Seven Morning Habits Which Are Highly Effective for This Person

Congratulations brave warrior. Your survived the Monday after Thanksgiving and if it was anything like mine that is to be commended.

The entire holiday weekend had several highlights but it was also looooooaaaaded with triggers as holidays often are for a lot of us. By Sunday night I was headed for trouble and by Monday, mid-morning I was….what they say…”a heated mess? A mess where heat is applied to it so that what once was a little messy is now very messy?” (name that line).  Look the reality is that shit happens to all of us, usually at inconvenient times. I think of overcoming PTSD as a project which takes up a lot of time and energy. But  even when you are involved with a project involving lots of past shit, shit can and does go down real time too.  It’s the nature of living that we can’t schedule our shit to suit us best. This is because most of the shitty life events are outside of our control.

And that can make us feel (and also be) completely out of control too. An out of control person in a crisis situation?  Well, look nobody wants to be that that person or be around that person or even know that person. You want a freaking pilot who is IN CONTROL when the plane starts having mechanical difficulties y’know? Not some freaking idiot who is shrieking about how modern planes are supposed to be able to fly themselves. It’s just not an optimal thing.  I try hard not to be that person.

Yet there was no other way to describe me by Monday aternoon. I was Out Of Control and it was Not Optimal. And then as I scrubbed the walls and baseboards with soapy water, (the only productive thing I could focus on for any length of time whilst trying not to hyperventilate), it occcurred to me that because of the holiday weekend, I had completely slacked off on the careful daily habits I have cultivated over the course of my PTSD-ending Project.  And while I couldn’t control the triggers and I couldn’t control the shitty realities that had cropped up, I really can control whether or not I do my “Daily Disciplines” as I like to call them. And guess what else? They totally help me to become a competent pilot in the shitstorms of life.

I can also tell you that when my mornings are in control,  I feel pretty confident in my ability to keep my shit more or less together for the forseeable future..like, I feel pretty solid about the day ahead, come what may. Before I had these disciplines in place I felt really scared all the time. I couldn’t count on getting through the day if it got too hard. That’s not a cool way to live..and happily it’s not how I live anymore. So long as I keep up with my disciplines. That’s pretty powerful stuff. That’s worth buckling down for a little bit isn’t it?  For me it is. For me it SO IS.  So here I am to share with you what gets me and keeps me on the right track. Maybe all of these work for you too, maybe only one of them looks like something you’d like to try, or adapt to try. Disclaimer: daily disciplines are for everyone, if you have a mental health crisis in addition to this sort of thing you need to be working with care providers (which I do).

Here’s what I’m going to ask you not to do. Not because it annoys me but because I want you to reframe the way you think about your life and its problems. If you are inclined to write to me and tell me how you guess you are just stuck with a sucktastic life because you can’t do these things for xyz million different reasons then remember:  I’m not asking you to do these specific things.  I’m asking you to figure what disciplines you could employ to help you take control of your responses to what life hurls your way. So instead of putting energy into explaining why these things wouldn’t work for you,  go ahead and put it into figuring out what will work for you! Deal? Deal! I’m bossy cos I love you. Without further ado:

Kirsty’s Daily Disciplines.

1. Wake up early.
What?? No! I hate myself for typing those words. I am not an early bird. I don’t understand people who love the early morning, I go to bed too late…blahblahblahblah. I need an alarm to get me up every single day. And it’s dark and it’s cold and I’m sleep deprived because I do like to stay up too late. And if I had to get out of bed early without some sort of accountability it’s almost certain that I wouldn’t. Because I am nothing against the power of a warm comforter and a soft pillow.  Which is why I have organized my life to have people expecting me and waiting for me and even paying me to get up early.  The sad truth is that successful people are almost always early risers. Dammit. Anyway, sunrises are really pretty and when my beautiful friend Stacey died in her 30’s amongst
the words of advice she left were, “get up to see more sunrises”. I like to think of her when I do.

2. Drink a big bottle of water first thing.  Life hack. When you are brushing your teeth every night, fill up a bottle of water, put it on your night stand. Upon awakening…drank. People. Dehydration. Is. So. Bad. It’s bad for your body, it’s bad for your brain, it’s bad for your mood, it’s bad for your looks, your weight control, it’s bad for your breath it’s bad. If in doubt, drink more water. FYI: Coffee is not water, milk is not water, soda is not water, juice is not water. Water is water. Herbal tea without caffeine is a closer substitute than the above things.  Water is not just good it’s really critical for healthy functioning and so many things are going to start working better for you if you just buckle down and drink the right amount of water. Just Do It. Drinking room temp or warm water first thing in the morning is really good for your digestive system.  If I don’t drink about 20 oz first thing, there’s a good chance I’m going to keep on the path of dehydration all day which will lead to bad eating choices,  headaches, digestive issues and a super terrible mood. And that’s just short term. If I do drink it first thing I just function better and I keep hydrated as the day goes on. Good things beget more good things. If you hate water  trick yourself into liking or at least in drinking it: imagine you are in the desert and the water is the oasis you have been dreaming of all this time and glug glug glug… or use a straw or buy a bottle you love (this battered Swell bottle is my constant companion, keeps things hot or cold for ages and it is really really sturdy. (I know because once I used it as a javelin off of my top balcony and it landed on my stone path and it’s still being awesome). Anyway WATER. Drink more. Drink early and often. Life will get better for you. I promise.

3. Do yoga.  Yoga is a brilliant way to wake your mind and body up because it involves stretching, breath awareness and focus on the present. I can’t possibly go into how many ways yoga is beneficial, you have the internet, look it up!  Literally everyone can do a little bit of  SOME KIND OF yoga every day. There are so many different poses and adaptations within those poses. I like the little ritual of playing  “Here Comes The Sun” to kick off my practice every day. I can’t help but smile and feel comforted when I hear it. Even if you can only do one song’s worth of yoga, you did it. It’s so much better than nothing at all.  I chose this of my many yoga pics to share because I’m throwing down in jeans, with my jacket and my sunglasses off to the side on the way out of the door. Yoga doesn’t require lulelemon pants and a fancy studio or a “yoga body”. Just strike some poses where and whenever you can. They add up. A few sun salutations are an excellent way to get some truly beneficial stretches in and start your day off perfectly.

4. Meditate. Over the summer I practiced the very basics of basic zen meditation but with the school year being so much more busy and the weather not being as conducive and inviting to long practices outside in lotus position I turned to apps for help and variety. Head Space and Simple Habits both have very generous free trials to get you on your way (Simple Habits is currently 50% off for the yearly subscription), and they show how easy and accessible meditation really is. It takes no skill whatsoever. Exciting news! YES YOU CAN MEDITATE. Trust me, if I can do it, literally anyone can.  It’s not about emptying your mind of thought and being some kind of levitating genius. Allow me to reiterate: Even I can do this. And I have the attention span of a gnat on crack ok? Meditation is not what you think it is, it really is a very simple process and what’s more all the people you think are so amazing and calm and chill and accomplished probably do some form of meditation or another…try it out..it’s powerful stuff, yo. I’m by no means a pro or an example to live by but when I found myself in profound distress on Monday I discovered my brain automatically switching over to some of the skills I have recently learned through meditation so…yes. It works.

5.Write in a journal. I write 3 pages in an A4 Moleskine journal with a lovely flowy pen every morning. Doesn’t that sound so artistic and delicious?  Ah, I love Beautiful rituals! Someone taught me this “morning pages” concept about a year ago. And it’s such a cherished, satisfying ceremony for me. But  then, I like to write, and I write quickly. If you don’t you could maybe try to start with 5 things you are grateful for. Or write 2 intentions or top priorities for your day.  Since I’ve got 3 pages to fill, I manage to cover thoughts that are floating around, gratitude and intentions most days. But really, just the act of taking a pen and ink and putting your thoughts to page is the goal..at least for me

6. Make my bed.  I choose to ignore that study about how it’s better not to make your bed,  but if you don’t, there is nothing to stop you from smoothing your sheets, fluffing your pillow and pulling your covers back neatly so that you have an inviting place to return to at the end of the day. Creating order in the sacred space of  our room (I do consider our bedroom a sacred little sanctuary and I try to keep it beautiful and tidy because of that) is a very self nurturing and controlled way to start your day before you walk out into the chaos of the world. It’s such a small but deliberate act of discipline which will signals to me that I am in charge of my day and that I’m capable of creating order out of chaos. It’s a little thing that can make a really big
difference.





7. Have a nutritious easy to prepare/eat breakfast.  I give so much credit to my husband for preparing overnight oats for me since this spring or early summer. He’s perfected the recipe for me over time and it includes so many amazingly

healthy things while still being perfectly palatable and delicious. If I skip my oats and coffeeeeeeee, things fall apart predictably around 3pm every day.  As I mentioned above, I am incredibly easily distracted, so having something pre-prepared, appetising, healthy and comforting to eat which will keep my blood sugar stable for many hours is a total game changer for me and probably for the rest of my family who don’t have to deal with my irritability at 4pm when I realise I haven’t eaten all day and suddenly am foraging for all the carbs, writing rants on facebook IN ALL CAPS and being super bitchy to all the people.

Well that’s it for now. I actually have like 10 things but I’m out of time and the 7 seemed like a cool way to leverage off someone else’s success so you get 7 😉 Tell me what your habits for being the competent pilot of your life are! I wanna knoooooowwww! Maybe I wanna copy them! Anything here you like that you think you might incorporate? Tell me that too. Tellllll meeeeeee!!!

You guys remember when I used to do Works for Me Wednesday?? Well it’s Wednesday..these work for me! Ha! Nostalgia!

xox
k

Letting It All Be.

This morning I lay on the couch and I cuddled my precious little girl. Marveling at each of her delicate tiny features and listening to her carefully sounding out the words on her ipad to me and I realised. “She can read! She can really read. And she can write. She can express herself through the written word and she can read the communications of others. And that is a true miracle for any human being and it made me a little breathless. Just as it had when my mom pointed out that I could read when I sounded out “Hot Food” in the food court at Sandton City.

And then I watched as the glass window above the front door filled with a halo of white blonde hair and my youngest son, who is suddenly a man with a deep voice, hurried to pull it open and greet his oldest brother and I listened to them talk, they way men who are friends do. And I thrilled with joy when each of them came over to wish their little sister Happy Thanksgiving and listen to her with amused affection and leaned over to let me ruffle their hair which felt exactly the same as it had when they were 3,6, 10 years old.  And I just soaked in their camaraderie as they laughed and exchanged stories and jokes about Thanksgiving morning football games they had participated in years gone by and I thought to myself. This is my family.  And honestly looking at all these handsome grown men, I still feel like I’m playing a part of mom to teen-aged boys and a girl who has her boyfriend come over to help with the pies. I can’t quite fathom that it’s real. It feels like I dropped into a Folgers coffee Thanksgiving morning commercial to be honest.

I don’t know if everyone feels like this or if it’s because my life is so very white middle class TV-ad American and I’m still very South African. And I only saw scenes like these on TV rather than in real life?  Or perhaps it’s just because I’m still in denial that my son is older than I was when I got married and so none of this can possibly be because I’m still 19?  I’m still 28 with 4 little children in matching outfits. Aren’t I? And then my husband hands me a cup of coffee and he says, “you made all these people. Can you believe it?” And I’m like…”hey so did you and…nope.”

But instead of feeling weirded out or panicked or wistful or wishful, today I allow myself to soak it in completely. To observe it and feel absolute wonderment and gratitude and joy that this happy, peaceful scene of perfect abundance is mine. Is mine! Is of my making and of my good fortune and of my love and the love of those around me. And of the love and the goodness and the hard work and the faith and the commitment and the forgiveness and kindness of everyone in my family, and everyone who had a supportive role in my family over the years through all of our good times and our many struggles and our day to day conundrums of having too many places to take too many children. Someone always stepped in.  The Universe has shown us a tremendous amount of grace and has  never failed to channel love our way and I don’t know why but I do know that this love is responsible for everything so precious and perfect in my tiny sunny living room.  My tiny very humble living room with it’s random assortment of donated and found furniture and the rug which is actually a big piece of fabric from a bolt I found for $5 at Goodwill and put on a rug mat I found at Big Lots and rejoiced because the widths matched EXACTLY,  this morning and I feel purely and entirely thankful.

At the beginning of this month I was committed to posting something every day. I was derailed by PTSD. I kept writing but it was for me.  And I had many other posts lined up in my drafts for today. But none of them wanted to be published. And long ago I decided that if my heart didn’t beat a little bit more quickly when I considered publishing something I wrote, it was to stay in my personal folders until it did. But here’s something I want you to read it’s by Glennon Doyle and it was written last Thanksgiving Eve:

Here’s what we do tomorrow
We stop trying to be the director of the family show
and we just become an amused audience member

we jump on stage when it’s our line
we let everybody in the family play their role

we stop fixing, cajoling, judging, and lobbying

we stop hoping so hard and start accepting

we let it all be.

And here’s something I want you to know. I have a beautiful, blessed life. And I am thankful for it. And a good deal of the time I also struggle with feelings of great sadness and I struggle with them so that I can enjoy the abundance that is real. And I’m getting so much better at winning those struggles but less than 48 hours ago I lay sobbing like a very little girl in my bed, under my covers. Feeling very sad and very, very, very alone and scared and lonely.   And I wished nothing more than that all the holidays would just disappear because they trigger my PTSD rather badly sometimes. But I also know that I have a family and I don’t want their holiday legacy to be tainted by PTSD and so I figured out what would make this day the very easiest for me. And that meant deciding to cater in most of the Thanksgiving meal and handle only the parts that a very scared, overwhelmed little girl felt was doable.  And once I made that decision I felt more and more like a functional adult.  So if you are feeling very sad or very alone as you see pictures on social media of big happy families enjoying time together know that we all have our struggles. Everything is not as it seems.  Be very, very kind to yourself. Do whatever you need to do to stay alive and to be present and to enjoy the abundance that is in front of you. Because it is present for all of us in some form or another. Even if it is just a comfortable place to sit, a hot cup of coffee, running water and a bed where we can rest undisturbed. Shelter from storms and from vermin. Somewhere we can go to get food.  Whatever it is, recognize it and rest in that abundance and ask nothing else from yourself. And if you simply can’t see any abundance because the sadness is just that overwhelming and the fear and panic feelings are just too real, withhold any judgment. Talk to yourself as if you would a small frightened precious child. Because that is who you are. And assure yourself that this too shall pass. And yes the feelings may come back over and over again but there will be breaks in the clouds and there will be sunshine and you only have to handle what is right in front of you on this day. And then find a distraction if you can. A friendly face, something to laugh at, something to do. Move your body. Get outside even if it is just to take the trash out.  See if you can help a neighbour in any small way. All these things help. They helped me a lot in the last 48 hours. We can do this. I hope you can feel my love and my warmth and my reassurance because it’s meant just for you dear reader.

Much love.

K

The Person Who Inspires Me Most

You guys, I’m kinda nailing this November blogging thing. I’m just saying.

OK. SO:

You know those people who don’t get impressed by anything? Well that’s not me. Life can be hard and people are amazing. There are so many people who leave me breathless with their resilience, brilliance, bravery, dedication, creativity, strength, willpower, patience, capacity to love.  Over time, particularly in the last couple of years my inner circle has become extremely small and tight and there is not a single person inside of it who doesn’t completely blow me away in some regard on a daily basis.  I feel like that’s a good rule of thumb for who you want in your inner circle. You want your inner circle to make you smile from the inside out, to light up your soul in some way. You want your chosen people to be the type of people who make you drift away for a moment when you are interacting with them because you are marveling over how incredibly lucky you are to have them in your life.

Sometimes I will mention to a friend how I have replayed something they have said or done in my mind when the going gets tough and I need inspiration.  Usually they have completely forgotten the incident they had a part in which was so inspiring to me (that’s good to remember, you never know who you are inspiring and how).

I am inspired by people I know and love also by people I don’t know. Today, I watched the NYC marathon and got teary eyed along with everyone else as the female winner pumped her fist in triumph when she realised she had won. The first American woman in 40 years to do so.

Ripped from the pages of my facebook feed:
Her “FUCK YES ✊🏻!!!!” as she sprinted at the line…gave me a total lump in my throat. So I pretty much always root for the African but it was so apparent that she was having that one in a million perfect dream come true when every oz of everything you have sacrificed and suffered comes through for you at just the right moment experience and that kind of magic…it’s just an absolute privilege to watch. 

Clearly, I can never relate to the thrill of being an elite major marathon winner, but I can most certainly relate to what it feels like when all the work pays off and you are also blessed with a good running day. Running is so unpredictable and in the course of 26.2 miles alongside thousands of other people, anything can happen to derail your dreams but today, it all fell into place for Shalane Flanagan and that was magical and so inspiring. Just the shot in the arm I needed as I have been struggling with a fearful and pessimistic mindset in my own marathon training. I want to feel some of that joy again. It’s absolutely intoxicating. She was every little girl who had a dream’s hero today.

But if you were to ask me which person I think of the most often when I am really at rock bottom, when the tank is empty, when I can’t get out of bed, when I feel like the worst, most useless or ridiculous human being in the world and I really need to get over that and get on with it. The person who comes to mind is…..

Me.

Why? Because there is nobody I know more intimately.  There is no one whose struggles I am more closely acquainted with.  There is no struggle I can relate to better than my own. I know exactly what I have overcome, and how often I have triumphed in tiny and big ways. Sometimes it’s as small as getting out of bed, and forcing myself to do some household chores before I collapse back into bed to sleep off the grips of a PTSD episode, sometimes it is taking my tired self out into the freezing cold to complete a difficult run, other times it’ humbling myself on the mat as I get tossed around like a rag doll at jiu jitsu or being content to look completely inept at boxing, sometimes it’s as big as giving birth or completing a 1/2 marathon or naming and facing my biggest demons, standing up to my abusers, walking away from things which are breaking me.  But every time something hard comes along, and I fear I will not be able to handle it, the most powerful and effective thing I know to do is remembering all the times I did.

Reminding myself that I have survived 100% of my worst most difficult days, and I will survive this too.  Allowing myself permission to start over, to ask for forgiveness from others, to accept forgiveness from myself.  Reminding myself that this too shall pass, like all the times it did before.  Conjuring up memories of all the times I thought I was done for, when in fact I wasn’t.

Let me be very clear. I don’t believe I’m any better than anyone else. But I know that my victories are hard won and I know they are legit.

Which is why, as I get older and wiser, the days when I’m feeling ok or maybe even better than ok, I try to make hay while the sun shines. I try to do as much as I can. I try to stretch myself, move out of my comfort zone, face a fear, do something new, express my love and appreciation fearlessly. I try to deposit as much as I can into  the Bank of Mama Said There Would Be Days Like This.

So that when those rainy impossible days do come, I can make those withdrawals from my archives of badassery, and I can remind myself of how awesome I am and how brave and tough and strong and fierce I can be when I need to be.

Here’s my advice. Surround yourself with your heroes, always be looking for new ones, but most importantly, be your own.
xoxo








On the road less traveled, 13 year old FBI agents and other stuff I’m happy about..

In past Novembers I made a habit of posting 5 things I was grateful for every day of the month. This always made November my favourite blogging month because it’s just so much fun to reflect on everything that is awesome about your life.  
Lately, I’ve  tried to make a habit of doing that when I wake up. I have an active and often difficult, troubling and disturbing dream life which means that I’m not always feeling swell when I first wake up. When I remember the dreams it’s easy to start ruminating and getting lost in sadness or trauma and it’s an awful way to start the day. I’ve actively started replacing negative thoughts with thoughts of people I love, funny interactions I have had, sweet little moments between my kids, whatever comes to mind when I direct my head in that direction. The more I do it, the more natural it becomes. But it’s still so nice to have it on record and to share these things from time to time.
I”m not sure if I will do the 5 things on the blog every day of this month because I have so many other things I want to post about this month. We will see. But here are 5 things I’m grateful for today:
People who love me at my worst. This has been a tough week for me and I have had some truly monstrous moments. When I am experiencing a PTSD setback and I am triggered and act awful, nobody could hate me more than I hate myself. It’s a terrible feeling and could easily spiral into a cycle of self loathing and hopelessness. But I am so incredibly lucky to have true blue, ride or die people in my life who are gracious enough to ride out the storm with me even when it’s blowing straight into their faces. To be loved when you are being completely crazy and unlovable is the most healing thing I know of and is something I do not take for granted.

Every time I take the road less traveled 
I saw this scene in the woods when I went running yesterday. My run finally took place after an endless internal struggle  followed by a comedy of errors, stomping around the house in trying to find all the gear I needed (it turned out I was wearing it all along) and the line from Robert Frost’s poem immediately came to mind.
You guys, its so much easier not to do the hard things, not to stick with the program, to give up on on dreams because of the daily grind required to accomplish them. And every time time we do the harder thing we are taking the road less traveled and it really does make all the difference.  I’m so grateful to be in a place where my choices are once again my own. That I have the power and strength to push through the resistance is such a huge gift, so hard won through such a hard fight by so many people on my behalf.
Magical little moments when Ella brings me a book that she has written and put together regarding the joys of it being November 1st. There is just so much to love about this and it’s hard to remember anything else not being completely perfect when I am present to this type of goodness.

A 13 year old son who took on a mammoth sink load of dirty dishes completely on his own initiative while I lay in bed sleeping off my body’s attempt to get sick this afternoon. (I will not get sick because my 13 year old let me sleep and did the dishes and getting sick after that would be the epitome of ingratitude.  Also, he had the best Halloween costume ever as an FBI agent making the type of arrest dreams are made of.
Ongoing traditions and people to share them with. As the kids get older, the traditions evolve slightly but it’s a credit to the organizers of these events and the friendships we have formed that the seniors in high school show up to hang out and hand out candy just as predictably as they did when we were pulling them door to door in wagons.  This is a beautiful thing and I am so grateful and moved that my kids have had the safe happy childhood that they have enjoyed thanks to this village.

Adventures in Float (Sensory Deprivation) Therapy.

It’s November you guys and I’m totally back. I know that’s my line but…hey..

No seriously. This time it’s going to stick. I have missed my blogging so terribly much. So. Terribly. Much.  I have such a backlog of posts in drafts. I have been typing away like a fiend but for some reason I have had such a mental block about getting back in the blogging saddle. But here I am. I am  here.

Several years ago somewhere on this blog (in a post far away which I cannot find) I waxed wishful and wistful about how desperately I would like to have the experience of floating in a sensory deprivation tank. And then.dreams came true and ..this marvelous place opened not very far from my home right in time for my super intense adventures in PTSD. I had read quite a bit about the benefits of floating for PTSD and since I am all about getting that episode of my life dealt with as quickly and properly as possibly, I made an appointment with alacrity. True REST is the acronym representing Reduced Environment Stimulus Therapy which is somewhat different from the idea of total sensory deprivation. The pods offer lights, music and even iphone hook ups so you can listen to whatever you want. They are also equipped with a two way intercom so you are never without access to someone who can answer questions or help you out should you need them.

Just the aesthetics of the True REST float spa are enough to attract anyone looking for some calm and serenity. This glowing orb filled with warm water is nothing short of mesmerizing. MESMERIZING I SAY.  But let’s start at the beginning because the whole thing is An Experience.

When you check in, you trade in  your shoes for flip flops, then you are escorted to the Oasis room where there is all manner of soothing stuff going on. Adult colouring books, soothing instrumentals, herbal tea, fireplace.  It’s the stuff overstimulated mom’s dreams are made of.  At the appointed time you are escorted back to your very own “suite”. It’s all very zen and minimalist.  You shower with the provided shampoo, conditioner and soap, and then you slip into this womb like environment. The photos obviously show people wearing swimsuits but you are encouraged to float naked and since your room is completely private there is no reason not to.

I am horribly claustrophobic to the extent that I have made all of my loved ones promise that I will be buried attached to all sorts of bells and cell phones and shovels and such should it turn out that I was just in a deep coma so I was pretty skeptical as to how well I would cope with getting into a pod and closing the lid. Turns out it really isn’t claustrophobic at all. If you want you can leave the lid open as much as you like (I didn’t like because I didn’t want to get chilly) You are free to push it open at any time. You can also control the lighting from blues, greens, reds or plunge yourself into total darkness, which I only managed to deal with for a few moments at a time. It’s just SO dark.  The pod itself is not small or confining you can float around in there very freely.

My first experience really surprised me because I relaxed and almost fell asleep almost immediately and I am the type of person who can only sleep in my own bed under optimal conditions, when thoroughly exhausted. Ugh so high maintenance.  I felt incredibly relaxed after and the sensation lasted for days after but it wasn’t a very intentional experience and by the time my hour was up that day I was more than ready to get out. I was just so unused to lying still without stimuli.

The next time I went I had the intention of dealing with an injury prior to a race. The extremely high salt content is recommended for athletes and I have had a lot of luck preventing injuries by taking regular Epsom salt baths. And this is way, way next level to that.  I found that the nagging pain in my calf was markedly improved after the first float and so I made an appointment for one more the day before my race.

That’s when the real magic happened. The float started out just as the others, I felt relaxed and delightfully weightless but this time I was able to truly meditate in preparation for my race. For a full hour I was able to really check in with each body part. I spent time visualizing each organ and limb functioning smoothly and healthily. I pictured my heart beating steadily and strong, my lungs expanding fully, I focused on each muscle, tendon, bone. I imagined them, strong and healthy, completing each mile effortlessly.  Then I focused on my mind. I pictured myself feeling the great joy of having overcome so much in the last few years and over the course of my life. Going from completely broken and hopeless to going back to being able to complete goals that that required mental toughness, commitment and consistency. I pictured myself filled with joy and gratitude. At the end of my float I had some playful moments, doing the yoga poses of my dreams in the weightless environment. I felt so completely relaxed and rejuvenated and lo and behold. The pain I had been dealing with for weeks was gone. Entirely gone just in time for my race.  I carried this sense of peaceful, calm confidence in my body and serenity and joy in my mind throughout next 24 hours and my race was truly the stuff that running dreams are made of.  I felt so totally in synch with my body and completely joyful and pain free throughout. I had no anxiety, paced myself perfectly and felt truly triumphant and at peace from beginning to end.

I honestly cannot speak highly enough of the benefits of the float tank. The whole experience is so serene, nurturing, healing and uplifting.  If you are dealing with excess stress physically, mentally, emotionally. If you are dealing with PTSD (the Perrysburg location offers special pricing packages for veterans), if you are an athlete trying to avoid or heal from injury, if you have a chronic condition or illness, this is for  you.  If you like time to yourself, would be interested in taking your meditation to the next level or are just curious as to what this otherworldly womb like state could do for your mind and body, this is for you. Did I mention that they have an oxygen  bar that you can hook up to after your float session? And a beautiful, well appointed dressing room where you can dry your hair, reapply make up and gradually re-enter the real world? It has FLAVOURED oxygen. It’s so incredibly Hollywood!  For more pictures, locations close to you reviews and videos as well as to take advantage of the packages being offered this month be sure to check out their facebook page. 

**I was so impressed with my experience that I felt moved to reach out to True Rest to see if they would be interested in a collaboration to get the word out.  While I have been compensated for this post, all of  the opinions expressed are unsolicited and genuine. 

On Being Fiercely 40 (now that I’m 41)

Darlings. Look at this! A blog post! I had to do it. For posterity. By the time I finish and publish this post I will be celebrating my non-official birthday and will have completed my 40th year on this mortal coil.

And what a year it was, yo.

Honestly? I have lost track of time and space this year. So much has happened it feels like at least 10. Which isn’t a bad way to go when you are 40 and 40 happens to have been your favourite year so far.

I have always heard women proclaiming that their lives began at 40 and everything fell into place and it was the literal best and I was like..the lady doth protest too much, methinks. BUT I AM HERE TO TELL YOU IT IS ALL TRUE.

Which is not to say for a single second that 40 has been one big joyful skip in the meadow of serenity. Not so much. Not at all. I mean when I think back on the year I feel really happy and good about it but apparently lots of shit went down (which I know cognitively and I can even identify to be all too true for several moments like earlier today around 2pm as I sat in my empty bath, fully clothed texting  “FML” messages to a friend).

HOWEVER. HOW.EVER my general sense is that this year has been awesome and that isn’t because it has been easy because it hasn’t all been easy.  It’s just that I feel like me.  And I’m (finally) cool with who I am. All messy and twisty and volatile and angry and peaceful and kind and bitchy and hurt and healed and wise and ridiculous and immature and disciplined and driven and lazy and cool and sexy and dorky and insecure and confident and self loathing and confused and clear thinking. All of me. I’m down with it. I finally am who I am and I love this crazy broad I call Myself.  Yes I do. And I make no apologies for whatever it is I am on any given day because…I am who I am. And that’s what 40 looks like. That’s the gift it’s brought me. Accepting that I am who I am and working within that acceptance to be the best version of me that I can muster on any given day. And some days that looks like just getting out of bed (or getting into bed and staying away from the defenseless public).

Other stuff I love about being 40/41? I’m fortunate enough to be healthy and active and old enough to know how lucky I am to be healthy and active and experienced enough to be good to my body and treat it with the respect it deserves instead of doing crazy things to make it look a certain way I listen to it so that it can feel and function a certain way.  I’m not even going to pretend that I don’t care about how it looks. I want it to look as good as it feels, and when it doesn’t I get frustrated and I’m not sorry about that either. I think enjoying the way we look and feeling confident in our skin is nothing to be ashamed of and certainly something to strive for.  

I’m just not willing to do weird stupid things in the pursuit of appearance at the expense of being able to enjoy life.  I have never enjoyed being inside of my body more than I have this year.  And I know these are jinxing words and I know that this might sound braggy or insensitive to those who are struggling with health issues but please do know that I cherish every moment when I am challenging myself physically or just feeling relaxation or the good type of tired or pleasure in its many forms. I don’t take it for granted. I have had long periods where I have struggled with considerable physical pain with illness and crushing fatigue, I know how soul destroying it is.  Having a healthy, vital body to live inside of as I have continued the hard work of healing from PTSD has been a beautiful gift which I appreciate with a great sense of joy and wonder.  This year I have done some sort of yoga almost every day,  I have kept up with running and I feel like I’m the best runner I have ever been since I started running at age 17. 

I finally figured out good form. Seriously, how did I not know how to run properly all these years and miles later?  A few months ago I started going to a mixed martial arts gym. A couple of years ago I would have laughed at the concept. It was so not me. But do you know what? I left my comfort zone and have discovered that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing have been the most fun, healing things I have done in a long time. But more on that later.

And as ever, the  PTSD thing. Man alive that’s a beast! Am I right? However, it’s a beast that can be conquered. With patience and determination and education and support. It can absolutely be conquered. I still struggle mightily some days. Life has a way of just pulling the freaking rug out whenever you think you are nailing it. Life is a total bitch that way.  But here’s what’s hopeful. I still get triggered from time to time and then I hate everything and it’s the worst and I take a moment to do whatever just to stay alive and then…it passes. It. Passes.  There have not been any major spirals into despair. There haven’t been any more weeks/months lost to torturous pain or perhaps worse..total catatonic numbness. There have been excruciatingly painful, confusing, isolating horrible moments, hours, maybe a day or two and one month in particular this year was grueling, but the reprieves have come quickly and regularly. This is profound progress.  Darlings, please listen to me. If you are in the catatonic numbness or the greyness of the days when you wish you could just cease to exist…please know that this too shall pass and with the right help, you are going to experience those times less and less and even when you are in them the edge will not be quite as sharp and the despair will not be as enveloping and terrifying. It honestly does get better.   And none of this is for naught. I have been so honoured to walk beside others on this journey. In places similar to where I am now, or further down or forward on the path of healing.  As an ex-Mormon, a religion which finds meaning in everything and nothing, it was weird to suddenly find myself at a loose end. Having to define my own belief system. Weird is the wrong word. It was devastating and horrifying and terrifying but also liberating AF and ultimately it has brought me so much peace.  My pain means something if I’m willing to use it to hold space for others who are experiencing their own.  And that’s enough for me. I need nothing else to find meaning in my life. I’m here to help with what I’ve learned through suffering. There’s enough struggle and grief in the world to keep me occupied with that for the rest of my days. And they will be days well spent if I do.

Being 40 has given me focus. I have streamlined my life considerably in recent months. My circle is small and tight, my commitments are few and focused, my goals are reasonable and I am patiently tenacious about achieving them. “Patiently tenacious” means that I am learning to adapt when necessary but that I’m not just rambling around in the dark hoping to get shit down. That’s another thing about being 40, there’s definitely a sense of actually actively figuring out how to get shit down rather than just dreaming and hoping about that “one day” when it will all magically fall into place.  I have checked a lot off the old bucket list this year. And once you get into that zone you find that it becomes easier and easier to do.

In summary this year I have loved my life (even when I’ve been cursing it) and I love my people. I am grateful to have lived another year of this brilliantly brutiful life. I have been incredibly fortunate in my circumstances and my relationships.  I so hope that I can live many more just as eventful, exciting, growth filled, humbling, confusing and fully alive as this one.  Thanks for being along for this ride, and for letting me be a part of yours.

And since I drink now (which by the way is really most enjoyable in moderation in case you were wondering), cheers and L’Chaim and bottoms up and all that!

Kisses,
k

The Fascination of Fixing your Flooded Basement

In keeping with the promise I made to use writing about my experience less as catharsis (which is fine but I do have a therapist and a private journal) and more in terms of offering help in practical portions, I want to cover one of the things that has been very useful to me in being on the path to overcoming my crippling PTSD relatively fast. And that has been to Stay Fascinated.

I am fortunate that the capabilities of the human body and mind are endlessly captivating to me, and while I used to know that there were definitely mind body connections, I had no idea how deeply and inextricably they run together.  I had no idea of how layered and protective the human mind is. How brilliantly the webs of memory and trauma are woven to help us to cope in the short term.

Because I am prone to oversimplifications and analogies in my explanations, I will liken it to when your house is a DISASTER.   It’s the worst it’s ever been and then suddenly you find out that you have overnight guests on the way. Maybe your in-laws. So what do you do? You deal with the mess but not in a way that is a long term resolution. You don’t have time to sift through the crap and make decisions, you just need to create an appearance of not living in a slum and having your shit together.

Maybe you grab a bunch of bags in the method of “Stuff and Scream” I outlined sometime ago, whereupon you grab all the crap off all the surfaces you can see and scream at the family members to join you in stuffing it all into  random bags which you will hide in the basement until such a time that the guests are gone and you can deal with it properly.

 So that’s what often happens with trauma. Childhood trauma particularly. Especially when it’s dealt by people who are supposed to be safe and in charge. When trauma comes at you when you are a kid or a teenager or maybe just very overwhelmed and/or unsupported, you are like…Oh HELL no. I am a kid. I am not equipped for THIS. So you stuff it into all the bags and put it into the basement and pretend that everything is fine. 

Now some people actually forget about all the crap in the basement but others are uncomfortably aware of the piles down there. And some forget about it for a while because life is full and busy and distracting, but then something reminds them and oh dear, what a bummer that is.

But regardless of how consciously unsettled you might be, having all your hastily grabbed, not properly filed or disposed of clutter randomly stuffed down in the basement, is going to wreak havoc on your life when bills go unpaid and permission slips are lost and people are crying about the precious artwork they created for you that you obviously don’t care very much about….

And soon enough, if you don’t get down there to sort stuff out, other guests come and you’ll just keep piling more shit on top of the original chaos and and all the mess gets mixed up, and life will get messier and more chaotic, and more confusing, and if you leave it long enough eventually those piles..well they are going to start making sure that you deal with them.

Maybe you get a situation where your family just can’t even with the fact that you don’t have any idea where the passports are,  or your wife is hella pissed because the basement is now essentially unusuable or omigod…maybe…. there is a flood down there.  And then…well you are out of options. Time to face the music. Right?

When it comes to trauma believe this one truth if you don’t believe anything else I ever tell you. You are going to have to get down there and sift through all that stuff at some time if you are going to have a fully functional, happy life with good, satisfying relationships, and if you don’t, you are going to be consistently unhappy or anxious and weirdly triggered in ways that don’t make any type of sense to anyone least of all you, and eventually you will just dismiss yourself as a horrible, worthless person. That happens a lot sadly, with predictably disastrous results.

Here’s where Staying Fascinated is a life saver. Look. Friends. Nobody relishes the idea of going down into a nasty flooded basement full of soggy crap that you have convinced yourself you don’t need anymore.  I mean I guess some weirdos do. There’s probably a show on TLC about that. I dunno. Back to most people though.  This is why you have to find a positive motivation. Not just: “Omigod the house is going to literally fall down if we don’t sort out the flooded basement.”

But how about:  “Ok so when we clean up the basement,  I bet we are going to find so many cool things we have been looking for, and maybe we can even put in new flooring and make it super functional and cozy and have people over to play pool and chill on the yoga trapeze”. 

Is this analogy clear as mud? Yes? Ok: Working through PTSD in therapy is like that. You can look at it as a chore and a nightmare or you can approach it as a fascinating opportunity to understand so many amazing things about yourself and others and how to navigate a life that seemed like it was in charge of you rather than the other way around.
Because honestly, it is.

I was reviewing a few blog posts from May’s gone by and there is a clear pattern. First when I wasn’t aware of my triggers, everything was just awful. Then I was aware of my triggers,  but I was so upset that I was continuing to be triggered and I wasn’t OVER IT already, so everything was even more awful.

Now I know what I’m dealing with. So everything is hard, like really hard but it’s getting better. Slowly but surely,  it is getting better. My therapist tells me that it’s not even happening slowly but very fast actually. And when you consider that I’m working through decades of trauma over the course of a couple of years I must agree. But without her help and without what I understand now, well, you guys I just don’t know. I might not be here. 

Knowledge is power. Knowledge is fascinating.
 Knowledge is healing.

I find that when I’m in a perpetually triggered state as I have been this last month I alternate between not sleeping and then falling into an exhausted catatonic sleep whereupon I have the most vivid often disturbing dreams which are always highly symbolic. That’s draining and triggering in turn and so I resist sleeping or I wake up a lot and so the cycle continues.  Today after several days of bad sleep I found myself having the deep sleep with hectic dreaming. None of it was pleasant. I was working through a ton of trauma in those dreams.  At one point I actually woke myself up doing a jiu jitsu escape. It was jarring but also kind of cool. And while it was all rather harrowing I take it as a good sign that the basement purge is going well. 

Where I used to wake up after these dreams, feeling a sense of dread and panic and anxiety and then spiral into a full fledged PTSD episode; I find that I am now at the point that I can wake up, feel a sense of dread and panic and anxiety, acknowledge my emotions, remind myself that they are stemming from my dreams and not reality, analyze the dreams, put them in their place and use them to solve puzzles.

Part of my dream today was about being very sick. I remembered that I always used to get very sick at this time of year. I very rarely get sick,  but I can’t remember a single late May until this year where I wasn’t truly ill. This year I haven’t been sick.  That’s not a coincidence. You have to get this trauma out of your cells or it will make you sick. 

One way or another, the basement is going to need to be addressed.

I once read an article about experiencing physical pain as an interested observer instead of a victim. I have used that technique to successfully deal with physical discomfort and athletic challenges many times. And it works just as well with emotional pain. We can transfer ourselves from victim to survivor when we choose to be interested in this process. When we decide to take wisdom from it. When we look at it like a puzzle to be solved. When we anticipate what we will be able to do with the cleaned out basement. 

Stay fascinated darlings. Life is about learning.
xo
k

Do Whatever Just to Stay Alive

If you follow my Instagram story you will know that I have been outlining my practical strategies for coping with flare ups of post traumatic stress. This is partly in keeping with Instagram’s May Mental health #hereforyou initiative, and partly to keep me accountable as I fight the demons of May in my own life.  One of my sanity saving go-to’s is to go running in the woods and in the story I featured one of my favourite songs for running to and the mantra that I have taken from it.  I’m sure I have mentioned “Stay Alive” from one of my fav movies, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. Not a difficult day goes by when I don’t chant to myself over and over:

                                                  Do Whatever Just To Stay Alive.


There is a truth and it’s on our side, dawn is coming open your eyes…
Look into the sun as the new day’s rise….

Deep within most of us on some level most times there is the hope for dawn. But that doesn’t mean that the night isn’t dark and frightening and how the hell are we supposed to survive that?

All weekend I have kept the monster manageably contained through feverish distraction.  Yoga, jiu jitsu, boxing, some kicking (damn that felt good).  Kids, shopping, going out, yoga trapeze! The monster was always right below the surface and that’s not exactly my happiest place but doable.

But today is Monday and the house is quiet. And when you find that the brave Kimmie Schmidt in the drivers seat has been replaced by a frightened little girl who is feeling very threatened and alone that’s not a good space to be. Mommy mode saves me until I drop Ella at school and then I sit in the car , swallowing the panic and assessing my options.

1.I can go home and get into bed and pray for the oblivion of sleep since I woke up 25x last night at least.  Nope. That doesn’t seem right. Day sleeping can spiral in a hurry.

2. I can get into the bath. It’s warm and safe in the bath. But no. Too much stillness.. too much time to think and then I have to get out eventually. Plus my house is a mess.

3. Go for a run. Ok. Do that. I don’t want to do that but it seems like a good choice.

I wandered into my room, looking for the last place I kicked off my running shoes. I spot a book I am half way through. It’s Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior. G is my jam. She’s messy. She speaks her truth and she is vulnerable and brave and raw and real. She gets me. She’s been scared and sad and messed up and she figured out how to stay alive anyway. G is always a good choice for me. Running can wait for G.

 I settle into reading about one of the worst moments of her life.  A phrase she has used many times in the past pops out at me. Something like..”when you don’t know what to do…just do the next right thing”.  Yes. Doable. Even a frightened little girl can follow these directions. Ok I need to clean the house. It’s Monday. The house needs to be cleaned.  But where do I start?  I thought of a podcast I listened to recently, Jordan Peterson was  talking about activism and trying to change the world being a bit of a stretch when we can’t manage to keep our own rooms tidy. The man is abrasive in his manner but he has a solid point. We can start improving the world but sorting ourselves out first. There’s no denying that truth.

Ok so I will start with my room.  Smoothing the sheets, fluffing the pillows. To keep my panicky mind focused on the task at hand, I listen to my big sister Shona’s voice telling me what to do next. Nobody can clean a room the way Shona can. My friend checks in with me to see how I’m doing with my “no sugar” pact. Sugar is a disaster for me and I only lasted an hour yesterday. I have asked him to be my sponsor. He is a sugar addict who has been in successful recovery for months.  I tell him I’m good because I haven’t eaten yet. This reminds me I haven’t eaten yet. That might explain some of the sense of despair.  Next right thing would be to eat. I open the fridge to see the overnight oats my sainted husband has prepared. Next right thing to do. Tell him thanks for that, check in on his day. Tell him I’m struggling. We talk about the next right thing to do….

This day will be difficult and at times maybe the emotional labour will begin to feel unbearable. But I will breathe through it. I will get some things done. Maybe not nearly as many things as I wish I could get done because it’s hard to get a lot done when you are in labour. But some things, certainly. I will do Some of the Things. This day will be ordinary, and difficult and ultimately it will be triumphant. Because as hard as it will try to bury me and lie to me and tell me how terrifying and hopeless everything is, I will proceed in the truth which is that in reality everything is actually ok at this moment and that infinite hope lies ahead and I am loved.

And so are you.

If you are struggling, and going through your own emotional labour right now and you are not sure how you are going to survive it, may I suggest that you join me in just coming up with one right thing to do at this moment. It can be simple. Maybe brush your teeth. Unload the dishwasher, Empty the trash. Go to that appointment. Clean off your desk. Send a thank you note. Walk to the end of the block and back. Any of these are good things to do. There are any number of right things to do now. Just pick one, You can do that. Do it and then do the next right thing and together we will walk this day out and we will stay alive. (And kicking.)

Much love
k

The Unbreakable Kirsty Sayer

I knew from day 1 of May that it was going to be a doozy. It always has been, and in the last few years my complete short circuits occurred predictably on more or less the same day in May. Leading up to those days were a series of occasions and their accompanying triggers, slowly wearing away at the peace and serenity I work so hard to maintain.  When I finally unpacked all of it  in therapy this  week, my therapist looked shocked. “You are not even kidding about May. Wow. And all that is real. It’s not in your head. It’s real stuff. May really is the worst for you!”

Um…yes. May can die in a freaking fire.

At the end of our session yesterday she said, “I feel compelled to give you a hug. Would that be alright?”

I have many people in my life who say wonderful things to me all the time. I’m very lucky that way, to be surrounded by so many generous and kind people.. A couple of them are truly sincere about it too. They admire me without agenda. It makes me happy that I am a positive influence in their lives, but it doesn’t tend to affect the way I see myself, one way or the other. My therapist however does not say much about me. Not one way or another. And when she does, I pay attention.

Yesterday she said to me, in a neutral manner. “You are incredibly strong,  maybe even too strong sometimes.”
And it connected. 

I looked up and said to her, “Apparently so. And I think it’s time I really start seeing myself that way. It was the first time I was like. Yes. I am strong. Actually.”

After I left, I felt ok. In as much as you can be ok and also be in terrible pain.

I felt like a healthy woman experiencing what I have coined as “emotional childbirth”. I pushed through my good moments being who I needed to be, (a wife celebrating an anniversary, a mother celebrating her baby graduating kindergarten and her other children feeling the stressors of the end of the school year,) and then, I would feel it rise, an enormous measure of pain that washed over me. The contractions have been happening all month, periodically intensifying over the course of the week and the last few days I have been in real, active labour. The contractions.. 

Like a tsunami wall of pain. Taking my breath away, nauseating me. Physical, excruciating pain. In my solar plexus all the way through to my back. Sometimes paralyzing my throat in spasms too. The throat spasms are not unusual in people who are recovering from the type of abuse and secret keeping that induced my PTSD. 

When before I was sure it was killing me, and I just wanted to die, now I know what it’s about. So I breathe through it. I do what I did when I experienced long and difficult labours without drugs and I told myself what to do when I helped others through long and difficult labours without drugs. I sought support from strategic, trusted sources. I allowed myself to alternate between distracting myself when I was able to and then breathing through it when I wasn’t. Accepting the pain, moving with it. Knowing that it would pass. That every surge was bringing me closer to the reality of being healed and whole. A couple of nights ago, I lay in bed and quietly moaned to my husband that the pain was so terrible and profound that I could feel it in my muscles and my skin. His theory was that it had been inside of me for so long, hidden even deeper before and it was working it’s way out.  I agreed wholeheartedly. I do believe we hold psychological pain in our very cells and so this made sense to me. It didn’t make the process any less painful but the understanding made it easier to bear.

In every labour there are pockets of time between the pain and intensity to catch ones breath. During these waves of intense pain I have had many moments when I felt that relief.

This morning I was looking at an ad for some silly not in any way particularly impressive little product on my phone and I heard my voice say out loud with such wonder and delight, “WOW! WHAT. EVEN?!”  I immediately laughed at myself. Affectionately, actually. I reminded myself of Kimmie Schmidt.

If you haven’t seen The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt series, I dunno…maybe you should. I rarely watch TV, but when I’m experiencing a post traumatic episode, I find it therapeutic.  It doesn’t seem like you should be able to make a comedy out of the kidnapping of a group of young women by a faux religious leader who kept them underground in bunker for years, brainwashing them to keep them there, raping them etc. But somehow they managed to do it.  It’s a totally silly show,  but Kimmie herself is nothing short of a delight. Just seeing her face makes me giggle happily.

This morning as I felt myself still labouring through grief, I thought, “Yes!  That’s it! Kirsty!
When you feel sad you must: CHANNEL KIMMIE”.

Here’s what I love about Kimmie :

-Kimmie has seen some dark, dark shit. But she doesn’t let it affect her sense of wonder. Life is so unbelievably full of wonder,and beauty and joy and incredible things to learn and experience and see and hear about. The sheer amount of things that there are to LEARN makes me feel giddy with joy. Think about how happy babies are (with the exception of when they aren’t). Do you know why? No men not every baby is breastfed, so it’s not that. I’ll tell you why. It’s because literally everything is fascinating and new and amazing to them. That piece of paper they find under the couch. Totally awesome. The noise of it when they crumple it or bat at it, the way it feels in their hand, the way it tastes, the way it moves. That piece of paper is the best goddamn thing a baby has ever seen in their LIFE IS WHAT IT IS, and that’s why when you yank it away from  them it’s completely tragic. You just took away the best.goddamn.thing.that.had.ever.happened.to.them, you monster.

But it’s cool because in about 25 seconds they will discover something else that’s also the newest most fascinating thing they have ever experienced. This is also why they need to sleep a lot. Their tiny minds are constantly being stimulated and BLOWN. It’s exhausting. Babies are thoroughly alive and learning and experiencing all the time. And they are happy (except when they aren’t).

Kimmie , oh how I love her, Kimmie captures that childlike wonder and joy.  And in a lot of ways I’m like Kimmie. I am constantly amazed by like…everything. It pisses my kids off a little bit. They are like…”why is everything so exciting to you mom? Ugh!” Nobody is more cynical than a teenager. They’ll get over it.
Anyway I love this about Kimmie and I love it about me too. No apologies. And btw hell yes the fidget spinner is awesome, not just a fad and I will fight you if you try to steal mine. MOVING ON:

-Kimmie is incredibly kind and generous and willing to help everyone. And she respects her own boundaries.
 I’m inclined to be kind and generous and to help people too. I’m wired that way and I feel happy about that. I’m really lucky that I am that way. A lot of people seem to have to work on it or they don’t bother working on it and so they are bastards and they don’t have a lot of people in their lives who think they are cool and that must suck. Anyway that’s never been my problem.  What has been my problem is that my kindness and wanting to help and take care of people means that shitty damaged people can take advantage of me and hurt me. I can be naïve about people sometimes.

Yeah, Kimmie had that problem too. We can tell by the fact that she was led into a bunker and stayed there for a lot of years when she could have easily escaped.  (I’m hoping you see the parallels in my own life here without me getting out a pencil and a ruler and drawing them for you). Now, wandering around NYC, Kimmie is in peril of being taken advantage of all over again. Like every single day.  Happily, Kimmie’s not dumb though and she’s also not weak. (Hey! Same here!) Soon enough, Kimmie figures out the joy and beauty of BOUNDARIES.  Ah boundaries.

We watch as Kimmie figures out those boundaries. And you guys it’s freaking inspiring. But why would that be inspiring. I WILL TELL YOU WHY!

Kimmie doesn’t trade in her kindness or her childlike wonder and awe or stop believing life rocks and that most people are cool.  She doesn’t become a cynical, unhelpful, jaded bitch. Nope. She sets up her boundaries and they are rock solid.  And it’s not just good for Kimmie,  it’s great for her friends too.  She has this one friend who is constantly using her at first and she’s like this woman’s unpaid Everything. At first, Kimmie runs herself ragged for this delusional wreck of a woman and then one day she loses her characteristic cheery shit, and digs in her heels. She decides enough, already and basically lays it all on the line. Tells the painful woman something like, “you are not paying me I am your FRIEND. So either start paying me or start treating me like an actual friend but you gotta pick one and they decide to go with the friend thing. Or the paid friend thing. I can’t quite remember but it’s all good.  And Kimmie provides help but stops enabling, and the friend becomes more capable and confident and accesses her better self and starts treating Kimmie like a human being and in doing so she experiences what it is like to have a real friend for the first time in her life and it’s awesome for them both.

So yeah, boundaries are the best. When I don’t ask for what I need or I give more than I am able or if I let people treat me in a way that I know is disrespectful of my established expectations for relationships doesn’t make me a chill, cool person….it makes me a person who is ignoring my own boundaries. I become angry and bitter and unkind. It doesn’t me happy or anyone around me happy. We don’t do people favours when we let them violate our boundaries.  The reality is that sometimes the needs and boundaries of two people just aren’t going to ever synch up.  This part is important:
If your boundaries are healthy and  reasonable (and you might need to check in with an impartial third party on that from time to time to be sure, in fact I recommend it especially if you are still figuring this boundary shiz out) and they repeatedly show a disregard for those boundaries, then sadly they are showing a disregard for you as a person, and  y’all don’t need to keep hanging. I know babies, it’s super sad and it’s hard and it can be nothing less than heart breaking. But. To stay in that situation will ultimately be sadder and harder and more heart breaking. That’s the truth.
And it’s better for everyone that way. Watch Kimmie. She’s catching on fast that ‘lil firecracker.

-Kimmie doesn’t feel sorry for herself. And she also doesn’t pretend none of that shit happened to her.
Kimmie has a future, she has a lot of lost time to make up for. She doesn’t sit around all day thinking about the shitty thing the Reverend did to her all the time and after she got the Reverend properly sorted out and put in jail where he belongs she didn’t revisit the bunker.  (It’s important to note that she DID go back to that traumatic place even though it was really hard for her when she needed to get information to put him away though. Again, do I have to haul out my protractor to show you where I’m going with this analogy? No? Great ok. I didn’t think so)

So look Kimmie is also  real. She’s super matter of fact about her anger over the whole bunker experience, how jacked up it was and how she wishes it had never happened and that it sucked. (In real life,  Kimmie would need a shit-ton of therapy and Kimmie is a smart strong cookie so I know that she would have no problem in seeking it out so she could move on.)  But while she is real about how messed up and hateful the bunker was, she also acknowledges the survival skills she gained down there. For instance, Kimmie is hella strong from cranking the Reverends “wheel” (turns out it was to power the electricity for his TV in his hidden man cave).  He lied to her and the other girls over that, and she was PISSED when she found out what all that cranking was really for, but now she enjoys the strength in her arms to do all sorts of crazy, fun,  interesting and useful things.

And what of all the other chicks Kimmie was in the bunker with? Well this part is interesting. Kimmie being Kimmie, wants to help them as they too assimilate into post-bunker life, and she tries rather unsuccessfully, until she realizes that they want different things out of life than she does. One of them, for whom the bunker was a type of nirvana, essentially keeps trying to get kindnapped into new cults and Kimmie gets frustrated with her, until she figures out a way to work with this fetish of cult lovin lady, and helps her  to become her own guru. (That’s a bit sketchy when you think about it, but what do you want this isn’t real life). Anyway! The point is that Kimmie recognizes that everyone is on their own path, and what works for her isn’t necessarily the right answer for everyone. While she stays in touch with some of the girls, she doesn’t seem to think that she has to stay close to them just because they were thrust into these circumstances together. They don’t have a lot else in common. 

I think a lot of us are loyal to groups and people that and whom we came to be friends with out of shared circumstances, and then we get all bent out of shape when those people don’t fit or fulfill all of our emotional and intellectual needs. If Kimmie kept trying to hang with those chicks she would be severely limited and she would feel constantly nuts.  Kind of like how I felt when I kept trying to be a good Mormon. It wasn’t going to work. Those weren’t (with several notable exceptions) my people, and that wasn’t my scene. Some of them need to get the hell out like I did and others of them, eh it’s working. They are happy. It’s not my call to make. I hope I empower the ones who feel like I did to ditch.  That’s good enough for me.

So that’s where I am at, darlings. I will resume my story when May isn’t kicking my ass quite so hard and when I’m not so damn busy kicking it back. Because I don’t go down with a fight. Never!
I am after all,

The Unbreakable Kirsty Sayer…DAMMIT! 😉 Love you all.

 

Hello. We should talk…

It’s been a while darlings and everything has changed.
It might be the strangest time in anyone’s life. Or it might not be. For me, it’s definitely up there.

I last wrote when I turned 40 on my own terms.

When I turned 40 I found my voice. It’s been there all along of course, and from time to time it squeaked out and said tiny bits of what I was really thinking but most of the time it was strangled. As long as I can remember there have been nightmares of calling for help on the phone and not being able to talk. Or not being able to see the numbers to dial for help.

And then the truth, as it always does, set me free.  It wasn’t a pretty process, the birthing of the truth. Kind of grisly actually. Lots of stitches, lots of scars. Still in the recovery process. Hell of a ride. But so worth it. As birth always is.

Mostly those nightmares have gone away. I don’t feel strangled or stifled anymore. I’m no longer aware of  that constant lump in my throat of that brick like weight in my solar plexus, almost literally physically holding me back from…wherever it is I’m going or whatever it is I want to say whoever it is I am going to be. Now it’s just actual real life, irritating logistics that get in my way but those are a lot easier to work through. I can see the numbers to dial now and my voice works just fine.

Let’s talk briefly about that cringey “Letter to my formerly depressed self” about a year ago. I’m not even going to link to it. I am not. Ugh. don’t remind me. No seriously you guys need to stop referring to that shit every time I get low. Real talk: I hate that letter so much. I have thought of deleting it, but I’m not going to because it’s part of the record of my process.  Depression doesn’t just go away. It never becomes “Former”.  Neither does trauma.  It circles you down the drain either forward or in reverse.  That’s the quickest analogy I can come up with. At your worst, when you are trying to go it alone,  you are right around the grungy hole of the drain, the abyss is echoing, you might have one leg and one arm already being sucked down into it. Maybe you are ever looking into the black nothingness of it with something like longing and relief.

Getting help pulls you back from the grungy hole, drags you away from the sewer system..the great unknown. Once you get help and while you work at it, the circumference of the swirls get bigger and further away from the black hole, but the black hole is there. It is always there. If you neglect the things keeping that force field in place the swirling suction starts to feel stronger.

Sometimes it has nothing at all to neglecting your self care. You can do everything right but life just sucks. I don’t know about every type of depression. I deal with PTSD and that can be fixed but it takes time. I’m really happy with my progress. I’m cruising along really well supposedly. Still. Triggers just happen, shit comes to the surface at unexpected times. It can suck but I’m learning to sit with that. Life is hard for everyone. Everyone has some sort of damage, some sort of battle. This thing is my basket of deplorable (to coin a phrase). I deal with it, I hope to deal with it less and less over time but I can do this. I got this. I don’t like it, but I got this. Probably. I hate to tempt blog fate. Blog fate can be such a little bitch. There are days when I definitely don’t got this. I get by with a lot of help from my friends. Moving on. Because enough already.

Ok wait.  I have to make just more than a glancing reference to the Ultimate Shit Show.
So.  Donald Mothereffin Trump won the election. It’s a total shock to the system on a daily basis. Honestly I still can’t quite grasp it.  And most of you can’t either. There’s no big revelation here.
But what I do find fascinating is that in such a short time it has really had a part to play in reshaping my outlook, how I spend my time, who I spend it with. Which brings me to:

Hey! I was published in a book.   Over the years, I have been published in magazines and newspapers, I used to have a paid column on a major internet network when that was still a really big deal. I’ve been paid for my writing here on and off over the years, but seeing my name in print between hard covers. For a book that mattered. Telling a story that I thought I might never acknowledge even to myself?

That feels..like an accomplishment. That felt good. I almost didn’t do it. And the fact that I pushed through and did do it feels even better.

Now. It’s not my book. It’s a collaboration of stories. We all met in the aftermath of aforementioned Shit Show and as women do, we came together, freaked the fuck out, then poured all that angst into something major and created a miracle. In three months, thanks to the grit and tenacity of a few and the bravery and love of all, 80 women from across the country had written a raw, an honest an often untold story of what the election of  The Creature meant to them. For many it was a similar process as what it was for me…first the bad, ofttimes the pain, the trauma, the hurt and the unwanted feelings…and then came the fire,  The resolve, the fight. Cliff notes: As women we have unified. This is our moment. This is our time. This is our movement and because we aren’t going down with the biggest, screamiest fight of our lives, we will ensure that future belongs to our daughters. It’s their turn. Our sons will be just fine.

I would not have survived the days since November 8th 2016 nearly as well without my new posse of fierce, funny, brave and brilliant friends and even so, it’s been a struggle for us all. But struggle is life. And life has been not boring. That is one thing I can heartily attest to.  I hate boring and life…is. not. boring. in, 2017. I wish it were exciting in a less terrifying and disappointing way but the sparks of light and love that shoot up to the surface of this horrifying garbage  heap do inspire and invigorate me. Every penny of that book goes to help other women. You should get it. We didn’t have a cent for marketing and that thing is holding it’s own. That book is a Nasty Woman.

So that’s good. That’s really good. But I sometimes miss my old life. This one is really noisy. I asked my friend if he thought things would ever go back to the way they were and he said no. I believe him and that makes me sad. I miss when I had more intimate relationships with the people on my facebook page. I miss the mundane silly things. I miss the friends I have become estranged from since the election and since I left the Mormon faith because I have spoken out about things. Sometimes with too much anger and too little measure. I have hurt people. That makes me sad.I don’t know if I regret it though. I can’t honestly say I do. I regret losing people I love but I don’t regret saying what I needed to say. Even if it was in a messy angry way. I used to say that above all else I didn’t want to hurt people. But now I’m different. I’m a bit darker or maybe more honest. Maybe I’m moving through something to get to the other side. And here’s the truth. I avoid hurting people. I actively dislike hurting people even if they deserve it and I abhor hurting those who don’t. But here’s what else. I am through with allowing myself to be the collateral damage in that goal. First do no harm. To Oneself. I’m on the list now. It was about time.

And sometimes, like maybe yesterday, I take a tiny bit of guilty pleasure (ok make that a lot) in the possibility of inflicting discomfort on someone who has done me wrong. But this is not about that either.

I find myself composing essays lately. As I run the wonky trails in the woods, I will have a big idea for one, it makes me quicken my step, catching a tiny little of air as I skip down the tiny hill. They come to me as I drive, turning the radio down as a thought carries me away and blooms into a topic. Then there is an essay, a series of essays. It won’t all fit…that’s going to have to be a book…

 As I go through the motions of washing dishes,  as I  watch the morning’s wasted cereal being sucked away by the garbage disposal. As I methodically sweep the floor and push the broom into those weird little cracks between appliances to get the tortilla chip my youngest son leaves as his calling card every morning, I am far away lost in questions and words and ideas.

Sometimes I sit immobilized on my couch in my silent house gazing across the living room at my laptop, paralyzed with the agony of all I want to say and wondering how to say it all. All the questions I want answers to. I want to record things, I want to ask things, I want to explore things. And my process for doing that is by writing about them.  I need to write about the things which shaped me as a girl, and a woman and a mother. About the community I walked away from, about the friends I have lost. About the friends I have gained. About the strange awkward numbness of estrangement  and the unbreakable threads of enduring love between families devastated by lies and sickness and secrets. About when it’s better to forgive and work through things and when it’s better to let go so that you really can.

About how weird this idea of aging is. If  the beauty industry didn’t tell us that we needed to start looking out for “seven signs of aging” would we notice it  when we were in our 30’s or only when we were much older?  In some ways I guess it’s good. To become acutely aware of your own mortality. So that you can stop wasting time. I want to talk to other women about how 40 has made me love being in my own skin.  About how there are moments when I hate looking in the mirror. How can I feel feel so healthy and strong, probably physically better than I have ever felt before yet look like the crypt keeper. What the ACTUAL HELL?! And then there is another moment when I am laughing and unconscious of myself and I look up into the mirror visor in my car and am surprised to be staring into the eyes of a woman with a such a confident and lively expression on her face. How for the first time I see a woman who I would like to be friends with.  A woman who looks..well like a woman, not a little girl. I love that look. It’s a subtle change. I don’t know if it’s a change in facial structure or something less concrete but I’ve seen it more and more over the last year and I do believe that it’s my favourite look. Even if it does come with “fine lines and wrinkles”. Why is there this this incredible shift at around 40. When we suddenly own it .Hormones, experience?  It’s magic is what it is.

And sex! I want to explore why so many people think most women don’t like or want sex after they have kids. And why for some reason everyone is down with that. It’s a total crisis when a guy stops wanting sex or can’t make it happen but women…well they are so tired after all. What the hell? Sex is awesome. It’s really awesome and I think women should be enjoying it until they die or are close to dying just like it seems that men do. I mean. What on earth not? We have all that equipment designed solely for enjoyment y’know? Seems like a terrible thing to waste. Not just sex. Pleasure in general. Why are women so afraid of pleasure. Why are they so into self deprivation? What’s in it for them?

I want to talk about friendships. The ones we have from cradle to grave, the ones we have for certain seasons, the ones we have that fulfill just about every emotional and intellectual need and the ones that fill only the shallowest of them. Why some of the most intense and lovely ones can just fade away after time and why that can be ok sometimes and why some that shouldn’t die do, and how sad that is and maybe what we can do to rekindle them.

I want to talk about parenting relationships and the weird social constructs we have imposed on those. The ideas of how we should be communicating with our kids, or not. The limits we should supposedly be imposing on them. How I have defined my role as a mother and how I don’t actually give a damn about what people think about me in that regard anymore and how much it is has improved my relationships with my children.  (OR HAS IT? I want to talk about that!)

I want to talk about why I left the Mormon faith. Because sometimes even I get confused regarding the reasons.  I want to talk about why life is so much better for me and my family since leaving. (OR IS IT??? I want to write about that!)

I want to talk about how much I hate where I live and how much I love it. I want to talk about how I have grieved and celebrated the circumstances of my life and my fantasies for the future.

But I don’t want to just talk about all these things with reference to myself. I want to talk about them with other people.  I want to have conversations. I have gravitated to facebook because it is a place for conversations. But there are so many limits. Today I wrote something that had come up in the LDS General Conference. It made me mad as so many things regarding the LDS corporation do. Somebody I have known for many years responded. I feel her. It’s something I might have done from her side of the fence not long ago and I respect her for it. I think it took a courage of convictions and I admire her calm confidence. She prempted by saying she knew she would be ridiculed and torn apart on my page for expressing herself. Initially I found that fairly irritating and I resented the accusation. I don’t allow bullying. I do allow vigorous debate with a no nonsense style.  I accept that tensions get high and people aren’t careful about feelings. I’m pretty comfortable with that in a debate scenario. But it doesn’t mean that everyone else is.  I have lost many familiar and cherished faces from my facebook page. I know they think I  have become a dark and cynical person. They would rather not deal with my brand of..whatever. I get it. And if things are going to turn ugly and personal I do think it’s best that they keep their distance. And yet.

I know that if they heard my voice  and they heard me discussing these things with other people though, they would probably get a different sense. I am endlessly curious about the human condition.About how other people see the world. What makes them tick.  I miss the diversity. I miss having people who are brave enough or thick skinned enough or to coin a Mormon phrase, contentious enough to come to my page and challenge me. I want them to change my mind as often as they reinforce my confidence in my own choices.  But the written word has limitations.

Today I thought about doing a podcast. It seemed like the natural easiest solution. I even researched it a little bit. Logistics and technology are not my bag. I can’t think of anything I have less interest in. If you want someone to come up with content, to be engaged and engaging, to keep the conversation going though, I’m your girl.  I think that’s going to be the next move for the blog but I need logistics people. And I need people who are willing to talk about stuff with me. And maybe we have 3 listeners. And they will be our tribe.And that will be enough. And that’s what I want to do.

So. What do you all think about that?

Well I’m out of time.
So ends the longest blog post of all time. Is anyone still out there? It’s ok if you aren’t. I understand. This is not a blog post I might want to read on someone else’s blog either. Or maybe I would?

Either way, I am satisfied. Satiated for now.  Because I scratched an itch. I filled my craving. My craving takes many forms and today was a day to indulge. In the grey light of this morning I snuck out of bed and sat cross legged and started writing as a new friend recently suggested that I should. I hand wrote, stream of consciousness in a beautiful grey Moleskine journal. I don’t remember what I wrote but I remember that it flowed and that it was delicious.

I bought a pack of six of those journals last night. Tonight I will go back and buy 6 more and I will fill them all because that’s another craving I have denied for a very long time now, and indulging it felt sublime.. And perhaps I will end up with 12 journals filled with nothing of any type of substance but they will be meaningful to me.

Because I am a writer and I won’t pretend any longer that I am anything less.

Thank you for being my reader.