Boundaries

It’s pouring, I tell y’all. Pouring! A tempest. A typhoon. A piney-woods tidal wave with impressive lightning bolts and thunder which both crashes and growls. Something’s angered the gods and boy howdy they’re letting us know. The ducks are loving it but the donkeys, not so much.

I’ve microwaved a cup of coffee from yesterday’s unfinished pot (a brew practice for which I’ve been heavily criticized by many folks but hey, you do what you do) and have turned off all the lights so I can watch the lightning like fireworks. This is one of those storms you see in movies. I half expect a terrifying figure in either a trench coat or tattered, victorian dress to appear out beyond the garden—a spooky someone here to collect my soul or something.

It’s 6:30ish in the morning and although I remain on the couch with my trembling dogs and my mismatched jammies, I have this urge in my gut to hop up, open my laptop, and begin the work day. When I say urge, I mean serious urge that’s not just a mental feeling, but also a physical one. On the other hand, this is one of those moments: a perfect storm, a flashing, gray room and sweet dogs who equate my closeness with their safety. This contrast of feelings: the obligation to begin work right away and the allowance of myself to have a moment of peace is puzzling. I feel both guilty and silly. Also stressed, confused, self-conscious, and pressured. In no time, there’s a storm inside me rivaling the one out there.

I close my eyes, let out a long breath, and relax my shoulders. Boundaries dear girl, I tell myself, Boundaries. 

Here’s what I mean by boundaries (to name a few):

  1. If you’re working from home, please remember that you’re working from home, not living at work. It is crucial that you set business/operating hours. 
  2. Set routines (even small ones) and abide by them. Maybe that’s just doing a 20-minute stretch followed by day old coffee in the morning before you open your phone and inevitably be flooded with notifications and saddened by the news. Those things can wait, I promise.
  3. Set boundaries in relationships. You are not responsible for anyone’s happiness no matter how much someone might be trying to convince you as such. You can be a good friend, partner, listener, advocate, supporter, and champion for people but you are not responsible for their feelings. Ever. Full stop.
  4. Holly Whitaker said it best: “Know what you can f*ck with.” This has been a game-changing practice for me. When you know what works and what doesn’t work for you, you can set boundaries to both respect yourself and the expectations of others. Let me give you an example: I have anxiety & OCD which is heavily connected to my hard-wired impulse to be a people-pleaser. As such, I’ve spent so much time doing things and making choices based on what I thought would make others happy. Eventually, I found myself in an empty shell devoid of any knowledge about what I want. Then my anxiety would spiral and my compulsive rituals would intensify. So. Take the time to what you can f*ck with. That’ll help you find a good base from which you can build solid boundaries (and maybe help with your mental health).

    (Quick pit stop: I have an ask. Please stop saying things like, “oh, that’s my OCD kicking in” when you’re talking about wanting things to be tidy, organized, or look right. OCD doesn’t “kick in.” OCD just is. It always is. Also, anxiety is not a mood nor is it just being worrisome. It’s often far bigger and far uglier than that. You can’t just “not worry” or “chill out.” It’s insulting to simplify mental health like this and I’d ask that you please be mindful about throwing around these terms in jest)
  1. Finally, set some self love boundaries. This includes, but is not limited to: 
    1. Keeping your internal dialogue in check. How are you making your own self feel?
    2. Feeling no guilt when indulging yourself in your guilty pleasures. (For me, that’s binging The Great British Baking Show on Netflix while eating too much of my own badass bread bakes).
    3. Don’t sacrifice your own comfort for someone else’s.
    4. If there are people or relationships in your life that make you feel small, worthless, self-conscious, and/or sub-par, draw a line. There is never, ever an acceptable reason to berate, belittle, harass, or abuse someone. In order to draw that line and feel confident in removing those people from your life, you must realize that you deserve that line. You do. I promise.

I have many, many more thoughts on boundaries which continue to change as I continue to explore and understand them. It’s why I go off on soap-boxes about the toxicity of false-positivity and the absurdity of unreachable expectations society puts on us (especially as women). And if you’d like, I’d be happy to share more of those thoughts as I learn to put them into words.

For now, I look at the clock again. 7:00am. My workday from home begins at 8am (no sooner) and until then, my phone will stay plugged into the charger, on silent, in the bedroom so I can watch a storm, protect my dogs, and sip my shitty coffee. 

Pop

Every year, I re-read this post about my dad and I think of adding things to it. Like the fact that everything he does, he does for other people. That he has the best jokes. That he literally never stops working. He cares so, so much. Humanity and kindness mean the world to him. I’ve never doubted that he loves me.

I love you too, dad. Happy Father’s Day.

A link to that post:
https://adonkumentary.com/2016/06/18/turtle-world/

Weird

It’s mid afternoon. I haven’t seen a cloud all day beyond the tree’s spring leaves which are in bright, juicy bloom. In a shady spot beneath the flitting birds and green-oh-so-green canopy of my backyard rainforest, I rock gently side to side on my hammock. I’ve been in this spot for nearly an hour staring either up into the blue patches between the leaves or past my feet into the green movements of fresh, sweet-smelling growth. Before this, I laid in bed with the window wide open and my laptop in my lap upon which there was a halfway composed email that I kept forgetting how to finish. There too I stared blankly either out the window or at the screen with a blinking cursor.

Everything is weird. Everything. And it occurs to me that in the overdrive of the weirded-out-ness, it’s easy to just overheat and shutdown. The ole “too many tabs open and not enough bandwidth to support them” idea. Then there’s isolation. Uncertainty. Anxiety. No structure. Down the mountain it all tumbles into the weird, worried abyss. Even this post is days old. I’ve left and returned to it multiple times. Edited it. Deleted it. Stared at it while paralyzed in in my own dank pool of murky, slippery thoughts.

So maybe I’m barfing this out for myself or maybe someone reading this needs it. Here’s what I’m trying to say (and please forgive what will inevitably be the rough ride. Like the feeling in my own self right now, this read is a stick-shift car bucking because the gears are slipping. Sorry.)

Feel. My god, allow yourself to feel. Even the scary parts. Feel it all. I’m not here to tell you what to do because I, myself, have no idea what’s up or down. But I would encourage you to try and not anesthetize yourself too much in the discomfort of loneliness, inpredictability, and boredom—be it alcohol, drugs, mindless scrolling or other methods of escape from the depth of the feels (which we all do in one way or another so reader, no judgement from me, I promise). In moments when you can muster the strength, be there. Be in it. If there is something I do know, it’s that whoever you are, the world needs you awake. AWAKE. Eyes wide open. There are enough sheep out there and we (all of us) need you here.

But along those lines, don’t be so judgemental of yourself. No one knows how to handle this. No one. The people we normally (or are trained to) look to don’t know how to handle this. I don’t think we’re usually in a place to have our coping mechanisms running on full steam for such a long period of time. So if you need to checkout for a while, you do what you need to. No judgement. From me. From yourself. Or that guy over there. And if that guy over there is judging you, flip him off and go back to doing what you need. Whatever you need. Apparently I need long bouts of just staring. And oranges. Seems to be the only thing I want to eat. Staring Oranges. (band name, I called it.)

Communicate. My jeebs, communicate. With your family, friends, loved ones, co-workers (or former co-workers), fans, supporters, neighbors whomever. Communicate. Stuck inside with someone (or multiple people?) Communicate fully with them. We all cope with stress, disappointment, confusion, anger, crises differently. Some people need quiet. Some people need to be in mode. Some people need physical contact. Some people need to be alone with their thoughts. Some people need to bury their face in a pillow and scream cuss words while other people need to retreat into a quiet room and pray. And on and on and if you can’t stop and communicate that with others, you’ll end up fighting or feeling neglected or feeling smothered, or forgotten or invalidated and really, just a series of conversations about where you’re at (or not at) can be the bright, shining beacon which makes this nutball time tolerable. So try to be patient with others. Don’t be the d-bag that screams at a customer service rep because you’re stressed out. I promise, they are too. Stop. Sit down. Communicate. Admit your weaknesses and your strengths. Say you are confused. Say you don’t know what the right thing is. No one does. It’s okay. And I’ll say it again. We need you here. All of you.

A few days ago, I got a call from a debt collector. I keep it no secret that I am in a god-awful pit of medical bill debt. You don’t have three surgeries in the past two years in this country and not be in incredible debt (even with what’s considered decent health insurance) unless you’re like crazy rich. Anyway, I got yet another call from a debt collector saying I owed a bunch of money to some branch of some medical department from a year and a half ago that I didn’t even know existed and when she told me the amount, I crumbled. I started to cry. I told her that I don’t have that kind of cash to spare right now, and who does? I told her I don’t even know what tomorrow looks like. She was very quiet for a moment and finally just said, “I know. I understand.” I let out a long exhale. So did she. And then we chatted for like 3 solid minutes about how nuts everything is right now. We laughed about toilet paper. Debt collector calls are typically recorded and I think this one was too. I hope that her supervisor hears that recording because she was a real person, confused about everything like I am, who took a few minutes to connect with me. I needed that. I think we all need that. We ended on it not being urgent and that they’d put a note to call back in 6-weeks to see where I’m at. I thanked her profusely. She told me to hang in there and stay safe. I told her to do the same.

There’s something about that less than 5-minute exchange that changed this all for me. All of it. We may not know jack right now, but we do know each other. All of us at our core are human and to be human is to be wildly complex. We can connect with complete strangers over a past-due bill. We can laugh and cry in the same conversation. We can be gentle to one another. And even though we remain in the shitty pit of uncertainty (or debt or confusion or sickness or frustration whatever) we can still connect with one another. What a time to be human.

Feelings. Nonjudgement. Communication. Gentleness. Connection.

Weirdness.

I think that’s all I can say. No more steam in the engine. And if I don’t click publish now, I’ll sit on it for another week. Or maybe I’ll delete. Eff.

If you made it to the end, thank you. Also I love you. Yes you, fellow human. Also the world needs you. Be safe. Be here. Be you.

Follow the Cardinal

“Afterall, if you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

A Donkumentary

It’s colder than Narnia out there, y’all.

I’m looking out the back window at the small patches of snow hiding in the shadows of my backyard when down from the bony trees, a bright, red cardinal descends. He lands in the damp leaves and hops about, cocking his head side to side. He bounces with authority as if he knows precisely where he’s going on this cold day. I scramble to find my camera but manage only to snap a few, blurry photos of a red smudge. I wonder if he’s leading me to something like the robin leading Mary to her Secret Garden? I decide to bundle myself and go out to follow the bird.

Last week, I started re-reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett for the first time since I was in middle school. I remember, as a pre-teen, enjoying the book, although my memory…

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Time for Silence

make sure to tend to your sweet hearts this season.

A Donkumentary

I realize I’ve fallen into this habit of beginning my blog posts by describing something that I’m up to when my thoughts begin to twirl and tumble around some thing that I’ve been worried about, obsessing over, or working hard to accomplish and I think it’s because I do my best kind of pondering when I’m busy with something. Moving meditation, perhaps. Or maybe it’s because I am able to occupy some of the busier parts of my brain with a task, thus allowing room for the deeper, more thoughtful areas of my mind to stretch their limbs a little.

But as you may have read in one of my recent posts, ‘Magic Eye,’ things have been moving pretty fast around here lately and I suspect that the entirety of my conscious mind (even those deeper and more contemplative areas) are in a constant state of “all hands…

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Magic Eye

A year forward and still no decipherable image. The colors and shapes keep shifting (some bright, some dark, some which make no sense) so I suppose a continuing gaze isn’t a waste.

A Donkumentary

It’s dawn. Somewhere behind the trees, the sun is shifting, although the sky is still holding onto a few bright stars in her darkness not yet touched by the waking light. I’ve slipped my boots on over my flannel jammie pants and am pulling my hoodie over my head. It’s in the 30’s out there which, for us native Texans with thin blood, is brutal. The dogs scatter around my feet with their tails wagging and claws scratching the tile floor: they’re ready to run around in the cold and to chase squirrels or rabbits who often explore the yard in the wee hours.  

I open the back door, the cold scratching my face, as the dogs sprint past me and out of sight. I cinch the hood around my face as I walk towards the barn, leaves crunching beneath my boots. The donkeys know I’m coming: Bunny begins…

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Silence

Two years have passed since I watched those furry moths flutter away. It’s only been a few times that silence has visited me since and absorbed my chatter and snowballs without need for justification or explanation. I’m anxious to have her over again. It’s been too long.

A Donkumentary

It’s not quite dawn and the only sound I hear is the low buzz of the running refrigerator from the kitchen. Peering out my front window which has two, furry moths on it side-by-side, I’m watching the blackness beyond my front porch, waiting for the spaces between the trees that I know are there to fade into orange as the sun comes up. Right now, it’s darkness. I remember a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog called “It’s Always Darkest Before Dawn,” and here I find myself again in the deepest part of the night and in the deepest part of my mind, waiting for the sky to fade into light.

One of the moths stuck to the window rotates and flutters its wings—a morning stretch, perhaps. In a few minutes, I’ll be hopping online to lead a guided meditation with a group of friends…

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“A Place For Us All Here”

In celebration of taking another cross-country trip to see my most favorite band, Old Crow Medicine Show, I’m reposting this blog which contains all the same feelings this time around as last ❤️ This time I trekked up north to Detroit, Michigan and left feeling revived, refreshed, and in eager anticipation of the next time I get to see these boys. If only we could all share our world in the friendly, neighborly way as is the space their shows provide. More love. More oneness. More lettin loose, y’all.

A Donkumentary

They ain’t lying when they say it’s always darkest before dawn because it’s about a quarter of 6AM and the surrounding darkness is almost suffocating. I’m on a winding, two-lane highway which slowly and repetitively climbs up then dips down between heavy pines with dangling, skeletal fingers. Signs tell me that I’m fixing to cross over the Sabine River into Louisiana.

For the first time in probably thirty minutes, another vehicle appears around the corner in front of me and I quickly turn off my car’s brights. They do the same and I have to say how much I love the respect we strangers show each other during overnight driving. Rarely in my dark drives have I ever experienced the motorist who fails to turn off their brights and I think that says a lot about how polite people are just by nature. I’d wave, but they won’t see me—I…

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The Midday Scorcher

I recall this story from last summer for two reasons: 1) it’s already hotter than blue blazes out there and 2) the launching of Lost Meadows Mule Refuge (LMMR, a division of PVDR) has me so excited to start shining more light on mules and the similar plight they face. Like donkeys, mules built this country and then have seemingly been forgotten since. For more information on LMMR visit our website at mulerescue.org.

Side note: the book I reference in this post, “The Midnight Cool,” is really a wonderful novel – both as a read and a listen on Audible – I can’t recommend enough.

A Donkumentary

I’m three hours into a drive out west and it’s hotter’n blue blazes out there. My dash board’s telling me it’s 116 degrees, but even with the a/c working as hard as it can, that temperature feels underestimated. Having lived in Texas my whole life, I’m supposed to be used to this, but hoo boy I tell ya, there’s no getting used to frying eggs in your driveway.

Still, I love this drive. This 6-hour jaunt out west to the land of 1,000 donkeys that I find excuses to make where I end up on two-lane highways surrounded by prickly pears and yucca plants is therapy. I have no cell service on much of this route and either spend it listening to a pre-downloaded audio book or all of my Old Crow Medicine Show albums. I am as good’a singer as Ketch Secor on these drives; it’s a shame no…

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June Afternoons

Still, long are June afternoons and still, hollow is my heart where Tink left us.

This has got to be my favorite photo of him.

A Donkumentary

Long are June afternoons
Where the sun floats in blurry
Waves above every shiny surface,
Where densely-leaved trees sway
Lazily as if to fan themselves,
Where clouds thinly sprawl in
Wispy, white brush strokes across
Windless, endless blue sky.

Long are June afternoons
Where wonder floats gently like
Wished upon dandelions;
Scattered pseudo petals soaked in
The desires of dreamers and blown
Into directionless breeze.
Where thoughts dangle like dying lilies,
Drifting down petal by once vibrant petal.

June Afternoon

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