Alter Post: School of Hard Knocks – and what it taught me about knowledge

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Hey All,

All of us in the AlterXpressions system (i or we) decided to share some more about our personal story as a follow up to last week’s post.

A winding path through trees...destination unknown
Destination unknown

First because our journey to where we are now has been filled with directional changes.

Second because many guests have been asking about how we got to where we are now.

Finally, because all of us are here to emphasize that this place is about sharing knowledge and resources – not telling people what to do or how to live their lives.

Being smart doesn’t get a person anywhere unless the individual knows how to use and apply those smarts. Same with education and experience.

It takes courage, resilience, compassion, love, acceptance and an open mind to pick up the pieces of life after trauma and figure out how to live again. We mean how to have the

  • Courage to believe in, love, and accept ourselves as we are in that moment knowing we are different and will never be who we were again
  • Resilience to learn how to roll with the changes that life throws at us as we learn our new “normal”
  • Compassion for ourselves and the people around us as mistakes happen, hurt triggers all kinds of emotions and sensations, and we fall
    • Because everyone falls, makes mistakes, hurts self/others, and gets hurt
  • Open mind to ask for/accept help, learn the tools we need to be who we want to be, and thrive as our authentic selves – happy, loving, loved, safe, – in alignment with our personal values

All parts of me agree to share this with you, so please don’t be surprised by shifts in language or writing style. We tend to interrupt, talk over, or repeat each other writing like this.

College did not exactly prepare me for “real world” work. But it did give me insight into how much I didn’t know about life and people because of how I was raised. The classes and instructors provided lots of book learning, but living on campus taught me about hope and made “happy ever after” seem possible. It was a break from the reality of my other life – almost like a bubble – until my past caught up with me there too.

7 geese in a meadow. One is not like the others...pairs of 2x2x2...then one?
One of these geese is not like the others. Two by two by two…

That”s when I realized college life didn’t fit me in the same way high school didn’t fit because my life experience taught me to value different life goals/career objectives. I was in survival mode and didn’t realize it.

Graduate school taught me that I wasn’t meant to spend my life in a rigid classroom. It also gave me the opportunity to explore skills that I disregarded as useless in high school or college. It also highlighted areas where I was completely lacking in knowledge and experience. Like interpersonal communication and time management; saying “no” and setting boundaries.

University buildings, a parking lot, food trucks...typical academic setting
Typical academic setting

Still, graduate school helped me find a temporary job that turned into a 13-year long career with the same company and allowed me to start this website/blog. I learned foundational skills in architecture and design from graduate school. Combined that knowledge with my writing and organizational skills to land a job helping a project manager create deliverables for a client.

My hard work, eagerness to learn and apply knowledge, and commitment to meeting deadlines caught the attention of other managers and people in the department. They mentored me and taught me more than I can ever express. In that organization, I got to be myself. Acceptance and respect was based on my actions and reactions instead of rumors and assumptions.

My past didn’t matter to them when they learned about it. Instead of firing me or suspending me, they offered support and helped me find ways to keep working no matter how bad my symptoms got. As long as I was honest with them, they worked with me to create flexible schedules and go through the red tape so I got to keep my benefits and job.

Now, thirteen years later, I have job security and a role that allows me to continue doing what I started while also taking on new challenges that help my team and enjoy work again.

EPIPHANY

College education and graduate school classes gave me the foundation skills to understand the work I do, but the school of hard knocks provided me the important life lessons that helped me earn credibility, respect, and acceptance.

Without both parts of that equation, I would not be as valuable or useful in my day job or here on the blog.

Finally, I acknowledge that I am lucky and blessed to have found an organization that accepts me, values me, and allows me to continue on the winding path that is my career with them.

As always, thanks for reading.

Life Quirks: Curiosity Inspires Self-Learning

Curiosity inspires thinking, learning, living outside the box
Stock photos courtesy of Victor at http://www.picjumbo.com

This week, all of us in the system have been reflecting on the word “Curiosity”.

It’s come up in a lot of conversations and flashbacks.

And it is the one-word answer to many of the recent guest comments or questions.

So what does this photo collage mean?

I am insatiably curious about everything even if that curiosity does not show in my facial expression or body language. Answers are useful, but not always good at satisfying my curiosity.

You know the expression “curiosity killed the cat”? This got me so scared I stopped letting my curiosity lead me on adventures for many years. I felt like the cat with a mark on her back. Soon as I let my curiosity out, I’d be “killed” in some way – i.e. brushed off, stopped, blocked – and unable to learn.

I prefer the expression “curiosity sparked my imagination” and “imagination flew me out of the box”. The final part? “Discovery led me to my joy”

Yup. That’s it. That is what the photo collage means –

 

be curious.

be inspired.

live, think, and learn as you discover different avenues to love, peace, and joy.

Curiosity and Writing

Curiosity keeps me at the blank screen or notebook, typing out words and writing down phrases or sketching doodles until my imagination takes over. The first draft never looks like the finished one. Out of 1000 words, I make keep 3 or 4 words/phrases and start again until it feels right. By the third draft, most of the content is there to be polished (aka editing and proofreading).

My routine is not consistent though. As much as I love structure, I also require flexibility in my routines. So I have time blocked off every week to write drafts and generate ideas for this blog and my aromatherapy work. Sometimes I write or type. Other times I sketch or listen so music while reading about related topics. When I can’t sleep, it’s often because different alters are busy writing drafts in my head.

That is true – for me not all of my writing is done in the physical world because not all of my alters can use our physical body for writing.

But…And this is a BIG BUT…I also write as part of my day job and send email or text to keep in touch with friends and family. That requires writing too.

No matter what anyone says, any and all writing you do counts as learning. The more you write, the more you improve. The more you read/watch/listen to learn about topics of interest, the more inspiration you have for writing.

If you are like me, then writing is a pleasure and a tool to help me share what I learn with others. If not, writing fulfills another purpose in your life. Whatever writing does for you, I hope it also brings you joy.

And why is the text not in a logical order?

Right…logical order. I am illogical at the best of times. Honest. If I ever had to share my learning process with you, I’d confuse even myself.

Way back in elementary school, I had trouble following instructions. Straight lines became slanted and wiggly even using rulers. I liked to do my class assignments and take tests backwards – I mean start at the end and work my way to the beginning of the test. Once in a while, I’d start with the questions in the middle instead. 

Why?

Back then, all I could tell my teachers is “this feels right to me” or “it just makes sense”.

Now, though, I can tell you  that starting in the middle or at  the end eased my fear and anxiety of the unknown. I could focus on finishing the assignment, quiz, or test on time because I knew how many questions there were and could estimate how long I needed to finish on time.

Plus, I was curious about all the other questions. It didn’t make sense (to me at least) to leave the questions I read unanswered and start from the beginning after I just spent time reading through it all. 

As I got older, frustration settled deep inside me. I asked questions and was told the standard answers. But the standard answers didn’t satisfy my curiosity. So I did what the teachers told me to do…think outside the box. The answers I came up with didn’t make sense or were not what they wanted to hear…so back inside the box I went. Again.

And again.

Until I was old enough to learn, explore, get answers and remember not to share them with anyone else…I mean who wants to constantly be made fun of, insulted, or told they are wrong because the answers contradict or open up avenues outside the standard and “correct” paths we’re taught to follow?

To Sum It Up

I’ve been getting a lot of questions and comments about where I get my information, how I learn all of this, if I have tips for aspiring or beginner writers, etc. or survivors starting their journeys.

And as much as I want to give you something concrete:

a) I hate giving advice and will not do so unless backed into a corner

b) All I can and will do is share stories about what inspires me or others I consider role models to keep moving forward to live and thrive on our own terms

Curiosity is what makes the wheels in my mind churn. It connects Spirit with Mind and Body in unexpected ways.

My counselors teach me how to help myself by sharing knowledge, tools, and resources. Then I follow up on my own through self-study or self-learning and hands-on experience (i.e. mistakes, experiences).

You don’t have to be book smart or street smart; a genius or savant; talented or special in any way to learn, explore or live like this.

You do have to be curious, inspired, willing to change, open to discovery, and able to cope with the challenges blocking your path outside the box.

No matter what you choose or how you go about it, please remember I am silently cheering you on wherever we are.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Recovery: Panic Attacks, medical procedure, slow & steady healing

Rainbow aka healing light aka love
Photo by Alturas Homes on Pexels.com

Panic Attacks

Well, life likes to kick my ass on a regular basis. It’s a good way of reminding me to stay present, be kind  to myself, and stay open minded about what might come up as life changes.

My body does not often experience a physical panic attack bad enough that all of me is out of commission for any period of time these days. A rough estimate is 2-3 times a year for the last 3-4 years. Compared to once a month or once every few months before that, this is a big improvement.

So why did it happen? Well, something triggered a seriously scary and painful set of body memories that became flashbacks. The flashbacks literally had different parts of me reliving and re-experiencing the past all over again. No, I am not going into detail. Yes I will tell you it all goes back to my childhood/adolescence and life in the cult. And yes, I will confirm it does have to do with being female, puberty, and menstruation.

Beyond that, no I will not share anything else. Every individual experience puberty differently. What happened to me and continues to happen in my body is unique; just as yours is unique to you. Whether male or female, the changes are sometimes obvious; other times not so obvious. But we all go through it. And it affects our experience of life in the present and future.

The gassy, bloating sensations and cramps trigger negative thoughts and experiences for me. From there, it’s like dominoes. One knocks down the other until the entire chain falls. In response, the rest of my physical body tightens and prepares for “attack”. It doesn’t rest until the “threat” or “trigger” (in this case the flashback or series of flashbacks) ends.

On the good side, this one didn’t last as long as the others or cause exhaustion; I was able to work and go on with life as usual the rest of the week.

Medical Procedure

Wednesday, I had my fallopian tubes removed. The procedure itself did not hurt much at all. And my recovery is going well. I’m late posting because I’ve been sleeping a lot the last 2.5 days. The bruising is going away, and the incisions are healing fast – itchy but not painful.

The hardest parts of all this are a) recovery from anesthesia and other medications and b) having limited wardrobe options in cooler weather. 

What? you ask. Well, here’s the short version.

A) Medications and I do not mix. My body has a strong sense of self-protection. While all parts of me felt safe and comfortable in the hospital and around the nursing staff, they/we did not trust them enough to put in the IV. After 5 pokes with the needles, two nurses, and 3 injections of numbing agent, the anesthesiologist managed to get an IV needle into a vein in my right hand. Once the IV worked, I fell asleep and woke up in recovery not knowing anything happened.

But, coming out of the anesthesia was awkward. I experienced flashbacks and panic attacks (like Sunday’s panic attack) as my mind and body struggled to wake up. The nurse offered me extra pain meds, and I accepted not realizing the pain came from flashbacks at the time.

Upside, the pain meds helped with abdominal pain from the procedure.

Downside, I had my usual reaction to pain meds and passed out for a while as the flashbacks and panic attack pain continued to move through my body. No, the pain meds did not help. My body fought the meds like it fought the imaginary intruders in the flashbacks while I was asleep.

B) Because the incisions are on my belly button and abdomen, I can’t wear pants or skirts or keep anything like waistbands on the area for too long. March is still cool/cold out in the Pacific Northwest, so I still need to wear something under and over my dresses. It’s made getting dressed/staying comfortable at home and going out a bit difficult. Plus, I can’t bend over or do much heavy lifting even at home. That requires some creativity to get things accomplished and easy meal options. Luckily, my relatives sent care packages that made cooking easier the past few days. But I’m kind of tired of all that and itching to try something else for a change.

Slow & Steady Healing

This Wednesday marks 1 week since the procedure. Everything is healing well even if the rest of my body is protesting with physical pain. The most painful areas are unexpected to be quite honest. I am often aware that the sides of my body and mid/lower back around the bottom of my rib cage and shoulder blades experience sore muscles and pain. Same with my hip joints and the base of my skull.

But I have not experienced actual pain in those areas for some time. They would feel tight like a rubber ball when poked. The pain appeared in my face or along my spine. Confusing, yes? Lately, though, I have been some experiencing physical pain (kind of like when you exercise too hard and your muscles protest a day or two later) in those areas. Not enough to limit my movement, but enough to trigger anxiety and flashbacks.

And this is where the aromatherapy classes and exercises come in to play. In each lesson we are given category of essential oils to learn about and “blending” exercises to complete. That means I use the class knowledge about essential oils, essential oil chemistry, blending, carrier oils, and therapeutic properties to create my own oils, lotions, bath salts, body butters, etc. My first blends were geared towards muscle pain relief, decongesting my sinuses, and improving circulation in my body (not just blood, but lymphatic system too).

They worked really well, so I felt hopeful about the next group of blending exercises. Many of the oils in these three categories helped with pain relief, stress, anxiety, and wound healing. So I chose to create a bath salt, a healing lotion for minor cuts and bruises, and an oil-based ointment that worked like Neosporin for short term use. 

antibacterial, nourishing, and relaxing bath salt

Since the incisions are too new and delicate, I can’t use any of these blends directly on those areas. But I used the bath salts the night before my procedure because 2 of the 3 oils have antibacterial properties and I can’t use over-the-counter antibacterial soaps. The third oil has general anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.

lotion to reduce stress-related muscle tension or pain

And the lotion works really well for my entire body and head/face. I’ve been using it 1-2x a day on specific body areas every other day to test it out. Last night, I tried it all over and experienced a really good sleep. For the rest of this blend’s use (until I finish), that will probably be my go-to choice. Put the lotion on all over before bed time and relax into sleep. But, the next time I make this, I will be using less oil overall because the ratio of oil to lotion is too high for long term use.

trial blend to heal wounds, bruises, etc. have to see if it works…

The third ointment has not got much use yet. It’s a powerful healing ointment made with Tamanu carrier oil and a mix of essential oils with wound healing therapeutic properties that works well on bruises, abrasions, rashes, or scabs/scars. I’ve been waiting for approval from the doctor and nurses to use around (not on) the bruised and tender areas near the incisions. 

And no, I am not going to list the oils and blends at this time. One day, in a future post, I will share some of my recipes with you. For now, there are many safety concerns related to using essential oils, and I am not willing to give you half-assed information that includes a recipe, but not measurements, safety precautions, or reliable places to make purchases.

So the recipes will have to wait.

And posting new content might be erratic until I catch up with my day job and am more mobile. Recovery requires me to sleep more, rest more, and get up and move once every 1-2 hours while I am awake to keep up circulation. There’s a lot going on, and I want to be present for you when I share these posts.

Thanks for reading.

 

ADMIN Post: Quiet weekend, short post

Due to the extra post this week, this one is short.

Between the nightmares and the stuff with my parents, body memories acted up and caused lots of pain last week. The pain was bad enough that I cried a lot, had some trouble eating/sleeping, and eventually had a panic attack.

Thanks to meditation and acupuncture, the pain has lessened a lot. But I’m still tired, feeling low energy, and slightly dehydrated from all the sleeping & meditating.

On the good side, a lot of the body memories are starting to leave my body. As it moves, the puffiness and swelling go down too. My muscles start to relax more, and everything feels less painful.

So this weekend is a slow one.

What are your plans for a slow weekend?

thanks for reading

Recovery: 2018 Reflections – family & life

What a year it’s been…

So many changes and discoveries. Reconnecting with family. Enjoying time with family.

Creating new paths. Learning different ways to live and thrive beyond survival. Opening up to the wonders of the universe.

Finding a spiritual path & a way to make dreams come true.

CATCHING UP…

Last Week with Family

Other than typical air travel issues, the visit went well. My family and I spent quality time together enjoying each other’s company, giving gifts, and eating great food. My dad and I got to spend some alone time together and with the rest of the family. My brother and sister-in-law are happy; we hugged and talked and laughed on Christmas.

As for time with mom, we carefully started rebuilding the bridge again. It got tense at times, but someone was always around to help smooth things over. In the end, we shared contact information; this way she can reach me if she feels like it.

My mom’s side and I didn’t get to meet after all. Between the flight delay and busy schedules, 4 days became 3 days full of other activities. In the end, we promised to see each other next time I travel back east.

My dad’s side of the family hosted Christmas this year. Seeing my younger cousins for the first time in a while was filled with anxiety on both sides. We weren’t sure how to interact at first, but things got easier with time. We ended up laughing and talking by the end of the visit – that felt great.

My aunts and uncle and I spent some quality time together too. We talked and caught up with life before giving gifts. Things got a little tense with one aunt, but that was expected. Her way of coping with fear is to push people away. Some time apart (and maybe conversations with others) helped both of us work it out for a pleasant rest of the visit.

Finally, I got to spend some quality time with my grandmother. She wasn’t doing well on Monday – my first day visiting – and spent a lot of  time sleeping. On Christmas Day (Tuesday), she was awake and more present – enough to enjoy opening gifts, talk, and eat dinner with us.

We had a chance to talk in private. I told her how much I love her and that she doesn’t have to worry so much about me anymore. I’m healthy and happy and safe, so she can focus on taking care of herself and doing what she needs to do to feel healthy and pain-free.

Milestones, Changes & Goals

For the first time, maybe ever, I completed all of my goals for 2018. That felt good and acts as a symbol of the many positive changes that happened this year.

Of the many changes that occurred this year, the biggest ones have to do with the transition from survival mode to living to thriving. Here are 3 on my list:

  • Open up to others in the outside world – making friends & connections; going to workshops; participating in events & activities at work – because I feel safe on every level of being (spiritual, emotional/mental, physical)
  • Change my self-image in order to be assertive at work and act on my dreams – job changes, go back to school, continue writing this blog, work on my spiritual practice
  • Find closure with my past by embracing my shadows and connecting face-to-face with family again

As for milestones, my biggest one is letting go of the fear that held me back for so long by finding my faith again and choosing to live a life rooted in unconditional love and acceptance. For every individual, finding that faith in a higher power; believing she or he is deserving of unconditional love and acceptance; then opening up to receive those gifts is a unique and difficult journey.

The New Website & Aromatherapy

My other web site and blog is in progress, but on hold for right now. Other priorities got in the way of completing the pages and starting the new blog, so it’s empty and will be for another few months.

As for aromatherapy, I’m still taking the online classes in between work and life. It’s slow going, but lesson 1 of 7 is finally finished. The aromatherapy blends work well and smell great. I used them to help with some cold and sinus problems that affect me every fall/winter season. Lesson 2 is in progress.

Questions for Guests

What will/do you reflect on for 2018?

How do you feel about the milestones, changes, successes, or lessons learned?

What will you leave behind or take with you into 2019?

Final Thoughts

2018 was an incredibly positive year. Many unexpected successes and positive changes tempered by some losses, more than a few lessons learned, and much confusion. I’ve discovered a spiritual practice that suits my solitary nature and allows me to believe in God and other wise beings or deities without having to choose a specific religion. The openness of this spiritual practice helps me develop my other gifts instead of fearing them and teaches me how to listen to my intuition too.

Feelings still confuse me. Being in crowds still has a negative effect on my memory. I am not (nor will I ever be) 100% comfortable or relaxed outside of my home, but I can utilize coping strategies to get at least 80% comfortable or relaxed now. Most important, I feel safe interacting with other people even when triggered or feeling severely anxious.

Personally, I’m looking forward to many surprises and possibilities in 2019 🙂

I wish all of you a happy, healthy, prosperous 2019!

Thanks for reading