There’s glitter on the floor after the party

It’s taken 5 months, a 5 page running Word Document, 5 days of vacation, and a literal 5 hours sitting here editing down those 5 pages to bring you this:

THE SPARKLE IS WEARING OFF.

By now you’ve probably picked up on the fact that the past year and a half has been tough – to say the least. I buckled down. I lived intentionally. I made different choices. I built a life based on my actual worldview, and overall feel like I’m living rather congruently. It was the hardest season, but I became almost enamoured with building myself a new life, one built on a simplified, holistic day-to-day. I can honestly say that I am incredibly proud of the results of this investment into myself. It hasn’t been easy. Truth is, until the past few months I was so childlike in my pursuit of a healthier, more process-oriented self that I was having a lot of fun with it. Problem was, until the past few months, I was blindly stumbling around in a metaphorical petting zoo a little too long. Long enough that the friggin metaphorical goats ate holes all through my metaphorical corduroy overalls. Let me explain.

Sometime in November I looked down at the corduroy overalls of my life (probably at the same time that metaphorical Brittany also remembered that she has hayfever, ya fool) and realized that the trappings of my life were all torn apart while I was prancing around, living in the moment and petting all the metaphorical animals, and I was sitting there in an exhausted haze, content and happy. I suppose that, to keep with the weirdest metaphor of all time, to some degree, I was sitting there watching the goats gnaw away squeaking “SWEET BABY JESUS, IMMA INSTAGRAM THIS BABY GOAT EATING MY CORDUROY OVERALLS!”

Basically, life has kiiiiiinda felt like it’s in shambles. Good shambles, and shambles of my own making, but shambles nonetheless. I dismantled all the pieces of my life and was left with a blank slate – sans a memory full of experiences and some pretty hefty student debt – as close to a tabula rasa (*sorry for letting my inner sociology nerd out there for a second) as I could get without amnesia or being shipwrecked on an uninhabited island (mind you, CSLSC would probably track me down, leave me there, and message me repayment reminders in bottles that would drift ashore once a week).

After listening to my constant refrains of “but I should be doing better than this! Why can’t I get it together? I’ve done all the things to fix my life!” the counselor at work described much of my recent experience as “psychological whiplash” while asking me to reflect on my instance in doing “all the things”. I’ve not-so-fondly referred to myself as having “having depleted resilience stores”. The difficult year had finally caught up with me, and dairy-free cheesecakes are not half as effective at mood-stabilization as the real shit.

Despite all the intentionality and conscious change I’ve shared about, I lost a lot of myself in this journey of finding myself. It was time to come to terms with the fact that I had yet to mourn the losses – and the past year had handed me a lot of them; friends, jobs, communities, romantic interests, gluten and dairy, 40 pounds, and half my boobs – just to name a few. All of these cuts were good, important, and intentional, but they were still losses.

Once I realized what had gone on over the past year, I began to work through the losses, one cut at a time. Hence the lull in posting. To quote my queen Jane Austen, “I must confess, the view from where I sit has been rather grey.” I’ve been running on fumes – again. In some ways it’s felt like I’m repeating the past year while I wade through the puzzle pieces and reassemble the parts that work while I purge swaths of mental clutter.

Since my last post, I’ve started a brand new job that I’ve fallen in love with. I’m working as an addictions support worker in a recovery home for expecting and new mums and their brand new babies; it’s hard work, but it’s also made work the highlight of my week. When I’m at work cuddling those brand new infants, I often find myself chatting with [at?] them. I almost always hear myself muttering the same thing when I feel the discontentment rise in their tiny bodies: “It’s okay babe; growing is so hard and you’ve got a lot of it to do. We’re all too hard on ourselves when it comes to growing. You go ahead and have a good cry if you need to. I’ll hold your hand, baby.” Each time it kind of shocks me; this isn’t a cognisant thought, it’s like a subconscious love letter to myself.

So, yes, admittedly the sparkle of this adventure has worn off a bit. I’d go as far as to say that my sparkle is a little more dim than usual. But I’m in here – the hiatus is over – and I’m going to give myself a little more room to be creative, particularly in this space, because creativity is where we source our beauty and I root some of my emotional regulation. Ready, set, go?

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I got lost, putting out fires, “Life Tetris”, the dark and twisties, and some big feelings on change

This was the place in the story where I originally thought I’d start this blog – how often do things really end up how you think they will? Parts of this post actually go back as far as January, though I’m sure I’ve teased out a lot of those original unfinished knots. Let’s be real here: when you’re about to publicly tackle the dimensions of the dark and twisties, you definitely have to be in the right space. How on God’s green earth would I neatly unpack the situation I was in, particularly while maintaining the honesty and integrity of my journey while still protecting the privacy of my coconspirators – and myself? What situation was I even in? For the sake of all that I just referenced, it’s probably fair to tell you that between this and a gander at my bank statements after a month of not getting called in to work, I had a full-blown panic attack later during the day that I wrote this next part.

“There can be beauty in getting lost. Sometimes we have to get lost to find each other and sometimes we find each other, only to get lost all over again. We can’t always control it, the thing that’s going to set you adrift. And as you stand there on your front porch staring at the life you are about to leave behind, you have to accept it’s gone, it’s lost. Just like you. All you can do now is stand very still, breathe in the moment and try to be open to wherever the wind’s going to take you next.” – Meredith Grey

In January 2016, I posted a quote to Instagram that I’d lovingly scrawled on my chalkboard. I sourced the quote (from Grey’s Anatomy, obviously) as I was crafting my goals for the new year. I knew I was on the verge of change – graduation was impending, relationships were shifting, and my beautiful mutt of a dog was on her last legs. It just fit my situation… I felt lost, and I knew life was about to get messy. My mother often likes to remind me that I don’t do change well and never really have. Her favourite anecdote revolves around surprising three-year-old Brittany with new “big girl” curtains that resulted in me – inconsolable – “WHY DO THINGS HAVE TO CHANGE, MUMMY?” I’ve never been very open to where life’s going to take me. Like I stated last time, in this period of life, living meant “passively observing one moment, and digging my micromanagy claws into the next”.

One late afternoon that spring, I was camped out at Beatnik’s Bistro with a friend over a bowl of honey mustard chicken wings and yam fries. I was squawking about all my troubles, likely attempting to rewrite them into some pleasant narrative [see why I’m hesitant about writing all this down?], when she spoke the most startling realization into my life. “You’re always running around putting out fires you have burning all over your life. Don’t you want to not have so many fires?” I’m not sure if it horrified me because I’d been hiding from that fact for years, or simply because she clearly identified how flawed I was – with specific examples …almost needless to say, I ended up back in counselling about a month later when I stopped being about to run from problem to problem; we’d put the dog down, I was taking space from a friend, and my final semester of university was not going well. I had run out of space for error.

Despite my awareness of all the fires, I was still putting up an exhausting fight against change. By August 2016, my resistance was contributing only to a rather unmanageable existence. I like to describe the events that followed as “Life Tetris”; where you can only handle so much, so fast, for so long before it all piles up. Too many of my closest relationships began to flounder. I had ended up in the friend zone again. Things with my family were tense. My final semester’s worth of grades were barely passable and I began to resent what and where I was studying. Then I finished my full-time studies and the debt repayment letters began rolling in. I applied for 60 jobs and lack of sufficient prospects and callbacks meant that I ended up with 3 jobs and a 70-90 hour work week, and an income that didn’t come close to reflecting the hours I was putting in. I didn’t open any mail that came from a banking institution because I didn’t want to know how many digits-worth of debt I had. Every time a phone or email notification came in, I froze, always believing it was another commitment, reprimand, or failure looming there in my inbox. When I graduated high school, I held that (supposed) millennial belief that I was bound for greatness, but the reality 6 years out was that greatness was basically just a day that included chicken nuggets. I felt chronically unattractive. That was probably compounded by the fact that my body was a total mess. Basically I couldn’t wear pants with buttons anymore; I would physically swell all day long. I stupidly chalked it up to stress-induced university weight gain. That explained the clumps of hair that came out in the shower, the horrific skin, and sweat that poured down my face all day long, right? To tell you the truth, even just stepping back into it now, I can feel the heaviness settle on my lungs again; I felt completely trapped. Whenever I wasn’t working or at my Twelve Step (another story for another day), I was camped out in my bed; crying, staring at the ceiling, and mourning the life I thought I was supposed to have that had completely evaded me. This continued throughout the fall.

The morning after my girl Hillary lost the election south of the 49th, I broke. I came to the conclusion that if she could get out of bed on November 9 and be a grown ass woman, then so could I. Between that and a blood pressure spike of 169/96 the same week, I finally found the motivation to quit one of my 3 jobs. I set a date to move to Maple Ridge. I cut the foods that were rotting my brain and my body (I still miss you, brie). I had a consultation with my surgeon about a breast reduction, and went in for blood work and a transvaginal ultrasound to help me deal with those pesky ovaries – and yes, that was one-hundred precent as awful as it sounds. I realized that if I wanted my life to change, I had to change my life. I had to surrender to the fact that I was lost. I had to stop running to put out fires and just let them burn. I had to let the blocks pile up and wait for the new game to start. At some point I’ll explain how messy those processes really were, but for now I’ll just ask you to not romanticize it, because it was the farthest thing from elegant or smooth.

As for that quote, I keep telling myself that once it feels less relevant to my day-to-day I’ll erase it and replace it. Two moves later and it’s still there.

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I took a 9 month retreat from my life – a broke post-grad’s Eat Pray Love

I remember shuffling in the front door with two frozen pizzas and a bag of obviously gmo’d green grapes. I had given myself a review of the alarm codes from the welcome mat where I scooped up a couple of newspapers. THE PLAN was to hide away for a few days at this near-chateau in the forest and complete my online Human Kinetics course (read: adult gym class) to wrap up my graduation requirements while my friends were away on their vacation. I dumped my duffel bag and backpack at bottom of the stairs and began my hunt for the wifi passcode but I got distracted – first by the wall of windows and glass doors that opened onto the cliff face that was the backyard – and then by a vibrant painting in the otherwise neutral living room. I later learned it was an bird’s-eye rendering of Golden Ears Park, the same forest the house was nestled into. Between the haze of puffy white clouds was carved out the message that changed the course of my life: Live with Intention.

 

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That course never got done. Instead, I polished off two bottles of Barefoot Moscato, cried my eyes to the always inspirational Seinabo Sey, sent bumblebee-filtered snaps rapping à la Nicki Minaj, and read Brené Brown books on the back patio. Ironically, all that perceived meaninglessness formed the most centring two days of my life.

On the last day, I sourced out a small walking trail and wandered around until I hit my 10,000th step where I cut myself off from the bliss that was the weekend and drove back to my reality across the bridge. I distinctly remember my tear-stained face and how blue my blood-shot eyes looked when I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview on the way back to my parent’s house. I didn’t know how to go back to the life that I was living – and by living, I mean passively observing one moment, and digging my micromanagy claws into the next.

It’s been a year, two months, and sixteen days since my self-titled “Come to Jesus” staycation. When crafting my About Me [insert 20 minutes of writing and rewriting after months mulling over what on earth was possessing me to share about God knows what] what remained was “Reflections on living intentionality and soulfully in the midst of the grind”. On one hand, I barely know what that is as I’m scraping the surface of adulthood – mind you, I do transport all my food in tupperware and I hear that’s a pretty solid prerequisite to join the ranks. What I do have some insight on it is when to trust my gut, when to let the potential relationship and the friendship go, the importance of uncovering and sharing my health struggles, how eat gluten and dairy-free on the cheap, and the perils of what I’ve termed “late-onset dating”… all while relinquishing my perfectionism and choosing instead to relish in my perma-hot-mess status. Intention – and my life – looks drastically different than I ever would have anticipated.

Parts of me are definitely anxious about sharing my journey without the safe context of relationship; after all, I’m a recovering vulnerability and commitment-phobe. At the same time, I’m confident that it’s time to immortalize what was and is, knowing that it’s far too easy to rewrite history, even your own, to fit into tiny little boxes, then call them lessons, and click post. I like to find the lesson in my circumstances, but I’m committing to not sharing a summary without adequate regard to the struggle and feet-dragging involved in the process.

The first truly [independently] intentional choice of my life manifested four months later when I ended up moving into the basement suite of that same house in the woods.