Tag: inspiration

Bumping Your Nose Against the Glass: Thoughts on Caregiving, Being Strong, and Self Care

You see them sparkle. They draw you in close. But before you know it, you’re bumping your face on an invisible barrier that keeps you from reaching them. Over and over you try to break through. If only you could touch one, hold one for a moment, you know you’ll feel worlds better. But you can’t. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t reach. The only thing you can feel is that enlarging hole in your self worth and a busted, bloody face.

That’s the major struggle of being a caregiver.

7 Ways to Kick Anxiety’s Ass

*The following is not and should not be used in place of medical advice. If you need help, please see your doctor or a mental health professional.These are just personal habits I’ve had success with.*

Back in the early 00s, I was a wide-eyed, overworked, scared to death college freshman. In my very Mickey Mouse Intro to College class, we had this group activity. It was one of those icebreaker games that’s only freshmen and people at seminars do. The gist was, we had to pick an adjective that started with the same letter our name that described us. Alliteration being a memory helper and all, I suppose. I instantly knew mine. It was a name that I had been carrying with me since I was just a wee little girl.

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I’ve never known a time when I haven’t been anxious. As a kid, I cried. I cried a lot. I’m not sure if it was the early signs of anxiety, depression, or the effects of my mother, but childhood was full of teary eyes and snotty noses. I remember once during an elementary school orientation my mother telling the teacher that I was “tender-hearted”. It was a descriptor that stuck with me long past my public school days. All these decades later, that tender-heartedness has turned into full-fledged anxiety.

Anxiety is still a big part of my life. It’s a monster I battle each day. Below are 7 things I do to try to take its power away.


Breathe

It sounds simple enough, right? Well, it’s not. Breathing is one of the hardest things to do in the midst of an anxiety attack. Shallow breaths come easy and fast and can cement you in the fight or flight mode. I tend to hold my breath when I’m struggling. I don’t even have to explain why this a foolish thing to do. One thing I’ve found that really, really helps is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It’s a great way to reset your brain and center yourself. And it’s pretty easy.

  1. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
  2. Hold that breath for 7 seconds.
  3. Exhale for 8 seconds.
  4. Repeat as necessary

It’s really a fantastic exercise to regulate your breathing and bring your mind back from the brink. If the 4-7-8 technique isn’t your style, taking deep slow breaths will also help. The fast shallow breaths that are common during an anxiety episode do more harm than good. Breath deep, from the bottom of your diaphragm. Those long deep breaths are the good ones that will help you center yourself and calm down.


Ask For Help

The only thing harder than remembering to breathe correctly often is to ask for help. It’s painful and frightening to open yourself to others. But we are not islands. We need each other. Find yourself a tag team partner. Someone who will support you and work with you as you navigate the bullshit that is anxiety. 

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Whether it’s holding your hand, making you lunch, or just reading the words you need to type, having a circle of people you can turn to is so very important. Ask them for help. Let them help you share the load.

 


Go Outside

Sometimes what you need during an attack is not just a change of space but a change of mind. Going outside can do both. It doesn’t matter if you live in a city or are in the middle of the country, going outdoors is a great way to help bring yourself back. Sunlight, fresh air, and the sounds of nature foster a sense of serenity. Being able to have space and absorb them is a great way to become unflustered.


Create Something

 

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Some of the best art comes from the darkest places. If you are able to harness some of the power of anxiety and use it for good you might be amazed at what you’ll create. It doesn’t have to be great, just make something!  Write some words, doodle some drawings, take some pictures, bake a cake, build a birdhouse! Just put yourself in motion and use your powers for good, not the self-harming evil they can be used for.


Drink Water

The first thing I ask whenever one of my kiddos comes to me with a complaint is “Do you need some water?” Staying hydrated is important. It’s also something that gets overlooked quite often.  As someone who drinks more coffee than I should, sometimes just taking a moment to drink a glass of cold water changes my mindset. Water, dirt, fire, and salt. They are all three things that connect us to the planet. They are all things we need. In the middle of our chaos, I firmly believe these things can ground us.


Find a Positive Distraction

We live in a time where podcast, audio books, and most tv shows we love are streaming on demand. We don’t have to wait to for a certain time on a certain day to lose ourselves in a mindless distraction. It’s available anytime we need it. And when you’re fighting anxiety, you need it whenever the episode happens. Finding something positive that you can quiet your mind and enjoy in the middle of a rough time is wonderful to keep you grounded. Some of my favorite things to listen to are podcast. One of my very favorite podcast is Levar Burton Readse19bd1d38fca74faca9d281a1bf9d29e9da713a57c9e60345030bab6b3a852b51bc68db007ff7d3abf61cf1f941cd4e47d48020374917551204f040abc975062 Its Levar Burton and his wonderful voice reading amazing stories. It’s incredibly calming and interesting. Being able to focus a speeding mind on something as enjoyable as Levar’s voice is great calming technique.


Stay Present

Even harder than remembering to breathe and asking for help is remembering to stay in the moment. When your head is playing the highlight reel of every horrible thing you’ve ever done, its hard to remember to be in the here and now. The following is a grounding exercise I use daily to help me focus on what is and what is not:

5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see.

4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch.

3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear.

2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell.

1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste.

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No matter what methods we use, we must realize that we are stronger than anxiety. While this is a monster that lives in our world, we do not have to make our world about it. It is my hope that some of the tips effect you in a positive way. As with anything, find what works for you and do that.

Why I’m Thankful For Prayers (even though I don’t believe in their God)

Growing up in the South, most conversations that involve tales of hardship end with a hug and one party saying to the other, “Well, we’ll be praying for you.”. As someone who doesn’t follow any of the branches of the Abrahamic faith that influences every bit of life below the Mason Dixon Line, even something as innocuous as prayers can get overwhelming. If I had a nickel for every time someone informed me that they were going to pray for me, well, I’d have a lot of nickels. It seems like everyone wants to include you in their conversations with the Lord. And really, I’m okay with that.

 

To a lot of believers down here, not being a Christian makes me an uncaring godless heathen. Which is funny because as a polytheist, I have more gods than fingers to count them on. And as a person, I’m an Empath. So I care. I care a whole hell of a lot. While I don’t think of prayer in the same way most Christians do, I believe there is something powerful in communicating with the beyond. When that communication is done for the betterment of someone else, no matter who is listening, it’s incredibly meaningful. Whether you’re talking to God like a Southern Baptist, taking part in your daily Salah, whispering to The Goddess, or chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo there is something profoundly magical in the connectivity of that act of compassion.

To me, magic is all about energy. It’s about being connected to not only yourself and others around you, but to the Universe. So taking your energy and manifesting it into something positive for someone else is huge. It’s a big piece of everyday magic we all agree is powerful but we don’t talk about. It’s like telling someone to have a good day, wishing someone a happy birthday, or saying bless you after someone sneezes. It’s taking a bit of yourself and turning it into hope for someone else. That’s what prayer is for me.

I know it’s easy to think that the people praying for you are doing it only for themselves. And you know what, maybe they are. I’ve never inquired as to the rhyme and reason of someone’s prayers for me. I’m not naive enough to think that some of them weren’t straight up “Please Lord, help this girl find Jesus” ones. But, I’d be willing to bet you all my nickels mentioned earlier, a lot of them were for good outcomes. I’ve lit candles and cast circles for people who would have burned me at the stake for doing so hundreds of years ago. And I did those things out of love with the hope that they helped. And in the world we are living in right now, we all need all the help we can get to achieve a good, safe, and peaceful life.

So please, if you feel moved to do so, pray for me. Meditate for me. Chant for me. If my name and my situation are put upon you, do what feels right in your heart of hearts. Because I promise you, every time I feel that need, I will do so for you. I’ll just do it in my own way.

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Imperfection is Beautiful

A Lesson in Wabi-Sabi

The other day, while neglecting the roughly fifty-seven baskets of laundry that needed to be folded, I found this wonderful list of words that have beautiful meanings but not clear English definitions. It’s from 2014 and features the work of Ella Frances Sanders from her book, Lost in Translation. The illustrations are as beautiful as the words, each showcasing the pulchritude that we feel inside, but can’t quite describe.

The one that struck me the most was the Japanese word wabi-sabi.  

Wabi-Sabi centers on accepting that life is fleeting and that its imperfections are beautiful. If you remember my post here I am a proud agent of imperfection. It’s in my nature to have things that are chipped and broken, missing parts but still functioning. So I immediately connected with a worldview that pretty much says my acceptance of imperfection is not just the laziness I’ve been lead to believe.

 

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By ottmarliebert.com from Santa Fe, Turtle Island – White Pink Bowl, CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

So what is wabi-sabi really? Probably one of the best explanations of the idea comes from Richard Powell: ““[w]abi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” While this might sound nihilistic as shit, it really isn’t. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard something so freeing and inspiring.  Let me break down why:  

NOTHING LAST

A roaring summer thunderstorm, your first kiss, the first time a baby says “Mama”, the jar of Nutella you hide in the cupboard to eat by the spoonful because said baby is now 9 years old and never stops saying “MAMA!”. All these things are fleeting. They exist and then they are gone. Their purpose is to be experienced. The thunderstorm inspires and connects you to the Earth. The kiss fills your heart and mind with oxytocin dripped love. The baby brings joy and purpose. The Nutella releases the stress that joy and purpose brings. The emotions they bring to you are beautiful because they are ephemeral. To experience the magic that is in a  beginning, you have to accept that there will be an end. It’s a bittersweet compromise. Being mindful enough to understand that all things have a finality helps you understand how important they truly are. It’s true for people too. Every person and every relationship in your life will eventually end, including yourself. Experience and love them now, in this moment because that is really all we have.

NOTHING IS FINISHED

Life is kind of like road construction here in South Carolina, it’s never finished. All things are a work in progress. Even if it looks complete, there are still pieces changing, ideas morphing, decay and regeneration happening. Nothing, not a building, an idea, an emotion or even a person is impervious to the changes in the world. So every decision we make, every storm we face changes who and what we are. Its uplifting to know that this is not our final form. No matter how bad things are currently, it is not the end of the story. The converse is also true. No matter how good things are, it is not the end of the story. With the burden of a final goal lifted we are free to continue learning, growing, and striving for better for our entire lives. We no longer have to worry about having to accomplish certain things by a certain time. I often struggle with feeling that the time I have to do certain things has run out. One of my deepest secrets is that I want to learn to dance and perform burlesque. For so long I’ve thought that since my age and station in life has meant I’ve missed my chance. But, if nothing is finished, then my chance is still on the table. And that fills me with hope.

NOTHING IS PERFECT

As much as I tout my love of imperfections, there was a time when I was forced to be perfect. In my young formative years, my mentally ill helicopter mother’s focus was on the perfection of my school work. But being the messy, head in the clouds, overly anxious and possibly ADD kid I was, that was never going to happen. I had too many ideas and too few chances to take them to get all the A’s she felt I should. I’m still trying to replace what was lost due to the price I paid for her expectations not being met. During this time, however, I did have one parent in my corner. , When I was bummed out and upset over not having everything come up aces, my dad would say “There was only one perfect person on the Earth, and they crucified him.” I took solace in those words then even if I didn’t quite understand them. Now, I totally understand what he was saying. Perfect is unattainable. Nothing, except for God himself, is perfect. And being perfect wasn’t even enough to save Him. (Sidenote: The Christian faith of my father obviously isn’t my jam these days. I do respect those that choose that path. You do you, fam. Just be nice and I’ll support ya)

If you accept that nothing in this world is perfect, its like life instantly becomes easier. The freedom in knowing that the world is going to be full of fuck ups no matter what you do lifts that blanket of stress clean off. It erases that compulsion to do things with only the end in mind and allows you to now enjoy the process.

 

And while we’re at it, I’d like to share this: Perfect is an illusion. Its a thing of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. It’s a way to keep us plugging away without enjoying our life, hoping to achieve some magical happy ending. It keeps us unhappy, unsatisfied, and forever wanting more. If we banish the idea of perfection from our lives, we would be able to enjoy the beauty that is the mess and chaos that is life.

Fun fact: Wabi-Sabi is actually two words. Originally the word wabi referred to the loneliness of living in nature, away from society. Sabi embodied meanings that included  “chill”, “lean”, and “weathered”. (Unnessaccary sidenote: The meanings of “chill” and “lean” back then are nowhere near the definitions of them now. That “lean” Soulja Boy talks about is not the same type of “lean” ) Around the 14th century (and you thought this was new age hubbub didn’t you?) the words shifted and started having more positive connotations. The philosophy can be found in art, design, engineering and even the practice of the  Japanese tea ceremony.  

It’s not just a thought process, it’s a way of life.

One that I think is beautiful.

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The Queen and Her Crown

My husband had been vomiting for six hours. I had been on hold with the medical helpline for twenty minutes. In the living room, the two youngest kids were going to war with each other and the older one was trying to mediate. The dog was barking at the cat who was drinking from the dog’s water bowl. All of this played over a soundtrack provided by the whichever annoying Youtube Play-Along video the kids had previously been watching. The automated message telling me someone would join my call in just a moment repeated over and over in my ear. And for some reason, there was suddenly not enough air in the room.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no pause button on life. If there were, this would have been when I hit it, went outside, and screamed all of my worries and frustrations right into the face of the sun. Since that didn’t happen, I did the only thing I could. I took in a breath, put on the crown and started handling the shit in front of me like a Queen.

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Obviously, this was no a real crown. I’ve got some beanies and maybe even a baseball cap or two, but I do not own a crown.

Or a Queenly dress.

Or fancy shoes.

Or anything else you’d imagine a Queen has.

That’s because for me, being a Queen has fuck-all to do with outward appearances.

Being a Queen means taking a stand against the forces of self-doubt. It’s about bringing sovereignty to a world of chaos. More so, being a Queen is about justly, fairly, and fiercely reigning over your world. Most importantly, being a Queen also means not giving into and becoming incapacitated by fear.

I’m afraid a lot. In fact, I think it’s my factory preset is to be anxious. I have always been a Chicken Little type of person.  In the last few years, I’ve realized that letting this fear and its anxiety rule my life is unfair. It’s stolen moments and relationships. Its made me dependent on the wrong people. I have put myself in the hands of people who have not had my best interest in mind because I was afraid. When I look back at my life, there are so many times when instead of inspiring me, fear clipped my wings and locked the cage door.

As the primary caregiver for three young children and a husband with multiple health problems, I can no longer allow this fear to exist. By acknowledging my Queenhood, I rebuke the helplessness that fear brings. It gives me the confidence I need to accomplish the things I think I can not. I have people counting on me. And I can not let them down.

So when things get tough, when I feel overwhelmed, and when I’m certain the sky is falling, all I have to do is reach for the crown. My self-professed royalty lifts me up and turns me into the type of woman who bows the head and bends the knee to no one. Especially fear.

2018, so far, has shown me that my family needs a Queen who is not afraid to stand, back straight and chin high, in front of the adversaries in life and tell them to sit the hell down. Heavy may be the head that wears the crown, but someone needs to slay these dragons.

So since it doesn’t seem that this year is going to get easier

Note to Self:

Queen up, Buttercup. It’s time to reign.

 

P.S. The Husband ended up being taken to the hospital for a four-day stay. As a Type 1 diabetic, complications can strike at any moment, especially when battling other illnesses. We are still all recovering from this hectic and frightening start to the new year. The week of this posting, he will be returning to work. We’re hoping the bad times are behind us. Even if they aren’t, I’ve got my crown on.

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