I was both laying the foundation to change my life and becoming more and more ill from the tail end of this most recent phase of my life (which I absobloomin'lutely needed to change).
At this moment, it's a few minutes before 9 pm on the last night of a four week retreat in the mountains. I want to finish the laundry, go sit in the jacuzzi under the stars and maybe watch one more episode of Madame Secretary.
One of my several goals on this retreat was to start blogging again. I did post a couple of watercolors I made on my original blogger site that I've used primarily as a watercolor artist since 2006. Wow. That now seems like ages ago. So much has changed and changed again. What radical swings in the world!
It's vitally important to me to get this site up and running again. I think that I'll just paste here most of what I re-opened that blog with. Just a recounting of sorts. It both honors my limited time and last, unchecked goal.
Start where you are. That's Pema Chödrön's wise advice.
I'm in Asheville, North Carolina. I am sitting on the covered deck looking over the railing past the gurgling jacuzzi though the tall, delicate trees at the not so distant mountain top.
I've been planted in this comfy, heavy, sturdy armchair with my feet propped up on the square, heavy, sturdy ottoman since my arrival on 11 June. Just to be out in the fresh air, listening to bird song and allowing the days to pass has been enough to make this trip worthwhile. But the value of this long retreat is incalculable.
The last eighteen months of my life feel as though they've evaporated into thin air. Without going into details of why and how, late last November (2018), I started putting changes in motion. I made a radical decision about my finances, had eye surgery, and made long-range plans to end my weekly teaching job. The stress of my finances and teaching situation and my coping mechanisms were killing me. My primary coping mechanism would be alcohol. But more on that at a later date. Also, right, In October, I was pulled off my feet by a very strong dog and, for the first time in my life, was in excruciating lower back pain for many months. Almost forgot about that.
As a result of the lower back pain, I discovered that I have a herniated disk and osteoporosis. More on that at a later date, too.
I went through the lengthy, highly detailed process of addressing my finances in other words filing Chapter 7 and acting as my own attorney. When the last straw broke the proverbial camel's back at my long-term teaching job, I gave notice.
No sooner had I given notice than indoor chain smokers moved into the two apartments next to me.
I've lived in a relatively charming but poorly maintained 1940s garden apartment. The walls are paper thin, the roaches are indomitable but I've had the end unit of the best spot on the property, overlooking and partially sheltered by a grove of willow oak out front and a beautiful and productive garden that I've built out back. I appreciate most of my neighbors and have been centrally located in the absolute best neighborhood in town.
However, the city has changed dramatically in my six years here. Growth without planning. Clear-cutting lots, building new penitentiary style "luxury units" smack up to the edge of the sidewalks along two-lane roads never designed for the sudden influx of traffic. Plus, there's a new fire station catty-corner to my property that will undoubtedly withstand a tornado. Easy. I can only imagine the noise and energetic change when that thing is up and running.
I tried (really, really hard) to mitigate the second-hand smoke issue and after my doctor wrote a letter to the management describing the damage to my lungs, eyes and nasal passages, they kindly released me from all obligations to my lease and all the excellent references I might need.
With nothing and no one to hold me to this place that has presented me with a string of mighty challenges over the past six years, and no real idea of where I'd want to move or how I'd go about that, I thought, I would just like to house sit for a while.
So, after some research and work on the process, that's what I'm doing. Indefinitely. And this is my first stop.
I had no idea how burned out, weak, and ill I was until I arrived here. It took me about two weeks to just land and understand what condition I was in, to deal with the exceptionally neurotic (let's say) homeowner, to discover that I had an infection, and to completely let go of the alcohol.
I dealt with the homeowner, took antibiotics, daily jacuzzis, have stuck like glue to my morning yoga practice and meditation, and have taken the darling (very strong) dog for morning and late afternoon walks straight up the mountain road and then back down again with a round of fetch in between. I am also now on my twelfth day free of alcohol with (I am compelled to say) stretches of 3- to 6-days AF in the first two weeks.
In the last two weeks, I have made four pages of drawing and watercolor work, strung two necklaces of semi-precious healing stones, re-read a book (The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard), given notice at my apartment, started blogging again, and booked a few more housesitting situations. Check, check, and check (I am such a Virgo).
That's it in a nutshell. Except for a mysterious stretch of September into early October, I am booked for mostly long housesits through the end of November. I am also covered with bug bites but really don't care.
Wow. Well, that's a start. My goals were too many for what was really in order... a vacation retreat. The freelance life is stupidly stressful, risky, and fraught with uncertainty. I completely burned out. I lost my self. My soul. I am en route to rediscovering and honoring my soul.
For the public, I'm calling this my long-overdue sabbatical. At least, that's the elevator pitch.
It's dark now. The stars are out. I'm going to go gaze. Arcturus awaits.
Back at'cha real soon.
Just before my big fall in 2010, against my better wishes I started taking Effexor for depression. Big mistake. Big mistake because it led to me picking up a drink again for the first time in seven years. Big mistake because picking up a drink led to a series of really bad decisions that sent my life tumbling in more ways than there's room to describe here.
One thing I really liked about that drug, though. I felt relaxed in a way that I could never remember having felt before. I thought, Is this how normal people feel? I could get used to this. Caveat: when I realized what the drug was doing to me, I went off it and that was like putting myself through electroshock therapy and that convinced me to never, ever go on another psychotropic drug again.
But back to that experience of relaxation... I bring it up because that's the way I've felt all weekend. It worries me. Not because of the aforementioned experience. Because feeling relaxed actually concerns me.
I think that it works like this. I am responsible for everything. If I don't do it, it won't get done. If I don't hustle, I won't make moola. If I don't make moola, I'll land on the streets. If I relax for a moment, the whole world will fall apart. More, but you get the idea.
Yes, I know this is ridiculous but this is how I feel most of the time. Also, I'll drink coffee to rev myself up because, hey, if I'm not revved up, how am I going to do everything that needs to be done? I am actually addicted/allergic to coffee and it wreaks havoc with my skin, eyes and energy. The complexities of addiction are almost endless.
But this leads me to a key ingredient of sobriety. Also a key to the anxiety that is one cause of wanting to go unconscious with drink.
Thomas Merton once said that
"Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity."
So, for me, thinking that I have to get everything done on my own, by myself and all of the anxiety that creates within me means that I don't trust in god (or the universe or the great creator or what have you) to take care of all things beyond my control. And almost all of everything is beyond my control. Except for example the cat hair collecting in a dust bunny on the floor. I could sweep that up.
If I quit trying so damned hard to solve every problem or to go unconscious in some way because I'm out of my mind with trying to figure out solutions and let god or the universe in on the game, wow, solutions, people, miracles, opportunities beyond my wildest ken might arise in response to my saying, hey, god... I have no idea what to do here, why don't you work it out? Yes that's one sentence. William Faulkner.
Therefore, my lack of trust in god creates my anxiety. I've become accustomed to feeling anxious (big-time, long-term). My anxiety has, in the past, caused me to drink. I am not used to feeling relaxed. Feeling relaxed makes me nervous. That's an oxymoron if I've every read one.
And, the basic key to quitting drinking via the A.A. program is to turn my will and my life over to the care of the god of my understanding. I don't buy everything in the program but I do think there's a lot to be said for that particular practice.
It's interesting that the same issue (not trusting) that made me anxious, set me up for drinking, and is the solution (trusting) for both anxiety and drinking. I think there's a scientific term for that sort of dynamic.
My job right now is to practice trusting the universe, the great creator, the all almighty that cannot be named to take the wheel. This is not a foreign concept to me. I just need to put it front and center as a practice.
All of that is just to say that I've felt remarkably relaxed this weekend. This feeling of relaxation concerns me a bit but that may just be habit. Probably is.
Great. Another habit!
Are you trying to heal yourself?
Are you depleted? Dry. Feel like you're dying but getting up to give more every day or wasted by what you've provided?
Are you angry? Is your anger masquerading or based in fear? Have you exploded recently?
Maybe you're suffering from chronic stress.
Maybe you're giving a little too much. Maybe you're not supporting yourself enough.
If you expect yourself to give, you absolutely must support yourself first. It's a universal law. It's a law of cosmic architecture.
If you do not provide yourself a good foundation, how can you build a structure that supports and shelters others?
If you are not healthy and strong within yourself, how can you support your family or your clients? That's a sincere question that I want you to ask yourself. Now.
More importantly, if you are chronically stressed, how can you support yourself?
What are you first doing to support yourself so that you can support yourself and support others? Again, tell us what you're doing in a comment below. Help everyone with your own experience.
Here's what you need to pay attention to if you are not serving from a strong and healthy foundation.
Are you experiencing
Are you addicted to anything?
Are you sabotaging yourself?
These are major signs that you are not fully supporting yourself or, better yet, that you are not allowing yourself to be fully supported by the universe at large, the great creator, the word, the light of creation, god, or however the all of eternity expresses itself to you.
• Sit still.
• Allow your heart to open.
• Consider the option of trust.
• Ask yourself, "What would it feel like to trust that the great creator has great creator has my back? What would it feel like to know that I am here to serve for the greatest good?
• What would it feel like to know that I am present, here, in this moment. Always?
• How fertile can I make the ground I am standing on?
Consider these tips. Seriously. What do you think? Leave comments below to help yourself and to help others help others.
I have a long "to-do" list to help you with chronic stress (coming soon) but that won't do you any good whatsoever if you don't first sit still, breathe, and ask yourself to do and answer the above.
Remain in light.
Loads of love to you...
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