I Remember When

I've been working on another blog post but the theme of change has been thick in the air today and late this morning a friend of mine asked a question which triggered some memories. So I thought I would jump in....many prompts late with the 8 minute memoir project a couple of my most admired bloggers are doing right now. I hope that's ok. Even if it's not. I'm doing it. Because that's the kind of crazy maverick I am you guys. ;)

I remember when everything started to really change for me. When things started shifting in a solid way. I had never been comfortable or satisfied with the status quo. Never. Even as a child.  But I remember when I started to feel it in my chest.  And then in my throat. I remember when it would start making my pulse quicken and my stomach feel hollow with it. When the whole natural universe seemed poised to squeeze it out of me and to hold me up while it did.  A little bit more every day, it built and built and built. It actually felt like it was seeping into my bones, making me stronger until I was ready to pour what was left of it out.

I remember running that summer. In the woods and on the beach.  Running, listening to music. Always the way in which I find clarity, the way I meet with myself.   Two memories in particular stand out to me that summer. Running along the beach . The shore was narrow and uneven where the waves of the lake broke and scattered across it.  My left leg was lower than my right on the sand.  It was awkward but I was determined. I had to struggle to find every foot hold and my bare feet made light circles as they displaced the water in the sand. My music was telling me that I had to be braver. That my voice was worthy of being heard. That yes it was uncomfortable but it was ok.  No it wasn't wrong .Yes. ok. More than ok. Needed. Desperately needed. A sense of triumph and resolve started to grow inside of me.

I remember running in the woods, wanting to please the God that I had grown up with. Pleading for things that made sense to my kind and inclusive heart to synch up with what I heard when I sat on the soft upholstered wooden benches and the cold metal chairs. The way they seemed to for all the other peaceful looking people there.  Pleading for my kind and inclusive heart to stop warring with my rebellious, impetuous soul. 

I remember the moment the music went quiet. The notes of the music melded with the notes of the birds in the woods. I remember that I saw a lovely doe. It looked at me expectantly but fearlessly and suddenly there was absolutely no doubt. None whatsoever. Just love.  My kind and inclusive heart and my rebellious soul were one and they were perfectly in synch.  And my voice was strong and brave and needed to be heard.

I still haven't made my voice heard on the issues I was wrestling with regarding my religion and faith in the way I envisaged and I will know when the time is right for it. If ever.

But I made my voice heard in my own personal life. The courage I took from those moments. The peaceful confirmation of myself as a wise and valued member of the universe taken from those sacred moments, offered to me by the sand and the water and the soft forest floor and the birds and the butterflies and the doe and the sun filtered through the green of the trees. That acceptance and courage allowed me to confront ugly truths and damaging people when I least expected to have to.  And that confrontation was painful and dark at times and took almost everything I had to offer. But I never regretted it. Not even for one moment.

I will never swallow or doubt my kind and inclusive heart or my rebellious soul when they clamor urgently for my voice to be heard again.  And the knowledge of that feels like the sun rising inside of me.

On Celebrating 40: A State of Wellbeing Address

Hello fellow Being Alivers

Tomorrow I will celebrate being on this mortal coil for 40 years. 6 months ago I promised myself I would write a blog post today and this is that post.

Since February 6th I get the odd pal texting to say, "hey wasn't your birthday February? It says August on Facebook. I could have sworn it was February?"
 "Long story",  I always laugh. Here's that story:

When I think back on mid January 2016 I picture myself sitting in my car in a deserted parking lot at 10pm. The engine is off, it is freezing outside. I'm sitting in a fetal position in my front seat sobbing hysterically. I am a small child. Feeling terrified. Completely terrified. Alone and terrified. I have just received devastating news from my good kind completely innocent husband which has triggered this reaction inside my brain.  It goes from being news which cannot in reality threaten my safety or wellbeing in any way to something that is happening to me. Something which is a clear and present danger. I cannot ever see myself feeling safe or whole again. That is last Winter's defining memory. Winter ended. That dark night ended. A friend came to my rescue, that night, tucked me into bed in her guestroom. My sweet husband went shopping with me the next day for new curtains, we changed the furniture around so that my home, the place where I got that news could feel safe again.

That night was the last in a series of triggers that left me very broken. And then came putting the fractured pieces back together. Good, GOOD in every sense of the word, oh I'm choking back tears now thinking about JUST HOW GOOD they are, people sit vigil with me. In person, over the phone, reaching out late, late at night through text messages, they sent me funny memes, beautiful playlists, sent me endless patience, endless love, constant reassurance that the dawn will come, that I'm worth fighting for.

Expecting nothing, wanting nothing in return but for me to believe that.

I started seeing my blessed therapist regularly. I told her that how triggering my birthday has always been for me. What a struggle it is. How I have always actually looked forward to turning 40 but not this way. Not this way. I didn't want to feel like a frightened damaged child. I wanted it to be a celebration of the woman I am.

A woman who clawed her way through 30 years of PTSD, incorrectly labeled as depression, without having a clue of what she was fighting. A woman who nonetheless passionately raised 5 beautiful amazing children far from her home country, far from family support. Who moved across the country heavily pregnant with small children in tow, not once but twice and started all over again. A woman who finished her business degree with honours, with 4 small children and a couple of side jobs. Who achieved many things. Created businesses. Has a good heart. Helped  people. Created a peaceful happy safe fun home. Was a supportive loving wife for 20 years. Was a loyal friend. Contributed to her community. Loves and looks for beauty every day. Laughs easily, loves music, loves to dance. Loves life.

I told her that I didn't want to feel as though 40 was something that happened to me against my will. I wanted to welcome it and celebrate it for the huge privilege it is. I told her that I had an idea. I would celebrate it on August 6th. A historically happy day. The day my cherished little brother's first son was born. Also my "1/2 birthday". It would be in the summer! It would be a date for me to work towards. And I would even change it on facebook to make it official. "It's brilliant!" she laughed. All friends and family who knew, were forbade from acknowledging February 6th as my birthday. And I went to work.

I went to work. I went to therapy, I ran, I did yoga. I started to eat better. To avoid sugar and other foods which made me feel sick or sluggish.  I read all I could on PTSD.  I tried to be more disciplined about rest. I started to come alive. I started to feel whole again.

And then I made a big mistake. I stopped therapy for a while. I'm not exactly sure why. Then a slow, slow Spring arrived and with it the perfect storm of triggers. The terrible, frightening feelings rushed back. The PTSD went through what I now recognize as its predictable cycle of shutting me down.  But this time it was extra devastating. This time it arrived with a chilling message: I would never be ok. I thought I would but here I was, right back where I started. I couldn't keep doing this I could not. I couldn't do this to my family, to my children.  I tried so  hard to explain to my inner circle why it was better that I didn't. They told me I was wrong. That I was entirely wrong. That the PTSD was full of bullshit and lies. That I would beat it. They rallied again. AGAIN. They doubled down on love, reassurance, they sent more music, more funny texts morning, midday and night. One friend divided up a book he had written and sent me it to me in daily postcards. A book! Into DAILY POSTCARDS.  A friend called when I told her via text that I wasn't ok but no, I wouldn't be able to talk. She said, "but can you just listen, baby?" I could listen. I did listen. By the end of the conversation I was laughing. Of course. Laughter always saves me. Laughter and love.

My siblings rallied with comfort and advice at all hours. My sister was ready and willing to fly me to her in South Africa on a day's notice. Research on how to help me was made on my behalf. Texts flurried back and forth between my girlfriends and my husband. I was given the message that all that was expected of me was to heal.  Other friends quietly, practically and faithfully did everything they could to keep things on an even non-stressful keel for the family. Kids were ferried to and fro without me even having to ask. My husband was both mother and father. So many huge and small but always quiet acts of service and love were performed for my children on my behalf that I may never know but that I will always, always feel unspeakable gratitude for.  Thank you. So much. This human connection gave me the faith and hope that life wasn't just a ridiculous cycle of marking time until death.

Once early in the year I lay under my covers, a dark safe cave. Listening to music.  I had just listened to a song by the Verve that had been recommended by my friend, one of my lifelines with whom I was texting, as he described the bright future he felt was definitely ahead of me. As I read the hopeful reassuring words, the next track, One Day by the Verve came on. It was what I call a movie soundtrack moment.  Reiterating all that was being said. All the things that had been said. Nothing can really penetrate a message into my soul the way music and nature can.

Whenever I feel low or I feel that I need the reminder to be disciplined about doing the work I run in the woods and listen to this song. And whenever I do,  I think about paying it forward. I send my love out to all the people I know who are walking in pain and all the people I don't know who are walking in pain.  With every footstep on soft forest floor and with every heartbeat I send this message to  those beautiful people as the message was sent to me

"You've got to tie yourself to the mast my friend and the storm will end."

Tomorrow I'm going to celebrate the privilege of being alive. In all its ugly glory. And then I'm going to get back to work. On myself and on paying it forward. I have taken many notes along this journey and it's time to share them in a more practical accessible way than I've been doing up to now. This blog has taken on many incarnations through its lifetime and I hope that this one will be its most valuable. That it will serve and help and comfort. That it can be added to the sea of voices that are out there to remind us that the fight is worth fighting. Even if you don't understand it, even when it seems pointless and ridiculous. 

This week I went see Coldplay (again) with my oldest son who is starting college in a couple of weeks. We experienced a pretty intense range of emotions that night from euphoria to flat out fear when our attempts to get home were more complicated than anticipated. Honestly I'm still recovering. Some of it was amazing and some of it was terrible but I wouldn't trade that night for all the world. Ending up at 3am in a hotel room with my son laughing hysterically over the events of the evening. Feeling that connection. Feeling so much love and pride in this amazing human being and so much privilege in sharing this connection. That's life. Sometimes it's wonderful and often it's terrible but it's a privilege and it's meant to be done together. If you're not feeling it right now, you will. Just tie yourself to the mast, my friend, this storm will end.  And then another will come. But that too will end. And through it all we will have each other.  xoxoxoxox

One day maybe we will dance again
Under fiery skies
One day maybe you will love again
Love that never dies
One day maybe you will see the land
Touch skin with sand
You've been swimming in the lonely sea
With no company
Oh, don't you want to find?
Can't you hear this beauty in life?
The roads, the highs, breaking up your life
Can't you hear this beauty in life?
One day maybe you will cry again
Just like a child
You've gotta tie yourself to the mast my friend
And the storm will end
Oh, don't you want to find?
Can't you hear this beauty in life?
The times, the highs, breaking up your mind
Can't you hear this beauty in life?
Oh, you're too afraid to touch
Too afraid you'll like it too much
The roads, the times, breaking up your mind
Can't you hear this beauty in life?
One day maybe I will dance again
One day maybe I will love again
One day maybe we will dance again
You know you've gotta
Tie yourself to the mast my friend
And the storm will end
One day maybe you will love again
You've gotta tie yourself to the mast my friend
And the storm will end

How Does It End When the War that you're in is Just You Against You Against You?

Hello darlings

How are you?
Me. Such a mess! A mess! Of note!
I can't contribute much to this world and that's a frustration, but transparency about my struggles is something I am committed to. For whatever it is worth. I hope it is indeed worth something to someone.

Life is great though. I mean it really is. I have no complaints.  Everyone is healthy. I'm healthy. Everyone seems happy enough. Everyone seems to be doing what they are supposed to be doing. It's not Winter anymore. The sun shines from time to time. The dog is still alive. I have a family who are incomparable. I can't describe their wonders, their support. Living in my pretty little doll house is easy.  It's small but it's chill. There's minimal conflict at any given time, the people who live here are all very awesome. It's a safe, happy fun place to be. Messy a good deal of the time, but nurturing.  I have friends. They are kind and good and true.  Generous, caring, selfless and loving beyond words. There are no real worries. No true problems. Cute white picket fence town.  Everything is provided for. Couldn't be easier.

But my life does not seem valuable. It does not seem worthwhile. It does not seem helpful. It does not seem to be worth the pain of living it. The world in my head is often very dark and sad.  My dreams are dreadful.  Every night. The hardest part right now is that it's back. The darkness.  C-PTSD is the name for what plagues me. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

 Last May I was practically catatonic but it was to be expected. The things that I had been through in the months just prior to that were a culmination of many many many many years of suppressed trauma and had been cataclysmic in many ways It was really the first time I was addressing my trauma. This May is pretty chill. Nothing is going down other than the good stuff.  Awesome handsome, cool fun, overachiever first kid graduating with honours and a full college scholarship. Four other awesome fun etc kids. Booyah. Mother's Day. (omigod Mother's Day can we please please please just dispense of the horror of mother's day trust me when I tell you it does more harm than good to more people than not. I'm just saying.) Actually, my own Mother's Day brought every reason for gratitude and  oh grateful I was. It was delightful and I was Over the top grateful. Triggered? That too. The whole week leading up to it maybe a couple of weeks. So bad. All the bad, bad feelings.

Honestly, the last six months have been full of triggers. And some of the time I was a trooper through those triggers and faced them like a little champion and some of the time I did all the wrong things and pretended none of it was happening to me...lalalalalalallaaaaaaa.. After a while I "had to take a break" from therapy. I just couldn't keep digging. I felt the need for emotional independence. I just wanted to be normal, carefree, in the present. Apparently breaks are ok. They happen. I took way too long of a break. My bad. You don't quit therapy. That's a luxury that is not afforded to those who are in the early stages of dealing with unresolved C-PTSD.

You guys, I don't know much about freaking anything but one thing I have learned and I know and I live every day is that TRAUMA WILL OUT. You can't DIY yourself out of it, regardless of how smart and resilient you may think you are.  That MOFO will insist on being heard and the way it can be heard if you don't know what is going on is confusing and weird and insidious and very damaging to the soul. So you won't necessarily act up in the way one might expect you to.  You may go about your day and be the freaking life of the freaking party all the damn time.  You might smile and hold down a job and laugh a lot and throw lovely parties for your lovely children.  And show up and do the things you say you will do, and run and do yoga and seem like you  have it all together. More than all together. But those observing closely will sense the cracks in the facade, they will see that you aren't ok and then one day one of them will show up at your workplace and ask you with a kind and worried face how you are because they are truly worried and then maybe the dam will break and you will sob and you will sob and you will sob. Openly. Just as you have been doing as you hide in your car, the storeroom at work, the bathroom before you wash your face and touch up your makeup and go back to being "on".    And then you will realize that your cover is blown. And you will wonder why you bothered with the cover at all.  And then the old question that you have fought against since you were 11 or 12 years old will rise to the surface again and will coldly, boldly ask you why you bother with life? You are so stupid and so weak and worthless, so ridiculous and generally just so very useless. You are taking up space, and air. And time and other people's worry.  Wouldn't everyone just be so much better off not having to worry about you? What a burden you are.

It will tell you that in all likelihood you are much too broken to fix. The patch job that you've been doing all your life, the one that you used to reel in all these kind and unsuspecting people who unwittingly have grown to like or even love you...it's wearing off  it's falling apart and there's no way to fix what has been revealed and soon they will ALL ABANDON YOU. Total abandonment is inevitable! Why wouldn't it be? Why would people stand by you while you muddle your way through this shit?  To fix you will take resources, and time and concern.  Which could be so much more easily channeled into so many more worthy causes. More worthy uncomplicated, undamaged people. Right? Quit while you are ahead. There's no hope. Do it to be kind. Do it to be kind to all the unwitting people who you cunningly made care about and now are saddled and burdened with you.  Right?

They tell me wrong. They tell me I'm wrong. They keep saying I'm wrong. There's a part of me that believes them.


All my life I have been motivated by being kind. I recognize that about myself. I am kind. I like that about myself. I value kindness above any other quality.  Being kind is good. I'm not always kind, not by any stretch of the imagination, but ultimately, I try very hard to be. I really do.  I want everyone around me, whether they love or like or even know me to be ok. I want the world to be ok. I don't want other people to feel pain or suffering. If you make kindness your primary motivation in life you can live to have a very valuable life. See Mother Theresa.  You can also become very neurotic and allow yourself to become very hurt.  See me. I know that. I've lived that. I've been somewhat successful in my kindness I think. I believe I have raised kind children.. But I haven't successfully extended the kindness to myself on any consistent basis.

The same friend who showed up at my workplace and watched me cry and cry and cry later sent me a text with a link to a song. It had been a horrific day. Horrific.Worst of the worst. I was out of options.  I was in the lowest of low places. I didn't want to listen to it. I knew that she has a very simple and very profound faith in a God that I do not have a simple faith in.  I do not have good connotations with that God and I really didn't want to have anything to do with anything that would remind me of Him at that time.  But! If a friend takes enough time out of their day to think of me, and send me a kind wish and then goes so far as to look up a link and send it to me in an effort to help me, well then dammit the least I can do is listen. That's just good manners. Suicidal depression aside. Good manners trumps all.  I lay in my bed under my covers and listened. The song was short, it was tender and the message was simple. There was an oblique reference to God but I inserted my kind friend's face in there instead. Actually the faces of many kind people in my life flashed before me one by one.

And then one line broke through the stoic ice cold numbness I had summoned to protect my fragile heart and broke it:

....you can't expect to be perfect, it's a fight you have to forfeit so
lay down your weapon, 
darling take a deep breath and believe that I love you. 
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself.
You've got to learn to love your enemies too.

My breath caught. The tender nurturing simplicity of the injunction broke through my cold self loathing determination and I sobbed again. Just for a moment. I'm sorry to say that crying doesn't come easily to me because I think it can be very cathartic. I wish I cried more easily. But it was enough. Enough to break the cold clinical devastating spell of what I thought I should do and had to find the courage to do to make everything ok for everyone else.

Later by some miracle, I managed to go for a run,  the song rolled around on my playlist and again that same line emerged, I felt my step quicken so that I could keep my composure but again it broke me. As I ran I sobbed and sobbed. I felt humanity. I felt a tiny shred of kindness toward myself, the self that was also the enemy. Maybe not something not quite as powerful as kindness but an acknowledgment at least, that the light within me deserved to you know...not be snuffed out..... I'm not sure, to be honest how to explain how I felt. But it was something. Enough to get me through the day.

Since then, I'm getting through the day. Sometimes one minute at a time, sometimes hours flow fairly effortlessly by. Generally it's a minute by minute thing.

You guys I wish I had a happy spin or pretty bow for this story. I do. It seems like that would be the kind way to end this. But another line from the song, the title of this blog post which asks, "how does it end?"  This war in my head. Just me against me against me?

 And I can't tell you. I just can't.

 I can tell you that:
I've overcome a lot to be where I am, however tenuous that place might be I've had a part in bringing about some truly nice people into the world. And I do remember even as a young child experiencing trauma confidently innately believing that all would be well, if it had to happen to someone I was glad it was me because I'd be ok. I knew I was strong and I knew I could make bad things turn out to be good lessons. I knew it would make me kind and more compassionate.

 But it would appear that I forgot about myself.  Compassion is supposed to be turned inwards too. I talk a pretty good game about that. But when it comes to me, I don't feel it.  I don't see the point in it. I don't see much value in me. Keeping it real. Right now I see myself as infinitely disposal and dispensable, completely replaceable. But I also tell myself that while I may be dispensable, first do no harm. First be kind. Be kind where you can and give what you have. Right now, I don't have much to give.  But I do know that sharing my pain in the past has been kind. People have told me it has helped them. And so I hope it does.

If you can; be kind to yourself today. If you can take a deep breath darling, and lay down your weapon and just be kind to yourself today. I hope you will.