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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

BLOOMIN





A few years ago, a dear friend of mine said...
I can't handle it when you start writing about gardening.
I just stop reading for a few months.

This was a little confusing for me since...
as I've said before, I only have three tracks:
Growing things, eating things, healing things.
To me, the garden has been the best physical representation
of growing, healing, and forgiveness.
Gardening is my crutch, my comfort and my inspiration-
the grounding that runs through everything.
No story has taught me more about redemption
than spring coming every single year.
I have practiced perseverance through
every uncharacteristically hard, wet winter.
Joy physically manifests in every single flower.
Watching bees get drunk reminds me that work and play 
shouldn't be that far apart.

Life wins.  Just look at the weeds in the sidewalk cracks.
There's room for so much more than we imagine as limited humans-
how many plants sprout in impossible circumstances,
how to trust in the timing of all things,
that rain is around the corner,
that too much of a good thing is sometimes the catalyst for change.
I could go on and on-
this is literally how I interpret the world-
through a green, botanical haze coupled with southern metaphor.

I'm learning to accept that not everyone sees this connection.
I listened to my dear friend and then just let it ruminate a while.
Magically,that little seed of truth turned into something a whole lot bigger.
A foundation of sorts for something else that was already
growing and moving within the world-
but just didn't have a platform or a voice or even a name.

I am involved pretty heavily in the suburban gardening scene in Apex.
It's a thing that I do without thinking really-
it's just part of who I am.
I've always used gardens as my primary creative palette.
I've always retreated to flowers and gardening when I needed healing.
There's an awful lot of plant knowledge floating around
in this head of mine-and it's pretty specifically 
applicable to this area,this place, this time.

I have been working in and leading several initiatives
for a couple of years now.
Behind the scenes though-
not in a way that implies ownership or a stake.
Just providing support and scaffolding to help several
non-gardeners realize their suburban gardening dreams.
Or rallying a group around a service project that is plant related.


While taking a class a few months ago,
I finally allowed myself to hear a question I'd been avoiding.

What if I made it into an actual, concrete thing?
What if I claimed this talent and moved it into the light?
Not just something that filled the spaces.
What if I did it ON PURPOSE?
What if I intentionally tried to create connection within my town?


I started focusing on it-slowly moving gardening
away from something I do selfishly and in relative solitude
into something I do intentionally and out loud.
It has been a terrifying trip.
I have a full time job-
this is truly my side project.
BUT I'VE BEEN DOING IT ANYWAY.



It's time to claim it.
And give it a space all to it's own.
The little seed planted a couple of years ago is more than sprouted...
today is the official birthday of this little beauty.
www.bloominapex.com

Bloomin cultivates connection so our story will bend
towards the light.
Bloomin focuses on what we need in order to maximize suburban
yards and suburban lives.
If it's plants, or flowers, or just general plant knowledge,
then I am happy to help our little suburb get greener, 
more knowledgeable or just more excited about possibility.


If you're local, you can hire me to support your own gardening endeavors.
I do design, container gardens, consulting, 
teaching and house staging for realtors.
I also do personal shopping for plant related stuff.
I'm at the garden centers anyway-
I might as well pick something up for you while I'm there.

If you're not local, I would recommend following 
bloomin.apex on Instagram 
for a couple of shots of gardening beauty every day.





I will try very very hard to put all blog posts related 
specifically to gardening on the Bloominapex.com blog.
You can read the first one here: I like big pots and I cannot lie.
This blog will continue to focus on personal growth,
tools that I use myself to focus,
and insights into my own story and perspective
that I think might help someone else who struggles with similar topics.


Thanks for all your words of encouragement and support.
Next week, I promise I'll get back to something not 
gardening related!



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

EYES ON YOUR OWN PAPER



It was just End of Grade Test season in my world.
The season of teachers imploring me to please be sure that my children are 
well fed and well rested so that they can please 
for the love of all that is holy
 get a decent score on an evaluation that everyone agrees has limited value.
We have all entered into a social contract where we will 
participate in this ridiculous farce until these kids are adults.
I like to think of EOG season as training for seasons that come with
adulthood and also make zero sense....like
taxes or swimsuit season or Christmas card photos.

EOG Testing also reminds me of a funny story.
When my son was in first grade,
his class had a practice test that simulated end of year grade testing
to give the kids some exposure to testing without all the pressure.
Hah.  I laugh at this because kids feel energy like a fish feels water.
Whether is was supposed to matter or not,
the kids felt that is was important and they should do their best.


My bright little guy hadn't yet learned jedi mind-tricks to curb his OCD.
He basically resolved every challenge he encountered into a 
life or death struggle at this age.
EOGs were a clear and present danger.

He has always had a couple of traits that show up strongly during test taking.
If you set a timer on him and he will accomplish whatever task in about a quarter of the allotted time.
Once he's done, he has no interest in reviewing said task.
It is dead to him.  He has moved on.
So, he takes tests as quickly as possible and 
finds it completely unnatural to spend time on it once it's 'done'.

The timer started and per his usual form, 
he was done with lots of time to spare.
Since he had time to spare, he did 
what any person with a speck of empathy 
would do in this situation.
He started to help everyone else at his table with their tests.


Yep.
He started rubber-necking and decided that he needed 
to fix his friends' answers.
His teacher didn't appreciate it very much and 
we had to have a conference about it.
The principal was there and everything.

When asked about it, he had a few 
VERY IMPORTANT thoughts on his actions.

They were getting it WRONG mom!
I HAD to help them!
It was such a mess-they needed me!


There were looming, undefined consequences for not 
getting the right answer to every single question.
My little 6 year old was going to save his whole table 
of friends from those scary consequences
and he could not understand why everyone around him 
didn't understand that this was the right move.
What a sweet little hero, right?


I think this is a prime example of why God grants us children.
To hold that adorable mirror up to us and show us ourselves.

There have been so many times where I've spent energy 
looking at someone else's work-
evaluating and judging them for their success or failure,
holding them to a bar of my own estimation and 
making sure that they're living their best life (as defined by me).
I like to sit down with the life story of other people 
and arm-chair quarterback it.

Special note: I am particularly good at this when I have 
not been asked for my opinion.


I really want to give you a full picture of the depth of my dysfunction here, 
my persistent attention to everyone else's life before my own.
Let me cite some examples for full disclosure in case you

 think I'm exaggerating my farsighted focus. 

If I think someone is struggling in their marriage, 
I would be happy to expound for days on resources and strategies 
to get them to a more healthy place.
A young couple getting together under less than ideal circumstances?
I have podcasts to listen to, books to read,
a couple of therapists and maybe a reality TV show that would help.
Have a conflict you need to work through with 
your best friend and just don't know how to approach it?
I am here for you-available to strategize until we both feel 
that you've made the best possible moves.
What qualifies me for this relationship expertise?
Not a damn thing.




How about in the professional sphere...
Want to know whether you should work at a certain company?  
Should you take a new job or title?
How about just being evaluated on the way you carry 
yourself through meetings or conferences,
the energy you give off into the professional sphere?
I have mentored and counseled some truly impressive people 
around these very items.
Giving advice, setting structure and goals, working with them 
for several years to get them to the place they wanted to be.
Does that mean that my professional path is clear and focused?
Actually...I'd prefer it if we didn't talk about me ok?
I will just do the next action that is expected of me or 
solve the next puzzle that comes along.
I will shirk a title or a radical career move
faster than a 3 year old can take off their pants in public.


Surely I'm able to focus on my own life in some sphere.  
I am after all, an adult, with bills that are paid and teeth 
that are cleaned semi-regularly.
Health and self-care maybe-is this where I pay attention to me?
Oh, this is an extra special area-one that I can really talk 
a good game around.
I would be happy to discuss ways that I think people heal 
 through diet and exercise.
Give up the gluten and eliminate dairy.
No caffeine after noon and make sure you get 8 hours of sleep.
Processed food has no place in the human diet and 
every knows that you cannot get enough vegetables.
Get rid of screen time, minimize social media, 
set some boundaries for goodness sake!
I would be happy to discuss this with anyone-
as long as I'm eating 'just a few' cool ranch Doritos.
Or a bite of chocolate cake.
And about 9 gallons of cold brew while managing my 
multiple Instagram and Facebook accounts.

I have Bojangles once a week.  It's to balance all the healthy food.
This is just the truth.
I will happily focus on everyone else's paper instead of my own.
Rushing through my own test so I can get around to 
helping everyone else with their answers.


What would life be like if I just paid attention to my 
work, my calling, my life?
(I almost wrote...what would life be life if everyone 
just paid attention to their life....
look at your own damn paper girl!)
This is one of those forever tries kind of areas....I will likely be working on staying focused on my own paper for the rest of this lifetime.
It is not a natural habit-I have to work at the practice.
Every time I think I've got it, I realize I've been judging or 
supporting others in places that I'm struggling personally.

I'm going through so many shifts lately-
things that I am pretty sure I was supposed to learn or understand much earlier.
I guess you understand what you understand when you understand it.
Not one second earlier.
I'm right on time, the ship has not sailed, it is not too late.
My practice of examining my own paper
has become actual instead of theoretical.
My intention to set my own course
has led to meditation, daily reflection
and actual change in my brain, heart and body.
It's pretty cool and also...kind of crazy.
That I can rewrite my old patterns in favor of another perspective.
Just by focusing on my own life
instead of spending all my time and energy focused on other things.

I guess what I'm saying is...
I am definitely capable of getting a good grade on this test.
But only if I spend more energy on my life
than on someone else's.
I'm focused on my own work,
finally after decades of focusing on everyone else's.
The path of my life is so much clearer-
it was there all along but I wasn't looking at it.
I was too busy shepherding everyone else's lives.

Homework from The Bigger Yes class with Laura McKowen




Saturday, May 26, 2018

DISTRACTED HISTORY-LESSONS ON SITTING WITH THE MEMORIAL

My Avett quote is not quite right....what you get from singing the lyrics instead of looking them up.  

I've been working on past trauma for several years now
but I'm still surprised at the power of this work.
One of the things that I've realized is that there were lots
of times in my life where I distracted myself from the trauma
by diving into a different, more interesting kind of side-show.
And what I'm left with, is a tangled backstory that I need
to unravel and re-sort so that I can shift my current perspective.
Said another way....sometimes I have to dig up the bones of my past lives 
and say a blessing over the girl I was
so that I can become the woman I am meant to become.
This past week, I became unexpectedly aware that
the bones of my past life needed some shifting.
I settled into a few days of labor and this is what came out.

The year I was 19 was a very troubled time in my life.
I was a freshman at NCSU, 
far away from home and pretending to be someone who 
belonged at an institute of higher education.
It had been a challenging freshman year but I was a warrior-
although few around me realized how vicious the battle was.
After Christmas, the money in my bank account had gone missing.
All through spring semester, my mother was calling me 
 to report erratic or dangerous circumstances at our house.  
Some days it was my oldest brother
who might have gone missing and other days
it was my step-father who might abandon my littlest brother.
Still other days everything was great and wonderful
don't worry about that thing I told you yesterday-it's all fine now.
Everything about my spring semester was one long trial-
I would cram data into my brain, take a test, then binge drink
to relieve the tension.  I cried myself to sleep any night
that I was alone-so I worked hard not to be alone.

This was a time before computers so I actually
had to talk to a human to get to the root of the bank thing.
The bank manager from home was quite surprised 
at my quick recovery from the terrible auto accident
that my mother reported I'd had.  
It became clear that my mother had forged 
several checks on my account.
I tried to discuss why she took the money over the phone.
Her story was hysterical and nonsensical-
deep in the throws of an episode that only made sense to her.
So many lies on top of lies-she couldn't figure out which
ones to tell me now that the jig was up.

I came home on spring break to try and 
understand what had happened and it did not go well.
This was no homecoming to resolve a miscommunication-
I had been invited to a showdown.
There were actual guns and screaming involved-
threats of violence and poison spewed at me.
What are you even doing here?
You think you're better than us-don't you? 
You can't prove I took that money-
I'll have you arrested just for being here.
You're an adult now-take care of yourself on your own.
Uppity little ungrateful bitch-take your stuff and leave.
This kind of rhetoric was somewhat normal in this house-
but it was usually directed by the adults at each other.
Oh wait..apparently now I was an adult
and fair game for the full on assault tactics.
I had always been the protector, the smoother-
the oldest who took care of the adults and the kids.
They were not joking about me leaving-
that was made very clear and reinforced with weapons.
You're an adult now-we don't need you or want you.

I called my dad-a sweet man that I barely knew-
and asked him to come pick me up.
It was a bad scene before he got there....my 9 year old brother 
sobbed in my arms as I struggled to comfort him.
He was definitely not going to be safe in this house
but I was not going to be able to take him with me.
My baby sister was screaming in the background.
I had no comfort to offer her either.
I do not know where my 15 year old brother was-
he had already become pretty good at numbing.
Maybe he was working?  Maybe he was there.  I can't remember.
It was dramatic and normal and the final punctuation
to a phase of my life that I didn't necessarily want to end.

My dad rolled up to get me in his little beige pickup, 
big eyed but determined and calm.
I climbed down from the front porch and
I piled my few possessions into the bed of the truck.
Most of my stuff was still on campus so the stash was a mishmash of
formal pageant dresses and a couple of musical instruments.
You ok SugarBear?
Yep.  Can you take me home?
Yep-buckle up.
The ride to Mebane from Burlington that day 
felt like a cross-country trek.
I stared straight ahead and don't remember talking.
He and my step-mom took me in without breaking stride.
We pretended that everything was all good
but we were basically strangers to each other.
I could feel their side glances as they tried to 
understand this young woman who so unexpectedly moved in.
I can see the memory version of me-
laughing and talking too loudly, pretending to be charming 
and well-adjusted-at least in front of people.
Nothing to see here-keep rolling.
In truth...I was lost.
I had no idea who I was and there was no place I belonged.
Everyone was a stranger to me-
including myself.
I had no one to protect, no one to care for, 
no one's life to run-except my own.
I went back to Raleigh and took my exams-
then came home to a house that was calmer than
any I'd known for a decade-
and did not know what to do with myself.
I was already thin-but I lost 15 pounds in the first month.
I had deep wounds from a decade of sustained trauma
that I was not capable of addressing and I had just been evicted
from the only life I'd ever known.
I was terrified for my siblings.
I was likely in shock.

I had no idea what to do next
so I did what I had always done....
I pretended that I had this thing locked down.
I went to work-multiple jobs waiting tables.
Building up enough money to go back to college
in the fall so I could change the story.
That's all I knew to do-work.
Until I was too tired to think.
That would have probably been a good place to stay for a while.
Working, sleeping, figuring out who I was, how to change the story.
That is not what I did.

I could not be still and sit with this pain.
I started searching for a distraction-
a little self-destruction,
a way to lose myself for a minute.
I could have picked binge-drinking or drugs or 
a myriad of other things.
Instead, I picked a boy.


We had actually dated previously for a few months in high school.
That's our prom picture from senior year above.
On paper, we had lots in common-smart, gorgeous
little country kids from opposite ends of the county.
In reality though, I can't remember us ever 
having a conversation the first time we dated.
I broke up with him on the way to our college orientation.
I'd bummed a ride to Raleigh from him but decided on the
way there that I just didn't want to be 'tied down'.
I also didn't want to talk about what I'd done at senior beach week
or who I'd done it with (neither did he).
This was exactly the kind of girl I was...
beautiful and selfish and remote-
keeping everyone at a distance
and wearing a mask of disinterest.
But the summer after our freshman year at college,
we were both back at the same restaurant jobs we worked in high school
and looking for a distraction.


My long distance boyfriend never had a chance with this up-close distraction.
I just meant to flirt a bit, at least that's the line I told myself.
But...it didn't pan out that way.
He was in love with me he said.
He'd been in love with me all year.
He had done terrible things to himself because I'd been so cruel to him.
All he ever wanted was to be my knight in shining armor.
It took a little bit but..he convinced me of his sincerity and devotion.
Of course he did-I was a drowning woman looking for a lifeline.
It didn't have to be true-it just had to be distracting.
Anything to keep me from sitting with myself.

What I thought would be a summer fling rapidly
turned into an epic love story-a redneck fairy tale.
Over the next two years, I lost myself in the idea of what 
my life could be, would be, should be.
I remade myself in the image of who I thought he 
saw when he looked at me.

Nevermind that this was not the life that suited me
or the life that would let me heal my injuries or 
even a life that would interest me.
He wanted me, needed me, valued me.
I would be anything just to belong.
Nevermind that our core values were fundamentally different,
that we didn't actually SEE each other,
that we couldn't give grace to each other
or communicate about anything really.
There would be time for that later-
once we'd reached the golden promise 
of happily ever after.


More than anything,
I came to adore his family-
they were loud and hilarious and so different than my own.
They had challenges but they seemed to pull together in them.
They fed me.
And loved me.
And called me daughter.
I belonged.
Happily ever after was maybe something I could achieve.
If I could just keep this up, everything would be ok.
Oh sweet idiot.

Two years in, our relationship ended very very badly.
I immediately cut off all contact with him and with his family-
I lost many precious relationships that day.
The persona I created to escape was destroyed, 
and I was in withdrawal from my drug of choice.
The grief I experienced was significantly more than just a bad breakup-
I still hadn't processed any of the grief from being evicted or abused.
It was an avalanche of pain-just waiting for this moment.
And now I'd added this new pain to the original pile.
I lost a lot of weight again, boozed it up, partied and 
used other people to distract myself.
I wrote a narrative around how he was the bad one
and I was the good one.
How I did everything right and he was the failure.
He was the reason the fairy tale didn't work.
Not me.



As fascinating as this navel gazing can be, you might be asking...
What does this have to do with grownup me
or with anyone else?
Why am I putting this out for everyone to see?
This was over twenty years ago-
that boy and that girl don't exist anymore-right?
I have moved on a thousand times right?
Well...sort of.
What I know now is that the things
you don't heal in your past
have a way of coming back around to your present.
This was the first time I created this pattern as an adult.
The fairy tale that I could lose myself in.
The use of a person to distract me from my pain.
The wholesale exorcism of people who let me down or hurt me.
The good one vs the bad one thematic battle.
The avoidance of responsibility for myself.
The replacement of one form of abuse for another, self-inflicted kind.
It was not the last time.

You may remember my recipe for forgiveness.  
It involves three steps:
Name the pain
Define it
Let it die


This week I've been sitting with my 19 year old self
and helping her name the pain and define it.

The chaos of that time and my own fear meant 
my recollection of events was pretty jumbled and needed
some re-framing from an adult perspective.
Unfortunately, adults don't just become mature overnight
 or because they reached a certain age-they need
to be parented and learn skills for how to cope with life.
The skills I learned growing up did not include ways to process
trauma and grief-I knew survival skills only.
These skills allowed me to get through the crazy-
but they didn't show me how to choose differently
or care for myself.
I know better now....I also know that I have to go backwards
sometimes to go forward on a stronger foundation.

This entire relationship was the first of many attempts to distract
myself from naming the pain I didn't want to sit with.
Instead of naming and defining the pain...
I sought out new ways to be hurt and traumatized.
I could have faced the reality and stopped the cycle-
at least I could have if I'd had any idea how to do that.


Part of healing my story, included realizing that I failed to sit with myself,
that I intentionally tried to lose myself, and 
became someone else on purpose.
I wanted to be the one magical enough to call that fairy tale into existence.
I felt like a fraud and a failure when it couldn't be realized.
Every. Single. Time.

I needed to honor and treasure the love and the sense of belonging
that I had when I was a part of that story, part of that boy's family.
I needed to say thanks for the respite it gave me so that 
I could catch my breath-
before real life came calling me back.

I needed to apologize to that girl for thinking that the only
way through something was to cut off everyone associated with the story.
I also needed to thank that boy for letting that girl 
direct all her rage at him-instead of the deep abyss of her loneliness
when the fairy tale came to it's inevitable conclusion.

I needed to look at what I was running from-
the damage and the trauma of the original ties that were broken.
It was the only life I had known until 19 and when it ended
I didn't grieve it.  I felt I should be relieved that it was over.
I felt that I should relish in my freedom from such toxicity.
And yet, I longed to belong and have a place.
Even if it was going to kill me in the long run.


I think I've finally laid this bit of the story to rest.
I sometimes get an itch to disappear-
emotional sobriety is a hard task and requires effort.
That idea of myself-someone who could lose herself in another reality-
has moved on to another plane.
I don't believe in fairy tales anymore
and I don't want any part of the ones that 
I tried to create in so many different ways
over so many relationships.

The summer I was 19 was a terrible time but also a magical time.
The beginning of a shift-
a space where something different could happen.
That's the true power of forgiveness-
that by laying down my burdens, expectations, and sitting with my pain...
I can become something new.

If you have a similar experience or family members who choose numbing,
I hope that you can see that they are running from something,
that they are doing the best they can with the tools they have.

If you are the person running from something, I get it.
That drink or that attention or that title is always going 
to feel easier than sitting with the pain.  Always.

What I know is that when you sit with the pain, 
you stop creating new
wounds that you will eventually need to sit with.
No one will make you. But the wounds won't just go away.
You can't power through, hustle your way,
 until it leaves you alone.
It'll be there when you're at your end-
so learn to be still.