It’s Fine Not to Be Fine

How are you doing?

When someone asks you that, do you reply honestly, or do you cover up how you’re really feeling? Do you say, “I’m fine,” when you’re anything but?

Right now, a lot of us are anything but fine. As the pandemic continues, people are fearing loss of income. Some are struggling to survive in homes that were unsafe even when they were able to leave from time to time. Some are wondering if they’ll have homes to survive in by the time this is over.

Marriages and relationships are ending. So are some friendships, either because of inability to stay connected or because people are realizing that their ideals and beliefs are diametrically opposed to those of their friends.

It’s a difficult time, even for those who seem to have everything together.

When you answer the question I asked at the beginning of this post, do you say you’re fine? And if so, is it true?

Many of us are taught to cover up the negatives in our lives. We’re told that it isn’t okay to talk about feeling stressed or afraid or angry. We’re told that no one wants to know if we’re having trouble with our finances or our families.

We’re told no one wants to hear if we’re experiencing abuse or other harm.

It’s time to change that conditioning. Right now, a lot of people are not fine–and that is okay. It is okay to talk about the not-fineness. It is okay to say you’re afraid or stressed or angry.

It is okay to reach out for help, whether to people you trust in your life or to organizations or professionals, if you are experiencing harm or abuse.
Even though there are widely different ways of handling the current crisis, and people are experiencing hugely different impacts, we are all experiencing the same crisis. We aren’t all “in the same boat”; far from it. But our boats are all in the same ocean of fear, uncertainty, and crisis.

So speak your truth when someone asks how you’re doing. Speak it so you can get help or support. So you can know you’re heard. So you can know you aren’t alone. Speak it so others know it’s okay for them to speak their truth.

You don’t have to be “fine” right now. Really. You don’t.

(If you are experiencing abuse, please seek help. In the US, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit their website http://www.thehotline.org. For support and help in dealing with child abuse in the US, visit http://www.childhelp.org or call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). You might also receive help or resources from your local law enforcement agency. If you are concerned that someone you know is experiencing abuse, please don’t remain silent or figure it’s none of your business. Reach out to them, to one of the hotlines named, or to law enforcement.)

How Normal is “Normal”?

One phrase that keeps popping up in news stories and online is “the new normal.” But what does “normal” even mean?

Usually when that phrase is used lately, it’s referring to the current state of restrictions and advisories caused by COVID-19. Those changes have become the way of doing things during the health crisis, and most of them are new to many of us. But are they “normal”?

Normal isn’t a consistent, objective thing. Just as each of us perceives things in our own way, each of us has our own “normal.” For some people with certain health or immune system issues, washing hands constantly and wearing masks any time they leave their home has always been normal. For some introverts, and people with some physical or mental health conditions, not leaving the house for days on end has always been normal.

The “new normal” we’re experiencing now is the same old normal for some of us. To others, it’s anything but normal. It’s difficult, complicated, and, we hope, very temporary.

Another phrase that shows up regularly is “back to normal.” What does that mean? Again, for some people, the current way of doing things *is* normal. If we’re using that phrase as shorthand for “returning to the way we did things before COVID-19,” “normal” will look very different depending on whom you ask. A lot of people consider leaving the house to go to work to be “normal”; those of us who work from home don’t see it that way at all.

When restrictions are lifted and things are reopened, we won’t be returning to exactly the way things were before regardless of what you consider to be “normal.” There will be changes in place to help people stay healthier. Hopefully, people will remember how all this felt, and will be more considerate of their health and of other people. I don’t believe it’s likely at all that things will go “back to the way they were.” Some things will be similar, but I don’t believe much, if anything, will be exactly the same.

Through all of this, people are worrying about whether their reactions are normal. Is it “normal” to be scared, angry, upset? Is it “normal” to have no reaction at all, or to even be thriving during this time?

The answer is… yes. It’s “normal” in that you are not the only one feeling or reacting that way. But more importantly, it’s normal because it is what is happening for you. And normal is subjective.

While we continue through this health crisis, and in any other crisis that comes, try to let go of what is “normal.” Think instead about what is happening for *you* and how that is affecting you. Normal doesn’t matter. What matters is you. If you are concerned about how you’re feeling or reacting, it doesn’t matter if it’s “normal,” it matters that you are concerned. And it’s okay to reach out for help if that’s the case.

“Normal” is a loaded word, and it’s one that you can probably tell I don’t think too highly of in general. Our world has changed, and will continue to change. People have reacted, are reacting, and will react in different ways. And whether it’s “normal” or not, it is okay.

Free Will =/= Freedom from Consequences

Free will is vital. All of us, as sentient beings, have the freedom to make our own choices and decisions. Mind control isn’t a thing, whether it’s by other people or by higher powers; we were all created to be able to choose our actions for ourselves.

What people forget when the subject of free will or freedom to choose comes up is that freedom to choose does not equal freedom from the consequences of that choice. If you choose to go skating on thin ice, you have the freedom to do so, but that doesn’t mean you won’t fall through the ice. If you choose to drive fifty miles an hour in a thirty mile an hour zone, you have the freedom to do that too, but it doesn’t mean you won’t get a speeding ticket.

Too many people, when confronted with the consequences of their actions, try to argue that “I have free will! I have freedom to do this!” Yep, you do… and you’ve done it, and there are consequences. You do not avoid the results, whether positive or negative, of your actions just because you have the freedom to act in the first place.

One of the biggest consequences of ignoring and fighting against restrictions during our current health crisis isn’t that you’re breaking the rules. It isn’t even that you might get sick, since you have the freedom to choose whether or not you get sick–and whether or not you die. The biggest consequence is that you might cause *someone else* to get sick and die. And doing so is a violation of *their* free will. 

Free will allows for you to commit actions that might harm yourself or others. It allows you to act in a way that violates someone else’s free will. You have the freedom to choose to do those things. However… why would you choose to harm anyone? Why would you choose to take away their freedom of choice when you rail against someone doing the same to you?

Free will does not equal freedom from consequences. If you harm others, there will be consequences for your actions. If you take away someone else’s free will, you may face consequences. And the fact that you have free will doesn’t change that. You are absolutely free to make whatever choices you make–but you are not free from whatever effects those choices bring you.

Changing Part of Myself

My entire life, I’ve created stories. When I was too young to know how to write, I told the stories to my stuffed animals and dolls, or to any adults who would listen. Once someone showed me how to make those funny little squiggles on paper, I started writing down my stories.

In 1999, I started writing phonics-based stories and worksheets to use to help my special education students learn to read. The stories and worksheets helped my students so much I sought publication for them. Stories from Somerville and the Say, Read, Spell worksheets were published in early 2002. Until early 2020, those books consistently brought me income.

I kept writing other stories. I joined writers’ groups and websites. I learned to improve my writing skills. In 2009, my first ebook was published by a new digital publisher.

From 2009 until 2017, I had over eighty novels, novellas, and short stories published by various digital publishers and small presses. I self-published two or three things, but most of my work was put out by publishing companies. They paid me for my work; I didn’t pay them. (That’s a misconception a lot of people have about publishing. An author does not have to pay to have their work published. Publishing companies pay the author, usually in royalties, which are a percentage of the cost of each book sold.) Some of my books were erotic romance published under a pen name; some, published under something approximating my real name, were fiction for teenagers.

Beginning in 2012 or so, some of my publishers started going out of business. Others started playing sketchy games with royalty calculations. Many more authors started showing up on the market, and more publishers, along with authors who self-published, started putting out work. Promoting and marketing myself had always been difficult, and now my sales started to show it.

Thanks to a couple of crises in my personal life in 2014 and 2016, I reached a point where just attempting to write anything brought me to panic attacks, especially if I was trying to write any erotic romance. More of my publishers went out of business, until by 2016 only two were left, and I chose to stop working with one of them for various reasons.

I hung in there until 2017, but finally reached a point where my sales were too poor, and I had completely burned out by writing too much too fast at the peak of my career. I stopped writing. By that point, only 11 of my books, along with a couple of short stories, remained on the market.

Last weekend, I received a letter from the Stories from Somerville publisher informing me they were closing, and returning to me the rights for the books. I sat with that for a while and mulled things over, and decided it was time to pull my remaining romance and teen fiction as well. I contacted my remaining fiction publisher yesterday and asked them to return the rights to me.

None of this was easy. I’ve loved having the phonics books out there. My two author names, Karenna Colcroft and Jo Ramsey, had become part of my identity, as had “author” in general. But the reality is, while I’ve written things here and there (mostly blogs and short nonfiction articles) since 2017, I haven’t really *been* Karenna Colcroft or Jo Ramsey. I’ve been afraid to be. I’ve been tangled up in the panic and the “I’m a failure” thoughts associated with those names and that career. I’ve tried a few times to get back to writing under those names, and have yet to succeed.

Sometimes destruction is necessary to make way for new creations. In Hinduism, Shiva is the god of destruction, but that isn’t seen as a bad thing. It isn’t destruction as in “let’s get rid of it all,” it’s destruction as in, “Let’s make way for something better.” Like tearing down a dilapidated old house to build a new, sound one.

My past writing career had become a dilapidated old house, full of holes and structurally unsound. And so even though it’s a sad thing, and I admit I’ve been crying about it off and on, it was past time to tear it down and see if I can create anything new once it’s gone.

Relax and Breathe

If you’ve been on social media at all, you’ve probably seen the meme that says something along the lines of, “If you don’t come out of this time of quarantine with a new skill, new hobby, or your side hustle launched, it was never a question of time, it was a question of discipline.”

That meme brings up so much frustration and anger in me. Not for myself as much as for the people who see it and believe that they are, in fact, undisciplined failures because of what someone on social media says.

Here’s the thing. This is a time unlike anything any of us have ever lived through. Some of us are worried about losing our jobs; some have already lost them. Some are struggling to take care of children while working from home–and having to become teachers on top of it. We don’t know how long this will last. We don’t know whether we’re going to get sick. We don’t know what the short or long-term effects will be.

And with all of that uncertainty, fear, and struggle, we’re somehow supposed to be able to corral our brains to learn new things and build new businesses? Um… okay, I’ll refrain from profanity here.

Many of us, if not most of us, are living through trauma right now. Trauma causes mental and physical effects, including loss of concentration, memory issues, and exhaustion. Some of us are absolutely able to say, “Oh, yay, free time, let’s do ALL THE THINGS!” But a lot of us are barely able to say, “Okay, I’m going to take a shower and get dressed now.”

And that is OKAY. It is completely okay to not be able to learn new skills and build your side hustle right now. It is okay if you are just managing to get out of bed and put on something resembling clothing in the morning.

Not being able to learn new things and build your business right now does not mean you are undisciplined. It means you are struggling to live in an experience you have never lived in before, surrounded by others who have also never lived through anything like this. It means that you need your time, energy, and stamina to get through the day-to-day pieces of this current “normal,” and you don’t have anything left over for the extras.

It isn’t a question of discipline at all. It’s a question of priorities. Right now, for many of us, the priority is surviving. Everything else can wait.

Take care of yourself, and let go of whether you’re “supposed to be” doing all the things right now. The only thing you need to do is breathe, rest, and trust that this will get better.

Some Info About Chios

People sometimes ask me what the differences are between Chios and other types of energy healing or energy work. That’s a difficult question for me to answer, because I haven’t learned other forms of energy work. I have had people give me Reiki, and have found Chios far more effective for me. (I felt nothing when Reiki was given.) From people who have had Chios sessions with me and other forms of energy healing from other practitioners, I’ve heard that Chios can be more intense and can bring up memories and emotions, which they said was not the case with other modalities they’d experienced.

Basically, as I put it to a friend of mine, some forms of energy healing are intended to rebalance, relax, and restore. Chios does those things, but it also stirs things up and gives you the clarity to work through them. Because of that, I make sure my clients know I’m available to help them process if needed, or to help them find professional support if necessary. I’m good at listening and offering suggestions, but I’m not a medical or mental health professional, and I want to make sure my clients get all the services and assistance they need from people who are qualified to give it.

Chios Energy Healing is relatively new when compared to some other healing modalities. At least, it’s new as far as how long it’s been available to the public. Chios was developed over a period of years of testing, research, and refinement before being shared with and taught to others beginning in the early 2000s. Chios includes specific techniques for balancing energy flow through the chakras and energy field, as well as removing energetic blocks. Clients have told me that for them, this process has eased physical pain, lowered stress, and helped them feel more well overall. The techniques also lead to clients feeling more grounded and centered, and address energetic damage from past injuries or traumas. Some of the techniques might appear similar to those used in other modalities, but most are unique to Chios.

Personally, I found Chios much easier to learn than the other modalities I’ve tried to study. The Chios manual explains the techniques clearly and step-by-step, and while there is a physical version of the manual available for purchase, you can also read most of the manual’s text on the official website. The symbols that are used in Chios healing are very simple and straightforward. The time from the beginning of my study until I reached the Certified Master Teacher level was about six months.

Nothing works for everyone, of course. I’ve known plenty of people who are enthusiastic about praising other forms of energy healing they’ve learned or in which they’ve had sessions, and have told me about some pretty amazing results. On the other hand, I’ve had students and clients who have tried other modalities and have either not had results at all, or have found that the other things they tried didn’t resonate for them.

I’m happy to answer any questions about Chios and how sessions are run. Right now, I’m offering distance Chios sessions only, meaning we are not in the same physical location. You can relax at home while I do healing energy work for you. This will remain the case until social distancing restrictions are lifted.
If you are a first responder, medical worker, or other essential worker, I would love to gift you with a free Chios distance session. Please comment here or email info@riverflowhealing.com for more information!

5 Ideas for Self-Care

Self-care is more important than ever right now, but some of us are finding it harder than usual to make sure we’re practicing self-care. Depression, whether as a diagnosed mental illness or just a feeling, leads to less motivation in general. If we’re struggling with losing a job, we might feel less worthy, which means we aren’t taking care of ourselves because we, consciously or not, believe we aren’t “worth it.”

Here are a few things you can do to take care of yourself without spending money (something many of us are afraid to do right now) and without taking a lot of time:

  1. Take a quick shower. Even just turning on the water and standing under it for a minute or two can wash away some of the energetic sludge, and for some of us, water feels refreshing and rejuvenating. (Baths work too for some, but those take longer; I did say “without taking a lot of time.)
  2. Practice deep breathing if you’re able. Take 10-20 long, slow, deep breaths in and out. You can even do this while doing something else, but I recommend focusing on your breathing while doing it. This can lead to you feeling calmer, and also helps keep your lungs in good shape.
  3. Step outside. Just taking a few steps outside of the building you live in and getting some fresh air can help short-circuit feelings of being trapped or isolated. If it’s sunny, that can help your mood. And bonus points if you’re able to touch a tree, grass, or anything natural.
  4. Hug something. Some of us don’t live with people we can hug, and obviously we’re trying to socially distance ourselves from the people we don’t live with. At the same time, hugs can be comforting and mood-boosting. If you don’t have a person–or pet–you can hug, the physical act of hugging a stuffed animal or even a pillow can give you similar sensory input.
  5. Practice self-compassion. You’re feeling angry? Cool. Feel it! You’re scared? That’s okay! Allow yourself to feel the emotions you’re feeling. Allow yourself to rant at the wall about the activities you’re missing, or the places you aren’t able to go. Most importantly, honor the fact that you are a human being in a really difficult time, and it is OKAY to struggle right now. It doesn’t mean you’re “doing it wrong” or that you aren’t spiritually enlightened, or anything like that… it just means you’re human, like the rest of us.

I hope some or all of that is helpful for you. And I would love to hear from you: What are you doing to practice self-care right now?

Breathe

A few months back, I bought a copy of an Astanga Yoga book written by my former mentor. When we were friends, I took Astanga classes from him, and he taught me a lot about the philosophies and the eight limbs that make up the practice. (Tip: The poses, or asana, are only one of the limbs…and not even the first one.)

To be clear, even though back in the day I studied to be an Astanga instructor and had, in fact, passed my final practical exam, I’m *not* an instructor, and not claiming to be. But since breathing is something many of us are thinking about right now, I wanted to talk about this a little.

One of the pieces of yoga that is sometimes overlooked is pranayama, or breathing exercises. When I was working with my mentor, he taught me some pranayama…which, being me, I promptly forgot about when I stopped practicing yoga. But now that I’ve resumed studying, I’m finding the pranayama, particularly one that involves very deep, even breathing, to be vital.

I have a tendency toward shallow breathing. Every once in a while, I take a deep breath that concerns whoever I’m with, or annoys them because they think I’m sighing. The actual issue is that I take such shallow breaths much of the time that I’m not getting enough oxygen, so then my body decides I’m going to take a really, really deep breath to correct that.

But for the past several weeks, every morning (okay, almost every), I do breathing called Sutri Pranayama, in which I breathe so deeply I can literally feel it all the way down through my torso. I take 20 breaths, which takes me over five minutes because I’m inhaling long and slowly, and exhaling equally long and slowly.

And after I do it, I feel better. I feel more focused. Calmer. (Deep breathing is one of the things recommended for people who experience anxiety, which for me is a frequent experience.) I’m in a more positive frame of mind, and my normal breathing has become less shallow.

Especially now, when our world is dealing with a virus that can heavily impact the lungs, I think breathing exercises can be beneficial. (I’m not a doctor, this isn’t medical advice.)

I’m not qualified (anymore) to teach Astanga or any form of yoga, so I’m not going to try to instruct you how to do Sutri Pranayama in case I get it wrong. But if you are looking for a way to help yourself feel calmer and less stressed, and to help your lungs function well, I would definitely recommend looking up how to do it and making it part of your daily routine. Not only for now, but ongoing.

What To Say?

In the past week, our world has changed drastically. I’m not going to enumerate the changes, because if you have access to any news source at all, you already know.

I’ve had trouble focusing on accomplishing tasks for the past week and a half, since I started seeing news about colleges sending students home. One of those colleges was my daughter’s, and helping her navigate that massive change and the effects it might have on her graduation this May and her continuing to graduate school in the fall took a lot of my emotional bandwidth. Don’t get me wrong; I was grateful that she came to me for support and that I was able to help in some way.

According to what a friend of mine posted on Facebook, some are talking about the current crisis being part of a “great awakening.” Maybe so. I do believe our world and our Universe are shifting and changing… but then, I believe that is ALWAYS the case. I don’t believe it’s my place, or the place of any other human, to tell everyone what the Universe or any Creator power has in mind. I think it’s completely fine to share your own beliefs with others, but not to force those beliefs. Not to look at someone who’s lost a loved one to this illness and say, “It’ll be all right, this is just a great awakening,” or look at a parent struggling to feed and care for their children with schools, day cares, and workplaces closed and say, “Don’t worry, just think abundant thoughts and you’ll have everything you need.” (I have not seen the first one personally; I have seen the second.)

I believe this is a time that humanity might learn a few things about ourselves. I believe this is a time that might lead to greater understanding, tolerance, and kindness. But it starts with us *being* understanding, tolerant, and kind. It starts with supporting one another, not telling others they’re wrong for not believing the way you do. It starts with saying, “I believe” instead of stating your beliefs as facts. It starts with recognizing that not everyone believes what you do…and the acceptance of the possibility that you’re wrong. You might be right, but you might not be.

It starts with knowing that this crisis will pass, as crises have a tendency to do. Eventually, this illness will fade out. Schools, daycares, and workplaces will reopen. We’ll be able to get together with friends again, go out to eat, go to a movie. We’ll be able to walk into a grocery store and find what we need, instead of seeing aisles of empty shelves.

And maybe, when that time comes, we’ll all be a little less set in our ways, a little less “you’re wrong, I’m right,” and a little more open to the reality that we don’t know everything, we can’t say what the creative power in our Universe is thinking, and sometimes we just have to accept what happens and learn from it.

My Body’s Telling Me Something…

I posted this on my Facebook profile a few days ago, but wanted to share it here as well.

Friday night, I realized that every time I turned over in bed, I felt like I was on a sped-up carnival ride. The room spun, my stomach churned, and it was scary as hell.

Saturday morning, I got up…same thing, only worse. I could barely stay on my feet, had to hold onto the wall as I walked the few steps from my bed to the bathroom, and then almost fell over getting out of the shower. My husband ended up taking me to urgent care, where they said, “It’s vertigo,” gave me meds, and sent me home with instructions to follow up with my primary care doctor and ask for a neurology referral. (I get migraine headaches; those have become more frequent, longer-lasting, and worse in general over the past couple of months… but the vertigo is new. So I need to be checked out on all of it.)

The thing is, last week, I was pushing myself HARD. Needed to do this. Had to do that. Had to get my ass in my car and drive Lyft to make more money. I wasn’t resting, I was stressing.

While there is an underlying physical cause for the vertigo and migraines (I don’t know what it is yet, but I know my body), there’s also an energetic cause. My body, my energy, and the Universe were–and are–all telling me to chill the hell out, focus on *me* and not my bank account, and take care of myself.

Illnesses have multiple causes. It isn’t *only* about the physical or physiological. It isn’t *only* about the mind. And it isn’t *only* about the energy. It’s a combination. What affects one affects all; what treats one treats all. Which is why I recommend energy healing to people who talk to me about their health…but I also recommend they don’t treat their health issues *only* with energy healing. It’s called “holistic” for a reason.