Naked -Wise Project 2018- #TenaciousTuesday

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Last week I wrote about a workshop that was gifted to me called the Gift, facilitated by Integrity Workshops here in Edmonton. I was really excited about the tools I had gathered to move forward with me on my journey and how I was committed to setting clear intentions, standing in my own personal integrity and being in charge of the experiences I wanted to have in my life. I was expecting to have a much different week, but I experienced a great deal of discomfort, sadness and emotional mood swings. It wasn’t till late last night that I was able to see the gifts amid my struggle.

I have been struggling with something in my personal life that has taken up a good chunk of my head space and after finally reaching out to a trusted friend for some much-needed perspective I felt a bit renewed but at bedtime the monkeys in my head were talking very loudly and I found myself being bullied into feeling bad about myself because what I see as fearless tenacity, society often refers to as crazy, brazen and entitled. How dare I ask for the things I want, how dare I fight for them, how dare I expect them? They say I am messy with all my wants and all of my feelings. I am supposed to take what I get and smile and say thank you. Do not ask for more, that is rude. Why would I imagine that I am deserving of all these things? What makes me so special? I am just a foolish woman, outrageous, irrational, way too wild to fit into civil society.

How dare I?

How dare I not?

I decided to do a guided meditation before bed to quiet the noise and it was something Deepak Chopra said that that soothed my soul “If you want love in your life you need to give love, if you want kindness in your life you need to give kindness….” This was not new knowledge for me at all but in that moment, it was an affirmation.

Society would like us to believe that we only love people that love us back, we are only kind to people who are kind back. It is no wonder that we are living in a time of political unrest, an us vs. them society. We withhold the healing power of love and kindness because of the expectations we hold that we give to receive.

In that moment I realized that in my week of discomfort I was receiving the greatest gift. The unconscious was becoming conscious. I was becoming aware of the old vows, contracts, promises and beliefs that kept me small, that kept me quiet and most of all kept me from growing and giving the best of myself for fear of appearing”too much”. My self saboteur is a mean bully and has always been there whispering in the quiet corners of my mind, but I was somewhat powerless her when I was not fully conscious of her. Now as she roared at me, I hollered back.

One of our most paramount misconceptions I have had is that life is happening to us when in fact life is happening through us. There is a responsibility in that. Everyday we talk about wanting change, but we declare ourselves powerless. I think one of our greatest fears is realizing that we are indeed very powerful. We hold these outdated beliefs about the world around us and our automatic default is to follow along instead of lead. When we heal ourselves, we also heal our ancestors, our lineage; mothers, fathers, grandmothers. Many of us come from backgrounds of generational trauma, abuse, addiction, poverty or some sort of struggle. Healing is not comfortable or convenient, but it is a fierce catalyst in living a beautiful life and it is an amazing gift to give to future generations. There is a formidable amount of power in that. What we create in our own lives not only matters now, it will matter to our sons, daughters, grandchildren and on and on. To say we are powerless is really just shunning our responsibility and in some instances we pretend not to know because we perceive it as easier. We choose to go through the motions three hundred and sixty-five days a year and call it a life. That will not be my choice. When you know, you cannot un-know.

“No matter who our ancestors are, our own personal and monumental task is to become the best person that we can possibly be – someone in whom our own descendants in times to come can take great pride and find inspiration.”
~ Laurence Overmire

I believe people are inherently good, we come into the world that way at least and we also carry the beliefs, attachments, contracts and vows of our fore families and possibly past lives if you are a believer of such. Add on to this our own learned beliefs, behaviors, traumas and struggles there is rightfully a whole lot of shit in our piles. Now pile on expectations, media and societal norms and we feel the need to constantly hide who we truly are to fit a mold that was not made for us. We are told how to dress, how to act, how to get the job, get the girl/guy, appear ten pounds thinner, enhance our breasts and diminish our free thinking. Love, kindness and vulnerability are things the world needs to survive but we are taught that they are weaknesses. They will hurt us. So we suit up in our protective armor daily and call it “being strong” We shun human connection, the very thing that can heal our world.
If we don’t do the work, if we feel powerless, who will step up? Who will we allow to lead us and where we they lead us to?

None of us are safe from what is happening in the world right now. Hate and division is killing people at an alarming rate.

When you know, like I do, it is the end of denial and as I said it comes with a fair bit of responsibility and this almost insane need to be honest, not just with myself but with others. It may not bring me the victory in any popularity contests, but it will help me reclaim power over my own life, heal and transmute old wounds that have been carried forward generationally and alter the path for myself and my family going forward, interrupting generations of trauma and struggle that created restraints, beliefs and blocks. That is how an entire lineage progresses. There is no denying how fucking powerful that is and no amount of noise in my head can convince me otherwise.

When I am not standing in love; love for myself, for others, for creation, for the world, I am sitting in fear. Fear keeps me small and insignificant, it keeps me from taking risks and having the joyful experiences I want to have in my life.

Am I too much? Am I bold? Am I brazen? Am I entitled? Do I want too much? Do I expect too much?

DAMN RIGHT I DO!!!

I am learning to trust in myself and the work I am doing in the world.

I feel a bit like I am standing here naked, stripped of all I once believed to be true. Stripped of vows and contracts and burdens that were bestowed upon me unknowingly. I stand here naked yet more powerful than I ever thought imaginable.

I am expanding, learning to fill my space and to stop hiding behind fears, insecurities and outdated beliefs. I am worthy and what I bring to the table is valuable. I am doing work that is challenging me and it makes me question everything and even when it is hard and everything feels awful I keep showing up, heart open and vulnerable. My  courage and strength surprises me.

The noise I now hear is my ancestors cheering for me. My passion and desire is needed.

Find your power. Stand in your integrity. Create the life you want.

xo

“here’s to being your ancestors’s wildest dream”

~ evyan whitney

 

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The Climb- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

It has been thirteen months since I lost my husband to the unfathomable darkness of depression. I know nobody would say thirteen months unless they were referring to a baby, they would just say a year but in this case the distinction seems important.

I grabbed a glass of wine after dinner tonight and came out to the deck to watch the colorful sky. It had been a hot day; there has been a heaviness to the heat the past couple of days, almost as if it was sitting on top of you. I had come home early to enjoy the sun in my backyard and almost immediately the sun vanished beneath a gray mass of clouds that seemed to appear out of nowhere. I put some shoes on and played catch with my youngest daughter until we decided to beat the rain inside as the sky hinted that there was an impending storm, possibly a good one.

We watched some TV till Morgan came home with her friend and I went upstairs to make dinner. I cannot believe I am saying this, but I made spaghetti tacos for the girls. Apparently, it was a thing on ICarly and Haley has been asking me to make them. Morgan was initially as freaked out as I was at the idea but seemed to enjoy them and Haley seemed beyond enamored by them. I opted for a stir-fry with this amazingly flavorful cauliflower rice. It just seemed like a normal day, almost an unfamiliar normal, one I truly haven’t seen in a lifetime. I did the dishes after supper, still peeking out the window occasionally to see if it had begun to rain. The rain was still holding off, and the sky beheld the same dismal color it had been earlier perhaps just a slight shade brighter. I decided to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine and Morgan and her friend appeared and chatted a bit before going to meet another friend. At eighteen Morgan keeps busy with her crew, avoiding quiet times that make her think and feel too much on bottomless repeat. She is not ready to release the pain and sometimes I think we get so used to pain that we wrap ourselves in it like an old blanket and its Saturday night on the couch with your favorite Netflix series. It’s worn and not entirely cozy but there is a certainty to it at a time when everything feels uncertain. Tonight, she came out to the deck and we shared some laughs. She looked nice in her Halifornia Baseball Tee and I wondered for a second if it was mine because we have the same one. The sky had started to darken again just before they left but I found myself moments later staring up at it, a tiny bit confused. The sky had completely changed in a moment that I somehow missed; it was almost like a seamless day to night transition during live theatre. Somehow I blinked and missed it entirely. It was pretty in a weird sort of way, it was like the colors of the bags of cotton candy hanging on the side of the food trucks at the summer fair, the colors started to merge together, like the faces and the people that flock to the little food mobile all day to buy water and French fries. All of the sudden Haley burst out the door running into the lawn and standing on the fire pit, rambling about the sky and how she always used to stand on the fire pit in Grade 7 and take pictures of the sky. She just finished grade 8, probably one of toughest years in all her academic ones but she pulled through it and kicked its ass on the way through. I realized that I used to take a lot of the pictures of the sky as well and besides our recent vacation in the Okanagan where I dedicated time every day to stare up into the sky picking out the funny, dirty shapes in the clouds I had not been doing so. I stared at the moon and the stars at night and meditated fresh air every day of my holidays, yet it is July 30th and this is only the second time this summer that I have sat in my backyard. That feels important. It took thirteen months.

Haley and I continued to chat about the sky and take pictures of its rapidly changing color. It was not the most amazing sky I had ever seen, it wasn’t even close to being great, but it was beautiful in its unique normalness, changing quickly into moodier cotton candy colors. Almost immediately upon noticing the temperamental palette the curtain dropped abruptly leaving the evening sky draped in a deep navy velvet. I am listening to Ben Caplan crooning and sipping on a glass of red wine and kind of swaying in my seat and writing and figuring it out and sharing it with you almost simultaneously. After all we have been in this together, for a while, you and I. You have told me that sometimes my pain has been an escape from your own and that my healing makes yours seem hopeful and possible. You cry with me, remember with me, laugh with me and sit and hold space with me just as you would for your oldest, dearest friend. In most cases I am not your friend, most of you don’t even know me personally and even those of you that would say we were close if I won the lotto or became famous, you may not recognize me anymore. When I put my shattered pieces back together I had to put them back differently. I was forced too, everything was different, as am I, and sure as shitheels I am never going to be the same again.

Like I said, you are me and I am you. Our struggles are different but we both bare the scars of black nights and early mornings on no sleep. The memory fades but you remember how easily you can slip back into that hole. You are also starting to see how easily you can stop that manipulation, the lure of familiarity, and the decent into the darkness. You are starting to see that tomorrow is a new day; you get one every 24 hours. There are days that are easy and days that are hard, none of us are immune to those.

I walk on my lunch hour at work and I am lucky to live in a city with a large urban parks trail system surrounding our river valley. I have become a creature of habit and I take the same route 5 days a week finishing with a ladder. Every day I climb the ladder. When I first started I had to catch my breath several times and then I just stopped halfway through to suck in some air and then as time passed I made it closer to the top without a pause. Some days now I don’t stop at all and some days I stop out of habit. Some days are just hard, unexpectedly, as if I cannot get enough breath into my lungs and the air feels like a massive weight sitting on my chest. I have no explanation except for sometimes life is unexpectedly hard.

I realized that very day that I have been climbing for what seems like forever and it seems like I start over at the beginning every single day. The beauty in that is that I do, I start over every day. Nothing is permanent, no feeling of despair or hopelessness or heaviness that threatens to suck you in. Joy is not permanent either; it weaves in and out of our lives, knitting our memories into stunning tapestries. The magic happens when we realize that we choose how we feel in every single moment and we can chase the bleak shadows deeper and deeper into a pit of desolation or we can follow the wonder, the pleasure and delight as it unites our memories with the sunrise and launches our hopes into the sky to land on the brightest star. Our inner world is married to our outer world and what we give our attention to sets our intention. If our intention is to seek and create a life filled with joy and to meet the highest version of ourselves, if we continue to make that choice in every moment, commit to that climb, the universe will feed on that energy like a hungry traveler and lead us and guide us and move obstacles out of our way.

We are not alone. We are never alone. Just as you and I share in our most difficult struggles and laugh together during times of joy, the universe; the birds, bees, mountains, ocean and trees move simultaneously in a hypnotic dance to produce love, joy, creativity and gratitude in our lives. When that awareness is present I believe anything is possible.

There are times in the last year that I believed life was merciless, torturing me and feeding on my agony like a vulture but a very wise man told me that Kirk would heal through my healing and that one thing has been everything really. My husband spent a great deal of his life in pain, unable to achieve the peace he desired. If I chose to sit in the blackness would I keep him there with me?

Acceptance is vital. There are so many things in our lives that can be changed that we nonchalantly accept but we fight so damn hard against the mountains that are impossible to move. We use all of our strength fighting battles that cannot be won while laying our swords down during the most important of all crusades, the fight for our lives.

I realized one day that Kirk was not going to join me in that pit of despair but his spirit along with so many loving and kind people was offering me a hand to pull me out, I just had to grab unto it every single time I started to fall. The hand was always there, it would always be extended. I choose to fall or climb, that realization has been profound.

In those early days I believed that if I allowed my self to heal that I wouldn’t feel Kirk with me anymore, that he would sense that I no longer needed him and his presence would quickly fade away. I sought some guidance and I depended a great deal on faith and trust and what I learned was that as I continue to heal not only are my memories more vivid but my awareness of his existence in my life is unmistakable. Our souls are eternal and I am confident that he will encourage me always. I know he will be with me no matter what but when I find myself in a dreary place I imagine him sitting there with me saying “C’mon pissy pants, snap out of it!” he much preferred fun Michelle, who doesn’t?

It is those times when I feel happy and free that I feel him the most. I was at a concert last week and I had so much fun and danced non stop. I felt surrounded by his love and approval and I feel like, without earthly limbs I dance for him. When I love and laugh and dance, he does the same, just as when I cry and sit around in my jammies eating endless carbs and feeling like crap, so does he. There is an amazing amount of freedom in knowing that I am guided and supported, always, I just need to continue to climb.

I finally realized that it is not about the view from the top.

Grief is an unimaginable journey, but it is not something to get to the top of. I don’t think you ever stop grieving someone you love but I do believe it changes shape, it cloaks you in a weighty and gloomy sadness but over time instead of wearing it like armor you gracefully drape it over you like an elegant shawl made of courage.

The top just seems final, like a place where you stop learning and I feel like I have a lifetime of learning to do. Death has taught so much about love and living but it feels like there would never be an end to what I could learn about my purpose here in this astonishingly big but enigmatically small world.

Every day, all day, it is a journey, it is a climb.

I feel like slowly, grace and healing is making its way through my house and the last couple of days it has planted itself in my backyard. I can’t even believe how absently I was ready to accept that there would no longer be laughter back there, no welcoming the sun or bathing in moonlight. It is amazing the things that we will accept when we have the power to change them.

How ironic that it was a perfectly normal day that seemed so extraordinary in my heart.

Our journeys are unique to us but often they intersect at the crossroads and we lean on and learn from each other. Shared wisdom and vulnerability is significant and valuable to healing and growth.

Sometimes the first step is the most important part of the journey.

“There’s no glory in climbing a mountain if all you want to do is get to the top. It’s experiencing the climb itself- in all its moments of revelation, heartbreak and fatigue-that has to be the goal.”

~Karyn Kusama

The Dance- Wise Project 2018- #tenacioustuesday

 

Life is fucking cruel sometimes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

as lessons,

as important steps of the dance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018

I GOT THIS

Watch me fucking dance…

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

It’s a heartache- Wise Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Remember that every single journey begins with a single step.

 

 

xoxo

Michelle

 

 

 

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

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

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will this loss break me or teach me?

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

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

 

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

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m still standing.

“First the pain, then the rising.

Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

xoxo-michelle1

 

 

 

 

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

 

Amazing Grace -Wise Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

Life is a beautiful disaster

Life is a beautiful disaster at the best of times and it is during our darkest times that we are challenged to find some sort of meaning in the midst of chaos. Never is this truer than when we experience tragedy, especially when it is the death of someone we love. So much of our identity, our hopes and dreams and plans for the future are wrapped up, in and around the special people in our lives and when one of them is suddenly taken away from us, looking forward can be a bleak venture.

This weekend was especially hard for me, there is really no rhyme or reason to grief, no magical step by step manual that you can pinpoint where you are and where you need to be. I think for me the best I can do is take things moment to moment, which was how I was trying to live my life way before my husband left this world so tragically.

At the moment, even tomorrow seems uncertain, so it is best for me to honor the feelings that come up as they arise. This weekend everything was wrapped in a blanket of deep sadness. In that regard I would describe grief as being  like the Cha-cha, taking a step backwards after taking a step forwards. Some may classify that as failure or being stuck, but it is movement and I have to believe that any sort of movement is a step in the right direction.

It seems like such a short time ago that I was waking up with happy anticipation and that has sadly been replaced by a blanket of dread. I dread even a day without Kirk so the thought of facing my life without him is overwhelming. I remind myself that moving through the day moment to moment is the best that can be expected of me and at the end of the day I celebrate the small victory that I made it through yet another one. Amidst the bleak despair if I am lucky enough to be gifted moments of light I try my best to hold unto them as long as possible, as it is in those moments that I am able to look towards the future with a tiny bit of hope.

This weekend I had made multiple plans and I was quite excited at the prospect of getting to that point in my journey that I could actually be excited about leaving the house for not one or two but three days in a row. Friday night after work I met a friend and we went raspberry picking, we had dinner and shared some stories over a glass of wine. I was in bed that night exhausted by 10 p.m. I had been having a good time and then all of the sudden I became literally overcome at the thought of never having dinner with Kirk again, never driving in a vehicle with Kirk again, never listening to Kirk bitch when his smoothie had raspberries in it because he despised how the seeds got stuck in his teeth. I woke early on Saturday but I wasn’t able to leave my room. I feel close to Kirk there and the thought of facing anything outside my room made me feel choked.  I was lucky to be given weekend passes to the Edmonton Folk Festival but tried desperately to pawn them off on my teenage daughter. In a reversal of sorts my daughter temporarily took over the role of voice of reason and told me that I wasn’t going to sit around, I was going to kick the ass out of that day and if that was too much to ask for, I could be just as sad at the folk festival as I could at home cleaning the house; only it was less lame. She was entirely right of course and as we weaved our way through Edmonton on city transit I was reminded that Kirk would have told me the exact same thing.

There is nothing lame about the Edmonton Folk festival. It is such a mish mosh of people and personalities that I was immediately reminded of the beauty and the fragile-ness of life.

Life is glorious sunsets, panoramic mountain vistas, ocean spray, sunrises, laughter, dancing, hot sand, cool drinks, loud music,  acne, gas, bills, mortgages, jobs, stress, heartache, birth, death and taxes. Life is all or nothing. There is no promise of a pain free life and unfortunately we need to experience all of it.

Music has always brought people together and we are always aware of how lucky we are to get to experience music live, it is such a connecting experience.

My daughter and I found a spot on the grass to lay our blanket, surrounded by babies, teenagers, parents, grandparents and people at a time in their lives that they can’t recall their age but their toes can still tap out the rhythm of the music. That alone was beautiful and I allowed myself to see and feel that. Music has always brought people together and we are always keenly aware of how lucky we are to get to experience music live. It is such a connecting experience, bringing together people from all walks of life to celebrate stories brought to life through music and melodies.

Irish Mythen is an Irish born-Canadian Contemporary Folk singer and songwriter with the wonderful gift of comfortably uniting people through her stories and her strong and fantastic voice. In her intro to Sweet Necessity she talked about being a singer-songwriter on the road and discovering the things that were the most important things in life, the things you long to come home too. These sweet necessities are the things that money cannot buy. She followed with a powerful song called 55 years that she had written after meeting an elderly man at a festival that had just lost his wife. They had been married for 55 years and had never spent a night apart and after he wandered off into the night she wondered about how that must have felt for him, the first time crawling into his bed without his true love. Tears were spraying out of my eyes even before the first strum of the guitar and as my daughter held my hand I was once again reminded of how lucky I was to get that kind of love, and that grief is love’s souvenir. I cannot rush my way through it, I need to carry it with me as I move through my days and honor all of the feelings as they come my way. I cried for that beautiful old man that lost his wife, I cried for Kirk, I cried for me and my children and our families and friends and I cried for people that I didn’t even know that would one day be faced with the same heartache. Pain is not selective. It is what we do with our pain that matters.

I looked at her with envy thinking that that was supposed to be me someday.

That night I was once again exhausted and I faced the same difficult morning; not wanting or ready to face my own reality. My daughter once again reminded me that we had plans for the last day of Folk Festival and that I could be just as sad there as I could be anywhere. The travel through the city was worse on Sunday, I remembered how funny it was traveling with Kirk on City transit and was reminded how we would never do that again. As we laid in the hot sun on our blanket listening to 78 year old Blues legend William Bell I thought of how much Kirk would have appreciated this and how connected he was to music. He communicated with me a lot through music, often sending me songs and always insisting that I listen to the lyrics because they were everything he wanted to say. My eyes leaked all day and it felt terrible. It felt like having annoying eye allergy and your eyes feel constantly wet and crusty in the corners. Tears were imminent.

My daughter nudged me to look at this elderly woman who was wildly dancing to the rock and roll/swamp/blues stylings of Canadian band MonkeyJunk. I looked at her through teary eyes, and my heart did a funny thing, perhaps a pang.  She had white hair, and she was wearing a white short sleeved sweater with brightly colored embroidered flowers, fuchsia shorts and matching sunglasses. If you googled images of smile or sunshine you might find a picture of her. I looked at her with envy thinking that that was supposed to be me someday. I was supposed to be that happy older lady in the brightly colored clothing, dancing like nobody was watching and shining as bright as the sun. I contemplated that for several minutes, turning my attention back to the crooning guitar and the beat of the drum to drown out the breaking of my heart, over and over again. I looked over at the woman again, still dancing as if freedom was her middle name. I estimated her to be in her seventies and I am pretty certain that heartache hadn’t passed over her. In 70 years I am sure she has experienced her fair share of pain, yet she danced as if her heart had never been broken, free from the shackles of emotional torment.

I know if I want to dance with freedom at 70 plus years old I have some work to do, I need to heal my heart and reconnect with my soul. I need to seek and find some grace.

I heard a word last week that is not a dictionary word but Deepak Chopra used it “SynchroDestiny”, alluding to the fact that events and encounters are more than meaningful coincidences; they are actually choices we make that are leading us towards our destiny.

“When we’re aware of our essential nature and the possibilities that are always unfolding around us, we enter a state I call SynchroDestiny. We awaken to the field of infinite possibilities, and are able to apply our intentions and attention to manifest the spontaneous fulfillment of our dreams and desires. “ –Deepak Chopra

I have felt pretty strongly in the last several months that people I meet and the experiences that I have are somehow all connected and leading me towards my purpose. I was meant to be at the Folk Festival and see that woman, dancing like she was eighteen at Woodstock. She was meant to be a part of my journey. I know if I want to dance with freedom at 70 plus years old I have some work to do, I need to heal my heart and reconnect with my soul. I need to seek and find some grace.

Author Anne Lamont presented a Ted Talk where she talked about grace and I searched for it and as I listened a meaning was revealed that I had not embraced on my previous listen.

Anne Lamott says:

Grace.

Grace is spiritual WD-40, or water wings. The mystery of grace is that God loves Henry Kissinger and Vladimir Putin and me exactly as much as He or She loves your new grandchild. Go figure. The movement of grace is what changes us, heals us and heals our world.

To summon grace, say, “Help,” and then buckle up. Grace finds you exactly where you are, but it doesn’t leave you where it found you. And grace won’t look like Casper the Friendly Ghost, regrettably. But the phone will ring or the mail will come and then against all odds, you’ll get your sense of humor about yourself back. Laughter really is carbonated holiness. It helps us breathe again and again and gives us back to ourselves, and this gives us faith in life and each other. And remember — grace always bats last.

 

So I am buckling up and asking for help and I am also taking measures to discover who it is I am meant to be in the world right now and in the future. I am taking an online Self Discovery course by the Chopra Center facilitated by Deepak Chopra.

Speaking of SynchroDestiny; I met Deepak in the winter when I attended his talk on the future of well-being. I also bought his book “You are the Universe.” I was immediately fascinated with the book but it was a slow read for me as I was underlining and using sticky notes and highlighters and then reading and discussing parts of the book with Kirk so that he could help me understand. Kirk had a brilliant mind and could grasp a concept much quicker than I could, I always put things through the filter of my heart and maybe that complicates things.

Our natural state is that of joy, creativity and abundance but throughout our lives we are reminded of our limitations and live within those constricted beliefs.

Through this course I am learning to honor my feelings but to let go of old hurt and anger that traps me in old experiences. Our natural state is that of joy, creativity and abundance but throughout our lives we are reminded of our limitations and live within those constricted beliefs. As a young child our lives and the opportunities available to us seem boundless but as we were educated about our limitations our possibilities became narrow and confined. Stored emotional pain can also significantly limit our potential to create and seek unlimited joy. For instance holding unto anger traps us in the past and clouds our perception of unison and doesn’t allow us to see the signs that the universe is offering us.

I know that dealing with the pain and trauma of this loss now is the the very best thing I can do for myself, my children and my emotional and spiritual well being. Otherwise I run the risk that the pain will resurface as aggravated poison at an equally inopportune time-showing up as hostility, anger, anxiety or fear. My goal is to deal with the feelings now as they come and begin to slowly take those hard steps towards emotional freedom. If I allow myself to let my mind take over I very quickly find myself trapped in a Karmic prison, a prison with no walls or locks but the trappings of my own terrified mind.

I am also taking a 3 day Meditation course at Lifestyle Meditation, to learn to fully integrate meditation into my lifestyle. Meditation has been a go to for me for awhile now, saving me from myself on several occasions; but I would like to fully immerse myself in the experience of meditation and mindfulness and connect to the science and philosophy in a solid way so that I can not only continue to evolve in my own personal practice but I can confidently influence others that can benefit from incorporating meditation and mindfulness techniques in their own lives and wellness.

Often what we are searching for is searching for us as well and I believe that grace is seeking me and I am indeed seeking grace.

Be Wise friends xo

Michelle

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