Monday, September 30, 2019

The Path to Joy

In July, my friend Cathy Weiss talked about joy on her lightworker Facebook page.  You can watch that video HERE.  She said something that really resonated with me.  Everyone's path to joy is different (as is everyone's healing path).  What works for me might not work for you.  The ocean calms me and makes me happy.  Maybe you hate sand between your toes and seagulls trying to eat your snacks.  I can be in the middle of the craziest hike and want to give up, but seeing the most beautiful hawk fly overhead takes me out of my head and reminds me of why I do these hikes. 

There is no one size fits all.  And that is true of everything in life. 

Cathy had us do a photo challenge in August:  31 days of joy.  I love challenges like these.  It actively reminds you to seek out joy on a daily basis.  Sometimes, it can become tedious to find something that brings you joy every single day and then post it on social media, but then I think you're losing sight of the purpose of the challenge.  Just find joy in the small things.  I find as much joy in seeing a ladybug on a flower as I do a huge gathering of my friends.  I feel like people who are most resilient and best able to handle the hardships in their life are the ones who can find love in the world where it seems like there may not be any.  Yesterday was a very emotionally draining day for me (actually, this whole weekend, and probably the last month or so have been).  As I was stopped at a light on my way to work this morning, with puffy eyes and a foggy head, I saw a feather float by my car window.  That's a sign from my grandfather who passed in 2000.  Everything is going to be okay.  It made me smile. 

If you want to see some of the photos I posted for the challenge, you can find them on my Nature Goddess page HERE

The challenge ended on my birthday, with me visiting a place I had wanted to see for the last year.  In fact, when I saw a photo of this location on Facebook over a year ago, I made it the locked screen photo on my phone.  Then a couple of months before my birthday, I remembered I had the power to make it happen.  Check out the photo of me above McWay Falls in Big Sur.  I had such a wonderful birthday weekend.  We got to kayak with otters in Monterey.  We drove through Big Sur and hiked around the gorgeous trees and beaches.  We watched sunset on the beach in Carmel.  I couldn't have asked for a better celebration of my years on this earth. 

If you are struggling to find your joy, just look around.  Our world might sometimes feel like it is full of chaos, but I bet you can find one thing to bring you some joy. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

This is the cry for help...

This month is National Suicide Prevention Month.  

In 2015, I lost my boss to suicide.  In 2009, the person for whom I was named took her life.  Recently, a friend's daughter took her own life as well.

When people take their lives, so many confused loved ones ask what signs they missed.  They ask, why didn't the person ask for help?  Maybe they did.  When I am struggling, I feel like I'm screaming: THIS IS MY CRY FOR HELP.  And most people are patting me on the head and telling me I'll be okay.  I want to scream: I AM NOT OKAY!  When I try to share some of my struggles with people, you watch the uncomfortableness wash over them.  What do they say?  What do they do?  Most of them do nothing.  And I can't blame them.  I don't even know what I need in that moment.  I don't need them to fix it.  I know I can do that for myself eventually.  I guess I just want someone to be there.  

Depression fucking sucks.  I don't always see it coming, but once it hits, it can be so hard to dig out of it.  I'm a functional depressive person.  I still shower every day.  I go to work.  I just feel empty and alone.  I start to lose interest in things like food or being social, and can't sleep much.  I try all the positive affirmations to help me feel better.  They don't work.  If I try to talk about it, I feel like I'm being dramatic.  If I don't talk about it, I feel like I'm drowning.  Sometimes I am laying in a dark room crying -- what you'd think depression looks like.  But a lot of the time, I'm sitting in the real world, surrounded by tons of people, feeling like I'm the only person there.  I feel like a ghost -- invisible to everyone around me.  I scream: I AM NOT F*CKING OKAY!  But no one responds.  So we put on the brave face and continue on.  Smiles for everyone.  Hey, fake it til you make it, right?  

And at the end of the day, the only person who can save you, is you. 

If you want to know what depression looks like, this is it.  

If you need help, please reach out.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255.

P.S.  I have a lot of amazing friends who hold space for me without pushing when I'm not in a good place.  For them, I am eternally grateful.  They have helped me through some extremely dark times.  I feel very fortunate.  Thank you.  

Friday, September 20, 2019

Back to School

I am very blessed.  I have a boss who encourages me to want more for myself.  I have been in the legal field for almost 25 years.  I basically went from high school to a law firm at the age of 18.  I moved into local government (although still in the legal realm) about five years ago.  It has never really occurred to me to do anything else.  I like my job.  I like the people I work with.  But my boss is looking out for me and thinking about my future.  So, she started encouraging me to go back to school to finish my Bachelor's degree (in this organization, I can't really move into any higher positions without one).  Well, let me back up.  About a year ago, she tried to get me to do a kind of work study program to take the bar exam and become an attorney, but I very purposely did not go to law school 20 years ago, so I certainly don't want to do that now.  However, we have tuition reimbursement, and what else am I doing with my evenings but playing kickball and drinking too much with my friends like I'm still in my 20's?  Why not go back to school? 

I started the process of looking into what I would need to do to get my Bachelor's degree almost a year ago.  Initially, I thought I would just get a generic business degree.  However, after meeting with counselors and speaking with the director of one of their programs, I decided I would get my degree in recreation.  It would apply to my current situation working in local government, as I could someday move into the Parks and Rec Department (let the jokes about the TV show begin...).  Then I have so many more options available to me, especially if I decide to leave the state.  In fact, a potential job that would have been good for me (and offered more money) came available the same week I started school.  Had it opened up a week before or a few months down the line, I would have applied for it (with my current boss' blessing).  But I am way too overwhelmed to think about learning a new job right now. 

Cocky me thought that between the A.A. I already had, along with the paralegal certificate I had obtained 21 years ago from the same school I'd be doing my B.S., I would maybe have a year and a half of work, and then I would magically have my degree.  Oh how wrong I was!  Apparently the rules were slightly different 20 plus years ago.  Not only do NONE of my paralegal courses count towards anything, ten units from my A.A. also don't count.  So, before I can even apply to Cal State, I have to go back to community college and take four classes.  I work full time.  So I can't exactly bang that out in one semester.  I thought maybe breaking it into two classes for two semesters (and taking online classes) would make it more palatable.  However, I am looking at one year back at community college and probably another five to six years at Cal State (if I'm taking two classes each semester).  I'll be almost 50 by the time I'm done!  Circumstances made it so I couldn't start until Fall 2019.  My first semester back to school in over 21 years started one month ago. 

And.  I.  Fucking.  Hate.  It.

Not just a little bit.  Like, I'm breaking down in tears at least once a week because I'm so tired and overwhelmed.  I'm not sleeping well.  I'm not eating enough.  I've been dropping weight and when people tell me I look good, I want to scream that I am not losing it the right way.  Some days I am like a toddler throwing a tantrum on the floor and other days I am like a teary eyed teenager who cannot get out of bed. 

First issue.  Online classes.  While I thought it would be more convenient so I'm not having to sit in a classroom all night after sitting in my office all day, it really just means I now go sit at my desk at home alone all night after sitting in my office all day.  It requires discipline, and I am not excited enough about these classes to want to do this.  I AM doing it.  But I don't want to.  I am normally very social, so I feel very alone and am definitely battling some old depression issues.  Also, rather than just sitting in a classroom, having a lecture/discussion, then going home to do homework, I'm having to log into this online program anywhere from three to six days a week to keep up.  It's time consuming and frustrating.

Second issue.  I don't enjoy the teaching style of one of the instructors.  However, it is the one class I am required to take, and it has to be taken a minimum of one semester before transferring, so I can't drop and take it with someone else next semester.  I find him to be a little condescending, he's unorganized and a lot of the written material feels disjointed and confusing.  I understand that these classes are modeled for the Millennials, so I guess it is just my own fault for being too old for this shit. 

Third issue, which is really probably issue number one.  My ego told me that I'm a grown up with real life experience, who was going to waltz back into school and kill it.  And I'm not killing it.  I am struggling to keep up and am not enjoying the poetic subject matter of the English class in particular (Psychology is a lot more interesting, and I like how the instructor runs that class, but it still requires a ton of time in front of the computer).  I have always liked to say I'm not a "cerebral person."  I don't get off on having intelligent conversations just for the sake of having them.  I'm just a regular person.  I'm okay with that.  The English class in particular is requiring me to dig a little deeper, so pushing me outside of my comfort zone is making me angry.  My yoga instructor was like, you need to figure out what that is triggering in you.  I've been debating it with myself for awhile now.  I think it's just realizing that I'm not better than all these annoying 18-year-olds I'm supposed to be having "intelligent" discussions with in these online forums.  We are all here learning and trying to better ourselves.  But, seriously, reading some of their shit makes me want to pull my hair out. 

In addition to all of this, I am preparing for NCPP next week (the final month before the show requires a lot of time intensive tasks).  I have surgery the following week (so I'm having lots of dreams about how I'm not going to wake up).  I have a friend who is dealing with the very tragic loss of a family member, and I am trying to be a good friend and hold space for him when he needs it.  Basically, I'm an emotional wreck who doesn't have a whole and happy brain to offer to school right now. 

As of now, I am committed to finishing out community college.  It's just a year.  I have six units this semester, but next semester I only need four.  Plus, the English class was the only required class.  As long as they are transferable to Cal State, I can take any other classes to fill the remaining units.  I really need to sit down and do some soul searching about what I want out of school and life.  I'm half way through my career.  Do I REALLY need this to feel happy and whole?  I don't know yet.  Next year, I have the opportunity to buy a house that has been in my family since the 1950's.  More money would be nice, but money isn't everything.  I am definitely focused on my future, but I don't know that more school will equal a better future.

If you've had experience returning to school later in life (especially if you did it while working full time), I'd love to hear about it.  I know people keep telling me to just be positive and stop complaining so much, but I seriously need to be able to vent or sometimes I feel like I might explode.  I'm struggling here.  More than I have in a few years.  Emotionally, it's very scary for me.  I know I'll make it through, I always do.  But when I'm in it, I feel like I'm drowning. 

Deep breaths while I'm underwater just makes me a mermaid, right?

One day at a time. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

So it begins...

About a year and a half ago, I put a photo on the locked screen of my phone.  It is McWay Falls in Big Sur at sunset.  The colors are gorgeous.  I wanted to see it in person. 

I decided to celebrate entry into my 43rd year by going to McWay Falls.  When I visited the website, it said the trail was closed due to a slide.  I didn't let that deter me.  So I printed some hikes, and figured it would work out -- it always does.  My friend Ness joined me on the adventure.  We started the weekend by kayaking with the otters in Monterey.  The next day, we drove down to Big Sur (the beautiful drive alone made it worth it), and learned that the trail we had chosen was closed, but the good news was that the very short McWay Falls trail was open!  You walked less than five minutes to an overlook.  It was packed with people, which was a little annoying (didn't they know this was my birthday dream?!).  But it was still beautiful.  I had to stop myself from climbing around a fence to go see the part of the trail that was closed off.  I didn't want to get arrested on my birthday.  As my friend Jim reminded me, as it was a holiday weekend, you shouldn't get arrested since the judge won't be in until Tuesday. 

McWay Falls is gorgeous.  Humans aren't actually allowed on the beach.  I'm not sure if there is no way down there or if they just don't allow people to go, but that's probably part of why it is so beautiful.  So pristine.  I could have sat there all day just looking at the water.  I don't know why water touches my spirit so deeply, but it does.  It heals me when I'm broken.  I'm not broken right now, so it just brought me a ridiculous amount of happiness to merely be in its presence.  It was truly a spiritual experience. 

As if that wasn't already enough, we continued to a beach in Carmel, and did 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach -- just enjoying an entire day of ocean and beautiful views.  We stayed with my sister and her family in Carmel, which allowed me to start my Sunday with yoga on the beach before driving home.  This was a short, but amazing trip.  I couldn't have asked for a better birthday. 

There are a lot of things I've accomplished in the last year and so much more I am planning to do in the upcoming year. 

I went back to school last week, after a 20 year hiatus.  I need to finish a couple of classes and will then be working on a Bachelor's degree (more on that later).  Our 6th annual Northern California Pole Presentational will be at the end of this month (because what I apparently needed during my most stressful month before NCPP was school on top of a full time job).  I have another surgery scheduled the week after that (more on that later as well, but it will ultimately be the end of my pole "career").  I am looking at buying a house next year.  I am also contemplating a career change.  I have been happily planning hikes each weekend, and am enjoying cultivating the Nature Goddess Adventures Facebook page. 

I don't want to sound like I'm busy just for the sake of being busy, but I do have a lot going on.  The next month in particular is looking pretty hairy, but I hope after that to be in a routine, and more able to go with the flow. 

So my 43rd year begins just as awesomely as other years in my recent past.  With lots of fun in the works, lots of growing, and an expectation that my future is looking pretty bright. 

My 516 month photoshoot...the silliness will never end!