Solitude, Why the Crazy Cat Lady is the new Guru

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Remember when we were kids and we’d see that lady checking out at the grocery store with 20 cans of cat food, one bag of kitty litter, ten lean cuisines, and a bottle of wine? I remember thinking, “Please God, don’t ever let me become a Crazy Cat Lady.” Well, here I am and all I’m missing is a cat. Thing about cats is that there’s always one that needs a home and they can smell out a solitary cat-less person from ten blocks away. Cats are magical, that’s why they are our masters. But I digress.

The thing about slowly becoming a Crazy Cat Lady is that there is no one around to disturb you. You have all the time in the world. You can spend hours talking to God, talking to shrubs (see my last blog post), meditating, working out, buying yourself a yummy gyro, and talking to friends who are also slowly evolving into Crazy Cat Women. The other perk is that you never have to share your wine.

Solitude has been sold to us as this terrible state of loneliness that eats the soul and withers the mind when in fact it’s a great place to heal, set internal boundaries, face down your personal demons, and really get to know yourself. You can’t know yourself in a crowd, but sit quietly alone and all of YOU will show up, the good and the troubling. I no longer fill my days. I wander through them. I cry, I reach out, I go to therapy, I see where I went wrong, and I see where I went right, I savor, I take deep breaths, and I simply exist. This is the most Zen I have been allowed to be in my entire life.

I no longer believe that time is money, that I need to keep my nose to the grindstone, or that the person with the most toys wins. Instead, I believe in watching squirrels hide nuts and chase each other up trees, I believe I can hear God in the wind when it blows through the forest, I believe in random miracles and intentional miracles and…just all miracles. I believe in appreciating mountains while not feeling the need to climb them. I believe in the magic of pedestrians who don’t look when they cross and I believe in the drivers who manage not to hit them everyday in this beautiful metropolis I live in. I believe in God because I see God in every person and structure and breeze that lifts every leaf in every tree.

The first step to following the teachings of the Crazy Cat Lady is to let go of social norms, stop caring about what the neighbor thinks, and just coexist. Meet your friends at the corner café and talk about art and music, or physics and spirituality if you’re feeling particularly saucy, and definitely talk about your cats because they’re magical, remember? Lastly, love yourself and all the people you come into contact with because in truth, everyone is fighting their own battles and no one gets off this planet alive.

Cheers my beloveds. Everyday is a new adventure. Meet it with all the grace and authenticity you can muster.

Wear your comfy shoes. Your fantastic just as you are. There is nothing you need do…except feed the cat.

Moving your Body to Clear your Mind

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I did my research and found that nothing I read about the effects of exercise on emotional regulation was at all helpful. Most articles focused on preventing life threatening illness. While prevention is great, it calls to mind the myriad calamities we humans face everyday and if my blog is about anything, its about healing and faith not fear and illness. So, I decided to wing it.

First off, I walk every day. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I cry and pray, sometimes I cry and pray out loud and talk to a nearby shrub or hug a tree. I am that lady who looks perfectly normal until she says to an unoffending shrub, “Dear God please help me survive today. I’m in your hands and you are all I have.” This is generally how my morning walks go. I walk to release my grief, to breath fresh air, to connect to nature, to connect with God, and to connect with my body in a deep and meaningful way. Half way through my five mile walk I feel a sense of calm come over my mind as if both hemispheres of my brain have stopped fighting. The color of the trees become more vivid and that inoffensive shrub I poured my heart out too looks almost angelic. We’ve become very close.

I don’t stop walking when my mind calms and my grief subsides. I keep walking, setting my sights on a distant garden hidden by trees where I can sit on a park bench and meditate. I keep walking because reaching my five-mile goal will make my body and mind relax for the day and give me the peace I need to soldier on. Once I reach my private garden my eyes are dry and my mind is calm. I can go into deep meditation, connect with God fully and completely, and end my meditation feeling at peace.

Whether you’re having a mental breakdown, suffer with mental health issues, or just feel bummed or anxious about the state of the world, exercise will help. Do what you can, start small, work up slowly, and most important of all, take the deep belly breaths that calm your central nervous system. Today I lifted weights, walked my town, and did some yoga in my micro studio, which was an adventure in itself. And please remember as you move in your own special way that your Creator, by whatever name you use, is with you. Faith is healing even if you choose to pray to a convenient houseplant or an unassuming shrub. Faith will always see you through. So, please remember that… You are held. You are blessed. You are important and needed in this time of change.

Keep going. I love you. You got this.

Self-regulation and the baby steps to joy

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Why do we hurt? Why is trauma so emblazoned in our memory that to touch it with thought is to relive it, moment by torturous moment, until we sink under the weight of the memory. The loss of a grandparent, the loss of a friend, a miscarriage, a rape, a breakup with the person you thought was the one. Why do we hurt until we break, even years after the moment of pain has passed? Whoever said time heals all wounds was never traumatized, and never felt a loss so acute that sixty years later just a fragment of the memory is a punch to the gut.

Two people can witness the same traumatic event, a car crashing into a pole at high speeds. The first viewer is troubled, talks to the police, talks to his family and friends and lets the incident slip into his past. The second viewer is traumatized, cries when he talks to the police, can not discuss the incident with his family or friends, avoids the place where the accident occurred and is shaken every time he sees a car similar in color and type to the one in the accident.

Why did both people come to such different places in terms of how they reacted to the incident? First is the preconditioning of the nervous system. The first viewer has self-regulation, few past traumas and a set sense of self and the world around him. The second viewer has a dysregulated nervous system, lives in high alert, and has a poor sense of self and the world around him. He has been traumatized before, and the world is a scary and uncertain place for him.

What makes the memory so physically painful for viewer two is the amount of emotion he was flooded with when the incident occurred. His preprogrammed heightened arousal to danger, his low self-regulation, and high sense of uncertainty etched the car crash into his memory in horrifying detail. It is the amount of emotion experienced by the perceiver that decides whether an incident is traumatic or just simply troubling.

Self-regulation is key to managing trauma and stopping new trauma from forming. We self-regulate by talking to a qualified trauma specialist, doing deep breathing work to regulate the nervous system, going regularly to yoga or tai chi classes, managing stress, practicing prayer and meditation, and above all by surrounding ourselves with people and environments that help us feel calm and supported. Calming and regulating the nervous system is key to self-regulation and regulating the emotional brain.

So, turn off the news, cut out toxic people that leave you feeling weakened and drained, do not watch movies that are fear based, and lastly have faith in the creator who made you. Dr. Brene’ Brown says, we dress rehearse tragedy to beat vulnerability to the punch, meaning we live in a constant state of expecting our next trauma because it is too terrifying to believe that joy just might be our next great experience. To experience joy, we must first be vulnerable and willing to be open to change. I ask you to lean into your Creator, lean into healthy love, lean into gratitude, lean into your healing work, and prepare yourself for joy; After all, joy was once your natural state of being.

Keep going-You got this-I love you