Friday, February 24, 2017

Surviving the Tornado

I posted the thoughts below on June 28 of last year wondering how I would start being myself. I haven’t been able to post much since because a series of dominos fell creating what was the wildest ride of my life.  

I can’t say enough about how valuable the EMDR trauma therapy has been. As painful, and I mean capital “P” painful, that it was, it brought everything to the surface and cleared up crossed connections, misconceptions, mixed signals and misunderstandings until I could see the truth of the major painful experiences in my life. As a result I have a more honest and healthier relationship with my mother and cleared out many misconceptions about my relationship with my father.  I even understand why I chose the marry the person that I did, why it didn’t work out and why his choices were never a reflection of who I was or am.

But with all of that, I still had the same reoccurring nightmares - a tornado hits and I’m scrambling to find shelter and protect my loved ones, praying that it passes by and we survive.  My anxiety was still going strong and I couldn’t use my voice above a squeak because the fear that I was unlovable was still so strong.

How could that be after all of this time?  

After circling around on one central theme in the therapy, I finally admitted what I’d never said out loud to anyone and as a consequence, resurfaced a repressed memory from childhood.  As I’m not comfortable publicly discussing it in more depth, I will just say that what happened was not horrific but it was damaging. From an experience that took place 30 years ago, I created the storyline that I was broken, unlovable, fundamentally flawed in a way that no one could ever like if they really knew me. I isolated myself from friends, always felt on the outside. I felt unsafe and my anxiety spiked.  Nervous stomach aches started and I started biting my fingers and both continued for the next 30 years.

Processing the memory was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. At first I was overwhelmed at the extent of my “brokeness” - and then I started seeing the extent of my strength. All of those years I carried myself through, with protection mechanisms and a life drive to not only survive but to grow and live fully, even with a weight that felt like a thousand pounds sitting on my chest, suffocating me all of the time.

Once the memory was put into the past, the weight on my chest dissipated and I took my first deep breath. I didn’t know people could breathe like this, now I understand why everyone else doesn’t feel panicky all of the time - it is amazing being able to take so much oxygen in and breath so, so deeply. Everyday I pause and take a few deep breaths just to make sure that I still can.

It’s been about a month of breathing now. And I have more energy, I need less sleep.  The anxiety is still there and the old story lines are still in place but I’m able to view them through new eyes. Instead of them running me, I know they are merely my “flavor of shame”.

When I sat down to blog today, I wasn’t sure where to start, until I read that entry from June 28. I couldn’t figure out how to ‘start being me’ - because I still hadn’t gotten to the core of who I was/am.  

The thing about removing all of the layers of bad signals and misconceptions a painful experiences is that you end at your soul. Right at the center of who you are. And when you are living so close to your soul, you don’t have to try to show people who you are, it just shines through all on its own.

I’m still finding the balance between new energy and rest, between optimism  and old stories...but I can tell you this: I only had the tornado nightmare once in the last four months since the memory surfaced, and this time, I huddled with my dog and daughter and found layers and layers of blankets to wrap us in, so that when the tornado hit, I knew we were going to be ok.

June 28, 2016:
“Last night I shared a delicious dinner with a close friend who the universe seems to bring into my life at pivotal points and who helps me identify and take the next steps forward along my path.

Last night we talked about the pain of what was uncovered in trauma therapy and how at first it suffocated me like an unmovable weight, a shame I was too scared to share with anyone. And then eventually the past experiences began to feel empowering; I saw I wasn't broken because of things that happened my past, I was strong despite these events.

Now I'm learning to find my voice and use it when I need to speak up about my thoughts or feelings. But my voice is still shy and timing, for fear that if I use it, I might be rejected or left. That if I actually let go and am just be myself, I may look around to find that no one is left standing with me.

He encouragingly told me that one of the most important, if not the singular most important thing to a child is a feeling of safety and acceptance.  I've never felt safe, I have routine nightmares that linger as a result. He told me it was safe to let go and safe to be myself. Safe to shed the 'shoulds' and stop holding everything inside for fear of what the outside world might think of they knew what was underneath.

But the thing is, I don't even know how to start. How do you start being yourself? How do you get your verbal words and physical actions to align with your true feelings on the inside? The truth of who I am gets distorted as it tries to make its way out into the world. It is incredibly hard to just live as you, without twisting yourself into a pretzel, trying to create some version of your truth that is perceived as more acceptable.

The thing about twisting yourself into a pretzel too much is that eventually you snap. It adds resistance and difficulty to every day life. Imagine the freedom that must come with letting go and letting it flow. Not spending energy on worrying what people will think or how it will land. Letting go of the pursuit of perfection and letting flow the pursuit of being yourself.  

Living self-care, empathy, connectedness, vulnerability, and authenticity in each moment is the only healthy way to move forward, but it takes a lot of effort to learn how to put down the weight of expectations, perfection, acceptance, and fear of not being good enough.“

Monday, August 8, 2016

4 Ways My Daughter Makes Me a Better Person

Check out this article on The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenn-lyons/four-ways-my-daughter-mak_b_11297196.html?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Stop Scoring and Start Solving

My dad once told me that it would take 100 first dates to find one good guy. That was 5 years and about 100 first dates ago. And I still haven't found one person who is a fit for me.

The question should not be 'Does he like me?' but instead to ask yourself 'Can this person meet my needs?'  So you first need to be clear on what your needs are. I've spent a lot of time convincing myself 'I could do without this' or 'It isn't THAT important' - but the truth is, your needs are your needs and they are all viable. 

My relationship needs include consistency between actions and words, consistent communication, openness, intellectual stimulation, kindness (toward myself and others) and understanding.

During my five year, 100 date sprint, I've met many who could meet some needs but not others:
  • I've met far too many Avoidant Attachment Types (if you haven't, it's time to read up on Attachment Types - it is must-read material for all relationships!)  These types of guys do a great job of pulling you in, only to do a 180 when things start to require any type of effort or emotional connection from their side. They are, literally, relationship Avoidant.  The biggest giveaway is inconsistency. They may communicate a lot and then none at all. Want to hang out a lot and then be busy. They don't want you infringing on their freedom so as soon as you get too close, they will push you away. This inconsistent experience is crazy-making for me (and most others!)
  • Many genuinely Nice Guys. Guys who clearly could meet my relationship needs. However they weren't particularly intellectually stimulating. There was no banter, no humor. I wanted to like them purely for their niceness but I would find myself daydreaming about being home rather than continuing the present conversation.
  • My weak spot is for Intellectuals. They are very mentally stimulating, its a great workout for the brain. They are usually very open, often intuitive and understanding.  However, the ones that I have dated have all been consistently unreliable! They drop in and drop off when it is convenient. They are consumed with what they are doing and not considerate of my time and needs. I end up feeling taken for granted and they end up baffled why it isn't ok just to get in touch or hang out when it's convenient...even if that means days or a week go by with no contact!
The only trend I've seen is that the more I'm able to both define and articulate my relationship needs, I meet more and better people who have more potential for the long term. Sometimes a date appears ok at first but I can quickly let him go now that I can express what I need and find out if he is able or unable to meet it.

Many people talk about what is right or wrong with another person but I've come to see it more as a give and take. I have certain needs and someone may be a fit for these. But there are many guys I could never date, but they may fit another girl's needs. It isn't so much a scoring system of dates' personalities as a puzzle that can only be solved by finding the piece that fits the right away.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Learning to Let Go

Last night I shared a delicious dinner with a close friend who the universe seems to bring into my life at pivotal points and who helps me identify and take the next steps forward along my path.

Last night we talked about the pain of what was uncovered in trauma therapy and how at first it suffocated me like an unmovable weight, a shame I was too scared to share with anyone. And then eventually the past experiences began to feel empowering; I saw I wasn't broken because of things that happened my past, I was strong despite these events. 

Now I'm learning to find my voice and use it when I need to speak up about my thoughts or feelings. But my voice is still shy and timing, for fear that if I use it, I might be rejected or left. That if I actually let go and am just be myself, I may look around to find that no one is left standing with me.

He encouragingly told me that one of the most important, if not the singular most important thing to a child is a feeling of safety and acceptance.  I've never felt safe, I have routine nightmares that linger as a result. He told me it was safe to let go and safe to be myself. Safe to shed the 'shoulds' and stop holding everything inside for fear of what the outside world might think of they knew what was underneath.

But the thing is, I don't even know how to start. How do you start being yourself? How do you get your verbal words and physical actions to align with your true feelings on the inside? The truth of who I am gets distorted as it tries to make its way out into the world. It is incredibly hard to just live as you, without twisting yourself into a pretzel, trying to create some version of your truth that is perceived as more acceptable.

The thing about twisting yourself into a pretzel too much is that eventually you snap. It adds resistance and difficulty to every day life. Imagine the freedom that must come with letting go and letting it flow. Not spending energy on worrying what people will think or how it will land. Letting go of the pursuit of perfection and letting flow the pursuit of being yourself.

Living self-care, empathy, connectedness, vulnerability, and authenticity in each moment is the only healthy way to move forward, but it takes a lot of effort to learn how to put down the weight of expectations, perfection, acceptance, and fear of not being good enough.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Reality of Being the Odd Mom Out



I adore the show, “Odd Mom Out” for its cunning wit and sharp sarcasm in the depiction of the relatable feeling of not fitting into the phenomenon known as a ‘mom group’.  The show focuses on microcosm of a group of wealth moms from the Upper East Side who mostly have the same environmental variables. The hilarious difference is in the moral grounding of the main character, Jill Weber, that leads to conflicting parenting priorities as compared to her head-in-the-clouds socialite family and extended circle of friends.

However, despite the hilarity of the high-pressure parenting expectations of New York’s social elite, 
many single moms experience the true reality of feeling like the odd mom out on a daily basis. Single, working moms are the minority, usually not heard from because we are too busy trying to keep our kids, career and home afloat without missing a beat.  We are underrepresented and inaccurately portrayed on television; I’ve never met a single mom as relaxed as Lorelai on the “Gilmore Girls” and there are few, if any, other referenceable examples of starring solo mom roles.   

Unlike on television, in real life single moms set our own expectations that we need to fill the rolls of both mom and dad, resulting in a self-imposed a bar requiring 200% effort at all times so our children will be minimally impacted by a two-household lifestyle.

I’ve been a single mom since my daughter was an infant and I’ve spent the last five years feeling like the odd mom out. At first, the feeling of being the odd mom out manifested itself at birthday parties, where I was the only single parent (I don’t know where the 50% divorce rate statistic exists, but it is not in the Pre-K set).  I thought the other moms assumed something must be wrong with me that I didn’t have a husband in tow. Or worse, if my daughter got a ‘boo boo’, I was terrified of being judged for not successfully preventing every possible scrape or bruise.  So I kept to myself in a nice cozy corner and spent the time mindfully examining my piece of birthday cake as if I were a pastry-obsessed Sherlock Holmes.

During the course of raising a five-year-old, many special occasions have presented an opportunity to do cutesy things for holidays, teacher recognition, birthdays, etc.  Pinterest has provided a platform for resourceful DIY moms to construct adorably creative crafts, gifts and accessories for all occasions. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “you should check this out on Pinterest”, I would have enough for my daughter’s college tuition! Despite my lack of culinary expertise, I once attempted to make “easy pizza twists” which turned out looking like a volcano had melted down on my stove top. Being craft-challenged and time-restricted, every birthday in my house has been filled with store-bought goody bags and each teacher appreciation event has been accompanied with a gift card; and I have a Pavlovian-level cringe response every time I hear the word Pinterest. 

The one thing single moms have is time to themselves. Many married moms tell me are jealous that I have ‘time to myself’, but I’m sure if they had legally obligated time away from their children, they would not covet this ‘free time’. Either way, I made single friends who like to go out, see some concerts, and check out new hot spots.  But I quickly learned that singles go out on a whim, and many nights I had my daughter and couldn’t drop everything to hit up the cool event that evening.  I enjoyed single-life gossiping about dating successes and hilarious failures but my stories were also peppered with the saga of losing baby teeth and the funny things my daughter would say at dinner. 
Feeling disheartened and disconnected, my odd mom out sensitivity reached a breaking point when, at an elementary school fair, my daughter’s feelings were hurt when her two friends hopped on a ride that only allowed two kids at a time. Despite my continual efforts to reassure her that they did not leave her out and they did want to play with her, that it was purely the bad timing of the break in the line – she melted down and sat on a hill, sobbing with hurt feelings. I sat down next to her and my eyes welled up with tears because I couldn’t honestly say I felt any differently. I looked around and desperately wanted to find another single parent at the event who could empathize but it was clear this was solely on my shoulders.  I started to wonder how I was going to be enough support her for the next 13 years of her grade school life.

And just when I was sure the evidence was damning enough to prove I was, in fact, the odd mom out, my daughter’s friends’ parents came over and reached out to us. They shared stories of how they helped their children with similar sensitivities. They repeatedly offered help anytime I needed it, telling me that I can’t be afraid to ask when I need a helping hand. And they talked about future fun things for our kids to do together. That night, we all walked home together in a group of giggly kids, babbling toddles and ever-tired yet jovial adults. 

At the end of the evening, I stopped to observe the scene and I realized I was never the odd mom out. Just because my situation is not the same as other families, as parents and children, we were no different.  Moreover, the same parents who reached out to me at the fair were also at those initial birthday parties. It wasn’t just me who was worried about being judged for what might happen to my daughter – it was every mother.  And the Pinterest moms who have enviable creative skills, resources and time – well they have told me they don’t know how I do it. They don’t judge my store bought party favors, they are impressed I pull together a fun party for my daughter year after year.

Although single moms frequently feel like the odd mom out, not fitting neatly in with any one social circle, the fact is that we fit in to all circles. We have the spirit of being single and active and we have the worries that come with being a mother.  I will be forever thankful for that night where I realized we are all in this together, raising our children to the best of our abilities and offering a hand when someone needs a little extra help.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

This is a Love Story

Beautifully written story about Amy Chan, a author and blogger, and her path to find love.

It was a breathe of fresh air to read my has very much been my story in someone else's words. A must-read: http://justmytype.ca/love-story/

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Radical healing - as of June 2016

I've written very sparsely over the last year or so because there has been so much change I haven't known how to articulate it. From a trip to Rwanda to moving into our new house, I finally felt in control of my life and the path I was choosing.  As the new year rang in, I realized I've spent the last five years taking care of everyone else but I knew nothing of self-case for me.  I decided to embark on a path of 'Radical Healing' physically, emotionally and energy wise.

Physically I sought out a chiropractor, massage therapist, joined the gym and started to pay more attention to how what I ate and how I slept affected my well being.

Emotionally, I started EMDR, a specific type of therapy meant to help you process past traumas so that you no longer relive them in the moment but remember them as a memory - they become a part of your past, no longer a part of your present. To successfully do this, you dig deep into the infected wound and clear out each and every piece that contributed to the infection, giving the wound a chance to heal. Once you can see things clearly, you can learn what you need to do to set healthy boundaries and have a voice in your life so that the wound may finally heal.

A third part of radical healing is mentally finding balance. This involves recognizing that good self care involves quality time with oneself. I've learned to calm down when I'm alone - disassociate being alone with being unlovable and instead associate being alone with a loving to myself.  I also took up guitar lessons to give my mind and creativity some exercise. And I've been writing more often, knowing that if I right it out, I can regulate myself from almost any trigger.
 
We have arrived at the half way point in the year and I would say I am half way better. The intensity of feelings and pain is not less but the length of which they hit is shorter and perspective more easily steps in, allowing for greater resiliency.  I will say physically and emotionally it has been one of the most painful paths I have ever walked - cleaning everything out, digging right down to the bottom of my soul, seeing the truth of who I am and where I've been - it is scary. And I'm nervous about the next steps - does this path end in a place of peace? I can't see the ending right now but I can feel the improvement and the difference in thoughts and emotions along the way.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

10 Dating Things I Don't Give a F*ck About Anymore


1. How many times you go to the gym each week. I don't need to know that you go to the gym virtually every day because a body is only going to last for a finite amount of time but if you can't make me laugh, then we are really fucked in old age.

2. Being asked how often I work out. I don't care that maybe I get to the gym twice on a really over-achiever week.  I may be thin now but it is deceptive, it is 'stress fit' - i.e. not earned through hours of pumping iron but rather hours of chasing around my daughter and worrying about how to be the best parent, employee, boss, daughter, friend and all around human being that I can be.

3. How good you think/want me to look in 'jeans or a black dress.' Odds are if I'm wearing mascara, I've both made a concerted effort and am already physically uncomfortable. Just be happy I didn't show up in my 15 year old sweatshirt and jammy pants.

4. Figuring out what to order at a restaurant. Does the menu offer hot food that someone else prepares? Then I'll take two. I don't give a fuck what you think about my eating habits. I'm happy to not make nor consume mac n cheese for one night.
 
5. "Hanging out"  I like to go out on dates. I don't want to "hang out"' with you. I "hang out" with my friends so if I wanted to "hang out" with someone, I would be "hanging out" with one of them.

6. Waiting for someone to text.  You wanna act like you don't like me? Maybe you 'aren't that into me' - its totally cool but I don't want to sit around waiting for your texts or last minute invitations to "'hang out." I could better use that time binging on Netflix.

7. What my friends think of online dating, News flash to everyone who hasn't dated after the year 2003: everyone is online in 2016, get over it. My success rate of losers to good guys is the same in a bar versus online. It's not about the place of meeting, it is about the substance of the person on the other side.

8. Wearing the same pair of jeans twice in a row. That's right, I double up on my jeans. That one pair that fits perfectly and doesn't feel like I'm being constricted in a torture chamber. I'm going to wear the shit out of them. And I don't care if you wear the shit out of your guy-equivalent jeans either.

9. How well you played in your last game of golf.  No really, I don't give a fuck about your golf game.  I am interested in your cooking skills though...

10. Making last minute plans. Oh, it is Thursday at 3pm and you just realized you have nothing to do tonight so you want to "hang out" with me? I don't fucking care that you are unable to plan ahead, because I make big-girl plans and am busy!  If you want to go on a date, ask me ahead of time and I'll pencil you in.
 
(in response to the genius piece, "20 Things I Don't Give a F*ck About Anymore")

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Life Book - 2015!

A good friend sent me this email called "Life Book 2015" and I thought everyone could use a quick read:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.
18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over-prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
45. The best is yet to come.
46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
48. If you don't ask, you don't get.
49. Yield.
50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.