Fifty days later: Thoughts from the middle of everything.

Fifty days ago, I decided I would write and publish a blog for one hundred days in a row. Today is day fifty-one which means it’s all closer to the end than the beginning from here. I’ve reached the middle at last. When I started this project, I hated everything (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not much), and I could tell I was circling the drain of depression. The question I ask myself today is whether or not writing and sharing daily is really makes any difference.

The answer is yes. It is making a difference. I am different than I was fifty days ago. I’m emotionally healthier than I was fifty days ago.

Is it all due to the writing? Probably not. However, the writing has been a catalyst, a foundational habit on which other positive changes are laid.  I write daily. Since beginning to write, I also run and meditate daily. My reading is more focused; I finish what I started. After completing a journaling class, I write in my journal before blogging each day. I wrote the curriculum for and co-taught a community care class which opened the door for many brilliant conversations on self-care/ self-awareness, compassion and healing. I’m reworking step 4 (Inventory), and shared my own story of recovery with my recovery community.

Yes, these fifty days have been full with all of the pieces playing a vital part of my journey back to health. The spark, however, comes from this practice taking place on-screen every day.

The discipline of writing so many days in a row, forces me to plan intentional writing time. On the days when I have not, I’ve regretted the cobbled together silliness that gets published. The same response happens on the days I procrastinate too long and am trying to make coherent thoughts with my afternoon brain. Afternoon brain can do many things, but writing isn’t one of them.

I continue to learn more about myself every day. How toxic relationships have stolen my joy for far too long. How I can live within healthy boundaries instead of exposing myself to further harm. I’m inspired to be bold again, and honest, and kind. I often feel afraid, still, but I don’t let fear be the loudest voice in my head.

More than anything, writing opens up my desire to be creative again. I don’t know how long my creativity laid dormant. I only know I’d forgotten how good it feels to create something new in the world, even if no one but me knows of its existence. Writing ignited the spark and all the other creative endeavors are blowing life into it, convincing it to stay, to grow.

Even though our life circumstances haven’t changed, and the waiting continues to feel like drowning in molasses, I wait differently now. I am not without hope, not the powerless victim of whatever circumstance tries to throw my way. I can generate change, within and without. Writing has taught me this. Showing up, following through, embracing imperfection, muscles I’d forgotten to flex. Using them makes me feel strong again. Even on sad days, I don’t have the despair that was so heavy before.

And here you are, fifty days later. Patiently returning to read each day. You provide inspiration too. You remind me we aren’t alone in this big, old, chaotic world. I remember now that we are far more alike than different most of the time.

What will I do after the next fifty days? I’m not sure yet, but that doesn’t bother me. In time, all things will be revealed. Until then, I continue to do the work I know is good and healing. I don’t have to be afraid to stop doing things which aren’t beneficial, or to try something new, or recognize when a season changes. All things change. Even me.

Thank goodness.

Good enough: How to embrace the inner perfectionist

As a recovering perfectionist, I often need to remind myself not to get too caught up in details. Perfectionists can tweak and tweak and tweak….and tweak a thing until we end up doing far more harm than good. I’ve used a simple mantra over the past few years which has helped me immensely: “good enough can be good enough.” It’s a gentle reminder that usually the most critical eye in the room is my own. This week is one when many people will be in my living space. The perfectionist is yammering loud and proud in my head. Criticizing this, critiquing that, generally expressing discontent for the decidedly non-magazine spread style in which I live.

She’s dreadful.

The difficulty in living with perfectionism is that she can never be satisfied. She oozes discontent everywhere she goes, and her appetite is insatiable. She gnaws and bellows and judges. You can see why it’s exhausting to live with her in my head. Over time I have learned to quiet her, but there are some weeks when her strident insistence is ever present.

Lately I practice meditation which is teaching me to observe things about myself without judging them. This is especially helpful in quieting hyper-critical self talk that stems from perfectionism. When she’s reminding me of all the things I’m doing wrong, doing imperfectly, or not doing at all, I am able to say, “Well hello perfectionism. I see you there.” While I don’t reject or resist her, I am not obligated to react to her. I don’t have to force my critical inner voice into silence and submission. Instead, I can simply let them be what they are without agreeing or aligning with their message.

This awareness takes practice, and I am often caught in the spiral of self-critical thought before I catch myself. When I  do, I take a few deep breaths and emotionally disengage. But I do catch myself, before the anxiety settles in, before I plant another layer of deprecating critique on the soil of my soul. I stop where I am, mid-thought and gently acknowledge, “Perfection, I see you there but I don’t have to play your game today.” Resistance merely feeds judgmental thoughts of worthlessness and imperfection, but acceptance frees me from having to play destructive mind games.

It’s possible I will never be free of perfectionism. She’s been with me for most of my life. Un-writing her part of my story would be a long and fruitless endeavor, possibly even unraveling parts of my personality that I am unwilling to give up. Sometimes my focus on detail and fine points serves me well. Sometimes the flip side of criticism is discernment. Often a trait, even one as harsh as perfectionism, isn’t entirely bad if only you can accept it’s darker side along with its better one, and choose wisely who you allow the louder voice.

This non-judgmental acceptance of the flawed and broken parts of my personality is still in its infancy. I nurture it, feed it, and practice it every day. I’m not adept at it or as comfortable with it as I hope to one day be. But every time I stop to breathe, every time I welcome perfectionism to the table without allowing her to dominate the conversation, I experience grace. I am grateful for all the pieces that make up this complex creature I call me. It’s a form of compassion to self to welcome my vices as warmly as I welcome my virtues. This is self-love, accepting every part of my soul as she is. It’s just another step towards wholeness on a long and winding journey.

Speaking of imperfection, I am imperfectly inviting anyone who is interested to a monthly-ish email. These emails will have content that isn’t on the blog and hopefully will grow to include some cool freebies. I’m working on an imperfect plan and experiencing grace in the growing.

Subscribe to the Mo’joy mailing list.

* indicates required



Email Format


Monsters in the closet: Scary things I’m doing right now.

It was a dark and stormy day. No, really, it actually is a dark and rainy day, but that’s not scary. I love this sort of weather, quiet, meditative, peaceful. It’s the perfect day to think about plans and dreams, for puttering around, reorganizing the dresser and cabinets. The perfect sort of day for examining the monsters hiding in my closet, and maybe chase them away for good.

Scary monster #1: Writing every day

When I decided to do this one hundred day writing thing, it scared me. I stink at follow-through. I’m constantly distracted by shiny, new, exciting!!! Not to mention being terribly out of practice with writing. Also not to mention when I go public with my thoughts and feelings, it tends to come back and bite me in the…well, you know.  It hasn’t been a good experience. While I can’t control how people react to my online conversations, I can control whether or not I let those people scare me. I can control whose voice I listen to or whether I want to listen at all. If I show up and you show up, we can face scary things together. Monsters, and mean people, aren’t nearly so frightening in the light, I’m finding.

Scary Monster #2: Speaking up in public

As an introvert, I’d much rather handle all my communication in writing, after thinking about it for a a few days. But over the last year, I’ve been in a teaching/leading situation where more and more often, I find myself telling personal, vulnerable stories to an audience. The first time, I thought I might hyperventilate or throw up, or both. Even though I’d written a manuscript and practiced, practiced, practiced, it was scary. Yesterday I shared that acceptance is my drug of choice, but when you share the messy parts of yourself, rejection is always a risk. Fortunately my audience was grace-filled and understanding. They even laughed at my jokes. Some of the monsters in our closets are boggarts, they disappear when we laugh at them.

Scary Monster #3: Saying no to toxic people

Fortunately for me, I’m co-teaching a class right now which uses the book Boundaries as part of the curriculum. It’s my second time reading it, and it’s possible I’m learning even more this time. (Seriously there isn’t a single person who can’t benefit from this book. It’s amazing.) I’m learning to make peace with the fact that some people are simply bad for me, whether intentionally or unintentional. I’m stepping away from guilt, manipulation, control, and boundary tramplers. People may be upset or angry. They may react badly. My big, bad fear is a level of rejection like we faced years ago when we were excommunicated. I realize it isn’t likely, but it’s what I know. It’s all I know. Stepping away from that fear to do what is necessary for my own well-being is facing one huge closet monster.

Scary Monster #4: Being Myself

Listen, I love Jesus, but I struggle with church. That’s not news. However, church is my husband’s occupation, so this struggle is in my face daily. I’ve carried hurts and collected scars for a decade now. I’ve absorbed the message that I’m dangerous, subversive, not good enough, and that I need to sit down and be quiet all the way into my bones.

But no more. Just no more. Measuring every thought, word and opinion in case it makes someone uncomfortable is an activity I’m quitting. I’m done accepting I need to change, conform or contort my position in order to fit into a cultural construct I’m not even sure I like anymore. My deconstruction has been leading me back to the me I used to be before I got so bound up in all the rules and false constructs of who a “church person/pastor’s wife/ proverbs 31 woman” should be.  I am myself, and the flaws or changes I make are between me and the Spirit who dwells within me. I like the me I’d forgotten how to be. It’s nice being in her skin again.

 

 

 

In praise of small, slow changes

Am I the only one in denial that we are headed into summer, into the sixth month of 2017, into the second half of the year soon? I surely can’t be. But here we are, ready or not. I’ve always aspired to do a better job of tracking goals, habits and changes in my life. While I haven’t done this as efficiently as I would have liked this year, I have noted small, slow differences. In fact, last week in my journal I began a list of changes and accomplishments for the first half of 2017.

As I was making my list (I’m still adding to it as things come to mind), I realized it’s not terribly impressive to anyone but me. In fact, many of the “accomplishments” are small, incremental changes which no one else may even notice. This bothered me for a while, until I realized who better to notice change within myself than myself? To make changes or go after accomplishments for accolades, or worse, because someone else imposes those changes upon you, is to be burdened with unhealthy responsibilities and expectations. In fact, the healthiest choice I can make, is to seek to change myself due to internal motivation regardless of external acclaim.

Last week in Celebrate Recovery, I received the privilege of celebrating some huge life accomplishments with a friend. As she excitedly told me about these changes in her life, her eyes shone and her shoulders straightened. She stood tall and confident, “I’m not sure I remember a time when I was so proud of myself!”  I cried right there while I hugged her, not only for her joy, but because I know that feeling too.

Sometimes, we let cruel messages from the world, from people we thought we could trust, from spiritual “authorities” sink into our soul. Not enough, too broken, unfit, dangerous.  These messages brand themselves over our true identity, blotting out what we thought we knew. Leaving us with something to prove. So we adjust in order to fit in. We try to live up to other people’s expectations and agendas. We jump through hoops, as dependent on being noticed for what we’ve done as any addict is for the next hit.

Two years in recovery has taught me my drug of choice is acceptance. I’ll do whatever I have to to get it, even if it means losing myself completely.

Now back to my little list, this is what it tells me: I’m getting better. I’m on the path to my true self again.  If I am perfectly content making changes that no one notices but me, I am on the way to mental and emotional health. I’ve looked at that list a ridiculous number of times the last few days. Each time I do, an unfamiliar feeling swells in my chest.

It’s pride. Pride in myself, for myself.

This week I’m praising slow, small changes. I’m praising myself for making them. I’m giving thanks for the people who held space, held my hands and made me feel safe enough to try. And I’m trusting the Spirit whose presence tells me I don’t have to fit in, because she fits within me. I’m praising another day, another week, another year where I don’t have to change for anyone but me.

Finding Calm: Something Fun Sunday, Ep. 6

The week has finally arrived. My middle daughter’s graduation party is this week, and I am knocking down the details while trying to maintain my cool, calm demeanor in the middle of it. *snort*  OK, maybe calm isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think of me, but I am working on creating margin, so I have no need to panic, and making time to sleep, exercise, eat and create. Which brings us to the fun stuff.

I know Saturday is technically the day I talk about books around here (On the blog, at least; I talk about books at home on the daily). But I feel it’s necessary to put first things first when I speak of fun things. This week marks the release of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s summer reading guide. As usual, I’ve obsessed all week over what is available at my library (nothing), and what is available on overdrive (a few). I’ve picked out the ones I can’t miss, and the ones I am not so sure about. I’ve arranged and rearranged my too read list based on what I want to read now and what is coming due at the library. What can I say, book are serious business around here.

Today two of the books on the reading guide are on sale for kindle. I’ll link them at the bottom of the page.

Having reached the pinnacle week of May, I’m personally anticipating arriving in June and not feeling completely burned out. For me, this is a huge win. But as an introvert, I know by the time June rolls around, I will feel maxed out socially.

June is officially the month of no. I will not make commitments nor will I travel. I will not be out four nights a week. No will be a word I use often and with great relish. With my family and close friends I try to say yes as often as possible, but next month even those will be sparing. It’s good to give and give joyfully, but there is also a time to lay low and replenish. I loved this article about saying no.

A key component in my daily balancing act is the calm app. I’m using it twice a day currently. Those fifteen minute chunks may be the most important thing I do each day. My anxiety is better. I don’t struggle as much with anger and resentment. I feel calm (go figure). There is a free version if you want to try it out, and it’s apple and android compatible.

Finally this:

Graduation

I can’t even apologize for the language. In this month of nostalgia and misty eyes, when people express sorrow that I am growing older and my children are leaving home, this is how I feel.
Empty nest party time is almost here, folks. We’re powering through.

 


One Hundred Story Summer: When you have an off-week

I knew it would be difficult to top last week’s reading experience. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to stall out for a bit after a series of really good books. This week, I held true to form. I couldn’t settle on a book, and when I did I was unhappy with my choice. It was enough that I considered not even writing a story post this week. But, I finished on a high note. And since I’m practicing the art of finishing what I start, even in an off-week, I’m sharing with you. Here we go.

Drink: The Intimate Relationship between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston

I debated whether or not this book fit into the “story” category. I often read for information, but I won’t count those as stories for the 100 story summer. However, this book fits both categories of informative and memoir, as the framework is a personal memoir of recovery from alcohol addiction.  While alcohol is not my struggle in recovery, there was much from her personal experience that I related to. The specifics of recovery may be different for each person, but there are also components which seem universal, this book only proved that hypothesis to me. I very much enjoyed the personal element of the story.

Unfortunately, I often got bogged down in the torrent of information between the personal interludes.  I enjoy information so for me to find this overwhelming means a lot. I occasionally found myself skimming just to get past it and back to the personal story. This may be because I’m not entirely on-board with her message, or it may be because she is so passionate to drive her point home. Whichever the case, it took me a while to finish as it wasn’t one I could read in large chunks without tuning out. This is one I recommend, but with caution. Be sure you are ready for all the facts before you enter.

Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner

This book has been on my radar since it came out strictly because of its title. It seems I, too, am always chasing slow. When it showed up as an Amazon deal (still on sale today), I grabbed it. Alas, now I suffer from buyer’s remorse. I wish that I had done a bit more research on the author and content before I’d purchased it. It isn’t that the writing or story are bad. They aren’t, in fact her style is lovely. It just wasn’t a good fit for me. The author is a lifestyle and fashion blogger, very much not my niche. I also didn’t feel like the story went anywhere. We began with a certain issue, and circled it and circled it…and circled it…and circled it without ever landing the plane.

What I’m leaving with is this: it wasn’t for me because of my personality and taste. You might like it, but maybe find out more about it before you commit.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

First of all I found this book un-put-down-able. I read it in two sittings, the second one consuming the last three-fourths of the book. Secondly, never have I been so conflicted in my emotions. Thirdly, the more I think about it having finished it, the more deeply I love it. Opening with the most haunting line I’ve ever read:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

This book is complex, exquisite, agonizing and beautiful. The characters are hard to love, and yet wonderfully relate-able. I wanted to give up on them so often, but instead I found myself rooting for them over and over again. Exploring issues of race, gender, generations, expectations, sibling relationships, sexuality, and grief and loss, this book balances the line between beauty and destruction and never once loses its way. Maybe it’s because I love people in recovery, but I couldn’t walk away from these deeply damaged, vulnerably beautiful, destructive people.

I don’t believe this is a book everyone will find appealing (there may be triggers if you have experienced trauma so check the content), but if you are the type who believes in redemption for flawed humanity, this one is right up your alley.

Although I stuttered out of the gate this week, I’m glad to have ended with a remarkable story.  Next week is crazy busy for all the best and most celebratory ways, but hopefully, I can still squeeze a few books in.

How to wake up and find inspiration

Remember the journaling class I signed up for with my birthday money? Even though it’s only been four days, I’m having a great time learning, shifting my perspective and rediscovering inspiration. In fact, today’s lesson was to write about things which inspire and how to create more opportunities to experience those things. As I wrote, I realized I haven’t bothered with inspiration much recently. When you live in survival mode, there’s not much room for inspiration.

Survival mode isn’t always something we consciously choose. It certainly may be if we receive a terrible diagnosis or when a loved one faces a crisis. Birth and death and transitions can all be times when we focus simply on getting through the day intact. This is appropriate, but hopefully temporary. Sometimes, however, survival mode is crafty. It rises slowly around us if we’re mired in toxic relationships and unhealthy thought patterns, or when our environment suffocates rather than enriches us. Before we know it, we’re drowning. All we can do is keep our head above the water, sometimes not even that.

Perhaps we suffer from trauma. Forgetting there’s any other way to live, we keep our heads down. We strive to meet all the “shoulds” and exceed all the expectations.

I’ve been living this way, and failing miserably on all three accounts.

I don’t know what or why I began to wake up from this perspective. Although, I’m certain it began slowly.  Just as we can’t be certain what moment dark becomes dawn, we only know suddenly we can see again. At least, that’s what waking up to inspiration is for me. Maybe it was a series of unimportant choices each one leading to the next, like stepping stones back to myself. Perhaps, my spirit simply couldn’t sleep any longer. Awake at last, she nudged and prodded, slowly bringing me back to life.

If I had specific answers, I could write a 5-step program and be a millionaire.

I only know day-by-day, I find inspiration in the most unexpected places.  From a community of journalers, to a podcast, to conversation with a friend in recovery, every place I turn confirms the path I’m traveling is the one to life and light and beauty. It will eventually lead me home to myself.

I’m alert now, awake to promise and possibility. I’m searching and seeking, trying and failing, forgetting to care about what anyone else thinks.  When I journaled today I wrote about new experiences, exploring, learning, finding my voice again and using it. I wrote about reaching out and meeting new people. Traveling. Moving. Changing. Beginning again.

For most of us, it isn’t that inspiration is so hard to find, it’s that we are so focused on how to get through what’s next that we simply miss it. Most of us, just like me, don’t even know we’re living this way. I don’t know what inspires you to create.  I can only determine what inspires me. But I also hope, if you need a wake up call yourself, you might take a few minutes and think about, or write down the answers to a few questions:

  1. What inspires me?
  2. How can I develop opportunities for inspiration?
  3. How can I have more adventure?
  4. What do I want to do next?

    The crazy thing about this writing, reading, being vulnerable adventure I’m on is how much fun I’m having even when I’m afraid. Every day holds something new, even the hard days. I’ll hang on to this being awake feeling with everything I have. The time for sleeping is over. Inspiration is waiting to be discovered, here, there, everywhere I go.

How four “unimportant” choices changed my life

Today the Hunky and I went to a nearby monastery. The moment I walk on the grounds, a sense of overwhelming peace comes over me. It’s the perfect place to pause, linger and dive into deep thoughts. I spent my portion of the day thinking, journaling and reading, but first, I took a walk on the Rockdale River Trail. Since I wasn’t equipped for a true hike today, I only traveled a couple miles. Taking only myself and my thoughts, I spent some time considering how small choices sometimes change the entire trajectory of your life.

I’m not talking about momentous occasions: which college to attend, whether or not to have surgery, where to move type decisions. I mean the odd occurrence when we blithely choose to do something, giving it barely a thought, and afterwards nothing is ever the same. Crazy life shifting moments where you have to wonder if fate or design reached in and flipped a switch in your brain, leading you to the right course for your life. I like to think I have control over many things, but moments like these, I wonder if I’m really only along for the ride.

The time I said yes to a “we have no better offer” Valentine’s Day date.

It’s true. My husband and my first date was because neither one of us had a better offer. We’d been friends for a bit. Both recently ending relationships which weren’t really serious anyway, but still left us dateless on an important date night. However, once we’d decided to just hang out with each other, it was all over. Valentine’s Day ended up being crazy romantic. I walked around with a big goofy grin on my face everywhere (still do, most of the time). And within weeks, we knew this was the actual big L.  I barely gave the choice a thought the day I made it, and it is to date, the single most important, and best, decision I ever made.

The time I read Fast, Food Nation because it “sounded kind of interesting”

Let me be honest here. I never ate a single vegetable growing up. I hated them. Hate. And if my mom made me eat things I hated I would literally vomit everywhere. Probably on purpose, though it sure felt involuntary at the time. Even once I got older, my veggie palate was pretty spare. But reading Fast Food Nation was so horrifying (and really only the tip of the iceberg for what I’ve since learned about mass production of food, especially meat) that even before I finished it, I knew meat and I were through. Over the last twelve years my palate has vastly expanded, and changed. I still don’t eat meat, a decision which has opened my eyes to so many concepts I now practice.

The time I blogged for thirty days on “organization”

This one probably had a bit more consideration behind it then the first two choices, but what’s funny about it is the place I began, is not at all close to the place I finished. I planned writing about getting organized, managing my stuff and my schedule. I wanted to find a way to have it all and still have room for more. What I found instead is minimalism. At some point on that thirty day journey, I fell into the minimalism rabbit hole. I haven’t found my way out yet. I discovered that not only do I not need it all, I don’t even want it. Not the square feet, not the stuff, not the clothes, none of it.  I even minimized my books (that one hurt a little).

The time I fostered a puppy “for a week”

I still think I could successfully foster a pup. What I cannot do is take in a dog, have it become deathly ill, sleep with it on the couch for fear it will die in the night, have it’s departure delayed due to illness for six weeks and then hand over the dog I have grown to love. We took in Moses, a tiny, scrawny, wormy puppy with no intent of keeping him at all. But life happened, as it does. By the time Mo recovered from parvo, I couldn’t imagine our house without him. Since then he’s brought laughter and joy and daily squishes. He’s my best guy.

There’s plenty of other decisions I’ve made over my lifetime. Some big, most not terribly consequential. Some of them have changed my life at least as much as these four things, but in those instances, I felt the weight before making them. I understood their import and power to change things completely. These four decisions were throw-away choices at best. Still, I can’t imagine who I would be without having made them. Life is funny like that sometimes.

Routine Magic: how good mornings can change everything

Because life is for trying new things, today, I’m on board with doing something different. It’s a crazy sort of day with many places to go, errands to run, people to slow down and really listen to and in between those things, my own goals and responsibilities to handle. Today writing is important, but it didn’t make the top of the list. So today, I set the timer and when it rings, it’s time to move on. Good-bye perfectionism; Hello good enough. I’d like to share a bit about my morning routine.

Creating a working morning routine has been one of my goals for a ridiculously long time. I have no idea why I couldn’t just hammer one out and stick with it. Maybe it’s my self-discipline, or maybe it’s that the time wasn’t right in my soul. I really do believe in the old (cliche?) adage that when the student is ready, the teacher will always appear. It’s happened to me too many times to discount. So whether it’s finding self-discipline or timing, I’m finally settling into something that works for me.

My morning routine begins every night before I go to bed, I make a priority list and daily schedule in my semi-bullet journal (linked in this post). I clean off my writing table and place a full glass of water on it. That water is the premiere figure in my morning routine.

A few months ago, I stopped keeping electronics by my bed. As soon as my nature-sounds digital alarm wakes me up, I reach for my water and drink it down. I’ve read research that says this is the best way to start your day and research that says it doesn’t really make any difference, but what I know is, it makes me feel better. I wake up thirsty, and sitting quietly in my bed taking a few moments to take care of me and only me, sets a good tone for my morning.

Then I spend around ten minutes meditating. I’m doing guided meditations right now. (My monkey brain is off the chain. until that becomes a bit more focused, I need a guiding voice). More immediate self-care. It’s like I’m a princess.

Now the sun is making an appearance so I hit the street for a run. I’ve not been a very committed runner for well over a year. For now I’m not measuring, timing, pacing or setting goals. I’m out the door and I run, going wherever I want. I walk when I’m tired, which is a lot. Sometimes, I listen to podcasts; other times it’s birds singing. College is out for the summer so the streets are mostly quiet and the sidewalks mostly empty. I’m not racing anything, just being in the moment. It’s good.

When I arrive home, it’s time for my morning Mo. We wrestle, play ball, eat breakfast and take a walk. Mo is especially fond of mornings because he gets up early and the other dog sleeps late. For a few hours every day, he’s an only dog with the run of the house and all the attention. He likes it like that.

This week I started what will likely be the final piece of my morning routine into place, daily journaling. I invested some birthday money in myself and signed up for a journaling course. True, it’s journaling. Do I really need a course? Maybe not. Maybe I just need a kick in the pants, some accountability and reason to sit down and write yet again. “I paid for this, now I will do it”, mentality. Whatever, it’s working.

May has been a very busy, very demanding, very creative month, all in very good ways. Sometimes I do feel overwhelmed but usually, these four habits, and the behavior patterns they are creating have kept me fairly anxiety free all month. They aren’t a magic potion by any stretch, but they are working magic in my life. Sometimes it takes awhile to get the chemistry just right, but when you do, it really is worth the effort it takes to get there.

And there’s my timer.

What morning practices help you each day?

Stepping Stones: How we recover ourselves


We need emotional vulnerability to grow. We are like crabs. We don’t grow where our bodies are hardened. The greatest loss is not that we experienced pain. The greatest loss is that we lost the connection to our essence. That’s our wound: the loss of connection to ourselves. When you recover, what do you recover? Yourself.
From Drink: The intimate relationship between women and alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnson

Today I’ve written something every day for forty days. Not everything is worth going back to read again, but some of it has been very important. I see these days lately as stepping stones. Some time ago, I lost myself. There isn’t any one person or event solely responsible – is there ever? Where we go and who we become is inextricably tied to everything which came before, wonderful and terrible. No one is solely responsible for where we find ourselves except us.

Whatever the reason we wander away from the essence of ourselves, recovery means finding our way back again. It means sliding into this weary skin and finally feeling at home here. It’s uncovering our wounds and scars and maybe even letting others touch them, touch us, place their hands in the hole in our side.  

It doesn’t matter what happened to turn me back to myself, maybe just as in the wandering away, it was a maddening mixture of voices and influences. I only know that for awhile, I wasn’t sure which way to go – forward or back. Keep pushing ahead believing I could fix my way out of the mess, or trace my steps backward, until my soul at last caught up with the rest of me.  I hoped that by pushing ahead I might rediscover myself, bold and shining and perfect, somewhere up ahead. But recovery whispered, No. No child, you must go back and get her, the wounded one you’re running so far from.

And so it is. The shining bold and perfect me I envisioned was only a mirage. Too perfect to be anything but a brittle imposter, a pretty public face. I’d left my soul behind somewhere, lost in the wilderness of life.

She was waiting. Waiting for me to go back and find her. Waiting to be recovered, like a widow’s mite, the pearl of great price.

It’s not easy. This returning, recovering. The path has disappeared behind you. All the demons you ran so fast and so far from, they’re waiting. They don’t starve and waste away while you forge onward. Instead, they lurk. They linger. We have to vanquish them one by one, sometimes more than once, all the way back to ourselves.

There’s cliffs and canyons, detours and distractions. The way forward didn’t seem this difficult, perhaps this is why we didn’t return before. But there’s voices also, leading us, guiding us, reminding us of the soul who waits for us. And friends, if we’re lucky, friends who remember, who wait along the way, pointing, cheering, clearing the way for a while, bringing us closer to ourselves than we would be without them.

For me, there’s here. These stepping stone words and stories. Each one a stepping stone, pointing me, guiding me, leading me back to myself. I’d forgotten, forgotten her, forgotten how not to be afraid, forgotten how to be me without someone telling me what should define me.

I see her now, glimpses and whispers. She’s close, very close, dancing in the flickering afternoon light under the trees. Welcoming and brave, stronger for the breaking, wounded and lovely and so much wiser than I imagined she would be.

Almost there, now.
Almost home.