A Light in the dark

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So, I am starting a little handmade candle company. I’ve decided to make some little affirmation cards to go with each candle based on their themes. People can read them or meditate on them as they light the candle. One big theme is finding light in the winter. Here are a few that I have written up so far:

1

In the winter when it is hard to find the light I crave, I will make my own light. I will do what nourishes me and keep the fire inside me going. I will remember that I am not alone in the world.

2

The winter is cold, snowy, and dark. But I will make my own light. I will take care of myself even when it seems hard. I will have gratitude for the light in my life that I am able to find and soak it up.

3

I am not alone in this winter, this darkness. Others before me, and in the present, struggle as I do. I must remember to take good care of myself. Be patient. It is okay for me to practice being still, quiet, and be well rested.

4

Like a bear in the winter, I need to take this time to hibernate. Rest is important. I will practice taking care of myself without a feeling of guilt so that I may awaken feeling bright and new; ready to take on my challenges.

5

This winter I will reflect on the light I receive from the world and do my part to share that light with the community.

Check out the facebook page for the company, at Queen Of Quirky Candles. And you can also find me on Instagram, which has been tons of fun to find inspiring images to build up my presence on social media as I launch this new adventure @queenofquirkycandles.

Running with my thoughts. Again.

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This blog was originally designed to reflect the many ideas and thoughts that came to me while running.

I started running because I had been afraid of doing so since I was a little girl. Running was something I thought I was incapable of doing, but somehow I decided to try it anyways. I started with a couch to 5k program.  I  was more than capable of running. I was doing something I thought I could not do, and I saw myself transformed in more ways than one. Running became a coping mechanism for me. It was one of the few times in my day where I said nice things to myself. Eventually, it became a time to practice self-care and to generate solutions to problems I was thinking about.  From personal problems like relationship issues, ideas for school assignments, solving or helping with social justice and human rights issues, to tackling the purpose of my life, I pondered it all while I ran. But then it all came to an abrupt halt. I had to stop running when I injured my back in Crossfit shortly after running in my first half-marathon in August of 2015. I was in physical therapy from October 2015 to June of 2016. Sometimes I could not even stand up straight or walk without immense pain and stiffness.

Running became a coping mechanism for me. It was one of the few times in my day where I said nice things to myself. Eventually, it became a time to practice self-care and to generate solutions to problems I was thinking about.  From personal problems like relationship issues, ideas for school assignments, solving or helping with social justice and human rights issues, to tackling the purpose of my life, I pondered it all while I ran.

But then it all came to an abrupt halt. I had to stop running when I injured my back in Crossfit shortly after running in my first half-marathon in August of 2015. I was in physical therapy from October 2015 to June of 2016. Sometimes I could not even stand up straight or walk without immense pain and stiffness.

 

During this time period, I graduated college with a Bachelor of Science degree after nearly ten years of working towards that goal. I got accepted into my dream graduate school program, in which I now study Humane Education. I got diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that affects my thyroid. It seems to deplete me of energy, motivation, and I now eat a gluten free (in addition to vegan) diet because of it, which let’s be honest, sucks the joy out of eating sometimes. Without running, which had become the way I processed my emotions, thoughts, and achievements in life, none of these milestones seemed to matter to me.

At some point, I was so frustrated with the lack of running in my life, that I decided to convert this blog to be more general and not focused on my thoughts while running like it had before. I deleted all the posts I had written as a response to my runs. Because I couldn’t run. At first, I enjoyed the new writing that I was doing. It felt like it was helping me process just to write. Then I stopped that too.

I started feeling a little better this Summer with my pain and could run a very small amount. Unfortunately, I had to focus on my body so much that I was not able to focus on my mind at the same time. It was frustrating.

I was starting to realize I had no way to really channel my emotions and thoughts anymore. I felt bottled up.

And then my grandmother died on September 14, 2016.

Earlier, in the Spring when she wasn’t doing so well, I visited her and spent some time with her coloring and talking to her. I told her I loved her even though for some reason I was afraid to say it. She said it back. Then in the Summer she got even worse. It wasn’t a good situation. I was afraid to see her again because I knew that if I did, it would change how I felt about her. I wanted to have a positive memory of her as my goodbye. And then, in September, she suddenly changed again. She was a person who was afraid of a lot of things in life. But suddenly she wasn’t afraid anymore. She wasn’t trying to fight anymore. She was more at peace. We were told she was going to die soon.

Somehow I found myself there, despite my own fears of facing death, by her side, watching her life come to its end, and I did not want to leave.

I realized while I was there, how much my grandmother and I are alike. It is scary to liken myself to her because she had such a hard life. She tragically lost three of her children. She went through a divorce from her mentally unstable husband. And she dealt with this pain in unhealthy ways sometimes that negatively affected our family. Yet she died with an unmistakable sense of peace. Though she had many fears, she never gave up because of them. She persisted. I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to experience all the pain she endured. But I can imagine that I can keep going through my own fears like she did.

One of the things my mother kept saying to the hospice staff was that my grandmother had told my mom one of her biggest fears was that she would die alone. My mom was going to great lengths to ensure that wouldn’t happen. The hospice nurse seemed to doubt my grandmother was really afraid of dying alone. She told us that people will die the way they want to. She said if a person doesn’t want someone to be there when they die, they will wait until they go to the bathroom, and then die. We were only able to stay with my grandmother during the day time. She died at 2am when we were not there. She conquered the fear of being alone in death. I am so proud of her for that.

I need to be proud of myself for facing my own fears. I have done all kinds of things I’m afraid of. In fact, I am starting to think everything meaningful I have done in my life so far, I have been afraid of.

Here is a small sampling:

I kept living even when I didn’t want to.

I sang in public in a band that had formed three days prior.

I spoke publicly about my struggles in life.

I graduated college.

I drove nearly 6 hours, by myself (I hate driving), to my graduate school residency in Maine. I even swam far out into the ocean while there, even though I tell myself I am afraid of swimming in open water.

I taught myself to run. And even though it’s a pain to start over from scratch again, I’m doing it.

The past few months have been really hard on me. I haven’t been able to tell people how I really feel. I’m afraid that if I start talking about the pain I’m in I won’t be able to stop, and it will be unfair to them. I’ve been wondering about the lessons I should be learning from my grandmother’s passing a lot. I feel like I am unable to move forward, weighed down by despair. I feel like a failure for not picking up where I left off before she died. But my life seems different now.

For the past 4 weeks or so, I’ve been forcing myself to go out and do another couch to 5k program. I’m smack dab in the middle of the program, and it really sucks physically. Today I was afraid that I could not do the whole workout as described.

But all of a sudden the British voice recording that is on the app told me I was ready to cool down. I had not given up on the entire workout. I did it. And not only had I not given up on the physical aspect of the run, but I ended my workout with this blog entry in my head.

 

 

 

 

Poem: 4:53 Sunrise in Surry

Here is poem #2 of a 3 poem series from my grad school residency trip to Surry, Maine.

4:53 Sunrise in Surry

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Every morning my body woke me

At 4:50 am

Same time.

Every day.

My body was waking me on purpose

It knew I had never seen the sunrise

That I really wanted this experience

But I did not know what time it was at

With some prying

I discovered my body was already aware

4:53 sunrise in Surry

It was time to witness

The beautiful reflection of the sun

Coming up

And making an impression on the clouds and me

Alone, by the ocean

As I walked through the forest path

That led to the shore

I was apprehensive of my solitude

But when I arrived, I saw the horizon

The gradual lightening of the sky

The sun was blocked from my view

From the tallest, greenest trees

Yet that did not matter to me

I still saw the pink, purple and orange

Wisps of sky

The clouds reflected the colors back at me

When I looked down into the water

On the rocky shore

This mirror effect was telling me:

You were meant to be here, right now

In the quiet, calm, beautiful world

Something

You never allow yourself to have

And you deserve it.

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The return of my poetry (and myself!)

Hey! So I know I promised I would eventually write three more poems to complete the 30 poem series that was part of NaPoWriMo.

I finally have three more poems!

They were inspired by my residency trip to Surry, Maine for my graduate program at the Institute for Humane Education.

Additionally, I have a mixed media painting inspired by my time there too!

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Here is one of the three poems (I will be posting the other two later)

The Journey to Maine and Back

The clouds looked more beautiful–

The contrast of blue and white, more pronounced

The Earth looked rounder

The  stars shone brighter

The fireflies were more numerous, reflecting the stars

The ocean was rockier

The forests greener

A field of wildflowers, the first I ever walked through

The sun rose earlier than I imagined

Yet I awoke every morning just in time

And I stayed awake to the beauty of nature

As I drove myself back home

Now the clouds here look just as beautiful

And the Earth as round

I may not always see the stars, but I know they are there

Sometimes if I look close enough I may see a firefly

Bringing the stars back down to my level

The oceans are more sandy

The forests are more lush

Though I’m in a different environment

There is just as much beauty to be found

And I must stay awake to it!

I’m back. My trip to Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary

Hey.

I’ve been really focused on school and my summer courses lately that I haven’t been thinking to post here. One of my courses is focused on animal protection. It has been difficult at times, and I struggle a bit with some of the more upsetting content.

These courses have been forcing me to take better care of myself mentally. I would like to get to a point where I can learn how to better practice self-care and share some of what I learn with others who are going through similar things (especially for activists and social justice and humane educators).

Maybe this topic might start coming up in future blog posts here.

This past week, on Tuesday, I visited Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary in Norton, Massachusetts. I was hoping that being around animals who are well taken care of and have been rescued would make me feel better. I felt the most connection with the pigs (even though they are one of the few animals there you are unable to pet or touch there, I still felt a strong connection when we looked at each other, for whatever reason, and didn’t want to stop looking at them). I also enjoyed interacting with several of many of the cats that reside there, the goats (I have a fondness for goats), and the donkeys and/or mules let me brush off some of their loose hairs. There were signs there that taught me about the difference between a donkey and a mule, but I’m actually not exactly sure how to identify each animal.  My friend  who was there with me was able to get the attention of a sheep who enjoyed his brushing. There were also emu and many other different types of birds, alpacas, dogs, horses, and more that I did not see as much of.

Here are some of my photos.

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Lunch time

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The emu with a goat in the background

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This cat liked to sit and watch a turkey

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This pig watched me for awhile

This goat was curious about my phone. I probably shouldn’t have tried to take a selfie and focused more on taking pictures of the animals themselves. I was trying to be present mostly and not worry about taking photos most of the time though.

Anyways, it was a good time and very relaxing. Here is a link to the sanctuary’s website: http://www.winslowfarm.com/

 

Mother’s Day.

So, I failed at participating in NaPoWriMo for all 30 days, as you can see. I got too swept up in everything else I’ve been doing and forgot to do one day. I had come so close and was too frustrated that I couldn’t get myself to jump back in. I plan to finish writing the last three poems I was due to write soon. But right now I am working on wrapping up the work for my first semester of graduate school. Here is something I wrote today in my other class, Intro to Humane Education, that has to do with thirty day challenges and mothers.  

The assignment was in response to reading the Third Side by William Ury. He has worked to help resolve conflicts all over the world and is also an anthropologist (anthropology is one of my most favorite subjects, and I have a knack for helping settle other people’s conflicts sometimes…so this is a great blend of subject matter for me to read). The book shares some practical advice on the different roles we can play in helping solve conflict, preventing violence, war, and how we can potentially create peace. He also goes into a great deal of depth about human history and the way we historically have resolved conflicts throughout our evolution. It’s really interesting. Basically, he concludes that conflict has become more prevalent and more violent and destructive in the last 1% of human history, and explains why that is and how we have a choice between peace and war. 

Here is my own personal take on a conflict within my life that I really want to change. It is with my mother:

I cannot remember the last time my mother hugged me without me asking for one. There were plenty of times I could have used one. I remember a time where my mother would give hugs freely, whether I was sad or joyous, but those days are in the past. In fact, I do not even remember my mother hugging me when I graduated with my undergraduate degree, something that at one point, I never thought would be possible. I know she had sometimes given up on the idea that I would achieve it as well. She seemed to care more about my achieving that goal than I did at times. So why would she not hug me then?

Our relationship has been strained since I became an adult. It has felt conflicted for the past thirteen years. Sometimes things calm down for a bit and we get along for a while, but then seemingly out of nowhere tensions will escalate and we will be fighting frequently. It is never physically violent, but voices are raised and the things we say are not indicative of a healthy mother-daughter relationship. It is not good for either of us. I want to be able to heal our relationship.

I started out writing this with every intention to explain to you what the nature of our conflict is, and describing the problems we face and how I think we can resolve them based on the book The Third Side by William Ury. However, I know that would have been hard for me, because my intention was to still place blame on my mom, make myself feel like I was the one who suffered the most and was right, etc., which is not very third side of me anyways. Then I realized how I just wanted a hug from her and it made me think that could be part of the solution towards resolving the conflict in the first place.

The only thing I can remember about the last time she hugged me, was that she criticized the way I hugged her. It did feel awkward for me, but that was because it had been so long since a hug had occurred between us. I barely knew what to do anymore! I had such a need for the hug, and such high expectations for it, that I could not properly fulfill my role of being an equal in the act of hugging. I had this idea from my childhood that my mom’s hugs could cure anything I was suffering from. I did not have to give anything back to her. She just had to hug me. She was the mom with the healing hug powers, not I.

I took her criticism of the hug really personally, as I always do. My mind had accepted that she was going to criticize me no matter what I did on any occasion a while ago. So I just quit hugging her altogether, to avoid the discomfort of potential criticism.

It is reassuring to hear from Ury that when people are in closer proximity to each other and cannot easily run away, that more conflict arising is to be expected (page 65). I have tried to remove myself from the situation, but like he said, usually the fight follows me around.

What are we fighting about? The nature of our conflict seems to be about me trying to get my mom (and dad) to see me as an equal and not as a helpless child. I am an adult and still rely on my parents for some basic needs. Usually there is not much conflict around those though. To me it seems like we fight about deeper relational problems. I want to be able to make other choices in my life without fear of harsh judgment, her meddling in my affairs, or punishment. At the same time, I do not always live my life demonstrating the kind of behavior and skills I need to display in order to be considered an independent adult in their eyes. With my mom, I have the tendency to say I need to constantly go with her to complete errands and am very demanding with her time and energy when it is not necessary.

My mother is stressed. She is stressed by her work (although she loves it), where she cares for other families with special needs. She is busy meeting the demands piled on her by my father and the business he runs from the home. She deals with her own mother, who is ailing and whom she is also trying very hard to heal their own relationship. Aside from all that, she is the only one who is tasked to do the grocery shopping, go to the bank, take my brother to appointments (he does not drive), go to the pharmacy for everyone but myself, and the list goes on when it comes to basic, everyday living type tasks. This leaves very little time for her to take care of herself, have fun, or work on healing other relationships.

My mom has expressed that wants to come home from and not have to deal with me needing her so much. I want to lay off her and let her have more freedom (just like I also want freedom and independence), but I have worried that if I stop, I won’t have any kind of relationship with her anymore. I still need her to show that she cares about me. I guess when I think about it, my attempts to get her to care through constantly talking to her and being with her while looking for her advice, concern, or joy in my achievements are not working either.

Which brings me to the solution I want to propose to my mom. While writing and editing this piece, I suddenly came to an epiphany. We both have frustrated needs. The reason she criticized my hug in the past was not to simply criticize me or because she a cold, heartless woman. It was because she probably needed the hug as much as I did. In that way, we ARE equals. We both desire the feeling of love and affection from our family.

My lackluster hug demonstrated that I was not comfortable or ready to be her equal. My hugging ability represented my need to grow and actually do the work to be considered an equal to her in other ways.

It may sound non-dairy cheesy (I am a vegan, my mom is lactose intolerant, which leads to bonding sometimes over that mere fact), but the lack of hugging itself may be both the problem and the solution to our conflicts. In which case, today, on Mother’s Day, I plan to share this writing with my mother, and talk about these issues, and see if she will agree to try out my idea that I think will help us resolve our conflicts.

I have been on a quest to do something new and unfamiliar for thirty days straight lately. Most of the time I have failed or given up by accident. I want to be able to stick to doing something every day for a month’s time though, as I often feel I am not able to be consistent (part of the skills I need to improve to be a better functioning adult, I believe). I want to see if my mom will be willing to let me hug her for thirty days straight. In addition to that proposal, we can also negotiate other rules in exchange for the hugging. It is my hope, that a hug a day will leave me satisfied with a smaller amount of time with my mom. This will lead to me agreeing to limit the amount of time I need to spend with her otherwise. It might be hard for me to get used to at first, but being reminded of the agreement should suffice.

My only rule I personally need to be strict on, which I feel will help keep us accountable to each other in various ways, is that if we refuse or skip a hug a day by accident, that we start the thirty day count over again. It will most definitely prove to be a challenge.

Once we start to heal, meet each other’s needs, and practice negotiating, I feel our relationship will be more peaceful and reconciled. I do feel we will need to continually practice listening to each other and eventually work towards forgiveness of each other, which I know will be difficult work for both of us. Right now, though, I feel hugging is the first step towards the bigger goals. A hug can be both the equalizer and the healer in this case.

 

NaPoWriMo Day 26: Exploiting Water Haiku

Exploiting Water

Water is taken

In severe drought conditions

By corporations

I wasn’t sure if this poem would remain a haiku at first. I kept adding to it but then I thought I was over explaining the issue, or it just wasn’t that poetic. I had a hard time articulating the issue. But I think it is messed up that bottled water companies are taking water from communities that need to limit their tap water usage while they make a huge profit over bottling and using what little water is left for their products. We need to be okay with drinking more tap water and stop buying bottled water. The tap water is more regulated, more regularly tested, and more protected than bottled water, believe it or not. And bottled water comes from the same source as the tap most of the time! And then put into plastic containers that leech harmful chemicals when they sit too long. Don’t believe the hype that the bottled water companies try to sell you. If your local water source has problems or doesn’t taste good, it is worth fighting to improve. If we all switch to having to buy our water, or drinking more liquids that aren’t water (like soda, juice, etc), we will pay a big price for it (health wise, financially, etc).