Friday, September 30, 2011

Right Here, Right Now - "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, ch. 41

"Like most humanoids, I am burdened by what the Buddhists call the 'monkey mind' - the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl.  From the distant past to the unknowable future, my mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined.  This in itself is not necessarily a problem; the problem is the emotional attachment that goes along with the thinking.  Happy thoughts make me happy, but - whoop! - how quickly I swing again into obsessive worry, blowing the mood; and then it's the remembrance of an angry moment and I start to get hot and pissed off all over again; and then my mind decides it might be a good time to start feeling sorry for itself, and loneliness follows promptly.  You are, after all, what you think.  Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.

The other problem with all this swinging through the vines of thought is that you are never where you are.  You are always digging in the past or poking at the future, but rarely do you rest in this moment.  It's something like the habit of a dear friend Susan, who - whenever she sees a beautiful place - exclaims in near panic, 'It's so beautiful here!  I want to come back here someday!' and it takes all of my persuasive powers to try to convince her that she is already here.  If you're looking for union with the divine, this kind of forward/backward whirling is a problem.  There's a reason they call God a presence -- because God is right here, right now.  In the present is the only place to find Him, and now is the only time." - "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, ch. 41, pg.132

This is just a little bit creepy because I had been ruminating on what to write about for a couple days now and this section of text from the book pretty much fits right on in there with what I was thinking about. 

So, yesterday was insteresting.  You ever have those days where you just feel...irritable?  No one is making you angry, you don't have PMS, nothing big happened to make you feel that way and there's really no reason.  Still, you just feel frustration deep in your core?  I kept trying to put my finger on it and the best way I can say it is this...

It's like some days, I feel like I have a really good handle on everything.  Then, bam!  One day, I wake up and I feel like everything in my life is out of control and needs to be FIXED.  I suppose it could be labeled as worry or fear for the future.  But also sort of fear for the present.  I mean, I looked at myself yesterday and thought, "Man...everything needs to be fixed.  My finances, my health, my marriage, my parenting, etc."  It was strange.  I was feeling GREAT the day before.  Why this sudden attack of guilt/fear/worry? 

My office mate will tell you that her theory is that I am a caffeine addict and, seeing as I didn't get my coffee yesterday, it naturally led to feelings of irritability, frustration and sadness.  I think she might be onto something least a little bit.  I'll admit...I had my coffee this morning and it was like a 180 degree turn-around for me!  But, still...deep down...even though I'm telling it to be quiet...there's still that nagging voice saying, "You're not good enough.  You'll never figure things out.  You're never going to do things the right way."

This summer, we were blessed to attend a counseling session in which we learned about core lies that we tell ourselves.  This lie of "I'll never be good enough" has really been recurring in my life over and over lately.  I'm still wrestling with its origin...I'm afraid it goes SO far back, it will take quite a lot of emotional work to find the root. 

But, I love the second half of the excerpt above.  The idea that I've been mentally and emotionally searching for answers all over the past and future...when God is right here, right now just waiting for me to look at Him.  Why do I blow Him off?  Like I think He's NOT going to help me out?  I know better than that.

Things are just so fast-paced, so busy...I struggle to slow my brain down enough to even pay attention to what is going on now.  The very few moments of my life when I actually am present in a moment (and my mind is not wandering to what I have to do next) have been the greatest days of my life. 

I tried to remember the last time I made a conscious choice to be present in my life.  It was the day that Justin was born (almost four years ago!)  I had a feeling he was going to make his grand arrival that night and I made it a point to just BE with the girls and really pay attention to them, because I knew it was our last real time together....JUST US.  That day, I took pictures and was so lucky to be able to actually capture the joy and whimsy of that afternoon.  The feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you look at these shots is the feeling I had radiating through me that afternoon.  Complete and total peace.  Complete and total contentment and joy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Anger Management

OK, I have been reading TWO different books, trying to figure out what to write about because it just "feels" like it's time for another blog entry.  But nothing is inspiring to me.  Perhaps it's because I can't focus because so many stupid little things seem to be getting under my skin today.  Frustrating work this afternoon, bad attitudes from people that just get on my last nerve, kids that won't stop whining and crankiness coming at me from every direction.  I really do try to stay positive most of the time, but you know...sometimes the negativity of everyone around can really just get to me.  And, it's not just that I start to get all pessimistic and grumpy like's that PLUS the fact that I am also incredibly and indescribably ANNOYED by their behavior.

And every little annoying thing that happens seems to build up until I really can feel my inner balance tipping severely and I don't really know when I am going to fully explode or which poor soul will bear the brunt of it.  I suppose this has been quite the issue for much of my anger.  Whether it's anyone else's "fault" doesn't really matter.  The fact is, I have a ridiculous amount of anger and it is easily set off.  More than one person has told me that they felt like they needed to always be "walking on eggshells" around me.

I suppose if I were going to analyze this from the beginning, I would definitely say that my model for how to release anger was given to me by my bi-polar mother, who frequently had unexpected RAGES.   We were in a constant state of fear and walking on eggshells in our house growing up.  In fact, the first question that we (my brothers and sisters) asked each other every single time we entered the house was, "Is Mom in a bad mood?"  You know, just to get ourselves mentally prepared and know whether we needed to be quiet and hide or not.

While I definitely feel like I control my anger a lot better than she did, I know that the blow-ups (when they happen) are eerily similar.  When I explode and scream at someone, it is my mother's voice that comes out of my mouth.  The exact same tone, same words, everything.  It's really actually frightening.  I have frightened myself.

The medication I take certainly takes the edge off a lot of things for me.  For instance, I don't really care too much about kids crying...I can tune that out pretty well when I'm medicated.  But, ultimately, I understand that, even though I didn't have a good model to teach me how to deal with anger when I was growing up, I am my own person now.  As such, I need to be a grown up and own my actions and behaviors.

If you want to know how I am at my worst, just watch that episode of "Jon and Kate Plus 8" where they go shopping at Toys R Us and Kate (the bitch) has a melt-down and yells at Jon across the store.  How humiliating for that poor guy...and so embarrassing for that family.  When I watched that episode, I wanted to puke...because I felt like I was literally watching myself through Kate. Ugh!  I have been SO angry with my kids that I have found my heart racing and I was pretty near hyperventilation.  Actually, when this happened...this was when I scared myself enough to realize that I could not be trusted to be off of my medication.  Do I want my kids to have to deal with that forever like I did? NO.

So, these days, with the help of the meds, I have to straight up figure out how to CONTROL myself when I'm angry.  Tonight, I was successful.  I don't really know how.  I just know that I logically, mentally talked myself out of throwing a hissy fit temper tantrum.  Not is how it went down at what I'll call the "critical moment":

ELAYNA:  Waaaahhh...I can't find my blankeeeet. Waaahhh....I have to have it! I looked everywhere! *Starts to melt down*

ME: *Nostrils flaring* (Thinking to myself): I am sick of listening to everyone and I will kill someone. Seriously...I'm going to go fucking nuts right now.  (Out Loud): Go look for it.  Please step away from me now.

ELAYNA: *Knows what's good for her and leaves*

ME: (Thinking to myself): Breathe slower.  Don't lose it.  Don't lose it.  But, I'm seriously annoyed.  I really want to scream and hit a pillow.  Stop it...just quit it.  Don't be a child.  Act like an adult.  Don't frighten anyone.  Who cares about them?  They have their own stupid issues and you can't change them.  This is your issue. Breathe slower.

Crisis averted.  Now, what I really need to work on more is the fact that I completely withdraw when I'm angry...instead of asking for help or communicating.  But, one victory is plenty for tonight.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Love/New Friends/New Outlook

Back in April, I fell in love with someone new.  Shocker of all shockers...SHE was everything I never knew I was missing.  She had character traits that I didn't even realize I was looking for until I met her in person.  She has a bad reputation and some might call her a "sinner" or a "slut".  In fact, sometimes this is a little part of her charm.  But I was somehow able to see past all that superficial junk and couldn't help but be struck by her heart...which was nothing short of stunning.  I can't say I could ever see myself making a lifetime commitment to her or even hanging out with her for longer than a few weeks at a time.  Don't get me wrong, she's awesome.  But, with so much personality...I just can't quite keep up with her lifestyle year round.  She's not a "settle down" least not for me.  She's like nothing you have ever seen, completely unique and all her own...her name is New Orleans.

Scott and I had the chance to visit The Big Easy in April, when we traveled down to the city with the Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls for an Away Bout.  I really didn't know what to expect.  Quite honestly, I figured I'd feel out of place.  I mean, I'm not a HUGE drinker and I'm not really into voodoo or anything like that and I really was of the opinion that I didn't like cajun food and, well, that's New Orleans, right?  Well, this trip was so great for me because I learned a few things:

a) I have never had cajun food (not real cajun food) and, guess what?  I do like it!  I even ate alligator!  And it was delicious!

b) The bars are fun.  You could go to, like, 10 in one night if you want to and you don't have to drink any alcohol at all to enjoy the entertaining drunk people doing crazy, outlandish things at 2am.

c) There's a lot more stuff in the Quarter than bars and voodoo shops.  LOTS more!  So much, in fact, that we are hoping to try to make a visit down to New Orleans a regular thing (if not least every other year). We are in LOVE.  With the art, the atmosphere, the food, the culture, the architecture, the music and street performances, the people.

We met a friend there named Ginger.  Her brother owns a cajun restaurant in Indianapolis and is a very big supporter of the Naptown Roller Girls (shout out, Papa Roux!!!!)  Ginger had never met us (in fact, Papa Roux has never met us in real life...just on FB) and she became our New Orleans tour guide while we were down there.  She took the time out of her busy life to take us everywhere we wanted to go.  Then, she attended the bout with us and rooted against her own team for our ladies!  By the time we said good-bye to her (after only spending one day with her), we were hugging and I was genuinely sad to see her go.  It was literally like we were family.

If I could add to this the fact that the Big Easy Roller Girls treated us like no other Away Team has ever treated us.  The night we arrived, they invited us to someone's house, where they had all cooked the most INCREDIBLY AMAZING New Orleans meal for us.  There was SO much food.  They were so kind and hospitable.  And, when I told Ginger about it, she was not surprised.  She just said, "Enjoy the Southern hospitality!"  We met a lot of people down there that had that same spirit of kindness and, I guess I would call it...instant family.  We just don't have that here in Indiana...or at least in Bloomington.

That brings me to the reason for this blog post.  Heheh, yeah...I haven't even started yet!

So, the other day, I forgot my keys at home.  Scott was supposed to bring them to me, but he forgot.  So, when 5:00 rolled around and I realized that my car keys were in my husband's pocket all the way across campus in a class that would not be over until 7pm, I decided to walk around until I found a place that sounded good for dinner and just wait for him.  I walked and walked and nothing sounded good.  Eventually, I walked so far that my choice was limited to Irish Lion or Crazy Horse.  So, I went to Crazy Horse and, it being a gorgeous day, I sat at a table outside, ordered a cocktail and started reading my book.  It was great!

A bit later, a woman and her little boy sat right behind me.  I was sort of eavesdropping on them because they were really adorable (and were apparently waiting for Dad to show up), but pretended to be intently reading, when the Mom instructed her son to ask what I was reading.  Well, this began a conversation about books and her adorable son and my own kids, etc.  It was definitely not one of those two sentence exchanges where both people go back to what they were doing.  I could tell this woman wanted to keep engaging me in conversation.  Honestly, I thought it was a bit weird...I mean, how many people actually just start a real conversation with a stranger?

Well, a few minutes later, Dad shows up.  His wife introduces me to him and he just starts talking like we've known each other forever.  Finally, I get a back story.  This family moved here a month ago and have no friends yet.  They both work as chefs in high end restaurants in town and their boy (4 yrs old) is starting pre-school soon.  They are both from New Orleans.  The little guy speaks fluent English and Creole (which they demonstrated for me and it was COOL).  Listen...these folks were a little "rough around the edges", if you will.  I don't know that I ever would have made the first move to talk to them...but they were kind enough to reach out to me and I am better for it.  They are wonderful people.  Even so, I caught myself every once in awhile checking around us to make sure we weren't "disturbing" the other diners because we were talking pretty loud and in an exaggerated manner...and there were some crude words flying.  Then, I thought, "Who cares what people think? We're starting a friendship here and we are if we're too loud, they can just deal with it.  And, if they are judging the quality of us as human beings, well...they're just assholes."

When my husband picked me up, I actually had to pull myself away.  The little boy said good-bye to me in Creole and hugged me.  His mom hugged me and told me it was such a pleasure to meet me.  We had already exchanged personal information (phone and e-mail).  And her hubby flashed me the peace sign.  It was just like when I left Ginger in New Orleans back in I was leaving someone that I was tied to in heart...that I had just met.

And, then I was overwhelmed and thought, "Man! What if I would have remembered my keys this morning?!"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's The Word? - "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, ch. 33

"Giulio said, 'Maybe you and Rome just have different words.'
'What do you mean?'
He said, 'Don't you know that the secret to understanding a city and its people is to learn - what is the word of the street?'
Then he went on to explain, in a mixture of English, Italian and hand gestures, that every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there.  If you could read people's thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of them are thinking the same thought.  Whatever that majority might be - that is the word of the city.  And if your personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don't really belong there.
'What's Rome's word?' I asked.
'SEX,' he announced....'Even over at the Vatican?'
'That's different.  The Vatican isn't part of Rome.  They have a a different word over there.  Their word is POWER.'
Giulio asked, 'What's the word in New York City?'
I thought about this for a moment, then decided.  'It's a verb, of course, I think it's ACHIEVE.'
(Which is subtly but significantly different from the word in Los Angeles, I believe, which is also a verb: SUCCEED.  Later, I will share this whole theory with my Swedish friend Sofie, and she will offer her opinion that the word on the streets of Stockholme is CONFORM, which depresses both of us.)
I asked Giulio, 'What's the word in Naples?' He knows the south of Italy well.
'FIGHT,' he decides. 'What was the word in your family when you were growing up?'
That one was difficult.  I was trying to think of a single word that somehow combines both FRUGAL and IRREVERENT.  But Guilio was already on to the next most obvious question: 'What's your word?'
Now that, I definitely could not answer." - "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, ch. 33 pg. 103-104

Whoa. This is a heavy one, eh? This will be a short entry because I'm simply going to attempt to figure out the words for my city, my family growing up and myself.  Short, but certainly not simple.  Will probably take me longer to finish this than it would to write a whole book.

Bloomington's word?  Maybe...FREE-THINKING. Or SELF-EXPRESSION
My family growing up? BROKEN
Me? Well, if I knew that, I wouldn't have started this blog. But let's take a stab...SURVIVOR. I don't know. Maybe...COMFORT.  I'll have to think about this more.

What about you?  Do you have differing ideas for what Bloomington's word would be?  What about your family growing up or yourself? Or me? (For goodness sake, help me with this!)  Share in the Comments section, if you like!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Will Kill For Sleep

So, we had a good night last week where Justin slept almost the entire night without waking me up in the middle of the night for too long. And, yesterday, I woke up to a silent house and it was SO peaceful.  Good stuff...

You might have noticed that this entry has nothing to do with the book I'm reading or what I've said this blog was going to be about.  Why?  Because I'm so tired, I can't think.  I literally summoned all the energy I had in my body today and did the MOUNTAIN of work that I had in my e-mail inbox at work this morning and I am just...done. 

See, here's the deal.  Awhile back, Justin was sleeping in our bed every single night.  It was really taking a toll on us because Scott kept getting kicked in the head in the middle of the night and, well, you doesn't help our intimacy issues to have a kid in between us all the time.  So, we said, "That's it, buddy.  You're moving to your own bed!"  We got a trick from Super Nanny (which is such an awesome show!) and she talked about how to get a kid out of your bed.  Well, the first night SUCKED...but it WORKED.  And, after that, he never wanted to sleep in our bed again.  Victory!  And it only took ONE night!

Psych! Not victory.  Because, the technique that I used was one where you sit in the middle of the child's room while they fall asleep.  Each night, you are supposed to move further and further from their bed until you are out in the hallway and the kid has learned how to put himself to sleep.  But, I didn't do that...instead, I sat in the rocking chair next to his bed every night.  This results in him running into our room at all hours of the night, yelling (to my friend Holly's amusement), "Mommy, get in your chair!"  Sometimes, I do it and he goes back to sleep right away and I sneak back into bed easily and it's great.  Last night was a first...I was in that chair the ENTIRE night!  I would fall asleep and wake up and try to sneak back to bed and he would wake up not five minutes later and beckon me back. 

To say that I was angry this morning would be an understatement. I was LIVID.  So, once again, I am DONE with this.  I  honestly can't find enough cuss words to express my frustration.  My friend, Kimberly, provided me with this video and my Aunt Terry (who is a psychologist) promised me this would work in under two weeks. 

I'm curious as to whether any of my mom friends have dealt with this with their kids.  Have you used this technique?  And how long did it take to work?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Identity in Family - "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, ch. 30

"To create a family with a spouse is one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in American (or any) society.  I rediscover this truth every time I go to a big reunion of my mother's family in Minnesota and I see how everyone is held so reassuringly in their positions over the years.  First you are a child, then you are a teenager, then you are a young married person, then you are a parent, then you are retired, then you are a grandparent - at every stage you know who you are, you know what your duty is and you know where to sit at the reunion.  You sit with the other children, or teenagers, or young parents, or retirees.  Until at last you are sitting with the ninety-year-olds in the shade, watching over your progeny with satisfaction.  Who are you?  No problem - you're the person who created all this.  The satisfaction of this knowledge is immediate, and moreover, it's universally recognized.  How many people have I heard claim their children as the greatest accomplishment and comfort of their lives?  It's the thing they can always lean on during a metaphysical crisis, or the moment of doubt about their relevancy - If I have done nothing else in this life, then at least I have raised my children well." - "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, ch. 30, pg. 94-95

This is really a great thought and I would have to say that I agree with it...even though one of my first posts ever stated that my relationships don't define who I am.  I mean, they don't...but, at the same time, they actually do.  I'd like to think that I'm this totally independent, not-tied-to-any-particular-label, do-whatever-I-want-because-I'm-totally-focused-on-what-makes-me-feel-fulfilled kind of gal.  But, really...who am I kidding?  A lot of who I am IS the choices I have made...the people I've chosen. 

This is how I know this to be true:  every time I try to clear my mind and think, "Who am I...really?" It always leads to THE question, "Well, what do I live for?"  And the answer is always the same.  This is the answer:

For awhile, when I was feeling so unhappy with my marriage and such, this didn't always feel like "enough" for me.  Surely, this can't be the only thing I'm living for??? There must be more than this!  And all the other "grass is greener" scenarios were flashing in my head (and, honestly, sometimes they still do). 

But, now that I'm on meds at a better place in life, I'm finding over and over that if I look at things family really IS fulfilling and gives me a wonderful sense of self.  See, the problem never was that they weren't enough for was that my level of appreciation for them wasn't high enough. As much as I sometimes complain, I'm working each day on doing my best to appreciate them and all the joy they bring to my life...and giving them grace for any of their grief.  And, when it comes down to it, wouldn't you be flattered to be partially defined by such an adorable, constant-source-of-laughter kind of group?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Day In The Life - Some Lighter Blog Fare For You

No book quote today. *Gasp*  I know.  So unlike OCD me. Haha.  I have read at least 5 chapters today and I just haven't had anything jump out at me.  The author is going through her time of enjoying Italy and it's a delight to read, but I wouldn't say there is anything that directly applies to MY life in these most recent pages.  Still, I did want to post here I am.

Despite a hint of sickness creeping up on me and a night of sleeping in a chair in the 3 year old's room for about 3 of my 5 hours of sleep, I feel pretty great today.  Part of the reason is because I realized that all of my work this afternoon was "virtual", which meant that I could pack up the laptop and head over to the coffee house to work for the afternoon.  It's amazing what a change of scenery can do for work ethic.  Instead of the stuffy, tiny little 50 year old hotel room turned office that I normally work from, I get to be plugged in to a bright, bustling, symphony of life at the coffee shop.  The irony is that I got more work done here than I usually do in my office.  I actually ended up completely tuning out all the life around me and focusing completely on my work.  Ha. Whatever works, I guess.

In a few moments, I will go pick up my 8 year old daughter, Anika.  She is just finishing up her second IU Children's Choir practice.  This is the first time she's ever been involved in anything remotely choir-like and, being a natural born star, she absolutely adores it.  We have said since she was two years old that this girl was born to be on a stage or a red carpet.  And, mark my words, she will be!  After I pick her up, we have an hour to wait until Scott is finished with his class, so we will seize this opportunity for a nice mother/daughter dinner - maybe pancakes bigger than our heads at Village Deli? We'll see.  Anika cherishes Mommy/Ani time and I am really looking forward to this little window of joy that we have been given tonight. I think I'll leave you with a picture of my absolutely beautiful, grown-up firstborn.  I know I posted this on Facebook already, but she just look so precious here and I love this photo.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Comforting Words - "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, ch. 18

"In response, somewhere from within me, rises a now-familiar presence, offering me all the certainties I have always wished another person would say to me when I was troubled...

I'm here.  I love you.  I don't care if you need to stay up crying all night long.  I will stay with you.  If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it - I will love you through that, as well.  If you don't need the medication, I will love you, too.  There's nothing you can ever do to lose my love.  I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you.  I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me."

- "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, ch. 18, pg. 54

So, I've been sitting here reading these words over and over and just staring at the screen, not knowing what to write.  I can't help but read them over and over.  Isn't this what everyone longs to hear all the time?  These words are so warm and rich and full of grace and bring such relief to those of us that work so hard to be...perfect.  It's an impossible, pointless task to reach for perfection.  And to hear that I'm loved, whether I do anything right or do everything feels like I can breathe again.

I can't comprehend this depth of love.  It is competely unreasonable, in that it goes against all reason.  But it's good.  And I'll take it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On Depression - "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, ch. 17

"I took on my depression like it was the fight of my life, which, of course, it was.  I became a student of my own depressed experience, trying to unthread its causes.  What was the root of all this despair?  Was it psychological?  (Mom and Dad's fault?)  Was it just temporal, a "bad time" in my life?  (When the divorce ends, will the depression end with it?)  Was it genetic?  (Melancholy, called by many names, has run through my family for generations, along with its sad bride, Alcoholism.)  Was it cultural?  (Is this just the fallout of a postfeminist American career girl trying to find balance in an increasingly stressful and alienating urban world?)...Was it artistic?  (Don't creative people always suffer from depression because we're so supersensitive and special?)...Was it hormonal?  Dietary?  Philosophical?  Seasonal?   Environmental?  Was I tapping into a universal longing for God?  Did I have a chemical imbalance?  Or did I just need to get laid?  What a large number of factors constitute a single human being!  How very many layers we operate on, and how very many influences we receive from our minds, our bodies, our histories, our families, our cities, our souls and our lunches!  I came to feel that my depression was probably some ever-shifting assortment of all these factors, and probably also included some stuff I couldn't name or claim.  So I faced the fight at every level."  - "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, ch. 17, pg. 49

This was kind of a tough chapter for me to read, as the author described in pretty good detail her phases of depression and how bad they ended up getting before she decided to get help.   A couple of thoughts occurred to me while thinking about this.  

  1. It might sound strange, but I really am thankful that the brand of depression that I struggle with (technically called "dysthymia") began so long ago in my childhood.  Typically, dysthymia starts with traumatic experiences in childhood and puts a person in sort of a "permanent low" (the main symptom of dysthymia is a low, dark, or sad mood on most days for at least 2 years.  In my case, it went undiagnosed for about  25 years).  Because I have pretty much felt this way my entire life, I didn't know that I could be happy or treat it...which is sad.  But, at the same time...I didn't, in a way, to me it is like a blessing in disguise.  I never had the violent depression that some people have (like this author) where they contemplate suicide or want to do drastic things like cut themselves, etc.  I don't know  if this is like Stockholme Syndrome for Mental Health or what, but somehow...after all that I've dealt with and worked through, I guess I'd like to thank God for my depression.  Is it unthinkable for me to see it, in some ways, as a sort of "defense mechanism" that kicked in when I was shield me from the terrible things that I was seeing that no child should see?  I don't know.  It's really tough to analyze and probably pointless.  Because, is what it is.   
  2. I researched my disease and found this interesting nugget, which is just true. "People with dysthymia will often take a negative or discouraging view of themselves, their future, other people, and life events. Problems often seem more difficult to solve." This really does not need any explanation. Hence, the result...this blog.
  3. What a great day it was when I decided to fight for my joy, rather than just let myself be defeated by my own body/mind/negative spirit!  I used to feel that medication was a crutch that people would use if they didn't have enough faith in God to heal them.  More than that, though, I was extremely worried about my propensity to become a drug it runs in my family and I had grown up watching it destroy lives.  But a very good friend who is a social worker (and who was trying to help me figure out where all this anger inside me comes from) said, "Leah, you know...sometimes Anger is just a mask for Depression."  Then, another friend explained that if I had low levels of seratonin and whatnot in my body, it was not something that was my fault.  It was a PHYSICAL a broken bone or a disease.  She then said, "You wouldn't tell someone with a broken arm to just try really hard to feel better and just use your arm more and have more faith.  That would be cruel."  It was at that point that I finally understood the possibility of relief from medication.  I have been off and on ever since (currently on) and I have been very lucky to find something that works VERY well for me, with no side effects at all.  I have tried to live without it a couple of times and I do OK for awhile, but then find the panic slipping back into my life. (And, before you even ask...yes, during the "dark times spiritually" that I recently went through, I was off my meds.)  Frankly, my family deserves the best me I can I remain on the meds.  And I'm not embarrassed about that at all.  It took me awhile to become comfortable with the fact that I might be a "lifer".  But it's working...and it's how I fight.  And I like it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Enneagram Results - Type 2 The Helper

Just took the Enneagram Personality Test and got some really insightful and astounding results. Seeing as this blog is supposed to be about who I am, I thought this was more than appropriate to post.  Interestingly, this analysis has helped me to better understand some of the comments that I've received (ahem, Mike).  There is enough material here for me to think about for years.  If you are interested in finding out your type, I took this test (just the sample test!) at

Enneagram Type Two
Enneagram Two

The Caring, Interpersonal Type:
Generous, Demonstrative, People-Pleasing, and Possessive           


Type Two in Brief

Twos are empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. They are friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, flattering, and people-pleasing. They are well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. They typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging their own needs. At their Best: unselfish and altruistic, they have unconditional love for others.

  • Basic Fear: Of being unwanted, unworthy of being loved
  • Basic Desire: To feel loved
  • Enneagram Two with a One-Wing: "Servant"
  • Enneagram Two with a Three-Wing: "The Host/Hostess"

    Key Motivations: Want to be loved, to express their feelings for others, to be needed and appreciated, to get others to respond to them, to vindicate their claims about themselves.

    The Meaning of the Arrows (in brief)

    When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), needy Twos suddenly become aggressive and dominating at Eight. However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), prideful, self-deceptive Twos become more self-nurturing and emotionally aware, like healthy Fours.

    Examples: Mother Teresa, Barbara Bush, Eleanor Roosevelt, Leo Buscaglia, Monica Lewinsky, Bill Cosby, Barry Manilow, Lionel Richie, Kenny G., Luciano Pavarotti, Lillian Carter, Sammy Davis, Jr., Martin Sheen, Robert Fulghum, Alan Alda, Richard Thomas, Jack Paar, Sally Jessy Raphael, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Ann Landers, "Melanie Hamilton" (Gone With the Wind). and "Dr. McCoy" (Star Trek).

    Type Two Overview

    We have named personality type Two The Helper because people of this type are either the most genuinely helpful to other people or, when they are less healthy they are the most highly invested in seeing themselves as helpful. Being generous and going out of their way for others makes Twos feel that theirs is the richest, most meaningful way to live. The love and concern they feel—and the genuine good they do—warms their hearts and makes them feel worthwhile. Twos are most interested in what they feel to be the “really, really good” things in life—love, closeness, sharing, family, and friendship.

    When Twos are healthy and in balance, they really are loving, helpful, generous, and considerate. People are drawn to them like bees to honey. Healthy Twos warm others in the glow of their hearts. They enliven others with their appreciation and attention, helping people to see positive qualities in themselves that they had not previously recognized. In short, healthy Twos are the embodiment of “the good parent” that everyone wishes they had: someone who sees them as they are, understands them with immense compassion, helps and encourages with infinite patience, and is always willing to lend a hand—while knowing precisely how and when to let go. Healthy Twos open our hearts because theirs are already so open and they show us the way to be more deeply and richly human.

    However, Twos’ inner development may be limited by their “shadow side”—pride, self-deception, the tendency to become over-involved in the lives of others, and the tendency to manipulate others to get their own emotional needs met. Transformational work entails going into dark places in ourselves, and this very much goes against the grain of the Two’s personality structure, which prefers to see itself in only the most positive, glowing terms.

    Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing Twos in their inner work is having to face their underlying Center fear of worthlessness. Beneath the surface, all three types fear that they are without value in themselves, and so they must be or do something extraordinary in order to win love and acceptance from others. In the average to unhealthy Levels, Twos present a false image of being completely generous and unselfish and of not wanting any kind of pay-off for themselves, when in fact, they can have enormous expectations and unacknowledged emotional needs.

    Average to unhealthy Twos seek validation of their worth by obeying their superego’s demands to sacrifice themselves for others. They believe they must always put others first and be loving and unselfish if they want to get love. The problem is that “putting others first” makes Twos secretly angry and resentful, feelings they work hard to repress or deny. Nevertheless, they eventually erupt in various ways, disrupting Twos’ relationships and revealing the inauthenticity of many of the average to unhealthy Two’s claims about themselves and the depth of their “love.”  But in the healthy range, the picture is completely different.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Early Symptoms of Contentment - Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, ch. 11

    "I climbed the stairs to my apartment, lay down in my new bed and turned off the light. I waited to start crying or worrying, since that's what usually happened to me with the lights off, but I actually felt OK.  I felt fine.  I felt the early symptoms of contentment.
    My weary body asked my weary mind, 'Was this all you needed, then?'
    There was no response.  I was already fast asleep." - ch. 11 Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. pg.36

    There is nothing better than being able to fall into peaceful sleep, knowing that you don't have to experience the constant fear and worry and depression that have become a hallmark of your life.  I would have to say that things came to a fever pitch pretty recently (say, about 5 months ago?) when I was feeling like I was letting others down (by not meeting their expectations and approval - and, although, their extreme judgmental attitude hurt me deeply, it wasn't completely unfounded, if I'm being honest), but ultimately the worst realization came when I realized I was truly letting myself down.

    While I've been ridiculously honest in this blog so far, I still can't quite bring myself to detail out all the ways that I somehow morphed into a person that was unrecognizable.  Sadly, more people than I care to admit actually know the details about this whole embarrassingly immature phase in my life, but thankfully, as I've mentioned before, I have the best friends in the world.  And none of them would ever steal my dignity by airing my dirty laundry for the world to see.  Thank goodness!  We can just leave it at this...five months ago, I was not conducting myself in a way that was consistent with the values and beliefs I claim to hold.  I would describe it this way: you know that crazy, rebellious phase that people go through either in their teens or right when they enter college?  I feel like mine hit when I turned 33...just a tad late.  And, a rebellious phase like that is exponentially more dangerous when you have already established yourself in a family - in a marriage, with children.  These were very dark times for me, spiritually.  This entire "phase", or whatever it is, is what has thrown me into this insane identity crisis and caused me to think seriously about what kind of a person I wish to be.

    There came a point (around June?) when I realized that things needed to change or I was on a fast path to destroying everything good that I currently have in my life.  At that point, some drastic changes were made.  Good changes, the most significant being that, as a family, we stepped out from under the control of people that made us feel judged, worthless and hopeless.  It was scary.  Because that was all we knew and we didn't know if we would find anything/anyone healthy to replace this very important group of people in our lives.  Still, even with the risk, after we was the first time in a long time that I have felt truly free.

    And, let me tell you, freedom...true, grace-filled, wonderful one of the best antidotes for insomnia that I have found.

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    What Do You Want To Do? ch. 6 "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert

    "...I was actually feeling kind of delighted about all the compartments of time and space that were appearing in my days, during which I could ask myself the radical new question: 'What do you want to do, Liz?'  Most of the time (still so troubled from bailing out of my marriage) I didn't even dare to answer the question, but just thrilled privately to its existence.  And when I finally started to answer, I did so cautiously.  I would only allow myself to express little baby-step wants.  Like:
    I want to go to Yoga class.
    I want to leave this party early, so I can go home and read a novel.
    I want to buy myself a new pencil box.
    I want to learn how to speak Italian." - ch. 6, "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, pg. 23

    This section of the book is very interesting to me.  Actually, I don't think that the author's "baby steps" are overly cautious at all.  I think that, after such a long time of not being in touch with what you want, it only makes sense to start with small things like what you want to do right this instant.  I like it.  I think, in some ways, I've already been doing this for the past few months (although, not as deliberately as described above).  But I have been trying to figure out what I really want...and what I just think I want because it's expected of me.

    I was talking to some friends on a short road trip recently and explained to them that I feel lost and like I don't even know who I am anymore or what I want.  And, as a result, I have had to completely set aside all that I say I believe and start completely over with the basics.  Because, after some rather terrible experiences recently with the Church, I have realized that there's an awful lot of stuff I say I "believe" simply because it is either culturally acceptable in the Church or just something that is expected of "good Christians".  Well, guess what?  I'm really not a good Christian.  I've come to realize this as well.  I'm a screwed up, totally confused, completely broken, depraved and completely carnal person that is overwhelmingly thankful for the grace that God gives me and, more than that, His tremendous and unexplainable love for a wretched person like me.  And, frankly, I'm tired of pretending to have it all together just so others in the Church can look good and feel comfortable around me.

    I don't think it's such a terrible thing to want to know myself for who I really am and to have a relationship with my God that is completely real and based on a deep, intimate, true relationship with Him, independent of anyone else's holier-than-thou influences or opinions.  So, I'm working on finding Me and finding way.  That's not to say I don't value and love the Church.  In fact, my local church that I've already mentioned (Red Door Church) has already been instrumental in helping me along in this process...simply by loving me where I'm at and not imposing legalistic church rules on me.  They are real people who understand what it's like to be a screwed up child of God that is searching and they are filled with grace and kindness and love for people like me.  They don't let me get away with acting like a fool, though...they certainly will correct me if it is needed, but it is with a loving attitude and not in a judgmental that I feel encouraged and good about myself when they do it and not condemned.  That is exactly what I need in my life right now.  Thank God for them.

    Friday, September 09, 2011

    Chapters 1-2 - Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

    "We'd only just bought this house a year ago.  Hadn't I wanted this nice house?  Hadn't I loved it?...Wasn't I proud of all we'd accumulated - the prestigious home in the Hudson Valley, the apartment in Manhattan, the eight phone lines, the friends and the picnics and the parties, the weekends spent roaming the aisles of some box-shaped superstore of our choice, buying ever more appliances on credit?  I had actively participated in every moment of the creation of this life - so why did I feel like none of it resembled me?...The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving. I didn't want to destroy anything or anybody. I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland." Ch. 2 pp. 11, 12

    Unfortunately, in the book (and in real life), the author goes on to experience a painful divorce.  And, while my husband and I have chosen a different route (reconciliation, as opposed to separation), the feelings that the author describes are no less potent or real to me.  In fact, anything I quote on here can pretty much clue you in to the fact that it is EXACTLY how I have felt at some point in my life.  Sometimes a quote says more than anything I could ever say.  But it does leave me wondering if every married person feels this way at some point in their marriage (but who would ever admit it out loud?) or if there are just certain marriages that are more difficult (and we were lucky enough to get one of those)?

    Is it a common thing for people to lose themselves in their relationships and become defined by them or are we just dysfunctional freaks?  i.e. I'm Scott's wife.  I'm Anika's mom.  I'm Red Door Church's tech person.  I'm Kuali's Administrative Assistant.  I'm BHRG's writer.  Eventually, I begin to feel that these labels are superficial and not real.  They have nothing to do with WHO I AM.

    I think this is why the author felt so lost.  For one, all the "stuff" in the world wouldn't make you love yourself more, so the house, the appliance, etc...they are nothing.  By proxy, MY house, my job, my appliances, etc...are nothing when it comes to understanding who I am.

    But, as far as the marriage, I differ from the author in one way...and I am not putting judgment on this one way or the other...we just chose a different path.  I choose not to walk away.  My struggle with the hurtful feelings and overwhelming hopelessness that the author describes is the same.  Yet, I've decided that a large part of my problem is that I don't know myself.  It seems unfair to throw out the baby with the bath water and just get a new life, no matter how tempting that may be at times.  It has been with quite a bit of contemplation and prayer that I have decided that I'm willing to discover who I am, while remaining true to my husband and our marriage, rather than run away from it.  Not just because of some arbitrary "it's the right thing to do" (oh geez...if only I were that good!) but because it seems like it's something worth fighting for.  And it doesn't seem to me like I need to run away to find what I happen to be looking for...considering everything I'm searching for is here...inside of me.  It only makes sense that Scott should get the chance to support me and help me, as well as reap the benefits of any positive changes that come about because of it.  Poor guy has held in there so long with me (10 years!).  I'm sure he's just about at his wits' end with me and my crazy habits/behaviors/faults.

    So, we're having grace for each other and for ourselves. And, well, we'll see what happens, eh?

    I Finally Gave In

    So, I decided to start a blog.  For a long time, I've pushed this idea aside and there are some decent reasons for doing so. 

    1. Who cares what I have to say?

    2. What do I have to say that could possibly warrant being blasted on the internet for the masses to cherish?

    3. Am I motivated enough to actually keep up with a blog?  (Note: I did not say, "Do I have enough time?"  Because time is one of those relative things.  I can certainly make excuses and say that I'm a busy, full-time working wife and mother of three who is deeply involved in her local roller derby league and in her local church.   And this will get me off the hook for things like regular blog updates.   But, the truth is, you make time for what you want to make time for...and there's always more time.)

    As I said, all these were reasons I did NOT want to do a blog.  But, recently, I stumbled upon a little movie called "Eat, Pray, Love" starring Julia Roberts and (I forget his name) some hot Hispanic dude.  It was a very interesting movie.  I didn't really jive with it spiritually, but the deeper pursuit of self-realization really struck me.  Mainly because I am going through the same sort of battle within my own heart lately.  Let me explain.

    I have a beautiful house.  I have a good job with health insurance that pays well.  I have a husband who is really a great guy and the BEST Dad.  My in-laws live in our basement.  Not only did they buy said beautiful home...they provide unlimited free babysitting so that my great husband can go to school and finish his degree and I can work full-time at my good job (with health insurance).  I have amazing friends.  Red Door Church is where we are at home, spiritually...and, although it is somewhat new, we feel loved there.  They are our spiritual family.  We are also deeply involved with the Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls.  And the people in that league, too, have become as close as family to us. I am a blessed girl.  I have what appears to be a perfect life.  And I am so thankful for it.

    But, at the core, I don't know who I am.  And the realization of that has been breaking down some pretty big walls inside.  It is difficult and messy and terrible to realize that you don't even know yourself.  And, worse, that you don't fully love yourself.  Some people can live that way forever in their perfect little life with their perfect little house and family...never worrying about the fact that sometimes they feel empty inside.  But...I can't. So, I'm doing something about it.  Basically, that means...start over.  Re-do.  Re-learn.  Figure it out.

    Obviously, this journey will include things that are personal to me, such as values, beliefs, religious know, things that will probably offend people.  Frankly, I'm not interested in that.  Because if I can't be honest with myself, who can I be honest with?  So, if you do decide to spend time reading this...just expect to be offended at one point or another.  Then, move on.  OK?

    I am writing a blog...for myself.  It pretty much makes all the items above obsolete.  I picked up the book, "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert at the library and I intend to blog my thoughts as I work through the book.  Coincidentally, I just noticed that each chapter is 2-3 pages long. lends itself very well to a blog.  I know this book choice might surprise some (and it even surprises I've said, the spiritual side of this story is not my cup of tea) but it's a start.  And maybe I'll do a more Leah stereotypical book after I'm done with this one.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  We have to see if I even do a second post.