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.

An Adventure Starts Today

I am about to embark on a new adventure. I have always challenged myself to do things that scare me. That’s one good thing about me. I don’t let my incessant fears and worries keep from doing (too many) things. Today I am “killing three birds with one stone.” As I’ve told people when explaining why this trip is exctiing and a big step for me.

The three  “stones” are

1) It is a writing retreat. A goal of mine has been to go on a writing retrreat of some sort.

2) We are going to the Apostle Islands. I’ve always wanted to visit there. I’ve heard it’s beautiful! I love traveling in general, but when it has to do with water and sunshine (hopefully), I am even more interested!

3) We are going sailing! Doing something I’ve never done before is a goal I have for each summer (and winter)! For about a year now,  I have thought sailing sounded fun. I feel safe knowing we are going with a trained Skipper.

Besides, my three goals I am fulfilling, I am also excited to get to know the “crew” better. They are members of my writing group I wrote about before. There are six of us going ranging in age from 29 (me) to 72!  I am excited to be challenged by them (I am always challenged by being in groups) and learning from their wisdom. Plus, we are all writers, musicians, artists, so have so many things in common. Finally, I am looking forward to growing personally in my faith in Christ and his power (especially through creation), through my writing and through my time of fellowship in an exotic environment.

I’m finally learning that God wants me to have joy and to enjoy my time on Earth. It’s been a slow realization but one I’ve started opening up to especially these last few years, since He helped kick depression out of my life. So here I go! I’ll let you know what I’ve learned. I have a feeling that something amazing will happen and I may not realize it for many weeks, months, years?? afterwards. God is such an awesome God and continues to work in every little (and big) moment in my life, whether I realize it or not. The great thing is that lately, I have been more in tune to Him and how he is working and how He has always been a steady presence in my life.

>Lonely but at Peace

>A few weeks ago I had the deepest feelings of loneliness I remembered having in a very long time. I cried and cried my heart out to God. I did feel sad but it didn’t feel like depression as much as just this aching emptiness. I was supposed to go to this event with a friend and she backed out of it at the last minute. It was a “Wellness Picnic” hosted by the chiropractor/wellness place I go to. And it was too last minute to ask anyone else, beside the fact that not very people in my life are interested in this sort of thing. For almost nine weeks I have battled internally if I should even be going to this place. Since I started going my anxiety and OCD tendencies (obsessive thoughts) have gotten way worse. I have been extremely ambivalent and pulled in two different directions, wondering if on the one hand I am going overboard with my health concerns (that are now obsessions) but yet wanting to take care of this body God has given me and seek solace and freedom from my many maladies. I have felt utterly ALONE in this process because everyone in my life is on one side of the fence or the other (the majority thinking this place has made me more anxious and obsessed and I should stop going).

SO the Saturday of the picnic when my friend (my one “health nut” friend who lives nearby) backed out, I was torn. My parents were in town and I knew I’d see them tomorrow but felt I “should” be with them instead of going to some thing where I didn’t know anyone. I did end up going and it was okay. The talk on “Spine Fitness” was good and I picked up some tips. But I didn’t meet anyone my age in my situation as I’d hoped. In fact there weren’t very many people there at all. I quickly got over my extreme sadness after the event and during work at the group home that evening.

But I still struggle with this intense loneliness off and on. Mostly due to this health battle, depression/anxiety battle, and what faith/God has to say about it. Feel quite misunderstood and discouraged by both the people who seem to know me and care about me best AND by these new people who I feel have some hidden knowledge and I’m struggling whether or not to trust them. Also because I don’t have a significant other with which to share these intense struggles. 😦

I don’t feel lonely very often because I am an introvert. Being alone is something I love. Even when I was seriously dating I had to be alone many nights a week (this drives a boyfriend mad, I realize.) I am so dragged down when I am around lots of noise, commotion, and chaos also because I am an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) (See one of my links to right if you’re wondering what that is.)

A blog friend of mine said to talk about my birthday party. I wanted to put up pics but I am house sitting so I don’t have them handy. I had a really crazy weekend (half of the events I’d planned ended up being cancelled due to a 3-day migraine–my body’s way of telling me “too much!” I suppose). But Sunday I was feeling better and had a birthday get together at a nearby place called Chatterbox Pub (I planned the event myself). I had written to God in my journal earlier, “I am going to have caffeine and maybe a little alcohol because I want to be like my outgoing, extroverted friends.” And, being that I am extremely sensitive to caffeine because I no longer have it, my one cup of tea had me wired for the evening! We had a great time. I couldn’t believe about twenty of my friends showed up. Less than two years and a few months ago, I knew only two of these people. I am very blessed that God directed me to the church I am at now (Woodland Hills) and these wonderful people. We had yummy food, played games and of course the best part: karaoke! Only a very few people were actually interested so that was a bummer, but we still had a good time. After there was only me and few people left, we decided to leave, but I still felt insatiable like I wished I could keep singing the whole night. I knew it had to do with caffeine and my love for singing, but this energy and desire kind of scared me. That night I ended up awake until 4:30 a.m. the next day but I didn’t even have a migraine the next day. Thank you God!

During my party I didn’t have any of the obsessions about food or health and really was able to relax with my wonderful friends. Even the food I had didn’t affect me negatively (like most restaurant food does). Hallelujah!

After that night, I felt a bit of a let down. Because as always I was searching for something to fill me up. Of course it wasn’t wrong to go out and have fun…but I can’t really get into that here. I spent a few days with my parents in WI and that was good. Now I am house/dog-sitting for some friends of mine and again feel kind of lonely but at the same time glad to have it quiet and relax some.

Lots of thoughts and some neck and hand pain (from typing) but I am so glad to be at peace now.

>Is Escaping Wrong?

>It’s been forever since I have written. Frankly, a blank page scares me because that’s when I have to really think deeply. And I am terrified of what I know is there when I look inside myself. Since I am tired I am going to borrow a bit from a journal recently I wrote about what is going on with me.

I am making myself write because I don’t want to. At least I think I don’t. I don’t look forward to confronting the stuff that is happening inside this brain. Lately I’ve been getting by with my addictions, namely my novel reading. I love getting lost in the characters’ problems. I love forgetting myself by going to another world. I know this isn’t wrong to a degree. I’ve been reading Jodi Piccoult, whose books deal with intense, moral and controversial issues. Hard to put down! She covers themes like self-esteem, popularity, dysfunctional families (whose isn’t?), grief, loss, revenge, redemption, betrayal and faith/spirituality. I’ve learned a lot from her books and I look forward to reading them each day.

But I often feel ashamed or guilty because the themes are so heavy and I tend to become rather anti-social when I read a really good novel (or am otherwise immersed in something deep and passionate, like card-making or writing for example). I don’t like coming back to real life because I always know what’s going to happen. Lately, I feel guilty because I am not practicing my mindfulness or “with it” skills. That and I am beating myself up for not reading the Bible or having a “quiet time.” (What does that mean anyway????) Reading these books has kept me “safe.” By that I mean, less bad thoughts, because I am frankly thinking less about my own problems. But it also means, I feel very out of sync. Like I am not even really alive. And that I’ve been treating others in my life poorly.

I tried to take a break in between the last novel I finished and the current one. So for two days I forced myself to read my Creativity/spirituality book and write in my journal. And it just made me mad and anxious.

The reason I am escaping has to do with, as I said, my thoughts. They are not fun.

As a rule, I try to moderate everything that I do. I am always concerned that I am doing everything right (not too much of this, not too little of that.) I know, I hate that about me but I am not about to start judging my judging, so I will accept that my perfectionism makes me ugly at times but try to accept it.

But I will also thank God for his good and wonderful gifts of creative people who write engaging stories…and many other things. And trust that He loves me no less if I happen to be annoyed with Christian judgements going on in my head, so much to the point that I am resentful of He Himself and the Bible itself. (More on this in another entry).

Well, I am going to go to bed now.

>Car accidents, earthquakes, and my Job as a Caregiver

>Yesterday I awoke to see that I had a missed call from my mom. I remember hearing it ring as I was just beginning to fall asleep the night before. So I immediately thought something bad happened since the call was from 10 pm and my mom knows I got to sleep early. But she almost always leaves a message; this time she didn’t. And when it’s bad news, it’s a sinister voice saying, “Hi honey. Please call when you can.” I’ve heard that voice one too many times. The more sinister and firm, usually the more serious the occasion. So of course, I was nervous. I called and got no response from either Mom or Dad’s cell phones, so my head started spinning. I was so worried something horrible had happened. Luckily my mom called a couple minutes later. Sure enough my brother Greg was in a car accident on his way home from work the night before but he is okay. I was still so worked up and anxious I could barely calm down and started crying on the phone with my mom not even noticing. (Ever since Christmas night, tears have come on suddenly, forcefully. When they start, it is like a warm blanket cascading down. So needed and comfortable at first. I have to let out all that pain, that pain so real, raw, indescribable pain. I can’t even put into words. There was no tragedy, just an imagined one, but everything comes back so easily for me. Probably for most people that have had a loss, an almost-loss, or some sort of traumatizing event happen to them. These get relived through little things, like phone calls and voices. They plague and imprint your mind and you can never forget. Add on to that the fact that I simply cry easily and get down extremely quickly. Call it a season. Call it depression. Call it Brittany. Whatever. I go through periods where I am more dried up; now is not one of those periods.)

Anyway, I also called Greg but not on an impulse. It was a carefully planned event. Should I say painfully thought-over. That’s my mind for you: What if he answers? What if he doesn’t? What am I going to be doing while I talk to him? If I don’t do something at the same time, I will be late to work. What if we talk too long? What if I say the wrong thing? But my phone is dead; maybe it won’t be charged enough to talk. Maybe I shouldn’t call him. I’ll probably be bothering him. If I don’t, what kind of sister am I? Why didn’t he call me after the accident?

Finally, I got my breakfast ready and told my thoughts to shut up because they were still going. He answered after the first ring and immediately said, “Hi, how have you been doing?” as if nothing had happened. My brother Greg is always one who gives. When we talk, he hardly ever talks about himself. And, I am one who, when given a listening ear, can never shut up. But today, I didn’t want to focus on this pain. How dare I turn his scary accident into my own problem? Augh! I hate when I do that. So I didn’t mention me, but kept probing about how he was. I knew it was better for me that way. He assured me he was fine so that was good to hear, but I was still so anxious and troubled. He told me a little bit about the accident that involved four vehicles. His car was totaled, and so were some of the others but everyone was okay. I should be praising God, right? I tried to amidst my soft, cracking voice and brewing tears. I could barely eat my breakfast. Before he hung up, he said “Well, I am so glad to hear you are doing okay.” As if I were the one in the accident. But he was positive and I tried to feel it too. Maybe I was okay. If I just talked myself into it…I knew I could change these thoughts, this horrible sinking feeling in my gut. It just got deeper and the nausea grew. But I forced down the cereal and coffee as I said “I love you” to Greg and hung up.

Believe it or not, I had a pretty good day after that-once I got to work. Yesterday, I worked with my friend Maddie. She is a young woman with special needs who lives at home with her parents and siblings. It has its challenges, but I think it’s one of the best jobs in the world. I knew Maddie would want to know all about my family. She always gets my brothers mixed up (who doesn’t, though?). “How’s Nate doing? Is he the one in Germany?” “Nope remember you met Nate and Kat when there were in town over Christmas.” “Oh yeah! How are they?! They are so nice. I mean so sweet! Can you tell them I said hi?”

It’s hard to hang out with Maddie, take care of her, help her and learn from her, when I am so buried in my thoughts. But, luckily, I force myself to. I take her out to the library, book stores, coffee shops, plays, and her favorite: the animal shelter. I love seeing how she responds to different situations and how personable she is with complete strangers (of course, that can be dangerous, so I’m there to redirect her if needed.) But if I am ever too afraid to ask for something, no worries, Maddie has few inhibitions. She doesn’t worry about what people think of her. I have a lot to learn.

Of course, Maddie is quite vulnerable. I know she gets sad too. In my role helping people with disabilities, I have connected with them probably the deepest when I am sad. I don’t want to say my depression is a gift, but I know that there is nothing like crying with someone and truly feeling his or her pain. Yesterday, we talked a little bit about the earthquake in Haiti. That particular subject had been haunting me the past day and I was still feeling down from the morning occurrence so I didn’t really feel like talking about it. Luckily, Maddie’s soothing chatter turned elsewhere and quickly (which is quite common).

I enjoyed my time with her the rest of the day. And also, at ACR later in which I just did a short shift at one of the two homes where I work. Some people with depression can’t work. I am the lucky one. I work to survive. At least in combination with other much-needed things like a faith and spirituality that consumes me, healthy food, enough water, exercise, psychotherapy and a strong community of friends. In my role as teacher and caregiver, I am distracted, able to put my mind and body to use and not focus on myself and my sadness.

I am extremely affected by sad stories in the news or from family, friends, etc., so with the recent events in Haiti, I have been as down as ever, but not necessarily joyless. Sometimes, I wonder, as I walk into a classroom of bouncy teens, or giggly, squirrelly first graders, or as I look into the deep eyes of one of the residents, Shouldn’t the world stop? How can I be giving a bath or teaching about the Civil War when there are people dying, gasping for air under feet of rubble, crying out for relief. And as Greg Boyd said, will probably never be found because of their lack of resources in that already-impoverished country. But, no, life doesn’t stop. And, as I always try to do, I put myself in the shoes of those I serve. How are they thinking? How can I make life better for them? Life goes and on and will continue to go on in Haiti, but also here. So I need to stay in the moment and be here for these innocent children/adults who are dealing with this tragic news in their own way, or maybe not-maybe they have no idea but I need to make life comfortable for them. How is this possible when I have a hard time caring for myself, that I can be so focused on others? But this thinking is what is actually the most freeing for me, the times I feel most liberated from my depression.

>Disappearing Objects

>I wanted to post some pictures of what I’ve been up to in the crafty area…but alas let’s add another thing to my list of disappearing objects: my connector cord for my camera (so I have no way of uploading the pics 😦 )

Let’s see, some things on my mind, which may be the reason for my spaciness:

1) to date or not to date. Can’t I enjoy my single life without feeling the pressure of “finding someone?”

2) How do you know if you’ve crossed the line into “New Age” thinking? Just because someone’s thinking is different, are they New Age? What is New Age? Why do Christians have such a hard time with things that are “different?”

3) Why does God grant “miracles” to some and not to others? I’ve been struggling with this Scripture: ” ‘I will have mercy on wehom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” Romans 9:15-16

4) Should I look for a full time job just for the pay and benefits or should I just continue my crazy all-over-the place work life, with not a ton of security, living from paycheck to paycheck. (neither of which make me really happy? What I really want to do? Learn–go back to school! But who’s going to pay for it?

5) Will I ever realize that there’s no real way to “do” life, so why do I keep comparing myself to everyone and everything that ever lived or breathed? Save me from this bondage!