The Journal Diaries 3: Overwhelm, Worry, Fear & Their Antidotes (29 years old)

This is the third in a new blog series, sharing some of the hundreds of journal entries I've made over the years. I started journaling at age 12 and have kept up with it, more or less, ever since. I have a shelf full of old diaries and notebooks; it's the first spot I'll run to if there's ever a fire. I have learned so much about myself and my neuroses and patterns and, more than anything, my inner depths and my enduring interests by re-reading my journals now and then. Writing down my thoughts has been perhaps the single most important practice in my life. 

I remember being a teenager and thinking "Maybe after I die someone will read my journals and realize they're not alone." A decade later, blogging came along, and I realized that I could use this new medium to share my deepest, most secret, most vulnerable truths with others so that they, and I, would know that we're all in this together. And blogging did open up a whole new world of connection for me, and has empowered me to share and trust my voice, no matter how scary and personal the subject matter I'm writing about is. 

Through this series, I hope to realize the dream I had 20 years ago of sharing my private thoughts in order to normalize, comfort, and connect...

frustration

I was inspired by an Instagram post I put up this morning to share this journal entry from five years ago as the next installment in this series. I'm in the same emotional space today as I was when I wrote the entry below- complete overwhelm and like there's this crushing force bearing down on me. All my shortcomings, all the unfinished things on my To Do list, lack of money, feelings of failure & isolation, are all adding up to create a storm of worry and fear that I have to fight to not get sucked into. I know it will pass. I know I will learn necessary things. I know others have problems much more real and devastating than mine. I know that gratitude, love, and time are the answers.

But right now, I just feel like Mycelia did in this photo, one of the only ones I have from this time in my life. My crazy car accident (which I blogged about in Unexpected Healing: Past Trauma & Cellular Release) happened soon after I wrote this entry...

"1/27/10

Crazy times. How to not let the stress eat away at me. At least I'm not the only one. We're not the only ones. Money, jobs, rent, bills, credit cards, cars, moving, landlord, preschool, payments, account balance, no dental insurance, crazy 3 year old, challenging relationship, debt, rain, mud, flu, bumping up against walls of uncertainty and adversity everywhere I/we turn. Fights. Worry. Anxiety. Aches. Winter. Smog check. DMV. Storage unit. Doctor's appt from a year ago still unpaid. Owe. Borrow. Spend. Clothes. Dishes. Fits. Cramps. Exhaustion/insomnia. Crying, remembering.

This too shall pass. Hopefully before I die."

Many things have changed, of course, since that was written. I moved the debt, credit cards, storage unit, challenging relationship, and fights out of my life. My daughter grew past that phase. The DMV isn't so easy to be done with. Nor landlords. I still struggle with rent, bills, and money on a regular basis. I've prioritized having time (namely, time with my daughter) over money, and that choice has had consequences. I'm doing better now financially than I have since conceiving a child in my early 20s with someone I barely knew at the same time as I quit my job, sold all my belongings, and got rid of my apartment. In other words, I'm doing better now than when I started with absolutely nothing but a fetus growing inside me and a brand new relationship nine years ago.

But I'm still not comfortable; I don't feel safe. I think one of the cruelest things I've ever seen is those videos where someone makes another person think they've won the lottery and, after some moments of disbelief during which they are assured it's for real, the person dissolves into a puddle of emotion. It's not because they're envisioning a vacation in the tropics or owning a large yacht; it's because they're envisioning a life without having to constantly struggle just to survive. I've dreamt of a moment like that a thousand times, a moment when I realize that I don't have to struggle anymore. I can't even imagine how good that would feel, how immediately the years of worry and tension would start to unravel from my body. How safe I would feel. (I know, I know. Safety cannot be assured by money. But, c'mon).

Anyway, I didn't mean for this post to be about my financial struggles. I've managed to pay my rent more or less on time every month for the year that I've lived without a boyfriend or roommate to share costs with. I've gone on fun trips (mostly funded my other people, but still). I've sure as hell bought myself new clothes. And I've grown a business, and I'm really excited about where it's going next.

This too shall pass. It always does. And when it does, I have been opened in new ways and have integrated lessons necessary for my next step in life.

A month after the entry above I wrote this one...

"2/21/10

Oh I am so deeply feeling everything right now. When I bleed, I feel. I feel everything I've ever blocked or lodged in some muscle or nerve somewhere. All the beauty and all the pain the whole world over is there, and existence is no less mysterious than ever, than when I first bled in the midst of that adolescent confusion within a culture that stifled any awe, any true glimpse of the vast wonder of being. I have always been sensitive but it wasn't until 16, on psilocybin mushrooms, that something was cleft open inside of me and I was finally able to access that depth. And it threw me. I cried tears of joy. And soon after found myself in a bottomless pit of depression- the realization and fear of death, my own and others. And since then it's been a balancing act between crying shuddering at the sheer beauty, wonder, and joy at being alive and the overwhelming pain, cruelty, and destruction this existence also enfolds.

All of the people I love and want to love more. All of the experiences I will never have, the blue whales running into massive barges being left a bloody bruised floating corpse. And wanting to share all of this with the people I love and everyone else too, and knowing that my sensitivity and passion are not shared by all, have caused more than one raised eyebrow, that I bare my heart on my sleeve seeking that connection, but sometimes find scorn." 

Thanks for letting me bare my heart here you guys. Every week I get emails or Instagram comments from people saying these posts have helped them. It means everything to me. I realized when Mycelia was a baby and there were constantly new challenges that as soon as I reached out publicly and shared what I was struggling with, it would shift. That very day it would get better. It happened this morning. After days of feeling very low and weepy, I posted about it on Instagram. By this afternoon my energy had started to shift and I was able to get things that had been weighing me down done. And it's not just the kind and sympathetic comments, though those help IMMENSELY, it's something in the act of acknowledging one's pain and sharing it in hopes of connecting with others and maybe helping them too. There's a sort of alchemy that happens when we are real and vulnerable and share our struggles with others. And it heals. 

Oh and- for all the feels, for all the wonder and insanity and beauty and pain and love we all experience living in the world today- this song. This goddamn perfect song. He wrote it on his wedding day, a wickedly smart and cynical man who was blown open by the beautiful vulnerability of falling in love and made my favorite album of the last couple years out of that experience.

The Journal Diaries 2: I Can't Even Look At My Own Body (20 Years Old)

This is the second in a new blog series, sharing some of the hundreds of journal entries I've made over the years. I started journaling at age 12 and have kept up with it, more or less, ever since. I have a shelf full of old diaries and notebooks; it's the first spot I'll run to if there's ever a fire. I have learned so much about myself and my neuroses and patterns and, more than anything, my inner depths and my enduring interests by re-reading my journals now and then. Writing down my thoughts has been perhaps the single most important practice in my life. 

I remember being a teenager and thinking "Maybe after I die someone will read my journals and realize they're not alone." A decade later, blogging came along, and I realized that I could use this new medium to share my deepest, most secret, most shame-inducing truths with others so that they, and I, would know that we're all in this together. And blogging did open up a whole new world of connection for me, and has empowered me to share and trust my voice, no matter how vulnerable the subject matter I'm writing on. 

Through this series, I hope to realize the dream I had 20 years ago of sharing my private thoughts in order to normalize, comfort, and connect...

It's funny, in my decade of sharing super personal stuff on social media I've never shared about the time in my life when I was mired in self hatred and cutting myself regularly. But then last week I did one of those "10 Things About Me" posts on Instagram and wrote a bit about it, and now here I am sharing a journal entry from that time. So interesting, because just these last few days, with all the gifts and messages this winter Solstice has brought me, I feel like I have stepped into my full power in this incarnation. Not that there isn't more to learn and more evolution to be had, but I finally feel completely grounded in the center of my own being. And now, at the exact same moment, here I am looking hard in the face of a past me who couldn't have been any less comfortable with herself. An insightful reflection indeed...

May 27th, 2001

I'm afraid to write, because I don't think that I want who I am really am on paper. I don't want to be reminded of it anywhere but in my own head. It's so up and down. It has been 6 days since I last wrote, and if I had written all those days they would have been normal, even happy at times, entries. But since I usually only write when I'm sad I end up looking like a psycho. I think I am. I have decided to stop looking in mirrors. I can't even look down at my own body, even when I'm clothed. I only feel comfortable in overalls, because they cover things up more, but still I look pretty bad in those. I've just spent so much time convincing myself that I looked fine, and now it's like I've snapped out of that denial state somehow. I mean really, when I pick out clothes in the morning I always choose based on what makes me look skinniest. It isn't even consciously that I do this. The other day I realized that I always wear long shirts to cover up how big my hips are. Every position I sit in is to make me look skinnier too. I can't sit with both both feet on the floor- they have to be crossed or tucked under me- or else my thighs just SPREAD over the surface of the chair. But as I said none of this is done consciously, it's only recently that I realized that I've always done this. The big problem is of course my thighs. I can't even stand that word. Tears spring to my eyes just thinking about this. I really just can't describe how ugly they are. They are so weird shaped. So out of proportion to the rest of my body. They're even different from each other. Fat just spills over the sides of them. I love cutting them with a knife. They do not go away from diet and exercise, so it's like all I can do. It just seems so much more natural that they be covered in blood and scars. Then it's like instead of being ugly and wishing they were pretty, they are just completely ugly and I have accepted, and even added to, that. It used to be that I'd look in the mirror one minute and be fine, even think I looked good, but the next time I would just be shocked and disgusted, but right away I would somehow convince myself that I looked okay, because if I didn't how else would I get through my day? But now that's just gone and I finally see my body as it really is. I'm sort of mad at myself for tricking myself all that time. Actually, I'm still not sure what I look like. I can't tell. I can't tell if it's okay or not, if it's normal or not. If you picked a random girl and asked me to compare each body part of mine to hers I don't know if I would do it correctly, my own body image is so unclear in my head. It doesn't just feel unclear though, it feels ravished, torn apart, bleeding, spit on and left to try and make sense of itself. Which by now seems impossible. Anyway- I'm not looking in the mirror naked anymore, it's too sad for me. Clothed, yes, because I have to make sure I look okay. I really used to look in the mirror (clothed or not) a lot to try and figure my body out, so I thought it would be hard not to, but it isn't. I want my body to be this blind spot, to not register on my radar, to not exist for me at all. I always hear "try to think of a part of your body you really love and try to focus on that." I do not have one. This is something I know even when I am having a good body image phase. There is nothing I like. Maybe beneath the knees and elbows are the only acceptable parts, but I certainly don't like them a lot. Bring my breasts into the picture, and it gets twice as bad. When I try to make myself feel better about girls with thighs like mine, I end up feeling worse because I realize that their thighs are proportional to their body (i.e. their breasts are big too, or not even big but just normal sized, I don't even have that.) Or when I think about girls with smaller breasts, the rest of their bodies are always small too. But no no no not me. I could really go into detail about how truly ugly these two parts of my body are, but that just seems to embarrassing to have on paper. I don't think anyone wants to know what they actually look like. I guess boyfriend [names have been changed to protect the innocent] just likes my mind or whatever so much that he sort of has to put up with my body. I've tried to figure out how he can look at me and touch and my god even kiss me naked, and that is the only fathomable answer. I guess I'm lucky in that way. But see it bothers me, cause in a few days I will look back on this and be horrified and think "that's not me." I don't know which one really is me.

And this, dear people, is what American culture does to its ladyfolk. It is so, so tender for me to read this. So cringey. Because that girl is still me, even though I don't feel that way about my body at all anymore. I viscerally remember that shame and that self-loathing. The part where I say I want my body to be a blind spot- I fear that that level of disconnect is rampant in our culture. One of my big focuses for 2015 is Embodiment. I still have so much work to do around really inhabiting my body. I've always been uber-mindsy (airy Aquarius to the max). Before age 1 my pediatrician labeled me super verbal, but I didn't walk until 15 months (basically the farthest reaches of the normal spectrum). I want to focus on breath and dance in the new year.

I never would have dreamed of being naked in public back then. I still feel vulnerable being naked at the river in the summertime now, but the feeling of that mountain water on my skin is too ecstatic and freeing to resist and it always wins out over the lingering body shame.

I never would have dreamed of being naked in public back then. I still feel vulnerable being naked at the river in the summertime now, but the feeling of that mountain water on my skin is too ecstatic and freeing to resist and it always wins out over the lingering body shame.

I just wrote that I don't feel that way about my body "at all" anymore. That's not true. 2% of those fears of not being/looking good enough still lurk in my mind. It's true that my thighs have had cellulite since I was a teenager, and it's true that my breasts are smaller than what our culture idealizes. And it's true that I take both of these body parts into account every time I dress myself (I do not wear short shorts or super tight leggings nor do I wear tops that swamp me and make my boobs look nonexistent). In her fantastic book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown (no, I will never ever stop singing her praises) lists the main categories of shame that people feel. No surprise that #1 for women is body image. (Here's a great little overview of her work called how body shame affects our lives). FUCK THAT.

I have a daughter now, an eight-year-old darling who got tears in her eyes last week asking if I think she's fat. Because her skinny-as-a-rail friends (and no, I don't mean to body shame those little darlings, but they are very thin and a rail is a good metaphor!) can do killer handstands and she, with her strong and stout thighs & butt, can't balance the lower half of her body over her head as easily.

And she has my thighs. My mom's thighs. My sister's thighs. And I refuse to shame any of us for having perfectly normal female bodies that allow us to move through the world and do our work and love who and what we love.

I have no tying-it-all-in conclusion to this. I'm so grateful that I've kept true to myself all these years, following the calling to make changes in my life that allowed me to find greater health mentally, emotionally, and physically. If you or someone you love could use help with shame of any kind, please check out Brené Brown's work.

And on an unrelated note- I've started a Facebook page for Aquarian Dawn. If that's a good way for you to be connected and stay updated on the many, many things I'll be up to in 2015, then go ahead and like it. Also consider signing up for the newsletter below- I just sent out an email today filled with announcements of exciting things to come and I plan to keep using this mailing list as the first stop for up-and-coming news from here on out. I'm branching out from Instagram people! Much love.

The Journal Diaries 1: Letter to Mycelia + Herb Class Notes (26 years old)

This is the first in a new blog series, sharing some of the hundreds of journal entries I've made over the years. I started journaling at age 12 and have kept up with it, more or less, ever since. I have a shelf full of old diaries and notebooks; it's the first spot I'll run to if there's ever a fire. I have learned so much about myself and my neuroses and patterns and, more than anything, my strengths and my enduring interests by re-reading my journals now and then. Writing down my thoughts has been perhaps the single most important practice in my life.

I remember being a teenager and thinking "Maybe after I die someone will read my journals and realize they're not alone." A decade later, blogging came along, and I realized that I could use this new medium to share my deepest, most secret, most shame-inducing truths with others so that they, and I, would know that we're all in this together. And blogging did open up a whole new world of connection for me, and has empowered me to share and trust my voice, no matter how vulnerable the subject matter I'm writing on.

Through this series, I hope to realize the dream I had 20 years ago of sharing my private thoughts in order to normalize, comfort, and connect...

This one was written in the journal I used throughout my year-long herbal apprenticeship program called Cultivating the Medicine Woman Within with Kami McBride. I started when my daughter was 7 months old, and this was written 10 months after that in January of 2008, alongside notes on the digestive system.

Dear Mycelia-

I'm sorry. It's been so hard. It shouldn't have been like this. I won't let it be like this for you when you have your own. Papa went back to work four days after you were born. Grammy was back home by then too. Auntie Lacey loved you so much, but she didn't understand how hard it was for me and how much help I needed. How much help all mothers need. So I ended up frustrated so much of the time, and that frustration was sometimes projected onto you. Especially when I was tired. Especially when I AM tired. I need help. Papa helps. But I don't get as much help as if we were living with extended family, in a community, in a tribe. Not nearly, not even close. 

And that is how humans have evolved. If people had been trying to raise children in isolated nuclear families since the beginning of time, humanity never would have survived. It's not your fault. You are my joy and my pure love. I relish in your presence, your growth. I can't wait to watch you unfold forever.

But I can never again go through what I have these last 17 months. I have literally lost my mind at times.

My hope is that, if we are still living alone when we have another one, you my darling will be my help. Already you are so motherly. You nurse your dolls. You even nurse puzzle pieces. And you say "mama" and/or "baby" as you do it. You hug and kiss and rock and sing to and pat your babies. This makes me so happy, because you are modeling me. I have done a good job nurturing and loving you, even when I was losing my mind :-)

And I was the same way as a child. I loved dolls and real babies, and was very much Auntie Lacey's caretaker. But I want to wait until you are older than I was at Auntie's birth (28 months), so that I can, say, leave the baby with you while I shower. And I think you'll love it too. And you can learn, can know more, can get mothering knowledge in your cells. Not everyone gets that today.

But I'm sorry, I'm sorry I haven't been better for you. I'm working on it.

Yeah, this one is hard to read. That first year or two was really the hardest time in my life. I was so alone. I hadn't started making close women friends in my new town yet (we moved to Grass Valley/Nevada City when Mycelia was 6 months old). In my mind, looking back, it was all struggle. But when I see photos or videos from that time I see that I was happy much of the time, and that I was doing a good job figuring out this new mama thing.

Thanks to that herb teacher, Kami (who is amazing, btw, and if you're in NorCal you should seek her out), I had switched from a vegan diet to traditional nutrition a few months before I wrote this. That shift led me to studying the lifestyles of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, and so I was acutely aware that the way I was parenting- alone, not in community- was an aberration for our species, even though it's all we and our own parents and most of their parents have ever known. The book A Natural History of Parenting by Susan Allport especially fascinated and enraged me.

We were hunter-gatherers for 95% of human history, and physiologically we are still those same people. I had made as many parenting choices around that knowledge as I could- natural birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby carrying and, more recently, herbal medicine and traditional foods. But societal structure was something I couldn't change. One of my best friends has a two year old and is very into studying the primal lifestyle, and I have actually seen her cry angry tears over how our unnatural modern style of living in isolation has made her mothering experience harder than she'd ever imagined. Adorably, she vents her anger through embroidery. I did it through writing. And lots of sobbing too.

It's also hard to remember how badly I wanted another child back then. How I always envisioned having at least two, and never dreamed my child/ren would grow up being shuttled between two homes. I didn't even question it. I would do what my parents had done. But I didn't. We broke up. She kept growing up. She's eight years old now and beautiful and strong and centered in herself and pouring us egg nog while complaining about the fact that I'm on my computer right now.

If I lived in a tribe, even if it hadn't worked out with daddy #1, I could have had more children without worrying if I would be properly supported so that I, in turn, could support my baby. Biologically, I want more babies. But I know that my family, my friends, my community can't support me in a way that I would feel truly empowered and happy as a mother with a young child again. I'm doing all I can to survive with the one I have now, alone in our sweet tiny little home.

Since this personal entry was made in a notebook filled mostly with awesome herbal information, I thought I'd add a few more short entries here with some juicy tidbits from Kami's awesome apprenticeship-

Our bodies understand water, when an herb is infused in water the body knows what to do with it & can easily digest and assimilate it

Oiling the body calms the nervous system (babies, children, trauma, exhaustion)

Mugwort- very penetrating, delivers- good in combo with other oils to help move them into the body [ahem], nervine, anti-bacterial/fungal/viral, opens psychic centers of perception, muscle relaxant

Echinacea & elderberry will prevent illness if taken at first sign- create a parameter around the bacteria/virus to prevent it from spreading 

Bone broth- regenerative, immune help, rebuilds immune system. In Traditional Chinese Medicine they say bone broth "raises the dead"

Stay away from oranges/orange juice when sick! Congesting and high sugar content

20% blood volume is in skin, 25% of waste is excreted through skin, millions of nerve receptors on skin, lymph/immune system right beneath skin. If skin is dry and scaly lymph isn't moving and immunity is compromised

The whole journal is like this- priceless info about the body and how it interacts with plants alongside entries about my struggles with motherhood. 7/8 years later, much of that knowledge has become second nature and I have very much settled into my life as a mother. As with probably 95% of the mom guilt we induce in ourselves, the things I worried over turned out to have no ;sating repercussions for my child. She's incredibly healthy, happy, and well adjusted. And you know what? So am I.

The only way out is through.