There’s something about October that touches the very core of me. I’m looking out at the blue sky, and see the wind blowing the candy corn leaves off the trees like confetti. It’s a beautiful sight, but it feels a bit deceptive. As filled with beauty as October is, there is also a creeping in of cold and dark that touches inherent fear in me.
The past few Octobers have brought big change to my life. This year there hasn’t been big transition in my outer life, but I’ve been working with the energy of the two eclipses in October to create more inner transformation. I’ve been able to tap into what seems like an infinite supply of fear. Quite honestly I’m tired of dealing with fear and was naive enough to think I had moved through most of it.
I recognize that it’s not all my fear. I’m the pack mule for generations of it in my family and I know it’s damn near impossible to live in the modern world and not be impacted by the societal fear that we’re collectively swimming in.
I have some beautiful practices that are releasing this fear from my body and mind. But in the meantime, I’m simply noticing it each time it crops up (like every minute) in either a thought or a sensation in my body. I am working to have compassion for it, acknowledge it and move on.
It’s almost turning into somewhat of a game for me. The internal dialogue goes something like, “Oh! there you are again fear…yes, I just noticed you telling me no one wants to read this dribble, or I’m going to tick off more family members when I write that.” Or fear sneaks in through the vanity route saying things like “you’re fat, old, saggy, etc.” and for a split second it feels like that would be the end-of-the-fucking-world. But I try to catch it early and acknowledge my old friend before it totally hijacks my brain. And there’s always the professional route, fear will sneak in and tell me “It’s time to get a real job, or no one will show up for that, or you have no clue what you’re doing!” Fear is also sneaky enough that when I’m feeling immense gratitude it slithers in and tells me, “it’s too good to be true and everything is bound to come tumbling down soon…brace! prepare yourself.”
It might sound like I’m talking about shame or self worth and I would agree that there are elements of both wrapped up in these toxic thoughts. But ultimately it is fear that is speaking. Because everything comes down to either fear or love. And those thoughts are not loving thoughts. So my goal is to have compassion for the fear – and send it love and move on.
Inspirational quotes about letting go of the past, not being a victim and moving on have always been the kind of mantras that played in my head.
But now I’m recognizing there is an entire demographic of us stoics who actually need to put it in reverse, review our past and perhaps even acknowledge we have been (gulp) victims.
Many of us have been victims of dysfunctional families and emotional neglect and abuse. And we learned to toughen up and protect ourselves early in life with the very specific intent of never, ever being a victim. We are the ones who have kept our hands on our bootstraps in a perpetual upward motion determined to keep moving forward, without a trace of emotion or complaint in our tracks.
But, it takes a lot of energy to defend and armor up with that kind of protection. And it can be exhausting. Really exhausting…and lead to depression and anxiety and well, exhaustion.
It’s time we take a few deep breaths and really acknowledge where we came from. Look at those things we didn’t get in early life and allow ourselves to be the other v-word, (no not that one) VULNERABLE. Yes, vulnerability is the kryptonite to stoicism.
But why would one want to be vulnerable and give up that strong stance you might wonder? Because it will break you wide open and you will love and feel and live and experience joy like never before. That’s why. Not to mention the other way simply isn’t sustainable. It leads to addiction, depression and illness.
I am focusing more on retreats now than ever before because I believe it’s my calling in life, but also because I believe people need a time-out to explore these concepts and have a safe space to begin chipping away at the tightly bound armor many of us live in. I hope you’ll join me in a daylong, a weekend or a weeklong retreat. It’s time to start living!
There is a difference in choosing sobriety over quitting drinking. And there is a difference in choosing recovery over sobriety.
For me there was a big shift when I went from saying, I’ve eliminated alcohol from my diet to saying I’m Tammy and I’m an alcoholic. Eliminating it from my diet always left an opening to bring it back in.
For example, I’ve eliminated dairy from my diet but there is always the possibility that I will take a bite of your cheesecake just for the shear blissful moment of taste and texture. I can get away with a bite. I can also eat an entire piece and suffer the consequences of having sinus congestion and a probably a headache. This will all be gone in about 24 hours and life goes on.
With alcohol, I can’t have a sip or just one drink. It doesn’t work that way. And I have to remember that to avoid going down a path that could literally end my life. That is sobriety.
Recovery however, is being sober and recovering the lost aspects of myself. It’s about learning to live in a new way and being in a perpetual state of growth and development.
It’s learning to think in a new way. It’s about having fun on a soul level and getting in touch with the magical and mysterious aspects of myself. Recovery is a never ending rave for the soul. It’s like taking a hit of Ecstasy without the consequences. It’s lightning bolts on the cellular level. Recovery is nothing like what I imagined.
I am continuing to read Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” and stimulate my thinking, which I think is the exact opposite of what it should be doing. But anyway… I am interested in the idea of resisting or yielding. E.T. says when tragic loss occurs we can either resist or yield and of course each choice will take us down a totally different path of living.
As I was thinking about this, I realized we have multiple opportunities every day (every hour) to make the choice to resist or yield and what a difference that can make not only in our “day to day” life, but it is also preparation and practice for the biggies when they occur (because they will).
If I can practice accepting what is, rather than resisting and fighting it, there is much more flow in my life. In recovery we use the Serenity Prayer to accomplish this task of yielding. The key is discerning what I can change and what I can’t. And then to have the courage to change the things I can. Because sometimes it’s just easier to complain than actually make a change. And the things I can’t change, I must let them go. Some days that’s my mantra. Let it go, let it go, let it go. Often easier chanted than done.
This was taken from my journal years ago after a period of sobriety and then picking the wine glass up again,
“The self deprecating thoughts are back with a vengeance. Is it really that the thoughts are louder and more pervasive than they have been in the past? Or is it that I had experienced the quietness that was possible and now the old way of living is far too dramatic and loud? Where did these dark thoughts come from? Why did they go away when I was sober? The thoughts had originated in early dysfunction. The ghosts of the past had set up camp in my mind long ago”.
As a kid, I fed the ghosts sugar and fat to plump them up and make them large, then in my teen years I progressed to feeding them tar and nicotine to make them tough and mean and finally as a young adult alcohol was what kept them alive. Without the alcohol they shriveled up, but they would never go away. Once I got sober for good and had months and years without the ghosts being fed their secret poison, they shriveled up smaller and smaller, but they still remain there. Always lying dormant in the corner of my mind whispering requests to be fed. All it takes is one drop of alcohol to fully ignite their power. And that is why I can never, ever drink”.
I’m deeply grateful that I no longer hear whispers begging for alcohol. But I know the shriveled up ghosts still exist in my mind like tiny dehydrated vegetables that only require a bit of hot water to turn fully into a cup of soup. Now, at this stage of my recovery the hot water is old patterns of thinking. Fear and defensiveness seem to be the most pervasive. I’ve done a lot of work to reprogram my thoughts and with each layer of the veil that I peel away that buffers me from my true self, I feel more freedom, peace and excitement about life.
It’s old news now, but a while back there was a lot of talk about Jennifer Lawrence tripping and taking spills all the time. One academy award winner went as far as to accuse her of doing it on purpose for the “aw shucks” factor. Pulease.
Each time I would hear about another trip up, I would think, “this girl needs to get grounded”! Think about it. Just look at how quickly this 23 year old was catapulted to stardom. In a matter of a couple of years she had Winter’s Bone, the Katniss chronicles, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle under her belt. All major successes. And she was just born in the ’90s. Of course she’s falling down.
So if any of you out there know this little Kentucky gem, please pass on the following information to her. Tapping. Yes, she needs to try tapping. It’s called all kinds of things Emotional Freedom Technique, EFT, the Tapping Solution, Energy Medicine, etc.
While it’s called many different things, ultimately it comes down to a simple technique that anyone can use to tap their meridian points and release emotional trauma, change belief patterns, get grounded and overall feel better. I have used it for years and even taught my nephew to use it when he was leaving first grade and going to second. He had alot of anxiety about second grade because he knew for a fact that second graders threw up a lot. He tapped it away and had a successful 2nd grade experience and never threw up as far as I know.
Just this week I was sick with allergies and head cold. I had forgotten about this quick and easy technique and a friend reminded me. 5-10 minutes of tapping and I slept like a baby. Seriously.
So if you don’t know about this magical, energetic elixar check it out by googling EFT or the Tapping Solution. Both give free instructions on how to use it and change your life.
Perhaps women end up with controlling relationships because it feels safer and less scary than a man who gives space.
My first marriage didn’t leave me much room for throwing caution to the wind and being my wild, free self. I always had the comfort of “he won’t let me” in my back pocket. And therefore the responsibility of my stifled soul was placed on him! (right.) But alas, I could only tell myself that lie for seven years and I finally had to break free and attempt a run with the wolves.
It was terrifying to be an adult fully on my own. Suddenly I was responsible for the state of my own soul. No longer able to blame the controlling husband. I stretched and grew a bit, but I also began numbing out with alcohol. And in less than a year of being single, I met the next husband (aka the current husband). We dated for about a year before getting married, and I learned quickly that having space in a relationship can feel exhilirating and freeing but it also leaves room for thrashing around and insecurities. And, THAT can feel incredibly scary …like a small child without boundaries. It can even feel like not being protected.
I learned that space in a relationship takes a lot of trust in my partner and in myself. It takes a constant dialogue of authentic feelings rather than projecting. Believe me, I’ve done it both ways and projecting is a whole lot easier and far more dramatic, but authentic leads to better, lasting results. I recommend investing in the authentic. You know it’s like paying a little more for the classic black leather pumps that will last for years and years versus getting the shiny patent leather f-me pumps that will last a season.
Women, we’ve got to run with the wolves. It’s our natural birthright. We are the wild, creative spirit the world needs right now. We’ve got to break free from being controlled and know that we are the ones placing ourselves in captivity. Married 22+ years and I still do it! I try to put the burden on him to hold me back and keep me from being my full creative self…but he ain’t buying it. That’s our dance. I’ll say something like, “I’m assuming you don’t want me to fill in the blank” and smart man that he is, will say, “oh no…you’re not putting that off on me.” And then I have to take responsibility for either doing fill in the blank or not doing fill in the blank. But it’s ultimately up to me an my soul. I have to keep pushing and challenging myself to do what my spirit is calling for. And sometimes I just don’t and that’s ok too. Because the opportunity will usually come back around again.
I have the good (no great!) fortune to do a lot of my therapy sessions outside in the woods, walking along the river, or sitting on a stump. I find they are much more powerful when done in the great outdoors. Most clients are very amenable to going outdoors and also feel how much more easily the process flows.
Recently I wasn’t able to get outdoors with a client and it was actually kind of uncomfortable to be inside in a stark room. In a bit of desperation, I had the client close his eyes and I did an impromptu guided meditation of walking outside along the river taking the scene in with all of his senses. His physical rigidity relaxed and I heard a big sigh. After the meditation he affirmed that it really connected him on a deeper level and we were able to move through some hard work.
He asked why nature is so helpful in the process. I excitedly tried to explain. But it was hard, because I didn’t have the right words. Yes, nature is powerful and healing. It’s an amazing metaphor for how to live life. It has all kinds of alchemical processes going on that we breathe in with multiple senses. But I still wasn’t necessarily answering his question. I sat speechless for a minute and then what felt nearest to the truth came, it gets us in touch with OUR true nature. It connects us to our pure, whole, holy self. That felt right.
I use my morning hygiene as a way to determine just how mindful I actually am. And more often than not, I am totally lost in my thoughts and not at all present to the morning grooming routine. And here’s how I determine, I recently discovered that most mornings I sniff under my arms before getting dressed. This sniffing is not of the SNL Mary Katherine Gallagher kind, rather it’s simply an “I can’t remember if I’ve put deodorant on or not” kind of sniff. This is a little unsettling to me when day after day I can’t recall if I’ve rubbed a plastic tube into each arm pit. But it happens. The morning routine is the first time of the day that I get totally lost in my thoughts and am not the least bit present to what’s going on. It’s easily done on auto-pilot.
And let’s be honest, there is a part of me that thinks why bother being present to the 36500th time that I’ve brushed my teeth or 14600th time that I’ve put on deodorant? It’s pretty boring and what’s the real benefit of being present to it anyway? Right? I know if I get lost in my thoughts I can create all kinds of interesting things to think or even obsess about. And therein lies the problem. My mind is like a cauldron bubbling and brewing and the less present I am, the more toxic the brew becomes with assumptions, overreactions and dramatic renderings of situations. Granted there are also energized, creative thoughts as well, and the mix of the two can dilute the negative thinking just enough to allow me to rationalize that it’s all valid and real.
So I have found that, boring as it may be, working at being fully present allows me to have a much calmer mind and if I want to crank the volume up a tad bit more, I can be present and experience gratitude for all that I’m doing. Gratitude for the running water to brush my teeth, gratitude for the toothpaste that cleans my teeth. And then fully feel the gratitude for the teeth that perform so beautifully in this complex body. Next on to the arm pits.