You guys, I haven’t had a good, old-fashioned vulnerability post in a while, so here it is. Please read on and know that whatever you are going through at the moment—you can make it to the other side. I believe in you.
I was writing this morning, as I have every day for the past 31 days as part of my 12 weeks of writing for Julia Cameron’s “Walking in This World” program. With Christmas upon us, much of my writing of late has been drivel about errands that need to be done, familial obligations, and the like. Sometimes I get really deep in my journals and wax all types of philosophical, and sometimes I rant and whine and act like a crybaby. And/both. Ying/yang. Balance. My journals are the places where I allow unfiltered thoughts to see the light of day so I can make sense of them and see where they fit. Blank pages and canvases are where I ponder private things, where I bitch about family drama, and where I share big thoughts and dreams. Safe spaces free of any and all judgment. Immune to the opinions of others. It’s where I basically peel back the onion and dig deep. Writing and art-ing is quite honestly the greatest catalyst for personal growth and development and it is my go-to when times get tough.
After writing today, I came across some of my journal entries from late 2012 and early 2013. It was such a dark time in my life—personally, professionally, financially, relationally (*Is that even a word? My spell check doesn’t seem to think so.)! Just about everything that could go wrong in a finite period of time did, and I was feeling so helpless and small. As I reread page after page of despair and inner turmoil and uncertainty, all of the emotions came flooding back. The pain on those pages was literally palpable. I remember feeling so helpless. I remember questioning my personal and professional decisions and putting almost every single characteristic and value of mine under the microscope. I remember laying in bed and crying and wanting to quit. I contemplated giving up my dreams. I contemplated giving up on myself. I was questioning whether or not you can ever really be a successful solopreneur and a mother at the same time and I once again felt myself wallowing in that dreaded either/or way of thinking. I can either do this or I can be this, but I can never, ever have both (such a toxic way of thinking). I was feeling so much regret and I fucking hate regret…it is such a useless emotion that can suck you dry if you let it. There was stress in my marriage, because when you live and love so closely together as my husband and I do, there is bound to be psychological osmosis and stress is *incredibly* catchy. Just like the flu. Unfortunately, Purell does not kill toxic stress or its side-effects. Trust me…I tried.
So, here I am reading through these old pages today and my first thought was, “I made it. I worked through it, I got clarity, and I came out on the other side.” My second thought was, “Holy shit, how did you keep it together?” And my third thought was, “You didn’t know it at the time, but this was a tipping point for you and it rooted you more strongly in your beliefs.” Then I gave myself a brief pat on the back for making it through that 12-16 month stretch of time without becoming an alcoholic or gaining back all of the 40 pounds I lost in 2011(*I capped myself at half because carbs are my drug of choice and I was quite frankly incapable of battling my carb addiction AND dealing with these rapid-fire, tumultuous grenades at the same time). And, then I took a picture of a small section of one of the pages because I wanted you to feel a little bit how I was feeling. I wanted you to see how even someone who makes her living in the personal development and art therapy space can spin like a top sometimes. But, I also wanted you to see how, despite my angst, I kept asking the tough questions—Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? What can I do differently?—and I gently, yet deliberately, kept putting one foot in front of the other. One of the keys to the recovery and healing process was that I kept the inquiry centered on me. I was taking responsibility for myself and my situation; there was no blame on my husband, my parents, my upbringing, the economy, Obama, or anything like that. One thing I know for certain, growth happens much more quickly when you accept 100% responsibility for all of your bits and pieces.
Why am I sharing this with you today? Quite frankly, because the pain was so acute and so real. And I know many of you are experiencing the same kinds of things—privately and alone—and you might be scared or sad or angry or wrought with grief and uncertainty. And I wanted to let you know that you most definitely have the power to figure things out and come out on the other side. It might take days. It might takes weeks or months or even years. But, you can do it. Grab a pen and paper, sling some paint on a canvas, cut images out of a magazine, take a walk, brush your hair, force yourself to get up and put on nice clothes that make you feel happy, grab a soothing cup of tea or water with lemon, and slowly and deliberately put one foot in front of the other. Ask yourself tough questions. Peel back your own onion. Take responsibility. Have faith. And then do that every single day until you feel you are healed or at least peeking out on the other side of that mountain you have been climbing. You are going to feel incredible exhaustion from time to time—allow yourself a small nap or a spot of meditation and then power through like the warrior that you are. You might want to lash out at your loved ones and those around you—but the only place you should allow yourself that regrettable indulgence is on the pages of a journal. You are going to want to engage in self-destructive and self-defeating behavior—take it from someone who knows…DON’T. It is not the answer…not even those tempting, crack-like carbs are the answer.
Little by little, allow yourself some grace and give yourself a break. Notice the positives and if you are having a hard time finding anything positive—DO SOMETHING POSITIVE. One of the things I did consistently on those pages was to, in the midst of so much sadness and frustration, notice happy things. I often referred to that time in my life as a maelstrom. Yet, I also made it a point to notice the good things that happened each day (like my husband finding my snowshoes so I could get out of the house and get quiet in the freshly fallen snow, my mom taking the kids so we could go out on a date, kind words from a friend about my writing, positive feedback on a class, the beauty of the frost on the windshield, etc). And, because this was right around the time of the Newtown school shooting, I made note of all of my random acts of kindness (26 acts for all the lives lost). It felt so good to give so selflessly when I quite honestly felt I had nothing to offer. Want to boost your spirits? Do something for someone else. Negatives and positives. And/both.
So, there you have it. A little glimpse into a painful part of my past, another powerful testimonial for the power of writing and art as healing tools, and hopefully sufficient encouragement to weather your own storm.
I love you so much!