Live the Life You were Meant to Live

It’s been an insane year, in a good way! Book published, workshops, caregiving and bringing my business back on an even keel. So I’ve been dormant on my blog and want you to know I am moving to more normal time-line postings!.

This post was written on February 24, 2015

I’ve really been struggling with my depression recently.  It seems to take more and more of my emotional energy to get through the day, so by the time I get home, I am emotionally drained and don’t have the energy to be happy. Tears seem to be always threatening, and there’s a heavy pain in my heart that doesn’t go away.

I.   Just.   Don’t.   Care.

I’m not suicidal (I’m much too interested in what’s going to happen next), but I am feeling that my life is pointless.

I was talking to a friend today. Her daughter wants to be a writer, and is attending Tulane University in Louisiana. She is studying creative writing, and her mother encourages her.  But her father, more practical (Like you, my friend says, pointing to me), thinks she needs to get a degree in a field where she can make a living.

It’s a reasonable thought.  Engineers, scientists, lawyers, doctors make more money than writers, unless they are Ann Rice, J.K. Rowling, or Stephen King.  For me to make the same money I do selling insurance, I’d have to sell 10,000 books….a year!….just to equal that. At this moment that seems a bit daunting.

It’s funny, my friend sees me as practical.  I have learned to be practical, but it’s broken my heart in the process.

You see, I listened to my father, and I got a business degree.  I don’t regret the business degree in that I met my beloved husband Ernie at Pepperdine, and it has helped me with my insurance agency….but it’s not what I dreamed of.  My dream was to go to Columbia and study writing.  I wasn’t strong enough emotionally, nor did I have the backing of a parent telling me to chase my dreams, and my parents made too much money to get any kinds of grants or scholarships, so I took the money path.

After all, in my childhood, money was our family’s god, our idol.  I’ve written about my father’s insane chase of money, and how it in the end destroyed him and our family.  In the end he was abused by a woman who wanted his money and married him when she thought he was dying.  She took everything and he missed living life.  The last words he ever spoke to me was “I regret my life.”  He spent his life craving money yet left it to a stranger.

So I’m a little warped by money.  I make good money, but I’ve created a golden trap for myself.  There are bills to pay, mortgage payments, vacations I like to take.

I want to run away and join the circus, but the reality is I can’t. Or at least, I have chosen not to. (See how we speak to ourselves?)  I have married a man with tap roots deeply entrenched in the soil, and he wants to stay put.  I want to stay with him, so I am tethered by a love-chain to the ground when I want to fly.

This is the kind of typewriter I used to write my first novel when I was 14.  Image courtesy of Just2shutter at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is the kind of typewriter I used to write my first novel when I was 14. Image courtesy of Just2shutter at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I was in elementary school I have wanted to be a writer. I devoured books, and loved to escape into different worlds. It made childhood easier.  I wanted to create those magical worlds myself, and scribbled furiously on my novel while driving around the country in our camping trips.  Being a writer seemed to be the noblest calling I could think of. Writing allowed me to vent onto the pages what I was unable to verbalize in my family. But I didn’t. I chose the safe path, the predictable path, and it has crushed my soul. I love my Ernie, but I yearn for the gypsy wanderlust life.

Ernie is good for my soul. He lets me be me.

Ernie is good for my soul. He lets me be me.

I tell my friend to let her daughter take the creative path.  Don’t smother her daughter’s soul in business, or engineering, or law, if her heart is not in it.  That’s a deadly trap that takes 40 years to kill you.  Maybe she won’t make as much money as she could being a professional, but hopefully she will be happier.

And in the end, isn’t happiness what we are all really chasing?

Now it’s Your Turn! Tell us how you find happiness.

 

Khalil Gibran and Healing

Khalil GibranOut of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. —- Khalil Gibran

I have always resonated with Khalil Gibran’s words. This quote helps me get through the darkest days that I have while I continue to heal and forgive.

Most days I am happy; I have learned to forgive those who have harmed me, whether physically or emotionally.  By forgiving them I do not condone their actions, but I allow it to not affect me as much.  I have found it is impossible to hate or be angry with someone you have forgiven. Forgiveness allows the light of happiness to enter your soul.

Just because I am mostly happy, this doesn’t mean the wounds are not there, and that my soul is not pock-marked with scars like the moon is.  I’ve weathered too many emotional meteor showers for my soul’s skin to be smooth and glossy. But like the moon, I reflect the light of the healing. There is the dark side of my moon, the side very few people see when they look at my smiling face. That is a big reason why I started writing this blog — to share the dark side so others could realize that even someone who seemingly ‘has it all’….a great marriage, owns a business, owns a home, has lots of friends —- can be silently struggling behind the smiling face and big smile.

Going into nature helps me heal. www.HealingJourneyBlog.com

Going into nature helps me heal. www.HealingJourneyBlog.com

I seem to write best at 3 to 4 AM. Perhaps my ego is still sleeping and the words can flow out of me faster and easier than when I sit down at an appointed time to write.

I write because I must.  I write to be a witness to life.  I write to help you with your journey.  I am always hopeful that my words help you overcome your own struggles, give you courage to explore the dark places, allow you to cry, to grieve, to mend.

You are stronger than you think you are.  Your soul may be seared with scars as the amazing Khalil Gibran says.

Much like these Pioneer Trail ruts are still here, my scars will always be there. But as with this field, beauty can cover the scars

Much like these Pioneer Trail ruts that were created over 100 years ago are still here, my scars will always be there. But as with this field, beauty can cover the scars

I will never be a woman who was not emotionally and physically abused by both her mother and her father.  I will never be someone who had a happy childhood. I will never be a child who wasn’t afraid and did her best to be good, fit in, and be invisible.  The things that happened to me are a part of my history and will always taint my perspective. But I have learned to remove some of the filters my family placed upon my vision and see life as the wondrous and beautiful thing it is.

I have been reading a book by Cheryl Richardson The Unmistakable Touch of Grace. Just as I am writing this I realize that Grace is what led me to Khalil Gibran. I was given a wedding planning book and in the suggestions for vows was a passage from Khalil Gibran’s book The Prophet on marriage. I immediately read The Prophet and was profoundly affected by this book.  Khalil Gibran’s words have always helped me. Now it’s Your Turn! Tell me how Khalil Gibran’s words resonate with you.

Liz Obert’s The Secret Lives of People Living with Depression

The Secret Lives of People Living with Depression

The secret lives of people living with mental illness Photo courtesy Liz Obert www.lizobert.com

The secret lives of people living with mental illness
Photo courtesy Liz Obert www.lizobert.com

I recently read Katherine Brooks’ op-ed on the Huffington Post “Exploring the Double Lives of Everyday People Living With Mental Illness” by the photographer who chose to open the curtains and expose the dual world people who struggle with mental illness live in.

I struggle with depression and have the meds to help me get through life with a smile, but there are days when darkness covers my life.  I am normally a happy, vivacious person; I’ve learned to find joy despite child abuse.  However, there are days I wake up and don’t care about anything that is important to me — my beloved husband, my sweet dogs, my writing or artwork, my garden —- nothing.  I have what most of the world would consider incredible success —- I have a 20 year marriage, own a home, have my own business, control my time.  Yet on those days I tell myself I am a loser and hate my life.

Photo Courtesy of Liz Obert  http://lizobert.com/dualities/content/Megan_large.html

Photo Courtesy of Liz Obert http://lizobert.com/dualities/content/Megan_large.html

When I try to explain this to others they just can’t grasp it.  How could such a positive person have days of self-loathing and sadness? Well, it happens, it’s true, and depression is an illness, not a moral failing.

So I was thrilled to learn that Liz Obert is courageously illustrating through her photography the darkness that hides within your friends, children, parents, colleagues and loved ones.

photo courtesy of http://lizobert.com/dualities/content/Marie_large.html

photo courtesy of http://lizobert.com/dualities/content/Marie_large.html

Liz Obert has been an artist since she was a child. She worked with painting, mixed media and installation work until a photography class transformed her artwork.

I asked her why she decided to do a photo series on the duality of depression, and she said “I wanted to do something personal with my photography and I’ve always lived this double life of holding a job and then going home and dealing with the depression.  Then the idea came to me to photograph both sides of my personality” She told me that she is inspired by the world around her, whether it is by objects or personal issues.

Liz Obert’s work can be seen in Portland in June at the Olympic Mills Commerce Center and in McMinnville, Oregon  in September at the Linfield College. Her work “The Secret Dual Lives of People Living With Mental Illness” recently won the top spot in the Top 10 most popular Photography Posts of 2014 in Slate Magazine

http://lizobert.com/dualities/content/Wil_large.html

http://lizobert.com/dualities/content/Wil_large.html

I am glad to see that more people are “coming out” and acknowledging they suffer from depression. For too long it has been looked at as a personal failure, an inability to suck it up and be happy, a self-indulgent habit of weak-minded people.  Depression is anything but that.  People who struggle with depression yet get out of bed on the good days, suit up and face the world and contribute to is, truly are spiritual warriors.  They struggle with an incomprehensible inner pain that provides no warning before it arrives, and they get through the dark days anyway.  In many ways, people who struggle with depression and then work in the world are probably some of the most optimistic people you will ever meet.

I’m glad I had a chance to connect with Liz Obert, and I look forward to seeing more of her work.  You can find Liz at www.LizObert.com

Now it’s Your Turn!  Go to Liz’ site, and tell us which photographic montage speaks to you the most, and why.

 

Travel as a Healing Tool

When I first saw a metro map I was terrified

When I first saw a metro map I was terrified

Travel can be an incredible healing tool. I was afraid my entire childhood, and long into my young adulthood.  I wanted to see the world, but I was afraid of making mistakes, taking wrong turns, missing planes.  I wanted to be an archeologist or travel writer, but I was terrified I would get on the wrong train, would get lost somewhere in the outback, that I would forget my tickets, my passport, my house keys.

Dupont Circle is lovely. Amazing row houses.

Dupont Circle is lovely. Amazing row houses. Travel is amazing

All this fear stemmed from an extremely abusive childhood.  My mother used to tell me “I wish you had never been born.” She was a paranoid schizophrenic, so I was never sure “which” mother I was coming home to.  One day she was the loving, cupcake-baking mother; the other she was the angry mother taking a butcher knife to my father. My father was no prize either.  Let’s just say he was an incestuous sadist and leave it at that.

Safely at the Washington DC Union Station. Now, where is the Metro?

Safely at the Washington DC Union Station. Now, where is the Metro? Travel adventures!

Stability was not a keyword in my childhood, and that fear bled into my adulthood.  I so desperately wanted to backpack across Europe, take a road trip across America, visit Africa. The furthest I ever travelled until I was 37 was the United States, Canada and Mexico.  Mostly by car.  I was terrified to go to an airport because I was afraid to get lost and miss my plane.

I used to be terrified to fly.  I don't particularly like it now but I'm used to it.

I used to be terrified to fly. I don’t particularly like it now but I’m used to it.

So how has travel become a healing tool for me? The simple answer is I just started traveling.  The more complex answer is I learned to make wrong turns, learned that the world doesn’t end if you miss a connecting flight, or you have to ask someone how to get onto a train (where do you wait? In the depot? At the train track?) My most recent trip to Baltimore and Washington DC testi my travel healing to the absolute maximum.  In order to save money and to feel more like a traveler and not a tourist, I didn’t rent a car.  I looked online and tried to figure out how to get from the BWI airport to Baltimore, and then from Baltimore to Penn Station, and from Penn Station to the MARC train that took me to Washington DC.  From there I hopped on the Washington DC Metro and used that for a week. I was terrified.  But I was also exhilarated.

travel as a healing tool

I waited on the tracks until Ernie asked and we went back upstairs to sit in comfort in the train lobby

I have learned the easiest way to minimize fears is to ask strangers for help. I know, that sounds counter-intuitive.  Especially for someone like me who couldn’t trust her own parents, approaching strangers should be hard.  And once it was.  But I have learned that most strangers are very kind, especially if you appear lost. I learned that instead of taking a $30 taxi ride from BWI airport to the Embassy Suites in Baltimore Harbor, I could spend $3 and take the light rail from the airport. It dropped me off about 4 blocks from my hotel.  Easy-peasy. To navigate Baltimore harbor, I asked the concierge at our hotel, and he encouraged me to use the Baltimore free Circulator. Nice.  Leaving the hotel I was told to take the same circulator to Penn Station. At Penn station I went to the train track but then learned you had to wait upstairs in the lobby.  Okay, I can do that.  Once on the train my fears kicked in and I stood up for the length of the entire stop instead of sitting.  As if no one else was getting off! LMAO.  I shrugged at the other passengers and freely admitted “This is my first train ride here.” They smiled. The Washington Metro is a simple system. You just look for the station the train ends at, and your stop is somewhere along the way.

Travel Selfie in front of the White House....the secret service said "Ma'am, no photos!" Glad we didn't end up in jail!

Selfie in front of the White House….the secret service said “Ma’am, no photos!” Glad we didn’t end up in jail!

I have learned that being afraid is okay.  It’s staying afraid that stops me from living life. I encourage you to make wrong turns, miss airplane connections, take the wrong bus for a stop or two….and live life.

How has travel changed your life? What are your favorite travel mishaps that in retrospect made for great stories? I’d love to hear from you!

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