20/20 Hindsight

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Isn’t it amazing when you are able to look back on something and see it in perfect clarity versus when you are dealing with something difficult right in front of you and it’s clear as mud? 

We are packing to move and I was faced with a small shelf full of the journals I have kept since I was able to write. 

Even though I was reaching my limit for journeying memory lane for the day, since this room also holds all of my family photographs for my entire life and other sentimental mementos, I couldn’t resist thumbing through a couple of these journals as I piled them into yet another box to reach our new home. 

The first one I opened included my daily life during my senior year of college and first years of graduate school. I often remember this has a tumultuous time since it was full of growth, but I at times forget the details of those days…until I travel back there when reading my old journals.

The passages I read were full of pain, heartbreak, anger, some fun times, and big accomplishments. I usually write more when I’m low or angry, so happy passages are few because when I’m happy there is less to write and I’m too busy living to sit down and account for it. 

In these pages, I saw old patterns that I had over a decade ago that still exist in my life despite therapy, maturity, and meds. 

I heard my world described in my own voice, my past self, a version of me that has morphed into the me of 2017.  I wished I could go back in time and help her. Let her know she’s not alone in her struggles. That life gets better. Yes, tragedy will strike in years to come, but it’s nothing she can’t handle with the proper resources and the grace of God. 

If you could talk to your past self, what would you say? Would those words also apply to your life today? 

ūüíúūüĎ©ūüŹĽ‚ÄćūüĆĺ

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Who is that writer behind the curtain?

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I have been writing this blog for a little over two years now, anonymously.  I am slowly, but surely, peeking out from behind the curtain by telling select people I know (in person) about my blog, sharing it with individuals on Facebook, and even attending a local bloggers event in my town, last week.

I gave a presentation on my last 10 blogs at the graduation from my success skills class a month ago and felt proud to have my original photography from the blog posts projected onto a huge screen for the dozen or so people gathered there to see.  This leads me to consider posting my first name and/or a photo of myself on my blog and sharing it openly with my Facebook friends as my own.

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Why? ¬†Because after two years of anonymity, I realize that I’m not helping destigmatize discussing mental health as much as I could while hiding my identity. ¬†Yes, I do still want my privacy and I still don’t want to write with a filter due to worrying that a judgmental person will read my blog and dislike¬†discriminate against me. ¬†That’s where my hesitancy lies. ¬†Stigma. ¬†Ironic, right?

Will I get more followers or views just because people know me and want a peek inside my brain? Will no one really notice or care since blogs are a dime a dozen these days?

Will someone read my inner thoughts and musings and realize they are not alone and even reach out for help? ¬†Not sure, but I’m beginning to think that linking some small part of my identity to my blog will help me be more willing to share it with people who I think could benefit from it. ¬†Thoughts?

-The Heart Gardener

Flowers & Frozen Pizza 

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Sometimes the way to a woman’s heart is with flowers and frozen pizza…

Tonight my husband and I were tired after several weeks of traveling on weekends and must-dos which included my previously mentioned doctors appointments. 

We got in an argument after he came home from work since I was in a low place and we were both defensive. Ping pong ūüŹď tit-for-tat, non-productive arguments are so frustrating and tiring. 

During this tiff, I told him something that made me feel desperate for affection…that I was hoping he would bring me flowers home today (since we had argued last night at bedtime and he knew I was feeling low today). We finished our tense talk and I withdrew to our bedroom while he went to the grocery store to pick up dinner. 

He returned from the store with flowers and frozen pizza. 

At first, I was embarrassed that I admitted I needed a gesture like flowers from him…then I was a little irritated that they were obligatory flowers…but after we talked I was humbled that he quickly met my need after I expressed it. 

He brought up Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs and we talked about how we often get stuck in a rut just making sure we eat dinner and that the bills are paid, etc. and we forget things like flowers for no reason in order to create and maintain emotional intimacy. 

I hope this infographic above is helpful to you as you figure out how your needs are being met in any relationship you have.  ūüíúūüĎ©ūüŹĽ‚ÄćūüĆĺ

Fruits of the Spirit 

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One of my favorite Christian songs is Heartbeat of Heaven by Steven Curtis Chapman. I have very few Bible passages committed to memory, but the “fruits of the spirit” mentioned in this song have lived in my mind for over 20 years and serve as the root of who I strive to become as a spirit having this human experience. 

Loving, joyful, peaceful, patient

Kind and good and full of faith

Self-controlled and gentle

Oh the heart of heaven beats this way

-Steven Curtis Chapman 

Regardless of one’s religious or spiritual beliefs, most of us can agree that these nine fruits are character traits that we all should strive to exemplify. I’ve seen shades of these qualities described as tenents of other religions as well, so Christianity isn’t alone in prizing these as a goal to work toward in personal and/or spiritual development. 

I was inspired to write about the fruits of the spirit after I learned about growing fruit trees. As I listened to the lecture on the subject, I thought about some interesting parallels between literal fruit development and how we develop fruits of the spirit:

  1. Trees in general should not be staked in order to stand upright. Allowing a tree to blow in the wind, as a sapling, encourages the roots to grow deeper and stronger and create a more stable base for the tree so that as it grows it will be able to support its new growth and not topple over with the first strong wind.
  2. The soil, site, spacing and care of fruit trees must be right in order to produce fruit.
  3. Fruit usually doesn’t appear in the first year or so after planting.
  4. Pests and disease must be prevented since many pests and diseases can ruin an entire crop or not be managed once the disease sets in. Prevention is key. 
  • The winds of life my blow us around, but know that this will only make us stronger as long as we are learning to live without being dependent on someone or something to get us through the stressful times. 
  • If we are trying to grow in a situation that is not conducive to producing fruit, we may never reach our full fruit-bearing potential.
  • The fruits of the spirit may take years to appear consistently in our actions. We are all works-in-progress.
  • Self-care is key for being able to embody the fruits of the spirit. If we do not show ourselves love, patience, etc. how can we expect to show others these things? Also, Self-control and others are much easier when we are rested, healthy, etc. 

Which fruit are you trying to grow? I’d love to hear from you! ūüíúūüĎ©ūüŹĽ‚ÄćūüĆĺ

Winter is Spring’s Waiting Room

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I’m usually not a lotion person. I like the way it smells and I like the way my skin feels after I finally use it, but the sad fact is that most bottles of lotion I have purchased in my lifetime have never been used up by the end of their shelf life. Most days, I don’t take that extra minute to apply this little dose of TLC that my body sometimes needs.

This¬†lotion though, is serving a purpose greater than merely moisturizing my skin. It is part of what the mental health community calls “a self care routine.” That is a term I have become very familiar with the last two years (since I resigned from my job to improve my overall wellbeing and most importantly my mental health). You can read about that¬†here.

Who knew something so simple being an intentional part of¬†self care could help not only my body,¬†but also¬†my mind!¬† Two nights of showering and applying this lotion before bed made me want to blog!¬†Something I haven’t done in four months!¬† So obviously it reawakened some hibernating part of my consciousness, right?

Of course, on¬†some days self care is easier¬†than others. ¬†On good days, it’s a reflex. ¬†On symptom-filled days it’s like walking through deep mud uphill.¬† On terrible days it¬†seems impossible.¬† Those days my husband says, “Why don’t you take a shower? You always feel better after a shower.” I resist and negotiate that I will shower if he will come sit in the bathroom and talk to me while I’m showering…who knew as a grown woman with a Master’s degree in developmental psychology I would need moral support to take a shower…

That’s the nature of the beast that is any chronic illness…especially the invisible ones.¬† If I had a visible physical disability, most people would understand that I would need assistance taking care of certain personal care routines, especially on “bad” days.¬† When ones has an invisible illness it’s harder to explain to others the husband-sitting-outside-the-shower-for-moral-support thing…unless¬†they have¬†lived¬†it.

We must all remember on days when self care seems impossible that there is beauty in living life.  Everyday life.  Good days, symptom-filled days, and terrible days.  I need to type these words right now as a reminder to myself as well!

…and in months like January I have to remind myself that¬†the beauty of the earth will¬†return¬†with spring green and flowers just like the ones on this lotion bottle.¬†Until then, I will focus on beauty that is present in the wild birds at my backyard feeder and in the friends, family, and even strangers¬†who surround me.

It’s not easy many days to do these things¬†(shower, eat healthy foods, drink water, be grateful, be kind), but it’s possible¬†when I focus on small¬†starts like¬†using my favorite lotion.

Happy New Year and Hearts & Flowers!

Deadheading 

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A little stream of consciousness is about to ensue so get ready…this blog post has a different tone than¬†usual, but it’s still a post about how I deal with stress and how my OCD, anxiety, and depression can be calmed or aggravated.

(DEEP breath and pause…..)

Lately, I’ve been using deadheading my petunias as a stress management technique. ¬†It helps me zone out on searching for the spent buds in a mass of colorful blooms, pinch or snip them, and then toss them into the empty flower-pot I use as a trash bucket.

It’s helpful for times when I find myself becoming obsessive about things. ¬†Running past conversations in my head over and over, checking things multiple times (my email account, Facebook pages, etc.) Sometimes my obsessive thought is something like, “Did I turn the water off outside after watering?” and then some days I’m so absorbed in my anxiety that I actually forget to turn the water off and it runs for about 5 hours (shaking my head at myself).

Deadheading helps me calm my inner voice and slow down my thoughts as I physically focus on one thing instead of the storm of thoughts that are swirling around inside my head.

By definition, deadheading is “to¬†remove dead flower heads from (a plant) to encourage further blooming.”

For the last year, I have removed or “deadheaded” a stressful relationship from my life by putting necessary (healthy) boundaries in place with this person. ¬†It was hard at first as I felt guilty often for not returning emails (that were obviously manipulative and did not show any remorse for the things that lead to this “deadheading.”) ¬†Today is that person’s birthday. ¬†I can pray for her and send her good vibes, but do I send the sweetly worded card I’ve always sent and be the supportive person I’ve always tried to be (even though it didn’t do me a bit of good long-term)?

No. ¬†Despite my best efforts to have a healthy relationship with her my entire life, I still ended up being manipulated by her destructive behavior over and over again…so…no more. ¬†I’m not playing anymore. ¬†I’m off the merry-go-round and there is nothing that can be said or done to entice me to get back on it. ¬†I’m protecting myself once and for all.

Boundaries are empowering! (After you get over the initial guilt and people-pleasing habits) ūüíúūüĆ∑

 

Return of the Shamrock

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It’s May and little shamrock has lived through the winter on the kitchen windowsill waiting for it’s spring renewal. ¬†Here is what my shamrock looks like today. ¬†It took months for this plant to look alive again, but with patience and care it did reemerge looking strong as ever. ¬†I will move this baby outside tomorrow and watch her flourish in the spring and summer air.

I’m feeling like the shamrock today as well. ¬†Stronger, growing, renewed, hopeful…

Goodbye 2015, Hello future! 

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Due to the cooler weather I have been tending mostly my house plants lately. My shamrock had been neglected and became droopy and leggy so I trimmed it back. Way back. Here it is now…

We can’t even tell what kind of plant is lurking beneath the soil, right? Well, last year I took a fellow gardeners advice when mine became leggy and yucky looking and just cut the whole thing down. Within a few days new sprouts started coming through the soil and before I knew it I had a perky new plant!

Wouldn’t it be great if restarting or improving your life was this simple?  Just snip, snip, trash with the old and water and wait for the new?

Everyone talks about New Years resolutions about this time of year…or at least after we have eaten our favorite holiday foods and exchanged gifts.  This little pot made me think of resolutions, change, and growth during this special time of year.

In 2016, I hope to cut out some bad habits and add some helathier ones in their places. They are pretty much the same things I focus on most years.  I don’t have a new idea yet on how to be more effective at actually achieving my goals yet except that I have added many “how to set goals and reach them” pins on my Pinterest boards. ūüėČ So beyond that, for starters, I’m going to focus on praying for motivation and focusing on things one day at a time so not to get overwhelmed with how much weight there is to lose, how much house stuff needs to be organized (and cleaned) and how many relationship strategies I need to employ.

I am trying earnestly to savor this holiday season even though there have been times when I have literally said out loud “bah humbug.”  I had a conversation today with a someone who echoed the exact thoughts I had weeks before about this low holiday spirit I’ve been feeling.  She had been experiencing it too and she said it comes from, over the course of the year, experiencing hurt. I agree with her because that’s exactly what was making  me hesitant about celebrating Thanksgiving fully.  Yes, I was thankful for my life, but after being hurt and disappointed by loved ones and situations throughout the year I wasn’t in the best mood to put on my happy face, join hands around the table and give thanks…because I’m not thankful for the hurt I have had to experience. Loss. Rejection. Negativity.  Loneliness. 

The little pot above needs some nurturing. It looks a lot like how I have been feeling in recent months.  I’m hoping that I can start to bloom again and get back to my happier, more content self soon. Flashes of her come back when I’m in a social setting or with family, but in private she’s hibernating.

May the holiday season bring you fertile soil, sunshine, and just enough water to help you grow and prepare for whatever the new year brings.

ūüíúūüĆ∑

Mixed Pot Makeover

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Everybody loves a makeover, right?! ¬†You might remember the sad looking pot below from a previous post? ¬†I wanted to post an updated photo of how the new arrangement worked out…the cannas in the middle in the “after” photo were imported from my Aunt’s house on the coast and have already bloomed since this “after” photo was taken. ¬†They are a fiery orange and rival any tiki torch I’ve ever seen!

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Before…¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†After!

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Have you ever watched a makeover show? ¬†The lucky person gets either a new home or a new haircut, new wardrobe, and new skin care tips….and it’s supposed to make life easier and more fun….

The thing is…the audience is just shown the “before” and the “after.” We never get to see the messy “middle.”

Our house has been going through a bit of a demolition derby the last few weeks as we lost a precious member of our family last week. We have been grieving him while remembering how much joy he brought us.

Nesting” have been our therapies of choice as my husband rearranged the living room and I have found myself becoming buried in household tasks and endless list-making to keep the grief at bay. Our household is not new to grief as my husband and I have both lost our fathers and other precious family members in recent months/years. ¬†We have attended more funerals than weddings in the 7 years we have been together. ¬†We hope that in the coming decade it will be the other way around.

Despite being familiar with the reality of death and having working knowledge of the 5 Stages of Loss and Grief,¬†we are still struggling to cope some moments. ¬†It’s easy to just run away and hide yourself in community projects, household chores, shopping, etc. because sometimes it’s just easier to fold laundry than to think about the pain that death brings to the left behind.

An old friend told me on Facebook to “get out of the house!!!” as she sent her condolences about our loss. I have put those words into action this week and stayed out running errands two days in a row – which has been great – because it has been a welcome distraction from my grief. ¬†But then, when I come home…he is not there to greet me and make me smile…hello loss my old friend…

Death is a subject that most do not want to delve into since, as my therapist says, “Everyone grieves differently.” ¬†Since my father’s death I have definitely learned that the hard way when trying to share my heart with¬†other people in my family who also lost their relationship with him. ¬†Not everyone wants to hear old stories – it doesn’t stir/warm their hearts as it does mine. ¬†Sometimes people just want to forget what happened and other people just stuff/slip feelings under the rug to be dealt with one day/never.

I respect the fact that Everyone grieves differently, but I do think that the healthy way is always better than the toxic way.  Stuffing anything down is toxic.

So, I continue to live one day at a time missing my beloved companion and planning for the future.

Until we meet again….

Long time no write…

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I want to say that I have not written in such a long time partly to great weather, relaxing a lot and just not pushing myself to do anything that I wasn’t into 100%. What a luxury, right?

Talk about a calm before the storm…the last week has been one of the most stressful of my life.  Let me see if anyone can relate to this video below first …if you post a comment or like or share my post I will consider that an “Amen!”

The Power of Vulnerability

I finally had the time and energy to do a gardening project this evening as it cooled off. I started with a pots full of mixed weeds and mums and ended with a couple bouquets of flowers (I’ll post pictures later).

  
My finished product, the bouquets, were much prettier than I thought they would be and the gardening/weeding process revealed some new insight on life. The first surprise I had was a pot full of ant colonies.  I didn’t realize that there were so many ants living in the pots I was excavating until I started moving the dirt around to make room for new life.  I was careful and wearing gloves so hopefully I won’t have too many bites show up. The whole process made me see how this past week has been…ants scurrying everywhere…how my emotions have felt…trying to salvage the eggs carefully laid….and seek shelter from harm.

What we envision for our lives is not always what we end up with or as Mick Jaggar says “You can’t always get what you want….but if you try sometimes….you get what you need.”

I just stopped in the middle of my project and watched the ants racing around the edge of the pot and spilling down the sides frantically.  I felt my heart say, “My cup runneth over.”