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Category Archives: Overcoming Anxiety, Depression, and Grief

Growing and learning from our past gives us the resilience and power to live each day we are given.

I’m not Lost… I’ve been Learning about Love

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I’m not Lost… I’ve been Learning about Love

It’s been almost two months since I’ve written a post. You must have been wondering where in the world I have been.

I wish I could answer that question with something fun and light-spirited. But alas, my fun and light-spirited parts of myself have been in hibernation.

Only my serious and intense parts have been seeing the light of day… as well as the dark of night.

I’ve been struggling. I’ve been sore and sick. I’ve been in the clinic, seeing doctors, getting tests run, and filling prescriptions. I’ve been hurting at my very core. My muscles, my ribs, and my spine. All the way down to what my children call “the spirit heart.”

For the first time in my life I have been able to sit with discomfort, tend to it, listen to it, comfort it. Just like I do with my young boys when they wake up in the middle of the night ill and out of sorts.

Recognizing and listening to the pain has been nothing short of terrifying. I lay on the couch, propped up my pillows at 3am, listening to meditative music, sitting with the pain. Suddenly some other sources of pain surface. I want to deny them. Tell them they aren’t welcome. But I resist. I try to treat them with compassion. I try to listen to their story.

This second kind of pain was deeply emotional, and buried for nearly twenty-years. It was my source of self-hatred that emerged during my early teens. It was the most destructive and loathing part of myself. It was the darkest part of my being. It is a part of me I have been ashamed and afraid of, keeping it hidden, deep within.

Why would this inner-yuckiness surface now? I’ve been “doing so well.” I’ve been healthy. I’ve been happy. What gives!?

Well, during the daylight hours, I have been sharing myself with others. I’ve been building vibrant friendships as well as professional partnerships. I’ve been accepting myself and others as they are, in the moment. I’ve been striving for excellence in place of perfection. I’ve been learning to love myself. Truly, truly love myself.

It’s not an easy task. But when my 4 year puts so much energy into describing the scale of his love for me, “All the way up to the sky, Mom” or “Down the river and to the bottom of the ocean, Mom,” I can’t help but realize how big love is. Truly.

And to make room for the magnitude of energy that love occupies, it might make sense that I would need to clean out my inner closets. I need to recognize the times in my life that hatred was bigger than love. Times that I didn’t believe that I deserved to be loved. I need to shine light on those dark times. Recognize them as a part of me… but not a defining part of me. I need not to fear them. I need to grieve the sadness this part of me feels so deeply. I need to know that my actions, no matter how destructive and painful are in the past.

It’s not an easy task. Not at all. When I wake up in the morning to have dreamed of people I cared for deeply and knowingly hurt… it makes it hard to want to get out of the bed. It makes it the physical pain all that worse. But somewhere, within all of this, I know there has to be truth. Throughout those years, as a scared 12 year old… as a suicidal 15 year old… as an idealistic 18 year old… I was learning about myself. I was learning about the power of relationships. I was learning about how to share myself with others. I slipped and failed many times… but now as I begin to understand the magnitude of love. How big it is in the universe and how big it is within ourselves. I know that was what I was missing.

In those spaces where the pain resided, I imagine a little hope held on. After all, that’s how I made it through, right? And all those places where fear took hold, I imagine there is space for love to grow. Love that extends throughout the present, but also into the past.

For those I cared for and clung, I can now extend love to… truly and fully.

For myself, who was broken, shattered, and scared to go on, I can now extend the love… truly and fully.

It is with these roots, deep within my core, that I know my love can grow into the future… for myself, for my family, and for my place in the universe.

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The Heartache that Doesn’t Fade

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Heartache doesn’t soften over time.

The pain grows roots.

It takes residence in the soul.

We journey forward, learning as we go.

The heartache gives us perspective and deeper understanding.

It becomes part of who we are.

In that open, vulnerable space is where our love resides.

Love never fully understood in a space that will never fade. Dogwood Blossoms

Lessons in Entreprenuership: Balance

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Lessons in Entreprenuership: Balance

Last month I began writing about what I learned about balance during my first year as an entrepreneur. The thing is, just as I began to write this piece to share my lessons learned, I learned something else.

I wrote over 800 words about the challenges I encountered while learning to balance professional responsibility, home management, and emotional health. Then for some reason, I stopped writing. Not just the draft I had been working on. But I stopped writing anything at all. I stopped making time for it.

I was busy balancing several professional projects, establishing new contracts, preparing presentations, and wrapping up the last art class of the year. I tried to stay on top of household chores and I even took time to cook with my boys and enjoy simple moments in life. Sounds like balance to me. It feels like quite a sense of relief.

For years, I felt like I was juggling umpteen different tasks, spending my waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours spinning plates. I lived in fear that these plates will come crashing down as we walk the tight rope.What an exhausting feeling!!

Sounds like a circus act. But really, does life have to be a circus act?

Sure, we all struggle to balance the housework as kids, pets, and mishaps. We struggle to find time to have fun without neglecting our workload. We try to hard to get those bills paid, holiday gifts bought, and credit card balances down.

Sure, we live in a world of excess. But we don’t have to do it all.

I struggled with balance long before I was an entrepreneur. I think back 12 years ago, to when I was taking classes in community college. I took classes 4 days a week. I had three jobs, which I worked 6 days a week. Remember, thought there was only 7 days in the week.

It made no sense. I never had time to breathe.

The closest thing to “escape” I had was my homework. As I wrote papers, I found a bit of peace. I wrote about culture, economics, society, food, history, science, nature, and philosophy. I found a place where I liked to reside.

No wonder I went on to excel in academics. No wonder I was crazy enough to write my thesis while on bed rest with my second pregnancy.

I did good to get stuff done. But I failed miserably at balancing my life.  In time it caught up with me. Exhaustion. Adrenal fatigue. Complete meltdown. Profound insight. Whatever you want to call it. I clearly had something to learn about living in balance.

And so now, after a year of being an entrepreneur, having been involved in more than twenty different projects, having addressed some of my core emotional issues and unpacked a load of baggage, having decided to home school my first grader, I think I have learned something.

We have to stop finding relying on distraction as a driving force in making decisions.

We don’t want to put away the laundry. So we pretend like its not there. We find a distraction. Preferably a more important distraction. “I really needed to clean my home office.” When we do this, we try to manipulate reality. It’s different than procrastinating, because for a moment we believe that other task is gone. You know that one task you dread and try to forget about. Maybe it is a grant report, a conversation, or shoveling the snow. It’s fine and dandy to put things off and procrastinate.

But when we use one thing to forget about another, we are actually abusing the preferred task. Think about it.

Does your office deserve abuse? Or that creative endeavor? Or that chocolate cake you want to bake?

No. They don’t. They deserve your attention. They deserve the respect of your choice. It’s time to make that choice be part of our conscious decisions.

We have to realize that it is up to us to manage our own time.

When we let ourselves be too busy, we are doing something wrong in our lives. We negate the power of personal choice.

I’ve always loved the perspective that when we say, “I don’t have time” we are really saying “I don’t have time for that.” Essentially, we are choosing not to give a task our time. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as others who may be counting on us are not neglected.

Today, I am choosing not to give certain projects my time, because I trust the judgement used to make my priorities. I know that I will tend to them fairly when their time comes. But for now, they shouldn’t get in the way of today. The projects I choose to give attention today deserve that attention. It is my choice to use my time.

We have to let some things go.

We hear a lot about sustainability these days. You know, the idea that we should be able to continue operating in the way we currently are, without detrimental effects in the future. Are you able to continue functioning the way that we are right now, without facing collapse? If so, then it may be time to make some changes. It may be time to step off the tightrope, set down a plate or two, or even question our role in the circus all together.

We have to make time for ourselves a priority.

Let me say it again. We have to make time for ourselves a priority. We all have the thing we love to do in life. It helps us be our best. It speaks to our soul. For me it writing and drawing. In the past month, I haven’t taken time to even make a journal entry. Taking the time to draw or paint for myself is even harder. It is too easy to put these activities last on our list. Not anymore. It is time to give our passions more value than that.

What is your passion? Does it deserve more priority than what you give it?

 

Why Halloween Terrifies Me

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I have a confession to make. And since it is Halloween, it seems an appropriate time as any.

I don’t like festivities. I don’t like parties. Holidays drive me crazy. The chaos of multiple events, expectations, and excitement just seems like a magnet for drama to unfold. Halloween is certainly spooky for me. I have challenge enough in sharing myself with others. I have difficult enough time trusting their intentions. When you throw in costumes, tricks, and treats, I just don’t know what to think.

Skull of a cougar

Photo by Rachel Brazil 2006

Since I have had children, I try to be open to possibilities and new traditions. I strive to recognize my discomforts, honor them as true, and adapt ways to celebrate the holidays that will work for our family. But of course they want to do all the things all the other kids doing.

It’s kind of peculiar that Halloween is one holiday that really gets under my skin, as I am in love with all things autumn. Even more, I have a slight biological fascination with all things dead. Skeletons are a normal part of my home decor.

I don’t mind creepy crawlies or the like. In fact, the last year I truly celebrated Halloween, in 2005, I was making my living cleaning animal skeletons for a University comparative collection.

I’d go to work in my laboratory. Surrounded by animal remains and listen to music like Bauhaus, the Raveonettes, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Joy Division.

I dressed mostly in blacks and grays for only one reason: my most recent opportunity to purchase clothes had been for my grandfather’s funeral a month prior.

I was grieving, but delighted in learning about the living through the dead. (I was an archaeologist after all). I took pictures in the lab. Ranging from the cougar skull featured above, to the bat that the director had brought in right around Halloween. The entire process was absolutely fascinating, examining details that were beyond skin deep.

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Photo by Rachel Brazil 2005

That Halloween, I went to a party with a boyfriend. Even though I struggle at them.

I wore a costume. Even though in doing so, I felt like I shared more of my true self than I was comfortable with.

I carved a Jack-o-Lantern, working carefully to recreate a skeletal version of my hand. I no longer have a picture of that, sad to say.

As much as I tried to put my best foot forward. I couldn’t do it. I hated the party. I wanted to go home. I was willing to walk 12 miles to get home. Instead, I curled up in the back of the car and fell asleep. When I finally got home I had a full-blown violent meltdown and slept on the hallway floor.

For so long, I let that event become a defining moment in that “there must be something wrong with me.”

But, as I’ve written before, I’m through with believing that.

I am who I am, and when I am expected to be something other than that, it really bothers me.

Having strangers knock on my door and ask for things bothers me.

Going on to other people’s property freaks me out.

Eating loads of candy at midnight usually results in a sugar hangover the next morning.

Acting like I am someone else clearly messes with my sense of being.

Having to interact with people in costume makes me want to run away crying.

The ghouls and the gross don’t bother me. Nor does the fake blood or a random body part. So maybe my best bet is to be a hermit for Halloween. I will stay in, with my loves (who happen to be ill today). We will make creepy treats shaped like eyeballs or ghosts. Maybe I’ll try my hand at homemade caramels or chocolate candies. Maybe we’ll play with costumes and perform spooky Halloween skits.

But really, why should I do something I am not comfortable with, just for the sake of a holiday?