If my life had a theme…

Photo by Peter Heilman via FlickrI recently read a blog by one personal growth guru or another about how each of us has a “theme” in our lives. Perhaps if we have more to learn (or maybe it’s just if we were cursed with a particularly challenging life) then we have more than one “theme.” These themes will show up in various situations until we have successfully learned the lesson. 

I knew in an instant what my theme was: loneliness. Apparently I haven’t passed the test, because this is something that’s lurked in my periphery for years.

There have been times when I thought that I had tamed the beast — formulating umpteen lists about why being alone was actually rad and creating new mantras that said, in so many words, “I am enough.” 

Yet, it continues to reappear like one of those spiders that’s been smashed by a shoe, swatted with a newspaper, and sprayed with Lysol — but still manages to scamper across the floor unscathed. 

I hate loneliness just about as much as I hate spiders. 

The truth is, I’ve deliberately chosen situations that come with a side effect of loneliness — not because I have some sick need to make myself miserable, but because each of those choices were the best thing for me at the time.

In high school I opted to leave what was familiar, for a slightly less “normal” situation: homeschooling by myself in the morning, then heading off to my local high school in the afternoon — a school where I knew maybe two people.

In college I said “hell no” to dorm life and opted for a commuter school instead. (Making friends is a bit harder when a good portion of your classes are with the 40+ crowd.)

After college I decided I wanted to create my own schedule and thus opted to call myself boss and work from home.

Add to that a long-term relationship with a military man turned overseas contractor and you have one huge life recipe for loneliness.

I’ve always had friends — good, lifelong friends — but these individual ties seem to connect me to people who do have a “community.” I don’t think I’ve ever fully felt like I’m apart of something larger, a group that would say that I belong.

In the past, this thought led me to experience some pretty dark patches in my generally sunny life. Now I simply see it as an observation — an invitation to welcome change and stop seeing this as my “story.” After all, I’d rather say “I sometimes experience loneliness,” than “I’m a lonely person.” 

There’s much snazzier adjectives I’d like to have describe me. 

Maybe it’s not an “aha” moment that we need to stop our “themes” from reappearing, maybe it’s just the ability to recognize them for what they are and acknowledge that they’re there to serve as a reminder. A reminder to tweak our thoughts and our actions so that we do get the outcome we desire.

Our outside circumstances stem from our internal experiences — so using what’s happening “out there” as proof that we are right in our feelings is actually looking at the outcome and saying that it caused the steps leading up to it.

It just doesn’t make any sense. 

I’ve created this feeling of loneliness, not by choosing the wrong place to live or people to be friends with, but by selecting that “loneliness” as my reality — no matter the situation I’m in.

What’s your reoccurring theme?

Faith in Uncertainty

When life feels settled, things feel certain, and there’s little time for guessing what’s around the corner, it seems as if breathing comes easier. A little bit of boredom at least means that there’s probably not a whole lot to be losing sleep over. 

But when everything is up in the air – hanging like a cloud, debating whether to pour rain or let the sun peek through – it’s easy to concentrate on the question mark hanging over each and every situation. My life, as of late, seems to be one GIANT question mark.

I don’t know how everyone else handles lulls like this, but for me, I check everything. And re-check. And check again.

I check job boards, I check emails, I check my bank account, I check Facebook, I re-check emails, I check blog stats, I re-check Facebook, I check new job boards, I re-check emails. Etc. Etc. Etc.

It’s a little pathetic, I know.

The thing is, I don’t even really know what I’m looking for. 

I’m waiting for that one BIG thing – the job offer that would put my monthly income where it should be, the opportunity that would give me something to talk about, the lifeline that might pull me out to solid ground again.

And that’s how I know it’s not going to happen right now.

It’s not about being pessimistic, it’s about knowing that every big thing that’s ever happened in my life occurred when I wasn’t looking, wasn’t too invested, and was able to let go enough to be ok with any outcome – a place I’m so far away from at this point, I’d have to take three planes and a boat to get there.

Right now has become my mantra. I want to be swimming in an overflow of financial abundance RIGHT NOW. I want to have some amazing book deal in my hands RIGHT NOW. I want to be free from the stressors that I’ve been feeling RIGHT NOW.

Screw divine timing. I want things to happen when I want them to.

Unfortunately, I’m too aware of the fact that things just don’t work that way. But in the meantime  (did I mention that I HATE the meantime?), I have got to go through a “checking fast” – disconnecting from the uncertainty that comes from obsessing over email, job boards, etc.

Before writing this blog I was toying with actually setting parameters for myself – getting rid of Facebook on my phone, only checking email once a day or when I know that new emails have come in, severely restricting my online time to certain hours of the day. Then I started questioning what I might miss out on if I committed to such stipulations.

Clearly I wouldn’t miss out on anything substantial. But my mind is a stubborn asshole that likes me to believe that good things only come to those that dedicate themselves to being a psycho go-getter.

The truth is, all of this only shows my utter lack of faith – in myself, in the process, in the greater good. And that’s just not going to get me anywhere.

So for now, I’ll start out small. No more checking my inbox immediately after opening my eyes in the morning. No more checking Facebook one more time before I go to bed at night. Hopefully the rest will come naturally – with just a little bit of prodding.

Here goes nothin.’

Releasing My Inner Control Freak

I used to be excellent at being in control. Well at the least the kind of control that you think you have, the kind that makes you wake up at 3am with thoughts of what tasks need to be done, what relationships need to tended to, and what the future might look like, should look like, or probably will look like. It wasn’t as if I woke up due to some unknown force and these thoughts slowly crept into my awareness. No – they were fully constructed entities catapulting through my mind before my eyes even had a chance to open. Now that’s some control craziness.

The truth was, I was never in control. I didn’t have control over the people in my life I thought were my mainstays. I didn’t have control over whether things remained firmly in tact or fell apart at the seams. And that’s why change knocked me flat on my ass.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take hurricane force winds to knock a control freak over, it only takes a small breeze. Why? Because they have so much invested in the outcome that anything different from what they expect can be a massive blow – as I’m slowly learning to recognize.

Controlling anything takes a ridiculous amount of energy for little reward. In fact, the reward is even a sham because it wasn’t the controller that made the situation what it was- it was likely what would have happened anyways, minus all the meddling. It’s just the ego’s way of puffing out its chest and saying, “Yeah, I did that. No big deal.”

Nice try ego.

In reality, all the moments in my life that I would call my “worst” have one thing in common: they all turned out ok. No matter the anxiety or the number of ugly cries I had, it’s always, in some way or another been ok. Maybe not great, but not life-shattering either.

What do I have to show for all the energy I put into wondering how things could possibly fall into place? Nothing. Not. A. Thing.

So I’m giving up the reigns and taking a nap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still an active participant in my life (you really think my type A personality would let me give up full control??), just in a more laid-back, go with the flow kind of way. It’s like replacing a New Yorker with a Boulderite. Yeah, I’m making that much of a change.

It’s so much easier to let everything just be and figure out the logistics later. And usually the Universe is much better at steering than I am, so things can only go up from here. 

Giving In, Letting Go, and Following My Yellow Brick Road

When it comes to starting projects and seeing them through to the bitter end, I’m usually a little wishy-washy. In fact, I’m a lot wishy-washy.

The beginning is always fresh, like breathing in another city’s air on the first day of vacation. This part has me buzzing with possibility, sharing my ideas with anyone that will listen because I am SURE that this business idea/venture/life goal/etc., etc., etc. will be different, that I’ll make it to the top of my Everest with a flag bearing the symbol of my greatness. Every beginning starts with the same phrase – “THIS. IS. IT.” 

The middle is when things get a little dicey. This is when I start to realize that my yellow brick road has been washed out in a recent flood and I’ll have to walk barefoot in the mud to get through to the other side. My problem: I’m not too keen on getting dirty. At this point I’d rather turn back and pick another route that doesn’t seem quite so complicated.

Unfortunately, this means returning to the starting line with a little bit of shame, a dented sense of self-worth and a LONG period of reflection before I find another worthy business idea/venture/life goal/etc.,etc., etc.

Most of us are repetitive beings, trying the same thing over and over again even after we realize that the results are not what we expected or desired. Then, instead of shifting our actions and re-evaluating ourselves, we buckle down and try again – hoping that the circumstances have changed so we don’t have to. After all, why put effort into changing us when we could instead switch jobs, pick a new partner,  or move to a new place? Pick bright new shiny circumstances and we’ll become equally as bright and shiny…right?

Wrong. 

I realized eight months ago that the changes I needed to make were extensive. And exhausting. And so annoyingly irritating to tackle. I’m still in that process. Still trying to make sense of a new existence that doesn’t include all of the things that I thought were so SURE. I’ve become calmer, more at peace, more confident, less wrapped up in bullshit. And a lot of it is bullshit. 

I’ve learned to walk through the muck and the mud without turning back (well, at least not returning all the way to square one). I’m shedding my baggage along the way, one piece at a time.

This wasn’t a project I had intended to take on – in fact, it was one I avoided/feared/loathed all at the same time. Ironically, it’s the one I can say I’ve continued to push through.

Sometimes the things we are forced to go through shape us in more profound ways than any experience we ever choose for ourselves. And being led to face the things we fear the most can provide far more relief then simply never having to see those fears become a reality. 

I’m learning, growing, and letting change happen. It’s a liberating journey. Now who’s coming with me?

Yes, I Eat My Feelings

Lately I’ve been stuffing my feelings down with copious amounts of artery clogging fast food style burgers and early morning milk shakes. I follow this by an alcoholic beverage or two and a desert sweet enough to wash it all down. Needless to say, my lethargic body hates me. With a passion.

Despite my naturally small (and by small I mean short) size, and a metabolism that leaves me starving come 5am, I have always had an up and down relationship with food. It’s not all that strange given the fact that I’m in my early 20’s living in one of the most superficial countries in the world. But I’m smart enough to know that more often than not I treat my body as if it were my worst enemy- one I’m trying to punish with a slow and painful death. Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but you catch my drift.

It took me twenty years to finally warm up to the idea of exercising because I tend to avoid all things that I don’t think I’ll be good at. I was even able to skirt those pesky P.E. requirements in high school by offering to help with the special needs kids. Seriously. Then a few years later and fourteen pounds heavier, I decided that my small stature would inevitably leave me looking like an oompa loompa if I didn’t tweak my habits.

Yoga proved to be my saving grace in the effort to stay zen while kicking my ass in to shape. But despite my dedication for those few months and my success in convincing my body that anything was possible, I stopped. Cold turkey. I could say that I got too busy (lie) or that it became too expensive (truth with a little lie mixed in), but the truth is, like many things, I just stopped caring.

After nursing my post-Sonic stomach ache this morning and brooding over how large I felt, I had a fleeting moment where I realized how counter productive my actions were in creating a healthy, happy existence. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about being in tune with what my body is telling me. And unfortunately, I put a muzzle on it a while back.

My life has changed drastically in the past few weeks, and my celebratory eating (yes, my preferred bonding experience is over hot dogs and chocolate chip cookies), has turned into avoidance eating. I have felt my career begin to lose momentum before fully taking off, and filling in the voids of ending an old routine and beginning a new one has made food look oh so appealing.

I’m excellent at setting intentions. I’ll say, quite matter of factly: “Come Monday I won’t be eating donuts the size of my face or topping a heaping plate of nachos off with a margarita. Nope, I’ll be munching on tofu and snacking on almonds.” In reality, come Monday I’ll be setting a new intention for a later date while ordering some more french fries.

All things in moderation, I know. It’s not about depriving myself of the foods I actually enjoy eating, it’s just depending on food more for sustenance than entertainment. Or comfort. And that is far easier said then done.

And Here Comes the Sun…

For the better part of the last three years I have waited for a significant change to happen in my otherwise middle of the road kind of existence. Perhaps the universe was backed up with requests and received all of mine at the SAME TIME. Nonetheless, the past three weeks has left my life looking like Heidi Montag post surgery. In a good way, of course.

After seven months of panic attacks and limited communication, my high school sweetheart came home from war. (Strange how retro that sounds now.) This was precluded by a week of hearing that the homecoming date was being pushed back yet again- another indication that organization is not one of the Marine Corps strong suits. However, every cloud has a silver lining and mine was wine guzzling and antique shopping with the other perturbed Marine wives/girlfriends. Without them I very well could have pulled all my hair out.

Three o’ clock in the morning on April 30th we were all dolled up and ready for those few seconds we had waited too long for. While I will undoubtedly experience other reunions in my life, I don’t know if I will ever again experience the massive amount of love and respect that this one garnered from everyone present. And for that I am truly grateful that I have loved someone who couldn’t be entirely mine for the past 3+ years of my life.

For those who left on October 4 and never came home and for those who sustained injuries that will forever change their way of life, my heart goes out to you. I know that the brotherhood of men that my love left with ensured that I attended his homecoming and not his funeral. I am forever indebted to all of you.

Because pictures (and videos) speak a thousand words, here is the video of the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines homecoming from Afghanistan. For anyone without an immediate connection to the military who doesn’t fully understand the sacrifice involved, this is what it’s all about.

I will now always have this as my reminder that all challenges come to an end and a little bit of faith can move mountains.

I’m Ready

I’ve never really been a procrastinator. Sure, I avoid certain conversations, errands, and menial tasks, but when it comes to the big stuff I never hold off the inevitable. Even in elementary school I would write book reports a month in advance and complete group projects on my own if everyone else seemed to be shuffling their feet. And now that my compensation comes in the form of money and not praise from my teachers, I don’t even recognize procrastination as a viable way of being.

I suppose I could read a million self-help books that would confirm that this behavior is positive, that I am being proactive in getting to where I want to go. But in doing things today so that I can enjoy tomorrow, that illusive day off just gets pushed farther into the future. If running a thousand miles an hour opens up even a small window of time for nothing I will find something to fill that hole.

Rationally I realize that I’m avoiding stepping on the brakes simply because I know that silence will follow. I have been avoiding standing still out of fear that I will have to listen to my fears. How ironic. And in the midst of it all, I’m angry that planning for the future has left me floating above the present moment with no real connection to either.

As uncomfortable as I am with the prospect of moving to a new town that can’t offer me the lifestyle that I’m used to, I’m also relieved by the fact that distractions will be few and far between. There is something refreshing about the idea of stripping down to the bare essentials and allowing life to be simple again.

I could say that I just want to be able to truly live, but in all honesty I’m not even sure what that means. After all, what does living really constitute? Breathing? I’ve got that covered.

No, I want to sit in the middle of life and experience everything exactly how it is- not something that needs to be changed, manipulated, or fixed. I want to see life in tiny moments instead of always taking in the bigger picture. I want to avoid planning and allow everything to unfold exactly how it was intended to. I want to let go of who I think I am and become who I never thought of becoming.

I am ready to just be.

Creature Comforts and Cable Negotiations

I think I’ve found the place. Well, maybe not the place as in “this is the place I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life living in.” No, more like this is the place that seems to require fewer hours to clean, and not quite as many bugs to herd out before becoming hospitable. Although the one area of contention that might just be the sole cause of a few breakdowns: no dishwasher. Wait…what century are we living in?

Yes, I know- not a big deal. But I have come to discover that I am one of those people who depends greatly on creature comforts. I gave up on that tiny glimmer of hope that we might actually have a washer and dryer, but a dishwasher just seems like a give in. Like running water. (Maybe I should check on that one too.) And then while I was breaking out in a cold sweat over hand washing dishes, my honey says to me, “We aren’t getting cable, we really won’t need it.”

Umm…hang on. I think that one just gave me a heart attack. Quickly, and a bit too defensively I quipped “you want me to live in the middle of the desert with no freakin’ cable?!” This was about the time when I started to run through the list of things that we might not agree on. Like how many covers to have on the bed or who will scrub the toilet. All of which is a little too much for someone who has pretty much lived sans roommates for the past 2+ years (I figure my parents don’t really count).

I won the cable battle after a very compelling argument and probably more whining then my honey really wanted to listen to. However, all of this has made me a little too aware of how much readjusting this move is going to require. Last time I trucked out to that corner of California I think I was a bit more moldable and pleasantly unaware of what I was in for. Luckily the gamble paid off and I loved it. Really loved it.

Once the dust settles (actually I don’t think it every settles there…) I know I will be able to find my niche again. Even if it is with basic cable and no dishwasher.

Please Get Out of My Room…Thanks.

Cohabitation, in my “this is my space, please kindly remove yourself from it” mindset, has never been an idea that I snuggled up to. Not only does my sanity depend on the fact that I can remove myself from all other living, breathing, and talking beings, but my experience with roommates has been severely limited to family members who (I’m hoping) would never pour bleach on my clothes or steal my pricier belongings (I suppose I’m channeling the Bad Girls Club here…). I’m stubborn, picky, and am prone to noise induced panic attacks. Crazy? Just a bit.

While my post-high school living situation did include a brief stint with my honey in the deserts of California, I feel like in knowing our time together was limited (he was in the midst of shipping off to Iraq), I was able to not let (all) of my anxieties get the best of me. But this time, as I prepare for his homecoming and a 2nd move, cohabitation has taken on a kind of permanence that makes me giddy with excitement and sick to my stomach all at the same time. Our communication over the past 6+ months has been limited to skype chats, 3am text sessions, and facebook messaging…so how on earth can that be translated into bed sharing, chore sharing, and overall life sharing with the simple flip of a switch?

Although I’d like to site his lack of cleanliness and attachment to video games as the main reason for my concern, in truth I am dreading those issues that will point to me being the one that needs to shift, change, and cave just a little bit to let him in. Deep down I know that as long as I stay attached to my way of doing things and closed off to sharing anything in my space, the more I can convince myself that I am right and everyone else is WRONG.

Despite these little butterfly jitters, I have begun thrift and craft store shopping so that we can have a champagne inspired pad on a PBR budget. I’m convinced (since signing on to write for Calfinder) that this is absolutely possible. My first project that I have attempted to tackle: fixing up picture frames and removing the pictures circa 1999. Next up?….Not entirely sure.

Got any suggestions? Wine bottle candle holders, film strip curtains, I’m up for anything. Give me your best tips and I will be sure to post pictures of the finished product.

Cashier or Stripper: It’s All a Matter of Perspective

I woke up in a drag yourself out of bed and curse at the world kind of mood. I’m not entirely sure where all this bad energy sprouted from considering I drifted off to sleep repeating the mantra “everything is right in the world and good things are coming my way.” Maybe my brain just went into overdrive with all the fantastic things I was creating and it blew a fuse. Just a thought.

Today I allowed myself to be sucked into that “let me turn on everything with the ferociousness of a rabid dog” mentality. I picked out a few choice situations that were nagging reminders of how my life wasn’t playing out exactly how I had intended and ran with them. The result? An hour-long reprieve from the work that I should have been doing in order to look up secluded retreats in odd corners of the world with the intention of escaping it all. Bad choice for someone who already feels a festering pool of lack in the financial department.

The thing is, what was nagging me was nothing of significance. Worry makes me do ridiculous things- like not looking at what I already have and paying attention to the plethora of signs that say everything will work out just fine. And despite all the amazingly progressive things I was taught growing up in a family that embraced spirituality with open arms, I tend to be archaic in how I label things. Yes, I am a label whore- but not in the Louis Vuitton and Coach kind of way. I am the queen of deeming things bad, horrific or even life-ending. To top it off I am brilliant at going into crying frenzies that make even me feel sorry for me.

Often times, once the storm has passed, what I was so quick to label as “bad” unravels itself into something that was probably even better than what I had hoped for in the first place. I have gotten into knock down drag out fights with friends that were only a smidgen away from turning into full-out brawls only to notice that our friendship blossomed from it. I have fretted over job hunting that made me feel as if I would end up living in a box down by the river only to realize that the perfect situation just wasn’t available at that very moment I was looking.

So in keeping with this idea that all of life’s situations are a matter of perspective I thought I’d share this email that my dad sent me. Hilarious yet appropriate..

A first grade girl handed in the drawing below for a homework assignment:

After it was graded and the child brought it home, she returned to school the next day with the following note:

Dear Ms. Davis,

I want to be very clear on my child’s illustration.  It is NOT of me on a dance pole on a stage in a strip joint.  I work at Home Depot and had commented to my daughter how much money we made in the recent snowstorm. This drawing is of me selling a shovel.