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Sunday, November 24, 2013

When you fertilize, don't forget to water!

215So I totally just gave away my takeaway with title, but bear with me anyway. I laughed at myself for using a gardening analogy, because even though I love playing in my garden, let's just be honest. I am not very good at it. This year was yet another checkmark on my box of miserable gardening failures. Why didn't I post many pictures of my garden this year? Because it was really pathetic this year, that's why. I have to remind myself of my own advice about being an imperfect gardener.

But you see, that's not really the point. Today's garden post is really about the garden of your soul. I've spent the entire month really taking care of myself, tending my own personal garden, and doing things that bring me joy. I've been doing a lot of art journaling. I've been writing. I've been taking naps. I've been exercising. But as I realized today, it's all fertilizer, and I forgot to water.

One of my most important self-care items is that I take baths. For me a bath is not about getting clean. That's what I use the shower for. For me, when I take a bath, it is all about cleaning my soul and filling my spirit. Now before you think I'm going all deep and spiritual, let me reassure you. I tried to do personal growth and Bible study in the tub. It doesn't work for me. No, for me, the bath is all about taking my mind off of whatever is on my mind, not thinking about anything, and just relaxing. I realized a few weeks ago, during a massage, that I don't always know how to relax, even when that's the task at hand. My therapist kept saying, "relax," and I kept saying, "I am," and then I realized I wasn't. Why? Because I was thinking about it. When I'm in the bath, I bring a book, not something that will make me think, but something that will make me not think of anything beyond the black and white print. I stay in the tub until that book is done. Sometimes, I take a stack of books, and I seriously will not leave the tub until those books are read.

What does this have to do with water and fertilizer? Other than I take a bath in the water, and I usually put Epsom Salts in it (which is a kind of fertilizer, I think- well, at least it helps plants grow).

With all this great fertilizing activity I'm doing to feed my soul, I forgot my water. I haven't taken a bath in at least a month. No gasps of horror, please, I still shower. But for me, that weekly, sometimes nightly, activity is what waters my soul. The fertilizer is great, but without water, my poor little soul has been starving.

I had a weird moment this evening. I was doing all the things I know to do to take care of myself. I even skipped a social event I was really looking forward to because I was having a mini "crap, I've been around too many people lately" attack. I was being really good to myself, and yet I just wanted to cry. I had this horrible feeling in my chest, and I thought, "there is no logical reason why I want to cry." But no matter how hard I tried to feel better, I couldn't. And then I thought, "I just need a bath."

As soon as I lowered my body into the tub, I felt better. I read a long book, and as I contemplated a second book, it hit me. The water is what sustains me. My regular baths are my way of watering my soul, and I haven't done it in a long time. I tried arguing with myself for a while, and then I realized that all the other good things I've been doing, that's the fertilizer. Fertilizer is a good thing, but if your plants aren't getting water, no amount of fertilizer is going to make them grow. They're just going to burn out and die. Which is why I sat here, for no good reason, wanting to cry.

Lesson learned. I'm not going to skip bath time just because I'm doing other good things for myself. I think we all have things in our lives that are our water. Mine just happens to be kind of literal.

Are you feeling unbalanced? In what ways do you need to water your soul?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Facing my fear

20131122_140015I have a confession about my fears. I'm afraid of a lot of seemingly dumb stuff. Fortunately, I've been able to avoid a lot of the things I'm afraid of. I mean, why face your fears unless you really have to, right? Okay, fine. I'm a pretty avoidant person. But sometimes, I'm forced to do things on my own, even if I really don't like it.

Today was one such day. This year our family "adopted" a foster child to buy presents for. We had a lot of fun shopping for our foster child, and we really loved getting to do something to make a child smile. If you have the opportunity to do something like this, I highly encourage it!

The fly in the ointment of our perfect fun is that we have to have our presents wrapped and turned in by Monday. This poses a slight problem for me because I have a very firm "do not take out Christmas things prior to Thanksgiving" policy. We have a ton of wrapping paper, so I didn't want to buy any. I'd meant to ask hubby to get some wrapping paper out of the attic before he left for work, but I forgot.

This is where my fear kicks in. I am TERRIFIED of the attic. First, you have to climb a rickety ladder to get there. Second, the attic is dark. Third, we have a mouse problem, and I think the attic is a perfect place for them to live. Since I am afraid of heights, rickety ladders, the dark, and mice, I think we can all agree that the attic would fit my definition of hell pretty nicely.

But I needed boxes, labels, wrapping paper, and all that stuff I did not need to buy. And I had to get this all done today.  So I braved the rickety ladder and peered into the attic. I spied a roll of wrapping paper within easy reach. I grabbed it and realized I could make it work. I started wrapping presents, then realized I needed boxes and did not have labels. However, we re-use boxes every year and I decided it would be a bad idea to give our icky boxes to someone else. I needed to go to Target for something else, so I thought, perfect! I'll get boxes, labels, and I'll be set.

I went to Target, finished my presents, and ran out of wrapping paper. So I had to brave the attic once more. This time, there were no wrapping paper rolls within easy reach, but I talked good talk to myself, like, "you won't die immediately if a mouse bites you. It'll take time for it to take effect, and maybe they'll have a cure if you go to the hospital in time." I found the wrapping paper box, grabbed the first roll I found, and came down. Unfortunately, it was a small roll, so I had to go back up for more. That roll was also small, so I needed to go up again. Finally, I had to go up ANOTHER time because I miscounted the boxes I needed and had to go up and look for a decent box. All this to say, when I thought I'd need one more roll of wrapping paper, I was DONE. I pieced together some paper for the last two gifts and made it work. There's fighting fear, and then there's just saying, "I did it, and that's enough for me."

Since I am writing about this, you know that I did not die during my excursion. I was not injured. No mouse bit me. In fact, I did not see a mouse or any other creepy crawly creature. I am currently not exhibiting symptoms of being infected with hantavirus.  Nothing bad happened.

Right now, I feel pretty proud of myself. I did it! Of course, it did take all day, and now I have to figure out a different time to deliver the presents, which means that I could have waited for hubby to get home and do all this FOR me, but... that's okay. I did a very good thing for myself, and for some cute little kid who has no idea the struggle I went through to get her presents wrapped. And that's okay too. She'll rip the paper off in about thirty seconds, and that will be the end of that.

20131122_143603Wait, I was supposed to be encouraging here. Bottom line is that I did it. Mostly because I had some kid I will never meet counting on me. Weird motivation, except that as I look at how blessed my family is, it doesn't seem right to not pass that on to someone else. The financial sacrifice did not hurt as much as the five minutes of terror it took to climb down that stupid ladder- five times. Am I the only one for whom down is worse than up?

Anyway, the good thing about facing my fear is that I feel better and stronger having done it. I don't plan on climbing up there again anytime soon, and preferably not in this lifetime, but if I have to, I know I can do it. I think we're all stronger than we think we are, and that we are capable of a lot more than we think we can do. I don't know what you're avoiding because you're scared, but I encourage you to take a leap of faith and try it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The pain behind the productivity

[caption id="attachment_4496" align="alignleft" width="300"]This is what my broken heart looks like. This is what my broken heart looks like.[/caption]

Tonight was a great night. I got to spend time celebrating the launch of my friend's book. It was one of those mountaintop moments when you're bursting with pride because of your friend's success. I talked with friends, and a couple of them commented on how my personality is such that as soon as I make up my mind to do something, it's done. I don't see myself that way, to be honest. Mostly, I feel pretty weak-willed and unable. But I was really flattered, and it made me feel good to see that my friends think I'm capable of more than I do.

Then I came home, and without going into detail, something happened that sent me into a valley. There's an issue I've been struggling with for several years, and some days I do great, and other days, not so much. Now before you assume you know what it is, trust me, you don't. It's something that I keep very private, and I really don't want to share. Sorry. There are limits to things I'm vulnerable about. :)Besides, that's not the point. I was sitting there, feeling really sad. Trying not to cry. Trying to be strong. Trying to tell myself all of the logical reasons to move past what I was feeling. And I couldn't. I still can't, to be honest.So I did the only thing I know to do. For some people, it's taking a drink. Some eat a bag of chocolate. Others might go do something crazy. Me, I work. I find something productive to do that has a measurable result. Tonight, that was working on my office clearing project so I can sell my desk and finally get the treadmill in my office and have a treadmill desk. As I cleared off my desk, I could look at my desk and see the progress. I can't see the progress in my heart. As I worked, I thought a lot about the Brene Brown course I'm taking right now, and how she talks about how we numb our pain. For the first time, I realized that my productivity is how I numb my pain. I can't do anything about the thing that hurts, so I find something I can do something about. A lot of people turn to something self-destructive, but I turn to something I think is constructive. Except, as I'm starting to realize, it's just as destructive because I'm not really dealing with the thing that caused me pain to begin with. With that realization, I stopped working. I had definitely made progress on my office project, but the truth is, I still hurt. Ordinarily, my solution would have been to keep working until I felt nothing but exhaustion. Tonight I've chosen to let it out. To feel the pain. There's so much work I could do, but instead, I'm going to be brave. I'm going to make art, and I'm going to talk to God, and I'm going to cry- a lot.How do you numb your pain? And how do you learn to stop?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What pisses me off... an exercise in humility

I'm doing a couple of personal growth type classes right now, and I'm really enjoying myself. Well, most of the time. Okay, to be perfectly honest, I'm having to do a lot of digging into my heart and into places I don't really want to dig. I think that's been making it hard for me to blog, because there aren't a lot of great things I have to say right now. Mostly, I spend my days sobbing because of something else in my life that needed to be broken. I know, fabulous, right?

So today, I had to do an exercise where I had to do a free write on the topic, "what injustices piss you off?" I'm kind of one of those, all injustices piss me off kind of girl, but hey, I'll play along. I started writing, and where it took me, well, I didn't like it. I'm going to share what I wrote, mostly because I don't know what to do with it, but I hope, that as you read it, you'll find some gem, and maybe together, we can find a path to a solution.

What injustices piss me off?

Being judgmental. I hate it from all angles- Christians and non Christians, whatever faction you are, I hate it. I don't even have to agree or disagree with the viewpoint, the judgment itself pisses me off. Denial of human rights in the name of a god pisses me off. Hypocrisy pisses me off. Unkindness pisses me off. Inconsiderate people piss me off. Self righteous people piss me off. Selfish people piss me off. Lack of acknowledgment of another person's humanity pisses me off. The state of the world in which we are all out for ourselves at the expense of others piss me off. And yet, as much as I passionately detest all of these things, I realize that I am just as guilty as anyone else of these things. How do I be the change in the world I want to see? How do I get past my own hurts and prejudices to bring healing to others? Is it a lost cause?

I haven't been able to stop thinking about what I wrote, mostly because with each sin I list, I can say with great certainty that I am guilty. Mostly what I think is wrong with humanity is how we treat each other.  The lack of respect and regard for each other- it really bothers me. But I also know that there are so many times that I fall short. So how can I stand on my soapbox and say that we need more kindness and consideration in this world when I have no room to throw stones?

So I am humbled. Realizing that I don't have any answers, and that as much as I struggle to get it right, how can I expect anyone else to either?


Saturday, November 09, 2013

Loving your body

One of the things I've learned over the past few years, but really hit home with me when I finished my weight loss plan is our desperate need to simply love our own bodies. A few months ago, and I was talking with some friends, and as part of the conversation, I mentioned that I had recently looked in the mirror at my own naked body and declared myself hot. They were horrified.

Apparently, we are not supposed to look at our own naked bodies and say, "wahoo, baby, you're hot. I'd totally do you." Seriously. I think I look better naked than I do in clothes. Unfortunately, I have NO desire to join a nudist colony, nor do I want anyone else to get a glimpse of all my hotness. So, take my word for it. Naked, I'm totally hot.

One of the deals I made with God about my body during this journey is that when I came to what I decided was the end point, I was going to love my body and accept it as the body God gave me. I'm at that end point. Sure, I someday hope to walk into my doctor's office and have him declare me the perfect weight. But for me, my weight, my body, and how I treat it is all about being healthy. If healthy means I have tummy rolls, then I'm going to love my tummy rolls. For those of you who keep telling me I look great, I would like you to know that yes, I do have tummy rolls. Note the use of plural.

I was thinking a lot about this today when I took my daughter to the Denver Art Museum. We walked through the Passport to Paris exhibit, and I have to say, I was utterly fascinated by the nudes. Not in a pervy way, but in a way that appreciated the beauty of curvy women. When the painters painted these women, they were the epitome of beauty. And you know what? They had these beautiful rounded bellies. Their arms were supple and lush. Their rounded bottoms were full. If you threw some modern clothes on those women, they would not be your Hollywood stars. They'd be the average woman of today who wished she could lose a few dozen pounds. Some of them would be the fat lady everyone likes to make fun of.

But what do we idolize? The women who have to starve themselves so we can see the outline of their bones. Or every vein and sinew in their muscles. Can I be honest? There's a mom at my daughter's school, and she's a personal trainer. Disgustingly thin, and when you look at her arms, sure, they're well-muscled, but you can see all of her veins popping out. In fitness circles, this is a highly desired look. But I look at her and I'm kind of grossed out by the bulging veins. I see her jogging through my neighborhood almost every day, and when I run into her at the grocery store, her cart is full of protein bars. Who wants to live like that? Maybe she does, but I sure don't. So if that makes her happy, great. It's just not for me. And as much as I don't personally like her look, it isn't for me to judge.

Whatever our bodies look like, we have to learn to love and appreciate them for what they are. Some women are super thin no matter what they do. Some women are kind of medium sized. Some women are a little larger, and other women are really large. To me, they're all beautiful. And I like to think that God thinks the same thing. He sees the curves, the stretch marks, the cellulite, and He thinks, "I want to hang that in a museum." The artists of old, they saw that. And in some way, we see that too, otherwise, we wouldn't still pay the big bucks to go into a museum and look at pictures of curvy naked women.

So whatever size you are, the next time you are naked in your bathroom, take a look at yourself in the mirror. Don't compare yourself to the starving models of today. Think about the beautiful curves that you've been given. Accept your flaws and imperfections, and ask God to help you love your body. If you're tempted to put down one of your physical features, ask God to give you HIS eyes to see them. It takes a while, but keep doing that exercise until you can proudly stand in front of the mirror, fully accepting whatever body you have, and say, "Man, I am SO hot. I love this body!"