Never Quit on the Uphill

My last post was about gratitude.  Tonight I’m feeling a lot of gratitude.  For so many things.  That post turned that loss of a friendship around for me.  I had been bombarded with kind of a lot of stuff the past month or so, and showing gratitude in the face felt refreshing and freeing.

Tonight I want to explain what the title of my blog means to me.

Never quit on the uphill.

Life can be hard.  Life can be awesome.  Life is so many, many things.  But regardless of what it is, it is always, always cyclical.  Meaning you will have good times and then bad times and then good times and then bad times and then……..  It will never end.

Once, when I was teaching myself how to run at the age of 40 (Couch to 5K!) I would get very, very discouraged during the uphills.  During the uphill portions of my run, I would think things like – “I’m not a runner.  I can’t do this.  I’m terrible – why did I ever think I could accomplish this?”  Sound familiar?  But then during the downhills, I would feel AMAZING!  So, as I went out for my morning run, I would remind myself not to quit on the uphills.  Wait for the downhills.  And I would persist through the tough uphill runs and then reap the benefits when the road started to level out.

It quickly occurred to me that that was an awesome metaphor for life.  Because we all have those tough uphill times in our lives.  If we let that dictate the whole of our experiences, we would quit.  We would never keep on trying.  But if you fight through the uphills, the downhills can be amazing.  But if you quit on the uphill portion of life, you a.) don’t get to the downhill as quickly and b.) don’t feel the same exhiliration.  So, let the hard times come.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  And you can be assured that the downhill times, when life is good, when the running is easy, will carry you through.

Never quit on the uphill.

Yet, I Am Grateful

It is May 16, 2018.  I am going to spend the next year of my life in radical gratitude.  That doesn’t mean sweeping anything under a rug.  That doesn’t mean sticking my head in the sand,  What it means expressing gratitude through all incoming events, while not minimizing my feelings.

Today I have lost a friendship.  I am sad.   I am afraid.  I am ashamed.  Yet, I am grateful.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to be this person’s friend for the time that I had.

I am grateful to have lived through this because it can help me feel empathy for my children when they go through similar life experiences.

I am grateful for the idea to express gratitude.

I am grateful for those around me that are consistently loving and supportive, including God, my fiance, my children, and friends.

I am grateful for my faith.

I am grateful for new friends.  As the old friends leave, I make way for the potential for new, maybe better (?) friends.

I am grateful that I chose to reach out to this friend with one last vulnerable attempt at love.  It was not well-received.  But I am grateful for the bravery to try.

I am grateful for the increased clarity this brings.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the lowest/least and 10 being the highest/most:

Sad ranks at about a 6 on the scale.

Shame ranks at about a 9 on the scale.

Fear ranks at about a 4.

Gratitude, hmmmm……that ranks at about an 8.  🙂

And here we go……I’m excited for this new chapter in my life.

Gratitude During Rough Times

I know that even my rough times are not rough times.

I know that I am overreacting to criticism and insults by those around me.

I know that I want to control not only those doing the insulting, but those around me and their reactions to the insults.  Do they defend me?  Do they abandon me?

But I know that all I can do is accept.

I know that acceptance and gratitude are my only defenses.

I act with as much integrity as I can muster in a given moment.

And likely so do those around me.

That is the hard pill to swallow.  We are all doing our best.

Who am I to judge someone’s actions or reactions?

That is not mine to own.

I own this.  That I am me.  And I am doing my best.

God is trying to talk to me.

I am too stubborn to stop my thinking and listen to him.

Stop.  Listen.

He is always there.  For all of us.  Not just for me.

Stop.  Breathe.  Listen.  Be.

God is speaking.

Being an Adult

I guess I’m finally ready to start really being an adult.  I think that it’s taken me so very long because I have been terrified of becoming like other adults I’ve had in my life.  Being an adult to me was just stoicism and stonewalling.  As a result, I have been reticent to stay quiet for any reason whatsoever.  Talking through difficulties and problems became my method of coping.  And I still very much believe in working through difficulties and problems – when the people that you are trying to talk to are reasonable and reasonably mature.

However, because I have had such a hard and fast rule about not going silent, I have ended up with no boundaries.  Historically, if somebody engages with me, then I engage with them.  I would not go silent under any circumstances.  Even if they came at me with pointless cruelty.  It would have been far more mature for me to cut these people out of my life at different points in time.  The difficulty is that these people that I truly should have released from relationship were those that are often the most difficult to release: my mother, my sisters and my husband.  I could name multiple reasons for thinking that that would have been the appropriate thing to do.  But it wasn’t ever that simple.  And I thought that perhaps I just wasn’t trying hard enough to make the relationships work.

So, boundaries.  I am reasonably sure that setting boundaries would have naturally cut these people out of my life years ago.  And that scared me.  I didn’t want people falling away.  I wanted good relationships with everyone.  I wanted to try harder, do more, convince them of my goodness, make them like me.  But the more I tried to do that, the more they looked down on me, felt superior to me.  I was giving them the power to treat me poorly.  I trained them that that was ok.  So, I’m retraining them now.

My new mental image involves fences.  I have a fence, which I have never had before.  Most people are allowed to come up to the fence and my goal is to shine my light across my fence and out into the world.  A very, very few trusted friends get to come into the fence.  I also wait to be invited into other’s personal territories.  Allowing one another inside the fenced area is sacred.  Or it should be.  I was allowing anyone in and letting them shit in my yard and even come inside my house and hurt my children.  I would shoo them out but then turn around and allow them in yet again for another chance.  And again, they would shit in my yard and hurt my children.  And the cycle repeated endlessly, with me looking crazier and crazier and crazier chasing them out with my broom and my shotgun.

The truth is then that I have not been abandoned by my family.  I have been mistreated by my family.  And now I have chosen to close the fence and keep them out.  And that is the adult thing to do.  It is the disciplined, non-fanciful way of living.  I am accepting the reality of my situation and I am living within that reality.  I was so scared of losing people to my boundaries that it never occurred to me that I should have been more afraid of keeping them locked inside my fence while they were damaging me and my children.

It’s time to turn the light on.  It’s time to be an adult.  I have a lot of adult-ing to do.  I have precious children that deserve the best that I can be.

So, a few key points that come to mind:

  1. Boundaries are not cruel. They are important.  I will establish them fearlessly and let people drop out of my life as they will.
  2. Self-Discipline (the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it) is not boring, it is stabilizing and reassuring. I will exercise self-discipline proudly.
  3. Evangelism and Being a Good Samaritan – I will keep most people outside the fence, but that won’t stop me from shining my light over the fence onto everyone.
  4. I am not a victim. I am choosing my path.
  5. I do not need to explain myself.  Even if I am not 100% certain of my decisions, it’s ok to proceed fearlessly with my head held high.
  6. Practice faith, instead of fear.  Trust that all will work out as long as I act with integrity and let my light shine.

I am very grateful for where I am in my life.  I don’t have as much as some, but I have far more than others.  I thank God for what I do have and I truly pray that I can be a gift to those around me.

On the Verge

I am on the verge of discovering something new, something big.  I feel like I have been working on a big, giant project for the past four decades and now it’s about to start to resemble something.  The studied areas are forgiveness of myself and others, acceptance of myself and others, emotion synthesis, drinking (i.e., running away from emotions and thoughts), creativity, and the list goes on.  It feels like a sneeze with a REALLY long buildup.  And I’m anxious and consuming gobs of information because the synthesis seems tangible and right around the corner.  The sneeze is coming…..and I can’t wait.

Or is it a sneeze?  Is it going to be a slow trickle?  Hasn’t it already been a slow trickle?  I am oozing out growth and I am growing mentally weary by it, even as I watch it happening.  Not that I don’t want growth, I do!  But I also want to be at peace.  To read fiction novels.  To sit outside and look at the stars.  To stop thinking and figuring out everything.

Sometimes I envy those people that just move through their lives unencumbered.  They react when they want to, they eat when they want to, drink when they want to.  If they get upset, they yell, if they want to sleep in, they sleep in.  My fantasy person doesn’t have to worry about weight, sleep, bills, disciplining kids.  Not that they don’t have to worry about these things, but everything just comes naturally to them.  They don’t second guess themselves.  I have made a career out of second guessing.  Consuming information.  Questing after the improvements.  And it seems like it’s finally happening through a combination of the following events:

  1. Ages 10-20: Felt sadness.  Felt fear.  Loved my stuffed animals unreasonably a lot.  Felt sorry for inanimate objects.  Lived with a chronic, painful and quite debilitating fear of dogs – all dogs.  Defended my mother vehemently to people that insulted her.  Struggled with my identity.  Played tennis.  As a late teenager, yelled at a man working in a gas station when he asked me to leave my ID in lieu of actual payment after I pumped the gas.  I yelled and, in the time it took to get to my apartment and back, my remorse was so immense that I promptly and painfully apologized.  Vowed to myself to not be that person.  Bought How to Win Friends and Influence People.  And the growth began.
  2. Ages 21-30: I learned how to apologize more easily.  Admitted mistakes.  Became (too?) vulnerable.  Learned to laugh at myself.  I got married.  Listened obsessively to Dr. Laura.  Thought of joining the Peace Corps, but didn’t.  Earned three degrees.  Bought a house.  Sold a house.  Moved to a small town.  Wrote a children’s book and then dropped it when an editor’s notes came back with criticism (Whaaaaaaat?).  Conquered (!) my fear of dogs.  Converted to Catholicism.
  3. Ages 31-40: Bought a house.  Sold a house.  Became a stay-at-home mom.  Had my first child.  Loved her dearly and obsessively and therefore spoiled her.  Felt sadness and confusion. Had my second child.  Struggled to parent with limits.  Watched my marriage spiral downwards.  Had my third child.  Became a broadcast meteorologist for a brief time. Felt a boost in self-esteem.  Formed some amazing lifelong friendships.  Lost a friendship.  Held my head high while I apologized and earned that friend back.  Grew emotionally.  Struggled emotionally.  Realized I don’t smile very much.  Realized I wasn’t happily married.  Cried a lot.  Laughed a lot.  Got counseling.  Formed groups.  Sought connections.  Found some.  Lost some.
  4. Ages 41-Now: Moved across the country.  Lived in parents’ basement for a few months.  Got divorced.  Bought a house.  Started teaching at church.  Met another man who is nothing like my ex-husband.  Started to drink too much.  Worried a LOT about drinking.  Struggled in my new relationship but fought through it.  Informally became part-time caretaker of my niece.  Loved her.  Loved my kids.  Took a lot of road trips.  Tried to connect with family.  Failed to connect with family.  Realized the toll it was taking on my kids and stopped trying to connect with family.  Lived on my own with my kids.  Got engaged.  Stopped drinking too much. Began writing morning pages.

And here we are.   So, over the past few days, I have felt the insatiable need to eat.  Not drink now, but eat.  Yes, that can be the result of stopping drinking – a continuation of the avoidance.  But right now it feels like it’s because I have this new life to live and I’m not letting myself live it.  I want to take all that I’ve done through the years and explore it – my need to do this is insatiable.  Today I even had the fleeting thought that life just isn’t worth living.  And I don’t mean that in the doom-and-gloom-I-want-to-kill-myself way.  Not at all.  I mean that in ways I’ve wondered for years, but I was hit with it today as I struggled to help my sad daughter and find meaning at work.  I love my work, but it isn’t particularly meaningful in its own right.

So, I’m writing.  I’m wanting to synthesize.  I am going to keep expanding on this and working this through to see where I’m being led.  Where am I going?  So, if you’re reading this, I feel compelled to apologize – this is all very self-focused crap that is meant to lead me to bigger and better things!  But I think it’s working.

Petals on a Flower

I feel so hopeful tonight and have a few thoughts to share.  I don’t think I have time to fully explore them all – maybe those will have to be followups.

I have had sadness, but sadness has its place.  I thought of it tonight as one of the petals on a flower.  It’s necessary to create the whole.  Anger is another petal.  Joy is another petal.  Fear is a petal.  What would the other one be?  I see it this way with God at the flower’s center.  So, while I have been revolting at my pain and pushing it away, it’s part of what makes me whole and beautiful and real and complete.

I have so much to do and so far to go, but tonight I am feeling peaceful that it all will come together.

My choosing to edge my way toward not drinking is clarity, not cloudedness.  It’s not darkness.  It’s light.  I believe that it is bad because i choose to believe the lies that we as a society tell ourselves and each other.  But when push comes to shove, not drinking is clarity and light.

And i wrote my mission statement tonight at my soul group and here is what it was:

With God, I cocreate a world of light, clarity and love by loving, embracing, listening and making space.  

That doesn’t really have room for drinking – drinking is cloudy and dark and closed off.  I know that I tend to be closed off.  As much as I hate the characteristic of being closed off in other people, I am seeing it A LOT in myself.   I’m not proud of that, but I know that awareness is key.  And I feel excited about the prospect of clarity, love, light and embracing others.  Excitement is not an emotion, but the closest thing to it is joy.

So, with that I’m going to go to sleep.  It’s been a hard day and a great evening.  I’m signing off with peace.

 

Gluten and Alcohol

I gave up gluten 6 years ago.  Can I give up alcohol now?

Giving Up Gluten

I remember giving up gluten.  I had been told for YEARS that it was something I should walk away from.  Not just limit my consumption of, but give up completely and forever.  That idea lasted for about 23 seconds in my brain.  Give up gluten?  No.  I wasn’t even going to consider it.  How would I even exist that way?  I didn’t see that as a viable option.  I wanted to fit in.  What would I do at birthday parties?  What would I do for Friday night Stromboli?  How could I live without pizza?  How could I possibly integrate into normal life?  No.

Fast forward a few years later – I was experiencing significant health problems that I thought had been caused, at least in part, by gluten.  Out of sheer desperation and discomfort, I mournfully and quite literally tearfully, committed to abstaining from gluten.  (And I even added in dairy.)  I cried.  I felt horribly sorry for myself.  And yet my symptoms persisted.  I was committed, though.  Because I was desperate.

About a month later, my symptoms still hadn’t abated.  I was still suffering in that way.  But.  But, you know what?  I haven’t had a stomach ache in….what?….days?  Weeks?  And, wait, no headaches either.  How. Was. That. Possible?  I had been on this earth for 42 years.  And had had headaches and stomach aches every single day.  Every day.  Until the past month.  Wait.  I felt amazing.  Clear-headed.  Light.  I had been so focused on the targeted symptom and alleviating it that I had missed the fact that I was feeling better in literally every other way.  And giving up gluten had gotten easier. Might this be actually worth it?  When people told me that I was nuts…..asked for the gluten that I was refusing, ordered additional gluten when I ordered none, told me they could never do it…..all of that.  I could handle all of that conversation and ridicule if I could feel good!  And I have.  And they do.  And I’m glad.  Yes, it’s hard.  Sometimes.  But then a brief reminder of how much better I feel – and saying no is a breeze.

Then I decided that a little here and there wouldn’t hurt.  Would it?  Nah.  I could have a little.  I was sneaking things here and there.  And that was a REALLY tough allergy season.  Wow!  Standing in line at the grocery store an acquaintance of mine asked about my gluten-free lifestyle, to which I confessed a small amount of cheating.  He said – that doesn’t work.  If you have any, you might as well have had a lot.  Your symptoms will come back in full force with only a bit.

Really?  That can’t be true, I thought.  Wait?  Could it?  No….no way.

Fast forward about 2 months and I was still cheating, because who really wants to go entirely gluten free, and I asked my daughters’ doctor to test my daughter for celiac.  I did this because of her rashes.  I did this to actually rule out celiac.  I did this because I wanted to convince myself she didn’t have it.  To be a good mom.    When he called me with the test results – that’s right – he, the doctor, called me with the test results.  I knew.  I knew that she had celiac.  That she had to remain gluten free for the rest of her life.  And I mourned, I marveled, I wept, I hoped.  I did all of those things over the next few days.  Then, on that April day in 2012, I told my 10-year-old daughter that wheat was tearing her body up.  I told her over a gigantic ice cream sundae.  And that day is the last day that I have willingly eaten anything at all with gluten in it.

Now it wasn’t as hard – I was doing this for a purpose.  It was for my daughter.  Wasn’t willpower.  Wasn’t to lose weight.  Or to feel better.  This was being done so that I could show solidarity with my daughter so it was….well, easy.  Have I suffered occasionally?  Have I wished I could eat a giant hunk of sourdough?  Have I thought how easy it would be if I could just integrate – order a beer with the rest of the group, share a pizza with the group?  Of course.  But when people tell me that they don’t know how I could possibly go gluten free – they could NEVER do that, they tell me.  I still hear it regularly.  I just nod and understand that they don’t know if they would have or could have done it if they had been me or felt like I did.

Now, what does this sound like if I substitute alcohol for gluten?

Giving up Alcohol

I remember giving up alcohol.  I had been told for YEARS that it was something I should walk away from.  Not just limit my consumption of, but give up completely and forever.  That idea lasted for about 23 seconds in my brain.  Give up alcohol?  No.  I wasn’t even going to consider it.  How would I even exist that way?  I didn’t see that as a viable option.  I wanted to fit in.  What would I do at birthday parties?  What would I do for Friday night?  How could I live without pizza and beer?  How could I possibly integrate into normal life?  No.

Fast forward a few years later – I was experiencing significant health problems that I thought had been caused, at least in part, by alcohol.  Out of sheer desperation and discomfort, I mournfully and quite literally tearfully, committed to abstaining from alcohol.  I cried.  I felt horribly sorry for myself.

About a month later:  Guess what?  I felt amazing.  Clear-headed.  Light.  I had been so focused on the targeted symptom and alleviating it that I had missed the fact that I was feeling better in literally every other way.  And giving up alcohol had gotten easier. Might this be actually worth it?  When people told me that I was nuts…..asked for the alcohol that I was refusing, ordered additional alcohol when I ordered none, told me they could never do it…..all of that.  I could handle all of that conversation and ridicule if I could feel good!  And I have.  And they do.  And I’m glad.  Yes, it’s hard.  Sometimes.  But then a brief reminder of how much better I feel – and saying no is a breeze.

Then I decided that a little here and there wouldn’t hurt.  Would it?  Nah.  I could have a little.  I was sneaking things here and there.  Standing in line at the grocery store an acquaintance of mine asked about my alcohol-free lifestyle, to which I confessed a small amount of cheating.  He said – that doesn’t work.  If you have any, you might as well have had a lot.  Your symptoms will come back in full force with only a bit.

Really?  That can’t be true, I thought.  Wait?  Could it?  No….no way.

Fast forward about 2 months and I was still cheating, because who really wants to go entirely alcohol free?  Alcohol was tearing up my body.  And that day is the last day that I have willingly eaten anything at all with alcohol in it.  (This isn’t true yet, but shouldn’t it be?)

Now it won’t be as hard – I was doing this for a purpose.  It was for my health.  Wasn’t willpower.  Wasn’t to lose weight.  Or to feel better.  This was being done so that I could let my body heal from the poison….this will be easy.  Will I suffer occasionally?  Will I wish I could drink a margarita?  Will I think how easy it would be if I could just integrate – order a beer with the rest of the group?  Share a bottle of wine?  Of course.  But when people tell me that they don’t know how I could possibly go alcohol free – they could NEVER do that, they tell me.  I will hear it regularly.  And I will nod and understand that they don’t know.

Wow.  Look at that – so incredibly similar.

When I originally wrote this, I took out the bit about doing it for my daughter.  About an hour later, I went for a walk.  And it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I SHOULD be doing it for my daughters.  I am not setting a good example for them.  Is it too late?  Is the damage done?   I almost couldn’t go on walking with the fear of it all.  So, I’m going to add that part in again.

Now it wasn’t as hard – I was doing this for a purpose.  It was for my daughter(s).  Wasn’t willpower.  Wasn’t to lose weight.  Or to feel better.  This was being done so that I could show solidarity with my daughters so it was….well, easy.