The Happiness Manifesto Blog

How I Beat the Living Hell Out of Suffering and Made It My Bitch

Archive for the tag “book”

The Gratitude Games

How many of us are working to manifest a life of joy and fulfillment?  I know I am.  And though I can see so many successes that I’ve had, I know that it can get so much better!  So what’s been holding me back?

I recently finished listening to the audiobook of The Power (can you tell I love Rhonda Byrne?  Read her books if you haven’t.  I recommend them to people so often I feel like I should start a NPO to fund buying them in bulk and go door-to-door like a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon asking people if they’ve heard the good news).  The Power is the sequel to The Secret.  Anyway, in it, she’s talking about keeping a positive, loving attitude and she made a point that I hadn’t really thought of before: just feeling “OK” is not feeling “good”.  I can feel the difference between when I’m really, truly happy – when I’m focusing on things I love, things are going well, I’m in a good mood, I have energy – and when I’m just “OK”.  “OK” means I’m here; I don’t feel awful, but I don’t feel wonderful.  I’m awake, but not energetic.  Things aren’t falling apart, but puzzle pieces aren’t falling into place, either.  Things just “are”.

For me historically, “OK” was “good” – because the alternative was “horribly depressed”.  When you’re on the low end of the spectrum and a good day is one where you don’t feel miserable, you kind of lose perspective as to what “good” truly feels like.  So I have improved since I read The Secret for the first time and decided to take things into my own hands and change my life – I went from “horribly depressed, afraid, stressed, and exhausted” as my modus operandi to “calm and okay” as my norm.  That’s a great improvement.  But when you want to really make a joyful life, you’ve got to have a joyful attitude.

I’ve had moments where I really felt that joy – but so far, “OK” is still my baseline.  Now don’t get me wrong – that’s a much better baseline than the pit of despair.  But I want my life to be wunderbar, not just “OK”.

From here, it may seem like a daunting task to make that internal shift from “not bad” to “great!”  But from that pit of despair, it seemed like a daunting task to not be depressed on a regular basis, and I successfully changed that, didn’t I?

So, one of my methods to climb another rung on the attitude ladder has been to find different ways to be grateful.  I have come up with various games and practices to just think about things I love, am grateful for, and am manifesting in my life.  So for instance, one of the things I am manifesting for myself is a car.  I mentioned before that I’ve never owned one, and it would make my life so much easier to do so!  So every day, when I am thinking of things to be grateful for, I give gratitude for my car that is on its way to me.  I envision in my mind already owning it.  I picture spontaneously going to visit friends and it being a quick and easy trip.  I picture buying whatever I want at the store and not worrying about if I’ll be able to carry it, or if it will fit in my grandma cart if I’ve got that along.  I picture driving with a friend up in the mountains.  I imagine giving someone else a ride.

I love you, Smartcar! ❤

Yup, I’m enamored with Smartcars.  Specifically that one – I’ve already configured exactly what I want on their website.  I think when I get my Smartcar, I shall name him Einstein.  Because he’s smart.  And that’s how I roll. 😉

In coming up with these gratitude practices for myself, I had a stroke of inspiration: I should put together a book of Gratitude Games.  So that’s what I’m going to do!

I’ve been thinking of how it should look: a paper book should be easy to write in, so people can do some of the written exercises right then and there.  But perhaps a binder would be better, as they can re-arrange the order and do the ones that work for their path that day.  Ooh, an app!  How do I develop an app?  Maybe an interactive book on iPad – they have apps where you can build and publish for the iPad, on the iPad!  I need to manifest myself an iPad!  But then I still need to make an app for non-iPad users!  And a paper book for the technologically disinclined!  And an e-book for e-readers!

…this is how my brain works when it latches onto an idea.  Sometimes I need to tell it, “Slow down, Turbo!”  So I got out a pen and paper (low tech) and started making a list of gratitude game ideas.

I still don’t know how I’m going to form the book (app!  paper!  e-book!  interactive!), but that will come when it’s ready.  I have not given up on The Book, but I feel like the Gratitude Games is a stepping stone on the path toward its completion.  Perhaps I will be so grateful to get a book done, I will manifest… getting another book done!

In the meantime, I am compiling an ever-longer list of Games, and sending love to Einstein.

Because I love a man with brains.

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My People

If you laugh a little too hard at Christopher Titus jokes (especially Norman Rockwell Is Bleeding), you are My People.

That’s kind of been my benchmark for years.

If it’s not been made clear, I come from a rather messed up background.  I’m not going to regale you with my “f**ked-uppedness cred” – because that’s rather beside the point.  And really – I am tired of hearing the same story at the beginning of every “rags to riches” or “success story” by a given author.  Every.  Single.  Time.  “Look, I overcame this!” and “Look, I overcame that!”  Maybe the first speech or book or radio show you hear them do, you say, wow.  But then if you like what they have to say and you want to hear more… you have to hear that same story twenty million times.  By about the fifth or fifteenth time, you’re feeling rather pitiless, like, “Yeah, I know, you were homeless and living in your car, or addicted to drugs, or an alcoholic, or Mommy didn’t love you, blah, blah, blah… I know!  Get on with it!”

Or as Christopher Titus would say, “…come down off the cross and use the wood to build yourself a bridge and get over it.”

Or is that just me?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not an advocate of telling people to hold it all in, suck it up, or otherwise give themselves an ulcer.  But life coaches?  Motivational people?  STILL fixated on their troubled past?  Reliving it with every class or seminar or speech they give?  That just seems… f**ked up.

But Wren, you may be saying, they’re trying to show that if they can come from hell and succeed, you can, too.

Alright, fine.  But you can say, “I know what it’s like to be in a dark place,” without having to go into all the gory details.  And if you’re truly over it, you don’t need to go into the gory details with every Tom, Dick, and Harry you want to motivate.  But these people are telling the same exact story – either with so much pain in their voices you just know it still haunts them, or with absolutely no emotion at all, like they’ve become so numb to the telling of it that it means nothing anymore – over and over again.  Neither of these scenarios sounds very healthy for the storyteller.  And how are they helping others by self-flagellating, again?

So what’s the point of telling and re-telling your dark, gritty backstory twenty times a week to anyone who will hear it?

Oh, yeah.  F**ked-Uppedness Cred.

These people are trying to earn the respect of people who are still in the dark place.

You know you do it, too.  Hell, I’ve done it.  If you’ve been through hell, you look at the Leave It To Beaver-esque families out there, with their support for each other, unconditional love, financial stability, health, and tragedy-less lives, and you kind of stare, like, “are these people for real?”  When the worst thing that’s happened to them is a fender bender or a bad case of the flu, you scoff at their blissful unawareness.  You mock what they consider to be hard times.  You can’t take much of anything they say – let alone their advice or compassion – seriously, because you feel like they just don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

So the F**ked-Uppedness Cred is important if you want to be respected and taken seriously, and not blown off as some airy-fairy self-esteem cheerleader, giving trophies to everyone just for participating.

Right?

Well, f**k that noise.

I’m a pretty easy-going kinda gal.  Even when I was a volatile brew of emotional meltdown, blinding self-hatred, and distorted thinking, I still put on the happy face, and no one had even the foggiest that anything was even remotely bothering me.  Again – I am not advocating this as a good idea.  In fact it’s a very, very bad idea.  Don’t do it.  But I digress.

I would smile.  I would laugh.  I would make jokes.  And I didn’t tell other people my crap.  When something dropped – usually innocuously – it would stun the hell out of people.  Because I came off as that innocent goody two-shoes whose biggest problem was that tragic C in math class type.  But then I would let slip some hint of my real life and inevitably, I’d get comments along the lines of, “Wait… what?!  You?!!” or “But you always seem so happy!”

Yep, me.  News flash: not every person with a tragic past a) does drugs b) drinks to excess c) dresses goth and/or slutty and/or gangster d) screws anything that moves in a desperate search for love or e) flunks out of school and/or gets arrested.  Some of us rebel by being good.

Yessir, when I was a teenager, I was an honor student, participated in all sorts of extracurriculars, held down a job, was a teacher’s pet of sorts, didn’t do drugs, drink, have sex, or get into trouble, and otherwise could have played the “good influence” role on any after school special there ever was.

All while… living in hell.

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been condescended to by people whose biggest problem that I could tell (since they lamented to me as though I was their confessor) was… they didn’t always get what they wanted.  But because I never said, “Let me tell you about real problems… ” and instead took their problems seriously, they presumed I found their plight to be equally tragic and the worst thing I’d ever heard.

Now I know I sound a little heartless here, and I don’t mean to be.  If you don’t have the perspective to put the little annoyances in perspective, then it’s going to seem huge and horrible in your vision when you encounter them.  I get that.  But if there’s a continuum of tragedy, and death and rape are on one end, and a parking ticket is on the other… the death and rape end gets to shake their head at the parking ticket end when they start going on like they’re a cast member in Hamlet.

So, I’ve been scoffed at for not wearing my F**ked-Uppedness Cred on my sleeve, and it used to annoy the bejeezus out of me.  But I still couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I don’t know why.  It’s just not in me.

But I’ve come to the place where I Just Don’t Care and It Doesn’t Really Matter.

Think I’m a naive?  Go right ahead.  Think I’m BSing you when I say “I understand where you’re coming from”?  Scoff away!  Because I Just Don’t Care and It Doesn’t Really Matter.  I don’t feel the need to win some tragedy contest or earn Extra Horrifying Bonus Points.  If someone is in a place where they can hear what I have to say, then they’ll hear it.  If they’re not, then they’ll find some other excuse to not do so even if I gave them a detailed dossier of Why I Understand Your Pain.

This isn’t to say “my secrets will die with me!!!” as much as it is to say, you’re not going to hear my sob story twenty million times.  If something is pertinent to a conversation, and perhaps actually helpful to furthering the discussion, maybe I’ll share it.  But I’m not going to go around announcing it so that I have the immediate respect of the other F**ked-Uppedness Survivors in advance.  Because I shouldn’t have to.  I want people to judge me on my present, not my past.  If my words have value, they have value in the now, not because I have a good sympathy-garnering story to tell.

So, judge me how you will.  There will not be a Chapter One: Out of Darkness autobiographical horror story in The Book.  But hopefully a few folks will read it anyway.

And I will try really hard to not stare at the Cleavers of the world like they have antennae sticking out of their heads when they talk about how wonderful their life is, except for that awful day when June broke the heel of her shoe and skinned her knee.

Because isn’t wonderful what we’re all aiming for?

Fulfilled = Fulfillment

This thought is still fresh and somewhat percolating, so forgive me if I need to revisit it later to clarify some things, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the difference between being fulfilled and being a fulfillment.  Here’s what I mean: being fulfilled, as in, you’re content, you have all that you need, your wants and desires are fulfilled.  Being a fulfillment is more like being the fulfillment of a plan, your destiny, or even your potential.  How many of us were told in school to “fulfill our potential”?  In other words, it would have been a crime if Einstein had become a janitor (that one movie with Matt Damon notwithstanding).  We want the great scientists to be great scientists, the great artists to be great artists, the great parents to be great parents, etc.  We don’t want people inherently gifted in one area to ignore those gifts trying to pursue endeavors where their contribution might be mediocre at the expense of what would be amazing contributions in their naturally talented subjects.

A lot of people don’t believe in destiny or fate, and that’s fine, I’m not altogether certain that I do, either.  At least not in the sense of how they are normally understood.  However, I think it was Leonardo DaVinci’s purpose to be a great artist and inventor, Stephen Hawking to be a great scientist, Michelle Kwan to be a great athlete, and Jimi Hendrix to be a great musician.  And I think all of us have a “purpose”.  No, we’re not all going to be world-renowned or famous, but say your purpose is to be a great parent: maybe you don’t win any awards or get a ton of recognition, but your contribution goes forward beyond your life through the lives of the kids you raise.  You’re still changing the world, even if you’re not in any history books for doing so.

So, fulfilled versus fulfillment was what I had been dwelling upon, and then tonight while meditating, I was asking questions of the Universe/God.  What am I supposed to do, why am I here, what’s the meaning of life, you know, mild stuff.  No pressure, Universe.  In this same meditation session I was putting out there my wants on a very “physical realm” type level.  I want financial security (I’ve already discussed the difficulty in focusing on higher purpose when you’re stuck low on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs totem pole).  I want a home.  I yearn for a home.  I dream of a home.  I look at real estate listings and cry.  Really, really (really), I’m obsessed with having a home of my own (yes, it’s just me and the kitties in my apartment, but I rent.  I want a home I can truly call my own).  And as I was thinking of the more physical realm stuff, one of the larger answers hit me: I’m supposed to write my book.

Yes, the book has transmogrified in scope these past several months, and the original “happiness manifesto” idea has given way to a much larger concept (plus, I found out sometime after starting this blog and the book that there is apparently already a book called “The Happiness Manifesto” – oops!  While I’m sure it does not have my subtitle (“How I beat the living hell out of suffering and made it my bitch”), I didn’t even think to search for similar titles when I was still in the just-starting-out phase of writing.  Gah!  If anyone finds this blog looking for information on that book, sorry – not me.  I didn’t even know it existed until I was browsing on my Kindle one day and lo, there it was.  I just about kicked myself.  I’m sure there are books out there with alike titles, but still – so it’s a good thing that that is no longer the title).

Anywho, The Book (it will heretofore be referred to as The Book in capital letters, as even though it has another working title, I don’t want to a: goof again before I’ve researched that no one else has a book out by that title and b: it’s still shifting around in my head, and I may change it again when all is said and done.  I’m not putting it past me at this point).  The more I think on it, the more The Book is my raison d’être.  I want to write.  I’m meant to write.  Don’t worry, I’m not growing a massive ego and thinking I am The Most Awesome Writer Ever, but I must write.  I used to write so prolifically that I could reliably sit down and pound out a chapter in one sitting, giggling to myself as twists and turns came to me as I was writing them.  I gauged if it was any good or not by how violently my best friend threatened my well-being if I did not write the next chapter soon (I was really good at a cliffhanger).  Now, of course, I look at those old stories from my college days (or high school days or junior high days – yes, I wrote stories to share with my friends back then, too) and think, wow, I was really young.  Characters developed in my head as I was writing them, and so the original vision didn’t always mesh with the end product.  I was famous for going back and doing re-write after re-write after re-write in an attempt to align the earlier flying-blind parts with the later now-I-know-who-this-person-is-and-where-the-story-is-going parts.  I was more famous for forgoing paper altogether and just regaling my friends with verbal stories; the aforementioned best friend and I would take a random drive and she would put forth her one-word request: “Story?”  My friends knew the universe inside my head by then and it was nice to just shoot the shit with my characters and not worry about having to spell out backstory for potential new readers to understand what I was talking about.  Also, it was the most awesome way to test out new ideas and character developments ever.  But I digress.

The point is, I’ve always been a writer.  And lately it seems to come in fits and spurts, and as often as not I go back to the completed parts and look on them with disdain some time later.  It’s not that it seems terrible, but it does seem contrived.  Or young.  Yes, there’s that word again.  When I look back at my writing and think young, it’s the equivalent of crumpling up a piece of paper and tossing it in a wastebasket.

Though now I look at my old stories and think young, I actually was young at the time.  I’m allowed to think the oeuvre of my twenty-year-old self seems young.  But I don’t look at it with disdain: I look back on it with fondness and pride.  I actually wrote that book, and that book.  I told thousands of stories.  I drew thousands of related comics.  One of the friends who read and heard the stories even drew comics based on the characters in my universe.  I inspired someone else.  My stories spoke to someone else.  I couldn’t have asked for better confirmation of worth than that.  Yeah, I was young, but my youthful stories spoke to other young people.  To this day I can drop a reference to those stories among that group of friends and get a giggle.  And two of my cats (I have three) are named after two people from that pantheon of characters.  Those stories are a huge chunk of my life.

Today, not only have I shifted my focus both in reading and writing to non-fiction (it’s rare that I pick up a novel anymore, though it does happen occasionally), but I don’t seem to be able to sit and churn out a chapter as I used to.  I would be okay with a slower pace if it was at least steady, but it’s not that either.  It’s very much as if my muse is teasing me with hints of what I will be writing more than actually writing it.

Tonight, in that meditation session, the reason came to me: my mind is still too focused on the Maslow’s Level Two stuff to be absorbed in The Book.  Back when I used to sleep, eat, and breathe Story, it was my survival mechanism.  Life was supremely craptastic and so I escaped to the much better world in my head, and ran on autopilot in “the real world”.  Now I’m firmly anchored in “the real world,” and unable to fully let myself escape into Book World.

Therein lay my answer to the fulfilled/fulfillment question: it shouldn’t read “versus”.  It’s more like, in order to be a fulfillment of your purpose, you need to be fulfilled.

I’m not fulfilled in the “physical realm”.  I need to be so I can let go and fully engage in The Book.

Now, I’m not saying every wild dream has to come true in order for me to fulfill my purpose in writing The Book.  In fact, that would be a Star Trek-worthy paradox, as completing and publishing The Book is one of those dreams.  What I’m saying is, I need to feel “safe” enough to go and live in the alternate universe that you really have to take residence in in order to pen a meaningful work.  I need to not worry about how I’m going to pay the bills, or where I’m going to live, or when am I going to do this or that.  I need to have some basic things taken care of that are taking away precious focus from writing.  I have been better about not stressing so hard about things like money, but to be frank when I’m not sure where/how/when it’s coming, I do focus on things related to it, like: I need to list more things in my Etsy shop.  I need to check Craigslist for temp jobs.  I need to make business cards.  I need to “network”.  I need to list more things in my Zazzle shop.  I need to submit another article in an attempt to get published and paid for something now.  Etc.  It’s a very different distraction trying to establish yourself as a freelancer than working a full-time “day job”.  It may be more miserable, but in some ways it can be easier to mindlessly punch in, do work, and punch out again.  The more mindless the job, the more my mind wandered off and dreamed up new stories.  But then again, when I was in a horrid make-you-cry-in-the-restroom type job, there was no daydreaming there.  Well okay, there was, but it involved choice words to certain real-life people and maybe a middle finger or two; not exactly “storytime”.

So, I made a deal with the Universe.  God knows I don’t need or particularly want a lavish, crazy lifestyle.  But I do very much want certain needs taken care of, which would free up my brain to go live in Book World.  I want my own home; I want financial security; I want a car (yep, 33 years old, never owned a car.  In NYC that may be normal, but in Denver that’s shock-worthy).  The car seems arbitrary until you consider how much more involved it is for me to go anyplace (hours instead of minutes whether I’m bussing, bicycling, or walking.  How much can I carry or cart around if I’m grocery shopping.  The fact that I can’t do those things I would love to do and have always been good for my soul, like drive into the so-close-and-yet-so-far mountains and just enjoy the scenery or load up an SD card with metric tons of photographs.  There is no city bus that reads “pulls over at every cool spot for photographic opportunities”.  Go and visit friends and not worry about the last bus out or if I can hitch a ride.  Not have to deal with creepy creepers following/chasing/stalking/bothering me (yes, that’s happened… a lot) walking home or waiting for a bus.  Etc.  For me, it would be rather life-changing.  So I told the universe that basically, I need for the little things to not be so hard.  I need for them to not be so thought-consuming.  I need to be able to live somewhat on auto-pilot again but not because things suck; because it’s easy to do so.

It’s not that I want to be permanently on auto-pilot, though I do want my life to be permanently at least a little bit easier.  I want to know that if I follow my muse into Book World, where time moves much more slowly than it does here in physical realm, then I’m not going to come out of it with a completed chapter and an eviction notice.  I want for my physical realm to be safe so I can go play in the alternate Universe.

So there it is.  I get a safe home, the world gets my purpose fulfilled.  Not a bad deal, eh, Universe?

Your Body Is A Temple

Part of my spiritual upbringing included a whole lot of “Physical realm bad.  Spiritual realm good.  Must punish physical body in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment.  Physical body doesn’t count.” type messages (and yes, I imagine that being said like a stereotypical caveman grunt.  Though I suppose cavemen might have had wondrously complex languages, you get the point).  So for a very long time, even as I thought I was maturing and growing, I still treated my body like a trash heap, and thought of it that way, too.

You’ll recall my previously stating how I came precariously close to becoming a full-fledged hoarder until I moved into my current apartment, which caused me to look the problem square in the face and deal with it.  I still am, four and a half years later.  It is a long and sometimes difficult process, but so worthwhile.  I never fully realized until I started watching the show Hoarders what this said about how I thought about myself.  In more than one episode, it has been made abundantly clear that some of the people surrounded themselves with trash because they thought of themselves as trash.  They perceived themselves as not worthy.  They thought they were disposable.

That was me.  I thought I was unlovable.  Easily discarded.  Worthless.  Trash.

Having that revelation brought front and center planted the seed of thought that I needed to re-evaluate my relationship with self.

After reading the book The Secret, which was filled with a revolutionary concept for me at the time, I decided that instead of beating myself down with negative self-talk, I would beat the negativity down and squash it like a bug.  And so the process began.

At the beginning, I felt a little Stuart Smalley-like, as though I should have been staring in a mirror and telling myself, “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!”  In other words, I felt more cheesy than the entire state of Wisconsin.  But I stuck with it, and after a while it became less forced.  I began to actually believe I was good enough, and smart enough, etc.  I felt less corny and more like I was having a deep psychological breakthrough.

Now, I had tried counseling a couple of times in my life, and other than it occasionally being nice to have someone to vent to, didn’t feel like it was helping me much.  This utter willpower maneuver of mandated positivity did more to repair my psyche than any outside person telling me that my thoughts were unhealthy ever did.  And I began to believe that I deserved love; I deserved happiness; I deserved respect.  Don’t all people?

But just recently this awareness took a new turn.  Even though I had been accepting that I deserved to be happy for a while now, I still wasn’t looking at my physical form with a whole lot of self-love.

Several months ago, I finally caved to months of pressure from my doctor to try easing up on my strict vegetarianism.  After over nine years of strident near-vegan “purity,” I agreed to try “a little fish” and see how I felt.  The doc felt I wasn’t getting enough protein or omega-3s.  She wanted to see if the omega-3s would help my mood, and the protein help balance my blood sugar (I was so hypoglycemic, I was crashing on a near-daily basis.  Sometimes more than once a day).

Holy mother of nutrition, did I feel almost immediately better.

The sugar crashing all but stopped.  I can now count on my fingers the number of times I’ve sugar crashed in the months since, instead of it being a given that it would happen regularly.  I had more energy, too.  Oh, and… the perpetual always-coldness began to let up, at least somewhat.  I’m still “the cold one” in a group, but there are times where I actually feel warm now.  That was nearly unheard of.

I quickly dubbed myself a pescatarian (someone who eats fish, but no other meat), and figured that was that.  But I had opened up the floodgates.  My body started having cravings I had thought were long dead.  It wanted more.

I fought it.  I already felt guilty; I thought of myself as a “failed vegetarian” or “weak” for giving in to what my body obviously needed.  I wondered why others seemed to do so well on a veggie diet and I didn’t.  You know how people are supposed to lose weight when they go veg?  I actually gained weight.  About 30 pounds.  I did not understand how that happened.  It brought up even more body-hate in my mind, because I used to be a stick.  Suddenly I felt ginormous.  I fasted as much as I could without putting myself in a diabetic coma, and my weight didn’t budge.  I restricted what was “acceptable” fare more and more.  I ate low-fat this and diet that.  Still fat.

So I caved.  All or nothing, right?  If I had already failed as a vegetarian, then I had failed.  Might as well go out with a chicken pot pie in hand and enjoy myself.

And I felt even better.  This was counter to every nutrition book I had read for the past decade (all aimed at vegetarians, mind you).  What really caused me to make the pescatarian-omnivore leap was reading a Jillian Michaels book on diet and nutrition.  She had recommended twice the amount of protein that one of my cherished veggie books had done.  Twice.  That wasn’t exactly splitting hairs.  That was a completely different take on nutrition.  So I started searching for more information online.

In addition to a mountain of blogs and websites I still find myself getting lost in for hours, I found an interview with Lierre Keith, a former vegan for twenty years and author of the book The Vegetarian Myth.  It got me interested enough that I bought the audiobook (I have found that I love listening to a good non-fiction audiobook, in addition to reading them normally).  I’m still listening to it, but so far it is proving to be one of the most profound books I’ve ever read in my life (and as previously noted, I’m a bibliophile of epic proportions).  This isn’t some machismo rancher looking condescendingly down upon the wussy vegetarians and telling us how silly we are; this is someone who had many of the same motivations I did (save the animals!  save the earth!), and struggled with many of the same moral issues, who recognized her own willful blindness to the truth about everything, and slowly – and not without a fight – came around.  I can’t even begin to do it justice by attempting to summarize it here; but truly, if you really want to know about saving the animals, saving the earth, our health, the industrial food system, and how things really work, I can’t recommend this book enough.  So many of the things we think we know are wrong.

Anyway… let’s get this Amtrak train of thought back on its rail.  Honoring my body.

So, okay, I’ve been now exploring the world of traditional foods, homesteading (if ever there was a thing that I get passionately obsessed with, it’s homesteading), and the like, and learning about the nutritional needs of my body from a non-vegetarian perspective.  I feel like a new student in a completely foreign field of study, with so much to learn, and so little time.  But this metric ton of knowledge was all pointing to the same personal revelation: I had willfully been ignoring the very basic, very human, very physical needs of my body, relegating them to “weaknesses” and “unimportant” in the name of some “pure” ideal that was impossible to attain (yes, vegans, even you are not eating without death.  Just because there is no meat on your plate, doesn’t mean animals weren’t killed as pests on the farm, or by a harvesting machine, or for fertilizer, or when farmland was deforested or prairie turned into farmland, etc.  Read The Vegetarian Myth.  I promise, it’s not condescending.  It’s someone who wanted the same things you want).

So why were my very natural needs being given the short shrift?  Because I still felt my body was not “worth it”.  Not worth what?  Surviving?  Thriving?  Did I truly believe I was put on this Earth to suffer?

I took a look at how I was treating my body otherwise.  I either was punishing it with exercise, or none at all.  Eating junk, or not enough.  I didn’t respect the food I was using to nourish myself: the perpetual load of dirty dishes, my hadn’t-been-cleaned-in-ages refrigerator, the splatter-covered microwave and toaster oven.  The kitchen wasn’t the place to create sacred nourishment, it was the place to throw together something convenient and get the heck outta there.  No attention was paid – ironically, as I thought of myself as “food conscious” – to the act of nourishing my body, even as I obsessively counted calories or ounces of water.  Allergy season caused me to look at my bed – covered in pet hair, sheets rarely changed, the mattress producing a renegade spring that had stabbed my hand and drawn blood once already.  A litter box right next to it, which was placed there to try and prevent one of the kitties from peeing under it (it worked, but she has shifted territory again, so it’s rather moot at this point).  In addition to the spring escapee, all my bedsheets are old and threadbare, hand me downs, stained, torn, and otherwise just as problematic.  Even my bed frame is almost as old as I am, and a hand me down that used to be half of a bunkbed.  I’ve never in all my 33 years had a bed that wasn’t a bunkbed, or part of one, let alone something larger than a twin size.  I had to throw out the egg crate cushion I had on it to try and make things more comfortable because a kitty peed on it.  I had a dream where I was told this was like sleeping in my own filth.  And you know, it’s true.  There is a literal litter box right at the foot of my bed.  How was that respecting myself and the place where I was supposed to get rest?

Being that I’ve been living off of savings and grace since I lost the day job last year, now is not exactly the best financial time to go to a furniture store and buy a nice new full-size bed with a comfy mattress and new thick sheets.  I accept that I deserve these things now, but to buy them would lead to a case of… aaaaaand how am I going to pay the rent?  So.  I did the best I could with what I have.  Washed the blankets.  Changed the sheets.  Vacuumed the mattress, the box spring, all the nooks and crannies, the heat registers around the side of the bed.  The litter box is getting moved this weekend (it will take some furniture re-arranging to find it a new home).  I’ll shampoo the carpet then, too.

I also went a little cleaning-frenzy in the kitchen and did the dishes, cleaned the fridge, and the microwave.  Checked for expired beyond use foods and tossed them.  Cleaned the floor.  Now when I open the refrigerator door, it feels so white and clean… and pure.  Because I’m honoring what I put into my body.  I’m honoring where my body gets rest.  My body isn’t the means to an end, or a sub-par vessel that doesn’t count.  It isn’t “a bag of water” as one of my friends terms it.  It’s a temple.  One that I am the proud caretaker of.

Hold on, I’m totally getting a download right now

For the past week or two I’ve been brewing a blog post/chapter on not wasting your energy on negativity – be that places, people, situations, whatever it is that sucks you dry and makes you more miserable for all your efforts in the end.  But before that post/chapter came to fruition, my brain moved on to other topics (or so I thought).  Sometimes I have the focus of a laser and sometimes I’m the dog shouting, “Squirrel!!”  I figured an afternoon of wrangling my brain back a step or two was going to be in order, because books don’t get written just by thinking about them (why hasn’t that software been invented?  I’d like to make some movies that way, too… ).

But, ah ha, no, my brain hadn’t moved on after all.  The reason why I hadn’t been able to put the thoughts into words yet was that I still had more to learn on the subject myself (this is not to say that I have all the other topics I’m writing about figured out and will soon be dispensing advice from the summit of Pike’s Peak.  This is me writing from where I am at the moment.  I certainly hope not to stop growing here!).  I’m not going to be able to verbalize a thought that isn’t done baking yet.

I had all these witty metaphors ready to go and it turns out that perhaps they aren’t exactly how I would phrase things, after all.

A friend of mine suggested that I nix the whole idea of committing a book to paper and just make this whole experience a blog alone, because the downloads/updates/epiphanies are coming so fast and furious at the moment that I look at the first chapter I wrote just weeks ago, and it seems immature and contrived.  Eight weeks ago I was a proud book mama with a fledgling chapter I wanted to show off to the world!  Now I’m reading it and thinking, “That’s such simplistic, entry-level type stuff!  Did I really think it was profound at the time??”  Yes.  Yes, I did.

We now interrupt this blog post with a YouTube video that makes me laugh so hard, and if you’re following me on the term “downloads” then you might get a kick out of too:

Shit New Age Girls Say

No, I had nothing to do with making that video.  I just wanted to share it, because, well… it’s true.  ^_^

We now return my train of thought to its rail.  Thank you for your patience.

One of the first and largest changes that I have undergone in the past few years has been being able to say “no”.  Being able to express anger.  Being able to walk away from harmful people.  Being able to think well enough of myself to know that I don’t deserve to be hurt.  That seems pretty basic, but when you’re coming from the vortex of self-hating, people-pleasing, too-nice and too-timid punching bag-ness that was me just a few short years ago, it’s revolutionary.  I’ve walked away from people, situations, and securities that I never would have thought possible before.  How many of us are trained to suck it up and take it because the alternative – that is, the unknown – is far more scary than the devil you know?

Well, I started by telling people that hurting me was not OK.  If they continued to do so, I walked away.  If whatever I was getting out of the relationship wasn’t worth the pain inflicted, I was outta there.  And I’m not talking romantic relationships, here (I’m about as crazy cat lady single as you can get while only having three cats).  I’m talking friendships (and even a job).  I used to find every excuse for a “friend’s” behavior being painful to me.  They were going through a rough time.  They didn’t mean to hurt me.  Etc.  Finally, I said to myself, an actual friend wouldn’t want to hurt me.

Of course we’re all going to prick and poke each other occasionally; we’re cacti human.  The nature of being separate entities on this spinning blue marble means that we’re going to bump into each other sometimes.  I get that.  What I figured out was, if your friend does something especially hurtful to you, and you let them know about it (I like to presume unintentional whenever possible), and you don’t get so much as an “I’m sorry” or an “I didn’t mean to do that” or some other indication that that wasn’t their intent, but they double down and stab you again?  That’s not cool.

Revolutionary, I know.

So when I had people who did this not once, not twice, but three times or more – sorry batter, you’re out.  I saved myself and walked the heck away.  I felt like the lady in Fried Green Tomatoes who slams her car into the rude girls’ car in the parking lot and tells them that she’s older and has more insurance.  I was about to start screaming “Tawanda!”

And it became like purging my belongings (another endeavor that has been life-changing and oh-so-freeing that I shall have to blog about): the more I did it, the better it felt.  Thought I was going to say “the easier it got”, didn’t you?  Yeah, that too.  But mostly it felt better.  Hurt me again?  Goodbye.  Facebook friend?  Unfriend.  Every asshat I eliminated from my life was like ripping off a cast that had been immobilizing me for too long.  Scratch that itch, baby!  I’m done with that!

What more was there to figure out about this, right?  Purge the toxic people from your life and the the excess detritus from your closet.

Except I keep getting poked with the universal stick about one of the first people I walked away from.  I have the deep and unmistakable feeling that there’s a patch to be made there.  This patch could not have been made three years ago, or two years ago, or even one year ago.  But today?  I’ve repaired my sewing machine and have been crafting all kinds of new designs for myself.

OK yes, friends who are reading this, I know I literally have repaired my sewing machine and have been crafting all kinds of new designs for myself – but the analogy was just too perfect to resist.

So, how on Earth do I approach a patch that I’m not even sure the other party is interested in sewing?

Well, I haven’t figured that out yet.  Check back with me after I’ve had a few more epiphanies.

Hold on, I’m totally getting a download right now. 😉

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