Reflections

Today I decided to ride home in the train car where the seats face backward. When I stare out the window, all the world zips past me, racing from my peripheral into my primary field of vision. It’s like being sucked backward in time. I imagine that some invisible force has hooked me round the middle with a shepherd’s hook and is drawing me swiftly through time and space to review some moment of my past. Fields of snow race by. Sometimes I lock eyes with a pedestrian, or the driver of a car on the street which runs parallel to the tracks, impatiently stopped at a light. They are not used to making eye contact with train passengers, these drivers. We are supposed to be racing past the world, not reviewing it as it races past us.

It’s no surprise that I should be feeling reflective. Today, had she been born on her due date, my daughter would be three years old. I was thinking earlier today, about how different I am from who I was one year ago, two years ago… three. My mental health is better than it has ever been. Better than from before I became “mentally ill.” Does that mean I’m “recovered”? *shrug* I stopped caring about that label. I stopped caring about a lot of labels. Refusing to file myself away has been instrumental to my ability to thrive. More on that in the future.

I haven’t written much here because I’m writing a book. Not exactly a super exciting bombshell announcement, and yet – there it is. I’m writing a book. I’m not abandoning my blog, but I am being mindful of what I share here, and what I save for the book.

Anyways, back to Clara. It’s no revelation that grief evolves with time, though I would argue that it isn’t the grief that’s doing the evolving. It is us. It is the way we approach and process our grief. It is the way we push it away or welcome it in. It’s in how we honor our feelings and give up resisting because in resistance we only find struggle. It is in the way we allow our loss to define us, and then it’s in the way we stop doing that. This is where the shift happened for me. 2018 was all about dropping the things I clung to because they defined me. Loss, grief, OCD, mental illness, the need to be “recovered”, health I couldn’t control, anxiety, etc. The list goes on.

Let’s play a game. Find a sheet of paper and a pencil. Now, I want you to list out the personality traits or qualities that would describe the Best Version of You. Not a person you idolize. Not a made up person. If you could still be you, but like a totally evolved and ideal version of you – who is that person?

Okay, now look at your paper – is this how you currently identify and describe yourself?

Why not?

It’s you. That’s who you are. There is no this you and that you. They are all you. Drop the labels you’ve been using and pick up the ones you actually want. Pick up the labels that serve you. Not everyone will like this. I clung to my labels like life preservers in open water. Who would I be if I wasn’t a Mom with OCD? Who would I be if I wasn’t Someone With Mental Illness or A Mom Who Has Lost A Baby? Don’t get me wrong, those are still part of my story. I’m still that person. But I realized that those weren’t the stories I wanted to tell myself every day. I was ready for the next god damn chapter! I want to tell myself about a woman who nurtures positive mental health practices, who knits as a creative expression of love, who takes care of her body and then gets to go off adventuring in it. I want to hear about a mom who is present with her family, who feels tuned in to her children, who enjoys a deep and fulfilling connection with her husband, who spends time building friendships that are deep and lasting. I know that we all have shit days, but I want to be the ideal me who sometimes has a shit day and not the shit me who sometimes has an ideal day.

So, in the year that has passed between when Clara would have turned 2 and then 3, I have evolved around my grief. Some things will never change, of course. Today will always be a day that I feel longing for her. Today will always be a day that feels just a little too empty. There will never be a day that doesn’t hurt a little for her absence. But I have let go of the need for my grief. I welcome it when it needs to be seen, but I don’t seek it when I need something to blame.

Most of all, I know that Clara is watching, and I know that she is proud of her Mommy. I know she always saw past the story I told myself about who I was. I just needed to see it for myself.

Happy Day, my darling girl. Mommy loves you to the moon and back, and no matter what chapter I’m on, I will always be grateful for the parts of my story that include you.

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Have Bad Days

jpeg_20190106_102531_1298832463857952872Let’s talk about bad days.

Bad vibes.

Bad energy.

Bad moods.

Call it whatever you want, it’s all pretty much the same.

With the New Year upon us, I’ve seen an influx of shirts, mugs, pins, patches, art prints, and IG hashtags with slogans like “No Bad Days” or “Good Vibes Only”. The problem with these sentiments moves beyond the obvious impracticality. Everybody has bad days and having the inevitable bad day does not make you a failure. Let’s just level the playing field for a second – I can assure you that that IG bombshell with her perfectly posed beach sunset shots has had and will have, plenty of bad days. She has stubbed her toe. Lost a loved one. Woken up in a bad mood. Had a terrible day of diarrhea.

There. Feel better? Remember that the next time her hashtags get super ethereal.

Anyways, these sentiments and the people who cling to them miss what should be the point of bad days – learning how to have them. Can you imagine for a moment what your life would be like if you woke up one day in a terrible mood, and then moved on to do the things that mattered to you or that you needed to accomplish anyway? What if something bad happened to you which was really upsetting, and then you did some more things that mattered to you and that you wanted to accomplish? The thing about bad days and bad moods is that they happen, and while you might have a small amount of control over your circumstances or environment that could, in some cases, lower the frequency of bad days, you’ll never have full dominance over them. The real problem that most of us have with bad days and bad moods is that they derail our plans. How many times have you said something like “man, everything was going so GOOD!”, after encountering some negative experience or feeling? What if things could still keep going even after the negative thing happened? That would be pretty awesome, right?

Well, it’s possible!

Herein lies the problem I have with the commitment to having no bad days. People who are fixated on not having any bad days never learn how to have them. They never learn how to work through a bad day or bad experience and stay on track doing the things they love to do and the things they need to do. This is why having a clear vision of your values and goals in life (both long-term and short) is so important. It gives you something to lean on when the days are bad. It’s easy to do things we love when we’re happy and feeling good. It’s a lot harder when we are going through something tough. The good news is, with practice, it definitely gets easier and easier. For some tips on identifying your values and some associated value-driven behaviors, see my post on the topic! It’s an excellent place to start with this concept. I’m not saying you won’t feel bad when bad things happen. You will! 🤷 You will feel bad. But you will learn how to have bad feelings while living your good life. Your life doesn’t become bad because you have some transitory bad feelings or experiences.

The next time you find yourself having a bad day, or experiencing bad vibes, take a moment to recognize where you’re at. Don’t get caught up in the trap of resisting negativity. The resistance itself is what brings discomfort. Instead, accept that things are the way they are in this particular moment in time. Then, move on to something you want to be doing or should be doing, even if that feels hard. It is in this purposeful redirection of energy that you will find immense power.

So, what I’m telling you is this – have bad days. Have all the days! Live a life rich with contrasting experiences. The more you do this, and the more you direct your energy towards your values no matter what you are experiencing, the more you train your brain to be more resilient in the face of bad days. Better resilience means being less affected or derailed by bad days when they happen.

All vibes only. ✌️

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