Friday, November 29, 2013

From HATING the holidays to loving them!

What a great Thanksgiving! A few years ago, I HATED the holidays! I had a lot of emotional crap in my psyche that was unresolved, and that kept me from feeling integrated enough to get with this season of what seems like flying by the seat of my pants. Now I finally feel integrated, and I'm thrilled!

What do I mean exactly?

'Twas a time that I didn't see how the aspects of my life worked together. I tried to interpret what folks were feeling and thinking, to anticipate conflicts, to view my own life from the outside looking in, to interpret others' lives from the outside looking in, and so on. With all that mentalizing, I wasn't operating from my own core. Now I'm operating from my core, and I'm aware of certain things:

1) Even though it's sometimes inconvenient, family and traditions are very important to me.
2) There are no aspects of life that are perfect, so if that's what I'm waiting for, get over it.
3) Always know who I'm dealing with so I can stay present and self-supporting-- in spite of.
4) Take some space for myself before I need it-- even if it's just spending a little extra time in the bathroom.
5) I need comfortable clothes.
6) I can't change anybody, so breathe and let people have their own experience.
7) Writing a list and operating from it keeps me functioning and vibrating at a much higher level.
8) I have learned a lot from my mother, and despite any "issues," when I respect her wisdom and importance to our family, I am blissfully aware of being connected to something larger than myself.
9) I have to set the internal and external boundaries that maintain my mental and physical health.

So this is the first holiday in a long while (possibly ever) that all the stars seem aligned. I have surrendered to the notion that all the decisions I've made along the way make perfect sense from the vantage point from which I was operating:

1) When I was wild and crazy in my 20s, I was spending money AND saving money, stretching myself beyond the boundaries of my family and upbringing, and carving out an identity that was all my own. It got pretty ugly at times, but God did I learn a lot!
2) When I became a parent in my 30s, I had enough skills and resources to make dramatic changes in my lifestyle that made for a healthier experience for my daughter and me. I was stressed a LOT, but I'd gained enough courage in my 20s to cut my losses when I needed to and keep moving until I found myself in better places. I used a lot of money and appeared to be a mite unstable, but I had to find my place in the world because it wasn't finding me! I also learned to be self-conscious and conflicted-- because I had taken on the identity of "mother" which meant I was "supposed" to be a particular way.
3) In my forties, I carved out a niche that was so grounded in independence, spiritual practice, and personal study that I seemed to be unearthing all the dross and silt and was loosening stones and rocks that had obscured the deeper truths of my existence. There was a lot of uncertainty, but I learned to live with the "not knowing" long enough to evolve beyond the stuck places. I found myself sort of transformed-- sort of like rebirthing. I lived in the ethers, it seemed-- meditating and chanting and burning frankincense and myrrh, seeking a lasting peace in something more than the world offered externally.
4) And my 50s have granted me the opportunity to integrate all that I've learned on the paths I've travelled. I've finally lived long enough to distinguish between the voices that bring healing or dis-ease. That is a gift! Because people can and do act from agendas that can poison our peace--taking a tender moment and pulverizing it, or introducing their fears into our intentions until we forget where we were headed. So now I know how to keep my own intentions in the center of my life.

So I think I hated the holidays because when I was not strongly grounded and confident about my path, I could lose myself and question my choices, my safety, my sanity when bombarded with the energy of the folks around me! I didn't know how to bring the pieces of myself into the chaotic frenzy of family and expectations and overstimulation.

But today I am absolutely basking in happiness because I recognize the healing of many hurt places within me! I've learned how to ground myself in the things that bring more light into my life-- the thoughts, the people, the rituals. Because this is the life I've been given, that I've chosen, and for which only I am accountable.

I am having my holiday! And I invite you to do the same-- in whatever ways speak to the core of who you are! Make your own list of 1-9, so you can enjoy them on the terms that resonate with you.


Get your copy of my novella Salt in the Sugar Bowl!
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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Overcoming skittishness

Dogs who are kicked are often skittish. I was not kicked or hit or abused, but my family, God bless 'em, made me skittish because they had an opinion about EVERYTHING!

About things like:
- Don't eat while walking down the street.
- Don't comb your hair on the stoop.
- Don't go outside without combing your hair.
- Don't tell people your business.
- Don't ask questions that open cans of worms-- even if it's your own can, and you want to know what's in it.
- Don't leave the price tag on a gift for fear of being judged as either boastful or cheap.

Such a family can make you feel damned if you do and damned if you don't.  When the people raising you have a lot of shoulds that seem random and come out of nowhere, it makes you an introvert. (Not somebody who doesn't want to be around people. The kind who has to recharge by having some alone time.)

I didn't realize it till recently, but sometimes when I'm having a glorious time in my zone (thinking and cooking and writing and gardening), a nervous feeling runs through me. The peace is gone. My mind starts churning. This is because when you're raised with an onslaught of input, you expect interference. You expect that your zone is going to be infiltrated at any minute. So out of nowhere, my fight or flight response is activated.

I know it's all leftover crap from childhood. It's that feeling that people are watching and waiting to catch me or correct me or remind me or want me to do something else. A lot of shoulds embed the belief that People want me to be other than what I want to be and People want me to do other than what I want to do.

What does it mean?!

In A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle shared an interpretation of families that promote a slew of shoulds. "My disapproval of you is intended to make you feel so guilty and uncomfortable that you finally conform to my wishes." This is probably why I have dubbed myself a warrior. Because I always felt I had to antagonize my way down the path of my choosing. I became fiercely independent early on, so I had the right to do what I wanted on my own terms. The Catch-22 is that such a person rarely feels supported. There's an underlying feeling that "they" are still invalidating "me," and that's what makes me a bit skittish. Without even realizing it, I can tighten up-- expecting negative judgment or subtle manipulation. At such times I feel my claws emerging.

Of course our families generally want us to do what they want us to because that's how we humans are. We think our way is the way. I'm guilty of it myself, but I'm getting better at that. Because as reasonable adults with minds of our own, we need to relax into our own way of being, and breathe life into our vision of ourselves. We can't live with the feeling that we're about to be caught doing something wrong when all we're doing is making choices about how to best live our own lives.


1) Release the emotions associated with other people's reactions to our harmless choices about our own lives.
2) Plant our feet and minds firmly in the activities of our choosing and enjoy the hell out of whatever they are.
3) Be brave enough to accept the consequences of our choices without whining.
4) Allow other people the right to do the same.

How does this get rid of skittishness?!

We can relax when we accept at the core of our very being that there is no right way to do life-- no matter what we've been taught. This applies to relationship choices, career choices, introversion, extroversion, fashion statements, whatever. If we're not hurting anybody, then we should just RELAX.

Acknowledging that I'm the expert when it comes to my wants and preferences and actions is grounding-- the exact opposite of skittish.

Get your copy of my novella Salt in the Sugar Bowl!
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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Just because I shed a tear doesn't mean I need a hug....

My eyes well up with emotion more these days than they ever have. I've always been a crier. In elementary school, my teacher wrote on my report card: "Angela is a wonderful girl. She cries a bit too easily." I was soooo embarrassed. Recently I've noticed that I can be talking about something that seems inconsequential, but I'll feel my eyes getting hot and moist. I know my nose has turned red (I was called Rudolph during middle school because my nose goes crimson in a heartbeat!).

These are things that have made me well up recently:

1) Thanking my boss for assigning me to the position I wanted this year
2) Speaking to my colleagues about successes that typically difficult students have experienced
3) Telling my friends about the unexpected encounter that unearthed the source of my abandonment issues
4) Telling my daughter how offering a snack to a hysterical student calmed her down in ten seconds (the things we're most emotional about are often about the need for something totally different than we think)
5) Telling students how much they've improved in a specific area (I turn away when I feel my nose getting warm. They'll never see me cry-- except during a touching part of a movie-- when I'm simply showing my humanity)
6) Explaining to my husband how important school is to some students who suffer and act out because of the bad decisions made by their parents
7) Saying "Yes" when a student asks if we could play another round of Scattergories on game day (I soooooo want them to love game time!)

So the tears brim mostly when I am experiencing spontaneous gratitude for being fully engaged in a   lifestyle that fits who I am and incorporates things that I really care about. I am grateful because two decades ago I shed a lot of tears because of things that were not aligned in ways that made me happy.

So if you see a glint in my eye, I'm okay. I'll fight it off. Thank God nobody has picked up on my leaky state and tried to hug me yet, but I have a small fear that some might take it as a weak and needy moment. It isn't. It's just that I'm really feeling good about life right now.

One thing I'm grateful for is the great reception that Salt in the Sugar Bowl has received. This is what some readers have said on Amazon: 
5.0 out of 5 stars
5 star:
4 star:  (0)
3 star:  (0)
2 star:  (0)
1 star:  (0)
Epps has the gift of writing fiction with a truth that makes it real. 
Faylene  |  2 reviewers made a similar statement
Salt in the Sugar bowl was a really, really great fictionbook. 
Wendy S. Elston Davis  |  1 reviewer made a similar statement
The verisimilitude made me forget the characters werefictitious. 
Evelyn Kelly  |  2 reviewers made a similar statement
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