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…

When the Light Goes Out

When the Light Goes Out

His natural, thin-lipped, wide-mouth grin carried so much sunshiny warmth I felt like I had just been placed center stage; in the spotlight. His shoulders were broad, yet slender and tilted forward in a slight hunch. The charcoal gray T-shirt that hung loose on his frame was light and the fabric seemed sheer and soft. No graphics littered the front; just a weathered and worn look that gave the shirt a little edge; making it seem casual and cool at the same time. Justin’s* demeanor and magnetic charm drew me in and made me feel like an old friend at once.

And almost as instantly, my body began to feel as if every ounce of life had been drained from it. There wasn’t any remnant of will to live left in any corner of my being. My arms became leaden weights, and I couldn’t muster the strength to lift them. My legs felt weak and unable to sustain an upright posture. The core of my being felt as hollow as a drum. My voice became suppressed, caught in my throat. It felt useless and strangled. My heart rate began to slow and my vision seemed to turn my perspective bleak like new contact lenses were covering my eyes unable to be removed. I knew Justin couldn’t go on for one more minute. The uselessness of life and the anguish in his heart turned into a roaring wave that was capsizing his life beneath it. His first words were, “I’m sorry. I just didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t stay.”

That Justin had chosen to leave this earth shattered my heart into slivers so small I was going to need a microscope to gather them all back up. Unfortunately, I am not sure all of the shards will ever be recovered. Even more, regrettably, this isn’t the first time I have felt this way. It is too hard to fathom how this light could go out; leave earth and leave the dark, vast blackhole of longing in its place. There will never be a day that someone Justin knew won’t look up and hope to see his light shining here with them. Never. It will forever be missed. A light extinguished too soon.

So many sweet souls have visited me, and their humor, charm, easy-breezy souls feel like a long, loving embrace. And it always takes my breath away that their lives were ended on their terms or by bad choices that left them vulnerable to leaving this world early. 

Suicides are impossible. How do you ever reconcile a life taken so swiftly? So forcefully? With forethought? What do you do when the light goes out?

It’s one of those deaths that leave so many what-ifs in its wake. It feels so preventable. It feels so upside down; the sheer force of trying to turn back time to prevent it leaves you breathless and dizzy. I am not saying other deaths don’t feel this way; it is just one of the types that tears a whole in my being and I feel like a tattered flag that will never fly again. After holding court with these souls, I am so devastated by the wake of grief that is felt here on earth for the loss of these souls; it takes days sometimes months for me to shake off the chill it leaves in my body. This also happens with souls that have been murdered, taken too soon due to cancer, and so many others. This particular cause of death is just raw right now, because of a session earlier this week.

There are roughly 129 suicides a day and it is the second leading cause of death in kids ages 15 to 19 according to the Association for Suicide Prevention.* It just seems so startling to think that the rate keeps increasing and we just aren’t entirely sure why. And so many lives are affected by this it is staggering.

After years of speaking to souls like Justin’s who chose to cross over, I still have no decent comforting words. Souls lost to suicide rip every last piece of hope from my heart because all I want to know is why? How does the God I believe in allow this? God, I adore you, but if you have a plan here, I am pretty positive I can’t understand it. It is so unfathomable, and nothing fills the hole or the guilt quite effectively. I have such a strong urge to try and rectify it, and that means keeping the soul here, helping them find peace here.

Maybe it stings so severely because this could have been me. My life has not been immune to suicidal thoughts. It isn’t this way now, but as a teen I remember how my life hung by a thread most days.

Each soul that I have encountered that has played a part in their demise is at peace in heaven. They are in a place where their pain is quiet, they feel loved, welcomed, they have a sense of home in a way that was hard for them to grasp here on earth. And while that floods me with gratefulness it also drips with misfortune because they leave so much love behind here. So many people that wanted them to feel peace and comfort here on earth.

Justin felt no different. The peace that flooded through his being was immeasurable on a human scale. He radiated pure joy. 

I know that some feel that souls that commit suicide are doomed to eternal damnation. 

But these souls sure don’t feel that way to me. They relay through thoughts, emotions and words that God loves them. Forgives them. That they do all the things souls in heaven tell me they do — reunite with loved ones, visit places all over the world, help other souls, visit loved ones on earth, find everlasting peace.

Sometimes they speak of the ability to take classes on how to better handle addiction, pain, depression so that if they do reincarnate, their souls are free of having to repeat that particular lesson over again. They send signs of hope to family here on earth and are well-adjusted to their fate. They want forgiveness from those the love here on earth. They feel immense remorse for the pain they caused, but few believe that there was an alternative to what happened to them. They use the word inevitable. These souls also share that they feel that there was a call for them to return to heaven; that God was somehow also responsible for their assent heavenward.

But all of these messages time and again still leave my heart feeling barren, vacant, devoid of solace. There is an emptiness that crawls up my spine and into my mind and makes my skin crawl with a pain I can’t entirely escape. Silent tears escape my body for days as it works to release this aching sorrow.

The people here on earth who are suffering the grief of suicide are left with questions, guilt, doubt, and broken hope. Why? How do we move forward and find meaning? I think the answer is going to be unique to each griever. It will match the impact of the physical life lost. It will only be understood by that mourning heart. 

Efforts to thwart suicide are valid. Lives can be saved. Why it doesn’t always work; I guess I will have to have blind faith. God knows what He is doing. Honestly, though, it still isn’t enough. My faith fails to cover the bill sometimes. Sorry, God. I love you, I do. I believe in you. I just can’t always understand, and this gift to communicate with spirits doesn’t seem to give me a more in-depth insight. 

The only thing that is helping me pull myself together tonight is the slight possibility that the messages I am able to translate from their loved ones help my clients. I guess, maybe just maybe, God uses people like me to aid in the healing process. To help loved ones know that there is a heaven, and that love connects us. It cannot be destroyed or cut short. Not all is lost.

Maybe people like me help others understand or have faith that their loved ones are not just dust, but are also alive; risen.

Perhaps it is a comfort to know that their loved ones have found a way to thrive in a place that surrounds us so they can continue to lift, guide and nourish us until we all meet again.

Maybe it is helpful to know that our God is a forgiving God, not a vengeful, punishing God. Our God is a nurturing parent who makes sure we understand and face the consequences of our own actions, but doesn’t kick us out on the street. Doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves independently, but is always guiding us to the best version of ourselves. He is always guiding us and welcoming us home. And there is never an end to His love.

It still isn’t enough to help alleviate the loss of suicide, but maybe something is better than nothing. The cracks in my heart will remain. I am not sure Justin’s bright smile will ever fade from my memory. His soul shines a radiant light on all it touches even if it is seemingly gone from here; it still exists in heaven.

Most importantly, if you feel like you need help, please get it.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. To learn more about how you can help visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/  or https://afsp.org/.

XO-

*The name Justin has been changed to protect his identity and the identity of my clients.

*Data for these statistics comes from the article: 9 Things All Parents Should Know About Teens and Suicide: Talking about it can be hard, but it’s so important. By Anna Borges.

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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.

Notes on fear…

Notes on fear…

The other day I read a post by Rachel Macy Stafford, otherwise known as the Hands Free Mama. She said we should share songs with people, you can read that post here.

Songs have spoken to me always. And today was no different. Coming home from the grocery store Zach Williams’ Fear is a Liar came on the radio. The lyrics fell over me in a blanket of truth that could be the soundtrack of my life…and so I want to share it with you.

“When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough
Fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar.”

For most of my young adulthood and adulthood fear dictated the choices I made, from going away to college, to who I spent my time with, to what I thought about myself…but as I aged something inside my brain changed and while I was still afraid, it was harder not to be who I was. It was harder to hide. Or maybe the lies fear told me were just harder to believe.

When I started my living out loud, being vulnerable journey prayer was a big part of that. I was definitely moving beyond fear to accomplish this lifestyle. But my prayers shifted a bit. I wasn’t just talking to God, I started to listen to the world around me, to the stillness. Was God answering my prayers in what was happening around me?

I began to see that He was. One of the first phrases that started to play in my heart when I began to pray about being myself again, and living out loud was, “Fear not, remember.” When I kept hearing this phrase in my head, I started to research it. It felt like God’s word, but I wasn’t sure. Did you know that “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid” appears in the Bible over and over again. There are roughly 40 or so Bible verses on fear alone. So, I guess I was being answered. When my heart would whisper these words back to me, it was my divine blueprint coming back to life. Don’t believe fear it said, remember whose you are. I am a child of God and God loves me. God thinks the exact opposite of what I have been telling myself all this time.

The truth is…

Fear holds us still when we should be moving forward.
Fear keeps us ashamed and hidden.
Fear isolates us from everyone else.
Fear holds our tongues and tucks away our ideas from the world.
Fear feeds insecurity so it can breed depression and resentment.

I know there are advantages to fear…it can keep us safe… it can help us take a breath to think, it can keep us on our toes, but fear should not be the place from which we make our decisions. Fear will absolutely take “our breath and happiness”. Fear will lie and tell us not to move. Fear will lie and tell us not to speak. Fear will stop us in our tracks and keep us hidden from the world and only allow us to live in the shadows.

But as my journey to live out loud continued and I listened more to my prayers being answered, when I found myself afraid I would hear my heart whisper again, “Fear not, remember.” And I would decide to do something even though I was terrified.

No more shadows for me behind fear…I began to tell my truth. I started a blog, where my words are pieces of my heart bled onto a computer page where anyone can see them. It isn’t easy, sometimes fear has me pull those words back, take them down and hide again. But I have learned you can’t take them back. The words have already been seen, it is already written.

I started a business that is going a year strong. I am speaking my heart to others, even though it can hurt and sometimes I lose, but sometimes I win and get to be connected to amazing people who fill my life with love, laughter, and happiness.

Fear has stopped me in my tracks more than I would like to mention. Fear keeps me quiet when the bullies in my life wield their controlling ways.

But I am gaining on this fear. I am remembering who I am, whose I am, and I am rising like a Phoenix out of the ashes. Fear he absolutely is a liar and I choose to no longer believe because the life I want to live every part of it has been on the other side of fear.

Love and light,

2016-09-11_0905

Pep Talk Part 2

Pep Talk Part 2

So a few weeks ago I gave myself a pep talk, (you can read it here). It’s one of those posts that caused a lot of hullabaloo.

See when I write about my personal life, and it causes chaos I want to run and hide and scream and then never, ever write again. Ever. Never. Ever. Ever. Never. Like, breaking up Taylor Swift style.

But Holy Christmas Cookies, keeping my words in my head isn’t a place where they can live peacefully. I finally have to surface when I am done processing and get the words out again. They erupt like a fire hose.

What am I talking about?

The Pep Talk Post and the Pass the Praise Post caused drama in my life. Some people thought what I wrote had everything to do with them. But these posts were all ME, by ME, for ME, about ME. And even though I put them out in cyberspace to read; they weren’t about ANYONE else. Not even a little. And they meant no harm. They still mean no harm. Just like this post. It’s about me processing what happened to me.

I put them here to read for the pure and reasonable purpose of possibly reaching someone who feels like me. That’s all.

So there you have it, my thoughts can’t stay quiet. It is just not how I function. Period. Okay, maybe how I operate, EXCLAMATION POINT.

I need a place to let my thoughts wander free. I know I could do it quietly, but then I am not living out loud. And that is a promise I made to myself that I must keep. I NEED to live out loud. Yes, as always the capitals help. Immensely. They make everything feel better.

So, as I begin again in a post about me, I brace for controversy, I know I need to write out loud. Why? Because there is more growth happening here and this is where I put it.

And there you have it. Processed, dissected and now I cannot contain my voice any longer. And here is another post all about me. And yes, this makes me feel selfish and self-centered, but I don’t think I am alone in processing life events through writing. And at the end of the day; I do not believe I am selfish. Again, queue controversy because I am sure some people would disagree, but we can’t make everyone happy I learned that the hard way.

So onward I write…

I have been continuing to workout and semi meal plan since late August. It has not been easy. From my perspective, I am one of the biggest girls in the group with a lot of weight to lose. I know I got myself into this mess. Yes, I just wrote about choices and perspective and mythical unicorns; I know, I know, but this has been difficult. Not always challenging, maybe more tedious, but it wasn’t like whew-hoo so easy, I can do it without any effort!

Yes, there is a step by step meal and workout plan to follow. I do love that. It takes out any guesswork.

Yes, everything is laid out perfectly, and there is a group for accountability; all positive check marks.

Yes, the program is sound and coaches and trainer are on point. There could not be better people involved.

Yes, I love it. Don’t get me wrong, I really, really enjoy it. But it still isn’t always easy. Even with a supportive coach; I still slip a little here and there in the food department and have missed a handful of workouts, but I have kept at 30 minutes of exercise 4+ times a week.

I feel like here I can be honest in this safe place, it is like home for me here on this blog, and if I don’t keep it real, it won’t ever be. And despite my slips, I have kept at it. And that means it works and it is good. It can be good and hard at the same time. Kind of like life, right?

My adhering to the food plan and keeping up with the workouts can be the problematic part some days. And I would rather be honest about how tough that part is than sugar coat it. We often know the right thing to do and even have incredible help, but taking the steps and making the right choices seem difficult.

Almost died

And that is why I wanted to share with you. I wanted to share what keeps me going despite my struggles and my weight slowly coming off or even seeming to stabilize. Just in case you were in a similar spot yourself.

One, I want to have more energy. So working out is a must to achieve that.

Two, I want to be healthy. Again, diet and exercise are the answers here.

And lastly, I want to keep a promise to myself to put myself on the list. I need to take care of me, too. This is an excellent way to do that.

And in an effort to adhere to doing those 3 things I had to take a good look at diet and exercise in my life.

put yourself on the list

Choosing to do this was wearisome at first. I didn’t really want to jump up and work out. But I said I would, so I did. Each day did not get easier at first. But over the weeks it did; I got stronger, and it became a part of my routine. I expected it and missed it when it was a rest day. And then it started to get a bit tedious again, so I took a chance and said yes to an opportunity my coach put out to the group. So, I say spice it up if you start to get a bit bored. This program that I am currently on, has a similar meal plan (let’s not go there yet) but I lift weights in addition to cardio. I know?! Who knew I would ever lift weights?

The video trainer is fantastic. There are several videos about form, and it is always stressed in each session, so you really feel like you are comfortable with all the moves. I love learning how to do this. Sometimes I feel like a wuss, but again over time, I have been able to up my weight and stamina during the cardio sessions. There are still things that I have to modify, but I keep moving and keep trying, and I know now that I will get better at it at some point. And sometimes I have to modify what is being modified, but I keep moving and keep getting better. You have to count each small success; one more sit up; finishing something in a new way, stepping up something that was modified before even if for a few seconds. All the little things count.

Another tip I want to share is not to watch the scale. Now weighing yourself is essential, but your body might be changing even when your weight isn’t. I can see minor changes in my shape and the way my clothes fit even though the scale isn’t seeming to budge too much right now. Overall, I am only 8 pounds down, but I know that I will get stronger and better at the meal plan and that will change, too. Remember sometimes if you have a lot of weight to lose, it took a long time to get that way, so the weight loss isn’t going to happen overnight. It will take time. Be patient.

You need to offer yourself grace and ask yourself these questions when you start to put yourself down:

A) Can you do more than you did yesterday?

B) How do you feel?

I think the – how do you feel – question is super important.

When I answer this question, it is transformative. How do I feel? I actually feel better in my body when I work out, and I think I look better. It must have to do with endorphins and all that jazz, but it does make a difference.

Copy of Almost died

And most importantly, I made a promise to myself to take better care of me. If you have known me since 2012 you know, I got into the best shape of my life since high school when I started running. I could run 9 miles without stopping. A dear friend, who I will love forever, even said I began to have a thigh gap. God love her! In 2014, regardless of how much I was running, I started to gain weight again. I went to doctors for over a year, and nothing could be determined to be the cause. And nothing seemed to help. So I gave up completely. I was exhausted, too and so I just stopped taking of me. I dove into life and running a side business and my kids, and before I knew it I was really getting sick and feeling awful, and I was way over-weight. In 2016 I tried acupuncture to start things up again. It helped at first, but by early 2017 I had completely fallen apart physically. And that is when I made a promise to get healthy again.

I went back to doctors, and after multiple visits to different doctors, we determined that I did have some things that could be causing my exhaustion. I had surgery and started medication, and my energy started to come back. Hallelujah! Queue the choir of angels.

When I felt better, I decided to take a plunge and start this work out program that was all online, with a virtual coach and accountability group.

It started in August, and now in November, I have been lifting weights for 6 weeks. I still get discouraged. I am still frustrated with my weight from time to time. Food is always my downfall, but with logic, the meal plan and my knowledge, i.e., I think before I eat something and decide if it is worth it. Yes, I fall off track occasionally, but I am better than I was yesterday. And I wouldn’t give that up, not now and I hope not ever.

So my point, if you are wanting to start again, do it. You will be glad you did. If you are like me and feel like a rookie all over again – we will get there. Keep going, and if like me you get behind a bit, offer yourself grace and don’t stop – jump back in there. And if you are already a pro, then I am happy to hear how you got to where you are.

And just as importantly you can use your voice to express how you see the world. And even if you think you are doing so kindly; it will make people feel things. It might even piss them off. That is okay. You can’t control that. You can only control how you react. Try to stay calm and kind. But don’t stop speaking up.

Stay in the game, offer grace, and keep it up. You got this!

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Pep Talk Please

Pep Talk Please

Maybe this diet is driving me crazy, or perhaps it’s the news that another precious baby is now in heaven because cancer took over her nine-year-old body, which by the way is beyond awful…beyond devastating…or maybe it’s because it’s a Friday and I feel like there are so many damn problems in the world I just can’t fix. Like I keep pouring into a well that just gets deeper.

Usually, a chai latte would do the trick, and that is whack because seriously what a privileged treat to have to calm my nerves when scared humans all over the world are fighting just to live, to have clean water and a safe place to lay their head. But I am whacked and the latte does the trick. However, this diet says no bueno to the latte. SO HERE WE ARE. GRUMPY CAPS AND ALL.

So here’s the deal, we can feel helpless even though we are helping. I know you are like me and doing your part here and there and everywhere you go. We are all just surviving on this ball circling the sun. We are all only human when it comes down to it; doing what we can, when we can, where we can. We are good. Some of us are wounded, and the good is harder to see, but it’s there underneath the scars and the shields we use to cover it up. So, since I felt like I needed a pep talk; I thought I would have it online in front of a bunch of people, and maybe you would read along and feel pepped, too. Yes, pepped. It’s a word. It isn’t turning red with my spellcheck and Grammarly thinks it’s acceptable, so you know what? I do, too.

you are awesome

If you are breathing, and moving one foot in front of the other, and doing the very best that you can, regardless of mood – YOU ARE AWESOME! KEEP IT UP! YOU GOT THIS! YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS!

YOU ARE ENOUGH

If you are breathing, and moving one foot in front of the other, and doing the very best that you can, regardless of how you feel about yourself – YOU ARE ENOUGH! YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH! YOU ARE PRICELESS! YOU ARE THE SHIT! GO GET IT!

YOU ROCK AS A PARENT

Parenting standards these days are really high. I mean have you seen how many Pinterest posts there are for crafty crap, bento fancy shmancy lunches, and 99 million ways to keep your kids entertained while building their self-esteem and making them all around amazing. Like too many damn pins, people. Don’t get me wrong, I like Pinterest, but I can’t handle the standards of what a parent is supposed to accomplish. So if you are sending your kid to school with food or money for food and they are dressed, and mostly clean, and mostly well-behaved – KUDOS! YOU ARE ROCKING THIS PARENT GIG. YOU NAILED IT! I mean high-five yourself right this minute. If you discipline your child, if your child fights with their siblings, if you have yelled at your child because they have driven you crazy – YOU ARE ROCKING IT AS A PARENT! YOU GOT THIS! If your child has said you are mean, strict, rude, they don’t like you, they want a new mom or dad. You know what? KIDS DON’T ALWAYS KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. KIDS DON’T GET TO TELL US WHAT TO DO. OR WHAT IS TRUTH. WE ARE THE ADULTS. YOU ARE ROCKING IT AS A PARENT. ENOUGH SAID.

YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY

If your diet says you can’t have chai lattes, and you have been following it for days and days, and you have only lost 1 or 2 pounds. And you are working out like you have never worked out in your life. And if you happen to yell, “You can suck it!” to the TV Fitness instructor because really, why are there so many push-ups? YOU LOOK GREAT JUST AS YOU ARE TODAY! KEEP IT UP! YOU CAN DO THE PUSH-UPS! YOU CAN MODIFY, AND YOU ARE STILL A FITNESS WARRIOR!

If you are wearing yoga pants and your hair is up in a messy bun. YOU ARE HOT! YOU ARE KILLING IT IN THE FASHION DEPARTMENT! ROCK THAT LOOK SISTER! OWN IT!

If you are one of the ones that made it and successfully dressed in your best outfit and have your hair and makeup just so. YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY! YOU ARE A GODDESS! * SIDE NOTE: REMEMBER TO TELL THE YOGA PANT MOM SHE IS A GODDESS, TOO!

If you got dressed today; YOU ARE THE QUEEN OF FASHION! YOU ARE NAILING LIFE!

WHATEVER YOU LOOK LIKE; HOWEVER YOU SHOW UP – YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY!

If you are feeling alone, invisible and left out…maybe your best friend hasn’t called you, or you don’t fit in with the other moms at pick up. I want you to remember; YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON, AND GOSH DARN IT, PEOPLE LIKE YOU.

That’s my pep talk people. I hope you feel pepped. I know I feel a little better. We got this. We are freaking, amazeballs at this life. It’s supposed to be hard, and we are supposed to mess up. That means we are doing it right. Congrats for showing up, for living, for putting one foot in front of the other and doing the best you can. YOU ROCK!

Go get it,

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Life out loud

Life out loud

“You need to forget what society has told you about life and expectations, and don’t let anybody make you pretend. You are enough, just the way you are…”

                                                                                                        – Maddie Dawson

I think the majority of us probably spend too much time in our heads; wrapped up in our own lives. The magic starts to happen outside of ourselves. It’s hard to believe sometimes because pain is out there, too. But it’s true. Truer than true.

You have to be brave to show up as you are without a mask and to open your whole self up to the world and be damned what comes flinging back at you. That is not an easy feat, nor for the faint of heart. But it is required to live life out loud. It is just the way it is.

Michelle Murnin Paulson (3)

Even though it can be scary and the armor feels necessary it is best if we keep going out without it. It is best if we keep showing up as ourselves; brave and open. You will find your people, and you will find the people who aren’t yours. Keep and love your people and let the others ones go. It is okay. If they are meant to be, they will come back.

We can get easily discouraged, too. Get wounded and retreat. Lick our wounds and decide the world is just much too much to be out in it without any armor to shield our soft and easily pierce-able hearts. Some people stay in that place of retreat for the rest of their lives; they get so wounded. They start to believe they are damaged. That isn’t true. No one is so injured they can’t find some healing. Anything is possible. That is true, too. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have seen a mama bury her baby and then rise again. I have seen that happen more often than I ever wanted. I have seen heartbreak up close. Heartbreak so big that it starts to swallow you up with it and then somehow on a day down the road the same heartbreak finds laughter. Laughter that burns so bright it catches everyone within earshot and lifts them up with it.

Healing is hard. Healing is forever work, and sometimes we need rest from healing, and we get so cozy and comfortable we forget we need to go back to that healing work. When we forget that we should keep up that healing work; the universe gets involved.

It really can stick its ugly head into things and make a great big mess, and it is almost impossible sometimes to go clean it up after you have been so cozy and relaxed in the pleasant little rut you had carved out for yourself. So sometimes, people don’t clean anything up. They just leave that mess and live there because they already have had just about enough; thank you very much. So they sit right there and stay in that mess. They learn to cope and survive in that clutter and debris until they just can’t see it anymore.

And sometimes no matter where you might be or what mess you might have left lying around just a little too long; you wake up and decide today is the day, and you get right back to the work of healing. It feels so good to stretch your legs finally and climb out of that rut that you are so enamored with the way the world looks you don’t mind the healing work at first. It is okay that it is hard. Then one day, BAM! It is like the cycle is right back where you started and you remember how hard this thing called life can be. It makes you want to give up right then and there. And maybe you do, just for a little bit. It is okay to take a rest after all. But after a few days or weeks you pick yourself right back up and dust yourself off and start out again. Sometimes rest clears our vision just a bit and we can keep at it a little bit longer.

Copy of Michelle Murnin Paulson

You know, one thing that I have figured out so far is that life is going to happen however and whenever it wants no matter what we do. The best thing is to try again; even if we fall, even if we get comfortable, even if we are knocked down by the big old universe because we weren’t paying attention. The best thing to do is to keep at the healing work and keep unlearning and learning and re-learning what works best for us at the moment.

Copy of Copy of Michelle Murnin Paulson

Some things are seasonal and temporary, and others are built to last through thick and thin; through ugly crying and even some yelling; those things may even take a break, but they never really leave us because they were built to last after all.

Copy of Copy of Copy of Michelle Murnin Paulson

And most importantly, don’t forget to love yourself along the way. A great deal of us forget that part. We love our people fierce and well, but then we stop one day and realize we forgot our own hearts somewhere along the way. Remember that taking care of yourself helps you take care of those you love, too. Hearts are resilient creatures; once they are remembered they seem to find a way to start to refresh themselves even if we fight it.

Live out loud. It is worth every second. Even when you are lonely and lost. Even when you don’t think you can for one more second. Even if you have stopped for a while; go back again and be loud, be you. In the end, it leaves your life fuller and more well-rounded. It strips away the fear and unnecessary and what is left overfills every second of every space across all of your time here and you will look around on the good days and know that you are and have always been right where you need to be. And you will look around on the bad days, and you will know you have always been right where you needed to be.

Today is the day. Set your armor down and try again or keep plugging away or lift your head a bit to see if you can look out of the rut you might have curled and cozied into. Today is the day to be you out loud for the world to see. Let love lead your heart and guide your feet, and you will always know the way.

Until next time,

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Hidden in plain sight

Hidden in plain sight

Ready…set…run.

Ready…set…hide.

Ready…set…blend.

Ready…set…invisible.

These are my default.

If you were to meet me or see me out and about after just knowing me from my blog I think you would be surprised. I am the girl who stands away from the crowd. I am the one who doesn’t speak up. The first to arrive and the first to leave a party. And if you do get close enough; if you do get in I find myself making sure there is distance…sliding just a little out of reach.

-Solitude matters, and for some people it's the air they breathe.-

It’s not that I am afraid of anyone seeing me; really seeing me. I don’t ever hide anything about myself anymore and what people think doesn’t keep me awake at night either; I barely give it a second thought, but I think it is knowing that if I do let you in that there is the possibility of hurt. The hurt that comes when someone I would like as a friend may decide I am not worth keeping. I don’t know; maybe it’s just the introvert in me. Needing distance. Needing space.

“I_m very picky with whom I give my energy to. I prefer to reserve my time, intensity and spirit exclusively to those who reflect sincerity.”

There are people who I trust. People who are my safe landing-place. I have lost friends like these in the past; the relationship falling out from under my feet. No ledge to cling to, just dropping and flailing after being on stable ground. Maybe that’s the feeling I am trying to avoid.

Or maybe it is that lately, I wonder if some people want to know the real me or the medium me. Knowing a medium is interesting; knowing a small town girl who stands in the corner; not so much.

I don’t know why I keep the distance or add it to a relationship. I don’t know why my default is run, but it is. If something goes wrong I shut down. I hide away and avoid confrontation; unless it is about my kids then I will speak up. That mama bear instinct triggers my temper and I can say things I normally wouldn’t. Other than that I am the girl who likes to hide in plain sight. I am most comfortable there. In view, but not attracting attention.

As we have settled in this small town over the last six years there are people who I have grown to love. I love them something fierce. Maybe that’s what makes me keep my distance, being afraid how much I love them will scare them away. So instead I try to act lukewarm so they don’t think I am too overboard with affection.

I know I have written here about letting that love shine and just scooping people up, and I do try to do that, but my default kicks back in and I create a distance. Distance becomes my security blanket.

Writing my thoughts out here I thought might untangle them and make them clear. Maybe it will, maybe this is just the beginning to unravelling them. Maybe I am just supposed to accept this about myself and the people who accept it become my tribe; make up my safe landing-place. But part of me wants to be not so far in the corner, just a little more out in front. A part of me wants to embrace those I love with full force. Maybe I will and my default will change. Maybe I thought I had already changed my default.

I don’t know.

I'm not ditching my running shoes just yet.

Not ditching my running shoes just yet,

Worry, fate and signs from heaven

Worry, fate and signs from heaven

There are moments when I am alone with my thoughts and usually that is a good thing, but sometimes my mind starts to stir with worry. Usually I am pretty good about focusing back in on the present. I know it isn’t healthy to live in the past or too far in the future, but to focus right here in the present. But today my mind wandered to my family. I started to think about my grandparents. Missing them, but that turned my thoughts toward my own future.

Both of my grandmothers had strokes and Alzheimer’s. My mom’s mom had early onset Alzheimer’s and for twelve years she lived with this disease. It struck right at the onset of her retirement; just after all 6 kids were out and on their own. I know it could not have been easy for her. But what I know more than anything is that it would have hurt her so much more to see those she loved in pain. She put everyone else before herself. She was selfless and kind. She was one of the best women I have ever known.

When we had the twins she had already passed and I longed to call her and ask her how she maintained her sanity with six kids. I only had four and I felt like I was barely holding it together. I wanted her advice so badly.

As fate would have it, I I did get the chance to ask my grandfather about her; about how she managed to keep it all together raising six kids the last time I saw him. The twins weren’t even in the picture yet, but somehow I had the wherewithal to ask. He told me he would get home from work and without saying anything she would just go get in the car and drive. He laughed as he said it. He said he always wondered if she would come home.

So there were days as the twins were older about 18 months, Brian would get home and I would just get in the car and drive. Drive and pray to her that I was doing enough; pray for her guidance to watch over me as a parent. To help me through. To know if she lost her cool, to see if she had tricks and tips on how she split herself into so many directions. I wanted to raise my kids to be as kind, honest, and loving as she had raised hers to be.

During this time I dyed my hair dark brown because I didn’t want to have to color it as much. After seeing me a few times, my aunt told me how much I reminded her of my grandma, that having my hair darker I even kind of looked like her. Well if that wasn’t just the greatest compliment I could ever receive!

Over the past six years, I have had some medical hiccups. They can’t pin point any one thing to be wrong, but my whole body is out of whack and we are still trying to figure it out. About six months ago, a growth started on my nose.

The growth turned out to be noncancerous, it is what young children and infants have – we always called them strawberry birthmarks. The technical term is hemangioma and it is a noncancerous collection of blood vessels. It is rare in adults. My grandmother had a growth on her nose that was removed, my mom said she would have likely been my age. I remembered the zigzagged white scar she hated so much, but that I loved because it was a part of her. Sure enough it most likely was the same type of growth.

Thinking about her today, I wondered that if I am like her I have sixteen years until early onset. Sixteen years of a life of remembering. I don’t want my family to see that. I don’t want them to have to take care of me like that. So I started praying to her again. To God. Please don’t let my family suffer that fate, please give them more time. Don’t make them have to watch that. Don’t make my parents have to watch that again. How awful that would be. I know that I can endure anything, but I don’t want that for them. I have seen it and I don’t want that for them.

Do not ask me to remember

As soon as I said my last word of my prayer a white fluffy feather floated past my windshield at the stop sign. I thought there is no way that is a sign even though I have started finding feathers like that recently, still I shrugged it off. The next stop sign there was a hummingbird that hovered above my car. My dad’s dad always sends hummingbirds. The next stop sign a blue jay flew right in front of my car from one tree to the next. My other grandmother sends me blue jays. And I started to think that my fate will be different.

Those signs hopefully will spur me to learn whatever I can and get off my butt and work harder to do what I have to, to out run that fate. Those signs from heaven reminded me that I have a good team up there looking out for me. They will take care of my family and me. They will help us.

These signs gave me hope. These signs helped me realize I do not want to go down without giving myself the best possible chances. So I need to take better care of myself. I think that means more changes and better will power, but there is a damn good reason for me to make those things happen. That isn’t the future I want for my kids and I definitely want to know my grandchildren.

Morbid post I know, but I write here for me to release those things that roll around in my brain. To work through my fears so that I can face them and deal with them. That’s all. I just need to come here to let it all out.

Sunset

Thanks for reading if you got this far and don’t worry about me; just venting a fear that wraps hold of my heart from time to time. Today heaven sent me lots of signs to let me know my prayers are heard and that I am loved and cared for. My angels were there to let me know not to worry and to just live.

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The messenger

The messenger

Vague

Amazing

Insightful

Wise

Funny

Wordy

Transparent

Authentic

Relatable

Lunatic

Bully

Hate

Hypocrite

Liar

Monster

Sinner

Fraud

Stupid

Ignorant

Racist

Words are so powerful. Each of us has either been lifted or defeated by a few simple words.

Since an early age I have had a love of words. I love the shape and sounds of them. I have been in awe of their power both spoken and written. Words can stir people into action and bring people to their knees.

What I find amazing is the contrast of what we crave as human – positive affirmation and what we consume and download in mass quantity by choice – negativity.

Reality TV – Real Housewives, Real Crime Dramas, 24 hour Media Coverage of anything awful. These are highly watched, highly rated programs.

Ever read comments on social media posts? I know you do. One thing that always strikes me is those comments can get negative really quickly. People who are “friends” can exchange words through a screen that can alter their relationship. Words can create emotional wounds that are never forgotten.

It is interesting to me that while we want so much to be loved, accepted, and understood we purchase and buy into so much visual and auditory negativity. That we can quickly and angrily type messages to one another that are full of rage and hurt.

Many struggle with self-love. That has always been a struggle for me. Always. I need the Chip Gaines voice of self-confidence! Regardless of how we feel inside, it is how we treat others that matters when our time is up. I have that information on pretty good authority.

It is okay to disagree with one another, of course. We have to be open to critique. We can learn a great deal through the sharing of different opinions. It can change us for the better. Plus the world would be boring if we were all exactly the same. But it is paramount that we are respectful in our dissent. It isn’t open season for a personal attack because your opinion differs from another; especially in a world where tearing others down is becoming the norm; we must restrain from attacking one another and stick to thoughtfully and respectfully stating our difference of opinion.

Positivity starts and ends with us. If we focus together to be positive in our rhetoric and our actions that will change the world. Great leaders, local and worldly, are remembered by their actions, of course, but also by the words they chose to speak. And so are we. Maya Angelou was right when she said that people will be remembered by how they make others feel. Our words carry our emotions into the world. 

If we are going to change the tide of a nation it must begin by how we choose our words and actions. The frequency of the energy we radiate is the frequency of the energy that comes back to us. It is important to choose our words and tone carefully. There are people who I admire who have defined themselves as warriors and neighbors when it comes to their delivery of love and good news.

I think some of us are messengers. I am a messenger. Those of us that feel compelled to write and speak. Those of us that are filled with a knowing that we must share; we are the messengers. With the choice to share our words and have them read and then spread like fire we must remember that those words have power to build and to break. My choice is to deliver messages of hope, faith, peace, love and vulnerability. I choose to be a messenger that connects and builds. Some messengers are making the choice to breathe negativity and fuel a fire that continues to divide and separate. They think the power of potent and open hostility is what is going to spur change. It just breeds contempt and mistrust.

I know that when the warriors, neighbors, and messengers all move in a direction of positivity and love it will turn the tides of that flame. The good that flows through their actions will extinguish the pain and division. There is more good in this world than bad. I feel it in my bones; I know it in my heart, I see it in the quiet day to day actions of the people in my community. We have to stop paying attention to the negativity. Stop allowing its voice to roar.

So my friends, neighbors, warriors and messengers choose carefully and wisely and with a compassionate heart to listen as you work. To spread and share compassion and positivity so that we can build bridges to one another and continue to make this world a better place for each and every soul in it. It starts and ends with us.

With hope,


 

Life breathers

Life breathers

In a world that always has fire-breathing dragons we need life-breathers, too.

Yesterday was like any other day; work steadily flowing in and projects to complete, kids to love and instruct, bickering to manage, meals to prepare, guilt and stress to squelch, and of course the echoes of the outside world that sneak into our lives via radio and TV. But as life does there were some pretty amazing moments yesterday and a wonderful visit from a beautiful, sincere friend. Those are the life breathers, the moments that give my life the pick up that it needs, the moments that matter more than the noise.

Lately the world has been super topsy-turvy. But, somewhere in the world it has always been super topsy-turvy. I am like you though, I feel a bit like my nerve endings are open to the world and when I watch the news or read an article about politics I am left feeling anxious and disappointed and saddened by those people in the world whose poor choices hurt other people.

The thing that gives me hope are life breathers, the moments and people who remind me that there is love, courage, kindness, and just plain good in the world. For me yesterday when things were getting a bit crazy and I had sat at the computer long enough and the kids had bickered long enough, I dragged them on a bike ride. My daughter was less than happy about it to say the least.

As we peddled along, and she sulked along, her brothers began to laugh and smile in the open air. I praised their attitudes and got a, “WOW, mom! You are the worst mom ever!” It stung, it always does. But, then it also made me laugh. If I am getting under her skin and holding her accountable for her behavior I am doing my job. And for a moment I thought about how so many moms and dads, grandpas, grandmas, aunts, and uncles are all trying to do their job giving a child the things they need even when it is tough love so that the world can be filled with people who are compassionate, thoughtful, responsible, and well just plain good.

That in itself was a life breather, that thought filled me with hope for our world, reminded me that there is so much good out there.

We came home and my parents stopped by. They are leaving on a cruise and wanted to give the boys their birthday gifts. Just watching them interact with the boys and the joy everyone had at just being together…that was a life breather. And to top it off, the goofy moment when I was trying to get the Spiderman silly string figured out so that it would spray correctly and accidentally squirted it right at my dad’s face and the ceiling; that was a life breather. We both laughed so hard. It felt good to laugh that hard. Life is funny and that is a life breather. We need to laugh.

We sent them on their way and I filled the dinner table with plates of food I prepared; a home-cooked meal, and that was a life breather. Sitting all together as a family over food I prepared. It felt good to breathe in that life moment. It buoyed me up and reminded me how to let the little things carry the same weight as the big things, maybe even more sometimes. I tend to let my mistakes carry the most weight; in fact sometimes I think my actual body weight is proportional to the guilt I feel about what I mess up in life. It is important to allow the moments of success fill you up, too.

At at the end of the evening my dear, wonderfully vulnerable, honest and real friend came by in her pajamas. I was in heaven. That was such a life breather. She had a terrible, horrible, no good bad day and came to seek a few moments of refuge with little old me; I was almost in tears I felt so honored and thankful. We talked until midnight. Sitting and talking with her reminded me just how much people need other people. We need to be seen and loved and lifted up; it breathes life into us like nothing else can. It puts the fires out when we stop and see one another. When we stop and listen to each other’s stories and offer meaningful exchange, we change the world for the better.

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The bottom line is that life breathers can be little moments of happiness, peace, joy, sanctuary, ah-ha moments, or life breathers can be other people who love us unconditionally or the best part is we can be a life breather for someone else, or everyone else we meet.

Now, I know no one is perfect and thank goodness we aren’t. We would never learn anything or be even the slight bit interesting if everyone were perfect. The point being, we can’t always be life breathers, everyone once in a great while can have a fire-breathing dragon moment, that is just the way it is. But if we are life breathers most of the time what a wonderful world it would be; and what a wonderful world it is because if we really stop and pay attention and drown out the noise of the media saying, “Look here, look here” and we chose to look for the life breathers instead of the fire breathing dragons; I think you will find what I have found, there are way more life breathers in the world; way more.

In a world that always has fire-breathing dragons we need life breathers, too.

Until next time,

me

The other side of a reading…guest post by Katrina

The other side of a reading…guest post by Katrina

My friend, Katrina, is to put it mildly…amazing. She recently attended a writing retreat where she was asked to write about a life changing experience/person and she chose to write about a reading she had with me. I thought it might be interesting for you to read about a reading from the other side of the table. The following is a guest post by Katrina.

katrinaI’m sitting at my kitchen table, photographs splayed out across its scratched wooden laminate surface. My friend Michelle sits opposite me, furrowing her brow and deep in thought. If anyone had come across us,we looked like we were in the middle of a scrapbooking jam.

When Michelle speaks, it’s clear we are not creating a collage from my photos.

“Your uncle really loves this photo. He wants you to remember him like this. He was really happy on his wedding day and he’s proud of his beautiful head of hair.”

I laugh as I look at the 1977 photo of him with a beautiful head of blonde hair, wearing a white tuxedo with bellbottom flared trousers; I stop as I remember the last image I saw of his head as he lay in his coffin at the funeral home: shiny, cold, and rigid.

Disbelief claws its way into my mind but quickly dissipates as Michelle goes on to tell me more messages my uncle has for me, ranging from comical to mundane to knowing some of my deeply personal and never before verbalized thoughts.

The week before Michelle and I were having lunch when the topic of ghosts came up. She says she believes in them. I say I don’t, but I press her for more information out of curiosity. She confesses she has been able to see, hear, and talk to spirits since she can remember. She’s never told me this before and I am flattered she trusts me with such a vulnerable confession. Michelle goes on, telling me she has learned to switch it off and would prefer to live her life without that being a part of it. I ask her some more questions and we say goodbye.

Two days later Michelle calls me to say that our lunch conversation temporarily opened her to spirit communication and there’s a man who is adamant he speak to me. He gives no other details other than his appearance – a full head of blonde hair and some bellbottom pants. Those details don’t ring any bells in my consciousness and I tell her than man must be there for someone else. I hear her pause, then say, “He didn’t want to have to show me this, but he’s showing me a tree was involved in his death.”

Tears fill my eyes as I instantly connect this is my Uncle LaDon, who died unexpectedly in a freak accident two years ago when I was six months pregnant with my daughter. He had been pruning a large tree when a massive branch fell at just the right angle to his unprotected head, killing him instantly.

I rarely speak of him so Michelle has never heard me talk of his death. I carry grief from losing him and guilt from not seeing him more the last time I had the chance ; those feelings are still fresh and cut me at my core.

As I look back across Michelle across my kitchen table, I’m struck by how “normal” she looks but what incredible things are coming from her mouth. Good friends since starting graduate school together four years prior, I see her as my peer in many ways – a mom, an elementary school teacher, a wife, and a fun friend to play Bunco with. But she clearly has an amazing gift as well.

Michelle delivers messages that evening from my uncle that validate our close bond, that tell me he’s with me all the time, that he’s happy in his new existence, and he loves me. The guilt I had previously carried in my soul dissipates, with an almost physical feeling of weight lifting off me. I still feel sad I can’t see him, but my grief is transformed knowing he’s still with me.

Michelle nervously looks at me across the table as we finish the reading and says, “I never know if I’m just imagining all this stuff or not.” I am in awe of what she is able to do and wonder how she can possibly doubt herself after being spot on about every single thing she said to me over the past two hours. My whole belief system has just been challenged and awakened in the most significant way it ever could be. In my heart I know this is just the beginning of her journey to embrace her gifts, continuing to transform my life and changing the lives of others for years to come.

Thank you, Katrina for sharing your experience.

Until next time,

Michelle

You are only given one spark of madness

You are only given one spark of madness

“You are only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

– Robin Williams

Even as I type this fear grips me, I am breaking out in a sweat and my fingers shake. Getting out of bed this week has been harder than it’s been in three months. The horror that depression won this week rattled me. I know I wasn’t alone. Those suffering from depression all had the same selfish thought at the news of Robin Williams’ death; the monster won, the disease won. It doesn’t matter if you have fame, fortune, love, adoration, success; depression will eat you alive.

It is hard for those that don’t have depression to understand. I have heard people talk of his selfishness –

“How can someone leave all their family behind?”

“How could someone do that to the people they love?”

I am so glad that those of us with mental illness are speaking up and letting our vulnerabilities shine this week. Those of us suffering are your best friends, mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, and neighbors. If we all speak up together, those that think they are better off in hiding will know it is okay to show themselves and get help in their fight.

Here’s the skinny for those still struggling to understand depression:

Our brains don’t work the same as everyone else’s.

Our brains tear us down from the inside out.

We feel alone in a crowded room full of people who love us, even when the crowd is there to celebrate us.

We are terrified to get out of bed in the morning, even on the best days because each day is a battle with ourselves.

We logically know that sounds crazy.

We logically know you can choose happiness.

We logically know that there is medicine, hotlines, doctors, friends, and support groups.

But when the deepest, darkest days of depression hit none of the logical thoughts matter. The logical side of our brains aren’t winning those days. The part that presses us down; the part that devours our goodness and light; that is the part of our brain that is winning those days. That part of our brain thinks we are a drain on those around us, that the world is better off and no amount of logic outweighs the feeling of worthlessness that consumes us.

Even when you are winning the battle against depression; it still whispers in the corners of your brain. It hides on the edges of your happiness. It is never really gone.

Lately, my battle with depression has been easier, but I am literally scared to death of the day it isn’t easy again. That the dark days will come roaring back. They do that, you know, sneak right up on you out of the middle of nowhere. The news the world heard this week only made that fear more tangible. I have actually felt depression in the air, breathed in its thick venomous fumes.

There was some relief for support and awareness that depression is what caused a great man to lose his life this week. The relief that the stigma of mental illness is easing a bit. However, in the conversations and opinion articles I have also heard that stigma and misunderstanding that has existed for eons still rearing its ugly head. I wasn’t going to weigh in on this topic this week, but I think the more of us that show our faces – the faces of depression, OCD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post traumatic distress disorder, postpartum depression and mental health disorders; the more the world will begin to understand. The more acceptable it will become to get help; to take that step away from fear and reach out into the world for assistance.

I have taken my Lexapro this week like it was a life saving elixir. I have thanked the gods of medicine over and over. I have never been more grateful for those few milligrams of magic brain saving goodness.

Looking forward 30 years though, when my house is quiet and the pattering of little feet filled with joy have moved on with their lives and I will be left to my thoughts more than ever is unnerving. When my book still sits unpublished or even if I am surrounded with success, but I still feel alone in a crowded room, I pray that my demons of worthlessness are not greater than me. I pray that every day. I pray that my own inner spark of madness does more good that harm.

The best way to honor the man who lost his battle this week is to speak out. To remind those still suffering and fighting the fight that you are not alone. To help one other remember that you can seek help; even on your darkest days. There is a safety in numbers my friend and there are a mighty good number of us in this fight against depression. We have each other if nothing else.

Getting help was the best thing I ever did. Please get help if you need it. If you know that someone needs help, gently offer it. We can help the world recognize that mental illness is just that, an illness. It is an illness that takes lives like any other illness. Be kind to each other because after all that matters most.

Letting my spark of madness shine today,

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A wish come true…

Cousins
Cousins

Today was so much fun! I had wished and dreamed for a day to spend with my cousins. A couple of weeks ago my cousin asked if I would want to go to the wine stroll with her and my other cousin. I didn’t want to sound too desperate so I casually said sure, when what I was thinking inside was, “YES! YES! Of course. CAN’T WAIT!”

See I don’t get to see my cousins very often (most of them live out-of-state) and I am the oldest of 19. I don’t get asked to join them often.

It was such a nice day. Sunny and casual. I loved spending time with them. We talked about all kinds of things. It was just so pleasant to be in their company. Plus I got dressed in real clothes – not my regular yoga pants – and I wore make up. It was really a big deal.

Just in case you are wondering, a local wine stroll consisted of local wineries setting up booths downtown and we were able to go from station to station tasting wine. I am not a big wine drinker, but I do like white wines and many of the stations had white wine.

I also ran into family friends and my sweet Stella & Dot stylist that helps with the Holiday Cheer. We were both wearing our go to CAbi clothes and if you haven’t heard of CAbi my dear friends get your GOOGLE on and check it out. These are clothes you can only get through a stylist. Like remember when your mom had an AVON lady – you need a CAbi stylist it is of the utmost importance. CAbi clothes fit all sizes and shapes and look fabulous. They are a little pricey, but last foreves. They beat out my Target wardrobe any day. But I digress…

Moms of four don’t get out much so this was really a special treat. Being with my cousins was the best thing ever!

I am so glad that I was able to have this day.

Wishing you all a special day,

M

 

Be – you – tiful

My most recent homework from my therapist was to say 3 nice things about myself daily and then finally to say 1 of those things out loud to a family member.

I know, seems easy right? Not easy for me.

In fact it has been the most difficult homework assignment ever! I have spent most of my life being who people thought I was.

“Whether true or false, what is said about men often has as much influence on their lives, and particularly on their destinies, as what they do.” 
― Victor HugoLes Misérables

“Perfect child”

“Responsible”

“Confident”

“Leader”

“Hard-working”

“Smart”

I know that these are great things to be, but I spent so much time being those things that I didn’t really know what was me and what was just my reputation.

So, homework assignment in hand; I had to really think about me and who I actually am.

What do I like? What do I do well? What makes me, me?

This all got me thinking about how I like being some of the things other people think about me. Like, responsible and hard-working. Those are two things that I think are deeply ingrained in my soul.

But just thinking about the word “perfect” makes me SHUDDER.

I am IMPERFECT, just one great big beautiful oops.

In fact, Beautiful Oops is also one of my favorite books. If you haven’t read it. Buy it. Read it. Read it to your children. Buy one for a friend.

Beautiful Oops

This short children’s book wonderfully illustrates how making mistakes is natural and that so much learning and grace can come from mistakes.

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Now I am not saying that we should strive to make mistakes; I am just saying we should be comfortable in making them as long as we learn from them and see them as opportunities for growth. But I digress, point is I like being imperfect. There is a great deal of beauty in the imperfect.

I also am a good mom. I am the kind of mom that let’s her little girl plant kisses in the garden and makes sure that it grows into something tangible…

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I am the kind of mom that helps her kids make forts, masks, 6 foot long drawings, and make their very own salsa.

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And always makes sure we have birthday cake pancakes for special occasions.

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But I am also the mom that always explains why, that has never-ending hugs and kisses, is incredibly patient and apologizes for mistakes. I am the kind of mom that always puts her family first and loves unconditionally.

I also realized recently, that despite spending the past 10 years as a hermit and afraid of making connections, that I am a FRIEND JUNKIE.

When I decided to do this whole vulnerable and live out loud business I never thought that I would end up making such great friends or needing them around so much. And I have made GREAT friends.

This last little while, I have spent a lot of time with them, too and when I don’t see them I am lonely and I miss them. This is weird for me because I have spent a good deal of time convincing myself I didn’t need friends. Well, I totally need them and kind of adore them and wish I could see all of them everyday. I know I don’t have pictures of some of you (Debbie, Dorothy, Janet, Nadien, Alyssa, everyone…but you are loved none-the-less). I love my friends!

Me and the bestie
Me and the bestie
Cheese!
Cheese!
Crafty Rebecca
Crafty Rebecca

And my family – I adore my family. I am still head over heels in love with my husband and feel so blessed to have 4 great, funny, AMAZING children.

Love my husband
Love my husband

My dad, mom and two sisters are the best and I love them dearly.

mom & dad
mom & dad
Me and My sista
Me and My sista
sister
sister

And my niece is pretty amazing, too. I love her to pieces!

fairy princess
fairy princess

I have also come to realize that I am kind. I LOVE helping others and making other people happy. That is really important to me.

Today while I was running, I also realized that there is an athlete that lives inside of me. She is kind of awesome and I have to do a better job of helping her thrive.

Even though most of the time I am terribly afraid to do new things; I love to do and learn new things. I love to bake and am pretty good at it, too. I love the smell of fresh-cut grass, going on walks, and curling up with a good book.

Silly

Most of the time though I am just a silly girl doing her best to find her way to the best version of herself. I want to be the kind of adult I hope my kids become.

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So here is to believing I can be the best version of myself and to completing my homework assignment…

I am imperfect.

I am kind.

I am a good mom.

I am a helpful person.

It’s a start.

Shine on my friends…

M