Friday, December 25, 2015

All I Want For Christmas Is What I Already Have

Dear World,

Merry Christmas once again! I know it doesn't seem like I should be happy this Christmas. I've lost my first boyfriend, my mom was talking about assisted suicide the other day because her illness causes her so much pain, my dad is lost to me, I don't trust the church anymore, and I barely make enough money to scrape by.

And yet, I am so happy. First of all, my panic attacks have become much fewer. Its amazing what you can accomplish when your own mind isn't against you. I am getting better sleep, and there is no price on being well-rested. My siblings and I have grown so much closer these past few months. At one point, I was so agoraphobic I thought I would never be able to have a normal conversation with anyone from my past ever again, but just last week, my sister Alexa and I had one of the most beautiful conversations we've had in our lives.

I am slowly but surely learning respectful boundaries towards myself and others, and have learned to be less defensive and just say "I was wrong!" when I do something out of line. At last, I have broken out of the spiritual/emotional matrix of religious control, and am finally learning what it means to be human and to embrace my human experience. I have also found that Jesus really is the rock, and that his Word does indeed bring stability and lasts forever.

My younger siblings have allowed me to be in their lives and hang out with their high school friends. I have enjoyed becoming something of that crazy Aunt I always wanted to be, spoiling kids, affirming them, but loving them enough to tell them the truth; being a safe place they can come to.

I've reconnected with two old and dear friends from my past. I saw my "brother" Stuwie who went into the army at the mall yesterday and got to hug him one more time. My cousin and I are both on pinterest and I enjoy seeing her ideas on health and wellness! My brother apologized to me the other day.

The jobs I've had recently have been amazing and fun and absolutely what I needed at that moment. I get to teach dance and move around, set up birthday parties, watch over little ones, and just this past weekend I got to housesit for someone. Life is a journey, let me tell you, and God knows exactly what I need right now.

So what if Christmas isn't super "Christmasy" this year? I have a family who loves me, friends that are amazing and supportive, and jobs that are fun. And anyway, as long as there's the music, the lights, the movies, and the cookies, you're pretty much set for the Holidays, don't you think?

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Days as They are Now

Good morning world,

I hope you are having a productive, insightful day so far.

I just wanted to check in with you and let you know a few things, knowing that if I don't document them now they will be lost forever. Its funny how you think "Oh, for sure, I'll remember that! I can write it down later," only to discover when you try to put it down on paper that it is gone, and nothing can call back the memory.

I wake up when I wake up. Unless I have to go somewhere important. I have learned the hard way that sleep is essential. As much as I'm able, I try to get about eight hours per night. Without sleep, I am quite psychotic and unable to function.

Sometimes I shower in the morning, sometimes at night. My hair is short now, so when I leave my hair wet in the evening, it gets nice and fluffy the next day. I've never had any kind of body to my hair, so I find it rather enjoyable.

The girl in the mirror will change, but she will change gradually. I am not going to rush to lose weight. Rather, I want to make lifestyle changes that will fundamentally change the way I live, not just the way I look. I am working on eating balanced, clean meals, working out (not excessively) and not sabotaging my success by "rewarding" myself with junk food or eating late at night. I'm not perfect, I'm just trying. But I'm trying hard, and picking myself up when I fall. I won't quit on myself.

Pinterest is my best friend. Beautiful pictures, inspirational quotes. And the Bible. I don't follow anything religiously anymore, I just try to find things that are true, things that inspire me to get going and be better. Lately, I've been a little OCD on Michael Jackson. I'll cover that later, he was such an amazing person...

For breakfast, I try to fix a very light meal, usually fresh veggie/fruit juice with some Amazing Grass green drink. This week I've been really into boiled eggs and cucumbers. Very easy on the tummy. Before breakfast, I try to remember to take my pills. I have to take a lot of natural thyroid supplements, and brain stabilizers. I am extremely grateful for these, and for my mother who knew what I needed. I feel so deeply for those struggling with their mental health.

Just as with a physical illness, it is frustrating and discouraging to feel like you can't escape your own unwellness. Some days are better than others, but it is always a battle. Mental illness does, however, grant me a beautiful perspective on the world. I savor, so savor, the days when I feel at peace, when I feel in control of my mind, when I feel well.

When I can enjoy the closeness of other humans without feeling gross or agoraphobic, when I can walk into a store and not feel overstimulated to the point of debilitation, when I feel at home in my own body and can amble gently through my thoughts, its a good day, a really good day!

I usually go to work fairly early in the morning. I love my work. Whether its teaching a dance class, assisting in a daycare classroom, setting up a birthday party, or catering, I am always connecting with people. My life feels more meaningful somehow.

For so long, I lived under the illusion that I was only supposed to "sacrifice" myself, meaning that I was supposed to give up everything for others at the absolute expense of my own well-being. It was what my father expected, and it was the lifestyle my mom modeled.

How freeing it is to know that I am responsible for no one else in this life but ME! Not that I don't care for others. Instead, that naturally falls into the caring after my own heart. I want to make the most of my time, actually following Jesus in the business of creating magic moments and warming other people's hearts in genuine ways.

Freedom has become an increasingly important concept to me. I want to be free in all the best ways; free from human opinions, free from religion that shuts off the mind so the spirit it can bind, free from being dependant on other people, free from the world enforcing its systems on me, free from dependence on substances (food, movies, music, stuff), free from my own limited mind and its expectations. I want to carve my own path freely, to understand God as He wants me to on our own terms, to explore thought and emotion in order to better understand my brief human experience, to leave behind an impression, my dent in the world.

Responsibility is also a waking concept. For so long, I was responsible for others, but my own self was lost, fallen between the cracks. And I was ok with that because I justified my laziness when it came to my own ambitions by saying, "I was helping someone else." I can't help other people until I've helped myself, until I've taken the medicine, until I've taken my own advice. I don't need other people to prop me up, and I refuse to prop up other people.

My soul is an athelete, and only I will determine how far I go. Only I will force myself to write, to eat healthy, to work out. A lack of self-control could ruin me, but the mastry of myself will carry me far. I am determined to change myself. In the process, maybe someone else will get inspired. But frankly, I don't care anymore. If someone is running the same marathon as I am, we will see eachother on the path. I'm in this for myself. If everyone was determined to take care of their own business, the world would run a lot smoother. Everyone has gifts. Use them. That is God's will for your life. Pretty simple right? How does life gets so horribly complicated?

Learning is essential. Turning on the brain is vital. I am trying desperately to read more, to paint, listen to Jazz. I have fallen in love with National Public Radio (the PBS of the airwaves) and documentaries. On the other side, I've realized that the gaining of much knowledge without human connection is the epitome of stupidity. What are we here for if not to love other people, to work hard so we can make each other smile? I am not here for any other purpose but to learn how to interact with other memebers of my species. Jesus gives me the power to not only leave off killing those who annoy me, but to grasp the ability to step into their shoes, to love them even when its not humanly possible. For that reason, Mr. Rogers and Michael Jackson have become my mentors and my heroes. They knew what was truly important.

The ability to be wrong, to accept it, and move on. It sounds so simple doesn't it? But its that very thing that causes most of the rifts in our relationships. I'm amazed at the swelling in my chest when I do something wrong, the rush to defend myself, no matter who I bulldoze in the process. Why its so painful to swallow my pride and admit when I'm wrong, I have no idea... I will spend the rest of my life trying to learn that simple, simple lesson.

After work, after thoughts, I come home to our tiny three bed-room apartment. After much upheaval and family turmoil, my dad agreed last week to be out of the apartment by seven in the morning and not return home until ten at night. Not having him here is such a relief. I know that sounds awful, but looking at him is like looking at a soul-sucking ghost, all the while reciting prayers and telling us of the life-giving glory of God. I've had to come to terms with how spiritually abusive he was to my family.

My mother and youngest sister sleep on the top bed of a twin trundle. My sister Rachel and I share the bottom half of the trundle. It makes for a cozy, if not always comfortable, night sleep. I have to take tons of magnesium and natural sleep aids to help me fall asleep. Sleep deprivation has been a major player in wrecking my mind and body, so I am willing to do whatever it takes to get a good night's rest.

My brother Michael has been greatly affected by my dad's absolute lack of anything substantial in life. My father never spoke to him about anything other than sports. My father's lack of discipline and learned-helplessness spilled over into my brothers life. He is a fighter though. I am very proud of him. My sister Alexa learned about Donny and Marie Osmand, a brother sister singing duo, and the two of them spend hours listening to and copying their songs and mannerisms. Michael went behind our backs and started dating a girl we told him not to. He says he's fifteen and he can do what he wants. He doesn't want to be like my dad. What he doesn't realize is that his hard rebellion is no different than my father's soft rebellion. At the root, they are the same, they just manifest in different forms. He sleeps in his own room. We love him, but don't quite trust him yet. He has so much potential... I just pray he gets a fire lit up in him so that he can tackle life.

Closing thought. Life is never easier. Its just different. Life is so much harder and more intricate than I ever imagined. Breaking out of the religious matrix with all its systems and pat answers was the scariest and most liberating thing I've ever done. There is so much to learn, so much to explore, so many ways to improve! I am just glad to be out of a stagnate pond and into the ocean. Yes, things are more scary out there, but its real life, and I am quite liking the adventure.

Love to all!
Ashley Anne

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