Happy Places

I have a few things I want to write about, so please forgive the jumping around.

I’ve written “I love you” in every Mother’s Day card I’ve ever given. But this was the first year that I really felt it. I knew that I really meant it.

We’ve had a rocky past, but for some reason things really turned a corner on our last trip to Hawaii. I’ve always been more of a daddy’s girl, but it’s like a switch flipped when he found out that he needed a knee replacement. I don’t understand why, but I could relate so much more to my mom. Maybe it was the commiseration. Maybe it was just that it was the first time that I really considered that my dad might be…old. Or maybe I just made a decision (conscious or not) to give her a fighting chance. But for whatever reason, she is now the one I want to tell everything to. It’s taken a while to adjust to the new dynamic, but I really wanted her to understand how much more I mean it this year.

I’ve always been vocally jealous of my friends’ close relationships with their moms. Now I feel like I finally have one too!

Secondly, I was faced with a very triggering situation this weekend and it was the first time I’d really tested this new-found faith of mine. There is one recurring situation that I’ve never quite figured out how to handle. It usually makes me obsessive, which leads to a lot of guilt and shame and sends me into a slow downward spiral until I completely melt down.

I was determined not to let that happen this time. Which meant I needed to nip it in the bud.

I did my best to keep my mind occupied and focused on other things (Thank you, Royal Wedding!). But do you know what I realized? Positive thinking really is like the domino effect. I forced myself to find the positive in every situation and eventually I didn’t even have to think about it. I had to start deliberately, but then it just started to flow. And as it flowed, it carried my thoughts away from the tricky situation.

Now, a day later, I can still think about it, but it doesn’t consume my thoughts. I can turn it off and walk away. I can walk toward happier and more productive thoughts.

I’m having a hard time feeling anything but bliss right now. It’s been a long, but rewarding day. My mom was determined to figure out all of our floral areas around the yard and get everything planted and, somehow, we actually did it!

My biggest goal became turning the porch into a cozy little happy place for me (without any crazy DIY projects!). I think I definitely nailed it.

This has always been my favorite place to curl up with a book. It’s been one of the most inspiring places to write. It’s the perfect setting for a leisurely conversation with a friend. It’s where I feel most connected to nature and where my dreams don’t seem so crazy. I love a good ocean view (Aloha!), but there’s really no beating this. It’s my little corner of the world.

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Balance

Things have been really different lately. I’ve been feeling a lot more balanced and at peace than I ever have. I can trace it back to a few different things.

First of all, Minnesota finally decided that it’s time for spring! I don’t know if you heard, but we had a little blizzard at the beginning of April. And then we had another sizable blizzard a week later. We literally couldn’t leave the house all weekend and we had 15 inches of snow piled up on our deck. The snow slowly melted away and then all of a sudden we were hit with 80 degree days! It was a bit of a shock to the system, but very, very welcomed! We finally have patio and lawn furniture set up, new climbing toys for the kids hung in the woods, LEAVES AND FLOWERS(!), meals on the deck, walks outside without coats and boots(!), and, most importantly, afternoons spent reading in the sun on the porch!

Second of all, I’ve been trying to disconnect from my phone a little bit. I get into really unhealthy patterns with it and I want to be able to walk away without having a panic attack. So I started “forgetting” it in the house during my walks, leaving it in my purse a little longer at work, leaving it upstairs when I go downstairs to work out and watch TV and, for the most part, leave it in one specific place when the kiddos are around. I think I’m on about week 3 of this new routine, and I’ve already lost interest in most social media and apps that I used to check almost hourly. I allow myself one binge in the morning, when I spend about 40 minutes on my phone before I even get out of bed. (Well, technically I get out of bed first, because I keep my phone across the room while I sleep, but I get snuggled in again after I grab it!) And that’s even starting to dwindle.

I cannot recommend this enough. I have been so much more engaged with my surroundings and have actually gotten busier because I’ve found other ways to spend my time. And let’s be honest, I don’t get a lot of texts to begin with and the ones I get can wait an hour for a response. (I also get alerts on my Fitbit, so I’m really not missing anything.)

Another affect of my phone “detox” is that I’m actually in a much better place with my friends (Ironic?). I was starting to feel really clingy with one friend in particular and disconnected from the others. The guilt and shame were eating at me and turning me into a person I hate. That has all balanced out since I’ve taken a step back.

One of the hobbies I’ve had more time for because of my new phone habits is reading. I’ve had at least 10 samples of books sitting on my kindle since last summer. I’ve read 2 books in the past 2 weeks. I used to binge shows on Netflix while the kids were sleeping and I was waiting for their parents to get home on work days. But recently I’ve developed a new routine: quick workout, super quick phone check, read. Let me tell ‘ya, the time flies by!

But I think the biggest reason for my transformation is that I’ve finally gotten in touch with my spiritual side. The seed was already planted, what with my growing up in a Catholic family, attending Catholic school for 12 years and accompanying my parents to church pretty much every Sunday of my life. But do you want to know what prompted me to take that leap of faith? (Pun intended!)

A dating website.

In a moment of weakness (and, honestly, boredom), I joined a dating site for single Christians.

That’s right. That one.

And it just made me feel like a fraud. There I was reading about how important faith was in all of these guys’ lives and what their favorite verses were and I couldn’t relate. I studied it all for 12 years, but I didn’t feel like it was an important part of my life.

And I felt like it was time to make time for it.

I ordered some books on Amazon and dove right in. There are two books in particular that are really resonating with me. I can relate to so much of what they say and they put it in easy-to-understand terms. One of the big reasons I resisted throughout my teen years and college was because I hated the preachy Christians. These books are NOT that.(Highly recommend this and this.) I read them every day when I just need a few minutes to myself to regroup and shift my focus. I have another one that I read right before I get out of bed in the morning. Now I look forward to those moments. I crave them. They make me feel understood in the most satisfying way I’ve ever known.

I’m still figuring out how to verbalize what it all means to me, but it has affected me very deeply.

I can’t remember which book said it, but it was brought up that everyone needs to find their own faith. Even if they were brought up in a faith-based family. Each person needs to find out what faith means to them. And just like everything else in life, sometimes it comes when you least expect it. I certainly wasn’t expecting inspiration to hit when I joined that dating site. (Although maybe it already had–why did I feel the need to join that site in particular?)

Everything just feels better.

I feel like a new me!

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Special

I am aware of how selfish I’m about to sound, but I’ve been holding this back for a while now and I need to get it out of my head:

The number of people in the world makes me mad.

Forget the world for a minute, there are literally millions of other people in the United States going about their lives thinking in one way or another, they are special.

I live a simple life and I don’t have grand or unrealistic dreams, but there are certain things that make me feel like I’ve really got it figured out. I have the best life. I live in the most beautiful place, I have the best family, friends, pets, job, etc.

Then I think about all the other people in the world living an eerily similar life and suddenly the sparkle is gone. I’m not special. I’m just ordinary. Everything and everyone so dear to me, so special to me, is really just ordinary.

I remember the first time I wondered what would happen if there was no life. First I started small: what happens if there’s no Carrie? That was easy enough, my family would still be intact, I just wouldn’t be in the pictures. But then I jumped to, well, what if my parents never existed? That got a little more complicated. Then the big question came: what happens when there’s no life? Do the lights just go out? But there wouldn’t be anyone around to notice…I suddenly understood the phrase “mind blown.” I couldn’t, and still can’t, comprehend it.

But every now and then I find myself thinking, what’s the point? If I’m not special, why am I here? Of course you’re special, little snowflake. No one has ever been you and no one ever will be. No one else ever has or ever will experience the world quite the way you do.

Well, I say bullshit.

Plenty of people experience the world exactly the same way I do. Plenty of people have the same goals and dreams I do. Plenty of people have the same tastes I do. Plenty of people have the same interests as me. Plenty of people experience the same emotions as me. Plenty of people have the same emotional attachments to people, places and objects as I do. Plenty of people have the same annoyances I do. Plenty of people have the same hardships I do.

Maybe this whole train of thought is something everyone deals with, too.

Maybe this is all just another way that I’m not special.

But here’s the thing: I try so hard to be anything but special. I don’t want to stand out. So why the hell does this bother me so much?

It just makes everything seem so bleak. It sours my special moments. It makes me want to give up more than anything else ever has. How can people keep living and thriving after a realization like this?

I’ll let you know when the fog clears.

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Beauty

March has brought a few changes to my life. Relationships and schedules are changing left and right.

Yesterday was especially hard. After hiding it from me for most of the day, my mom broke some news that sent my head spinning. I was shocked. I was furious. I was confused. I was hurt. I was scared. Did I mention I was confused? I was so taken aback that I literally could not process what she was saying.

I let it ruminate for a few hours while I got back to my normal routine. I wasn’t thinking, however, and decided to watch a show featuring a wedding. Show me parents just barely getting an “I love you” out through tears and I’m done. Needless to say, that put me in an emotional state.

I have this habit of talking things through with my reflection before bed on nights like that. It’s never a short “conversation.” The embarrassing part is that I actually like seeing myself fall apart. I watch as the tears fill my eyes and the first one falls to my cheek. I tousle my hair a little as I wipe the tears away and actually think “I look so pretty.” So I keep talking to make the tears keep flowing. When the well runs dry, I just stare. My makeup is smeared the perfect amount, my eyes are glistening and tired with just the right amount of sadness, my hair perfectly messy, my mind all out of words. And I look at that reflection and think “Now you’re pretty.”

I don’t know why I can’t think that way the rest of the day, but there’s also something really beautiful about loving yourself at your “worst.” Even though I feel ashamed every time I push myself over that ledge, I always feel so much more sure and secure immediately after.

As always, the situation doesn’t seem as devastating today. Not to say that it’s not a big deal–it still is. It just doesn’t sting as much as it did yesterday.

As I was getting ready for bed last night, I thought about all the nights I’ve felt inspired while lying in bed. I’ve always chosen to let the inspiration slip away instead of getting up and writing it down.

Well, last night I wrote it down:

As I wiped my makeup off, if felt like I was stripping away pieces of me. Pieces of armor. With each wipe, I was getting closer to my raw self.

I’ve always thought I’ve looked the most beautiful after a good cry or a long day. Even using the word “beautiful” about myself feels dirty. Feels wrong. Like I’m not worthy.

But that clean face staring back at me looked stronger than the made-up one ever had. She looked determined. She looked sure. She looked real. She knew that everything would work out. She had faith. She felt powerful and loved. She felt beautiful.

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Monday Morning Thoughts

How do you store all of your digital pictures? Seriously, I’m asking.

The thought was brought up by a snide remark from my mom regarding the number of pictures I keep. I’ve always known that she’s approved of me taking pictures, but is simultaneously disgusted by the amount that I don’t delete. “I would only need 50 pictures a year, max!” (An unfortunate result of being raised by a hoarder is that she goes too far the other way.)

I currently have them stored on 2 different computers (in different formats–edited and non-edited), an external hard drive, a time machine, Google Photos, Amazon Photos and Flickr. Not to mention in their original versions on memory cards and my phone’s SD card. Oh, yeah, and I have a collection of physical photo books using only the best pictures (which are also stored online).

That sounds like a lot, but somehow I feel like I’m not covered. I’m trying to get more comfortable with the ‘delete’ button. I really only delete the pictures that are blurry or were mistakes. My mom’s comments bother me because I know, to a degree, she’s right.

I recently deleted an entire album of about 1,500 pictures from my phone because I needed to free up space for app updates (sound familiar?). While I hadn’t actually looked at them since I got this new phone (they were transferred over from my last phone), it was still a painful experience. I triple checked that I had them backed up on the computer and Flickr before deleting, but still. Painful.

I want to be able to clear up space on my phone and the computers without it being an emotional thing every time. But I also want to be confident that I have a solid plan that can handle my excessive photo taking hobby.

Now that I’m writing all of this out and seeing it on “paper,” I’m realizing that this isn’t about the actual process of storing and backing up the pictures (And that I actually have them stored in a lot more places than I thought). It’s about being confident enough that the snide remarks don’t affect me.

There seems to be a common thread here…

How’s that for Monday morning?

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Grand Expectations

Does anyone else build up their expectations to a completely unrealistic level only to be let down every time?

I’ve had so many of those occasions in the last week or so and I just can’t get past it. I feel like I should be able to manage it more and not get so emotionally invested in things. But on the flip side, on that rare occasion when things meet or exceed my expectations, I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.

I was thinking about the StrenghthsFinder test this morning. I took it years ago and go back and reread my strengths every now and then. I did that this morning. Some of them were so relevant it was eerie.

For example, my number one strength was discipline. The very first sentence in the description is, “Your world needs to be predictable.” Pretty much me in a nutshell.

“Faced with the inherent messiness of life, you want to feel in control. The routines, the timelines, the structure, all of these help create this feeling of control…Your dislike of surprises, your impatience with errors, your routines, and your detail orientation don’t need to be misinterpreted as controlling behaviors that box people in.”

This is one of those things that I just don’t connect up on a regular basis. Of course certain situations ramp up my anxiety–I’ve lost my control. That’s the basis of my anxiety. If I can’t control a situation, I don’t know how to handle it. I don’t know how to deal with it and push through. In many of those situations, I tend to just shut down.

My second strength, appropriately enough, was deliberative:

“You are careful. You are vigilant. You are a private person. You know that the world is an unpredictable place…You select your friends cautiously and keep your own counsel when the conversation turns to personal matters.”

This is the one that’s hitting home right now. The friend part is pretty spot on for today and it’s what I beat myself up over most. It’s the one part of myself I’ve been working the hardest at for the longest amount of time. I want to be able to open up and be completely vulnerable, but I’m never ready. Going back to the last strength, I always want to be in control of the situation and I never am, by my own choice, by the way.

Perhaps the most dead-on (and definitely most relevant), however, was my third strength: futuristic.

“You are the kind of person who loves to peer over the horizon. The future fascinates you. As if it were projected on the wall, you see in detail what the future might hold, and this detailed picture keeps pulling you forward into tomorrow…When the present proves too frustrating and the people around you too pragmatic, you conjure up your visions of the future and they energize you.”

I do this all the time. When life is just too much for me to handle, which is pretty much all the time, I retreat into my head and plan out future events. It could be planning out the next day or imagining all of the possibilities for the next get together with a friend or it could be planning my wedding, decorating my first house, imagining my kids, grandkids, etc. And on some more somber days, I imagine my parents dying and planning their funerals, my brother dying and having to help his family deal with that, a future without my favorite furry friend. You can pretty much ask me how I think any future event will go and I can give you a detailed description, because I’ve given it a lot of thought.

Going back to the friend scenario, I get it in my head that I just need to tweak this one thing next time and everything will just flow and work out exactly as it did in my head. I have reimagined the same scenario hundreds of times by now, only changing the location, the season, my clothes and the beverage in my hand. Those reimaginings are what keep me going, though. Those are what I imagine as I’m falling asleep every night as my anxiety is telling me that’ll never happen. Stop dreaming.

This is where I get myself in trouble, though. When those events come and go and they don’t live up to that grand expectation I’ve created, it’s disappointing, to say the least. Nothing can ever live up to the dream. That realization is gut-wrenching.

But dreamers still dream.

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Changes

Hello!

I’m back.

Sort of.

Things have been changing around here.

I’m feeling restless again. That seems to be a thing that happens to me at the beginning of every year now. Last year I was feeling restless with my job, but this year I’m feeling restless with my living situation.

It’s not that I don’t feel like I’m welcome at home–I know my parents love to have me around. But I’ve been feeling like I’m not giving them enough space to just be them.

My dad had a knee replacement last week and has only been home a few days. He’s way ahead of schedule with his recovery and I feel like I’m in the way. I’ve never been comfortable with “sick” people and hospitals and I’ve been forced to deal with both more than ever this past week. But is it wrong of me to say that I’m disappointed his recovery is going so smoothly and quickly? There’s a part of me that wants a better story to tell. Then the other part of me incessantly reminds me that he’s a person, too, and doesn’t deserve that kind of hardship.

We got back from our annual trek to Hawaii 5 days before my dad’s surgery. Because of his level of discomfort, we had to change our expectations for the trip. We did a lot less walking and a lot more laying around. I could get on board with that, but it took some time to get used to. I was looking forward to walking into town everyday and taking a beach walk at least once a day and swimming in the lagoon and ocean and maybe even trying out the brand new fitness center. Instead, we walked into town on an average of 3 times a week. We did a beach walk about twice a week. We swam about once a week. And we never used the fitness center. We were there for 3 weeks.

Now, I know that I could have gone off and done all of that on my own. And I probably would have enjoyed it. But my anxiety ramps up to a crazy level when I think about doing things on my own. If I had a friend along, without a doubt, we would have gone off and done things on our own. I just can’t handle being completely alone in a place like that.

My last friend who lives at home is starting to talk about moving out. She’s shared a room with one of her sisters most of her life and that sister is about to graduate from college and possibly move back home. My friend would kind of like to have her own place before that becomes a reality. I had always imagined us sharing a first place, but that feels like a big step that I’m not ready for yet.

On the other hand, I think my relationships with my parents would only improve with a little distance.

But they just redid my bathroom…I just figured out how to make my bedroom mine…I can’t leave Cocoa and Charlie…I don’t want to cook in some dinky little kitchen…I don’t want to have to pay for my own groceries and utilities and cable and cell phone and insurance…I still want to be able to be as present as ever in my niece and nephew’s lives…I want to be able to walk out the door and go for a long walk through my own private paradise…This is and always will be my home…

But how long is too long?

How scary is scary enough?

When I think about it long enough, I realize that there are going to be enough changes in my life this year. I don’t think I need to overdo it and completely overwhelm myself with the prospect of moving out, too. I think the more realistic thing is to find one thing that can be just mine. One thing that I can do by myself and for myself that is outside of this house. That alone is an intimidating proposition. And I think that might be enough of a catalyst.

I need to start creating a life for myself outside of this house.

Gulp.

I’ll keep you updated.

Can it at least be February now?! I want to move on from January!

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