when an angry mama bear wakes up

***I haven’t written in a long time, and because of that I now have a backlog of thoughts and feelings. I have pent up stories and experiences that could easily materialize into metaphor. But, because I haven’t taken the time for myself to get these thoughts onto paper, they’re now one jumbled mess. And the energy of them sitting dormant is now strong enough to force me through the surface. (See..told you there was metaphor….sometimes we must wait for the process to unfold in its own time ;)).

***This post turned into a bit of a political piece about the recent Alabama abortion ban. It’s a rant on some levels, but mostly I have questions for the people who are a making these decisions. Here goes…***

Last night before bed my husband told me about the Alabama abortion ban. Instantly, I was outraged. Angry to the point of tears. Even trying to write about it now, I’m stuck.

What do I say?

How do I get my point across?

What if I offend someone?

What I want to tell you is that I’m a pissed off mama bear ready to go to battle for her babies. And in many ways, I am. But I’m also scared, teetering on the edge of hopelessness. It seems it keeps going from bad to worse, ad nauseam, and I simply don’t know what to do with it all. When I’m overwhelmed my habitual response is to freeze. In this frozen state, it’s not that the emotion – the anger, rage, grief, despair – goes away; it gets trapped. It rumbles around in my mind, sometimes coming out sideways because, like any energy, it needs to go somewhere. It spills into my relationship with my husband, it clouds my view of motherhood, it changes my own reflection in the mirror.

I hate that this happens. I hate that there are no easy solutions. I hate that there are people so hell-bent on making life harder for so many so they can continue to sit on their self-created pedestals under the illusion they reign supreme.

To those people: what happens when your daughters are raped? (1 in 5 will, according to National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2018.) What happens when they get pregnant from said rape? Or a little too early in their lifetimes because of poor planning or failed contraceptives? Would you even support their babies? Can you really tell me you’d make them enter motherhood on these terms?

And if you do, do you get mental health support for your girls and their children? Do you? Because what they will now be living, and passing down for many generations, is a lifetime of trauma. And those traumatized children may grow up to keep the cycle going, on and on, like clockwork.

I’d love to know what your plans are for supporting the women and children who must now endure unimaginable pain. Pain you think you won’t ever have to confront on a personal level (until you do; no one is immune). And it’s easy to make decisions about others’ lives when you’re so far removed, isn’t it? Perhaps it’d do you good to get to know the interior of peoples’ stories before you go around waving your imagined magic wand, thinking you’re creating some kind of…I don’t even know what you think you’re creating…

So, all this to say: my heart is hurting. I’m an angry mama bear fueled by an overwhelming sadness at the state of our world. What I want us to remember, to know above all else is this:

We are the grownups of the world and hold the responsibility to create safety and security FOR EVERYONE. Banning abortion does not make people safe. It does not stop rape from happening. It perpetuates the cycle of trauma. And trauma, I believe, is the root of all of our societal problems. To change the system, we must change the system. How about starting with treating people as people?

“i love me.”

as i type this, i’m sitting in the lobby of my local ymca. There’s a man sitting behind me who randomly shared with me his strategy for hiding larger bills (in this case, large meant $10) somewhere in his wallet. He was down to his last 2 bucks, and then found the $10. “I love me. I just love me,” he said with a glimmer in his eye and relief washing over and through him.

It’s the little things that can bring so much joy. It’s the remembering to put your keys away in their place when you get home so you don’t have to search everywhere in the morning. It’s preparing snacks for the diaper bag the night before so there’s a little less scrambling in the morning. It’s doing things for yourself that will bring joy, maybe even surprise, later.

What’s so important about what he shared with me is that he was so fully appreciative of himself. He was so clearly happy about finding this money and didn’t hold back in that moment. And, perhaps most importantly, he was intentional about setting himself up for success.

Lesson learned for the day? Yes.

What this translates into is this: Care for your future self. Think about what you might need later and takes steps today to meet those needs. Prepare. Plan. Anticipate. Yes, we absolutely need to learn how to sit with uncertainty and curb our need to control everything. But, planning can go a long way in alleviating anxiety and fear when we’re met with unknown situations. When we’re resourced, we can relax into life a bit more easily.

Some examples of this might be:

  • If you’re a new mom or dad, put a change of clothes and some extra diapers in your stroller/trunk/diaper bag. (I’m terrible at this, and have had many situations where I think, “Ugh, why don’t I carry extra clothes?! You’ll be surprised at how children are water magnets.)
  • If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, talk with people about your fears, worries, etc. Know what lives inside you as much as you can. (If you’re interested in joining a pre-pregnancy group, please email me at sarah@greenblueskies.com.)
  • Whenever you leave the house take an extra snack with you (or buy an extra box of snacks to keep in your car.) Or some Kleenex or handkerchief. Or hair tie. Again, you never know.

This isn’t about preparing for any and every worst case scenario; that will create more stress and anxiety and isn’t even possible. It’s about treating your future self in special ways that will, in turn, reduce the amount stress and anxiety so you can, one day, excitedly find the thing and say, “I love me. I just love me.”

all grown up. forever a child.

There’s a message in our culture that tells us growing up means we shouldn’t want to be taken care of. That we’re codependent for being attached and needy. That, if we’re to call ourselves adults we shouldn’t want what we longed for and needed in childhood. This creates the illusion that we can somehow separate ourselves from our childlike fantasies and playful spirits, from our basic needs even, all in the name of evolving. We buy into this idea that we must sever ties with, cut ourselves off from, the parts of ourselves that are seemingly too young or too immature or, sadly, too vulnerable.

What if, though, something entirely different wasn’t only possible, but integral to healing?

Try this on: we’re BOTH the adult and the child.

I can remember the day when all this knowledge (that I’d been learning for years) finally sunk in. I was making myself lunch, something I can be rather grumbly about because I just don’t feel like it (thanks, ego). I want quick. I want easy. And even though making lunch doesn’t really take much, resistance makes it seems like I’m preparing lunch for 10 people about to leave for a hike: Too. Much. Effort.

On this particular, day, though, I didn’t give into that old familiar friend in my head by snacking on this or that or skipping real food altogether. No. I made a proper lunch despite all the noise in my head. (This is another important lesson about being an adult – doing things because they need to get done versus not doing things because we just don’t feel like it.)

It sounds so trivial writing it out, but the real learning came after I made the meal.

I sat down and ate it as the child. Having food made for me is one of my most favorite things. It’s one loving action that continuously gives me the warm fuzzies. And in this moment, I felt those warm fuzzies as though some other grown person had prepared my food for me. It was as though I hadn’t done it myself at all. The wonder! I was, and am, both the adult and the child all wrapped into one complicated human. 

This is just one example of what it looks like to connect with the different parts of yourself. For many of us, we long for something from someone who isn’t available to meet our needs for various reasons. Maybe they haven’t learned the lessons themselves. Perhaps the time of childhood has simply passed. So we wait, mostly unconsciously, as we project and get irritated and anxious and controlling with the people currently in our lives. We want to boss around the people who can never replace what’s missing.

Yet when we learn to do it ourselves, we can stop waiting (and, thus, stop doing all that other stuff too). We can stop denying and shaming ourselves and take the short road to satisfaction because we realize we are holding the reins of our own lives. We can be the parent we’ve always longed for. And the child inside, with his or her beautiful spirit and vulnerable needs, never has to go away. This isn’t easy. It’s not quick. There’s a whole psychic landscape to navigate either before or simultaneously as you grow yourself up and tend to your inner child and world. As you learn to be both the holder and held.

believe them when they say you’re good

there is proof of your worth all around you.

there are words that make meaning out of something so intangible as your soul.

there are people who see you. the you behind the mask. the you behind the curtain. the you behind the smile and laughter adding layer upon layer to the pain that resides deep within. the pain that’s squirming with outstretched arms saying, ‘see me! hear me! love me.’

there are people who aren’t afraid of your ugly parts. heck, they don’t even judge what you deem ugly as ugly. they notice the cracks in the facade and regard them as just part of the beautiful makeup of you.

believe these people when they tell you you’re wonderful.

believe these people when they say they want to know you.

believe these people as being truth-tellers and not fake phonies just saying something nice because they’re supposed to.

instead of questioning the voice of praise and love, question instead the voice inside that says, ‘no. not me. you must be thinking about someone else.’  

the gift of getting yourself help

we live in a world that has a strange relationship with asking for help. on one hand, we’re taught that we should be able to do everything on our own. that being a successful adult means we don’t need others and that shouldn’t want companionship for the sake of companionship. relationships might be a nice add-on, but they’re not a necessity. on the other hand, we struggle to really take responsibility for our own lives because we expect others to do the heavy lifting for us. we (and i truly mean ‘we,’ as i’m no exception to this rule) blame our parents, our childhoods, our partners as the reason we don’t feel fulfilled, filled up from the inside. we think that if only we had x, y, or z we’d feel better because x, y, or z wouldn’t come with all the extra work seemingly required. life would somehow feel miraculously easy, our minds could finally rest.

both of these belief systems are faulty, though, because they keep us disconnected from our own vulnerability. whether we think we should do it all alone or that it’s every else’s fault we feel the way we do, it doesn’t really matter. either way, we don’t dip into that scared place inside that’s desperate for guidance, for assistance, for a hand to lovingly hold as we walk the walk through the dark and thorny forest. both of these thought patterns keeps us separate from what we’re experiencing in the moment.

the truth is that we all need help and, i believe, a lot of it. Google has become what was once a group of tribal elders; people revered for their wisdom, their tolerance of uncertainty, their ability to guide without directing. but, Google is no elder. it’s a false front for fake answers. there’s no wisdom in instant knowing. there’s no universal rule applicable to every person in every situation. life is too complicated, too complex. so, what do we do when we need another human to sit with us in our mess? what do we do when we finally admit that we can’t do it alone?

in my case, i hired a professional organizer (just one person among several i turn to for help). for as long as i can remember i’ve struggled for various reasons with organization and staying on track with projects. it’s been hard for me to know what to do with my stuff. even more so, approaching it all alone has felt too overwhelming, putting my mind in a stress response which left my brain incapable of truly rational thought. i’ve needed help in this area for a long time. but, there was shame around getting it. ‘i should just know what to do,’ said my mind. ‘why is this so hard for me and not for other people? what’s wrong with me?‘ it continued. i’m glad i didn’t let those voices win out anymore, because hiring the organizer (Holly) has been one of the best things i’ve done for myself. it’s about how she’s helped me in my physical space, yes, and also about the deeper meaning of what saying yes to this want and need means for me. that ‘yes’ has rippled…but that’s a story for another time.

but this is what we do: we deny ourselves what we truly need. we do this for many different reasons: past hurts that still need attention; internalized cultural messages that tell us we’re weak or indulgent for getting help with something we could do on our own; the fear of being judged by others. is there room, though, to dip below the mental chatter and connect with the feeling you get when you say yes to something you really want? when you allow yourself to invite in help from another, to show another person your soft spots, your clutter (whether literal or metaphorical), your messiness? you don’t have to do life alone. the gift of getting yourself help can truly be the best gift of all.

anxiety is a thought pattern

***for those struggling with relationship anxiety, i write this to encourage you to think about your thought patterns as just that: a thought pattern. consider how your constant questioning, comparing to others, thinking there’s one “right” choice spans more than just your relationship. it’s easy to put the reason for our suffering onto our partners, when really the issue lies in our own mental processes.***

recently, i’ve been exploring preschool options for my toddler and found one in the community that seems to be highly aligned with my values and beliefs when it comes to transitions and attachment. they offer parent/toddler classes to support the child in his or her transition into school, acknowledging that this can be a challenging time for young children. most places will agree that it can be tough, yet often take a ‘rip the bandaid off’ approach that is akin to crying it out (something we don’t do at home nor do i agree with). i’ve decided to sign us up for the class, without really exploring other options, without knowing what the hell i’m doing, or if this is the best place for us to be.

i’ve noticied, though, that despite the alignment of values and warm, caring environment of the school, i’m fighting this transition internally. am i tapping directly into the grief of what this all signifies? not quite.

instead, i’m questioning. i’m questioning my decision, the way many of you do when it comes to your relationship:

-did i make the right choice? what if some other place would be better?
-what if my daughter would be happier somewhere else?
-how can i be sure when i didn’t explore every possible option?
-what if i end up not liking this school?
-what will we be missing out on by saying yes to this one?
-i like that school better because of x, y, z…but this other one has these things to offer…but how will i support her emotionally in the same way this school does?…why can’t i have everything???

does any of this sound familiar? the point i want to really make here is that this same thought pattern, the one that drove me crazy for SO long way back when around my relationship, is showing up again in a different context. it’s a reminder that it’s not the relationship that’s the issue, it’s my brain. and, more importantly, it’s what my brain does when i’m feeling a certain way: vulnerable.

i’m at a growing edge here. i’m doing something i’ve never done before, with limited support or people to talk to about how to navigate these waters as a mother. there’s this unspoken expectation that this process be an easy one. you just find a school and send your kid to it, right? (just like you (seemingly easily) find a partner, get engaged, then married, right?) but it’s not that way for me. just as it wasn’t that easy when i was in the marriage transition (or any transition for that matter).

i rage against the passing of time. my natural instinct – or probably a learned strategy growing up in a family that didn’t talk about feelings – is to bury my head in the sand and avoid what’s really going on. i spin in mental circles instead of feeling lost and alone. i tell myself stories and compare myself to others (why does everyone else seem to have such an easier time with this???).

all because i’m so deeply vulnerable right now.

are you?

when you find yourself hooked into the anxious mind, ask yourself if you’re feeling vulnerable. or alone. or lost. consider the other situations in your life where your mind hijacks your sense of peace and you question it all. noticing how the thoughts flare up in other scenarios is one of the best ways to remind yourself that this anxiety lives in you.

it’s yours to work through, and it’s here to help you connect with your deepest self. because when i can see the anxiety for what it is – a signal that there is much more going on within me, under the surface layer of thoughts – i can process what’s truly needing attention: my little baby, the one who i birthed only 2 years ago, is growing up. yes, she’s only 2. but this step signifies the expansion of her world and a step out of what has felt like such a cozy little cocoon all this time. things are changing, and i struggle to wrap my mind and heart around it all. my heart aches for and grieves her babyhood. we celebrate and cry all at once.

what is the anxiety signaling within you? what is the touchstone waiting to be seen, shining through the waters of grief and longing? your anxiety is yours. it’s not the relationship. it’s not the preschool. it’s the feeling underneath that the thoughts are guiding you toward.

the path reveals itself as you walk it

one of my favorite metaphors is this: the path will reveal itself as it’s traveled.

what it means is this: we must move forward (or backward, or sideways) to get more of the view of the path ahead (or behind, or to the side of) us.

the key being: WE MUST MOVE.

when i’m working with clients struggling to make a decision, and in my own experience of indecisiveness, there’s a longing to just know what’s next. will i still want this choice in 5 years? will it still feel the same later? what if i don’t have enough information right now to decide?

keep moving. you’ll learn more as you go.

think about when you’re driving. or if you’ve even been on a river. you can’t see the road, in it’s entirety, at the start of your trip. you don’t know what, exactly, is around the next bend – could it be rapids? perhaps there’s a fallen tree? the more you drive and paddle, the more the path is revealed. movement is necessary in order to be able to see what else there is around us.

how this translates into life? we put one foot in front of the other. we make choices and then we get new information. we say yes to something and see what doors open, and which ones close.

seeing as we’re not birds (and even birds can’t see it all), we don’t get to know what’s way ahead of us until we move in some direction.

so notice: are you feeling stuck? if so, are you stuck because you’re wanting more information in order to move in some way?

if yes, what’s one step you can take today to create some kind of movement?

as you ponder and lean into identifying a step to take remember: trust that you’ll learn more as you go. the path will continue to reveal itself as you walk it. the only way to know what’s next is to step into the unknown.

wave that bubble wand

the other day i was driving around my sleeping daughter feeling rather grumbly about life. i was tired, i was triggered, i was not wanting to drive for hours just to keep my baby sleeping (yet also needed her to nap).

in the past i would’ve enjoyed the chance to explore, to look around at houses and see parts of town (including private roads!) that i normally don’t get to see. but not this day. it was just one of those days when life was getting to me.

until i turned the corner and saw exactly what i needed to see:

a man, at least in his mid-seventies, standing in his open garage doorway wearing nothing but a pair of shorts waving around a bubble wand.

yes!

immediately i smiled and relaxed, remembering that life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. when i’m tired and triggered and just grumbly, life is way too serious. but this man waving around his bubble wand was the antidote to my pessimism. what made it better was that he was all by himself, not caring what others thought (this was on a fairly busy street), and it was the middle of the afternoon.

how random, yes?

play can be such a healing medicine. go wave that bubble wand.

the slow decent into darkness, the return of light

Here in the northern hemisphere, we’re tilting back toward darkness. We’ve reached the apex of light, and now it’s time to return to the cave.

the opposite will be true for those of you in the southern hemisphere. You’ll have reached the peak of darkness, and more and more light will slowly be making its way into your days.

How are you feeling as more darkness or light enter your world?  It’s not that either are new; we go through these shifts year after year, month after month, day after day, and sometimes, it seems, one moment from the next is fraught with fluctuation that leaves us feeling chaotic and out of control inside.

when our souls are calling us into the cave, notice how easily you welcome the invitation or how strongly you resist it.

When our souls want to rush out into the world in leaps of celebration, notice if there’s anything inside nipping at your heels or, like usually is the case for me, grabbing you by the ankles trying to keep you stuck and ‘comfortable.’

Wherever you find yourself right now, you’ll be finding yourself in transition if you open to it. It’s true we’re always in transition, yet there’s something different during the months of anticipation as summer turns to autumn and winter into spring. Death and life looms in the distance, visible now on the horizon. We can see the storm and sense its impending waters and thunderclaps. We can smell the sweetness of the roses making their way through the solid, frozen, thawing ground.

what’s happening inside you right now? What wants to come out? What wants to stay in? We need time to incubate our selves, time to marinate on images and metaphors, insights and wonderings. We also need room for expression, clearing space for new life to grow. All of this involves some kind of stillness, of sitting in the in-between spaces that might feel a little, or a lot, uncomfortable. But sit we must, until what’s next makes itself known.

The daffodils are dying OR Perennial Love

the daffodils are dying and i don’t want them to go. i don’t want the newness of spring to be wearing off, and i don’t want to leave the infatuation i have with this time of year. it feels like ‘falling out of love,’ that fall from fantasy, back to reality after the high and buzz wear off.

for as long as i can remember, when spring came around i’d put my focus on the trees. i’d check them for buds and leaves, and when i didn’t see any it came with such a sense of relief, a reminder of how much spring there still was left to experience. now, there are fully grown leaves on the tress, and, as i said earlier, the daffodils are dying and spring is happening. it’s here, and that means it’s passing.

of course i made a metaphor out of it (what good is anything if it can’t be made a metaphor?). where i landed was on relationships, and how i feel when spring begins is so much like the infatuation in those early stages of a relationship (which isn’t a requirement for a healthy relationship) or even the calm waters settling in after a rough (sometimes very rough) patch. in the beginning, there’s so much hope. when the storm passes, there’s so much relief. “When spring comes I’ll feel so happy,” i’ll think. “I’m going to do so much and really get organized,” i’ll say to myself. there’s so much promise of something different. until i realize that time passes and i’m still the same, with the same habits, the same tendencies, the same stuck points. i do make progress, yes. but not the kind of whimsical, magical, frollicking kind of progress. not the “i’m a new person” kind of progress. in short, i’m not rescued by spring.

and that’s because spring doesn’t last. tiny buds turn into blooms. the daffodils die. spring loses its newness, it’s sense of promise to make everything right in the world. i fall back into despair at moments, beating my head against the wall as i try to figure out how the hell to be better at time management and organization. every year i think spring will make me feel whole again. and even more than that – i actually do feel whole again, but it’s fleeting, a mirage of permanence that still continues to feel like a hard fall from grace every time i learn this lesson of impermanence.

i want to make it so crystal clear that this is what we do with people, too. we think we’ll be saved by them. we think their budding love for us will take us from the winter freeze that hardened our hearts and melt the ice into a pool of easy, warm comfort. and for a time, it might actually be that way. just like with the budding daffodils, there’s so much to look forward to (unless there isn’t; relationships are deeply triggering and i don’t want to make this sound like the beginning should be all, well, rainbows and flowers). it’s easy to be blinded by the future growth we see emerging all around us. the fantasies seem as real as the scent of the flowers.

but, the point is to remember that the scent doesn’t last. flowers can actually turn quite ugly when they’re dying and recharging. the leaves turning yellow has to happen in order for the bulb to gain energy. isn’t that interesting – the plant gives itself the fuel it needs a year in advance to make it through the long, hard winter. this process is necessary if they’re to come back again next spring. we must go through the hard times in order to come alive again. death is necessary for rebirth.

this reality sometimes feels nothing short of impossible to take in and believe, let alone accept. we have years of stored pain around relationships, likely from our own families of origin as well as in the collective. we probably have more experiences of pain when things get hard than of repair, so our trust in it all is meek and tenuous. to do something new and different is an act of bravery, because it can feel as though we’re going to be annihilated if we step out of a familiar pattern. when we step into the unknown.

so, as i conclude this somewhat random, twisty post, i want to assure you that the rough patches in your relationship are going to settle back down into a place of more ease. it might not be quick or happen tomorrow, and things might have to turn ugly first before there can be beauty again. but if we allow ourselves to learn from these moments, we actually get something from them. there are deep lessons here: about ourselves, our partners, our relationships. we can take these times and use it for our advantage. our love can be like the perennial: blooming year after year no matter how long, cold, and dark the winter might have been.