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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The Wait

It’s a lonely night.

I’m lucky enough to have someone I can reach out to in these instances, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do.

I still have trouble stripping back all the layers and being completely vulnerable.

Without any of us realizing it, my parents raised me to keep the ugly feelings inside. Me being of the generation I am, that doesn’t feel natural. I feel like I should be able to be me, ugly or pretty, all the time. But I have to unlearn the bad habits and retrain myself. And I desperately want to.

But it’s hard.

It’s really hard to grow up.

I have these flashes of clarity and confidence, but that’s all they are. They disappear as quickly as they appear and leave me feeling hopeless.

I know I’ll find my path one day, but the wait is excruciating.

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Unfollow

I’m just going to say it: Facebook sucks.

I mean it’s amazing, but it sucks.

I have learned that my mind just can’t handle the constant comparisons. So-and-so is engaged! So-and-so is married! So-and-so is pregnant! So-and-so bought a house! So-and-so got a new “grown up” job! So-and-so had so much fun drinking with friends last night! So-and-so went on an incredible vacation! So-and-so has the best family!

Carrie doesn’t care! Or rather, Carrie does care and is actually a little jealous.

See, all I hear in my mind is: I’m not engaged, I’m not married, I’m not pregnant, I didn’t buy a new house, I don’t have a “grown up” job, I don’t go drinking with friends, I didn’t go on an incredible vacation, I don’t have the best family.

I’m not recognizing the joys of the little things in my life. It’s making me question my relationships (we don’t do that, so we must not be as close as them). It’s making me feel inferior. I’m such a loser.

And I’m done with that mindset. I’m done with the comparisons. I can’t live like that anymore.

Last week I did a little experiment. It was hard, but I kind of gave up Facebook. I only let myself check it once in the morning. That’s it. (We actually did have an incredible little day trip, (which I should share with you sometime) which helped for about 2 days.)

Then my sister-in-law posted a video of my niece. And my cousin posted a picture of her little one. And one of my best friends posted a picture of her family on vacation.

I realized that I was a lot happier without it, but I didn’t want to give it up completely. I still love seeing posts from my closest friends and my extended family that I don’t get to see often. And oddly enough, those don’t stir up any jealous feelings.

So today I unfollowed everyone I wouldn’t acknowledge if they walked past me on the street. Which ended up being most of my “friends.”

We’ll see if I feel like I’m missing out on anything, although I don’t think I will.

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Baggage

The teeter-totter continues.

I don’t know how to talk about this stuff anymore. It’s a big thing to put your baggage out there for the world to see. Even if it’s only a teensy, tiny corner of the great big blogosphere. Even if it’s only one of your best friends.

After causing what I might call a stink, I finally got to hang out with one of my best (and busiest) friends this week. I had made a loose promise to myself and to her that I was going to talk about certain deep subjects. I made a promise to myself that I was going to let myself go and just go with the flow. I broke both of those promises.

Now, however, I think it turned out exactly how it was supposed to. In the aftermath, I made some more bad decisions and, somehow, got the message and validation I was yearning for all along.

I don’t know what this means. I can’t sit around and analyze everything anymore. That’s one of the lessons I learned that night.

I actually had an anxiety attack as I was trying to fall asleep. I know that there are people out there whose anxiety strikes more powerfully and more often than mine, but that was a wake-up call for me. My mind is constantly playing games with me and taking me places it doesn’t need to, but it usually quiets down enough for me to be able to fake it and, damn it, fall asleep!

But that night my mind just kept screaming at me and replaying the days events through a darkened lens. I couldn’t escape the thoughts. I needed a release. I felt like I was possessed. I sat up and yelled at my brain to STOP as loud as I felt comfortable doing with my parents a few rooms away. I didn’t notice for a few seconds that I was sobbing uncontrollably.

I made no effort to stop.

I watched the clock as the minutes ticked by. After the longest five minutes of my life, I realized I wasn’t crying anymore.

A few minutes later, I received the texts I had been waiting for. One of them simply said, “Don’t let your mind start running.”

I don’t think anything had ever hit home like that. All of a sudden I felt very secure.

The next morning I woke up feeling motivated and happy. The feeling hasn’t really left all week and it’s starting to give me more confidence. I finally feel like I can stop trying to prove myself and just be myself.

My anxiety never goes away completely, but I’m starting to notice some triggers that really cause it to spiral out of control. If I can identify them, I can avoid them. Learning to live with anxiety is also a lesson in self-control. It’s definitely a process.

My birthday is in about a week, so I’m really curious to see how that unfolds. 22 has taught me a lot, but I have a feeling it still has a few more surprises in store.

As always, I will try my best to Keep Calm & Carrie On.

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Summer of Change

There are lot of changes happening this summer.

My parents are currently at my mom’s retirement dinner with her coworkers. She has one more day of work left, next Tuesday, followed by a few weeks of moving everything out and then she’s done. It’s very exciting for her, but a little scary for my dad and I. We have no idea how she’s going to fill her time–she’s starting to show signs of maybe being ready to slow down a bit, but she’s always been a very busy and involved person. We’ve learned how to keep the house running without her around and, honestly, really like it that way.

We are also in the midst of a bathroom renovation that rapidly grew to include siding, trim, carpet and other odd jobs around the house. My dad and I spent a good portion of Mother’s Day moving everything from my room and bathroom down to the guest bedroom and bathroom. (We let my mom do whatever she wanted; she chose gardening.) We didn’t realize how bad the bathroom looked until it was all emptied out!

Since I moved downstairs, we’ve discovered more and more things to improve in that bathroom. We’re replacing just about everything that doesn’t require more than a drill or a wrench to remove.

 

My bathroom is getting a little more work done…

I was really dreading the first day of demo. I thought I would really miss my space, but now that it’s all torn apart I’m just really excited for the finished product, which should be stunning! They’re putting up drywall next week, so things will really start taking shape!

On the less exciting end of the spectrum, my parents think they’ve found a new home for our last llama, Rosie. The process really sped up after a visit from one of my uncles. He tends to make things happen and straight up asked my dad why we still had Rosie. He hadn’t even been in the house five minutes when he called up a llama farm in eastern Wisconsin. That didn’t pan out, but he was applying some pressure and my dad finally decided to look into it seriously. They found a petting zoo about 90 minutes south of here that’s interested.

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I’m having trouble adjusting to the thought of not having any llamas. I was only two when my parents got the first two, which means that we’ve had them for 20 years. And Rosie was the only one who was born here. She’s never known anything different and now they’re going to send her to a petting zoo? She still seems to be pretty happy here, even if she doesn’t have any other llamas to socialize with. And I can’t imagine not having llamas around for my niece and nephew. My dad can understand that. Which is why he’s agreed to having chicks, ducks or pheasants every spring. Birds fly away before winter! So we now have four chicks.

So, yeah. Lots of changes. This will be an interesting summer.

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Midnight Musings

I wrote this last night as I was lying in bed. I was determined to not touch my phone once I crawled into bed. But as I lay there with my eyes closed, I felt content. I haven’t felt that level of contentment in a long time, so I knew I had to write about it.


I really do feel like I’ve been learning a lot about myself this year. I mean, I better be; I said this has to be the Year of Carrie.

On paper it may not look like much has changed, but I’m starting to feel different inside. I’m starting to discover new parts of myself and learning how to label and deal with some older parts.

I think a lot of that has to do with shifting my focus from kids to me. At the end of last year I made the decision to stop dedicating entire posts to my niece, who basically was my 2016. That started the domino effect. I found a perfect outlet for all of my excitement surrounding the kids and all of a sudden it started feeling okay to put myself first.

I started paying attention to the things I swept under the rug for years. I did research and came to a better understanding of why I am the way I am. I started to notice how individual things make me feel–physically and emotionally. I started listening to my body and doing things that felt good and–this was big for me–stopped doing things that didn’t. I started making conscious decisions about my relationships with family and friends. Everything seems to have become more deliberate.

But I feel so much more free.

I cannot believe we’re almost at the halfway point of 2017. What more can I possibly learn about myself?!

Just kidding!

I can’t wait to see what else 2017 will teach me!

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