The End of an Era

The time has come for me to retire Dysfunction Diaries.  It’s a bittersweet decision for me. I started this site about eight years ago. It was vulgar, irreverent, and usually hilarious. It’s where my writing career began- poking fun at my family and all the ridiculous things they do.

Dysfunction Diaries gave me a space in which to find my voice. It helped me begin to see myself as a writer. The feedback and encouragement I received while creating Dysfunction Diaries ultimately gave me the confidence to start writing my book, to join writing groups, take classes and workshops, and eventually to reach out to Elephant Journal with my work.

As I’ve grown as a person and an artist, my writing style has changed significantly. I’m much more interested in sharing my story now in a way that can help others. I’ve got a crazy story, and I know that the desire to tell it has led me to my purpose on this earth. I am truly grateful for every experience that has brought me to this moment, and it is always my sincere hope to uplift and inspire others with my words.

As I move into this next chapter of my life, I will not forget where I came from. I plan to honor Dysfunction Diaries by self publishing a collection of short stories from the site on Amazon later this year. It seems appropriate to allow Larry and the gang to live on even after the site has been put to rest.

If you’re a new reader, or you’ve been with me since Dysfunction Diaries began- thank you.  I appreciate you supporting me, as I make my dream of becoming a published author come true. I am the luckiest girl to always be surrounded with love and support. I couldn’t do this alone, and even if I could, I just wouldn’t want to. profile pic

If you’d like to stay connected- please come see me at my new site or connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or my author page on Elephant Journal.

Namaste

xo Nee

The Woman Behind Dysfunction Diaries

The Woman Behind Dysfunction Diaries

Renee Dubeau is a passionate hippie who lives in Nashville, Tennessee.  She has a daughter in college, a son in high school, and a French Bulldog.  She is a lover of all creatures, a dreamer, rebel, and unapologetic supporter of underdogs everywhere. Renee began her blog, Dysfunction Diaries, many years ago as a way to vent about her crazy family and all the things they do.  As she has grown as a woman and a writer, her work has mirrored her evolution, morphing from humor to more serious spiritual and social issues.  She is currently working to complete her first book, In His Closet. In addition to writing, Renee enjoys yoga, dance, art of all kinds, gardening, gourmet cooking, and playing outside.  You can connect with her on  Facebook, Instagram and visit her author page on Elephant Journal, where she is a regular contributor.  She is always ready for a friendly debate, as long as it is intelligent and respectful.

My Most Sincere Public Apology…

It has been brought to my attention that I have changed. Recently, my character has been called into question. My integrity, my intentions, and even my sanity questioned by those who once loved and adored me.  My friends, please let me explain what has happened.

You are absolutely correct.  I have changed. In the past four years, everything about my life has changed.

The catalyst for this change was the realization that I was keeping myself morbidly obese to stay faithful to my now ex-husband. That tearful realization on my therapist’s couch almost five years ago began a chain of events that has brought me through a journey of deep self-reflection and discovery.

Through the ending of my long marriage, I realized that I didn’t even have a clue who I was, or what I wanted out of life.  I had spent all of my adult years repeating a people pleasing pattern that I learned from my own mother, passed down generation to generation. I was a weak, watered down, very unhappy version of myself. I was only able to be the person I thought I was supposed to be then.

For a little while, I completely lost my way. I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions. I went back to old habits, medicating myself by any means necessary to avoid my pain. I did my best to keep my game face on, but inside I was dying. People often said we made our divorce look easy, and I’m sure we had it better than a lot of couples do, but it was not without conflict, suffering, and deep feelings of loss.

As I began to heal from the pain of the dying of my marriage, all of my demons from childhood came by to visit. I continued to avoid everything I felt unable to face, and sadly, I have many regrets from that time in my life.  I was utterly and completely numb and unconscious, just moving from one distraction to the next hoping to outrun my own self-loathing.

The problem is, when you are stuck in these self-destructive patterns of behavior, you can’t really even see it. I knew I was out of control from time to time, and I felt guilty when I knew I had let someone down- especially my kids.  But, I had to come to my own place of “rock bottom” before I would be able to make any changes that would be meaningful and long lasting.

Eventually, I got tired of running from myself. I realized that my life was my responsibility, and for the first time, it was all mine.  I got to choose who I wanted to be, and how I would exist in the world. I was finally ready to learn how to love myself. To do that, I had to figure out exactly who I was, before the world told me who to be.

I had to forgive everyone who had ever hurt me.  But even more than that, I had to forgive myself for all the mistakes I had made.  If I was going to start over, I was going to do it with a clean slate.  I had to learn how to listen to my inner guidance, so I would always know what was right for me.  Only then could I begin to make boundaries and stick to them. That’s when the magic happened.

Suddenly, my old patterns of behavior were no longer appealing.  Alcohol lost it’s gravitational pull.  Friendships changed.  My priorities changed.  I gave myself permission to say, “No.”  I gave myself permission to say, “Yes.”  I gave myself permission to put myself first, to choose myself above others, and to take back my power, time, and energy. I made a conscious decision to let go of everything in my life that no longer served me- possessions, beliefs, relationships, behaviors… It was a long process, but a necessary one.

I made a commitment to myself, to become the healthiest, happiest, most authentic version of myself I had ever been.  To take care of my physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies to the very best of my ability.  And, to create a life that I love, with people who love me, and support me in these goals.

My friends if you only knew me when I was married, you only got to see the person I thought I had to be to fit into the roles I had taken on in that relationship. I was not myself then, because I didn’t even know who I was. I didn’t realize how lost I was, and how unhappy, until I started to feel better.

If you only knew me during my divorce, or right after it, you probably saw me at my worst.  You only knew the broken, grieving version of me who went from distraction to distraction trying to convince myself, and everyone around me, that the wounds inside me weren’t bleeding.

And so, I apologize, that I haven’t been my best self all this time.  I am deeply sorry that I walked through life not knowing who I was, and giving you a version of myself that I thought I had to create in order to win your love, friendship, and affection.  I apologize, that I didn’t love myself enough to always be me.

Yes, it’s true.  I have changed.

Because I know who I am now, I have no choice but to be that person.  For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I love the woman I am. I can no longer bend to fit into the roles that other people expect of me.  I can’t tell you how much freedom there is in this space.

And so, if this version- the realest, truest version of the woman I am in my soul is not your cup of tea, that’s ok.  I wish you only well as we part ways.  I cannot chase you. And, more importantly, I will not water myself down to try to please you. I can’t do that anymore.

I know my worth, and my purpose, and I can see my own beauty and strength in a way I never have before. I no longer require validation from outside myself, and in that I have found my power.  I know that the people who are meant to be a part of my life will never walk away, and trust that the ones who have stayed with me through my metamorphosis are here for a reason. I am blessed to always be surrounded with love and laughter, and grateful for the wonderful, supportive, positive people in my life who love me unconditionally.

Finally, I apologize if my truth and my voice make you uncomfortable.  It is my song to sing, and I’ve held it inside for far too long.  Please, look away if you must, but do not ask me to stop being who I am.  It simply would not be possible for me to go back to the person I used to be.  My eyes are open now, and my mind clear, my intentions pure, and my heart ablaze with joyous anticipation of the life I am manifesting.  To stop now, for the comfort of someone else would be a slow suicide; a pain I am unwilling to bear.

 

 

 

My Tribe is Weird by Design

My beautiful daughter asked me one day, “Mom, why do you hang out with <this one particular person I hang out with>?”

“Because, <that particular person> is amazing!  I love <that person>.  Why do you ask?”

“Because, s/he is weird.  S/he does all these weird things and talks about weird things… Why do you like all the weird people?”

This was a brilliant question.  Just brilliant, and observant, and the perfect opportunity for me to give my daughter an open, honest, real answer from the center of my soul…

“Because…  I love real people.  Some people just follow the flock like mindless sheep.  Some people only know how to look like, talk like, act like everyone else.  I love all people, but especially the ones who think for themselves.  If you get to know <this particular person> you would see how intelligent, kind, real, unique, loving, compassionate, creative, and wonderful they are.”

“That’s really cool, mom” was her response.

I hope that in these simple interactions I am planting seeds for my children.  Seeds that will grow into their own open minded, free thinking, unconditional acceptance of self and others.  It is my hope and prayer that my children, like me, will love others because of the person they are in their heart of hearts.  Not because of the way they look, how much money they have, or their ability to blend into society at large.  Because, all of that stuff is temporary, and society is pretty jacked up.

I would like to believe that I am somebody’s “weird friend”.  The person in their life who makes others just a little curious.  The one who speaks the truth, no matter how difficult.  Maybe I’m the only person they know who doesn’t own a television, or the only one who speaks about spiritual things that have nothing to do with Christianity, or the only one who makes her own household cleaners. I might just be the only one who takes her crystals outside to bathe in the light of the full moon, and fasts when the new moon comes.

I’m secure in who I am, and what I believe, and the way that I exist in the world. I no longer fear judgement or criticism from others.  I would rather march to the beat of my own weird little drum and have a band of misfits love me for who I am, than spend one minute of my life trying to fit in or settle for the status quo. I’ve done all of that before.

I’ve followed the crowd.  I’ve let the media lead my around by my purse-strings.  I’ve kept up with the Joneses- hell, I was the Joneses.  I wandered into a land where nothing is what it seems, and everything is judged upon appearances.  A place where no one can ever really know who you are, because that person is buried under your giant mortgage, your car note, and a big pile of worthless possessions and your perfectly groomed social mask.

At some point, none of those things mattered to me any more.  I began to listen to the inner most part of me.  The part that whispered, “This is all bullsh*t.”  That little voice helped me find my salvation in the land of the like-minded, where people say what they mean.  Where people care about important things.  Where people are different because they are living mindfully and not just following the flock around looking for the next temporary distraction from their otherwise miserable lives.  That little voice saved my life.

Though my kids don’t always understand me, I know they are taking it all in.  It is my hope that my example will help them to become kind, loving, confident grow-ups, who have no need to follow the crowd around.  I don’t care what they do professionally, how much money they make, or anything like that.  I just want them to be happy, healthy, live a life they love, and have a few really wonderful weird friends to share it with.

 

Buddha Girl in Jesus Town #5- Ancestor Worship

diaEvery year when the weather turns cold, I think of her.  She’s standing in the kitchen with pink sponge rollers in her hair, but you better believe she has her lipstick on just right.  She sings along to the country station playing on the radio, humming the words she doesn’t know with a wink.  That kitchen was my classroom, and she was the greatest teacher of my youth.  She was my favorite person, and though she could never say the words aloud, I knew that I was hers, too.

We worked all day, side by side chopping vegetables, rolling out homemade biscuit dough on floured countertops, and filling the house with the unmistakably sweet fragrance of homemade cookies in the oven.  We washed dishes and swept the floor and talked for hours.  It never felt like work.  It just felt like home.

She’s been gone eight years now, my grandmother.  I still miss her every day.  I’ve found many ways to worship her spirit to help me stay connected to her.  I have a tattoo for her on my arm.  It’s a sugar skull and a branch of apple blossoms, like the tree in her front yard.  I keep a bouquet of flowers on my altar for her, they rotate with the seasons, but I always place them there.  Sometimes I bring them to my writing space when I’m lacking inspiration and we have a little chat.  Whenever I see a Cardinal at the bird feeder, I say hello.  She loved Cardinals. I know they visit to remind me that she’s here.

It’s appropriate that the fall weather makes me think of grandma.  Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead is almost here.  It is a celebration Latin cultures have dedicated to worshiping their ancestors.  Some prepare their loved one’s favorite meal and set a place at the table for them.  They make sugar skulls and other sweets to balance the bitterness of death.  There is music and dancing and flowers to celebrate the lives of those who have left this earth.

Taoists, Buddhists, nearly every tribe in Africa, and many other cultures and religions practice some form of ancestor worship as well.  There are holidays dedicated to sweeping the tombs and graves of their loved ones.  They prepare meals for them, or make offerings of wine and sweets.  They call upon the spirits of their ancestors for blessings at every life milestone- weddings, new babies, business ventures, and so on.

Some consider our ancestors to be like a bridge between us in the physical realm and God.  Because they are connected to the divine so closely, we can pray to them for guidance, protection, prosperity, and peace.  It can be a great comfort to know that we can still communicate with our loved ones who have left the earth.

This time of year, I celebrate my grandmother by bringing her into the kitchen with me.  She gave me a Kitchen Aid mixer when I was pregnant with my daughter nineteen years ago.  It’s identical to the one she had on her kitchen counter all the years that I remember.  I dust it off, and open my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  She called it, “The Checkered Cookbook” because the cover is plaid.  I recreate the foods we used to prepare together, and though they are never exactly the way she made them, they are pretty darn close.

When I am in the kitchen, I know she is there with me.  She helps the bread rise.  She keeps the chicken juicy.  She makes sure I never burn the cookies.  This is where I go to remember her and celebrate the domestic goddess that she was.  This is where I feel her presence the most.  This is where I teach my children all the wonderful things that she taught me all of those years ago.  She will be there with me through the holiday season as we roast the turkey together in November, celebrate her birthday in December, and make the world’s best Christmas fudge.  Remembering her helps to remind me that home is not a place.  She was home.  She was unconditional love and acceptance, comfort, and sweetness.  Worshiping her takes me home again.

 

Buddha Girl in Jesus Town #4- Pick a Deity, Any Deity.

I truly believe that all religions are well intended.  As humans, we have an innate need and desire to connect with the divine energy that we came from.  We typically call this God, or the Universe, or Source.  Creating and maintaining a connection to the divine is very important for our well being.

As I have said before, I walked away from Christian churches because I disagreed with the things they were teaching.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know then that there were other ways for me to feel connected, to feed my soul, and to express myself as a spiritual being.  I spent years just spiritually starving, until I gave myself permission to try something different.

If you walk into my house today, you will find all kinds of religious/spiritual items.  I have two altars in my home for the purpose of prayer and meditation.  The one in the living room is large, and it’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door.  On it today there is a statue of Lord Ganesh, vigil candles for Arch Angel Michael and Jesus, other candles, an incense burner, a bouquet of flowers to honor my grandmother, a sage bundle, all kinds of crystals, and items from nature (feathers, pine cones, stones…) that I’ve collected since moving to this space.  The items rotate depending on what is going on in my life, and the lives of the people I love.

In my bedroom, there is a smaller altar just for me.  Today there is a small Lord Ganesh, a mala that a good friend handmade for me, and incense burner, candles, crystals, and items from nature.  In the corner of the room is a container of peacock feathers, a statue of Buddha, an oil burner, and some candles.  There are shelves of all kinds of spiritual books- everything from a Christian Bible, to books about Hinduism, Greek Mythology, Buddhism, books by modern spiritual gurus, and tarot cards.

I’m sharing this, because I feel it’s important to give ourselves permission to connect with the divine in a way that resonates with us individually.  Unfortunately, in Christian churches that I have been to in the past, I was taught that there is only one way.  I now know that this simply is not true.  I’ve said before, I believe that when it comes to religion, all rivers lead to the same ocean.  Meaning, that whatever deity you choose to worship, gets you to the same source of universal energy that all the others do.

When you begin to study the different religions and spiritual practices, you’re going to find some common themes across the board.  They are pretty simple-  Don’t kill people.  Don’t rape people.  Don’t steal.  Be nice.  That’s really all there is to most religions if you boil them down to the basics.  To simplify even further, we could say that God is love, and we are love, and to be one with God and one with each other, we need only to be love in our actions.  Easy, right?

For whatever reason, people get really screwed up with the Bible.  They take things out of context, take things very literally, or just in general use it as a way to be judgmental and ignorant.  I’m really tired of listening to people use their faith as a way to justify hurting other people.

I think it is very important to recognize that the Christian Bible is not the only text of ancient wisdom.  There are many.  Jesus wasn’t the only great teacher that walked this earth.  There have been many.  When we begin to open ourselves up to other philosophies and teachings, we become free to let go of all the ‘junk’ we have picked up from being around religious people.  By letting go of the dogmas that do not serve us, we make space to find what truly resonates with our souls.

The good news is, we don’t have to choose just one!  If the teachings of Jesus really speak to you, that’s great!  If the teachings of Buddha resonate, also wonderful!  If you choose to pray the rosary, or chant mantras, or worship the spirits of your ancestors, all of those are wonderful things to do, too.  Anything that helps you feel connected to the divine energy that you are is perfectly acceptable.

One of my favorite practices at the moment is a Tonglen meditation.  It is a practice commonly used in Tibetan Buddhism.  It means “give and take” or “send and receive”.  It begins with a focus on our breath.  When the mind is quiet and the body relaxed, begin to shift your focus to your family.  Breathe in their pain, suffering, fear, anger, lack, sadness… then exhale love, comfort, peace, prosperity to them.  Repeat for your friends, then your acquaintances, your enemies, your city, your state… continue making the circle larger until you are feeling the pain of the whole world and sending divine love to all living things.

I use Tonglen in my daily life as well.  When I see someone in pain, I breathe in their suffering and exhale love to them.  You can do it anywhere.  If you really want to challenge yourself, do it when you’re angry, or when someone has wronged you, or when you’re frustrated.  You will begin to see that we are all connected.  When someone hurts us, it is because they are hurting themselves.  Instead of returning their mistake with judgement or anger, return it to them with love.

I think it is important for us to become well rounded students.  Don’t limit yourself to just one religion.  Learn something about all of them.  There is a wealth of ancient wisdom for those who seek it.  Take the parts that resonate with you, and let the rest go.  In the end, the message is always love.

Namaste xo

Memoir Writing as Surgery for the Soul

Long before I began to consider myself a writer, I went to school to be a surgical technician.  Surgery on the physical body is a traumatic and frightening thing.  The patient will see their physician to diagnose the particular issue they are having.  It could be pain, sickness, lumps and bumps that appear suspicious, or trauma that has caused physical damage.  The physician will examine the parts of the body in question, and if there is a surgical way to manage the condition, the patient will consult with a surgeon.

To correct the condition in the physical body, the surgeon will likely have to make it worse before it can get better.  This involves cutting the body open, excising the things that should not be inside the body, removing parts of the self that are damaging to the body’s wellness, breaking flesh and bone until the source of the issue is corrected.  Then, the body is put back together with screws, plates, staples, stitches and glue.  The wound is covered with dressings to absorb the bleeding that will follow the procedure.

Eventually, the dressing will need to be removed to allow the wound to breathe.  Oxygen is vital to the healing process.  If the wound is not allowed to breathe, the healing process is hindered.  The wound may become infected, causing it to take much longer than it should, and puts the patient at risk for even more severe complications.

When the surgical wound is healed, a scar will remain.  It will be visible on the surface, and will continue down through the layers of tissue that were affected by the procedure.   Some will wear their scars as a badge of honor.  It is proof that they have survived.  They had the strength to overcome whatever was inside them making them unwell.

Others will wish they could keep the dressing on the wound.  They will layer clothing on top of it, or conceal it with makeup, or avoid situations that would allow others to see it.  They allow shame, guilt, or fear to color their perception of themselves, and assume that others will look upon their scars with distaste, disapproval, or disgust.

And so it is when writing a memoir.  You must go inside yourself to diagnose your pain, your weakness, your failures.  When you recognize a pattern, you must consult with your higher self to see if there is a way to heal what is broken inside you.  If there is a way to fix it, you must.  No matter how painful.  Once it has entered your awareness, there is no other option.

You must cut away everything that does not serve your greatest good.  This can be toxic relationships, addictions, and behaviors that are not creating joy, peace, happiness, and prosperity in your life.  It is a painful process, but a necessary one. You will bleed, my Gods you will bleed- heart and soul.  But, the pain of exposing your old wounds is necessary if they are to be healed.

As you begin to heal, you may be tempted to keep the dressing on your wounds. You may want to cover and conceal, because opening yourself up, exposing your imperfections is frightening thing.  If you don’t conceal it, you have to look at it every day.  You fear judgement.  You fear that others will misunderstand you.  Still, you know in your heart of hearts that the only way for you to heal completely is to expose your wounds to the air.  To let them breathe, out in the open.

As you heal, the scars form.  They appear on the surface, and run all the way to the core of your being.  You know that they will always be with you, and eventually, you see them for the gifts that they are.  You know that you are not the only one to experience the kind of pain that you have survived.  And so, you begin to share your scars, your story.  Your healing accelerates as you lay your soul bare.  Others gaze upon your scars and marvel at your strength.

As your goal grows ever closer, you begin to encounter new resistance, because your wounds didn’t get there by your actions alone.  There were many others who played a part.

You realize that the congratulations of a thousand strangers will never drown out the deafening silence of those who once loved and supported you.

But, many are too afraid to undergo the same healing work that has brought you to this moment.  You cannot stop now.  The world is waiting to witness the miracle that you are.  Your heart is pure, there is no malice in your intent, and your story is too valuable to keep from those who can benefit from it.

You are living proof that it is possible to survive, and in your survival, there is hope.  Hope for every person who shares your affliction.  Hope for every person who has hurt the way you once did.  Hope for every soul, that they too can overcome their wounds, and find the strength and courage to endure their scars.

You have no choice to press on, to tell your story, to share your imperfections.  Because to stop now, would mean to halt your own healing.  So, you write, you heal, and you display your scars for the world to see.  There simply is no other way.