I believe in you.

Suicide is in the news again.

Every time it becomes a public discussion I am both reminded of my pain, and relieved of my pain. In 2013 I lost my father to suicide. I feel that it will always weigh heavily on me, though I’ve spent a lot of time sorting through it.

Hearing the words commit suicide is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I’ve heard of a movement to remove the word commit when referring to the act of suicide. Commit. As if it were a crime, the actor chastised and scorned, when in fact they were loved, ill and in pain. The intention of suicide is not a crime against others as much as it is an affront on a sickness that won’t let go. My father didn’t die by suicide to offend you and he didn’t intend to hurt me. I know his suffering — sometimes it is almost too hard to hold on. I am his daughter, and we are alike.

When suicide comes up in the public domain, I am both pleased and devastated. It pains me to hear the statistics: Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US; On average, there are 123 suicides per day; In 2015, 505,507 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm. It will never stop breaking my heart.

I am pleased, however, that we are talking about it. We spend so much time focused on our physical health, but we still stigmatize any discussion of mental health. Times are changing, people are talking — I hope we are making progress.

Today I listened to the On Being podcast episode from 12/9/15 with Jennifer Michael Hecht, Suicide, and Hope for Our Future Selves. At about minute 20, Jennifer explains,

…we have different moods that profoundly change our outlook, and it’s not right to let your worst one murder all the others.

And I found great truth in this. My strongest coping mechanism when I find myself in a depressed state is to remind myself that it will get better, and I know this because it always has. Sometimes when I don’t care if it’s going to get better, when I’m tired of the repeated roller coaster of emotions, the struggle is more difficult — I remind myself how it felt when my dad took his life, and that I have already determined that I wouldn’t cause another to feel this same pain and confusion.

And I keep at it. I keep repeating it to myself. I continue to train myself to say these things, to get out of the moment I’m stuck in and to see beyond it. When I can, I live my life in a way that brings me so much joy that I always have something to look forward to and to know that I am loved, and to do my best to love everyone I meet.

If you are reading this, and you know the struggle, know that we are connected by this very human condition. Know that you have the power to create your own best life, and that you are an amazing, wonderful human being just by existing. The rest is up to you — and I believe in you.


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – Statistics:
https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-8255
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

My Public Commitment to DO THINGS

To say I have been down in the dumps lately would be an understatement.

I had grand intentions for my week off, but I knew if I wasn’t careful, I was going to overwhelm myself. In turn, I set loose expectations, and told myself I would keep my spirits high, go with the flow, enjoy my time off without stress.

But how could I not know that things don’t always work out as expected? The holiday began fine, and slowly deteriorated. I met friends for drinks and dinner, I accomplished a major chore, and my partner and I got an ambitious start on our current van project.

However, before I knew it I was spiraling downhill: my leg started hurting on Saturday night, and on Sunday evening I had a long, painful spasm in my vastus medialus (quad muscle on the inside of the leg). The muscle was so knotted and tight afterwards that I could barely bend my knee or put any weight on it. I spent three more miserable days, short-tempered and drinking heavily, heating and massaging the muscle through tears, trying to make some headway on my projects, until I was able to get in to see my doctor — a miracle worker who somehow manages to take pain from the body and squeeze it out of one’s face in the form of tears and screams. When the knot finally released, my body was somewhere between cursing, crying, attempting to ball up in the fetal position, and throwing an uncontrollably clenched fist (which thankfully did not actually occur).

That said, my leg was now on the upswing, and I was feeling like a real human again, but my mind was still stuck somewhere in a deep, dark crevasse. This is when I found the journal of Kenneth Payton’s Solo tour of the US Southwest. At 82 years of age, Ken rode his bike from California to Florida, blogging about it on the way. I was hooked, fascinated, inspired. I want to be like that when I’m 82 (Ken passed in 2014 at 87 years). I knew I needed to get out; I knew I needed to start actually believing in myself — believing that I could do things I wanted to do, and knowing that I didn’t have to be the ABSOLUTE BEST and AN UNDENIABLE EXPERT at something just to make it a part of my life. I don’t know about you, but I’ve let myself stop things before I even start just because someone else is already doing it (Why even bother? There’s already someone doing it better … ).

I learned recently that I am not the only one who falls for this trap. Kathlyn Hart talks about this on episode 029 of the Big Leap Show before she introduces Emilie Aries from Bossed Up and the podcast, Stuff Mom Never Told You.

I have a lot of worries — and they are all over the place — but in 2018 I’m committing to ignoring those unreasonable fears, being true to myself and doing what brings me joy.

Do the things.

Your Body is Your Vehicle (take it on an epic adventure)

I am interrupting the previously scheduled European vacation programming to have a brief discussion about an essay I read today.

This essay made me so angry, and so happy at the same time.

Angry because of this:

I did some quick Googling on the topic, and there are a handful of “will cycling make my legs bigger?” articles out there. I even found a video titled “How to ride your bicycle without bulking up your quads, thighs, & legs.”

And exceptionally happy because of this:

I want a body that takes me places. I want to see things. I want thighs that help me to pedal hard up a hill. I want to feel things. I want a heart that’s happy and healthy, physically and emotionally.

I want to feel alive.

Most importantly, I know that I want a lifestyle that’s more full of “fuck yeahs” than feeling bad about what I should or shouldn’t look like.

I surprised myself by becoming completely enraged that there exist women who desire to ride a bike, but are stopped by fear of gaining muscle. I want to weep for everyone who let society squash their dreams, ideas and even their most seemingly insignificant desires. I want to punch every person who ever propagated the idea that a human body should appear a certain way.

I am also thinking about the three weeks I just spent exploring mountains, hiking, climbing, running and walking every possible inch of the Alps that I could get my hands and feet on. I didn’t think about my body as an object that was right or wrong. I didn’t think about what body parts I liked or disliked or wanted to change or what I feared to be judged. I thought only about where it could take me, how strong I could make it; I thought about what amazing shape I’d be in and how good it would feel if I spent the rest of my life trekking around Alpine towns, eating bread and butter, drinking wine and espresso and huffing and puffing on mountain ridges above the clouds; running, climbing, smiling.

I want to spend the rest of my days wearing clothes that are comfortable when I’m sweating, and cozy when I’m relaxing. I want to forever not care about what my body looks like, and start admiring it for what it can do and where it can take me. I want everyone around me, everyone reading this and everyone in existence to start to see their bodies as amazing vehicles for amazing, epic adventures.

Thank you Anna Brones for writing this essay. You are my hero today.

Empty the Cup, Make Room

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Being injured is taking a giant emotional toll on me. I’ve been up and down daily. I am missing my connection with nature, forgetting that I don’t need activities to take me outside. Today, after much wavering, after saying I’d do it before and then not doing it, I drove out to the desert just for the hell of it. I figured I had shoes to pick up from Nomad in Joshua Tree anyways, even though I can’t wear them right now. I told myself I’d take just a small walk and snap a few photos.

It’s high tourist season in jtree right now and as I ventured on, I found myself becoming more and more frustrated, wanting be away from people. I didn’t even care where. I pulled over on the road out to cottonwood, and decided to peek my head over a short hill and take a peek at Wilson Canyon. I feel like no one goes here. It’s not the picturesque boulders and Joshua trees they come to town for. It’s standard sand and rock and chaparral.

But it is so quiet. A humming bird flew by and fluttered around the bushes right at my feet. It’s calm. It’s peaceful. It’s content.

I read a note today that I wrote myself a long time ago. I reminded myself that I don’t have to do anything. I put pressure on myself, I take the fun out of things. I push myself to accomplish and I disappoint myself. I’d rather be having fun. I can have fun by relaxing, by doing what I enjoy and enjoying what I do, removing the pressure and changing the way I see need intertwined with desire.

It’s been time for me to scale back, as my knee injury has made it all too necessary to slow down. I don’t spend enough time being slow, and observing; I forget to just be.

Now that I’ve slowed down, removed distractions, I notice I can see more. I can feel more. I’m sitting here on a rock, feeling a breeze ebb and flow, noticing the direction. I can hear birds and insects, a plane above, a car nearby. I can see a splash of color on a monotone hillside, tiny plants sprouting from the earth, subtle patterns in the clouds. Sometimes we must empty out the cup a little, to just let go, to make room for more life.

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Reflections on Meditation

I have some long overdue van updates to come, but I wanted to break from the vanlife news and share something a little deeper and more personal. I used to do a lot of introspective writing, and I have always found great joy in making connections on a deeper level … but it’s also important not to forget about all the fun in things in life! So, while I work on more posts about the Great Winter Vancation, other recent adventures, and updates on the van construction (we installed a roof vent!!!!), I will share a snippet of other things in my life:

I began leaning on a steady meditation practice at the beginning of 2015. I was going through a stressful divorce, creating a new life for myself and seeking out change in any way I could find. The results were life-saving. Yet as time went on, as I felt stronger, my practice had slowly gone by the wayside. As 2016 came to a close, I thought about the things I wanted to change this year, the person I had become, the person I want to be and my journey, past, present and future. I needed to be more steady, more focused, and less chaotic.

These past few months I have been giving myself more inward focused care, and more time to grow my meditation practice. Last week I reached a profound milestone. I have made a promise to my own heart to be a more loving being, to always share compassion with all beings. This is my new everyday — my living, breathing mantra.

Today, during my walking meditation, I imagined myself as a tree — grounded and peaceful. My feet, roots communing with the earth on each step. The hairs on my head, branches and leaves. As I walked, my thoughts and worries and stressors all streamed behind me, taken by the wind and dissolved into the sky. The breeze rustling and multiplying the love in my heart, carrying it far, and wrapping all of my worries in a blanket of compassion before sending them off into the atmosphere. The growing compassion swelling my heart and spreading to the farthest reaches of all humanity. My mind, clearing and making room for all of the love, kindness and compassion absorbed throughout my day and beyond. Like a tree, I am strong and unwavering.

This is a beautiful life I’ve been given and each moment is wasted if not filled with love and kindness.

I am exceedingly fortunate that I am able to have these experiences; that my life has provided me the opportunity to have strong and admirable teachers, mentors and friends. I am thankful for each and everyone of them — and for all who read this, you are loved, even from afar.

A Story About Rape

There are other things I should be doing right now, but instead, I’m compelled to tell this story. In fact, it’s something I should have done a long time ago.

I don’t normally talk about politics at all, but it’s now my turn to speak up and be strong for those that are not yet ready to do so. We’re all in this world together, and it’s all shit if we can’t support and love one another. Until last night, I had no idea what sort of emotions would be stirred up inside me after this election. I can’t take it anymore: I need to talk about one very specific reason why this presidency hurts me.

When I was 21, like many others, I was immature, naive and inexperienced in life. I was living on my own, in a new state, hundreds of miles from home, poor, struggling with depression, attempting to go to school and hold a job. Poor me, right? No, not really … I made a lot of terrible choices. My choices.

When someone rapes you, that is not your choice.

When I was 21, I was stood up for a date and found myself having a drink alone at the bar. But not for long. Two men caught my eye across the room and sent me another drink. Before long we were chatting, laughing and there were more drinks. My suitors were funny and charming and I thought I was having a nice time. As the night came to a close, I wandered to my car in an attempt to sleep in it, however, one of these men followed me and scared me by telling me I’d be sure to get law enforcement’s attention parked where I was, and that it would not end well. He so kindly offered to let me sleep at his place a couple blocks away.

Here I am, vomiting on the beach, with a terrible case of the spins, about to pass out. I remember the cab driver looking concerned. I think I told him I didn’t know this man and I didn’t know where I was going. He did nothing. What choice did I have? I caved and drank all those drinks; I thought I’d be fine. I’d slept on enough couches in that neighborhood, and spent enough time wandering the streets that I felt far too comfortable.

I don’t remember going into the house or even getting out of the car. I remember being in a bed, I remember gaining awareness and what was happening. Then he got up, left me laying there with no pants, went to the living room to watch TV. A little time went by. I found my cell phone. I called someone for help. My rapist heard me and came and took the phone away. I couldn’t even stand up. I lay on the floor listening to him convince my friend that I was fine, I was safe, I just had too much to drink. He came back and told me to go back to sleep and walked away.

I was frantically gathering my things and trying to figure out how to get out of the house in the dark without him noticing, when he walked back in. I finally convinced him that I was leaving, no matter what he said and he so kindly offered to drive me. This is when I realized where I was: in the dawn hours, the sun coming up, I finally saw his home, his street, his neighborhood — one where I had been so many times before. So familiar, yet so strange and now forever blemished in my mind.

I went home and slept if off. And like so many other women, I shrugged my shoulders and called it a bad night. I have one amazing friend to thank for pushing me to stand up for myself — we talked the next day and I will never, ever forget her saying to me, “That’s rape!” 

And again, I shrugged my shoulders and wrote it off. What would anyone do for me? There wasn’t anything anyone could to erase the pain, remove the scar or undo this violation. They would tell me I was asking for it. That I was a party girl, and I put myself in a dangerous situation. I would be shamed. But it was not my fault. I got to decide to make some stupid choices, but I didn’t decide to take my clothes off, and I didn’t decide to have my body violated. I didn’t decide to be used. 

However, thanks to my friend, I chose to go through the painstaking, emotional process of filing a police report, adding a strike, should my rapist ever repeat himself. I wouldn’t be telling this story if it wasn’t for her. And to this day, I don’t know if she even knows that how strong I grew to be was largely because of her.

Today, I am thinking about the women who our new President violated. I think about how I would feel if my rapist was in the White House, and I would think about all the people around me who chose this. I would think about people taking a side, supporting this man who cared so little for me — someone who cared so little about another human being, that their thoughts and feelings were completely meaningless to them. I am thinking about how isolating and painful that would feel, and I want to change that. I want every woman dealing with this to know that she is not alone. I’m completely, utterly, flagrantly insulted by so many Americans right now. We, as a country, have sent a clear message that rape culture is not going away.

We need to keep fighting. 

Goodbye, Summertime.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

noun
1. recurrent winter depression characterized by oversleeping, overeating, and irritability, and relieved by the arrival of spring or by light therapy.
Abbreviation: SAD.

Or if you prefer, from the Mayo Clinic definition:

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.

As if dealing with regular old depression wasn’t enough, now we have a seasonal version. It is the mental health equivalent of pumpkin spice everything. With the end of daylight saving time, we now have the opportunity to venture down the rabbit hole of deep, dark evenings, lack of motivation and the beginning of terrible eating habits that will surely contribute to the fall of summer health initiatives and sun bathed recreational activities. Sunset runs are now dark and frosty torture events. Paranoia over sinus pressure and the chance of catching a cold become overwhelmingly annoying qualities of mine. I fear sundown when camping; I can’t decide what layers will be the warmest. I balk over wearing three pairs of pants and still tuck hand-warmers into every pocket. My wool hat is my best friend.

I will see my breathe and shed a small tear and feel a soft ache in my heart.

Good-bye, summertime. You will be missed. My already low energy levels take it down a couple of notches. My productivity wanes. The holidays come and I feel the extreme end of the spectrum on which the feelings of missing my family lie. As always, there are good days … and there are very bad ones.

Winter arrives, some things speed up, but for me — many things slow down. Many of those around me are spending time with their families, and I am gently reflecting on my life. Amidst the boxes of old photographs, books of memories, handwritten letters and old cards, I find myself. I am given a beautiful opportunity to reflect; to feel quiet. To feel peace. I have an amazing opportunity to turn inward and dust out the symbolic cobwebs in the deepest places of my soul. It is my gift to have extra time to reflect on my life and the joys within it. The challenges of this season do not need to consume me — this is a wonderful time for me to re-calibrate, to reinforce the habit of being gentle with myself, to really absorb the love and good fortune in my life and allow it to overwhelm me; to become so consumed with these positive emotions and this positive energy, that I may take this beautiful opportunity to love those around me, to be kind and gentle to others.

Winter is always a struggle for me, but this year I vow to turn it around. I will take the opportunity. I will make the most of it. It is possible.

Good-bye, summertime. Until we meet again.