Winding Down & Releasing 2020

This year has been unlike any in my nearly 50 years. A global pandemic has forced the world to halt, then change. During mandatory quarantine I witnessed a shift within myself, community, and relationships. Without the daily rush, we were forced to see what was in front of us. To confront our lives, instead of burying ourselves in work, school, and obligations (self-imposed) or otherwise.

In America, the world watched as tragedy brought Black Lives Matter to global attention; followed by the increasingly publicized divide among American citizens in politics and social behaviors and attitudes. These matters, along with quarantine behaviors, thoughts and attitudes regarding the pandemic dramatically shifted workplaces, families, and friendships.

One cannot go through all of this without impact on the mental, emotional, and physical levels. Personally, all of this brought me back to a mindfulness practice. It was my way of coping with the overload and being able to guide my frightened children through this year. Stripping away our schedules, changing how often we have all been together, and stepping away from social pursuits and obligations has brought massive change to our lives.

This has been an emotionally and mentally raw year for me. The quiet has allowed my inner voice to be heard. Change in how time has been spent allowed each of us to show and share our vulnerabilities. Being in the same space each day gave reflection on whether it felt like a sanctuary or a burden. Behaviors and attitudes came forward regarding how each of us felt about the changes in our lives and routines.

Mindfulness, has been the saving grace for me. I would love to tell you that with mindfulness I have not had my anxiety and depression flare; but that would be false. What I can tell you is that because of mindfulness I am fully feeling the feelings and allowing them to naturally process. It has not been pretty, because raw emotions never are. However, as I have allowed myself to be vulnerable and honest, I have seen beauty in my closest relationships. They have comforted me and allowed me to see their raw vulnerability and personal struggles. As these have emerged, each of us has worked on communication and support with each other.

We are far from perfect, far from healed in some instances; but we are growing together. Being away from our obligations and usual calendar of events gave everyone time for reflection. This reflection gave amazingly honest conversations about wants, needs, likes and dislikes. It also has shown each of us what is really important to us and what we want to get back in our lives, what we can live without, and where the adjustments work just fine for us (such as telecommuting, homeschooling or some distance gaming). Each member of my family surprised me with thoughts and actions. Social behaviors during the pandemic showed me where my values were the same or different from those who touched our lives in some way.

Our connection to nature and our spiritual path has also been revealed to us. We missed being outside all the time at the parks and spent most of the year turning our backyard into a sanctuary. Missing our spiritual friends has been strong and recently we have been better about a home practice; instead of waiting to be with our spiritual community in person.

Hobbies and interests that reflect our personalities have emerged even more; especially with mom making the electronics be put down. New ways of communicating and connecting with loved ones have emerged for each of us as well.

Saying I love you has always been important, but now more than ever. Fear of loss is as real as loss. Living with a shadow of fear from an unknown, unseen source will shape each of us, but especially our children. Teaching ourselves and our children to continue to move forward with life and love, to move through that fear and find what love, beauty, grace, and gratitude there is in life despite the fear is important.

Today, I ask you to reflect on what you are grateful for. It can even be the lessons or conversations that your anxiety or depression has taught you. Find something joyful to reflect on, even the hope things will change in a better direction for you. Hold onto that and breathe into that. Give yourself a moment to relax and release the emotions of 2020 so you can create space for whatever the next year will bring us.

Irisa

Adult Adventures in Ear Tubes

I could not help but laugh when the ENT suggested I get ear tubes for my recurring ear problems. A 45 year old woman getting what is commonly thought of as a kids procedure; yes, that about explains my life. However, since the tinnitus and deafness are competing for what is going to make me go insane, I gladly agreed to the procedure.

My 7 year old had hers done a few months prior so I thought I understood the procedure. Oh No. I was sorely mistaken. My daughter got the better end of this deal. When she had hers done they gave her nice relaxing drugs and put her to sleep. Adults do not get the same treatment.

Ear tubes in adults are a quick, in office procedure with local anesthetic. I am sure that works fine for most individuals. However, I am one of those people that are incredibly difficult to numb. When I tell you I need a very high dose to get numb I am not kidding. Max that stuff out or I will feel everything!

Sadly, I felt all of this. It was not the worse experience of my life but it certainly was not pleasant. Now, I had ruptured my ear drum earlier this summer. If I had not done that, this procedure would have freaked me out a lot more.

The procedure itself is very simple. A tiny slit in your inner ear and insert the tubes; which are teeny tiny. The popping, pressure and pain from it was not fun. It also hurt a lot more for the rest of the night than I had anticipated. Unexpected side effects were my sinus’ draining and my jaw hurting (probably from stress clenching).

Three days later I am glad I got the procedure but disappointed that I still have random to low level tinnitus. I had been hoping that it would be completely gone. We had performed hearing tests earlier in the year and I knew to expect a drop in my hearing; however, I am still adjusting to that. Although, I am grateful to not be completely deaf as I have spent a good part of this year due to my ear problems, especially in my right ear.

My hearing has always been better than my eyesight and something I have always highly relied upon. It is an adjustment to not have that sense be as strong as it was in my youth. As we age, we change and hopefully have the grace to adapt and accept the changes with grace.

The one good thing to come from this experience is that I better understand my partner’s difficulties. He is deaf in one ear and having experienced this for any length of time has been eye opening. I never understood how dramatic even a slight hearing loss was when in a room of conversation. It can be very confusing as the sounds sometimes all rush together and your mind tries to make sense of it all. Now, that is if you hear anything at all. At my worst people would be talking across the table and I didn’t know except for the fact I saw their mouths moving.

Adventures in living,

Irisa

Emotional Churn

Anxiety and depression cause the ebb and flow of emotions to churn on a consistent basis. A roller coaster is not an adequate analogy, but the ocean is. One moment stormy seas and the next moment calm waters. Never knowing when the tides would change in response to darkening skies.

I have lived with anxiety and depression my entire life. THis is what sent me on the road to spirituality and holistic living. There was no desire to spend my life on pharmaceuticals that made me sick. Medication has its place and should be used when needed, however if I can achieve the same results without pharmacology then I choose to do that.

Practicing my religion, meditation and writing have always given me solace. Feeling the ground beneath my feet, the breeze on my skin and the warmth of the sun comfort and strength. My hands in the dirt release and peace.

The emotional churn these last few years has been horrid. Death, divorce, miscarriages, adoption, pregnancy, birth, losing my land… so many changes in 6 years. Most of the time I haven’t felt that I can catch my breath before the next wave of emotional circumstances set in.

The emotional churn pulled me in for a long time. Deep into myself and my head. I analyze everything for long periods of time. Now that I am once again focused on my spiritual practices and not merely surviving, I feel as though I can breathe. There is a lot to digest about the past several years and the anxiety monster needs tamed once again, but I finally have the strength to care for myself not just my family.

My well is finally full enough to move forward. Each day I regain more for my well and that gives me more for my family as well. The emotional churn of anxiety may never fully leave me. PTSD may not allow for that, but I know it can get better. It has before and it will again.