Today is the day I am going to change my life.
My adult life has been chock-full of pain and transition, not much stable. Through an experiential life-training course in 2003 I learned that we are not victims. We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond to them. Intellectually I embraced that. I’ve exerted my will to apply that. But 16-years later I realize that I haven’t had the best tools to apply it.
So I am observing, learning again, because recently my grief peaked again to near insurmountable levels.
I’ve been relatively wealthy. I’ve been extremely poor. I’ve lived in a 400-square’ unfinished ranch house with only sub-flooring and without electricity or plumbing. And right on the heels of that I moved to a 26,000 square’ mansion after a brief stint of homelessness. (Neither home was mine.) I’ve also rented a $100 per month office space to live in when I didn’t know of any other option – it was all I could afford. I worked by day and kept a sleeping bag in the office closet and rolled it out onto the floor when it was time for bed.
I’ve been deeply spiritual. I’ve been clinically depressed. I’ve been married four times. The first one was annulled after four years due to non-consummation. I know these things aren’t kosher to talk about. But I’ve never been very good at being appropriate. And if only I had someone (who could understand) willing to discuss it with me at the time, it would have saved me from a lot of heartache, or at least so much isolation.
I’ve been married to a man 16-years my senior and married as a second wife before marrying my current polygamous husband, Drew.
I’ve been a ranch hand on a 2,000 head sheep ranch raising bummer lambs and gallivanting around the tops of the most glorious mountains at 12,000 feet with mountain goats and cowboys.
I’ve been a house flipper, an internet marketer, a top sales rep and created an internal finance department. I co-founded my own finance company, which began with great promise before I failed it. I couldn’t cope as I was going through a heart-wrenching divorce (from my first plural family) and a sudden remarriage (to my second plural family).
I’ve moved six times since marrying Drew 3.5 years ago. I lost count how many times I moved the ten years before that.
Many have expressed doubt that my current marriage will last. I can’t imagine why.
Throughout it all I’ve owned and driven fast BMWs, a beautiful Cadillac Escalade, and I’ve been carless and homeless with not more than $20 in my pocket or knowing where my next meal would come from. I’ve been welcomed into and cast out of both a church and a family. And I had a miracle baby at the age of 41 after 20-years of being barren.
Most recently my sister wife left our family and took her children out of state. I’d grown to love them like my own after homeschooling them, feeding them, helping groom them, playing with them, reading to them, putting them to bed, and taking them under my wing every day as their mother for six-months while she took time off to work through her newly diagnosed mental illness.
And then, overnight, they were just gone. No warning. No goodbye. She had absconded with them under the pretext of going for a local hike. I remember hugging her at the front door before she left. “Have a great time,” I said. We haven’t spoken since. That was May 26th, 2018; my son’s first birthday.
And I’m freaking tired of pain. I’m tired of loss. I’m tired of starting over.
I’m so tired from merely surviving. I’m tired from constant stress mode. I’m tired of instability. I yearn for roots.
But I must give credit where credit is due – I handle it f’ing well.
But I want to thrive. I want to live. I want to break the shackles of reservation and walls and being guarded after layer upon layer of discouragement and grief in my life. (Or do I? Sometimes I wonder.)
Sometimes I don’t know who I am anymore and I want to shine like I used to. My current husband and family have never seen the best of me. That, too, pains me.
So this is the day I am going to change my life.
Because some days I feel like I am going to die if I don’t get out from under this mess of what has become the collected experiences of my life.
Some days the only thing keeping me going is my glorious son, who I waited so long to have. Thank God for him. Thank God so hard for him. Lenny’s love is pure and easy (even when it’s hard). The way that I mother my son is one of few things I feel accomplished in and proud of.
I’ve tried to be good. I’ve tried to do the right things. I’ve tried to overcome my emotions. And mostly, I do. But still… there’s a missing piece. The way I’ve dealt with the toxic layers of grief in my life has been by merely pushing them out of my mind. I thought I was hitting the mark, but what I now see that I’ve failed to move through to the other side. I better understand the phrase ‘the only way out is through’ now. ‘Through’ does not mean sidestepping. I’ve only sidestepped the issues.
How do I know this? Because any time any of those thoughts or memories surface from my subconscious mind, sometimes I still fall to pieces. It could be as simple as a song coming on that triggers a memory and then the tears start to roll down my face out of, seemingly, nowhere. So while I may have trained my conscious brain to stop actively thinking toxic thoughts, I have never really worked through them. Else they would not still be deeply imbedded in me causing involuntary reactions.
I’ve been reading a book. It’s a book that has given me hope that I haven’t felt in years – the missing piece (hopefully). It’s called “Switch on Your Brain” by Dr. Caroline Leaf. She’s a scientist who studies the mind-brain connection, who pairs Scriptures and Science to teach you how to ‘renew your mind’ (Romans 12:2) by thinking on all that is true, honorable, right, pure, pleasing, and commendable (Philippians 4:8).
Thinking toxic thoughts actually changes our brain – literally giving us brain damage. We are wired for love and hope, she says. So when we are thinking thoughts contrary to love and hope, it literally makes our brains misfire because of the ways we’ve chosen to interpret things.
As mentioned before, we cannot always control what happens to us, but our power lies in how we respond. And we are accountable for that, despite whatever tragedies we’ve been through.
“From the moment God created us with free will,” Dr. Leaf says, “we entered a realm of creative responsibility for our choices.” This includes our thoughts and how we perceive the world and the events around us. We are not victims of our circumstances; we are only victims of our own thoughts. This is not to trivialize anyone’s trauma – that would be a toxic way to interpret that. A healthy way to interpret it would be to realize how empowering this knowledge really is.
When we relive memories from traumatic experiences we often redesign them. This can go in a positive or negative direction. It is called “creative reconceptualization.” So plainly speaking, we often over exaggerate both positive and negative experiences, making the memory of such either worse or better than it actually was at the time. We either paralyze ourselves from forward movement in life, feeling helpless in the midst of our grief/trauma, or we long for the good ole days, feeling like the best of life is behind us.
So Dr. Leaf offers a 21-Day Brain Detox with a Five Step Switch on Your Brain learning process. Our thoughts control our brain – we are not victims of our brain or some chemical imbalance. Our own thoughts got our brains and emotions to whatever level of health (or ill-health) they are at.
This process helps us remove the deeply embedded toxic thought (how we are perceiving our pain) and replace it with a new healthy thought. But not just on a surface level – way deep into our subconscious to where our very automatic, knee-jerk response to life reflects that. Whereas before doing this, we experience constant setbacks that betray any semblance of having it all together.
How do you know if you’re thinking toxic thoughts? It’s really so easy to miss! But one sure fire way to know is how your body feels. My body feels toxic and stressed. That informs me that I am no doubt feeding on old toxic thoughts. If you live with a constant pit of anguish in your stomach or cannonball of grief on your chest, no doubt, you are feeding on toxic thoughts.
So this is the day I am going to change my life. This is the day I start learning about the 21-Day Brain Detox so I can go through it. This is also the day I start writing my life story because, damn. What a story. I thought I had a story to tell after my first marriage…