Hole in the soul

A few years ago I was struggling. I was going through a difficult time, feeling depressed, sad, empty, not myself at all. For a time I was miserable, but over a period of months I came to terms with some of the issues I’d been struggling with. And eventually life was better again; not perfect, but so much better.

Sometimes I remember those months, and what I learned from the experience.

Depression steals your energy. I remember feeling like I just wanted to sleep, to escape. Simple chores were overwhelming. The only thing that kept me somewhat normal was work. Work helped me put on the façade, gave me a reason to get up and get moving. Because I didn’t want to bring drama to my work place, I tried to minimize what I was going through, tried to hold myself together so I wouldn’t feel embarrassed with my co-workers.

Depression steals your appetite. At least that was what happened to me. I lost interest in cooking. I was alone a lot during those months, and it was easy to ignore meals when I wasn’t hungry, and too disinterested to cook. I lost 20 pounds in a few months. Best and worst diet experience I’ve ever had, the only “diet” that was effortless. In the past I’d put on pants or a favorite skirt and realized it was time to lose a few pounds. I’ve never before had to look through my closet for something to wear that wouldn’t fall off me.

Depression steals your interests. I would try to read to take my mind off the things that were bothering me. I couldn’t read. I would try to watch TV. I couldn’t stay engaged. I couldn’t settle myself long enough to accomplish much. I was restless and yet exhausted.

Depression steals your rest. I slept a lot when I wasn’t working. But often in the middle of the night I would wake up and my mind would race, going over and over the things that were troubling me. I was sleeping all the time, but not resting. My sleep cycle was broken by stress and worry, and somehow, the more I slept, the less I rested.

Once I was in the grocery store, walking around like a ghost, feeling the physical impact of depression. I felt like there was a hole in the middle of my body where my stomach should have been. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself with a gap between chest and hips…a hole that only allowed for the churning engine of stress that took the place of my belly…and even though I knew there was no hole, I remember thinking that the gaping emptiness seemed so real, I was surprised other shoppers weren’t staring at me, stopping to ask if I was alright. Because I had a hole in my middle. It was a surreal experience, and I wasn’t even on any medication. I was just feeling the drowning grip of sadness.

I walked around the store, filling my cart, looking normal on the outside, feeling lost and empty on the inside, and so aware of the gaping hole. As I walked around, I began to wonder who else was walking through the store with their own holes, invisible to me, but so real to them. Holes in souls.

That question took the focus off myself and allowed me to stand back and recognize that I probably pass people all the time who walk around with holes. I just don’t see what’s in front of my eyes. I try always to be kind, to be thoughtful. But even so, there are days that I’m wrapped up in my world. I pass people on automatic pilot: kind but remote, polite but disinterested, because I’m busy, and on the run, and don’t really look close enough to see the hole that’s devouring the person in front of me.

Living for a time with a hole in myself helped me realize, in a way I hadn’t before, that a lot of people walk around like that. Walking wounded. They put on the face, just like I did. They go through the motions of living, just like I did. Some get help, and some get relief from a change in the situation that’s causing the pain. That’s what happened to me. Circumstances changed, the skies cleared, my smile came back.

It wasn’t without some effort on my part. I did a lot of soul-searching, made some changes that were within my power to make.

It was a humbling experience. When you’ve always been hopeful, mostly happy, mostly sunny side up, it’s hard to recognize a self who’s drowning, who can’t snap out of it. You begin to look at people who struggle with depression and other forms of mental illness through a different lens. You find more compassion, more appreciation for the struggles that are invisible to the eye, but so real to the heart.

When I remember that time, now I can feel grateful. It taught me a lot about myself and helped me find strength I didn’t know I had. I learned the value of “wait and see.” I learned that the phrase “trust the process” isn’t just something you hear in corporate settings. I learned that life will often right itself, if you work with it.

I don’t want to tempt fate by thinking I’m invincible. I’m not, and the truth is, no one is. If there is a next time, I think I’ll manage my hole a little better. I think I’ll know to trust, I’ll find my smile a little faster, a little easier. The reward for weathering the hard times is being better prepared to face whatever comes, and knowing, knowing, that you’ll survive, and thrive, and grow above. Eventually, assuredly.

Once you’ve worked through a hole in your life, you’re never quite the same. You’re scarred, but you’re wiser.

I no longer have an engine of stress running in my stomach, or feel like there’s a hole in my body. But I can empathize with those who do. I don’t talk a lot about this experience…just doesn’t come up in normal conversation. But now and then I see an opportunity to speak up, to share, to encourage, to say, “I’ve been there.” It’s a powerful thing to look back at a challenge and know you’ve overcome. And it’s a powerful encouragement to someone else to hear a first-person story, to know someone else really gets it.

I don’t claim to have it all figured out now. I’m not even sure why I’m sharing this, except that I suddenly wanted to.

I’m not sharing to get sympathy. I’m sharing to give hope.

I started my blog during those months, started it to stake a claim to the positive person I knew was somewhere inside. I was determined to find my way to that self again. And I did. I had help from a few significant people who knew what was going on, and some of the conflict in my life subsided.

After the worst of it was behind me, I noticed I was singing again. I noticed I was interested in food again. I noticed I had a renewed sense of grace, of redemption, found a new sweetness to life that stays with me. I sometimes have small setbacks, and I sometimes feel discouraged. But I’ve never gone to the depths again. I’ve learned the signs to watch for, and the steps toward healing.

I think I’m a better person than I was, in part because of what I went through. It changed me, grew me. And though the details are not important now, I can share this much: to anyone reading this who is lost and despairing, don’t give up hope.

Do something to get yourself moving, literally. Get off the couch, do the smallest thing, and let that lead you to the next thing, and the next. Action inspires hope, and hope is the lifeline to healing. Reach out; there are probably more people than you could guess who understand at least some of what you’re experiencing. And give yourself time. Time can be your ally, and in time, you can look back and see that you’ve come a long way from your lowest point.

You’ll find your smile again. You’ll hear yourself singing again. You’ll sleep through the night again. And you’ll know you’re healed.

 

Wounds

 

June promise

June 2nd and another month presents itself. Already half through this year, and I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the tasks I listed for 2014.

I really wanted to improve my blog this year, and I’ve done that in fits and starts. Like all my rhythms, writing often takes a back seat to travel and routine, or lack of one. But I’ll admit that’s often just the excuse. The root of what I’m missing is not a better grasp of technology, it’s the discipline to sit down, even when I’m time-zone challenged, and power on my lap-top, put words on the screen instead of reading them off.

I signed up for Writing 101 to put some structure around my goals, and this is my beginning. I’m sitting surrounded by the stacks of packing, getting ready to go back to Ketchikan tomorrow, back to work, away from days of sun and camping. But I stopped my sorting, sat down to gather my thoughts. Packing is just another distraction, and it will wait.

Today we ran errands out in the hot California sun, the little red pick-up we keep for getting around down here feeling oven-like until the blast of the air-conditioner cooled us down. I’m going back to Ketchikan with specialty cheeses and my favorite pasta sauce and Panzanella crackers. I stocked up on some farm stand corn, the first of the season down here. Got a burger at In-N-Out, satisfied the fast food craving with crispy fries and animal style.

I drive around and wonder if I could ever live here, back in the hustle-bustle after years of small town life. I don’t know. I toy with the idea. Some days I think I could, then the traffic gets to me, or the big box stores seem too big, and I’m happy to find myself out on the rural roads that lead back to the campground. The slow speed of a winding road suits me better than interstates and freeways.

Driving here is a lot like the life I’m living: it’s either the fast lane and overwhelming, or it slows down to a pace I enjoy, and I find myself daydreaming, mesmerized by the scenery.

It’s easy to get lost in your own life, so caught up in the details of living that you forget — you forget you had a plan, and goals, and a timeline. I call it the “where am I?” — you know, that dazed look that says you’re trying to catch up… what state am I in?  what space I’m in (house, trailer, apartment?) and the commitments I’ve got the next day…which clinic am I in? What food do I have in the fridge, and is the bed made, and what season of clothes do I need for tomorrow?

I’m making it sound worse than it is, but at that I’m often disjointed enough. I don’t know how people who travel every week manage. And while I love it, I’m also weary of it. Ready to stand still for a while, find my feet on solid ground. Ready to put the details of life on auto-pilot and give my attention to the things that matter. Still, or again, finding my focus. The funny thing is, I read over these words and it sounds like I’m self-absorbed. But I think the opposite is true. I’m not paying enough attention to the life I’m living. I’m largely floating on the current of events that carry me along. And that’s not what I want. I don’t want to be driftwood in the current of life.

What’s the secret formula? I already know. I just have to reclaim it for myself. The secret is service, and giving, and living with such purpose, such intention, that my busyness finds meaning again, and my work is a labor of love, not just a labor.

And so I promise anew. I promise to make life matter, not just mark the days off the calendar. I promise to notice the details that are worthy, and let the insignificant be just that: insignificant. I promise to love, to cherish, to fill each day with some task that is meaningful and powerful.

Thank you Writing 101! Thanks for the reset, thanks for the reminder. Maybe that’s the power of a blog…the self-reminder that each life matters, and if so, then my life, my contribution, matters too. I just have to find the way, and at the same time, promise not to take it all too seriously. Wouldn’t want to do that. 🙂

The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.

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California burger

 

 

Summer corn

Summer corn

California rambling

Seaside

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Pacific blues

The travel trailer

The travel trailer

 

Get moving

So, I took my own advice and decided to quit wandering in the valley of technology and self-education. I’ve found a small design firm that I’ll be working with in the coming months to help me move to the next level with a business website and integrated design plan.

Aaaahhh…that’s the sound of my brain cells relaxing, thanking me, and getting ready to focus.

Actually, I think focus is one of the biggest challenges of our era. There’s so much coming at you, every waking moment. I like technology, gadgets, and all the positives.

But I finally had to admit: I’m just not able to absorb everything I need to learn, keep my current work going, keep up with my travel schedule, manage my day to day, and kid myself that I have energy left to launch a digital business. Just not possible.

I was reading a post a few days ago about outsourcing things to virtual assistants to free time for creative thinking and higher productivity. And I realized…why am I trying to learn how to set up a business website? I don’t have that expertise, and in the time it takes me to create a site, I could pay someone else to do it for me, and be working on building a client base.

I read so much about how easy it is to set up a website…well, WordPress made it easy enough to create a blog. And if I put 40 hours a week on this project, I might be able to do it for myself. But that’s not happening, and it’s not going to happen.

As I often say…I’m a slow learner and a late bloomer. But I think this will give me the boost I need to move forward. And that’s a good thing, because frankly, doing it the other way…trying to be a team of one…has been exhausting. I see so many people on line who look like they’ve created an amazing blog/business/website that’s an overnight success. Maybe that’s true for some, and maybe it isn’t. Maybe the sites I see that look like the lone entrepreneur is the only one behind the work…maybe there’s really a team effort going on. Whatever. The reality is, it doesn’t matter. What matters is finding a way to pursue my goals. I don’t think there’s a special medal for doing it all on my own.

I’m looking forward to focusing on the things I can do…creating content and looking at ways to add value to service and product…and getting out of the way of professionals who can give me a beautifully designed site.

And yesterday I picked up some more work for the summer, so my costs for this boost will be covered.

Just seemed like a little message from the universe. 🙂

“Make a pact with yourself today to not be defined by your past. Sometimes the greatest thing to come out of all your hard work isn’t what you get for it, but what you become for it.”   Steve Maraboli

Words I like

Your body keeps an accurate record of your diet regardless of what you write down.

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” ~ Les Brown

“We were together. I forget the rest.”  ~ Walt Whitman

“As we got older, the monsters crept from under our beds to inside our heads”

The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow.

Wrinkled was not one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up.

“They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.”  ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald 

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

“I loved her, not for the way she danced with my angels but for the way the sound of her name could silence my demons.” ~ Christopher Poindexter

Random good stuff on a Monday

Now and then, I like to share some new favorites. You can never have too much wisdom. And isn’t it nice that so much of it is captured in pithy quotes?

We’ve all had a piece of heaven, but how many of us knew when we had it in our hands? ~ Anonymous

“Love is a meeting of two souls, fully accepting the dark and the light within each other bound by the courage to grow thru struggle into bliss.”  ~ Lovendar.com

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.  ~ Mary Oliver

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” ~ L.R. Knost

A girl once told me to be careful when trying to fix a broken person for you may cut yourself on their shattered pieces ~ Ruthtattooideas.com

Shortest horror story: Monday

I saw this little bit of joy recently, quite possibly the best advertisement I’ve seen in a long time. Could not resist sharing! I just try to imagine the story behind this:

“I’m quite sure that most of you have seen the rather large green dragon that has been flying…for the better part of a week. I am looking for someone to: lure said dragon away…to a more rural area. Force said dragon to land in rural area. Slay said dragon in whatever way you see fit.

No pay, dragon slaying is its own reward.

Please note that I am not talking about the red dragon that frequents the area from time to time. He and I have an agreement.”   ~ http://i.imgur.com

Here’s to slaying your dragon this week…and make sure you target the right one.

The luxury of time

I could spend some time here!

I could spend some time here!

 

There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.    ~ Mahatma Gandhi

What is the luxury of time? My own definition…no rushing, no scurrying about. Time to linger over coffee, or a decadent dessert, or a long conversation, sitting in my rocking chair, looking out over the water. Time to be. The luxury of time is not a treat of the every day. I sometimes encounter it on a Saturday morning, or evenings, after dinner is done and my day is settling about me.

Luxury is usually associated with possessions and money. A study I read suggested that beyond a basic level of comfort, more money, more stuff, doesn’t really create more happiness.

But time. Now there’s a luxury that money can’t buy. Or sometimes it can, but often it doesn’t. Often, more money means less time.

 

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. ~ Carl Sandburg

 

I come from a long line of doers. I am hard-wired to make lists, to find pleasure in things done. Stillness has been an acquired taste. Because the value of stillness isn’t to be found in items neatly checked off, I was once suspicious of it. Was I wasting time if I produced nothing visible? But I learned. I learned that I can rush getting errands done, or chores finished. But I can’t rush being.

Dreaming and planning and creativity require time. Time to think, and time to produce. But more than that, bountiful time is a state of mind. I find when I match my pace to the rhythm of intention, I’m more at ease. I find my stride with the day’s demands. The best way to have more time is to be thoughtful about  the spending of it. Like any resource, time can be depleted, wasted, frittered away. Carving out opportunity to replenish myself requires careful planning. I plan and organize time so I can be frivolous with it elsewhere in my week.

The reward of the hustle-bustle is the slow and easy.

I’ll admit…a little luxury goes a long way, and I can enjoy that pleasure in almost any form: luxury of place, or of food, or beautiful views. But luxury of time…now that’s the real thing.

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” ~ Bill Watterson 

Early spring in Alaska

First bloom of spring

My first bloom of spring

Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient The storm will pass. The spring will come.  ~ Robert H. Schuller

Clouds moving in

Clouds moving in

Sunshine breaking through

Sunshine breaking through

Sunset

Sunset

Introvert or extrovert?

Well, well, I always knew I was more an introvert than extrovert. Very interesting article on this subject! See which one you are.

This explains why my idea of a good time is a quiet dinner or walk on the beach, and why in our culture, solitude, reflection, and minimal stimulation is devalued. Maybe you’ll see yourself here too.

Whatever you are, be a good one.   ~ Abraham Lincoln

A normal day

Today was typical. Weather for SE Alaska in November: rain, rain, more rain. Work: standard day. With all the changes on my horizon, still, my days are fairly predictable. (Update on this in January when I’ve turned things upside down by transitioning to a project-based work life and stream of income.) Family is well, relatively speaking; friends are well, as far as I know. Although some things in my life are ever-evolving, a never-ending work in progress, I’m able to recognize a measure of stability. And I’ve experienced enough roller coaster moments in life to appreciate the periods of relative calm.

Thank God for normal days. Not boring, not stressful, just normal.

This quote was in my email this morning:

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are… Let me not
pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. One day I
shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in my pillow, or
stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than
all the world, your return.

~ Mary Jean Iron

Thoughts for a Thursday

So I told you about my new favorite site, Pinterest? It is wonderful! One of my favorite things about the site is that everything you see is shown as an image, so you can literally see at a glance if the posted item is of interest, raises your curiosity, starts your taste buds watering, or brings a smile to your face. The site showcases the items “pinned” to virtual bulletin boards by site members. The whole thing is free, fun, and a great way to collect ideas, quotes, inspiration, recipes…whatever you’re looking for. I highly recommend it as the most fun way to stash “next” ideas!

So for today, a few fun quotes, gathered from the bounty available through Pinterest:

A smile is the most beautiful curve on a woman’s body.
We never really grow up. We only learn how to act in public.
Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.
Go the extra mile. It’s never crowded.
Dear Math, I am not a therapist. Solve your own problems.
Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. {J.K. Rowling}
May the bridges I burn light the way.

Check it out for yourself! Enjoy!