vulnerable path

Make yourself a stronger woman.

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Use Resources Wisely

What is our most precious resource?  Many would say it’s water, or clean air.  One might argue that it’s our farmland.  Some might say oil.  My daughter would say it’s the sun.  She is fascinated by science and found a You Tube video about what would happen if we lost our sun.  She has told me all about it more than once.  It’s scary stuff!  There is no doubt that all of these natural resources are very important to our well-being.

If you are familiar with the Girl Scout Law, you know that one of the commitments we make in the Law is to use resources wisely.  We teach our girls to care about this and take action by conserving water and paper, by not wasting food, and by practicing the guidelines of “Leave No Trace” when we spend time in the forest.

But there is one resource that’s been on my mind a lot lately.  It’s time.  No matter how hard we try, many of us find it very difficult to save time.  We certainly can’t slow it down.  It just keeps going like that Energizer Bunny.  The older we get, the more important time becomes to us.  As kids, we have no concept of it.  Oh, those were the days!  Now I find that it’s December, and another year is almost over, and I’m still wondering what happened to summer!?!?

I mull over the list of all the things I wish I had time to do.  Remember my earlier blog post when I talked about the “have to do” and “want to do” lists?  Now that it’s the holidays, those lists are longer than ever.  I have a Christmas shopping list with 15 people on it.  It’s important to me to wish everyone a Merry Christmas by giving them some sort of present.  There are cards to write out and send.  There are cookies to bake.  There are craft projects to finish.  There are charity events and volunteer activities to plan and attend.  There are additional responsibilities at work.  And all of that is on my “have to do” list!

What do I want to do, you ask?  I want to go for a run on the trail.  I don’t care how cold it is.  I want to go to a yoga class — at least once a week.  I want to begin a consistent home yoga practice.  I want to set time aside each day for meditation.  These things are on the “want to do” list.  But I think they are things that I NEED to do, just like eating a healthy diet every day, or getting enough sleep.  I am not taking care of myself if I am not creating time in each day for rest, play, calm, and stillness.

Two of Brene’ Brown’s Guideposts are:  Cultivating Play and Rest and Cultivating Calm and Stillness.  Reading her arguments for the importance of these elements in our lives validated what I knew in my heart.  But seeing them on the page also made me feel better about raising them up to the top my personal priority list.  If the things we “want to do” are stressing us out, maybe it’s time for an adjustment.  It’s OK to question whether or not the things on your list are actually adding joy and meaning to your life or simply overwhelming you.  Her advice?  Take something off the list; add “take a nap” instead!

Brown explains that some of us respond to anxiety by “over- functioning.”  Hello!  That’s my middle name!  These people will advise, rescue, take over, micromanage, and get into everything rather than look inward.  She points out that, “If we stop long enough to create a quiet emotional clearing, the truth of our lives will invariably catch up with us.”

I’m beyond this already.  I have the truth of my life nagging at me internally almost every minute of the day.  And I must heed to it soon.  I need time in each day to listen to that inner voice and nourish my soul.  The over-functioner in me needs to step aside.

So I am making “Time” my most important resource.  That’s my New Year’s resolution.  To use my time more wisely.  To make an effort to create space in my daily life for the things that will nourish my soul and to remove from the lists some things that just stress me out.  I am going to take some of that over-functioner’ s spirit and direct it at ways to cut down on the items on my lists.

But first, I’m going to take a nap.  Please, wish me luck!


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Healing Steps

There was a celebration this week. My daughter attended her cross-country team banquet.  This was a big deal; a first, because she had never participated in a team sport before.  I knew she was really excited about going to the banquet when she asked for a hair appointment!  She wanted to look her best.  And she did look beautiful!  The joy for me, however, was seeing her acknowledged for the effort she put into her running this fall.  As any Mom would, I hope it brings her confidence and pride in herself.  She started the season with zero running experience.  She could barely run a half mile.  But she kept at it.  I know she was scared and self-conscious in the beginning, worrying about fitting in or being criticized.  Soon all of that dissolved; this was a tremendously positive experience for her.

Wall_editedOn banquet night I silently celebrated a major accomplishment in my life. My relationship with her Father had dramatically improved over the course of the cross-country season.  We were able to sit with each other at this banquet, share a meal, and find pleasant things to talk about, such as travel plans and ideas for Christmas gifts.  We’ve come a long way from the days when we couldn’t even be in the same room with each other let alone carry on a conversation.  A long way from bitterness and resentment.  I wouldn’t say we are buddy-buddy.  But we are truly being great parents for our daughter.

So how did we get here? Was it simply the old cliché “time heals all wounds?”  No, I don’t think so.  I think, at least for me, the wounds were healed because I worked really damn hard at it.  After experiencing the worst betrayals of my life several years ago, I finally got to the point where I realized that I had to do the work to come to grips with the emotional wounds.  Neglect wasn’t much of a salve.

We’ve all had times when we feel so much pain that we just want to curl up in a ball under a blanket on the couch and stay there forever. TV remote in hand, I can hide from the world and drown my sorrows in a tub of ice cream.  I can watch “Pretty Woman” for the 50th time and fantasize about the fairy tale ending.  That’s the easy way out, to just stuff the feelings.  It’s actually cowardly.  I didn’t want to be that.  I didn’t want to take one more emotional beating and let it take the spirit out of me.

So to get up and fight is the only alternative. To make up my mind that I will do whatever it takes to not let other people crush my spirit.  That’s the first brave step.  And to win this battle, you actually have to peel off the armor.  You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable.  What does this mean?  Why is vulnerability such a big theme of mine?  Because putting up the walls, and pretending that there is no problem, and living in denial about how you feel and what’s really stealing your life out from under you is no way to live.  You are going to have to take down the walls, stop pretending, admit the problems, and start living fully.  That’s a scary place to go.  Because it leaves you bare.  It leaves room for all the things we fear – judgment, criticism, and the potential to be hurt again.  But it’s the most courageous thing you can do to bring about change in your life.

Step One: admit my own failures.

I had to admit I had failed in my relationships. That’s not to say that others hadn’t failed me.  They had.  But I made bad choices too.  I had to stop blaming others for my problems and accept responsibility.  At the very least, I’m responsible for how I choose to respond to other people’s behavior.

Step Two: practice forgiveness.

I also had to choose to forgive. I knew that I needed to resolve my feelings of hurt and resentment because I had to continue to deal with these people on a day to day basis.  As much as I wished it could be so, they were not going to be out of my life.  I read a book by Edward M. Hallowell, MD titled “Dare to Forgive” in which he outlines the process of forgiveness.  I learned that forgiveness is for me, not the other persons.  It’s about letting go of resentments.  It’s not about forgetting what someone has done.  And it’s certainly not about letting them do it again.  It’s about moving on.

It was in this book that I found advice that really resonated with me and that applied so well to my situation at the time. Hallowell explains that when a relationship ends, it’s an opportunity to get to work on yourself.  He recommends strengthening the healthy connections you already have with friends and family, groups you care about, and activities you like.  He also suggests to “Work on your connection with your physical body; try to get yourself to a place where you feel good about how you look.  Take as a call to action the feelings that were exposed in you.  Make yourself a stronger woman.”

The day I read that, it became my motto: Make yourself a stronger woman.  I wrote it on a note and stuck it to my desk at work, where I read it every day.

Step three: Build my self-esteem.

shoesThis was a tremendous thing to find in a book about forgiveness, because it made me realize that I needed to make myself a top priority, to take the focus off of the people who hurt me, and center my intentions on making myself a better person.  Letting go of resentment and moving on is a part of that.  But so is working on confidence and self-esteem.  And my confidence grew each time I went for a run or a bike ride, or made it through a boot camp class.  It was during this period that I kayaked for the first time, and I was so proud of that because my ex-husband had laughed at me when I said I wanted to kayak.  Turns out I was absolutely strong enough to paddle, and do anything else I wanted to do.

Step four: let go of what doesn’t serve me.

There was still another piece of the healing process that I needed to focus on. It had to do with letting go of things that didn’t serve me anymore.  For me, this included belongings that I had to give up and goals that needed to change.  Facing divorce meant letting go of my home and other belongings that I valued.  I spent many years ignoring the inevitability of my divorce, mainly because I didn’t feel I should have to give up “stuff” that I was attached to.  How silly is that.  The stuff doesn’t matter.  But it took me a very long time to accept that.  I didn’t need a house, or property, or a garden, or furniture, or just about any other object we owned at the time.

IMG_0874I am still in the process of re-evaluating my goals and adopting new plans, hopes, dreams, and desires. These are mine to fulfill; I don’t need to negotiate them with anyone else.  But I can tell you that there is far less physical stuff on that list.  Own a home?  Nope.  Have awesome experiences?  Help my daughter grow into a confident, smart, beautiful woman?  Do what I can to make the world a better place?  YES, YES, AND YES!

Did time heal the wounds? No, a lot of brave steps on the vulnerable path did.

© Vulnerable Path, 2014

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Just Dance

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”  — Ann Lamott

So this little tidbit jumped out at me today.  I was reading a blog post about writing.  Yes, writers write about writing on WordPress.  And it’s pretty darn inspiring sometimes.  The challenge of the blog post was to just write.  Just start typing and don’t stop.  Don’t edit.  Just get the words out onto the page.  So that’s what I’m doing.

I love this quote — “don’t look at your feet.”  I am so guilty of this, always wondering if I am doing it right.  Is it perfect yet?  No, silly.  You’ve got to stop worrying about that.  Ann Lamott’s quote is kind of like the “Just Do It!” slogan of the writers world.

I am a runner.  I love to be out on a trail somewhere, just chugging along.  I’m not a very fast runner.  I’m usually pretty happy if I can log a 10 minute mile during some portion of my workout.  I don’t concern myself much with speed.  Running is a great way for me to find some peace and clear my mind.  But guess what I do when I run?  I stare at the ground.  I watch my own steps.  Recently, I have started making a concerted effort NOT to do this.  When I catch myself, I straighten up my posture, raise my head, and look at where I’m going.  The view is beautiful!  The leaves on the trees are changing colors.  The trail is carpeted in yellow and brown.  Walnuts, acorns, and a rare Osage Orange litter the trail.  Squirrels rustle above my head.  The river churns by.  Ducks chatter to each other.   The earthen musk of what the river reclaims wafts up from the river bank.

IRT_trail-editedHow about that?  When I’m not staring at my feet, wondering if I’m doing it right, I can actually appreciate the beauty in what I’m doing.

I wonder how much of our lives we spend like this, worrying about every step we take.  We can get so caught up in what we are supposed to do, who we are trying to impress, and what we are trying to accomplish.  We impose perfection on ourselves.  We have turned exhaustion into a status symbol (as my current favorite writer says).  We are in such a rush that we miss the Now.  We hurry past the current moment, racing to get to the finish line.  News flash:  God is not standing there with His stop watch to congratulate you on finishing fast, or perfect, or with the most stuff.

When I look back on the most meaningful and joyful times of my life, I see my family and friends.  I remember special holidays, and trips to new places, and exciting new learning experiences.  Its not about how clean my house is, or what’s in my wallet, or what’s parked in the driveway.

Maybe it’s because of this mid-life spiritual epiphany I’m going through.  I realize that it’s so important to slow down.  Rest.  Play.  Laugh.  Dance.  Breathe.  Invite balance into your life.  Take time to savor the simple joys that we so easily take for granted.  Step back and re-assess once in a while.  Like an artist has to step back from his painting; that’s when you can see and appreciate the beauty in what you are creating.  You might trip over your feet once in a while.  So what?  Dance with abandon.  It’s so much more fun than dancing with perfection.

© Vulnerable Path, 2014