Blog-tember Challenge: Mood Board

Instead of a mood board I decided to share my Vision Board that I created as part of my work through this book:

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For the past 1-2 years, I have been dealing with another bout of depression which I am sure was fueled by the stress of so many changes in my life this past year. This past summer my goal was to get healthy and one of the things in my functional medicine doctor’s plan was to read this book. The author’s point was to become a Visionary not a Critic (pp. 24-26): “While the critic whispers incessantly to you about your shortcomings, all that is wrong, and how hard you must work to change, …the visionary knows who you really are, identifies with your basic goodness, and has specific longings just for you.”  The book said to create a Vision Board by first reflecting on what hopes you have in going through this workbook. Then, by cutting out pictures from magazines that speak to these hopes and your vitality. As a former artsy crafty person, it was fun to be creative and take the time to do this for myself. So this is what I came up with.

img_0004The book asks, “What does your vision board tell you about your deepest longings and intentions for yourself on this journey to resilience?”

My deepest longing is to be free from self-sabotage brought about by my incessant self-judgements. When I strip away all this negative judgement I am left with the person I really am, even if I don’t feel like I am her. That’s why I included affirmations such as “I am free from fear; I am full of peace” and “I have the courage to change.”  They feel so very far from true-like it’s almost wrong to say them. But by not saying them, I am not true to myself and I continue along the sad road of self-sabotage. Along with the Scripture verses, “I am precious and honored” and “I am chosen, holy and Christ’s heir”-they don’t feel real, but I must fight to believe them.

I also included comforting and serene pictures to remind me that I am someone who longs for peace, rest and comfort. And it’s okay to have these things. Because when I experience them, I can then give them to others.

I included pictures and quotes about healing because true healing is not the absence of pain or disease; that’s just a cure. True healing is a mental state that shows I am resilient and have the ability to find joy in tough times.

I also included a picture of a snowman because it reminds me of the innocence of childhood and brings me back to my memories of childhood.  This is a reminder that it’s okay to be nostalgic, to receive soothing comfort from the past. While I find joy in my memories, I also desire to be creating new memories by experiencing beauty in the present moment. Because by remaining focused on the past or future, I am contributing to my old patterns of stuckness and self-sabotage. This reminds me that life is about a balance.

The book finally asks to come up with an intention statement for yourself as you go through this book. My intention as I continue along the road of healing is:

I allow myself to become who I truly am by letting go of the fear of change and of becoming this new person. I allow myself to let go of the things that overall don’t matter but instead embrace all of the beauty in my self, others and Creation.

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Preston

Preston came into my life the summer of 1998, the summer I turned fourteen. I was kind of caught between childhood and adulthood at that point. I couldn’t decided what I wanted more, to stay young or join the ranks of my friends who seemed to embrace young adulthood carelessly. So I had a foot in both doors. I was about to get a job at Culver’s, I began thinking about college and boys. I worked rigidly, diligently, at my academics and music. I was perpetually unhappy. But I believed, as long I was doing what teenagers did, I would be okay.

What made me really happy was forgetting all the demands and “shoulds”. Reading a good book, taking a bath, coloring, playing with my baby cousins or little neighbors, doing a jigsaw puzzle. Cuddling next to my mom in her bed and talking. Holding my dad’s hand. Or climbing the tree in my backyard just to see what I could see. Those were the happy times. When I could just be a little kid. But, of course, I rarely felt happy for long doing those things because I was fourteen and teenagers just didn’t do those things.

We were sitting in the minivan waiting for Mom and Dad. Greg, Tim and me. Nate decided he wasn’t coming to Illinois with us for our mini “family reunion.” He was trying to save money for college, so he decided to stay back and work. Mom and Dad left the house, chatting playfully. My mom, especially, had eyes full of wonder and a carefree expression on her face as she climbed in next to Dad.

Seeing Mom like that right before a road trip was not typical. But I didn’t analyze it too much, just enjoyed her strange but pleasant mood. I was looking forward to seeing my extended family, especially playing with my little cousins. Summers were great. I was away from the pressures of school friends and living up to all the “shoulds” I placed on myself.

When we pulled into my grandparents’ long windy black driveway after the three-hour drive, I noticed my elegant grandmother wandering around the yard with a little black dot hopping up and down wildly behind her. Everywhere she went the little dot followed. As we got closer to the scene, the dot turned into a small puppy. My heart rate quickened. It all made sense. Mom wanted to surprise us because her parents had gotten a puppy and she knew how much I loved dogs! Her good mood made sense now! I don’t remember what my brothers said, but I blurted out, “You didn’t tell us Grammy and Papa got a dog!” It barely registered when my mom, trying to suppress a smile, stated matter-of-factly, “That’s your dog.” We were climbing out of the car then, running toward the puppy. Before long, I was holding the little three-pound Yorkshire terrier as he nipped at my nose and licked my cheek. It felt like heaven.

I still didn’t understand. There’s no way Dad would let us take this little guy home, I thought. He was the reason I still didn’t have my puppy, my mom would always say. She and I would dream together, sometimes, scouring the newspaper ads for puppies for sale. We would talk about the different type of dogs we’d want to have and come up with names for our “dream dogs.” Mom would often tell me about her childhood dog, a Sheltie named Corky. I could tell she longed for a puppy as much as I did.

As the day went on, I discovered more and more details and things started falling into place. The puppy was bred by mom’s brother Uncle Bud’s two yorkies. My parents had been in touch with Uncle Bud for several months. That explained the frequent phone calls back and forth between Dad and Uncle Bud over the last several months. My parents had told Uncle Bud to pick out the runt to be theirs and to call him “Preston.” Preston was the name of the small town in Washington State where the four of us kids were born, a town dear to my parents’ heart. It turned out that the runt outgrew another puppy, Uncle Bud named “Hercules.” Uncle Bud got mixed up and began calling Hercules “Preston.” He discovered his mistake and told my parents. They decided it didn’t really matter, so the new runt became “Preston Hercules Bettger,” our dog.

When we walked into our house back in Wisconsin later that day, I still felt like I was living in a cloud. I carried little Preston up the stairs (he was too little and uncoordinated to climb them) and set him down on the carpet where he immediately began scouring his new territory. Entering the kitchen, I now saw why my parents had been late getting in the car that morning, exiting the house with masked grins and jovial moods. On the kitchen table lay a dog bowl, treats, a few colorful toys, and a books on how to train Yorkie puppies. On the floor sat a bag of puppy food, a comfortable looking dog bed and a tiny kennel. I imagined my mom, in her creative, fun nature, laying everything out, the way a chef might lay out a creative, colorful gourmet meal. The reality that I had a dog was beginning to set in.

I don’t remember much, except for pure joy. I must have hugged my parents again and again and thanked them profusely. My mom said, “It was your dad. He finally gave in.” To this day, I don’t really know how my mom talked him into it.

Life with Preston was like adding a never-before-seen color to my life. I didn’t realize how much fun and adventure a four-legged creature could bring to my life. I had always wanted a dog, but it seemed like a far off dream the older I got. I was head over heals in love with our puppy. My parents and brothers loved him too, but I began to think Preston and I shared a special bond. I found myself thinking about him all the time when I was at work or at some church event. I couldn’t wait to see his little wiggly body and feel his soft kisses on my nose. When school started in the fall, Preston was what I looked forward to most throughout the day.

Preston was my link to home and childhood, to silliness, to playfulness. To not wanting the world to change. He helped me stay sane because, with this little creature, I could tune out all my worries. I could focus on his cuteness, his beady eyes, the silky hair that fell over one ear and eye, the other ear perked up, how his little back half moved with excitement when you walked in the door. The look and feel of his impossibly silky metallic and mahogany fur. How it felt to have him jump up and try to lick/bite my nose. How his warm four-pound body felt cuddled on my lap. How it felt to take him on a walk and have strangers or neighbors comment on his cuteness.preston n me college1preston n me in HS

Reflection on a Journey

Yesterday was my last day teaching at an amazing school

Four years ago

I didn’t know what I would discover when I said yes on the phone

When the principal offered me a job teaching Spanish to elementary kids.

What am I doing? I thought to myself. I told myself I’d never teach Spanish, and here I am.

I just wanted to keep Spanish hidden up my sleeve, like I did with my music.

Ready to pull out randomly when it worked in my classroom.

To wow people, maybe.

I don’t want to be the “expert” on something that I feel so self-conscious about

I wanted to have my own group of students. I would be “their” teacher. 
And they would be “my” kids.

Instead, I had to get to know over 300 little ones. Of all different ages. Needs, desires, histories, social problems, learning capacities.

How could less than 60 minutes per week do anything for all these kids?

For a while it was “just a job” that did bring me occasional joy. But mostly stress.

Little by little, unbeknownst to me…I was falling in love.

I’d wake up each morning energized and excited for work.

What happened? I recently asked myself.

I remember when I used to dread teaching.

There were little things about my job I loved-

Blessings in disguise:

my crazy schedule that changed every day

being next door to the teacher’s lounge so I could run to the bathroom in one minute or fill up my water, ready with a smile on my face for a stretch of five classes in a row

the staff that were so welcoming

my nice “hot” (I was always cold so works well for me!), spacious, sunny classroom.

the variety of kid problems and joys that left me speechless and never bored

the humor and challenge of trying to get a chaotic classroom of kids to line up, while another group of rowdy, sweaty or chatty kids are waiting to enter my room

the “village” feel I soon became a part of

seeing teachers so fiercely adored by children

seeing staff so dedicated to kids

Mostly, I loved learning.

Every day, I realized (again): being a teacher is scary and humbling thing.

Children will believe anything and everything I say to them.

In a foreign language room, especially, they copy EVERY thing I do and say. 

I make them. (Repiten…REPITEN!!! Por favor!!!!!)

So I’d better get it right.

I had to learn a lot because I found out I didn’t know very much.

I leaned where the countries in Central America and South America were (’cause I had to teach it)

Oh and I learned where Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti were located (of course I had to tell the kids where they were).

I learned what Hispanic Heritage was and why the dates are from Sept. 15 to October 15.

I learned the significance of Cinco de Mayo (a great excuse to drink).

I learned that Three Kings Day is a holiday in which the wise men come and put presents in shoes.

I learned that, for Easter, godchildren in Spain receive a gift called “Mona de Pascuas” a cake decorated with eggs, chicks and feathers.

I learned that you shouldn’t say “asi asi” when answering the question ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?) because it’s a made up word that literally means “so so” but is never used by native Spanish speakers. Instead, they say “más o menos.”

I learned that my Minnesota accent comes out really bad when I get tired and lazy. I have to stop and really force myself to roll my “r”s.

I learned what really happened when the Spanish came and conquered the ancient Aztecs, Mayan and Inca.

I learned that I want to travel more after talking to my kids about countries.

I learned how to delicately talk about war with students. (After teaching a lesson on Mexican Independence Day—of course trying not to stress the war at all, but the cultural significance—a little boy came up and whispered to me with big, round passionate eyes, “Srta. Bettger, I know how Mexico won! Jesus helped them!” What do you say to that?)

I learned how NOT to make sugar skulls. My first batch turned into flat cookie-like ghosts.

I learned how to turn on and use an iPad (this year our school piloted a 1 to 1 iPad program). At first I struggled against it. I cried a lot and wanted to throw it out the window.

Over time, I learned how to use QR codes and had a heyday with it. The kids would scan these codes, which linked them to the vocab word (a video I made). It was a little freaky hearing my voice coming out of 20 iPads at the same time though.

Then, I learned how to create using an iPad. I had a lot of fun making slide shows on Haiku Deck and scrappy pages with Pic Collage.

Today I had to hand in my iPad. I had gradually weaned myself off of it this past month. So it wasn’t too bad. It was fun while it lasted and, who knows, maybe I’ll eventually get one again at my new building.

I greatly enjoyed my time at this incredible school.

Change is hard for everyone, but for some reason I have always struggled with it.

For now, I will cling to all these wonderful things I’ve learned.

I will think fondly of the hundreds of people (both large and small) that have crossed my path. Sometimes I feel so unworthy of having a job of “teacher” to so many.

Just like in the past, I am now am incredibly richer person.

As ambivalent as I feel, I could not be more grateful for what I’ve been through.

Snow, tea and my beloved Josh

I am hanging out with Mom in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I am on Spring Break, but how would you guess because it is a beautifully snowy day. We have gotten about 9 inches of snow. Earlier Dad left for work and Mom and I enjoyed trudging through the fluffy white to wipe off my car and pull it into the cavernous garage. Luckily they live in an apartment, so there is no worry about shoveling.

Right now I want to focus on the moment. Maybe it will help me get out of this funk of irritability. I wanted to hang out and spend time together (with Mom) so I am trying to fight against my anti-social tendencies.

I am enjoying lemon, ginger tea and Josh Groban. And the sound of keys clicking.  I am grateful for the zinginess and tanginess of this tea. Hot (temperature wise) for my frozen fingers (what’s new during the winters of the Midwest), and spicy hot, a hotness none other than ginger can provide. The best of all, it hits my stomach in a comforting way with no added nuisance of heart-stopping, anxiety-inducing caffeine for my sensitive nerves.

I am grateful for Josh Groban’s phenomenally comforting voice. While his older music is as familiar to me as a beloved pair of well-worn socks or as common and delightful as a loved one’s laugh, I am relishing in his newest album my mom just turned on. Each vibrating tone is a new gift to caress my senses. I don’t think there is any other voice in the world quite like his. I wouldn’t be surprised if the angels in heaven sounded like a thousand Josh Grobans all harmonizing sweetly and perfectly; I don’t think there would be anything besides his tenor that could better blind me from the annoying, disturbing and stressful thoughts that constantly crash against each other inside my head. Maybe a hot bath in the dead of icy winter or piece of dark Ghirardelli after a particularly agonizing day at work. But probably not. Josh Groban’s incredibly rich timbre surpasses most things that bring me joy in life.

I hope you are able to find comfort in the smallest things (and biggest things) of life today!

Dreams and Fear

A cool breeze flowing into my window, not too unlike my thoughts. However, this breeze is calm and directed and peaceful and purposeful. My mind, on the other hand, races and my scattered musings only leave me empty and desperate for something I feel I will never receive. I am longing to be good, really effective, at something. And I know my fear and perfectionism are holding me back as always…

Tonight I am borderline passionate…I am desperate for words. My words from somewhere deep. They are inside me and refuse to get out and it’s killing me. I want to write to put my meaningless groans, my profound joy, my very soul into some semblance of human language. But I don’t even try to write, to create anymore because I am so terrified of letting myself down. I hate how I have to be this way. I want to be free to be myself, to let myself have fun even if I’m not amazing at it, to just enjoy enjoying life instead of always analyzing how well I’m performing…

I don’t even write on here very often for this exact reason. I am actually quite a happy person, however down I sound. I am just frustrated with myself.

I tried to play the violin tonight to get creative juices flowing. It helped, I guess, because I am on here writing! As I was playing songs I used to play when I was eleven years old, I wish I could say I was focusing on the moment, the beautiful sound of notes, magically created by horsehair against wire, resonating out of a wooden eight-shaped object. But I wasn’t. I started to think of all the “skills” I supposedly have, but feel in my heart, what’s the use? There’s always someone who can do it better. I thought of making cards and writing and music and Spanish and teaching and working with people with special needs…I wish there was something I was just amazing at. But I just scratch the surface on millions of little things.

Then I think of things I want to pursue because I get invigorated when thinking about them, like birdwatching and traveling and theater and live music and cooking and playing ultimate frisbee. I hate this fear that is suffocating me. The fear that blockades my joy, yelling at me, saying, “What would people think?” or “You’re almost 28 years old and you’re going around playing frisbee. That’s seems immature” or “You have too much anxiety. Might as well play it safe.”

Part of this has to do with the fact that I’m single and I don’t know what my role is. I want to be there for my friends and siblings and all their little babies and crazy lives. At the same time, I want to do my own thing. I have many years ahead of me to be a wife, a mom, and a crazy busybody homemaker. Right now I want to suck the marrow out of life…for the first time in my life, I am really excited about what life (on earth) has to offer. I’ve always loved the idea of heaven and escape but God is finally revealing to me what beauty he has given me on earth.

How do I escape this fear that keeps digging its claws into me, wrapping me up tighter and tighter til I’m incapacitated. Oh too late. I guess I’m not going to pursue this dream of mine because the deadline passed or I’m too old or I’m too busy or I’m too poor. I’m sick of all my stupid excuses. I just want to grow some balls already and get out there, experience life with no regrets. I know this is all a little against my conservative, analytical nature. So I should give myself a little grace and understanding. I will focus on the little gains I am making to reach my dreams. Like, I actually wrote on my blog today. And I am not going to analyze it, and rant and rave in my head about it. I’ll try not to at least.

Thoughts for today…

I have been having thoughts lately. That is not abnormal of course. I have established that I am different than a lot of people. I think a lot…a LOT. It is hard for me to stop thinking. Here is a sample…I don’t know if I want to be called a Christian because I don’t want people to think I am “one of those” annoying people, but I also don’t want to be ashamed to be called one. Because I literally am a Christian-“follower of Christ.” People can think what they want. But I DO really care what they think…But I am still confused. How do I know for sure Christianity is the “right” religion? All I know is I am done with religion but I am not done with the One who saved my life. Speaking of which, I am starting another blog about depression. I have been thinking a lot about my dreams. I sometimes don’t think I have any…but I do. My main one being I’d like to be a writer and I believe God wants me to stop hiding my gift. I was convicted of this after reading a great book called The Soul Tells a Story last year. Today I talked to my brother Nate and he gave me some ideas about how to get people to read my stuff, even though, of course, I have major performance anxiety and am terrified of what people think of me (see above). Obviously, this one thing (obsessing over making everyone happy) is my main barrier in life. I have always struggled with it…for reasons I won’t get into here. But I’m sick of it. I want to be carefree. I want to stop thinking I suck at everything I try to do and quitting doing things that once brought me joy just because I am not perfect at them. I want to stop being envious of people in my life who have what I supposedly want (mostly women) instead of enjoying the wonderful position I am in right now in life. Oh God, I can’t wait to be free. I know I am more free than I have ever been but I have such a LONG way to go.

>Happy Love (and Joy) Day!

>I have not written in a while and I don’t know if it matters much, but I guess I will share a little bit of my heart. God has shown up in so many powerful ways…extremely visibly ways in my life the last couple weeks. Sometimes I just do not feel worthy of all of His blessings. Among my trillion other thoughts, I’ve been wondering, why now? After so many years of depression and now for the first time in 9 years I am Rx free…I feel like my depression is perhaps behind me. I had a rough few weeks of withdrawal because that’s really what it is… I think I am finally free of every one of those tiny white beads-it has now been three weeks! I don’t know if I can say I am depression-free. I am tempted every day to go back to the darkness, especially with all the stress I am under that always affects me emotionally. Sometimes I don’t even believe I had an illness, that it was all in my head. But I have been reading some of my old journals and I know it WAS real. I am in TOTAL AWE of our AWESOME GOD in seeing how far He has brought me! I’ve been struggling with this thought: did I contribute to my healing or is it selfish to think that? I have been working hard to stay healthy-physically, emotionally and spiritually-and I know that for many years, I was too ignorant to make quality decisions about my health. I wonder, if I had made better decisions, would I have not been struck with depression. Did the meds even do anything for me? But I guess it does not help to analyze it. Even if I did make good decisions, God has been my strength in making them and I praise him with all that I am.

There’s so much more on my heart. As I said, depression is a huge temptation in my life-my tendencies toward anxiety, negativity and a bitter, critical spirit are things I have been working on. It seems every minute I have to stop and refocus my thoughts…it’s hard to explain. I want to continue basking in the wonderful gifts God has given me…why did he allow my depression to ease among tons of other blessings? I am not a special person. Why now and not many years ago? And what about everyone in my life who is struggling. I continue to try and take on their burdens and discount every good gift I have received. Because of guilt usually. I don’t feel worthy of joy and happiness a lot of times. I somehow continue to believe that lie and the lie that if others are struggling, I don’t care about them if I am rejoicing in my blessings. Through God’s strength and truth and with my counselor’s help I am able to accept the truth: I am worthy of joy. And God wants me to be joyful! As easy as that is for some people, I have always struggled to believe that. I thought maybe He’s preferred me somber and sad, thinking of everyone in the world (including myself) who is suffering. I can think of them…but then let them go into our Savior’s hand. After all, He is the Savior not me. And He does not need me but He can use me…

I hope you have enjoyed this special day with people you are close to, and especially that you never forget how much you are loved! Thanks for listening, whoever you are.