Everybody Hurts-Wise Project 2017- #tenacioustuesday

I had a fire in my belly when I recorded the little rant below and I felt compelled to share it with you. I had one of those moments where you want to wave your finger with attitude and snear “oh no you didn’t!”  

It started out innocently enough, someone stepped into my office and asked me how I was doing and I believe they were genuinely concerned but they were not expecting me to answer that question honestly because apparently feelings are a thing of the past. 

I suppose they were expecting me to plaster a smile on and say I was doing good but I was caught in the midst of a bad moment on a very challenging day. Tears were already beginning to leak out of the corners of my eyes so when I was asked how I was doing I answered truthfully as tears filled my eyes and slowly rolled down my cheeks. 

In what I can only assume was misguided concern, I was told “Don’t cry, don’t cry! You need to be strong!”

I replied that I was strong and that there was nothing wrong with crying.

My visitor persisted to tell me that I couldn’t cry, that I needed to be strong.

I am strong I replied.

I was also offended.

 

 

I didn’t sprain my ankle. Three months ago today I lost my husband, the love of my life and the father of my children to suicide. Caught in the cruel and relentless grip of depression and anxiety his illness became larger than him. Sometimes I cry because the thought of the pain he endured fighting his illness overwhelms me, sometimes I cry because I miss him so damn much it hurts, sometimes I cry for our children and all of  the special days that they will have to celebrate without their dad and sometimes I cry because my day is lonely and empty and the future seems scary. Sometimes I just cry.

Crying does not make me the opposite of strong. Crying makes me a living, breathing, emotional being with real thoughts and feelings. There is no less strength in my tears than in my smile. 

I am strong enough to allow the pain because pain is a part of life. Life is beautiful but it can also be brutal, and it is during the most brutal times in our lives that the most powerful lessons are learned, the biggest changes are imminent and the greatest potential for growth is laid at our feet.

Vulnerability is the best measure of courage, that is the soul of all the work; the willingness to show up and let ourselves be fully seen and known.  ~Brené Brown

I don’t like pain, and I don’t like spending a great deal of my life with smeared eye make-up , but I know that pain has a reason and purpose and as I move through this pain there will be many uncertainties and plenty of tears. The pain will change me, that is my only certainty right now.

How I respond to that change, whether I go through the pain or grow through the pain is entirely up to me.

There is no short cut through the pain I am feeling, the only way around is through and I will not hold my tears or hide my pain for anyone else’s comfort.

As a society we have become so accustomed to hiding our feelings that we have come to believe that “emotionless” is a strength of character. “Head up, stay strong, fake a smile” has become the words to live by and meanwhile we have a whole generation of emotionally sick people, afraid to share their feelings for fear that they may be looked upon as weak; when the strongest and most courageous people in the world are those that are willing to show up and be seen, especially during the greatest struggles of their lives.

I think what the word needs is a big collective cry and then we can rise up and be the people we are meant to be, emotions and all. xoxo-michelle1

 

 

 

 

 

Let it go- WISE Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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The gift of our lives should be greater than pain and larger than fear, but when we are in the grip of grief, trauma, depression, heartache, loss or betrayal; fear can be immobilizing.

Pain can be a great teacher

Pain can be a great teacher if we are open to the lessons it brings, if we meet it with curiosity instead of alarm it will teach us and allow us to move through it with grace. One way or the other pain demands to be felt.

There is no promise of a pain free life, pain is inevitable, but if we resist, ignore or fear pain we initiate suffering. Suffering is not necessary.

I knew that the feeling of being enveloped in a dense dark fog was not going to lift overnight

I am not afraid of pain; I held the door wide open and welcomed it in. When my husband passed away in June, pain and plenty of it was more than expected.  I knew there would be an abundance of tears and endless heartbreak and longing. I knew that in my pain that I would find strength I never knew I had and wisdom I never knew I needed. I knew that the feeling of being enveloped in a dense dark fog was not going to lift overnight.

The thing I didn’t count on was how much I would come to depend on the pain. It is my receipt of love after all and I would spend nights wrapped up in it like a blanket. In a previous post I talked about the luxury of hope and embracing and holding onto those moments, but as they started to emerge for me I caught myself chasing them away and holding onto my dark blanket of despair. I had found a new person in my grief and as much as I thought I longed to have the old Michelle back I found myself identifying with the new familiar one and holding space for her and keeping the light out. I found myself wondering who I was in the world without my husband and who would he be if I wasn’t here in this world holding vigil for him. The grief and the unimaginable pain was the proof that his life and his story mattered and I became afraid of letting any bit of it go. I lived in fear that if I softened to the pain and moved through it and allowed the light to shine on me that his memory would fade, the love we shared wouldn’t matter and his spirit that I felt so close to me, guiding me, would diminish bit by bit until it disappeared.

Or so I thought…

I told all our loved ones that we needed to honor him by being well and being happy, but somehow, even knowing what he would truly want, I was honoring him by holding tightly to my pain as that was the manifestation of the love we shared and the connection between my physical life with him and our lives now. Or so I thought…

So here I am with all of this love in my heart that I want to give him and I think I can’t so as a consolation I close off my heart and I sit in my misery somehow thinking I am honoring the person who meant the world to me, who wanted nothing more for me to feel happiness and love always. When I put it in black and white it seems incredibly strange that I would think that way. I certainly know better, I think we all do. We know that at the deepest level of our soul we are always safe, loved, grounded and connected. Fear may protect us temporarily but it is not a place to live.

Fear should not define us; everything we long for is on the other side of fear

Fear should not define us; everything we long for is on the other side of fear. I want desperately to continue to feel the love that my husband and I shared with each other and with our children; I will not achieve that if I keep draping myself in the agony. In fact, in some conversations with some very wise and inspiring people I have come to believe that as I continue to move through the pain and the grief and as I allow moments of light to energize me, and the cloak of despair to decline, my memories will be stronger and more beautiful than they are now, swathed in a dismal haze.

It is amazing how gratitude can elevate to our highest vibration possible

I was walking through the park the other day with my dog and all of the colorful flowers are still in the bloom but the air is changing, even the copious sunshine couldn’t mask the hint of autumn that blew through the trees. Periodically the wind would come up and swiftly blow through the trees, showering the earth with leaves that had already dried out and curled up. It was absolutely beautiful. It is amazing how gratitude can elevate us to our highest vibration possible and I have plenty to be grateful for. Though my life right now is not one I would have chosen for myself, I got to experience the depth of true love and the lessons I learned by loving and being loved by Kirk, during the good times and the bad, I will hold in my heart forever. For just a moment I let myself feel those winds of change and not be afraid, and in that moment I felt Kirk clearer than I had in weeks, cheering me on.

I have been so afraid of what is on the other side of my fear so I really had to decide what I wanted for me and my children. I want the winds of change to blow me in the direction of emotional freedom, gratitude, joy, health and love. I want to multiply that love Kirk and I shared as a couple and as a family and put it back into the world. This world could sure use a little more love and kindness.

My response to this fear that restrains me is to summon all of the courage I have to not jump over, resist or hold the pain, but to move through it keeping my heart open to the unique gifts of the universe.

Are you holding unto fear? What is it trying to tell you? What is on the other side of your fear.

Let it go-see what remains.

Every single day is a new opportunity, for you and for me. Today lets decide what it is we want to see in the world and lets project that.

xoxo-michelle1

Unsteady-WISE Project 2017-Tenacious Tuesday

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Silence by Photofied

AM I DOING THIS RIGHT???

I am not OK and that is OK, it has to be.

I wish I had a better answer and I am sorry if it makes you uncomfortable.

Thanks for holding space for me.

You cannot take my pain, but knowing that you want to means a lot.

I keep reading about the steps to grief and I think I am doing this all wrong because nothing is happening in any sort of order, and sometimes I experience all of the supposed steps in incidental order several times a day on a loop and other days I feel nothing at all, just an indescribable loneliness. I am tired. Most days I feel a heavy exhaustion and my brain seems to have been dropped into a dense fog. Not only have I lost my husband but feel like I have lost myself, I am buried in the wreckage of grief and loss and sadness. I am being honest about not being OK, but that is OK, I am not supposed to be. Society wants us to be OK, spot on, ready to rumble at all times. That requires faking smiles and pushing your pain down into your belly to deal with at another time. Trust me you will deal with it eventually. The rubbish of unhealed trauma collects inside us and weighs us down, bubbling to the surface at the most inconvenient times. So right now I need to be OK with not being OK as much as it sucks. Part of me accepts that wisdom, hope, love, forgiveness and healing are going to be a part of a tenacious journey that I can emerge from stronger and and more aware.

Most people are so great about checking up on me and I am hyper aware that they would probably rather I answer “I’m OK” when they ask me how I am but I can’t because I am not.  Everyone says “If you need anything…” The truth is I don’t know what I need. My needs change minute to minute. Sometimes I wish people would tell me what I need but in all honestly that would likely piss me off. I have heard every possible scenario, I have had people tell me I will be OK in a couple of weeks and others tell me that it will years before I feel like myself. Neither seems right or suitable to me.

Some people are uncomfortable with my grief so they keep their distance. Nothing about grief is comfortable and you can’t say the wrong thing by saying “I am thinking of you.”

I hate how I feel right now. It is all consuming. I am not OK and the one thing I am smart enough to know is that that is OK. I am not supposed to be. There is no step by step manual for grieving. I am right in the eye of the storm and my feelings and emotions are swirling around me and I can barely feel one before the next one invades my space. This enormous pain is the receipt that I loved and loved well and I need to accept it, just like I need to accept that my husband is gone.

I caught my oldest daughter consoling my younger daughter a couple of days ago by saying “Don’t cry, don’t cry!”

As witnesses to other peoples pain we are uneasy. We are eager to stop it, ignore it or to try to take it away.

Pain demands to be felt. There are valuable lessons in pain. If we do not allow our pain we either unknowingly pass our pain along to others or it manifests in our body in other ways, as sickness or physical pain. Pain has a purpose and will help us navigate our way through grief and loss. Unfortunately there is no shortcut, we cannot navigate around pain, the only way is through.

Death is not the only type of loss. Break-ups, loss of a job, loss of self in an abusive relationship, loss of confidence due to bullying, loss of trust due to abuse or a traumatic experience are just a few of the things that I can think of that can spiral us into grief. Whatever you are surviving right now touch it, feel it, make friends with it, learn from it. You may not be OK today or tomorrow but the right step today, no matter how small will provide you with the hope to emerge from your pain with everything you need for a good life intact.

My late husband Kirk said “Life is like a heavy weight boxer, you just need to keep swinging!”

Lets keep swinging.

I am unsteady and uncertain but holding on.

~Michelle

 

 

 

Be yourself- W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

I don’t have any memories of being a baby but I recall this particular picture of me on my first birthday where I was standing on a chair staring at my birthday cake. My raven black hair was in disarray, framing my porcelain like skin. I was wearing this little red checkered two piece outfit with my belly peeking out of the top of the shirt. I have seen that photo so many times over the years and countless times over the years I have heard, “aww look how chubby you were.”, and “aww look at the belly” “so cute”

The dialogue that we use when we see babies is all pretty much the same, “look she is perfect” “look at those adorable chubby thighs” “he is going to rule the world someday” and my favorite (I might be quoting my mom) “she is so ugly, she is cute (because we all know that there is no such thing as an ugly baby) Babies are impeccable and we applaud their every milestone. Babies show up everyday and they smile at you even when they have sweet potatoes in their hair and a diaper full of shit. They are not self conscious, so a baby does not push you away when they are feeling gassy or bloated. They are little love machines, they want to love you and they want you to love them and they are generally quite enamored with themselves, and why shouldn’t they be? They get praised for pooping in a plastic pot.

Apparently when you are forty-three chubby isn’t as cute and way less people remark about my belly. (Thank god)

I have a lot of wonderful childhood memories. I was an imaginative child, I loved to play make believe and tell stories but I also liked to play outside all day. I loved to dance and do cartwheels and just about anything would make me laugh uncontrollably. It wasn’t unusual for me to come home with dirty or skinned knees from playing in the mud or falling off the monkey bars. The phrases I remember from adults during that time are all very similar; from parents, babysitters, teachers, grocers, “that’s not ladylike, be a lady, sit up straight, sit with your knees together, keep your dress clean.” At a certain point in childhood you start to become very aware of yourself; self-conscious if you will, and that wildly uninhibited sense of freedom and abandon becomes a memory.

When you are kid you always want to be older, I looked up to my cool cousins and desperately wanted to be like them. Then all of the sudden I was and Junior High was a whole new world to me, I had to leave the fun and safe environment of my elementary school to become a little face in a big crowd. I remember moving through the crowded hallways of my Junior High during class changes and seeing all of the pretty girls in the higher grades with their stylish clothes and puffy hairdos and for the first time I can remember not feeling “enough”

Not smart enough, not cool enough and not pretty enough. I can remember quite clearly admiring those girls in my brother’s grade. I was just entering this whole new world of Junior High but the Queens that reigned this new castle were very comfortable there. They looked immaculate and so comfortable in their own skin. I wanted to be them.

I lucked out ironically because one of the mean girls in grade nine took an awful dislike to me. There was no specific reason for her hatred for me, I just happened to be the in the wrong place at the right time and she took advantage of the opportunity to lash out at me. I became the object of her ridicule, anger and torment. It actually became one of the very best things to happen to me that very first year in junior high because I had an older brother and younger brother that harassed me constantly and toughened me up. This mean girl didn’t intimidate me as much as she annoyed me so I used my smart mouth to snap back at her and make her look stupid. That pissed her off of course and our chirpy banter stirred through the hallways during school and spilled over to after school hours and activities. I was secretly terrified of the bully’s best friend but way too cheeky and antagonistic to admit to that. My hutzpah attracted the admiration of some of those pretty grade nine girls that I wanted to be like. To have earned the respect of those girls awarded me a confidence that was unusual for a little fish entering a big pond. I have mostly fond memories of junior high but after a three-year stint it was time to move on to the huge pond, high school.

I met a guy that summer between junior high and high school and not just any guy; “the guy”. The summer of love quickly faded into the fall of responsibility and High School was a whole new ball game. That phenomenal confidence I had once had got lost in the endless hallways. I wasn’t the smartest or the funniest and I wasn’t the prettiest. I stumbled a bit and didn’t really know what crowd I fit into. The first several weeks of High School really sucked for me. I felt awkward, shy and lonesome for the first time in my school career. I eventually settled in and found several groups of people to pass the time with.

I can recall quite clearly that I used my smart mouth whenever I was feeling insecure or not enough. I felt like I was a smart girl, I had a passion for learning and I was an engaged student. I would spend hours in my bedroom studying, taking notes, highlighting and circling key words but that wasn’t always reflected during test time. I would second guess myself and erase things a lot; I rarely trusted my first thought. My oldest brother on the other hand sailed through high school barely opening a book. I remember getting a social test back and I was so excited to have gotten a 74 and a girl that I had gone to Junior High with was devastated to tears that she only got an 85. At this point I came to realize that I wasn’t the prettiest girl in this big sea and I wasn’t going to fit in with the smart crowd so I somehow had to pretend to be cool enough to get through school.

I started hanging out with this beautiful girl that really seemed to have everything going for her. She had golden hair and eyes the color of the ocean and she just lit up any room she was in. I loved her and she quickly became my best friend. I remember laying in her basement bedroom at her Aunt’s house staring up at the Marky Mark poster above her bed and wishing I was her. She seemed to be just enough of everything and by just being her friend I felt that somehow elevated me. I seemed oblivious to the fact that she was living in her Aunt’s basement instead of at home because she had troubles with her parents and that she continued to make a string of bad decisions because maybe her life wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I saw only what I told my mind to see. She is pretty, she is great, I need to be like her.

The summer before grade 11 I was still playing a cat and mouse game with “that guy” that I had fallen for the summer before starting high school. When he called me to come see him one hot July day I jumped on my bike and pedaled all the way there. That day changed my life!

I spent a good chunk of grade 11 pregnant after that hot summer day,  so when my friends and peers were going to parties and making great memories I was home on Saturday nights in my bedroom eating heavenly hash ice cream and watching my teenage belly  grow round; contemplating the future and decisions that no sixteen year old is equipped to make. Grade 12 was a blur at best, not only was I mourning the sudden death of my father before he turned forty years old but I was also grieving the loss of the baby boy that I had given up for adoption.

My best friend had moved away and would soon start a family at a very tender age and I struggled to fit in with people that I had nothing in common with. Their teenage struggles were so different than mine. I had tipped the scales between adolescent and adulthood and as much as I would have liked to pretend that I was the same, I never would be.

I endured some destructive judgement from my peers after I put my son up for adoption, and a decision that I had come to terms with as being mature and the best for him was turned into something ugly. There is no question that I had supportive people in my life, but the voices that made snide remarks to me about giving my baby away and those that stared at me and whispered became the loudest, but none of the voices could drown out my own voice in my head and I wasn’t really my friend anymore. I think I was truly never meant to fit in anywhere, I was meant to stand out; in a way I think we all are. We spend so much of our lives trying to stuff ourselves into boxes that were not made for us, dulling our sparkle so we are mere copies of the people that we stand next to.

I spent so much of my life afraid to stand out. I wanted people to forget that I was “that girl” so I just stayed small and followed along. When I had my girls I wanted to be a great mother, they became everything to me; leaving very little room for a relationship with my husband and no room for a relationship with me. I equated my self worth with how busy I was and how much time I dedicated to other people, I thought that self love was how much love I gave to others. I really never considered taking the time to love myself.

To be enough, I thought I had to keep giving to others and I was so tired at the end of the day that I didn’t have anything left over for me.

The months leading up to being reunited with my son that I gave up for adoption at 16, I was tormented. Would I be enough? I had these terrible feelings of inadequacy, that I should be more, do more, have more. Those feelings subsided for me immediately when we were united once again. It felt even silly that I had ever felt that way. He accepted me; he believed that I was enough!

Several years later I found myself in a spot where I was so miserable that I could barely get out of bed and I was in tears constantly. I had some wonderful gifts in my life but I wasn’t sure who I was and I still had those old feelings of shame and worthlessness. Those old voices that used to tell me I wasn’t enough came back when I was still but I was too mentally tired to keep being everything to every body. I finally realized that for my well being I had to dedicate some time to myself. That was all new to me of course but if I could tell you the single most important thing that I have learned it would be that life is all about love, it is our fundamental purpose to move through this world. We need to learn to love ourselves first, that is vital. We spend a great deal of time trying to get others to love us and wondering why things do not work out. If we do not feel we are worthy of time and love and investment in self care and self worth than why would we assume that others should invest in us. You can only give so much before your cup is empty and we all know you cannot pour from an empty cup. When we take the time to cultivate love and appreciation for ourselves, that love grows and touches every thing and every body in our lives. Instead of envying people and wanting to be them, we learn to admire them for the qualities that they possess. Most likely we see glimpses of these qualities in ourselves and when we appreciate them in others we are actually seeing a reflection. We can make choices to manage and grow these qualities that we desire to see more of. When we learn to love ourselves we don’t want to be anyone else, we can be happy for others and their accomplishments but also be quite happy to be ourselves. Comparison is the thief of joy, when we constantly hold our lives up against the lives of others we are literally stealing our own hard earned happiness.

This weekend I attended an I am enough workshop here in Edmonton hosted by Wellness on Whyte. One of the keynote speakers was the owner of Wellness on Whyte Dr. Geha Gonthier, B.A., LMT, ERYT, R.Ac.

Surviving her first cardiac arrest at 7 years of age, the doctors did not hold much hope for Geha. Through Europe’s integrated medical care, Geha met a doctor that advised her to come off western drugs and use diet and herbs to manage her chronic condition. Over time her condition improved dramatically and inspired Geha to make holistic medicine her life’s journey.

Over the last twenty years she has apprenticed with various teachers both in Europe as well as Maui on the subject of Chinese Medicine and herbs. In 2007 she received her Acupuncture Diploma after completing the program at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton.

Geha has been practicing and teaching Yoga and Meditation for many years. The results of that are reflected in the gentleness and care she extends to her patients. The focus in her work is the integration of body, mind and spirit, encouraging profound healing in the most subtle levels of awareness.

I had read about Geha and was excited to meet her and hear her speak. After a glowing introduction that made me even more excited to be in her presence Geha emerged as this wonderfully warm, humble and beautiful woman who spoke of her life and experiences and that nagging feeling that had travelled with her throughout her life of “not being enough” I think it is always a little bit of shock when we hear from the people that we look up to that they face similar struggles, there is something very powerful and humanizing about it. During her talk she mentions a video by British Therapist Marissa Peer where she presents the idea of “I am enough”. I have watched the talk as well and I am not sure what segment of the talk resonated the most with Geha but for me there is a part where Marissa asked the audience to swing their left arm behind their back as far as it will go and hold it there a moment. She then asks them to drop their arm and relax for a moment. She then tells them she is going to again ask them to take their left arm behind their back but this time she is going to ask them to move it 1/3 more than they did previously, just a little bit more. She tells them to take a moment to think about it and then the audience all swings their arms back and manages to move them further than they did previously. Now if you recall, the first time she asked them to move it as far as it would go. She explains that their mind did that. They told their mind what to do and it obeyed. We tell our mind things everyday. Our mind obeys. “Don’t be foolish, you can’t do that. You are too thin. You are too fat. You are not smart enough. You are not good enough, pretty enough. You are not enough”

Our mind obeys.

What if everyday we told ourselves, “You are enough. I love you. You are amazing. You are doing a great job. You can do it. Go for it.” Imagine how different our lives would be if we all believed that we are enough. Maybe you don’t have a mansion and four fancy vehicles and a pool like Suzy in High School but you love yourself, your life has purpose, you are generous, kind, compassionate and full of love and wonder. That is more than enough!

Geha’s talk was followed by a forgiveness meditation by Mandy Trapp. I was very excited for this because Mandy is the owner of Lifestyle Mediation and I had attended her salute the sun yoga/meditation class the previous morning. Mandy is one of those sincere and buoyant people that others gravitate towards. Mandy graduated from Chopra University with their top distinction of Vedic Master Educator and has brilliantly woven her Chopra education with her athletic training education, various yoga certifications, and several trips to India and Nepal where she has founded the India/Nepal Yoga Project; a non-profit organization that empowers healing in those affected by the devastating effects of human trafficking. She has worked in the Wellness Industry for over 20 years and founded Lifestyle Meditation in 2012.

During Salute the sun Mandy reminded us that the no matter what goes on the sun rises everyday and even if it is cloudy and not able to shine it’s brightest light it still shows up every single day. She expressed to us that like the sun we are not expected to shine our brightest everyday, that some days just showing up might be our best. Life is hard and it really helps to have that articulated. We are way too hard on ourselves, pushing ourselves to always be just right when sometimes it is an effort just to put our clothes on right side out!

Mandy led us through a forgiveness meditation and I don’t know if you practice meditation or if you have ever been a part of group mediation but it can be very powerful. It is a pretty good assumption that people attending an I am enough workshop are seeking similar things so the energy in the room is mighty. The first group meditation I was ever a part of was during a talk with Deepak Chopra and it is a formidable memory.

Mandy presented a short talk on some of her own experiences and builds on Geha’s talk about being enough and that moment in our lives when things change for us. She asks us to go back in our mind to being a baby and introduce ourselves, she then asks us to find ourselves at that moment that things change, when the rules of the world have changed and look at and sit with and speak to that person. The meditation led us through the mantra “I’m sorry. I love you. I forgive you. Thank you.” So, I found myself mentally sitting face to face with a fresh faced but scared and lost sixteen year old girl. I apologized to her, she forgave me. I love her and she thanked me. To say it was moving would be under stating it. That morning I had had a major blow out with my 17 year old daughter and I pictured her carrying around this hurt, resentment and anger and not really knowing or loving herself and my heart broke into pieces and tears spilled uncontrollably down my cheeks with my head bowed to my heart silently repeating I’m sorry. I forgive you. I love you. Thank you. . As I reunited with my 16 year old self, I searched for a way to help my daughter.

Geha had quoted one of her own teachers in what she told me sums up our human purpose in one broad stroke, “Tomorrow we die, today we love”

Love is the most important thing. We need to breath from our heart, communicate from our heart. Our heart is the center of our spirit, our inspiration and our soul. We crave acceptance and approval from others but we need to be able to love ourselves and embrace our enoughness without waiting for others to give us praise or tell us that we are good or loved.

My job right now is to love myself so am able to love my daughters and hold space with them through their struggles. To not sit in judgment of them, just in love and encourage them to always be their own best friend.

Tomorrow we die, today we love.

Love yourself. Be yourself. You are enough. You always were.

Don’t Worry Be Happy -W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #TenaciousTuesday

I recall a time not so long ago that I ridiculed people who read self-help books. I cannot pinpoint when and how I became enthralled with the wildly popular genre but in the past several years about 90% of my reading has been dedicated to memoirs and self-improvement. I take courses and workshops and online boot camps dedicated to understanding myself better and reaping more joy from the world around me.

I went from So What to Don’t Worry Be Happy on the musical scale of life.

When I initially started the W.I.S.E. Project I was going through a period of uncertainty and unexplained sadness and though I was going through the motions I wasn’t living a life that was bringing me a great deal of happiness. I made some changes right away in my life by being more mindful and aware which lead to me doing a relationship study and exploring the connection between our emotions and our actions. I made a conscious effort to try to control what I search and see online and to make choosing happiness and gratitude a priority every moment of every day.

I still get sad, angry, emotional, bitter and annoyed but I am much more aware of the cause of these feelings and I know that my actions in those moments of distress truly matter. I believe it was Brené Brown that first said, “You cannot selectively numb emotion.” What she meant by that is if we numb the bad emotions in hopes that we will never experience pain or anger we will also numb those delightful feelings of happiness and joy that we want to feel as well. It would be like taking a brilliantly colored rainbow and putting a bleak filter on it, making it dismal and uninteresting. It still passes for a rainbow but it it isn’t vivid and gleaming.

I think we all want the same basic things from life, we all want to live a happy and fulfilling life, but I respect that we all follow a different path to get there.

Newly “Happy” people are like people who were very successful on a diet or that just found Jesus.  They are excited and they want to help you have the same experience. The problem with that is that we are all individuals with different thoughts, feelings, beliefs and challenges, what works for one may not be a “one size fits all” fix.

In the past month, I have encountered the same thing repeatedly relating to the happiness experience and I thank my husband for encouraging me to look at things in a new way, especially in those cases that relate to our teenage daughters. I was leaning too far into the “don’t worry be happy” approach to guidance which gives very little regard to the vast emotions that we; as humans, experience daily.

Though I still wholeheartedly believe that gratitude breeds abundance and happiness is a choice, sometimes shitty things happen to us and we have every right to feel shitty about them. Telling someone who is hurting to “get over it” or to look on the bright side” is probably not the best way to be supportive. We experience feelings for a reason and they deserve to be acknowledged so that we can keep moving through life making the very best choices we can in the moment.

We are hardwired for struggle, if we respond to our pain, our sadness, our fears, we are admitting that our feelings are real and that they deserve our attention. We cannot overcome that which we refuse to acknowledge.

There has been a hopeful shift in the way that I relate to my teenage daughters. By acknowledging their fears and their pain instead of quickly dismissing it by telling them it won’t matter in twenty years or that they need to get over it, I have observed the emergence of their own coping mechanisms. My husband reminded me to think back to when I was a teenager and how things that may not matter to me now were a very big deal. It was a huge eye opener, and so effective to put myself in their shoes, at their age for just a moment. They are assured that their feelings have substance and that pain has a beginning, a middle and an end. I am seeing them accepting their fate and recognizing the steps they need to take to move through their difficult emotions, without holding unto the bad energy or passing it along to others. As a parent, it is very satisfying to watch their character reveal itself.

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I was quite annoyed the other week as I was discussing a situation with some friends and one proceeded to tell me how I felt and how I should feel about the circumstances. I thought that is was presumptuous to tell me how to feel. It gave me a moment of pause to consider if I have been guilty of the same thing.

There is a great deal of people in the world who wrap themselves in pain and anger and live their entire lives blanketed in misery. Unlike those people, people that are willing to experience the emotions that visit them, to identify their cause and travel through their struggles, hanging on to the lessons only; are probably some of the happiest and most intelligent people I know.

Diminishing and disregarding the feelings of another does not make us a shining example of anything. Even though we may think me may mean well, in our attempts to help we may be unwittingly devaluing their emotions.

One of the society’s biggest problems is that we listen only to respond. Sometimes people just want us to listen, not to tell them how to feel or how to fix their lives, they just need us to listen.

“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.”
― Roy T. Bennett

Bucket of Fucks-W.I.S.E. Project 2017 Tenacious Tuesday

DISCLAIMER- I apologize in advance for the use of the word fuck, I am struggling to find another word that can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, an interjection or an adverb. If it bothers you, you can replace with the word flower or meatloaf.

“Now, while not giving a fuck may seem simple on the surface, it’s a whole new bag of burritos under the hood. I don’t even know what that sentence means, but I don’t give a fuck. A bag of burritos sounds awesome, so let’s just go with it.” ~Mark Manson

One of the most valuable pieces of advice I was ever given was to give up all my expectations of people. It took me a very long time to get behind that advice, the thought was foreign to me. I was heavily into volunteering at the time and I expected everyone to have the same level of commitment that I did, and because that didn’t happen often, I allowed it to cause me a great deal of stress. When I learned to stop expecting things of people it was a step in the right direction, I stopped taking it personally when people didn’t step up or follow through. Eventually I decided to move on to other things myself and albeit that was initially a difficult decision. When you put your heart into something and dedicate countless hours to a cause it is hard to walk the other way and not look back. That was the day I decided not to give a fuck. Too many fucks had been given and I was simply out of fucks to give.

I teetered through life with my bucket of fucks, giving fucks to things that really didn’t deserve a fuck. I gave a fuck if the cashier at the grocery store was rude, I threw another fuck at the driver that cut me off in traffic, I was handing out fucks to strangers and events that in the grand scheme of my life didn’t matter all. One day I found myself scraping the empty bottom of my bucket of fucks. I had given out fucks like they grew on trees, here a fuck, there a fuck…everywhere I am tossing a fuck, fuck!

I had one fuck left to give. It turns out fucks don’t grow on trees and if someone didn’t throw a fuck my way, I was going to be fuck-less!!

Simply not giving a fuck at all, ever, is apathetic, and that type of indifference is reserved for people that are lazy and uninspired. However, it is absolutely okay to not give a fuck about every little thing. It is fine to cache our fucks for things that are important, like family, friends and wine.

Younger me gave a fuck about everything and everyone. I was a people pleaser, I wanted to be liked, I gave a fuck about what people thought of me, what they said about me, whether they thought I was smart or funny or they liked my hair. I had a ton of fucks to give and I was handing them out all over town like I was that stranger with candy that your parents warned you about.

Age and maturity has taught me to be selective with the fucks I give. It is a work in progress but I find that I am certain of my identity, surer of myself, and I able to reserve my energy to give a fuck, only when it is important.

I went through this period of uncertainty not so long ago where I really struggled with who I was and how to be happy. I had it in my head that I wasn’t enough, that I was meant to do more with my life and I desperately wanted to have some sort of skill that would make that happen. After some soul searching I realized that I am never going to be a National Geographic Photographer or a Pulitzer Prize winner. I am not going to heal people or co-host a show with Ellen. I am OK with it. I am OK with being who I am and where I am in my life and as I sail through the days with my dwindling bucket of fucks I realize that it is alright not to give a fuck about every little thing. I am enough. I have everything I need and I am happy not giving a fuck a lot of the time!

It is not easy. There are days when I want to give a fuck about everything.  It gets tiring though and I find that at my age, the more fucks I give out, the less fucks I can dedicate to things that really deserve my time and energy. My goal is not to simply “not” give a fuck at all but to learn to redirect my fucks to the right people and things.

“The point is that fucks have to be earned and then invested wisely. Fucks are cultivated like a beautiful fucking garden, where if you fuck shit up and the fucks get fucked, then you’ve fucking fucked your fucks all the fuck up.” ~Mark Manson

I have come to realize that when I am giving way too many fucks to insignificant things, even things that bother me like the toilet paper not being changed, the drive through attendant’s lack of enthusiasm or whether there is toast crumbs in the butter, I am lacking something in my life, something that I genuinely give a fuck about.

Sometimes I am genuinely enthusiastic about so many things that I struggle with giving a fuck to everything , it’s like a big ol fuckstorm, blowing fucks all over the place. When the wind dies down I know that I need to gather up my fucks and put them back into my bucket of fucks and restrict my fuck giving to the things that matter the most to me because handing out fucks like they are mini chocolate bars at Halloween is not only tiring, it keeps me from offering up a fuck to the most important things.

If you are able to achieve the art of giving your fucks out selectively you will have learned a skill that takes others decades to accomplish. Like your favorite little black dress hanging in the back of the closet for the most special of occasions, your fucks to; must sometimes sit on the shelf, in wait until the time is right.

 

Do you struggle with giving a fuck?

Do you give too many fucks or not enough?

Do you give a fuck about trivial things?

Do you think there is a balance between giving a fuck and not giving a fuck?

 

If you want to learn more on the subject I highly recommend The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

Related : Shit Shit Shit

Part of Me-W.I.S.E. Project 2017/Tenacious Tuesday (Self Love)

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In the summer of 2012 when my daughters were 7 and 12  I took them to see Katy Perry’s Part of Me. To say that Katy was at the height of her career would not be an understatement, she played to sold out shows in arenas in 124 cities all over the world during her yearlong California Dreams tour.

There was an Alice in Wonderland-esque meets fairy-tale feel to each show and she played both Alice and the Princess flawlessly. Many a pink tutu, ruffles, lollipops and glitter were exhausted during every performance. It was everything I would have expected from a live Katy Perry Performance but so much more.

Filmmakers Dan Cutworth and Jane Lipsitz gave fans a unique experience which was a culmination of backstage pass,  front row fantasy and raw human emotion. Perry never faltered in her commitment to her fans, giving stellar performances night after night, all the while defying exhaustion and facing some incredibly challenging difficulties in her personal life.

In October of 2010 Katy married comedian Russel Brand; embarking on her first career altering tour just four months later in February of 2011. Perry went to remarkable lengths to fan the flames of her marriage, often taking her only days off to journey across the Atlantic to be with Brand even though he was unwilling to put forth an equal effort to stay connected to her and their marriage.

As the tour wore on Brand continued to push for a family but Perry was not in a place to commit to being a full-time mom. She continued to sacrifice her time and her health for a man that appeared to want to exert a certain measure of control over the young songstress.

I know for a fact that at 7 and 12 years old, my daughters were not impacted by the movie in the same way that I was. I watched a woman in the throes of super stardom, lift herself to the an amazingly high throne in the pop music industry and at the very same time get broken up with; in a text, moments before having to get ready to go onstage.

I watched the movie again this past Friday and I recall her being rushed to the stage while her team was quietly uncomfortable, wondering if the singer would perform. They attempted support and encouragement but it was apparent that they were uncertain as to what exactly was going on and how to react to it.

Katy, faced with the reality that her marriage had crumbled, doubled over sobbing a couple of times on the way to the stage. She was overcome by grief and sadness and as a spectator, having watched her vulnerability unfold and her marriage emplode, it was gut wrenching. You could almost feel the tightness in her chest, the heaviness in heart, I must admit I choked back some tears myself.

As they say in the biz, “the show must go on” and it did.

Katy  was on a platform under the stage, in Brazil I believe, and tech was waiting to rise her up. As she was waiting she wiped away tears, and then spun the candy embellishments that rotated across the chest of her dress, nodded to be lifted up and plastered on the best smile she could manage under the circumstances.

Ready or not, it was time to be Katy Perry the star, Katy with the broken heart would have to wait.

I was so moved by that moment. Her pain wrapped itself around me like a blanket.

To this day, I cannot fathom how Katy was able to will herself to perform that night. I think society is somewhat programmed to believe that stars are exempt from feelings, that somehow money and fame trumps pain and anguish. On the contrary, I cannot imagine enduring that type of all-consuming heartbreak in the public eye.

Strangely, that performance may have been the best one of the tour, possibly of her career. She was able to connect with the audience and her own lyrics in an authentic and emotional way. I am certain the love and energy of the crowd that night and the nights following must have helped  to keep her together when the cards were falling down all around her.

Some tough times followed but in adversity Katy Perry found redemption. She made her mess her message!

When Katy Perry released her album Prism, she said that the title came from her letting the light in. In the midst of a crisis she found her identity and the genuine need for self-love.

For several reasons, I became a bigger fan of Katy Perry after her public despair and the transformation that occurred following that difficult time. I heard an interview subsequently where she said, “What I need is self-love, first and foremost. I think everything follows in such a fantastic way after you have that love for yourself.

We give little pieces of ourselves to the people we love, but when we truly love ourselves there are parts of us that can never be taken away. Our worth, our value and our sense of who we are as a person, independent of our relationships.

You can temporarily chain a heart but you cannot break a soul.

Have you experienced heartbreak? Have you been able to let go of the pain and grow from it? Do you view vulnerability in relationships as a strength or a weakness?