Skip to main content

the girl and the coyote

the girl and the coyote cjmillar82 life without a paddle

And just like that I’m feeling emotion again. It took a few days. A few days of my brain processing. Of life sinking in. Things to settle inside my head and my heart and my soul and I think I understand it now. Sometimes things come in waves, and sometimes it takes days but eventually they start to make sense and that kaleidoscope of all the broken pieces in my brain sort themselves out and come together and I feel like me again. Like me, but better. I suppose this is what growth feels like.

I realized something that I somewhat knew about myself but I didn’t realize just how much it was missing until now. For the most part, I’m not an overly affectionate person. Logic tends to rule my brain and most of my actions, and like I said in my last blog, Blind Spot, it’s a defense mechanism I’m sure. I’m even more sure of it now.

As a child, I never really had physical comforting. Sure, I had things. Stuff. Experiences I valued more than physicality. It taught me independence and appreciation in many ways. But when I am at my most vulnerable or hurting or even just struggling or feeling confused or blindsided by something I didn’t see coming, I just need a hug.

A real hug. To be told, I got you. We got this. It may be hard right now but it’s going to be okay. A real hug.

I haven’t had a friend do that for me since Jimmy died until this past year. It’s amazing having that again, from someone who also grew up without familial affection feeling alienated from the very same people who are supposed to comfort you and hold you and be there for you and tell you it’s all going to be okay. I didn’t realize that what I was missing was that I also needed that from someone who is more than a friend.

Actions, help, support, doing things together all mean more to me than just holding me and telling me it will be okay – at least that’s what I always thought. And they do mean a lot, but they’re not everything. Sometimes when I’m emotional and confused, a hug can do more than all the other meaningful actions in the whole world. I didn’t realize that before, but now I do.

Like that scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams hugs Will (Matt Damon) despite his resisting, and just keeps telling him it’s not his fault until eventually Will gives in and hugs him back and lets himself start to feel and understand and trust.

I expect to be thrown away – I am the throwaway girl after all – which is also why I don’t like to sleep next to someone often (that is still hard for me – I toss and turn and wake up over and over and over again trying to find where my space ends and yours begins and if it’s okay to be comfortable enough to actually truly sleep). But I don’t want to be her. Maybe that starts with when we have our differences, even when we need to work through them on our own, still being able to trust that you’ll reassure me it will be okay, we will be okay, and that there’s more to this than scheduling and conflict and date nights and laughter but also hard times where my go to isn’t going to be to go to bed alone but instead to say hey – I need some space tonight (and that’s okay that we process and deal with things differently) but also to just be held for a moment and let me be scared and afraid and terrified and vulnerable and know that you’re not going to leave forever. You’re just going to leave for now because like me, at times you need your space too and that’s okay. That’s more than okay, that’s good. I just need to understand that, and sometimes I need some comforting too. We’ll figure this out together.

I see that now, but the past few days have been hell for me. I see how close or how far you sit from me and wonder if something in us is broken. Or worse, if something in me is broken. Too broken to fix. Too beyond repair to be worth figuring out. And my brain immediately tells me to run. Even when my body and soul tell me to stand still and wait it out and figure it out and give it time, that time is torture to me. I don’t know why, but it is, and I am sure at some point as I continue to grow I’ll figure that out too.

I go numb and just turn things off. It’s not healthy, and it’s damn fucking hard to deal with from the other side, I’m sure. I wouldn’t want to deal with me like that, I know that much, and so I try to correct it in any way that I can as quickly as I can when I realize that I’m not yet being thrown away. I don’t want to be and I don’t want to run either. I think all I needed was a hug and some reassurance, and maybe some of that during all the in between so that when things do go a bit sideways it’s easier for me to not recoil. I don’t recoil because I don’t like being held or hugged, or, well…loved. I recoil because life has taught me that any of those things don’t last and so it’s easier to just not feel them in the first place. I am learning that life can be different. Like an old dog, I can still learn, it just takes a little more patience than others.

The coyotes are howling outside and the dogs bark. Off in the distance I can hear their howls echo across the mountains, both terrifying and comforting at the same time. Like a small child yearning for affection but afraid of being cast aside the moment life gets hard, I understand both their howls of the pack and the ones even further off in the distance who clearly are out there alone.

Perhaps I explain so much of the everyday in the hopes that it will help keep me grounded in the reality of feeling. It’s odd, really when you consider how passionate I am about life and sharing experiences with the ones I love, my belief in magic, my desire for greatness to always leave the world a better place than what it was before, to make a positive difference in all those around me, yet still afraid to have that for myself. It’s so easy for me to switch over to pure logic, analyzing things as they come at me, finding the realistic scientific psychologic reason behind everything (and in some ways even in this – behind my desire for affection and love) to help soothe myself into knowing that so long as there is a logical explanation I can comprehend and understand just about anything – even when it’s a matter of explaining to myself why things never work out. Or even more terrifying for me – why they will because this is different.

The stars are bright tonight. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at them. I’d stand out here and wish on one but the coyotes are still howling and I need to bring the dogs inside.

I am so grateful for the people in my life. The memories I have and the people I get to share life with again. And this brain I was blessed with that some days is a curse in so many ways, but also is the same brain that gives me the ability to sit with something and learn and digest and learn through things even when the past few days I’ve spent not even trusting myself.

I’m learning. That’s why we live more than one life. To find the people who know you. To learn from the ones who have hurt you. To reconnect with the ones that comfort you. And to find that person that completes you.

And just like that, I know once again and even more than before, this is home.

cjmillar82 too much

Blind Spot

blind spot cjmillar82 life without a paddle

Everyone has one. Some people have more than one. Some are bigger than others. Some are so small you hardly even notice they’re there until they suddenly hit you in the face. Sometimes they’re so big you get blindsided when you least expect it and wonder how you never ever saw that coming (but you should have, but really you shouldn’t, should you?).

Sometimes there’s nothing to overthink. I’ve been doing a lot less overthinking these days and it’s been quite pleasant. Better than that. Downright enjoyable, actually. But then sometimes the reverse of that is true and things feel overwhelming even when they’re really not you just know you have a lot on your plate and something hit a trigger for you that you never saw coming. But should have, or more likely maybe probably not. It’s not your fault, you tell yourself. It’s a trauma response, I know that. I do. Leaving is it for me. It’s why I rarely let anyone close and even more rarely get attached myself. I’ve said on here before more than once, I’m sure, everything I love leaves or dies. That’s what life taught me for the most part – for a long time – but that’s not true anymore. Certainly the past few years have been very very rough, but the past few months, for a while now actually things have been pretty steadily getting better. I should know better. Maybe not. Maybe I don’t know anything at all.

Triggers and trauma responses take time to extinguish. Like taking in a shelter dog who maybe has been through some shit and isn’t quite sure if the good things of the recent times will continue because the past has taught them to expect otherwise.

I let a lot of things roll off my shoulders. I try to focus on the things I can control – such as my actions and the choices I make and how I handle myself – and let the things I can’t control roll off my back. I carry enough weight. I don’t need to carry the weight of the expectations of others, too. And so in recent years, I learned to put that weight down, and for the most part I have. I am still and always will be my own worst critic, examining myself over and over like a scientist through a microscope always looking to learn more about myself, be more self-aware, always continually working to grow, and become a better version of myself.

Life is hard, choose your hard. Choose what to fight for versus fighting over. Choose how you see the world around you, how you spend your time, and who you spend it with. Not everyone leaves or so I’m told but funny how even the simple act of leaving can still be a trigger. It’s why I switch to logic over emotion and then my brain gets stuck there and can take some time to switch back. It’s a defense mechanism I’m sure. I remember as a child when I did something and got in trouble and my father was yelling at me, me timidly asking him to please believe me that however much he was mad at me and disappointed at me that I was already far more upset with myself and that I already felt awful and could he please stop yelling at me. He yelled at me anyway. I cried. Life wasn’t all bad back then. There were good times too. Good times don’t give you triggers. They make memories. I like those.

I thought perhaps I’d work on my next tattoo tonight but I’m not feeling very creative. I need to get my head together before this crazy week of work kicks off first thing tomorrow with games three days in a row and plans every day this weekend. I need to look at places for a potential speaking event in Citrus County, Florida in a few weeks. I need to look at flights again. I’m back on a plane or traveling once a month again at least now through May. These are all good things, and work is picking up again. Hiking today was nice, too. It’s always good to get out in the woods to my favorite loop and let the dogs play and hike and have fun. Usually I do that hike alone. It was nice to have company today.

My truck has some big blind spots. Funny how when it’s something you drive regularly you know that they’re there even when you can’t always see your own.

Stretching Chaos

There’s chaos in her mind
And sometimes when she lets her guard down
The cracks start to show and her vulnerability
Bleeds through her roots of always standing alone

She runs hot, the window open to sleep in winter
Always looking north and maybe sometimes west
For her next great adventure hoping you will come along

Stretching both comfort and wings takes courage
A friend said the true test of character is how we face fear
And even more so what we choose to do when we reach the other side

Let’s look fear in the eye together then, shall we?
I’m not afraid with you


Go Fast Take Chances Really Live

the summit at Mount Moriah Cemetery Deadwood, SD CJ Millar

Friends & family. Smiles & laughter. Quiet time & excitement. The holidays are filled with a flight of contradictions, ups and downs, and a little but of everything, and this year for the first time in a long time it was exactly perfect. Sure, by the end of Christmas Day I was stir crazy, sitting on the couch with my best friend and my kid bored wishing there was somewhere to go or something to do as we marveled that every single restaurant and bar within a 40 min drive was closed…I know it’s Christmas! But where I used to live there were always one or two places we could go that would open up so that friends could meet up after family time. A place we could go to all get together so us misfits and broken pieces and jagged edges could just come together and fit in after the magic of the day wore off and the kids all wanted to be home catching up on sleep. After the Christmas wrapping made its way to the garbage, the presents were gone from under the tree, and, well, sometimes you just don’t want to be sitting on your couch watching football. Sometimes you want that laughter and good times to continue with a group of friends and loved ones.

This year, it was a little different. Even after the kids went to bed (one was out, the other asleep early), it was nice to not be alone watching TV again even if there was nowhere to go and our other best friends live over an hour away (we both agreed we should have stopped procrastinating sooner and just driven down there!) or the other person we were going to see wasn’t feeling up to it and his kid was tired from all the people-ing of the weekend (my youngest was too and hence went to bed early). It was in a lot of ways, for someone used to growing up with huge family gatherings and tons of people around, quite different. In other ways, it was another small step in the right direction after years of spending the holidays with even fewer people around us between the pandemic and distance and loss and change. It may not have been the huge gathering and celebration it used to be, and sure, some of the magic of Christmas may seem to dwindle as the kids get older (and mine came to me as teens well after the magic of Santa had already left), but after the kids went to bed, and me and my best friend watched the end of the very long football game that went into overtime (damn you Brady!), it was quiet – but peaceful and absolutely better than sitting and watching the rest of that game on the couch by myself. Thank you.

The holidays always seem to present their own struggle for everyone, so it was a welcome change this year that there was less struggle with my own thoughts and alone time than there has been in the recent past. I wish for my family and friends they felt the same, and if they didn’t, please know that my door is always open, and you are all always welcome here. Life is better when we do things together.

I am so looking forward to the year ahead. I am looking forward to being back on a plane again, traveling more, getting the hell outta Dodge (or maybe just back to Deadwood haha!), getting to Hawaii again, going to see friends in Texas, Florida, Colorado, and going back to hunter paces, road trips, theme parks, camping with and without the horses, and so much more. Life is full of great adventures if you’ll step out of your comfort zone and try something new, something different, something that scares you a little bit more than you’re willing to admit. For me, the scariest thing of all was learning to open up and let people in and I’ve done that more this year than I have in the past decades, with a few people who mean more to me than I can ever show enough gratitude for, and one person that has changed my life in so many ways that I am ever so grateful that he and his kids have become family too.

Life is amazing when you step into the unknown. But doing that means taking risks. Trying something new. Doing something different. Go fast take chances. But it doesn’t have to mean going so fast you’re going at breakneck speed, or taking chances so big that the risk outweighs the benefit or puts those you love at risk too. No. There’s ways to do all of this in a safe way that still pushes your limits and makes you see beyond the immediate horizon but over the mountains and the plains and the sky and the stars to everything else this world has to offer.

cjmillar82 cj millar Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park

Hiking in Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park in 2019

There’s certain fears I’ll likely never overcome, I know that and that’s okay. Take my fear of heights, for example. Heights are quite literally dizzying and disorienting to me, jut ask my DNA test (really apparently that’s a thing that has to do with depth perception) but that doesn’t mean I can’t fly. Airplanes are okay. I’ve tried bungee jumping as a kid a few times and it terrified me so I probably won’t do that again but hey, I tried. Roller coasters are amazing probably because my brain rarely has time to get disoriented from my depth perception challenges since you’re constantly moving (good because I LOVE roller coasters!). Skydiving is a no-go but indoor skydiving was a HUGE win! A wind tunnel is a pretty controlled environment so it was easy to relax and surrender control and just float/fly! I’ve hiked to places first with friends and my brother to near 2,670 feet at Puʻu Pauao on the crest of the Koʻolau mountains. And then in Deadwood alone just earlier this month along the ridge behind Mount Moriah cemetery to a height of nearly 5,400 feet where the air was so crisp and thin on a 20° morning that between that and the fear of heights I had to sit down for fear I would faint…and fall. But I didn’t. Instead I was rewarded with some of the most amazing views of my life and an experience that changed not just the way I look at the world but at myself, too.

cjmillar82 deadwood Moriah cemetery

The peak at the top of Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, SD

cjmillar82 deadwood Moriah cemetery peak

Hiking up past Seth Bullock’s grave in Mount Moriah Cemetery

Yes, I’m standing in both of those photos. The peak behind me is the one I climbed to the top of, and I was rewarded with the most amazing views.

Have you ever done something so out of your comfort zone, by yourself – or with friends – that caught your breath in your throat and had you going from fear to wonder to amazement all in a matter of minutes or seconds even? If you haven’t, I suggest you do something about it. Find something. Try something new or different, or amazing. Challenge yourself. Live outside of your box, outside of your own little world, let your walls down, let people in, let life change you because you never know what you’ll learn about yourself or those you love when you take a deep breath and open your mind to something entirely new. Whether you’re taking Robin Williams’s advice and standing on a desk like he challenged the students to do in Dead Poet’s Society simply to change their perspective on the most mundane of their surroundings – their classroom, or challenging yourself to literal new heights on the side of a mountain, a snowy peak, a ski hill, a plane ride, or a summer trail to a Hawaiian summit, whatever it is, go do it. Do SOMETHING. Don’t just live. Suck the marrow out of life, breathe in the air for more than just survival but to really FEEL life. Figure out what passion is and I don’t mean in the bedroom, I mean in the every day. Stop living the ordinary. Start living the extraordinary. Believe in magic. Do something different. Now. There is no better time.

Life is different when you’re actually living it. Go live. Really live.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Cheers to an amazing year ahead and challenging yourself to live differently. I love you all. 

Mount Moriah Cemetery Deadwood South Dakota CJMillar82

The air and the sunrise are different up here.

So Far Through

so far through life without a paddle cjmillar82

The holidays are hard for us. They’re hard for a lot of people but the hurt is still fresh here. The loss still tangible as if it was just a few years ago – because it was. Spending the past few years in nothing but survival mode, doing nothing but everything at the same time, carrying the weight of the world and the expectations of two kids and my entire childhood on my shoulders was enough to break me or make me run away but instead I did neither. I got through it. I got so far through it that I seem to have gotten myself stuck in survival mode and am right back into that now that it’s the holidays again.

I keep saying I’ve just gotta get through it. I’ve just gotta get through this week. This weekend. This one big thing. This next big thing. Then something else breaks. Something else is broken. And suddenly I’m realizing the really broken thing is me.

I feel like I could cry at the drop of a hat (or the burning out of a Christmas tree bulb) and I have been and I hate it. I despise crying. It makes me feel physically ill and then I get myself all twisted up inside and overthink and retreat back into my head and want to run away only this time I don’t want to run away, I don’t want to leave at all because I’ve finally found home and people I feel like I actually belong with. Family. Something that’s been so broken and fragmented for so many of us that perhaps that’s why we fit together the way we do. And even when we’re not broken, we all have our jagged little edges. It’s how we fit together that makes all the difference. And we all fit together, that much I know.

I need to get through this weekend. So far through but not so far that I push everyone away. I’ve never had someone there for me – let alone multiple people – when I’ve gone through some of what I am looking ahead at this weekend. I am afraid for that, but less afraid than I think I was of being alone again. I know I’ll get through this. So far through. Right through to Deadwood, and Wyoming, with people I love, coming back to people I love, in a place I call home.

I am so far through these past few years, that I have to believe the next one will be even better. This year was hard, but this fall has been incredible, and, despite the weight of the holidays and the shifting of work and timing and balancing of everything else, I know that January continues the upward momentum, and that will keep carrying on through ahead. I’ve been saying for years that those of us who put in the work, got through these hard times, and didn’t give up or shit out, or look for excuses or scapegoats, but honestly truly focused on how to keep going, keep growing, and keep looking up were destined for better things ahead. Those things are here, and more are coming, I believe that. So far, through everything, I can see where things are going and I am smiling even through the tears.

Thank You

cjmillar82 life without a paddle thank you thanksgiving

As I sit here on Thanksgiving Eve thinking of all the things I’m grateful for, and I can’t help but feel like the luckiest girl in the world. So much has changed over the years, but I am still the same little girl, believing in magic and wishing on stars, only now I have someone that believes in me, too. And not just someone. I have the best people in the world around me. These amazing kids who know me inside and out, these friends that stand by me, and this family around me, and this incredible human that I get to spend my time with. It’s something else, really. Something entirely different for me, in all the best ways and I am forever grateful. Thank you.

This is all new. All of it. I’ve always been able to see pieces of the future, glimpses of what’s to come based on where I am – or we all are – right now. But like the book, “A Wrinkle in Time,” every little thing in life has a ripple effect and when you get caught up looking ahead in only one direction based on all the pieces of your past, you eventually (hopefully) start to realize that life will always keep changing.

I usually like to drive. I tend to plan things too much. I tend to build this schedule of what things look like in my mind and then when life changes or things get in the way, I let my anxiety cripple me and tell me over and over again that I was wrong, I was not enough, I’d never be enough, and crumble. Then I get back up, start over, and do it all over again. It’s like I could only see my future based on all of my past(s), and the one thing I never saw before is that I am so much more than that. We all are. We can’t live life stuck in the past and while sure, we can (and should) learn from it, that isn’t exactly what the future is all about.

You see, I’ve spent most of my pasts alone. All of them that I can really remember anyway. Sure, I had friends, and people I’d meet, some I’ve been lucky enough to meet over and over again life after life and that’s amazing in and of itself. But there’s more to it than that. For the first time, I can’t see a clear future but I know that whatever it holds, we’re building it together. That’s better than seeing what’s next or (thinking of) knowing what’s around the next corner. There’s a power and a beauty in that which I’ve never experienced before. For a change it’s nice to not always be driving. For a change I am actually enjoying being a passenger, because I get to share this ride with these amazing people. With people who want me to be there with them. With people – and especially one person – who understands when I’ve had a hard day, how much it means to me to just say hey, it’s amazing to see you. I don’t care where we go or what we do, I just want to spend time with you – and to simply be happy handing over all of the decisions to someone who can say in return – we’re good – and just let me go along for the ride as we figure things out. Together. Laughing and smiling. Venting and bitching. Laughing some more. And smiling. I don’t think I’ve smiled this much my whole life. It’s incredible.

So I am here writing this that I hope I’ll actually finish tonight and publish and share because I came here to say thank you. I have a few things I’ve started and saved in drafts from these past weeks that I haven’t shared. Partially because I don’t know what to say, or I reread what I’ve started and add to it but it feels disjointed and nonsensical to me. Writing about the first snow, the magic of the world blanketed in the first soft carpet of white as if the entire world was brushed with fairy dust and a little bit of dreams falling from the sky. But how crazy does that sound? Very. It is crazy. I am crazy. Crazy about you. Crazy about life. Crazy about sharing all of these experiences from here until whenever forever with the people I love.

Life is all about sharing experiences. It’s how we truly open up to people. Driving down the road pointing out this house where you used to live. This road the deer ran into my truck on. This memory down this lane from ages ago. These places I’ve been that bring back memories. Not because we’re stuck in the past, but because I want you to know all of me, and you want to share all of you with me, too. Now that’s what’s truly crazy, right? The part where somehow in very little time I went from being the cynical standoffish overly independent individual to opening up and letting someone see that hey, I really DO believe in magic but not just for others. For me, too. I am finally starting to believe that sharing that magic with someone may not be quite so terrifying after all. It is terrifying. But only because I trust you, yet somehow I am not afraid of you hurting me, or of being too much or not enough. Because somehow I am comfortable just being me. And somehow I am starting to believe that me is, somehow, enough for you. How did I get so lucky? Thank you.

Thank you, too. I wouldn’t be here without your wraparound hugs and shoulder to cry on when I spent the entire summer looking for reasons to run away. You gave me a reason to stay. You (and there’s more than one of you) reminded me and convinced me that my friends are worth staying for even after these kids grow up and move away. That when you finally remember how to breathe and just stand still, the best things in life will come to you (and they did, thank you).

Life isn’t always easy, nor is it going to be, but I’m okay with that because I know you’ll be here with me. I have so much to give thanks for, and this Thanksgiving and all weekend long I look forward to a lot more smiles, a lot more laughs, and even more to love with so much more still to come. Thank you. I love you all.

find your tribe love them hard cjmillar82 life without a paddle


Life Like This

life like this cjmillar82 life without a paddle

Is this real? I woke up this morning with a smile on my face and a good morning text on my phone. I fed the animals, watered the plants, took care of the horses, mended some fencing, and laughed at the dogs. Made coffee, sat on the porch and checked email. And I’m still smiling. Is this real life? Do people actually get to live like this?

Suddenly everything seems a little bit brighter. My days are filled with family and friends and people I love. My nights are filled with laughter and good times and dreams. My weekends are always epic to the point that I’m running out of words to describe just how amazing they are because each one is better than the last and things just keep getting better. Is this real?

It sure feels unbelievable to me. I’ve never had this. I’ve never smiled this much. And I’m hard pressed to remember a time when I was ever this truly genuinely happy. No, not everything’s peaches and roses. Work is still ramping up slower than I’d like, but it’s heading in the right direction and suddenly I feel like I can take it in stride. No, the weight on my shoulders hasn’t gotten any lighter – if anything it’s possibly gotten a little bit heavier – but that’s okay. I can take that in stride too, today.

Alone time is productive and positive these days. Getting lost in the woods isn’t about disappearing for a while, it’s about finding myself and, yeah, smiling some more. I rode this weekend for the first time since August and like any time I’ve had a break from riding for whatever reason, I’m reminded how much I missed it. I’ll ride again this weekend on my other horse, maybe wander the state park for a few hours before the last football game of the season – one where my kid finally gets to play and I’m so happy for him. Then I’ll go see a dear friend and celebrate his brother and laugh like time doesn’t matter. Maybe I’ll be on the back of that bike with this unbelievable man for another incredible 65-and-sunny Sunday that will keep me smiling for days. I’ll spend time with these amazing kids, make more memories, and appreciate the time we have together before life changes again. Life always changes. But damn, I hope how much I’m smiling never does.

I’ve got some hard days ahead that feel a little bit less daunting, if still knowing that they are going to be absolutely devastating to get through. Thing is, I know I’ll get through it, and for a change, I won’t be alone. The holidays seem a little less heavy on the horizon, and while I know there will be days I’ll need to be alone to make it through – the past few years have not been easy – I also know that there are even more good days to look forward to just ahead.

Do people really get to live like this? What did they do to deserve it? If you know, can you please tell me because I’ve never had a life like this and more than anything I’ve ever known, this is something I don’t want to lose. I know that much. So if you know how to keep this, what people do to deserve this, please let me know so I can keep doing it for the rest of my life. And just keep smiling.


cjmillar82 cj millar life without a paddle family

When the two most important things in your life are sitting next to you smiling…my heart is full.

You know, I’ve gone back and reread a bunch of these more recent blogs lately (the ones from this year and end of last especially) and realize just how far I’ve come. A year ago there were more days than not that making it out of bed was a monumental task. Putting on a smile and a brave face and going through the motions of work and life and responsibilities was so exhausting I felt like I could collapse at any moment…only I couldn’t because too many people relied on me. And I think to recent struggles, this year, this summer, and even the past few weeks and everything that’s been going on and in comparison, it’s so much better than to where I was last year, and then these past few months happened. Especially these past few weeks.

Suddenly my morning routine isn’t a struggle to get out of bed, feed the animals, make up an excuse to tell myself why I can’t take them on a hike before work, sit in stagnation and frustration and force yourself to put one foot in front of the other. Over and over. Remind yourself that the light at the end of the tunnel (likely) isn’t a train. Probably. Do it again tomorrow. Wait for the weekends, and want to run away. Remind yourself you’re not actually running away. Consider running away anyway – in a few years when the kids are done with school. Live for the weekends. Struggle through the weekdays. Keep looking for that light at the end of the tunnel to show you the daylight or just run you the fuck over already.

It’s funny how good I am at pushing people away. Being overwhelmed while not feeling worthy of accepting help so pushing that away too. Being overly social while almost entirely solitary at the same time. It’s funny how many friends have told me over the years they’re surprised that I’m single, that no one stuck around long enough to just be there, and I’d shrug. It was what I was always used to, after all. Starting with my parents as a child. Why would I believe my adult life to be any different? I’m sure things I did helped, too. Self-fulfilling prophecy is definitely a thing. A thing I finally started working very very hard at this year to stop becoming. Perhaps it was my father’s death that was the catalyst. Or perhaps it was my mother’s deteriorating mental / neurological health that she refused to get help for. Maybe it was setting boundaries with friends that I wanted to help but didn’t want to help themselves. All of that was hard at first. But those healthy boundaries added up. They allowed me to take some of the shit life was throwing at me in stride, with a deep breath. Let it roll off my back and be calm and steadfast and secure enough in who I am as a person to let it go and know that whatever was meant for me would always be here.

My kids are both home and getting along better than ever. We’re looking at a family trip out west to a place I’ve always wanted to go, that coincidentally is near a place Morgan wants to go to school and always wanted to live. Work is picking up – slowly at first but it’s starting to snowball and I know that things are going to just keep looking up. I’ve got friends around me – both locally and from further away – that are here for me, truly here for me and that’s something that takes a little getting used to. But I’m getting used to it.

You know what else takes some getting used to? Smiling this much all the time. Having something to look forward to every day that makes mornings not a struggle anymore. Knowing that on the hard days, there’s someone looking forward to seeing me, who will tell me it’ll all be okay and actually do everything in their power to make that true. Friends down the road who are willing to work on my bitch of a tractor even when I’m not (do NOT use that as an excuse to not hang out!!!!). Friends who despite being from different places, locations, and all walks of life, all seem to get along and not just for me or because of me. Because we’re all actually really amazing people. Wow. Do you know how amazing of a feeling that is? Do you know how amazing of a feeling that is when you haven’t had that ever before in your entire life? Yeah. That.

Find your tribe. Love them hard.

Yeah, I found them. You found me, too. Damn is this different, in all the best ways. I am not sitting here feeling like I’m too much, or not enough, or everything in between. I am sitting here smiling feeling like me. Thank you. Thank all of you. Fuck around and find out, right? Maybe I should have taken my own advice ages ago. Or just maybe, I needed the right person to convince me it was the right advice to take at just the right time. Thanks for waiting. Hi.

life without a paddle cjmillar82 hi

The Peach, the Heart, and the Truck

heart like a truck life without a paddle cjmillar82

I keep repeating to myself things I’ve written lately, as if to remind myself over and over again that these words are true. That they do hold meaning. That these things I feel are not unreal or imagined but actually very, very real. In some ways, they serve as a reminder that all this work I’m doing on myself to make myself a better person still doesn’t mean I’m okay – there have been quite a few days lately where I’ve been anything but. Sometimes it’s due to those old nasty childhood abandonment wounds festering underneath the surface, bubbling up when I least expect it – or even if I do – that nag at the back of my mind telling me, “you’re not enough, you were never enough, everyone leaves, even your own parents couldn’t ever fully be there for you.” I try to fight it and remind myself that I am neither not enough nor too much. For someone, starting with myself, I am exactly what I need to be and who that is, is a person who keeps growing and working and looking up and finding reasons to smile and keep going every single day. Even when the air I’m trying to breathe chokes me and I can’t stop shaking and I hide under the covers hyperventilating and crying unsure as to even why I am that way in that moment, afraid to tell anyone or ask for help.

I’ve started to tell some of you. I’ve started to trust some of you. I’m trying. It’s fucking terrifying. Because if you really know me, you can hurt me, and all I’ve known my whole life is that letting anyone in = pain, because they always leave. Everyone leaves. Or dies.

I wrote this just a few weeks ago, but I am repeating it to myself again here, to remind myself maybe this time I shouldn’t run away. Push everyone away. Tell my handful of truly close friends that I am okay when I’m not. Stop pretending and only falling apart behind closed doors and muscling through while lying to everyone and myself. I hate liars. I know better. And so here are these words again, and maybe they’ll stick with me this time and I’ll start to listen to myself…or maybe not. But here’s to trying.

You see, people leave. Everyone I have ever loved has always left me so when I start falling for someone or caring for someone, I cling on too hard until I panic, push them away, and then remind myself this is how it always ends anyway and what I always expect. Only it shouldn’t be. There are people showing up in my life these days that believe it to be different. That I believe are different and truly will be there for me. And I keep reminding myself the same words I wrote earlier this week on here and earlier this summer in my journal –

“Stop falling for people who mirror the skeletons of your past.

Start falling for the person who shows up and sees your soul.”

Perhaps I’m not invisible. Maybe I don’t want to be. I don’t really know. What I do know is that caring for someone – actually caring – is the scariest thing I can ever imagine. Getting attached is terrifying. And I don’t mean attached as in losing your identity and needing to be around someone 24/7 or trying to tell them what they can and can’t or should and shouldn’t do – no that’s awful. I mean getting attached to where you expect someone to show up when they say they will, expect them to be okay with you when you’re at your worst, and know they’ll be with you when you’re also at your best. Not just because you’d do that for them – you already do that for everyone around you because it’s just the fabric of your being and how your heart lives. But because they care. Genuinely truly care and are able to be present in a way that no one you’ve ever met your entire life is able to be. That’s terrifying to me. To actually look forward to good things with good people without qualifications or expectations or stipulations or conditions that keep telling you no, you’re not good enough. You never were. You never will be.

Which is the lie? What happens when what you’ve always known is suddenly changing and what’s up is down, and suddenly all these walls start to crumble because holy fucking shit. You’re letting someone in. Not just throwing your skeletons in the street and screaming, “here! Look at me! I am a mess!” though chances are you’ve done that too (I’ve done that too).

This “you” I speak of is me. I am her. I always am. Sometimes my brain spits things out in the third person to make it hurt less. To make reality feel just a little out of reach. To make the pain a little more muted. To make the healing a little easier. To make the understanding sink in a little more slowly in the hopes that it sticks this time. That you start to believe it. That I start to believe it. Shit. It hurts to breathe.

I’m back. Sorry, I had to walk away for a minute. Sometimes believing you are something is the hardest thing you can do. That and remembering to breathe. I’ll be okay, I promise. I always am, and I’ve made it this far after all. Just be gentle with me, okay? Please? I’ve never been anyone’s peach and damn but I’ve got a heart like a truck, that’s for sure. Like our one friend says to me all the time, I’m broken but all the pieces are there. I just may need a little help putting them all back together.

Finding Me (Again) | finding me (5/11/2010)

finding me life without a paddle cj millar

Funny how that I remember pieces of these words, after writing about all the broken pieces of me, and I find the blog I wrote twelve years ago and it reads as if it was something I wrote today. Only I didn’t. It makes me wonder. Was I that full of insight and hope back then to have the foresight to know that more than a decade later I’d need these words now more than ever? Or am I truly that broken that over a decade later, I’m rereading these words because I keep reliving my past over and over and over again and somehow keep ending up back where I started?

I’m guessing it’s a combination of both, though likely more of the latter than the former, much to my dismay. I thought I was past this, but I am also learning to be kinder to myself and forgive myself because growth is hard. I listen to words I am saying to a friend through troubled times, and it’s forcing me to do the same for myself. I can’t very well tell her to be kinder to herself, to let people in, people want to help and be there for you – and then ignore those very same words for myself.

You see, people leave. Everyone I have ever loved has always left me so when I start falling for someone or caring for someone, I cling on too hard until I panic, push them away, and then remind myself this is how it always ends anyway and what I always expect. Only it shouldn’t be. There are people showing up in my life these days that believe it to be different. That I believe are different and truly will be there for me. And I keep reminding myself the same words I wrote earlier this week on here and earlier this summer in my journal –

“Stop falling for people who mirror the skeletons of your past.

Start falling for the person who shows up and sees your soul.”

Easier said than done, I’m learning. Also, it helps if you can figure out who is ACTUALLY showing up for you and seeing your soul rather than showing up for you to fill their hero complex and saturate their own need for belonging and filling their own abandonment wounds. I have plenty of my own, I don’t need to bleed into someone else’s or have them bleed into mine, even when their intentions are good. I can see that now, but it took me a while.

I am finding myself again (again), more than I ever did when the blog below was originally written, and certainly more so than when the quote in there about being softer than stone and stronger than ashes was written another decade before that.

In finding myself, I am again remembering that I actually DO like to be alone. Not all the time, no, and not to be abandoned to be alone. But that I like time alone to myself. Hiking in the woods with the dogs, riding my horse around the forest by myself. No reception, no cell phone buzzing, no one to track me, no one to see other than the occasional passerby as I weave through the campground and back out into the forest. Just me. And you know what I’m learning? That IS enough. And if it’s not enough for someone when I am whole, or because I am working towards becoming whole, and it’s only enough when I am broken and someone needs to help put me back together, I am also learning that means it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with whatever wounds of their own past they are trying to fill.

This is where I bow out gracefully. Not that I don’t love you – I do and will always always be there for you – but this is also where I need to hold those healthy boundaries. You have no idea what you are getting into. You have no idea the damage you can do inadvertently. I already did some damage that I apologized for, because I wasn’t in a clear mindset to see above the water that was drowning me. I am sorry for that. And I thank you for being there for me through that. And there will be times I still need you, your wraparound hugs, your home cooking, your random calls or texts so we can laugh and joke and build on this amazing friendship we all have.

That’s where it ends though – we cannot rebuild ourselves when all we do is rebuild each other. We HAVE to rebuild ourselves from the inside out otherwise all we’ll ever be is broken. I am not broken anymore. Sure, there are still all the broken pieces, but all of those pieces are coming together in a kaleidoscope and even more so now, I am seeing how it’s not just magic those broken pieces of me bring to my life, they actually shine and sparkle and reflect all this incredible broken beauty that has become so much more that it’s even able to inspire friends. I don’t want someone – anyone – in my life because I asked them over and over and over to be. I want people in my life because they love being here, they love the magic we all make together, the laughter and the smiles, the hugs that wipe away the tears, the dreams we share with each other and how we support each other even when the things we want are completely different.

I may not be in quite the right mindset just yet to be fully ready to open up to someone in my life in the way I say I’ve always dreamed of. But I can promise you that where I am today is absolutely light years away from where I was twelve years ago when I wrote these words below, and galaxies away from when I first penned about those ashes. You see, I already have a heart that is softer than stone and stronger than the ashes of the greatest love lost. I always have, because I haven’t even come close to finding that love yet and at the same time I am surrounded by all these great souls I have known for so many lives that I am so blessed to keep finding and sharing life with.

As for you, my friend, you will be okay. I promise. Both of you. And I’ll be here to help because I’ve finally found me and I’m just getting better. As it turns out, a soft heart is far stronger than one wrapped in barbed wire after all.


_______ original blog “finding me” from May 10, 2010 below ______________

in these past weeks, months, really almost this entire year i’ve spent so much time being lost trying to figure out which way to go, which way was up, and where to go from here that i lost myself almost entirely. it’s high time i got back to being me – and making some changes for the better, and that’s exactly what i have been focused on doing these days, and it’s definitely what i’ve needed. i need to find me, and in doing so there were things i needed to realize in order to grow and in order to know that i could be me while still growing and moving forward and trusting myself and having faith and hope and all those things i claimed to believe in all the while standing here ever the cynic running away at the first sign of emotion or commitment to anything other than pure and whole independence. no, that’s not who i want to be. it is time for me to move forward and find myself not just in the here and now, but in the who i want to become, and just how i am going to get there.

i got to spend hours catching up with an old friend today and it made me realize a few things. despite her being the one fighting with illness, it was she who inspired me. it made me smile, realize how much i miss her, and realize how much more there is to life that we all too often forget. it made me see that there are far too many people we waste our time on that are not worth it. it made me realize that there are people that i have not given enough of my time to that certainly deserve more, that i want to give more time to, and that i want to be a bigger part of my life. it made me grateful once again for the true friends that i do have in my life, who will be there for me through thick and thin. and it made me realize that no matter how many lives we have had, or will have, that right now this life is what matters and time is such an absolutely incredible precious commodity.

i’ve had my heart broken before, this life. and i’ve spent many many lives alone and content with that. yet this time something seems to have changed. perhaps something broke in me when i wrote these words in what seems so many years ago but still hurts like yesterday –

“All the while knowing that I may never get closure or a resolution, that he may choose to just go on with his life and never say another word to me, never give me a yes or no, all or nothing, and just drift along in the purgatory I am in now until the fates have felt that I have paid my penance and this cloak of unknowing distraught lifts and I am able to look up again, look forward, and eventually be capable of having a heart that is made from something softer than stone and stronger than the ashes of the greatest love lost.”

perhaps my heart is too broken from that to ever truly recover no matter how much i will it so. perhaps there has been enough in the way of the passing of time. and perhaps the more questions i ask, the less close i am to an answer for i’m simply doing what i always do – taking up time overthinking at every turn to avoid the truth of the matter – how i feel. who i am. how i love.

a friend once shared this great quote with me and this coupled with the stark realization of the long term isolation of my existence in the way of love really shook me to my core.

«Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it…It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.»
— Erica Jong

what true, wise words, that are sometimes so hard to comprehend yet there is no overthinking to be done. it’s all there – laid out right in front of me. if i don’t risk anything, i risk even more. and it seems like that’s what i’ve been doing for days, for lives. never truly stopping to find me, defining me as solely the independent isolated me who fills her time with friends and social events so as not to ever have to stop and see and feel how alone independent really can be. it reminds me of another quote still –

«It’s a dead end to create scenarios fueled by what your life might have been like if only this or that happened differently. Using your imagination, reach across the barrier of time and bring something you can use from your past into the present moment. Remember, change can only happen in the here and now.»

so very much something that i need to remember. for all that we can see the past, it is of no use to us if we refuse to learn from it. so learn i must. it is time for me to move forward, with or without that old heart that was stone, over the ashes of love from the past that have long since been blown away by the winds of change. i need to find me, because if i never do that, i can never find love, or life for all that it has to offer. and i refuse to be that person that never took that risk all because my heart broke and i never trusted myself enough to put it back together to give to someone even better.

i don’t want to be perfect. quite the contrary, i know i’m far from it. i just want to be perfect for you. i want to learn that love is okay and not only a means for pain, but rather a means for some of the greatest things this life has to offer. i want to rise above my past, not bury myself in it. i want to move forward and see that independent doesn’t need to equal isolated any more. i want to find me – all of me – my heart wrapped in barbed wire with its halo and angel wings included. i want to fly. i want to love. i want to live. i do believe i have this in me, though it’s been many years since i have believed it to be true. that’s different now. i’m different now. i’m thinking more, but less all at the same time. i’m trusting myself again. and for the first time in a long time, i’m opening myself up emotionally to someone in a way that i forgot what it meant to be vulnerable. yet i am right now, and i am not running. i am not holding my breath. i am still learning. i am still growing. and i am still finding me.

right here. right now. just me.