I believe in getting familiar with all of the voices in my head. You might remember me mentioning some of them in previous posts. I “humanize” these voices – not sure that anyone ever told me to do that but it made perfect sense to me. I want to meet “face to face” with Penny Perfectionist, Bitchy Becky, Anxious Abbie and the rest of that motley crew who contribute to the negative banter. My Girlfriend Voice lives with those mean girls and helps to keep them in check.
This weekend a new Voice had her debut. Let’s call her Warrior Woman. Rather than REACTING, she RESPONDS from a place of power and passion. She is not to be silenced or shunned. She is a fierce Momma – unleashed to lead and educate. It’s extra cool that this happens to be my 100th post!
You’ll end up hearing more from Warrior Woman. In the meantime, here is a link to my 3 minute video clip of her first public appearance.
My Girlfriend Voice is a tool for every woman and especially relevant for those impacted by anxiety, depression and grief. I don’t claim to be an expert! I’m walking the walk with you. I’m sharing what I know and sometimes it ain’t pretty. Other times I damned proud of myself!
There is something beautiful about struggle, right?
- You learn what you’re made of.
- You learn who your friends are.
- You learn to love yourself first and foremost.
- You learn that the only thing you can control is your response.
Until next week, settle in and invite your Girlfriend Voice to visit. Let her tell you everything’s gonna be OK. You are where you need to be!
Penny Perfectionist insists that I tell you that in case the formatting looks wonky, I wrote this on my phone.
From the heart,
I am lucky, at least when it comes finding sources of inspiration. Or is it that inspiration easily finds me? I was inspired yesterday by baby pink tulips mirroring the morning sky in their heavy dew drops. I was inspired by a video featuring a childhood friend in her role as a Wetlands Biologist in Tennessee—another scientist from our small Midwestern town! Then there is my source of constant inspiration from a former colleague fighting cancer (again) yet she is the most positive person I have ever encountered. Inspiration surrounds me.
Inspiration wasn’t always at my fingertips. I was too busy fighting my demons, both real and imagined. I had work to do and that didn’t leave room for inspiration or much else for that matter. Blaming, angry, tired, unappreciated…… can you relate to how I was feeling?
Thank goodness my thinking has turned around. Consciously I bathe myself in gratitude and sources of inspiration surround me like a soft, warm blanket. I wake up happy. I am content here and now. So what exactly changed? What was getting in the way? Well, I believe I was stuck in “baggage claim”.
Let me explain. BAGGAGE CLAIM is the term I use to describe when my brain calls down to my heart and orders up the emotional baggage of yesteryear. You know the scar tissue of my early years, the guilt of motherhood, the pain of broken relationships, mistakes, words I can’t take back, etc. I am especially vulnerable when tired and stressed. Baggage claim loves to have a shout down from the brain to bring it all up in gory detail! Misery loves company. Misery is job security for baggage claim.
This is where my new mindset comes out to play. I could open those suitcases and revive the sad stories or I can look at the suitcase and celebrate the knowledge gained from those experiences. My choice. Will it be regret or celebration? There is a boat load of character building and perspective gained as a result of my 50 plus years of baggage!! So I’ve decided to put my emotional baggage to work as a fertilizer for the future. From where I stand, I see no other option.
I am creating a garden of wisdom by turning shit into sunshine!
Oprah often inspires me so I will close with her words. “You are responsible for your life and if you are sitting around waiting for someone to save you, to fix you, to even help you, you are wasting your time, because only YOU have the power to take responsibility to move your life forward. What matters is now, this moment and your willingness to see this moment for what it is. Accept it. Forgive the past. Take responsibility and move forward.”
Find your wisdom. It’s there. You may need to pull a few weeds from your garden before you can see the beauty of what you...
Last July, I participated in a free Facebook challenge and it wasn’t the ice bucket challenge!! This was a challenge to “journal artistically” for 30 days. Based on an email prompt you received daily from Artist Lisa Sonora, you would fill the page with the ideas inspired by the prompt. (getting started with a blank page is often the hardest part so the prompt was really helpful!) You had complete freedom to do whatever the heck you wanted! I admit, doing anything on a daily basis is hard, especially something new AND in an area where you are weak but during July something magical happened. I got FREE-feeling. I felt the freedom creativity invites in to your brain.
What hooked me? First it was the feeling of pure relaxation I felt when working without a timeline and without rules. Color inside the lines or not. Make a collage or not. Watercolor your doodle or not. There were no wrong answers – only a blank page for exploration. You were on a journey to see where the images took you. The activity invited in a freshness to my thinking as it swept out the stress.
I never considered myself an artist. My Dad could draw really well. So why would this type of artsy crafty project make me feel anything but frustrated? I am not sure I can answer that question because I felt completely opposite. I felt as if my creativity faucet opened full blast and goodness poured through me and out of me.
“Stepping out of her shadow, it was her turn to shine.”
This simple (and FREE) challenge opened the door to a new way of thinking and of a great way to express myself.
Last week was really a tough one; tough with a capital T. My feeling was, “I can’t take any more!” When it was time to journal how would I visually represent my tumultuous day? All that came to mind were spirals and scribbles. You see, when I am super stressed, my brain can’t track a thought and there are so many thoughts that it becomes a forest of confusion. The page was so full of ugly scribbles that I almost threw it away! As I stared at it, the scribbles started to look more like flowers.
Flowers? I added a little more detail and colored them in. Yes, it was a garden of flowers.
Let it Gooooooooo! Let go of all that you cannot control. See ya.
“Even amongst the chaos, you can still find beauty. “ Now that is a tweetable moment!
“Worries spiral in my head yet despite the chaos, I can still find beauty.”
What a beautiful and satisfying way to end the day. Even when the shit hits the fan, it may look like flowers. Ha, ha! That’s totally gross. My point is that you can chose to find the beauty within the shit...
Perfectly Imperfect Badass
The thrill is in the hunt and the hunt I am referring to is treasure hunting for goodies at art fairs and thrift shops. I scored last weekend when I found a lovely handmade necklace. Here is the cool part. The delicate silver chain supports a tiny rectangle that says BADASS. It doesn’t scream BADASS because the word is stamped in Braille. I can wear it 24/7 and not offend anyone; unless you are blind and happen to have your hands around my neck. I am giddy about my secret moniker which serves as a personal reminder that I am enough. I am powerful. I am a BADASS!
Badass sounds great but what I am really describing is confidence. Necklace or not, a confident woman is comfortable in her own skin and defines her personal sense of style. She definitely is in touch with what she desires and takes action toward her goals. She colors inside and outside of the lines! Confident women face their fears while oozing positive energy.
A confident woman appreciates external validation and achievements but she is not dependent upon them. She communicates her power with her walk and her smile. You sense her before you hear her speak.
How do you find your confidence? Confidence is built from self-love. You confidence reservoir is ready to be filled!
- Make a list of your positive attributes. It doesn’t matter if there is only one thing on your list. Start there. Then love the heck out of that part of you. Celebrate your strengths. Be grateful.
- Post a note on the bathroom mirror reminding you that you are an exceptional human. Set a daily alarm to remind you of your strengths at least once a day.
- Be aware of how you speak to yourself. If you tell yourself you are a loser, you are going to believe you are a loser. Often we speak to ourselves so harshly, much more harshly than we would speak to a friend. The Tiny Talk demons (critical voices) can bring out the worst in anyone.
Confidence ebbs and flows. You can have confidence in some areas of your life, like on the job, and not in others, like with dating. Confidence is a belief in your abilities which is validated by experience.
If you met me you’d likely say I was one of the most confident women you’d ever meet. Yes, I am very confident but I bet you didn’t guess I was also one of the most self-critical women you’d ever meet? My Tiny Talk is dominated with the voice that picks me apart like vultures on fresh road kill. I’ve become “Oscar-worthy” when it comes to acting like nothing bothers me but actually, I am quite sensitive. I like to use visual reminders that I am worthy so if a necklace reminds me that I am an awesome then so be it. Simple strategies are good strategies.
But I blame the necklace for what happened...
Cutting Down the Tall Poppies
You may be able to relate to these thoughts. You are at your exercise class and you can’t help but zero in on the one person present that doesn’t seem to sweat. Her moves are effortless, completely graceful and actually beautiful to observe. I on the other hand grab a sweat rag because I drip rather than glow as soon as I exert any effort! For a few seconds I think I hate that seemingly tight bodied perfect woman!
A few more seconds go by and I stop hating her as my thoughts lighten and move toward gratitude. I feel a sense of awe at her dedication and while I know nothing of her personal story, she works hard at staying healthy. I applaud her. I am inspired by her. I want to be more like her! I’m in love with the perfect girl!
But what if I didn’t let my hateful feelings evaporate? My stinging annoyance would build into burning resentment and soon all of my thinking would be TOXIFIED. Unknowingly, the woman becomes the target of my rage – the dartboard for my dart.
This is an example of Tall Poppy Syndrome. According to the illustrious Wikipedia, it is defined as a pejorative term primarily used in Anglosphere nations to describe a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticized because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.
I can relate to being the Tall Poppy. Being a former beauty queen, you would think I would be comfortable about my appearance but I still have trouble accepting a compliment! I feel far more comfortable hiding in a group – wanting to be average. Please know me as smart, not pretty! I wanted to be beige as to not attract too much attention. I was fighting against my need to shine because somehow shining was and is too dangerous.
I wanted to known by you but not seen by you. I’m complicated that way.
Over the years I have become comfortable in my own skin. I could really appreciate how Selma Hayek said in an interview with Oprah, “You simply have to be who you are. Yes, I am beautiful. I have thighs and a butt. I have cellulite. I fight with it every day. I don’t exercise. I eat pork and I love red wine. But yes, I am beautiful and famous—and yet the things I like about myself have nothing to do with that…..” YES! She is more than her looks or her fame.
Last week a friend asked me how I managed to remain so positive despite years of struggle. She said, “You make life look so easy and sometimes I just have to hate you.” We laughed and I deeply appreciate her honesty. I told her that I still have days when I can’t get off the couch because my emotions overwhelm me but in general I have developed some pretty good coping...
My positive, supportive, wise inner voice! She is my advocate. She is invested in the “authentic me”.
Last week I wrote about how I wanted to find an image to illustrate the concept of My Girlfriend Voice. Here is how I see this wonderfully positive, supportive and wise woman who resides in my Soul. This is what I see today and perhaps the look will change with the seasons……. Putting a face with a name helps me connect with her!
What does your Girlfriend Voice look like?
In this moment, she is telling you that you are beautiful and everything you need to be. You are good enough. You are a gift to the world! Can you hear her speaking to you?
From the heart,
The latest cover of Psychology Today says “Your Inner Voice; How to Talk to Yourself and Why it Matters”. I feel so validated! My Girlfriend Voice is my Inner Voice—the positive inner voice—she keeps me safe and sane. She helps drowned out the cacophony of critical voices ruminating in the back corners of my mind. Can you believe there was no mention of me in the article? (LOL- I talk and laugh at myself! So there!)
One of the key findings in the article is that HOW you conduct your inner monologue influences the success level of the tool. It says in lieu of using “I”, let your inner voice call you by name, i.e. “Caramia, you need to give yourself the same compassion you give to others.” The work of Dr. Ethan Kross cites that when you personalize the message in this way, there is a higher level of confidence and successful performance. The why of how of his theory is well worth the read. (June 2015 issue)
After a particularly stressful weekend, I chose to spend Sunday afternoon following my own advice. I happy to say I’ve made the transition from THINKING about what is good for me to actually DOING what is good for me. MGV advised me to sit with my emotions and cry it out, jot down my thoughts whether they made sense or not and finally, do something creative. I was thankful she didn’t say go exercise so I got out my art supplies before she changed her mind!
At the dementia center where I volunteer, I heard myself saying that I wasn’t an artist like my brother and father. A woman asked me how I knew I couldn’t draw if I had never tried? This is one of those moments when I think the voice of an angel is channeling through a mortal being. Truth being I don’t really know. I considered myself a failure without ever trying!
Back to my pencil and paper. If I created a visual image for My Girlfriend Voice, what would she look like?
I know MGV is a colorful, free spirited soul. She has big eyes and an easy smile. Of course she has good hair and great personal style. Applying my vision to paper is a dizzyingly curious and delightful exercise. I’m getting lost in the process!
What does your Girlfriend Voice look like? Please describe her for me! Post her picture…. I promise to post my creation both here and on our Facebook page once I find her. The image I posted today titled. “Find Yourself,” is innocent yet hauntingly wise and she reminds me that we often put on one face publicly while hiding the face of our authentic self. Sometimes we don’t know who she is and sometimes we don’t like who we are. A whole blog topic in itself!
In closing, Lisa M. Hayes said it beautifully. “Be careful how you talk to yourself because you are listening!”
From the heart,
I have always wanted my home to be a place where people could stop by and I wouldn’t be worried whether there were dirty dishes in the sink or my bed was unmade. I want people to visit, have something good to eat and immediately feel comfortable. I want my home to be the place you say, “Ahhh, I feel better now!”. My home is my oasis, my sanctuary, or as I like to say, my little Zen Den.
I dedicated Sunday to cleaning my Zen Den; a chore I actually enjoy. Magazines often feature a “ten minute clean up” which essentially means you hide dirty dishes in the oven and toss your clutter into the closet. It looks good on the surface but lies in wait for your attention to return. I’d rather keep things neat as I go reserving the big jobs for the weekends.
The first room on my list was the kitchen. I can no longer ignore the smell belching from my refrigerator every time the door opens. Some odoriferous army must have secretly invaded while I wasn’t looking! My baking soda and white vinegar rinse wasn’t sufficient to disarm them so today I will resort to the big guns: an apron, rubber gloves and hot soapy water.
Thoughts of the week run through my mind as I wipe down shelves and dispose of the expired items. It occurs to me that not only do I have a physical home to maintain, even more importantly I have a spiritual home to maintain. Pretty profound thinking for a sober Sunday afternoon! As Oprah would say, “It was a tweetable moment!” (I don’t tweet but I like you to think Oprah and I hang out.)
I call my spiritual home “my Soul” for lack of a better word. SOUL sounds so pretentious and as vague at the same time. My Soul is my emotional engine and the home of My Girlfriend Voice. It is where my wisdom and intuition hang their shingle. To keep my Soul healthy, I too need to keep it clean!
My Soul feeds my emotional state as my frig helps feed my physical state. While you could hire someone to clean your kitchen, you cannot hire anyone to clean your spiritual home. No outsourcing this inside job! Ha, ha. Cracking myself up with again…….
The shelves of my Soul can get sticky and filled with useless items. My Soul’s chilly crisper drawer can hold onto negativity and grudges. Or like today, my Soul can shine bright and smell like lemons!
So what do I mean by the maintenance of the Soul?
- Do you pause at least daily to memorialize what you are grateful for?
- Do you pause to evaluate what made you feel exceptionally positive or present?
- Do you pause to review what made you feel yucky?
By yucky, I mean those times when you feel uncomfortable, when you are in a messy spot and while you’d rather not go there, you know you NEED to go there. Avoidance, like hiding dirty dishes in the oven, only...
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most self-critical of them all? Me, me, me!!!
Recently I was asked if I would emcee a local event. What may be a frightening role to many, lands me well within my comfort zone. I really shine in this capacity, thank you to my high school teacher and acting coach Mr. Bashara. I have deeper fears than public speaking but that is whole nuther ball of wax!
Besides, this was an opportunity to dress up and talk to people– two of my favorite activities. My dance group was asked to perform a salsa number at the same event and it was my first time dancing with the team. I may have “Broadway in my blood” but a sparkle bra and choreography tends to knock me a few feet outside of my comfort zone! Oddly I am perfectly comfortable in a solo but group choreography is where the rubber hits the road. Turn the wrong way and everyone knows!
Now if you are going to dance in front of people, I highly recommend wearing a sparkle bra! I felt like my bra gave me “super powers”, which unfortunately did not translate to my feet but did help fuel my DD’s; my Diva-tude Demeanor”! This was part of our costume – to be worn under a sheer blouse. Ok, I admit that it was my idea to make it part of the costume! Go big or go home.
I have always loved acting and perhaps this is one of the reasons I can sell myself. Whoa people– not in the literal sense! I am strictly speaking in metaphors!! I appear super confident and charming and on the outside with Teflon coated nerves. WTF, I just realized I could be describing myself AND a sociopath! Rest assured I am not a sociopath. I care far too much for myself, I mean others, to be labeled this way.
My acting skills allowed me to play the part of a happy person for years. Even my closest friends had no idea that I was struggling with depression. Had they opened my chest, (again, metaphorically as my friends are not creepy like that!) they would have seen my broken heart covered with deep wounds and necrotic tissue. Today those scars have healed and they take up far less space than they did ten years ago. The necrosis has reversed and my heart shines with resilience. What may surprise you are the tiny tender bruises of new injuries; those that I inflict upon myself every time I believe what critical voice has to say.
Yes, my friends. Words are weapons, especially when they originate from your inner critic. So less than twelve hours after a spectacular success, I looked at my photos and felt run over by negative imagery. I laser focused toward the part of me I hate the most, my belly and thought, “You look like you are about to birth twenty two kittens. Who in the hell let me go out there without any Spanx????”
My Girlfriend Voice was silent. I knew...
Last fall what I affectionately refer to as my “Un-Divorce” finally became FINAL after a mere seven and a half year process. Initially I was jumping for joy and popping the bubbly because this Mama was hot to trot and ready to prowl! By December and contrary to what I thought was “normal”, I felt like I had been hit by a Mac truck. There were so many emotions seeping to the surface, then like a toddler they were whining for my undivided attention. Darkness surrounded me and I was breathless. I was speechless. Why were these emotions surfacing again and so intensely?
I surrendered to my grief.
Seventeen days of rain and the sappy movies on TV made me feel worse, you know the ones where the woman always finds her happily ever after? Her life gets tied up with a red ribbon in less than ninety minutes. Snotty nosed and spotty faced, the result of chronic ugly crying episodes, I left the safety of my couch only to restock the essentials; Cookies and Kleenex.
To add fuel to my emotional pyre, this was the first year neither one of my sons would be home for Christmas. Here is the visual…….No shower for three days, so I was sticky, snotty and spotty AND on a sugar rush. Not a very pretty picture, even in cute pajamas.
GRIEF….. Unless you have experienced divorce, you may not be able to understand how much it REALLY sucks. Divorce is on the list of the top five stressors in life (death, divorce, moving, job loss and serious illness). Not only was I struggling to get divorced for seven years, I moved three times, struggled with clinical depression and changed jobs twice after a lay off! And I might as well add the stress of being a Modern Day Mother. (Thank God I survived to bitch about this.)
(Thank God I survived to bitch about this.)
It is not like my “X” died – in fact in some ways that may be easier! I wouldn’t have to think about him with his new girlfriend or his white carpeted pied-a-terre. (actually the list is quite long but I restrained myself to the top two on my list!) My grief meant I was letting go of my happily ever after and facing the future alone.
My body vibrated with fear. Most of my critical voices are female but this one was definitely male. It bellowed, “Will you grow old alone? Will you ever find true love? Will your sons be impacted by the divorce and never have healthy relationships? You are pretty old to be starting over.” on and on an on…….
While treading the muddy waters of the last decade, I learned that two things would be important in order to keep myself healthy and my mind present.
- Give back—volunteer. Find a way to help others and practice kindness.
- Commit to self-care and not only cultivate “My Girlfriend Voice” but let her flourish!
Following MGV, I researched various types of...
I have an army or critical voices in my head. If I had to put a body to these voices, it would look like an ugly bottom feeding creature that never sees the light of day. Negative thought energizes the creature; the family of creatures then energize each other. They feed on my fears, blow up in size and bellow familiar tunes. It’s familiar melody. This is an oldies station repetitively playing the classic tunes I have carried since childhood.
My playlist includes:
- “You are not good enough”
- “Who do you think you are?”
- “Stupid, stupid, stupid”.
Lately “the army” has become so boisterous that they convinced me to quit writing. They staged a hostile takeover!
It isn’t that I don’t have anything to share; my life is one crazy Seinfeld episode after another! I would start writing and “the army” would chant “waste of time bullshit-no one will care-no one is going to read this – your ego is out of control”, then the chorus comes in, “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE”.
Fear was shutting me out—shutting down my creative spirit.
The very reason My Girlfriend Voice is important is that I am NOT those thoughts! I have become victim to what I had valiantly learned to silence or at least tolerate. My Girlfriend Voice has gone mute. The critics are holding me hostage.
Writing has saved my sanity. It is really that simple. I started writing when I had trouble breathing — trouble envisioning how to make it through the day without being crushed by sadness. I am not looking to win any awards. It is my hope that my stories will help someone else take a step towards embracing who they are and what they give to the world.
I have found comfort being vulnerable (still hate this word) and I have never been happier. In giving love, I feel love. In sharing myself with you, I feel completely present and grateful that I have a voice. I am good enough.
I find it interesting that when life is good, I have less drama and less fight, my insecurities surfaced for a reunion concert. It tells me that they are likely to be with me forever but it is up to me how much space I give them on the stage.
In these quieter days, I have the space and time to delve deeper into my blueprint of being. I look forward to my recommitment. Let the laughter, the learnings and the wisdom flow! That crappy critical playlist is background noise. My Girlfriend Voice is in the starring role—welcome to another chapter of authentic living!!
From the heart,
Author’s Note: I found this blog on my computer, written last April, but not published until today.
Writing has become difficult these days. My brain races from topic to topic. One thing I know is that it would be really easy to list the things I don’t have.
- I lost my job today. I don’t have a rainy day fund. Like California, my bank account is in a drought.
- My son may be heading to prison next month. Mental illness combined with addiction just SUCKS. Just when things are going well, “it” comes out and bites you bad, knocks the breath out of you and feels like acid on your tongue.
- The divorce is still not f-ing finished even though we separated almost seven years ago.
- I grieve after putting my goofy big dog down in February because he had a brain tumor.
- Mom is in the hospital again with a blood clot. Not good.
Lucky for me there is something deep down that that moves me and keeps me from getting stuck. “It’s not my style to be negative,” I say when people ask me how I persevere. Don’t get me wrong. I have moments and sometimes days when I slip into sadness. I am human. I walk that fine line; fearing the fall into another depression. (the sticky dark pit)
My strategy? Every day I live what I speak and my strategy is to focus on my choices. Without choices I WOULD feel hopeless. I would be stuck and probably dead.
I ask myself, “If I don’t like it, can I make a change? Will I practice gratitude or wallow in negativity? “
- The Job—I won’t get caught without an emergency fund again. I will find a new job and make good use of the time off.
- My Son—I can’t describe the pain I feel when my son struggles. It is a visceral ache with no remedy that I carry every waking moment and often in my dreams. Despite numerous hospitalizations and arrests, he is alive. He has his own path and purpose in this lifetime. My lesson is to love without judgment while surrendering any concept of blame or control.
- The Divorce—uhhhh. Enough already! I am going to get this done before the end of the year. Realizing I will never receive the apology I seek from the “X”, I can forgive myself and then celebrate my courage, integrity and endurance.
- Bosco—you were one of a kind dog and so many warm memories remain. I did everything I could but you told me it was OK when you stopped wanting to take walks or tear up the garbage.
- Mom– we can spend time together and I can try to help without the pressure of working.
What else will I do?
I will dance
I will cocoon.
I will laugh.
I will sleep.
I will give.
I will learn.
I will breathe.
I remember the day I understood that MY happiness was strictly MY responsibility. I had been...