XXX. Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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The last several weeks I felt myself falling into blackness. Grief is an unpredictable bastard and this time it surprised me by attacking me slowly and manifesting physically in my bones. I have always said that I hate what it takes from me, my comfort, my sense of certainty, my joy; but I have never considered what it gives to me. Grief is a clearing out, a creation of space, a planting of seeds, a guide, and an assurance of something new. It is the fear that grief evokes in me that knocks me off balance and threatens the delicate stability of my life, if at this point there is even such a thing. It is the resistance that promotes my suffering and robs me of the pleasures of my life. It’s like wasting all of your energy pulling and pulling on a locked door only to find out that it was not your door, and your door opens with ease.

As unsettling as grief can be it is an opportunity for healing and growth. Just as my memories of Kirk will never leave me, he will never return to me physically. I feel like I have accepted that and deep in my heart I believe I have accepted all the reasons why he had to go. A death by suicide adds another layer of tragedy over death that I am not sure if I can properly explain, but as difficult as it has been to accept and begin to heal his passing, it is all that he lost to his illness while he was here that haunts me if I allow. I know for certain there is nothing to gain but heartache from that and it takes an effort not to dwell in that dismal place.

I know that grief is a visitor and though the time between visits is always unpredictable it is my reluctance to open the door and let it in that wreaks havoc in my life. It doesn’t go anywhere until it teaches me what it came for and if I barricade the door it will lie in wait while impatience and fear build in me like a fire that has just been doused by gasoline.

Rumi likened being human to a guesthouse, and joy, meanness and depression as unexpected visitors. Rumi urges us to welcome them in and to be grateful for whatever comes as it is a guide from beyond.

The past three weeks I have been wrought with physical pain, sporadic sleep, and general heaviness in my heart and soul. It always takes me a bit to realize that my hesitancy to accept and deal with the grief when it comes knocking creates a whole other set of problems. I retreat from my life, I barely sleep or meditate, I don’t eat well, and I am unable to focus on anything or express gratitude. I lose so much of myself in fear that I am barely living. My connections with people suffer and I don’t notice the beauty of the sunrise or the wonder of the moon. I don’t hold open doors, smile at strangers or extend random kindnesses. In trying to protect myself I actually lose myself.

At a meditation the other day, our guide Mandy talked a bit about grief and how it seems to come in waves, she said the best we can do is dip our toes in the water and enjoy our ass in the sand when all is calm and brace for the fierce waves as they come but allow them to bring wisdom, grace and healing and wash away any old resentments, pain and fear that no longer serves us. It requires a great deal of trust to believe that when the aggressive waves hit that they will not leave us as they found us, in fact if we let go of the fear and the need to hold unto what is familiar the waves will take away the rubble and leave us with love, joy and compassion.

Fear keeps us small, fear hold us back, fear dims our light. Living in fear is not living. The minute I am willing to admit that fear is guiding me, I can readjust my perspective and I feel an immediate emotional release. Last week this came in the form of tears wildly flying out of my eyes at the most inopportune times but also the heaviness that had wrapped itself around my heart and settled in my bones began to subside.

I opened the door, I welcomed the discomfort, I cried, and I found the amazing grace that grief leaves behind as it backs out the door, at least for now.

I went to an Indigenous Sweat Lodge recently and immediately afterwards I felt like I had been released from thousands of year’s worth of chains. It is such a powerful feeling that you want to hold unto it as long as possible but eventually plaques of doubt rip into our lives and we allow ourselves to get tangled up in the chains that keep us from experiencing the true autonomy of life. At the Sweat Lodge ceremony you are told not to wipe away your tears, tears are sacred and cleansing. It is our need to suppress, to be strong, to hold back our honest emotions that can quickly deplete us.

There are very few certainties in life except that we all experience birth and we all experience death, but we are very much responsible for the “in between”, the living moments. We inevitably all face our share of challenges and struggles but we are also bestowed with many gifts. Sometimes we find our gifts as we emerge from the dark of night into the dawn of a new day; a beginning.

I was watching Songs and Stories with Jann Arden last night and she said “If you are not thinking of dying you are not thinking of living” It is a subject we avoid out of fear but it is going to happen for all of us, the very best we can do is to learn to live, not prepare to die. Jann is one of my favorite people and celebrities, she is not immune to struggle and is very honest about the things she has faced and how they have shaped her into the person she is today. She has been living with her mothers Alzheimer’s which she refers to as the long goodbye. The mom who raised her is gone and she is not coming back and Jann speaks of learning to be OK with that and learning to communicate and love her mother as she is and where she is. It required a huge amount of letting go and trusting that that was the right thing for right now and it has made all the difference for Jann and her mother as they navigate a terrible illness that robs you of yourself. Her words resonate with me because I too felt like with Kirk there was a long goodbye. As sudden and tragic as his death was for most, his illness had been stealing him away from us for years, robbing him of all his comfort and familiarity. I too had to learn to love him as he was and where he was and when I was able to achieve that there was a freedom for both of us in the love we shared. It was boundless.

Recently I was told the story of Kris Gautumi whose son fell ill and died at just one year of age. Kris was unimaginably distraught and refusing to accept her son’s death she carried him around, wrapped in a blanket begging neighbors and friends to help her find a way to bring her son back to life. Weeping and filled with dreadful pain, she was saddened to find that nobody was able to help her but she refused to give up. A Buddhist advised her to go see Buddha himself. She carried her dead child to Buddha and he listened to her with grace and compassion. He told Kris that there was only one way to solve the problem and sent her back to the village to obtain a few mustard seeds from any family that had never been touched by death. Filled with a renewed sense of hope Kris set off to the village but after a weary day and not finding a single home that had not been touched by death she discovered the Buddhas message, suffering is a part of life, and death comes to us all.

Only when we truly accept the inevitability of death can we truly begin to live.

As much as we all suffer and share in our challenges and our struggles, we all have the same capacity for joy and love if we allow. For me it requires the courage to focus way beyond my comfort zone and breath and trust that the universe always has my back.

Moments of darkness are imminent, essential, if we let go and trust the process we can rest in assurance that there is always light on the way. So whatever you are facing don’t brace for struggle, if you are feeling like you are being pulled down do not fight it, your joy will come in the rhythm of the dance between the darkness and the light, and if you are willing to let go you will not be dragged down or held down, you will in fact rise.

We are all given the same invitation amid struggle, the invitation to lay aside our doubts and fears and put our trust in something larger than us, even if we do not quite understand it. It is our ego that believes that we need to know everything and that we need to dissect every fine detail of our lives. There will always be a bit of a battle between our hearts and our minds but I have found that it is my mind that summons fear and judgement and my heart that summons freedom and love.

As crazy as it may sound to some of you I have always felt that my soul has lived for thousands of years. Since I was a child I have had fleeting memories that belong to me but are not mine and I believe that on my current soul journey I am here to learn about unconditional love. A wise woman recently had mentioned to me how as our soul is preparing for a new journey, we drink from the river of forgetfulness and we choose what we want to learn on earth. We are void of fear or ego at that point and I think of Helen Keller choosing to learn about kindness and love and then being handed the challenges of deafness and blindness. In all her fierce badassery she did not throw in the towel.

I believe I am here to learn about unconditional love, be it the love that a person has for themselves that makes it entirely possible for them to love in a way that feels like freedom and to put that abundant love and lightness back into the world. I have been challenged by death, loss, heartbreak and fear but I am really just beginning to learn to dance.

“You are being asked to dance rather than understand, to lay the thoughts to rest and come alive. It is the bravest, most trusting soul that dares put the mind to one side and say “Tonight we dance, my heart and I, in the great rousing music of the beloved’s beating heart- and I will not miss one step” And to awaken the next day and do it all over again-and again, and again.

~ Alana Fairchild

 

XXX.

Michelle

Remorse Code -Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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Many people get to the end of their lives with crippling regret. Whether it is unfulfilled dreams, things left unsaid, unresolved issues with loved ones or the scars of deep resentment that they held like a knife against their own side for so many years that it kept them from living the best life possible, regret is a weighty affliction.

My husband had a lot of regret; he took it to his grave. I never quite understood that for him it was a part of the horrible mental illness that robbed him of the life he deserved. We had many discussions about regret over the years and when he left this world tragically I knew I had a choice to live in fear and regret or live in love and gratitude. One decision would keep me firmly rooted in the blackness of deep despair and the other would allow my children and I to see our lives in a different way, and take all of the opportunities we could to live the very best life.

The truth is I do not have a lot of regrets. I have talked a lot about the struggles Kirk and I faced early on in our relationship and the truth is I could spend a whole lot of time wishing that we could go back and change that but the lessons that we learned is wisdom that can never be taken away from me, and those lessons led us to a place of being able to love each other from our whole hearts, not for what we expected the other to be or what we expected in return for our love investment…but just simply to love each other unconditionally, without regret. I can only speak for myself in this scenario, I can only say that I achieved that; and knowing that it is possible opens up a whole new world void of age old fears about love, loss and worthiness.

People ask me all the time how this is possible and I have given it a great deal of thought.

I ran into my neighbor today and she said “Are you OK?” I replied yes. She looked at me sadly for a moment and than said “Are you?”

She wanted to take my pain and it is a common thing. People are loving and inherently good and we instinctually want to free others from any sort of pain but the truth is it’s my pain, my lessons, my receipt of love and loss. There are days I feel the pain in every limb, it swims in my blood, and it can consume me if I were to allow it but I do my very best not to.

“The finest souls are those who have gulped pain and avoided making others taste it.”

~ Nizariat

A life well lived will never be void of pain or loss. The thing about life is nobody gets out alive, so while we can and should empathize with others, we should not saddle ourselves with the heaviness of another person’s pain and we should only carry ours until we have learned the lesson. Let it soften, let it dissolve. We never “get over” the immense loss of a person we love but for me the absolute gratitude for all I gained from my life with Kirk will always outweigh the pain. I wouldn’t take back one second of laughter and love, to avoid one moment of despair.

I am learning a lot from my children about how I want to live my life. I know that I have not fully emerged from my cocoon but I will when I am ready. I will be forever changed by the loss of my husband to suicide but I will never be diminished by it.

I had an aha moment of sorts the other day when I heard my oldest daughter say “I don’t want to have any regrets.”

She knows exactly what she wants and exactly what she wants to achieve but she often forgets that in the equation of life she needs to always come first. Loving yourself, caring for yourself, investing in your own worth is always the most important thing. After you achieve that, everything else is relative. How can you truly say you love another with your whole heart if you haven’t learned to love yourself? How can you expect another to invest huge amounts of love into you if you yourself have deemed yourself unworthy of the investment?

We have all lived with the heavy burden of regret. It weighs us down. Decisions cannot be unmade but the truth is even a bad decision is just a lesson. Most successful people will tell you that they learned more from a bad decision or from a mistake than from the times when everything went just right.

So how do we live a life without regret? Is it possible?

“When we live each day with kindness, compassion, and communicative love, there is no business left unfinished. There are no regrets or words we should have said, but didn’t. There is no need for closure or forgiveness or apology of any kind.”
Tyler Henry, Between Two Worlds: Lessons From the Other Side    

I have broken down a couple of things I have learned in the past several months and I hope that they are helpful. As always, I welcome responses, my blog is based on my experiences and opinions, and I am always open to what has worked for others. While we should not heap our pain unto others we can help by sharing our experiences, it often lets others know that they are not alone in what they are experiencing. We are in a weird and scary time currently and never have we been so divided but I would like to believe at our very core, the majority of us share the same values and truly just want to be happy.

Don’t be afraid of love

Love big!

Love yourself and love others. Be loving and kind in your words and actions. Give love to others without the expectation of getting love in return. How someone loves you is not a reflection of you, how you love is a reflection of you. Every one is on their own journey, if you love them, love them where they are, not where you want them to be. At the end of our lives we will never wish that we loved anyone less.

Pursue what sets your soul on fire

It is never too late to pursue the things that set your soul on fire. Never allow age to be a road block to the things that you desire. With age comes wisdom and wisdom should not make you sit quietly in a corner and watch the seconds tick by.

 

Give your heart a voice

Our thinking minds allow us to only make safe decisions. Don’t be afraid to take chances and let your heart have a voice. Those who never risk pain or heartbreak also never experience the freedom of true love. Fear is a terrible motivator. Sometimes the very best things in life live on the other side of fear.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, when we hold grudges or hold unto the pain of disappointment or bitter resentment we are punishing ourselves and that is never the intent.

 

Embrace Mistakes

Mistakes make great stories and great stepping stones. Take the lesson and move forward without allowing the fear of mistakes to hold you back from trying.

Always be true to you

When you are your true, authentic self you will not be right for everyone and that is ok. In time the right people will be in your life and one true friend is better than ten fake ones. Being uniquely and unapologetically you allows others to do the same. Your connections with the right people will be better and stronger because of it and best of all you will like yourself.

Gratitude

If you are thankful for what you have it will always seem like more. You can focus on what you don’t have or what you do have, you get much different results with one simple decision. Gratitude breeds abundance. If we live a life thinking about we don’t have we live in a constant state of “have not” which can be exceptionally draining.

Mean what you say, say what you mean

One of my favorite books of all time is the tortured unrequited Love story of Heathcliff and Cathy in Wuthering heights. If only Cathy had told Heathcliff what she had told Nellie how different their lives would have been! We should never allow fear to hold us back from saying what should be spoken; in the end we will regret the things left unsaid.

Advocate for yourself

Nobody is going to hand you all the things you want and deserve. If you want something, fight for it.

Laughter

It turns out that some of the best things in life are free. Laughter is one of the very best things. Life doesn’t have to be all serious, all the time. Laugh well, laugh often.

 

What are you doing to live a life without regret?

Heart Shaped box -WISE project 2017 -#tenacioustuesday

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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

 

 

 

 

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

BE YOUR OWN HERO

For my Aunt Sylvia. A woman of great strength and grace, and to all the strong women in the world who are not afraid to shine, stand out and speak up!

BE YOUR OWN HERO

A little over five years ago we moved our family across Canada making Edmonton our new home. My husband was already working an advancing job in the Oil Sands and he saw and seized an opportunity that wasn’t available to him in our small town in Nova Scotia. I was overcome with fear. Despite our struggles, financial and otherwise, there was a comfort in raising our girls in our country home just minutes away from the support of our family and friends. The thought of moving to a big city again, as a mom and a wife, not a young and carefree youth, crippled me with certain fear. The inevitable happened, people started telling me how much I would hate it and how I would be back in less than six months. The thought of slinking home after selling my home and moving my family 5000 miles away was even more unnerving then the alternative; trying to make it work.

As a young woman living in the city I saw beauty in the diversity of people and places. University students, rappers, professionals of every age and race, sharing space in a perfectly imperfect way.  I loved the city, it offered me a place to be myself and the opportunity to embrace a way of life that was new and exciting for me. I remember living in London, Ontario and walking to the all night diner at 3 am for scrambled eggs. The diner wasn’t fancy and it didn’t have a clever name. The neon sign simply said diner, open 24 hours. There were only a few two seater tables and a large communal bar-like round counter with stools where you could grab a seat, order from a menu on the wall and watch the cranky, elderly gentlemen behind the counter quickly prepare your palettes desire. He was like the ‘soup Nazi’ from the popular Seinfeld episode. If you spoke out of turn or made a snide remark there was ‘no food for you’ and there was no changing his mind. He fascinated me, this old man with the hard shell exterior and a work ethic not matched by his youthful counterparts. The food there was amazing and I was careful to eat quietly and not interact too much with the other late night clientele, lest they didn’t know the rules I didn’t want their ignorance to reflect on me. There was a quiet respect between the old man and myself and I know I had gained his trust. On more than one occasion I caught him observing me with a hint of a smile.

As a parent moving her children to the city I didn’t feel the same kind of enthusiasm. We enjoyed lazy days at the beach and Sunday family suppers at home in Nova Scotia. I liked that there wasn’t a lot of traffic on our quiet country road and the sounds of the night were reserved for crickets and coyotes. I think what I feared the most was the unknown. Take away my home, my friends, and my extended family….who would I be? Would I belong? Haley was young enough to just want to go wherever we were going, she could appreciate the excitement of the journey. Morgan however was old enough to mourn all she was leaving behind and too young to realize that if you keep a relationship alive in your heart that distance doesn’t matter.

Quite quickly I realized that my attitude about the move would prove essential in a smooth transition for the girls. I ignored the people who told me how much I would hate it and grasped unto the enthusiastic well wishes from people I was close to. I would always have a hometown, a place where I was born and raised, and a place that would always have my heart. Embracing a diverse and dynamic city like Edmonton, immersing my family in its vibrant culture would not diminish my ties to my home.

That first summer we visited the grand Rocky Mountains. Their soaring snowcapped peaks reaching for the sunshine as their feet refreshed into iridescent glacier water.  The mountain air that filled our lungs breathed a new life into our souls and motivated us for the journey ahead. The remainder of summer was full of sporting events, backyard barbeques and concerts. The kids loved the city, they loved city transit. They loved being a part of a grand scheme.

Summer faded into fall, Morgan started her new school while I stayed home with Haley. Morgan struggled with a place to belong in school and though she made new friendships quickly she suffered their ups and downs. She always enjoyed and excelled at sports but fought with the idea of being her best. She found that shining at sports didn’t always sit well with her female friends and I strained trying to explain to her the beauty in being the very best you can be. Somebody who is not afraid to shine will always be the brightest light in the room.

At ten Morgan was maturing into a sweet girl but her body and her emotions were at war with one another and I wrestled with trying to parent her through it. We had always been the best of friends and she felt she needed a friend, not a parent. I began to foresee a future of reasoning right and wrong with a pre-teen who knows everything.

One lazy Sunday we three girls were curled up watching Whip It. Whip It is a fun, inspirational sports film with a female dominated cast. It is full of charm, and good natured wit. The allure of the movie, based on Bliss, a former beauty pageant contestant turned Roller Derby player is that it isn’t sappy but it portrays women as strong, sassy, funny and real.  The film explores the game of modern roller derby, albeit in an over the top way and studies female relationships in an entertaining way. In a tough as nails, action packed roller derby scene my ten year old daughter said “I wanna do that!”

“Really?” I replied, “Roller Derby?”

“Yes, definitely”, she replied.

She was a girl in love.

The next day I was driving the girls to school and we got a sign, in the form of an actual sign. There was a sign on the side of the road that said “Junior Roller Derby, ages 12-17, wanna try?”

Morgan excitably pointed out the sign and begged me to call. The age said 12 and she was only ten but I guess I could make a phone call.

Turns out it was a very important phone call. The lady said that they had been considering taking younger girls and to bring her to practice Sunday. I decided to take her Roller Skating at the old Sportsworld that Friday to see if she liked it. She was off like a shot with a smile on her face. I tried too, I hadn’t been on quad skates since I was a kid and my legs were super shaky. It was also hard to keep my balance with Haley hanging off me. Haley was six at the time and hated roller-skating. She ripped the skates off her feet so fast you would have thought they were on fire. Morgan however had found her new love.

From that first Sunday till now has been quite a voyage.  A little league that was once the appendage of an adult league became its own society run by parents and volunteers with the common goal of empowering youth, allowing them to embrace their individualism in a fun, safe and respectful environment while learning the sport of flat track roller derby. As a founding member and board member I have been humbled and moved by the determination of these young skaters and the strong women who give their time to teach them a sport that they are passionate about.

As a parent I have always strived to teach my girls to be strong and independent and never be afraid to be the very best they can be. Traditionally females are taught to be feminine, quiet and sweet. Roller Derby is a non-traditional sport and it teaches girls lessons that are very valuable in today’s society. It teaches them to be strong and competent and competitive. A competitive sport such as roller derby teaches girls to embrace the skills they learn to be stronger individuals with healthy self-esteem and body images.

Often in society men are rewarded for strength, competence and aggressive behavior while for women it is frowned upon. Strong women are frequently viewed as a threat in today’s society and instead of learning to be fearless and independent they are learning that being feminine is measured in their ability to attract members of the opposite sex, not rocking the boat, allowing the men to do the heavy lifting, in sitting pretty so to speak. As a parent I prefer that my girls make their own definition of the word feminine. One that exceeds physical beauty and embraces independence, personality, uniqueness, strength and capability.

The sport of Roller Derby is played by strong and enduring women all over the world. Those that coach the sport are resilient and passionate. They are their own heroes, and heroes to the girls that they instill the same robust qualities.

Haley is a Derby girl now and she is navigating her way, finding a place in a sport that envelopes everyone.

I am proud of Morgan Mayhem and Haleylujah. They are flawlessly imperfect and definitely not textbook young ladies but I believe that they are amongst a movement of young women that will shove through the walls that society has built up, unravel and redefine the roles of men and women. They will know when to be strong, when to speak up and when to stand their ground. They will never be afraid to be “as good” as their male counterparts and in fact will struggle to be better.

They will never be intimidated by the term ‘male dominated’, they will believe that means ‘female friendly’

The definition of ‘feminine’ is in need of a serious revamp. Females in sport are changing what it looks like every day. From where I stand it looks like, determination, skill, endurance, passion and strength.

Morgan with Terminal City All Stars Luludemon and EightMean Wheeler after she guested with STAHR Roller Derby (adults) Beezlebubs at age 13
Morgan Mayhem, Haleylujah, Nancy Kenny and Marilyn Monroll at The Fringe Festival Parade promoting Roller Derby saved my soul.
Morgan Mayhem
Morgan Mayhem, Belle Camino (Tar Sand Betties) and Haleylujah at Calgary’s Flat Track Fever

There is some place where your specialties can shine. Somewhere that difference can be expressed. It’s up to you to find it, and you can. David Viscott

Learn more about Junior Roller Derby

Where to get Roller Derby Gear

Greater Edmonton Junior Roller Derby

Roller Derby