The Self-Woo

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Having heard the terms self-care and self-love thrown around for the last decade and only recently really “getting it”, I assumed the revelations I’m about to share have always been obvious to everyone but me.  After some recent conversations I realize that is just not so, so maybe my thoughts on this are worth sharing.

I used to think self-love and self-care were the same thing. Of course those who love themselves take good care of themselves, and vice-versa. But  I don’t think I knew what either of them really were until recently, or what it meant if one of them was missing. I recently realized they are not the same thing, that lack of self-love can lead to lack of self-care,and even more empowering: that self-care can lead to self-love.

My experience with both came through happy accident. The first few weeks of quitting wine, I had to seek out other ways to ease my discomfort and anxiety. These things included hot baths, good sleep, clean sheets, healthy food, hot teas, massages, essential oils, pedicures, all the typical self-care rituals.

As I became more mindful of my likes and what helped make me feel more ‘at ease’, my self-care grew to include things that weren’t necessarily enjoyable, like doing the dishes and setting up my coffee before going to bed, paying my bills on time, cooking myself healthy meals, and doing my laundry before I ran out of clothes. I realized these were aspects of self-care we often overlook, because they don’t feel good in the moment. But we can’t deny that they are a way of caring for ourselves. I am always happy with the result.

After a few months of this I started noticing little stirrings of self-love in my heart. I know myself better and care not only about my happiness now, but my future happiness. I want the very best for myself and will do anything to get it. I thought about all the self-care I’ve been indulging in and wondered if there was a connection.

If I were in a romantic partnership and felt a disconnect, or a lack of love, what would any counselor or advice column tell me to do? Act as if. Go on dates. Do little things for each other. Clean the kitchen and set up the coffee before bed for my partner. Run them a hot bath with essential oils. Give them a massage. Put some clean sheets on the bed and spritz them with vanilla, for a romantic evening.

My conclusion is that without even realizing I was doing it, by practicing self-care I was actually wooing myself. Yes, a few more of those woo woo words I’ve heard thrown around for a decade: date yourself, woo yourself (GAG!). But I can attest to it – if you want to know what self-love means and feels like, it begins with the caring, and yes, the wooing. If you don’t believe me, just try it yourself. You won’t regret it ❤

 

 

 

 

gently, gently, gently…

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I tend to go all or nothing when I tackle a new health or self-care plan, and the result is that I usually never finish what I begin. I recently did that with “The Artist’s Way”, and I frequently do it with the gym, my diet, my fitbit. I know that baby steps are the answer to long term change but I seek quick feedback and results.

I recently posted about how my self-care routine can feel overwhelming, time consuming, and self-indulgent. I don’t know why it feels so self-indulgent to do nice things for myself such as exercise and meditation, when it doesn’t feel so to watch 6 hours of Netflix in a row.

I recently started the “Yoga Every Day” program on Gaia. It’s just 15 minutes a day, some days more physically challenging and some days just breath work. At the end I’m always able to slip easily into a meditation. I love it so much sometimes I want to do another 15 minute session, but I’m doing things differently this time – so I stop myself and I look forward to it the next day. Baby steps.

I also started walking for 30 minutes a day. I’m even more gentle about this, if I miss a day I just walk 60 minutes the next day. These are gentle walks, along the slough near my house; I stop and watch the geese and cranes, pick blackberries and eat them with purple-stained fingers.

I’ve been listening to Marianne Williamson’s livestream every Wednesday, and last week was inspired to order the main text for her teachings: A Course in Miracles. I started the 365 day workbook last week as well, and am on day 7 today.

These 3 things are filling me up, connecting me to my source, as well as grounding me in my body and to the earth. I tend to live in my head and often feel like the world is dream-like. This may sound nice but it can be disorienting. Yoga and walking and nature are a wonderful counterbalance to the meditations and prayer.

I’m more mindful of what causes me stress. I’ve noticed that feeling like I MUST write in my journal daily makes my chest constrict, so I’m letting it go. I ordered a new Tarot deck last week, and though I’m absolutely IN LOVE with it, it’s going to take a bit of study to become familiar with this deck. It made my heart race a bit, so I put it aside.

After the tough work of gaining sobriety from alcohol, I’m finding the messiness inside that I’ve been hiding from. There are so many layers of issues, and addictive behaviors pop up to replace each other like a game of whack-a-mole. I used to think that quitting alcohol was the hard part, but I’m starting to realize it was just the beginning of a life-long discovery of and love-affair with myself. And I’m  learning to listen to that still, small voice inside whispering  “gently, gently, gently…”.

Learning to Stay

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

~ Rainier Maria Rilke

Just a quick little update. I realized my last post sound very down… but it’s amazing how quickly things change. They change daily, hourly. I had let weeks go by between posts, so it’s not always clear and may seem like sobriety is a sad place for me, but it’s not!  The highs and lows are just higher and lower, is all, when they aren’t numbed by alcohol and distraction.

I’ve been doing yoga and meditating daily, as well as walking more and journaling. I posted yesterday about it all feeling like SO MUCH WORK but in reality I’ve spend way more time than these routines take, zoning out on my phone or Netflix. And in just 5 days I’m seeing a difference in my mood (higher), my impulses (slower), my sense of self (greater).

Now that I’ve got 6 months of sobriety under my belt, it’s time to be mindful of  the other addictions I use to check out when I feel uncomfortable in my skin. They are the usual suspects: spending money, food, love and sex, the internet, tv shows…

I’m focusing on spending and food right now. My mantra these days is gentle gentle gentle.

Spending: Financially I find myself going into kind of fugue state when I enter Target or go on Amazon, and frequently have major buyers remorse and guilt because I find myself down to $20 for a week and having to tell my daughters I can’t buy bananas, or borrowing money from them for gas; yet I have clothes in my closet with tags still on, and boxes from Amazon arriving every other day. The recent Home podcast, focusing on money with Meadow Devor, was AMAZING. Meadow’s book was the last thing I bought besides groceries and gas, 3 days ago. The main points I got from the podcast were not to buy anything when I’m not happy,  to only buy things that make me happy, with money I made happily, and to write down my feelings about every purchase. She’s anti-budget. Gentle gentle gentle.

Food:  I am all over the place. I’m about 50 pounds more than the bmi chart says I ‘should’ be. I feel really good about 30 pounds lighter than I am now. I gained 10 pounds since I quit drinking but it might also be the ‘freshman 15’, since I went back to school last semester. Or maybe it’s just age and lack of exercise. I try a new thing to lose weight every few months (fitbit, WW, sugar fast, and onandonandon)  and of course nothing works in the long run, because I don’t stick to anything. I eat healthy, not much sugar or junk, just huge portions and too many seconds. Cream -top yogurt is my weakness, even though I eat it plain – just add ripe bananas and almonds. I did 8 days of a 21 day sugar fast, and just those 8 days made a difference in my cravings. I’m off junk food and added sugar. I’m not weighing myself these days, and I notice my tummy is getting bigger. But I’m loving on it, and continuing to love and move my body with yoga and walking. I’m also going to stop bringing cream-top yogurt into my house 🙂

Alcohol, money and food are really no different at the root. It really isn’t even about the alcohol, money, food, love…..At the root it’s about learning to stay in the uncomfortable skin I want to crawl out of any way I can, to find out what it is I’m trying to escape from, and to remember, “no feeling is final”.

Six Months

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I guess I should be expecting this by now, this tender heart around my monthly ‘birthdays’, and don’t I say that each month? Heavy, heavy heart this week, and skin as thin as tissue. It literally feels as though something is sitting on my chest. I don’t know if it’s the news these days or my six month-a-versary, or both. I pretty much left facebook and got rid of my cable in the interest of avoiding the news media (which I don’t trust one bit) and the divisive commentary pervading social media these days. However this week’s news even pervaded and reached me via Instagram. What little bits I’ve learned  fucking hurt.

Some days I wish I could just be one of those people who gets up, drinks coffee, goes to the gym, does the 9-5 job, 2 weeks of vacation every year, and doesn’t obsess, reflect, and FEEL every single little thing. Are there people like that? I need so much fucking down time, so much self-care, I resent that I have to work so fucking hard just to keep from sinking. Meditate, yoga, walk, journal, pray, get enough sleep, not too much sugar, socialize (don’t isolate!), careful not to binge too much on Netflix, read more; it gets exhausting, the work and effort it takes to stay happy. And sometimes it feels so self-indulgent, so #firstworldproblem. I feel weak that I can’t handle the world sometimes, and lazy that I need so much time between, time alone to recover from things.

That said, I feel better today than yesterday. I started the 365 day workbook for A Course in Miracles. I meditated, I did yoga, I wrote, I walked, I worked and helped my clients heal, I ate healthy, I reached out to friends, and I went to my Friday night Women’s meeting and picked up my 6 month chip. I realize this is the life I’ve been given, these are the tools I’ve been given, this is the path I’ve been given. I’m grateful to have the perspective, time, freedom, and support to navigate this path of truth with my eyes open.

And I have other positive news I haven’t written about yet, because I wanted to keep it protected until I knew how it would go. About a month into my sobriety my ex and I decided to get together to see how it would be without partying. It was Valentine’s Eve, 2016.  I think we were both surprised and relieved as well as disappointed (uh-oh, here we go again?) that our connection was as wonderful as, if not better than ever. We’ve been taking it very slow but it has just gotten better with me sober. He’s been my biggest supporter and champion.FullSizeRender

We’ve been more steady and solid and I attribute it to the fact that he can take me more seriously. I rarely throw down road blocks every time I get scared, and neither does he. When I’m feeling like he’s not giving me enough attention, I no longer send him long passive aggressive texts. Instead I focus on me, stay quiet, and give it a few days. I  use my sobriety tools for our relationship, such as handing it over to my source and not expecting him to make me happy. My happiness comes from me.

 

Non-Negotiables

I learned from the Buddhist teachings that the best conditions to practice Dharma and meditation are when life is just kinda ok. Meditation and the ability to absorb the teachings come with greater ease  if we aren’t hungry, wondering where we are going to sleep, and no major loss or drama happening in our relationships. Yet it’s taught there has to be some level of discontent or suffering to motivate us to reach for our happiness from inside. If we are rolling in money, love, sex, and sense pleasures it’s easy to get lazy about developing our inner world, to think it’s unnecessary. I think the same goes for any type of self-growth, including the paths of recovery.

Lately things have been going so smoothly- financially, with school, with relationships -that I’m starting to think, recovery? What am I recovering from again? Do I have to obsess about alcohol daily for the rest of my life, when I find myself fine without it? Can’t I just be a non-drinker and leave it at that?

I stopped going to AA. I stopped working on the steps. I stopped my morning prayers.

But underneath I know this is dangerous. I don’t know if it would take a lot or a little shaking of my current comfort level to lead me to a glass of wine. And I don’t know that one glass would necessarily be the end of the world. I suspect that I could very easily have just one glass.  

In recovery circles they say if you want a drink, to play the “tape” forward to what would happen after  that one drink. I used to think one drink would lead to too many and I’d immediately be right back where I was 6 months ago. Depressed and lost. Having to wake up and start over again with a new Day One. But I’ve thought about it and I don’t think that’s true. The truth is more dangerously deceptive. I think I could have one drink. Then the next week I’d have two. Then maybe I’d get drunk every few months. Then every month. Then maybe a bottle of wine alone. Until it was a bottle of wine alone a few times a week. This could take a year, or two, before I noticed. By then I’d be so far away from where I am now it would be hard to find my way back. So when I think yes, it’s been 6 months, virtually no cravings, you are fine Sara! You probably could have one glass of wine! A louder voice replies, No Thank You.

I don’t ever want to go back to where  I was 6 months ago. So I ask myself, what is my ‘program’, what am I doing now and what more can I do, so that when the next inevitable blow from life takes a swing, I am ready?

Earlier this week I reached out to my very small circle of sober women, who I keep connected to via email daily. I told them I’m a little too happy and it scares me. That I’d stopped praying. That was the first step. They listened, understood, and together set me back on the path. I realized I needed to  figure out what my personal program is, and what I can add to it to make it stronger. I decided to make a list of my ‘non-negotiables’, the tools, rituals, and self-care routines that I must use and practice in order to remain on my path of healing, regardless of what my life looks like externally –  good or bad. That way when I start to get off track I have a little road map leading me back to feeling my best.

The habits and routines I know I need to  stay committed to are:

~ Good sleep hygiene. Going to sleep and waking up at regular times, and not looking at a screen after 10pm. Instead I turn on my essential oil diffuser, take my melatonin, and turn on a positive, soothing podcast. Sometimes I allow the podcasts to play all night, and I wake from some pretty deep and substantial dreams!

~Meditation. I have a meditation app on my phone called Insight Timer, and I use it to either do a guided meditation or a timed self-guided meditation. I like it because it provides stats and gives you stars when you hit milestones, and who doesn’t love a gold star? Meditation has been one of THE most life-changing habits I’ve taken on. It’s teaching me to sit through uncomfortable feelings both on and off the cushion, and to take some time before responding to people or circumstances that in the past may have triggered a quick and regretful reaction.

~ Connecting with myself. For me this means journaling, whether it be one page of gratitudes or a few pages of free-writing. 

~ Connecting with tribe. I’m part of a small lovely gratitude circle of women across the world, and we (almost) daily send each other our gratitude lists. Sometimes they are typed in the body, sometimes they are photos of handwritten journal entries, and sometimes we vent frustrations and confusion. It is all welcome and accepted.

~ Eating well. Not all the time, but I make sure 90% of my diet is whole, unprocessed food and that I drink plenty of water.

~ Moving my body. Several days a week I take walks around the ponds that are just steps from my house, usually while listening to a podcast. I pause frequently to take in the dozens of varieties of birds and wildflowers. I don’t worry if my heart rate goes up and down or if I get sweaty or not. I don’t even call these walks exercise, because I have an aversion to exercise. Yet I find that if I miss my walk I just don’t feel right for the rest of the day. When I come home my body is humming, my mind is focused, and I’m ready to start my day.

These are just a few of the my non-negotiables. I don’t do them 100% of the time, but when I start feeling “off” it’s usually because I haven’t been doing some of these regularly enough. Just being aware of this makes it easier to identify just what I need to do to feel better and get right back on track.