Whole (a poem)

WHOLE

You don’t have to return

to the hands that broke your bones

or to the words that manipulated your mind

to fear for your next breath

or to the people who dripped poison

to rot your heart.

You don’t have to make nice

or pay your respects

or explain yourself

or justify your existence 

or reconcile

to be whole.

If you love your body,

mind, and heart

the way they didn’t

then your soul is whole

in and of itself.

30 Things I am Proud Of

My 30th birthday is on Saturday, and a lot of people share 30 things they’ve learned at 30. But instead, I am celebrating my 30 years of life and all of the things I am proud of myself for.

  1. I was the first in my family to go to college.
  2. I earned 2 masters’ degrees.
  3. I have navigated myself out abusive situations.
  4. My husband and I have lived in 4 states, adjusting and thriving together.
  5. I wanted to publish at least one book by 30; I have published 2 books, 2 articles, and 7 poems.
  6. I have traveled out of the country. I am not as well-traveled as many of my other peers, but growing up I could not afford to travel. I am seeing the world based on my own ambition.
  7. I have learned how to say “no.” But I still need a reminder once in a while.
  8. I have developed healthy coping mechanisms for depression and anxiety. Sometimes I stumble and fall. Sometimes I don’t cope well and do unhealthy things when I am hurting. Healing and coping is an ongoing journey.
  9. I had a 6 year career in ministry, and then made a career change.
  10. I have survived what has felt like unsurvivable situations.
  11. I have lived through situations that changed me to the core, but I worked hard to rebuild and become a person that I like and am proud of.
  12. I have forgiven people who have hurt me. I still have others to forgive, and that might take some time.
  13. I am learning how to celebrate myself.
  14. I am learning how to advocate for myself.
  15. I have rediscovered important parts of who I am and reincorporated them into my adult life.
  16. I am intuitive and empathetic.
  17. I can change and grow. I am not stuck.
  18. I do the damn work.
  19. The friendships that I have maintained from past lifetimes are quality people.
  20. I still have some hope that the world can get better. Most days, at least.
  21. I am brave.
  22. I always want to learn.
  23. I always want to improve and be a better human to other humans.
  24. I fight to be here, because I know I deserve to be here.
  25. I know who I am. I have a strong sense of self.
  26. I am a problem solver.
  27. If I don’t know how to do something, then I learn how. I ask questions. I am open to being taught.
  28. I am more than happy to share whatever knowledge I have with others to make the journey easier for them as well.
  29. I believe our well-being is tied to each other. I want us all to succeed. I want us all to be equal. I want us all to be cared for.
  30. I am happy with how I am using my time on earth. I want to make the most out of whatever time I have here and have lots of stories to tell. I have not wasted my years. I have continually used them to grow and learn. I rest when I need to rest, I sprint when I need to sprint, and I stroll when I need to stroll.

What are you proud of? Even if you just make a list of 5 things, please affirm yourself today! Our lists don’t have to look the same. My list is messy and full of pain. But I also celebrate the journey. Be proud of yourself, where you have been, where you are, and where you’re going.

Here’s to a new decade of life!

Flight Response

Anyone else realizing their flight response is on high alert?

I think mine turned on a couple years ago, and I have yet to completely turn it off. And now in a pandemic, I think there might be a good number of us who feel this way. With our flight response, when there is an imminent threat that can’t be fought off, we want to run away from it and get to safety as soon as possible. With Covid-19, we don’t have a natural immunity to this particular virus strain, and there is no guarantee that the virus is mild or survivable. For many, yes, it will end up being okay; but for many others who were seemingly in good health, they ended up in the hospital or dying. And this pandemic is far from over, so this flight response that many of us may be feeling might stay in place for a while.

This is challenging enough on its own. But we still face every day stresses. A rough day at work. A miscommunication between friends. A burnt dinner. These are common issues that we are more than capable with dealing with, but these problems feel amplified when our flight responses is clicked on. Our daily inconveniences feel like major disasters that are a threat to our well-being, so we might be inclined to shut down and withdraw as a way of fleeing to safety.

There are times when it is completely appropriate to withdraw and take some time to collect yourself. But if our flight response is triggered throughout the day, we often don’t have the luxury to hide and practice self-care. It is good to develop some coping mechanisms to help us check out for just a moment and then get back to the day. One that I use often is box breathing, which is when you breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold for four counts. This helps you regain some control over your thoughts and your muscles (especially if you are prone to panic attacks.) Grounding yourself by putting your hand over your heart and speaking affirmations to yourself can help focus your mind. Make sure you’re eating and drinking when you need to. Here you can find some other suggestions for anyone who struggles with anxiety: https://adaa.org/tips

I know it feels like the world is ending, and this makes our daily stresses feel like uncontrollable chaos. It’s rough. But when we break a dish or if the dog chews up a shoe or we forget to take the trash up to the curb, it is not a threat or a disaster. Get your breath, do what you need to fight off that flight response.

We aren’t going to feel this way forever.

Taking a Hit

I get impatient with myself when I am healing and growing. I get frustrated when I don’t progress as quickly as I want. Then, I get extra rattled when I encounter something that triggers pain in those healng wounds; I feel like I regress and my already too slow progress has been undone.

I make it worse for myself when I lack grace for myself. I cause myself more pain when I don’t allow myself the space to feel what I need to feel.

Healing is not linear. Steps forward and steps back are all part of the process, and the sooner that is accepted the better the healing process will be.

In the healing process we’ll all take hits. It doesn’t have to knock us all the way back to where we were. And if it does, we already know how to find our way back to where we left off because we’ve done it before. Expect setbacks. Love yourself through them. Celebrate every small victory. Rely on the strength you’ve gained in the process.

Our past healing paves the way for future healing.

We Are Capable

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

We are capable of adapting to unforeseen change. We are capable of navigating uncertainty. We are capable of being flexible and learning.

We are capable of loving ourselves and showing our selves compassion. We are capable of telling ourselves the things we need to hear (even if we wish others would say those things to us.) We are capable of self-soothing.

We are capable of change. We are capable of taking responsibility for our actions, even when it feels awful. We are capable of taking responsibility for our reactions to others, even when others are harmful to us; it is not our job to claim responsibility for the oppression or bullying we have faced, but we are responsible for our own actions in response. We cannot change others, only ourselves.

We are capable of taking responsibility of the harm we have done.

We are capable of healing. Healing is not a straight line; there will be both progress and setbacks. But we are capable to move forward and not be stuck in that misery forever.

We are capable of trying again. We are capable of forging new paths. We are capable of starting over.

We are capable to apologize, to push ourselves more, to do hard and humbling things.

We are capable of self-reflection.

We are capable to listen to our bodies and our intuitions, and be in tune with them. Our bodies have more wisdom than we give them credit for, and we must learn to listen and heed them. We are capable of discerning between the discomfort that helps us to grow and the red flags that warn of danger.

We are capable of loving ourselves the way we deserve to be loved, and taking care of ourselves the way we deserve to be cared for. We are simultaneously capable of being honest about our growing edges and how we are always a beautiful, imperfect work in progress.