The Swamp Thing; Sweat, Tears, and Triumph

I think back to my sappy post from a few weeks ago and am amazed at what all happened between then and now.

I will admit that yes, my husband is sweet and caring and thoughtful and good in bed. And yes he missed us like crazy while he was gone. Yet I found myself rolling my eyes when I saw the fourth text from him within an hour. Wasn’t he supposed to be busy doing all that fancy biomedical training?

He left us with big hugs and kisses and even the sweet little journals, but he also left the pool looking like shit. I mean Swamp Shit. I asked him for weeks if he could get the pool up and running before he left on his trip. I never really paid much attention to what he was actually doing, just that he was working on the pool. Besides, he knew what he was doing. And what a relief, because it was going to be getting hot and the kids were going to want to swim. Come to find out after he left (he was lucky he had already left the state of Oregon) he actually filled it with water after almost a year of non-use. My only guess was that he thought he could do shock treatments daily and the pool fairy would come in the middle of the night and voila! (I’m sure there is a pool fairy, but she’s probably a smart, sassy undine who didn’t want to help him anyway). He had to have been hoping I didn’t go and look over his shoulder or check on the progress he wasn’t making. Honestly, I don’t know what he was thinking, but I sure as hell know what I was thinking.

It was very warm that first week, and the kids were wanting to swim so badly. But after one look at that nasty water I knew I wasn’t letting them so much as dip their big toe in that pool.

So I did what any crazy Mother Bear with fibromyalgia, CFS, ruptured discs, spine hardware, and an “I’ll show him”attitude would do and spent the day draining the pool. Early the next morning I scrubbed and shop vac’d as much and as fast as I could because I desperately needed to refill it before the plastic hardened (the temperature was going to reach the high 90’s that day). I refilled it, scrubbed and rinsed both the filter and the pump and sprayed out the skimmer. For the next several days I spent hours using the broom and net. I checked the chlorine and pH, and added more chlorine. The levels were fine but there was still some debris floating in the water. The skimmer wasn’t doing as good a job as I had hoped. It was also still a bit cloudy. So I gave it a dose of shock treatment and by the next morning the water was clear but all the the debris had sunk to the bottom forming a gross sludge.

Here I was at the end of week one and also at my wit’s end. But I wasn’t about to give up. I began rigging a pool vac. I had no idea what I was doing other than slowly morphing into an absolute lunatic; but I was cleaning that pool even if it killed me. I had wielded my nightmare into becoming my quest and I spent 5 hours, a ton of duct tape, an extra garden hose, pool hose, and shop vac hose…. and after a ton of trial (the original pool vac was completely useless by the way) and error, cuss words, and more trial and error, I must say I’m proud of the crazy looking thing I thought up. With a good siphon trick, (with a little added suction boost from the pool fairy who had been watching all of my hard work and was obviously now on my side) I was well on my way to victory. I was going to conquer the monster from the bottom of the pool and the demon within.

Towards the end I felt a burst of much needed energy as I pictured my significant other sleeping at the Marriott getting fresh towels daily and his bed made for him. I was sure he had already swam plenty of times while I had been here working my butt off so that our kids could get the chance to. He was fed meals during his classes and given a $27.00 per night dinner allowance while I was too tired and in pain to cook, doling out freezer meals to the kids that I had warmed in the microwave.

Several hours after I had finally finished the pool my husband called. He asked why I hadn’t answered any of his texts. I curtly responded that I hadn’t had much of a chance to look at my phone. Without much pause he told me about his Sunday afternoon. He went for a walk to the city center where he decided to watch the new Star Trek movie and then wandered around the mall for a while. Then on his leisurely stroll back he sent me pictures of the scenery, the park, the neat statues, etc. He then made an offhand comment about me sending him some pictures of myself later on.

That was it. I felt like an enraged cartoon character (think Tom the blue cat or Wile E. Coyote) red with anger, whistling like a steaming hot tea kettle about to blow. I had held it together, kept my complaints to a minimum, was supportive of him. But now all bets were off. I spoke through a clenched jaw to keep my voice down as I explained to him what kind of Hell I had been living in. My fingers were cracked and raw from all the stupid tape and I had a horrific sunburn. And on and on went my tirade. I felt so much better afterwards and had a good cry. All while he was still on the phone.

I had done one of my crash and burn cycles plenty of times before, and I spent the next 7 days recovering from the pain flare that I caused myself. The kids did get to swim a lot the next few days while I lounged in the adirondack watching them splash each other and play “shark”. All I needed then was a cute straw hat and an ice cold lemonade.

And as much as I hated to admit it, I also felt a deep need for my husband. Maybe it was my triumph. Maybe I was proud to prove to him I could do it. Perhaps it was because I realized I had the strength to do something so physically challenging by myself. Or quite possibly it was after faithful daily Qigong practices of the 8 Brocades, some heartfelt journaling, meditation, a myofascial release massage, and extra helpings of pain medication and supplements. Maybe a combination of all those things. All I knew was that I actually missed the lazy ass.

Many Blessings on Your Journeys of Triumph )O(


Vanity and the Choice of Ego; Careful, You Just Might Get Burned

We fly out in less than a week. I haven’t been back to Southern California in almost 13 years. I was born and raised in sunny Southern California but it’s hard to call it my “hometown” or “where I’m from” anymore. It feels like a lifetime ago.

I most certainly don’t feel Californian anymore, but apparently when I’m angry, tired, hurt, or frustrated I’ll react in unflattering ways (like a toddler, now that I think about it). When this happens, my husband will simply fold his arms and give me a wry smile and call me his “Cute Little Valley Girl.” He has also become quite good at mimicking my squinted-eye glare. Sometimes to my horror, I still give him the satisfaction of an involuntary hair-flip.

I really need a new shtick.

So when he called me on my immaturity today, I became embarrassed rather than angry. But you see, I need a new bathing suit because the one I have is literally 11 years old. Granted, swimsuit season is pretty short where I am now, meaning my old swimsuit could easily live to see another 8 years. “But dammit”, my ego tells me, “you deserve a nice bathing suit. Just think about all that time you’ll have to hang out at the hotel pool with the kids…with your husband…with lots of other women who will be in bikinis and look waaaayyy better than you.” (granted, it’s the Disneyland Hotel, not a Laguna Beach resort).

I decided to go to the specialty swimsuit store in Portland. If their clientele was just as ego-driven as I was, consisting of beyond pale moms who were insecure with their bodies, I would surely fit in.

This was a smart store, (brilliant really) where the dressing rooms had lighting that flattered, a salesperson who acted genuinely interested in what a bathing suit could do for my boobs as well as my gave birth to 4 kids tummy. They even served free beer. I accepted it (there were cup holders inside the dressing rooms). The fact that they knew I was going to need alcohol in order to take my clothes off in front of a complete stranger was not lost on me but I recovered quickly thanks to the amber colored beverage that snaked its way down into my belly.

Finally, after trying on 8 swimsuits, I found the perfect one. Except when I turned around. Wow, I was pale. Very pale. I’ve been trying to be good and haven’t laid out in the sun for the sheer purpose of a tan for well over a decade. But truth be told, I’ll sometimes look back on those California days of built-in swimming pools in my backyard that resulted in deep, golden tans. Back in the day when my teeth were a dazzling white and I didn’t need beer in order to take my clothes off in front of a stranger. I turned to the side and sucked in my belly. I stuck out my chest. If I just had a little bit of sun on my legs, just enough to take away some of the glare….maybe some of the dimples…

Besides, whoever said Witches can’t have a tan? When did that become the rule? I’ve done the pale Stevie Nicks thing long enough, and in my defense, I’m very deficient in vitamin D. I mean, isn’t that what happens when there’s not a lot of sun? I think so.

My next stop was the tanning salon. This is coming from someone who just a few months prior looked at herself in the mirror, completely naked and admired her female body and all its flaws. But the salon smelled like pina-colada. The bubbly girl behind the counter explained all the package deals and as a lightly bronzed woman was leaving, she was asked how her session went. She answered with, “it felt amazing, as usual.” So I did what any nonsensical witch would do, I signed the release, consenting to new wrinkles and further skin damage. All in the name of ego.

I went the full 10 minutes in the “platinum” bed because I needed a tan real quick.

Of course I didn’t tan, I burned. No, I fried. I should have known better. I did know better. I could have simply painted my toenails. I could have remembered the way I lovingly saw my body, with all its honest flaws. I could have remembered what truly mattered; We were taking the kids on their first plane ride, on their first trip to California, to spend a week at Disneyland, “The Happiest Place on Earth” for their first time.

And here I was thinking about how myself and how I would look to others. That night as my husband was smearing aloe-vera gel on my back, I felt ashamed at my selfishness. I had gotten caught up in my own petty self-consciousness because I was comparing myself to a body from a lifetime ago and worried how I would stack up to others. Anxious about how others would see me. I spent far too much money on a bathing suit that I’ll hardly ever wear because I was burnt to a crisp. Instead, I would have to be covered up and wear a sunhat.

All in the name of Ego.

I knew better, and now I realize how much more I liked myself before I allowed my ego to get the best of me. Before I got burned. Just Live, Learn, and Love your Body.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

The Real Me, The Real You

My True Self

It’s strange to think about all the roles I have played in my life. I was a daughter, then eventually an adopted daughter, only child, competitive figure skater, good little Catholic girl, a Duranie, rebellious teenage runaway, juvenile delinquent, friend, lover, teen mom, college student, wife, heart-breaker, teacher, occult student, Tarot reader, Priestess, & one who lives with chronic pain. These are just a few off the top of my head. Now obviously there are some roles I am not proud of and there are those that make me happy inside. Each one of those roles has been a unique learning experience and has led my life in many different directions. Two of those things I have been for more than half my life; and those two things are a wife and mom.

The role of a wife and mom are are what most people identify me as, because they are the two roles I show most to the world. They are big pieces of my life, and I love being those things. My journey as a wife and mom has given me some of my most beautiful and amazing memories and I know there are good things to come (even through the muddy waters of problem children). The roles of wife and mom are pieces of my life but they don’t define me. These roles are what they are; roles. The real me, (the real you, the real them) is infinite and immeasurable. Everyone is their own being with a unique spirit and a spark of the divine, and yet I can sometimes bog myself down with labels. Do you do that too? Yes, I’m married, I have children, I’m a pet owner, volunteer, and homemaker. I have many interests and hobbies. I am blessed with those things and those are a part of my being, but not the totality of me.

Why do we limit ourselves with our self-image? Why do we habitually identify our uniqueness with roles and titles, employment and status, what we own or what we don’t own, our personality traits and our looks? It’s self-limiting, and I don’t believe that’s the entire reason for this incarnation and most definitely not my soul’s existence. There’s so much more to me. It was time to knock down those walls I’d made. It was time to expand my sense of self and open myself up to new opportunities. There was room needed for my new dreams and ideas to flourish.

So, who am I?

In learning to know myself, I have had to become more aware during times of meditation, journaling, and when reading the Tarot for myself. From time to time I pause and ask myself if I am keeping to certain roles during this time of introspection, or am I floating free of those labels? Am I looking at the whole picture of me? This has helped me tremendously in letting go. I was surprised at first when I felt more complete the more I let go. Now it comes naturally when I’m in my quiet time and space of solitude. It has become an immeasurably important piece of my life, allowing me to step back in order see the strength and beauty of who I was, who I am, and the woman I aspire to be.

                  magic recievers - supernatural links often attributed to things that people do not understand. Mirrors seemto posses a power beyond the natural, a reflection of the truth, and so became a handy repository for many mystical and supernatural ideas. They did seem to be portals to another world at times..

    Blessings on your Journey )O(

Mirror, Mirror

Life is full of mysterious reflections. Some are clean and clear while others are distorted or deceptive. The mirror of our soul reflects back to us all aspects of our hopes and dreams, our love and passion, and ultimately our true self. These reflections serve as reminders and change according to need, and are felt within and seen by others without.

Before each incarnation our souls are known to us, as is our intimate source to the divine. That connection becomes muddled with life as a result of all the headaches and heartaches, complexities and confusion we endure. We struggle with holding on to that connection but it continues to float further and further away from our day to day consciousness. What once resonated with us spiritually becomes a distant faint glimmer among the stars of our forgotten dreams.Mirrors capture our image, revealing to us our likeness in great detail. But these are not the only mirrors we have available to us. There are other types of mirrors that reveal things about ourselves that we can’t see. Those reflections are all around us in one form or another, but none more common and reliable than our daily interactions with others. These mirrors provide the clearest reflection of our innermost selves once those reflections are brought into focus. That act in itself can prove to be quite a challenge.Remember running through the room of mirrors in the carnival funhouse? It was dizzying and disorienting, and you kept finding yourself bumping into either clear glass or mirrored reflections, unable to differentiate between the two. There probably came a point where you began to question which illusion was true to your eyes and which was in fact deceptive. Perhaps in trepidation you held your hands out in front of your body to shield yourself from hitting your face against the glass again.

If we’re honest, we’ll be able to admit that we have certain traits or characteristics that we don’t want to see, and we most certainly don’t want others to see. When we show our true selves, we are left vulnerable to the judgement and critique of others. When we hide these things then we are hiding from ourselves. We’ll eventually move through our self-made illusions and come out the other side relieved.

Those we encounter are the mirrors showing us our hidden truths. These encounters are arranged by the universe, and more times than not they are an opportunity for growth.When we can honestly watch ourselves through the actions of others, we are able to connect with both our strengths and weaknesses. These reflections of ourselves that we see in others help nudge us to remember who we really are, what we are really like, and what our life purpose is.

There are people in our lives who can trigger good or bad reactions almost immediately. Do you cringe when you think of bumping into a certain person you don’t like? Do you smile when you hear your children get off the school bus? What about the feeling of excitement when you arrive at a get together with your closest friends?
Our mirrors appear as people who come into our lives (friends, neighbors, co workers, enemies, grocery store clerks, and telemarketers) who have a way of bringing up our own issues. You can be going about your day when you encounter someone who creates a downward spiral in your world. Later you find yourself still thinking about the situation, going over the details, reliving the feelings of anger, insecurity, or guilt. Coming up with things you could’ve said, should’ve done.

Picture yourself showing up at that get-together you were so looking forward to only to see someone whom you always seem to clash with. That is a perfect time to look for the reflection of yourself. What is your reaction? Do you turn around and head out the door? Do you hide behind a plant? Maybe you walk right up and say hi in the most pleasant way you can only to feel your lip twitch. What are your feelings? Anger? Shame? Embarrassment?No matter the emotion, it’s strong and It can feel overwhelming. These instinctual feelings are a signal for you to take a closer look at yourself.

One personal experience occurred after my third child was born. I was insecure about the way I looked as It had been 6 weeks since I gave birth and I was still trying to shed the extra baby weight. I felt frumpy and depressed. I wasn’t getting much sleep, and I had no energy whatsoever.

One warm spring evening I made a quick jaunt to the corner market because we had ran out of milk. My husband was helping finish dinner so I reluctantly agreed to go. Besides, I hadn’t been out of the house in days. It was one of those ‘in cognito’ quick run in, run out, hope you don’t see anyone you know trips and lo and behold I run into an old high school friend. There I was, caught in my baggy sweatpants and milk-stained t-shirt, wearing no makeup with my hair pulled back in a ponytail.

Gina however, was sun-kissed and smiling. She seemed ‘put together’. In fact, she looked amazing. Several things ran through my mind; I was grateful that my husband wasn’t with me, that she probably wouldn’t have noticed me if I had been wearing my sunglasses, and that I hated her guts. I felt a twinge of guilt with that last thought because she was in fact a dear friend of mine during high school. She had always been positive and caring, but at that moment I couldn’t stand her. Everything about her bothered me, and I found myself focusing on how she was chomping on the piece of gum in her mouth and how incredibly irritating it was.

This encounter with Gina was a real wake-up call when I was finally able to come clean with myself about my jealousy towards her. It was emotional to see someone from my past, someone who reminded me of myself just a few years earlier. I found myself reluctant to answer when she asked me what I was up to. I didn’t want to ask her what she was doing with her life, afraid that she would have the same answer as me. She was married too, with a three year-old ; and 8 month- old twins! I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself as I looked at the radiant woman standing in front of me. Not knowing what else to do, I politely told her I was in a hurry and left

Later that evening I reflected on the encounter. After processing the feelings of anger, resentment, jealousy, embarrassment, and sadness, and as I continued to peel back the layers of those emotions, my reflection became clearer and more focused.

The fact of the matter was that I wasn’t taking care of myself. I couldn’t remember the last time I took any time for myself, even to grab a coffee, or take a bubble bath. I was too exhausted and depressed to even give it much thought. After pouring all of my energy into being a good mom and wife, I had nothing left for me.

Encountering someone from my past, someone who I admired, someone who reminded me of who I used to be, was also a reminder of what I could still be.. Happy. Healthy. Put together. It created a sadness within me that was a direct reflection of my lack of self-love and acceptance. I threw on the sweatpants because I didn’t think to bother looking for anything else. My devotion to others allowed me to ignore myself, my own needs, and my feelings of worthiness. Why bother with makeup or brushing my hair if I wasn’t expecting to leave the house? What was the point?

The point was that I had simply forgotten about myself! My feelings of inadequacy stemmed from the fact that I had failed to create a perfect life for my family (which of course doesn’t exist for anyone). In feeling like a failure, it became easy to neglect my emotional and spiritual well-being. The more I neglected these two things, the more my self-image suffered. This was obvious in the way I treated myself, and my physical appearance was a direct reflection of that.

I was not only too tired, but I felt it was too selfish to worry about my own well-being or to fight for my own happiness. I thought that if I could manage making everyone else around me happy, then happiness for myself would naturally follow. I had fallen into the trap that so many moms fall into. Put simply, I had it ass backwards. This encounter with my old classmate was a wake-up call, a slap in the face from reality, and it was a way to stop the downward spiral.

I realized that I was the only one responsible for my own happiness, and I began a new way of life. I had an entirely new mindset. I began to think about myself. My needs. My wants. My emotions. My physical health. All of it. Gina mirrored the qualities I so desperately wanted back in my life. The self-confidence and genuine smile, the positive aura, and the bright energy. It was the real me, and I wanted it back. I began that night, scribbling away in my journal. I wrote out reasonable goals and crossed them off as I achieved them. I then created new ones. My confidence grew and my love and appreciation for myself blossomed.

Everyone you meet has the potential to act as a mirror. Every day you encounter them as smiling faces or sour looks. You’ll see friendly gestures or hear rude comments. How do those people reflect your own personal emotions that day? Are they similar or quite the opposite? How do those actions and attitudes affect you? Do they bring to attention certain patterns or habits you need to do away with? What are some that you need to embrace? Make the most of the human mirrors you meet in the world. Be open to the learning experience they offer, even the ones that make you feel uncomfortable. Well, especially those ones.

Remember to keep close to your heart the knowledge that you too are somebody’s mirror. Never underestimate the importance of that.
Blessings on your Journey )O(