Tag Archives: Self-acceptance

Living From My Scars

I published my first blog post in January 2015 and shared my blog with some 50 close friends and family members. Then, last September, I announced on Facebook (sharing with my 470 something friends there) that I had a blog. Then, last month, I added the blog to my LinkedIn profile, alerting my professional contacts that I write this stuff.

Whether sharing my personal history and my musings on life is wise or something that everyone (family, friends, work colleagues, and strangers) should be able to access has been a topic of discussion at my house. Of course there could be repercussions. But, there is one big reason why I share my story. I share, because I am living from my scars.

Living from my scars means that my life has been shaped by the choices I’ve made. Even the wrong ones, especially the wrong ones. And while those past mistakes don’t define me, they do inform how I live my life now. They are lessons for course-correcting.

Living from my scars forces me to be self-compassionate. The scars remind me that I am human and imperfect, that I have fallen down many times. I remember this not to beat up myself but to love myself more, warts and all, and to continue getting up when I fall.

Living from my scars means that I practice self-acceptance. Every time I shine a spotlight on my depression  I feel like I’m taking away some of the stigma associated with mental illness. Who does it benefit if I keep this struggle to myself? I mean, seriously, that’s how I got some of these scars.

For me, sharing the troubles and the triumphs is living from my scars.

And I am living (joyfully and gratefully) with and from those scars.

Image courtesy of flick user Laura Lewis

Image courtesy of flick user Laura Lewis

 

 

Life Lessons Learned (in 2015)

As the year comes to a close, I am reflecting on some of the most important life lessons I learned in 2015.

  1. I own my emotions. No one is responsible for making me “feel” anything. No one else makes me angry; that’s my choice. No one else makes me frustrated; that’s my choice. No one else makes me sad; that’s my choice. I am accountable for my own happiness, anger, or misery. I own my emotions.
  1. I advocate for myself. It’s great to have the support of friends and family, but ultimately, I can’t rely on that outside support to carry me through all the tough times in life. I have to support and believe in myself first and foremost (see Life Lesson #1). When I am uncertain or going through a difficult time or even a personal failure, I have to trust that I can come out of that experience okay, that I have the mental reserves to succeed. I advocate for myself.
  1. I accept who I am. If working on this blog has taught me anything, it’s that we are all beautiful, imperfect messes. We all make mistakes. We all have scars. It’s just that some of us are better at hiding these imperfections from the rest of the world while others of us (read: ME!) are not. I don’t want to hide my mistakes and scars anymore; they are part of me. They are in and of themselves my life lessons. I accept myself as I am.
  1. I live in the moment. Part of what got my stuck in my depression in the past was clinging to all the injustices done to me. But, you know what? The past is gone. That shit is over. Time to move on. All I have is right now, this very moment, to live my life. When I recognize this, every day, every moment, becomes the most important one.
  1. I take the good and the bad. I would never know how wonderful the sun feels if I didn’t live through some seriously dark times. But when it’s always sunny, clouds provide relief. That’s life. It’s black, and it’s white, and you don’t get through it without experiencing both. There’s no point in trying to cling only to the happy, sunny times, because they will change.

 

This is what I learned in 2015. I’d love to hear from you about what life lessons you learned this year. On that note, here’s to a marvelous 2016. May we all do some living and learning.

Honest but not Brave

It’s not about being brave. It’s about being honest.

When I go back to the States and see my friends and acquaintances in person, they ask, “How are you?” And I tell them the truth. I’m unhappy. To which, their response is, “But your life in Germany looks so great.” Yes, because what I’m posting on Facebook are photos of me on vacation or at the zoo or the park with my silly, wonderful daughter. What I’m not posting are the pictures of me sobbing or overdrinking or fighting with my husband or any of the other things that have happened (and sometimes continue to happen) with regularity since I’ve been abroad.

The last 3 years here have been difficult for me, and for the entirety of those 3 years, I’ve said that “here” was Germany. I truly believed that my being unhappy had a geographic basis, and everything would be sooooo much better if I just moved back to the States. In all honesty, though, “here” isn’t Germany. It’s my life.

I’d been through some really dark periods in the States as well. It’s just that I had (and still have) an awesome safety net in the US, one on which I could fall back easily. Perhaps too easily. My mom would drop everything to help me. My friends would drop everything to help me. In Europe, I don’t have that luxury. There is no one in Munich I could call for that kind of support. I simply don’t have a safety net here like I do in the States.

Being so far away from my family, living without deep friendships in my immediate world, I find myself opening up much more than I might have previously when people I know come to town. Now, when I talk to friends who are visiting, and I don’t mean my closest friends, I mean the spouses of my husband’s colleagues who I’ve known forever and like a lot, but who don’t know my history, I’m honest. And, it turns out, they’re honest, too.

I talk about my drinking, and they say, “Oh yeah, me, too. I go to a party and have 1 or 2 more drinks than everyone else, and then I come home and have another.” Really? But I thought I was the ONLY ONE who did shit like that!

Or I say something about my marriage and a friend will say, “Oh yeah, me, too. If it weren’t for my child, I probably would have left this relationship years ago.” Really? But I thought I was the ONLY ONE who had these kinds of thoughts!

I thought I was the ONLY ONE, because I wasn’t talking about these things with anyone. “Here” there is no one for me to talk to, but even in the US, I felt so ashamed by my problems that I told only a handful of people.

I think that’s how many of us are. We share the good stuff with everyone. We share the really crappy stuff with very few or no one.

Then, last week I publicly outed myself on my personal Facebook page, and I had over 400 views on my blog (emotional train wreck voyeurs?). More surprising to me than that was the number of people (nowhere near 400 of course) who commented on or personally wrote to me about my bravery in being so brutally honest about my life.

But I don’t think of what I’m doing as being brave. I think of it as a necessity, and there are 3 reasons why – fear, guilt, and denial. That’s how I got “here” in the first place. Fear that those people who think I have it together, who think I’m happy and everything’s great will find out what I’m really like (a depressed overdrinker). Guilt about my behavior, because depression + overdrinking = lots of irrational, stupid behavior. And denial that there are problems. Thanks, I’ll just stuff it down inside and pretend it didn’t happen. Surely, if I ignore everything, it will just go away.

Fear, guilt, and denial. Together, these three emotions are shame-inducing and that’s what got me “here” in the first place. Allowing these emotions to reign will destroy me if I let them. So, I won’t let them. I can’t be afraid of what other people might think of me, because, frankly, this is who I am, imperfect and human. Just like you and everybody else. And while I am sorry for all the truly embarrassing, stupid and hurtful things I’ve done in my life, I have to learn from those mistakes. I have to use that knowledge to change and get back on track rather than let the guilt consume me. Finally, I can’t ignore the difficulties I experience. Difficulties are part of life, and it’s better to acknowledge them, accept them, and deal with them. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is irresponsible.

I am being honest, here. I’m confronting my fear, my guilt, and my denial, but I’m not doing it out of bravery. I’m doing it out of necessity, because, otherwise, shame would destroy me.

So, thank you. Thank you, readers – friends, family, and even strangers (yes, there are in fact people I don’t even know who subscribe to my blog) – who love and support me on my journey. Thank you for sharing your own experiences with me and helping me feel like I’m not the ONLY ONE.

Let’s all be honest. I’m not the only one muddling through life. We are all in this together.

Shame Resistance

It’s Not A Dirty Little Secret

It’s not a dirty little secret, because I’m not into AA anonymity. Hiding the ugly parts of our lives may keep everything looking good, but in the long run, it’s neither practical nor helpful. We all suffer. We all have baggage. Try as we might to maintain the façade, it’s not going to last. And what’s the point anyway? To show everyone else you’ve got it all together or to convince yourself that everything’s okay when it’s not? That’s more work than it’s worth.

It’s not a dirty little secret. I just hadn’t told everyone (meaning all 479 of my FB friends). I told my closest friends, my family members, and my writer friends. I told 50 or so people. Then, in the last 2 weeks, 2 people I know from my professional world asked me about it. Out of the blue. Just making conversation.

 

“Are you still writing your blog?” one asked me.

“I saw you have a blog,” the other emailed me.

Deer in headlights. Wait. Say what? How do you know I have a blog?

 

Although my name is not on my blog, I wrote a guest post for MindBodyGreen a few months ago, and it got re-posted on various sites, and the bio has my name and blog URL. Google search. There are no secrets on the World Wide Web.

My name’s Silke, and I write a blog.

MyTruth

My blog is about my life – the shitty stuff, like my struggles with alcohol and depression and my issues with my father, but also the good stuff, like my work toward health and happiness. It’s a mixed bag, but that’s life in general, ups, downs, and in-betweens. And if you know me, then you know I will tell you my life story because that’s the kind of person I am – no filter, heart on sleeve.

But…not everyone knows my story. Not everyone has seen my mental and physical stretch marks.

Until now.

This blog is my space to say what I’m thinking and process what I’m going through. It’s a very public diary. I write it, because it’s therapeutic for me. I write it, because I love to write. I write it, because I believe sharing our collective story connects and grounds us. It’s breaks down the walls we put up and forces us to see who we really are – fragile humans muddling through life, trying to do the best we can.

Am I afraid of risking my professional life by writing the blog, afraid that my colleagues will take me less seriously? Am I worried that people will talk about me behind my back?

No, because it’s not a dirty little secret. It’s out in the open, and it’s my truth, my life story.

Becoming My Best Self

Each of us has the power to realize the kind of life we want to live, and each of us has the power be the person we truly want to be. This is what it means to be your best self, your authentic self.

I am becoming my best self not by having a fancy car or a bigger paycheck or any external factor. I am becoming my best self by consciously choosing my thoughts, words, and actions so that they align with my core values. I am becoming my best self by setting intentions and utilizing them to (slowly) transform old, unhealthy and unhelpful habits into nurturing, wholesome ones.

The word list below is something I created to make it easier to set a daily intention, which is what I try to do each morning. This list allows you to create a mantra, putting put positive words into a statement you can say out loud and repeat to yourself throughout the day. Doing this can spark transformation and assist you in becoming your best self.

May this list help you make meaningful change in your life and bring you greater fulfillment and happiness.

 

Speak it. Reflect on it. Live it.

“Today, may I (verb) (noun or modifier).”

Verbs

Accept, act, appreciate, be, believe, care, cultivate, develop, discern, embody, engage with, feel, foster, give, grow, have, help, imagine, increase, keep, know, laugh, learn, listen, live, maintain, manifest, note, nurture, offer, open, perceive, practice, question, radiate, realize, recognize, release, see, seek, share, speak, support, thank, trust, understand, value, visualize, welcome

Nouns

Abundance, acceptance, awareness, beauty, blessings, bliss, commitment, compassion, dedication, diligence, energy, engagement, equanimity, fellowship, forgiveness, generosity, gratitude, happiness, health, hope, insight, integrity, joy, justice, kindness, laughter, lesson, love, maturity, memory, objectivity, opportunity, patience, peace, perspective, quiet, sanctuary, serenity, thanksgiving, tranquility, understanding, virtue, wisdom 

Modifiers

Abundant, aware, beautiful, brave, broad, consistent, courageous, diligent, discreet, eager, effective, flexible, forgiving, free, generous, gentle, gracious, happy, hopeful, illuminated, inclusive, joyful, judicious, kind, loving, lucid, mature, mindful, nonreactive, nurturing, objective, openhearted, open-minded, patient, peaceful, perseverant, purposeful, rational, resilient, responsive, satisfied, sensitive, thoughtful, tolerant, transformed, unbiased, unselfish, unwavering, vast, vibrant, whole, wise, wondrous

 

Meditating in Every Moment

Although we typically associate it with this state, meditation is not about closing yourself off from everything and everyone, sitting quietly in some yoga position, and getting your Zen on. It’s not about religion or spirituality or the Buddha. Yes, meditation can involve any of those things, but those things don’t define meditation. Meditation is what people do in order to develop a skill that they can then take off the mat, out of the Zen den, and utilize in the real world – the noisy, stressful, unpredictable real world.

So what is this skill that we practice in meditation (which is often referred to simply as “the practice”)? Well, there are many skills, but one of the most important and central ones is the cultivation of awareness. You make yourself stay in the present moment. You don’t rehash the past. You don’t worry about or plan the future. Rather, you sit and are present for what’s happening right now, both the internal and the external experiences.

Furthermore, you observe the present without analyzing it, interpreting it, or judging it, which is our nature. A thought pops up and we immediately jump on it, getting ensnared. What can I do about this? How can I change this? What does this mean? But the goal of mindful awareness is simply to observe your thoughts without over-identifying with them.

When you look at it this way, meditation is not some isolated activity you do for 30 minutes a day. Instead, it’s a state of being; it’s a way of existing in the world. When you cultivate mindful awareness, you begin to see things as they truly are, without the added layer of interpretation. And because you are observing what you feel, you begin to recognize your conditioned responses, habitual thought patterns you have, which may be unhealthy. Once you are aware of these conditioned responses, you can begin to change them. So meditation is kinda like free therapy.

Meditation is a powerful tool, backed by lots of research, which convincingly demonstrates that it can reduce stress levels, improve symptoms of depression, enhance psychological well being, improve immunity, increase cortical gray matter, and even reverse effects of aging on the brain. But the best part is that it just makes you a happier, more compassionate person.

We only live in the present, so live as fully and mindfully aware as you can.

 

NIH primer on the science behind meditation.

You Tube video produced by IFLoveScience.

Meditation is acceptance

Image courtesy of Paodoruvel (morguefile.com)

Writing Yourself Right

I’ve always liked the idea of keeping a journal, chronicling my life as it happens. And, over the years, I’ve kept one on and (mostly) off. Looking back, it seems that my periods of journaling corresponded to times when my life was in turmoil. Did this writing help? Did it serve any purpose other than rehashing what I was going through at the time? And would it be worthwhile to write during other times?

Delving into the research, I have found that writing about yourself and your experiences can significantly improve mental and physical health. I could cite a million papers if you were interested, that’s how overwhelming supportive the research is, but I’m going to focus on 2 researchers who spearheaded the work in this field.

These are 2 journals I keep, 1 on gratitude and 1 on Up With Me! stuff

These are 2 journals I keep, 1 on gratitude and 1 on Up With Me! stuff

Back in the 1980’s, Dr. James Pennebaker (at UT Austin, where I got my Master’s degree in Neuroscience) pioneered this work, establishing that writing about a traumatic, emotional event  for 20 minutes a day for 4 days has dramatic effects on health. In the immediate short-term, this type of writing lowers mood, but in the long-term it boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, increases happiness, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves emotional resilience. In addition, patients suffering from various medical conditions (cancer, AIDS, arthritis, e.g.) show improvements specific to their individual condition. In other words, getting your negative, emotional experience out on paper, even if no one reads it or you end up throwing away whatever you wrote, is much more beneficial than keeping it in.

Why is expressive writing so helpful? For starters, this type of writing is a self-reflective tool. It forces you to to explore whatever your issue is and manage your feelings about it. Also, because the writing is spread out over 4 sessions (you could do it 4 days in a row or once a week for 4 weeks, the research doesn’t differ in terms of net results), you tend to move beyond your own perspective of the event and are able to see that of others, which is beneficial.

As for how often to write, Pennebaker found that writing fewer than 4 days cracks the surface of the issue but doesn’t allow the writer to go any deeper, so it’s kind of like tearing off a scab but not knowing what the underlying injury really is. On the other hand, writing more often creates the potential for rumination and over analysis of the trauma, neither of which is helpful. Four days isn’t a rule, but it’s a good starting point and what has been supported by the science.

Adapting Pennebaker’s work, Laura King (at the University of Missouri) was interested in finding out if writing about something positive might confer similar effects as writing about something negative. King utilized the same writing session length (20 minutes every day for 4 days) and conducted a study in which participants wrote about their future best possible self (BPS). This is essentially your idealized self, a personalized representation of everything you’d want or like to be. King’s results were similar to those of Pennebaker in that overall health and mood improved. But, King found that mood improved significantly more when writing about BPS than about past trauma (her experimental groups wrote about BPS, past trauma, both, or a neutral event), and there was no negative short-term effect when writing about BPS.

Like writing about a traumatic experience, writing about your BPS forces self-reflection. This type of writing helps you to identify, organize, and prioritize your goals, and doing it on a regular basis can increase your positive expectations about the future.

I love the idea of writing as therapy – and not just because it doesn’t cost anything, and it doesn’t take a huge amount of time to reap the benefits. Since I’ve started blogging, writing on a daily basis as part of my own therapeutic experience, I’ve definitely benefited. I’ve written about my own past trauma but I’ve also written about life goals and changes I’m working toward. The combination has helped me develop self-compassion and feel more connected to others, which ultimately makes me happier.

If you are interested in writing exercises to improve your health, check out these links for writing about past trauma, your future best possible self, and self-compassion. Write yourself to health!

 

King, L.A. (2001). The Health Benefits of Writing About Life Goals. Pers Soc Psychol Bull, 27:798-807.

Pennebaker James W. and John F. Evans. Expressive Writing: Words that Heal. Enumclaw: Idyll Arbor, Inc., 2014.

Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). How to increase and sustain positive emotion: the effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 73-82.

 

I’m All Out There – Mental and Physical Stretch Marks and All

A few months ago, I started this blog with a scheduling goal of posting 2-3 times a week. Well, with my full time job working on myself, the full time job that actually pays me a salary, plus raising my 6 year old and sustaining a marriage, within 2 months, I changed my goal to something slightly more realistic, posting once a week. Then I went on vacation. Last week, week 1 of vacation, I managed to write a post, but now this week is almost over and I’ve posted nothing.

Then…epic save. My very first every guest post submission was accepted on MindBodyGreen, and it’s live today. Yay me!

When I started the blog, I contacted about 50 people with whom I shared the site. I didn’t email everyone I know, didn’t tell all my family members, didn’t post on Facebook, and certainly didn’t bring it up at work. Honestly, I was nervous, because I was putting it all out there. You all know that. I write about the darkest times of my depression, my 2 hospitalizations, and my drinking. I even posted a photo of my stretch-marked stomach, for crying out loud. Do I want everyone seeing that? My life challenges are recorded, on the Internet, in perpetuity. Given the small number of people who know my blog, who know me, I was okay with that exposure.

True, I also talk about my growth, personal transformation, and self-nourishing practices, but that’s not the scary stuff. That’s the good stuff. Well, life isn’t always made of good stuff. There are lots of times when it’s really hard and times when it really sucks. And I think it’s important that we talk about those times just as much as we talk about the other times. If we don’t, then how do we ever feel connected? How do we ever know we’re not alone when we’re going through what we’re going through?

So now my real name and real picture are out there and associated with the blog. My mental and physical stretch marks are available for all to see. And, that’s okay, because this is what I write about. This is who I am, and, I’m sharing it with y’all (and  everyone else on Earth).

 

Finding a Spiritual Life When I Left Religion Behind

Like many people my age, I consider myself spiritual but not religious, but that wasn’t always the case. Despite growing up in a family of atheists and agnostics (or maybe because of it), with no religious upbringing whatsoever, I found Jesus. I don’t know where’d he been before that, but I found him when I was in high school.

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I’d been baptized and confirmed in middle school (salvation – checked off) but by high school I was feeling a little rough around the edges. I was going out to clubs, drinking, smoking pot, sleeping with my boyfriend. Then, I upgraded to an older boyfriend with a motorcycle. Let’s just say I was much more Mary Magdalene than the Virgin Mary. At 16, I was already feeling unhappy from and tired of life. I’d had some near misses with my risky behavior, and I wasn’t so sure I’d get another free pass. Something had to give.

Enter religious conversion.

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As with all the boys I’d pined for up to that point (and, okay, maybe for some years afterward), I threw myself at Jesus pretty shamelessly. It’s true. I worshiped him and changed my behavior so I could be more like what I thought he wanted (based largely on highlighted and underlined New Testament passages in my New International Version Study Bible). People, I was in love. Seriously in love. I’m not shitting you when I say there was a time during my senior year when I actually contemplated becoming a nun. Yeah, that idea passed pretty quickly, but still, I had it.

I don’t do anything in moderation. So Jesus got 150% of me, all the Christian fervor I could muster at 16. Being His personal advocate, I took it upon myself to speak to my family, sinners that they were. How sad I would be that they’d be burning in hell while I strolled with the angels in heaven. (Yes, I actually said this to them.) I was pretty dogmatic, but I was 16 and, apparently, knew everything.

So in my senior year of high school, much to everyone’s disbelief, I joined the youth group at church, started going to religious retreats, and wrote my college essays about religion. If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be? St. Francis of Assisi of course! Who are the three most important people in your life? My mom, my best friend, and Jesus (not necessarily in that order). No, I wasn’t applying to Bob Jones University. But, like I said, when I go in, I go all in. I was dedicated. No more drinking, smoking, or fooling around. I went to school, worked, and was hyper-involved in church activities.

In college, resisting temptation didn’t prove too difficult. This was undoubtedly helped by that fact that I was attending an all women’s school in the suburbs. Plus, my boyfriend  was in Texas, and I was in Massachusetts. A long distance relationship poses few opportunities to sin. So I happily led Bible study in my dorm room, taught Sunday school at the neighborhood Episcopal Church, and attended the college’s Christian fellowship group.

And then everything went to hell. In college speak that means spring break happened. No, it wasn’t a Girls Gone Wild video, although there were copious amounts of alcohol and immodest behavior involved. For the record, I was in love and had gotten engaged that spring break of my sophomore year. It was the ensuing celebration that involved alcohol. And carnal mischief. Then, 8  weeks later, I found myself crying in the student health center. Forget scarlet letters, I was going to be wearing something much more damning for a 19 year old – maternity clothes!

There was something about getting knocked up, getting married, and being forced to grow up too quickly (though truth be told I think I’m only now really starting to grow up) that created a small crack in my core. And, over the years, that crack widened and spread. It happened slowly. First, I stopped going to church because my kids didn’t like Sunday school but then they wouldn’t sit still for a service either. Then, I started questioning why things were the way they were. What was wrong with being gay? Or living together before marriage? And then, some years later, I just woke up and realized, I just don’t love Him anymore. This relationship is not the answer, not for me anyway.

What’s happened over the years since that parting of ways is that I’ve realized two things. First, there is no one right path for me. Second, I can be a moral person without religion. In fact, I’m probably more moral without religion. While I have nothing but happy memories of my experiences with organized religion and all the people I met when I was involved in it, ultimately, I chose a different route, one where I use my own moral compass for guidance. For now, this is where I need to be, the path I need to take. As I walk this path, growing in my understanding of right intentions and actions, I engage in meaningful self-reflection and find that my heart widens and my dogmatism softens. Which is to say, I have more compassion and love to give to myself and to others.

I think Jesus would probably approve.

 

Growing the Garden of My Life

How to Grow a Garden

Step 1 – Preparation

Soil is the foundation of your garden, but it may be poor quality, lacking necessary minerals or unable to hold water. So you’ll need to prepare it for planting. The first thing to do is to identify the weeds, what you don’t want growing, and pull them out. Then turn the soil. Dig into the ground, exposing the underlying dirt, breaking up hard clumps, and aerating it. Add compost, which acts as growing medium. Now the soil is ready for seeds. Choose what you want to grow, perhaps bushes that attract butterflies, beautiful flowers that you can cut and give away, fruit and vegetables with which you can feed yourself, or all of the above.

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After 44 years it was time to stop thinking that this poorly maintained ground that was me would miraculously grow lush without effort. It was time to prepare for and plant the garden of my life. To do this, I first had to identify my weeds, what was stifling my growth. This wasn’t difficult. After years of therapy, I knew that when faced with certain challenges I often chose one of two extremes. I numbed myself to avoid experiencing a hard emotion, or I over-identified with my emotional response and entangled myself in such a way that I spiraled out of control. Pulling weeds meant learning to recognize when the unhealthy thoughts and behaviors came up. It meant learning to be comfortable with uncomfortable feelings and not to let them incapacitate me. Next, I needed to turn the soil. What I could see on the surface was years of shame, self-loathing, and feeling not good enough. But when I dug deep, I brought the root of these issues to light. I wasn’t inherently flawed, which I always assumed was the case. Rather, my issues were the culmination of a lifetime of experiences, especially those I had as a child. The tension, fear, and shame, which came with being the child of an abusive alcoholic engendered unskillful responses in me. Recognizing that these were learned patterns was the first step in my being able to change. Finally, I needed to add compost. The mixture of healthy responses I have made, lessons people have shared with me, and mistakes from which I actually learned something gave way to life wisdom, which I could use to grow myself up.

With this foundation in place, I decided what I wanted in my garden. I would plant the seeds of awareness, compassion, fellowship, forgiveness, health, and resilience. These were values that resonated with me, that I admired in others, and that I wanted for myself. With healthy soil, these life principles would grow and blossom.

 

Step 2 – Maintenance

Remove weeds as they grow in and insects as they appear. Don’t wait until there are so many that you feel overwhelmed. Water and feed your plants as needed, and continue to add compost. Do not be hesitant to prune when necessary or to cut blooms. These practices stimulate new growth. Be aware that sometimes plants need additional support like a stake or trellis. Finally, pay attention to the weather. With sustained attention and care, your plants will not wither. They will flourish.

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Just because I have identified my weeds doesn’t mean that they don’t continue to come up on occasion and wreak havoc in my garden. Sometimes I am able to take notice of my wanting a drink to avoid a difficult emotion, and I do something different. Sometimes I catch myself before I become overwhelmed with my sadness. Other times I am lazy. I let my weeds grow, only to suffer the consequences of neglect. But, I also do things to feed my garden – meditate, write, go to therapy, run, connect daily with my family and friends. These activities are nourishing. Naturally, there are times when I require more support than usual, but there are also times when the conditions are as close to perfect as can be, and I thrive effortlessly. Still, I have to pay attention. I have to pay attention to my thoughts and behaviors, because unhealthy ones need to be removed as soon as they appear. I also have to pay attention to the environment. In times of drought or when the sun disappears and seems like it will never return, I have to trust that the weather will change. My garden will not suffer long-term if I am vigilant.

 

Step 3 – Savor

You may choose to garden in order to grow something beautiful, to produce food, or to have a creative outlet. Regardless of the original impetus, growing a garden yields additional benefits that you may not expect. Gardening is exercise. It is a whole body workout, which you do in sunshine and fresh air. Gardening is play. You put your hands in the dirt and create something wonderful. Gardening is grounding, connecting you to the Earth and allowing you to take part in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Gardening is satisfying. Not only do you get to enjoy what you have grown, colorful flowers or healthy food, but you have the opportunity to share the fruits of your labor with others. Enjoy what you have done!

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As I gain insight from this work I’m doing, my garden is just beginning to come in. It is not yet in full bloom, but there are tiny, green shoots. They have broken through the dirt and turn toward the sunlight, seeking what nourishes them. This garden signifies transformation. What was an ignored plot, a mix of overgrown weeds and native wildflowers, is becoming a beautiful landscape. I am establishing more secure roots. I seek support when I need it. I am growing myself up and blossoming. This is the Garden of My Life.