Ink of My Life

Want to know what’s important to me? Just look at my arm, my shoulder and my feet.

Each piece of artwork painfully adorned on my body tells the world a secret. It’s been my way to tell the world about my struggles and my fears without whispering a word. Every time someone compliments my arm piece or asks if my foot tattoo hurt- it validates something in me. I’ve made it through hard situations and come out with something beautiful, just like getting new ink.

I’m getting the tattoo itch- not the one from fresh ink, but the one where it’s been a little too long since the latest and I have new life monuments to commemorate. It’s worse than a mosquito bite to be honest and those I can’t remove the itch to save my life! It takes me months to dream up each piece, most of the time… my first tattoo only took me 5 minutes, but that’s also meaningful in itself.

My most recent tattoo expresses my freedom and my journey to break out of my cocoon. For a very long time, I didn’t understand that I could take action to combat my anxiety and depression- so I stayed wrapped up in a cocoon. Surrounded by all things that made me feel safe and in control, I barely was living life. Not participating in things solely because I didn’t know about them in advanced… not a way to live. A black and white floral arrow adorns my left forearm telling stories of last minute adventures and leaps of faith. It represents the reality of living with anxiety with the arrow. An arrow must be drug backwards in the bow, sometimes with great struggle, to be shot forward towards its target. And if you have ever shot a bow and arrow before, yes- that’s on my have done list, it’s terrifying to pull that tightly strung string back right up next to your cheek only to just let it go. Similar to pulling those anxieties close where they could really do some damage and trusting yourself to just let them go.

I have tattoos in remembrance of a grandmother, one who taught me perseverance, laughter and strength. I have tattoos celebrating the other strong women in my family- my mom and my sister. And another to celebrate the unbreakable bond that holds our family together. Another piece of ink tells a story of taking the first step to break free from abusive relationships. And finally there is the one that took me five minutes to pick- the outline of a heart- in a hidden spot, received the day I turned 18. It wasn’t exactly my rebellious act against my parents, but more of an act to show I’m stronger than I seem and realize sometimes.

It’s been quite a while since I was last in a tattoo chair, wincing with addictive pain. And since that last visit, I have accomplished one of the most impossible goals I set for myself with pure determination. It’s not the monument of purchasing a home that I necessarily want to celebrate, but instead the action of working so incredibly hard to accomplish what I swore was impossible. It deserves a spot on the ink wall of fame. So now the journey begins of dreaming up the perfect art to salute the battle that was won. It must speak without explanation and tell a story for me. And in true left arm fashion, it must be in black and white.

A letter to my friends.

This applies to you if any of these things make sense. Even if they don’t make sense, they probably still apply to you.

I don’t have millions of friends. It’s a very large internal brawl for me to really have the few I have. Getting to know each other, having our first (or ninth) fights, learning your favorite things and how you like your coffee- these are all very tricky mazes that sometimes I just can’t navigate. Over time and seasons, our roots grow a little deeper and the friendship plant officially gets a spot in my garden. As mentioned in my last post- I’m not the best gardener. So with a little patience and a few reminders to water the dang plant- the friendships continue to bloom. These friendships are literally my life. I haven’t gone through a single traumatic experience without a friend by my side. I’ve been shaped into the person I am, love it or leave it, with help from my pals. I am still a novice at being a supportive friend though. Let me explain…

I’m always more than ready to lend extra hands- whether it’s to pack up your old home for a big move or help clean out your shoe closet or even just to sit around and keep you company while your husband is gone for the weekend. But there’s something I’m really awful at- like really, really god awful at. Talk to me about your feelings and I listen to every word, but then… I can’t help but try to fix it. I try to break it down into the causes of the issue and steps we need to start taking to correct it. Tell me you are having a hard day because your little one is super cranky and isn’t feeling well, I’ll probably be over here playing Dr. Rachel- walking through all their symptoms and suggesting to tuck onions in their socks while they sleep. I don’t know why I have a compulsive need to have a solution, I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. But it hasn’t been until recently that reality tapped me on the shoulder and said, “shut the hell up! She just wants you to listen.”

Ask Bryan- I do not do sympathy well. Lord help me when my future offspring scrapes their knee for the first time. I shouldn’t say that I don’t feel sympathy- because I definitely do. I just don’t express sympathy without doing something to help. Got a cold? I’m bringing soup. Headache? Peppermint oil and coffee on its way. Feeling lazy? This size three shoe can give a real good butt kick to get things moving. There are very few things in the world that happen that you cannot get up and do something about. But I realize that isn’t everyone’s support language and I want to learn how to speak other languages other than my own.

I appreciate all the patience you have shown me through our friendship. I appreciate your honesty when you don’t agree. I am thankful for every text you’ve answered and especially every ridiculous picture, video and meme you’ve sent. All the adventures, inside jokes and knee slapping laughs are irreplaceable. But most of all, over all of these other things, I am thankful for you trusting me enough to be you. You each need different things when you are venting or upset, so I am asking one small favor. Help me learn what your support language is- spell it out or teach me little by little, but know that no matter how I handle my own situations, I am ALWAYS here to help you handle yours in your own way. Sometimes I just might need you to tell me to shush up and stop trying to fix all the things. But I appreciate you all to the ends of the earth and want to be supportive in any way I can. So to all my friends, here is an awkward blog post explaining why I sometimes suck as a friend and an open permission slip to shake me out of my own head when you need me to just listen and not fix life.

home is a sacred space.

If I open the door for you, you better know that it’s the highest honor I could bestow upon you and your court.

Suffering from anxiety and facing the daily battles that brings, leaves you empty and powerless and in desperate need of a recharge. To recharge, the space must be freeing, under your control and safe. Your domain is so much more important than a Zen space. It’s where you regain control of yourself, your body and your mind. Home is that safe, sacred space for me. It’s where I know what to expect and where I know my escape routes if anxiety is trying to knock down my damn door. I recharge after spending hours painstakingly socializing with acquaintances out and about. It’s where I go and know that the biggest decisions facing me are whether to grab the can of Spaghetti-Os out of the pantry or thaw the ground turkey sitting in the freezer. It’s where I can sit on my butt on our chair and a half with my pup curled up next to me and just sit in complete silence. I control who I interact with when I’m home. I control if I’m hot or cold. I control 99% of myself when I’m safely tucked in my four walls.

Home is where my routines live. I religiously wake up mostly the same way every morning and brush my teeth. I religiously select something to wear for the day from the same closet and it’s where I almost religiously change my outfit at least once before entering the real world. There’s something to be said about having control over your surroundings when the smallest out of control situation can trigger a panic attack. Just a few days ago, we took a spur of the moment trip to the garden store. I love to live by spur of the moment adventures, but what I don’t do well is the spur of the moment decision making process. Fear sets in about wasting my time walking through the lush aisles of green when I can’t keep a plant alive for longer than a week- hence why we made our way to the garden store in the first place. Financial regrets loom over my mind about why these flowers are so damn expensive and if I’m really just going to kill it in a week, do I want to plant $50 worth of stems for them to turn brown and fuzz over with mold? It was a simple trip to a garden store, a five minute conversation with a wonderful and inviting employee, and what felt like a life changing decision for me that sent me over the edge. My face flushed as the anxiety took over the control I used to hold on my body. I couldn’t handle the pressure of picking one plant out of hundreds because I no longer had control. It took me hours to decompress at home to return back to my neutral state. Had we extended our adventure throughout the evening, I would have been on pins and needles in an awful mental state for much, much longer. I have found it to be a necessity to have a decompression spot that I can control.

My safe haven has the typical four walls, a roof, windows (lots of windows- I’ll get to that in a moment), and doors. MY chair in a half is beginning to show signs of my decompressing lean, where there’s a defined dip in the left arm where I like to curl up my elbow and put all of the weight of the world. It has a perfectly soft bed with matching pillow cases to the sheets- those pillow cases are where I wipe the dirt of the world when the tears have to be let out. My safe haven has a kitchen full of fruits and veggies mixed in with the sugary deliciousness of a walnut brownie on those days that I just need something chocolate to pep my step. It even has a basement, full of boutique inventory where I choose to spend time controlling my financial freedom. This safe haven is my home. I know the aroma of my wax melts and the creaks of the steps when I’m climbing them. I know I am safe there and protected.

I have never been one to have loads of friends walking through the revolving door of my home, matter of fact my door might as well be dead bolted four times. Growing up, my house was not my home. It was made of paper thin walls and egg shell floors. The ceiling was a black hole that just absorbed any and all joy before raining it back down upon us as anxiety. I didn’t invite friends into that house. Long ago, I convinced myself that there was far too much happiness and laughter in my friends’ homes so we should just spend our time there. I think that tepidness of opening the door to my home to people has lingered into my adulthood. I don’t like people marching into my parade and changing the direction. Making coffee in the cups that I only use for water to avoid that hint of flavor that was absorbed by the plastic. For me to extend an invite to my sanctuary, you are very important to me. I feel safe with you and trust that my home will be respected as your own. I have to have the house just right before you come over too, which means you are worthy of hours of obsessive cleaning from top to bottom- at least of the rooms that I’ll allow you into. It’s not how I’d prefer to handle house guests. Trust me, I envy people who can welcome me in with open arms and say never mind the mess. That is a true talent in my book. I worry about what people will think of my most prized possession. Will they think I cluttered the space up too much? Will they appreciate the naturalness of the gray color on the walls or find it utterly boring that all 48 walls of my home are the same shade? Will they question the worn out floral chair that’s shoved into the corner of the room that’s absolutely too big for the space, but I just have to keep it close because it was my Obachan’s? The list keeps going of things I worry about before and after your two feet step onto my welcome mat. Which by the way, I also worry that the welcome mat won’t get enough dirt off their shoes before they track it around my house. It’s exhausting.

Buying our first home has forced me into letting people into my sanctuary. It’s forced me to recreate my safe space in between four new walls. I found new characteristics to love, like the ample amount of light that pours in the windows on a sunny day. There are new places for me to decompress, like the front porch rocker on the right- that’s mine. The dent from my booty folds the chair canvas where I sit accompanied by the breezes that swing by to visit and the ridiculous amount of mosquitos that I’d rather not have swing by in the evenings. Before that door handle turns, I have meticulously detailed the house. I’ve gone so far to plan down to the minute that we would start cooking on the grill and who would sit where while we chatted about the home improvement projects in our future. But I’m learning to let loose a little more. Maybe next time I skip dusting the top of the refrigerator or folding all three blankets neatly into the blanket basket in front of the fireplace. At the end of the day, this dusty space is where I return to myself and fill my strength meter for the next battle. My home is my sacred space and I’m learning how to share it a little more and let a few more people in.

 

My routines have routines

Routine. Noun. A sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program. (Right from the good old dictionary)

Imagine you are starting the process of baking a cake. Maybe your mom has a big birthday coming up or one of your little one’s is celebrating their first, whether it’s a chocolate cake or Funfetti flavor- just follow me through this one. We are baking a cake (insert favorite cake flavor here). I personally bake my cakes from boxes, don’t judge me… those are the best cakes ever! I’ve gathered the box of cake mix, the bowl and pan, all the extra ingredients the box calls for and the electric whisk. I have intentions to follow the instructions, step by step until the cake comes out of the oven a golden brown with the aroma of Funfetti (or chocolate) floating through the air. If you bake cakes on the regular, you typically end up following the same steps every time. Kind of becomes a routine, right? Well on this fun occasion, the pups have lost their ever loving minds and are running havoc around the house, my phone is blowing up with text notifications about Facebook ruining lives again, and I’m on a very tight deadline to get this cake finished before the epic birthday celebration of the evening. I’m in a rush so I just start tossing the ingredients into the bowl, vaguely paying attention to the instructions on the box but also feeling like I know a little bit about what I’m doing. In goes the electric whisk as I flip up its switch, cake powder is everywhere. Maybe I should have read the part of the box where it said to mix on LOW. So much for following instructions. I still have this cake to finish and the minutes are ticking away. Throw the cake in the oven, wipe the sweat from my brow (apparently you can sweat while baking a cake), and walk away to attend to the dogs who have lost their manners and check my 24.5 texts- that half text was a “guess what” text someone sent my way and then proceeded to fall asleep without telling me, totally counts as a half. But guess what I forgot to set…? Cue trip to grocery store to pick up cupcakes while running late to the birthday celebration.

This is my life without routine.

Always in a rush to get things done before the deadline. Constantly running late to such deadlines. The simple inability to decide between chocolate and Funfetti cake mix! Making little mistakes that create huge messes that I am left responsible to clean. Never remembering the important things that I either told someone else I would do or told myself I couldn’t forget to do. Day in and day out always feeling overwhelmed, running behind, discouraged and like I’m letting everyone- including the dogs- down. My life without routine can be summed up with the vision of throwing me into an avalanche while I really believe I can still make it to the top of the mountain. That always works out well…

Routine gives my mind more availability to handle the anxiety that I face daily. I train myself into handling those daily activities naturally and before I know it, I’m brainstorming how I’ll write my next blog post while brushing my teeth instead of focusing on just simply getting my teeth brushed. So before I even walk downstairs in the morning, I’m feeling like a life conqueror, donning golden armor instead of the shoulders slumped second day of dry shampoo peasant. If I wake up at a pre-planned time every day, roll out of bed, change into an effort of an outfit, walk across the hall to the bathroom to brush my teeth, fix my hair and apply my face, take the stair case down to turn on the Keurig, keep walking down the stairs to get the dogs, let them out, and then make my cup of caffeine goodness for the day- I can nearly guarantee without an ounce of mental effort that I can check off each of those activities from my to do list each and every day. This already leaves me with more energy to fight off the negative vibes from that anxiety tribe that likes to follow my every move and focus on really having a great day.

My routines don’t stop at daily ones. I have a weekly routine for my boutique, a weekly routine for house cleaning, a weekly routine for the full time and, yes, we even have date night built into a routine. My routines have routines. Excessive…? Probably. But when you find something that works for you, don’t sweep it under the rug just because someone else shrugs their nose at it. If it works for you, WORK IT GIRL! Do whatever you need to do to give yourself more energy to fight back against your anxiety. If you are exhausted from juggling life all week, that depression monster is going to crawl out from wherever the hell that scary thing lives and eat you alive. The best way to take care of yourself and your mental health is to be well rested for the daily battle- and I don’t mean getting eight hours of sleep.

I have my days. Especially when my routine is thrown off. That is really the way to hit that big red flashing button that immediately sets my home base into lock down. Lock down consists of not showering for a week and attempting to cover it up with way, way too much dry shampoo. I should avoid lock downs at all costs, for your sake and mine. Those times that my routine has to be adjusted or is interrupted are extremely hard on my mental health. I can’t sit here and say YES BY GOLLY it is so healthy to not be able to be flexible or open to changes in my schedule. I’m working on handling changes to my schedule better and reserving more energy to handle those adjustments. Like I am developing a “routine” to put into play when my normal routine is interrupted- I am a planner for goodness sakes- cut me some slack! At least for now, I know when my routine is changed by force, I should be ready for a few things to happen. I know my usual strength will be on a hiatus until my routine returns. I know I will probably have to pull out more tricks to fight against that evil anxiety monster. And I also know that sometimes, I will fall victim to him and the monster will be spitting out my bones after being his main course.

It’s okay to not be okay all the time, as long as you keep fighting. If that evil monster gets you on a Tuesday, don’t let him eat you for Leftover Wednesday too. This battle is the most intense game of the season. Every defeat and low day is made that much less significant when you have the massive wins to celebrate. Days that my routine falls right on schedule are massive wins for me. Routines are my fixed programs to fighting back against my anxiety. Brush my teeth, put my face on, make my coffee and take on life with more energy to enjoy things like chocolate birthday cake instead of anxiety cocktails.

Here’s to the addition of writing regular blog posts to my routine!

OX,

Rachel

Is this the start or finish line?

Funny thing is the start and the finish line are both a similar bold white painted line straight across the road. One lines has large bold letters painted across it spelling out the word: Start, while the other line spells out: Finish. If only the lines were as clear in real life.

We are at a really weird place in our home owning journey. The spot where you think you found the perfect house and excitement is seeping out of your pores, but you are also trying to play it cool and avoid any deep attachment to the four walls that may be your future. At what point can you genuinely experience your excitement without fear? This process hangs in the twilight zone for what seems like years, but in reality is just a couple weeks long and it might be the worst form of torture I can imagine. Do I start planning where to put things or how we will make this house our home? It’s awfully difficult to push it to the back of my mind or ignore the risk of what could happen during the inspection or appraisal. I’ve never leapt over a hurdle, but I believe this is what it must feel like to have those muscles stretch as you attempt to gain enough air to clear the metal bar blocking your way.

These situations call for patience, which we have already established I don’t have much of, and faith. Whether you are religious or not, there is a general sense of “what is meant to be” about the future. If we are meant to start our lives here, the next few steps will land on strong and sturdy ground- even if they are some off balance, wobbly steps. I tend to live life by a more ambitious motto though which makes this even more difficult for me. “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me,” our cheerleader Miss Deanne is always reminding us for our businesses. And while I never heard the motto expressed in those words before, I realized that’s basically me in a nutshell. Tell me it cannot be done and I guarantee you I find a way to get it completed. I sit at the start line always ready to take off at full speed to win the gold medal, but this time I’m still not sure which line I’m staring at. Start or finish? Do I take off at full speed, picking out paint colors and packing up boxes? Do I start icing my legs, as I intently watch my future at a safe distance? If someone could just let me know, that would be fantastic and I could get on with my regularly scheduled life.

These are the real life, in real time moments in the world of Rachel Thrasher (don’t know why I referred to myself in third person, but it sounded good at the time). While I feel like I have the weight of that 800 square foot house on my shoulders, life goes on. It’s Thursday, which has been our date night every week since we started dating, so we have plans to see a movie. We have a weekend full of baseball and hopefully none of the frozen precipitation the weather men keep mentioning. Tuesday will be here before I know it and we will have one more hurdle behind us. But I won’t turn down any positive vibes or crossed fingers you might send this way! And maybe next week, we will brush off the dust off this line and find the word “Start” written in big bold letters.

Until the next report,

OX,

Rachel

Patience is not my virtue.

House buying is definitely not for people without patience.

My mother tells me while she was in labor with me, that the doctors told her not to push yet. “Stop pushing Mrs. Thrasher” I imagined they said. “I’m not!” she most likely blurted out frantically. Well since day one, I wait for no one. Especially not for the doctors and nurses- out I came screaming “HELLO WORLD”. And I haven’t learned much patience since.

I am a firm believer in going after something you want at speeds of 1000 miles per hour, only briefly coming to a slow stop to look for the next goal to come barreling after. It’s a blessing and just as equally a curse. I would love to be able to relax and rest up for the next monumental reach ahead, but it’s just not in my DNA.

That’s about how I handled prepping for house hunting. We needed our down payment together and we were already looking at magnificent mansions to purchase (just kidding- far, far from mansions, but in my mind anything was mansion-like compared to our current basement scenario). After a few weeks of nonstop, body battling work, we had the money in the bank. Mission accomplished! We would now find the perfect home and move right in!!! Apparently that is not how this works, as I quickly discovered.

We’ve been within hours to submitting an offer, only to find out one was already accepted and -nope- it wasn’t ours. We have gone as far to have a settlement date, then things were too risky for us to continue. At this point, we have looked at the same dwindling list of houses now for a couple weeks. I am exhausted.

Exhausted from being patient. We must wait for spring to show it’s beautiful self and for schools to end for more listings to show up. Did I mention patience was not in my DNA? I spend hours locked away in my mind thinking about packing my things up in neatly labeled boxes. Renting a moving truck to take our belongings to a new castle. Having our very first boutique open house in our very own space! But then patience and reality come barreling in, steam rolling my excitement and leaving the ruins as a subtle reminder that- we must be patient.

In the meantime, we will just keep stock piling boxes. Putting money away for our new home and new furniture- even a mattress that doesn’t come from Ikea! If anyone happens to run across my next goal, could you redirect it to me? It’s time to get that steam locomotive moving towards the next destination. And in the meantime, I will look up patience in the dictionary, learn every synonym for the word, and maybe in the process I will learn a little bit about adding it to my skill set.

Loss.

Here we meet again.

This is the intersection I try to avoid with all my power. The lights are broken and always blink, leaving everyone at it to make that painful decision about who gets to cross next.

That wasn’t the best analogy, but it describes the anxiety that comes with loss rather well. I avoid thinking about, pushing the pain back far beyond reach on the top shelf. Out of sight, out of mind. It’s not my healthiest decision, but when a loss brings back so much pain- it’s the way I cope.

This morning, we will say our final goodbyes to a wonderful man, the most loving father I’ve ever seen, and someone who inspired so many. I feel like I don’t have a right to mourn. I’m only a passerby in his life. He was the world’s most fabulous landlord and never failed to brighten our day when he stopped by to do a little more work to the already beautiful house. My heart is so sad though. I never wanted my dear friend to have to experience anything like this in all her years. I wish she never had to be as brave as she has been through her dad’s battle. And I really wish life didn’t throw just one last punch when they thought they were in the clear. I wish they could have a million more lunch dates, a million more cards for every occasion and a million more moments together.

I feel selfish for these wishes. I feel selfish for feeling pain. And I especially feel selfish for the anxiety I have thinking about stepping foot back into the place I had to say my final goodbyes to my Obachan so many years ago. All to say goodbye to someone I do not want to wish farewell to yet. Loss is a bitch.

How does one provide strength and love and courage to a friend experiencing such a great loss? Another struggle that I’m sure many of you have experienced. I feel like pushing my feelings aside and giving her the biggest hug is the only way I can imagine to support her. But it doesn’t seem enough. Nothing seems enough. These are times that I understand I have a fixer personality and that I just simply cannot fix it all. Another selfish thought.

Loss is the fire that burns a hole right through your soul. It leaves the edges smoldering for months and years until finally the embers start to go out and the pain gets to be a little lighter. But you are always left with this gaping hole, some try to fill it with whatever vices are nearby. For me, I just try my hardest not to lose anything else down the hole. Memories, jokes, facial features that seem to have gotten blurry over the years- some of those things, against my hardest efforts, have been lost down in the deep darkness.

Dear Loss- I wish you would just leave my loved ones alone. Stop causing them grief and sadness. Stop taking things away from them way too early. Just go away for a while. Love, Rachel

Just as a struggle with the words to type, I will struggle to dodge my emotions today. I will hold my friend so tight her heart will feel it. And I will just pray. Pray for peace and for a strong memory, so none of those moments or facial features are lost among the years that pass. I pray they live in her heart forever.