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.

Blog-tember Challenge Day 2: My Goals

Friday, Sept. 2: Share a list of your current goals.

I have had an ugly lifelong lie going on in my head: I am a girl with a lot of problems. Yep, I sometimes wear it like a badge. The other day I saw my spiritual director and I was going on and on about this idea. I am a bundle of problems, they are all intertwined and never-ending. The problems never end because of my thoughts about the choices that I make. How do I decide what is right or wrong? Good or bad? Is this from God or the Devil? Is this healthy or bad for me? Obviously I already know from years of therapy (including dialectic therapy-DBT) and mindfulness training that this black-and-white thinking is not good for me. But telling myself that doesn’t help.

The cool thing is, I only have one problem, my spiritual director said. Don’t worry if it’s right, wrong, from God or the Devil. The only “Devil” we know of for sure is the incessant negative self-judgement. In my mind, nothing is ever right because everything I ever do is wrong, according to myself, he said. The only thing I have to do is say no to this judgment. Be mindful of the rest.

Wow, that was a relief and made life seem so much easier to handle. This has now been my number one goal. As soon as my thoughts spiral (I must be a bad wife, I can’t believe I feel sick again, I feel so guilty because I’d rather read my novel than the Bible, I’m so stupid for choosing to be a MS teacher, what must ____ think?! etc etc), I become mindful and think. Oh yeah-that’s judging. Grace is the power to say no to that.

So that is my number one goal in life right now. I will try and accomplish my goals but I won’t beat myself if I don’t reach them 100%. I am proud to attempt to reach them. And, in saying that, I am reaching my first and top goal-saying “STOP!” to judgement!! (I organized these by type but they kinda overlap):

PERSONAL/EMOTIONAL/SOCIAL:
Look at myself the way Jesus does (at least try to every day for a minute or so)
Believe my husband means what he says and act accordingly
Love and treat others the way Jesus does (especially my middle school students)
Do more random acts of kindness for people (my husband, coworkers, students)
Focus on the 5 senses when I start to worry
Continue to wear no or little makeup and feel relaxed about it
Invite people over more, realizing what really matters is the company not the way my house looks

HEALTH:
Continue on my elimination diet as best as I can
No caffeine, it hurts me; so why do it?
Meditation 5 minutes a day or yoga 10-15 minutes before bed every day
Get to the gym 2-3 times a week
Just say no! (to temptation) It will help other women like you.
No judgments about sleeping pills to help you sleep. Just be mindful.

FAITH/SPIRITUAL:
Get outside into nature every day-even for 2 minutes.
Read the Bible when you feel like it. No pressure.
Pray continuously no matter how dumb or short.
Pray for my husband every day

WORK:
Leave by 3:30 4 out of 5 days a week.
Pray for my students instead of agonizing about them or sending them internal death threats
Really look at them when they talk to you and try to see them through Jesus’ eyes.
Focus more on loving on kids then getting through the lesson plan.

 

 

A Newly-Married’s Reflection

Yikes, My last post was eight months ago! It was called “What is Love?” and I was trying to figure out if I was in love. It is so crazy how life seems both exactly the same and radically different. I feel like I wrote that post yesterday. Well, not only am I in love. This is my first post as a married woman….! Yes, most days I still can’t believe it. Neither of us can. One month ago today, “I married my best friend” as they say. I used to roll my eyes when I heard that…but I can’t deny that it’s true.

What happened to me? Well I guess I should ask, What is happening to me? I haven’t been around much lately on here, on any social media really. In fact, after we got married I got even more secluded. It is so hard even venturing on here. Maybe, if you know me or have followed me over the years, you know how much I wrote about dating and wanting to find that “one person” to make my life complete.

For so long, I was obsessed with getting married. Not necessarily because I wanted to, but because I felt completely inadequate without the label “wife.” I went from relationship to relationship as a young Christian woman. I tried so hard to make every one work. I was either a failure at letting it go on too long; or a failure at not getting it to work. I let my family down (I believed), but especially I let myself down. I was missing out on what was “out there.” I knew if I just kept trying, eventually I could achieve what I believed was my “dream”: to be married.  By God’s grace, my rigid thoughts slowed and I started thinking more realistically. I distinctly remember the day I began to entertain the thought: I am just as worthy as a single woman as I am a married woman. It seemed such a strange and radical thought, but I began to believe it…

Over time, I unfortunately went to the opposite extreme.  I soon tried to convince myself that my dream of marriage was just that-a dream that was not even close to reality. I mean, look at all the stress my siblings and friends were under. Look at all the failing marriages around me. Look at how I can barely be civil with my roommates, who are so giving and tolerant of me. How would I even make it work with a man? I love being alone. A lot. Maybe I was not marriage material and, in fact, I knew I could be perfectly happy as a single my whole life.

Around the time I met Nathan (a year ago), I had recently entered a new stage in the “dating” game. My thoughts were more like, “Let’s have fun with this.” Who knows…I may meet someone, I may not. To be honest, I still had a deep desire to marry as all of my closest friends and family knew, but it was just tampered down a bit. The neat thing was, I was changing. My many years of therapy, self-discovery and spiritual growth had created in me a well-rounded person who had learned to change her thoughts. I soon discovered not only did I have a healthy view on marriage, but I was a healthy person, spiritually, emotionally, physically (overall) and mentally. I just did not have the self-confidence to continually believe it.

The cool thing was God was working in Nathan’s life similarly and so we were a great match for each other! This was not to say I didn’t continually doubt throughout our relationship. In fact, up until the wedding day, I would constantly hear the thought: “It’s not too late to back out.” I would shove the thought away as “just a thought.” My deepest heart knew there was no way I could “sabotage” this relationship. For so many years, I felt I was more undeserving of love (for some reason) than others. I had created a pattern of making myself miserable.

As Nathan and I reflected throughout our relationship, I soon discovered that my thoughts of marriage had radically transformed over the years. I now realized marriage was not just a status, a way to make myself feel complete. I now began to see it a selfless act, not only for my spouse but for God. I had been right, that I could have been content without a spouse for all of eternity. With God, anything is possible. But, I was wrong in that I was not marriage material.

Even in these early days of marriage, my former ideas and assumptions of marriage have been shattered. I just cannot believe how selfish I’ve always been. I can’t believe how much God has wanted to transform me by radical trust. Lately, this has played out in my ability to believe that I have what it takes to be a good wife. It seems I will ever be tormented by the lies, “You are weak and emotionally unstable,” “You are stupid” and “You are a failure and always ruin relationships.” While I am married to a wonderful godly man, who constantly reminds me of my worth to him, I have to believe it myself: that I am strong and can do anything with the power of Christ.

Low self-confidence, low self-esteem is really my enemy these days. Throughout my college years and most of my twenties, I took it in stride, almost worshiped and enjoyed the idea of me being depressed and lowly. I thought it was better than being full of myself. But now I know both are one and the same. Both are a way to think and obsess about yourself. Lack of self-confidence and fear of failure is just another way of telling God you don’t trust him or telling your spouse that what he says has no value. It can kill a marriage.

So here I am continually in awe of all the changes I have gone through: a new husband, new job (literally I accepted a new position right around the time I got engaged!),new commute, new house, new neighborhood, new name. So many other new things thrown at someone who doesn’t even deal with small changes that well. Yet, with Christ, I have been thriving. And, while being a new wife has thrown all sorts of fuel to the fire of my ever-present enemy (perfectionism), I have learned how to give myself grace.

I am learning to “go with the flow” and let the waves roll over me. Maybe I never will fully process everything I have been through. Maybe the reality of marriage will never fully set in; maybe I won’t “wake up” and be able to live in the moment of my wonderful reality. Maybe my low self-esteem problem and addiction to perfectionism will haunt me til kingdom come. Maybe I will still have the same addictions and skeletons in the closet. Maybe the boxes will stay strewn around the house. Maybe my new husband and I will never agree which tupperware to give and which to throw away or never find an answer to the infestation of fruit flies…Maybe. But I doubt it. We’ve seen God’s mercies at work already in our new marriage. We’ve seen him at work in our lives so fully before we got together and saw how he wove our relationship together from the very start. We are dreaming big about the future even with all of our stresses and never-ending amounts of work. Through the chaos, the messes and the fruit flies, I have learned to say, “It is well with me” and “God is good.” I hope you, too, are able to see the goodness and accept the Lord’s favors and grace in your life!

Back on dry land…and still conquering fears

Well, a lot has been going on with me since I got back from sailing. Or not. It would appear that not a lot is going on externally. But, wow, have things been changing internally. I wish I could be free to tell you all about it. But alas, no matter how private I make a blog, I still would not be okay just letting it all hang out. So if we have a relationship and you really want to know the deep dark depths of my soul, I will tell you. But you have to be willing to hear it. And there are probably only a hand select few that are…

Anyway, I can talk about some things. It’s so interesting how life stands still yet is crazy busy at the same time. Soon I will leave the standstill for the crazy busy. It is my last Friday before I start teaching again. I have enjoyed this summer so much. As I have stated before, I try to challenge myself each summer (e.g. the retreat I went on).

The sailing trip, although not super authentic (since we only put the sail up one out of three days) was still ultra hard for me and great experience. The main thing I hated endured liked was that I was surrounded by people in a rather confined space (the cabin of the 35 foot sail boat). I liked it because it caused me to really suffer, but in the end, I was better for it. The cabin was so tiny you would walk forward and be brushed on the left side by the table and on the right side by the bench. I was to sleep way in the front of the boat, the bow, next to my friend Linda. The two “beds” made a V. It was a little tight but rather cozy.

I liked being alone in the cabin. I noticed my heart rate was down and I was so much freer and lighthearted (this is typical for me-having limited space and feeling trapped especially when people are around is a huge contributor of my anxiety) . One day everyone was sitting on deck finishing lunch and I was below deck, listening to the extroverts gleefully chat away. People would hand me condiments, dishes, trash, whatever from above and I would gladly throw it, stow it, wash it, whatever.  I was happy as a lark in that kitchenette corner of that mini cabin. I guess this alone time was me getting my “fix” so that I would be geared up for the next challenge.

One of those challenges occurred on the first day, when Captain Joan informed me that I would be helping put up the sail. Internally, I was dismayed, thinking, what kind of vacation is this? I thought I would just be sitting around letting everyone else do the work. But, of course, the good hearted person that I am, I agreed.  Helping with the sail forced me to walk around on a jerky boat with no hand holds. Since I am not the most balanced person, I prepared myself for the worst: falling over board. The worst would be the feeling of falling and the cold water. But I knew I wouldn’t die and I had dry clothes on board so that was so reassuring. I was also in charge of doing the ropes when we “parked” the boat at each port. Captain Joan was a calm, patient and insightful teacher! She said I did a great job so that was encouraging. Plus, I never fell overboard. What a relief!

I liked touring the islands. Stockton Island was beautiful; it seems so unreal with all the spectacular flora and fauna that has now been preserved for over 30 years. I enjoyed some time away from the group and, as I hiked, I realized: as long as I am not lost (and fully prepared for hunger, thirst, bugs, bears, etc.) I LOVE THE WOODS! Especially being alone and being a part of something as untainted as this island: bright green moss, waving branches, scrambling critters, chattering birds, and the marvelous gray expanse of Lake Superior. Sadly, it was a gray day…

But we finally had sunshine the last two days (including my birthday!) The sky was spectacular! Probably out of all things in nature, I love sky and clouds the most! I could stare at a sky all day if my conscience would allow it. So it was an amazing birthday present.

Being with the group was great too. I especially like one-on-one conversations, so I tried to seek each person out and get to know him or her individually. It was kinda challenging! But I did learn about each person.

However, after (and maybe a little during) the trip, I said to myself, I will probably never do that again (that is, go on a boat for that many days with a bunch of people I don’t know), and I realized that’s okay! It was a great experience and I’m so glad I did it!

Since then, I’ve also done a couple other things that are challenging, such as being more involved in a new church I’ve been attending, agreeing to be the solo musician for a close friend’s wedding, making time for friends and family, writing (A LOT).

The biggest challenge was yesterday when I went to my first ever Ultimate Frisbee game. Yes, to play. Luckily I had a friend come with me. Other than that I knew NO ONE. (It is a Facebook group I am a “member” of). I am not very talented when it comes to sports, but I’ve always liked Frisbee. It was worse than I expected.  Everyone was so phenomenal. As we began to toss the disc around, my heart and thoughts were racing. I proceeded to make a total fool of myself because I have horrible performance anxiety. It didn’t help that almost everyone was a guy. What a great way to make a good impression, I thought, as I wobbled and whipped the Frisbee in all directions at one point hitting a little four-year-old (the son of one of the guys) in the head.

Yes, I know. Totally humiliating. My stomach is flopping as I remember it. I tried not to compare myself with everyone including the four-year-old who was a whiz at Frisbee. Instead, each time I attempted to throw the disc (not pretty), I kept telling myself, “Take it like a man” (i.e. don’t let them know you’re embarrassed) and reminding myself that God loved me and my worth did not depend on my Frisbee skills. But when we eventually started playing the game, it was much better and I enjoyed myself. And everyone was really friendly. (I would not have been so friendly and understanding to myself if I were one of them.) Luckily, most of the cute guys came later and they never saw how horrible I actually was. Ha ha.

Anyway, it might sound harmless, but to me it really was a big deal that I went because it demonstrated I can face my fears! And I never want to let fear get in the way of what I want to do, mainly have fun, enjoy life and build relationships with others.

Soon I will be starting my fourth school year (in this job) and my seventh year as a teacher! Wow, I can’t believe it! I can’t wait to see what other challenges lie in store for me! But for now, I’ll just sit and enjoy the chattering, fluttering chickadees, woodpeckers, sparrows and cardinals; watch my journal pages ripple in the wind; hear my calming wind chimes;  feel the breeze soothe my skin; hear how it rushes through the leaves. Aah, another heavenly moment of summer.

Transformation Barrier

This week during Bible study we were talking about Romans 12:9-21 where Paul lists all these things that love is. The girls and I discussed what transformation would really mean if we did these things. My friend Vanessa had the idea of making two lists, one of all the things that are not demonstrative of love in the Kingdom and another corresponding list of who we really are in Christ. Then, she said, “You burn the first list.” I got really tense when she said that. I literally felt myself freeze and say internally, I could never do that. While I had always heard of (and continue to) transform my thoughts through writing, I for some reason like to visually see all the crap that I believe written out. Sometimes I just write all the negative thoughts down and forget to go back and actually write the transformed statement next to it. I like to go back and read (and reread and reread) all these thoughts. It gives me some sort of perverse pleasure.

The idea of burning my list of crap seemed revolutionary for some reason. Almost terrifying. In that moment I realized the very simple truth: My barrier to growth and true healing is that I love my crappy self too much. Or I think I do. I continue to believe that I am a more significant, interesting person being “messed up” than “healed” and “whole.” It all goes back to some weird belief that I need more love and attention in my life, and I can get that by being “sick,” “messed up” or “weak.” Even though I know for a fact this is all crap, I continue to believe it.

Why do I think I need more love? What more could I ask for? I have an amazing God who continues to pour on me blessing after blessing when I least deserve it. I have a supportive family who loves me and true friendships that will last a life time. In fact, I can’t think of one person in my life that does not continue show love and unconditional acceptance of me.

Again, it goes back to my mind. I am always striving for what’s right in front of me. Lately, I have been irritated because I am trying to recreate moments from my past. Times I have felt “high” on life. Instead of living for today. I basically abandon things I have always enjoyed like writing in my journal or playing the piano simply because I can’t get that emotional high to please me the way it used to. I do the same thing with caffeine-the bane of my existence-food and with particular types music and boos. I have experienced such extreme emotional highs on these substances or activities in the past, as if these temporary highs are eternal and significant. I have all these damned expectations for myself, expectations no one in their right mind would place on another human being. If I can’t reach some sort of inexplicable perfect feeling, I, at best, avoid the activity altogether (my black-and-white nature) or continue to “feed” myself until the day ends. Realizing, obviously, that the emptiness still remains.

But, thanks be to God, I am learning to say, “This is a new moment.” and “You are a new person.” “Accept yourself for who you are now.” And “There’s more to life than a fleeting feeling, however intense.” I am glad I am learning to tell myself the truth; I have really transformed in that area. But I am so sick of this back and forth war. I want to be done with all this childishness. Love freely from my deepest self, without wondering what my true motives are and analyzing every tiny decision I make or word I say. Will I ever be free?

Mostly, I don’t know how to live in shades of gray (but am very aware and learning to change). I am either in the past OR the present OR the future. Somehow it seems impossible to learn from my past experiences but not become obsessed with them and even more impossible to accept and cherish this moment while also anticipating and being hopeful for the next.

That’s all.

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.