The Baggage of Expectations

The Baggage of Expectations

Do you ever pray and wonder if you’re heard?

Do you ever look out at the world and wonder what kind of God created humans who can hurt one another the way we do? 

It doesn’t surprise me that ancient Greeks thought multiple gods were warring with one another and using humans to their folly because there are days that would actually make much more sense. Because right now God’s plan seems a little sideways. 

Sorry, God. 

I know you believe in us, and we got this, but there are a lot of people dying and a lot of people hurting and angry. 

It seems like a lot right now.

And then I think we start to wonder what is expected of us and are we measuring up. And I wonder why I expect so damn much of myself. Why do I put so much pressure to measure up? And who created the scale I try to measure up to?

Truth be told, expectations can suck. These past few days, I have been in a spiral of blah. It is what I typically call my not enough-ness acting up. I have been sad, a little lost, and just feeling like no matter what I do, it isn’t enough, and this spiral just so damn repetitive because there is so much that needs to be done both on big and small fronts. 

Some of the thoughts rolling around in my head…

I am not pretty enough. 

I am not thin enough. 

I don’t know enough about marketing to grow my business; therefore, I don’t know enough.

I am crazy because I cannot prove what I do. 

I am not spending enough quality time with my kids.

I am not keeping the house clean enough.

I am not learning enough or doing enough with this time.

I am not helping those that need it enough.

I am not speaking up enough.

I don’t have the right words or ideas.

I am not being a good wife.

I am a horrible friend. 

No one likes me, for me.

My house isn’t clean enough. 

I didn’t do enough today. I watched too much T.V. 

My inner voice is killing me and I am not going to make it and then I feel guilty because really what do I actually have to complain about. I have it pretty great.

UGH! The negative self-talk is endless, and while I am better at not listening, it is still crippling some days. Today was one of those days. I cried a lot.

So I thought maybe I needed a pep talk. And if I needed one, maybe if I wrote it out, it might help someone else, too.

As a recovering perfectionist, I want to deliver a standard of excellence in all I do. However, I spent years, decades believing that what I DID defined who I was, and I could ONLY be good or successful if what I DID was good or successful. Over the last decade, I have diligently and consistently worked to make sure that I do things well.

That has never seemed to be enough because regardless of what I do, there is an emptiness that remains.

For instance, even though I work out – I stress eat and not the nutritional goodies my body needs. Therefore little difference.

Regardless of reading and studying and doing well in college, I now work a job with no measure of proof. People see me as a con artist, a phony, a fake, a liar, and it hurts. Now, I know word of mouth, repeat business, and glowing reviews are measurement, but for a hard-nosed perfectionist like myself, not good enough.

And even when I do well and have a lot of clients, I can never get in enough appointments, and if I do, then I am sacrificing my family and emotional well being, and it is just a vicious cycle or not enough-ness.

And don’t get me started on being enough as a wife and mother. I know it could be worse, but I am failing on the regular. I could go on and on how I could do better there.

I know you are waiting for the pep talk … me, too!

It all starts with a memory…

This past fall, I met one of my favorite writers, Rachel Macy Stafford, at a retreat. As I stood in line to get a copy of her book signed, I wondered what I should say; what I should ask. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, of course.

When it was my turn, we exchanged pleasantries. I am sure I rambled about nothing important as I am socially awkward. 

As we were wrapping up, I told her I was aspiring to be a published author myself. Awkward, right? I am sure she gets that all the time!

She suggested I blog. I told her I did. She asked if anyone read it; I said, yes, but that my words often catch somewhere deep inside me, and they have a tough time escaping even though I am compelled to write.

I asked her if I should keep writing. 

She looked a little taken aback. 

At first, and for several months I would think this was because I asked a dumb question and made a horrible impression. And likely wasted her time because how many people talk to her about the same exact thing I was! After a few moments, Rachel answered that if I was helping one person, I should keep writing. One person was enough to keep going. To keep putting words out into the world.

I thanked her and quickly moved on so that the next person could move up to have their book signed. I always feel like I am in the way and a burden. Learning it is okay to take up space is something I constantly struggle with.

Rachel’s response rattled around in my head for days, months even, because when I became part of her launch team for her new book, Live Love Now, it was still present in my mind. After it was released, Rachel posted how she watched as the world responded to her book and that numbers were not her friend. And her response to my question all those months before crept back into my mind. 

She wasn’t taken aback by my question about how to keep motivated because it was dumb. Instead, she was taken aback because she didn’t know exactly what to say because she struggled with that thought, too. She worries about getting her message out. How will people respond? Will people read it? Will it do well? She cares! Duh! We all do. We aren’t that different.

Thank you for staying with me the pep talk is coming; at least I think so…

Motivation and inspiration are great. They are the spark that ignites us, these things can be the fire that launches us to grow. Downside, motivation, and inspiration are fleeting and sometimes hard to come by.

How we achieve success, how we become productive, the secret is consistency. 

Writers write every day, even if it is terrible, even if it never gets read by anyone else. They keep writing and writing and writing until something clean and clear and golden emerges from the page, and they know they have something to share. 

Fit people, work out, work out, work out. They do something to keep their bodies moving, and they don’t stop or quit. It is routine that they move their body and so they stick to it. 

Neither of these things is easy, and that is why not everyone does it. It takes time, dedication, and consistent effort to produce results. And for most of that time, no one notices, and if they do, it isn’t to say, “Great job, keep going!” It is usually to say, “Why do you keep doing that?” or “Come out to eat with me.” or “Can’t you just skip your workout today and come out with us?” We can easily be derailed. And criticism comes easily from both in our heads and out in the world.

But it isn’t motivation that keeps us going. It may get us started or be used to propel us forward, but the day in, day out continuation comes from something more profound.

It is the joy, the love, the feeling we get from doing the things that matter most to us. It is knowing in our hearts that we are the best versions of ourselves when we complete or have these activities in our day. Whether cooking, cleaning, writing, creating, running, weightlifting, nutrition, advertising, engineering, we do the things we love because there is a call deep inside of us that we answer day after day no matter what might stand in our way. And it is the consistency of showing up even when we don’t want to, even when we aren’t feeling it that catapults one into success.

So I don’t know how to motivate you to do something. And I am not sure that motivation will keep you doing that something, either. But I do know if you commit to something if you want it because it makes a difference to you and you alone, you will continue to do it day after day no matter what. You will make time for it. You will put yourself through the work for it. You will show up and get it done. And what is more, you won’t stop.

You may struggle. You may get caught up in what others think. You may get caught up in what you think. Expectations of what could or should be are a trap! 

You may tear yourself down before you decide to stand back up. You may stop and start again. But it is the constant motion toward doing what you feel you are supposed to do that matters.

Do you try your absolute hardest? 

Do you give it all you have? 

Do you work and learn and grow through it? 

Are you showing up in a way that is kind, helpful, generous, trustworthy, respectful, vulnerable, and open-minded? 

If so, then that is enough. You are doing what you can with what you have been given, and that is enough. That is all anyone can ask of you. Keep going. Keep creating. Keep being you. And if you stop, if you rest, if you fall, if you forget, keep trying to find your way back. Keep getting back up. Keep going toward who you want to be. You will get there, and everyone stumbles along the way. And stop thinking about what could or should be. What you did and what you do is enough. 

The truth is we just have to be okay with who we are. We have to drop expectations and just accept who we are. We have to search for joy and hold on to hope.

Weird, but yesterday, I ran my fastest 5k in a long time, and my average pace was 11 minutes and 11 seconds; 11:11, that is not a coincidence,  (I never said I was fast). Then to top it off, the song that came on at the precise moment I finished my run was No Judgment by Niall Horan. 

I have mentioned before that I turn my playlist over to God and pray that a message comes through. It has been weeks since I feel like I have had a response. But I keep running, keep praying, keep listening, and yesterday with an average pace of 11:11 I hear…

When you’re with me, no judgment

You can get that from anyone else

You don’t have to prove nothing

You can just be yourself

I think that all this isn’t okay, but we are going to survive it. We have one another and ourselves, and we are enough to get through the storm. If we consistently show up as ourselves each day and do our best, it is enough. Even if we feel like our prayers aren’t heard; they are. We will get an answer back. We just need to keep going and take each moment as it comes and handle it the best way we know how. 

Love to you and yours,


 

Separate

Separate

It is odd that we have this new rule about being six feet apart. It is surreal and yet somehow so familiar. I think I have been six feet apart from people all my life.

Was my feeling of distance from other that spawned my feeling of being unworthy of connection? Or were my differences so apparent they created spaces so vast, I came up with unworthiness as an explanation to make sense of it all.

Simple things have always tripped me up made me feel inadequate because who I was didn’t fit into conversations, cliques, or communities. I looked like anyone else; I sounded like anyone else. And in fact, in some cases, I dripped with privilege, so I felt guilty about my feelings of not belonging when the ticket in seemed to be written on my skin. But my heart, my soul, felt something so foreign in the spaces around me.

Simple things like small talk, introductions, managing finances, being a guest in someone’s home, helping with chores, driving, giving directions, cutting tomatoes, baking a pie, calling to make reservations make me feel so small and incompetent. They seem like impossibilities to me sometimes. Ridiculous, I know.

It is easy to convince myself I will mess it up. Say something wrong. Not be heard correctly. Choose the wrong location. I don’t know how to stand in a way that makes other people feel comfortable. My thoughts spin when numbers come up because they make no sense to me at all. Percentages and budgets come up, and I start to sweat. I don’t like going to movie theaters or loud, crowded places. Fear grips hold of my tongue daily because I refuse to say something silly and look dumb. Cooking becomes an obstacle to surmount because I am sure dinner will turn out burned or taste awful. Listening to others is okay, but will I say something that eases their heart or makes them feel more comfortable; not likely. Parties are not a source of fun and excitement for me; I dread them and have to prepare for hours to show up and look relaxed. How do you look or seem relaxed? I am forty-two and still don’t know. In all things, I believe I will make a mistake that causes discomfort to someone else, even if it is a minor discomfort.

Even when we could be in contact with one another, I longed for connection. I wanted to be seen. And yet at the same time, I feared being seen. There was something better about being unknown, misunderstood that left me feeling more comfortable as if I was born to be lonely and isolated. That seemed to make more sense even if the logic didn’t compute. Because I know we are better together. I know we need one another to thrive.

Now, with shelter in place, the separation is visible. And the longing is still there. Even though there are times, I think I am built for a life behind walls.

The good news is there are moments that people text to check-in, stop by with flowers or ice cream, send a card or a book, or even to just pretend to be gnomes in our yard, and it changes our composition. My heart swells so quickly and becomes so full, tears well because I think there is no more space inside my body that can hold the love I feel showered upon me. And in those moments, I believe that my atoms were created to be loved. That somehow, they are love. That love is all there is inside me and around me.

How is it that visible distance can somehow make me feel closer to people than I ever did before? How is it that it can also bring up the loneliness in my heart in a way that it echoes throughout the day? Somehow it can do both.

I want to be a refuge for the people I love and for myself. I think I can do both. I want to do both. But my awkwardness and insecurities have always kept me six feet apart, sometimes even more. Maybe through the quiet, this shelter in place creates, there will be time for reflection that will allow me to emerge from it a softer place to land for myself and those I love best.

Tara Westover, author of Educated, wrote that, “[g]uilt is the fear of one’s own wretchedness. It has nothing to do with other people.” And it is guilt that is strangling me in so many ways. Guilt that I take up too much space, that I will mess things up, that I am not enough, and I have lost too much time to do what matters, but maybe time is being handed back to us right now. Perhaps it is slowing so that we come out the revolving door with less guilt, or none at all and ready to embrace each other and ourselves in ways that will matter more. Sometimes the end isn’t the end at all. It is the beginning. Maybe we will get to create something new and better out of all of this.

Maybe…but I don’t know…I hope so…

Until tomorrow…

Unhinged

Unhinged

Have you ever felt that how you were wired was somehow wonky, and you were never going to understand or fit the mold that you were supposed to?

Several months ago, fourteen, in fact, I wrote the following passages, and even with time to reflect, I am frozen, still. I can’t even breathe right now, thinking of how I am unable to find love in my heart for narcissists. I am trying to understand how they are and why they are, to have some sort of empathy or grasp on what is salvageable in them to care about. But I can’t even like them, not even a little bit. They cause too much damage, leave too much rubble in their wake without concern. Is this because my own wiring is wonky? Is there something wrong with me?

It is ludicrous to me; defenders of said narcissists, they call from the ashes still afire around them, that the narcissist that burned them never intended to harm them. That the narcissist has remorse and is hurting, too. I can’t even. I know egomaniacs can choose to have empathy about things that happen to them. I know narcissists are capable of compassion; in some cases, it just isn’t essential to them or their survival.

So, here I am months later, still wondering how to live with a more Jesus like heart. I guess I will just be flawed in this way forever. Mostly because it seems absurd to have a positive emotion for the narcissist that has hurt someone I care about. And I am not sure I will ever be able to find a way. Maybe releasing this into the world and learning how others handle and cope with narcissists in their lives will lead me to a path of hope and understanding. 

Tara Westover wrote, “Was it really fun and games? I write. Could he not tell he was hurting me? I don’t know. I just don’t know. I begin to reason with myself, to doubt whether I had spoken clearly: what had I whispered and what had I screamed? I decide that if I had asked differently, been more calm, he would have stopped. I write this until I believe it, which doesn’t take long because I want to believe it. It’s comforting to think the defect is mine because that means it is under my power.” 

Is this what we do to ourselves, make ourselves believe one thing because it is what comforts us the most? Whose reality is real? What is acceptable? 

Hurting people is the worst thing you could do. But we have all done it. I think it is patterns of bad behavior that become the true test of character. It is those patterns that define and create a landscape of who that person truly is. And you can forgive or try to understand that person, but you don’t have to continue to let that person’s behavior upset your balance. If it is continually causing you hurt and suffering, then the person doing harm is someone you need to distance yourself from. I don’t think you can think clearly or make decisions about what is good and true until you are clear from that behavior and manipulation.

And this is where my thoughts keep turning when I am left alone with myself during this quarantine. And somehow even though I think that I am right about creating distance and safe spaces from narcissists, I am still the villain, because I cannot find redemption in someone I believe is a narcissist and quite possibly a sociopath. And so here we are…my words from fourteen months ago still rolling around in my head…

The storm outside matches the insides of my heart. Hail, sheets of rain, howling wind that makes the walls rumble. It is as if this storm knows the rage inside my heart needs to escape. It can’t be contained there much longer.

Pain isn’t my strong suit. Even though I love to hide, pushing my feelings down, stuffing them into oblivion can only last so long. The only way to conquer pain is through it. It has to do its work, and you must go through it.

Denial, I am good at denial. But no more. I have chosen this life out loud to cut the crap out of my life literally. No secrets, no shame, no perfection, no lies, living out in the open as it is. What you see is what you get.

And then there is love. Love can be a complicated thing. It turns people inside out and makes them believe the impossible. I used to think love was a good thing. I am not so sure love by itself is a good thing. Sometimes the impossible is a bunch of deceit. Sometimes we love a toxic, narcissistic soul that takes and takes and takes, leaving us with lies, emptiness, and love unreturned. So why should they be allowed a seat at your table? I am all for everyone should have a seat; until that someone is cruel and doesn’t care about the table or anyone else that is seated there.

Seeing through people’s souls is a sixth sense I cherish. I don’t abuse it; I only use it if you want to get close to me or the people I cherish. If your insides don’t match your outsides; if your soul is besotted black and you reek of self-serving arrogance, you don’t make my cut. But if you are who you present yourself to be and your actions match your words, I most likely will never let you go.

And yet, I haven’t been good at love lately. If I am being hurt, I step away, pull back. Biting my tongue isn’t easy. I don’t know why I should have to when I care about you and want what’s best for you. And people I admire pick their own people to love. They don’t care what my bullshit radar says. And I have to accept that. Releasing my protective grip is near impossible. My heart crushes and seizes under that kind of pressure.

But unconditional love, love without exception means you can’t use a bullshit radar. You have to love people as they show up. And in most cases, I can handle that. Most cases. But if you are a cruel, selfish, liar, who causes pain and heartache without a thought, you are out. In fact, door slammed, one chance, and you lose. Redemption is inconceivable.

Can you be incapable of loving unconditionally? Do you get forgiven if you can’t watch your loved ones get hurt by someone over and over again? If you slam a door shut and lock twenty deadbolts and then board it up for safe measure, are you the bad guy?

And forgiveness…I can’t even get close to talking about that yet. Sometimes you reap what you sow. Too bad, so sad. Sorry, not sorry. Oh, and good riddance. If you hurt someone I care about, that is how I feel about you. If you hurt me I will likely get past it, but you hurt what is most precious to me then forget it; you are dead to me. Worse than dead. Lost. Dust. Nothing.

It’s all too much this morning. I decide to run. I have to get out of my own head. But I can’t breathe. It’s like I keep sucking in poison. Fury has toxic, suffocating fumes. I walk with rage. A long stride, swinging arms, an intent glare. The dark, swirling sky and constant mist matching my mood with perfection. And when I can’t take my own thoughts anymore, I sprint again. Trying to focus on my stride. The way my feet land, toe heel, toe heel, and then again I am breathless and weak with resentment.

Why? Why? Why? And the thoughts swirl endlessly and viciously through my mind.

Stuttering across my consciousness is a conversation with a client. A client, who I believe is psychic; incredibly intuitive, described herself as crazy. I have described myself as crazy, too. But at that moment, pungent acidity bubbled up in me and then almost as instantly calm washed over me; “crazy isn’t knowing something before it happens,” I told her.

“Crazy is intentionally harming another person. That is crazy. I will never be able to understand or rationalize how someone does that.” And there it is. And this is how I will become the villain in this story. I will speak up. I will shout against shame and stand tall against the person who should be sorry in all of this but isn’t capable of that emotion. Only narcissism sits in the place where a heart should be.

Maybe I will work through this. Perhaps I will be able to invite liars to my table one day to appease those who can, but my heart seems to refuse.

We protect ourselves from pain unconsciously. It is a survival skill that we will instinctively move away from danger both physically and emotionally. But what if someone you care about, a friend, a family member, keeps running toward that pain. Don’t you cry out for them to stop? To watch out. Is that what this is? I don’t know for sure.

They always say write when you are passed something, over it. But what if you never get over it. What if watching someone you treasure suffer from someone else’s cruelty creates a jaded, vengeful bitterness in your own heart that cripples you and makes you the villain in the story when you were only trying to help. All I know is I am tired of being quiet. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. And if trying to help you keep your eyes open makes me the bad guy; then que será, será. I don’t know who else to be. I don’t know how else to be. Maybe this is the role I am supposed to play in this story. The girl who can’t keep her mouth shut. The girl who cries, “wolf” only the wolf is deadly real, but you love the wolf, and it breaks my heart to see what that wolf does to you. What that wolf has done to you and what that wolf won’t hesitate to do to you again.

Love is tricky. Complicated. Sometimes maybe impossible to understand. And sometimes, when you adore someone, you think it is worth it to be the villain. You don’t care what you lose to save someone you think deserves better. Even if it means losing them. I would rather tell the truth. I would rather be myself, then hide and watch you suffer because that is what you want. I can’t pretend like everything is okay. Like everything is the same. The whole damn village is burning down, and the person who lit the match shouldn’t be able to build it up just to burn it down again. And if that is what happens, I can’t watch. I can’t stay quiet. Maybe one day I will love with unconditional abandon, but this isn’t who I am right now. Right now, I am still angry, still wanting justice and transparency. And somehow the villain.

safe inside

safe inside

There are many things the shelter in place has me feeling grateful for…that is the least we can do right?! Feel grateful for the ability to shelter in place while others are losing and risking their lives to keep us fed, healthy and cared for.

Each of the kids, minus my fifteen year old, has taken a long walk with me. Learning about their friends, their hopes and dreams, what they love to do, and what they think about has been a fantastic luxury in all of this. This precious time is something I need to find a way to preserve. I want to make sure when things go back, this time with each of them one on one is preserved, that it remains something that happens weekly in our lives. It is sacred.

My daughter has grown into such a wonderfully funny, independent spirit. She loves people as they are, but has a strong love for order in chaos, she likes to take charge and has a fierce self-esteem. She is becoming quite comfortable in her skin, but there are still stresses and fears that linger in her heart and what a gift that she felt comfortable sharing them with me.

C-man has incredible comedic timing and his sarcasm is on point. My job is just to help navigate what is appropriate for a nine-year-old to say out loud and to whom. He loves to laugh, dance, sing, and is so artistic. His understanding of historic events and his recall for what happened is astounding. Listening to him talk is a full time job, because he can talk about anything and everything. Getting to know and understand his heart has been a breath of fresh air.

Z is such a unique combination of tender and tough. He loves video games, science-fiction, reading, sports, and his memory is a steel trap. This past few months he has been learning about football players and basketball players. He is understanding stats and starting to recognize talent. Z is a true athlete; he understands instinctively what to do physically with any sport. Strategy and skill blend so well together in his head and then he is able to play that out on the court or field. It was surprising to me to know he feels so self-conscious on the soccer pitch. And he understands the link between that confidence and how it affects his play. Children are sponges!

I will get my oldest to go with me, but until then as his mother I go to him. I check in; I don’t nag to much, I encourage involvemennt and he has been playing outside with his siblings, joining in family conversations, sharing his gaming and online chats with his friends, and his concerns and feelings during all of this, so that works for me, too.

Marriage is a trickier thing. Our love for one another is so strong; it definitely stands the test of any argument. But being stuck together can really exaggerate what makes you crazy. It has also made me incredibly grateful I have a husband that loves his family and makes them a priority. He is incredibly supportive of how all this has affected my business and my need to put the kids first. I am so fortunate to have such a great teammate in all of this.

So, I am choosing joy and gratefulness even in a time of uncertainty, even if there is a little bit of fear in my heart. It is the best we can do, the best I can do right now.

my head is getting the best of me

my head is getting the best of me

Remember always that the quiet girl who wanted to put good into the world, the one who is shy and scared, but full of faith; she is who you are. That girl is worth something. She has value. Keep trying to find her and love her so that she won’t feel so lost, so lonely. My biggest goal is that ten years from now, heck one year from now I want to walk into a room and feel like I belong here, feel enough, capable, funny, wise, warm and engaging. I hope this year you find a balance between what you do and who you are and how you handle that so that goal becomes a reality. You should never have to apologize for the space you take up in the world.

I wrote these words earlier this year; in a letter to my future self. Boy how a little shelter in place and a bit more time to reflect allows a mind to turn on itself. My inner voice has been my biggest critic my whole life. I know I am not alone in that. It is something other people grapple with as well. Apologizing for the space I take up or what I bring to that space is constant. In fact, I have described the feeling as my not-enough-ness and even say it has the ability to act up again. Like it has a mind of its own. This shelter in place has tested my ability to counter act that not-enough-ness feeling on the daily.

Is what I am doing with the kids enough? How can I help when our family has also taken a financial hit with me having to switch up and work from home while taking care of the kids? How can I reach out more when I literally feel like I don’t have anything to talk about or the right words to help soothe a friend’s aching heart? How do you show up when are not physically supposed to? Why don’t you know more about the virus, what the president is doing, politics, math, history, science, etc? Why aren’t you taking up a new hobby? Why aren’t you trying something new? Why are you so tired? I never seem to know enough, even if I try. Why try when your best never measures up?

Yes, I am a pro at self sabotage. I don’t even understand it. I have never understood it; I even had a therapist that basically didn’t know why I couldn’t counter act it because I had so many logical ways of talking myself down time and again.

I have been exercising. I keep trying to tidy things up, or clean things, even if they seem to get dirty and need cleaning ten minutes later. I have been trying to get enough sleep, but my brain is having a hard time allowing me to fully rest, especially since the days seem to be less busy without all the driving from place to place and four overlapping schedules of activities. But again, I struggle to keep this up. I have good days and bad days.

I know we are supposed to be breathing deeper and enjoying the down time since we have the privilege of doing so; and I am. But my brain kicks up another notch and is getting after me for not reading enough, not being with my kids enough, not writing enough, not cooking, not baking, not cleaning, not whatever-ing enough. “Why did you watch so much T.V. today?” it nags at me.

“You are so lazy, no wonder you are fat.”

“You are useless.”

I try to watch the news and keep up to date, but there are things that are covered that literally make me sob and the kids then start asking why I am so sad and then I worry about keeping them upbeat and motivated. So I limit my intake.

I have deleted social media from my phone, but then I feel like I am not available to those that might need me. I log on occasionally and find myself unfollowing people because I get so overwhelmed and angry and hurtful posts, posts where people are arguing to boost their own pride. I sweat sometime people complain just to complain. It is nauseating. But then I feel like my heart is callous and I should be more understanding of everyone’s voice.

It is a non-stop barrage of unworthiness in my head.

So, yesterday, I decided to chose joy.

Not just chose it, reach for it whole-heartedly.

I took a long walk instead of my usual run. I phoned a friend. I left video messages for other friends. I cooked breakfast for dinner, a family favorite.

I watched John Krasinski’s Some Good News, twice. I might watch it again and again. It is below, you are welcome.

I watched The Tonight Show from Home with Jimmy Fallon and his quarantine from home remix with Justin Timberlake made me laugh out loud. It was just what a I needed.

Then I watched bloopers from the Office.

And read to my kids before bed. They decided to have a sleepover and all sleep in the family room. I literally fell asleep listening to their laughter.

It may seem impossible to chose joy, to reach for it, but even if your heart is heavy, even is you are crippled with worry over finances, even if your heart is grieving, you can reach for joy. It might be a soft blanket, a fresh patch of grass in the sunshine, a deep breath, a nap, a friend’s voice. Even if it doesn’t seem possible, there is joy to find; reach for it. Please find it.

And even if you think; oh, that girl speaks from a place of privilege what does she know? You are right. I have so many privileges I was born into, but I earned things in this life, too.

And if you are struggling, if you are in a place of need how can I help you find joy? Or how did you find a piece of joy for yourself? Enlighten me, help me understand how to help you better or other spaces to find joy. I want to know, learn, understand.

Wishing you a little piece of joy today and every day.

Inside Voice # 1

Inside Voice # 1

Struggle – verb: to proceed with difficulty or with great effort*

“You could never understand my pain.” This is a common phrase I hear a lot.

I think deep down a vast majority of us feel unseen, unheard, and misunderstood. We search for connection, but feel like no one could ever understand our pain, or losses, what we have been through. And to an extent that is true. How we experience things is unique, but what we experience can be universal. Right now is a prime example. The world will remember this pandemic. We are all going through it. How we experience it day to day is unique to us, but so much of the what is happening to us is the same. Yet, it must be human nature to compare because we can’t seem to help it.

A few days ago, I was listening to Brené Brown’s podcast, she was interviewing David Kessler, an author and grief expert. During the interview he started talking about how people compare grief. For example, a grieving mother’s pain is greater than a grieving daughter’s pain, and he basically said that we can’t compare grief because “your grief is the greatest grief.” Why? Basically, he postured that the greatest grief is our own because it is the most significant amount of suffering we have endured up to that point in our lives. That truth resonated through me like a I had been hit with a tuning fork.

It has been so difficult for me to write about what I am feeling and experiencing during this time because of all the suffering I know other people are enduring, all while my family is safe and healthy. But listening to David Kessler reminded me we are all grieving something because as he defines grief, it is the loss of something, the death of something, it reminded me that we are all feeling loss. Some may be missing the loss of the school year, the loss of normalcy as we knew it, we are all learning how to cope with Shelter in Place (SIP), or with whatever we may be faced with in new ways. And what we are living through is one of those defining moments that there will be forever a before and after. We will say things like, “remember when we used to shake hands and hug strangers everywhere before the pandemic.”

Our first responders and essential workers are awe-inspiring, self-sacrificing humans whose stories are lifting me up and breaking my heart on the daily. We cannot thank them enough for what they do to help the rest of us. There isn’t a day that I am not thinking about their ability to put others first and what they must be encountering on a daily basis.

There are times I want to keep things light and funny, but I think about what people are grappling with, and it seems like if I do that, I am not being considerate enough. I want to address the death, loss, and gravity of the situation, but I get so overcome with emotion, I can’t seem to pick myself up off the couch and genuinely go into a downward spiral of despair, and that isn’t going to help anyone.

So, I wanted to start this post by acknowledging that I understand that there are so many people across the globe who are suffering and struggling and the people that are assisting others, saving others, and are on the front lines have my utmost and deepest gratitude. But to document this authentically for myself, I may have to keep things a bit lighter moving forward, even if this post stays a bit heavy.

Also, I want to recognize that the shelter in place isn’t safe for everyone, but I think it was the best choice for the majority of our population. While that doesn’t negate the danger, some people who are in abusive situations may be facing I think those in the hardest-hit areas of the country would definitely agree that shutting things down was the right choice. I think it’s funny that we feel because we are in a democracy that we were automatically given the right to chose what is best for us. We want that right, but just like a parent, sometimes our leaders have to make difficult decisions that they think are best for us. It is easy to throw stones, but I am going to side with our governor on this one. I think Gavin Newsom did what he thought was best for our state and the people in it, and I don’t think it was an easy choice. I think it was a weighty choice and continues to be a difficult one.

On to more mundane topics of discussion.

What is my family doing in all of this?

I did shut down my in-person office visits. I have been doing sessions over the phone. It has been good, but also more taxing than usual. The energy it takes out of me seems more daunting than it was previously. I am sure that is because of my own energy, my clients’ energies, and then doing what I do all mixed together. Plus my sensitivity to the hurt that is in the world right now, and there is a lot of crying on my end by the end the day. It is also hard when people ask the impossible of me. There are people who have no boundaries and think I have all the answers, or that spirit does, and that just isn’t true. There are no definite answers, there is only what is best in the moment, and we have to find that for ourselves, no one in this world or the next, besides God, can give us that. We can find comfort from others, but we can’t find definite answers to the universe. At least I don’t believe that is possible in this existence.

My husband has been working from home. He likes his commute, and he is definitely working 9-5, but I think this week, it is getting hard for him to not be in the office with some of his co-workers.

The kids are doing really amazing. I am so impressed with their resilience.

My oldest son is so on top of his schedule, his classes, and what is expected of him at school. That part has been effortless. He is even trying to learn a little Japanese. Some mornings, he spends trying to relearn how to play songs on his keyboard and strums his guitar at various times throughout the day. However, his need to play video games with his friends for hours on end has been harder to manage. We have non-screen time hours, and that has helped, but I still think he is on his devices too much; it is just hard when that is also his social outlet. How can you reduce his contact from his friends even more than it already is? He is such a responsible kid. I am hoping we can help him understand balance during this time.

My daughter’s transition to distance learning was reasonably seamless. She was already at a school where everything was digital. Her school is paperless, so textbooks are online or digital, and classwork is submitted digitally already. She was up and running within days of the SIP (Shelter in Place) order. Her phone and iPad were all propped up on her desk, and she was typing away while working with classmates on assignments on day one. Obviously, she is definitely having a more difficult time with the social aspect. She misses her friends and wasn’t planning on returning to that particular school in the fall, so she is rethinking that now that she missed out on the closure of the year. We are just playing it day by day. We have both shed tears over her heartbreak that she won’t get to finish out the year with her teachers, classmates, or on the peaceful campus. I am pretty sure she also misses the food. Our home lunches don’t quite compare to the farm-fresh, chef-curated meals her school offers. She has had some Zoom calls with friends and played on Houseparty the other day with two girlfriends. But she is still lonely.

For the twins, I threw my teaching hat back on and downloaded several units from Teachers Pay Teachers and have been teaching writing, math, science, and reading activities. I also have a geography unit we will likely start in the next month or so. I struggle with the online games and practice, but I am trying to incorporate that as it is part of what their teacher is assigning. We have also been baking, doing science experiments, some art projects, playing outside, bike riding, and walks.

The oldest of the twins is having trouble with his anxiety. We have been working on tools and techniques he can use to self soothe. They seem to be working, but it crushes my heart that he worries so much for being only nine years old. I have been open and honest that adults are feeling the same way he is. It is natural to be worried, this is the first time many of us have ever faced anything like this, but we list what we are doing to keep us all safe, and that seems to help.

The younger of the twins is less anxious, but finally, let out some sadness yesterday as he misses his friends and soccer. We even had a family discussion about how you just need to cry sometimes so you can release that emotion. It can help you feel a little better. Both boys have Messenger kids and FaceTime, so they have been able to connect with classmates over this time period, but I know it isn’t the same.

Of course, when the younger kids said they would have liked to have been over at Noni and Papa’s (my mom and dad’s) when this started so they could have been stuck there for months, it hurt my heart just a little. I told them they would miss me, and one of the twins said, “Oh, we have messenger kids mom, we would have talked to you that way.”

I am trying to make it fun, but I guess not enough apparently. But that is the plight of being the parent, you just aren’t appreciated or cool until they understand what being a parent is like.

To keep my own sanity, I am reading. Thankfully I have been a part of two book launches. The first Jen Hatmaker’s Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire. (You can preorder it here.) The second, Live, Love, Now by Rachel Macy Stafford. (You can preorder that book here.) Both have been uplifting, introspective reads. I am also reading, Little Fires Everywhere and watching the series on Hulu. That has been fun. I may have also got a little caught up in Veronica Mars, which is way too young for me, but the Good Place ended and I miss Kristen Bell. What’s a girl to do?

I have been exercising. But like I told my one of my friends the other day, if I hadn’t created the habit of working out before the SIP, it would have been hard to start because my unworthiness gets the best of me in times like this and motivation vanishes because I just think I will be fat and ugly forever and nothing will help! I know that those are unkind things to say to myself, but in the past, those words and the energy to combat them leave me depleted. Then exercise seems insurmountable. So if you feel guilty for not working out right now, stop it. Just stop it. Whatever you can do is enough.

Writing has been a struggle. I want to be a writer so much, but the voices in my head that tell me I am not enough, even though I can quiet them everywhere else, here in this writer space they remain unchecked.

  • “You have nothing valuable to add.”
  • “You are too wordy.”
  • “You haven’t had enough pain to write in a way that resonates.”
  • “You aren’t entertaining enough.”
  • “You aren’t honest enough.”
  • “When you do tell the whole truth, you hurt people’s feelings.”
  • “Just shut up.”

I can hear you through the internet; I know I am not being nice to myself. I get it. I promise. And on top of that, I asked a friend to answer herself with love the other day after painting hurtful words her brain was shouting at her, I guess I need to do the same.

  • “Your experience is worthy enough to share.”
  • “Your words can take up the space they take up.”
  • “You can be a writer with any life experience; talent isn’t measured by pain.”
  • “Your words are enough; if people like them great. If they don’t, they don’t. Helping one person is more than enough, even if that person is you.”
  • “You are a solid gold truth-teller; it is your default.”
  • “You are kind, and you are honest. Your words always have the best intentions, and that means something.”
  • “Write – let your heart be free on the page.”

And so there you have it. I will write a little each day, show up here authentically and offer what I can. It’s all any of us can do.

It is my sincerest wish that you are well and finding ways to cope with the new normal.

Sincerely,

Finding Answers in the Redwoods: A Perspective on Grief

Finding Answers in the Redwoods: A Perspective on Grief

Lately, I have been praying a great deal about what I should be writing about. I know I haven’t been corresponding to you all as frequently as I should. Maybe you haven’t even missed it. I guess I worry about that too much. If there is an audience. That they dwindle or are bored of my words. Which is why the book I was writing has sat untouched for months. And the end of the year, which was my deadline to finish, is far gone.

As with anything more significant in my life, like a calling, writing is one of those things. I can’t ignore its pull. There is a voice that keeps telling me I am supposed to write. And the prayers I pray asking what I should write about; the answer keeps being whispered back to me. I am supposed to write about death.

Talk about a topic that no one wants to hear about. The topic probably stops me from writing sometimes too. It can be too much. In Western Culture, we avoid death. The bad news is it can’t be avoided forever. Some people have less loss in their lives, while others are bombarded with loss. But the one thing we all have in common is that it will happen to everyone at some point.

We also push past grief or side step it if we can. Rush it; try to ignore it. Maybe it is because we think we can outwit it; hide it; escape it. None of those things seem to be true, at least not long term or without significant side effects.

It can be an awkward topic even if you do want to approach it or understand it.

It never occurred to me that it would become such a center point of my existence. I guess I started out like most people do, trying to deny it.

Day in and day out, I work to breathe life into death. It is always my goal as a faith-based spiritual medium to do God’s work and light the way into the darkest corners of our grief and loss so that hope can grow there. But it doesn’t change the fact that our lives continue to be wrapped in it.

One thing is certain, grief doesn’t end. Just like love never dies; grief never ceases. We miss our loved ones and long for them our entire lives.

I think it was Anne Lamott that said, “But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the biggest losses in your life?” Isn’t that the truth? We never get over the biggest losses in our lives. They shape us, move with us, are in us.

Grief does evolve; I think that might be true.

Last fall I got to spend some days among the Redwood Trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains and they reminded me of grief. They reminded me of us.

Redwood Trees are giant, long-living creatures that tower over everything in a forest, and they force you to take them in. They are hard to ignore. From their strong aroma to their massive size, to the needles and cones that fall from them, you are forced to recognize them, just like grief.

Redwood Trees are also mostly fire-resistant. Did you know that? I didn’t before that visit. Of course, repeated fires can cause damage and create hallows called “goose-pens” that are found around the base. Grief definitely damages us, but we survive, whether we want to or not, and continue to grow around the pain even though the marks of it remain on our surface or maybe even at the root of us for the rest of our lives. Grief goose pens, if you will.

Grief like a Redwood is majestic in its own right because grief is love. Did you know that the germination of Redwood Trees from their seeds isn’t very high? The fastest way to grow a new Redwood Tree is from a stump sprout. Because their root systems are so strong these stump sprouts have a better chance of success because they can easily connect to that strong underground root system. That underground root system is like love. So even though grief looms in our life, seemly crippling us, new roots will shoot up all over and force us to keep moving on, changing our emotions. That is love at work. Love for our heavenly loved one, love for those here that keep us going. Giving hope to new moments in our life. Allowing us to honor and promote our deceased loved ones in the new ways we begin to show up in our changed lives. It is because of them we can grow.

Sometimes grief can wrap us in a fog so dense it is seemly endless. Lonely. But what we often don’t know until this fog of grief has lifted, even if temporarily, is that the harder moments prepare us for the beautiful moments where the most radiant amounts of joy find us. And these intertwined grief-stricken and joy-filled moments create their own forest of memories. Memories that sustain us in the physical world where we breathe life into our loved ones. We carry them with us wherever they go, and so they go on. Grief isn’t just pain, it is a legacy of love that will last for hundreds of years. Just like a Redwood Tree.

Redwood Trees have shallow root systems and these roots can grow to be hundreds of feet long and even intertwine with the trees around them. Just like us. We may not be able to see those surface connections in grief, but we become intertwined with those around us who are also experiencing that loss and pain and we stand along side those that witness our losses and stay connected to them forever.

Redwood Trees do die and they can tumble to the ground. When a Redwood Tree falls it can take other trees with it. Some have described the grunts, cracks, crashes and groans of a Redwood Tree falling as a symphony. What happens when a Redwood Tree falls is that it begins to allow for extra light to reach the forest floor. New trees can begin to grow from the fertilizer that becomes of the decomposing tree. Animals can find homes in the newly fallen tree. The tree may no longer be standing and “breathing” among its peers, but it still provides nourishment and opportunity to the forest it belonged to. Just like us. We will see the dead tree, our lost person, everywhere we step for almost all of our days, but that loss allows us to incorporate that person’s beliefs into our lives or creates a new perspective for us so that we can shine light on others to help them grow and flourish in ways we may not have understood before.

We share stories of our lost loved ones with our friends and family, and they share those stories. Our loved ones in heaven are given new life as they travel through these memories and continue to become a part of new experiences.

We will never stop missing them, but we will go on. We will hurt, but we will grow. And they will live on in us, our stories, and by how we remember them in our actions.

Death is scary. Loss is awful. But lives are beautiful. Legacies are legendary. We can breathe life into the spaces and hollows that grief leaves and learn to live with our losses in a way that can make life sweeter and more full.

I guess, I have to keep writing and talking about death. Life after death both on Earth and in Heaven. I pray it lifts someone up in their pain. I pray they feel heard and loved through their deepest moments of sorrow. I hope that what I do, what I write about makes someone feel a little less lonely. That they maybe can see through the fog of grief for a moment. That they know it will never be the same again, but it isn’t the end either. There are beginnings to still be had. Miracles to see and find. Life continues and death is inevitable. But there is something beyond this place and our souls continue to stay connected to one another. Just like the magic and mystery of a Redwood Forest there is something deeper and indescribable about how life and death intertwine.

Until next time,

Contently Complete with My Contradictions

Contently Complete with My Contradictions

I would rather be comfortable than fashionable. Even though I feel prettier with makeup on the days I don’t wear it, I am happier. I chose to wear leggings over jeans. Simple is better. Tennis shoes over heels any day.

Despite being able to present in front of large groups of people, it is way more natural for me to be quiet and separate from other people. Yet at the same time, I love helping people and I want to make friends.

I am an optimist, but sometimes the weight of the world and all that happens is too much to hold in my heart and I want to cry and cry.

While I adore my children and want to be around them, I am not good at playing games or coming up with fun crafts to do. My kids are my life. They are my everything and what makes me happy. They are my why.

I probably watch too much T.V. and spend too much time on social media.

I want to be a successful business owner, but I also am okay with the way things are right now. Having extra time to be with my family after a decade of working in a fast-paced, high-demand, high-stress job that required me to be at the ready around the clock has taken its toll, and I am not prepared to jump right back into that.

Being a wife is fantastic and makes me so very happy, but I also like peace and quiet. While I love taking care of others, sometimes I want to be taken care of.

I am more serious than funny.

I overthink everything and still struggle with my confidence.

I wish people were kinder with one another.

Sometimes what I do makes it hard for me to be around other people and really connect.

Writing is where I feel most at home, and yet I am scared to share my voice and terrified of putting my words out into the world, and yet somehow, I keep doing it.

I have said this before, but I literally suck at small talk and my memory is mush these days. I want to be able to converse, but it isn’t easy for me to do this with people outside of work.

I would rather be home than anywhere else.

Why do we keep pushing to move faster, do more, one-up what we did the last time?

There can be room for improvement, but I also think we can just be, and that is enough.

In my jumble of contradictions, I think it is okay. I just want to be who I am and love my skin. I want to wash away mom guilt, and this drive to be made for more, and just be me. Content, confident, and appreciative of each day. Content with my contradictions and completely settled and happy with what is.

So that is where I am now. Just trying to keep things slow and uncomplicated. Content, appreciative in who I am.

Open Letter 2020

Open Letter 2020

At the beginning of last year I wrote a letter to myself, you can read more about why here. Accountability is important and it truly did keep me on course most of the time.

I wanted to do it here again, so I have these to look back on, plus it is my own version of therapy. My goal is that this helps you as well. I always write to reach just one soul that might feel like me so they feel a little less lonely, maybe a little more inspired to be unapologetically themselves and maybe this letter will hit the mark.

I wish you all a happy, successful, healthy 2020.

Dear End of 2020 Michelle,

I wrote this to you in a time when my soul felt bitterly broken, for that, I apologize. I tried so many times to write this from a place of hope, success, cheer, but alas, weeks passed, and my heart still feels achy, torn, defeated. Depression does that to you, no matter how hard you try. No matter how much work you put in. No matter how illogical it may seem, your brain sabotages you to believe you are nothing, worthless. Even though I hope that isn’t true, it sure feels like it with a force I cannot shake. And I finally decided that writing the truth is essential because I am a truth-teller, and that is what it is. So this letter is not as uplifting as I would have hoped, but I still want it to guide you, and I hope when you read it back, you are in a place where you have risen above, a place where you have found peace and strength in who you are now. 

You threw a birthday gathering for yourself, which is a huge accomplishment, and I am so proud you didn’t cancel even though you wanted to. It was good to see a room of people show up for you. Hugging each one of them felt like home. It is necessary that you continue to be the kind of friend you want to have, even when you struggle with it. Believe me, I know you still struggle. At the gathering the topic of friendship and worth came up. You were rocked to your core when you said how hard it was for you to feel like you do things right and immediately everyone’s voice raised to shut you down in seconds. This is hopeful, and I want you to try and focus on the idea that people don’t see you the same way that you see yourself. I know that is extremely difficult when several of your friends you had to work so hard to get them to notice you to begin with, but that happens. Even if you feel invisible, you are seen, respected, and loved for who you are.

I know you think people care more about what you can do, speak to spirits, than who you are. I know you struggle with that so immensely. I know that you love what you do, but it doesn’t define you. It isn’t who you are, and those that can’t see the difference aren’t worthy of your heart. You are not what you do. You are not your calling. It chose you and you answered that call because of who you are, not the allure of that calling. It puts a barrier between you and those around you that are connected to you because of it. But there are people that love you for who you are. Remember that and seek them out, they will not abandon you, and they won’t care if you are a quiet, homebody who likes to read and stay in her jammies. In fact, those things make them love you more.

Remember always that the quiet girl who wanted to put good into the world, the one who is shy and scared, but full of faith; she is who you are. That girl is worth something. She has value. Keep trying to find her and love her so that she won’t feel so lost, so lonely. My biggest goal is that ten years from now, heck one year from now I want to walk into a room and feel like I belong here, feel enough, capable, funny, wise, warm and engaging. I hope this year you find a balance between what you do and who you are and how you handle that so that goal becomes a reality. You should never have to apologize for the space you take up in the world.

2019 was a good year, you should be proud. You run a successful business that has grown exponentially via word of mouth and you do it all scared. Each day is leap in faith. But I know how much this wonderful job, this calling, means to you. It is vital to your human existence, because at the end of the day all you have ever wanted to do in this life is help people and be a mom. 

Both you have accomplished. But I know it’s beating you down. I know each loss weighs on your heart. Each person you carry with you and can’t seem to shake how loss feels. It catches in every breath, shades every moment of joy, and leaves you feeling so lost and empty because there is so much pain. This pain is a continuously exposed nerve ending, and there is nothing it doesn’t touch. I know there is nothing else you would want to do in this world, but I also know this is not the job you asked for, it was given to you, and you have done your best to rise to every challenge. I know you do not feel worthy of being chosen and that writing these words makes you feel as if you will lose it all because you sound ungrateful and that is the farthest thing from the truth. You just want to keep going and find a way to carry the load so it doesn’t break you. My wish, my hope is that right now at the end of 2020 you are reading this and have found a way to carry that sorrow and loss that is brought into your heart over and over, day in and day out in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling hollow and less than. I know you have struck out with every therapist you have contacted. No one will see you because of what you do. You have risen above judgment before. You have found a way, and I know you will figure this out, too. You are not forsaken, remember in every moment whose you are. HE will not forsake you. HE led you to this spot, and HE will see you through.

As a mom, you have grown so much. You catch your tongue and temper and meet most moments of chaos with peace. You have spent this year truly learning your children’s hearts. You are ready and watching to see how they greet you. Almost always you drop what you are doing to meet them at the ready and listen. You spent time with them. Work came second, and in your workaholic heart, that has been an enormous adjustment. You define yourself by how much you accomplish, and while you like the new pace of life, you feel like you didn’t do enough. Remember that whatever time you spend with your family is more than enough. You saw soccer games, watched dances, made family dinners, read books, had movie nights, game nights, listened to stories, baked together, laughed together. All of that time is what life is about. It is more than enough and it will be the one thing that fills your heart and soul completely.

As a wife, you have put your marriage as a top priority and work from a place of grace with your husband. You are always grateful for all he does and work to make sure he knows it. You spent time together and shared your heart openly. You have seen how he has responded with so much love and openness. You are one lucky girl he chose to marry you and has been by your side every day for nineteen years. What a beautiful life and marriage you continue to build with one another. 

Regrettably, you didn’t finish your book or start a podcast by the end of 2019. It eats at your soul that you let fear stop you in your tracks. That you allow what is hard and seems insurmountable leave you voiceless. The book is now done. You have a clear plan to publish and that is enough. You feel satisfied and hopeful that you completed what you set out to do. The podcast isn’t on the radar anymore, but you published a blog post bi-weekly most of the time, did more quick little videos via Facebook and Instagram, and again that is enough. You like keeping it small and being out of the limelight and that is okay. Small steps filled with great love is always enough. And in doing this you kept what is most important sacred to you and at the forefront; your family. This season is about them, time with them, and you can set anything else down that doesn’t make that the focus. They are worth more than any book, any business, any podcast, they are your world and time with them is priceless. So if you took time and space for them and for you, so you could be better for them, then great job, keep up the good work. WAY TO GO! When you have everything that is good in the world at your fingertips, and you have that in your family, that can be enough. Don’t let yourself or anyone else tell you differently, even Rachel Hollis.

You did keep up with your workouts. Working out is your jam. I know crazy, right?!

You have found lifting weights to be fun and ran 2 5ks officially, more than that off the record. You did your two 10ks this year. You ran six whole miles without stopping, something you never thought you would do again. YOU ARE A WARRIOR GODDESS, AND YOUR BODY CARRIED YOU THROUGH THOSE MILES – think about that every time you don’t like the way something fits. You have strength, stamina, and are working toward your best physical self. It is great that this year you got your check-ups, you took a better look at nutrition and shed that last 20 pounds. I am so proud of you for putting yourself on your checklist and knowing that taking care of you means you can take better care of others.

I know you are a recovering perfectionist and that the call of the Western Culture screams that you have to do more to be enough, but I am so proud you are listening to your heart and finding that the greatest, most valuable moments, are the ones that come in every day simple things. You read all the books, you cuddled with your littles, if you felt like laying in bed a little longer you did and were grateful for the luxury. You filled your year with moments and memories and there will never be anything bigger or more meaningful than that.


Sincerely,

Beginning of 2020 Michelle

It isn’t just our town.

It isn’t just our town.

Before I was born, Ted Bundy killed Deborah Kent. My dad knew her and her family. They always kept the porch light on for her. Years and years, they kept that light on for her waiting for her to come home. She never did. I know when I heard this as a little kid, I learned that bad things could happen. People were capable of bad things.

When we were little, a few blocks over from our house in Colorado, an entire family was murdered with a hammer. Not long after that happened a friend from school’s mom disappeared. Her picture was on a poster that hung near the door of our local supermarket for several months. Again I learned that the worst things you can imagine could happen and they could happen close to home.

In February of 1993, my family visited the East Coast. I was fifteen years old. My dad was there for work, and we made it a family trip. One of our stops was the World Trade Center. As we entered the building, something felt off. The bottom floor had glass walls and in the middle was a hallway with a line of elevators on each side.

I remember counting them at the time, but the exact number of elevators escapes me. We waited to enter one and then nearly forty people crammed into the elevator; I think we counted thirty-eight. Because yes, I counted them. That sinking feeling in my gut escalated as I counted each head, and it started to feel more like panic. I turned to my dad and said, “Someone is going to attack this building. You can’t get out. There is no way to get this many people out. Someone might blow it up.” Things like this sometimes escape from my mouth before being able to squelch them down.

He looked at me strange and tried to calm me down. I took that look as the cue to stop that kind of talk. But I didn’t feel any better. The feelings of uneasiness kept gnawing at me. We saw the view, came back down and continued our sightseeing journey. No more unsettling feelings visited me as we went to other attractions. So, I forgot about it.

Two days later we were in Maine, and the first attack on the World Trade Center was on the news. A bomb had exploded in one of the parking garages. My parents looked at me with disbelief. I was crushed. I didn’t understand that the feelings I had were real. That somehow, I knew. Again, I learned that bad things happen. The worst is possible. People can hurt one another.

I remember coming home from high school one day and the news was on. I watched as students were streaming out of a high school to safety. When the town name popped up on the screen, I was shocked. Littleton was home to one of my favorite theme parks as a kid. I had been to Littleton several times, and my friends lived a short distance away from there. I knew that town. I had passed that town on the freeway 100 times at least. I called friends to check-in. This time, I learned that even kids could do the bad things adults had been doing. And it can happen close to people you love.

I remember watching Scream 2 in my first year of college. I hated the first one and had to sleep with the lights on for a week, but my boyfriend and his friends wanted to go. So I went; I was mostly dragged, but I went. There is a scene in the movie where people in the theater are killed. I recall being so angry. I walked out of there telling my friends and boyfriend; they shouldn’t support a movie like that, something like that could happen in real life. They laughed off my concerns and said I was crazy. Movie theaters continued to not feel like a safe place for me. I lived in Aurora, where the Multiplex Theater shooting occurred. It was my home town for five years. It was where my best friend lived. It was a place that even far away from it at the time, I considered home. Again, I called friends and made sure they were safe. People still thought it was something that couldn’t happen to them. People thought this wasn’t something that would be typical. That it wouldn’t keep happening. That day I learned it not only could happen it would. Because bad things did happen. And they did happen again. In fact, they happened again and again and again.

I know I am not alone with stories like these.

And then this Sunday it was text messages and calls to my son’s phone that alerted me that this was happening again. Not far away, not in a place that used to be home, but 8 minutes from our house.

We were not at the Garlic Festival this Sunday; in fact, we only go sporadically. We have lived in Gilroy for nine years. I grew up in Morgan Hill and often attended the festival as a child. I have volunteered there. Last year, my oldest son helped set up and take down tents for the Chamber of Commerce. I don’t think you can live here and not have volunteered there at some point. It is the lifeblood of extra funding for schools, charities, scholarships, and foundations in our community. The festival weekend is always on my oldest son’s birthday and hence why we are sometimes there and sometimes not. Depending on what he wants to do to celebrate and how much we are preparing for those festivities often dictates our attendance. But, my history has made me feel edgy around large groups of people. That can sometimes dictate my participation at events like this as well.

This year, though, it was my youngest son’s soccer team that had us in Santa Cruz, and not at the festival. My oldest still spent every day prior helping set up again this July. It has become one of the events he looks forward to every year. He was supposed to be there Sunday taking down the tents with his friends. Something told me to tell him no. Tell him he couldn’t go. So, I did. I told him we wouldn’t make the extra effort to get him there. No, he couldn’t hang back with friends and catch a ride. Just no. He didn’t understand my adamant no and neither did I really. But I honor my gut feelings without reason these days.

I have talked to others and heard stories over the last several days of similar gut feelings. Why aren’t we all built with those? Why didn’t we know what the gut feeling meant? Why did this happen? Why does it keep happening? Why is this our new normal? Why do our kids have to be heroes? Why do our teachers have to shield our babies from bullets? Why?

Those are rhetorical questions, of course. There is no right answer and maybe no answer to some of them.

I am scared. I am devastated. I am still reeling. But, I am not surprised.

No, I have seen, heard and watched the terror we can bring down on each other for my entire life. Senseless violent acts have littered my entire existence. What happened Sunday in Gilroy isn’t about this town or one individual; it is about us. It is about our country, us as a people. What happened here can happen to your town, too.

It is a complex problem these mass shootings, there is no one answer, but a multitude of things that we need to resolve, examine, fix. And I am not going to make this post about the solution, but about the reality that this is happening in small towns. And it isn’t about the solution because I am done debating. I want action. And what we need to face is that when people say things like, “I never thought this would happen here.” Or, “Stuff like this doesn’t happen in small towns.” those statements just are not true. We need to stop being delusional. We need to stop ignoring the obvious. It is happening. It will happen again. It isn’t stopping.

Gilroy, California

* Sebring, Florida

* Aurora, Illinois

Blacksburg, Virgina – Virginia Tech University

* Virginia Beach, Virgina

Newtown, Connecticut – Sandy Hook Elementary

Killeen, Texas – Luby’s Cafeteria

Parkland, Florida – Stoneman Douglass High School

Littleton, Colorado – Columbine High School

Aurora, Colorado – Century Aurora 16 Multiplex Theater

*Source – https://abcnews.go.com/US/deadly-mass-shootings-month-2019/story?id=63449799

These are just a few of the small towns where this has happened. I am not even counting the big cities in this, and they count. Las Vegas, Nevada and the shooting that occurred there, I had friends there. My aunt and uncle live there. Oh, it counts. But I have heard it can’t happen in a small town so many times in the last few days, that I am just addressing that at the moment.

Some of these incidents in these small towns occurred as long as 28 years ago and some as recently as less than a week ago. This is what we can come to expect if we don’t start examining and changing our behaviors, laws, and societal standards.

This is our new normal. We need to face the reality that this will happen in your home town. It is precisely why every school in America has code red drills. Every town is preparing for it. But not every town is preventing it.

This will be something our children face in their lifetime or that we might face in our lifetime. There can be no more “this will not happen here” statements.

It happens in tight knit communities, big towns, small towns, homes, apartment complexes, churches, movie theaters, malls, parks, schools, it will and can happen anywhere. It will because it has. Start thinking like that and maybe we can start changing that reality. Perhaps we can actually get lawmakers to take action.

I saw the fear on my son’s face as he received call after call and made call after call to check and make sure his friends, his girlfriend were okay. That they were unharmed. I watched the terror when one of his best friends didn’t answer and the thought of her death flickered across his eyes. We shouldn’t have to see that. Our children shouldn’t have to face that thought. The past few days on Facebook I am reading of friends’ children who ran for their lives. Who huddled in corners wondering if this was how they were going to die. This needs to change. We can do better.

I watched my own children huddle on our floor and wait for the sounds of sirens and helicopters to stop. I watched my children the next day hear a balloon pop and all look at me with fear. What do we do mom? Their faces said. Do we run? Do we drop to the ground? Is it time to worry?

I stayed calm for them, but I am telling you all it way past time to worry. It is way past time to be calm. It is way past time to say this isn’t going to happen. It is way past time to think it can’t be your town. It is way past time to think it can’t be your child. It is way past time to debate. It is way past time to make this about politics. This is about our safety. This is about the welfare of the people in our country and nothing changes if nothing changes. It is way past time.

When I think about Gilroy, it is the best community in the world, but I am not ready to go out and put on a brave face. My heart is still hurting. I am not prepared to pretend that we can just say we are strong. I am not ready to go back to life as usual because life as usual means there is a genuine possibility this will happen again. It could be here. It could be in your home town. Why? Because it happened in ours. This is not just our town where things like this happen. It is in every town.

I am shattered. I am scared. I am reeling and I wasn’t even there. But I am not shocked. I am not surprised. This is what has been happening for decades. 

It makes me cry and sick to my stomach to read and hear first hand about how this is affecting my friends, their children, our town. I can only begin to imagine the devastation this has done. I know there is Gilroy strong and people are trying to look forward and already trying to heal; I understand the need for that. But I also think we need to slow down and talk about Gilroy hurting. What are we rushing for? I am not in a hurry to get back to status quo that wasn’t working. That isn’t working. I want to take stock and figure out what to do next. We can move past it as a people, but we need to remember and use that memory to fuel action, fuel the changes that have to take place so this doesn’t happen again. We need to recognize this is now the reality. This is now what we should come to expect until we start doing something differently.

I am heart-broken. I am grief stricken. I am disconsolate.

But I will not rest until there is a different reality for my children. I will not rest until there is different reality for your children. I will not stop bringing up this topic or voting for people who are going to make real change, or donating money to causes that call for change, because if we are complacent if we think someone else will handle it, it won’t change.

We need to be a voice. We need to speak up. And in this I am hopeful. In this is where I find strength. If we can come together and write to our politicians and talk to our kids, and look for signs, and work to really see one another I think we can be better. I believe our future can be brighter. I believe there is light in this darkness and I think we can find our way out, but it can’t be done by sticking our heads in the sand and thinking it won’t happen again. It won’t be done by holding to party lines. It won’t be done by clinging to our rights or our fears, we have to put the welfare of all above our own when it comes to gun ownership. We have to be ready to be uncomfortable and have serious conversations. We have to be willing to hear it might be our kid that needs help. We might have to face hard truths, but it is worth it. It will make a difference. And together if we really want change it is possible.

I don’t have the answers, but we can start by some of the ideas below, and if you are doing something I haven’t listed tell me, I will add it to the list.

The bottom line is hurt people hurt people, this is just that on a massive scale. Let’s start with the easiest thing first. See one another. Be kind. Be helpful. Think about others and how your actions affect other people.

Write to an elected or to all your elected officials: https://www.sccaor.com/contact-your-elected-officials/

Donate. Educate yourself. Join groups that want to change the gun safety regulations. Here are a few:

https://everytown.org/

https://momsdemandaction.org/

https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/

Talk to your kids. This article on the Parents Magazine website seemed to have a comprehensive overview: https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/advice/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-gun-violence/

I also liked this article on USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/05/08/stem-school-highlands-ranch-how-to-talk-to-kids-about-guns-shootings/1138840001/

Educate yourself and your kids on the signs someone might be exhibiting before they act. This website has a downloadable guide: https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/prevention_programs

I know I didn’t touch on everything. I know we have a lot of ground to cover to make this better, but I want to start here. I want to start where I am and maybe after reading this today you will, too. And that gives me hope.

Working for a better tomorrow,

Michelle

Surrender – there is no answer key to life

Surrender – there is no answer key to life

“When am I going to die?”

“When is __________ going to die?”

“Should I have another baby?”

“Am I going to have another baby?”

“Are we moving?”

“Should we move?”

“Should I be married to my husband?”

“I am thinking of switching careers; is it the right thing to do?”

These questions are none of my business! In fact, I think I visibly cringe when people ask me these things. Friends ask, clients ask, and they aren’t asking for my opinion; they want access to the divine plan. And I wish I was making this up, but people literally ask me when they are going to die or a loved one might die. I loathe this question as I do the others. BECAUSE THEY ARE NONE OF MY BUSINESS! WE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO KNOW OR WE WOULD KNOW.

For some energy workers or healers, maybe that is how their gig works, but for me; I work for God. That is my gig. And the divine plan is only revealed through Him. Since I am not Him, I do not have access to this plan. I don’t want access. My purpose is to allow you to connect and find a deeper faith that your loved ones are still with you.

Spirit, your loved ones, aren’t sharing the future 411 during a session with me either. They may share this with you. But that isn’t what they chose to share during a session with me, because again, it is none of my business. The information they do share is their opinion about what is currently happening in your life.

For those of you that ask these questions…there is no answer key. There is no right or wrong. The only thing we must NOT do is hurt other souls. We are to follow that golden rule – treat others as you would want to be treated. Treat ourselves well. Do our best moment to moment.

You, on the other hand, have all the answers. And you have access to HIM through faith and your own soul; so you will have much more information about the future and the decisions that you need to make than anyone else. We forget that we have to rely on ourselves and what we know to be true. We get to journey through this life, and we have to live for an eternity with the decisions that we made here; and we know ourselves better than most, so it is up to us to access faith, listen to our own soul and make sure we make the decisions that are going to suit us best.

We are a soul having a human experience.

And when things happen to us as they will; life is truly out of our hands in many ways, we have to surrender control. We then can only rely on what we can control. Ourselves. So you can follow your own intuition; your own faith, and make your own next best decision. No one can make that for us. Including spirit. It is up to us. End of story. No one else has to live with our choices the way we do. And when we chose to have faith, follow that internal compass that is our soul, and allow faith to be our guide, we will always find the answers that we need.

The good news is for those of you that are recovering perfectionists like myself or maybe even still a perfectionist, there is no wrong choice. Just treat other people well, and if you make a choice that doesn’t agree with you or you don’t like, guess what? You can remedy it. You can try again. You can do something different. You can make a new choice. You are not stuck. Each moment is an opportunity.

So trust yourself. Look within and move forward. You got this!

Until next time,

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What happened when I chose faith over fear

What happened when I chose faith over fear

Recently I was asked to speak at event organized by one of my favorite business owners, Ahnna Goossen. She owns Yoga Bella and the Acupuncture and Herbal Clinic in Gilroy. The evening was a beautiful event that included Qi Gong instruction (there is a class each week at Yoga Bella) and sound healing with the amazing Dallas at S.I.M.M. If you have not experienced a sound bath you are missing out. There are classes at Yoga Bella every other Tuesday with Dallas and I highly recommend trying one. The night ended with a quick little Q & A with yours truly.  I have linked to Yoga Bella and S.I.M.M.’s webpages above so you can check each of them out. Ahnna will be doing a monthly workshop showcasing different speakers and healers. I for one, can’t wait for the next one.

I thought I might share here some of what I shared that night.

For years, and I mean decades, I literally ignored my calling. I hung up on it and blocked it repeatedly before I shifted my perspective and allowed me to become who I was meant to be.

That perspective shift came when I decided to choose faith over fear. I decided to listen to the whispers of my own heart and be my authentic self. I decided to write, and I became a truth-teller. In becoming a truth-teller, I had to tell the truth about what I saw and felt around me.

In deciding to tell the truth, it allowed me to open up and listen to an eight-year-old spirit boy who told me that I was meant to help other spirits like him. And that led me down a path where I decided to believe what I knew was true about God and embrace that He doesn’t make mistakes, he built me this way on purpose with purpose, and I am His vehicle. I deliver the messages He wants me to provide. And that has led me to where I am today. I have chosen faith over fear.

Does that mean that I am going to know what comes next instantly? No.

Does that mean I am going to be the best at what I do right away? No. But with hard work and dedication, I can be great at what I do. And so can you.

Does that mean everything will be perfect every single day? No.

But it is worth it to live outside of your comfort zone and believe that you can do hard things. Believe that you can have the life you want. The rewards outweigh the negative experiences. I can speak from experience on that. There is good, hard, harsh, ugly, and incredible, amazing, miraculous, joy all in the same life.

How do we choose faith over fear?

We listen to our feelings. That doesn’t we mean we ignore logic, it just means we trust what we know and believe to be true in our hearts. The more you listen, the louder that voice gets.

We do things afraid because fear is a liar that will keep us small.

We believe in the impossible. Do you know how many times I have heard that I was crazy, that I am going to hell, that it is impossible to talk to spirit, I have lost count and stopped counting?

Sometimes we want validation before we leap. And like my good friend Heather says, “Validation is only for parking baby!” She might not add the baby, but she is feisty and fun, so I added it for her. We can’t wait for validation, we have to believe those whispers in our heart and have faith we know what we know for a purpose. We feel what we feel for a purpose.

I read something Bob Goff said, which was, “God isn’t surprised we want more confirmation. He just hopes we don’t get stuck waiting for it.”

It is okay to be looking for that confirmation and to appreciate it when we get it, but we can’t sit around waiting, stuck, doing nothing that serves our purpose until we get the affirmation we need. And most of the time we just have to believe we know what we know and that is good enough to take the next step.

We also tend to believe that there is a right path and a wrong path. The truth is there is only one path, a path of life. We have free will and get to decide what we do next, but just because we take the long way or make a mistake doesn’t make it wrong, we are learning along the way. As long as we are not hurting ourselves or others, we are on the right track. That is the only genuinely wrong thing we can do; hurt another soul. And when we do that we have to do what we can to make it right. But I digress. There are nine hundred billion million (yes, I am aware that is not a real number) ways to get from point A to point B in life, and the joy is in the journey. When we surrender and have fun with not knowing what is next, but just allowing ourselves to do the next best thing moment to moment then we usually end up right where we need to be precisely when we are supposed to be there.

Here is what happened when I decided to choose faith over fear and surrender my control. I learned that

  • Heaven is all around us, not some distant far off place. We are a part of heaven.
  • Spirit delivers messages to their loved ones in a myriad of ways and is continually speaking to us whether we think we are hearing them or not. Signs are all around us; you just have to believe in them.
    We are built to understand one another. Soul has a language all its’ own. A soul doesn’t need words to communicate, and that means that our spirit loved ones can communicate with any living thing to get our attention. They are energy, and they can use that energy to connect with us in a multitude of ways. It also means our souls are communicating with one another here. Just because we are in a body doesn’t mean our souls stop talking.
  • Love never dies. We don’t die. Our bodies stop working, but our souls go on and on and on.
  • I can do hard things, and my purpose is to be my most authentic self no matter what. Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.
  • I am stronger than I ever thought possible.

What happened when I started working for spirit; I witnessed miracles. Are there tough sessions? Yes. Are their clients I can’t help? Yes. But like I said before the positive experiences, the lessons learned, far outweigh the negative.

  • My client Donna was able to understand why her daughter’s car crashed the night she died, and finally, this last year visit her daughter’s grave on her 26th birthday and play her favorite song “When the lights go down in the city” and know that her daughter heard her. Donna knew that she could reach her daughter anytime she wanted. Something she hadn’t done in all the years since her daughter passed.
  • Helped my client Lauren connect with and grieve her mother. In fact, her healing led to her building a new business this past year. If you haven’t heard about Cranes for Kristina, you need to check it out. Her Business Facebook page is here. Lauren turned her pain into hope in the form of her beautiful origami cranes and is changing the world every single day she is out in it breathing.
  • My friend Katrina didn’t believe in ghosts. She believed in heaven, but not that spirit was here communicating with us. While we were in grad school, her uncle started visiting me. When I told her what he looked like she didn’t believe it was him until I said, “He didn’t what to tell me this, but he said a tree was involved in his death.” And having never told me about her uncle LaDon being hit and killed by a falling tree branch she nearly dropped the phone.

Fear will bind you to believe in only what you can see. It will keep you in other people’s comfort zones, and there is so much more to life than what we can see and the societal norms we are bound by. My wish for you is that you find your center, your truth-telling, authentic badass, self. That this more profound connection to yourself and your faith lead you to follow your dreams and the life you want to live. That it guides you to a more fulfilling understanding of life and allows you to surrender to living in the moment and making the choices you know to be best for you. Choosing faith over fear leads you to become who you always knew you were.

Until next time,

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Fissures and Finding Truth

Fissures and Finding Truth

So many times this week (I know it is only Wednesday) I have wanted to literally drop to my knees no matter where I am and just have everything stop. I want to have a moment. A moment when nothing is happening. I want to stop time.

My not enough-ness is acting up again. The emptiness is filling me up and swallowing me whole.

What would happen if I dropped to my knees and time were to stop?

– Maybe there would be the foresight to see the balls that were slipping or already dropping, and I could run and catch them before they fell or grip them tighter so they wouldn’t slip.

– Maybe I could suck the words back into my mouth. And the noxious fumes of regret wouldn’t fill my mind and make me sick of myself.

– Maybe my babies would be visible to me for just a split second longer, and I could unlock the mysteries of their minds so that I would know better how to be there for them.

– Maybe I could hear something I am missing that would be the answer to my unworthiness. It would fill me somehow, so I could continue on without so much distaste or frustration.

– Maybe strength would fill me enough to show up more. Allow me to speak my truth and feel it’s ampleness.

But, I can’t drop to my knees and stop time. I would just be some crazy lady on the sidewalk on her knees.

I think harmful thoughts make us feel hallow. These devious thoughts enter your soul and make space by separating the positivity inside you so that the goodness that makes you whole feels impossible to connect back together again. The space they create causes an echo that allows the harmful thoughts to continue to ricochet over and over again across the chasms of our minds, seeping into the tissue, matter, bloodstream and eventually finding a home in our hearts. And then these thoughts nestle in with the tenacity of a prickle from a thistle so that it actually hurts to remove them.

Today on my run, as I felt myself wanting to drop to my knees to stop time, I handed my playlist over to God. I do this a lot. I hit shuffle and say, “Okay, God, speak to me.” Somehow it never fails. Lauren Diagle reminded me that I am not hopeless that God is carrying me, that he will always carry me, that is inevitable. Nichole Nordeman reminded me that I am a promise even if I have forgotten. Let me just pause for a second to let you know this same playlist holds roughly 100 other songs by non-Christian artists these popped up first, right after I handed the playlist over.

Anyway, the words I was hearing stopped me in my tracks. Right then and there I looked up at the heavens and asked God to take away my unworthiness. I told Him I didn’t want it anymore, it didn’t belong to me.

We carry our emotional burdens too long. We forget to set them down. Sometimes we keep them so long we think they belong to us even when they don’t. We forget we are born enough, the not enough-ness comes from somewhere else. It isn’t ours to carry.

Of course, I come here and pour all these messy feelings out and put them into cyberspace, but this is where they finally run free. I let them go. This writing, this release allows those harmful thoughts to escape so that I can shrink the space down and the parts of me, that goodness can reconnect and make me feel whole again.

I spend too much time hiding. Being authentic means, you have to be open and real for everyone to see, and that often leads me feeling overexposed, so I run and hide. I do the work I do and then run and hide. Sometimes this unworthiness sneaks up while I am hiding and leaves me feeling more alone. More lost. And I think I need outside light to fill me back up. And then just like that God opens me up a bit more. And it is when this happens that I start to set things free. Then my own light begins to shine out again. Then and only then, do I stop feeling so empty.

We all have to set our load down and let the things that poison us go free. We often feel better if we know that when we let something go, it won’t hurt anyone else and what better place to free it then out into the open where the God of things and the Amazing Universe can scoop it up and turn it into something healing.

So now, instead of hitting my knees out in the open, I will hit my knees in private and in prayer. God always seems to find a way to let me know He is there; He is listening, and all will be okay. In fact, this was on the car window as I made my last turn toward my house as if to say, “Yes, you are on the right path, and I have got you. I have your unworthiness, and it is free from you.”

IMG_1100

Now to just keep moving forward and living life the best way I know how. As Anne Lamott says, “Life feeds anyone who is open to taste its food, wonder and glee; it’s immediacy.” We just have to find that joy; choose life and take the next step whether we are ready or not. Or even turn around and take the picture of a back of a car that you think God is using to speak to you. All the best of us are messy and crazy!

Even when we want to hide, we have to find a way to be more open and let our light shine out so our unworthiness can escape and finally leave us. And that is when we remember the truth. The truth is we are not hopeless, we are full of possibility, we are worth exploring, and we are something to celebrate where ever we might be on our journey.

Until next time,

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An open letter to myself…

An open letter to myself…

The rain came down yesterday. Puddles litter the ground and this afternoon’s storm is imminent. In fact, the call came through while I was at breakfast with a friend that all after school meetings and activities are cancelled, except high school athletics. So I am still waiting to hear from my son’s soccer coach if the game is on this afternoon.

I know it probably sounds silly to most of the world that California towns shut down at the threat of a thunderstorm; it seems silly to us, too but the roads flood fast when it rains here. These mandatory shut downs (not government ones – I am not getting political here) get our family home and cozy. It stops time for a brief moment and I couldn’t be happier. But that isn’t what this post is about.

As I sit here on my planned writing day with papers strewn about and a copy of Hands Free Mama by my side, I am still struggling to complete this post. It is one that needs to be written so I am compelled to keep at it.

This last year, I was introduced to a woman named Michele, by her dad. While that may seem ordinary, it was anything but. See by the time we met, via phone, her dad was already in heaven. (If you haven’t heard how we met you can read my post about it here). I still feel like he continually links us. Whether it is her seeing me on a morning run or an online post that shows how close we live to one another, we still find ourselves being connected.

She has this great online FB community where she writes motivating posts to help others live their best life. You see how we like each other now, right?

Well, one of her most recent asks, was for us to write a letter to our future selves. She said that we had to write a letter to ourself in the future expressing a sense of accomplishment for all we completed the past year. I originally thought this would be easy. But here I sit. With the letter still unfinished.

Writing about my success; that is complicated. More than complicated; arduous. A part of me still can’t think I am a success because I feel like I will jinx the good stuff I have going on in my life right this very instant. And I was taught to be humble, so saying “Hey look what I can do,” makes me cringe. I know you are reading an online blog about myself; the irony of this is not lost on me. So I get that you are thinking this can’t be that hard. But it is!

On the flip side, I could easily list off the things I have failed or what I want to do different next time or how I want to be a better at whatever. But to write a letter to myself about how proud I am of me; that is trickier than it sounds.

However, I think it is important. What we put out into the universe comes back. What we want for ourselves; what we see for ourselves; well that becomes our reality. So this exercise isn’t just for fun; I think it is necessary for my growth over the next year. I am doing it and sharing it in the hopes that maybe you will do the same for yourself. Maybe you will work at manifesting your own dreams this year.

Okay here it goes…

Dear End of 2019 Michelle,

There is so much I have to tell you. I know, no surprise there; we both know how long-winded I can be. 

First and foremost; I want you to know how proud I am of you for holding steady this year. When things got hectic or tough you remembered to consistently show up for yourself. And when life knocked you down you dusted yourself off and tried again. I know how merciless that bully in your head can be; and the fact that you never let her get the best of you; you should feel so satisfied. I am glad that failure wasn’t an option for you.

I know your job is life-breathing for you. You are helping people and doing what you are meant to do; but I also know it is breath-taking in both good and bad ways. Aren’t you grateful that you kept your faith, even on the days when appointments were heavy or they didn’t go your way; aren’t you glad you looked up and remembered whose you are. Always keep that faith. Always remember that God has your back. He is holding you and He held you, even when you thought you were alone or He couldn’t see what was happening. I love that prayer to you isn’t a word or a thing it is an action and you put its power to use. When all else fails, faith seems to center us. 

Girl, this one was hard. You left so much sweat on the floor of 2019. You lost all your extra padding and gained some sure-fire muscle. Look at you! You finished two 5Ks and made sure that you took time to better your health each and every day. But you also enjoyed food and gatherings and didn’t let it over run your life. You found a beautiful balance for your health and your sweet tooth. I bet you feel good in your clothes and are glad to have more energy. Well done, but remember don’t stop. This is lifetime work. Keep getting after it; you have got this.

In, the work world, you did a great job. You are the owner of a successful business. And you decided to take a risk and finally finish that book. The bravery it took to send off your completed manuscript to publishers was impressive. Hang in there. No matter what happens you wrote a whole book and shared it. You should feel content. That is enough. More than enough. Great work. And to top it off you started your own little podcast. You go girl. I know, I know the things that come out of our mouth. We can’t help it. The point is we are not on the sidelines any more watching other people’s dreams come true or hiding our own potential. You are out in the arena making your own dreams a reality and it takes my breath away to see you like this. Remember when we took out that picture of us at three. Remember that smile. You started all this to find that girl again and now you are her. How’s that for success? Let that settle in your bones and savor how that feels. 

Most importantly, you soaked in the sun, spent time watching the sky in wonder, gazed out at the stars, studied your babies’ precious faces and listened to their hearts until you knew them as well as your own, and  you were there for those that needed you most. You took the time to laugh, listen and love. You were present and made your people a priority. Don’t you feel like you added treasured moments to your life? 

All in all you had a productive year where you were a participant in your own life. You put blood, sweat, tears, laughter, love and adventure into 2019. I know you are grateful and blessed for all you have experienced; don’t let that pass you buy. Soak it up. Let it linger on your heart. It’s okay to take a moment and just be. I also know, you will think about what was lost or missed. Try and remember what is, is and what will be, will be. You did what you could. You did the best with what you had. You never gave up. You are the best you, you have ever been to this point in your life and I love you more today than ever. 

Sincerely,

Beginning of 2019 Michelle

Notes on a life well lived

Notes on a life well lived

Dozens of self-help books litter my bookshelves from Anne Lamott, Gabby Bernstein, to Shauna Niequist. I have also read Marianne Williamson, and I can’t quite stomach Rachel Hollis, but I have read more than half of Girl, Wash Your Face; sorry people she is way too overzealous and tough love for me. Brene Brown’s Gift of Imperfections entirely changed my life, and I have watched her Ted Talks more than once, and even taken her online course. I follow Glennon Doyle Melton and Jen Hatmaker. I have listened to speeches and audio books by Zig Zigler and learned how to give elevator speeches by reading Terri Sjodin. One common thread among all the things I have read, listened to, watched or studied is about how to live your best life.

When I started this blog six and a half years ago, it was a way for me to log my journey to be my best self, mainly how to live my best life. Since today is my birthday, it has me reflecting on this a bit. In addition, there is quite a lot of talk about resolutions as we have just entered a new year.

There are some common threads when it comes to living your best life based on what I have read or studied. One, you have to show up for yourself. You have to participate in your own life. Two, you need to make good, healthy choices, both physically and emotionally. Three, you need to take risks and follow your dreams. And lastly, you need to slow down and appreciate the simple things in life. While those things all sound fabulous on paper, I think it is often difficult to capture that in day-to-day living.

If you have followed me for any length of time, you know I get caught up on age. My own that is. While, people tell me that age isn’t a big deal; I logically understand that, but when death has been intertwined with your existence on this planet since as far back as you can remember it is hard not to examine mortality. I mean my job is to deliver messages from spirits in heaven to people here, so I think about life and death on the daily. Age sits on my mind in good and bad ways. So, I logically understand age is a frame of mind; I am not worried about aging; I just know that is how we measure time here and time as a human is an invaluable, precious commodity. Point of my ramble, I am 41 as of today and legit, I am halfway through my life, and I still want to make sure that I am living my best life.

What the heck does a life well lived mean to me? How do you have a life well lived in reality? What does that look like? And can it mean different things every damn day?

Let’s take a look at question one – what the heck is a life well lived mean to me? While I shared some components of a life well lived a bit at the top of this blog, a life well lived is going to be different for everyone. What that means to me will not be the same for you. Some of us need to have achievements and careers and awards. Some of us don’t need any recognition but instead need meaningful connection. The point is I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer here. For me a life well lived means doing the best I can each day to be present, make meaningful connections with the people I love, offer myself grace instead of criticism and learn instead of staying stagnant. I want to make healthy choices, and I want to help other people. If I have given my best and loved my people, then I have lived well.

There is no one size fits all answer to what makes a well lived life

For me, and this also seems to be popular in the self-help world, living your best life means loving yourself. That is one area, I can say I have improved immensely since I have started this blog. This girl is not perfect, but she is kind, loyal, generous, trustworthy, sincere, honest, hard-working. Of course, there are still areas that need improving. I am a stress eater who is addicted to caffeine and I struggle with being the kind of friend I want to be. For example, approaching people to have small talk is seriously still the hardest thing I am faced with every single day. But it is okay, I have that knowledge, and I do what I can to be better about it. That is enough.

And last but not least, I think a life well-lived includes eating chocolate and reading books. Those things are in my life well-lived. Some people need to travel or drink coffee or run or drink wine; I need chocolate and a good book.

How do you live a life well in reality?

Well, that is the real question, am I right or am I right?

Drumroll please….

one damn second at a freaking time.

I know I am a genius.

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But really, in real life living a good life might look like this…

You are already running five minutes late to get your kids to school, and child #4 still has yet to brush their teeth, comb their hair and find their shoes regardless of your constant, calm, thoughtful reminders. You know that you should continue to be easy-going and choose your words carefully, but instead, you lose your cool and raise your voice. I mean really, you can’t believe how many times you have had to ask, and there is no way you are going to be on time at this point. And that matters because people should show up on time for important things; it is good manners. Manners are important. Anyway, you lost it. You are only human. You feel awful by the time you actually drop off said children because yesterday you may have made it through the same scenario with grace, calm and incredible restraint, but today your hormones are different, or you slept less, or you ran out of your favorite K-Cup or the dog got sick on the carpet or everything fell apart in your life, and you just cannot handle one more little thing, and you got snippy. Well, you are human, and you need to let that moment pass, apologize for your mistake, admit you are human and try again in the next moment. That is all you can do. Because in a life well-lived my friend, things are flawed and messy. Little things can seem like big things at the moment, and we mess up.

Or a life well lived may look like this in reality…

You are nailing it; you ditched the to-do list, and you got a load of laundry done (because keeping things organized and tidy is important to you in your life well-lived categories) you took a run (because health is important), you played a game with your family, made a home cooked nutritious meal and you are on top of the life well-lived world. I mean you were present and connected to your child at the moment when they said, “Mama, everyone should be happy.” And you just teared up at the profound innocence of that statement. You are the boss of a life well lived. Congratulations.

However, the next day, your morning falls apart, the repairman comes late, you miss your conference call, your late getting the kids from school which they proceed to tell everyone you talk to that day, soccer practice runs over, and you have to hit a McDonald’s drive-thru because you cannot skip eating but have precious little time before baths and bedtime. Seriously, high-five yourself, because you got through that day. The kids are fed. The repairs were made. Everyone is home safe. Life goes on. Try again tomorrow. That is a life well lived in reality, my friend.

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That is just how it goes, and you know what? You are doing it right; everyone has those days, and if they don’t I am pretty sure they are lying, or they have an assistant, a nanny, another assistant, and they are outsourcing other things, and they are still lying. But I am not saying this to be judge-y. I want you to understand that a life well lived, in reality, isn’t going to fit any self-help book wish list when it is actually happening. The truth is everyone has bad days; even those living their lives like a boss. True story.

What does that look like, a life well lived? Answered above. It is different all the time. Depending on the moment, depending on the day. But it should feel like gratitude and grace. Wonder and joy. Life is also going to hurt and be difficult. A life well-lived includes feeling all the feelings, showing up when it is hard, success and failure, mistakes, messiness, do-overs, loss, and love. I think it is more important to feel life than to make sure it looks any particular way. A life well-lived will look different to me than to you, but it will feel the same of that I am pretty sure.

And can it mean different things every damn day? Yes. Yes. And Yes. Some days a life well lived means sitting on the couch curled up with your family watching a movie and ordering take out because you just can’t do the things. Or maybe you are hiding in your cloffice trying to get your act together because everything you have felt that day has literally brought you to your knees, and you have to find a way not to let the pain you have witnessed and felt that day bleed so deep into your existence that you stop in your tracks and never start again.

So, as I enter my forty-first year, I want to settle into these bones and keep doing what I have been doing for the last six and a half years, living my life well. Embracing my flawed self with each new day, stretch outside my comfort zone and live beyond my fears. To show up and be present in my life. But to always offer myself grace when I can’t.

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If you have read this far, I hope for my birthday, I hope today, you do something nice for yourself. Take a moment to enjoy where you are right now. I know I will.

Love and light,

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