Gratitude

It’s easy to get caught up in all the bad that’s going on. As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s easy to get addicted to the drama.  But more than anything, it’s important to keep sight of all the wonderful things that are going on in your life as well.  Sometimes, during my day, I’m so stressed out that my view of the world turns sour.  Like a bitter, tart candy or a sour grape my world warps and I just want to spit it out for a moment.  I become overwhelmed by bills, loneliness, relationships, healing, worry about what the future holds, responsibilities, etc.  And the effect can be crippling.  It makes me want to freeze, stop, give up, tune out.

That’s when I have to remind myself to put the sweetness back into life.  I call it my “thankfulness list,” and it’s just like it sounds.  One day, during a particularly stressful time at work, I went outside on my lunch break and took a little walk.  My outlook had been so bleak recently that I felt like it was affecting my friendships, my ability to pay attention, and my family relationships.  I was driving people away through bitterness.  I knew something had to change.  So I sat down, and as hard as it was to get past everything that was upsetting and annoying me, I made myself write down a list of the things that I was thankful for.

It was slow-going at first, I couldn’t think of anything.  But as I sat outside the words started to flow..the sunshine?  I guessed, thinking how stupid that probably sounded.  Well, I do have a longer lunch today…I wrote that down. It started with the little things – the things that were immediately in my vision – the things that were so easy to overlook.  Like the fact that we got rain this week, after so long of a drought.  As I continued to write down things I was thankful for though, they quickly started to flow out of me, one after another. My friends. My family. My pets. My health. My knee being healed at last. Being able to ride my bike.  Not having any debt.  On and on the list grew until I realized my lunch break was over and it was time to return to work.  I had well over 20 items noted down.

Just seeing that, seeing that I had so many reasons to be happy about life, to be thankful about where I’m at, made me smile.  It made the rest of the day easier, because I kept thinking about that list.  I know it sounds cheesy, but you should try it sometime.  When you feel particularly low, or hopeless.  If you ever struggle with suicidal thoughts, or loneliness, or injury, or pain, remember everything amazing that’s going on in your life as well.  Even if it’s something small, like the fact that your breakfast tasted really good this morning, or that you let yourself have that helping of ice cream without feeling guilty.  Or if it’s something as large as that you finally conquered the summit of Everest.

Whatever it is, express gratitude for this amazing life that you lead!  This amazing body that keeps you going no matter what!  This amazing day full of love of possibility of the dedication of spirit to see it through.  Give yourself a little time to be thankful for the fact that you made it here.  You.  You wonderful, incredible jumble of muscle, nerve, bone, body, mind, and heart.

And for those of you who want to read a little more, check out this article on yahoo! about gratitude: http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/advisor/true-secret-to-success–it-s-not-what-you-think-.html

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After the Storm

Ok.  So you’ve been through the trauma.  You’ve had the dark experience, the dramatic years.  The intensity of horror, violence, destruction, overcoming obstacles, and releasing yourself from a terrible past that no hollywood film could ever hope to capture.  You’ve taken a journey as epic as Frodo’s in the Lord of the Rings.

But now the ring’s been destroyed.  The journey is at an end, the dark times are over. You feel mostly healed.  You feel relieved, refreshed, revived from your past life of abuse as if you’ve been raised from the dead. You are born again into a life where you are free.  It’s exciting, enthralling, uplifting and any other synonym you can think of for the word AMAZING.

But WHAT to do now?  It’s easy, after years of abuse, to become addicted to emotional disturbance, to depression, to self destructive thought.  So easy to convince yourself that you don’t deserve peace, don’t deserve happiness.  To seek out disruption and thrills and arguments so that you can react to life the way you always have, since your earliest days of abuse.  If you’re anything like me that is.

This is what I struggle with now.  How to be okay with stillness, with peace, with calm waters and sunny days. When you’re so used to living in a storm, how do you deal once the clouds have rolled away?

How do you break the addiction to drama and redefine the course your life is now free to take?

The Protector

Yesterday I tried something amazing.  And by amazing, I mean uh-mazing.  It’s called yoga therapy.  For some of you, this may sound a little confusing.  Haven’t I already tried this before?  I mean, I do frequently use my personal yoga practice as therapeutic exercise.  However, this was different.  This time I finally buckled down, shelled out a little more money, and treated myself to a session with a trained yoga therapist.  It was part talk therapy session, part thai yoga massage (which, for those of you who don’t know what that is, I recommend you google it!) and completely wonderful.

But enough about me going on and on about the qualities of that session.  Let’s get to the real issue.  An issue I had never considered before, but that became very clear to me as the therapy session progressed: the issue of my “protector.”

Every time I would do a pose, whether independent or assisted, that would require my injured leg to be pushed a little further than normal, my back locked up like a fishing wire being drawn in, pulled in tight with a big old fighting fish hanging on the end of the line.  My fists would clench, my eyebrows would tighten and my shoulders would hunch and cramp into a protective posture.  I could feel the sweat gathering on my brow as my breath shortened into panicked, rushed intakes of air.

My back is my protector.  When I was younger, I had a horrible back, I slouched as low as I could in my chair when I sat upright.  I used to think it was just because, growing up as a tall girl, I was ashamed of my height. But then I made the connection.  When I lay in my bed at night, I curled as tightly into a fetal position as I could force my body to squeeze and lay buried under the covers.  I was in protective mode.  I curled inwards to protect my internal organs, to protect my heart, to protect my genitals.  In other words, I used my back to block my abuser from everything he liked to hurt.  My back became my shield, my armor, my warrior that stood in my defense.

And it showed. When I was younger, I had a horrible back.  And by horrible, I mean HORRIBLE.  Muscles spasms, knots that lined my spine and entwined around my bones like crushing vines, like pythons trying to strangle my breath, to strangle my life away.  My back was where all the hurt, anger, and emotions stowed away.  To this day, my worst flashbacks occur when people sneak up behind me, when someone touches my back, or moves quickly where I can’t see them.

The body holds on to emotional trauma and stress more than we like to think sometimes.  It can be painful to pay attention to where those patches of hurt store themselves in our physical body.  Sometimes when I stretch my hips, I cry because so much bad seems to seep out of my tightened joints.

But once the stretching’s over…wow! what a difference.  I feel release and sadness mingled with the happiness that some of the poison finally got drained.  So here’s where I challenge you reader.  Lay down on the floor, flat on your back, with your arms outstretched by your side and take a few minutes to breathe.  Really breathe.  Deeply breathe between your eyebrows and into your toes.  Take note of where you feel the most tension, where you hurt the most.  Then take a few moments to stretch that part of you, to really give it some extra love, extra kindness.  Breathe slowly and deeply, the kind of breathing that you never feel that you have time for normally.  Pay attention to where the trauma has stored itself in your body.  Then release it.

Your body will thank you for the attention, and so will your heart.