10 Life Lessons I Learned From My Mom

Image source from https://deathandglorytaxidermy.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/broken-butterflies/. Check out this blogger's taxidermied butterfly art. It's incredible!
Image source from https://deathandglorytaxidermy.wordpress.com. Check out this blogger’s taxidermied butterfly art. It’s incredible!
  1. If you need a little mood boost, there’s nothing like taking a hot shower or bath and then slathering your neck and chest in a yummy-smelling lotion. That little act of self-care can do a lot. (I remember Mom letting me use her special Avon cream.)
  2. Presentation is everything. Cakes, tables, presents…taking the time to put them together with love and care says a great deal to the receiver of these things. (Still, I’ll never be able to wrap a gift like my mother.)
  3. If you can’t figure out what’s wrong, it’s probably HORMONES.
  4. When decorating your home, consider using an odd number of items.
  5. Giving truly is better than receiving. (My mother is one of the most generous people I have ever met. She derives so much pleasure from picking out gifts for others.)
  6. Sometimes all a person really needs is for someone to listen.
  7. The proper way to measure flour for baking is to spoon it into the cup, then even the top off with the edge of a knife.
  8. By using your pinkie, thumb and index finger you can create a little “gun” for shooting rubber bands.
  9. The deepest beauty is found in simplicity. (When I was little…wee little…Mom would strap me into the bike seat and we would ride around town looking for pretty things…a butterfly wing, a stone, a colorful leaf. I’ve never forgotten this.)
  10. The true meaning of unconditional love. (I love you, Momma.)

A (Very Short) Bedtime Story

A long time ago, in a galaxy much like this one, boys and girls, there lived a very sad girl. The fire in this sad girl’s heart had been nearly snuffed out, and she struggled just to find the strength to make her way through each new day.

Luckily for this very sad girl, there also lived a wise old man. And when the girl cried to this man that she had lost all her hope, he looked her in her very sad eyes and said, “It’s okay, very sad girl, if you cannot have hope in this moment, for I have enough hope for both of us.”

And this, boys and girls, is what I want to share with you tonight, as you drift off into soft pillows and magic dreams. If you have lost your hope, do not fear! For I have enough hope to last us both until you find yours again.

 

On…Choosing Childlessness

children

I never really felt like the ‘mommy’ type. When many of my high school friends talked about getting married and starting a family, I vaguely wondered if there might be something wrong with me for NOT feeling this drive. Marriage? Yes, maybe. Babies? Hmm…I dunno.

Some time after college, I made the, somewhat detached, decision to not have children. Not because being a mother didn’t appeal to me (there are certainly aspects of motherhood that I long for), but because I 1) see within myself a “selfishness” in regards to my need for personal space, time alone, the ability to come and go as I please, etc. 2) have a personal and family history of struggles with mental illness which I have elected not to pass on via genetics and 3) (as a result of #2) require a high level of mental power simply to keep myself afloat on a day-to-day basis.

Regardless, up until recently, my decision had always felt fairly distant. It was a speck on the horizon, an ineffectual blip on my life’s radar.

Until it wasn’t.

Quite unexpectedly, I was hit with the full reality of what choosing childlessness means for me. It means I will never look down into the eyes of my baby, it means I will never see myself in another human being, it means that what makes me ME (at least so far as genetics is concerned) dies along with my last breath. For the first time, I truly grieved the things I had surrendered.

As little girls, we are groomed for motherhood. Shortly after birth, dolls are placed in our hands. We are playing house, imitating our mothers. It isn’t easy to let go of this ideal.

I know my periods of sadness over my choice are not yet over, though they have momentarily waned. And I realize that I am only 32 and that circumstances can change. I will, most likely, be forced to reevaluate from time to time; however, based on the present, I feel confident that my decision is the right one. I am lucky to have Alan’s girls in my life and am attempting to be the best mother-like figure I can be. I will most likely never have a baby of my own, but I can still comb a child’s wet, tangled hair. I can still make pancake breakfasts for a family. I can still share my thoughts and experiences with a young mind. There is solace in this.

 

M is for March (and Mindfulness, revisited)

march

March has arrived, and though it is snowing this morning, spring is just around the corner. I mentioned my love for fresh starts in my New Year’s post, so I thought I’d take a moment to set my intentions for the coming weeks.

My focus this month is on mindfulness and really encouraging myself to be in the moment. Such a simple idea! And yet so, so challenging. Far too often I catch myself fretting about the day ahead, the week to come, over-analyzing past moments, working myself into a frenzy about how I will deal with all the “ifs.” None of this is beneficial to me. It is living in a cloud, blind and fumbling.

Being present in the moment allows one to truly experience the beauty in the simplest actions. Our senses are continuously providing us with a wealth of information, but if we aren’t paying attention, we miss out. My goal is to catch myself when my mind is wandering into modes of thought which are unhelpful and retrain my concentration to what is happening in that moment.

As I write this, my cat is purring like a freight-train on my lap. My tea is hot and tastes faintly of vanilla. Outside, fur trees are blanketed in snow. I could just as easily have missed all this had I not brought my attention to the “now.”

More of this, Holly. More of this.

Stop the (labeling) madness!

Awhile ago I caught an episode of Dr. Oz (a rare occurrence, as I’m not a fan) where I was informed of a new body-labeling term called the “thut.” According to Dr. Oz, a thut occurs when a person has no real definition between the bottom of her butt and the top of her thigh. I’m not even going to discuss the definition of this thut phenomenon further because the entire thing infuriates me.

When are we going to stop this madness?!

If it isn’t one thing it’s the other–bat wings, muffin top, saddle bags, belly pooch, thunder thighs, back fat, crows feet. I’ve had it up to my “diminuative chin” with the body shaming!

We’ve created a culture in which we tear our bodies apart, piece by piece. While there’s nothing wrong with trying to be healthy, shaming our bodies for imperfections is both unhealthy and joy-stealing.

flaws
See link for image source. I love this girl’s post.

Perhaps, instead of focusing on supposed flaws (and perpetuating body hate), we could start looking at our bodies as one amazing structure. Look at all this body has carried you through–the injuries and illnesses and times of emotional stress (both positive and negative), the misuse, abuse and times of neglect.

Perhaps, rather than picking out our bodies’ perceived shortcomings, we should be thanking them.

On Insecurity

I’m going to go ahead and assume that insecurity is a problem nearly everyone struggles with at some point or another. I know I have dealt with this issue for a large part of my life, and though, at the ripe old age of 31, I can say this is becoming less of an everyday battle, I still have my moments.

As human beings we have a tendency to be constantly comparing ourselves to those around us. And, the fact of the matter is, there’s always going to be someone who is better looking, more talented, more intelligent, what have you. But! At the risk of sounding ridiculously cliche and corny, one other reality is that there is only one you– one you with your unique blend of appearance and personality and skills and flaws. And that, oh people of the internet, is damn beautiful.

Still…

Every time I write a post or share a piece of music I’ve written, I experience an intense feeling of anxiety because oh goodness I’m going to be judged! And some people aren’t going to like what I’ve created. And some people aren’t going to care. And I’m not Tolstoy and I don’t have perfect grammar (case in point) and I can’t write music like Beethoven or flippin’ Ben Folds.

You know what? Who cares.

The best thing we can do is embrace the truest form of ourselves.  Stop (are you listening, self?) comparing yourself to everyone around you. Learn from others and then move on. Go out and create something that didn’t exist until you made it so.

Garfield
Rocking the weird since 1983.

 

 

The next best thing

Some days simply don’t go as planned.

After not sleeping well last night, I found myself in an emotional slump. My attitude was negative, I (might’ve) cried into my lunch, and I made poor eye contact with the nothing-but-friendly cashier at the health food store. So many times I’ve let bad hours turn into bad days and bad nights, relinquishing any chance for seeing or experiencing beauty. I did not want today to be one of those days.

Though I can’t recall (or even find) the specific quote, I once read something about doing the “next best thing.” This particular quote was in reference to eating disorder slips, but can be easily applied to any number of good-mood-destroying events. The basic idea is that, even if you cannot always prevent something negative from happening, you can do the “next best thing,” the next positive step toward opening yourself up to what could be.

NextBest

For me, today, that involved a hot shower, comfortable clothes, tea, a book and a soft blanket.

 

 

On Self-Harm

I’ve avoided this topic for some time, both because it is especially personal and because I fear someone seeing this an acceptable behavior to try. It is not. Regardless, though self-injury is a thing of my past, my body is a walking testament to the consequences of engaging in this misguided coping mechanism.

Self-harm entered my life during a particularly low and difficult period of young adulthood. Struggling to find my way in the world, I stumbled upon “cutting” quite by accident. To this day I do not know why choosing this course of (in)action even crossed my mind. Once it had, however, self-harm become a bit of an obsession and a mode of dealing with all the painful emotions which bubbled underneath the surface of my psyche.

I’d like to bring some understanding to the reasons why some of us engage(d) in self-harm, though I recognize that everyone’s experiences are different. I can speak only for myself.

Consider a dull headache, then consider a horrific migraine. One hurts more than the other, yes? For me, self-harm was the dull headache. The pain was unpleasant but in no ways comparable to the pain of my depression. And for a few brief moments, hurting myself physically distracted from the strange, frightening firings of my brain. Self-harm was my way to attempt to stay grounded in a world that had lost all meaning and tangibility.

Unfortunately, I was also becoming trapped in a dangerous cycle. Self-injury, in whatever form, tends to induce guilt which furthers negative feelings about oneself, in turn leading to a renewed desire to self-injure. And on and on, the cycle continues. In this way, self-injury is very much a drug and an addiction: the need, the obsession, the craving, the endorphin rush, the crash and the increasing need for more and more in order to achieve the desired level of high.

My recovery from this form of self-harm was long and filled with slips and lapses. Initially, I would go jogging, journal, make collages with magazine clippings, jot poorly-written poetry, anything to keep my hands busy and my mind on task. Eventually, self-harm just didn’t “work” for me the way it had previously. And while I used to hide year-round in long-sleeves, I reached a point of self-acceptance and, in a sense, self-appreciation, which gave me the strength to show the real me.

We all have a past. Mine just happens to be written on my skin.

Looking for more information on self-harm? Go here.

 

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form] 

And the Beat Goes On

For as long as I can remember, I have found solace in music. Whether I was throwing myself into piano practice or blasting industrial “noise” as loudly as my eardrums could tolerate, I longed for the sweetness of rhythm and melody, the objectivity of notes and measures and time signatures. Even my first tattoo is a visualization of this feeling–a woman floating, peaceful and untethered, held aloft by nothing more than the gentle pulse of song.

Most recently I’ve had the pleasure of beginning to learn some basic drum skills. (A thanks goes out to my patient and ever-encouraging teacher…you know who you are.) I’d never imagined the drum set an easy instrument to master, though I have to admit I was unaware just how brain-splitting the entire process is! And I’ve not even managed to move beyond the basics (bass, snare, hihat)! Regardless, I am enjoying myself immensely and, given the absence of a set to regularly practice on, find myself occasionally air-drumming in the manner of some beat-obsessed lunatic.

Each time I sit down to play I first must overcome the introvert within, who screams in fear of making a giant ruckus. Once I begin, however, I find that the opposition to making noise lessens to the point of extinction, and I am able to find pleasure in my self-created cacophony.

I suppose the lesson in this, my friends, is: Try something new. Make some noise! Let your spirit run a little wild and to hell with the opposition.

Little life changes and a bit on mindfulness

I have been absent for awhile, as events in my life have forced me to re-examine the way I’ve been living, the way I think and the way I carry out my beliefs on a day-to-day basis. I think it sometimes takes a minor crisis to get my attention. With that being said, I’ve developed a renewed focus on being aware of myself and staying mindful in the individual moments of my day. As a chronic worrier, my mind is often a step ahead in another dimension, so this is a titanic task (oooh, I love accidental alliteration).

In college, I gave a speech about mindful eating. I passed out Hershey’s kisses and asked everyone to look at the chocolate, smell it and finally allow it to melt on their tongues. Eating slowly, using your senses, allows your body to truly grasp what is happening as you nourish yourself. Too often we are in a rush, focused on something else or just too tired to go through this process. And I understand that! I was always eating in front of the television, shoving food into my face without paying attention. The end result? I often felt unsatisfied and reached for more food that I didn’t need.

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” rashaski

One of the newest goals for myself has been to 1) make meals I enjoy 2) arrange them in an attractive manner 3) set the table and 4) turn off the damn television. Without the added distraction, I feel I am able to get more enjoyment out of my meals, leaving me sated and not needing seconds (or triggering a massive binge). I know this is going to be a lengthy process and though I’m not “permitting” slip-ups I’m sure there will be some along the way. Regardless, I feel this is an important aspect of my recovery and of learning that food is not the enemy.

My challenge to everyone is to give mindfulness a chance. Could you sit quietly for even one meal a day? How does doing so change the experience of eating? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more on mindful eating, check out this link. I love these suggestions!