Tag Archive: Personal Growth

It was what it was

serenity

It may not shock you to learn that I’ve spent the last many years feeling that I wasted most of my life. That’s a rough statement, really, but true. Also, I probably did waste a lot of it. I mean, I took my own sweet time in limbo. And so, after years of therapy and deep digging, countless hours of agonizing over pretty much everything anywhere, I have come up with two words to say about that.

“So what?”

So… it really sucks.

“So what?”

So… some people are cruel and their actions and lies have hurt me and mine. Life isn’t fair!

“So what?”

So… oh. Um… Well, I suppose I could learn from it and move on.

“Yeah! You got this!”

Sure I still tell the tales of loss and woe here and there, but it’s just a story now. An origin story. My origin. Not as exciting as “I was bitten by a radioactive spider” as stories go, but you gotta work with what you have.

Everybody suffers. The world can be cruel and harsh, and so many humans are not humane. And so what? We are here, now. Who we are now is made up of who we have been and what we’ve come through. Of course our origin stories help define us. But when it comes to what we can actually DO about anything, all there is now is now.

I’m skating on the edges of serenity these days. I can feel the truth of things flowing through my awareness. I can feel the power of letting go, setting myself free from the guilt and obligation, and even the pain of my past. It is done and gone, and my trying so hard to change it has kept me standing still for a while now. I can learn from that too. Nothing is wasted of my life, I am here, now, because I was there, then.

Wait, I hate that, oh, I still want to fight that in my heart, because I want to agonize and hate my past forever, and light furious fires over so many injustices.

But no. The simple things are true. I’m here now because I was there then. 

It was what it was.

And now my feet are facing forward, and I can move ahead. That, all of that, the past, was what it was. Now is time for what is, and for thinking about what will be, if I choose to make it so. Now I feel the power, because I am creating my own life. I may not be Spider-man, but I am mighty.

I am mighty, hear me… meditate?

So yeah, serenity and peace can be hard, especially with all the chaos around us right now. But if ever there was a time for us to be kind to ourselves and one another, this is it. It is what it is because we are making it so. We can choose to waste our time (is it really wasted?), or to see things differently, or to set healthy boundaries, or to shake things up in our own way. We are not as stuck as we might think we are. We can change every moment that follows this one.

The past was what it was, and I’m slowly and gracefully (or not) becoming who I want to be, with at least a touch of serenity.

Lightening up

 

joy

Today

I noticed

How heavily the quilts

Of guilt and pain

Have been weighing

On my shoulders,

And I let them fall

Thumping to the floor

In a swirl of dust and loss.

They never kept me warm

Anyway

And I’m not sure

I ever really knew before

Just how miraculous

Freedom can feel

On my bare skin

And just how strong

My shoulders are

When I only have

Myself to carry.

 

~ Liesl Dineen

Day 5 of 5-day challenge.

Growing things

15 - 2

Fire oasis :)

My fingers are numb, and I’m walking like a bent zombie thing. I wake up every morning and pop Tylenol, cursing mildly because I want Aleve but I promised family I wouldn’t take it anymore (I’m on blood thinners, and apparently this is more than mildly unhealthy to do). I make that groaning growling noise old people always make when getting out of a chair, and stumble to find the coffee.

I’m sore, beat, achy, and ouchie. And I’m so happy. Because I am getting stuff done, you see. I’m not blooming where I’m planted (I hate that!), but I have been planting blooms, and larger things. This year we made the big dirt fire area into an actual fire “pit,” although pit is not the right word. How about oasis? Can there be a fire oasis? It’s not fancy, but it means the world to me. Oh how we’ve bickered through it all, and discussed, and dreamed. And then we just made it happen. Well, I made it happen, and my husband was a wonderful sport with an equally sore back!

15 - 18

“Before” picture. We still had a lot of fun with fire back then.

When it was finally done, I should have rested. I should have helped John plant the vegetables, something he’d put on hold while I went slightly berserk for a few weeks. I should have started writing the book I’m plotting out in my head. Oh do I have “shoulds.” So naturally, I started another project, the beginnings of what will someday (soon) be a zen/fountain area. I lined the space with rocks, filled with mulch, placed a few plants. And when that was done, I noticed how much I hated the bushes by the side of the house that were blocking the view of the fire oasis from the deck. I began to trim them. A lot. I overdid it but I felt victorious as I limped inside, which was getting to be a regular thing. The next day, I yanked three of the bushes out with some sort of crazy fury. And a shovel.

As I started on the fourth and last bush, something inside my back decided the mild warnings weren’t cutting it and sent a serious message. I begged John for help, and he got the last one out for me. Mind you, these were big things, even after the huge haircuts I’d given them the day before. And John was just trying to work on his vegetable garden in peace. I think this was the day I went inside and begged him to get me one of those old oxycodone pills I’d kept since my back surgery several years ago while I forced myself to be still, but the frenzy is all blurring together now.

15 - 4 (3)

Yes, that’s a gnombie. And an unplanted electric dog fence. #howweroll

The next day I moved the heavy edging blocks into place and built a nice garden area on that side of the deck, mirroring the other side. I moved 25 of those things, and yes I counted through the pain. I also didn’t worry too much about leveling anything, because ouch, screw it. And the day after that I was out buying replacement plants, nothing too tall of course, we must be able to see my fire oasis from everywhere. Then home to plant, a little more mulch, and… Next project!

A landing in the yard by the deck stairs. Someday (soon is likely) it will lead to all the pathways I’m going to make. It was a bigger project than I planned, and my math skills failed me. My wonderful husband spent part of last Saturday running to the store with me for more gravel, and then later by himself for more sand. At some point, he gently tried to tell me one more time about his vegetable garden, and I finally snapped out of this crazed thing I was/am in enough to say oh, crap, I kind of suck, sorry. Then I went and mulched the “island” we’d created last year. And the next day I devoted to helping him by cleaning out the veggie garden area and making a much better looking spot for his new worm growing project among other things. See, the good news is John is also always making big plans, so as annoying as I may be, surely he has to understand at least a little!

15 - 17

The dogs grooving on our hard work.

Yesterday we finished the landing. John was much more involved, and I think full of forgiveness because I finally helped him like I should have all along. Of course, there’s more to do, more more more. This morning I announced to him that my back was really pissed at me and I planned to do no heavy lifting when I got home from work. I may or may not have been lying.

See, the one thing I can’t seem to get enough of is this crazy hard work/progress sweat. It stings my eyes, curls my short hair into some sort of bad 80s perm look, smells ranker than the middle school locker room, and feels… amazing! I look around in wonder at what just a month or two ago was just a mess of dirt and some crappy bushes, and I think, wow. I think holy shit. I made this. I mean, John made it too, but I’m sort of glowing in the I can do it mode of someone who only ever dug holes to play in the mud before this. I’m a steward, I’m growing things and growing myself, and no wonder I’ve been acting like a crazed lunatic, it’s addicting as hell to create and nurture.

15 - 9 (1)

Birds’ eye view

Did I mention the birds? They love us so much. Sunday John asked me, over coffee on the deck, if I’d seen any hummingbirds yet this year, and I said no, not yet, and five minutes later I heard this noise, which I rudely compared to our largest dog Snoopy passing gas, and there it was,  feasting at the feeders John had hung with homemade nectar. I couldn’t get a picture, but I succeeded in scaring it off. By the time John came out with more coffee five minutes later, two more hummingbirds had visited, and I knew what their chirps sounded like. How had I not noticed that sound all these years?

15 - 5

Hops and hummingbirds and Buddha :)

Anyway, there’s a lot of metaphors I could put here, which is what I usually do. But the truth is, taking care of nature feels exactly like taking care of nature, and taking care of myself feels like that too. I’m always all too aware that I have lost the chance to raise my daughter, and I think maybe all of this madness has come from rediscovering that I have a lot to offer to the world. I am nurturing, something I’d allowed myself to stop even trying for far too long. I’m good at it, and I’m loving it. Someday maybe I’ll show her all the things I’ve grown into since she left.

In the meantime, there’s some pathways to build!

Yes, that says "live worms" - cracks me up!

John’s veggie garden. Spray paint says “live worms” – cracks me up!

Watering the weeds

my gorgeous gardenia

My friend Mollie called this the world’s tiniest gardenia. But I planted it, and it sure looks huge to me!

People that know me know that I’m what you could call a “recovering doormat.” They also know that I’ve had to work very hard at getting and staying emotionally stable while learning that it’s okay to feel stuff. I spent most of my life thinking I needed a reason, an excuse, and allowing other people (let’s just call them bullies) to tell me my feelings were wrong. I thought I was crazy for even having them.

It hurts me that… No, you’re wrong. Here’s why.

I want to tell you I’m mad… No, you have no right to be mad.

Well, you get the picture. I have stuff buried all over in this blog and poetry place about my mid-life epiphany that I’m allowed to have feelings even if they have no reason whatsoever. And so are you, by the way! So now, these days, when people try to tell me I’m wrong, I actually notice it, think about it, see it for what it is (bullying and control) and then I say to myself, Self, move on. This isn’t someone who will respect you, nurture you, or even make you smile. It’s harder when it’s a relative, but life is short, and my time really is precious to me.

I spend a lot of that time lately weeding the garden. It’s not only healthy for me to be outside moving, but the results are a beautiful space full of balance and color. The weeds I toss into a heap, and that heap goes into a container, and that goes away to wherever the city takes yard waste, with my blessing. Sometimes when I’m rushed I only have time to just water everything, and when I’m watering weeds, I think about life. Yes, I think about life all the time, it’s just this happens to be about weeds. Watering weeds feels wrong to me. All that energy going to something that is trying to take over my lovely space. Energy that could go to my flowers and plants, or the veggies my husband John is growing.

That’s what it’s like trying to fix things with someone who can’t respect your feelings. Sometimes, you just need to put the hose away and stop trying to make flowers out of weeds. Yank them out and toss them in the pile. Then, look at the space you’re creating, smell the flowers, and enjoy the hell out of caring for what you love. My garden is thriving, it’s really my first year feeling this crazy passion for it, and I can’t seem to stop working on it. The birds come and eat at our restaurant and frolic in the bath, and the dogs roll in the grass, and I look around with my husband and I say, Look at what we’ve created here! It’s the same in my heart. I’m not into blooming where I’m planted, but I do love taking charge of my garden. Happy Spring!

Push

Day 16: Write a science poem

Push

 

She takes a breath, as deep as she can

And as her muscles contract she pushes

From places she only knows in dreams

Things are happening around her, noises, movement

But she is the push, only the push

And the sweat and the shaking

Somewhere inside her head she knows

The science of it all, the words

Somewhere there’s a plan that she wrote herself

But she no longer speaks that tongue

She is an island of becoming

And can only feel the waves

That push her faster and faster

Toward her making and her unmaking

And into the greatest mystery

That science and man will always

Fail to explain

 

~ Liesl Dineen 2015

Permanent ink

IMG_2409I just wrote this statement about parental alienation, and it snapped me awake more than I expected it to: “It’s not enough to win, they want to erase us entirely and brush us off the paper with their fingers.”

Being ignored has always been a trigger for me. Little sister blah blah blah. But seriously, it was how I was controlled in my first marriage, whenever what I said was disagreeable. Don’t like what I’m saying? Look away, walk away, never speak of it again. Really want to hurt me? Yawn while doing all of the above. Roll your eyes.

When I walked away, I walked into a world where I existed, unique and amazing. I came into being. I fell in love! And then the eraser came down and started scratching me out.

Parental alienation is the act of wiping a parent of the face of his or her child’s planet. Memories are rewritten in shadows, new rules created. Doubt and fear are tools. “Is she spying on you?” “Will she try to kidnap you?” “Are you safe with him?” “He’s trying to replace me with a new wife/mommy.” Never mind that the now-horrible parent has been there virtually forever for the child. Never mind that the child will never be balanced from the damage this causes. Never mind. Let’s pretend mom is invisible, crazy, not worthy of love and respect. Let’s ignore her and get on with life, just you and me kid. Let’s twist everything she says and does into threatening dark shapes on the wall. This isn’t about something a normal mind can grasp. It’s honestly incomprehensible. And yet it’s my reality.

But here’s the thing. I’m NOT invisible. I still exist, unique and amazing! I’m done hiding and pretending I have ANYTHING to be ashamed of. Of course I’ve screwed things up, of COURSE. But no, not that badly. Not anywhere near that badly. Children of abuse still don’t disconnect entirely from their parents, in fact they often push and fight for connection. Children who are alienated do disconnect, and also from their other relatives on that side. They switch into a mode of hate, not just distance. They wipe out half of their entire being for the satisfaction of someone needier. It’s heartbreaking, and more so for the children than the parents. There really is no winner here. Just pain and therapy bills and uncertainty.

I’m a step-mother now to two wonderful kids. I’ve annoyed them at times reminding them to call their mother. I’ll annoy them more I’m sure. We need to know our parents whenever possible, where we come from, where we fit. I’d never wish this lost feeling on any child or adult. Yes, of course in cases of abuse it’s different, but this is not about abuse. Please try to keep an open mind when someone tells you they haven’t seen their children in ages – there’s so much shame in this, it’s a huge act of courage to even speak the words. I want to change that, I’m working on how, but I don’t know yet.

What I do know is that I’m not written in pencil that can be erased. I’m not invisible, I’m not going anywhere, and I’ll never give up on my children.

To my lost child, and the one found again: I was not just there when you were born, I was your home. You will always be a part of me, and I am a part of you. I will be here until the day I die, ready to accept you, hug you, listen to you no matter what. Unconditional love is yours already, and will never ever run low. All of the hopes and wishes I had from before you were born are always with you. I wish so much happiness for you. I love you forever. In permanent ink.

Cheese

Day 9. Per Writer’s Digest: For today’s prompt, write a work poem.


 

cheese


Cheese

 

First, when I walk into work it’s the smell,

a carpeted hell made of chemicals, only acceptable

because of our inflexible need for the cheese.

It’s our disease, this desire for cheese;

we’re all buzzing like bees to please the king,

to sing for the boss on his corporate cross.

Yes we crave praise and payday and fair play

enough to invent that unholy ascent, the promotion

based on devotion and the notion that if I try harder

they will raise me up farther until I’m no longer aware

that nothing is fair, and I should run for the hills,

tear up the bills, and set my will free,

become absentee, live a life without walls,

full of bird-calls and waterfalls,

and worship the breeze instead of the cheese.

 

~ Liesl Dineen

Golden Handcuffs

Colorado

So I went to Colorado to be with family and fresh air, and it was wonderful. Maybe a little too wonderful, because as lovely as it is here in Raleigh, I’m having a hard time settling back down to this ordinary life that I honestly resent living sometimes. That isn’t a complaint, just the simple truth. Life is about compromises, and that pretty much always means we’re left wondering about our choices.

Every big decision I’ve made has been fairly well thought-out, and yet when I look at the path I walked to get here, it sure seems random and strange. Like everyone, I enjoy the What If game, even though time has tempered the urgency of it all. I understand on some basic level now that things are the way they are and that’s more than okay. I love life and find many things to enjoy every day.

But on a less basic level, I sense that my life is passing me by while I spend most of my waking time sitting at a computer writing about things I don’t care very much about. No, not this blog, that’s different! This is about work.

We all need some kind of work. I’ve done a bit of everything from fast food to corporate fancy. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, a home-schooler, an advocate. Some jobs were incredibly fulfilling, some soul-sucking. And honestly, the best ever was while I was recovering from a severe bout of depression and my first marriage was falling apart, which is pretty hard to explain even to myself. But I here’s why.

It’s because I was writing. I was still home with the kids, who were in school. I wrote every day as soon as they were on the bus, and watched as most of a novel stretched into life. I had an active writing partner who kept me going and tossed ideas my way. I wrote and we reviewed, and then played games until the kids got home. I drank coffee out of giant vessels and refilled frequently. I laughed every day. It’s kind of crazy to me now that I was even able to pull that off for a little while. Yes, my house was messy. But hey it still is anyway, and no new novels so far.

In this new(er) life, I get up early, but as late as I can manage, and get ready for work while my wonderful husband makes me coffee (coffee is my soul-mate). I go to work and think about what I’m paid to think about, and try to squeak out the rest of my thoughts the best I can around that. Often I feel stifled, rushed, panicked, and always insufficient. I’m basically suffocating myself creatively so that my family can have food, clothing, shelter, and most of all, health insurance. I don’t come cheap in that regard; doctors find me fascinating. Health insurance is mandatory.

Years ago when my career was just beginning and I had no children yet, the direct employees where I worked referred to the Golden Handcuffs. This meant a job they didn’t love with benefits they simply couldn’t live without, a captivated style of working. I remember thinking that those problems seemed a million years off, but I suppose I was off by most of a million. And here I am handcuffed to my desk by ideas that weren’t my own.

And so now, back home and noticing my patterns, I’m faced with trying to either find peace with this arrangement or change it. I’m not a tree, and I don’t have to bloom where I’m planted. Eight years ago I started life over with almost nothing. I traded my slow and lovely writing days for the career I’d left behind. I’d left it happily really, thrown out my watch and my badge and walked on out. Walking back in was hard as hell, in spite of the amazing luck of a fast hire into a great team. That was two companies ago, and I work for an amazing company, with amazing benefits, and a great team yet again. It’s all amazing. So many people I know want to be where I am.

Now, how do I convince myself that I do as well?

Triple-dog

Day 8, prompt is write a dare poem, per Writer’s Digest.

Triple-dog

I dare you to live.

 

I dare you to find the things that make your heart sing

and do them until you die doing them.

 

I dare you to love. I dare you to start with yourself,

and yes go ahead and make the jokes but do it anyway.

 

I dare you to stand naked, metaphorically,

in front of the crowd and be YOURSELF.

 

I dare you to welcome others into your tribe

even if they scare you, no, especially if they do.

 

I dare you to take a chance.

I dare you to dance.

 

I triple-dog dare you to live!

 

~ Liesl Dineen 2015

Missing pieces

NaPoWriMo Day 1: poem of negation (http://www.napowrimo.net/)
Missing pieces

Gradually you’ll realize
That you can never know
What anyone is thinking
Or if any decision you make
Will work out for the best

Later you won’t understand
How you missed the clues
And didn’t see the bumps
That made you stumble blindly
Once you see them clearly in the light

~Liesl Dineen 2015

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