Category Archives: journey

My Way Back Machine

I spent several hours today transcribing my old journals.  Most of them are written in bound composition notebooks and they take up about a foot and a half on a closet shelf.

The journals have been bothering me for awhile now.  What if something happens to me and whoever settles my affairs reads them and is hurt by some of my words?  I have especially worried about any family members that I may have been venting about.  I wouldn’t want venting to be the last thing I ever “said” about a loved one.

Since there was nothing else to do today, I decided now was the perfect time to start the journal transcription project.

I began with journal entries from 1998–twenty years ago!  I was 37 years old.  That is the year my oldest son graduated high school and my youngest was in sixth grade.  I worked at a job I mostly loved for a boss I mostly had issues with.

I expected to be rather annoyed by my previous self.  But it has turned out that I’m not all that different as a person from who I was in those days.

Serious depression was beginning to rear its ugly head by then.  Encounters with people that I now recognize as having some issues with narcissism began to be a problem for me.  My lack of firm boundaries is readily apparent.  It turns out my awakening began earlier than I realized.  All these years I saw that time period as a time of many failures.  But in fact, I was figuring things out and doing my best with less than ideal circumstances.

I’m working backwards for now, so I ended my day with an entry from Fall of 1997.  My youngest was beginning to have issues with his peers in school and I decided that is a topic better saved for the morning light.  Now I know that his social woes turned out to be temporary, but in the moment it was heart-breaking not knowing how things would go.

It seems that I had forgotten more than day-to-day events.  I think I forgot for awhile who I am.  I lost my way for reasons of mental health, some betrayals, and a few really hard losses.  I expect this project will help me to heal my wounds and dust off my true and unique character which I have been pushing down for far too long.

I thought I was transcribing my journals to spare the feelings of others.  But it turns out I will be taking good care of myself at the same time.

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Filed under art therapy, boundaries, depression, emotional health, family, getting along, growth, healing, history, journey, progress, self-care, self-respect, stress, Uncategorized, wellness

Spreading My Wings

Last Friday we went to our local arts organization to check out an exhibit that I am participating in.  The theme is Disturbed, which I thought was right up my alley, and I had submitted a black and white photograph of a moth on a window screen.

Surprisingly enough, I won Guest Judge’s Favorite–first place among about a dozen and a half other artworks.

This is only the second time I have submitted artwork of mine and it felt like a great accomplishment just getting it framed and submitted.  I wasn’t even sure I was going to do it this time as I was feeling frazzled and pressured by other things going on in my life.  But step by step I eventually got my act together and brought the picture in on the very last day they were accepting submissions.

Of course I ended up missing the opening reception for the show as I would’ve had to go alone and I didn’t want to do that.

I wonder what my reaction would have been if I’d been mingling in the crowd all by my lonesome when the ribbon was awarded?  Whatever total shock looks like, I guess!!!

As it was, I received an email with the good news and spent the next week savoring my accomplishment and telling only my husband.  It was like a little reward to every so often remind myself:  Someone liked my photograph better than all the others in the show!  How about that?  I don’t have to apologize for doing well.  I don’t have to explain what the picture meant.  Somebody liked it enough to hang a ribbon on it.  Somebody who doesn’t even know me thought it was really cool.

My photograph will be shown in the current exhibit until December and then move onto to another facility for others to see for a few more months after that.  By the time I get it back, there will have been a couple more exhibits for me to submit my work to.

This recognition was not necessary for me to keep going, but it did give me a little boost.  It makes me feel like I’m on the right path for now.  Actually, this feels like a new path for the first time in my life.

Which feels like a good reason to hope again.

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Filed under anxiety, art therapy, emotional health, growth, healing, journey, motivation, progress, self-respect, social phobia, Uncategorized

My Aunt Louise

Aunt Louise is the oldest of four sisters.  In her day, she was very beautiful with a beaming smile.  She was also quite awkward in many ways.  As an example, when she graduated high school, her fiance still had a year to go, so she kept going to school and audited classes so she’d have something to do while she waited for him to graduate.  She didn’t feel free and excited and have all these girlfriends to do things with.  She waited for her fiance to graduate high school.

The following year, they did indeed get married.

In the wedding photo she looks quite happy.  He looks kind of bashful.  The article in the paper is typical for 1949 with descriptions of what everyone wore and the several bridal showers she was given, including one given by the office girls of the place she worked.

Her life afterwards turned out to be very, very difficult and sad:  dysfunctional marriage, death of a three-year-old daughter, poverty, divorce, more poverty, then a good husband who died years ago, abusive relationship in her later years, and finally death of another daughter from brain cancer.

I would read the wedding article sometimes and wonder where it all went wrong….

Aunt Louise is due to turn 90 this coming January and my mother recently remarked that she has been quite talkative the last few times they were together.  Louise has said surprising things such as:  the reason she never worked after getting married was because not one person had liked her at the job she had.  She knew it the very first day she walked in the door.  They hated her at first sight.

How strange.  I wouldn’t have guessed that she was hated at her job.  According to her wedding announcement she had worked there for two years and “the office girls” had even given her a wedding shower.

I had always thought she had two lives.  The one before marriage and the one afterwards.  Instead, those “two lives” were part of a familiar pattern.

Her life turned out like all the other women’s lives in this family.  A beginning seemingly full of promise and light, beauty and hope.  Smart, sensitive, active girls who end up as victims on some level wondering where it all went wrong.

I suspect the clues to the future were right there all along.  We just missed them in the quest to do the right thing, please the people around us, be good girls, and basically give away our power until there was no more to give.

There are more women’s stories in my family and I hope I can do them justice.

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Filed under anxiety, decisions, depression, dysfunction, emotional health, enemies, family, first impressions, getting along, grief, history, human nature, journey, love, opinion, social phobia, Uncategorized, wellness, work

Princess Stella

Many moons ago I wrote about the cat my sister was giving me, even though I didn’t really want it, but I didn’t really tell her that, so… it was pretty much my own fault I would be taking in a cat I didn’t want.

The cat’s name was Stella and she was a princess.  She came into my house in September and immediately took over.  Other than those first moments out of the cat carrier, her paws never touched the floors.  Instead, she leaped through the air and flew from table top to counter top to buffet top to… you get the idea.

Although I am aware that MY cats occasionally sneak onto these forbidden surfaces, they wouldn’t dare do it in front of me because it is against the rules at my house.

And so my cats were stunned and hurt to see Princess Stella getting away with these shocking maneuvers.  She basically took over the house, all their special spots and hiding places, and she took over me, their human mother.  And she lorded it over them.

Hour by hour, day by day, they became more hurt and dejected.  They started staying outside as much as possible to avoid the princess.  And I felt guiltier and angrier about it by the minute.

I began to see that a pattern from childhood had repeated itself in the present day and I needed to break that pattern.

This cat, that I never wanted in the first place, was clearly not working out.  I had to tell my sister “no” for the first time in my life.  I had to do it fast and I had to mean it.  In spite of the possibly good intentions she had, in spite of the trouble and expense she had gone to, in spite of my almost-out-of-control panic that had been triggered by this situation, I had to say that the princess was just not fitting in and would have to go.

Ah, sweet emotional illness…. I was a wreck.

But I did it!!!  I gave that damn cat back!  It’s kind of funny now, but at the time it was completely stressful and traumatic.

Even now, seven months later, I consider the whole episode to be a significant turning point in my development as a human being with a sense of agency.  It gives me something to build on as I move forward in life.  And it gives me a way to know better what I want for myself and to believe that I deserve to have what I want.

In a strange way, I owe this turning point to a little black and white cat.  Thank you Princess Stella!

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Filed under anxiety, boundaries, bullies, decision making, dysfunction, family, getting along, growth, honesty, journey, motivation, peer pressure, progress, self-care, self-respect, stress, Uncategorized

Afraid to do Things

When I was a little girl, my parents took me to a nearby art gallery, www.albrightknox.org, for a tour.  I remember coming home and NEEDING to make a painting.

My father gave me a piece of wood from his workshop and some house paint and a brush to use for my masterpiece.  And I still remember thinking that even just a plain, two-color abstract painting was really hard to do!!  At the gallery I had seen paintings that looked like nothing!  Just squares of one or two colors!  But I guess there was more to it than I thought.

I have been wanting to visit the gallery again for quite some time.  All that wonderful art less than an hour away from my house.  But something always comes up and I still haven’t gone.

Then a few days ago, when I was feeling restless for the millionth time, a thought came to me.

I could just go to the gallery by myself.  Technically, I have a lot of freedom since I don’t work.  I don’t have to go with somebody.  It would be during the day.  It would be safe.  I could go at my own pace, lingering if I want or racing through the place if I want.  I could eat in the gallery cafe and have museum-y food to choose from instead of Wendy’s or Burger King.  It’s easy to get directions ahead of time.  I have money for parking and admission.  Nothing is really stopping me.

Except that I get scared now when I think of doing things.  Before I could just force myself to do things even if it made me anxious.  Now, not so much.

Someone I grew up with in the old neighborhood flies to San Francisco every year all by herself and she thinks of it as her time to heal, re-charge, and be 100% herself.  And I envy her those trips.  I want that for myself.

I’m not used to thinking of doing something and then just doing it without first considering the millions of possibilities and needs of the whole rest of the world.  Without “awfulizing” the whole endeavor first.  Without remembering past failures.  Without remembering past triumphs and thinking, those days are long gone.  And while this sounds like a ponderous process, it actually is so natural and automatic for me that I can do it without even realizing what is happening.

Ah, sweet Clinical Depression and Chronic Anxiety, you are terrible companions and it is high time I break up with you.

The gallery is closed on Mondays so tomorrow is my first opportunity to take what I hope is the first of many such field trips.

I hope that it feels good to do this and to be there.

I really hope this idea means I am turning the next corner.

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In Defense of Me

I had a little text exchange earlier today.

My sister sent me a picture and two videos of the kitten she is giving me in the fall.  I did not want a new cat as I have three and that is enough.  But my sister cleverly sent a picture first and then asked me if I would like to have a new kitten.  She would pay for all the shots, the spaying, and bring her to me from N. Carolina since they were coming up anyway.  It was a cute cat, and my sister always gets her way, and one of my cats is 19, so how long would I have to wait to be back down to three cats anyway.  So, I said yes.

Now my sister sends regular updates via text, which is considerate, I suppose.

Today I felt compelled to thank her for her efforts which are allowing me to see my kitten grow up even though she is hundreds of miles away.

Instead of responding with a “you’re welcome” she texted back with “You’re welcome to come down and see her and bring her back with you.”

Gahhhhhhh!

Why would I want to drive myself all the way down to Asheville, NC to pick up a cat (that I probably shouldn’t have said yes to) when you’re coming up to New York anyway in September???  In fact, all of this was your idea to begin with.  In fact, about a hundred whyshouldI’s raced through my mind when she responded the way she did.

The safest answer I could come up with was, it wasn’t in the budget to make a big trip this year.

Her answer:  Budget?  It’s a couple of tanks of gas!  We have plenty of room for you.

Gahhhhhhhh!

This convo was exactly like nearly every exchange with my mother.  No matter what I say in answer to any question, large or small, my answer is up for grabs, correction, improvement.  How did these people get so far into my brain?  Why do I have to defend everything all the time????

It’s the boundaries again.  I never learned good boundaries.  Neither did they.  But they are okay with it and I am not.

I can not be okay with poor boundaries.  I will never get better if I don’t firm up the boundaries.

And why am I still thinking about it and turning it over and over in my mind an hour later?

I get so stuck sometimes.

I probably should have sucked it up weeks ago and turned down the kitten even though she is super cute.  But I didn’t and now I am entangled.

My answer that shut down the exchange: I would have to fly.  That’s a hell of a drive and I’m not up to it these days.

She had nothing but an “oh, okay” for that one.

Score!

Such small successes in this journey, but I’ll take it.

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Scarred for Life!

I read an article recently that discusses what happens to children who have been traumatized at certain crucial stages of development when they grow up.  The author’s opinion was that trauma during the terrible twos and again during puberty had a permanent effect on the individual.

Awhile back I read a different article about a study.  The study involved a group of children who had been bullied at certain ages and checked in with them at intervals for their entire lives.  The study reached the same conclusion–that particular childhood stages were very vulnerable for psychological damage and that the damage is virtually permanent.  The bullied children as adults tended to remain unsuccessful outsiders throughout adulthood no matter what.

Well, I could have told them that!

It’s kind of nice to know that the way I turned out is not my fault.  I did not choose to hang onto the past and fear the future.  I did not choose to wallow in grief or get lost in worry and anxiety.  Instead, this is basically what I became “made of” due to the timing of events and how those events mixed with my “self” during my childhood and youth.

This means to me that my task is not about weaknesses or flaws.  I don’t need a cure.  I need to accept who I am now.  I need healing and purpose.  My task is to keep finding my way.

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Filed under anxiety, bullies, depression, dysfunction, emotional health, grief, growth, healing, human nature, journey, progress, PTSD, self-care, self-respect, stress, Uncategorized, wellness