One Day at a Time

I’m so tired of seeing “COVID” this and “COVID” that in my social feeds. I get it. Stay inside. Wear a mask when you absolutely have to go out. It’s depressing. And there are so many people out there trying to “help” (AKA get their 15 minutes in the spotlight). I’m really over it all. Don’t get me wrong. I feel horrible about what’s going on and I am so grateful for the people who are risking their lives every day to keep people (like me) safe. 

There actually is some good content coming out by some people who are finding creativity in their confinement. Some of it is sad; some heartwarming. I love that entertainers/musicians and those sorts are streaming free concerts/plays/other content to cheer us up in this stressful new life we’re in. But the volume of it is overwhelming.

It is a surreal time in this world we’re sharing. (Thank you, Captain Obvious!) These kinds of situations are supposed to happen in movie plots, not real life. What’s next, Universe? Zombies? Oi.

But this is real life. This is our real life now. And I’m trying to do my part by…not doing. I’m here, in my house, with my dogs. Thank goodness for streaming apps. But it’s still hard. After three solid weeks at home, I’ve found myself skipping over most of the COVID-themed content in my social feeds. Is it wrong that I am desensitized? I prefer to think of it as emotional self-preservation. The worst of it is reading about people who aren’t taking this seriously and are putting more lives in danger. Get real, people.

I’m not going to talk about politics: who did what / who should have done what. I’m focusing my energy on the here and now. This is where we are. Now what? It’s heartwarming to see how so many businesses and individuals are stepping up to help wherever they can. Sewing masks and retooling equipment to manufacture much-needed PPE for our medical professionals. I have faith that we will come out of this a stronger nation because of these pockets of love and generosity.

I understand this experience is different for each of us. We each must navigate through our own lense of truth and sensibility. We all have our tolerance levels and personal methods for coping with stress. Some of us need to shout about how we got here. Some of us need to desensitize with meditation, exercise, streaming, wine…whatever works.

I am an IT consultant, and my current situation is that I’m sitting at my computer all day every day while I wait “on the bench” for a new project. The client I was working for had to redirect their budget to support…you got it, COVID 19. So here I am.

Currently I’m working on some small internal projects and self-training through whatever means possible so that I may be more of a value-add on my next project assignment. In the meantime, though, it’s a bit stressful, and I’m having a hard time staying focused. Will I really get a new project or will I soon be added to the count of n million Americans filing for unemployment benefits?

I know how fortunate I am. I am still being paid my full salary. I am not having to put my life at risk delivering food to people (like me) just to keep a roof over my family’s head. I’m not on the front lines caring for infected patients who are not able to see their families in person…and I don’t have to worry that I may become infected and bring it home to my family. 

I’m actually in good shape, considering. That fact is at once comforting and disheartening. For me, there is guilt that comes with safety. But also gratefulness. Some days I’m up, others I’m down, and still others I swing wildly between the two states. 

I am also an artist, so I have that to keep me distracted. Except I’m not making art. And I’ve got a great space set up in my home for yoga and meditation. But I’m not doing that. For now I’m stuck in a funk. But I know I’ll come out okay in the end. Sometimes I need to sit in a funk for a bit. For whatever reason, that’s my process. But I’m getting up every day and showing up…for whatever happens. I try to get some fresh air every day, but even if the only thing I can do is put one foot in front of the other, I am moving forward…one day at a time.


Online course at Coursera from Yale on the Science of Well-Being (10 week free course).

BetterHelp is the largest online counseling platform worldwide. 

Questions to my readers:

How are you coping in this crisis? What works best for you? Do you find that one thing works for you consistently or do you use multiple tools or activities to stay calm and productive?

Self-Judgement and Shame

If you’re a perfectionist OCD control-freak people-pleaser…can I get a “Hell yes!”

I work on myself. I try to make myself a better person. And I beat myself up in the process.

Here’s my latest story:

It happened yesterday. I had volunteered for a “feed the people” event. It was for a local organization supporting patients and family members of patients who are visiting Nashville for medical services. The task was to prepare lunch for guests at the facility.

We were to prepare a taco bar. There were lots of moving parts…cooking the meat, chopping onions, slicing tomatoes…you know how it goes. There were three volunteers at the start with more arriving soon.

My friend (I’ll call her Sue) was coordinating the event on behalf of her volunteer organization. When we arrived, Sue was busy collecting lost volunteers so I jumped in and started making things happen…as I do. I set up a few work areas for cooking and chopping. Several more volunteers had arrived and we all sort of fell into a rhythm and things moved along nicely. It felt good. Food was served, the kitchen was cleaned, and we all went home. I spent the rest of my day running errands and feeling fulfilled for having supported people in need.

And then it happened. As I navigated my evening, little bits of shame began seeping in. There were scenes replaying in my mind over and over again where I wondered at first – then decided – that I had been more pushy than helpful in a few situations throughout the day.

I mean, there’s more than one way to slice an avocado, right? I thought I was helping because the volunteer seemed to be struggling. Sue was there as well and was moving in the direction of helping her but I jumped in and showed the volunteer my way – because it’s best way. How self-important am I?

Shortly after the avocado incident I noticed the volunteer had disappeared. I never saw her again. Was it me? Had I caused that? In retrospect I felt I should have hung back and let Sue handle it, but in the moment I was just digging in and doing. I hadn’t noticed Sue was moving in to help the volunteer until I was already in motion, and once I’m in motion…

Then there was the ladle incident. It could have been harmless or it could have been another time I stepped on Sue’s toes.

These thoughts have been bouncing around in my head since my return home last night, even seeping in during one of my bathroom visits in the middle of the night. What’s up with that?

I’ve always considered my take-charge personality a positive trait. It’s served me well in my career. I get things done. The problem is, I don’t know how or when to turn it off. When I’m in the moment, I’m just pushing forward. I’m not always aware of everything going on around me. I’m just doing.

I’m also not good at turning off my self-judgement and the shame that comes with it when my brain replays the event. I may not have been aware of things happening in the moment, but once it was all over my brain got right to work showing me all the ways I had been unaware and potentially inconsiderate. What people must be thinking of me!

At some point in the shaming process I had to stop myself. Had I really done anything wrong? Am I really so narcissistic as to believe a volunteer might have left the event because of me? Or had she not been feeling it from the start? She had come in late and was just sitting, waiting for someone to tell her what to do. Someone gave her avocados. And when she appeared awkward with them I decided to help rather than let her suffer. But – honestly – she would have gotten through it on her own – or someone else could have helped her. But I felt the need to insert myself into the situation.

I know that I tend to take over in situations where somebody needs help or no one seems to be in charge. I feel impatience when there are things to be done and they’re not being done as quickly or proficiently as I feel they should be. I know the best ways to do everything!

I believe my perfectionism and desire to lead springs from a childhood where I felt unheard and discounted. As an adult I overcompensate, hungry for the attention I often receive for going above and beyond. But that’s not always necessary.

After waking this morning with these thoughts tumbling around in my head I decided to meditate. The question I asked myself was, what do I need right now? I’d hoped to find an end to the shame that had now settled into my stomach. Each time I asked, what do I need right now, the answer was, write.

So I decided I’d start with this story. Maybe by writing it I’ll be able to let it go.

In the end I know what I’ll do. What would you do in this situation?

What Is Wrong With Me?!

This story is a bit of a downer, as it describes my attempt to figure out the cause of a host of physical symptoms that began for me several years ago. Could be interesting if you’re going through something similar. Or you might just want to move on to another post if you’re not interested in this type of story. There are also some resources at the bottom that could be helpful if you’ve having a tough time of it.

For the past several years I have experienced panic attacks on a sort-of regular basis. For the first couple years I thought something critical was going wrong inside my body, but none of my doctors could tell me what it was. I went from doctor to doctor, telling my story of dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, phantom pains in various parts of my body…in various combinations and at frequencies I could never pin down to an event or meal or…anything. I had landed in the ER multiple times over these unpredictable symptoms, and each time nothing was found. I was not only frustrated, I was becoming embarrassed and ashamed. Why was I feeling this way if nothing was physically wrong? And how was I supposed to make it stop if no one could tell me what it was?

The thing that helped me begin to recognize my symptoms for what they really were was a phone call with my cardiologist. I had visited him a couple times over the years in my search for what was wrong with me, always with the same result: learning that I have a strong, healthy heart. That would be great news for most people, but considering how long I’d been searching for a cause of my ongoing discomfort, I looked forward to just about any diagnosis. Just tell me what it is.

On this particular day I was having an exceptionally difficult time with my symptoms and was my at wit’s end. I decided I needed to see my cardiologist right away. So I called to make an appointment and proceeded to state my case with the nurse for why I needed to see the doctor today. She was not having it. I eventually wore her down and she put the doctor on the phone. After hearing me out, the doctor proceeded to suggest to me, very gently and kindly, that maybe the pain I was feeling in my arm and chest that day was…fibromyalgia-related. Oh.

I was, at once, angry, humiliated, and defeated. I have always found my cardiologist to be very kind and compassionate. And his message to me on this day was delivered in the most kind and compassionate manner. But it still stung.

As I pulled myself together in that gas station parking lot, the reality of my situation slowly sunk in. The symptoms I’d been having were – at least partially – something my mind was making up. While I definitely had physical symptoms, my mind was evaluating them and attempting to categorize them, under the filter of my fear response. My anxious mind was so busy working to solve this puzzle that it twisted the reality of my chronic condition into something critical. As my dear friend D says of herself, I can talk myself into a coma. It’s true.

Over time, my emotional state over this not knowing had progressed from anxiety to panic. Of course I had heard of people having panic attacks, but those things happened to other people. Not me. I wasn’t even convinced they were real. I certainly never dreamed they would be something that I, Miss I’ve got Everything Under Control, would ever face. But here I was.

Somehow, in the aftermath of my reality check, the Universe landed me on the doorsteps of a holistic general medical practitioner. These types of practices are difficult to find, even at this time in our world, but I found one that took my insurance and was even located in my area of the city. The catch with this practice was that they required a $300 annual membership for all patients. The claim was that this allowed them to take more time with each patient. I didn’t care the cost. I wanted someone to take a look at the whole picture. I needed to get to the bottom of why I was having these panic attacks. I needed them to stop.

I was assigned to the PA (Physician’s Assistant), and this turned out to be a good thing. She was fairly young, but not so young that her experience would be in question. She was also extremely compassionate. On my first visit, we talked about my problematic symptoms, my blood sugar wellness (I am a Type 2 diabetic) and my thyroid hormone levels (I had had a thyroidectomy a couple years prior). As we talked through all of this, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I was frustrated and tired. I felt I had tried everything. I cried through the entire visit.

As the visit with the PA came to a close, we reviewed her list of recommended supplements, the list of levels she planned to test from all the blood her tech had drawn earlier in the visit, and…she suggested I make an appointment with the psychotherapist who had a office at the back of their building. I was resistant and a little offended at first, but then thought, What I’ve been doing so far isn’t working, so why not? I went home and called to make an appointment.

At our first meeting, I could see this was something I needed and opted to do weekly sessions until I was through my crisis. What I learned over the next few weeks was that what I had been experiencing was PTSD. Yes, I said it. PTSD was something I had always associated with veterans. I’ve since learned this is something that affects all sorts of people who have experienced all kinds of traumatic events.

I had a traumatic childhood, and had been in therapy multiple times in the past, but I had never gotten to the point of having panic attacks until my latest traumatic event: a romantic breakup. I’ve gone through more romantic breakups in my life than I choose to share at this time, and typically I get through them and move on and I settle into my normal life pretty quickly.

This latest breakup was different. Short story is, he was an alcoholic, which I should have known going in, but chose not to acknowledge the signs. Fast forward to three years later when I make the decision to move out. He handles it reasonably well, but then eight months later we’re back together, then we split again, then together again. It was a crazy train of my own making. More detail about why/how this was all happening will come out in a later post…maybe. Basically, he wanted us to remain friends, but he’s wasn’t capable of being platonic with me. And I clearly have boundary issues.

Fast forward again. It’s 3 1/2 years after the initial breakup, and he’s sitting across from me in my backyard after helping me with yard work (his platonic offer). As we’re talking, he’s suggesting something we can do together. It feels like a date. I can feel my chest restricting. I look him in the eyes and tell him, I need you to let me go. He looks me in the eyes and says, I don’t want to let you go. 

Shortly after that I received another drunken email telling me what a bad person I am. I blocked his number and refused to see him again, but I spent the next year or so wondering if he was lurking somewhere. I was afraid to drive through his part of town in case we might run into one another. He was phoning and emailing my daughters to try to get information about me.

I thought I had been managing the stress of this, but obviously not. I had blocked his phone number so he could no longer text or call me, but I kept his email open because, as I have shared with my friends, I want to keep my finger on the pulse of the crazy.

Once I figured out I was having panic attacks, I tracked my symptoms back to the beginning. My first episode happened at work, shortly after I began planning my exit from the relationship (the first time). I think that’s pretty telling. Imagine how much more stress I was carrying around 3 1/2 years later dealing with the same cycle of behaviors.

The thing that is the most disturbing for me about my eventual diagnosis is that none of my doctors would say the words panic attack to me. I had to put those words out there myself. I’ve since learned that unaddressed anxiety can build up loads of adrenaline in your body and cause panic attacks. A body needs exercise, or meditation, or…therapy…to move that adrenaline out. And panic attacks, by definition, come out of nowhere, and often cause you to feel like you are going to die. Even now, while I understand – intellectually – what is happening, I still sometimes feel like…maybe this is the time it’s real.

Since my discovery I have used therapy, meditation, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Tapping, and even exercise to help me through difficult times. Every person’s needs are different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. These things have helped me.

So what is the moral of this story? Listen to your body. Listen to your inner being. When you feel like something is wrong, sit with yourself and  breathe. I know it can be hard to take that step back when you’re in the midst of feeling like your world is upside down and you don’t know why. But breathe for a minute, and then ask for help. Talk to your doctor and be open to the idea of therapy. There are so many things going on in the world today, it’s difficult at times to have a positive attitude each day. So allow yourself the space to feel bad when you need to. But if feeling bad becomes the norm, reach out. If you don’t find the help you need right away, try someone or something else. I’m still working through the emotional baggage I’ve carried around most of my life as well as the new things that are added as I move along. It’s a lifelong journey. I’m working on it.

Below are some resources to consider.

Love and light to you!

Best Meditation Apps of 2018 – I’ve tried a couple. This article gives you a legit review of several. – Convenient, affordable, private online counseling. Anytime, anywhere.

EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) – Tapping is another great tool. I use it and I can honestly say, it works!

The Mental Illness Happy Hour – Great podcast (in my opinion). It’s an interview show where all sorts of emotional issues are discussed. It’s not therapy in the official sense, but I do find that I feel better hearing stories about what some other folks are dealing with. Sometimes it gives me validation, sometimes it helps me see that my life is not so bad.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – If you’re feeling really bad and can’t reach out to someone you know, please give these folks a call. You’re a beautiful person and we want you here.



DREAM: Living In An Upscale House

I’m living in a house with several people, whom I never see throughout the dream, but I know they’re there. There is a “lady of the house” who makes all the decisions. The house is very nice, and I have a nice sized bedroom, very comfortable. One day I come across a new room that is under construction. The space is huge! I peek in the door. It is just a rough frame at this point, plywood on the floors and cutouts where a stairway will lead into the room. My thought is, “Wow! What a great space!” I spot a claw foot bathtub over in the corner and think, “I’ve always wanted one of those!”

As I’m looking in, another resident behind me tells me the lady of the house is showing it to me first. The implied message is that I will have first dibs on the space once it’s finished.

Later, I come back to the space and see that it is almost finished. As I walk through, I think to myself, “It’s beautiful, but someone else has made all the design decisions. If this is to be my space, shouldn’t I have a say?” At the same time, I’m thinking it’s actually okay with me, because I’m going to get to live in this beautiful space!

I walk to the back of the space where there is a door to the outside, which would be the back of the house. When I open it, I see four or five wooden steps that lead down to the beach. Bonus! My new room has a private exit that leads me directly to the beach! I notice there are several people outside on the dunes and there is a large tent. It’s a party, and I’m a part of it! I live here! I feel a sense of being home.


So I know that a house in a dream represents the inner self. Another relevant tidbit is that I’ve just gotten back into doing some work with a therapist. Yes, I’m seeing a therapist and I’m not afraid to say that out loud! It doesn’t mean I’m crazy. It means I’m smart! I’ve been stuck in some old patterns for a long time and I’m ready to move out of them – they no longer serve me!

So the primary message I’m getting from the dream is that I’m expanding in new and unexpected ways and I’m filling the new space I’m creating with some new “upscale” ideas about belonging and deserving to be recognized, accepted and loved.

Something else to think about…Lately it’s been on my mind how I struggle with the idea of living in an upscale house. With the exception of a couple of apartments I’ve rented over the years, I’ve always lived in fixer-upper types of spaces. I tell myself I don’t “need” all that fancy stuff, but I think deep down inside I believe I’d never be able to afford to live at that level. I’m still carrying around a sense of lack where my financial world is concerned, even though I’ve been doing very well for myself for quite a while. I guess I don’t trust it will continue, so I tell myself I wouldn’t want a brand new home anyway because new homes don’t have much character. And I tell myself that upgrading an older home isn’t in my future either. I’m a renter. My current landlord isn’t going to reno the house I’m in, and I refuse to pay for an upscale rental. So. I’ve got some work to do in this area.


DREAM: Trouble Letting Go

A little over a year after moving out of a three year live-in relationship with an alcoholic, I found myself still holding on. Having someone to hang out with who was familiar and — when sober — one of the most caring persons I had ever had a relationship with, was something I found very difficult to let go of.

E and I had always traveled well together and we both loved the beach, so when he invited me to join him on a business-related trip to the beach I was all in. I was sure he wouldn’t over-drink at a business function. He had always been very careful about keeping his drinking and professional lives separate.

While on the trip I had a couple days to myself while E was in sales meetings, so I had plenty of time to think about things. I also had a lot of wild dreams on this trip, as I was evidently struggling with the idea of being back in the relationship I had sworn a little over a year prior that I was leaving for good. Following are two of the dreams and my interpretations of them.

Dream 1:

I was in a relationship with someone new. New guy was in my bed. At the same time, I kept the living, talking head of my Ex on my dresser. It didn’t bother either me or new guy. We cuddled and had sex as though Ex wasn’t there. At some point the head on the dresser began to complain. It felt I was treating it unfairly.

One morning I awoke to find the head in my bed – under the covers – attempting to initiate sex with me. I jumped out of bed, grabbed hold of the opening at the base of its neck and swung hard, attempting to fling it back onto the dresser, but instead whacked the face of it against the front of the dresser. My next attempt was more successful — I returned the head to its place on top of the dresser, lying on one side, facing the bed. (This had been its original position.) It was angry that it had been tossed aside in favor of new guy. I told it to stay put. It answered back that it never strayed from the room…at least usually.

That began me thinking that it could be a threat…to me?…to new guy? I began to imagine this disembodied head bopping down the hallway into other areas of my home — surprise! It felt disturbing to me…something that caused me to worry.

Final note: Head on dresser and new guy appeared to be the same guy.


The alcoholic version of E is resentful that I’m not willing to accept him – I’m cramping his style. I’m still having a relationship with new E (vegan, fitness fanatic) but old E keeps popping up and I have to keep putting him in his place. This makes him more angry and resentful, and consequently more determined to be disruptive.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling anxiety, knowing I shouldn’t be in this relationship at all, but feeling unable to completely end it. At the core I know it’s not fair to either one of us — to me because I don’t deserve to have drunken behavior disrupt my life; to him because by my participation in this relationship at any level, I’m leading him on.

It became clear to me this weekend that E feels everything between us is fine. He asked me if I’d like to live in FL if he decides to pursue an opportunity presented to him by a sales leader on the trip. My answer to him was, “We don’t live together anymore. You need to make that decision for yourself.” I thought it interesting that I felt no emotion around the idea that he might move away from me. Was it because I didn’t believe he’d do it or am I just that disconnected from the current version of our “relationship”? His moving to FL would result in a clean and final cut…or would it? We “broke up” over a year ago and there I was, traveling with him, having sex with him, and still dealing with his drunken behavior, albeit not as often. By morning E had come up with a reason not to pursue the job.

It’s easier to stay together. The work comes in leaving — drawing the line, which leads to heartache, and going through the process of starting over.


Dream 2:

I’m living in a very high end condo/apartment that is housed in a mall-like structure. It’s like there are living quarters, a hair salon, shopping — all in one high-rise complex. I am very happy there — really enjoying my life. But I have the sense that someone — or possibly several someones — aren’t happy for me.

At some point I’m pedaling my bicycle up a hill. I’m on my way to visit possibly an old neighborhood of mine to pick something up. I realize after cresting the hill – which was no easy feat, as there was snow or mud or something equally hazardous on the road – that I was going to need a vehicle, possibly a truck in order to bring back whatever I was going after.

I decided that rather than bike back down the treacherous hill to get my car I would prop the bike against the guardrail there and walk down. I begin walking down the hill toward my condo. Then I wake up.


There are things I’m doing now — and things I want to do — that someone in my life is envious of. This person is very good at sharing her drama with me when I’m in a place of really enjoying my life. She’s in a bad relationship — which is providing her fulfillment at some level — possibly in acting as victim. I’ve been bad to this point about empathizing and attempting to “fix” her life for her.

She phoned me last evening as I was out with E for dinner. My message to her on that call was “You’re the only one who can make this stop.”

I know now that the best thing I can do for her is let her handle it and just be there for her if she decides to make a move. But I also know she won’t be making any moves any time soon. The irony — and sadness — of the situation is that she is having trouble letting go.

DREAM: Recurring Highway Scene

I had a dream the other night that included a highway scene that was strangely familiar. I don’t remember other parts of the dream, only being on this highway.

There were lots of criss-crosses and ups and downs – kind of like a roller coaster for cars. As I drove along the tangle of roads, I got into a wrong lane, which forced me to exit at the wrong place. The only way to fix it was to circle back around the whole mess so I could get back into the correct lane so that I could take the exit that would take me to my intended destination. This loop I had to take took me miles out of my way and cost me a lot of time. I was frustrated.

The general message I get from this segment of dream is that I am off track and running behind.

When I woke from the dream I thought, That highway scene was familiar. I wonder where it’s from? I searched my brain trying to remember when and where in my past I had seen – and driven – that cluster of highway. Was it Binghamton, NY where I spent my mid-20’s to late 30’s? Definitely not. Was it Harrisburg, PA where I spent my teens and early 20’s? Possibly. It had the appropriate feel for that area of the country, but I couldn’t place it in my mind. I Google-Mapped. Nothing.

As I continued to ponder the origin of this memory, it struck me that this felt more like a recurring dream than a real place. And I believe that to be true. Now that I’ve thought about it even more, I am convinced I have dreamt about this jumble of highway not just once, but multiple times over a period of many years, and even though I don’t remember the remaining details of my recent dream, I get the feeling the other bits and pieces of the other dreams were much different. Not because I remember them, but because it feels that way. I am guessing this scene has played in my dreams at least three times, and the first two times were long ago – maybe 10 to 15 years.

What an interesting phenomenon, not just that my mind created this highway system once, but that it has reused that dream segment several times over many years! This is the stuff of…dreams. (Ha!) The mysterious bits and pieces…video clips that are strung together in seemingly random ways that sometimes provide insight into our subconscious – and sometimes just confuse!

Have you had recurring dreams over the years? Have you had scenes replay over a period of years? Do you gain insight from your dreams? I’d love to hear your stories!

Final Thoughts on My South Pacific Adventure

Back to South Pacific Cruise page

Gosh! What a crazy, scary, EMPOWERING trip! At a time when I was feeling broken, I made a drastic change in my life, and “launched” that change by hopping a ship to Fiji!

In the year or so leading up to this trip I had been feeling less than inspired at work. I had worked for five years for a really great company and was doing work I loved, but somehow it wasn’t satisfying anymore. I was having trouble getting up in the mornings and I would return home each night physically and emotionally drained. I had also been struggling with some physical symptoms that had me wondering if I would ever feel good again. I knew I was in need of a change in my life, but wasn’t sure what that would look like. Making the decision to do this trip was the first step.

Going through the exercise of planning the trip helped me begin to look forward to things again. As scary as it would be, I knew I needed to quit my job. I had been thinking about making a change anyway, and to do the trip right I was going to need to take much more time off than I had left in my PTO bank. I also didn’t want to feel the pressure of “what I’m coming back to” at the end of the trip.

One thing leading to another, I decided that since I would be leaving my job anyway, I’d give myself a year to do whatever I needed to do to feel better. I didn’t know for sure what was causing my physical symptoms, I only knew I needed to fix them. But that wasn’t all. Feeling tired and unwell all the time meant I wasn’t spending time with my two loves, art and writing. I decided I would go on my trip, and then I would spend the rest of my “year off” creating art and writing.

Even many of my closest friends don’t know this, but writing has always been my first love. I haven’t shared that a lot because of old tapes in my head that tell me “you can’t make a living as a writer,” and “well, I hope it’s at least cathartic” (i.e., nobody would want to read your dribble). Rubbish! I’ve been sitting on a draft of my memoir for more than ten years. Time to dust it off!

The story I told on my way out of  my job was that I was leaving to pursue my art. I told that story because I felt it would be more readily accepted than, “I’m going to write.” To most people, that would not compute. “How will you pay your bills?” sigh. Well, now I’m saying it. I’m going to write!

Back to the trip…

While traveling on my own in a foreign country did cause some additional stress, it also forced me to think about things in different ways. It broke my patterns. I couldn’t run to my safe place and hide. I had to find my way around. I spent 24 days figuring things out for myself and making decisions for myself without consideration for someone else. I tried new things. I started conversations with people I didn’t know. I began to feel less anxious and more powerful!

Okay, I’ll be honest. While on the ship, there were times I would seek out the safety of my cabin, but mostly I was out experiencing. I slathered my body with mud in Fiji. I danced on the pool deck. I made friends with a wonderful Ukrainian couple from Melbourne. I watched a glass blowing demonstration and had wine and cheese on the upper deck. I donated money to the casino. I sat at the stern of the ship after dark watching as the foamy tail of our departure reached back to meet the reflection of an invisible moon.


Now, two months later, my trip is a surreal memory. Admittedly, some of the euphoria has worn off as real life takes over again, but I am finding the energy to do the deep work of fixing myself. Through working with a therapist, I have discovered that most of my physical symptoms were stress related. Turns out I have some grieving to do.

These days, I do spend time on my art, but I spend equal amounts of time meditating and writing. Rather than pushing myself into a specific direction, I’m listening to my body and going where my heart leads me.

So…I’ll continue to “do what I do” for the next few months and see where I end up. I would love to continue writing and creating art as my primary activities indefinitely, but if I must go back to working for someone else, I know I’ll be better prepared to handle the ups and downs that go with it.

This trip has helped to set me on a course of self-discovery and healing. And so, as I wrap up “the story of my trip” I raise my glass to toast my new life, whatever it turns out to be!

Back to South Pacific Cruise page

DREAM: Swaddled Baby

I’ve stopped to visit with some friends at an open air restaurant. (In real life, they are my former colleagues at the job I just left.) I’m so excited to show them my new baby – she is the love of my life! I sit down with them and begin to show her off, then decide I need to use the ladies room. I leave my swaddled baby with my friends and head off. As I’m leaving the ladies room I realize I don’t have my purse. Did I leave it at the table? In the stall? After thinking about it, I’m sure I had it with me when I entered the restroom. I head back to the stall I used and a young lady is coming out. I don’t see her carrying my purse. I pass a couple others on my way back and I’m checking them each out to see if they could have it stuffed under a coat or shirt. I get back to the stall and it’s not there. Now I’m thinking – maybe it was on the counter at the sink and I just overlooked it. I return to the sink. No purse. I’m worried about the bag and my phone being lost. I’ve spent such a long time here and now I’m worried about leaving my baby for so long. I return to the table to find my friends have all gone. Where is my baby?

Now I’m on a bus with my swaddled baby and I’m holding her up against me. She is so precious! Suddenly there is someone – a blonde woman – who is after me. She wants my baby! I must protect her! The woman has brought men with guns and they are shooting at the bus and are going to board it and take my baby! I pass my baby to one of my older children (my real daughter) thinking the woman won’t go after her. I will get off the bus to safety and then retrieve my baby. I leave the bus through the back door and am hiding, trying to navigate to a place where I can have my daughter hand the baby to me through a window. I never get there before the dream moves on. (Interesting side note: At some point in all this drama my daughter says something to me about how attentive I am with this baby. I say to her, I want to get it right this time!)

Now I’m in a house and there are other people there with me. Friends? Family? I have my swaddled baby with me again, but I want to keep her safe and out of the way, so I put her in a small wooden crate – like the kind you would buy at a craft store to decorate your home. She fits perfectly inside the crate. In order to keep her disguised, I set a book on top of her. As I’m interacting with the other people in the house I keep thinking about how she is in this box and I’m worried that the book is too heavy. Am I suffocating my baby?


Wow – this one is full of metaphor, but one central message. The baby is my book! This represents all the distractions I allow to keep me from spending time on my book! The comment to my daughter in the bus scene has to do with this being the second time I have taken a break from my career, and this time I want to spend my time in the right way. The blonde woman wanting to take my baby represents how I tend to sabotage myself and my dreams. I believe the baby always being swaddled represents my fear of putting my book out there. What will people think?

Life as a Full Time Artist: Day 1

Originally Published August 6, 2015

I recently left the (relative) security of a senior management position in corporate America to pursue my passion as an artist and writer. While my corporate job was creative and fulfilling to a degree, there was something missing. I needed something more. I made the decision last year (2014) that I would take the leap “some time next year.” In January of 2015 I once again said to someone “sometime next year.” That’s when it hit me. It is next year! So I had to put a real date on it. I decided July 31 would be a good one.

Last Friday, I packed up the last of my things, took a walk around the building, hugged some folks, and then left the building for the last time as a “colleague.”

In the days before my leap, several people had asked me, “What will you do on your first day?” My canned answered was, “Go to the passport office.” Not what they wanted to hear, but it was the truth. I’m going out of country later this year and I need a passport. So that’s all I had planned for my first day. Get that biggie out of the way, then I can think. Then I can focus.

I’ve been questioned and advised by many good intentioned supporters. “What’s the first thing you’re going to work on?” “Give yourself time to get organized.” “Take a little time off before you get started.” and “Do you have any events on your calendar yet?” The thing is, I’ve got so much on my mental “to do,” I need to take a minute and sort through it. Write it down. Organize it.

Here’s how day one really shook out:

  • Woke up at 6:30 (really? on my first day of self-employment?)
  • Arrived at 9:20 for my 10:00 passport meeting.
  • Realized I’d forgotten my checkbook. (The nice man processed everything and set it aside, advised me where to find a bank.)
  • Found said bank, obtained cashier’s check
  • Back to passport office. Task complete!
  • Back in my car. Now what?
  • Checked phone for anything exciting. Saw message from my writer friend, Susie, who sent me info on a “art collective” meeting that evening. Bonus!
  • Took a nostalgic drive to old neighborhoods, just because I could.
  • Stopped at Ruby Tuesday for lunch. Salad bar – good. Beer – because I could. Said yes to an upgrade to XL on the beer for only $2 more – maybe not so good. Three tiny (tasty) little cheesy biscuits that magically appeared on my table while at salad bar – evil!
  • Drove to The Global Mall. I’ve heard so much about it, I wanted to see. Nothing going on inside the mall on a weekday. Elected not to drive around back to see library and skating rink, as I was feeling the heat by then and also a little sleepy.
  • Home again. Nap.
  • Did some online research (seriously) along with some Facebooking.
  • Sent a couple of emails.
  • Made a couple of calls.
  • Made a sandwich for dinner.
  • Headed out for art collective meeting. Listened to a couple experts talk about branding. Good information. Some I’ve heard before, some not, but it was good to get out and do something related to my new career. (My friend Susie was so sweet to break away from her packing for a personal trip to make sure I knew someone at the meeting! )
  • Back in the car, heading home I returned a call from my friend Megan who had tried to reach me during the meeting. “So…how was your first day?” (My friends are really pretty awesome!)

Call To Action

I received a message the other day, but I didn’t hear it until now. I didn’t feel it.

It was a call from my mother’s cousin “Barb”, whom I’ve never met nor spoken with in my life. Barb was reaching out to me in hopes I might be able to get her in touch with my mother’s brother – her cousin. She got to me through my sister, whom she met at my mother’s funeral several years ago. (Why I wasn’t at my mother’s funeral is a story for another time.)

Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect her with her cousin – my uncle – because, as my mother explained to me when I was twelve, her family disowned her (and the rest of us) when she divorced my father. She went on to explain that her brothers were both very religious and so they didn’t believe in divorce. So…I was disowned by my mother’s family at the age of twelve because of a disagreement between my mother and her brothers. Sounds fair.

Barb and I talked for over an hour, and as it turns out we have a few things in common, i.e., her father discouraged/prevented her from communicating with her extended family; we both married quite young and subsequently divorced and then spent most of our adult lives single, feeling we were better off being fully responsible for our own destinies (or at least as much as one can be).

I believe things happen for a reason – and so, since Barb’s call last Sunday evening, I’ve been turning this over in my head trying to figure it out. Why me? Why now?

In the course of a morning meditation, it came to me:

For over ten years I’ve been sitting on a family-related project – my memoir. Over the years I’ve gone back and forth from feeling the story should be told to feeling I should keep it to myself. I thought I had put that argument to bed a few years ago, but now here it is again.

Since my early teens I’ve felt my purpose in this world was to write. So far I’ve not been successful at my attempts to erase the “you can’t earn a living as a writer” tape that has been running a continuous loop in my head since I first had the audacity to share my dream with my family some thirty years ago – trusting that they would be supportive.

But here’s the thing: I don’t just think I should be a writer. I know that I am a writer. And yet I find myself still working a corporate job (where, by the way, I write…business requirements).

The idea of going out on my own has been spinning in my brain for…ever. I have had two separate opportunities to transition into “self-supporting artist/writer” in the last ten years, but I’ve never felt really, truly ready, and so in both cases I spun my wheels in various other directions rather than focusing my energy on the thing I was put on earth to do.

So what’s holding me up from going out on my own? Whatever it is, I need to get over it. I feel that if I don’t take action now I never will. I turn 50 this year. It’s shit or get off the pot time, kids!

I’ve got a story to tell. I believe Barb’s call was yet another nudge from the Universe. It’s time for me to take that manuscript down off the shelf, dust it off and get back to work! My life story is one that should be told. If for no other reason, because I need to tell it!

(It should be noted that I actually wrote this piece on 6/29/11. I’m just now posting it on 5/12/12. ‘Nuf said.)