Nothing is Magic

This title has been rolling around for a number of days.  Because I can’t decide if everything is magic or nothing.  I’m thinking about the changes I’ve made since my acupuncture appointment, and what it means to have your mind, body, and spirit all working in harmony.

Aside from the projects getting completed over that first weekend, I have connected with a PhD student who wants to support me in my vision for Mixed Race community space; I’ve experienced some really affirming and beautiful feedback about who I am as a person and what I contribute to my environments; work has gone very well; I was part of an incredible trauma training; and I’ve finally made a commitment to getting my body back where I want to be – bad coping habits are under control and I’m re-connecting with my love for exercise and the feeling of being strong and fit.  Aside from the things I can name concretely, my overall mood and energy are better, and I’m beginning to see small things appear in my life that are in line with the hopes and intentions I’ve been cultivating.

Last year my mantra was “Better feeling thoughts.”  I played around with that all year through the ups and downs of events that came my way.  The mantra was inspired by things I’ve been hearing from Abraham-Hicks.  I listen to these videos often to get my intention back in line with my best good.  They’re teachings about the Law of Attraction, but in a practical way.  Which sounds funny because basically it’s an old White woman channeling a set of ghosts/energies.  If you can get past that, it’s practical information.  But over the past year especially of listening to this stuff, it’s really just CBT+ (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and then some).

CBT is like the most standard form of change therapy.  As therapists, we’re taught about it from day one, it’s the basis of a lot of curriculum for clients, it’s standard.  It’s the idea that your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interrelated.  Law of Attraction says that Like Attracts Like.  Whatever you practice (thoughts, feelings, beliefs, habits), you bring into your experience (behaviors and relationships).  The hook is that most people don’t want to think they have that much control.  But if you make a commitment to observe this interrelationship, you can see the way you’re contributing to your own joy or misery.

The + in CBT+ for me is taking the additional leap to say you can create your own reality once you have a really good understanding and take control of the thoughts you think, which make you feel good (or bad), which make you think other thoughts that align with feeling good (or bad) which strengthens the feeling, and so on… which brings the experiences and relationships that match your feelings.  For me, part of the key has been that my feelings are the real indicator of where I’m at and where I’m headed.  I think part of where I was stuck was thinking I would get magical results quickly based on good intentions and feelings, rather than realizing it takes some time to get some momentum going in the direction I’m headed.  And I would give up too soon.

However, I think sometimes, there is a blockage or stuckness where you can’t get control over your thoughts and feelings.  This can be depression, grief, trauma, blocked energy, whatever you want to call it.  When I touch on the idea of medication with very depressed people, I talk about the idea of being in water.  When you’re at the surface of the water, you can tread, you can get a breathe, you can swim, you have choices.  When you’re depressed, it’s like you’re underwater and you don’t have those choices available to you, you can’t even see them.  Sometimes medications can help you get to sea level.  Medication is not going to swim you or breathe you, but it gets you up to a level where you’re able to make those choices.  And that’s what I feel like happened for me with the acupuncture.  All of these things that are happening now were in the works, but I couldn’t access them.  I was stuck.

I don’t think medication is magic.  And I don’t think acupuncture is magic.  I don’t fully understand what happened, but I know that something shifted and I became able to jump the dead battery of my life.  And with that, I’ve been able to see things start working out for me in ways that I’ve intended for ages and I’m creating now.  I’m very grateful for that!

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created instability: epilogue

epiloge – i love it.

so yesterday, i finally finished. and it feels so weird! i hadn’t planned to finish this months long cleaning and organizing process. i woke up too early (as per usual lately) and laid on the couch watching some tv and then just felt like i might be able to be productive with a small project. and it went on from there! about 3 hours in, i knew i was going to finish this today and it started to feel emotional. it’s this familiar feeling that i don’t know how to put into words. some kind of mixture of pride, gratitude, and disbelief. a little bit of fear.

it’s about cleaning the house but it’s about so much more than cleaning the house. with all i’ve been thinking through and working on lately… it’s about my willingness to move on. only in the last hours of cleaning the house did i realize how long it has been this way. it was clean last summer when my dad was here, though not necessarily organized the way i wanted. it was after they died that everything went into super disarray. stuff coming off the walls, piles piling up, the getting worse before it gets better. so committing to putting things where they belong, wiping off shelves, purging, deciding that some things don’t need to be perfect today in order to be clean and organized and therefore putting them away for later… this is about committing to where i am now, settling in, and giving myself the peace to let my energies go outward.

click here for the before pictures.

and here are the same spots, after.

i can eat here.  with 3-5 other people if i want.

i can eat here. with 3-5 other people if i want.

future site of game nights, movies with optional cuddling, laughter, and heart-to-hearts.

future site of game nights, movies with optional cuddling, laughter, and heart-to-hearts.

it feels peaceful. and i think it feels like the courage to move forward.

preparing for what you want

i’ve been trying to learn about the law of attraction and incorporate it into my life more intentionally for a couple of months now. it helps a lot and i think it is very compatible with my work in mental health. so i try to learn about it for my own health, well-being, and positive expectations, as well as thinking about its application in my therapy practice. this is a great video in thinking about how the path from thought into change actually works in our lives.

grief revisited

i was looking back, can it really have been a month since my last post? wow. life gets busy, what can i say.

i feel like i get tiny hauntings. i love to have my ipod on shuffle so that many things are surprises. but then i get the surprise of a song from a funeral. i feel weird about it now. i don’t go immediately down into the bottom of grief at reminders. i’m conscious about trying to remember the good things about them and the bad. but sometimes, still, the shock is overwhelming when i’m lost in a memory of one of them and then realize that they’re dead. in 11 days, we’ll hit the 6 month mark on barb. being a therapist, i think about the mental health of it. 6 months is the marker on bereavement. if grief continues to cause major everyday problems for you after 6 months, we go from a bereavement diagnosis to start looking at trauma or depression or something else. i feel like i understand that now. i’m not “functionally impaired” anymore. i just get surprise tidal waves every once in a while.

i was thinking about grama recently and remembering the little things around the time of her death. what a shitty, terrible time. with her dementia and hearing loss, i never knew if she knew it was me there sitting with her, if she was aware of me at all. i was thinking of all these little things i did, hoping she would understand who i was.

during the last couple years of her life, she insisted on my being the only one who would cut her fingernails. so when hospice first started telling me things had changed and she was on her way out, i cut her fingernails. but she was agitated and in pain, so she didn’t let me finish. and i don’t know if she knew. i was kind of embarrassed when the attendants came in. it felt weird that i was trying to give her a manicure when she was dying and would be cremated. but it wasn’t for the aesthetics, it was to try to jog her memory. but i didn’t wanna talk to them about that.

i tried to hold her hand, touch her face, smooth her hair. but same thing, with the agitation, she really didn’t wanna be touched.

she had a cassette tape of her funeral music that she had recorded back in the 1980s, so i brought out her little tape player and earbuds, and hooked her up and blared it (she was deaf in one ear and EXTREMELY hard of hearing in the other). now that was cute! through all that agitation, she cocked her head to the side when the organ started playing. as her favorite singer went into the lyrics in a high soprano, grama sort of conducted with her hands and did a little scratchy singing-type vocals.

i came to visit her about twice a day til the end and i always plugged her in to the music. my funny logic was that she was so agitated, and so stubborn, and so anxious, that maybe hearing her music that she picked out for her own funeral would remind her to relax and let go. i talked to her while i was there, telling her as much, but i never knew if she heard me.

during the last evening that i visited her she finally started letting me hold her hand, and she squeezed it, too! there was something different about her in the last couple of days. whereas before she seemed off in her own little world, agitated, in pain, out of it… at the end she seemed more peaceful and i did wonder if she knew me and could hear me then. she seemed to respond better to my voice and to touch. after i lost my shit on some of her nurses, who then finally got her pain under control, she seemed more comfortable.

it irritated the hell out of me to have people comfort me with spiritual things, and for hospice nurses to tell me about these magical things that happened to people as they neared death. in particular, there was a story of a man who was stone deaf but could hear just before he died. to clarify, i loved the sweetness of the idea, but hated the lack of solid proof or any sort of making sense. i was so angry when they were dying, angry that no one could tell me why or how or when, and what was going to happen after. so i didn’t want to hear fairy tales about magical things that happen when you die.

still. my grama appeared to respond with squeezes and head movements and energy toward the end. but we still didn’t communicate per se. on the day she died, i stopped by to see her early, before work. i sat with her for about an hour. she was so peaceful. i thought she seemed a little different but i was so stuck on that unwillingness to trust myself or predict death or dying in any way. it takes people such a long fucking time to die. it’s painful to sit there and watch and wonder and be waiting for the call. i thought about calling in that morning. but in the end i decided to do what i’d always done as a person who knew she didn’t have a say in when people actually die (and who secretly kinda couldn’t wrap her head around the idea of them dying so didn’t really believe it): i touched her face, i kissed her forehead, and i told her, “i love you, grama. i’ll be back a little later on. but if you need to go, that’s ok. i love you.” then i plugged in her music and earbuds and i left.

three hours later i got the call that she had passed. when i came to the nursing home i went in to see her and she looked exactly the same. that was hard. she didn’t look dead, she just wasn’t breathing. i went out to talk to the nurses and they surrounded me and hugged me. and one of them looked at me and said, “she asked for you.” i said, “what?? today?” she said, “yes, about 11, and i told her you weren’t here right now.” and she was gone by 12:30.

it’s so weird because part of me still doubts that the nurse was right and that actually happened. grama hadn’t said an intelligible word in days. part of me doubts i heard the nurse right. but it’s what she said.

like i said, i’m coming up on 6 months with barb, 5 months with grama. i’m not going to say time heals, but time changes things. or time allows for new experiences to be integrated into my understanding. i’m not sure what it’s been. i’m trying to scan my brain to see if i’ve watched movies or read anything that has changed me spiritually, but i don’t recall. i just know that i’m not so rigidly anti the idea of a little magic in the end, a little space for spirituality that i can’t grasp or explain. maybe part of it was the experience with my cat dying. i don’t know. i just know that i’m not so angry about not being able to understand everything that happened. and some blockage has been removed that wouldn’t permit me to create my own meaning.

talking about it now, i think it might have something to do with the law of attraction. as i’ve been thinking more about energy, the power of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, i think it changes my spirituality. i feel more calm and peaceful about spirituality than i have in quite a long time. i’m paying attention. i’m recognizing synchronicity. i’m being grateful. so i guess i’ve been practicing living with the concept that there is an energy outside of my brain’s capacity to understand, that some invisible things are working whether or not i get it, and that translates to my understanding of death, the afterlife, relationships with people who have passed, etc.

hmph. for the past few days i’ve felt the need to write this and thought it would cause a whole lot of crying. i’ve had some tears but nothing overwhelming. i still really miss them.

connect

i had a long conversation the other night with a co-worker about connecting. he and i have a lot in common, and only realized it a few weeks ago during a chance conversation that turned into a long talk. i feel like he’s the younger, more well-adjusted version of me. he gave me some feedback the other day about how i should be more open and vulnerable because it’s really nice. i agree.

i’ve felt quite closed down for a while now. there are breaks in this monotony when i open up and get excited and want to contribute and connect and be productive. but i’m also seeing that overall, i’ve just been closed down. it’s a form of self-protection. i know that at the moment it has something to do with grief. losing significant people in my life over the past few months has rocked me, and part of me is just closing ranks on that soft part of my heart for a while. it also has something to do with keeping busy. i could say that it was mainly because of grad school over the past couple years, then caretaking, but i now acknowledge it’s been going on much longer than that. i have compulsively stayed busy for years. then crash and get hermitty. that’s how i roll. my conversation with my co-worker, along with some other recent events have made me take a closer look at keeping busy. it’s purposeful. it takes the place of connection.

i wasn’t sure whether to post this in this blog or my other one. in talking to him the other night, the conclusion we came to was that it really comes down to the effects of being biracial. there are things i love about being mixed. and there are things about it that have had long lasting, deep, negative effects for me. it’s hard because i want to be past feeling like a victim of my childhood experiences; at the same time, you have to face pains to get through them.

the main negative effect being biracial has had on my life has been this feeling of otherness, being an outsider, not belonging. i have grown immensely and now i can put that away sometimes and just move on. but then i go through phases where it overtakes me again. the feeling of not belonging, learned through seeing i was different than the family that raised me, rejected and ridiculed by those who looked most like me… it had a profound effect that permeated my expectations for all of life going forward. and the way i react to it is to shut down, to close off, and to walk through life staring purposefully outward with a wall firmly in place. i’m polite, but distant. the way i’ve always thought of myself is slow to warm. i’m also an introvert. so i have and will continue to respect my own needs in the way that i interact with others. i certainly don’t mean to paint myself as a social scaredy cat, hiding at all times. i just mean that when i feel scared or vulnerable or left out, my automatic shield is disconnect. i’m very socially capable. at my best i’m very warm, a friendly introvert.

so the problem is believing i don’t belong. my solution has been a mask of unaffectedness, superiority or shame (depending on the day), with an overarching complete social disconnect and avoidance. i’m kind of sick of this solution. i was also thinking the other day that i’m sick of the excuse “i’m too busy” for why i can’t connect.

when i first met my co-worker, i assumed he was biracial but never asked. he’s also young, 24 (i’m 36), and i was in full protection mode and didn’t really feel like we would have much in common, so i didn’t engage with him when he would try. the other night we finally got to the intentional talking about our experiences growing up biracial. with the way he carries himself, the ease in which he connects with staff and kids of different backgrounds, i assumed he had both parents in his life. he surprised me by telling me he never knew his black father. he experienced the same schoolyard challenges and rejections that i did, but he overcame it. he had a moment of, if you don’t like me because i don’t fit into your box, that’s your problem, but i’m going to continue to live my life and connect with everyone i can. he actually said that his favorite thing is to connect with people. (!)

hmph. imagine that. i mean, i connect with whoever i want to as well, but i’ve really protected myself out of a lot of possible connections in life with my own insecurity. i’m just amazed at his ability to completely let it go. is it because he’s in a younger generation? because he’s a man? what makes the experience and effects so different? i told him my feelings, my secrets about my logic based on young rejection, got to feeling very vulnerable. but it was ok because he got it. but he was also validating that my vulnerability is ok, and that saying it out loud makes me strong.

this all links together as a poignant moment in my life perspective. i work as a therapist in mental health, and my dream is to create a healing cooperative with other health professionals. but within that, i really want to work with mixed-race people. each time i share about it, a couple more people come out of the woodwork and show me i’m not alone. i don’t want anyone else to be alone in it either.

i’m trying to be more positive in every aspect of my life. i posted a while back about goals and bringing that topic to the groups i facilitate. i also brought them the movie, the secret. i’d seen it before years ago and read the book. i loved it and believed in the law of attraction, the power of positive thinking. but i fell easily back into my old habits. seeing it again and showing it in groups in two different settings brought it back into focus. as with many things, i go into it full throttle and then lose steam. but i really want to make an effort to clean out my mind and heart of this negativity and these ill assumptions. over the past few weeks of being more intentional, i still cycle through waves of heavy negativity. and monitoring my thoughts, i’m becoming aware of how automatic and harshly negative my thoughts can be. it’s a little disheartening, but i’m committed to working on it.

i’m setting the intention to feel more positive about my belonging and connections, while reaching out to people with the same struggles as part of my life’s work. it’s all connected and i strongly believe in using my life experience as a guide to my purpose.