Old Habits

Something miraculous happened today. Well, maybe not miraculous. But it was certainly a change for me.

I was faced with the triggering situation I’ve mentioned in other posts and I feel like I reverted back to old habits. (You know the saying!) I obsessed and felt guilty and ashamed of what I was doing.

But one thing changed.

I always end up going for a walk to try and clear my mind and when I reach a certain spot with my favorite view (I call it my mountaintop), I pause and let the emotions wash over me. Usually this ends with me clutching my phone to my chest while sobbing and feeling sorry for myself and trying to decide whether I want to burden a friend with my sob story.

But as I approached that spot today, the only way I can explain it is that it felt like I was revisiting the scene of a crime. Or the scene of a great tragedy. Things were visually very different–the big open field is starting to get developed–but it was more than that. It was that feeling a character in a suspense novel gets at the end of the story. You know, when they go back to the place where they had that really big fight and someone “accidentally” dies. (I’ve been reading a lot of those books lately…) It felt like a line was drawn. I looked around and had memories of those days, but this was a new beginning. Things were physically and emotionally very different. But also exactly the same.

As I approached the fence and started to let down my guard, I was startled by my gut reaction.

I prayed.

I actually prayed out loud for the strength and courage and confidence to get through this situation. I tried to contain sobs and admitted that I can’t do this alone and that I need help.

I was so humbled by the beauty in front of me. Yes, things were changing. There was the beginning of a road, a fire hydrant and construction trucks. But it was still the same view I’ve been admiring for years. The tall grasses still blew in the wind, the birds still flocked to the pond, the butterflies and dragonflies still floated through the grasses, the big, strong Oaks still rustled their leaves. Everything was the same and yet, everything was completely different.

I turned around, crouched down and completely lost it. The tears kept flowing as the prayer became internal.

Eventually the tears stopped and I felt the need to circle around, walk it off and return to the same spot. As I walked, I felt more and more at peace. Words and phrases kept popping up in my mind and by the time I got back to my “mountaintop” I knew what I wanted to say.

I did end up calling a friend, but not with my sob story. I explained that things have been different lately. Better. I told her I wanted to tell her more about it in person sometime soon.

I haven’t talked with anyone about my new-found faith. I’ve kept it to myself because I don’t want to be that Jesus freak. I haven’t told my parents because while they would appreciate that I’ve come around, I don’t think they would quite understand why I don’t agree with them on all aspects. We’ve also had cryptic conversations about faith being a personal thing that you don’t need to vocalize to others. My friends all grew up in a church–not necessarily mine–and it’s just never been a major talking point for us.

But I’m ready to share. I want to be able to talk about it with someone who might understand. So I called a friend whose family has gone to our church for more than 10 years. (In fact, I saw her at church this morning!) She grew up in a much more openly religious family, but we’ve never really talked about it.

This is a big step for me. I’m nervous, but I’m also excited. I’m mostly just relieved to finally let those old habits die.

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Right Now

You guys.

It’s been a week.

Oh, man.

Nothing big happened, but a whole lotta small things happened.

I had a whole post written up that I was going to publish last week, but (thankfully) when I went to hit “Publish” it was dinner time and I decided I’d read through it one more time before sending it out into the blogosphere.

It always bothers me that we don’t do anything special for summer holidays and my friends and their families do, but for some reason it hit me especially hard last weekend. I fleshed out my feelings about the subject in the almost-post and ended up actually expressing it (quite emotionally, I might add) to my parents at dinner. We finished dinner with the understanding that we would treat the weekend as a staycation.

Luckily, the weather helped us out. It was the hottest Memorial Day on record here and the high temperature never dipped below 90° for 6 days. It was too hot to do anything outside, so we spent most of the weekend in/by the pool, experimenting with Mai Tai recipes, making (and receiving) far too many sweet treats, catching up on The Crown, whipping up fancy brunches for friends (just call me Martha!) and falling in love with our hometown all over again. It may not have been the lake, but it was one of the best Memorial Day weekends I can remember.

By Tuesday, I was actually missing the kids. And this was the last week of “normal” scheduling before things start getting topsy turvy for the summer, so I was determined to take it all in and enjoy every minute.

Spoiler alert: not every minute was worth remembering. And it rained. Almost. Every. Day.

On top of that, I was feeling pretty sluggish and disappointed from all of the indulging I was doing over the weekend.

Lots of familiar thoughts started popping up and it was exhausting trying to quiet them.

But I did.

I dove headfirst into a new book, made exercise a priority again, started saying no to that second slice of cake (and banana bread and ice cream sandwich and cookie…), made a new get-up-and-go playlist and started looking at minutes and hours instead of days, weeks and months.

I’m realizing that while I’m a planner and actually enjoy planning out months at a time, it’s healthier for me to focus on right now. 

Right now my nephew is sleeping, my niece is playing Barbies, my dad is mowing the lawn and my mom is off to help a friend finish a big project. Yes, later today I will be tested. Chaos will ensue and I will probably lose my cool. Tears will be shed and food will be thrown.

But right now I’m sitting in the sun in my favorite spot with my favorite dog doing what I love. Enjoying the peace.

It may only last a few more minutes, but that’s all I need.

Right now everything is good.

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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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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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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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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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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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