Wellness, Happiness, & Other Stuff

It’s a random musings kind of Thursday:

1. I am trying to get back into a regular exercise routine. Lordy it has been too long. You gotta start somewhere though, right? I’m severely anemic and have to get IV iron infusions several times a year. I should probably get more than that. Anywho, when you’re anemic at just basic levels, you can have major fatigue. I am like realllllyyyy low on iron. I had this feeling that if I could get myself moving after this last bit of iron, I might be able to establish enough of a habit, that by the time my iron started dipping again, I would feel so good from exercising (and noticing the losing of inches) that I’d push through. I am a long way from walking 4 miles a day and being in the gym 6 days a week (like the olden days). I know how good I feel when I do, however. Can you relate? What do you use to keep yourself motivated? I need to combine some yoga in there now. I’ve only got 3.3 miles in this week, so far, but hey – that’s 3.3 more than last week. 🙂

2. My dog is a runner. She loves to run and run and run. And then she will gladly sleep 18 or more hours a day. 🙂 She has enjoyed the walks, in spite of teetering on the edge of her senior years and being sick not all that long ago. But today, she saw a little boy – who just so happened to look like “our” boy. My (foster) son is black and the little boy we saw was also black and about the size of my (foster) son when he left. If you’re new here, I was expecting to adopt my (foster) son. She does this funny little hop, skip thing when she’s happy or sees kids playing (she loves kids). I don’t know how to explain it, but you’ll just have to trust me. She saw the boy and she just knew it was him. She tried multiple times to pull me in his direction. She used to do this a lot more – after he first left. It’s less frequent now, but it still happens. I was teary-eyed. But it also made me appreciate this crazy dog of mine. She loved him so much. He was her boy. She wouldn’t forgive me for at least a year after he left. She didn’t want a thing to do with me (not kidding). About a year ago, she changed her mind and she’s cool with me again. That little boy was her life. She’s a weird and precious dog. 🙂

3. I entered a writing related contest and didn’t win. I was strangely bummed out by this. But then I woke up Wednesday morning and I was feeling pretty good. I woke up feeling better about a lot of things – most of them are things I can’t even remotely control – like work situations & how someone does/does not feel about you. It was a rough 2-3 weeks here recently. I think I’ve turned the corner. This brings me to my number 4…

4. I am not the least bit embarrassed to say that I’m in therapy at this time. It’s a huge help to me. When you’re on a wellness or healing journey – or need to be – it’s important to flood your world, in my not-so-humble opinion, with stuff that lifts you up versus drag you down. I’ll be the first to admit this is a slow process for me. I think it’s impossible to change everything at once. It’s a slow burn, sometimes. But making slow, deliberate choices helps. I have podcasts I listen to, stuff I read, and choices I make with eating, rest, etc. I’ve shared a few podcast episodes here on the blog. Another thing I’ve started, after being introduced to Dr. Amen – is the 30 Day Happiness Challenge. You can view it and sign-up, here: https://www.amenuniversity.com/happy?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=social-paid&utm_campaign=YBIAL&utm_content=KR%20-%2030DHC%20-%20PR%20-%20CO%20-%20SI%20-%20V1%20-%20Copy&audience=KR%20-%2030DHC%20-%20RT%20-%20CO%20-%20DA%20Audience&fbclid=IwAR1_mnVc4xtPYYEHXUvpH9fMesqzi86YJUo-W3c-g_FDABif3xrn0Yxf3F8. When you sign up, you will start with day 1. Future emails jump in at later days in the challenge. However, when you log in, you can still go through each of the days at your current pace. It’s good stuff, dudes and fits perfectly into what I’m already learning through therapy, podcasts, etc.

See, random…

Making Use of Your Loneliness

loneliness, making use of your loneliness, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

Loneliness is not something we enjoy. Nor do we attempt to live with it and make use of it – most likely because in the loneliness, we feel pain. If we feel pain, but can’t cure the loneliness – we often then reach for those things that numb us. But making use of your loneliness is, or can be, a gift. I started reading Andrew McCarthy’s autobiography, Brat, this weekend. There’s a line in it that stuck with me. He writes, “The travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux has written about the ‘lucidity of loneliness’ and how it is indispensable in order to experience certain things deeply.”‘

The “lucidity of loneliness,” is a beautiful phrase. Lucidity is clearness of thought or style. But the Oxford Languages definition (Dear Biola Professors, I do hereby humbly ask for forgiveness for quoting from a dictionary) appeals to me even more. It uses the words brightness & luminosity to describe lucidity. I love that. The brightness and luminosity of loneliness. Hmm, how can the lonely places lead to brightness and luminosity in our lives? For most of us – we don’t like loneliness. Or the quiet. We tend to fill our lives with busy, constant running and activity. For those of us who live alone, there can be a tendency to fight against this loneliness. I know, because at so many times in my life, I’ve tried to do this myself.

The last thing we think, particularly when we long for community, relationships, family, etc., is to view loneliness as leading to clearness of thought or brightness and luminosity. Buddhists, though I am far from one or an expert in any sense of the word, teach about different types of loneliness and the way that it can be useful to us. I get this more and more all of the time. As a writer, I think it’s particularly important. It’s nearly impossible for me to write well, without some familiarity with loneliness.

But, that doesn’t always feel so good. There’s a temptation, particularly when we are going through hard things to numb it, quiet it, hide it, or fill the void and loneliness with activity, noise, etc. In the loneliness, when we don’t numb it or try to fill the space with something/anything – we feel. And feeling is often the exact opposite of what we want when life just . . . hurts.

The wound is the place where the Light enters you. – Rumi

For many, many months in 2019, it seemed as though my home was under siege. It got worse as the year dragged on. By summer, I was no longer safe in my own home. I’d packed away and hidden my most precious belongings so they wouldn’t be destroyed. And for hours on end on more nights than I care to remember, my home – walls and doors in particular – were ruined and I lived in constant fear.

When it all ended in August of 2019, I didn’t want to feel. In that space, in the pain – I tried to numb it. I was in some of the worst pain I’d ever experienced. I was heartbroken, alone, and in a house that was a constant reminder of some of the worst days of my life. I wanted it to stop – all of it. So, I kept searching for anything to fill it. I drank more than I ever had before. I gained weight. My health suffered. I searched for anything – anything at all – to change my circumstances. I couldn’t face the loneliness and pain.

I came upon a job opening at an event venue and went for it. I got the job as the Venue Manager/Event Manager. The place is a dream. It’s incredibly beautiful. I was very happy, on the surface – because I knew it was what I wanted. The only problem was, the timing was all wrong. The job filled my days and months until January of 2020, with frenetic activity. It was the right job, at the wrong time. I’d give anything to go back to that world (but under different circumstances). Instead of living in the pain and loneliness, I shut it down completely. I mean, shut.it.down. I’d had no time to face it. I went from the most pain I’ve ever been in, to working 7 days a week. I was excelling – but dying inside.

The stress reached an explosion point as I climbed the stairs to my apartment one evening. I’d worked 7 days a week for weeks and weeks. And as I climbed my stairs, my whole body felt like it was shutting down. I couldn’t breathe and the chest pain I was experiencing was the worst I’d ever felt. I thought I was having a heart attack – at 43. I got inside and dumped all of my bags and coat just inside the door of my apartment. I contemplated calling 911. I laid down on the couch trying to decide what to do. I’ve known anxiety and panic attacks. Especially in the long months of 2019. But this seemed different. I decided then and there that if I didn’t do something drastic, I was going to die. That’s literally what I felt – that I was days or weeks from dying. Isn’t that nuts? I quit that job. But I still didn’t get into and dig deep enough into the pain.

So what does this have to do with loneliness? See the thing is, if I’d stayed in that loneliness for a while, letting myself feel the pain of my loss and the stress of having my physical home and well-being threatened, I think I would have reached a modicum of healing a lot sooner. And then maybe I would be ready now for the job that was the right job, at the wrong time or a healthy, beautiful relationship. The funny thing is, now I can’t move no matter how hard I try. And I’ve got even more to work through now.

When I woke up this morning, after several days of living in the hard and painful places of life, the tears always close to the surface, it became quite clear why I’m still here. I also know that I can’t and won’t push the loneliness away, anymore. It’s in this space that I take steps closer to healing and learning to take care of myself once again. For the first time in ages, I walked with the dog (like exercise walk), read, and sat in the weird & confusing feelings I have going on these days. There’s nothing earth shattering about today – except this – I’ve let myself be lonely and I’ve let myself feel the hurt, this week. And in that, I have much clearer vision now. In the lucidity of loneliness, I see what I couldn’t see in the last two years. I didn’t try to escape it, numb it, ignore it, or run from it. I sat with it and let it do its thing. And now I feel certain I am here in this place I don’t want to be, for a reason – and that is my healing and growth – in spite of the harsh conditions.

It’s hot now in the south – hot and humid. But not all that long ago, we had freezing temps at night – long past what is normal. When we have a deep frost, I cover my outdoor plants with towels or old sheets. But last winter, in the midst of more job stress, I ignored the plants on my patio. I stopped covering them in the frost. My indoor houseplants are doing awesome. But what was happening outside wasn’t pretty.

geraniums, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos

The plants started slowly dying in the harsh conditions. They weren’t cared for. At all. Every so often I’d pull a dead plant from a pot and toss it over the fence. But for the most part, I just left them there in their pots. On my patio right this very minute, are a couple of dead ferns (I kid you not) and a few other random dead plants. In several of my planters however, there are geraniums. They’re still alive. They look a little beat up. But they’re not only blooming – new, green growth is popping up on their knobby little selves, too.

The thing that really gets me about this (and yes, I’ll get back to my point) is that I bought these geraniums in the sale sections at Wal Mart and Lowe’s. I rarely buy full price plants for my patio. I usually buy what’s on sale or deeply discounted. They’re usually discounted because they’ve been scorched in the sun, overwatered, etc. I am always confident in my ability to bring them back to life. These little stinkers just do not have any desire to give up. I’ve not watered them once. They’ve lived off of the rain – which hasn’t been all that frequent to be honest. I’ve not covered them in the frost. And now that it has turned hot and humid, I’ve yet to water them.

geraniums, elaina m. avalos

They may not be the prettiest plants I’ve ever seen. And they surely do need help. But their determination in harsh conditions – conditions that are inhospitable and probably a little pain-inducing, are a beautiful representation of what we as humans are capable of, in the midst of our own pain and destructive circumstances.

I veered off the path a little, but it’s all tied together. We want to stop the suffering – stop the pain – stop the loneliness. We want to move on to the good stuff. We want to feel better or feel nothing. We want to prevent harsh conditions. Yet, in doing so, more often than not, we prolong our suffering. I’m not exactly saying that letting your plants suck it up is the right way to go, but clearly, my tiny geraniums lived on – blooming unexpectedly – in spite of the harshest conditions. I think there’s a beautiful lesson in this. We don’t want to face the harsh, painful things. But it’s there in that loneliness and pain, that we can be set free.

In the quiet loneliness and in this place I don’t want to be, I see now that it’s where I gain healing. And it’s now the hope I have – for the foundation of great and beautiful things ahead. Don’t shut it down, friends. Ask from it and the pain, what it has for you. Hope and healing wait for us in these harsh places.

By the way, I spent a few minutes this afternoon, cleaning these ladies up. I trimmed off the dead parts, cleared out the leaves, and watered them. They look a little better with a little care and feeding. As do all of us.



Grief, Finality, Joy, and Gardenias

kristen-macadams-M0jnYTeqTVg-unsplash, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos, grief, letting go and holding on

As an artistic person and a writer that is emotional and often taken by romantic ideals and inspiration in odd places, I used to have this joy that would take hold of me at so many lovely moments in life. It was like this deeply flowing joy that bubbled up to the surface. Life wasn’t always what I expected (that’s for sure), but I could take a hike in the Croatan national forest, along the Neuse river, and be overwhelmed by inexplainable peace and joy. It could be the scent of the pine forest or the way the knobby tree roots were exposed in the sand and water. Or the way my dog would run with such abandon – happy as a clam. I don’t need a lot. I’m a lover of a truly simple life. I absolutely can be happy with the littlest of things in life. I chose joy. I chose joy more often than I didn’t.

The last couple of years have sapped so much of this from me. Yesterday seemed to be the finality I’ve been waiting for. But it was finality without closure if that makes sense. And in that finality, the grief of these two years overwhelmed me. Yesterday and long into the overnight hours, I was overcome. I haven’t recovered today. I woke up feeling hungover – with a headache and swollen eyes. It wasn’t a hangover at all. Except with the losses and finality of it all.

There are two random gardenia bushes in the breezeway near my apartment. It’s random because I’m not sure they’re anywhere else in the apartment complex. They’re in bloom right now. Gardenias are special to me. I adore them for their beauty and scent. But more than that, my grandparents used to grow them. And every time I would leave my grandparent’s house, my Grandpa Avalos would pick gardenias, roses, and other lovely flowers, for a tiny bouquet for me. He often made one for my mom too – though my parents had long been divorced by then. It was one of the things that was so sweet and special about him. This afternoon, as I walked the dog, a gust of wind blew through the breezeway. It filled the air with the scent of the gardenias. It was magical. But I still didn’t fully connect with the joy – with all of the emotion I would have – prior to these past two years. It made me sad. But the more I thought on this, the more convinced I became that it was a sign – straight out of heaven – that I may not be there yet, but I will get back to that place again.

It gave me a little push – a little reminder of what I’m fighting so hard for. I’m fighting hard for the life I’ve prayed for, for so very long. I’m fighting hard to get back to the me that would have been giddy with joy as the gardenia’s rich perfume overwhelmed me. So while I’m not there, even in the pain, I am getting there. Because now I remember what I’m fighting for.

A Love I Deserve

r.h. Sin, elaina avalos, you deserve the love you give, elaina m. avalos

There’s this thing I’ve been waiting for – this love I’ve been waiting for. There is a love I deserve. It’s a burn it all down, kind of love. It’s a drive to your house, stand on your doorstep and knock until you open the door, kind of love and passion. It’s a love that doesn’t choose me last, of all the things to choose. I mean, maybe I’m not first – but I certainly can’t settle for last. It’s the love that is free from constraints and stands upon the threshold of my life and says, “I needed to see you as soon as I could.”

This is what I want. It’s what I deserve.

It can be a slow burn. It can even take work to get there. But it’s the love that chooses me and stops at nothing to keep me around when faced with my absence. It’s the love that refuses to back down. It’s the love that doesn’t walk away. I want and deserve a love that protects me. You keep me safe, I’ll keep you wild. I want and deserve someone who is vulnerable with me and doesn’t run from living life together as partners in the good, bad, and the grey in-between- where life doesn’t always make sense.

This is what I want. It’s what I deserve.

It’s not all about me. But I already know what I bring to the table. And with a sliver of hope, I wait.

Hearts Don’t Break Around Here

you keep me safe i'll keep you wild, elaina avalos, elaina m. avalos,

It’s a song – Hearts Don’t Break Around Here. Because hearts certainly do break around here. I’m an Ed Sheeran fan in general. But somehow, I missed this song when it came out a few years ago. I heard it the first time, not all that long ago, on a Spotify generated playlist (Acoustic Love). For me, as a writer girl who writes about love, relationships, and families – I tend to lean toward listening to love songs when I write.

But I digress . . . the song is very sweet. But when I hear it lately, I find myself getting a little sad. Hearts don’t break around here – oh how I wish I could find that one – who shows me my heart is safe. In the last verse of the song, he sings:

“I feel safe when you’re holding me near
Love the way that you conquer your fear
You know hearts don’t break around here”

Safe. I am not sure when I’ll feel safe again. But it’s funny how something you didn’t know you needed, can become your greatest longing. I long to feel safe. I mean, my apartment is safe. I’m not currently facing a physical threat in my home – although I’ve known what that was like. But in matters of the heart, I’m longing for that safety. Before I get to the important stuff – here’s a disclaimer: I am realistic about love and relationships. I know they take work. And I know you can experience hurt within even the healthiest relationships. I mean, duh. You can even see it come up in my writing, like here and here.

This is a different kind of safety. Trust runs underneath it – as its very foundation. And from where I stand now, I don’t know if I’m capable of trust anymore. Isn’t that a horrible thing to say? I write about love and family. I was still hopeful until recently that I’d find my true companion – the one I’d grow cranky and old with. But, I question how I’ll ever trust. And if I can’t trust, I’ll never feel safe. Hearts don’t break around here – that’s what I want to see it in action. Don’t you?

But will I? I recently came to terms (sort of) that I may never get to parent in the way I had always envisioned for my life. Maybe it’s time to come to terms that I’ll never find that love – the one. The one that I can fully trust my heart with – the one that will live this wild life with me. The hurt I feel now – this heartbreak – tells me I’m capable of caring again. I certainly wondered if I was capable of that when I tried to pick up the pieces of my broken heart and life in August of 2019. So that’s something, eh?

You keep me safe. I’ll keep you wild. Those are two sentences I read somewhere once – no clue who said it or why. But I know why it resonates with me. I took the photo above, when I lived along the Neuse River. The Neuse is brackish – a healthy mix of salt and fresh water. It’s not unusual to see dolphin swimming in the river. And after major storms, when the wind blows the water in weird directions, it’s normal to find jelly fish and blue crabs stranded on the sand bars. I used to leave my stressful, (but fulfilling at the time) job, and drive home to this view. While I would sit on the deck in the evening, with a glass of wine, I spent a lot of time writing about the kind of life I have always wanted and what I hoped could still be mine. Below is the original photo I took (that I made into the image above), looking out toward Minnesott Beach. The steps down to what was once a small private beach (long since gone thanks to wild NC storms), are just barely visible. The second & third photo were pretty much my nightly routine, as I enjoyed the sultry Carolina summer air, blowing off the river, in the evenings.

I’ve had a crazy, good, weird life. I’m grateful for every second of this adventure. How many people my age get to live in a gorgeous home along a river (more than once), or in a fun downtown condo – with a view of the same river (just up the highway a bit)? When I lived in that cute downtown, I walked across the street on Friday evenings for wine tastings. And with my downtown buddies, we would walk to dinner – and then walk to our favorite bar sometimes. In all of the years of these little adventures, I was filled with terribly ridiculous joy. It’s the kind of joy that is unflinching in the face of challenges. I was happy. But even when I wasn’t, the joy hung around every corner of my life.

I have been blessed. I used to believe that this life I’ve lived – that has been full, beautiful, and filled with great opportunities – was ensuring that when the one finally did walk into my life, our life together would be that much richer because I hadn’t been afraid to live fully before him.

I was pretty sure I knew who he was too. I mean, not the exact person, but you know – the type. There have been some imposters that have come & gone. Usually, when they head out of my life, I have a “well, that was interesting – moving on now” kind of feeling. Hahaha. That’s probably why I’m still friends with guys I’ve dated. I guess I just know when it’s time to move on or not right, so there’s no need for drama. But maybe that’s mostly because my heart hasn’t been tied up in most of these gents. Not really. They also didn’t look like the one. The intellectual compatibility was missing. Or the spiritual. Or maybe that was there, but the physical compatibility was just . . . not. I know who he is. I know they type of man he is. So when it’s not right, it’s not right. But this is different. And I don’t know if I have it in me to open my heart to the possibility again.

Maybe this too is not for me. Parenting totally is for me. I am (was) and awesome mom. I was made for it. I’m also awesome at relationships (lol) and loving well. I’m loyal, loving, and don’t give up easily. I’m patient. And I’m a damn good time. Haha. But, it comes to a point where you just don’t know if you have it in you anymore. And that’s me, friends. I don’t know if I have it in my anymore. Oh how I wish I didn’t feel that way.

From 2010-2012, I lived in a literal desert. That place was weird and wonderful. I love many aspects about desert life. My life was rich when I lived in the desert too. While I missed green and trees and rain and the ocean, I was happy
there too. But I’m in a different kind of desert now. I’m stranded in a town that lacks for jobs, housing opportunities, and is home to the most pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’m in a desert. And in this dry and barren spiritual place, I know two things – I want me back. And it’s time to see what a life with different dreams looks like if the two I always thought I was meant for, aren’t going to happen.

The funny thing is, my “words” for 2021 are hope & faith. I’m sure all of this seems to lack both. But truthfully, maybe the best possible place to be is at a place where all of your plans and dreams are stripped clean from your very heart so the true beauty of the life waiting for me, can make its way to the surface?

Reader friends – heart stuff is hard. So is vulnerability. But you can’t get anywhere without facing it head on. So here I go.

And to the one who has my heart, if you could give it back, since you’re not using it (haha), that would be rad.