Losing my heart

This guy.  My heart.

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He’s called Ashki, which means “little boy,” in Navajo. Sometime I’ll tell you the story of how he got his name.

One year ago today, he relapsed for the second and last time. He had IMHA – immune mediated hemolytic anemia. At least we think that’s what he had. His case was unusual.

They say the first year of grieving is the most difficult. Getting through all the holidays and birthdays, the first ones, without your loved one.

I’ve been anticipating today, knowing it was coming. Knowing that today leads to the first anniversary of his death, in a little over a month.

The other day, I kept thinking of him. I kept thinking, I need to check on Ashki. I kept feeling like I would look over and see him, see his goofy face, waiting by the door. It didn’t hurt like it usually does though. It was just strange.

I miss him so very much.

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Rule breaker

Friday morning, I woke up here:

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Literally. I literally woke up under the sky, wrapped up in a sleeping bag, in my camping chair.

I had to break a lot of rules to get there, and I’m so glad I did.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up with a lot of rules. Some of the most important rules, the ones that affected me the most, were unspoken. It took me a long time to identify those rules. I really had to dig, to think about them, to think about why I was doing the things I was doing, why I was scared, why I deal with life the way I do and approach life the way I do.

If I hadn’t figured out those rules, and then started breaking them, I would have missed so much.

I would have missed this magical experience of watching meteors streak above me all night. Of falling asleep and waking up and having the sky as my ceiling. Of meeting new people and talking about constellations and laughing about what we’d call them if we were in charge.

Of feeling like I stepped out of life for a night, or perhaps into it. Maybe that’s what breaking those rules that don’t serve us, maybe that’s what that does — it allows us to both step out of our lives and into them, all at the same time.

Life is hard.

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Scott Peck wrote life is hard, and when we accept that fact, we are able to transcend it. A fancy way of saying that when we can accept that life is hard, it becomes much less difficult. My problem is that I can say that life is hard, but I don’t want to accept it. I realize this is rather childish, perhaps even infantile, but there it is. The truth isn’t always pretty. And trust me, neither are the temper tantrums that go on in my head sometimes about the fact that life is hard.

Because I am someone who has difficulty accepting that life is hard, my solution is to make it easier by taking the edge off. I come from a long line of those who take the edge off. There are some ways that I used to take the edge off that I can no longer do at all. There are others that I have to continue to do – I mean, a girl’s gotta eat, and see what’s happening on Facebook.

What I realized is that when I take the edge off the pain, I also take the edge off the joy and the happiness, and that sucks. So I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. However, this is easier said than done, for me anyway. Because I also still have those temper tantrums I mentioned earlier. And, as Mr. Peck mentioned, life is hard.

It turns out I never really learned how to do life, especially the emotional part. As in, how to deal with hard emotions like being pissed off, or jealous, or resentful or sad. Perhaps there was a class on this that I missed. If there isn’t a class on this, I think there should be.

So since I didn’t know how to deal with those difficult emotions, I turned to what people did while I was growing up – I took the edge off. I numbed. It turns out that numbing is not conducive to good relationships; neither are worthiness issues.

In case you think I’m some kind of genius, let me hasten to tell you that it took me a very long time to figure this out. Like, I just figured it out. As in, I’m still figuring this out. Well, I did have a clue about the numbing and taking the edge off piece, since I grew up with so much of it. Of course, seeing that numbing might be problematic didn’t stop me from doing it for a really long time, because, you know, I’m different (insert eye roll here). Sadly, it turns out I’m not different when it comes to numbing.

It turns out that I can pretty much turn almost anything into numbing. Watching TV, reading, eating, planning, organizing, Facebooking, obsessing, …, ANYthing that distracts me from what I’m feeling, or, better yet, takes those feelings away.

Now I’m trying to learn how to do life without numbing. I’m trying to notice when I’m numbing, or when I’ve numbed, and, instead of turning away from what I’m feeling, to turn toward it. I’m trying to learn how to be kind to myself when I’m feeling those difficult emotions, instead of turning away or beating myself up.

I fail more often than I succeed at this. I still numb, thankfully in much less destructive ways than I used to. But I’m starting to catch myself at it sometimes, and sometimes I’m even able to stop, mid-numb.  Sometimes I’m even able to tell that I want to numb, and then I don’t numb! This is a miracle, but, like most of those kinds of miracles, it doesn’t happen very often.

I just try to remember to pay attention to what’s going on with me, how I’m feeling, and be kind to myself. While you wouldn’t think this would be difficult, it really is. For me, anyway. I just keep trying, struggling along.

Self, improve

Self improvement is tricky when you have worthiness issues. Those worthiness issues – that you’re not good enough – can get ahold of self improvement and use it to fuel that fire. It goes something like this: if you were good enough, why would you need to improve? Only those worthiness issues, they don’t just say it once, loudly, they don’t yell it, HEY IF YOU WERE GOOD ENOUGH WHY WOULD YOU NEED TO IMPROVE?????

They say it over and over, in a whisper, I can barely hear it, I have to listen really hard to hear it – if you were good enough, if you were good enough, if you were good enough… It’s like this background noise that’s been there my whole life and so I got used to it,  I couldn’t see how it was affecting me.  Like that frog that gets put in the water and then the heat is increased, so very slowly that the frog doesn’t even notice it, until it’s too late. Rest in peace, froggy.

I couldn’t hear it until recently, until I realized I had worthiness issues and shame issues, after this class I took with Brené Brown. When I realized it, it pulled everything into focus. It was like looking at this picture that was fuzzy and blurry, and I thought it was a forest. And then all of a sudden you turn a dial and it comes into focus and it’s a seascape – completely different from what you thought it was.

So for the past many years, with a self-destructive break here and there, I have pushed and worked at self improvement, at healing and becoming whole, reaching and fighting for peace. No small irony – fighting for peace.

My spiritual teachers, no matter what tradition, tell me that peace is here, that I can have it right now. All I have to do is choose it. This is hard for me to believe. Okay, usually it’s pretty much impossible for me to believe. And, to be perfectly honest, that kind of talk usually just pisses me off.

And yet.

And yet I do have moments of peace, and gratitude – moments that are so beautiful that I feel like I might come apart with the holiness of it all.

Maybe that’s all we get, are just those moments.

If that’s the case (and I have a feeling it is), that all we get are moments of peace, well that pisses me off too. And of course, there goes the peace.