A Gentle Sadness

*First of all, I would like to apologize to my readers for having been gone so long. It wasn’t my intention; I have been healing and processing so much, I didn’t have the energy to write.*

 

I have come to accept that there is an undercurrent of sadness that gently flows beneath everything that I do. It is there, every morning when I wake up. It is there, every night when I crawl into bed. It’s no longer a rage or maelstrom of emotion that feels like it will swallow me whole. It is a ripple, a gentle sadness that I have begun to make peace with, accept, and make room for in my heart.

In the beginning, I had no control over my rage, hurt, and sadness. The emotions would hit me so hard that sometimes, I would fall to the floor, completely debilitated and unable to function. It wasn’t healthy or reasonable to let my feelings take control like they were. I was missing work, crying in the bathroom, staying in bed until three in the afternoon. I wasn’t functioning; by any means. After a time, I began to block the intensity of the emotions simply as a means of survival. I moved into a state of self-preservation and put up walls made of steel. And all of these things were happening subconsciously; it amazes me that my brain knew what to do in order to help protect me and keep me going.

And now, it would seem that I am stronger than I ever have been. The emotions are back, but they are manageable, and I am in control. I no longer have to block them. I have opened up a door to my heart and I am welcoming them in. What I have noticed is that the emotions are no longer a tidal wave sweeping me off of my feet. They are calm and somehow soothing; like a deep and loving hug. I used to be terrified of feeling anything at all; happiness, sadness, despair, it didn’t matter (I have never feared anger. Anger has always been easy for me). I have come to accept this gentle sadness like an old friend. Something that will be by my side, accompany me, and hold my hand.

As I continue to navigate this path in front of me called grief.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi
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You Are Not Invisible

The New Year can be tough for many people for many different reasons. For those of us that suffer from mental illness, we fight a battle every single day of the year. The New Year doesn’t feel any different because we carry our wounds with us no matter what day of the year it is. When you wake up feeling hopeful and determined to make changes in your life in the upcoming year, those of us that hurt wake up not knowing if today will be a good day or a really, really bad day.

This is for everyone who struggles with mental illness. This is for those of us that wear a mask when we venture out into the world. This is for the ones that hurt so deeply it feels like a chore to smile and pretend they are okay. This is for the people who suffer and feel a fear and a sadness so deep it feels as though it will eat them alive. This is for the people that feel separate and isolated for whatever reason. This is for the people that feel invisible.

I am one of those people.

You are not invisible.

You are solid.

You are here and we see you.

You are enough.

You are safe and worthy of being loved.

You are power and resilience.

You are strength and determination.

You are not alone (this I promise).

You matter.

You will prevail.

You are a survivor.

 

Loving Without Expectation

I have been reading loads of articles on letting go of expectations in regards to relationships. And I have come to the conclusion that I am not capable of this.

Yet.

Logically, I believe in everything I have read. Letting go of the need to box up a relationship and give it a name. Letting go of trying to label something and put a pretty bow on it to give oneself the illusion of safety and stability. I understand the concept and I believe that it is a very powerful one; the end game being to love freely and completely with your entire self without the expectation that someone ‘needs’ to love you back in the same way that you might love them.

Loving without the expectation that a so-called ‘relationship’ means a promise of forever.

Maybe loving without expectation is something that some people can do right out of the dating gate. Maybe some people learn how to do this with years of practice. I have tried, a few times now, and with absolute frustration I have realized that I cannot do this at this point in my life. I have been through so much trauma this past year, that I crave that perceived guarantee. Which, let’s be honest, is total bullshit because I know (better than most) that futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight and labels aren’t guarantees and pretty little relationship packages are not promises.

Love feels pretty terrifying right now.

I think that loving without expectation is one of the main tenants of polyamory. Being free to love whomever you love in whatever way that might be. Trusting yourself to give love and accept love. Trusting your partner (or partners) to treat you with respect and kindness as you navigate the ups and downs of multiple relationships. Understanding that there is no permanence in relationships just as there is no permanence in life.

A friend who is poly once told me that in a new poly relationship, everyone involved should go as slowly and mindfully as the slowest person involved. I was so completely traumatized by my one and only experience with polyamory that I am absolutely terrified of having any kind of relationship with anyone. I was literally bulldozed by two people who fell madly in love with each other and then kicked me to the curb.

The maddening thing is, being in a relationship is all that my aching heart wants. But, at least for now, I simply cannot do this without a fear and a terror that I will open up my heart (and it opens in a BIG way), and someone will look at me and say, “Hey, you just aren’t what I want. I do not choose you, I choose this other person. See ya!” I don’t want to be treated that way ever again.

I am currently completely frustrated with myself. I had to let go and say goodbye to a great guy this week. We were doing beautifully for about a month. I was letting go of the expectation that he needed to love me in the way that I loved him. I was learning to trust and believe that I could finally do it, let my heart free, let it out of its terrified space of hurt and fear. He was kind, supportive, nurturing, and SAFE. He was a safe person to love because he would never hurt me. He would never bail on me. I could feel my heart slowly healing.

But then we had this conversation during which he told me he wanted to “keep his options open” and if he wanted to have sex with someone else he wanted to be able to do that without hurting my feelings.

I reacted like a deer in headlights, I nearly disassociated due to my trauma and PTSD. But I breathed through it and in that moment I realized that I simply could not give him that; even though I wanted to, SO MUCH. My heart cracked and broke again and I said goodbye to someone who didn’t want the same thing I did. I could not go through the horror of being left by someone again. I retreated to my space of hurt, longing, rejection, abandonment, and anxiety. I am still living there to some degree. I am trying to feel my feelings without letting them run rampant and seize control. I am getting better at this but it can still feel pretty scary.

But what is it that I really want? A lie? A false sense of security and a sense of safety that isn’t even real? My brain wants that. My heart has a completely different idea. I know now that I can love someone without an expectation that they will love me back. I can be with someone and open up my heart to them without that need for their love to match my own. But here is the catch: I cannot do this in a so-called ‘open relationship’. The minute he dropped that bomb, I knew I was incapable of doing what I had slowly begun to do. Love without expectation. Because, in my limited experience with open relationships, people leave you. They smash your heart and walk away without a backward glance. Maybe someday I will have healed enough to handle something like that if it happened again. But for now, it is just not possible. And the worst part?

I feel like a failure.

I think it is okay to expect certain things. I expect not to be treated like shit. I expect to be treated with care and compassion and kindness. I expect someone to be gentle with my heart and not stomp all over it. These things are non negotiable needs for me, and at this point in my healing, I have to create boundaries that protect them. Which meant saying goodbye to someone I love very, very much. And isn’t that a brave thing to do? To stay within my own integrity and know my own limits and set my own boundaries? I am hurting a lot right now, but that hurt will fade with time. I won’t feel this way forever. Because forever is an illusion and labeling something as ‘exclusive’ or ‘non-exclusive’ means absolutely nothing.

But for now, until the parts of me that fear abandonment heal, I am trying to accept that I need to feel safe within the context of a lie.

Beauty in Breakdown

I am giving you permission to fall apart.

To crumble and drop to your knees.

To cry so hard you can’t catch your breath and your whole body trembles.

I want you to know that it is okay to break and feel like you are losing your mind.

It is okay to feel hopeless.

To hit rock bottom.

To go places so dark and so desperate you feel terrified;

of getting lost there forever.

But forever isn’t a place you can inhabit.

Forever is an illusion.

Forever does not exist.

And even when you feel like you can’t go on and there is no hope,

I promise you that there is.

You are going to pick yourself up off of that floor.

You will find your strength, your hope, your resilience.

Never forget that tomorrow is another day.

But today, you are allowed to break.

There is beauty in breakdown.

I am So Sorry

Sometimes I feel like you left because you were bored and restless.

I feel like you left because you were unsatisfied with our marriage, our family, and your place within the life you and I had created together. I don’t think you wanted the responsibility of having a family or a mortgage. I believe that you wanted your bachelorhood back, you wanted to be single again, because the life we had created together felt stifling. You felt trapped; and you wanted to get the fuck away from me and my addled brain. 

When I feel the devastation as I wake up on Thanksgiving this morning (or any holiday), my brain automatically goes straight to the happy memories. It goes to the space left in my heart where the man I used to love lives. Where the family that meant everything to me still resides, and always will. And it hurts. It wrecks me. At least it used to. I know now that a trip down memory lane is not a place that I want to visit. It is not a place I need to dwell on. It is a land of fairy tales and happiness; hope and longing. It isn’t real.

A part of me continues to question whether it ever was.

In this moment, I want you to know that I am sorry. I am so so sorry. For not choosing you or us. For only seeing my life with you as a part of something bigger; our kids and our family. But there we were, you and I, the most important part of that equation, and we stopped choosing each other. Instead, we chose resentment, complicity, boredom, stagnancy, denial (heaps and heaps of denial). We chose the kids; not each other. We ignored the not-so-invisible monster in the room. The huge beast that was sitting there screaming at us: “Watch out!!! This is getting closer and closer to dangerous territory! Neither of you are happy!! It is time to stop ignoring that!!”

But we didn’t stop. We kept trudging along. We kept marching to the beat of someone else’s drum; society’s drum. We were caught on the relationship escalator and we didn’t know how to get off until it was too late. The escalator broke down and chucked us the fuck off. And now, here we are. Living lives that are separate and apart; we are no longer a couple.

And sometimes that hurts. A lot.

But I know, deep in my heart, that we are both happier. More satisfied. More alive and awake and aware. And we have these new lives to navigate. New horizons and paths to choose. And perhaps one day I will meet someone and we will look at each other the way you and I used to look at each other. And when that happens (or doesn’t), I will make sure that I choose them Every. Single. Day. Because I don’t want to wake up a year from then, or five years from then, and realize I was making the same mistakes I made with you.

I am so so sorry.

Resilience

I am in love with this word.

The sheer power in evokes for me internally is enough right there. But it is so much more than that. It is strength, fierceness, power, fighting back, never giving up, never surrendering. It means that when life throws you a curve ball, you catch the damn thing and throw it right back. It means that if you stumble into your hole in the sidewalk, you climb back out. It means that when you break, you pick up the pieces of your shattered heart, mind, and body, and you put yourself back together. One piece at a time. You rebuild yourself, and reemerge even stronger than before.

It means that no matter what knocks you down, YOU GET BACK UP.

Who actually possesses this amazing quality? What makes a person resilient?

I think it comes down to a couple of things. First, I believe it is a quality inherent in some people. I think people who are naturally resilient are confident, secure in themselves, and have a solid ability to regulate their emotions (especially in the face of adversity). When the shit hits the proverbial fan, they don’t take off running in the opposite direction, they square their shoulders and face off with whatever it is that is coming their way. I am not saying that only certain people embody this characteristic. I am merely stating my opinion, that it may come more naturally to some than to others. For many of us, resiliency is a quality that we need to work on – continuously.

I know that I do.

I have found, over the course of this very exhausting and debilitating year, that I lacked an acceptance of what it was that I was going through (emotionally speaking). I wanted off my emotional rollercoaster as I went up and down and back and forth through the grieving process. Denial, anger, confusion, hurt, rage, fear, depression, despondency – the adjectives are many and seemingly endless. But, it would seem that I have finally moved into this state of acceptance and awareness that I was unable to achieve until now. I feel as though I am finally embodying resilience. I believe that this is because I had to go through the emotions, hit rock bottom, and claw my way back out. I know now, with certainty, that I am strong enough to get through pretty much anything at this point in my life.

What I have come to understand about all of this is that I do not think that resiliency only means embodying that ‘never give up’ attitude. I think it also involves recognizing that sometimes you need to fall the fuck apart. And more importantly – accept this as part of your journey. Fighting against an intense emotional torrent gets you literally no where. Letting yourself be vulnerable and being able to sit with your feelings, no matter how totally terrifying and shitty they may feel, is just another form of resiliency. Because, without that deep emotional processing, you will most definitely keep falling into that abyss; over and over and over again.

And that is the space from which you truly pick yourself back up and continue to fight.

I have finally found that light at the end of my tunnel. It has been a very dark and very terrifying journey. I tried to put a time limit on my grief, I tried to control it and make it stop. It was only when I just gave in and let go that I began to heal. But I believe that it was all a part of my process and my journey. It was one hell of a shitty year.

What I want you to know is this: The pain and the hurt have an ending point. I am here to reassure you that the next stage in this horrific journey that is grief, is you coming to realize that you are strong enough, you can get through this, and that you are safe. So, please do not despair. Do not give up.

Hold onto hope; it’s there, within you.

I promise. You are going to be okay.

How do we create a true resiliency within ourselves?

From The American Psychological Association:

Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience.

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events.

Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals.

Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle with loss.

Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Try visualizing what you want, rather than worrying about what you fear.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

Additional ways of strengthening resilience may be helpful. For example, some people write about their deepest thoughts and feelings related to trauma or other stressful events in their life. Meditation and spiritual practices help some people build connections and restore hope.

Birthday Thoughts

Today is my 43rd birthday.

One year ago today, I wrote my first blog post. I was so distraught and so completely rocked with grief and emotion, my head and heart felt like they were exploding. I was working through SO MUCH and I needed an outlet. So, I bought a laptop, and I started writing. Straight from my heart, straight from my gut. All of my hurt and my pain came pouring out of me. And, one year later, I have this amazing written history of my life and my struggles and my victories and most importantly, my progress.

This post was originally going to be about all of the things I have learned about myself this past year – a victory post. And yes, I have come a long way; from literally hitting rock bottom (at least a dozen times) to squaring off with my demons and winning. I have come to understand myself more than I ever thought possible. I am beginning to believe that there is a light at the end of this tunnel and that light belongs to me and no one else.

I am the creator of that energy, that power, that resilience.

But in this moment, right now, I am so completely overwhelmed with gratitude. It feels like it is choking me; I am surrounded by LOVE. I am literally being flooded with it as my community, my tribe, my friends, my family, send me messages of “happy birthday”. A year ago, I did not know that I had a family of friends waiting for me. A group of people who would love me and lift me up and catch me when I fell. A literal tribe of friends who have my back completely.

I felt so alone.

So, here I am, sitting in my bed once again, crying on my birthday. But the tears are different this time. They are tears of disbelief, wonder, thankfulness, joy, and love. I can say with certainty that I love my life. I love my children, my family, and my friends. And most importantly, I am finding a love for myself that is deep and profound and never ending.

I have a new tattoo – it is a phoenix on fire. I had no idea that a year ago I had predicted that I would be okay; that I was a phoenix. But I am; I absolutely am. I am rising from these fucking ashes and reclaiming my power.

Accepting love, feeling love, and exploding with a disbelief and a certainty that I am okay.

My post from a year ago:

Today is my 42nd birthday.

I woke up all alone in my bed. All alone in my house. There should be laughter and chatter and people and love, but its empty, and my life feels empty as a result.

My husband moved out this past October – taking some space. My kids are with me half as much as they were just five short weeks ago. I did not choose this. I did not want to have a life without my family intact.

I opt out. I choose happiness over this shit storm of uncertainty and heartache. I want my goddamn family back. I want my husband back. Not the asshole who hurt me time and again. Not the one who betrayed my trust and my heart over and over. Not the man who lashed out and said damaging, hurtful things. Not the man who shamed and blamed me. Not the man who fell in love with a 30-year-old who lives in a fucking van. Not that man.

I want the man I spent the last 16 years building a life and a family with. The man who had my back at every turn. The father of my children. The man who laughed with me and looked at me with awe, care, and compassion. The man who adored me, who loved me, who would never have given up on me.

And now? I am invisible, unworthy, and forgotten. I am supposed to be someone I cannot be and I am stuck.

Or maybe, this is not the case at all. Maybe this is an opportunity. Maybe this is a beginning, a chance, a new hope, a new start. A new life. One where I learn to roar and soar and be the most amazing version of myself there is.

Perhaps I will grow, change, and step out of this shell that has bound me to others, to my husband, to my children. I have been leaking out the very essence of myself, for what feels like forever. I have been losing what I needed the most.

ME.

Maybe this is the new life I always needed (and possibly wanted) without ever consciously knowing it. I will find my path; it is infinite, open, and endless with possibility. I am strong, I am empowered, I am fierce. I am the Phoenix and I will rise from these ashes. I will cry out and soar above all of this shit. There will be no stopping the invincible self that lies within me; that has always been within me. My strength, my inner fire; they are there, alive within me, and on their way out.

Step out of my way. I am beginning to roar.