You’re Just As Messed Up as I Am

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Family member: What are you reading? 

Me: How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult.

Family member: Sounds like something for someone who’s living in the past.

Me (anger bubbling): Good thing I don’t really care what you think.


Only I did.

I wanted them to understand me. I wanted them to see me for me, and to accept me for me, even if we didn’t share the same opinions or beliefs about life. 

The night before we argued about lifestyles. Normally I enjoyed our debates until they careened off the rails and I excused myself (in other words, when we were both too drunk to continue). This time I ended up crying after they told me I couldn’t take care of myself. I felt like shouting (and probably did) you don’t know me! You don’t know where I came from, what I’ve been through. Who the hell do you think you are

After that I slipped into a reflective period following my 36th birthday. Today, while listening to a talk by Louise Hay, I stumbled onto something that lifted the weight of these negative experiences--and so many countless, nameless others--off my weary shoulders when it finally dawned on me with perfect clarity: Every single person on this earth who I have ever met or interacted with or run across IS JUST AS MESSED UP AS I AM. 

They’re just as messed up as I am. 

Every. Last. One.

The kids who teased me in school, put me down for not being pretty enough, berated me because my boobs didn’t grow fast enough, or snickered because I didn’t have cool clothes--thank goodness they didn’t know many were from thrift store rag bags!--were just as messed up as I am. 

The relatives who put me down, called me ugly or fat after I gained weight, questioned my decisions, told me I was stupid, or tried to tell me how to live, were just as messed up as I am.

The boys who made me feel worthless, the girls who made me feel even worse, and the ones that didn’t care because they didn’t even know my name were just as messed up as I am. 

The  person I loved and trusted to take care of me who instead put me through years of hell, instability, uncertainty, and abandonment was just as messed up as I am (probably more). 

And anyone who thinks I can’t or don’t know how to take care of myself, is also JUST AS MESSED UP AS I AM. 

We’re all just a bunch of fucked up, broken people trying to live despite the wounds of others being imposed on us by yet other fucked up, broken people trying to live.

Whew!

What a massive relief. 

And with that, moving on...



 

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

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People seldom behave the way I want or expect them to. Last week I was reminded why.

One morning as I walked my dog I encountered a woman backing her car down her driveway. She didn't see us, so the pupp and I waited by her mailbox. My snap judgment was to get annoyed that she wasn’t paying attention, but for some reason--the fresh morning air? The gorgeous sunrise?--I just smiled and waved.

When she finally noticed us she rolled down her window and apologized. Her face was ragged and vacant, as if she hadn’t slept. The woman, whose name I don't even know, told me that the night before her dog died unexpectedly from a ruptured tumor on its spleen. She said she usually looks both ways when backing out, but wasn't thinking because she was so stricken by the sudden loss. I told her how sorry I was and she eventually drove away.

As I continued to walk the dog that I was suddenly more appreciative to have, I realized we don't know what we don't know.

Then I remembered the story Wayne Dyer told about a man on a train who seemed oblivious to his unruly kids disturbing the crowded space. When Wayne spoke to him, he learned that the man had just come from the hospital. His wife had just died.

Recently I found myself in a similar situation at the chiropractor’s office when, while I was receiving neck decompression therapy, another patient’s kids were running around behind me like unbridled hellions, without so much as a word from their mother to stop them. At the time I was so aggravated that I changed the remainder of my appointments so I wouldn’t have to deal with her kids.

Now I wonder if maybe--not unlike myself--she’s been in pain for so long she doesn’t have the wherewithal to discipline them. If that’s true, I understand.

The world is full of assholes; I've certainly been one of them. But the world is also full of people just doing the best they can. We never really know what someone else is going through when they cut us off in traffic, are rude at the grocery store, or hit the gas when it's not their turn at the four-way stop. I've been on the receiving end of someone else's pain and anger, and taken it personally or gotten pissed. I've also been the person treating the insurance agent like crap because I had been sick for so long I couldn’t contain the rage.

And I’m sure I cut off more than one unsuspecting traveler they day I drove home from work after finding out my dad had been killed in a car accident. I don’t even remember that ride.

Sometimes people are sick. Sometimes people are hurting, grieving, or lost.

And yes, sometimes people are just inconsiderate assholes.

But, hey, WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE DON’T KNOW.

 

Lawnmower Revelations

I had an imaginary conversation with Melissa Ambrosini while mowing lawn the other day.

This is not the first, nor will it be the last, imaginary conversation I have ever had. I used to regularly chat with Wayne Dyer; the fact that he passed away a few years ago doesn’t diminish his wisdom or my ability to hear it. 

I’ve been on an ego-driven shame spiral lately (maybe I should’ve talked to Brené Brown instead?). I’ve felt inferior in my marriage—hard not to when my hubs is literally the most amazing man on the planet; I joke he’s setting the bar high for hubby number two, when in reality I’m setting the bar decidedly low for his next wife…kidding—totally insane when it comes to my health—indulging  insatiable hunger that I know isn’t real but must be quenched nonetheless—and like a failure in my work since I haven’t put out a damn blog post in so many weeks I’m afraid to check when the last time was, and cobwebs have started to form in the corners of my website

I have reasons, sure. It’s been a busy summer. I’ve been tired, lazy, or “fill in the appropriate excuse here.” Whatever the reasons, I’m approaching my 36th (cringe) birthday feeling like I’ve gone completely off the rails. Instead of savoring every breath of summer I’ve wasted too many nights and perfect mornings doing God only knows what with nothing to show but a still-expanding waistline and massive shame-over (shame+hangover). 

Knowing I need to claw myself out of this pit of misery, I decided to let Melissa Ambrosini (MA) offer her two cents. 

I’ll spare the long and self-piteous part where I whined to her about all the reasons I felt like I was falling short in life, since I already did that, and skip ahead to the meat and potatoes of what she had to say in her beautiful Australian accent, which was this:

MA: You’ve put yourself in prison. You know you have. You think you’re exercising the ultimate freedom by eating whatever you want, but it’s a trick of the ego. It’s actually the prison of the ego that keeps you locked in the same patterns and prevents you from doing what you know you should for your body. Real freedom would be breaking out of those habits and patterns and being free to nourish your body in any way that you choose—not being bound to make the same decisions over and over again.

Me: {shakes head knowingly} You’re so right. How do I come out of this? I know it’s not real. I know I’m resisting. But how do I stop?

MA: You already know it comes back to self-love.

Me: How can I do that when I don’t even like myself right now?

MA: You’re struggling because you’ve put conditions on loving yourself. 

Me: What does that mean?

MA: You know how important loving yourself is. You know it’s the key to everything. Yet you’ve decided that you can’t love yourself right now unless conditions are met. If you don’t eat right, or write enough—or if you drink too much, or fall short of these self-imposed standards and expectations, you deny yourself love.

Me: Huh. I didn’t realize I was doing that.

MA: You literally don’t have to do anything to be worthy of love. If you spend the rest of your life on the couch with a steady stream of fast food at the ready, or never write another word, or drink yourself into oblivion, YOU ARE STILL WORTHY OF LOVE. There’s nothing you have to do EVER. There are no conditions that need to be met. That would be crazy! 

Me: Yeah, I mean, when you put it like that, it makes total sense. 

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MA: That doesn’t mean you’ll be happy or content in that kind of a state. That’s why you feel pulled to make changes, which the ego continues to resist out of fear. The life you want to live is one that will truly nourish you—body, mind, and soul. If you deny that for too long, it becomes as uncomfortable to remain the same (which your ego wants) as it is to change (which your soul calls for). The inner conflict encourages you to really look at your life and decide what’s important. The first step is recognizing the ego’s resistance. It’s like a kid in a department store throwing a tantrum when it wants a new toy. It will keep screaming and flailing until the mum either gives in—which is what you do every time you surrender within your prison walls—or the mum stands her ground, removes the child from the store, and the child eventually relents. The bigger the changes, the more the ego resists and the bigger the hissy fit.

Me: So how do I learn to bypass it? I am desperate to get out of this prison. I just haven’t figured out how to do it.

MA: Yes you have. Love. The ego operates in fear. Change is scary. The unknown is scary. Another way to think of the ego is like a cult. Cult leaders (like the ego) are geniuses at creating an environment of fear so that their followers relinquish all their power and do whatever they are told. They’re too afraid to question it because the cult leader (ego) feeds them lies to maintain the illusion of fear. How do we see through the fear to the truth? Love. 

Me: That all makes sense, but in real life…how? 

MA: The best way is to love yourself NOW regardless of how much you weigh, regardless of all the books you haven’t published, regardless of how you feel as a wife. Love yourself now. Insist on it. No matter what decision you make—whether you eat “right” or not, whether you write every day or not, whether you go for a walk or sit on the couch instead—choose to extend love to yourself anyway. Eventually the ego will realize that no matter what tricks it tries to employ to keep you imprisoned by fear, the answer will be the same. LOVE. And that is how you’ll break free.



She’s a bit of a genius, that Melissa. 

 

 

Sandwich and a Banjo

On a bench in the park eating a sandwich and reading a book, while a man at a nearby table strummed a banjo and kids of all colors played on the jungle gym, I felt more like myself than I have in a long time. 

Before this week’s Reiki session I asked for several things. 

1.     I asked to let go of whatever blockage sits in my gut or my brain or wherever the true blockage exists to losing weight. 

2.     I asked to feel unconditional love for myself right now.

When I laid on the table, the second my Reiki healer’s hands cradled my head I was overcome by a feeling of love that brought tears to my eyes. In an instant I was aware of all the love that surrounded me. My husband, my pupp, my family, my friends...everyone. Everywhere. I can sandbag around my heart, build levees and walls, and just plain run for the hills but love still finds its way through my barriers. It feels so good, what am I running from anyway? 

I didn’t know how to tell my healer that I felt different after the session. I mean, I always open my eyes to a Reiki-induced euphoria, but this was...something else. Almost as if I stepped outside of myself and could look at life from a slightly detached perspective, rather than mired in the shit. Later that night I poured a glass of wine and didn’t even drink it. 

I know. 

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The next day I ordered iced coffee without guilt, wore a flowy, summer dress without fear, and ate lunch without obsession. I even saved part of my sandwich for later instead of wolfing it down in one sitting. Then I looked up from the pages of Spirit Junkie and chatted with a woman who came to share my table, watched kids run in the sun while their moms relaxed in the shade, and enjoyed the notes from a banjo carried across the park on the wind. No fear, no judgment, no guilt. No rampant thoughts about how everything I was doing, feeling, eating, seeing, experiencing was wrong. Just a serene moment of lunch on a dirty picnic table.

Is this what normal people feel like? 

Last night I as I was putting myself to bed I felt compelled to turn on the laptop and clicked away at a fiction story for almost two hours. Today, after not enough sleep because my dog insisted that I get up before seven, I woke to a messy house and a sky so effing beautiful I don’t care that my kitchen counters are a wreck, or that I spilled dog food all over the floor. My to-do list hasn’t been touched in over a week, and with my hubs away on a fishing trip I don’t think I’ve eaten a vegetable since before he left. Instead of getting down on myself for these things I’m sitting on my deck before work, my dog whining impatiently behind me, to write this post. Another summer dress and iced coffee are in my future, and I have no qualms about either. No coffee is bad for your liver or you look fat in that outfit running through my head.

This week I even let a whole bundle of baby spiders that hatched (is that right? Do spiders “hatch”?) on my deck live to see another day. A year ago I would’ve killed them.

What crazy, miraculous thing is happening to me?


November 27, 2018

Power. It’s a funny thing. I didn’t realize until recently how much of it I was giving away.

A few weeks ago, I found myself “assuming the mood.” I’m good at this; I’m good at assuming the moods—particularly the bad—of others, and not just making them my own but taking responsibility for the way other people feel. Naturally (or maybe not-so-naturally) if someone close to me is having a bad day, I must’ve caused it.

Right?

Yeah, I don’t think so anymore either. But for reasons that probably have to do with insecurity I used to believe it wholeheartedly.

Anyway, on this particular occasion, someone unloaded their bad day on me and I begrudgingly picked it up. Their anger and frustration followed me around like one of those black clouds in cartoons that rained only on me when everywhere else was sunny. Hours later, when I was fully drenched in someone else’s misery and had assumed responsibility for it (had I been better, smarter, more supportive, they wouldn’t have been so upset) I got tired of feeling deflated and asked why I was still punishing myself.

Had I really messed up? Or had I just let someone else’s rant set the tone for my entire day? Had I really let them down? Or were they just under a lot of stress and didn’t know what to do with it? Why was my first instinct to take responsibility and assume the mood?

Then it hit me: I gave my power away.

Instead of shrugging the negative encounter off I relinquished my power to the other person’s state of mind and let it control mine.

Realizing this the cloud lifted immediately. I even saw the room get brighter. I gave my power away. In that moment I took it back.

Then I wondered where else I squandered my power. In what other circumstances did I feel the dead weight of resignation where my heart hid in a closet and I wafted through life underneath a dark cloud, certain I didn’t have a choice but to stay there?

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Squandering Power

Every time I said YES when I wanted to say NO, I gave my power away.

Every time I served the masters Food and Alcohol, I gave my power away.

Every time I didn’t raise my hand for fear of sounding too needy, or like a know-it-all, I gave my power away.

Every time I refused to speak my truth for fear of who I would hurt or how it would be received, I gave my power away.

Every time I passed on a creative moment in favor of the television, I gave my power away.

Every time I committed to something for someone else’s reasons, rather than my own, I gave my power away.

Every time I feel unworthy of love, I give my power away.

Every time I feel inadequate for not making enough money, I give my power away.

Every time I don’t feel smart enough, I give my power away.

Every time I sell myself short, try to stay invisible, or hide my true self, I give my power away.

At the end of the day, do I have any power left?

 
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Milestone

7/13/15

Bottle Honey Weiss (beer) 149 calories per bottle x 5 bottles = 745 calories

Bottle Cherry Coke = 260 calories

Can Mountain Dew = 170 calories

I drank a minimum of 1175 calories yesterday.

Food:

Sandwich w/ rye bread, 3 pieces of Buddig corned beef, 1piece of cheese

Brat w/ bun

Bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese

Hot dog w/ bun

3 cups of popcorn

Hell.

I looked at myself in the mirror last night, astounded by the size of my gut. I mean, it practically has its own orbit. The new moon that got caught in the gravitational pull of my stomach wasn’t enough to keep me from drinking 5—count ‘em 5!!—beers.

When will this madness will end? I am floored and feel like the scale must be lying. I can’t be nearly 200 pounds…

PRESENT DAY 2019

The milestone. 200. I never thought I’d see the day (or admit it to anyone but myself).

Only I did, three years ago, and nearly every day since.  

I know it all. I understand what I should be eating and where food addiction comes from. I realize this mechanism evolved to protect me, to keep me hidden, and I’ve cowered behind this fat suit for years. But all the wisdom and knowledge in the world isn’t worth its weight in bacon cheeseburgers if I don’t use it.

I’ve tried the gym, read the books, let Jillian Michaels scold me through twenty minutes of high-intensity cardio before work, tracked my food and my every move, swallowed pills that suppressed my appetite and set my veins ablaze, gone vegetarian (briefly) and vegan (even briefer), and even gave up alcohol for five months.

And I’m still 200 pounds.

This blog was supposed to shed the invisibility cloak, my protection. It can’t do that until I’m willing to be honest about who and what is underneath. This is me. Lost. Overweight. Desperate for something better. Something more.

 
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Rest. You need to Stay here for a while

It’s been almost three years since the accident that took my dad’s life, and our family has lost another amazing man to a senseless tragedy. His family now faces a long, torturous tour through hell, one that I still remember well.

I don’t have any words of wisdom because there’s nothing anyone can say to hasten the tour or ease the pain. You just have to live it. In this case, the way out really is through.

In remembrance, here is a letter I wrote my husband a few months after losing my dad.

12/3/15

Morning baby,

I want to apologize for last night. I can’t seem to get a handle on my emotions lately, and alcohol really doesn’t help. I don’t know what was wrong with me last night. You didn’t do anything wrong so please don’t think that.

I was praying the other night when I took a bath because some days the simple act of getting dressed is hard, and then I look around at the house and how it’s just getting messier and messier and I can’t even bring myself to fold a piece of laundry. It’s like being defeated from the moment I wake up in the morning, so I just throw in the towel and walk away. Anyway, I was praying because I don’t want this feeling to continue, and I heard a voice inside my head that basically said, “Rest; you need to stay here for a while”.

I don’t want to stay here (and by “here” I mean this state of mind where I’m always an instant away from breaking down, and the smallest amount of stress or expectation is completely overwhelming), but something inside of me (or outside of me?) said that I have to.

So I’ve accepted that this is my life right now, for whatever that means. I’m sorry because I know it’s not easy for you to live with me. I’m well aware of that because it’s not easy to live with myself either.

And again, sorry about last night.

Compulsion is the act of wrapping ourselves around an activity, a substance, or a person to survive, to tolerate and numb our experience of the moment…Compulsion is a state of isolation, one that includes self-absorption, invulnerability, low self-esteem, unpredictability, and fear that if we faced our pain, it would destroy us…The very purpose of compulsion is to protect ourselves from the pain associated with love.
— Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love
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When Food Is Love

11/1/2018

This week I’ve been sharing excerpts on Facebook from When Food is Love by Geneen Roth. Based on the response, they might have been hard to read. I’m facing the hidden parts of me, the parts I’ve scarcely admitted to myself, let alone anyone else. I’m sharing it because we’re all hiding something, and we’re all hiding behind something. I know what my monsters are but I’m only now starting to understand where they came from.

Some of the people closest to me are surprised by all of this, and so was I! I was surprised that the trigger of my destructive compulsions that I searched for for years is rooted in my early childhood when I didn’t feel safe. When nothing scared me more than being alone. I had to “go back to what is underneath the compulsion, to the pain that shaped it and made it necessary,” and when I did I found myself seven years old grasping for something solid to hold onto and coming up empty.

Even more surprising than the origin is its reach. I knew the fingers of childhood pain extended into my adult life, but I didn’t realize their hold kept me suspended, forever on pause, non-committal, and always ready to run (a recent heart mapping test at work showed I’m stuck in fight-or-flight dominance, even when there is no danger). It’s even contributed to my obsession with wanting what is forbidden, the cornerstone of almost all my past relationships—my wonderful husband excluded.

I’ve been an island, anti-dependent, “the cactus.” I am prickly and isolated because at one time I needed to be, and I never figured out how to stop. Sometimes hugs make me uncomfortable. Sometimes saying, “I love you,” hurts for reasons I can’t explain. The frustration and confusion that’s surrounded me and my precious island like a fog is finally starting to lift.

It’s cliché, but the way out really is through. If I keep turning my face away from this monster, I’ll keep repeating the same behaviors over and over for the rest of my life. Facing the monster is scary, change is scary…but nothing is more terrifying than reliving childhood fear in my adult relationships forever.

The years I spent dieting and bingeing were living hell, but the path I followed as I realized compulsive eating was my friend taught me to believe in myself, to laugh at myself, to have courage, to take risks, to enter life more deeply than I ever thought possible. I’ve used the pain of compulsion as a way into the unspeakable in me…It’s not the wound that determines the quality of your life, it’s what you do with the wound—how you hold it, carry it, dance with it, or bury yourself under it.
— Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love
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Battle of the Bread

4/18/2018

Jedi mind tricks would never work on me.

All you Star Wars fans have had the same thought, right? When we watch Rey or Obi-Wan control the actions of weak-minded fools with a subtle wave of a hand, we think, “Ha! What a tool. I have a much stronger mind than that…”

It was a rough day when I realized that I, in fact, did not.

I was reading from Divine Romance, a life-changing book of talks from Paramahansa Yogananda, when his wisdom on cultivating a strong mind reminded me of the latest Star Wars installment. “My mind is plenty strong,” I thought.  “Jedi, do your worst!”

Then I remembered that earlier that same week I was bested by a loaf of bread.

This was no ordinary loaf, mind you. This was unsliced artisan bread; its crust was brown and crisp, the center a fluffy pillow of doughy goodness that smelled like angel wings… You know the kind. I was at my computer in my kitchen when I heard it calling to me from the cupboard.

From past experience I knew if I opened that cupboard door and cut even one slice, I’d eat the whole loaf (or what was left of it). Feigning disinterest, I focused on work. Soon images of a plate of olive oil, balsamic, and herbs danced in front of my computer screen, promising tart, oily herbaceous-ness soaked into every slice. I could practically feel the crust crunch in my teeth. My husband wouldn’t mind if we didn’t have sandwiches for dinner, right? I’ll tell him I had bread for breakfast and lunch (he doesn’t need to know about the scrambled eggs) and make him something else. He’ll probably just be happy he doesn’t have to cook…

I wish my mind had been strong enough to resist the tantalizing call of properly portioned and expertly baked flour and water, but it wasn’t. I ate the bread.  I ate every last bite. How could I think I would last against a Jedi, when I lost a battle to bread? If only Obi-Wan had been there to say, “You don’t want to eat that bread. You want to close the cupboard and re-think your life.” Things might have gone differently.

Instead, Paramahansa Yogananda reminded me of something I should’ve already known:

Your body should be your servant; don’t allow yourself to become its slave. Think of the power of your mind; believe and know that it is the repairer of your body. Live by that mind power!
— Divine Romance
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I’ve had three separate conversations with women in different parts of the country who are experiencing the exact same thing! One woman said, “enough of my B.S., I have to start taking care of myself.” She was speaking to me...my masticating juicer will arrive today, and I’m ready as soon as I unpack it! One step ~ one CHOICE ~ at a time will surely get us where we need to go...
— Lori K
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Take Care of It

9/11/2018

A few weeks ago as I left my new job at the end of a good day, the late summer sun beating down on my face, I slipped into a rare moment of reverie. I was finally doing work outside of writing that mattered to me, which I had thought impossible. I was an active participant in healing myself and others. What could be more perfect?

For a moment I basked in the bliss of this realization and felt a surge of pride that I finally had the courage to leave the old and start anew—and it had worked.

…And then the lovely moment deflated like air escaping a balloon when I remembered how many other things I still had to do.

I was still overweight. Still hadn’t finished a book. Still feeling the effects of the Chiari on a daily basis.

There was still so much farther to go.

At this, an insistent—and rather annoyed—voice in my head said, “Just take care of it already.”

I stopped in my tracks and almost laughed. Just take care of it already. Was it really that easy?

How many times had I skipped a walk in favor of watching a documentary, or made lists about all the things I planned to change only to make a similar—but slightly better—list a few days later? When was the last time I let Elena Brower lead me through 30 minutes of yoga, or made time for a Joe Dispenza meditation? I have the tools to change. At what point do I stop talking and start doing?

Confucius said that life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. He’s right. Instead of making plans and promises that get chucked by the wayside as I continue to live the same way I have for years, it’s time to just take care of it already.

 
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The Meaning of Life

I lost my dad unexpectedly to a car accident in October of 2015. We were texting the night before. That weekend he was supposed to come see my new house for the first time. One minute he was here, and the next he was gone. It happened so fast there was no goodbye, no chance of closure. His death was like a sentence unfinished forever.

We had the funeral the following Thursday. I was to return to work the Monday afterwards, as if twelve days was enough time to reassemble the pieces of my shattered world. Sunday, October 25, the night before my return to work, the reality of his death finally caught up with me. Since I was no longer busy sorting through photos, planning the funeral, or making bad jokes to hide the fact that I had no idea how to process such a loss, a few of my protective layers fell away and the truth of life without my father—without the pillar of our family, my one constant—started to dawn.

I picked up my journal and this is what I wrote:

I used to justify unfortunate events by saying that all things happened for a reason. I don’t think that applies to death. Unless it saves countless lives, it’s useless. Maybe not even then. Death of one person is useless. Even if it somehow saved the rest of us, or taught us lessons we needed to learn, it would never be worth the loss of his life.

He was a life force. Sometimes I tried to stifle him. That was my mistake. No one should ever be stifled. Our lights should shine as bright as the sun to fill the world with it. If there is a lesson, it’s that we should all be as much of ourselves—our whole selves—as possible, every minute of every day of our entire lives.

Maybe that’s it. That’s only it.

That’s the purpose of our lives.

He didn’t care if you loved or hated him, or disagreed with his antics, his politics, or his choices. He was living while he was alive. He was 100% unapologetically Troy D. Rowe all the time, the definition of authentic. And what could possibly be more important than being our truest selves, living our truest lives, every day?

My dad taught me the meaning of life. I’m so fortunate to have known the man that could show me the way. I only wish I didn’t have to lose him to see it.

 
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The Problem with Postponing Happiness

We aren’t guaranteed a future beyond the singular moment in which we live.

There is no time other than the present. If we can’t be happy now, then when?

12/2/14

This morning I got annoyed with myself for being happy.

When I climbed into my car, Passion Pit’s “Carried Away” was playing on the radio and I started to sing. Despite heading to a place I didn’t want to be, for a moment I was…happy.

Which I immediately snuffed out because I had no business being happy when I was on my way to work. I hated that place. Happiness was reserved for weekends only.

Then I realized how foolish it was to get mad for finding a moment of levity in an otherwise unpleasant situation. Why not feel joy over a song by one of my favorite bands? Why not latch on to any passing happiness and stay with it as long as it lasted?

Most importantly, why was my first response revulsion against joy?

Being happy in small moments isn’t giving in. It isn’t me lying down and saying, “I’m content to stay here indefinitely.” It’s simply me enjoying a moment in the moment. I wasn’t thinking about the next nine hours spent in hell at a job I hated until I thought about the next nine hours spent in hell at a job I hated.

Did I just stumble upon the most basic example of living in the moment? I loved that moment even if ten minutes later my circumstances were going to change. I think I’m so afraid of finding happiness now because it feels like a betrayal to what I really want in life. I think I can’t be happy until I’m out of here. I can’t be happy unless I’m a writer working for myself, my health is in order, and the 9-5 (or, in my case, the 7-4) is far behind me.

The obvious problem with this mindset is my happiness is contingent on outside factors, rather than coming from within. Outside factors are sometimes out of my control, and probably won’t change for the better if already I’m miserable. It puts conditions on my happiness.

If those conditions aren’t met, will I ever be allowed to be happy?

 
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Illness is like an imbalanced relationship with a selfish friend who overstays their welcome and slowly chips away at your soul.

But, like any shitty friend, you keep them around because they either bring something to the relationship that you’ve come to rely on, or you “grin and bear it” by taking whatever small gifts they happen to throw your way, like a dog begging for scraps. In my case it was both. As miserable as I often felt, there were certain benefit’s—albeit unfortunate ones—that came with always being ill.

Here are a few of them:

8/16/16

The illness has been my shield. It’s protected me from going too far, feeling too good, and daring to live large. It’s given me an excuse to be lazy, to sleep too long and too much, to skip family gatherings, to be subpar. It’s allowed me to sit, night after night, doing nothing at all, or once again contemplating better things from the comfort of a bathtub or couch pillow. It kept me off my feet, my excuse for delaying action, exercise, and healthy changes. It was the expected “call in sick,” and the permission to let Nyquil help me sleep yet again. The ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card, it’s kept me on the fringe, stagnant, never moving, never fully committing to any new idea, routine, practice, or way of living. With the help of this “disease” I’ve been able to keep one foot out the door at all times. And perhaps the most important function of this illness was that it protected me from failure.

As long as I’m sick, feeling bad will always be at the forefront of my mind. Because it’s stronger than everything else, I spend most of my time dwelling on it. No one expects anything from the sick girl. I sure don’t. And on my deathbed I’ll look back and blame the illness for my shortcomings, for never becoming anything more.

Being sick has absolved me of responsibility. It’s shielded me from failure because you can’t fail if you never try.

 

The Difference a Word Makes

12/16/15 - 2 months after I lost my dad

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I’m mad because my house is always a mess.

I’m mad because I don’t have enough money to do the things I want to do.

I’m mad because my sister dreams about my dad and I don’t.

I’m mad because I don’t feel strong connections to anyone.

I’m mad because I cough too much and have trouble breathing.

I’m mad because of the pain in my head.

I’m mad because I can’t even tie my shoes without difficulty.

I’m mad because I haven’t written in ages.

I’m mad because I’ve written the same New Year’s Resolutions for the last 8 years.

I’m mad because my dad, my constant, isn’t here.

I’m mad because I’m fat.

I’m mad because I can’t feel pretty at all, ever, anymore. And if I do for a minute, the nearest mirror or camera reminds me otherwise.

I’m mad because I bite my fingers relentlessly.

I’m mad because I drink too much.

I’m mad because I feel like I’ve wasted my life.

OR…

I’m mad so my house is always a mess.

I’m mad so I live beyond my means.

I’m mad so I don’t see that my sister is just as lost as I am.

I’m mad so I don’t feel any strong connections to anyone.

I’m mad so I cough too much and have trouble breathing.

I’m mad so there is pain in my head.

I’m mad so I can’t even tie my shoes without difficulty.

I’m mad so I haven’t written in ages.

I’m mad so I have written the same New Year’s Resolutions for the last 8 years.

I’m mad so I think I can’t live without my dad, my rock.

I’m mad so I’m fat.

I’m mad so I can’t feel pretty at all, ever, anymore. And if I do for a minute, the nearest mirror or camera reminds me otherwise.

I’m mad so I bite my fingers relentlessly.

I’m mad so I drink too much.

I’m mad so I feel like I’ve wasted my life.


False Masters

10/13/2014

I had another “ah-ha” moment this morning. I managed to drag my sluggish Monday morning ass out of bed early enough to do my 20 minute yoga DVD, and after a shower I went to reheat a piece of leftover pizza for breakfast. As I unwrapped the foil the question flashed in my head, “Do you want to be like this forever?”

“Like this” as in fat and loathing. It occurred to me—as it has other times—that I make it hard for myself to succeed. I get up early and do yoga but then I eat pizza for breakfast. What is that? It’s not like one piece of pizza is going to make or break things, but if there had been two pieces of pizza, I would’ve made and ate both instead of one. If there had been cheesy bread left, I would’ve eaten that too. Why do I sabotage all my efforts? On the off chance I actually DO make an effort, I follow up with choices that counteract that progress. Why?

Anyway, this minor morning jolt got me thinking. What would happen if I made it easy on myself, instead of hard? What if I didn’t work out like a fiend (ok, that’s a few-and-far-between act, but humor me) only to stuff my face with greasy foods and daily beer? What if I cultivated an environment that would not only allow change, but welcome it with open arms? What if I worked with my intentions instead of against them? Right now there are two people inside me: the thin, healthy person I see in my head, and the spoiled child who wants what she wants, and continues to eat and drink with abandon.

I’ve served the master of food and alcohol for too long.

Wow, I didn’t know I even served this false master until I typed the words. But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I’ve worshiped food and alcohol. I’ve headed their calls for years. I’ve bowed down and obeyed their every demand. I’ve answered every craving, no matter how absurd and detrimental. I haven’t even acted of my own volition.

I have been a slave.

 
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Hungover

5/22/14

I’m seeing the world through the glassy veil of a mild hangover. Two and a half days of nothing but juiced meals and I revert to my old habits at the first opportunity for tapped beer. I’d be disappointed in myself except I’m happy for the lesson. I feel worse than I normally would after four (five?) pints, and I’m worried my lead in the battle of the bulge might be waning. I don’t want to fall behind.

The weekend approaches and this lesson is learned at the right time. I don’t want to feel like this for my engagement pictures. I don’t want to lose all this forward momentum when presented with unlimited grilled meats, chips, and beer, beer, beer. I’m on the cusp of real, honest-to-God change and I want to see it through. I’ve spent far too many years backsliding.

SPOILER ALERT - there were still many more years to go.

 

From the Cube Farm

7/15/14

I am lost, a pale face in a sea of tan and freckles, a nameless cog in a massive wheel. The wheel would function fine without me. Why am I even here?

Because I sold my dreams for a paycheck. Because at some point I decided carving out a meager existence, tromping through the daily grind of living to complete someone else’s life work, was more important than my own mission. What am I doing here?

It’s getting harder and harder to come here every day. This morning, after a combination of nerves and poor food choices kept me in the bathroom for longer than I care to admit, I sat on the floor in front of the tub and contemplated—again—calling in sick. I am sick. I feel sick. Being here makes me sick. I don’t want to ever be happy here because that’s when I get comfy. That’s when I forget that I want to leave.

Artificial Lights

10/31/14 - 11/17/14

It’s been a wonderful, heartbreaking, and eye-opening morning. I got up early to write for the second time this week. Instead of feeling overwhelmed or afraid, I felt…relieved. Afterwards I talked to God because I dreaded going to work so intensely that I couldn’t force myself to get in the car. Is that normal?

How is it that going to this job makes me physically ill when other people survive their working hours unscathed? Being here feels so WRONG that I have to pray for the strength to get out of bed in the morning knowing I’ll feel the disease in my bones the moment I walk through the door and go home crying at the end of my shift. Why? Is it just a case of not liking my job? I don’t know. Most people—here and everywhere, I suppose—tolerate their jobs at best...right? Is everyone else this miserable? And if so, why aren’t they talking about it?

I guess I can’t blame them. I don’t talk about it either. Instead the disdain leaks out my pores while I drown my sorrows with rising crust pizza and pints of beer.

Once upon a time I trusted my instincts.  If the person that I used to be felt this way, I would understand: I just don't belong here.

I want to believe that this deep-seeded dread that fills me before I go to work is my defense mechanism telling me that I’m on the wrong path, ensuring me that if I break out of this prison—no matter how scary or uncertain—it will be for the best. I used to believe in such things. I don’t want to live in a world that is void of possibilities, but that’s exactly the world I’ve created for myself. How sad. If I once again believed in magic, miracles, and endless possibilities, would I start living like they exist?

One thing I do know, people aren’t meant to work under these artificial lights

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Tighty Whities

From Spring of 2017

I got upset over underwear today.

I was deeply agitated by a load of tighty whities that was going to miss pickup by not one, but two days (I work in transportation). In in my moment of frustration I once again questioned the life choices that brought me here. No closer to an answer than any other time a rescheduled load of insignificant crap tore through my psyche like a semi-truck, I went outside on my lunch break, tied my little grey cat to a tree, and watched him chew on the grass I mowed yesterday. Why wasn’t I born a cat? Maybe next time. This time, however, I find myself barely clinging to the first half of my thirties in a body twice it’s normal size, freaking out over undelivered underwear, wondering how the hell I’m going to buck up the courage to go back to my desk in an hour. What miraculous quote or well-timed butterfly will snap the universe into place so that I no longer care about the past-due panties, and finally feel at peace?

I have a sneaking suspicion that I will find said peace when it is no longer my job to stress about unshipped loads of underwear.

Until then?

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Easter Morning with My Dog

Cigarette butts. So many it’s as if the whole world smokes. And a flattened pack of menthols.

My dog pees.

A woodpecker searching for breakfast.

My dog’s haunches go up as she growls at a tribute to a fallen soldier. I urge her along.

Another dog and two teenage boys in camo hats and sweatshirts, the kind of backroad boys from my youth, trying to quiet their mutt, chasing it down the road when it gets loose.

More cigarette butts, their golden filters flicked carelessly from car windows.

A dead bird, stopped forever in flight.

A house and barn dressed for Easter, colored eggs dangling from every tree branch, and two real bunnies in the yard as if they found the right place.

My dog pees again. She’s collecting a lot of property today.

The cars are faster here; the wind dishevels my neon vest as they pass.

A flock of geese crosses the sky ahead of us, honking.

My dog squats, more urgent business.

Horse apples.

Tractor tire marks in the dirt at the shoulder.

A blackened banana peel.

My dog claims more real estate.

Sweating, despite my father-in-law’s concern that I would get cold, I stop to remove my overshirt.

A hunk of mud I think is a cat; a tree trunk at the edge of the woods that might be a bear cub.

It’s not.

Another blackened banana. Who is eating all these bananas? Are they for the horses?

I remember when, a few miles away on a parallel road, my sister and I would collect trash from the ditch with our little red wagon.

Another bird dead, this one a red-winged blackbird bloated in the street.

My dog is intrigued by a mailbox with horse legs.

The house is in sight. I imagine they are waiting in anticipation of our return since they know every old bat and bitty is out squinting through their bifocals to make early Easter mass at the country church.

I think of when Stephen King got hit by a car while walking, and like a true genius laid there on the ground hatching new work.

I tried to email him once when a wine buzz had me feeling brave. I told him I murdered my darlings because I thought a nod to his memoir would make him take me seriously.  

I still haven’t heard back.

We wipe our feet.

The smell of coffee and smoked fish on the counter.

Polkas on the radio.

Warmth from the oven; dinner is already cooking.