A Practical, Honest Discussion Between Friends

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_Diogenes_-_Walters_37131

Recipes. Thoughts on simple living. Cat hair.

Well, OK, no discussion or further comments on cat hair. But about the other elements, yes.

I spent last week isolating, at home alone. I watched a lot of films. I did some work. I was not feeling well. I even had a fever. But I’m still not sure whether or not I actually had a contagious virus or was just run-down. Much of the problem, too, stemmed from my negative thoughts, which focused on uselessness, purposelessness, pointlessness. Nihilism.

As a result, I was useless, without purpose, and life seemed pointless. So I let myself be sick.

Maybe I needed that time, because today, right now, life is rich, rewarding, meaningful. I am thankful, and I am paying attention.

Nothing really has changed, except for my perspective.

My perspective is broadening, lengthening, growing. Emotions and rogue thoughts no longer automatically wind me up tight, like so many straitjackets.

When I stopped drinking, I not only gained sobriety, but I was finally given a method and specific things to do that would help me grow toward maturity, help me create a meaningful life. What a gift.

Over the years, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on shampoo, skincare products, and cosmetics, expecting them to “fix” me, to make me “right.” This is, of course, assuming there was something inherently wrong with me in the first place, which there is not. Finally — FINALLY — it has sunk into my brain somewhere that nothing external will or can change anything about me. Improvements such as I was seeking start on the inside.

Running on a beach, with birds

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still believe in good, regular skincare and overall hygiene (please consider using only non-animal-tested products with short lists of mostly organic, safe, natural ingredients). But, as I mixed up a fresh batch of face and body scrub yesterday, looking forward to using it later, rather than slathering up my skin with suds in a hot shower because that is what “everyone else” does, for the first time in my life, I found myself relishing and feeling satisfied with simpler living. No expensive products needed. I can make most of what I need for my daily toilette, and for the rest I can seek out merchants with values that match mine: No animal testing; pure, safe ingredients that are fair-traded; empowerment for artisans and workers in struggling economies.

Feeling satisfied with it is the key here. I can tell I am growing, because finally I was not seeking redemption from skincare products. As I prepared the body scrub, a kernel of some positive energy deep inside me, released when I got sober, began to sprout. I returned expensive products that are nice but that I do not need and cancelled orders of yet more products that also are nice but that I do not have to buy. Not anymore. I will be OK without them.

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BODY SCRUB

This recipe is both moisturizing and cleansing, and it also is suitable for the face (just do not rub too hard to avoid tearing skin).

  •  Coconut oil (organic, extra virgin)
  • Sugar (refined white or brown)
  • Honey (optional but adds extra healing and moisturizing benefits)
  • A few drops of essential oil of your choice (optional, but adds cleansing benefits and serves as a natural preservative)

salt-scrub-close-up2-1

Mix up smaller batches at a time. Yesterday, I used roughly 6 to 7  teaspoons of coconut oil, and 6 to 7 teaspoons of white sugar.

Spoon out the coconut oil (it is solid at room temperature) into a bowl. Add sugar. If using honey, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon to other ingredients. Using a spoon, gently press and stir the ingredients together until they are well-mixed.

That’s it.

I added 8 drops of essential oil for a whiff of lovely fragrance, added botanical-based benefits, and mixture preservation. It is best to store this scrub in a glass container to avoid the chance of chemicals from plastic containers seeping into the mixture.

_______________________

 

I also plan to start making my own cleansing conditioner for my hair out of bentonite clay and coconut milk (thank you, Minimalist Beauty, for this great idea). I am currently using a mud-based hair cleanser that works great but is, well, costly. If I can buy ingredients that will make up multiple batches of an effective, safe hair cleanser, then why not make it myself?

It’s the idea that I am worthy to do this, that a product I mix up myself is as good or better than something I could pay $50 for in stores or online.

Yes.

Living in a simpler way, consuming less and creating more, strengthens life energy. It is giving rather than taking. It is appreciating and paying attention. It is being grateful and using what you already have to make an entirely new thing that you actually need. Less wanting. Less wanting. Less wanting…

 

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Being Still and Breathing

Nude 1

A recent discovery…

Fabricated drama is no longer needed. Life itself supplies plenty of natural excitement.

Sit down and take a deep breath to prepare for the ride. But just remember, as I was recently reminded by a friend, to buckle up.

My ailing parent is regaining strength and health in a rehab facility. Gratitude.

And change.

Volatile emotions. Limited options. Still, choices are there. More gratitude.

Work to do. Writing to embrace (global success optional). Chores to complete. Cats to cuddle. Yes, there is a point to it all.

I am sober. I am present, right now.

So chin up, old thing. Sometimes smiling is the next right thing to do.

 

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As Life Happens…

wandering_beach

Many of us go through the same life experiences, but we proceed through this maze at different paces, in different ways.

Our responses and reactions—not our experiences—render us as individual.

Caring for an aging parent not only requires physical action but also emotional strength. The children, now turned caretaker, must do those personal things for their parent that were once done for them.

This change can be hard to swallow. And if that is managed, then it certainly is hard to digest.

Life happens.

Life is about change, growth, instability. Life also is about handling this mercurial nature of existence with grace, thankfulness, and love.

Being scared is OK. Being unwilling is not.

The best part? I can stay sober, no matter what, and I actually can be helpful. I can be present, completely in the now, where I am needed.

And for this change, I will be forever grateful.

 

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The Chrysalis of Awareness

painting a cloud

What is the “truth,” really?

There are as many “truths” as there are perspectives, and each person has her or his own perspective, so there you go.

No one, single, universal reality exists. Your reality is ultimately different from mine, though there may be many similarities. This “radical” idea, presented to me by a brilliant man teaching an Honors Rhetoric class, blew my little mind in undergraduate studies in the late 1980s. I have spent the years since trying to pull the pieces of my mind back together.

This blog, much like me in the last few years, has been all over the place.

From the earliest posts, which are an ode to the Regency Era and Jane Austen to later posts more serious and socially minded to a confessional, this platform has chronicled my progress of growing up in public.

It is OK to change.

Change is a constant. The next moment will be different from the present. That is a given. But growth—ay, there’s the rub. Growth results when I respond to the present moment with enthusiasm, excitement, energy. Hope. When I respond to circumstances with a sense of possibility, rather than a feeling of dread, I allow the “present” to travel smoothly into the “future” with very few bumps during the journey.  dandelion

However, my often racing thoughts and volatile emotions can easily interfere with my forward movement, forcing me to a standstill or, even worse, to roll backward down the hill.

Two cats snuggle against me as I write this. My three cat friends are not so much bothered by wandering (and wondering) thoughts as I am. Instead, they breathe their presence completely into what they are doing or experiencing at each point in time, staying focused on “right now.” Soft and warm, content and satisfied, they are good teachers.

Just like the radical idea once presented to me that truth is fractured into as many facets as there are human minds, the cats show me that it is not only OK but indeed desirable to be fully present with all I am doing, in every moment.

This is to be alive.

Anything less is a sort of half life, lived on the fringes and prone to fear, doubt, and other such predators.

So how will I stay present today—present right now?

  • Focus intently on my five senses. What do I see? What pleasant scents tickle me? What do I taste? Which instrument is taking the solo in my beloved jazz or classical music? Am I really noticing the sumptuousness of a faux fur blanket?

 

  • Remove the word “should” from my vocabulary. “Should” conjures up impressions of fear, of serious duty void of joy, and, depending upon my mind set, even a sense of fate settling firmly upon my shoulders and pressing down with insistent cries and whines, removing from me my right—my very ability—to choose. Instead, I will ask for guidance and listen intently to what my inner compass tells me to do next, then do that next right thing.  walking on RR track

 

  • I will not judge—merely observe and experience. As Shakespeare said: “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Why the need to lay my opinion on everything? No—depression or joy, activity or stillness, company or solitude—I will be a student of this life, of this moment, rather than struggling to direct everything. When I surrender to what actually is, then I get out of the way of my own awareness.

 

And that is good. Helpful. Getting out of the way of my own awareness is growth. Removing limited and limiting parameters on the universe, of which I am familiar with only a tiny fragment, opens me up to what actually is. No fantasies. No fairy tales. Instead, only the present as it unfolds.

 

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Today

Grow

Growing up is a difficult business.

But it is one we all engage in. It is the price we pay for being alive.

And today, I am OK with that.

I am fine with people moving in and out of my life, with seeming friendships that burn out, empty and sour. I can accept that my way is not the only way, is not even the best way. with stick figure

I am comfortable (mostly) with solitude.

All is as it should be.

There is no “happily ever after,” but NOW is pretty good.

 

 

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Telling the Truth

happy-cat

Who am I to advise you not to qualify your life?

I closed my last post with that thought.

The only thing I can say on my behalf is that I am someone who knows that trying has availed me nothing. For me, I must either do something wholeheartedly or forget about it. I have proven this.

After a year of hard-fought sobriety, on 21 June 2014, I took two Valiums that were not prescribed to me. Two days later, just for good measure, I swallowed one more. Not even enough to have a good time! But enough to cause me to reset my sobriety date to 25 June 2014.

I did this because honesty is all I have left. I did this because I took the pills with the same mindset I used to have while drinking — I wanted the effect those pills would produce because I wanted to feel something other than the depression and anxiety that was clouding my life.

When I took those pills a few days ago, I did not realize that there is a difference between emotions and feelings.

My turbulent emotions (or moods, if you prefer) flit here and there, constantly changing. They are fickle, inconstant, and deceptive. But I can actually choose how I want to feel.

How I feel now, moment to moment, is up to me, based upon what I focus on and to what I give attention. I can choose to fuel peace and serenity, or I can choose to fuel the opposite — discord, misery, despair. I can feed the white dog, or the black hound.

I learned this in practical application as young as age 10. Desperately unhappy but having to face another day at school, surrounded by cliques of mocking classmates with whom I had never (and did not try to) fit in. So I decided to try smiling. Just that — smile. Pretend that I was happy. It was a matter of survival. And to my surprise, I began to feel better. I began to actually feel inside like my smiling face looked on the outside.

So acting “as if” can produce the actual feeling I am emulating, despite whatever emotion is running rampant. Interesting…

I smiled, just now. And so I move forward, building my second first year of sobriety.

And for me, I know I will build not by trying, but by doing.

 

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A Book of Days (of sorts)

Diary Pages

Well, hello there!

Life has kept rolling since I last wrote. Sunrises, changing seasons, Crepe Myrtle trees bursting into bloom.

Biggest News Flash: I have one year sober!

Actually today, I have one year, one month, and two days sober. And how has life changed because of that? I have not had to come to, face down on the floor, in 397 days. The cats are happier. Work has been steady.

In fact, since leaving dear Elephant Journal at the beginning of May, I have been thoroughly busy writing and working with friends to strengthen their business.

Other perks of sobriety:

  • Paying off debts and old fees
  • Ability to take care of day-to-day business
  • Daily bathing

Ah, yes. Sobriety is good. Plenty of pros about it.

There are, however, those pesky cons that come calling, as well. Namely, I am now more aware of myself. And wherever I go, there I am, to my surprise.      And while it may, in turn, surprise you to hear this, I am not always the best company. Indeed. wandering_beach

The mind reels.

But while I have accomplished much in the past year, there still are plenty of items left on my “to do” list:

  • Write to my friends in Bristol, England
  • Remove all traces of splattered red nail lacquer from my bathroom walls and floor
  • Revise and polish my current novel manuscript
  • Shop said manuscript around the literary universe
  • Go on tour to support above-mentioned novel (after it has been published)
  • Start belly dancing again
  • Initiate a daily routine of good oral hygiene for the cats

 

birds flying

Ah yes. No rest, it seems, for the wicked. Or the sober. Or the wickedly sober. But one minute at a time, I move forward in this brave new world of sobriety, bounded only by my imagination and willingness to live in the now.

And in this early morning moment, being quiet and richly present seems to be the next right thing to do. And so I am doing it.

Forget regrets. Leave “should” behind. Determine not to try, but either to do or not to do. Stop qualifying life.

Wishing you well, too. Live deliberately.

Until next time, then.

 

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