Posts Tagged ‘growth’

The 2010s: a personal retrospective.

Sometimes I feel that marking a decade or any length of time seems (paradoxically) both important and also arbitrary to me. However, as I wrote this, it made me more aware of all I’ve experienced in the 2010s. So here are some of the big events in my life from 2010-2019. I have some links scattered throughout of blog entries — reading the linked posts isn’t necessary but gives more detail to a few of the mentioned events/experiences.

2010: My first full year of living in San Diego, California with my love. I finished my AmeriCorps VISTA program, paid my student loans, and got hired at the same nonprofit where I had done my AmeriCorps term. I went to Costa Rica for a month-long Spanish immersion program.

2011: After months of struggling with burnout from work, I got laid off from my full-time job at the nonprofit. I was incredibly burnt out and realized I needed to take some time to rest and recover. And then I joined a nonprofit women’s empowerment organization — as a volunteer and client — to focus on that healing.

2012: I moved into communal housing with that same women’s empowerment nonprofit. My grandmother passed away. I got a part-time job at a nonprofit museum — a great fit location-wise, not so much otherwise.

2013: I turned 30. My love and I separated for a while. I discovered I had a tumor growing on my ovary. I completed the healing/leadership program at the nonprofit and took on an in-house leadership role. I had open abdominal surgery and had the tumor, along with my right ovary and appendix, removed. (Full surgery store here and here.) Post-surgery, I began to wonder if I was becoming depressed.

2014: Crash and burn. January-May, everything felt like it was sliding downhill until I couldn’t go any further. I tried to maintain that leadership role and put on a brave face, but both my misgivings about the organization and my depression were growing. In late May, I went from the ER to a psychiatric hospital, where I spent about a week and a half (reflections on my time there here). After some back and forth about what to do, I made two decisions: a) I needed to leave the organization and San Diego and go back to Albuquerque and b) I wanted to stay in a relationship with my love.

I moved back to Albuquerque. I found Nia. I started a DBT program. And slowly, gradually, with support, I started to find my way back towards healing and myself.

2015: After urging from my DBT therapist, I went to an occupational therapist, who agreed that I had sensory processing issues. We began to work together, creating a sensory diet that worked well for me.

Got my Nia White Belt and began teaching here and there.

My love and I visited each other whenever we could, and we officially got engaged over the Thanksgiving weekend. I graduated from my DBT program in December of that year. My dad, my love and I spent several days over the holidays in the Grand Canyon and Sedona (starting the first year of our tradition of going to Sedona for Christmas).

2016: Started vision therapy with my occupational therapist in January and completed it in October — yay for more depth perception! Started teaching Nia more regularly. My love and I planned our wedding and co-created a beautiful ceremony with our friend who officiated. And there was a rainbow on our wedding day (picture here)! Moved to Las Vegas to join my spouse. Started taking an online legal transcript proofreading course.

2017: Lots of settling in to my new city. Took some classes at the community college. Took the Nia Moving to Heal training. Completed the transcript proofreading course and got my first clients. Started teaching a regular Nia class in the fall. On the less good side: one car got stolen and recovered in January and our apartment got broken into in the fall.

2018: Took more classes at the community college. Bought a condo and moved in! Completed Took the Nia Blue Belt training in Portland.

2019: Started taking the biology prerequisites for the graduate program I’m considering and realized that I’m good at biology (which required a bit of self-reflection and reframing). Went back to therapy to work on the trauma from my experiences in 2014 (and, of course, have ended up working on more than that). Took a part-time job at the community college as a supplemental instruction (SI) leader for a section of the introductory biology class in the fall. Celebrated three years of marriage with my love (and 12 total years together!)

I realize these summaries of each years isn’t exhaustive — there are more events I could include, perspective on politics throughout the years, etc. But at the same time, it’s a lot and it’s enough for now.

Happy New Year’s! May your reflections on the past help bring you insights for your present and dreams for your future.

What’s my story? It’s mine.

 Owning our story

Picture of card with text:  “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” Dr. Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection.

For quite a while, when I saw a quote about owning my story, I would cringe. While I knew that Brené Brown and others meant well by this concept and phrase, it would remind me of a time when people asked me, “What can you own in this situation?” or “What’s your story?” (and story as in “what is the story you’re telling yourself about this situation?”)

I realize now that in some ways, these questions and statements from others may have been more about their perspective and their narrative of me, as in “I think you’re not taking ownership” or “I don’t think that’s what really happening,” etc. It wasn’t my narrative, it wasn’t my story.

We are makers of meaning, and sometimes the stories we tell ourselves about a situation or others are narratives based on something else entirely – belief, a past event, a judgment, etc. These kind of stories are informative in their own way. For me, I think the question, “Why do you think that?” provokes more thought, more discussion than a “what’s your story?” I remember reading Brené Brown’s Rising Strong, and she has a chapter where she gets angry at her husband, and realizes that it relates to a dream she had the previous night. She tells her husband, “the story I’m telling myself is…” And in doing so, she opens up, she opens up another level of honesty, part of how she thinks and how it causes her to react. And I recognize that she is the one claiming this, just as much as she claims her vulnerability and her truth in other circumstances that may appear more tangible.

Going back to the time about 3 years ago, when someone asked me the question, “What’s your story?” I felt volatile, vulnerable. I wanted support; I often got invalidating comments back. I was headed towards rock bottom, and it wasn’t a helpful question for me. It wasn’t a “where are you, how are you feeling, what’s happening for you when you say that?” I often grabbed onto sense and it feel through my fingers; communication was challenging, figuring out where I was and where I stood and how to make a coherent decision felt next to impossible. If my self had a narrative it had been wrapped around a goal, and now that I know longer wanted that, I felt like I was unraveling, as though I didn’t have a story.

My narrative of myself then was different: I felt like I had a number of successes, a number of times where I would rise to the occasion, and then I would crash: my energy, self-esteem, sense of self. I often blamed myself. I didn’t fully know what was going on, but every time I fell I got up again and tried harder. Several years ago, I wrote a lot about my personal growth; when I read it now, it doesn’t ring true to me. Nevertheless, I believed that narrative, and there are pieces of it that certainly held value for me.

When sensory processing disorder became part of my narrative, my perspective on the past changed. It wasn’t a story about trying and failing in the same sense anymore, or about my behavior – it was about the underlying cause that I once had no words for. It was about trying to voice what was going on and people labeling it as something else, a narrative based on misunderstanding. I’ve been working my way, on my own terms, towards understanding, and having compassion for the years of not knowing.

I think owning one’s story is about claiming what resonates personally. It’s about telling my story from my own perspective and allowing the details, as nitty gritty as they may be, to come to the surface.

And, of course, other people can say things to me or about me, and give perspective or feedback that can help me tell my own story. But there are ways to do that without wrenching the narrative away.

In the end, perhaps owning my story is taking the reigns of my narrative for myself; shedding the assumptions and projections; finding what is true for me in the moment, deciphering what is not.

What’s my story?
It’s mine. And I’m still in the process of telling it.

The past 2+ years: what I’ve gained

I came back to my hometown in June 2014. Now, October 2016, I am preparing to move to a new city and state to join my love. I wanted to take some time to acknowledge what I’ve gained over the past two years.

DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy)

Then: When I came back to my hometown, I was convinced that I had no options and my life was over. I had heard of DBT because a close friend had gone through a program, but I had never considered it for myself. As my mom and I were packing for me to leave San Diego, she put in a call to a DBT program, and I got put on a waiting list. I was extremely nervous about starting with a new therapist, hesitant to trust, and felt like my connection to life and wanting to live was shaky. I started therapy in August, and group in October.

Now:  I had my final session with my therapist last Thursday. I felt a sense of completion, of accomplishment. I don’t think I need therapy, at least for the time being. I have skills, resources, and a strong support system. I have faith in my life and myself and hope for the future. I went through fourteen months of skills group, and two years of individual therapy. I also gained friends from group, women who I connect with and love. We’re different in many ways, and we’ve bonded over our shared experiences. Sometimes, I find myself using DBT skills automatically. The skills help me navigate every day, through interpersonal situations, regulating my emotions, with self-acceptance, and more. I am so grateful that I landed here and did the program – it was a huge commitment, and I worked hard and have come so far.


Then:  One of my dad’s friends told him about Nia and thought I might enjoy classes. I’d heard of it, and was curious. I took my first class while I was visiting my dad in June of 2014, and absolutely loved it. When I decided to return, I knew that Nia classes would become an essential part of my weekly routine. In a time where my depression made it challenging to get up and go in the morning, I got up three times a week and took myself there. There, I found laughter and joy and freedom of movement. The sense of heaviness that pervaded so much of my life lifted for a few hours afterward. That thread of joy and relief from anxiety helped me slowly tap into those experiences in other areas of my life.

Now:  My Nia practice has extended beyond my three times a week at the local studio, and I now practice routines at home. I have a White Belt, and have been teaching Nia for roughly six months (subbing, then consistently for two months). I’ve met some wonderful people through Nia and have gained a community. I truly love dancing, and teaching is a joy. And I will continue – on my own, and with other teachers. My hope is to start teaching a regular class by the new year. Nia has challenged me to grow, to become more in touch with my body, to integrate music and memory and movement to create an incredible whole. It’s also a great tool for sensory integration and emotional regulation. When I do Nia, I feel like I’m at home – with myself, in my body, and with those around me.

Occupational Therapy

Then: My DBT therapist suspected I had sensory issues, and referred me to an occupational therapist. At first, I was stubborn and didn’t take up her suggestion – I was concerned that doing sensory integration work would make me less sensitive overall.  Finally, I agreed to at least go for an assessment. I filled out the intake/assessment form with trepidation, wondering what my answers might mean. The woman who would become my regular OT looked over my answers and explained: I was, at the very least, tactile defensive. As we talked, more details came out, how exhausted I could get, how overwhelmed I got in busy and crowded situations. “Do you think you could help me?” I asked. “I think I can,” she replied. Through my first months of occupational therapy, I was amazed – and a bit horrified – as I became more and more aware of how strongly sensory stimuli affected me. It explained so much, from my energy crashes to times when I would shut or melt down. And slowly, the regular exercises – from the sensory diet to the regular brushing – she gave me to do began to help.

Now:  I have learned so much in the past year and a half. I have found a sensory adult community online, and I know I am not alone in being an adult with a delayed diagnosis of sensory processing disorder. I am generally less tactile defensive, except when I’m under a lot of stress – and then it’s good for me to resume brushing regularly. I’ve completed two rounds of the sensory motor iLS listening program. While I’m still sensitive to loud sounds/noises, I’m a little less so, I can filter better when there are multiple conversations going on around me.  I’ve learned about neonatal reflexes and am doing regular movement exercises to help integrate them; as a result, I startle less easily. I have so much more knowledge and awareness of my sensory issues, and I approach my life differently and respect my limits much more. I am much more understanding and accommodating with myself, and I have much more self-acceptance. Regarding my sensitivity: While I am less reactive overall, I believe that doing sensory integration work has actually enhanced my sensitivity. Things are less overwhelming overall, and I’m able to better focus on one thing at a time and sense in. Initially, I was afraid that doing sensory integration work would numb my senses, but instead I would say that it has made how I perceive things more accurate and more nuanced.

Vision Therapy

Then:  Around September of last year, after several months of occupational therapy, I was describing my visual experiences with driving at night, how the lights seemed overpoweringly bright. My OT, who also does vision therapy, decided to try a visual exercise with me, one that left me disoriented and dizzy. She referred me to the developmental optometrist for an evaluation for binocular vision – how well my eyes work together. It turned out that not only did my eyes not work together well, but I also had poor depth perception. The news unhinged me a bit, and it explained so much – why learning to drive and driving in general had been so challenging and overwhelming for me, why crowded situations and fluorescent lights bothered me so much, and much more. I got on the waitlist for vision therapy with my occupational therapist, and started in January 2016.

Now:  I completed my vision therapy last week, and had another evaluation with the developmental optometrist on Monday. I now have greatly improved depth perception, and it’s now almost relaxing to see things around me in so much detail and dimension. Driving at night is so much easier; the lights no longer seem so bright and everything seems so much clearer and well-defined. I have a greater sense of how my eyes are moving, and my eyes generally feel more relaxed and less strained. I’m still having difficulty with divergence – comfortably bringing both eyes out to see at a distance – and I maintenence exercises that I’ll do several times a week for the next while. My OT and optometrist say that vision generally keeps improving post-program as everything continues to integrate. I’ll have another followup appointment during my next visit (likely in the spring or late winter) to see where I’m at.


Then: I felt betrayed by the community that I had been part of, the community I left when I decided to leave San Diego. It was a community where I had once felt such great love and belonging, and now felt out of place and didn’t think anyone understood what was going on with me. When I came back to my hometown, I was distrustful, and I was hesitant to get involved in community-oriented activities, especially ones that resembled ones in my past. But I started to realize: I felt so welcome in my Nia classes, and I started to connect with the other people there. I looked forward to my weekly DBT group and seeing everyone there. It may not have looked like it had in the past, but I was making new friends and being in community. When I took my Nia White Belt in July of last year, I had a moment where I started to laugh and cry at the same time, “I am self-healing from an acutely painful experience in community,” I told the group that morning. “And I feel so welcome here.”

Now:  I’m going to miss all the people I’ve grown to know and love, and miss seeing them regularly. I will keep in touch as best as I can and know that I have community here. I still am connected to a few people in the community I left. I am connected to the local and greater Nia community. I love and value the people in my life. I am open to creating and building community elsewhere, too – in my own way, and in my own time.

I’m tired/I’m grateful

I’m tired of being long-distance, of being so far away from him. It’s been over two years now that we’ve lived in separate places.

I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to have this time to heal and grow while we’ve been apart.

I’m tired of mainly seeing each other on the screen.

I’m grateful that we have FaceTime and Skype, and that we can see each other that way and talk on a regular basis.

I’m grateful that this has challenged us to learn how to communicate more effectively.

I’m tired of visits that feel so incredibly full, like we’re trying to shove everything we can into a short period of time.

I’m grateful that we’ve gotten to have these visits, because even small amounts of time together can feel precious and amazing.

I’m tired of missing him.

I’m grateful that soon, we’ll get to live and  be together on a regular basis.

(And part of me knows that there will be times when he or I will want space, and that kind of longing will be far from my mind. That missing will happen, but perhaps for shorter periods of time – a  business trip, visiting a friend or family, a day when he comes home from work later than expected, etc.)

I am tired, and I am grateful.

It’s less than two months before our wedding. I’m anticipating stressful moments, bittersweet moments, celebratory moments. I want to hold this time close to me – to be able to cherish the last weeks of my time here, collect memories, and to prepare myself for the transition.


The Fool card

The Fool card from my Oracle Card deck

The Fool: Beginner’s Mind. Stepping into the Unknown. Spontaneity. Trusting the process.

It’s challenging for me to be a beginner. To acknowledge my mistakes and use them as learning tools, instead of weapons. I’m a recovering perfectionist with high standards. While I have generally learned to adjust my standards to a more realistic level, I still sometimes find myself doubting my abilities when I’m learning something new.

I step into teaching Nia and I am determined. I practice often, I watch the DVD to review the moves and cueing. When I don’t get something the first or fourth time, I listen, watch, and try again.

I step into teaching and I am vulnerable. After class, I sometimes have this feeling like I’ve just shared an important piece of myself. It’s vulnerable to show where I am in the learning process. I’m not exactly polished; there is a rawness to some of my movements. I I stumble at times, which sometimes causes the students to stumble or pause. In those moments, I make a mental note and keep going.

I’ve been given a gift: One of my Nia teachers, who teaches three classes a week, needed a little bit of a break. She offered me one of her weekly classes for the next two months, which is most of my remaining time here before my wedding and move. Yes, I have to pay rent to the studio, but I don’t have to promote my own class. I can still dance with my regular early morning Nia community – I get to teach people I know.  While subbing for my teachers, I appreciate the experience, and it’s not consistent enough. In order to learn to teach, I need to teach regularly. For the next two months, I’ll be teaching every Monday.

Now, I have the opportunity to practice. I get to practice being a beginner. I get to practice hearing my doubts, the voices that speak to frustration. I’m learning to hear what they have to say, take any useful feedback, and keep going.

I’m learning. I’m beginning. There’s something beautiful and raw about a time where not knowing gradually becomes knowing. Where doing something new slowly becomes an intentional practice. And hopefully, where teaching Nia becomes a vital and regular part of my life.

Nia: Continuing to step in

I have now been practicing Nia for two years. As of this week, I have taught five Nia classes, filling in as needed when my teachers are on vacation.

When I’m in the middle of teaching, I am very present. I stumble at times, and I keep going.  I also find more ways to play, to be silly, to decide and say things in the moment.

Sometimes, afterwards, I feel exposed, vulnerable. Like I’ve opened myself to others and it was beautiful and heart-ful and also very deep. Sometimes, when I get home after teaching, I want to crawl underneath the covers for a few minutes and stay there. In reality, I don’t, but I acknowledge the feeling. I tell myself to keep going, that this feeling doesn’t mean that something is wrong or out of place. The truth is: as I dance more, as I teach more, the more in place I feel. There’s something about this that feels natural, and other parts of it feel uncomfortable. It is exposing. It is new. And it also feels like home.

I find myself thinking: I want to do this more. My body and spirit crave it.

On Tuesday, I found myself giving suggestions for modifications for someone with an injured hip and I realized I sound like I know what I’m talking about. I’m going to check an anatomy book out of the library so I can become more familiar with specific muscle names.

I see the ripple move throughout my life, the confidence I’m gaining, how the strength and agility of my body helps me feel like I’m more solidly here. The way I experience music continues to change, the way I sense the beat and how I move to it. I feel more connected to the energy and around me, more connected to myself.

Child of the in-between

She is a
Child of the in between
Others speak for her

Am I real? she asks
Chaotic air all around her.

She holds
Play and wonder, but also deep fear

She knows so much from before
But says nothing.

Her wounds are initially visible,
Then disappear.
How she feels on the inside

– March 2013

Love letter: Change

Dear Change,


Changing, shifting.  Watercolor on paper, April 2016.

You are a great raveler and unraveler, creator and destroyer.  You don’t often let me get too comfortable.  You are consistent and constant.  You are sometimes harmonic, sometimes dissonant; sometimes quiet, sometimes loud.

In the past, I have intentionally invited you along to all my efforts to improve myself and my life, to become the person I thought I wanted to be.  Sometimes you walked beside me, and then sometimes you had other ideas for how things would unfold.  I realize now that you, change, are not something I need to enforce or force.  I can still have hopes and goals for myself without hurdling myself into potential obstacles at full speed for the sake of transformation.  Change, you are still there, whether I create an intention or not.

Change, I know you will be beside me as I make new choices.  You will be there as I move into a new place with my love.  You have been with us as we’ve evolved over the past 8+ years, throughout joy and heartache.  You haven’t always seemed like an ally, but you’ve taught us a lot.  You’ve challenged us to continue to communicate and work together more effectively as individuals and as a couple.

Change, I have to admit that I sometimes resent you.  I fall into secure patterns and then you shake things up and shift my reality.  It takes me time to adjust.  Sometimes I think you are sneaky – but then maybe you are just being yourself.  When I have perspective, I see you both give and take away.  You definitely keep life interesting.

Change, I see you everywhere.  I may not always feel at peace with your influence, but I can accept that you will be there through ups and downs; through phases and choices; through seasons and years.


A break from sorting

As I sort through the papers and journals in the boxes in the garage, I see the beauty of the artwork I created – collages, painting, mixed media pieces – and the strength of the words I wrote.  I see the time and effort I put into assignments, journaling, and healing.

I spent time on Thursday and Friday dismantling old journals.  I have gathered pieces I may want to keep, remember, and share.  I’m recycling the rest.  And now, I’m taking a break from sorting for awhile – at least until I come back from visiting my fiancé.  So that gives me about a week and a half break, and I can reevaluate when I return.

Through this process, I’ve been feeling the weight of my experiences again.  As I went through one journal, I saw a page where I describe and list things that triggered me, and at least 2/3 of them are sensory-related, including florescent lights, loud noises, and crowds.  I wrote about feeling at times like things were “too much.”  What was really happening is right there on paper.

I went through another journal where my handwriting, which is usually loose and casual, goes into an illegible scrawl as I broke down and headed towards crisis.  As I remembered the pain, it was almost as though I was there again.

I’ve had to turn my mind and bring myself back here, to present day.  I am:  An aspiring Nia teacher.  Artist. Fiancée. Daughter.  Friend.  Living in a house in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I have choice, passion, stability, and determination.

Releasing some of these old writings and items has been a relief.  I am sure it will be healing in the long run.  I will be glad to have more boxes emptied, fewer things to take with me when I move.  I do need to pace myself – this process is exposing, and I need to make sure that it isn’t too exposing. At the moment, I can feel I did too much.  I can feel more of how exhaustion, fear, and grief can take over my perspective of life at moments.

And so I take a break.  I take some deep breaths.  I breathe.  I move. I use skills.  I create more space for myself to feel and be.

Quote from Furiously Happy

“When we share our struggles, we let others know it’s okay to share theirs. And suddenly we realize that the things we were ashamed of are the same things everyone deals with one time or another.  We are so much less alone than we think.”  – Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy.

If you enjoy quirky humor and random stories, you might want to read Furiously Happy by author and blogger Jenny Lawson (of The Bloggess).  She’s also refreshingly honest about her experiences with mental illness. I definitely felt less alone after reading the book. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed out loud so much while reading something.