The Dance of Acceptance

Here I go again; the dance of acceptance. I have a pattern of every so often “forgetting” that I live with PTSD. I’m not sure if it’s mental gymnastics that I perform with gold medal perfection, or that it’s normal when living with a chronic illness to experience fluidity of acceptance.

I deal with and know how to ride the waves of triggers, and day-to-day symptoms; that is part of my everyday life. I manage that as I manage my household chores.  It isn’t until I come face-to-face in a serious way with something I would like to do, but I’m unable to do because of my current abilities, that I remember that it’s because I have PTSD.

Recently I had to revisit my vocational abilities. That was extremely disappointing. I was the only one surprised by the same results. My family and friends watched me go through the stress inducing exercise knowing what the result would be, but they understood why I felt I had to go through it once again.   I would like to say that now I fully accept what my limitations are,  but I can’t be sure.

Last night, I had a conversation with my friend who takes me deep-woods camping once a year over the 4th of July week. We go into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area where there are few people and no sounds of fireworks. I’m super motivated and excited each year and in my head, I’m a great remote camper. But, the reality is, that I am triggered a lot of the time because of what happened to me in my past. I can work through the triggers, and I absolutely love being in the outdoors, but the PTSD affects my experiences.

As we were talking last night, I asked if we could try a trip where we portage more than once and go deeper into the remote areas. He said, “there is no way we can do that!” He explained whenever we have tried going deeper into the woods I get really triggered. We went on to talk about the other ways my symptoms come out during the camping trips.

Last summer, on a camping trip to the mountains of Colorado, I developed altitude sickness and we had to get off the mountain. We were exhausted by the time we got down to a low enough altitude and we wound up throwing our sleeping bags next to a river and sleeping outside under the stars. Sounds beautiful, and it was. Except for all the flashbacks I was having. I didn’t know if it was because I was tired, crabby, and just wanted to be in a bed, or if it was because of my PTSD. My illness is not my automatic go-to for explanations on why I can’t do something. Part of the dance of acceptance!

I began to have an awareness that what I wanted to experience while taking these trips, was not happening in a positive way for me. I wasn’t saying anything out loud; instead, I was doing a lot of negative self-talk about bucking-up, figuring it out, and stop being such a baby.

It wasn’t until we were talking about it last night, that I really accepted that even with my limitations I can still have a wonderful experience camping. As long as I’m with someone who understands PTSD and how to react (or not react) when I get triggered I can still experience and recognize the fabulously healing reset of being in nature. I can also find meaningful ways to earn a bit of money (and I have) while being mindful and respectful of what is healthy for me.

I have some long-lasting effects from the trauma I endured. Because of the extent of my trauma, I have PTSD. Maybe this is not a forever illness, I don’t know what the future will hold. Most days, I’ve accepted that I’m still going to suffer from symptoms and live with some deficits.

When I lose sight of this, I find myself getting very angry at my PTSD.  When the anger and frustration well up, and starts to boil over, I make myself stop, sit down, reflect, rest, and try to focus on the goal of what I want for my life.

And I’m sure, as it seems it has become a pattern, that there will be times that I am going to do the slow dance of acceptance.

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photo: Alexis Rose

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph    

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She Becomes A Lotus

Rising from the mud
Shaken by the moon that shines behind the shadow trees
She tenses and listens.

Hearing the leaves rustle in the wind
the cicadas hum, and the birds
flapping their goodnight wings
her mind feels tricked by the sounds of the night.

The humidity in the air creates
a slow-motion dance of fog
circling the dark shapes on the ground.
A chill, a shudder, and it’s over.
The night is over.

Now the sun hits her face, drying the mud.
Slowly, she turns around and walks away
knowing that without the mud
a lotus would never rise.

©Alexis Rose, Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph    

Comfortably Uncomfortable

I am comfortably uncomfortable in this place of “knowing.”

Listening to the certainty that after a year of stasis, positive change is happening.

Trusting; comfortably uncomfortable resting in trust.

Pressing the pause button so I slowed down.  Uncomfortable as that is.

After stepping into a vortex of pushing beyond what’s healthy for me, hearing the words of lifelong friends truthfully saying to me, “you know your limitations and it’s okay.”

Knowing that it takes a long time to practice acceptance and self-compassion. That each day that I uncomfortably go there, I rewire my active lizard brain, contracted muscles, and tattered soul.

Mindfully taking the time to be active, to rest, to play, to listen, or to just be with no judgment.

I have developed a great amount of patience. I welcome the reality that right now I really do trust that all will be okay, and the season of stasis is coming to an end. And in that trust, while waiting, I am comfortably uncomfortable.

The angel who rests in the arms of the tree

Frozen in place by the chill of the night
the snow angel rests in the arms of the tree.

Gazing at her I wondered
Is she cold like me?
Are her insides in knots?
Does she worry if the sun will release her so she can fly away free?

Then I noticed that she was relaxed
trusting in the strength of the tree.
She lay there, face open, aimed at the sky
soaking in the beams of the sun.

I internalized how mindfully this angel rests
knowing she is protected
by the deer, the fox, and the tiger
protective and kind
gentle yet fierce.

In an awakened instant
I understood
that although she is frozen by the chill of the night
this is her time to rest.

I knew that just like the intense springtime sun
relief is actively occurring
melting my gridlocked existence of powerlessness away.

I hear in the depth of my soul, “All will be okay, soon!”

Walking away I knew that the time to trust is now
that the freedom to fly is just a snow-melt away.

Turning back to the angel who rests in the arms of the tree
I thanked her
for the gift of hope
a moment of peace
of unveiled clarity.

I think I saw the light shine brighter on her upturned face…
or was it the light shining brighter on me?

©Alexis Rose, photo: Janet Rosauer

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph      

Her Present Needed Her Past

The door heaved open
exposing the dark, dusty gloom of the past.

Walking into each room
the light began to pour in
from all the love she feels in the present.

The past and the present began to live together.

Sometimes contentious, but with a newly learned respect.

Intuitively, she knew her present needed her past
so she could learn, change and grow.

As a new season begins
she holds hands with her past, lives in the present, and rests.

©Alexis Rose, photographer: Janet Rosauer

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph      

 

“We Got This!”

“We got this,” were the most important, comforting and powerful words I have heard in a long time.  Right before they were spoken to me, I was feeling panicked. Wondering how I was going to have the strength, to get through the next moment, let alone the next day. I didn’t know how I was going to muster up the courage to face the pain of an original wound, while at the same time deciding if it’s safe for me to break the code of silence that is still deeply ingrained in my psyche.

On that cold and snowy afternoon,  as I was getting ready to leave my therapist’s office, a sense of panic overwhelmed me. Not only panic of what I was facing but the panic of attachment. I feared I would be too much for her, that she would bail, that she would panic and become frightened by what she was hearing. But then something completely unexpected happened. In a calm and reassuring voice, my therapist said, “We Got This!” Those words landed layers deep and made all the negative self-talk dissipate. Those three little words hit me with the softness of the kindest hug and the safety of the bravest shield and I believed her the moment she said them to me.

I still feel like I have to fight for my life, my mental health, and for the freedom from the skeleton hands of the past that keep trying to pull me down. I understand that the hard work of healing happens when I get home; between therapy sessions. Processing what was talked about, incorporating the tools for distress tolerance, trying to feel safe enough to just-sit with it all, while also managing my symptoms of PTSD often feels like a full-time job. That’s okay! I’m more than willing to do the things I need to do so I can live the life I want to live.

Since that day, I have been able to trust that I can handle this new step on my journey. Even though I feel like the ground beneath me is a bit wobbly, I can walk with my head up, eyes forward. I know if I stumble, panic, or feel the sour breath of the monsters, that, with help, I will keep moving forward.

I don’t know what sort of challenges I will be facing as I work to heal this wound that’s ready to be acknowledged. But I do know that with acceptance, self-compassion, and support, I will be able to work through whatever is next. How do I know? Because “We Got This!”

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph      

Pondering at 3 a.m.

At 3 a.m. this morning I was pondering the following…

Sitting at a crossroads. Your world has just crashed down around you. When the dust settles there has emerged two big shards that resemble paths. Each one reveals a choice.

One shard shines brightly in the middle to far distance. It offers a promise of a life well lived. Growth, change, showing up as your true authentic self. Vulnerable but with solid boundaries.

Although bright, those shards are extremely sharp, full of splinters and require conscious navigation. To pick that one requires hard work. Knowing with that commitment to do the work you will feel suffering. It’s painful as you look at things head-on and then do what is required to live the life you want to live. To be the person you want to be.

The other shard is smoother. Worn down to a pleasant sheen, some rough splinters, but they are easy to spot. That path entices you with the status quo. The worn out cushion and pillow that provides the comfort of sameness. The only work it requires if you choose it is that you’ll experience life as you know it. That can also be painful because you have chosen to commit to the way things are in your life.  You choose this because your habits, even if destructive at times can be comforting, even if the comfort is only for a moment.

Change can be scary. For some its that fear that keeps them comfortable in staying the course. Not easy, but comfortable. The habits of the mind, body, and soul are hard to break.

But, maybe behind you in the distance, a third shard has fallen and the crossroads has now offered another choice. Maybe there is a grayer, hazier choice. It has both the sharp shards of change to navigate and the rounder smoother call of status quo. Perhaps a middle way.

Could that be a possibility?  Maybe that’s the path that is more realistic and recognizes the personness in all of us? Perhaps, in reality, that is the path most of us are on. Weaving in and out of the need to change and the pull of status quo.

Maybe we don’t need to pick one or the other. Perhaps we pick all three of them. Take the time to rest on each one, to recognize our growth and reassess what and if we need to change.

I don’t know the answers…after all, it’s 3 a.m. and I probably should be sleeping.

When you experience your crossroads, which path do you choose? Or are you a traveler in life who can navigate all three?

image source: Pexels

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph