I Have Boundary Issues.

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I’ve been having boundary issues in the last few months.

I began looking at boundaries when, a few weeks ago, I was preparing myself to spend an evening with a group of folks that included a person I don’t really like.

I don’t have a good, solid, logical reason for not liking this person. I just know I don’t. And I am hopefully learning to simply honor that gut instinct and let it be what it is—without questioning myself, without beating myself up for not having a good, ready reason.

Before that evening, I was trying to figure out why I don’t like that person. In my musings, I came across this: They want to be too friendly too quickly. Their questions are too personal. From there—and via a long, difficult trail—I hiked over to: They lack boundaries.

The problem was put before me again when an acquaintance very kindly told me I had offended and embarrassed her in front of some other people by something I had said. I was most impressed with the kind, sweet—and yet very assertive—way she started the confrontation. I thanked her for being honest, kind and assertive in telling me; I sincerely apologized for my mistake.

But after my apology, I could tell from what she continued to say that she assumed I was a careless person without respect for other people’s boundaries. She seemed to think it necessary to point out why it was rude, careless, etc. She went into some detail, making it clear that she had put much thought (and drawn many, perhaps false, conclusions) into the matter.

I really wanted to take offense, and I was hurt by her assumption. I found myself unable to be offended, though, when I looked at it from her side. She had drawn an incorrect conclusion (in my opinion) from my innocent mistake. We did not—and still do not—know each other.

Indeed, I consider myself to be very aware and careful when it comes to other people. Then I made an assumption (in my own mind only) about her: Well, she’s just too uptight. I quickly and easily recognized this assumption as knee-jerk and defensive on my part, and it did not last long, thank goodness.

But after a lot more thought on the subject, I realize that the problem is that we all have very different ideas about what constitutes healthy boundaries. And there is a really broad and relative idea of what constitutes right and wrong in this category.

Brene Brown points out that her research has shown that boundaries are simple to define, but not so easy to enforce. In explaining them, she says boundaries defined are when we know what we can and will tolerate and what he can’t and won’t tolerate: “This is okay. That is not okay.”

The problem comes when we need to enforce what’s okay and not okay for us, she expounded. And we do need to. No one wants to seem unkind and bossy by clearly pointing out what is okay and what is not—especially in that moment when someone has just done something that is not okay. It can get tense.

But she goes on to point out that empathy, compassion and vulnerability are not possible without well established and enforced boundaries.

When we let someone breach a boundary (do or say something that is not okay with us) and then try to silently pretend it is okay, we often become bitter and resentful—and then blame the other person for stepping on our boundaries.

But how can they know they’ve crossed a boundary—and where those boundaries are—if we don’t clue them in and show them our boundary maps?

As I think more about it, it seems kind of disrespectful to not make our boundaries clear. It would be like forcing someone to take on an expedition in a new, uncharted land—and glibly and condescendingly telling them they have to do it without any maps.

And oh yeah, the maps exist, but you can’t have them.

We’ve probably all commented at one time or another—whether out loud or to ourselves—about some person we are having difficulties with: “They have no boundaries.” Or, “They have boundary issues.” Or, “They have uptight/rigid boundaries.”

All we’re really saying is that everyone has their own, specific ideas about what is okay for them and what is not. Which seems reasonable to me. It also seems reasonable for everyone, including me, to have the right to enforce them—in non-violent ways.

And having come to that conclusion, it is also a good idea, I think, to point out that there does seem to be some folks who are not very aware or respectful of boundaries—even when those boundaries have been clearly pointed out—and who don’t seem to have or enforce any boundaries for themselves. In my introversion and privacy, I find these folks difficult to be around.

So really, my problem seems to be two-fold:

  1. The problem is not that anyone else has boundary issues and is asking me too-personal questions, for instance; the problem is that I don’t make my boundaries clear and then enforce them.
  2. I need to avoid those folks who choose to trample boundaries that have been clearly defined, who choose (for whatever reason) to ignore them.

My solution seems really clear to me right now: Establish and maintain my own boundaries—kindly—and let other folks do the same.

At elephant journal:  Do You Have Boundary Issues?

From Death to Forgiveness.

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I have a few things that I can’t seem to forgive.

I live with these things bumping around in here—bruising and hurting—have lived with them a long time—some longer than others.

I, like Brene Brown—who says she worked on forgiveness for 10 years—have been letting the notion of forgiveness steep inside me for a long time, mulling it over, periodically pulling out my still-needs-to-be-forgiven incidents to see if I can fit a square peg into that round hole once more.

I was relieved when I heard her say she had been rumbling with forgiveness for ten years. I was beginning to lose hope for myself and forgiveness, beginning to think we would never hook up, never even be able to be in the same room together. To find out that someone else had also been struggling with it for so many years, put me in good, albeit stubborn, company.

I am aware of the famous quote: “Holding on to anger and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I know I should forgive. I know it only hurts me and not my forgivees. I want to forgive. But I just can’t seem to make/let it happen in some situations.

“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die.” ~ Rev. Joe Reynolds

So, a few mornings ago, when I once again heard Brene tell the story of how she had worked on forgiveness for 10 years and then heard her pastor in church say the “something has to die” line, so that the pieces finally fell together for her, I found myself wondering if maybe that was the piece that was missing for me too.

I felt some hope—mixed with dread at the thought of death and grieving—that forgiveness might be possible for me. So what is it that needs to die so that I can forgive?

Three days later I was still thinking about the dying and trying on the grief that must necessarily follow death. I didn’t want to grieve. But I thought Joe and Brene might be correct. I think I might have to let something die in order to be able to forgive.

There are incidences from the past that still bring up pain and anger, even though I understand why the person did what they had to do. Is that forgiveness, the understanding of the cause? Or maybe some form of forgiveness? When I agree with them and see their point and am even kind of glad they did it that way, but still feel the pain it caused me at that time?

Maybe I don’t understand what forgiveness really is. A quick search brought up:

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).

I am finding that there is in me a small, hard-to-pin-down, part that thinks my lack of forgiveness provides me with something useful and justified. It provides me with a type of book/place mark, a reminder, of sorts.

By hanging on to the resentment, pain, anger, etc., so that it brings up the pain every time I think of it, I don’t ever allow myself to forget to protect myself against such instances. I think, after many years of working on this for myself, that that is what lack of forgiveness means for me.

And indeed, to let go of my pain and anger, almost seems like a betrayal of myself. Because if I succeed in letting those place markers die, mourn the loss and manage to be able to forgive and move on, don’t I leave myself wide open to further pain and possible hurt?

If I forgive that person, then what defense do I have to stop them from harming me again? What reminds me that I must keep my guard up against them and those like them?

And why do I think that my defensive stance would stop anyone from hurting me again? That’s not going to stop anyone from offending or harming me. It’s just stopping me from living fully.

Lack of forgiveness holds the pain that never lets me forget—and never lets me rest. And I am tired; I want to rest from this lifelong vigil.

Lack of forgiveness also allows me to feel superior to the offender. Even if I never say it out loud, I get to think things like, “Well at least I never did that!” when I somehow hurt someone else. So apparently, I have degrees/hierarchies of offense, and if I judge their offense/faux pas as worse than mine, then in some sick, convoluted way, I win.

Is it a simple tit for tat, then, for me? I can’t let go because I might need that pain for ammunition some time in the future to use against them—even if it’s only in my own mind?

Wow. Yuck.

So, more determined than ever to resolve this lifelong dilemma after those lovely discoveries, I am still exploring what might need to die. After much thought this last week and after watching Brene’s video several times, I think it is ideas I hold that have to die.

Here’s the first list:

  1. The idea that those who love me will never hurt me.
  2. The idea that I will always be able to avoid hurting others.
  3. The idea that people who hurt me are always wrong.
  4. The idea that if they do hurt me, they must not love/like me.
  5. The idea that anyone who hurts me is against me and is out to get me and must be my enemy.
  6. The idea that anyone who hurts me is doing it deliberately (it must be personal).

Why has it taken me so long to realize and face the fact that it is not possible to never hurt anyone?

Sometimes we must make difficult, hard-won, unpopular decisions based on our ethics, morals, obligations and beliefs. When we make these decisions, perhaps choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils, we can expect that not everyone is going to like our decision. And we can also expect that our decision may hurt someone. That someone may be a person we dearly love, respect and admire—someone we are close to.

I cannot ask anyone, even someone I carefully love, to go against what they know is right for them, in order to keep from hurting me. I just can’t justify that in any way—even when the pain it might cause may be bumping around in here for years afterwards.

Enter Death. Grief. Pain.

Hopefully followed by Forgiveness and Release, those two bedfellows who travel closely, gracefully and mercifully together.

The elephant journal version: I Can Never Forgive You

What is the One Thing that Will Make all Your Relationships Last?

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“Be kind. No matter what happens, you will always be proud/glad you took the high road.” ~Steve Horsmon

Yes, even when you don’t want to be kind—even when you are blind with anger—actually especially then—because, usually, that anger is coming from some other, deeper emotion/feeling/cause.

For me, anger usually presents itself first and right up front, masquerading as a sense of injustice, so I feel that I must defend myself against the “attacker.” But I am finally learning to hold my tongue and unpack the anger before letting that first quick burst of anger flow out of me in words.

When I do this, I find that my anger nearly always comes from feeling like a failure. And upon inspection and conversation with the “attacker,” it has never been their goal to express that I am a failure.

So I have been forcing myself to get into the practice of saying kind things and doing kind things. Then the difficult part for me is to have the self-discipline to actually do that, to walk that talk—even when I don’t want to and even in difficult conversations/confrontations.

And it is especially difficult to do when I don’t want to—when I get triggered into anger and want to allow myself the “luxury” of not having to do any mental and emotional digging in myself before speaking.

It does indeed satisfy some selfish, childish, impulsive need I have here deep inside me when I simply let anger instantly burst out, unfiltered. But later, I regret it so profoundly, that I have learned that this first, instant gratification of having “spoken my mind” is so not worth that rash impulse.

It requires self-discipline. It requires me actually, physically putting my hand over my mouth sometimes. It is choosing to control my impulses—to say nothing or say only kind things. It is not easy—not for me anyway.

I came into my present relationship as a much older and hopefully kinder person, determined to not make the same mistakes as my younger self. And do I always accomplish this? Gawd no!

But I am more aware, and I recognize when I’ve failed myself.

And it really is myself I am failing—not him, not the relationship. It is me who decides my own standards and ethics, and when I make a stupid decision to go ahead and be mean or passive aggressive or speak in anger, it is me that judges myself most harshly later.

As soon as I let anger exit my mouth, I regret it. I regret in the moment, and I regret it even more later.

Being kind means not pointing out when I think someone else is wrong when it’s not important if they’re wrong—when their being wrong will not harm them or me. And when it does matter—when they are in some sort of danger because of being wrong, it means pointing it out very gently and carefully.

It means I don’t have to be right at someone else’s expense and just because I have some ego-need to be right. It means letting someone else be right. It means letting someone else feel good and not feeling like I have to ruin that in any way—even when I don’t feel good and it rubs salt in my own emotional wounds to hear about their happiness.

For me, it means remembering others and asking about their issues without them having to remind me. It means paying attention. It means forcing myself to come up out of my introverted-ness enough to really see and hear them, to offer them my empathy—and even sympathy—when they need that.

It means finding something good, handsome, pretty, sexy, sweet, beautiful competent, funny, masculine, laudable, etc. about someone (it’s really never hard to do) and then telling him or her about that.

It means choosing my words; emphasis on certain words; and tone very, very carefully when I am angry and/or stressed out.

It means taking a stand against hurting anyone—myself included, because it is going to hurt me greatly later to look at the regret at having not been kind. It means giving up blame and remembering forgiveness.

“Blame is described as a way to discharge pain and discomfort.” ~ Brene Brown

It may mean saying nothing at all. It may mean leaving. It may mean never going back, because it is certainly not kind to continue to let myself be hurt by someone and stay in an abusive, hurtful situation/relationship.

But it also may mean leaving and only coming back when I am not angry and can speak without anger.

It also may mean sometimes staying and listening to someone else’s anger without getting triggered into anger myself—which is so difficult for me! When someone is expressing anger at you, do you instantly get angry in return? I usually do, even though I believe that is no good reason to ever get angry.

“I am starting to think that kindness is the closest one can get to God.” ~Peggy Christiansen

I have been working for years on changing the deplorable (embarrassing!) habit I had of saying things in a passive aggressive manner. Like saying something seemingly innocent and kind, but saying it just the right way so that I know it will actually make that person feel guilty instead.

Gag! Yuck! Sick!

So many times in the past, I would find myself angry but too much of a coward to own it and say it directly, so I would “say” it by a few well-placed words or word emphasis instead.

Passive aggressive much?

Years ago, I enacted the self-rule that I’m not allowed to do that anymore.

It takes paying very carefully, close attention to my motives—especially when I am angry or feel threatened in some convoluted, habitual way. It is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, this careful, self-inspection of motive each time I get triggered.

I’m trying to be gentle, too, in my digging, trying to be kind to myself. That is the most difficult, frustrating part for me.

So, what is the one thing that will make your relationship—and indeed, all your relationships—last?

Kindness.

“My religion is kindness.” ~His Holiness the Dalai Lama, XIV

The elephant journal version.

When for no Specific Reason, You Just Don’t Like Him.

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Have you ever instantly not liked someone but can’t figure out why that is?

Have you ever not trusted someone—without them having done anything to you to warrant that mistrust—and don’t know why?

I recently spent an evening with a small group of people that included a person that I neither like nor trust. I did this at the urging of a friend who disagrees with me and tries to convince me that this person is totally trustworthy.

And did this mistrusted person do anything throughout the evening to prove me correct—or even incorrect? No.

But I spent the entire evening silently berating myself for being so unreasonable, judgy and unfair. Every time they spoke or I looked over at this person, I asked myself, “Now what is it, again, about this person that is so very horrible, Grace? Why are you judging them so harshly?”

An answer never came. What did appear though, was a continued feeling of mistrust and aversion. It grew even stronger throughout the evening—to the point that I started doing my mind-escape thing of going to my happy place inside to get away from them and the situation (which also meant I wasn’t very available for socializing, which was why we were there in the first place).

And from there, I began to feel very childish and dysfunctional. I started in with more self talk like, “This won’t kill you, Grace, just buck up and do this. Be an adult!”

Indeed, I felt like an impatient, recalcitrant child in formal clothes at a formal event who sits in the corner grimacing, chaffing, itching sweating and pulling at the stiff, scratchy clothes, with nothing on their mind but escaping, as quickly as possible, this hot mess of torture.

This person appears very nice, polite, funny, well adjusted, etc. But from the first time I met them, I have never liked this person. And I have continued to question and berate myself about these feelings.

I see this person in my social sphere of acquaintances only occasionally, and I am uncomfortable with this person always. In my concentrated efforts to pin down the origins of my discomfort, I have come up with a few vague things about this person with which I am uncomfortable.

This person wants to be way too chummy, way too quickly. There seems to be a “neediness” or desperation or something similar that I find overwhelming coming from this person. They ask way too personal questions, and I find myself in a constant, tacit struggle with them to redirect the conversation to something less personal without seeming rude.

So is this just a difference in social/personal boundaries? I am a very private person. They are more open? I have explored this possibility too.

So the next day after my experience of self-interrogation in this person’s company, I was still belittling myself, still trying to figure out what was so wrong with me that I couldn’t give this person the benefit of the proverbial doubt.

I mentioned my confusion to a friend—who also happens to be a preschool teacher of over thirty years. I asked, “Have you ever not liked someone, because of the feeling you get from them, but have no real reason not to like them? I mean, I want to be a loving person, a person who is kind and patience, even with those I don’t seem to like.”

She nodded in understanding, and in a very serious voice, said, “Yes, everyone does. And I’ve always taught all my children (in her classes) to honor that feeling in themselves. “Stranger danger” doesn’t really make much sense, because most kids are hurt by people they know—close or extended family, “friends” of the family (she made quotes around the word “friends” with her fingers in the air between us), etc., so I teach them to pay attention to what they feel in here,” she pointed to the middle of her chest.

“I tell them they don’t have to figure out in their heads why they feel that way. Just trust that feeling anyway and stay away from that person and tell someone they trust about that feeling.”

As she spoke, I felt myself releasing something I’d been holding on to way too tightly. A big breath I hadn’t realized I was holding, whooshed out of me; my shoulders dropped. I felt tears of relief wash up and out at being validated.

I had spent so much time alternately defending my gut/heart feelings about this person and then swinging back to, “Why are you being so unreasonably, effing judgy, Grace!?” that I had not even considered a middle ground where I could simply trust myself without having to defend those feelings.

She went on to briefly explain that this was the same way she lives her life. She lets herself pause enough to get a feeling about everything, then she chooses the one that feels best—even down to the choice of her route to work each day.

It was then that I had my a-ha moment.

I too live that way—in every way, except apparently, when it comes to trusting how a person feels to me. I too do a mental/heart check about my route to work, my route to the grocery store, which pair of shoes to buy, what to eat for lunch, as to whether I want to go out and dance or stay in and veg and watch a movie or just meditate.

Why have I been excluding using that heart-centered approach to the feelings I get off of people? And why was I beating myself up about not getting the “right” feelings—like that is somehow my fault?

Does this mean that this person—the catalyst of this whole query—is a bad person?

Not necessarily. Maybe we just have different ideas about what are comfortable, appropriate boundaries. Maybe as an empath, I am picking up on some unrelated, energy/wounds that are deeply buried and that have nothing to do with me. Or maybe that person is wearing a social mask to hide his or her own insecurities, and I am picking up feelings of inauthenticity.

Maybe we have a past lifetime where we didn’t get along with each other. Maybe we were enemies in that lifetime. Maybe the stars aren’t aligned correctly. Maybe my chakras are all out of line, and my aura is just too cluttered, my shoe came untied, the sun was in my eyes, I lost my keys and I was really missing my momma that day…

Regardless of reason—simple, convoluted, unconscious, deliberate, personal, multi-dimensional or not—my mission, if I choose to accept it, is to simply be aware of those feelings of discomfort and mistrust, acknowledge them, honor them and stop feeling like there’s something wrong with me that I can’t like someone, stop feeling like I have to justify myself in some way, stop feeling like I’m a bad person for not liking someone who brings up revulsion in me.

I will now use these feelings as the tool that they are. Just like I use them to choose my path to work every morning, I will similarly use them to choose who I want to hang out with—and not.

Without question. Without having to figure out why.

Have you ever had this experience? What do you do with it?

The elephant journal version.

My Yearly Battle with SAD.

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It really is a battle each and every year—no matter what I do or don’t do.

You would think after so many years of this same war, I’d be more prepared and aware, but every year it seems to slip up on me, unawares.

It usually starts in late Autumn, but I only can tell that by looking back at it from a few weeks/months later—and only if I’ve somehow managed to get a little better, to climb back up and part way out of the valley. I live in U.S. Mountain Time, and every year right around the switch from Daylight Savings Time, my life begins a descent.

The problem is, though, because the decline is so gradual, I don’t realize anything is happening until I find myself lying at the bottom of that deep well—crumbled, depressed, anxious—unable to even look up, much less stand up and begin climbing.

My Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) manifests as a weird, confusing combination of anxiety, depression, fear and defensive, angry negativity.

I spend whole days wondering where joy has wandered off to, and why I am feeling so listless and hopeless—and so unnecessary and useless, why nothing and no one seem to inspire me anymore. Mornings, as I rise (angry, frustrated, sad), I lament out loud, “Now why am I doing this?”

Where “this” means: life.

Tears burst quickly up and forth, but only briefly, because I tamp them down, knowing from experience that I shouldn’t travel too deeply into that well-known morass.

Why am I once again rising out of my bed in the early dark to start another day? Why am I forcing myself to eat, to get dressed in clothes that annoy and irritate?

Nothing seems to matter. Nothing makes sense.

I feel like I’m in a fog and like I can’t force my mind to make sense of why I am doing such useless, repetitious, soul-sucking, day-to-day crap that only serves to perpetuate my physical existence on this Earth (like that’s somehow the goal? Why is that so highly valued, anyway? Why are we here, working, eating, shitting, sleeping—lather, rinse, repeat?).

I become hypersensitive and jumpy. Everything I put on my body seems to burn and itch and frustrate. I am always cold—except when I am hot flashing and sweating like a pack mule. My skin is dry and feels raw—except when I am drenched in cold sweat.

My clothes are too hot, too tight, too loose, too short, too scratchy; they chaff, they bind, they irritate. Every seam, every tag—everything—is too rough. I tug, scratch, stretch, squirm—have to stop myself, close my eyes and force myself to breathe slowly, deeply, calmly, in fear of doing harm to my skin or to the clothes.

Every noise seems too loud and abrasive on my ears and senses. I jump at normal sounds and shrink from noises. It seems like everyone is shouting and my system can’t handle the overload.

I find myself thinking things like, “This is useless…” about almost everything, because I can’t find good, hopeful reasons for doing anything—it all seems pointless and/or stressful and like too much trouble to bother with.

Then I feel guilty, because I know my life is not a bad life. In fact, when I’m not SADing, I feel my life is fantastically wonderful, and I am happy.

But when I am SADing, I feel like I am somehow babysitting my own irritated, recalcitrant inner toddler who has reached the too-late-to-turn-back stage and is in constant almost-tantrum mode (I am a mother; I know of which I speak).

I torture my poor man with repeated bouts of sadness. I am tired. I am cranky. I am way too sensitive and too eager to find fault, blame and to argue. I catch myself stopping to breathe and calm myself way too often—it becomes debilitating, interrupts our life together.

He evidently has the proverbial patience of Job to deal with me each Fall and Winter. He is my rock and safe landing place.

And I love and trust him to the extreme, blind point that just thinking of him reminds me of why I am here and why I am alive and what I have to do next—which is usually something normal like get out of bed in the dark each morning and go open the dog door for my two weenies (Dachshunds) and one-eyed, feral cat who are usually still sleeping next to me, under the covers in the bed.

Deep in the abyss, several weeks into dark, cold, cloudy weather, I’ll have a good day for some unfathomable reason and realize: “Oh my god, I am SADing again! This is SAD! How did this happen again without me realizing it?”

And I begin to claw my way back out and up, trying with my foggy brain to remember my winter routine, the things that have helped some in winters past.

Some Things I’ve Tried that Help

I click ahead in my Google calendar and put “SAD?” on the calendar for next year on several days in the Fall and early winter, so I am (hopefully) better at identifying it next time.

I sit in direct sunlight with my bare skin. Windows in cars and houses have UV protection. In order to get direct sunlight and the UV rays needed, you will need sunlight on bare skin and the back of your eyes.

I take the screens off my windows in the winter to get more light in the house. Every morning I try and remember to turn off the heat, close my bedroom door, open the window, and sit on my bed in the sun with a bare face and arms. I keep my eyes open (I don’t look directly at the sun, of course).

Yes, it’s cold. I do this even when it’s cloudy, raining or snowing, because the sun’s up there somewhere, even if I can’t see it, and I am still getting the benefits.

I take careful amounts of vitamin D3 (remember, it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, so dose accordingly). I keep to my exercise routine even when I can’t seem to understand why I should. I meditate a lot—at least once a day (usually more)—to de-stress and calm my overactive, over-stimulated nervous system.

I drink water like a fish. I get outdoors and in the sun as much as possible—including riding my bike as much as possible—even in the cold, snowy weather. I eat healthy foods, to include getting the right amount (for me—I’ve experimented a lot) of carbs/starches that insure my brain has the ingredients to make the “feel-good” chemicals.

When I drive in my car, I blast the heater and lower a window as far as I can stand in the cold to get fresh air and as much natural light as possible. I use expensive, full-spectrum light bulbs at work on my desk and at home in several lamps/fixtures—but not too late at night so that my sleep patterns aren’t interrupted.

If you go the full-spectrum bulb route, make sure to research and check for the correct lumen number/count.

Last year it got so bad, despite my best efforts, that I resorted to a natural supplement to help me out. I am taking BriteSide by Solaray as directed. When I went to my local health food store and asked the nutritionist there for help, it was one of the remedies she suggested.

I’ve noticed a brilliant difference since beginning to take it. I stopped taking my individual Vitamin D tabs and only take the BriteSide, which contains plenty of D. I actually feel like myself again—thank God!

When I can come up out of the fog enough to remember to do these things, I feel better. The winter is more bearable. Neither my man nor I like the cold weather where we live anymore. Maybe we are just getting old. I don’t know for sure. We do know, though, that the extreme, ultimate remedy is to move to a sunnier climate.

When, through the fog, I remember our plans to move somewhere warmer and sunnier in the next few years, I am able to get up and keep going again, even while producing and carrying around my own fog

I have researched natural remedies and have my winter routine (when I can remember it through the fog). These ideas are not meant to constitute medical advice or remedies. Do your own research, go see your doctor, get on meds if necessary.

Take care of yourself, even as I try and do the same (she says, from her bed while watching snow fall outside on a cold, dark, grey, windy afternoon…sigh).

A version is also on elephant journal.

 

How to Wear a Dress Clip. Define Dress Clip.

I am writing this because I have had several customers at my Etsy Shop not understand how to use, wear and adjust a dress clip. I too, years ago when I first started wearing them, did not know how to wear them. It took some time and experimentation to get the hang of it.

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If you have an outfit that every time you put it on you stand in front of the mirror and cinch the waist in at the back with your hand to make it fit correctly and look better, then this is the thing you need.

Dress clips are fastened at the back of a garment, right at the waist, in order to take in the garment and make it fit better and look better.

These are dress clips—a white lace one and a black crocheted one:

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I use gold or bronze clips (I can’t find the gold ones anymore!). You get to choose the color/metal.

 

First of all, you do not need a stretchy clip for it to work properly. You can use a stretchy clip if you like the look of it, but it does not change the functionality of a clip very much. I personally think the stretchy ones look too juvenile, like something a child would wear, but that is just my opinion. It is also why I do not make stretchy clips to sell in my shop.

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Here are the basics of wearing and adjusting a dress/shirt/jacket/sweather clip.

Let’s start with a big, loose, boxy garment.

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You will always start by placing the middle of the clip on the middle of the garment – which is your spine. So let’s mark the vertical (up and down) middle of the garment with a sharpie.  Then let’s mark the horizontal line which represents your waist.

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Now let’s place the middle of the clip at the mid-line that runs up and down (vertically, which is your spine), and let’s fasten each clip only 2.5 inches, on each side, from that middle vertical line. Notice how there isn’t much gathering between the two clip ends and it does not take the garment in much. The clip is even sagging some, because it is not pulled out any by the garment.

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Now let’s move the clip ends out some and fasten one 4 inches to the right of the mid-line and then the other one 4 inches to the left of the mid-line. Notice how the garment is gathered more between the clip ends and the garment is pulled in more. We are starting to see some shape to the garment.

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Okay, so let’s move the clip ends out to 6 inches, on each side, from the middle vertical (up and down – the spine) line. See how there is much more fabric gathered in between the two clip ends? The garment is now pulled in much more and is much more shapely.

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So just to illustrate what is possible, let’s move each clip end all the way around to each side seam. Notice how the clips are pulling the side seams way around to the back. I realize this is too much and that this is not a good look for this garment (but it may work on some garments, depending on its size and your size), but I just want to make the point that the size and type of dress/shirt clip does not determine the amount of shape you can put in a garment. The amount of shape you can put in a garment is determined by how far from the mid-line you place each clip end.

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So we went from this (which looks like a night gown):

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To this (which looks like a fitted dress/shirt):

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So, you can see that how far you get each end of the clip from the middle of the garment in the back (or your spine), determines how much shape you can put into a garment, and how much fabric you take up.

For some more, different, before and after photos, go here.

To have a look at my lace, crocheted and metal dress clips, go here. The one shown in the photos is a crocheted clip in “dark pink.”

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I also make custom dress/shirt clips from your own, matching fabric. Just send me a piece of fabric that measures at least 3 inches by 6 inches and specify which color clip ends you want (bronze or silver).

Good luck! Please contact me if you have questions. I am happy to answer all your questions and help your experience with dress clips be fun and functional.

In 2012 I Broke up With my Boyfriend, my Church and God.

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I give the book, Eat Pray Love, so much credit for so many things I’ve undertaken in the last few years.

During 2012, it became my solace, my confidant, my bible, my comfort—the secret sanctuary where I sobbed those deep, body-hiccupping, snot-flying, eyes-screwed-shut, mouth-skinned-back-into-the-ugly-crying-skull, sobs and alternately laughed in my new-found happiness.

I carried my well-loved-abused copy everywhere I went (even when I knew I’d be unable to stop and read it), a talisman against my own fear and doubt—a validation and sacrament for the necessary hurricane of changes I was offering up to myself.

That year I broke up with my boyfriend, my church, and my God. I rewrote and redirected my life, Eat Pray Love as my companion and witness, as my poetic Sherpa.

When the book was published, I quite sullenly and self-righteously read it, only because so many were raving about it. It pissed me off—all that raving. I’m so pig-headed that I won’t admit when someone else has written a great book with great ideas—simply because they aren’t my ideas, and it’s not my book.

I rolled my eyes at everyone asking, in that excited, insistent tone of voice, if I’d read it. When I admitted to not only having not read it, but also to having no plans to ever read it, I had to listen to them launch enthusiastically into their list of reasons why I should go immediately and get a copy and begin reading it while standing in the checkout line.

I am stubborn—and stupid in my stubbornness. If you tell me I should do something, I will avoid that very thing—avoid it with instant disregard to its possible benefits to me.

I was also fermenting, in my mind’s dark basement, some vague, sanctimonious plan to contradict them after reading it by insisting on how boring it had been, how their approval of such an inferior book only proved how poorly-read they were. I wanted to prove that it wasn’t as good as they imagined.

Superior much?

I read it quickly and dispassionately and thought, “Okay, that was a good book, but I don’t know what all the fuss is about.” Then I gave it away, because I only keep books I will reread. In those books, I always write the date I bought them. This one didn’t fall into my will-read-again-in-the-future category.

Then 2012 dawned, and the shite hit the proverbial fan. The year started normally enough, what with her usual refusal to make resolutions, but early on I noticed signs of her unrest—the unwillingness to make eye contact, refusal to tell me where she’d been all night.

You know, the usual early signs of doubt and dissatisfaction.

As the there’s-a-reason-for-everything (control-freak!) person I am, I’d like to assign an agent, a specific reason, for the upheaval. I find, however, that I cannot pinpoint an exact catalyst.

I could blame the church “prom.” At the 2012 prom, while dancing with my boyfriend, my lack of attraction to him swam up from somewhere inside me. Worse, I suddenly remembered the very same thing surfacing at the 2011 prom.

I suck at tracking time—always have. So it came as an incredible, depressing shock to discover a real-time calendar marker that proved I had been dissatisfied for over a year. I was horrified at myself that I had “wasted” a year of life. How could I have allowed that to happen?! What was wrong with me that I wasn’t paying attention?

I had become a sheep, unaware—a zombie! I tentatively—and with much dread—began to look at my life, only to discover that in no area of my life was I happy. And it was a surprise to me, asleep that I had been. It would have been easy to blame the boyfriend for my general unhappiness, but I kept digging—while I whined and cried—uncertain about what to do.

Finally, I quit crying and decided it was time for action. I had reached the conclusion that I was in charge of my life, and that if I wasn’t happy, then it was my own damned fault.

I started with the boyfriend. I broke up with him in April. Afterwards, I debated my sanity. After all, he was a good man. I talked it over with girlfriends on a regular basis to stay strong. I made myself keep away from him, afraid I’d weaken and ask him to return.

Next, I broke up with my church, resigned from the council. The church was going through a lot of transition, and I realized being involved with all that transition was too stressful for me. The come-to-Hay-soos meeting that finally got my attention was so tough that I think I had a heart attack. I am a veteran panic-attacker, so I knew it was not that—something that can be confused with a heart attack by panic attack novices.

While I was (outwardly) calmly arguing my stance, listening to people (not calmly!) verbally attack me, there was a sane but desperate voice in a deep, quiet part of me—monitoring the heavy pressure in my chest and the erratic, excruciatingly painful beating of my heart—praying, begging, “Please don’t let me die here. I don’t want to die in the middle of so much anger.”

I refused to show any signs of “weakness” to the verbal assailants (I’ve mentioned the stubborn thing, right?), even as I was experiencing all the painful, classic, heart attack symptoms.

Afterwards, I resigned from the council. When you’ve decided to take charge of your life and make it happier, you know very easily and quickly that life is too short to be having heart attacks—real or otherwise—at church meetings.

I could also blame the fact that I found it necessary, at some point that year, to break up with God. Yes, you read that right. I broke up with God. I was pissed off that I didn’t have the life I thought I wanted, so I officially broke up with God. I became an atheist—sort of—for a while.

It turns out we were just taking a break, but I didn’t know that at the time.

At some point early in that year, I started having a hankering for Eat Pray Love. It baffled me. I mentioned this longing to someone, and she said—in a condescending tone, “You mean you haven’t read that yet, Grace?!”

“Bloody hell,” I thought, “here we go again!”

She was one of the original ravers—one of the women who had thoroughly pissed me off years before with her snobbish attitude about the book. I explained, inwardly defensive but trying not to go there verbally, that I had already read it, but was feeling drawn to it again for some inexplicable, baffling reason. Her attitude at this vulnerable admission revealed condescension again.

As usual, my timing was off. Had I expressed this hankering those few years ago when it was in vogue to read the damned thing, I might have been accepted into their inter sanctum. I was failing again at fitting in. I was never accepted into the in-crowd in school either, much to my teenage chagrin.

My copy of Eat Pray Love is dated May 18, 2012. It is written in, beat up, squashed, tea stained, smeared; it is well loved. Its dog ears have dog ears.

I spent the summer alone, out on the deck meditating and reading—for hours at a stretch. Each time I finished, I turned immediately to the front and started over. I lost count of the re-readings. I began to skip the first, sad, part and would go meet Liz in Italy instead.

I read—moved to tears, laughter, chicken skin, longing, happiness, sadness, shame, joy…

I would stop reading and meditate over passages that caused some sort of shift in me—and would open my eyes hours later to discover the sun had set on the front side of my house, and I was sitting in darkness, a smile on my face.

With its support, I successfully changed my attitude and my entire life. I graduated off my deck and became social again. I started dancing again. I took tango lessons. I learned to salsa. I began exploring the masculine/feminine aspects of myself and began coaxing myself toward the feminine end of that spectrum.

A man that has become—second only to my daughter—the love of my life, taught me how to blues dance. And I fell in love—with him and with blues dancing. He and I are still dancing together, dancing through the most amazing and fulfilling relationship I have ever known, as well as on the dance floor. We teach blues dance now.

I didn’t stop there. I am still rereading Eat Pray Love, letting it have its way with me, letting it heal me by what it brings up in me to be examined.

It is still my comfort and solace and go-to propellant.

It continues to usher me up and into my own heart when I am wondering what to do (go back to bed, Grace), when I’m frightened about what’s next, when I know I need to crack through my own restrictive seed pod and send out some roots, some new growth into happiness, into sacred moments when I, just like Liz, sink down into that still, calm hub of my heart, happy and content.

A version published at elephant journal. Photo courtesy of the author.

Grace is a Certified Hypnotherapist and relationship coach in Ft. Collins, CO, USA. She gracethanx2013.3sees clients and facilitates Divine Feminine Hypnotherapy workshops for women. She’s a flaming, Earth-loving, tree-hugging, save-the-Planet, believes-in-faeries, bike-riding, card-carrying, spiritual but not religious, hippie cowgirl liberal photographer poet therapist—yep, they do exist. You can find her creations here. You can also connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.