Thursday, August 30, 2018

Love Yourself In Every Language, Part II

In the first post of this series, I talked about the various love languages defined by Gary Chapman, but then I took the concept and applied it to the idea of self-love, and the common opinion that you can't truly love others - or accept love from others - until you've learned to love yourself.

And I know I'm not the first person to have thought about it in that way - I'm certainly no love expert in any form. I can write a romance novel because as a woman, I can share what appeals to women like me through my writing; I can share stories I love about characters I can relate to, filled with concepts and symbolism that are important and personal to me. But that doesn't make me an expert.

Even in self-love, I'm far from being anything close to an expert. I don't know all the strategies. I don't know all the tips and tricks. I don't know why some of the things work for some people and those same things don't work for other people.

But then again, maybe I do ...


In certain ways, I guess I am something of an expert on this topic after all ... I mean, I've spent the last 34 years learning about me, studying me, hanging out with me. I haven't always been lovable, but I've spent this time learning to love me anyway, to appreciate the things about me that make me so very me. I'm abrasive and brash, I've got a foul mouth and a sporadic, uncontrollable sense of humor. I laugh at inappropriate times, crack jokes to break up awkwardness, and I've got a quick wit that can be pretty biting now and then. I'm sarcastic, but I'm sarcastic with a straight enough face that sometimes other people can't tell if I'm kidding or not. And man, am I quirky.

But I'm just me, and that's all I know how to be - me. I'm made up of the things I've felt and seen and survived, the love and the loss, the lessons learned, the opportunities lost, the joys, and yes, the regrets.

That being said, I'm actually pretty lovable - I'm funny and open, honest and loyal, and I give second (hundredth) chances way too often because I'm forgiving and I want to see the best in people. I'm thoughtful and considerate, and while I fail at all kinds of things all the time, I am one of those people that takes life seriously and truly gives their all to making the best of what's available.

I'm really sort of awesome, now that I think about it.

But liking myself and really showing love to myself? Well, those are two different things.

Because sometimes, if I haven't worked hard enough on whatever project I'm attempting, I don't feel like I deserve nice things. I still struggle with simple things like wearing the perfumes I own ... because they're special, and I need to save them for special occasions. Because they're special and I'm somehow ... not. Except that I am.

But I do this in so many areas of my life - I don't put myself first even when I can and should, because I'm looking out for my other priorities, which are rarely ever me. I knew I needed therapy for years before I made time to go, knew I needed to see doctors for my health issues for years before I made the time to go. I put me off. I waited because "after this I'll do it" or "once that's settled then it's my turn."

No wonder I stopped feeling loved, huh? No wonder I stopped being able to feel loved, stopped being able to accept gestures of love from others. No wonder I started filling up with shame and self-loathing every time I did something for myself or allowed someone else to do something for me.

No wonder my self-talk went to shit and I started becoming the worst abuser in my own life.

I forgot to love me.

Like in theory, I loved me. I took care of me, kept me fed and clothed and sheltered. Found ways to survive, to meet my most basic needs.

But I didn't LOVE me. I kept me fed, but I didn't feed my body the fuel it needed, didn't pay attention to proper hydration. I let my hard-won fitness slip. I kept me clothed, but I felt no pride in my clothing. I was dressed because it isn't proper to be naked all the time and pants tend to be required in common society. But I didn't dress in the style that appeals to me, I dressed in the style that was simplest, easiest to manage, and lowest in maintenance - so that I could get it over with and move on to more important things, more important people. Because I loved me, but I didn't LOVE me. I did the things that must be done for me ... but I didn't go the extra mile, didn't take that extra step.

I gave myself love: the emotion. And that's fine because it was all I had to offer myself back then, and even that was sometimes hard to come by. I wasn't proud of me, wasn't proud of anything. I couldn't see the value in this lump of flesh that is me, couldn't see the worth in the beating heart, the contracting lungs, the pumping vessels of blood. Couldn't appreciate the value of the mind and spirit that have developed out of the mire of my life. Once I could, I could give me love: the emotion. I could love this survivor girl who had to become her own hero because everyone she looked up to abandoned her, abused her, or let her down. I could love the girl who kept on trying no matter what, who didn't quit, who never gave up no matter how much she wanted to. I could even love the girl who cried at night because I was the only one who loved me.

But I felt very alone in my little world - surrounded by people, but screaming in silence. Often, surrounded by the wrong people, aching almost desperately to be known intimately and loved anyway, but unable to simply offer my authentic self because I didn't see my authentic self as anything special to offer.

Now, I see it differently. Now, I think I've mostly mastered the art of love: the emotion, at least when it comes to loving me. And what's more, I don't just love myself now - I have an honest, soul-deep respect for the woman I turned out to be after what I've survived. I could have made so many choices better ... but I could have made so many choices worse. I did the best I could with what I had though, and I can see the value in that now in a way that I couldn't before.

So what's the old saying? "When you know better, do better." And how do I apply that to this topic?

Oh, that's easy. When you already have love: the emotion, and you know what to do with it, how to apply it even to yourself, the one person on the planet about whom you have the most deeply intimate knowledge, the person whose shadows you have lived in and whose darknesses you have explored, then there can only be one logical next step in our quest to do better now that we know better.

We must take love: the emotion, and learn to turn it into love: the practice. Love: the action. Love: the verb.

In the next post, we'll continue to explore this more deeply. Stay tuned - but in the meantime, leave me a comment and tell me where you are on your self-love journey. Do you love you yet? And if so, how? Why? What are you still working on? I'd love to hear from you!


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Empowered By Controlled Perspective

I was supposed to write the next post in my series about using love languages to learn about and explore your self-love practice, but I'm putting that off for the moment, because I want to tell you a story. Actually, I'm gonna tell you two stories, so bear with me if this gets a little long.

You might want to go grab a drink for this one. Maybe a sandwich. We're gonna be here a while.


Story #1:
She pulled up outside the pain clinic, ashamed to be there but thankful to have made it. It had been a long drive - a long drive spent in silent prayer. "Please, let me make it there. Please, just let me make it there."  
She made it, breathing a sigh of relief as she stepped out of the car with just a minute to spare. The relief turned to horror as soon as the door clicked shut; eyes closed, she turned to look inside the car, one hand slipping hopefully into the too-light pocket of her pants. The keys were in the ignition, swinging mockingly. But that would have to be a problem for later. At least there was enough money for a locksmith. 
Limping inside, she gave her name and took a chair to wait, breathing slowly to still the fluttering chaos of uncontrollable anxiety. Her name was called; she filled out the necessary papers and went back to waiting. Her name was called again; she gave the necessary samples, shame washing over her in waves, her spirit vulnerable, her joints and muscles aching. Later, leaving the clinic armed with a piece of paper and a renewed sense of hope, she made the necessary call. The money was needed for other things, of course, but at least it was there. 
The locksmith made quick work of the problem, retrieving the overwhelmed woman's troublesome keys, only for another problem to arise - the bank card with the money on it had expired. "No problem," she thought, proud of having thought ahead for moments like this. "This card is linked to that account too; we'll just use it instead." 
Except that through a roundabout of circumstances beyond the woman's control, that card didn't work either, and she stood in steadfast dismay as the locksmith placed her keys on the floorboard of the vehicle, locked the doors, and drove away. It was horrible, but it was fair - he had performed a service, and in the absence of payment, his sensible solution was to absolve the service. 
But hours later, the woman was in her car, heading home from a long, stressful afternoon. A one-hour appointment had turned into several hours of sitting in the sun, aching, worried, stranded. Afraid. It had taken four solid men to find another suitable solution, to improvise another suitable tool. 
Still she drove home smiling through her tears, her heart warmed by the kindness of strangers, her hope restored by a validating piece of paper, and a spirit full of encouragement. After all, it could have been worse - and all in all, it worked out well.


Story #2:
"Oh my god, you've got to be kidding," she muttered, staring down at the tire. The very, very flat tire, which had not been flat only moments before. She frowned skyward, praying aloud, arms crossed over her chest. She was running late to an appointment, a check-up for the hyperactive, strong-willed child now bouncing anxiously around inside the vehicle. "You know we were late, right?" she said irritably, still addressing the skies. It was only half an hour before the appointment they'd been heading out for - which was about a half-an hour's uneventful drive away. 
This, clearly, was not meant to be an uneventful drive. "Whatever," she whispered. "Just gotta fix it." With one hand, she reached up to press a button on the headset she wore. In her ear, a beep sounded, and she ordered the headset to initiate a phone call. There was no way they'd be making the appointment - it would have to be rescheduled. But at least she knew how to fix it. 
Jack in hand, she headed for the offending tire, mentally reviewing the list of steps necessary in order to safely make the change. "Remove the hubcap, jack the car up some. Damn nuts are too tight, jack it back down so the weight will hold the tire still." 
The problem was, the lug nuts wouldn't budge; one of them would move for nearly an hour, despite repeated attempts by the woman and multiple kind passers-by. 
It was hot, and sweat burned as it dripped into her eyes. Her back burned too, a white-hot line of pain running up the middle, radiating outward to wrap itself slowly around her ribs. Panic set in quickly when one of her volunteer assistance mentioned having called for a tow truck. "Wait, you already called? How much is that going to be?" She didn't have the money for a new tire, let alone a tow truck. Not right then, and likely not for a while. 
"Don't worry about it," he answered, looking gratified as the woman smiled gratefully up at him. 
"It was nice of you to stop," she said. "And to come back. And to stay. Thank you. You didn't have to." 
"A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have," he answered quietly. "But then Jesus Christ got a hold of me and changed my life."
Some time later, the woman was on her way home, her consoled child strapped safely in the back of their vehicle. Both were covered in sweat, hungry, thirsty, and stressed. They had missed their appointment - but as they made their way to the relative safety of home, complete with the pleasure of air conditioning, the woman smiled again. Despite the news, despite the happenings of her lifetime, despite the misfortune of her current circumstances and the way they complicated the coming week, it all could have been much, much worse. They were safe and sound, there was kindness in the world, and there was still hope for tomorrow.


You probably already know that in both of those stories, the woman was me. The first story was from a few weeks ago, the other from this morning. There's a lot I'm not telling from both days, to save time and space ... but let's leave it with this:
  • When Anxiety and Depression read Story One: "Man, that sucks. It's bad enough to have to deal with chronic health problems, especially when they're always painful for you but rarely visible enough to seem legitimate for others. And now to have to suffer the indignity of the process of getting help to manage the pain? And I locked my keys in the car because I was anxious about the appointment and the van and ... everything else? And then to have that guy literally lock my keys back in the car? I mean, I get it, but what kind of person actually does that? Ugh!! How does this always happen to me???
  • Story One with the influence of Controlled Perspective: "I made it to the clinic. They see the legitimacy of my issues, if not proven by the prescriptions I was given, then at least testified to by the raising of an eyebrow, the dragging down of the corner of a lip, the sympathy in the eyes of a blonde with a soft voice and a kind heart as she read through the various results of the tests I went through this summer. And even with the circumstances, it's a beautiful sunny day,  And there are four solid, kind-hearted men who teamed up to find a way when I couldn't. They wanted no thanks, asked no reparation. And they didn't give up, they didn't walk away, they didn't leave me hanging. It worked out well, and I ended up not being out $50 after all, which is handy because I needed it."
  • When Anxiety and Depression read Story Two: "Oh my god, this again? Why can't I ever catch a break? It's always something ... is it me? It must be me. But what have I done to deserve this kind of luck? And doesn't it just figure that I've gone out of my way to learn how to change a tire, only to need the knowledge and lack the ability to apply it? Story of my life, and of course Eden's being hyper as usual. Freaking Monday. I just want a good day for once! And on top of all of it, my everything hurts. Back, neck, ankle, foot, head. I'm tired and hot and sweaty and thirsty and ..."
  • Story Two with the influence of Controlled Perspective: "Thank goodness this happened before we got too far from home, and that we can walk back if we can't get this straightened out right now. The people who run this business we're parked in front of are kind and would let me leave the van until tonight when I could come back. And in the meantime, I'm right in front of the local greenway (walking trail), where strong, active people are bound to pass by often. Fortunately, a good number of those were helpful people, and I ended up in great hands with genuinely kind people who wanted nothing from me but for me to graciously accept their help. As always, God provides, in His way, in His time. And all I had to do was trust it would work out."

Mind you, it's not like I was sitting there doing nothing in either of those circumstances, and yes, I did battle the negative side of me that always has my glass half empty. But I was hopeful enough to stay proactive, taking whatever steps I could think of, whatever steps I felt capable of, to try and make things better. Still, when God sent me help, I sure wasn't going to send it back! So I made the best, got through it with gratitude, iced my ankle when I got home, rested my back, and got back on schedule - because I had a blog post to write, and I needed these moments.

What challenges have you been dealing with lately? And how do you think controlled perspective might help you conquer those challenges?



If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Friday Feels: August (II)


Here we are again, on a Friday - and that means it's time for another Friday Feels - the second this month! As always, I'm thrilled to be taking the time to sit down and explore what I've been feeling lately and why I've been feeling it. And I've definitely gotten my fair share of practice, since I've been using feelings as prompts in my daily bullet journal spread! But since I just use the same ones every day in my journal to help inspire the memories I take note of, I'm still looking forward to using my favorite random emotion generator for these posts.

That being said:


1. Brave:
Bravery is a strange thing, isn't it? Hard to come by sometimes, too - but when you see it, you tend to know it for what it is. For me, bravery lies most comfortably in the sharing of my life story in such a public way. Sure, there are bits I choose to keep private, things I don't share in order to protect my loved ones, and secrets of my life that I'll take to my grave. But sharing the abuse I suffered as a child? The way it felt to be powerless and small and vulnerable and unimportant? Speaking openly about what that has done in my life over the years? That's brave.

Sharing my hopes, my fear, my weaknesses? It's brave. Sharing the recent revelations with my health, despite how fresh the very private pain those revelations have caused still is? Brave.

Having the courage to know my story, to own it, to share it, and to use it to reclaim power over my own voice? That's brave. Using that to encourage empowerment in others?

Well, that's all I could really hope for.


2. Cheerful:
Fall is peeking around the corner in East Tennessee - we've had several beautifully loud thunderstorms, and thankfully some of the summer heat is edging away. Acorns are falling, leaves preparing to brown and drop from their limbs to blanket the earth. Fall is my second favorite season because in fall, the world cools to a temperature I can much more easily tolerate. The excitement of the coming holiday season begins to set in, and ... well, it's a cheerful time for me.


3. Enraged:
Two words, and I'll leave this one behind. Not because I'm done being flat-out freaking pissed over it, but because this isn't the place to discuss how and why I'm so thoroughly infuriated.

Two words. Mollie. Tibbetts.


4. Heartbroken:
Again. Mollie Tibbetts. Not because I knew her, but because I have a daughter not too much younger than she was, and another daughter as well. Because my oldest daughter has college dreams of her own and the youngest is still so full of varied hope and promise that she doesn't yet have a dream. Because the dangers of today's world are just as real for my babies here in the city of Knoxville as they were for someone else's baby as she took an evening jog in an unsuspecting Iowa town.

It breaks me heart to know that I can't give my children a safer world. I can try to protect them. I can try to shelter them some, try to coach them and guide them. But nothing I can do will guarantee their safety in this world, or that of their families.


5. Interested:
My interests have never been secret here, but they are often changing - adapting and adjusting as my life changes with time. I still love photography and art, still love sculpture, and am still looking forward to the upcoming move the girls and I are planning. I still love crochet and other yarn crafts, still want to learn to hand sew.

And I'm still as in love as ever with the idea of a perfectly organized journal or planner system. Having finally figure out the right way to take analog bullet journaling into my digital world has revolutionized the way I feel when it comes to be organized and on top of things - as best I can be, anyway. But now that I've got the basic system settled, I want very much to learn to make my journal pretty, so I've been practicing making digital stickers when I find spare moments in which to play.


6. Loving:
With my daughters back in school, I've had a little more time to myself. Not much, but a few hours each day in which to breathe, focus on my own things, and feel productive without feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. I've had time to focus a little better in therapy, time to think more about where to go next regarding my health, time to pray and enjoy a moment of silence with my morning coffee.

It gives me peace, makes me a better mother. More able to love and enjoy, more patient. And yes, more loving.


7. Pleased:
My van isn't doing well at all, but it's still hanging on. Between the front seats, I have a little basket that I use as a sort of catch-all - I keep a packet of tissues in there, some empty plastic bags for trash, a book usually, and whatever other junk ends up being dropped in there. Recently I cleaned it out and found that a barbecue sauce packet from Wendy's had been torn open at the bottom of the basket. The basket and sever other things were ruined - which led to a further cleaning out of the van as I searched for a suitable replacement for the basket.

I ended up with a new basket which worked perfectly, along with a second, smaller basket in which to drop my mail or cell phone or other small things. But it's the back of the van that has me most pleased - I got a short stack of three cute, pink plastic crates from Walmart and stacked them in the back of the van to use as storage. They're working perfectly.

I love them. (Best $9 I've spent in a while.)


8. Scared:
I have big things coming up this fall, things with the potential to completely remake the shape of my life. Most of these things are good things, things I'm generally quite excited about ... but some of them are not, and the potential for misfortune is pretty terrifying sometimes. There's a lot that's up in the air for me, and some days are quite a struggle perspective-wise. I was in physical therapy the other day, and as I spoke with my therapist/trainer, she looked at me in awe and said, "How do you stay so positive with all that going on?"

I laughed because I actually hadn't told her that much, just about the complications with my health and little conversational bits about my daughters. And I shrugged and said, "It is what it is." But in truth, on the dark days I cry myself into exhaustion - but still can't sleep for fear of all that could go wrong and the burden of everything that's outside my control. Thankfully ...


9. Secure:
God has been making a point to reach out and reassure me lately. I keep seeing various Bible verses, hearing various songs, catching messages in tv shows, blog posts. Reminders that God is bigger than my storm, reminders that if he could take an entire nation out of Egypt, he can certainly guide me around my own proverbial mountain. Reminders to rest in faith, to trust in his promises.

It's the only place in my entire life that feels secure - and that's more than enough.


10. Torn:
I've been wrestling with this quarter's goals. I've been going through a long period of feeling stuck; in the PTSD community, we call this decompensation. The loss of progress, or the stalling of progress. Regression of symptoms, loss of coping abilities. I haven't been tracking my goals as effectively as I had been, and I have moment where I hardly care about those goals at all.

That being said, I am no quitter. And you don't become Undaunted by giving up. So I'm tracking as much as I can, keeping track of my goals as much as I can, and using my bullet journal to help propel myself forward with the sheer force of my desire to check off the boxes on my daily to-do list. I'm tired, but I'm trying.

I'm overwhelmed, but I'm moving forward. Slowly but surely. This is a period of rest in my life - but even the flowers rest when the winter settles over them, until spring comes to bring them back to life again.

And even the longest, coldest winter has sunny days to break the monotony. To warm the spirit. And to remind us that winter ends.


What have you been feeling this month?


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Love Yourself In Every Language, Part I


I've had Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages book on my to-be-read list for longer than I'd care to admit. I think reading it would give me a lot of insight into myself and the relationships I've been in over the years, including not only why they didn't work but why they did - and the only reason I haven't made it to this book is that my reading wish list is simply so long.

Still, I've made a point over the years to learn a little about the five love languages how they work, not only as a woman still hoping for a healthy, long-lasting marriage with a safe, solid, and trustworthy partner, but also as a mother raising two daughters I hope will become strong and productive women in the world, and most importantly, as a member of a society seriously lacking in compassionate love for one another.

But - among many others - Joyce Meyer spoke an important truth when she said, "If you don't love yourself, it's impossible for you to love others. You can't give away what you don't have." And I know she isn't the first or the only person to express that sentiment, but I love the way she says it particularly because of that last bit. If love is something to be shared, it makes perfect sense that if you don't know how to even love yourself, when you know yourself perhaps better than anyone else possibly can ... then how can you learn to properly love anyone else in a way that they can feel and recognize?

If you're mute, how can you learn to speak someone else's language? If you're starving, how can you feed others? It's simple: You can't.

But we can fix that, just by taking the time to learn about ourselves. You can learn to love yourself by first learning your love language, and then making a point of practicing that language on yourself. There are so many possible ways to treat yourself, but when we think of self-care and self-love, the first thing we tend to think of is a pedicure or a bubble bath or some other type of physical pampering. But what about the people for whom that doesn't work? What about the people for whom that isn't enough? What if you hate bubble baths, but you love the idea of how they work to show self-love? Are there alternatives?

Let's start with this - in this post we'll talk just a bit about the five love languages, then we'll resume this series next week, where I'll explore each love language in more detail, sharing my favorite tips and tricks for using these languages to speak love into your own life.


WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
More than .just a quick "good job," words of affirmation speak directly the value of a specific person. Sometimes it does mean acknowledging a job well done, but more importantly, affirmative speaking is about acknowledging the value of the person more than the task. Further, if speaking affirmation into the hearts of those around us can inspire and motivate them to keep trying, what more could we accomplish of we were our own cheerleaders?


ACTS OF SERVICE
Serving others is an important part of showing that we value and respect them. A servant heart can turn a simple chore into an act of love, regardless of the difficulty - or lack thereof. And in serving others, we ourselves reap the benefit of gratitude and appreciation - or at the very least, a sense of accomplishment and good will. But serving ourselves has value too, as no one else can know quite what we need as well as we can.


RECEIVING GIFTS
It really is better to give than to receive. There's a certain joy in giving someone a gift and watching their surprise turn into joy and gratitude. But there is joy in receiving too - the magic of a gift is undeniable. And who says we can't spoil ourselves now and then with some small trinket or token of self-appreciation?


QUALITY TIME
With so much of our society today so focused on busyness, productivity, and constant striving, we often forget (or outright neglect) to give ourselves downtime to just be. We forget how to enjoy our own company, forget how to listen to the sounds of our own longings. We stop being our own friends. But we're worth the effort, aren't we? They say the best way to have good friends is to be a good friend, right? Well, who better to practice on than yourself?


PHYSICAL TOUCH
Don't get up in arms, y'all - we're not taking this blog post to that place. That being said ... yes, there is a place for physical touch in self-love. The skin is one of our largest and most sensitive input receptors, and there are so many different ways to engage touch as a form of self-love. From a scented lotion rubdown to a soft blanket to a simple heating pad, there are tons of great ways to show love to yourself through physical touch.


But before we dig deeper into the love languages and how we can adapt them to create a stronger self-love relationship in our lives, spend a minute thinking about your love language - and your self-love language. Are they the same, or are they different? Do you relate most to just one, or would you best appreciate some combination? Let me know in the comments, and then make sure you're coming back for part two of this series, which will resume right after this month's upcoming Friday Feels.


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Digital BuJo: The Set-Up


In my last post, I was super excited to share a little of the process of how I fell in love with bullet journaling, and how I ended up taking it digital to make it fit more easily into my life as a single mom with chronic disabling illness and two kids with chronic health problems of their own, as well as my workflow as a lifestyle blogger and romance novelist. I've shared a lot over the years about how I try to stay productive despite my PTSD symptoms using strategies like habit-stacking, routine-building, goal-setting, and the Pomodoro technique - but as my other health problems continue to worsen without much hope for relief, I've been really focused in the last few months on learning to accept my life as what is often referred to as a "spoonie."

Still, sometimes all the things I have to keep track of on a daily basis can get overwhelming. Between my two girls and I, there are 18 doctors, some of which are shared by multiple people. There are 22 prescriptions, all of which I am in charge of keeping filled, stored, organized, and properly dosed multiple times a day. And on top of that, I have my own goals and wishes and dreams, my own writing schedule I try to follow, and the tasks of daily living that are often physically taxing if not outright against my doctor's orders ("no lifting over 10 lbs, no prolonged sitting or standing, no bending, stooping, or twisting, no straining or strenuous motion, and nothing that increases g-forces in and around the spine and brain").

I need a way to keep track of it all, a way to keep things organized as best I can - and a safe place to write out my fears and desires, my struggles, my emotions. I need a place to plan and process, a place to grow and grieve. A place of my own that cannot be taken away, criticized, altered, or misunderstood. Which is why I originally fell so in love with the concept of what a bullet journal is - until the inherent limitations of an analog journal in a digital world made it so unfitting for my current stage of life.

When I first saw this video though, it all clicked. It looked suddenly simple in a way that it hadn't before, even though I had actually tried bullet journaling with OneNote previously. From that first video on how to set up a OneNote bullet journal, I ended up watching this one about how to use digital photos and other digital art in a OneNote notebook while maintaining the look and feel of old-school analog scrapbooking and scrap-journaling. That opened a lot of door in my mind, and the more videos I watched on the topic, the more excited I got. Then I found this one, and there was no turning back.

From there, I started playing around in my mind, thinking about what I might want as I tried again to start a bullet journal, this time armed with a few new tips and tricks on how best to utilize my chosen app. I began, as most bullet journalers do, with a simple, two-column index utilizing tables to keep track of dated journal pages and collections.


As you can see in the photo above, my index has calendars for each month, with each date being a link to the corresponding page in my notebook. A table of contents, but beautifully organized, easy to use and adjust, and without the hassle of keeping numbered pages. At the end of each month, I'll also be adding links to my Monthly Memory Saver, which has space to note each date and day, the weather that day, and something that made me smile that day. For fun, I've also added the second column of boxes, where I'll note songs I loved that month various favorite things, and how my book sales were that month.


Since I started this journal after missing the first several days of August, I won't be including a monthly roundup for August, but I'm really looking forward to spending September filling out the first of these pages! In the meantime, I've been having fun every day making time throughout the day to fill in my customized, mental-health-focused daily spread:


On this spread I've got space to choose a bible verse to meditate on that day, space to include tasks and appointments, space for emotion-centered journaling, and of course, plenty of room for traditional rapid-logging, complete with a bullet-journal symbol key. This has been an amazing resource for me, not only because it's a great way to keep track of how I'm doing and what I'm doing, but also because it's portable (I can use it on my phone, tablet, computer, whatever) and it's searchable, which means I can search for keywords, symbols, names, whatever - and OneNote will take me to a list of possible results.

Much better than having to flip through a traditional notebook, especially if you're like me and you plan to actively use your journal both for fun and productivity. I've even created a Year In Pixels page, which I won't be filling out this year but am looking forward to starting in 2019.


But perhaps the biggest joy I've taken so far in this digital bullet journaling this is the idea that I can create stickers pretty easily just by downloading royalty-free .png images and then inserting them into my notebooks. 


Yeah, so I'm sure you can tell how totally in love I am with my journal now, huh? It's still growing though, as I adapt to it and adjust the ways I want to use it. I have a feeling I'll be adding and removing elements here and there, and I'll probably share some of my collections and stuff along the way too.

But first, tell me something: Would you guys be interested in seeing some Plan With Me posts here? I don't know if I'll be doing a lot of planner-style spreads, but I would be totally willing to share more about how I'm using this journal to keep things organized. I'd also love to see how you guys journal in the comments below - do you prefer digital or analog? Do you use a planner? And if you bullet journal, what kinds of things do you include in your spreads?


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Digital Bullet Journaling With Microsoft OneNote


I've always loved journaling in various forms - I've had written journals, digital journals. I've used apps. I've started and quit more times than I can count. And over the years I've occasionally fallen in love with planners too, but I've never been able to find just the right one for me. There was always something in it that I didn't need or want or couldn't use, and there was always something I did need or sort-of wished for that wasn't there. One planner or journal system might have one thing I needed, while another had other things, and it took me a long time to stumble on just the right style for me.

A few years ago, I found bullet journaling and I fell in love. Bullet journals are like the three-way love-child of a planner, a journal, and a list-keeper - they're a great way to keep everything organized while also allowing the freedom to change and adapt as needed, with or without added creative elements.

My first bullet journal was a grid-lined composition book personalized (and reinforced) with a pretty pink duct tape wrapped cover. Inside it, I poured out my plans and dreams, took time to express myself honestly, kept track of scheduling, writing, and other things. I wrote funny things the kids said, and sometimes I even added drawings or stickers as decorative elements. I loved it. I looked forward to spending time in it, thrived on the ritual of setting up my pencils, making myself a drink, and sitting down to unload. But just like every other thing I tried, it had certain ... flaws.
  1. It wasn't that portable because I was afraid of forgetting it somewhere.
  2. It wasn't protected because it was just a notebook. No lock, no password, no security. It didn't feel as private as I would have liked, even as I was writing it with the idea that one day I would be gone and my daughters might read it as a way to know another side of me.
  3. It wasn't safe. It was paper. What if I spilled my coffee on it? What if I lost it? All that time spent on drawings and notes and storing memories ... it would just be gone.
  4. It wasn't fixable. If I messed something up, I could try to cover it, try to camouflage it, but I couldn't fix it. I couldn't make it clean again, couldn't make it look the way I wanted.
  5. Eye strain. Since I do so much of my writing and spend so much of my time online or otherwise digital, staring at paper (especially the grid-lined paper I wanted so as to be able to create pretty spreads with straight lines) got really hard on my eyes after even a short while. Everything would blur together and I started feeling like there wasn't enough light on the paper, no matter how bright the room was.

Digital journaling with OneNote addresses all those concerns perfectly; not only is it much more portable, but it's also easily accessible from my phone, my tablet, my laptop, or even someone else's device or computer. It is password protected, which means it's as secure as it can be, and it's safe from spills because it's stored on the cloud (as well as backed up elsewhere). It's also fixable. Mistakes are erased with the touch of a button, changes can be made easily, layouts can be shifted, adjusted, or added to, and I will never ever run out of pages.

Also, I can adjust the brightness of my screen, zoom in or out, and otherwise play around with my setup until it's accessible enough to meet my needs and demands - and I like that everything is still totally free and open to my own interpretation of what a bullet journal is and can be. I can be artistic, or not. I can write a little, or a lot. I can skip a day, or write all day long. Add pages, move them, copy them with a click. Or delete them when they're no longer needed.

It's perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Which is why I'm going to share how I figured it out, the way I'm choosing to implement my system, the impact it's having on my focus and productivity, and the daily spread I've been absolutely in love with all week long.

In my next post. 

Now, how's that for a cliffhanger?


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Self-Compassion: The Value Of Validation


I've been sharing my story in bits and pieces here for so long that this blog has begun to feel like home. Aside from my therapist's office, this blog is the one place in my world where I'm just me. I'll write sad, happy, angry, whatever. I'll share my experience, my pain, my struggles, my strength. I've shared about the heartbreak of miscarriage, the beauty and stress of motherhood both as a coupled parent and as a single one, and I've shared the damage left behind on my life and spirit due to multiple abusive relationships and the impact of chronic illness.

There are only two major things in my life that impact me every day that I haven't shared here - and it's just because those wounds are still too deep to show in public. But even in the midst of the struggles I do share, I am making an effort every time I come here to use my experience to encourage and empower others. It sucks to feel devalued by the people you most want validation from. It sucks to bring insecurities and fears to people whose opinions you value, only to have your words fall on deaf hearts. It sucks to have those fear and insecurities used against you. It sucks to share a victim experience with someone trusted, only to have them re-victimize you by blaming you for whatever you went through.
  • If you were molested as a child, you DID NOT "ask for it."
  • If you were beaten so severely that you have flashbacks of those moments years later - or worse, you've blocked them out and can't remember at all - you need to know that you DID NOT "ask for it."
  • If you were raped, it had nothing to do with how many drinks you had, how long your shorts were, how much you flirted, or where you happened to be at the time. Even if you were completely plastered, laying stark naked in the middle of the street, that does not excuse being violated when you couldn't speak for yourself. You DID NOT "ask for it."
  • If you have been traumatized by a difficult experience that haunts you, your trauma is not because you can't "get over it" and it is not because "you're too sensitive" and you have every right to "take it personal."
  • The suffering you feel and the lingering psychological pain are not invalidated by the lack of understanding from others, nor should it be minimized just because "so-and-so went through that too, and they're fine now."

But owning your story starts with you. It starts with the honesty to admit your struggle, the courage to see it for what it is, the will to explore it actively and process it openly, because you can't fix a problem you won't admit to, you can't clean a mess by pretending it isn't there, and no amount of complaining will solve problems as quickly as getting up and working on it.

You owe yourself the compassion you crave from those around you. You owe yourself the understanding you seek from your surroundings. You owe yourself this moment, filled with love for the person you're trying to be, the person inside you who might still be hurting from old, long-covered wounds. You owe yourself belief and the power of validation.

Honestly though, I think we all struggle with our own sense of authenticity from time to time. I've mentioned before how my experiences with narcissistic abuse, passive aggressive attacks, and outright gaslighting have impacted me so severely that I now deal with constant self-doubt even when I have irrefutable proof of my concerns.

Example: I have spina bifida. Most of my life I didn't know I had it - I just knew that I was dealing with "a bad back." I have a scar on my back from a surgical treatment I had as an infant, an effort to remove "a tumor" that was "crawling up" my spine. Now that I have an official diagnosis, it turns out that surgery was performed in order to excise the lipoma characteristic of lipomyelomeningocele and release my tethered spinal cord. But my concerns have been invalidated so many times over the years that even with that scar I doubted myself. I told myself the things I had heard so many times from others, that it wasn't that big of a deal. That I was just lazy. Everyone has aches and pains. I should just power through. 
I just had a series of MRIs done last month that confirmed my spina bifida lipomyelomeningocele. It also confirmed a re-tethered spinal cord, an 11mm chiari malformation, degenerative disc disease, and sheuermann's disease. These things are all incurable, and they are all only effectively treated with risky invasive surgeries that may not work, may leave me paralyzed, or may work partially, only to need repeating every few years. Because of the risks, the number of issues, and the severity of the compounded impact, I've been told I'm not really a candidate for surgery - despite increasing neurological damage that is now beginning to have a solid impact on my mobility. 
And yet ... there is a part of me that whispers, "You're a liar. You made it up. You're seeking attention. It's not that bad. You're just lazy. You're making excuses. You're settling for a less than life. You could do better if you wanted to. Maybe if you look on the bright side and stop being so whiny/negative/self-pitying, you would get better. You need to let go of your victim mentality, especially if you're going to keep selling yourself to the world as a warrior woman living an undaunted life despite the odds. You're such a fake."

I have been struggling with those thoughts for ages now. Fighting it with self-compassion, carrying it to my therapist, setting alarms on my phone to remind me to literally practice positive affirmation. I've been rereading the reports from the doctors that confirm what I'm living with - what I have been living with - in order to refute the internalized abuse. And my physical health is only one example, one place in my life that looks like that. I'm also dealing with those same issues in terms of my mental health, my financial status, my relationship status, etc.

I was really having a tough time. I was feeling weak, sad, battered, shamed. But then I saw this on Instagram, and it changed everything. I thought I'd share it with you.

"Being a warrior or a survivor doesn't mean you've never fallen or have never felt absolutely broken. Validating you own pain does not make you any less of a survivor. You can still be, simultaneously, a victim and a survivor. You can still rise after each fall while acknowledging that you've fallen."  - Shahida Arabi

This quote was the catalyst I needed. It reminded me that I can be both a victim and a survivor. I have survived countless traumatizing experiences and abuses of all kinds. I am a survivor. But I am also a victim of the things I have survived. I am still triggered by things, sometimes unexpectedly, often uncontrollably.

Months ago, I read an article where PTSD was described as a gorilla. I wanted to find that article and link it here, but I couldn't find it. So here's my terribly inadequate paraphrase: the image presented was about unpredictability, brutality, chaos. Kind of a bull-in-a-china-shop sort of thing, but with a pissed-off gorilla instead. Like, sometimes it sits quietly in the corner, scowling into the room. Other times it starts flinging shit everywhere, shrieking and screaming and breaking everything. I related to that in a lot of ways then, but as I've sought treatment and strategies and learned to empower myself despite my disabilities, my gorilla has faded, morphed. I can't say it's gone or that it's settled, because I still have gorilla days more often than I'd like to admit. But for the most part these days, my PTSD is more like ... arthritis of the soul.

It's a lack of emotional grip and flexibility, a change in strength and ability to tolerate stress and change, a constant painful emotional ache that doesn't go away even when I know what it is and why it's there. In keeping with the PTSD-as-spiritual-arthritis, I can say the aching gets worse and more widespread when the "weather" of my life is stormy - it hurts more when the "weather" is cold, when the barometric pressure of my life changes. I never really know when it's going to be a good day or a bad day. And medication helps but it's nothing even remotely close to a cure - medication in itself is an emotional burden.

What I needed was a reminder that recognizing and validating the truth of that experience is an act of self-care, an act of self-compassion. What I needed was the reminder that it's okay to be both victim and survivor. That even warriors get wounded. And that broken can still be beautiful.


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Managing Stress With Gratitude Journaling

At this point, you guys know that during most of my life, I've been playing the cards of the underdog - not because I want to or because I chose to, but because the circumstances of my life have led me from one tough situation to the next, and I didn't see it clearly enough to do much of anything about it.

From a birth defect I didn't know I had but still suffered the impact of to an abusive childhood to PTSD to multiple abusive relationships and their individual impacts, I've been through enough in my lifetime to feel like I can definitely speak on hard times. But ...

I can also speak on the good in my life, partly because learning to appreciate the good comes with growing up but also because going through and surviving the bad is what grows you up enough to be able to appreciate the good.

Still, having chronic illnesses is stressful. If you add single motherhood to that, it gets even more stressful, simply because there's more to juggle, less time to juggle it in, and too often, no one to help with the juggling. But when you're juggling your own chronic illnesses as a single mother of two children who both also have chronic illnesses ... well, things tend to get complicated.

Which can definitely get stressful.

And that's why I love my gratitude journal.


Journaling in general has always been one of my favorite coping mechanisms for living with various difficult periods in my life. I've journaled through pregnancy, through miscarriage, through divorce. I've journaled through break-ups, through new love. Frequently, I've used journaling as a way to express myself in silence when I didn't feel that I had a voice anyone would listen to.

I write letters often, to various people, for various reasons. Sometimes they're poetic and sweet, sometimes they're outright gushing. I don't deliver them though - they're just meant to let me get the words out so that I don't say them and make someone else feel awkward with the depth of my emotion. Other times, the letters are poisonous and means, filling with anger and bitterness and rage. I don't deliver those either - they're intended as a way of allowing myself the freedom to feel what I'm feeling, to acknowledge why it's there, to process it and express it in a way that's helpful to me and harmless for others. On either side of the extreme, those letters have been invaluable to me over the years - a practice I'm grateful to have discovered, and one that I will never let go of.

Sometimes my journals are just a sloppy mind dump, just a list of things I need to clear from my head because my brain is so cluttered I can't sift through the junk to focus on what's important. Writing it all down gives me a safety net; I won't forget it if I've written it down, which means I can safely forget whatever I've been trying to hold onto. Now that it's on paper, I can choose what's most important, prioritize, and take action.

But as a person with a chronically challenging life, one of the practices I find most helpful right in the moment is gratitude journaling. When I'm struggling with feeling depressed or defeated, sitting down for a minute to count my blessings helps me straighten myself out so that I can move into the next moment with hope. On days when I'm in pain, dealing with brain fog, scared for my health, worried about my daughters' issues, the kids aren't behaving perfectly, I'm feeling like an awful mom, nothing is getting down, and I just want to give up and go to bed ...

That's when I make a list of the beautiful things that have carried me this far, the good fortune hiding behind the pile of bad luck, the beauty of the cracks that make me kintsukuroi.

Today was one of those days, so I thought I'd share part of today's list with you.
  • My children are alive. And they are energetic enough, strong-willed enough, determined enough, secure enough in themselves to bicker constantly - because they know what they want, when they want it, how they want it, who they want it from, and how to out-argue everyone but each other. It may be hard to parent them sometimes, but that's because they're just like their mother.
  • I juggle loads and loads of doctorsd appointments, specifically because we have healthcare. It isn't always the best and there's a lot that isn't covered, but when my babies are sick or in need, I can have them seen by quality professionals equipped to care for their needs. I juggle my own healthcare too - because I finally have doctors who listen to me, which I know from experience is an absolute blessing.
  • I am in constant pain of some kind these days, all day every day. But I am in pain because I am alive, and while it hurts to walk, sit, stand, bend, lift, or even cough or laugh too hard, I can still do those things carefully in limited amounts.
  • My personal home life is rough sometimes, and I struggle with my pride, with hurt feelings, with areas of rejection and judgement and toxicity. But I currently live in a beautiful home stuffed to the brim with people I care for. It isn't always easy but it is usually worth it, and the gift of family and life lessons is something I am thankful to get to give to my children.
There is, of course, more to my personal list, but I'll keep the rest to myself this time. Do you make gratitude lists? If so, what's on yours? And if not, what would top your first list right now?


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Friday Feels: August


Last night I was laying in bed, trying to figure out what I was forgetting to do. There was something nagging at me, poking just along the edge of my mind - but I couldn't get a solid hold on it. I dug through the to-do list I keep on my phone, trying to jog my mind enough to trigger whatever was bothering me to come to the forefront.

When that didn't work, I read through my goals for this quarter, and when that didn't work either I went to my calendar. Therapy appointments for both Eden and I stared up at me, but that's not unusual - we've been going every Friday afternoon for most of the summer. Seeing it reminded me that I need to change our appointment schedule once the girls are back in school, but it didn't fix the nagging.

Realizing I needed a blog post for today did though. That was what had slipped my mind. Not that it would have been a huge problem since I now check my calendars multiple times a day in an effort to not miss any of the many appointments the girls and I juggle every week, but still, it sent me into a momentary panic. What was I going to write!?!

And then it clicked. I needed a Friday blog post. Which meant it was already all figured out! Fridays are always for Friday Feels, which is my absolute favorite of all my blog series. I went to sleep smiling, anticipating the fun and the emotional relief of being able to hit up the random emotion generator and spend some time figuring myself out.

Which brings me to ...


1. Defeated:
I haven't felt defeated about a lot of things lately, but I have felt pretty defeated when it comes to the move the girls and I have been planning. Everything is taking so long to work out, and while I'm still totally excited about all the changes coming with the move, I'm also really let down by all the waiting. I've got so many things I'm looking forward to with the move - including sharing everything here with you guys - but it's all just taking so long. And in the meantime, being stuck is wearing on my emotions. It's a constant roller coaster of "when this happens, I'll ..." and "I'm so looking forward to ..." and "we're gonna do thisthing" and "I can't wait to get us thatthing." It's exhausting.


2. Humble:
On the other hand, so much of what's coming in my life is out of my control. I'm waiting for lists, waiting for approvals, waiting, waiting, waiting. I've done all the things I can do to push things forward, made all the effort I can make at this time ... and yet, I'm stuck waiting. Having so much of your life set firmly outside your control is definitely humbling - and it's hard on a "get it done" gal like me.


3. Independent:
Some of the things changing in my life in upcoming months are due to the way starting therapy for my PTSD and seeking treatment for my other health issues has allowed me to stand up and advocate for myself. It doesn't cure my problems, and it doesn't come close to erasing them ... but being able to stand up and tell my story in a way that's being heard has made a phenomenal difference in my life. Having my therapist hear me and understand me gave me the courage to see a doctor, and having that doctor hear me and validate my concerns gave me the confidence to seek further treatment. In the end I was able to find answers for issues I've been living with for over a decade.

But it took a lot for me to get there. Over the years I've been exposed to every kind of abuse in various types of relationships, and the toxicity has at times been so painfully overwhelming I wasn't sure I could bear it. Part of that abuse was in the form of such extreme gaslighting that I had begun to doubt the reality of even my most solid memories. For a while, I even had to use the scar on my back as a reminding proof to myself that my back surgery story (that I had been told all my life) was not something I made up. There were times when I would talk about things with friends or family members, testing my own memories - and even with other people remembering the same events, I doubted their reality.

Being driven to doubt myself in such a severe way was incredibly painful, and the concerns connected to the feelings evoked were at times terrifying. But my scar is proof, and it was enough proof to lead to official confirmation, official diagnosis, explanations for so many things I've endured over the course of my life. And having the confidence then to believe in that ... well, it gave me back the ability to trust in myself, in my memories, in my story.

Which gave me a renewed, restored sense of hope for my future.


4. Jubilant:
With hope comes power. Believing in myself in a stronger way than I've been able to in so long has been an incredible thrill. It gave me confidence to move forward with things I should have been doing years ago, gave me the strength to be able to process my grief over the impact my life has had on my mental well-being, gave me the strength to face and take charge of my physical health in a way I was somehow unable to before.

I've spent most of this summer being examined by various doctors, undergoing various tests. I've submitted blood and urine, shown up for physicals, CT scans, MRIs. I've sat down with the actual reports, researching the findings, trying to learn what they mean.

I've been diagnosed with PTSD for almost two years now, and in that time, I've worked hard to gain a better understanding of how it works for me, how to deal with my symptoms and maneuver my way around them. But this year was a year of big change for me - I started medications for my PTSD-related anxiety and depression issues, and I started medication for high blood pressure because when my doctor recommended that I reduce my stress I started laughing at how cute that idea was. But it all got exciting when I sought new treatment for my urological issues - and that treatment opened the door for me to finally officially be diagnosed with lipomyelomeningocele. It's a form of spina bifida, and while I did know that I was born with "a tumor" at the base of my spine, I somehow made it 34 years without knowing that's what it was.

Because of that ignorance, my spina bifida wasn't properly treated. Neither was my 11 mm chiari I malformation. And neither was the scheuermann's disease, which I had never even heard of until I was diagnosed with it last month. With the lack of proper treatment for those things, I  now also have a tethered spinal cord, degenerative disc disease, possible syringomyelia, deformities and irregularities in my musculoskeletal system, and chronic neurological pain that will never go away.

You wouldn't think that kind of thing would make someone feel jubilant ... but it has been an incredible relief to me to know the names of the things I've spent so long suffering from. It's empowering, validating. And I'm thankful.


5. Livid:
This goes back to my health, where I'm thankful that now I know what I'm dealing with, but I'm also facing the shock of being 34 years old and learning that I have a serious birth defect. And it's not like it was something no one knew about, because I actually had surgical treatment for it when I was an infant.

Which means my family knew. They knew what it was, and they didn't inform me. They knew what was wrong when I become symptomatic as a child - and instead of taking measures to inform and adequately treat the root of my problems, they just slapped a bandaid on the issue and moved on.

Granted, that's not the whole story, and my parents were both going through really hard times during those years with things apart from me - and I know that neither of them would willingly or willfully have neglected my health ... but seriously ...

No one told me I have spina bifida. No one told me I have a chiari malformation. I didn't know to tell the anesthesiologist when I had an epidural for my c-section with Josephine. I didn't know to tell them when I had a spinal for my c-section with Eden. It infuriates me that I didn't even know to be careful.

I'm not sure anything has ever made me feel as angry and betrayed as having to figure this out by myself because no one ever bothered to sit me down and inform me on what I was dealing with and how to advocate for appropriate care. I feel cheated.


6. Optimistic:
Despite my feelings about not being able to really deal knowledgeably with my health up until now (including the less-than-responsible choices I've made about health issues I did know about), I'm excited to finally be fully informed. I know what to do going forward, I know what not to do, and I know what to expect. I know the right way to treat what doesn't work with my body, and I know how to try to make certain things more bearable.

I can't fix what came before, and I can't stand in my parents' shoes. I can't pretend to know what I would have done if placed in the same position - I can only look at where I am now and where I want to go moving forward. Staying undaunted is about making the best of where you are, trying to thrive no matter what your circumstances are, and getting back up no matter how many times you're knocked down.

Finding and harnessing the information I have is a big step forward. Using it to take steps to better my life is a big step forward. And I hope that through sharing my sharing here, I can help inspire others to take their own steps too.


7. Relaxed:
This has been a hard summer with so much going on for my family, and I honestly haven't had a lot of time to sit back and breathe. I haven't had many opportunities to relax, and my spirit is showing the wear. But at the end of every day I settle in bed with my daughters close by, and I nurture my hope for the coming day. I use affirmations, I quietly celebrate the day's accomplishments (even if they're embarrassingly minute), and I try to make sure I have a good grip on my plans for the next morning.

Often, those last moments of the day are the most relaxed for me - they are when I'm too physically spent to care anymore about tasks I may not have completed, too emotionally spent to be excessively worried. In those moments, I'm exhausted enough that my anxieties settle a little, and giving myself a little positive feedback is a great way to soothe myself into sleep.

That doesn't speak to the nocturnal panic episodes that wake me several times a week, but that's another story.


8. Serene:
When serene came up on the emotion generator, I won't deny that it made me immediately think of the serenity prayer I memorized as a kid:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can - and the wisdom to know the difference."

Serenity. The acceptance that allows peace despite whatever might be happening.

I can't point to one thing here, one event or one set of circumstances that have made me feel serene this month. But what I can do is share two of my favorite ways to seek serenity when it escapes me:

  1. I listen to this song. It reminds me that I don't have to always be striving. I don't have to wear myself down, stress myself out, and push-push-push all the time in an effort to "fix" the things that are wrong in my life. Truly, all I need to do is give my best, trust my God, and just be held.
  2. I watch this video - again. I've seen it probably twenty times now, and every time I watch it I feel like God is speaking to me personally about my tendency to worry and be afraid of the things I can't change or fix. When I really need the teaching, I will often make time for a few-day marathon, during which I'll also watch the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth videos in that series.


9. Sharing:
Obviously I'm in a sharing mood just about all the time - I'm open about my story and my experiences with just about anyone who asks, and I love when I have the opportunity to share in a way that helps or encourages others. I'm like most other people, I guess, in that I want to leave this world having made some kind of difference. Not because I need to be remembered or because I want any sort of fame or recognition, but just because I don't want to have lived the hardest parts of my life without using them to help someone else push through their own. I want my challenges to nurture my compassion for others, I want my struggles to give me sympathy for the struggles of those around me.

I share because I hope that in sharing, I can empower others.


10. Uncomfortable:
Sometimes, my choice to share my story and my experience in such a public way results in certain backlash from others who are saddened, offended, or otherwise somehow injured by the way I choose to share. Sometimes my desire to empower others and advocate for myself leads to misunderstandings about my capabilities and the choices I've made in my life.

Sometimes, it's just painful to share my vulnerabilities with the world. In sharing about my abusive childhood, I've opened myself up to people who have suggested that I somehow deserved it. In sharing about abusive relationships, I've faced being blamed for being in the relationships in the first place - as if I somehow must have seen it coming and went for it anyway. Newsflash: I didn't see it coming. If I had, I would have run in the other direction. Sharing so much of my life is hard.

Now, sharing more about my mental and physical health issues ... I'm sharing about things that have disabling, sometimes even humiliating, signs and symptoms that I might rather not share with the world.

But I would have given just about anything during the years of my life to have a blog like this one to read, a friend like me to talk to, a story like mine to encourage me to keep going.

If I can be that for someone like me, then I'm willing to be uncomfortable.

What have you been feeling this month?


If you liked this post, drop a comment below - I'd love your feedback, as well as the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers and bring new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish! Be sure you check out my quarterly giveaway page, too - there are several free and easy ways to enter - and members of the Undaunted Army are always eligible for extra entries!

Speaking of the Army, I'd like to personally invite you to take your place among those who have bravely fought and survived the battles of life. Addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, parenting, illness, and other traumas are real battles too; those who suit up to fight every day have a right and an obligation to nurture their own health, well-being, and self-empowerment. I know how hard it can be to keep going - but there is strength in numbers, and as a member of the Undaunted Army, you have the hope of knowing that you will never have to fight your battles alone again. Enlist as an Undaunted Army Private for free, or invest in the growing impact of the Army with an Undaunted Army Officer Commission for as little as $1 a month. And now, you can wear your Undaunted Pride right out in the open by sporting Undaunted Army merch!

However we stay connected, always know that my brand and the Undaunted Army are built on what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman" isn't just a slogan or a tagline - it's a purpose and a goal, which is why, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being here.