Who understands me but me when I say this is beautiful. When the path looks crooked and torn with rocks, stumps, roots and uneven ground. I take the first step. They say I should be afraid and not wander out too far, not go out of my comfort zone: the safety net that has become a leash tethering me to this spot training me to be okay with this small plot. They say I am reckless, foolish and asking for trouble. I lace on my sneakers and head out the door. The sunlight streams through the tree branches A lighted beam pointed toward freedom: Freedom from thinking small Lighting the path to discovering my own voice and inner strength. They say the path is dangerous. Its twists and turns unknown to an untrained eye. I do not need a compass in my pocket to show me the way. I have always known this journey. I may return to it again and again Reminding myself of my true worth. My true north is an innate part of me. It cannot be scared, beaten or numbed away. I will always resurface and be a companion and a guide to my own suffering and fears of being lost, Filled with doubt or shame, Guilty for taking the first step. I am in my corner. They say it is for my own good. It is uncomfortable to go against the grain. I show up again and again Not only to prove them wrong But to show up for me. I am on my own side and free to be me.
Community is the thread that Keeps humanity tethered. It reminds us we are one. We are not separate or alone. Our struggle is not just ours Alone to bear. We all share this one blue, green planet. And luckily we get to Share the same day and year. What troubles you I have been there. Although your story is Uniquely your own by your own experience and senses, I have felt that too On my own life’s journey. It can feel hard to open up To share our struggles Without fear of burdening another or adding more to the stress of everyday life. And when we put up blinders Or put up a protective guard, We become impenetrable to Another’s suffering and Inadvertently build walls of separation. I want to know what lights you up. What life lessons have you learned? What cherished memory do you want to remember? What do you wish you could forget? What do you wish you could hold on to And linger there for just a little longer? Our stories bind us And remind us Of our common humanity: Our fears, our woes, Our aches, our loss, our love Our ecstasy, our shame Our joys and pain. Our authentic truth Must be shared. The truth comes out eventually. Why not share some common ground And held space for one another? Today can we be present and listen Without agendas or distraction? Our presence is the present We give to each other Each and every day.
What do we do when we feel discomfort? Do we run away? Do we distract ourselves? Do we ignore and pretend A doubting of reality? Where do the feelings go when they are repressed and not fully expressed? Do we digest them through our pores and with our breath? Do they alchemize into Our cells, our inner makeup Only to resurface again later? Am I okay if I sit here With the fear, the doubt, the unknown? Will I somehow lose myself and be completely consumed and transformed by it, as fear would tell? What if I sit here for 10 seconds? Surely, I can do anything for just 10 seconds. No big deal, I tell fear after the time’s run out. And, well, I’ll be. I’m still me. I didn’t fall of the cliff. The earth didn’t cease to rotate because I sat with the doubt or uncertainty. Still the earth rotates on its axis and I became one with the fear and found my way to the other side, To home. Confidence in myself, My self-worth, My inner being was strengthened as a result of just getting still And being with the discomfort. For just a moment in time Heaven moved with the earth And I came out unscathed At having faced it, Just for today.
Each Season has a reason A root cause A call to Mother Earth An honoring of nature’s rhythms. I, too, can play a role in this delicate dance. A celebration with Its own unique beauty Its own story to tell An expression of emotion of life itself. And all the stages One not better than the other All necessary and Interdependent on each other. Humans throughout time Have heard the call and took their rightful place at the helm at Mother Nature’s feet Ruffling her skirts, Smoothing the sheets One role not more prestigious than another. All needed in sharing the honor of her presence. Greeting her at each stage Arms open wide Accepting the gifts and the lessons To make way for Growth and space For it all to take place Together Side by side Hand in hand Guided to her Beauty and sorrow Each day a change to begin anew.
As I started this blog topic today, I noticed lousy is in the word jealousy And the final feeling when all the rage, anger, blame, guilt and shame has settled down, the end result is I always feel lousy. Can jealousy be my teacher or at least serve as a guidepost that a boundary perhaps is being crossed? Other times jealousy arises from the actions perceived or real by a stranger, someone unknown, and it’s not personal. But I feel recoiled, wounded and protective. It opens up old scars that I thought I’ve gotten over, long healed and moved on. Today, I got to work a little late so my usual parking spot was taken. It’s not mine. I don’t have a claim, a sign, a right even to that parking spot. It’s just convenient. I could always park one level up and be on the same spot. It’s all perspective, claiming ownership over something that isn’t mine. Today it was a reminder of impermanence and the inevitable change that must occur. And again suffering is optional and at my own making. I can leave feeling lousy. And instead of starting my day on the positive, I’m feeling thrown off kilter, uncertain and grumpy. When was the last time you felt jealous?
“She’s so nice” “almost too nice.” What the hell does that mean? From childhood we are nice girls when we help mommy and are not too rambunctious or loud. Nice when we are using our imagination on domestic endeavors. I’ve grown up being called nice and the good girl. The dependable child. Always available, helping with minimal complaints or drama. How did this disposition become so ingrained into my identity that I don’t remember where it originated from? And when did I choose to embody the spirit of nice? I was in a long-term relationship in my early adult life. I played by all the rules and was proud of my accomplishments and all that I did and strive for despite my challenging upbringing. But I gave away my power so easily. Particularly to my partner. And I still have this tendency in my marriage. The weight I give him takes precedence over my own beliefs and interests. If I speak up, I feel selfish and like I’m being self-centered and there’s something wrong with me for voicing my opinion and concerns. I’m making waves. It’s always easier to just play along, go with the flow. But soon the scenery changes And the calm river is now rapidly moving towards downfall and I lost my footing, my way, my own heart’s calling and loving what I love because it fits me. I am cast off. So I need to make waves if anything for survival and self-preservation. I am not going to lie there without taking an active role. But these feelings of I should just go along, it’s easier than using effort when life can feel so exhausting. And “we have to choose our battles“ but then I’m left with a shell of what could’ve been.
We all walk around with a little trauma in our back pocket. Sometimes we forget it’s there. Sometimes, unbeknownst to us, we pull it up and it’s in our face without any warning. How we experienced the trauma is individual and unique: what happened, how we dealt with it or didn’t deal with it, our own personal experience of the trauma. We were innocent one moment and then the event rocked us to the core and that is something we all share.
We’d like to pretend it never happened to us. Why talk about such negative things that don’t affect us now? The event shaped us whether we’d like to admit it. We can choose to acknowledge this trauma that we’ve been carrying around for far too long. Perhaps we’ve grown tired and exhausted from the heaviness of that burden. And it has metaphorically created a hole and fell out of our pocket. However it happens, the opportunity lies before us.
Do we quickly scoop it up and bury it once again? Do we distract ourselves and hide it, ignore it or stuff it? Or can we just for a moment accept our common humanity that trauma unfortunately happens. It’s a part of the journey of life. But it doesn’t have to control us any longer. It happened, for sure. It sucks. Who wants to rehash unpleasantries?
But once we acknowledge our common human experience, our trauma, something shifts. Our burden lightens. We see that we are not alone in our suffering. It is okay. We are not justifying what happened, but right now in this moment can we feel safe? Can we take a breath? Can we sit with this feeling for just a few moments?
Here’s what I would like you to do right now. Don’t engage in a dialogue with the trauma. Just be the listener. Write if it helps you to sort out your thoughts on paper. Treat yourself gingerly, with the softness and tenderness as you would a small infant. You were innocent when it happened through no fault. Can you see what “trauma” is showing you? Is there a message? A nugget of wisdom that you can explore?
When you’ve listened to what has to be said, put your hands on your heart and just breathe for a minute. Counting breaths helps. I like to count to 10. One, inhale; one, exhale. Two, inhale; two, exhale, etc. I promise you any fear, anger, or other strong emotion you feel will dissipate if for just a moment you can let it out. It’s been bottled up for too long.
Sharing my story heals myself and others, and at the same time I am not my story. Yes, my story is my past and has shaped who I am. I am grateful for my past. It has brought me to here. Now. This moment. Yet my story doesn’t define or shape this very moment that may someday become “my story.”
How can that be? I’ve learned from my story. I’m able to fit life’s experiences into a nicely labeled box or manila folder to be tucked away into my memory. Those lessons have been integrated and shape my view of myself and the world.
I am more than my story: than my past, than my teenage angst, than my mistakes, worries, future trips, to-do list, career, roles, and lifestyle choices. Each part is not a stand-alone entity because for this moment it’s on the front burner of my psyche.
However, as with all contradictions, each integral part is a part of me, responsible for who I am, who I was, who I will be.
I almost lost it all. One moment of self-doubt could have turned to tragedy. It couldn’t really be carbon monoxide. It must be faulty batteries, not a faulty furnace.
How I doubted myself. How it could have ended everything for me, for my life, for my neighbors in the building.
What I could have lost and missed out on: motherhood, adventure, marriage.
All lost in a moment if I didn’t move. If I didn’t follow through. If I didn’t make a phone call. All could have ended.
The earth gone black. Death by choking. Death in my sleep. Death all alone. Death all heartbroken. Leaving everyone I knew’s heart in pieces too.
Luckily, that’s not where my story ended. It was a rebirth. A renewal. A tangible bona fide appreciation of life.
How fragile it can be. How temporary it is. That every day is a gift.
My neighbors survived. My life was given new meaning. I am forever grateful for the lessons and cherish each day.
That basement apartment off of Gano Street? The final verdict: uninhabitable for human life. I called it home for a short three months. And it could have cost me my life!
My first time on my own. Living the dream of being an independent woman.
And I was afraid. I was lonely and heartbroken. Alone for the very first time. Unsure of what to do. Doubting my choices to leave, layering on guilt and remorse.
It could have all ended. But thank the stars it didn’t. My life is amazing these 14 years later. The beauty and gift of this one remarkable life.
We are all hurting. If there’s one thing we share in common, it’s that we all experience pain and/or suffering.
Our thoughts can hold us hostage and sabotage our present moment. For example, when I got my new job, my husband suggested, “Let’s spend some time celebrating!” In an instant my mind shifted into forward thinking. There’s childcare needs, a new wardrobe to purchase, and a general fear of the unknown. That moment to celebrate was ever so brief. Sweet but not fully experienced, not completely felt. In hindsight, perhaps I should have taken a moment to savor the excitement and opportunity and let a feeling of gratitude set in.
It’s over too quickly and we can’t get it back. I had a similar experience when my 19-year old cat Max died. My mom and I never followed through on our plan to memorialize him. We were in a state of grief and I had to take care of my toddler. We didn’t get the chance to properly mourn him. As a result we suffered on our own and grieved alone. Instead of holding each other, we kept it inside. A few years have passed since then. And I don’t know if we will ever be in that space again.
Our thoughts can run wild if we let them. They can rob us from the rich and healing experience of being fully present: to how we are feeling or what is happening in this moment. Now I try to pause when I notice my mind going rampant or rehashing the same story over and over. I take a deep breath and think, “I’ve already spent enough time, space and energy on this.” I soften and I take a moment to notice my surroundings. “How is this story, forward or past thinking distracting me from the NOW? Is it causing me undo stress?” Of course, it is.
Then I ask the question, “How do I want to feel instead?” Usually I want to feel relaxed, present and connected to my family.
And the final question, “What can I do to make that feeling a reality?” Usually it’s taking a few box breaths or utilizing one of my self-care tools. I’m a work in progress. There are days when I forget my tools and I get lost in thought and distraction. I lose my grounding and connection to myself and the present moment. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m continuing to learn and re-learn what works for me, and I will always continue to do so.
Now it’s your turn. How do your thoughts affect you? Are they distracting you from what’s going on right now? Are they causing you undo stress? If so, how do you want to feel instead? And what can you do to make that feeling come true?
I send you peace.