Changes, steps, shame and fear

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop.

What are you doing to make changes for 2020?

I don’t know what will happen in 2020. I made plans for 2019, and none of them happened the way I expected.

I felt like I have been on an upward rise ever since I started going to therapy. My journey here was a long one, starting sometime in 2017 when I began watching Celest Viciere‘s Therascopes, where she would do public therapy sessions via Periscope. They were daily, practical sessions gear towards improving your mental health. And best of all for broke me, they were free. After around a year of that, I finally hired a therapist with Boundless Innovations in Baltimore, and things really began taking off. My self-confidence drastically improved. I began becoming more assertive. I took my self-care very seriously. I began doing yoga with Andhyana Yoga. I started working out. I began slowly cutting people out my life who were not encouraging me to improve. I got divorced. I healed.

The level of improvement that I’ve been on, and the trajectory that it has taken me, tells me I need to keep living with open hands. To keep moving forward. To keep loving. Keep being vulnerable.

Changes will come in 2020. But if I’m flexible and strong, I know I can handle, and even love these changes.

What steps do you need to take to catch up on doing the things you didn’t get to do in 2019?

The list is long. I want to get my book of art published. I want to get ready to move out of my house. I want to get fully back on the saddle with work so I’m bringing in a serious income again. I want to make sure I keep investing in my health; mental, physical, and emotional. I want to keep growing, keep loving.

  • The Book: I need to set aside an hour a week to work on the book and get it finished.
  • Move Out: I need to pack a box a week. I need to research places to stay. I need to secure funding for my next house and for the move itself.
  • Work: I need to commit to a regular schedule, and make sure I find a place I can work and focus while the kids are in school.
  • Health:
    • Mental: I need to make sure I continue going to therapy every week, start couples therapy, and come to the Writing For Your Sanity course at least 2x a month.
    • Physical: I need to go to the gym 3x a week. Minimum. I should also be going for walks in the mornings when I drop off the kids at school.
    • Emotional: I need to take care of myself, and make sure I am both vulnerable with my girlfriend, but also not using her for complete support.

If I didn’t feel shame of fear, what would I do now?

Oddly, I fear being vulnerable. Not because I fear being hurt or damaged. I feel like the pain I’ve been through has helped prove that I can get through that. What I fear is being a burden to my partner, to my friends, to my family.

If I didn’t feel that fear…? I would ask for what I need. Not stress about if they’re not available to be there for me. And keep moving.

The moment I am willing to change, it is amazing how the universe brings me what I need.

This has already begun becoming true. Today, I had a meeting with my bankruptcy lawyer, and he told me I’ll likely be out of my house in February.

That oddly pacified me, because now I have hard dates to follow, and a guide and a goal. I can now work towards that.

And once I became peaceful with that, I started to have people reach out to me. People from church, people from activism, even just friends, asking how they could support me with paying for housing in my next move.

I feel so loved. I feel so cared for.

Boundaries, qualities, and mirrors

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop.

What do boundaries mean to you?

I lived the majority of my previous relationships being criticized for my boundaries, or lack thereof. Not because I was abusive or violent or philandering, but because I was extra. I was too much. I felt as if the amount of time I wanted to spend with the person I loved was too much. That my level of romanticism was overwhelming. That my playfulness was foolish and annoying.

I had the tendency to spiral into codependent relationships, where my hunger for my partner was only exacerbated by their desire to run from me. I felt constricted; trapped. I felt afraid, that my demands would leave me lonely.

Through therapy, I began to learn to love and be confident in myself. I began to appreciate that the “lack of boundaries” not as something that I needed to kick myself over, but as something that someone else might want. Maybe it wasn’t that what I was doing was too much, but maybe I was doing too much for the wrong person.

It took me a long time to come around to that realization. But once I began to appreciate myself and my own giving, it gave me power. It gave me a litmus test to see if someone is a good fit for me. I could relax and not be so manic. I could be calm and not worry where the next bit of affection was going to come from because I could give it to myself. It helped me set boundaries. I began to realize that these boundaries were my values.

Now; one of my boundaries is that if you cannot accept the whole person that I am, maybe you don’t deserve the time and love I have to give. If I cannot be corny and romantic around you, maybe we’re not really meant to be. If I can’t let you know how I feel, maybe we don’t need to be around each other.

Once I started creating those boundaries as expectations for myself, I began to realize that there were other boundaries that I could create. Things I wanted in a partner. Reciprocation. Touch. Affection. Attention. Tenderness. And once I started building those qualifications, I realized that anyone who didn’t meet those wasn’t worthy of my time.

Before this point, I felt like requesting the things that I wanted was conceited, demanding, bossy. I’ve begun to learn that these things are the bare minimum I need to feel loved. To grow.

I realized things like reciprocation, touch, tenderness, affection, and attention were things I could give to myself. Although it was awkward at first, eventually I grew to appreciate my capacity for giving by giving to myself. That only strengthed the boundaries stronger, so that once I met someone who understood and appreciated those boundaries, we connected on an incredibly deep level.

What are my best qualities?

Just today I was talking with my girlfriend about how I had been encouraged by my therapist to love myself and appreciate different aspects of myself.

I like that I give freely. I like that I don’t shy from affection. I like that I can be calm and steadfast. I like that I appreciate small beauties and stop the car to look at pretty trees or the sunset. I like that I can make a client out of any situation if I choose to. I love that no matter how bad the situation is, I can find something special and wonderful in it. I like that I am strong. I like that I am subversive. I like being recalcitrant. I like my beard and my hair. I like that I’m cuddly. I like that I am creative and think of things other people haven’t. I like my eyebrows. I like the intensity and softness of my eyes. I like the depth of my voice.

I feel this in my soul. This is true.

What if everything is as it should be?

Everything… DOES feel as it should be.

I almost feel hesitant to say that. As if some vestiges of my chains of expecting are still lurking in the corner. I know that when shackles come off you, the feeling of metal around your wrists linger for a long time. Sometimes you still feel tied up.

And I know that I must continuously do the work of making sure I unlock myself, stretch, and remember that I have the power to be free.

The doubt may never go away. But the memory that, with work, doubt CAN be overcome, will never go away either.

The people in my life are really mirrors of me.

This is completely true. Mirrors don’t always give a very flattering or complementary view of you. And this is not necessarily because you don’t look good, it could be entirely how you perceive yourself. Either way; the people who are mirrors around me can either be reflective of how I actually am, or how I perceive myself.

I’ve thrown out a lot of mirrors since I’ve started looking at myself better.

I let my light shine

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop.

I just got back from zipping up and down the bay on a jet ski out at Middle River. And I am sitting in a therapeutic writing course now. I am doing these things because I am taking care of myself and trying to make sure I am planning time just for me.

It feels new and strange, because I used to have people who would make sure that my birthday was something special. Who would kidnap me and take me to wonderful places, plan wonderful things for me to do, or throw giant parties for me. And now I don’t. But I’m learning to do these things on my own.

I can’t say I’m great at planning these things yet, and so far most of the things I’ve planned have completely fallen through. But I’m learning that I really can do things spur-of-the-moment just fine, and I’m learning to be able to prepare things for myself better.

I am leaning into this. It’s not easy to do. But today, ripping around the jet ski, I felt wonderful. I felt alive. I threw myself off and crashed into the water. I had chicken and drank a Yoo-hoo. I danced with cormorants and ospreys, raced with speedboats and soared over waves. I felt pure joy as the water cascaded over me. And I was reminded that I can feel that anywhere.

Being my whole authentic self isn’t easy for me. I feel like there is so much of myself that I hide from the world sometimes, fearful that I’ll be too bright and scare them away. I’m slowly letting that go.

Part of that has been taking care of my home more. It’s still uncertain whether or not I’ll be able to keep it, but I decided to invest in it anyway. I built a meditation spot in my bedroom, and a shelf in my hallway to house bath and bed linens.

What does Mother’s Day mean to you?

Mother’s Day has always been special to me, because I was born on Mother’s Day, and I am the firstborn. I made Mother’s Day for her. I miss being around my Mother for Mother’s Day. Sending things through the mail or talking on the phone feels empty to me; I just want to be with her. But the connection I have is all I’ve got.

I am doing something for my ex on Mother’s Day. Regardless of how things ended between us, one of the things I told her while we were dating was that I knew she would be a good mother. And I was absolutely right. She’s has helped me grow as a parent in ways I didn’t know that I could. So this Sunday, I’m taking her and our kids out for dinner. We are not together and that’s for the best, but she will always be their mother, and they deserve it.

I am Guided

I took this photo back in 2004.

I headed to the Impact Hub again for Melony’s writer’s workshop, this time with Nya and Arion in tow. There are 7 other kids that come to this workshop, so they felt right at home. I got them rice from the Chinese carryout across the street.

Melony handed out cards to everyone. and they then had to write about if they felt it was true or false, and mine was the last. The card I pulled read:

I am guided throughout this day in making the right choices.
Divine intelligence continuously guides me in the realization of my goals.


This feels true. Thought it’s harder to feel the Creator’s presence when I am in pain or when I am lonely, I still feel it. I’m still reminded of it. When the wind blows, when the sun warms my skin, when leaves dance around my feet, I’m reminded I am cared for.

Even when things are cold, and loved ones feel distant, and the things I must do to survive life nearly seem an impossibly overwhelming mountain stacked against me, something small will happen, some breakthrough, some kind gesture, a soft smile, a warm hug, and I am reminded I am loved.

And care and love is all I need to reach my goals. That care and love is within me. That care and love is around me.

Where are you not showing up in your life?

Melony told us a story of her life, and then asked us this question.

I immediately thought of my house. It’s just a simple ordinary Baltimore row house, but it was the biggest thing I’d ever purchased on my own 13 years ago. I’m proud of it.

I’m still battling foreclosure with the mortgage company I’ve been with for over a year, but all of that seems compounded and harder since getting divorced. The mounting bills, fighting tooth and nail to get them to recognize that my house is only worth a quarter of what they say it is, and random assessors who show up and take pictures or leave threatening letters has become the norm.

And I’m tired. And I’m trying not to give up.

But all of the chaos surrounding my house and them trying so hard to take it away from me drains all the energy I have to invest in it.

I love working with my hands. I like building. Repairing. Creating. Fixing. The shelves in the upstairs hallway. The storage in the office. The lighting on the front porch. The back yard and its quiet half-acre of forest that I want to build a garden in.

3 days ago, I took the Christmas tree out for the first time since I had brought it in the house in early December. I had told myself it was fine because it was still green. Because it still made the living room smell nice. Because I didn’t want to kill a living thing. But when I brought it around the back and put it in the burn barrel, it only took a tiny spark from my lighter to send a blaze towering 16 feet into the night sky. It offered no resistance to the flame. It had been dead for a long time.

My house is my home. My space is what I’m neglecting. However long or how little I stay there, I must show up for it. I must show up for me.

It’s mid-March. How are you?

I feel healthy.

I’ve been working out steadily for a week now. Since I hurt my back a month and a half ago, all of the workouts I had been doing stopped. The muscles I was growing, the fat I was shedding, even the change in the way I walked felt wonderful. I had been working out since mid-summer, and it felt like a blow to that steadiness that I had maintained.

But my therapist and those close to me had reminded me that I could take it easy, and that quietness and healing is also critical to growth. Sometimes being healthy isn’t just being active, sometimes it is also learning to take a step back and enjoying the rest.

What is my life like when it is in balance?

This is a really hard question for me. I don’t often feel like my life is in balance. Everything seems to be unbalanced all the time, with me obsessing over one thing or another, compensating for one thing, then the next.

In the heart of Philadelphia lies The Benjamin Franklin Institute, a science museum that I remember my parents taking me to as a child. In the middle of the building is a massive pendulum, several stories high, which sways in seeming perpetuity, rocking this way and that and designing patterns on the floor.

My life feels like that, swinging one way or another. I’m never in balance, I’m constantly moving and changing and building patterns. It’s been something that I’ve been criticized for, that I’ve been chastized over. I don’t have a balance.

But then I remember, the pendulum stays in one place. No matter how far it swings, it’s still grounded at its core. Internally, I feel calm and steady, even though everyone else sees nothing but chaos. Maybe that is what balance is for me. Rocking one way, then the next.

I am Gentle

Photo taken while I was out riding somewhere I ought not have been.

Impact Hub, a coworking space that has a branch in Baltimore, has been flooding their Facebook page with new events. Most of them are educational of some sort, and wanting to get more involved, I signed up for a bunch of them that looked interesting.

The first on my calendar was an event titled “Writing for My Sanity, A Therapeutic Writing Workshop” hosted by Melony Hill. I thought it might be a seminar on writing, or maybe a writers workshop where we’d compare our work. But instead, it was a series of short writing exercises with a focus on mental health. I was surprised, but it was really nice.

The first exercise Melony gave us, was passing out a set of cards, and each of them had some kind of affirmation on them. The first exercise was to write on whether or not we thought the affirmation on the card was true or not. Mine read:

I am gentle, kind, and comforting to my inner child as we uncover and release the old, negative messages from family and society.

Initially, I only read the first portion: “I am gentle, kind, and comforting”. I immediately said this was true. I am gentle. I am kind. I am a comfort. I am constantly described that way by people who are close to me, and so I felt really good about my card.

But then I read further; “comforting my inner child”, and it threw me for a loop. I don’t think that I take care of my inner child very well. I am gentle with and comfort everyone else, but I am hardest on myself.

And then I read some more. “as we uncover…”. We. As we uncover. I don’t think I’d even considered working with my inner child for a long time. And for a moment, I felt him reach out to me. And in that moment, I hugged him.

Family & Distance

When Melony shared about family, the first thing I thought about was “distance”. Everything about the way I think about family now is connected to distance. My parents and my little brother live in an entirely different countr, my sister lives many hours away and travels for her livelihood.

The distance with my family is heightened because of how young I was when I left them for college. Last year, I crested the marker that denotes that I have now spent more time away from my family than I had with them. And it feels lonely. I miss them.

My siblings have become entire adults without me around, and I have grown and hurt and given and moved in ways they are completely unaware. Connections online feel hollow and echoing, but show no signs of becoming anything different. It feels like neither I nor they have the words to bridge the gap. The time we spend together slowly heals this, but it feels like there is so much to do.

Even what I would call my adopted family, the Naskapi people I grew up with, are even more distant my blood family. The distance from them feels even greater not just because of how physically far away they are, but also because of how many of the people I grew up with and loved are now gone. And with every passing of an elder, every suicide or murder or accidental death of an old peer, feels like a piece of me is crumbling away to dust.

But then I remember the family I have built. While I am no longer with my partner, my children are with me. I am building new bonds and growing with them. They are growing with me. We are strong.

I remember the adopted family I have built. The connections with those who love me and who I am friends with now.

Time

The next exercise was a question on a couple of cards, which we had to answer. My question read as so:

What is this feeling that won’t leave me alone; what would I do if I had enough time?

Time is one thing I feel like I have a constant burning desire not to waste. It feels like the most valuable thing I have, so I try to burn it as much as I can. I am constantly shovelling time into the furnace that fuels my creativity; drawing, designing, writing, creating.