Final thoughts on my 30 Days of Beauty challenge

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To Be Myself

I started reading Tarot and Oracle cards five years ago, but fell out of the habit when my adventures with homelessness started. A couple weeks ago I decided to get back into the habit and started doing daily readings for myself, though honestly I had a hard time coming up with questions to ask. Today, in a blur of thoughts and frustrations, I felt inspired to ask the cards, “What is my life purpose? What should I be putting my energy into?”

And the answer? Be yourself, unafraid and uninhibited.

It sounds easy, but it’s not.

When I was little, my most favoritest color ever was bright golden yellow. Then one day, someone told me that yellow was the color of cowards, and I was so embarrassed of myself that I immediately changed my favorite color — boldly standing up for myself and what I like is not something that has come naturally for me. In fact, I’ve spent most of my life trying to water myself down so that I appear more like everyone else.

So, I guess that the Universe has spoken, and I know what I need to do now. The idea terrifies me, and yet I find it to be exciting and liberating as well. I have been given permission to be myself without fear!

And yellow IS a very beautiful color!

Striving to be someone worth admiring

I hate the current trend of taking pride in being an underachiever. You know, the whole, “My house is a disaster, I look like something the dog chewed on, and that makes me awesome!” type crap.

No matter what people try to pretend, everyone knows in the back of their mind that being an underachiever is shameful. They don’t come across as oozing confidence and self-esteem — it’s quite the opposite. They come across as being depressed, slovenly, and selfish. The only reason why anyone wants to be friends with an underachiever is so that they themselves don’t look as bad in comparison. “My house may not be pristine and I may not always wear makeup, but at least I’m not as bad as So-and-So.”

Being the person that everyone uses to feel better about themselves is nothing to take pride in!

You don’t need to burn yourself out by striving to be an overachiever, all you have to do is show that you care. Putting on mascara only takes a few minutes, and it takes just as long to pull on a simple skirt as it does to pull on gym pants (perhaps even less time, considering how tight those leggings can get). That’s all it takes, and yet the results can make a world of difference. It’s easier to be energetic and happy when you feel good about yourself!

Wouldn’t you much rather be the person that everyone else admires?

I get dressed before or immediately after breakfast every morning, and implementing this simple change in my life has done wonders at improving my disposition and efficiency. I no longer waste time by puttering around in my pajamas and feeling tired, because I’m already dressed so I might as well tackle the day. Then suddenly before I know it, the laundry is done, the carpet is vacuumed, and the bathroom is clean, leaving the rest of the day to my whims and hobbies, and it isn’t even noon yet. Now THAT is awesome.

These little steps are ridiculously easy to do, so there’s no need to be afraid of failing! Before you know it, your husband will be bragging about how wonderful his wife is, compliments will start pouring in from all sides, and you will know that you are someone who is worthy of admiration. That sounds much better than spending your time justifying being a sloppy person.

On PTSD

During the spring of 2011, I started to research PTSD. My Lover and I had gone through three months of homelessness at that point, but then we had moved in with a friend and were living comfortably in an apartment. We were under the impression that our time of sleeping in the car was over and done with — the events that would transpire during the summer of 2011 is an entirely different story.

As soon as we were living in the apartment, I started having difficulty sleeping. I would frequently wake up in a full-blown panic attack, and my emotions would veer wildly out of control. However, everything that I read about PTSD was unsatisfying — most of the articles I found focused heavily on veterans or on people who had been the victims of extreme violence. My experiences of living in the car didn’t seem to compare to that, since my Lover and I had never been in any danger of coming to harm.

Then, a rather stressful event happened with the friend, and it became prudent to move out even though we didn’t have anywhere else to go. We lived in our van for five more months after that, which was the darkest period of our homeless experience. At the end of December 2011, we met someone who asked us to move into their garage which was well insulated. Once we were moved in, it felt a lot like a little apartment that happened to have a cement floor.

The panic attacks came back, and they were worse than before. Every time I woke up it would take me awhile to figure out where I was. I had an extremely hard time motivating myself to do anything, because I was constantly paralyzed by fear. I undeniably had PTSD, even though I had never been in any danger during my months of homelessness.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is the result of experiencing something that one lacks the experiential framework to process. Because your mind can’t process what happened, you get mentally stuck in that event, going over it again and again while your subconscious tries to assimilate it.

For a period of time during our homelessness, my Lover and I parked our van in a run-down neighborhood that was full of the stereotypical trailer trash. The “neighbors” liked to get drunk on a near nightly basis, and every time they did they would have screaming fights until nearly dawn. I had never seen anyone staggeringly drunk before, or heard people scream at each other like that before, and I had certainly never seen anyone hit another person before. I remember being woken up at three in the morning during a particularly bad fight where one of the participants had a gun in their car, and feeling terrified that I was going to witness a stabbing or a shooting.

During another night, at a different time in a different state, my Lover and I were woken up by knocking on the window. It was a police officer, and there were three cop cars parked behind our vehicle. It was 15 degrees Fahrenheit outside, around 2 AM. We were interrogated by two officers while the temperature inside our car plummeted to below freezing because of the open windows. Eventually, after many repetitions of “What are you doing here, and what’s inside your car?” they told us that we had done nothing illegal, and that we weren’t in any trouble. When they left, I felt harassed and betrayed. I had never expected to be targeted by the police when I had not broken any laws.

There was another time when I walked out to our car to check on the cats and discovered a police officer there waiting for animal control to show up so that he could break in the window of our car and take the cats. I talked to him, was again told that we hadn’t done anything illegal, and he left — he was only there because a nosy individual in that neighborhood had called him about “animal abuse”. I felt overwhelmed — if I had been ten minutes later, our family would have been torn apart and our way of living destroyed. It was at that moment when I realized how fragile our situation was, and how easily it could be lost.

Events like these all combined together to rip away my sense of security. Every noise, every passing car or person, was a potential threat that could change my world for the worse. At times, it felt like everyone around us was determined to take away what precious little we had, just because we had so little, and nowhere to go. I had grown up in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, so nothing had prepared me for these experiences, or for the world view that resulted from them. Mentally, I became stuck in a conglomerate of these events.

In order to help my recovery, I do a lot of things that remind me that I am now living in a home. I shower, do my hair and makeup, and work on keeping our living space organized and clean. I also meditate and practice yoga nearly every day to clear my mind and relax my body, and I take supplements, like fish oil, to help repair the mental damage that was caused by stress. I still have days when I feel overwhelmed with anxiety, but they are becoming less and less frequent. As long as I keep doing my part, then time will do its part as well.

If you’re wondering, moving into that garage was not the end to our misadventures, but rather another step in them. Of course, that’s an entirely different story.