the printed thoughts of a woman on a journey towards awareness, truth, acceptance, clarity, and forgiveness...with some fun and fearlessness thrown in

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

spring awakening

I am certain that people and events come into our lives for a reason, but it never ceases to amaze me when someone manages to say just the thing that I need to hear at the moment that I need to hear it. That happened yesterday. Feedback from some friends on Facebook and a silly Snoopy calendar gave me the insight and the inspiration that I have needed for a while now.

You see, I've been beating myself up a bit lately, because I've been in a depressive state for most of the last three months. I've been sick, sluggish, and stagnant. I've been avoidant, isolating, and reclusive. I haven't been eating right, sleeping well, or exercising regularly. I've just been down on myself in general. It's partially a seasonal thing--both the lack of sun during the winter months and the anniversary of difficult events--and partially my chronic depression rearing its ugly head. I don't
know why I get so judgmental about it, but I do. I think that I'm so afraid of it progressing to a clinical point that I treat it with disdain, instead of allowing myself to explore whatever it might be telling me.

Of course, I didn't even consider that there was a message to hear or a lesson to learn until yesterday when I posted on my Facebook page that I was contemplating the difference between daydreaming and dissociation. Both are symptoms of my depression, though true, maladaptive dissociation is less frequent than mere daydreaming. As you can probably tell by my rambling words, I've been having problems focusing and staying present lately. I even dissociated while driving last week and was literally jolted back into reality when I saw a police car quickly make a U-turn as I drove past. (Luckily, he was just exiting the highw
ay, but it certainly scared me!) My lack of focus and occasional incidents of dissociation had bothered me, but I hadn't considered their cause. I had somehow not seen the obvious--that they were connected to and indicative of my depression. They were like a warning signal, an alarm, a red flag.

Many of my friends responded to my question about dissociation with very thoughtful and empathetic responses. (I'm fortunate and grateful to have a lot of friends who understand me and can relate to me on many levels.) One friend in particular pointed out that daydreaming can be simply caused by boredom or fatigue and can be assuaged by either finding a more stimulating activity or by getting some good rest. Dissociation, she pointed out, required a deeper form of relaxation, a more intense period of recovery.

I swear that as I read her words, a light bulb literally went off in my head. I suddenly connected all the dots. I saw my depression, my dissociation, my inactivity, my daydreaming, my isolation as a means to an end. I realized that I had needed that period of time to rebuild, recharge, refocus, and redefine myself. All of the judgment and criticism that I had been bestowing upon myself were gone. I knew that there was something that I could learn from my depression. I felt so much lighter, so much more hopeful. And, at that very moment, I looked at my desk calendar and read the following words:

"If I have inside me the stuff to make a cocoon, maybe the stuff of butterflies is there, too." -Trina Paulus

I can't put into words how stunned I was. I felt as though I had been struck by lightning. Every
cell in my body seemed to be teeming with energy. I was humming at a higher vibrational level. I was alive and awake for the first time in months. This was a moment of clarity after a journey through a dark tunnel. It was truly and absolutely amazing.

I had been cocooning myself up since January. I had been drawing back into myself, wrapping myself up in layers, lying dormant. I had done a great job of it. I had eaten junk, put on weight, and conserved plenty of energy. I had done it, and I could get myself through it to emerge as something, and someone, else on the other side. As the quotation pointed out, I had used the tools that I had at my disposal to build my cocoon. From within that cocoon, I could draw out of myself the traits that I would like to see emerge from the darkness. I could choose how I would redefine myself. I could control how I would rebuild myself. I could focus my intention wherever I wanted to. It was all in my hands. I had already made a conscious decision to pull myself out of my inactivity. I had already rededicated myself to eating well, to exercising, and to taking care of myself. These messages were the reinforcement that I needed to know that I was on the right track. They were the voices of encouragement that I would listen to when things got tough. They were the light pointing me toward the end of the tunnel.

So, it's only been two days, but I feel like I have no choice but to do well. I must take advantage of this new found clarity and insight. I have to see the gifts that depression presents to me--the time for recovery, the safety for regrowth, the space for renewal, and the chance for rebirth. Even though it's scary and lonely and dark and cold, my cocoon protects me when I am weak and vulnerable. It shields me from the harshness of the outside world. It holds me in a sacred place, where my soul can grow and change, where I can be stripped down and taken apart before emerging again, where I can take care of myself. Just as the caterpillar needs the cocoon in order to transform into the butterfly (or moth, which is equally as beautiful in my eyes!), I need my seasons of depression to transform myself. They're nothing to be ashamed of or to punish myself over. Depression doesn't mean that I'm weak or dysfunctional. It isn't a character flaw. Depression is a coping mechanism for me. It's a tool, an opportunity, a gift, a prize!

Thank you, real life and Facebook friends. Thank you, Snoopy. Thank you, caterpillars, moths, and butterflies. Thank you, daydreams and dissociative episodes. Thank you, depression. Hell, thank you, anxiety, because I'm sure you're helping me, too! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'll see you all when I bust out of this cocoon!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

donations needed for a rescued pregnant Rottweiler

Ariel, a pregnant Rottweiler, was rescued from a high-kill shelter in Georgia. She was transported to Connecticut and was hospitalized with pneumonia as she waited for the birth of her 9 puppies. She gave birth to 11 puppies, 8 of which had initially survived. Sadly, having been born to a sick & neglected momma, all of the puppies had an uphill battle from birth and only 5 have survived. They are currently being treated for pneumonia.

Ariel is still trying to get well enough to have her serious heartworm infestation treated. The treatment can be fatal, so she needs to be as strong as possible before facing it. (My beagle, Bennie, was treated for heartworms after I rescued her and nearly died from the treatment even after waiting several months for her to be strong enough for the treatment.)

Ariel's total vet bills to date are $4,685.45. The volunteer-run rescue group has raised $620 from donations so far, but needs help in raising the remaining funds.

Please consider helping if you can. This momma and her babies were rescued from sure death. They all deserve the best shot at a long, happy, healthy life. Please give if you can!

Read more about Ariel & track the fundraising progress at

You can also read the news coverage of Ariel's story here: Animal groups come to aid of pregnant Rottweiler

Sunday, March 21, 2010

the potter and his clay

"The circumstances of our pasts needn't dictate the quality of our present or the promise of our future. We're not products; we're creations!" --Jeri Elster

My friend in recovery and survival, Jeri Elster, posted the above on her Facebook page a month or so ago. I told her how much I loved it and warned her that I would be stealing it. I wasn't sure what I would be inspired to write about it until today. People and situations pop into my head at weird times, and this morning while cleaning the litterbox, I thought about a friend whose relationship had ended fairly recently. I'll avoid the obvious insult that the kitty litter somehow reminded me of his ex and instead choose to believe that I become meditative while performing mundane tasks, leaving me open to receive inspiration.

So, while scooping away, I remembered this friend once telling me about how unhappy he had been in relationships with women and about how he believed that if only he could have another chance with an ex-girlfriend, he could finally be content. I understood his feelings, having once believed that an ex-boyfriend had been "the one who got away" and being caught up in the myth of him for a long time. Knowing how things had turned out in my fantasy and having some knowledge of his past relationship, I was skeptical, but I truly wished for him that he could find happiness.

I remembered also the night that he called me to tell me that his ex-girlfriend was coming back into his life. He told me that they had been talking for a while, that she was moving back to the area, and that they were going to give the relationship another try. I was happy for him, but still felt some doubt since the circumstances of their reunion and her recent past remained shrouded in mystery.

Long story short, they dated for about 3 1/2 years before breaking up abruptly, amidst quite a bit of drama. The girlfriend and I never really got along. She started off on the wrong foot with me and never overcame that negative first impression. In fact, she never even attempted to. I tried to get to know her, but she always had a wall up with me. She never asked me one thing about myself and didn't seem to be at all interested in me as a person. I wanted desperately for us to get along, but always felt that she viewed me as competition.

In any case, now that they've broken up, I'm worried that my friend is having a hard time moving past the relationship, past his belief that she was "the one" for him, past the way he had defined himself in relation to her, past what he had hoped would be, and past how he judges his ability to trust another person. He is a tremendously talented guy, with an artistic, creative, and unique personality, but I don't know if he's able to see in himself all of his wonderful traits. I worry that for so many years he saw her as the path to his happiness and that now he isn't able to recognize that he can create that path for himself. I know that he's been hurt by at least the last two women that he's dated, and I wonder whether he is willing to open himself up to a woman enough to have an honest and intimate relationship.

I sense that my friend feels stuck right now, that he feels that he has failed somehow. I know what depression feels like, and I know how lonely it can be. I also know that it is temporary. I know that it's possible to move through the darkness, and I know that even greater light exists on the other side. I hope that he will trust in himself and others enough to find the lessons that he can in his present pain that will help him attain happiness, contentment, love, acceptance, and fulfillment in his future. I want him to know how much I care about him, how scared I have been for him, and how deeply I believe in him. I also wish that I could tell him that that sometimes you have to shatter all of your preconceived notions about what you thought you knew, who are were, and what you wanted in order to truly find yourself.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

the price of beauty

After making a decision to stop coloring my gray hairs, undergoing the primping process for filming in high def twice in 5 weeks, and reading a friend's blog on her decision not to color her hair, I have been thinking about my own relationship with the world of beauty. I've always kind of marched to the beat of my own drummer when it comes to my appearance, but I've still suffered from insecurities about both my appearance and my inability to "fit in" with other women. I've wavered between being comfortable just being me and wishing that I could look more like .... (fill in the blank). I'm alternately repulsed by the extremes to which so many will go to achieve a certain look and jealous that I don't belong to their secret society. I have recently found an unexpected ally in my journey--Jessica Simpson.

Jessica Simpson has a new TV venture, a reality show airing on VH1 called "The Price of Beauty." The premise behind the show is that she, along with her friends CaCee Cobb and Ken Paves (celebrity hairstylist), travels the world to examine how various cultures perceive beauty and what the women of that culture undergo in the pursuit of ideal beauty. Apparently, Jessica became interested in the subject after her well-publicized and greatly exaggerated weight gain over the past year. While Jessica says that she is currently a size 6/8 (up from her previous size 4), she has been called "fat," "tubby," and "disgusting." She has been nicknamed "Chestica" and has been the target of repeated barbs after performing in what many described as "Mom jeans," a simultaneous insult to Jessica's fashion sense and a slap in the face to mothers (an all women over a certain age) worldwide. An undeniably beautiful woman at any weight, Jessica has been quoted as saying that she felt like a "public embarrassment" when her weight became the subject of ridicule and scrutiny. “I had to get up on stage every night and know people were looking to see whether I was fat,” she told the UK's Daily Star.

So, I saw the first episode last week. Jessica et al. traveled to Thailand where Jessica insisted on wearing the most impractical platform heels everywhere she went. (I guess she's insecure about her height or attempting to look thinner by way of looking taller.) While in Bangkok, the crew learned that the Thai standard of beauty favors light skin over dark skin. They met a woman named Panya whose use of bleaching cremes had led to a permanent blotchy, disfiguring appearance to the skin on her face and neck. She described how her husband left her due to her appearance and how she could no longer participate in social activities, like singing, because of her embarrassment, shame, and self-loathing. Later, they visit the Karen Hill tribe, where girls begin wrapping their necks with coils of brass as early as 4 or 5 year old, increasing the length of the brass over time, weighing their shoulders down and giving their necks an elongated appearance. Each visitor tries on a mock set of neck rings to experience the weight and feel of the metal on their necks and shoulders.

Future episodes have Jessica and friends learning about the fashionable world of Paris and the pursuit of extreme thinness by models as well as the fattening huts of Uganda, where young women spend weeks putting on weight prior to their weddings in order to be a more beautiful (and, yes, more fat) bride. Of course, the show glosses over each lesson pretty quickly and intersperses scenes of Jessica acting goofy (this is the "is this chicken or fish?" Jessica, after all), but at least it exposes the VH1 viewer to something a bit more though-provoking than the exploits of "The Entertainer" or "New York."

I hope that the show is successful in finding an audience, and that it sparks conversation about the cultural pressure on women to look (and act) a certain way in order to be accepted, loved, hired, promoted, etc. I hope it will make others question why they are waxing, dyeing, bleaching, injecting, scrubbing, slathering, douching, powdering, perfuming, plucking, polishing, and primping themselves away from their natural beauty and into a false standard of beauty as it's currently defined by a society that values women less for their internal qualities than for their looks. I hope that it will cause people to pause before insulting someone who isn't as pretty, or thin, or tall, or fashionable as they. I hope that it will expand people's ideas of what is beautiful and what is "normal." I hope that it will remind us all that true beauty comes from within and that we are all more alike than we are different. And, lastly, I hope that it helps Jessica Simpson feel secure in her beauty--no matter what her weight, her age, or her hair color--and even when she wears "Mom jeans."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

diving into the deep end

I'm hardly known as particularly outdoorsy or athletic, but deep in my heart I dream of a life full of nature and adventure. I imagine myself being skilled at rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, fly fishing, canoeing, snow shoeing, camping, and other such activities. I fantasize about being one of those women who can pull her hair back into a loose ponytail, throw on a tank top, river pants, and a pair of sandals, and look beautiful and confident in her own skin. I want the freckles and tiny lines that come from summers spent playing in the sun and water. I long to experience the wonders of the earth, the sea, and the sky. I dream of traveling to exotic and remote locales where I can commune with nature and the locals. In short, I want to live my life more fully, with less fear and doubt and with more of a sense of wonderment and awe.

To this end, I have decided to challenge myself to experience more, to face my fears, and to expand my ideas of what I can do. In August, I am hoping to attend a women's wilderness retreat in Colorado. If my financial situation will allow, I will spend four days in the outdoors, connecting with others, hiking, journaling, climbing and rappelling, taking in the vistas and enjoying a little quiet introspection. I may even decide to spend a night alone in the wilderness to assure myself that I can stand on my own when needed.

I am also going to pursue a SCUBA certification. Three years ago, I won an introductory class in scuba from a silent auction. I never redeemed it. Of course, I intend to find out if the dive center will still honor the certificate, but even if they won't, I am going to take the classes. I have always wanted to scuba, but have allowed my claustrophobia, poor self-image, and doubt to get in the way. A snorkeling excursion in the Bahamas in the mid-1990's reignited my wonder at the world below the water, and my experiences in Tahiti in 1999 solidified it. I've scratched the surface, so to speak, and I'm ready to go deeper.

While scuba diving in a quarry in Connecticut has its draws, I have bigger hopes for myself. I want to dive the wrecks off the coast of the Carolinas. I want to go far below the surface of the Great Lakes. I want to dive in the warm waters of the Florida Keys. I want to swim in the Blue Hole of Belize, visit the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, and explore the waters of Thailand, Fiji, Micronesia, Vanuatu, Indonesia, and the Maldives.

I don't know if I'll ever have the money to experience the world in the way that I want to, but I'm hoping that it won't be too much of an obstacle. For now, though, I've submitted an entry into a contest that would make a trip to one dream diving destination a reality. I'm hoping like hell that I'll be chosen, but even if I'm not, I'll do what I can to visit that destination as soon as possible. Step one on that journey comes without financial cost. It involves simply opening my mind to possibilities and changing my perspective on myself.

From now on, I will allow myself to be the adventurer that I dream of being. I will learn what I need to (what I want to) and I will seek out opportunities to put my learning into practice. I will re-frame how I see myself. I will no longer define myself by what I cannot do. I will not allow fears, excuses, or uncertainty to get in my way of doing what I want to do. I will appreciate the beauty that is around me every day. I will play as much as possible. I will laugh more, smile more, see more, taste more, climb, jump, run, and skip more. I will live my life more.