Permission to Feel Shitty

I’ve been feeling pretty shitty lately. So shitty, in fact, that I don’t especially want to be writing this post right now. I’d rather curl up on the couch and close my eyes and shut out this world that, at least for right now, holds no appeal for me. SO shitty, that when I went for a walk this morning past the golf course and heard the ‘thwack, thwack’ of the golf clubs as they propelled little spherical rockets across the green grass, I wondered to myself what it might feel like to get hit in the head with one. And then I almost wished it upon myself, in the hopes that perhaps the resulting force would knock out that part of my brain that causes me to feel so shitty. Perhaps the ball would drop out of the sky, slam into my skull, and after I got over the initial pain and shock, I would wake up a new person. But it didn’t happen.

It’s a gorgeous day outside, but inside, I’m kind of numb.

You know what, though? I’m weirdly okay with it. Because by now I know that this shittiness is just one shade on my color wheel, and that in a few days, the wheel will turn again. I’ve felt shitty enough times to know that however bad and permanent and hopeless it seems in the moment, shittiness does not last forever. It goes away. Things get better. And that helps me to hold on.

What also helps me through these rough periods is when I’m able to accept them for what they are: rough periods. That’s all. They don’t necessarily mean anything is wrong, and perhaps more importantly, they don’t mean I’M wrong. It’s actually quite normal to feel shitty every once in a while. Fighting it is a waste of time. I know, because that’s what I usually do: I usually try to figure out exactly WHY I feel shitty, and then I fight like hell to make it go away. I beat myself up for feeling this way, trying all sorts of things to help myself “snap out of it.” Society tries to tell us that smiles and happiness are the only acceptable ways to navigate the world, and so I assume I must be doing something wrong. I try to fix what in reality, isn’t even broken. And all of this fight and struggle only makes things worse. One of my favorite meditation teachers would call this “adding the second arrow.” Not only am I suffering the first arrow of being depressed, but I’m adding a second arrow on top of it by struggling and beating myself up for how I feel. It’s like a dog pulling at its leash — it might suck for the dog to be on the leash, but then it goes and makes it even worse by pulling so hard it practically chokes itself. By not accepting my feelings, I’m choking myself.

So today, as counterintuitive as it may seem, I’m allowing the shittiness to be here. I’m not allowing it to pull me down into an even deeper, darker hole, but I am accepting it as today’s state of being. Sure, I hope tomorrow it’s gone, but for right now, I can sit with it and acknowledge that today, it is how I feel. Somehow, that acceptance is soothing. And as this newfound attitude of allowance registers in my body and mind, I even begin to notice the shittiness back off a little bit. Funny how that works.

Accept.

Slowly. Reluctantly.

Hesitance settles down upon your shoulders.

Fear and Doubt gnaw at your bones.

One step at a time.

Blind trust. A leap of faith.

Release.

Let Go.

Struggling only tightens the reins.

You belong in the world —

Flying.

Soaring.

No chains to tie you down.

Free,

At last.

©Jennifer Horton

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Tearing Up the Rulebook

For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived by a set of internal rules. As I grew older and entered adolescence, these rules became more and more rigid, requiring me to jump through all sorts of hoops in order to be ‘good enough.’

Be polite. Make good grades. Make people laugh. Be pretty. Exercise. Eat healthy. Don’t make mistakes.

Essentially: Be perfect.

It worked out well for me at first — as long as I could put a check by each of my ‘to-dos’ each day, I was okay. I felt good about myself and all seemed right with the world. But the minute I deviated from one of my rules — all hell would break loose. I’d get anxious and upset and I couldn’t think about anything else until I put things right. With such a rigid and lengthy list, my days quickly became consumed by my need to cross things off. Life faded into the background and soon nothing else mattered.

The funny thing is, I hate authority. I rebel against rules imposed on me by the outside, yet I had created the most overbearing rules imaginable for myself. I was driving myself crazy. Something had to change. The rules had to go.

Ha! If only it were so easy, right? My life was built around these rules. They’ve been my truth for twenty something years. I mean, try telling a bunch of football players that the point of their game was no longer to score a touchdown on a field by running and passing, but to gently roll an egg across a parking lot with their tongues without it breaking. Mmmhmmm. Now attach a lot of deeply held beliefs into the whole mix, and you begin to see the challenge I faced. STILL face — To be clear, this story is not finished. I have torn a few pages out of the rulebook, but the book is still very much alive. Part of the challenge, I think, is that initially I tried to change the rules, when really I just need to get rid of the idea of rules altogether. NO RULES. NONE. Life, fortunately, does not have a rulebook. We are each allowed to sculpt our lives however we choose. How wonderful is that?!

So join me. Let’s not waste time creating rules where none are needed. “Break” a few of your own rules today. Better yet, toss them in the trash, and LIVE.

 

 

Your Body is a Vessel — Fill it with Love

I’ve been meaning to write a post for a long time about loving your body for what it can do and not for what it looks like, but I’ve struggled to put my thoughts and feelings into words. Luckily, I’ve recently been introduced to Glennon Doyle Melton and her genius blog “Momastery,” and it appears that today she’s done it for me.

paintbrush-master

http://momastery.com/blog/2014/07/06/body-masterpiece/

I love her use of  a paintbrush and canvas as a metaphor for our bodies and our lives. Personally, I’ve struggled lately with being ashamed of how skinny my paintbrush is. As the heat of another Carolina summer threatens to suffocate me, I find I want to wear less and less clothing. Yet this conflicts with my desire to hide my paintbrush at all costs. Some days I’d rather just stare at the blank canvas than risk taking out my paintbrush for others to judge.

I hate that. I don’t want to hide. I want to paint!

And paint I shall. I suppose I’ve started with this blog — sharing my story with others and opening up my insides for the world to see. I’m not sure how many people actually read what I write here, but I kind of like it that way. I just like that I’m willing to continually put myself out there in all my messy glory.

So please forgive me for copping out today and just directing you to someone else’s blog, but sometimes I find I really can’t say things any better than someone else already has. And if you’re not already familiar with Glennon, definitely check her out — I can’t say enough good things about her book, Carry on Warrior, and her TEDx talk, Lessons from the Mental Hospital.

After you’ve done that, get all the paint you can find, take out your paintbrush, and make Jackson Pollock proud.

 

 

Your Voice is Your Most Powerful Weapon

I was going to call this post “lessons from Rumpelstiltskin,” but then I thought that might be a little too hard to explain.  Partly because I’m not sure what age you have to be to pick up on that fairy tale reference, and partly because I know that my brain just tends to operate on different wavelengths than the rest of the world and the reference may not even make sense…

But now I feel compelled to share my reasoning, so here’s the condensed version of the story, with assistance from Wikipedia:

1. Insecure miller brags to a king that his daughter can spin straw into gold.

2. King locks girl in tower and gives her straw and a spinning wheel, threatening to cut off her head if she hasn’t spun the straw into gold by morning.

3. Girl is in deep shit. Luckily, an elf comes along and spins the straw into gold for her in return for a piece of jewelry.

4. Elf does this two more times, ultimately getting the girl to promise him her first born child.

5. When the child is born, the girl (now the queen, go figure) freaks out and manages to get the elf to agree to give up his claim if she can guess his name.

6. Surprise! She guesses his name! Surprise! His name is Rumpelstiltskin.

So, the moral of this story, for my purposes here, anyway, is that when you say something out loud you take away it’s power over you. When something is not a secret anymore, you can defeat it.

Untitled design

In real life, I think this applies to a number of things. It applies to secrets about yourself that you’re afraid to share with others, fears you have but are afraid to voice out loud, things that have happened to you that you haven’t told anyone about… basically anything you feel compelled to keep inside out of shame or fear of judgment.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I become more comfortable speaking my OWN story out loud. While it’s scary as all hell, it’s been incredibly freeing. And believe it or not, empowering. Because when I share my experience with other people, I’m also communicating to myself that there’s no reason to hide. Because really, all keeping something inside does is reinforce your belief that you HAVE to keep it inside — that there’s something inherently wrong with you and you must, AT ALL COSTS, keep other people from learning the truth.

Well, people, I’m here to tell you that that is complete B.S. There is NOTHING wrong with you. Despite how put together they may seem on the outside, everyone has some kind of secret they’re afraid to share. I agree, sometimes this is hard to believe, but my therapist assures me it’s true. Personally, I know a few people who seem so perfect that I would love to go up to them and shake them until they divulge what their secret is, but I digress. The point is that you are valuable just as you are, no matter what your story is. Even if some people ARE perfect and don’t have anything they feel the need to hide (it does seem that way, right? It’s not just me?), that doesn’t make the rest of us any less valuable. Perfection is not a prerequisite of value. Embrace yourself, whatever secrets you’re hiding and whatever stories you hold inside, and try to share your story with at least one trusted person this week. Stories that are not allowed to see the light of day turn into ulcers that will eat you from the inside out. Shine the light on your story. Not only do you need to tell it, but the world needs to hear it.

 

Links to related TED talks that have inspired me:

Ash Beckham: We’re all hiding something, let’s find the courage to open up.

Kevin Breel: Confessions of a depressed comic

Susan Cain: The power of introverts (the last 5 minutes especially)

Brené Brown: Listening to Shame (her other talk kicks ass too)

My “Give a Damn” is busted

My friends tell me I have a song for every situation. When I’m feeling a particular way or something notable happens, song lyrics just magically rise up from the depths of my brain that seem to fit the occasion perfectly.

Today, the country song  “My Give a Damn’s Busted” popped into my head. This is particularly odd because I haven’t listened to country music in FOREVER, but nevertheless, there it was. And it fits how I’ve been feeling to a T. Ever since I posted last week on trying not to try, I’ve felt a huge shift. It’s as though I’d been carrying around a huge weight for as long as I can remember and I finally realized I could put it down. I feel free, whole, and alive. In short, I feel incredible. I’m not really sure what happened, but I think it had something to do with my intention to be more gentle with myself and just more easy going in general. For the first time in a long time, I feel okay just being myself. I don’t feel the need to impress other people or hide who I really am. I am who I am, and people can take it or leave it. My ‘give a damn’ is quite literally busted.

I know from past experience, though, that I’ll have to guard this newfound freedom carefully. Old habits die hard, and this nascent self assurance is still relatively fragile. Nevertheless, I’ll defend it with my life, because as I’m beginning to realize, my life depends on it. Without it, I am not really me. I’m a shadow of myself. It’s only when I give myself permission to just be, that I can realize my full potential.

Normally I’d be pretty upset if I broke something, especially if I didn’t intend to break it. But breaking my give a damn is the best thing I’ve ever done. Although now that I think about it, it probably didn’t break as much as it wore down from overuse, but that’s fine with me. I say good riddance. If you still have one laying around, I highly recommend you take a hammer to it as soon as you can.

Reclaiming Your Power

Do you know where your power comes from?

First, though, I suppose I should clarify: I’m not talking about your electricity, and no, I don’t think my readers are superheroes. I’m talking about the power that enables you to walk through this world with confidence, with your head held high, secure in the belief that you belong. That force that enables you to take risks– to take chances — and to know with all your heart that, despite the outcome, you are good enough. The power I’m talking about is that inner fire inside of you that keeps you moving forward even when it seems like everything else is trying to hold you back. That power.

On second thought, maybe it is a superpower.

Do you have it? And if so, where do you get it?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and here’s my working theory: I think we all have this power or else we wouldn’t be able to function, but I believe it comes in varying strengths. I think some of us are born with it, but many more of us have to work for it.

Big surprise — I’m one of the ones who has to work for it. And I work hard. Sometimes, when I can’t seem to muster up the strength to make some of my own, I seek for help from other people. This might seem innocent enough until you really examine what I’ve said. I look to other people to communicate to me that I’m good enough. This is dangerous. It puts my fate in other people’s hands, people who I may not even like or know. I scan the looks on their faces as they pass by, taking their response to me as a judgment. She smiled? “Oh, good! I’m okay! She likes me!” He scowled disapprovingly? “Oh shit! He thinks I’m ugly! I’m worthless!” (I’m exaggerating a bit here, but you get the point). Ultimately, I’m allowing other people to determine the course of my day based on my interpretation of their reaction to me. I might as well be playing with fire.

In reality, whatever I’m seeing may not even be their reaction to me. For all I know they had a crappy day at work and are stewing about their boss. And even if they were thinking whatever it is I think they’re thinking, so the fuck what? That’s on them. I mean think about it — if I post a picture up here of my dog, and ask everyone who reads this to vote on whether she’s cute or not, does that really tell me if she’s cute? No. It tells me what you think is cute. That’s all.

So I’m taking back my power people. Sorry. You can’t have it anymore. I don’t need you to tell me I’m good enough because I know I’m good enough. I believe that. I may have to work a little harder on some days to remember it than others, but I know that inside, where it really matters, I. Am. Good Enough.

Where will you get your power from today?

 

But, seriously, she IS cute.

But, seriously, she IS cute.

 

5 Words to Eliminate from your Vocabulary

When I was in 6th grade, we had a funeral for the word “said.” My teacher said asserted that the word was used too often and that if we just used our brains, we could find other words that would be much more descriptive. And so we buried said. I discovered a lot of new ways to communicate how a person is speaking that year, and I continue to notice the impact language has on our daily lives. I’m particularly aware of how many words we use that are self-defeating, discouraging, or just downright mean.

So here’s my list of words that I think belong in the ground right next to said (or that could at least be used a little more judiciously):

1. Should– Banish this word from your vocabulary. Should is just a cruel word that demands things be different than what they are. It turns you into a failure. Well, they’re not and YOU’RE not. Stop.

2. Need– As in “I need to do x,y, and z.” Need is so overbearing. Try to see if you can’t make it into I want to instead.

Example: Replace “I need to eat better” with “I want to eat better so that I can be healthier and feel more alive.” Sounds so much kinder and approachable now, don’t you think?

3. Have– As in “I have to.” But do you really? In truth, no one has to do anything. Try out ‘want’ here too. Or if it’s more appropriate, just realize that you’re really not obligated to do it!

4. Try — As in, “I’ll try to do x,y, and z.” As Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

5. Okay, so it’s not a word, but I also cringe every time I hear someone using a label to describe another person. I. Hate. Labels. They put people in a box and leave no room for freedom and growth. Do yourself and everyone else a favor. Stop labeling. Tell someone they’re athletically talented if you must, but resist identifying them as “the athlete.” Let them know they did a great job on that exam, but don’t turn them into “the smart one.” People are more than what they do. Recognize the inner strengths that helped them to achieve whatever it is you admire or are proud of.

Try some of these out and see how it affects you. Lots of times when I’m REALLY dreading doing something, I notice I’m telling myself I have to do it. But as soon as I take out the “I have to,” I realize I actually DO want to do it after all! Language is powerful that way.