Friday, June 22

transformation



There is about a thirty pound difference between these two photos, both taken at Disneyland, almost exactly three years apart.

A lot of things transpired in the time between these two photos ~ one of the major things being a bipolar diagnosis. With the diagnosis came some form of clarity, for sure. Mostly, though, it meant embarking on a mental wellness journey that involved learning how to love myself, allow myself more grace, and to let go of the ideologies that were no longer serving me. It also meant trying out different medications to figure out what worked and what didn't (clearly not the medication that caused me to put on 25lbs in under three months in the fall of 2014).

There was a lot of trial and error and having to learn patience with my body while trusting my strength (and faltering on those two points a million times over). There was a lot of learning to sort out what was part of the disorder and what was part of my journey ~ and learning how to let those two intertwine, learning how to listen and allow them to teach. Four years after initial diagnosis, I am back to the medical trial and error because that's just how brain disorders work. (It's so fun. Like so so so fun.)

This means taking a step back and reviewing my self-care routine, my coping mechanisms, my patience, and how I move in this world. Because, after four years, I get to be a different me ~ the one who walked each step of this path and carried some of the stones of wisdom with her. I'm also the one who did a lot of kicking at some of the other stones along the way because I'm proudly stubborn and so are brain disorders. Maybe that's why I have one. <insert cosmic skies opening while choirs sing>

It also means recognizing all the steps I've taken during the time between these two photos ~ the stupid ones (I may be the queen of stupid ideas - I have a lot of really good ones) and the ones that opened up new ways to heal and cope in a healthy way.

It means acknowledging that I am equally loveable in both these photos but that I didn't equally love myself thirty plus pounds ago. I wasn't as gentle, as patient, or, frankly, as nice as I could've been. I spewed judgments at myself that I wouldn't spew at anyone else. I let a ton of social judgments about women take over and I put the old negative loop about myself on repeat. It didn't serve me or my children or my partner. They still loved me unconditionally but I struggled to. (See? Stubbornness on full view here.)

I think it's important to reflect on where we've been and where we are now, what steps we've taken to grow and what we've learned. We owe it to ourselves to recognize the good we've done and the love we've learned to give ~ to remember the positives and the negatives of the moment and to appreciate that all those moments have led to this one. Even amidst being not so loving.

We owe it to ourselves to nourish every ounce of our being even when we feel less than loving; we owe it to ourselves to throw off the judgments society heaps onto a woman's appearance, the equating of one's worth with weight and looks. We owe it to ourselves to not foster space for those judgments to continue.

We owe it to ourselves to create, to be intentional, to be aware, to immerse ourselves in the truth of our own strength, our own beauty, the wonder of our own hearts. We owe it to ourselves to look the unknown in the eye and know for certain that we can move through it and be more than okay - and that we can be loveable the entire time.

Truly.

Saturday, October 25

#universelove

A Facebook post by a friend prompted a question about self love and self care and it got me to thinking, how did I get to this day here and now, where I’m doing this much better, from that day I announced my intention to thrive?

Because for people like me, thriving isn’t as easy as it looks. And, surprisingly, it doesn’t look anything like I thought it would...

I was sitting in the physician's assistant's office at the adult mental health center, set up much like a bachelor pad, stark and void of any style except for the lone faded ship painting that hung on the wall behind his desk when I spotted it. But I only spotted it in the moments after I let my secret slip.
You see, before my secret was completely clear to me and before the words just tumbled shamelessly from my lips, it was completely clear to my therapist.
Therapist nailed it the first time I sat on her sofa:
She'd asked me to make a list of beliefs about myself; good, bad, indifferent; all of them. Whatever it was that I believed about me. And go.
But I came up empty-handed. Because, frankly, at that point in time I had no positive beliefs about myself and I was too paralyzed from shame to state the plethora of negative ones swarming around in my head.
The most pressing belief, the biggest secret that I held on to for dear life was my worth: I don't deserve anything good because I'm not worth it.
And before I'd sat down in that physician's assistant's office, I'd placed my purse on the desk. My really swell Dooney and Burke Disneyland purse. I caught the PA's eyes as he looked at it and, feeling very self-conscious,  I rather quickly let it out:
"Oh, I didn't buy that, of course! It was a gift! I would never buy something like that for myself."
He slowly sat back in his chair, smiled sheepishly, and said it: "Well I think it's cool but I'm sad to hear you don't think you're worth having nice things."
Wow.
Now I was the one smiling sheepishly.
Geez, Heather, just barf your guts right out there for anyone to see. Siiiiiiggggghhhh.
He was right, though.
And I was there at the adult mental health center to get better. So I gathered myself and said very pointedly, "You're right. I don't. But I'm working on it."
And that's when I saw it. The heart in the faux wood paneling just behind the PA's desk.
You are worth it, it whispered.
Now, if you follow me on Instagram, you know I use #universelove quite a bit with photos I've taken of everyday objects that look like hearts. Because that's the universe's way of reminding us of our oft-forgotten worth.
And there in that moment was a two-fold reminder. From the PA and from the Universe. Because sometimes you need to be smacked in the head by words written on a 2 x 4 to finally get it.
I got it. I sat back in that office chair, warmly smiling to myself and repeated to myself "I am worth it." I repeated to myself that I do deserve good things - like the very reason I'd gotten in my car that morning and kept my commitment to face and fight and resolve and fix and heal the newly recognized bipolar disorder that has made remembering my worth that much more difficult.
I deserve to thrive. And this is how I'm going to do it.

(Note: #universelove is a hashtag I often use, both on my personal Instagram and on my artist account. I'm a believer in the notion that the universe wants you to know the beautiful truth of your own soul. For me, this message comes in the form of hearts I randomly find. You are loved, friends.)

Monday, February 3

2014 : Thrive


Well, well, well.

Welcome back.

Not sure if I’m saying that to you or to me.

But welcome back. In that Simon Pegg/Nick Frost raising a toast with a wink and a nod kind of “welcome back”.

Let's get started, shall we?

Wait. Wait. <finishing my beer... we were toasting, right?!>

I have noticed that one of the newer trends in personal growth is not Simon Pegg/Nick Frost "let's have a beer to mark the occasion" goodness. (Though it should be but may not be appropriate since I'm sitting in the library at the moment...) Instead it is "living with intention"; like actually meaning to go through life with some sort of force rather than a never-ending monotonous routine peppered with spontaneous moments.

You know, because just living isn’t enough. You have to intently live. Or you’re not living. It's a new trend. All the rage.

Take my word for it. Because I’m living. And trendy.
Shut up. I am.
As much as can be when your definition of high-end fashion consists of the clearance rack at Target… ($12 riding boots bitches!!!)
That cat out of the bag, I’ve decided that this year isn’t going to be like previous years.
Because previous years all I’ve done is survive. And I’m done surviving. (Though not in the Cornetto trilogy type of way. I could handle their idea of survival being that it involves scads amounts of beer, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost and usually a healthy dose of gore-splattered humor.)
This year I want to thrive.
And I want all that it entails.
You see, for the last few years I actually have been choosing a theme word for each year. I was inspired by one of my foremost artistic and life-giving inspirations Kelly Rae Roberts in her blog about choosing to live with intention in order to lead a more fulfilling life.
Because, as an artist, a fuller, deeper, constantly evolving meaning is what we strive for. It’s an unrelenting drive to create this for ourselves. Or maybe that's just a bunch of hooey. Who really knows?
Life gets in the way though. For all of us, artists or not.
The words I chose over the last three years have been Freedom (2011), Heal (2012) and Brave (2013), and now, Thrive (2014).  (Update: Listen (2015), Trust (2016), Allow Love (2017), Create (2018) While I did choose those words, I have to admit that I did not live with daily dedicated intention to fulfill them. They were my desires, and for the most part, I achieved many good things towards those desires; divorce, ambition, recovery, risks, sanctuaries, and success. I certainly had powerfully freeing, healing, and brave moments over the last three years.
My Brave tattoo inspired - my hand-writing and my seven year-old daughter's drawing.
However, I wasn’t really letting go of what I needed to in order to fully embrace what truths lay in waiting for me.
My heart and soul were surrounded by fears that I needed to let go of : the fear of the unknown, the fear of the uncertainties found in the adventure of discovering one’s self. I held closely to the paralyzing fear of my anxiety disorders. I chose to work on things that caused the least amount of uncovering, bleeding, and (ultimately) healing and scarring. Beautiful scarring.
Instead, I intentionally chose to continue to survive. Easy and simple enough while at the same time being one of the most limiting states to live in.
It got me through every moment in my life up to this point. And maybe that’s where I needed to be because it did get me here.
To today. To this moment where I step off the edge again and open my soul to the world.
Bare and naked and vulnerable to truly living. And wanting to share it with the world so that anyone else suffocating under anxiety and fear and paralysis has a hand to hold to truly live, too.
It’s from here that I intend to do just that.
I intend to thrive.
Thriving isn’t surviving. No, thriving is so much more. It’s living in the moment, it’s being present, it’s proactively moving forward toward greatness. It’s changing for the better, it’s embracing everything that I am here and now and working positively with that.
It’s taking the missed intentions of the last three years - freedom, healing, bravery – and packing them into the little suitcase in my heart to become a permanent part of me. It’s looking at myself in the mirror and saying “yes, I have paralyzing anxiety and depression and wrinkles and (who doesn't?), cellulite (who doesn't?!), and crickets in my bank account (goddamnit, who doesn’t?!) and I want to run out the door screaming but wait... deep breath... I also have strength and humor and insane creativity and drive and unconditional support…”

So suck it fear.
Yes, you fear.
Raising that cold, frothy beer to you with a wink and a nod.
I intend to thrive.

Trust Love. 16 X 20 acrylic & mixed media on canvas. Heather Ercse-Spence original.
 See you soon, lovies.

Monday, January 7

divorce & grieving

Note: this post rambles a bit - but for good reason (I promise). Grieving a divorce is a long process, full of varying depths of stages that seem all at once bewildering and eye-opening. It's difficult to put into accurate words sometimes. 

“For every heartbreak there’s a sermon to be said and this pastor in my head is preaching to the choir.”Train, Felt Good at First

2012 was a year of “things” - life events that don't just happen - they are things we choose. Many not-so-happy things. Many test-your-strength things. Many ah-cheesy-Petes, give-me-a-break things.
Following the eye-opener that was 2011, 2012 just proceeded to rip my eyelids clean off. Because, obviously, I wasn’t seeing clearly enough. And, obviously, there’s so much more to divorcing happily-ever-after than anyone ever expects.

As anyone would tell you, that's just how divorce goes.

There’s being seriously conflicted while sifting through physical memories, separating everything into “truly mine” and “truly his” piles. There’s packing and boxing up only those things that don’t continue to impress confliction, and saying good-bye to those things you know in your heart you could never redefine as “truly mine”. There’s being confounded as you peer over the edge at the depths to which one person will go to intentionally violate your boundaries. There’s the scrambling to find safety for yourself and your children and, amidst that scramble, to create stability and continuity for your children and to make for them some sort of sense out of all the chaos. There’s dismay at the amount of unfairness demonstrated by exes, attorneys, employers, families and “friends”, and, goddamn, what begins to feel like the world in general. There’s being purely and totally lost because all of this territory, for you, is new and uncharted and absolutely no one has a map.
Along this road, there's a lot of disappointment. It settles in, deep with-in. Long after you’ve moved out of the old life and into the new one. Disappointment lingers, waiting. Clearly, it has no qualms about waiting because it knows you’ll come down to it once you process all the other emotions of divorce: the I-can’t-believe-any-of-this-is-happening, the I-never-thought-I’d-feel-like-this, the holy-fuck-why-me?!, the what-was-I-thinking?, the oh-thank-gaaawwd-I’m-free, the will-this-ever-end?, and then, when that end finally does come... the astonished and gaping what-the-hell-was-THAT?! uttered after the cloud of dust settles in the now deafeningly quiet war zone that was once your marriage and subsequent divorce.
But disappointment. No, disappointment, and it's friend grief, is a different beast altogether. Disappointment is what you get when you’re human. 
You feel disappointment in your spouse. In yourself. In the world. It's permeating, unrelenting. It becomes branded into some small, barely breathing (but just as much alive!) part of you that you’ve somehow left wide-open and vulnerable. It feels raw.
As I've said before, divorce is ugly. Grief isn't far behind.
After the chaos that is divorce, you have to get incredibly intentional. That's how life goes forward. Toward some sort of light that swallows up all the disappointment and makes the grief more tolerable. This divorce lasted way too long, was hell, as any divorce would obviously be. 

Yes, 2012 was indeed a year of things. It wasn’t a year of Life just happening. No. It was my life. My choosing whether or not I let the things that “happened to me” devastate me, destroy me, define me. It was my year for clarifying and choosing to define my life by how I wanted to live, by how I wanted to be affected, and by the strength I wanted my children to find in their mother.

Monday, March 5

i'm here. finally.

Note: written in March of 2012.

I made the following comment recently to a girlfriend of mine:

"My God, I feel like my life has turned into a Lifetime movie."

"Well it sure ain't Hallmark" she replied.

I laughed. And laughed.

Because it was funny...

Gads, she's spot on.

Sheesh.

Sadly, there isn't much else though that would better sum up the past ten-plus months of my life.  (Lost? Click here.)

And at this very moment nothing feels better than to be sitting at my laptop, fingers brushing keys, settling into not only the comfort of my couch but the welcome familiarity of words, expression, and the pouring out of my soul.

And doing so in a manner that doesn't involve my attorney's name and expletive-flowered emails regarding the protection and well-being of myself and my children.

Because that gets old. Especially after so many months of it on an almost daily basis. Divorce really does just suck. There's no way around that time-tested, god-forsaken truth.

So where do I even begin?

As my mom would tell me : Here. Be here.

Here. Where I am now.

The warmth of the smooth keys under my fingertips. The taste of orange juice, cold on my lips. The airplane overhead. Sara Bareilles softly playing from my iphone. The lights on, the fan slowly stirring the sweet scent of orchids from their place in the vase. In my very own home.

And me. Breathing. Freely. In a place of zen, a place of peace, a place open to pondering where my life is headed, a place safe enough to unfold my dreams and build upon their encouraging platform.

In a place I created.

For me and my children.

And no one else.

Because what began in early 2011 with the heartbreaking decision to tell my then-husband that I felt it best we go our separate ways turned into an unraveling of a fifteen-year facade and the eventual realization that the man who agreed we would remain amicable and want the best for one another was intentionally set on ensuring I went down in flames.



It’s terrifying to be faced with life-negating behavior directed at you when you still live together. It's fraying to the soul to live each day in the same house and still try to shield your children from the explosive ending of the relationship. It's unnerving and unsettling to live amidst that while trying to pave a path for what's to become what feels like your escape. To both of us.


As I said, divorce sucks. People turn uglier than one could ever imagine, life feels utterly raw, like you're bleeding nonstop, and through it all, you have to keep moving forward for your kids sake, if not for your own.

As the puzzling pieces fall from the facade worn by the man I believed I'd share my entire life with, what's left is the horrifying realization that he's held this ill-intent toward me since day one for unwittingly falling short of expectations.

But I'm here. Now. In my own home.

Breathe.

Here. Safe in a haven I created. For me and for my children.

What I found along the way to this safe haven is strength, passion, and courage I didn't know existed within ME.

Not within him.

But within me.

And it carried me. Here. For me, for my kids.

Because I found a renewed faith in my worth. And my children are beyond worth teaching that to over and over again with unabashed love and reckless abandon.

After the last what feels like so many millions of months - fuck Lifetime.

I deserve a whole damn major motion picture.