I’m Going to Die

Don’t Panic. Not right now. But for sure. Definitely.

The last week or so has been tough. I don’t feel good. I had a little stomach thing and now trying to figure out if there is a bigger issue. It’s nothing to be concerned about but, regardless it’s had me down.

First of all I don’t like feeling sick. No one does right? But when I feel physically sick there is also this very heavy emotional component. It’s a major trigger. When I feel weak, tired, sluggish, nauseous I am reminded of the days when I was hungover. Those physical feelings are accompanied by the sense that “something’s wrong.” And it’s amazing how our thoughts control so many of our outcomes.

I have talked a little about the “emotional hangover” or what someone recently coined as “Hangxiety.” For many years I walked around with this feeling of anxiety, guilt, shame, and insecurity. In the beginning I knew that being hungover led to anxiety. But as my drinking went on it became much harder to connect my actions, the chemicals, and the affect they were having.

I NEVER have anxiety like I did when I was drinking. Don’t get me wrong I can get anxious at times. But I’m not nearly as irrational as I used to be. Laura McKowen (one of my favorite sober people) says “drinking is like pouring gasoline on your anxiety.” This is exactly how I felt.

I would be feeling a little anxious and instead of dealing with it I would pour gasoline on it to try to get it to go away. Before I knew it I was up in flames. I’m still in awe of how disconnected I was from my body. How is it that I was going through this life paying zero attention to my body and my mind? I called that living?

I have been reading a lot of books about meditation and presence. I used to think that meditation was sitting on a mat and trying as hard as you can to clear your mind for an extended period of time. Ha! Have you ever tried to clear your mind? If so, you know that the very act of “trying to clear” creates absolute chaos.

Now, I use meditation as a tool to bring me to the present time (the only time we have). Instead of sitting on my mat trying to void myself of thoughts I sit and take in what is going on around me. The more I do this the better I get at doing this at times when I am not sitting on my mat. So, when I start to feel anxious about things like how I will be a good mom when the kids are teenagers? I can redirect my energy to being present with what is happening in front of me at this very moment (the only one we have-and yes I meant to repeat that).

I am reading a great book by Eckhart Tolle. He talks about asking yourself this question “What is your relationship with this present moment?” He goes into a lot of detail about how your relationship in the present creates outcomes. This practice has been a game changer. And I have used it this week since my mind wanted to use catastrophic thinking to turn my stomach bug into a life threatening illness.

For example, my old self would think something like this……My stomach hurts and I am sick. I have no energy and I hate this. I will never be able to work out again and how will I get through this week? I am going to be depressed for sure. It’s probably something really bad like cancer or I will have to have surgery. I hate hospitals…

Ironically, these thoughts resulted in an elevated heart rate, emotional exhaustion, stomach pain, and an overall feeling of sickness.

But when I use the tools that I have learned through meditation it’s more like.... This ginger tea I am drinking is really yummy and soothing to my tummy. Look how sweet the kids are when they smile. The grass is greener with all this rain…that’s nice. I love this comfy sweater……

Suddenly, I feel a warm, fuzzy, happy feeling all throughout my body.

We humans have a 100% mortality rate. We know this for a fact. So why do I spend my time pretending that I will live forever? Why do I think I can “get around to the important stuff" later? Why do I waste time putting out so much negative when that’s not really the legacy I want to leave behind? How do I want to spend my time here while I am living? How do my thoughts affect my physical feelings and outcomes?

If I want a life worth living I must be present with my body, mind, and soul. When I do that I can feel the utter joy that is pouring through my windows, doors, and coming up through your floors. I can’t “create” the joy but instead I open my heart to the joy that is already surrounding me.

When I am focused on the relationship I am having with the present moment EVERYTHING is doable. There is nothing I can’t overcome. Nothing seems too hard and everything feels just as it is supposed to.

It won’t all be easy. It’s not supposed to be. The only way to learn and grow is through the struggle. But, if I make the intention to live this way life feels better overall.

Why I'm No Longer Trying To Fit In

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I took a bite of chicken. I know I know it’s not that big of a deal. It’s chicken. But, you see, I told people that I was a vegetarian, which I am, except for that one time I took a bit of chicken. Oh, and I eat fish sometimes. So now it’s different and I need to let people know so that no one will think I am fraud and a fake. I mean we all know those “vegetarians” who say they don’t eat meat and then eat meat when they feel like it. Right?

It wasn’t even free range organic chicken from the farmer that I know (who I once told that if I was going to eat chicken-it would be from him). It was from a fast food restaurant and it was fried. I don’t know even know what kind of oil it was fried in. Who am I!?!?

It’s not the end of the world that after almost 10 years of being meatless I ate a bite of meat. It doesn’t make me a failure and it doesn’t define me. I am a person who eats food and some of the time it is vegetables and some of the time it is a bite of chicken.

We tend to work really hard to find our category or label and then stick with it. At our very core we all want to find a place that we fit in, feel loved, feel validated, and will be accepted. We find labels that link us to others. But sometimes those labels don’t always fit.

Recently, while in on a trip, I saw this group of white pelicans fishing in the ocean. 50 pelicans were swimming in a pack (or a school or a flock) and at the same exact time they would all dive their heads into the water and fish. Then, again, at the same exact time they would raise their heads out of the water. They were perfectly in sync and would win a gold medal if this were synchronized swimming.

But there was this one pelican that wouldn’t comply. She (I like to think of her as a rebellious girl) was swimming a little outside of the pack and diving down and back up at completely different times. Her feathers were a little out of place and she looked disheveled. I immediately connected with her.

It got me thinking about how conformity started as a means to safety and ease. Animals who hunted or fished together were more likely to get fed. For the pelicans, they could drive schools of fish into shallow water making fishing way easier than if they were out on their own.

It’s also safer to be in a group. If they were to be confronted by prey they were stronger, and scarier, and faster. So the group would shame those who didn’t conform in order to protect the unit as a whole. I mean you wouldn’t want some crazed pelican making a scene.

So at our core we are built to feel shame when we stray from our group. Or, on the flip side to feel safe when we stay in the group. This makes perfect sense to me but sometimes it sucks. I spent years of my life doing things that didn’t exactly fit because it “felt safe.” I gave myself a label, I acted out my role, and I never challenged a thing. Ironically, it was quite the opposite of safe.

And I didn’t want to leave my group until I had a new group to jump right in to. Problem was, there was no group that fit me exactly. I was trying to fit in the box and fulfill the stereotype. So instead of changing I was stuck, scared, and I felt like something bad would happen if I went out on my own.

We are all unique. We all have a story and there is no one else in the whole wide world exactly like me or you. That means it must be safe to be ourselves. Right? I have to lean inward. I have rely on myself, my heart, and my soul. I just can’t check everything with the group first. It paralyzes my ability to create happiness from within.

You see, I am the crazed pelican (and you might be too). I am right there with the group. I get it, I need them, I feel them, but I have my own thing going on. Can I still swim beside you? Can I get distracted and swim away some? Can I still gain from the whole? Can I encourage a few of you to stray a bit just to see what you find? Can we widen our span and still be safe?

I think it’s worth finding out.

How to have a fun AF Date Night

Let’s talk about Dating + Drinking. I wish I could write a blog post about how easy dating was while I was alcohol free. I really wish I could tell you how simple things were, that there was no drama, and all of my dating decisions were made under a perfectly clear mind. But I can’t.

Before becoming AF, date night was…..well, complicated. It always involved alcohol. Either a bottle of wine with dinner, a trip to one of our favorite micro breweries, and sometimes followed by a night cap at one of our hidden hole in the wall bars.

There were times it felt forced. Like-it’s Valentine’s Day, we got this babysitter, and even though we’re tired and have had a rough day let’s put on some nice clothes and go out. Other times it felt exciting. Like-we haven’t been out in so long let’s try to pack in as much “fun” as we possibly can.

In either of those scenarios the date usually resulted in me drinking too much. This always led to me arguing about something that had nothing to do with our relationship (like I wanted to stay and dance longer and Drew wanted to leave). And often times, the night ended with me crying or storming out-followed by a morning of apologizing, embarrassment, and regret. Fun times.

Brene Brown has taught me that you can’t selectively numb. So, when I tried to numb away the feelings of stress or irritability from the day I also numbed away joy and happiness. Or, when I tried to beef up the happiness and excitement because I was feeling so void of it, I ended up numbing it away all together.

Luckily those days are behind me and I have more fun on dates now than ever. But, we’ve had to make some adjustments to not fall into the trap of feeling the need to drink.

Day Dates. I love love love our day dates. We both love coffee shops, tiny brunch places that we really can’t take the kids, and/or going to a movie during the day. It’s even better if it’s on one of those beautiful days and we can soak up the sun! When we are out during the day there is less pressure to drink and there is also less of a feeling of “missing out” because I’m not faced with seeing everyone else drinking. (Side note-it’s a lot easier to find a babysitter on a Sat. morning than on a Sat. night.)

Dinner at Home. I love to cook but I rarely have time to try a new recipe. When we have the opportunity to send the kids to their grandparents for the night there is nothing more fun than cooking together in the kitchen. We can make up some of our favorite mocktails, listen to music, and just have one of those slow paced dinners that just doesn’t always happen on a busy weeknight.

Adventure. I’m not gonna lie, I hate adventure. Actually, I don’t hate it-it’s just that I am super anxious about doing anything unknown. I like to control things and make unnecessary judgements about what it’s going to be like (zero fun). But Drew is all about it. He loves the outdoors, trying new things, and more. So, I try to "go with the flow" (even if that means I have sweaty hands and an elevated heart rate). This could be going on a long drive to see where it takes us, hiking, riding bikes, a new place to eat, etc. We have so much fun when we do this and I find myself looking forward to the next time we can do it again.

Travel. I know that it’s probably not feasible to just pick up and travel any time. However, having things to look forward to and going somewhere new is a great way to have fun. Experiencing new things is an epic way to leave those old expectations behind and forget about wanting to drink. Getting away is easy if we make the intention and plan (which can also be really fun).

Mindset. I have completely changed my mindset (thanks to a lot of personal development) and it’s made all the difference. I no longer think that dating and being drunk go hand in hand. I know that I can have fun in all kinds of way if I am open to new things, different settings, and change of pace.

I have to remind myself that the idea of a glass of wine in my hand in a fancy dark restaurant was the thing that appealed to me. In actuality the restaurant was dark- but I was slurring my speech, picking fights, and feeling irritable. We never looked like the “ad" that I was referring to and I am so glad that those days are behind me.

***In full disclosure, I was drunk in this picture (as if you didn’t already know that). I had just smarted off at the waitress in this really nice restaurant for giving us a “crappy" seat. It took me a week to heal from the emotional hangover (if you have had one you know and if you haven’t you’re lucky).****