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

 

Heart Shaped box -WISE project 2017 -#tenacioustuesday

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

At a very young age I had discovered the marvelous freedom that was on the other side of my fear. 

I remember very vividly being a young girl and terrified to ride my bike without the training wheels. I remember quite clearly the anxiety that I held in my belly, immobilizing me in fear. Nothing terrible had happened to me in my young life thus far so I am not quite sure where my panic came from. With a great deal of coaxing from my parents and my older brother I learned what was on the other side of my fear. With a little balance and a determined spirit, I finally agreed to forgo the comfort of my training wheels and pedal into a world largely unknown to me at my delicate age. It was a land of choice, liberty and wild abandon where the voices of my parents yelling after me couldn’t be heard over the pounding of my heart. Wrapped up in the excitement of my new independence I forgot how to use the brakes so continued to pedal with all my might with my family running after me. At a very young age I had discovered the marvelous freedom that was on the other side of my fear.

That should have been it, a lesson learned; but as part of the human experience we are creatures of comfort. We seem to spend our lives inside little boxes we have built for ourselves, boxes that keep us warm and safe in our self-made bubbles, free from diversity, change, adventure…and well to be honest not truly free at all.

She barely hesitates for a moment before diving into uncharted territory

I think a lot of my granddaughter Rielly and how at her tender age she is completely fearless. She barely hesitates for a moment before diving into uncharted territory. She has the bruises and scrapes to match her plucky personality; badges of her audacious nature.  Even still, onward and upward she confidently continues; unafraid of the journey, focused only what is on the other side.

The world may change her, with so many people perpetually apprehensive about what could go wrong instead of what could go right, many of us; me included, learn to fear living.

We had our own thoughts, ideas and passions and though most of our core values were aligned we shared a bed but not a brain

After I lost my husband to suicide in June the world became a scary place. I always considered myself to be a strong independent woman and never subscribed to idea that I was half of a couple, half of a whole. Yes we were Kirk and Michelle, and being married was a huge part of my identity but totally separate from our love for each other was the fact that we were two whole individuals; we were not a half of anything. We had our own thoughts, ideas and passions and though most of our core values were aligned we shared a bed but not a brain.

However, after that fateful day I felt lost and afraid. A part of me was missing and I felt small and scared. When my tendencies moved towards curling up in my comfy comfort zone, it was Kirk that always reminded me of my courage and fearlessness. It was almost as if I forgot who I was without my constant cheerleader. I felt like I was a half, broken in two and that all the good parts of me had died with him.

It is difficult to raise fearless and courageous young women when fear has you by the throat

It is a pretty frightening feeling to wake up not knowing who you are anymore and where you fit in the world but somewhere deep inside of me I still felt that I had a purpose and when heartache cast a shadow on that I only had to look at my teenage girls and be reminded that part of their cheer squad was gone as well and I needed to step up my mom game and lead by example. It is difficult to raise fearless and courageous young women when fear has you by the throat.

When I started the W.I.S.E. project, my purpose was to live mindfully and in the present, seeking happiness and creating joyful experiences and cultivating gratitude in the here and now. A lot of that entailed making good decisions for me and investing in my own well-being, knowing that not only was I setting an example for all of my children, but choosing happiness can have a ripple effect in your life.

In the last three months I have had to set intentions everyday. Some days I may decide that my intention is too stay in my jammies and cry but often my intention takes me out of my house, out of my head and into the big bad world of new people and new experiences.

I have been lucky to have had some powerful experiences and to connect with people that I am positive are earth angels, put on my path at the right time to help encourage me and point me in the right direction. The choices that I have made to put my feet on that path were based in hope instead of fear but I admit that sometimes I allow myself to be dragged backwards by fear and I wrap myself in it because it is what I know and when everything in the world feels strange, what you know, even if it is not good for you, can disguise itself as comfortable.

In a moment of confusion and hope I prayed to God when my grandfather was dying of cancer a few short months after my dad passed away

Last week I went to Church with a friend that is visiting and they had a sign up sheet for a home study group on the movie The Shack. I was drawn to it immediately and I signed up but when I got the email with the details of the group I thought of a million reasons why I should not attend. The Shack is one of the last movies that my husband and I watched together and I recall like it was yesterday him being in tears at the end of the movie and saying how beautiful it was. I had read the book and had talked to him a lot about it. I had a damaged relationship with god that went back to being a sixteen year old girl who lost her Dad to a massive heart attack a week before his fortieth birthday. A lady showed up to the house to talk to us about god and in the midst of my grief I said to her “Are you kidding me? I am sixteen years old, I just lost my Dad, there is no god; and if there is he is not who I thought he was”

I struggled a lot with that over the years and I met a lot of shitty people who did shitty things in the name of religion that only served to drive a larger wedge into that broken relationship. In a moment of confusion and hope I prayed to God when my grandfather was dying of cancer a few short months after my dad passed away. My grandfather’s life was not spared but I did get the answer I was looking for and very slowly, like at the pace of a snail mired in molasses traveling up hill, I started to repair my personal relationship with who I believe god to be. My ideology surrounding god, nature and science has always been and will remain very personal to me. I have learned that people are all too willing to believe what they are told and what they read from their perspective without considering that 20 million people could read the same book or see the same movie and interpret it much differently; and that is OK. That is life, we create our own reality.

I believe there is a little bit of God in all of us, I think that God really is one of us, someone I could have shared a seat with on the bus or served a meal to at the homeless shelter

God in Shack is the closest representation to the God that I know and believe in my heart. I hold it in my heart that when my husband watched that movie that he felt the same way. His life experiences had jaded him immensely and most times  he believed that god wasn’t for people like him. I think watching that movie he saw something beautiful and attainable, something that he hadn’t been spoon fed at church and something that though he may have daydreamed about, barely mentioned out loud. He and I talked a lot about God though, I wasn’t afraid to share my interpretations with him and he liked my version of God. I believe there is a little bit of God in all of us, I think that God really is one of us, someone I could have shared a seat with on the bus or served a meal to at the homeless shelter. God may have been someone who smiled at me in the grocery store when they knew that tears were about to spill down my cheeks as I was experiencing the most unimaginable heartache I ever had to endure.

As the day of the group meeting inched closer I had all but decided that I wasn’t going. I know that the book wasn’t popular among a lot of Christian groups because it was not what they were taught and we often fear what we don’t know, preferring to stay in our boxes where it is comfortable. The idea of spending an evening with un-like minded strangers was troubling.

He was more alive than I had seen him in years

Initially I had felt drawn to the group because of the connection to the movie and my experience with Kirk. I had a discussion with a friend of his shortly after his death and found out a lot of interesting things about him that I didn’t know. He studied religion at university and almost became a Pastor. He told me that Kirk had come to him very vividly in a dream after his death and when he said to him “wait, what, you are supposed to be dead.” Kirk replied that he was more alive than he had ever been. His friend likened their conversation to the movie The Shack and said he believed that from his encounter with Kirk that god and heaven in the movie (book) was the closest representation he could think of. I told him about watching that movie with Kirk and how touched he was and about how Kirk had come to me in a dream very vividly saying I am real, you can touch me. He was more alive than I had seen him in years.

I know that Kirk was not without joy in his life. The girls and I and Kirk had some amazing times together and shared a love that not everyone gets to achieve in this lifetime, but I also know that depression and anxiety was a relentless beast that sucked the life out of him. Despite profound sadness I try every single day to find a bit of solace that Kirk is now surrounded in peace and love.

I mentally concerned myself with all of the things that could go wrong

My trepidation in attending the group was based on the fear that once again I would be forced to sit through a discussion about how my god, the god in my heart is not real and all the reasons why. I wasn’t going to attend if I couldn’t be my authentic self and that would include discussing what drew me to the group in the first place. Instead of focusing on all of the things that could go right, I mentally concerned myself with all of the things that could go wrong.

I arrived a bit early and I was sitting in my truck talking to a friend when the first ladies arrived. I had decided to come as myself in every aspect and was wearing my slash shirt. I committed right then and there to being true to myself in every way; that was really the only way approach the evening.

Things took a turn immediately. I endorse Brene’ Brown’s version of wholehearted living and that means choosing courage over comfort as much as possible. I took a big step by being there but that was just the beginning. If I quietly slumped into a corner in my thoughts I might as well have stayed home in my jammies. I wasn’t there by accident. Something drew me there and to find out what it was I needed to be head up and heart open. Within two minutes of my arrival I told the guests that had arrived why I was there. I told them about losing my husband and about my connection to the Shack. I told them that I was nervous to be there but felt like I was called upon to be there. I was immediately surrounded in love and non-judgement. Women embraced me one by one with tears in their eyes, offering me comfort. Another woman told me how she had lost her husband suddenly, nine years ago to a heart attack. She and I discussed the ongoing shock of it and how grief is an arduous journey. She is a nurse and said she felt she should have been more prepared but it was unthinkable finding her husband dead. The lovely host had been busy with food and snacks but upon realizing what she had missed immediately filled with tears and exchanged hugs. It was all very warm and suddenly I was not among strangers. There were three retired nurses and best friends that came together and one of them took me aside to tell me that she had lost her husband to suicide a year and a half ago. I sensed that she still had a hard time saying the word but as we sat down I kept her talking and she gave me some helpful resources to connect with other survivors. She spoke with me about quickly finding out who your true friends are and how sometimes the people you assume will step up don’t and the people that do can be equally surprising. I related to that well and it was actually supposed to be my blog post for this week. I spoke to the group about the people that I hadn’t known previous to Kirk’s death that emerged in my path as my guides and cheerleaders.

We all sat throughout the movie in various stages of angst, heartache, knowing, and enlightenment, reaching several times for tissues and relating our own stories and love, life and loss to the story that unfolded on the screen

There was a younger lady that had arrived a couple of minutes late and she was the only one in the group that had not read the book or seen the movie. We all sat throughout the movie in various stages of angst, heartache, knowing, and enlightenment, reaching several times for tissues and relating our own stories and love, life and loss to the story that unfolded on the screen. Only one woman did not seem to appreciate the movie, she thought it was very weird in context to what she believed. I still felt very confident in sharing my experiences, my thoughts and my interpretation without judging or under valuing anyone else.

I am glad that I pushed through fear and stepped outside of my comfort zone to attend the group. At next weeks group we start lessons and group discussions and I am incredibly excited to be touched by the love and the wisdom of those ladies. I believe that every one of us has something to teach and something to learn. None of us was drawn there by accident. I am very much a believer in the work of god, nature and the universe and last night is a perfect example of how when we let go of our fear and bias we can see how well they all work together in our lives.

DISCLAIMER: This is not meant to be a religious post, I believe that everyone has a right to subscribe to their own beliefs however I truly believe in the power of goodness, kindness, equality and love and I hope that no matter what the basis of your belief system is, I hope it includes those things as well.

What did you do this week to step out of your comfort zone?

 

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xoxo-michelle1

 

 

 

 

The Warrior-W.I.S.E. Project

braving

As this point of the W.I.S.E. project we are all warriors, brave and experienced fighters, knowing what we want out of life and willing slay whatever dragons it takes to get us through the journey.

Trust is a huge word and it carries a lot of baggage around with it. It is hefty. We put a significant amount of value on the essence of trust. We rely heavily on the word and it’s perceived meaning.

“I trust you. I don’t trust you. I will never trust her again. I would never have a relationship without trust. Trust means everything to me. Why can’t I find someone that I trust?”

The above are all phrases that I have used many times. I have said them and meant them without giving them a significant amount of thought.

The most important part of my meaningful relationships should be trust, including the relationship that I have with myself. By my own admission though, I do have a problem with trust but it is one that I am working hard to overcome.

Brené Brown did a talk on the Anatomy of Trust on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. I was shaking my head and really getting it, finally understanding. There is no meaningful connection between people without trust, and lack of trust and authentic connection can affect all areas of our personal and professional lives.

Brené aptly describes trusting as BRAVING and clearly tells us why in an acronym.

B-Boundaries- we need to establish clear boundaries in our relationships. We have to be clear about what our own boundaries are and respect the boundaries of others as they respect yours.

R-Reliability-We need to do what we say we are going to do and to build trust with people. We expect that they will display this same type of reliability.

A-Accountability- We are not perfect, we all make mistakes in our relationships, the key is to own our mistakes, apologize and make amends. In trusting relationships we expect that same courtesy.

V-Vault- We share a lot in our relationships and some of it we expect to be  held in  confidence, in the “vault” if you will. We want to know that the people we put our trust in acknowledge confidentiality. The Vault has many sides, if we are going to trust someone to share our deepest secrets and thoughts we want to know that we can count on them. When they share the confidence’s of others with us, or we share others confidence’s with them our trust is diminished immediately because we know that they do not respect the vault of others. We all do this or have done this in the past and it is interesting when you understand the reasons why. When we share things that are not ours to share it is a way to forge a connection with others but it is not a true connection. It is an assumed trust. The “vault’ is important. We can all work on this.

I-Integrity-Choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy and practicing our values. Brené describes integrity as choosing courage over comfort.

N-Non-Judgement- It is important to know that we can fall apart and struggle and not be judged by the important people in our lives. Brené said we get a certain amount of value from helping others but if we do not allow them to reciprocate than we are not in a trusting relationship. If we think our worth is tied up in needing help, so much so that we expect that our friends should come to us with their struggles, share their pain and ask for help when they need it then why are we sitting alone, crying alone and struggling alone? We fear judgement. If our relationships are important, loving and trusting ones we should be able to seek help when we need it without trepidation because we know we will not be judged.

G-Generosity-Assume the most generous things about my words, my intentions and behaviors and if I screw up make a generous assumption and check in with me. If I miss your birthday or I don’t contact you when something important is going on, generously assume that I love and care about you and check in with me. Don’t ignore my calls or texts and wait to bring it up with me two months later in an argument, confront me right away before animosity builds. It sucks when you are always the one to remember everyone’s birthday and then your birthday comes around and it is just another day. No party, no dinner, no to-do. I think we have to generously assume that we are loved and cared for but not everyone puts the same value on birthdays or cerebrating them after a certain age. Realize that we do things for people out of love but should not do them with the expectation of the same thing in return, not only is that not realistic it puts  a lot of unnecessary pressure on our relationships. If we are offended or feel slighted it is OK to assume the best and confront the people we love and say “Hey it was my birthday and we always do something fun on yours I had hoped that you would have planned something for me.” That can open the door to a generous discussion not a foolish fight.

If we are going to trust others we need to trust ourselves. We need to hold ourselves to the same standards as we hold the people closest to us, braving it out with us. Braving in relationships is braving a connection with others. Self-trust and self love is equally important because we cannot ask people to give us something that we do not feel that we are worth of receiving. If a man was starving to  death but offered me a loaf of bread, instead of thinking he was kind and selfless I would most likely think that there was something wrong with the loaf of bread. I would only have trusted him if he took some of the bread and offered some to me.

I have obviously taken liberties here but most of the above comes straight from Brown’s extensive research. Brené’s BRAVING really helped me to understand trust and how when we break it down we are better able to ask for what we need. It is unfair to tell people that we do not trust them but not be able to tell them why.

If you struggle with trust in your relationships and with yourself like I  do I suggest watching Brené’s talk on the Anatomy of Trust or taking her free course at COURAGEworks.

Be W.I.S.E. friends.