I’ve spent the last 3 months on assignment, if you will. My mission? Get through the reading my therapist strongly recommended. The goal? Well, of course the goal is to continue to manage my anxiety and beat back what becomes a crippling depression during Sad Season. The results?

Today, I’d label them outstanding.

Credit: The Idealist

Credit: FB/the idealist

Have you ever done something repeatedly— gone through the same steps, sought out the proper help, followed all the right prescriptions, listened to all the good wisdom— and then one day after years of following this pattern and not improving at all, it all gels together in one huge click of understanding that completely changes your world?

It’s been like that.

There were days that were so tough I thought I might not have it in me to keep going.

There were days so freeing that I thought maybe I was “done” for good this time.

Both of those thoughts were and continue to be untrue. The truth is I can and will keep going, and I most likely will have to develop some new mental health maintenance maneuvers to keep myself from slipping back into old patterns.

I’ve had a lot of help obviously. Here’s some things that I’ve heard, read, or said in the past few months that have helped me turn this corner:

Did you know that your FEELINGS and your BEHAVIOR are two separate parts of you?

45 years down this road and this is the first time I’ve understood this concept. Furthermore, I’m a grown-ass adult woman who can totally control her behavior even if there is a swirling vortex of suck going on in my emotional space. Admittedly, sometimes the proper behavior response to the vortex really should be some quality alone time processing that junk (crying, journaling, praying… my usual method). But I’m getting so good at recognizing that lately! For the run-of-the-mill crap-think that hits me, I’ve learned that it’s not as exhausting as I’ve previously believed to challenge my default reactions and adjust my behavior accordingly.

“If your default reaction is making it worse, TRY DOING THE OPPOSITE.” -my therapist.

We’ve all heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. (Or stupidity, I’ve heard it that way too) Well, I’ve been acting insanely stupid because for some reason it just didn’t click that I was the one DOING, and I could stop and CHOOSE to DO a different thing. This has helped tremendously in the dynamic between me and some of the difficult people in my life (side-eye to the preteen, several people at work, and the ex). And what do you know? Interactions that once spun out of control become non-events to both parties. #Win

For someone who values honestly so highly, my ability to lie to myself is astonishingly well developed.

I have spent my adult life telling myself the lie that I will never live without the triplets: Depression, Grief, and Anxiety. Or, the lie that I am getting what I deserved when people treat me in ways I don’t like. OR, THAT I AM IN CONTROL OF AND RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERY DAMN THING. Or, that it’s my job alone to fix it, whatever IT happens to be broken at the moment. All of these lies made it impossible for me to have any real, lasting peace. Or, if there was a time where I was at peace, I was always expecting it to get crushed by another emotional emergency feeding off this type of deceit. No more. I’m telling myself the truthiest truths I know these days.

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I mentioned in my last post that I am beginning. I am a living good start, a walking do-over. I have decided the ways that my life needs to change, and I am actively working to bring about those changes. I am packing away my sackcloth and I’m sweeping away the ashes. I’m clumsily testing out the strength of my ownership over my life, and finding it a hell of a lot stronger than I’d ever dreamed.

I’m learning that the swirly mess sometimes displays a beautiful kaleidescope of hope.




Posted in Mental, Spiritual | 1 Comment

Sad Season

When the sketches look more like scribbles than normal. When the colors are black and blue. When the appetite for building and making and TELLING dies. When the word play stops, and then the words dry up completely. When the anniversary of birthday brings darkness until after the anniversary of death-day. When too many glasses are drained, too many runs are skipped, too many fried foods are eaten and too many hours of sleep sacrificed to the Internet.

When all the decisions of the past year are second-guessed. When hurts are confirmed and brokenness reconfirmed.

When all that wasn’t screams louder than all that is.

This, friends, is the Sad Season. My time to rehearse and remember.

And there is a metric ton of manure to remember.

To remember is to bleed.

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“What do you want?” my therapist asked.

“What do you want?” my friends asked.

“What do you want?” I asked the stranger I dress and make up each morning. I outlined the woman’s eyes and lips, made her smile, brushed her bangs out of her face. “It’s OK that you don’t know,” I kept saying.

But I do know.
This is the revelation.
This year the light during Sad Season has shifted.

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I want to split myself wide open, set my insides on fire before God and walk between and around my sacrifice praying repentance.

Let me be done beating my own breast.

I want to bring the perpetrators of my pain before justice. I want judge and jury to declare their guilt and hand down sentences.

Let me pardon those sentences with a forgiveness I am still clawing to feel.

I want the mystery of forgiveness to show up gracefully, not as a force of will.
Let me accept either arrival, for HOW it arrives in not nearly as important as THAT IT ARRIVES.

I want enough strength to stay in this fight until forgiveness comes for me and for those that have hurt me. I’m scrappy, when I need to be.

But I am also exhausted and patience may be my only option right now. So I pray it and I wait.

Dear God, I want to be done bleeding to death.

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Surprisingly, it slows. On recent days I have felt it stop altogether. I don’t know if steady pressure, or time, or the good airing out I’ve done from my therapists’ couch has helped this mess start scabbing over. But, I’m done tearing out my own stitches to watch my life flow out in gruesome red streams.

I’m at the end. I’m so completely done.

Which also means, I am beginning.

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6 Body/Mind Connections I Experience While Running

Credit: E'Lisa Campbell via Flickr

Credit: E’Lisa Campbell via Flickr

A random sampling of the interactions between my body and mind while on the treadmill yesterday:

Body: What the ever-living crap are we doing here? I thought we gave this up last week?
Mind: No. We couldn’t make it here because of the blizzard. Snow melted. We are pressing in and re-upping our commitment to our goal of running an actual race later this year. Maybe even two of them. Remember that?
B: But Food! But Sleep! But sweatpants and Netflix!
M: Oh, come on. It’s intervals. You won’t be running for long periods of time. Plus, this is the week with the short workouts.
B: You don’t really want to do this.

M: (Hangs head.) You’re right.

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(C25K app indicates first running interval begins)
Mind: We movin’ now! YASS!
Body: I hate you. This hurts.
M: You always complain for the first few minutes. Why not try to stay positive?
B: I’m positive you should stop.
B: (Cramps calf muscles. Sends shooting pain through left shin.)

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M: Isn’t this great? Wow, look at how well we are doing now! Great job!
B: Please slow down, I wasn’t finished working through lunch.
M: Nah, man, we got this! Let’s go a little faster to see if we can push our distance goal.
B: I’ve got a bad feeling about this…
B: (Backfires.)

M: Was that us?

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(C25K app indicates last walk cycle immediately prior to cool down.)
B: Thank you sweet baby Jesus! We can walk now!
M: No, you know we always run through the last walk interval…keep going!
B: But.. But… we’ve been running for so long already! Time to walk! WAAAhhhhhh!!!
M: Keep going and I’ll decide to have carbs for din…

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M: (Singing.) We did it, We did it! No stopping us tonight! No stopping us tonight!
B: Ok, I admit it, that was kind of fun.
M: See? I freakin’ TOLD YOU SO! I love the world right now!
B: Uhmmm. Did we smell like that coming in?

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(During final stretches)

B: I can’t bend that way.
B: I swear I cannot stretch that far!
B: Fine. Tomorrow you are not going to be able to use that leg.

Posted in Mental, Silliness, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Digging Out

The blizzard of 2016 came and went. We were warm and safe for the entirety of it, and got just the right amount of help digging the driveway free. (Thanks neighbor!) Life has not returned to it’s regular schedule just yet, though. For today, at least, we were all given another day off. I need a do-over, so I’m totally down with that.

My normal operating procedures during a storm of this magnitude is to cook tons of food, eat myself into a food-coma, and read/sleep/putter the days away while the dog drags snow in and the youngest leaves cups of hot cocoa to settle and cool all over the house. This time around, I also tortured myself with thoughts of how many of my goals I ignored. How much progress did I avoid on the blog, or the sketchbook, or WHATEVER, since I couldn’t stop thinking and start doing?

I had trouble with the thinking and the doing, is what I’m saying. All weekend long.

I want to blame the snow, or restlessness in general, or how for the past few weeks my schedule has dissolved into unpredictability. Those factors tend to amp up my inability to deal properly. Order and routine are the friends that take care of the parts of me that need constant tending. When they get out of whack, those parts start destroying my inner poise like a pack of gremlins.

That hungry pack fed for days on my history. I kept returning to questions like, why am I like this? What is broken and how did it get broken? Whose fault is it? Mine? What can be done to fix it? Better yet, what is the plan to avoid increasing the brokenness? I’m pretty sure that plan does not include feeling sorry for myself and never getting out of my sweatpants. Walking the walk of self-care felt impossible this weekend. I think it’s because I was in slippers and I needed to be in snow boots. If pressed, I will admit to refusing to equip myself properly. It happens.

These thoughts are best explored from the couch of my therapists’ office, obviously. So I wrote them down: PAGES and pages in my journal. It’s embarrassing the number of topics that I need to unpack when I get there.

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I get frustrated with myself when I feel like I’ve wasted time. Do you? Am I the only one? I have so much that I want to do and accomplish and learn to BE, I cannot waste a single minute! I drive myself relentlessly, to the point of hitting a wall. The go-no-further-until-you-rest injury, or illness. Even then, since I’m not “doing” I harass myself for not “doing” and feel even more miserable. It’s a terrible way to treat myself. A habit that I am desperate to break.

Even as I type that, I think to myself, I’ll break out of it by doing! I’ll use another snow day to catch up! I’ll make another damn list and check off the increments of my accomplishments, no matter how small, in order to feel like I’m doing something of value.

That I have value.


I could get back into the ever-inviting bed, and finish reading that book. I could decide, and probably will decide, to practice NOT DOING ON PURPOSE. To practice training my inner gremlins. To tend to this stupid head cold that isn’t quite developing but isn’t going away either.

To accept that while I have nothing to show for it on the surface, I made some important progress toward healing this weekend.

And that is enough.

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Still. Always. Forever.

Suzie and Roma, 1991

Suzie and Roma, 1991

She would’ve turned 43 today.

I miss her terribly. Still. Always. Forever.

As I work so hard to shine light from that broken place in myself that she created, I struggle violently with my loss, our loss. I wrestle it to find some meaning, and it beats me.

Every single damn time.

I’ll keep going to the mat, believing and hoping in ways she couldn’t any longer that one day I will pin this beast down for enough counts to rise up the winner. No matter how many times I shuffle out of that ring beaten down and broken again. I will continue to train. To fight.

Her life was not a waste, it was not in vain, and she had thousands of reasons to live and to keep fighting, if only she could’ve believed in them.

I fight to uncover those reasons in myself. I write to say that you have those reasons in you, too.

I dare you to believe in them.

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Sketch (of the week?)

I may not share every sketchy-doodle that I do, but I really liked how this one turned out. This idea originally showed up in the margins of my last growth group’s Bible study workbook, and then again in my journal, so I figured it really wanted to be drawn.

I hope you enjoy!


1/11/2016 Ink and Colored Pencil by Jen Linkous

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When Fear Delivers a Letter

Credit: Ashely Rose via Flickr

Credit: Ashely Rose via Flickr

Dear Jen,

We have to talk because your behavior lately is simply impossible.

Your art is stupid. Half-assed and ugly, it looks like it was done by a child, and not in the whimsical way you may believe. Nothing that you can draw or paint has ever been wanted. I keep telling you to put it away and be a responsible adult so that you don’t embarrass yourself, but then you set a silly goal like “Fill a sketchbook” this year. Don’t you think you have enough on your plate right now? Shouldn’t the time you are wasting on art be devoted to your broken home? What if your family needs you and you are distracted?

Your words are tired. Others have written the things you want to write, with more talent than you’ll ever have. You are just regurgitating it onto the screen. Who would even READ your blog, let alone a full book? Are you rehashing your “issues” and “problems” for attention? I can’t think of any other reason why you would post the things you do. It’s humiliating. Especially for your family. Haven’t you embarrassed them enough already?

I still think it’s cute that you have this dream, though. It’s like when Elijah was 3 and he believed he would grow up to be Spiderman. However, you’re 45 years old, sister, so it’s time to stop believing you can do it.

Don’t even get me started about your singing voice and musical “talent.”

The way you move your body to music? It’s not even close to dancing.

People are laughing at us! Bottom line.

It’s hard enough saving you from yourself with all of this creative nonsense, but then you go and turn your life totally upside down! I warned you to sit tight and settle down and don’t make waves and just pretend everything was OK! Now you are alone, because you didn’t listen to me. What if you are alone forever?

Since you won’t listen to me in your personal relationships, I expect you to run every future career decision through me. I will help you avoid financial trauma, even at the cost of your happiness (which I believe is a tiny sacrifice in order to pay your bills).

This is my point: I can’t keep you safe any longer unless you get in line. Please stop drawing, painting, writing, coloring, singing, dancing and otherwise acting like a fool. If you get bored, I recommend watching television, or better yet scrolling indefinitely through any of your social media accounts. I hear political outrage a safe hobby. Perhaps you should devote yourself fully, like so many of your contemporaries?

This is seriously the last warning from me.

In anxious exasperation,
Your Fear

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Dear Fear,

I just wanted to take a minute to acknowledge your letter. I know you mustered a lot of yourself to send it, and I feel you made creative and compelling arguments.

First off, I really admire your work keeping me off the edges of cliffs, away from fire, or bears. I admire your ability to heighten my reflexes and increase my physical strength in an instant when threatened by harmless insects and not so harmless reptiles. I even appreciate your ability to spot threats that are not yet realized. I know that takes a lot of imagination and you’ve gotten to be an expert at it over the years.

I see a lot of value to our relationship. Please do not misunderstand what I am about to say.

I think you made it clear in your letter that you do not understand your role here. Maybe that is my fault, in a way. I’ve spent a long time wrapped up in depression and grief. And with those two things distracting me, I neglected to discipline you.

With you running around all power-hungry and unchallenged, we seem to have signed an unwritten contract in which you stepped into my person-hood, owning it and directing it in a way that only I should. As for me? I sat quietly and let you lead. I was weak and broken at the time, so leaving you to do your thing seemed less exhausting.

Let me be clear– there is no contract. I own my person-hood, and I am in control of my life.

You belong in my life and I value your input to a point. Moving forward, you are only allowed as a spectator. Provide your warnings if you must. Accept that I will probably not heed them. Unless you’re shouting, “BEAR!!!” and I hear growls, in which case I’m all yours until we are safe again.

In the meantime, all that nastiness you said about my creative life?

You can take your opinion and suck it. I will write, draw, paint, color, dance, sing, giggle, laugh, and do all of those things with absolute joyful abandon. I have the right and responsibility to protect my happiness, and I WILL PROTECT IT. Ferociously.

Regarding time “away” from family obligations for art: If I’ve done one thing right as a parent, it’s teaching my kids to love and appreciate their creative sides, and the creative people in their life. They fully support my efforts and I theirs. So if your cohorts are trying this tactic with them, you should spread the word:

As for me and my house, we are makers.

In steadfast authority,


Posted in Mental, Spiritual, The Fam | 5 Comments