Ballroom Blitz- Wise project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

 

“To err is human, to forgive divine”

The following post is dedicated to a beautiful soul; my late husband Kirk. For years he has implored me to love more and judge less. I finally get it, it is a constant and life changing lesson.

I have a dirty little secret that I have never told anyone but I am about to share with all of you.

I turn into a completely different person when Ballroom Blitz comes on the radio. About four months after my husband passed away I was wandering aimlessly around the Superstore when Ballroom Blitz came booming from the sound system. For the past several months I had been holding my life together with double sided sticky tape and the good thoughts and prayers of the lovely people that never failed to support me during the darkest time of my life. Sure I laughed when something was funny and I was doing my best to put one foot in front of the other but that day was particularly dark.

I recognized the song in the first couple of bars and my left foot started to tap uncontrollably, followed by the unmistakable sway of my hips and that shoulder shimmy thing I do that makes my breasts move in a way that is illegal in some parts of the world. Without a conscious thought I grabbed a can of cheddar cheese soup and started pretending to sing into it ‘OOOH YEAH,” as I grooved through the aisle. I shimmied and I shook and I lost myself in wild abandon in that grocery store while strangers looked on in a mixture of confusion, judgment, amusement and quite possibly admiration. My limbs became one with the music; I was no longer in charge of anything. It was if I, the grieving widow, was standing there quietly broken watching this badass, slightly crazy woman treat the grocery store aisle like the dance floor cage at her old small time haunt. I was in awe to be honest. Looking back it is likely in the top five of my most magnificent moments ever.

The song ended and I abruptly put down the soup can, smoothed out my polka dot dress and walked out of the store without looking back. I got in my truck and started driving as aimlessly as I had been wandering through the store and though monstrous tears spit out of my eyes and threatened to drown me I felt much lighter than I had in months, I felt a spark of my old self that if ignited could erupt into a full blown flame. It was a reassuring feeling. It felt like a promise that I was still in there, among the wreckage and if I kept digging I would emerge, bruised and bloody, but still fucking fabulous. Those people in that store that day, even if they repeat what they saw in late night conversations, over drinks, or around campfires will likely never know how important that four minutes of intemperance were for me. I abandoned my grief for four whole minutes and I was reminded that one day I would dance again, and sing, and laugh, and love. In four minutes I felt everything I was not able to feel for what seemed like a lifetime.

Their judgement, whatever it was didn’t matter, I pleaded with myself not to fuel that fire. The only judgement that mattered in that moment was my own and I got to tell you that there was a little girl inside me shaking pom poms and doing cart wheels.

I have found myself in the midst of many contemplative moments lately. I have been quite vocal that my late husband implored me to love more and judge less and that one thing alone has been nothing short of life changing. I try to be fair with people, I try to understand that humans err; I find myself frequently exploring the depths of forgiveness.

I am learning that there is a beautiful lesson in forgiveness, for both the person we forgive and the person we ask forgiveness of. We realize that we are not perfect and we shouldn’t ask that for that kind of perfection in others. We cannot claim to be attracted to the raw authenticity in people and then turn our backs when shit gets too real. There is something exquisite in seeing someone emerge from a mistake, owning the entire script of their life and working hard to write a better next chapter.

The thing that has struck me more than anything is that when I find myself sitting in judgment of others I am also forced to face my own shit and that is not always easy. It is however enlightening.

I realize that we are not always a victim or a product of the things that happen to us, but what we call into our lives and what we allow. We all have patterns, draws and habits and we are all perfectly imperfect. We are flawed, bruised, real…figuring this shit out as we go along. I find myself constantly reminding myself that when I dare to judge others that I better hold myself up for judgement as well and that is not always fun.

I have patterns of attraction that have been with me so long that I am reluctant to work on them. I feel that they are such a huge part of who I am so I struggle with what belongs and what is a security blanket for me.

My first step is owning that I am responsible for what I invite into my life. I have a pull to certain things that challenge me but also have the potential to hurt me and I wonder if I could ever be completely satisfied without that push/pull.

So much of my identity is wrapped up in the awareness that the people and experiences that have challenged me the most have also taught me the greatest lessons about life and about myself.

However, does this draw towards hard things mean that I am inviting difficult things into my life to avoid boredom?

The truth is I quite enjoy peace, and I quite enjoy being around people who expand my mind and fill me up without sucking away my energy. I can’t help wonder if I have been confusing things. I very adamantly told my friend that I had a healthy relationship with “hard stuff” because I knew that life would be hard, it is inevitable; and I was able to face the hard things head on. She gave me something huge to consider that has been nagging me, like a fly buzzing around my head for the past couple of months.

I can do hard things. I can face hard things. I am a badass. Do I want to? Should I need to? Am I provoking the universe? Am I asking for hard things to prove that I can keep conquering them?

It is not a bad thing to confront you, to question yourself and get to know yourself.

We spend way too much time with an eye on others judging what they are doing without considering what leads us to do the things we do. If we want to sit in the seat of the judge why are we so reluctant to turn our inquisitive minds to ourselves?

Sure, we judge ourselves right?! I am bad, I suck, I messed up, I could have done better, I will never be who I want to be…but how often to we consider the choices we make, why we make them and what would change if we genuinely believed that we were worth the world and made all of our decisions based on what was best for us.

We spend a great deal of  time in our lives trying to find someone to spend our lives with and once we find that person we try to be right for that person but too often we forget how important it is to be that person to ourselves. You are the person you will spend the rest of your life with. Our journey in life is not about finding “the one”, the journey is about becoming “the one”

I believe that once we learn to love and accept ourselves and own our own bullshit everything else will fall into place just as it is supposed to.

It takes time and patience is a virtue, sadly not one of mine but I am working on that one too. I indisputably believe that we can all have the life that we were born to pursue, but it takes work and part of that is allowing ourselves to see and meet ourselves and others with love first, before judgement.

Not everyone belongs in our lives and I am careful to weed my garden of people that don’t add value to my life in some way, that is not selfish, that is self care. I am also learning that when someone hurts me, it is very unlikely that it has anything to do with who I am and everything to do with who they are in that moment. Good people do bad things; sometimes our gardens are not full of weeds, just unique flowers that need watering. We can judge them as bad and throw them away or we can show them a little love and see if they bloom.

Life is weird. We are all on a journey. We all have scars and bruises. The very best people I know are made from life’s lessons, emerged from struggle and stitched back together with love and forgiveness.

Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Once you are able to love yourself where you are and how you are you will be a lot more willing to meet people where they are on their journey. We are not the judge or the jury, we are the witnesses.

screenshot_20180711-195644_twitter8232744084793863239.jpg

Flower in the sun-Wise Project 2018 – #TenaciousTuesday

Good Morning,

Today is a bit of a cheat day, we are fresh off a long weekend here in Canada and I spent yesterday being incredibly unproductive and eating everything I could get my hands on. My girls and I were having a hilarious conversation about crushes and asking for what you want and my oldest daughter said I was a Badass because I wasn’t afraid to ask for what I wanted and my youngest remarked that I had so much confidence that no didn’t bother me, I just bounced right back. Sometimes I wonder about the line between Badass and just plain ass but I am excited that my perceived badassery might inspire them to go after what they want in life and not just in love and relationships but in every aspect of their lives. No is not always a rejection, sometimes it is merely a redirection and in any case no does not have to reflect poorly on anyone; the person on the giving or receiving end. That being said I was writing a bit of fiction, fiction is actually one of my great loves, I love creating characters and scenarios. The one I have created below is very light reading but it is cute and fun and if it inspires one person today to find their version of brave and put themselves out there, without fear of the word no but in awesome anticipation of what grows on the other side of our fear than it will be a great Tuesday.

Thanks for visiting and go get what you want today!

xo

Michelle

edsstuff6_2883279k
Ed’s Diner, Photo Credit Telegraph U.K.

She was cute and fresh looking with just the hint of freckles across the bridge of her nose and scattered randomly on her face as if a happy accident with a brush and paint had lightly splattered them there. Her dark wavy hair was so shiny he could almost imagine how it would feel between his fingers. She had it pulled it back in a ponytail that moved from side to side as she talked and laughed. Her knee length floral dress hugged her in all the right places, showing off her small waist and fuller bust and then flaring into a flirty swing skirt. She could have effortlessly played the part of the girl next door in a 1950’s chewing gum commercial.

She smiled easily at everyone she encountered, her gentleness drawing exuberant smiles from even the most unlikely of candidates. Watching her from a distance he felt like a bit of a voyeur, peeking into her world uninvited.

He sipped his coffee, accepting a refill as the waitress walked by and loading it with full cream and sugar. It was still early, and the sun was just beginning to peak above the horizon, sending filtered light bursting through the restaurant windows. A rush of cool late summer air announced the opening of the door every few seconds and as he glanced in that direction he noticed that the sky looked like a tequila sunrise, a glorious golden peach color drizzled with hot pink throughout.

“Pretty sky this morning,” the waitress remarked following his gaze as she arrived to set down his scrambled eggs and brown toast and refill his coffee once again.

“It is, and thank you” he replied, nodding in the direction of the eggs and smiling.

He devoured the eggs and toast, pushing the plate aside to finish the last couple of mouthfuls of slightly burnt tasting diner coffee from a dingy off-white mug. He checked his phone messages again and took a sly selfie to make sure there was no food in his teeth or beard. He proceeded to nervously fumble with a small tear in the cherry red vinyl seat while avoiding going to the counter and fumbling over his words like many a time before.

Her name was Lily. She had once told him that she was named after her mother’s favorite flower and then looked at him expectantly to tell her his name. He ruined the moment of course and left feeling like a huge jerk but the next time he was in he blurted out “Trey” while she had her head down. She was thrown off guard for a moment, but he continued to speak what he had rehearsed, without daring to take a breath, “I was named after a childhood friend of my parents from D.C. who went on to be a novelist and playwright”

He sucked in a quick breath and looked up. Her eyes, as welcoming as the green fields of Ireland, seemed to be smiling at him as she held her hand out, “It is nice to finally meet you Trey.”

He came in every Tuesday since that day, waking up at an ungodly hour to beat the rush of the city traffic. He sat at the same booth and ordered the exact same breakfast and made the same incredibly awkward small talk with Lily while paying his bill that she rang in on the same outdated cash register.

He always made sure his suit was neatly pressed, his tie was on straight, and he had on enough cologne that he smelled manly but not like someone’s creepy uncle. He was well groomed; he had even started using beard oil and getting his hair trimmed more frequently. He was very aware that his dark skin was quite a contrast to her cream like complexion but he didn’t anticipate that being an issue, as it had been in the past.

As his legs somewhat unwillingly walked him to the counter each week he imagined every time that this would be the day that he asked Lily out and today was no exception.

“Good morning Trey, it looks like it is going to be a beautiful Tuesday!” she remarked, turning the corners of her bright red lips into a dazzling smile and looking straight into his warm chocolate colored eyes.

“Beautiful. Indeed,” he muttered, feeling like his throat was suddenly getting scratchy, and then quickly over analyzing everything he had intended on saying so opting to say nothing at all. He was certain that his brown skin was now a fiery shade of red as he stumbled to form a sentence while using the debit machine. Lily waved goodbye, still smiling at him with her wondrous eyes but looking a bit disappointed he thought.

As he got into his shiny silver Mazda a flood of frustration threatened to drown him. It was August 26 and he had wanted to ask Lily out for the past 35 Tuesdays. Today was supposed to be the day. He was going to celebrate his birthday knowing that he had a date with the girl whose smile had rocked him to sleep every night for the past several months. He completely blew it. He was a 34-year-old man with less courage than a twelve-year-old boy. It shouldn’t be this hard. There were three possible answers she could give him, yes, no or maybe. He had asked out girls before but had never considered dating anyone seriously since Jenna ripped his heart out and stomped all over it. Something about Lily made him believe that being with her could out weigh the risk of heartache. He longed to feel again, and he imagined feeling all sorts of things with Lily. Unfortunately, every time he got close he found himself in the grip of uncertainty and fear.

He realized he had been sitting in his car in the busy parking lot for fifteen minutes and was going to be late for a meeting. He scrambled to text a colleague when it occurred to him that he didn’t have his phone, he had left it on the counter while he paid his bill.

He walked into the diner and was greeted by Lily’s genuine smile and outstretched hand.

“I thought you would be looking for this she said,” placing his iPhone in his hand.”

“Thank-you Lily. You saved me. Have a wonderful day.” he said, turning to leave.

“Wait Trey,” she shouted as he opened the door. She came out from behind the counter and met him where he stood, “I put my number in your phone, and it’s under Lily, same as your pass code. Just in case you ever want to text me.” She smiled again and very softly touched his hand before turning on her heel but turning her head back just slightly, “Oh, and Happy Birthday.”

He was still smiling as he got in the car, even though Lily had out classed him by far. He texted his colleague first and then texted Lily thanking her again for returning his phone and asking her if she had any interest in going for birthday drinks with an adorable but hopelessly immature guy.”

She simply replied “Yes.” And then a moment later “Finally”

Hopeless minds and

hopeless hearts

are haunted places

where

no one loves to stay.

~Kwawaja Musadiq

The Dance- Wise Project 2018- #tenacioustuesday

 

Life is fucking cruel sometimes

I just sat down at Starbucks and took my laptop out of my bag and I realized that not only is this my first post of 2018, it is the beginning of year three for my little project, the Wise Project. In fact, that is the first time I typed 2018 and it feels weighty and powerful. A new year, a blank canvas. I still firmly believe in the importance of sharing our stories and being honest about our struggles, we belong to each other and it is important to know that we are never alone. These connections we form, these invisible bonds, help us grow and they help fuel change. This is why we read books and watch movies, for wisdom, perspective, growth and to hear and see important stories as they unfold and learn from them.

Year two of my project saw a complete change in format and theme from the inaugural year and if you are not a newcomer here you know that I lost my husband to suicide in June and the remainder of the year I was basically just looking for ways to keep my shit together and inch forward with my life as I talked about what grief looked like for me and how I was grasping onto shreds of hope to help myself and my family through a very sad time.

One of the hardest things about healing the past several months was resisting the urge to live in the past, in the fairy-tale what-ifs and happily ever afters. Life is fucking cruel sometimes, it gives us what it gives us, and we do with that what we choose to do with it. We will all suffer loss and adversity in our lives, and though our circumstances and our advantages and disadvantages may differ, I think our biggest asset in healing is our own heart and the decisions that we make to either sink or swim. I chose swim. For my family and I there really is not another option and though I am willing to admit that a lot of 2017 was spent treading water, I am proud of that too.

When our wings feel broken, it is then that we discover that we have claws and sometimes we need to claw our way up and out of the dark.

A difficult lesson I learned last year is that often the thing that causes our heartbreak is the very thing to heal us. My deep love for my husband was obviously the reason my heart imploded when he was taken from us and my first instinct was to put a wall around that part of me, but the love that so many people had for him that extends to the children and I, as well as the love from friends, family and people that seemed to appear into my life by happy accident to make me see that I am indeed love and that if I continue to put that very thing into the world, I will continue to get it back has been one of the most instrumental parts of my healing. So many times I have heard people refer to themselves as broken, I have been brought to my knees by that very feeling but I am not broken and neither are you. We have cracks, battle scars, proof that we loved and lost and yet we continue to live and love and fight, that is far from broken.

In the gaps between tears and heartbreak there are glimpses of the real magic of life and I know that I will never touch that magic for long if I stay in the past. My friend Cody who I did some personal coaching with reminds me that “trying is lying” so I am doing. I am doing my best, living the day and enjoying the moments, laughing when something is funny and doing my best to hold onto those moments where I feel un-tethered.

I discovered quite recently, that though I fared quite well with not living in the past I had catapulted myself into another issue entirely, trying to control every single situation which took me out of the present a great deal and into the uncertain future. Oddly I had not been dreaming since Kirk passed away, I am not sure if that is a normal symptom of grief or not but in the past couple of weeks my dreams have returned and with them something unexpected-and unwelcome -ANXIETY

This has become a bit of a fear based theme in my life, trying to control upcoming situations so there would be no element of surprise or disappointment

I discovered that my dreams were looping and I would be stuck inside the same dream all night because I was desperately trying to control the outcome. This has become a bit of a fear based theme in my life, trying to control upcoming situations so there would be no element of surprise or disappointment. I was attaching expectations to everything I did or planned to do and spending a great deal of time in my head, so much so that I would find myself pulling into parking lots, overwhelmed and unable to breath.

I have meditated in a lot of parking lots the past few weeks. Thank You Sobeys, Subway, Liquor Depot…

2017 was a year of firsts for me and though there have been plenty of tears and dread, mingled in the midst of the great unknown I am doing my best to welcome exciting new opportunities and experiences and simply enjoy my life. I would be amiss to discount the smiles and good times. The challenge for me has been control, over thinking and self sabotage. I am guessing that for some of you these are common themes and though I never thought they were for me, looking back, these things have been lurking in the shadows of my life for quite some time, thieving joy from me little bits at a time.  Too often I follow uncertainty down the rabbit hole into a place of apprehension and worry. Angst can literally suck all the pleasure out of life.

At a time when it was extremely difficult to breath, we felt like every breath we dared to take was being assessed

The last day I saw my husband we had planned for a quiet movie night. “Cuddled up on the couch” were the words he used when he called me mere minutes after I left the house. I was going to BBQ cheeseburgers and I had made him the very best potato salad in the world. He kept saying he couldn’t wait to eat it. It went untouched in the fridge in his garage and sometime in July I threw it out, bowl and all. I felt so goddamn robbed in so many ways and yet no amount of stress or worry could have prepared me for that day or anything that followed. The pain, the grief and heartache were all multiplied by the rumors, personal attacks and innuendo by people I had once considered friends. I spent nineteen years loving and supporting my husband and at the very lowest point of mine and my children’s lives we felt like we were living under a microscope. At a time when it was extremely difficult to catch our breath, we felt like every breath we dared to take was being assessed.

Not only is life cruel but people can be amazingly cruel and it was challenging not to drown in despair.  The beauty the children and I eventually found in that, is that you find out quickly that there are people that belong in your life and people that do not. There are people that will always quietly cheer you on from afar and emerge exactly when you need them, and there are people that will lift the sun into the sky each morning and replace it with the moon each night if that is what it takes for you to make it through the blackness of it all. A gaping wound as it heals is a hard thing to see, it is even harder to be around. The people that embrace you while you heal your ugly wounds, those are your people. How blessed we are to have those people in in our lives. For the others, it is almost as if the trash took itself out.

The love, the wisdom, and the encouragement that people have shared with us has been a phenomenal gift.

People ask me if I would have done anything differently that day had I had a suspicion of what was coming. Of course I would never have left the house, but I also know that would have been a temporary solution. Considering it now is what has really made me decide to work on my issue with control and facing uncertainty. I know where my fear was born but I also know better than most that you can never prepare yourself for what happens next and trying to can significantly limit the happiness you desire in your life. There have been many times in the past several months that I have had to give in and trust that the universe would help lead me. The world is always at work for us, we can’t always see that or feel it and maybe things don’t always work out the way we imagined that they would but that doesn’t mean that big things are not happening. You may question how I can believe that after losing my husband in such a tragic way and it is all perspective really. The world was working for us individually. Kirk was tired of being sick, he was faced with constant fear and unimaginable blackness. It broke his heart to think that he was a burden to his family. I read a quote once that said that only when the earth claims your limbs will you truly learn to dance. I often think of the magnitude of that freedom and inhibition and I imagine my Kirk, free from pain and fear; dancing. I have to find solace in that.

He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

We simply cannot plan every moment of our lives. There is a line in the Garth Brooks ballad “The Dance” that has resonated with me for many years. When I was 16 and my Dad died I played that song incessantly and Garth croons, Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance”

Your hands have the weight of your whole body and then some behind you, so you are connected, you need to feel each other, to move together

Typing this through tears I am reminded of a conversation I had just weeks ago with a very wise friend that I admire about the beauty of partner dance and he said ‘as light as it looks there is a lot of push and pull, grip, pressure. Your hands have the weight of your whole body and then some behind you, so you are connected, you need to feel each other, to move together. That is what makes it so graceful, the effort, the exertion. The sharing of the weight. It’s powerful.

Sipping on my snobby Venti Americano at Starbucks, with tears in my eyes recalling 2017; that conversation popped in my head as easily as the words to Garth Brooks The Dance. (yes for the astronomical price of coffee you get fantastic service and you can cry if you want to)

Despite the sting, the fear, the uncertainty…we need to just fucking DANCE

Maybe Shakespeare had it right and all the world is a stage. We are all playing parts, making entrances and exits. We are dancing. We need connections. We need to feel each other. Sometimes we need to feel the weight of the world, of each other. Sometimes we need to lift others up and sometimes we need to be OK with being held. Sometimes we push, sometimes we pull but sometimes we need to let it all go, we need to trust that no matter what crippling heartache that we have faced in the past that the universe has our backs. If we constantly protect our hearts from hurt, we also protect ourselves from love and joy because you cannot selectively numb emotion. Sometimes we need to dance like nobody is watching, like our hearts have never been broken, like we have never stared down the darkness and wondered if we would ever overcome the pain. Despite the sting, the fear, the uncertainty…we need to just fucking DANCE.

There is grace and power and forgiveness in the dance of life, and when we are spent and sweaty and our heart is thumping in our chest we will know we have lived.

You can be unhappy that you can’t dance, or you can find some music and start moving. Happiness isn’t about places, things, accomplishments, or even other people. It’s about embracing your power, making things happen and looking out for others along the way. Anyone can dance-You’ll feel the beat as you begin to move ~ Begin with yes. 

In 2018 I finally realized that I am not trying to change me, the truth is I quite like me. I am proud of the woman that has emerged out of unimaginable grief with a huge desire to live and love and dance and to show her children how to be bold and unafraid and to allow their courage to be bigger than their fears and to make their dreams more important than their uncertainties.

I will not leave them a legacy of brokenness, and one day when I am but a memory, in the residue that remains I want my loved ones to uncover strength and hope.

I want to show them how to treat triumph and disaster the same;

as lessons,

as important steps of the dance.

I don’t want to change me . I just want to become me!

I want to un-become the cautious, uncertain girl that is afraid of the unknown. I want to be more like the bird that doesn’t fear the strength of the branch below because she knows she has wings.

I want to remember what it feels like to have a heartbeat, to dance in the rain and to laugh until my stomach hurts.

So much of me has been buried under grief and heartbreak, under fear and expectation. Over the years I lost pieces of myself, and being a wife and a mom I habitually forgot that I also had a responsibility to me. I forgot that taking care of me was a necessity, not a luxury.

A great deal of our lives we are told by our parents, teachers and superiors to “do as I say, not as I do!” but the best teachers lead and teach by example. They engage their students.

Now more than ever it is important for me to lead by example. I am a mirror for my children. I was telling my daughter just the other night how important it was to me that she make the right choices for her, that she always put her dreams first, that her happiness is essential. I want her to not just give her love to others but to wholeheartedly love herself. I can continue to say that until I am blue in the face, but I know the most effective way to make her understand is to see me do exactly that.

2018

I GOT THIS

Watch me fucking dance…

I believe it is in my nature to dance by virtue of the beat of my heart, the pulse of my blood and the music in my mind. ~Robert Fulghum

It’s a heartache- Wise Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

My late husband Kirk was my cheerleader. He literally thought that I was capable of anything and he encouraged me to be all that I could be. I never really believed in myself the way he did sadly, and he never believed in himself the way that I believed in him.

It is probably one of life’s greatest tragedies, that people discover much too late their passions and purpose in life; yet they say there are gifts in grief and for me nestled in among the heartache and sadness I have discovered my self-worth, my resiliency, my fierce need to be my authentic self, profound acceptance and a deep appreciation for kindness and empathy.

I opened up my email today and I receive Daily Spark emails from Heatherash amara who wrote one of my favorite books; Warrior Goddess Training. The emails always include a very inspiring quote and then her thoughts on the attached quote. Below is today’s email.

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. ~ Rumi

 

Wisdom does not come without the scouring of pain to deepen your soul. But grief can either harden our hearts or polish us smooth so we shine with an inner sun. Pain can be a beautiful spade to break up the soil and allow the water of compassion to penetrate deep into our bones. Today, let the poignancy of life – the grief, the pain, the loss  – be allies rather than an enemies. Hold hands with these companions and let them sing you the song of wisdom from the heart of experience. ~Heatherash amara

 

This literally sang to my heart today. It is no secret that that mindfulness has been so helpful to me in moving through grief, I am human, and I have good days and horrible days and that may never change. I am continually working hard to move forward in my life and be a role model for our children, to let them know that loss is not something we will ever stop feeling but we do not have to be afraid to live a big, colorful life.

There are a lot of questions and assumptions when you lose someone so tragically to suicide. In fact, just this morning I got a message from someone that said, I keep looking through your pictures and you and Kirk seemed so damn happy. That was all real, Kirk and I share, and always will share a great love but his depression and anxiety was also very real too, and as many people that suffer know all too well, sometimes it is in the dark hours that you spend alone that you are plagued with doubt, fear, uncertainty, racing thoughts and sometimes an overwhelming nothingness. I am choosing, every second of every day to focus on everything I gained by loving Kirk and not just on what we lost. I have a deep understanding of love, compassion, pleasure, joy and happiness. If anything, loving Kirk and losing Kirk validated how very tangible those things are, and how important they will continue to be in our lives.

I have spent many mornings in the last several months very afraid that I was losing myself in grief. I can only imagine that depression creates a very similar fear. I never imagined finding myself in this spot, but it is where I am and I need to meet myself where I am, not where I imagined I would be.

I am working with a personal coach to help me realize the most important things in my life, set goals and be accountable. I have also been using some mindful strategies to deal with trauma and loss and encourage healing for me and my family. A lot of you ask how I do it. Truthfully a lot of it is faith and deep breaths but below are some things that have been valuable to me:

 

1.     Don’t be afraid to reach out and/or accept help and support. It may come from unlikely places. Your circle will inevitably change but your energy will attract the people that you need in your life right now. We often wonder out loud why those suffering with depression do not reach out for help but truthfully, we know how hard it can be to take that step. Friends, spiritual leaders, support groups and professionals can all ensure that you do not deal with trauma alone.
2.     Tap into your internal strength. Remind yourself that you have made it through all the terrible things life has thrown at you so far and this is no different. You are a warrior. Pain has a memory but so does courage.

 

3.     Keep yourself centered through the agonizing feelings of grief. When the tides of heartbreak and helplessness wash over you don’t have be afraid to feel all the emotions; tears are sacred and cleansing, but don’t forget to breath, take deep breaths and allow them to guide you back to the present.

 

4.      Picture what a future will look like for yourself. Even amid immeasurable pain and loss it is OK to imagine what your future might look like and take baby steps to move forward.

 

5.     Practice Mindfulness: While doing grounding practices such as meditation, yoga, or even walking in nature remember that grief is not linear. There is no way over or around grief and there are no shortcuts. You will have good days and bad days, in no order. I liken grief to seasons and during the bitterly frigid winter I remind myself that inside of me is an indomitable summer.

 

6.     C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear” Part of our journey through grief is realizing that our fears hold us captive. We fear that moving forward is moving on from our loved ones, we fear that their memories will fade as we heal and that if we let go of the pain that grips us that we will be letting go of our loved ones forever. Pain during the grieving process is inevitable but fear can create unnecessary suffering. Our love is immortal, but our suffering need not be.

Remember that every single journey begins with a single step.

 

 

xoxo

Michelle

 

 

 

I’m still standing. Wise project 2017- #tenacioustuesday

“So what is it in a human life that creates bravery, kindness, wisdom, and resilience? What if it’s pain? What if it’s the struggle?”

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

For the past several months after the death of my husband I have been faced with some extremely tough questions, mostly questions that I ask myself to reconcile a life that I thought I had and a future that I had planned for; with the life that I currently have and a future for the girls and I that is a little uncertain.

Knowing how short life is I have questioned whether this is it? Is this the beginning of the end or is this end in fact a beginning?

I have been tasked to face my thoughts and fears surrounding humility, loss and desire.

Do I focus on what I lost when my husband left the physical world, or do I focus on what I gained while he was here?

Will I leave my children a legacy of brokeness or an endowment of great strength and fearlessness?

Do I dare desire to move forward in my life and imagine a bright future?

Will this loss break me or teach me?

Knowing that I am a mirror for our children I have been working hard to find my footing on this new path, my vulnerability and tenderness allows me to feel all the emotions as they wash over me, yet it is my bravery and tenacious spirit, traits we do not always associate with being feminine, that allow me the audacity to dream of a big future.

Somedays I feel as soft and fragile as mountain of cotton balls but more and more often, as I drift from heartache to daydreams I find myself moving with a sureness through this great big world, rising as resolute as an old oak tree, with roots planted so securely into the earth that I know that there isn’t a storm so fierce that it can knock me down.

 

“My courage will come from knowing I can handle whatever I encounter there — because I was designed by my creator to not only survive pain and love but also to become whole inside it. I was born to do this. I am a Warrior.”

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

 

It is really scary, yet equally motivating to slowly discover the place that you want to occupy in this world and work diligently to fabricate a brilliant and shiny future built from ruins.

I love Kirk as much in death as I did in life, my love for him has not changed, only my attachment to him physically.

I believe the human experience is such a very small part of our existence and the spirit world is more expansive than we can ever truly imagine. In life I wanted Kirk to have freedom from the demons that tortured him, and he wanted me to fully embrace my affable spirit and shine as brightly as I possibly could. None of that has changed, for either of us. I can remember vividly a conversation Kirk and I had at Easter in Vancouver about unconditional love. We talk a lot about unconditional love, while putting conditions on our love. When behaviors change or certain conditions are not met in our relationships, they suffer, some irreparably so. When our conditions are not met the love inevitably fades away. This had been an ongoing conversation for days, whether that type of love was possible in a romantic relationship. We both waivered and changed our minds countless times, settling on yes it was possible but could prove extremely  difficult. Now more than ever I realize the value and the depth of unconditional love. The promises and commitments we made can no longer be honored, yet, the love remains and always will; unconditionally.

Daily we face the unimaginable pain and trauma of our tragic loss, but our story continues. When we sift through the ragged debris of a life that once was I am finding that some important things remain, in fact all the things I need to plant the seeds of a new life. Hope, faith and love.

I know for certain that I do not want to be just lovely, I want to be love. I know that every bit of the love I gave to Kirk he will give back to me now so that I will contine to have the capability to face all of my  fears and embrace optimism and put that love back into the world so that I attract the right people and experiences to design a future of gratitude and abundance for me and my family.

I have a deep understanding of my worthiness and I know I am deserving of good things. The choices I make and the intentions I set will determine the foundation that I build a future on. I am forever changed but I will continue to live from an untamed heart, not a disenchanted one.

A family member asked me yesterday if I was angry and how did I manage to keep myself going?

The truth is pain is merciless; fighting it will neither solve nor diminish it. We need to heal our pain because if we continue to dwell in the hurt, hurt is what we will continue to bring into the world. 

Yes, some days I am angry and sometimes I cry out of nowhere but that is not the entire story. Pain cripples our capacity for love and joy. Pain is a place to visit, not a place to live. I choose mercy over misery.  That is the best way I know to honor him. 

I want to bring love into the world and that starts with unabashedly loving myself and deeming myself worthy of all of  the things I desire in life. There was a time that I believed that it was my job to hold everyones pain, that it was OK if I came last. I know longer believe those things. 

Throughout this challenging grief journey there are days I will not always feel brave, on those days when I am soft and giving and loving; other true essences of myself; I will work harder to beat down the walls of fear, as I cannot shine my bright light into the world if I constantly build protective walls around me and my heart to keep the light out.

I am courageous, yet vulnerable, I am uncomfortable yet authentic and I am showing up every day, even the days when it hurts the most, without sacrificing any of the things that make me….me.

I’m still standing.

“First the pain, then the rising.

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

 

So when you ask how I am and I say I am ok, I am. I am not ok because I am over Kirk or I no longer feel his loss, I am ok because I know more than ever that the love we shared is still and will always be very real. It is in the eyes of our children, every song we danced too, every movie we curled up and watched and every single memory that brings me a smile. If I tore apart every piece of myself there would be evidence of him in every cell, he will never truly be gone. 

 In life Kirk was my biggest cheerleader and now, in a world that likes to scrutinize and cast harsh judgement it feels really good to know that I have the best cheerleader in the universe looking out for me, someone who genuinely wants the very best for me in every situation.

I ran into a new friend the other day that I have not seen since August, she asked how I was and her eyes immediately filled with tears and automatically registered sadness. People so often feel that it is their duty to take on the pain of others. I have definitely carried the weight of other people’s pain and it gets extremely heavy. I assured her that I was ok and I was doing well and healing. I later met a friend who told me that my good energy was infectious. If I can pass along anything to you, I would not choose my pain, or my suffering, I would choose my energy and my love.

I’m still standing and so are you. Now it is our time to rise.

 Adversity can not rob of of the opportunity to have a great life. Pain is in fact a great teacher. Many people who have faced unimaginable struggle have gone on to lead inspiring and impactful lives.

Just as Kirk will always be more than the illness that stole his life away, we will be more than the tragedy that robbed us of him. 

Holding unto pain is like drinking poison in your coffee everyday. We will continue to suffer with no end in sight. Sadness and suffering are not the same. 

Today, whatever you are holding unto that is causing you pain and shutting peace out of your heart, ask yourself…

1. Will holding unto this pain change the situation for the better? Should I hold the pain or heal it?

2. Will letting go of and moving through the pain be of benefit to me?

3. Will I choose misery or will I choose mercy? Why? 

“What if pain – like love – is just a place brave people visit?” ― Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

 

 

xoxo-michelle1

 

 

 

 

Survivor-W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

Our personal narratives are the stories we share about ourselves and the life experiences that have shaped us into who we are and determine who we are becoming. Just as important as the stories we share with others are the stories we share with ourselves. How we view our own lives can have a huge influence on how others see us.

The stories of our lives are more than a PowerPoint presentation of the facts and dates and events of a life, but rather the way a person assimilates those facts and events within themselves—dissects them and knits them back together to discover their value and purpose. This self created narrative largely shapes our identity, the things we choose to include and or eliminate from our stories, and the manner in which we tell them, can both mirror and mold who we are and who we see ourselves becoming in the world. Our stories do not just tell what happened, they tell why it is important and what we have gained from our personal experiences and relationships good and bad, thus far.

I believe that in recalling those experiences and past relationships the empowerment we feel is the most important part of a healthy personal narrative. The ability to recall past experiences that may not have been pleasant but to find the lesson in that as well as recalling something you gained, even from an unhealthy relationship where you were able to preserve your integrity and move forward, speaks volumes about strength and character.

The last couple of weeks with the resurgence of the #MeToo hashtag, women all over the world are reclaiming their personal narratives. Everyday we are inundated with news and broadcast media, along with internet, social media and Hollywood all playing a role in how we think and feel. We are told what cars to buy, how to be attractive to the opposite sex, what toothpaste to use and how to navigate through a world that feels chaotic at the best of times. We are told to be strong at all costs, that to show our feelings is an undeniable weakness and that if we let down our guard just a little we are surrendering to the plague of the victim mentality. We allow others to tell the stories that rightfully belong to us. In the last several weeks what I have seen, is not a bunch of victims, I have seen brave and vulnerable women owning their stories, accepting their stories, surrendering a bit of their control to the universe to create meaning and purpose in their lives and to gain freedom. These are not victims; these are badass survivors and that is how their stories will read for years to come.

Courage doesn’t always shout, sometimes it is that little voice inside that whispers #MeToo and the moment those words are spoken these women take back a piece of them that was lost, they become a survivor. That requires vulnerability which seems like a scary word, it requires uncertainty and emotional exposure. It is a risk.

Vulnerability may be one of the most courageous choices we can make in our lives and according to researcher and author Dr. Brené Brown, it will transform the way we love, parent and lead.

Brené’s 2010 TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top ten most viewed TED talks in the world.

“In our culture,” teaches Dr. Brené Brown, “we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.” On The Power of Vulnerability, Dr. Brown offers an invitation and a promise-that when we dare to drop the armor that protects us from feeling vulnerable, we open ourselves to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Here she dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and reveals that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.

In my life, I am finding that more and more I am feeling the call to lean into the uncertainty. I am at a time in my life, after the tragic death of my husband that nothing is certain and sometimes the best thing I can do is loosen the grip on the figurative rope of control and surrender to the gifts that the universe has in store for me.

In Michael A. Singer’s bestselling novel the Surrender Experiment he explores the idea that society has trained us to be hyper obsessed with finding out what we think we want out of life but we rarely give any thought to what life wants out of us. What is our purpose? What does life have planned for us?

What if we surrendered to life?

The word surrender to me always conjured up thoughts of weakness and failure but I have decided in the past several months to flip the script a bit and see the word surrender as a powerful word, a word that is brave and courageous. Giving up control, leaning into uncertainty and bravely allowing life to be my guide is one of the most fearless and daring things I have ever done.

We are more than the sum of our experiences; we are more than what has happened to us in the past.

I will own my story and I will write my own bold ending and I encourage you to do the same. Some days I am scared, but I am never without hope.

I surrender.

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

Brené Brown

 

Where do broken hearts go? WISE project 2017-#tenacioustuesday

View More: http://photoswithashley.pass.us/michelledebay2016

 

“HEARTWORK

Each day is born with a sunrise
and ends in a sunset, the same way we
open our eyes to see the light, 
and close them to hear the dark.
You have no control over
how your story begins or ends.
But by now, you should know that
all things have an ending.
Every spark returns to darkness.
Every sound returns to silence.
And every flower returns to sleep
with the earth.
The journey of the sun
and moon is predictable.
But yours, 
is your ultimate
ART.” 
― Suzy Kassem

I was lucky to connect with some old friends this week and I recall saying to one of them that I was sad and going through the most horrible thing in my life but I knew that I wanted to live and be happy. I wanted to live my life in color, to love and have passions for things again. I can remember the hope and the freedom I felt just speaking those words out loud to someone I trusted, someone who was so inspiring in their passions for their life and work. In that moment I felt liberated just being able to declare my wants for the future but a couple of days later I woke up feeling none of that hope or freedom. It was buried under a mountain sorrow that I couldn’t shake and it only got worse as the day went on.

I know that grief can be a deceptive journey and to be honest it feels scary when the darkness of it washes over me, it feels like I have lost myself. Sadly, there is no rhyme or reason to grief and I reminded myself of that on Thanksgiving Day when my teenage daughter crawled out of her bedroom and was shocked to find me still lying in bed at 2 pm. She asked me if I was OK and I replied through tears that I was which made her eyes fill with tears and she immediately called me on my lie.

I got up and dressed and assured her that all of us were going to be OK. She followed me to the kitchen telling me about seeing a spider and how terrified she was. She asked me then what my biggest fear was and I told her that my biggest fear was losing myself in sadness, losing my purpose and my belief in love and goodness and not being able to be a role model for my children. My beautiful girl confidently assured me that that wasn’t going to happen and told me that my answer wasn’t fair so I told her about my insane fear of roundabouts which I have unfortunately passed along to her and her sister.

When tragedy strikes in our lives and all our safety nets have fallen down our vulnerability can leave us feeling exposed and afraid. We often forget that no matter what struggles we are facing that our fundamental nature has not and will not change. Our essential nature and purpose is as unfailing as the setting of the sun and that is something we all need to hang unto during the most difficult times in our life.

It can be challenging in the midst of troubled times to keep pulling ourselves up and out of the rubble but I know for me as alarming as it gets, I have a clear sense of self buried under the debris and I do not want to lose me. I have so much life to live, I have passion for things and a desire to put good into the world, and not only is that something that Kirk would not want me to lose touch with, it is something that is just not an option for me. I just keep digging myself out.

I was wondering yesterday what happens to broken hearts and I realized that my heart is hurting, it is feeling so much sadness and hurt but doesn’t that in itself mean it is not really broken. It still feels everything and that feels like a victory.

I see what is going on in the world and I very much want to affect change, I want to heal myself so that I can take all the love I have and put it back into the world. I may be scarred but I am not broken.

I am still tenacious.

Maybe the dark days serve as a reminder that an infinite light exists inside of me and like the sun drifting behind a cloud it never really goes away, even when I cannot see it. We all have access to that bright light that shines inside of us and even on the gloomiest of days, it is still there, quietly lighting our way.

xoxo-michelle1