit and healed in soul, it is the natural course of things for bodies to gradually lose functioning, and for bodies with diseases to lose it faster. It becomes more and more obvious each and every year that I am blessed to have, with each new diagnosis I acquire, that is not my job nor is it natural for me to keep going at the same pace I did when I first fell ill. Especially, especially at the expense of living this life that I fought like hell to still have. Most of you have no idea just how much, but read on to find out.

Combined with this realization is the trust I now have that the generations following us will make use of the information we’ve painstakingly provided for them, just as we made use of what our M.E. veterans left for us. I have more trust that the invention of social media has done something I could’ve never imagined when I first got sick, which is bring together all the people that the CDC and similar government agencies worldwide tried to silence, and give them a connected voice with which to Act Up during the years they are able. You can muddy the waters and call it whatever you want, but the fact remains that many people are going to get M.E. in the future, and many more are going to be put in the category of CFS or “ME/CFS.” And those people are going to talk, and demand to be studied.

To me, it’s simply a statistical improbability that the invention of the internet, the relative success of social media, and the tenacity of today’s youth should prevent the truth of things from ever becoming known, or prevent that cure. It might be too late for us but it will not be too late for those who follow, as long as those who are called to fight, answer that call. I answered that call when it was my time, and I need to look back at that and feel proud of what I’ve done and how much I contributed, instead of feeling I haven’t done enough.

I used to think there was something wrong with me for wanting to let this go. I used to look at those still holding on to the hopelessness and the anger and the dissatisfaction, and wonder why I wasn’t joining them, if I purported to care as much as I professed. It sounds ridiculous now, when I type it. And I used to respond to the guilt, when others claimed that because my writing was “so good” (even when it harmed me to produce it), or because I still had some cognitive ability intact (even when it wasn’t), or because my knowledge of our history was so extensive (because it was so much easier for people to expect me to do the learning and regurgitation of our info so others, usually others far more able-minded than myself, wouldn’t have to put forth the effort), that it was my main responsibility–in my own life!–to be their soldier. Of course this only refers to the extremists, which are present in all activism communities, but they were telling me and others like me, in so many words: We want what you’ve got, so do our bidding; Don’t deviate from the herd; You’re good at this, so you should be good at it for our sake; Continue on this way at any expense, because think of those who can’t continue at all; Tell our story, not yours.

Now I realize I may have gotten it backwards. They may still be caught in that place because they haven’t found a way to move forward, and I may be leaving because, I finally have.

I suppose there’s really nothing you can do or say in any situation like this, when anyone places their expectations on you to do something that isn’t actually your job, whether it’s an abusive family scapegoating you into taking responsibility for everyone’s problems so they don’t have to face their own shortcomings, or the social justice warriors bullying citizens into feeling personally responsible for the fate of millions while ignoring the larger role top-tier executives and businesses play, or the minorities of society being made to feel like their every action needs to speak for the whole, while society forgets they are just human beings like everyone else, with the same limits and the same needs.

Yes, as it happens more often than I’d wish to recall, I start out thinking I’m the oddball only to realize years later that I was actually responding in a very healthy and reasonable manner. Of course in the past, I’ve made those same mistakes from the other side of the fence, as a younger, more immature advocate. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not any better than anyone else. I just know different things now, and I have different strengths (and weaknesses), and my actual job, is to put that knowledge to use in my everyday life.

Here’s my question for you: What things are you doing, what are you still participating in that you might have actually outgrown?

Are there things you’re doing just because a lot of others in your community do them, but that don’t really resonate with you?

Are there people you tolerate because “the group” likes them, even when you see right through them AND the harm they cause?

Have you outgrown your community, but stay, remaining stifled because you don’t know what’s next for you, because at least where you are right now, you know the rules?

What are you doing in a particular way just because it’s always been done that way by others?

What are you doing just because it’s expected of you, when it goes against everything you think your life should be?

Stop participating in activities that stifle you. Don’t follow the herd when they jump off a cliff. Stop tolerating those people. Leave the places you’ve outgrown. Don’t stay in a situation that harms you just because someone expects you to play the supporting role to their center stage. Stop letting domineering personalities make you believe your most significant worth is how well your actions maintain their happiness. Know that it’s okay to move on, and know that you’re the one who gets to decide when.

It is my wish that every pair of eyes reading this right now will discover the full extent of their personal power to make any and all of those things happen.

In what I guess is my “send off” message, I encourage the same theme I’ve had going here for the past five or so years: If something in this post has prompted you to consider your life, let yourself consider it. More than anything, I want to help people see there are ways to do and to be what they want, and that maybe by witnessing someone do or become whatever those things are, that they find their own courage to do or be it, too. I feel very blessed that I’ve been able to do that with this particular blog over the past decade, and I plan on continuing to use my writing to empower.

Because I’m going to continue being who I am. I’m always going to be the advocate, I am always going to be the one who fights for those who can’t speak up and I am always going to be the one who speaks the truth, no matter which sphere I’m a part of at any given time, no matter which illness or injustice or imbalance I have to stand against. I will always be a little “too much” for some people and “not enough” of something for others. And I will always fight so ferociously for myself and others because of the depth of my love for us all.


Brace yourself for this next part if you’ve known me for a while, as it may come as a shock, and may also be triggering to those with PTSD, particularly Complex PTSD.

To state the bare facts: I have been traumatized and abused extensively in my lifetime, both in childhood and well into adulthood by sociopathic narcissists in my “family” of origin. I moved from here long ago, but was forced to move back to physically survive after I contracted several infections at once and became so ill that I was just barely evading organ failure at the worst of it. (Your organs start shutting down after your oxygen concentration dips below 80%, and mine was, well, exactly eighty percent.) But the only sane, truly loving, authentically compassionate person in my family died while I was still undergoing treatments. After that, my day-to-day existence became dependent upon “help” from these extremely abusive people.

Accepting help from a “narcopath” is the same as signing a contract with them ensuring they get full rights to abuse you in any way they want, with the hidden clause that you are not allowed to protest or they’ll systemically and immediately take all of that assistance away, usually in the order of most-critical-first so as to have the most impact.

I vividly remember the first time I fought back against being abused after my last loving family member had passed away. What followed became a clear message of what lengths they’d go to show me just who had the power now, and that it was no longer me. I wanted to call the police, but I knew that drawing that much outside attention to what I was experiencing would only guarantee even worse verbal, emotional, financial, psychological, and indirect physical abuse in the short-term AND long-term, as punishment. As it turns out, I experienced more and more of all those things, anyway, as the years went on. Abuse doesn’t get better, only worse. If you can identify with any of this, start planning your leave.

Indirect physical abuse is a type of physical abuse where the abuser intends to cause you physical harm, while stopping short of actually hitting you because that would leave proof which could get them arrested. For example, stranding a wheelchair-bound person somewhere without their wheelchair, or purposefully triggering someone’s PTSD (or any other illness) with the intention of causing them visible anguish. There are those in my extended family who have even been thrown into comas when their psychopathic partners intentionally triggered them into violent asthma attacks in order to watch them suffer. These incidents are usually followed by short-lived “honeymoon” periods to prevent the victim from catching on and trying to leave, but the cycle of abuse wheel will always keep turning.

There is a massive element of psychological abuse inherent in indirect physical abuse, because the perpetrator can usually gaslight the victim and even witnesses, including legal authorities, into believing that the victim “did it all to themselves,” since there is no physical mark left behind to help prove the origin of the harm was the abuser. Even though they can spend years learning the victim’s triggers and weaknesses so as to use them as weapons later on, it is much more difficult to prove malicious intent, and the abuser is usually very careful to only show this side of themselves to their victim. It is the reason “house of horrors” regularly show up on the news with neighbors claiming the perpetrators appeared good as gold to the outside world. Because these types know what is right and what is wrong, and which facade they have to apply, and when, and in front of whom, in order to continue hiding in plain sight.

There are innumerable reasons why I was forced to stay in that situation for so many years, and I’ll just have to trust that my readers will take into consideration my intelligence and my ability to make sane decisions, even when choosing the lesser of two evils. They treated me this way, for as long as they did, because they knew they could get away with it given the circumstances. When the circumstances changed and I became stronger, both physically and mentally, the abuse worsened in an attempt to keep me subdued. They should all be in jail for the things they’ve done to me and others, and in fact some of them actually are, for different abuses. But I have finally escaped from them, all of them, and I have a new roof over my head in a much safer location (unfortunately I don’t own this one, but). I have money with which to eat and survive, and no one knows where I now live.

© a rainbow at night

I haven’t escaped unscathed, but in general, I am much more sound of mind than I probably should be, given my experiences. I wish I knew definitively why that is, but from my perspective, I think I owe this in part to:

  • Looking at things for what they are, even when those things are horrible, something not everyone can do;
  • Spiritual practices, including prayer, meditation, an unshakable belief in some sort of Universal Higher Power, mindfulness, and my understanding of the bigger picture (i.e. I am not my body but the divine spirit within this body);
  • Learning everything I can about narcissistic abuse and toxic family dynamics to remind myself it’s not “just me,” especially when I begin to falter and make excuses for them; and even
  • My near-death experiences, which helped remind me of the beauty and preciousness of life, and that abusers are only a small part of this world who can never override all the wonder and joy to be had here for those who are looking. Try as they might to control the reality of others, inflict purposeful harm, and prevent their victims from experiencing or showing happiness, they cannot override the dominant, divine forces of this planet.

And who knows what else. Of course this has come with a ridiculous amount of survivor’s guilt about being able to see through the madness and escape while others still believe in and suffer from the abusers’ alternate versions of reality… Which is probably why the survivor’s guilt related to other things–surviving hurricanes, floods, and the same diseases that have killed so many friends–has affected me so severely: it’s cumulative.

If I’ve gained anything from this situation, it’s that I have found and intimately know the real inner me, that still, small voice that is my Highest Self, and I know this part of me is always, always, always okay, no matter what. I’ve talked to people who don’t even know that place inside them exists, and yet it is the only reason I have been able to survive my life. I have, however, exhausted the limits of what I can handle on my own, and now it’s time to get help. I need treatment, and because I don’t have to be around the very people who are the reason I need that treatment in the first place, I can finally go get it.

I get to build a new life that fosters even more healing from all I’ve had to endure, including the life-altering disease that is PTSD. And I know I can do that, because I’m not afraid of facing harsh truths, and throughout my life I have always taken whatever anyone intended for my harm and transmuted it into knowledge that helped me become more loving, more joyful, more compassionate, and more resilient. I see my beauty for their ashes, and I want to use this next phase of my life to help others find theirs.

“But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. …I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. … Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Casablanca (1942)

 

Well, guys… I’ll see you around.

— Kit

Advertisements

Facing My Worst Fears On Social Media: Am I Really So Terrible?

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Short answer: No. No I’m not.

Reasons I almost didn’t write this:

Because of a pathological and unwanted sense of obligation to protect others’ public image, especially if it involved abusive and/or shameful behaviour, even more so if it was directed specifically at me. Because of decades of being made to feel that it was never their behaviour that was shameful but rather my speaking about it that was the problem. Because of decades of spiritual abuse that, also, mostly condemned those who spoke about wrongdoings instead of the wrong behaviours themselves. Because I was programmed to have emotional loyalty to people no matter how they acted or treated me. Because old habits die hard.

Reasons I absolutely AM writing this:

Because the very act of publishing this is an act of healing. Because the God I actually believe in supports those who speak the truth, not accuses them of being “unspiritual” if their truths make others uncomfortable. And because I can assure myself that no names or identifying characteristics will be mentioned, nor are they even remotely likely to ever read this.

So here’s something I’m actually excited to write about… Last month, or maybe the month before, I’m not sure but right before I returned to social media because I had healed enough to start responding to messages and e-mails once again… Some time ago, I faced my very worst fears in social media and relationships:

Someone not only misunderstood me, but thought the very worst of me, used my benign actions to justify their irrational belief that I was of ‘bad character,’ insinuated that I was being selfish with my time, and looked at things I’d written or shared on social media with an authentic energy and interpreted it instead as directly passive aggressive or malicious against them. Then they said what they thought they needed to say (I’m being generous, here), and blocked me everywhere, before getting to see the physical proof that they were actually 10000% wrong in their assumptions. Not a single conversation about what had been bothering them. Just accusation, character assassination, gone.

They took some of my worst fears, (1) that someone would use my words against me, (2) that I should never speak because people will just misinterpret it to mean something completely different and probably malevolent, (3) that someone would stalk things I did or said on social media to concoct a narrative in which they assume the worst of me, (4) that someone would guilt-trip me over the time I needed for self-care and (5) respond to it with accusations of selfishness and/or view it as an ill-conceived personal attack on them, and (6) that any or all of it would be used to justify abuse, character assassination, and/or emotional abandonment, and rolled it alllll into one. big. grand. gesture.

And guess what. I immediately recognized that it was completely unjustified.

I refused to accept blame for things I hadn’t done, because I knew none of it was true.

I didn’t go into hours, weeks, or months of self-abuse thinking I possibly deserved any of it.

And I survived.

Not only did I survive, but I even assertively stood up for myself (before they bailed, at least).

And, as a bonus, I didn’t move to contempt. Hurt over being thought of in such a way by someone I’d started to trust, yes; anger at being mistreated (a good sign for someone who’d always been punished for expressing anger), yes; disappointment and confusion, yes. But not contempt, not hatred, not a sudden need for self-protection by going on the offense, and no thoughts of “what a terrible person you are for doing all this.” They’re not. I know why they did what they did even if they don’t understand it, themselves. I’ve been a version of them in my past, believe it or not, when I didn’t know the true depths of my mental illness. And because I have compassion for the situations in my life that caused me to behave irrationally with others, I can have compassion for the situations in their life which caused them to do this. (Plus I lived with an infection for 7 years that reliably turned my brain chemistry upside down every 5-6 days. But anyway.)

As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Big Magic, about a woman who’d read her book and imagined a narrative within it that wasn’t actually written: “Their reaction doesn’t belong to you.” I’m only responsible for what I put out, not how it passes through others’ personal filters, for better or worse. I know now that I don’t have to allow those “worst fears” to have power over me anymore, because I know I will not only survive should it happen again, but that I have healed so much in at least this area, that I won’t be sent into a spiral of self-loathing, automatically assuming I deserved it. I can’t even explain the pit “old me” would’ve had to crawl out of in the past, the way it would’ve stirred up abandonment depression and sincere beliefs of “maybe I am everything they think.”

I’m making tremendous progress this year.

This isn’t even counting what happened at the beginning of the year, when I warned people about someone who had copied and posted my work but changed the words around to reflect their own story and history. Instead of any “thanks for letting us know,” and despite me sending them the link to my piece, I was met mostly with people incredulously claiming it wasn’t mine, and how dare I say such things. Ha! So part of my path this year seems to be learning to not be affected by blame or praise. But especially the blame.

“How equanimous are you when people express their views of liking or not liking what you do? Do you take it personally or understand they are simply expressing their own bias? Does praise or blame disturb your balance?”¹ “As the Buddha said, pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disrepute constantly arise and pass away, beyond our control.” He said, “There is always blame in this world. If you say too much, some people will blame you. If you say a little bit, some people will blame you. If you say nothing at all, some people will blame you.”²

I think I’m doing pretty good so far. Don’t you think?

On second thought, don’t respond to that.


I cannot live my life letting fear of what someone might misinterpret decide what I do or don’t do, what I say or don’t say, what I share or don’t share. I’ve lived most of my life walking on eggshells for everyone else, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the remainder of my life doing it, too.

Even now as I write and edit, I feel fear over what others will think about this. Maybe that won’t ever go away. But it doesn’t have to: I’m going to write, speak, share, and live, regardless.

I’m happy about all the progress I’ve made, even if it took something painful to help me realize it.


Takeaways for others, I hope:

  • I didn’t include this part of things, but make sure you’re not accusing someone of something that may actually be partly or entirely due to a technological glitch.
  • Don’t take your thoughts so seriously. Some meditation practices help us contemplate situations from the perspective of, “Do I really know this is what’s happening?” Much of the time, we truly don’t. This can help us find that place of spaciousness from which we can choose to respond instead of react out of past hurts or abuse.
  • If you have mental illness, try to remember your sick brain may colour your perspective of what’s going on. Although not everyone has the luxury of being able to find that spaciousness, not even myself, at all times; the key word is “try.”
  • Likewise, remember if someone has a disease affecting their brain, there’s very little chance it won’t also affect their thoughts, as well as the way they process information. Have compassion.

Above all, remember everyone is doing the best they can with what they have to work with, and for goodness sake, try to think the best of each other.

"To love somebody is to let them be who they are and do what they have to do."

a rainbow at night


1. Focused and Fearless: A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity, by Shaila Catherine, 2002
2. http://www.dharmanet.org/samples/bv4a.htm

A Very Special Way of Life

© a rainbow at night

I’m not used to living this kind of life. It’s so different from what I was supposed to have.

I barely see anyone. I barely go anywhere. I have no local friends and I think I’ve permanently lost my ability to drive. Disease puts me in bed an average of 23 hours per day, or at least to somewhere I can lean back and my legs are propped up to ensure proper circulation. When you tell people these things, they immediately pity you and interpret it as a bad kind of life, or a sad kind of life. “Oh you poor thing…” But I feel neither sad nor pitiful. And if you knew how much worse things actually could have been, you’d understand that only 23 hours in bed is a fucking miracle.

What I actually feel is peace, and I’m content and I’m happy and this fact truly boggles my mind.

This isn’t complacency. I know intimately the “lurking dangers” of this life and never have my head in the clouds–it’s not my style. Just last month I tried an herb that had once helped me for seven years; it failed. The month before I temporarily stopped a medicine I was on to see if it really makes a difference; it does. Two weeks ago I upped another med because one of my symptoms has worsened. And I’m only narrowly avoiding having to start a new neuropathy medication. Meanwhile, with much help I’ve planted spider lilies and a peach tree as investments in the future, bought a chaise lounge for my back porch so I can be outside more, have written and advocated a lot (obviously), put new wind-chimes directly outside my bedroom window, made reservations for a four-day beach vacation with my family next month before it gets too hot, because four days means at least one of those days I’ll be able to actually see the beach…

And I also have neurologist, immunologist, pain management, primary care, and endocrinologist appointments, although I struggle immensely with getting to them. As well as four semi-important blood tests to do that will probably never actually get done because I’m sorry, it is just not possible that someone as ill as myself can awaken and get up four hours earlier than usual without any caffeine, any pain medication, or any food, while having autonomic neuropathy, suicide-levels of pain, and pre-diabetes thanks to polycystic ovarian syndrome…

No, I’m not complacent.

There’s no wool over my eyes so that I can smile in the opposite direction. I’ve spent enough of my time in emergency rooms and hospitals and grieving the deaths of others from my same diseases that a bubble of blind optimism offers me no protection. Nor have I given my resignation to life, although I know I’ve exhausted my treatment options. Even if this was as good as it ever got, I’ve done enough living for many lifetimes, I think. And when the theatre season picks up next month I do have plans to go and to see. There’s a choir, another chamber orchestra, another beach, another ballet, all evenly spaced so that I’ll have time to rest then go then rest again to ensure my attendance at the next.

But for the past four months I’ve been what can only be described as a recluse, and I am so perfectly fine with it, that my peaceful surrender actually gave me pause. I had to stop and make sure nothing was wrong with me, that I wasn’t secretly anxious or scared or complacent or depressed or suffering a lack of motivation, because in my naiveté I thought those were the only reasons anyone could be in their own company for as long as I have and not crave “more.” As it turns out, my definition of “more” has changed dramatically, and being peaceful this consistently just isn’t something I’m used to, so I’ll sit with it for a while until I understand it fully, like Buddha under the Bodhi tree.

Most of my life has been spent in some form of chaos. Even growing up, I had no idea what it meant to relax, although ironically I never put it together that such a hellish environment was the very definition of stress, because that fact was so vehemently denied by the chaos-makers in favor of the illusion of happiness. It occurred to me later in life that this may be why I only accept authenticity and facing life head-on: I know what it feels like to be surrounded by fake emotions and others’ delusions instead of reality, and I never, ever want to live that way again. Life is much less frightening when you face it, trust me. There is safety in the truth.

Even though this is the kind of life that most would consider boring–especially my fellow Americans–I am so happy, and my quiet existence fills me with such joy. After living chaotically for such a long time, there’s now a sweet comfort in my predictable routines, an intense pleasure to be found in what most call mundane. The paradox is that I’m faced with allowing myself this happiness.

Confronted with better alternatives to old toxic patterns, there’s a bridge I must cross every time solutions seem too easy, too good to be true. I used to feel guilty for feeling calm amongst awful situations that were tearing other people apart, situations that in fact used to tear me apart, also. You think I just woke up like this one day? Oh, definitely not.

I still remember where I was the first time I noticed everyone around me was crumbling under a crisis, yet I, instead, was overcome with internal peace, finally aware that I could still not only feel calm, but I could actually be the calm, even as I acknowledged the situation’s dark potential. The difficult part was no longer finding that quiet internal space, but allowing myself to be as okay as I sincerely felt, and understanding it didn’t mean I was any less concerned than everyone else. Unfortunately, that’s how everyone else interpreted it even as I openly expressed otherwise, but you can’t please everyone.

I’m learning to be okay with this type of stability.

People do everything they do because they want to be happy, feel safe, have an impact on the world around them, and live in harmony. I used to think there was only one way for me to get there.

Thank goodness I was wrong.

a rainbow at night


See also:

Reflections on a Year Lived with Illness

Welcome to 2014. May all beings be peaceful.∞May all beings be happy.∞May all beings be well.∞May all beings be safe.∞May all beings be free from suffering.

I had all sorts of things planned following the end of my treatment. It delivered me a burst of energy, alongside my new-found awareness that if there was anything I wanted to do, I needed to do it now. And I had so much on my heart to do, experience, and visit. And I did them all! But I think it led me to believe there might be something wrong with me, now, for not wanting to do so much. The truth–which I just realized after starting a documentary called Raw Faith–is there simply isn’t anything calling to me right now. In perfect honesty, I feel I’m being called to let go of so much, now. And maybe that is okay! If every season is beautiful, and nature is perfect, then maybe I’m right where I’m supposed to be, and what I’m supposed to be doing right now, is just this. I’ve spent a lot of brain cells wondering if I had unintentionally turned off my intuition in the wake of so much loss from the past few months. Until today, it never occurred to me I could still be right “on track,” even in my assumed inactivity.

Last year was a whirlwind, but mindfully so. I wanted to visit close friends, revisit old friends, make new friends and visit with them, too; visit with family I’d never seen, or rarely saw; I did all of this. And I wanted to get out more because I was so tired of only ever getting out for doctors… And did I!

I spent three weekends in a row in the French Quarter, and for my birthday I stayed there for a week. I went to orchestras, ballets, aquariums, zoos, beaches, coffee houses, new restaurants, tea rooms, historic landmarks, stayed in the ritzy hotels with ocean views and two-room suites, swam in water fountain pools, saw the Dalai Lama, learned more French, took up Tai Chi, redecorated my room, sold my car for a newer one, “read” a new audiobook every month, dressed up for every holiday, spent my birthday with my best friend, fell in love, bought tons of flowers, ate tons of amazing food, took tons of amazing pictures, listened to tons of amazing music, and saw tons of amazing films, in theatre instead of at home.

I also slowly but surely upgraded my technology (even my bed) to better suit my ever-changing needs, from a bluetooth speaker that negates the need to get up and change CDs, to a television that’s now mounted on my bedroom wall with a resolution I can actually see and the colors of which I feel are a spiritual experience. These things made being in bed in between all of those excursions–with however much pain and relapse–much more easy to bear. I only went to the ER twice.

There was also heartache. When you begin to change, either your circle of friends changes along with you, or the Universe asks that you let them go. Not everyone is meant to stay in your life forever; most aren’t, actually. One friend and I parted ways early in the year, but it was safe to find closure, so we did. Another had patterns of making it unsafe to share my feelings, so it didn’t end with the closure I’d hoped, but I ultimately had to let them go, too; at least I learned self-care from it. Another simply didn’t wish to find closure, and left. Two did that, actually. I had a girlfriend for several months, but due to dishonesty it ended badly, even though I am thankful for the lessons it brought, including a profound awareness of my own commitment to authenticity, something I am entirely unwilling to sacrifice for anyone or anything. Little did I know, I had already met the woman I would fall deeply for, afterward… ;) She and my best friend for the past thirteen years, join me in 2014.

© a rainbow at night

I don’t expect this year to be like the former. I guess for a while I expected to have a similar desire for activity, but I don’t, and I’m okay with that now. My fatigue is so much more prominent, though my pain levels have stabilized for now. In March, a good friend and I shall attempt to drive to California to see the Redwood Forest and San Francisco. That’s my big plan for this year, but even if we only end up driving aimlessly, instead, it will be wonderful to adventure with someone who shares my appreciation of nature.

You may have heard the quote, it doesn’t matter what you do as much as who you’re being while you do it. 

Who do you want to be for the next 334 days?

a rainbow at night

How Did It Get Like This? I Was Not Raised to Be Peaceful.

© a rainbow at night

I had an unexpected moment of crying earlier, after realizing I had gone back to some old, unhelpful habits, but what actually brought me to tears wasn’t the slip-up. It was the sudden, immense gratitude I felt over having become this person I am today, who now not only has the tools to change and live better, but even the awareness to notice when they’ve regressed. We’re talking about me, this woman who was raised with a psychological and spiritual toolbox that could only ever bring about mental and emotional distress, whose relationship with almost everything and everyone was accompanied by intense suffering… Simply put: I was not raised to be peaceful.

I was raised to judge, be cynical, feel vengeful, hold grudges, be elitist, a perfectionist, and to never relax. No one wants to suffer like this, but we can only do what we know at that time. I am a completely different human being, now, although like anyone, I can slide back into old thoughts, habits, and behaviors when something or someone triggers my protective defenses, when I react instead of respond. But now I have enough awareness to pause, realize when I’m not happy, and decide what I can do about it. I now sit with the knowledge that I am worth my own happiness; that I’m worth investing in myself and my healing in all ways; that it’s okay not to be like everyone else around you; and it’s okay to be the first to change.

Unfortunately, what often happens when you’re the first to make positive change within your circle–whether it’s your friends, family, or family of origin–is the very people you thought would be happiest for you actually ostracize you the most. Their egos feel threatened by you trying to become more or become better, because it makes them feel worse about the damaging behaviors in which they engage in their lives. They lash out and try to stop you from being true to yourself so they don’t have to deal with their own feelings of inadequacy. It’s heartbreaking.


I remember when this path first started, for me. Don’t laugh, but my internet broke for two full weeks, at a time when I had a craving for knowledge, for “something.” So I watched two weeks worth of spiritual programming on my television–perusing channels I didn’t even know I was paying for–and found all sorts of things. I had the realization that there were many other paths to peace than the one I inherited from birth, Southern Baptist Christianity, which teaches we’re inherently sinful from the moment of conception and that only Jesus can “save” us from their god’s eternal wrath. Meanwhile, Buddhists believe in original goodness, not original sin.

The next big step was ordering the Toni Bernhard’s book, How To Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers. Like Mara trying to mislead the Buddha, I could practically hear the voices of my family in my head as I tried to deprogram my former brainwashing:

Who are you to think you can do this? Who are you to think you have what it takes to find your own peace? Who are you to investigate what YOU want to know instead of trusting what you were taught? Who are you to take enlightenment into your own hands? Who are you to think you are even worth it?

The book gave me an introduction to meditation in the form of mindfulness, which was the perfect outlet for me, personally. I don’t enjoy visualization, and I don’t enjoy posing in awkward, painful positions just because they’re supposed to “take me higher.” But I did enjoy learning how to pause and pay attention to my life and what is happening RIGHT NOW, without a need to judge it. I desperately needed to learn how to do this. My life up until then was passing me by because I was never taught to find gratitude in the present moment; I was only taught to get to the next one, and almost all of my actions AND thoughts revolved around using time efficiently.

Underneath it all was the assumption that using time efficiently would equate to a life well lived, but all it actually did was equate to a life that I couldn’t remember living.

Why? Because if you’re always living for the instant gratification and self-congratulation of “efficiently” using the moments that follow, what happens to ones you’re already in? They’re ignored. Instead of living in your actual life, you’re living in your head about what you think could be happening next. How is the brain supposed to make memories out of your life if you only ever give awareness to what’s going on in your own mind? There was so much happening around me, but I was going through life asleep.

The-Time-Is-Now

There’s a saying, if you take care of the Now, the future will take care of itself, because the future is made up of nothing but present moments. Here’s an example, for those who don’t quite get how living in the next moment leads to a life forgotten. You could be reading this half-heartedly, picking up the remote or cellphone every few minutes, distracted, wondering what you have to do tomorrow, what you need to plan in order to make that happen… But is the time to plan for later, when you’re already doing something? You can pause, and realize what you’re doing right now. You may be lying down, or sitting. Your attention is on these words and how they might apply to your life. You may be sipping a drink, cool or warm. You may be comfortable, or uncomfortable. You might enjoy the colors on this page. You might take notice of your breath and realize it’s too quick and shallow with anxiety, and relax your body. Now what are you doing? You’re on the internet–connected to a system that is literally going to outer space and back to provide you with this very moment in time–reading an article. Who knew there was so much peace to be found right here? How has your experience changed since you began this paragraph?

Ironically, while writing this, I heard my mindfulness bell chime. It’s an app you can download for your mobile device (for Android or iOS) that you can set to periodically chime throughout the day, helping you remember to pause, breathe, and focus on what you’re doing in that moment. Toni Bernhard’s describes a method in here book of taking ten comfortable breaths while you focus on one sense at a time: What do you see? What do you currently smell? What do you currently feel in your body? What do you hear?

Is there a Mara in your life, or in your head, telling you that you don’t have what it takes to live a better, more present, enjoyable, peaceful life? Asking you, Who are you to think you can do this?

I leave you with the ever-beautiful words of Ralph Marston yet again, which gave me the courage to even write this blog entry:

“Start where you are, and do what you can. Make use of what you have, in the time available to you, and there’s much you can get done.

Don’t waste your time waiting for conditions to be perfect, for they will never be. Go ahead, with things as they are, and begin making real progress.

The place to aim is as high as you can imagine. Yet the place to start is right where you are.

Let go of any concerns about not having enough time, or money, resources or anything else. Focus instead on the great value and potential of what you do have and of what you can do right now.

See the real treasure that exists in your opportunity and ability to make good, effective use of this moment. Claim that treasure by going ahead and putting forth your very best effort.

Today is your day to achieve and to make your world a better place. Start where you are, and get yourself solidly on the way to wherever you wish to be.”

a rainbow at night