Day 11

Day 11 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.

In honor of the snow today I had me a talk with my sexy black boots, again. I’m tired of them acting like Bethlehem’s damn innkeeper. “Let me IN!”

And so. I’m in. Lookout skinny jeans. I’m coming for you next.

Day 10

Day 10 of 100, intentional, reflective steps.

Often when we pass the homeless our internal radar says “addict” or “mentally ill.” We shake our head, mentally make the sign of the cross and fling a “bless them” prayer out the car window. There is a sneaky, haughty, subconscious voice in me that has made a “them” category in my brain.

I comfort myself with the idea that I have always been accepting ofthe mentally ill.  I have advocated for “their” meds and therapy. I have tried  to be non-judgemental.  Until I was the one who was facing a diagnosis. The mirror of self realization is like a 360 dressing room mirrors in the fluorescent light of judgment. Horrifying. The instant it dawned on me that I was struggling with mental illness, self imposed judgment began swirling around me like Hitchock’s birds.

Where once learning disorders, depression/anxiety and addictions were completely unacceptable to talk about, it has now become open forum. However, when you tag  anybody with “mental illness”  fear, judgment and feelings of superiority/insuperiority enter the picture.  The truth is depression and anxiety are mental illnesses. Some can be treated with exercise, food choices, less caffeine, etc. However, some is chemical and needs medication, just like all other medical illnesses.

My challenge has been this. Shame. I feel shameful admitting that I need a team of professionals to keep me on the level. Even though I know accepting the help of others does not diminish me as a person at all I feel shame. In fact admitting the complexities of my illness does not diminish me either. I am like so many others that I love and deeply respect, on a journey of health and wholeness. My goal? To walk this journey on a road paved with gratitude for all those who walk with me and those who help me stay on the path. Less judgment. More gratitude.

Side lesson: I am attempting to acknowledge myself and others by their personhood before their ailment. “A baby with Down’s Syndrome” rather than “that downs syndrome baby.” “Jill has mental illness/depression” rather than “Jill is mentally ill.”  Words matter.

Day 9

Day 9 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.

I woke up early today. I was really disappointed about that, not because I needed extra sleep  but because I hadn’t yet formed my brain into something to look forward to today.  See, I used to wake up with a laundry list of tasks and if there was no list, there was always, well . .. laundry.  The point is, even if I felt purposeless, the tasks at hand, my drive to succeed and/or my sense of over responsibility would drag me through the day until I found something that felt like a lot like meaning to hang on to.

Now my day, almost every day, has no schedule or calendar to march me through the day.  Instead I have a smorgasbord, a veritable feast of time laid out in front of me with all sorts of delicious possibilities. Only I’m not hungry.  Why force myself to participate or choose off that buffet when there is no internal motivation?

I have close friends and family I don’t call or visit; mostly because I can’t imagine that they would really want to take time out of their meaning-filled lives of changing the world to deal with me. There are so many relationships that hang in the air like dangling sentences just begging for a punctuation to complete them. This one should be a period because the relationship ended or should. Another is a questions mark leaving possibilities and still others are a comma, just waiting for my permission to write the next sentence.

There are personal “projects” to attend to. Exercise, walking, planning and cooking healthy meals and journal writing. There are also household projects to tackle, wedding decorations to think about, and tons of crafts that could be made for the holidays.  Well, hang me on a tree and call me bored. All that seems like a big pile of meh to me.

It is a weird black hole to fall into where nobody has any expectations on your daily life.  It is there you begin to realize how much our lives revolve around the expectation of others. At one time I had no time to catch my breath. Now I have the advantage of all the time in the world. Sadly, it all seems like play money, useless to spend and meaningless to even try.

However, everyday I put something on my calendar and try to have an idea of something I would like to do. Because I can. Because I’m alive and I have my health and my breath.  Because I have beautiful children and a lovely home to be grateful for.  And ultimately because as long as I’m alive I will choose to really live  with all that is in me.

Day 8

Day 8 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.

“People will want to know that there is hope”, a friend said. “They will want to find something to encourage them.”  I floated this blog to several close friends and trusted colleagues before I published it. This was the loving response from one of my friends. My thought? “Yeah! Don’t we all!”

I am recalling a conversation with another parent whose child had been recently diagnosed with cancer.  He said “I read everything I can find about (childhood) cancer. I keep hoping that at the bottom of every page it will say ‘he is going to live,’ but it never does.” A parent of a childhood cancer survivor myself, I understood and that understanding applies to my current life. I too want to see proof of life at the bottom of every page. I go to bed hoping tomorrow will look brighter, my illness less severe and my coping more effective .

I have spent months waiting for the page turn; waiting for the black and white of the yellow brick road to turn into technicolor but it hasn’t. Yet. But there is potential. The potential of hope gives me traction on days when my emotions are slick tires on ice, pulling me out of the quicksand of depression, and is a lighthouse when I think I’m drowning. That’s enough for me to hang on.

Activity report:
Made it to yoga and managed to keep my nutrition goals successfully. Until 5:00 p.m. Maybe I should make my bedtime at 4:30?

Day 7

Day 7 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.

I was raised in a religious environment that led me to believe if I wasn’t striving in my faith, in almost an angsty way, that I was moving backwards. If I wasn’t moving forward then I was regressing.  Stillness meant spiritual death. This is where I take my leave with faith that demands I strive in order to succeed.

I find peace in the stillness because I know God is there. It is in the blackness, the quiet and the silence that I am secure because it is where I feel the most held. There is no distraction of myself and my own feeble attempts to win the grace of One who gives it freely.

This year has been that stillness. I have not been working at my faith but thankfully it is is working on me. I have come to know it in a deeper way than I ever thought possible.

Activity report! Finally. I took a walk today. Now I am filled with the overconfidence that western immediate gratification tempts us with. My struggle to be disciplined in all areas of life is not so much in the starting. It is in the continuing. One day at a time, one right decision at a time. No room for guilt trips and failure speak