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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landslide-W.I.S.E. Project 2016

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Stevie Nicks

I was driving home from work yesterday and I caught myself singing along with Stevie Nicks on the radio. I kind of startled myself and not just because I have a terrible singing voice but because I was singing “happily”

The last several days had been grey and dingy and I had resigned myself to the fact that we had bypassed autumn all together and were going straight into a buckle down, bundle up Western winter. Then I noticed as I was belting out the line “Can I handle the seasons of my life? That it was sunny, the early snow was melting rapidly and some of the trees were still decorated with the red and golden leaves of fall.

I was a bit taken aback by how quickly I had accepted that fall had come to an abrupt end and that winter was here to stay. It was more than putting on boots and sweaters it was a mindset that I get into to prepare me for the days to come. Hello to the dark, the cold, the treacherous driving conditions, and a lot less sunlight.  Somehow my memory recalls that after I shovel and take off the layers of clothing that there will be cozy fires, warm drinks, soft blankets and good books.

I realized that as humans we handle the changes in seasons the way we do the seasons of our life.  I know that some of us hold onto the longing and regret that comes with change but I am trying my best to handle mine with grace and gratitude.

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When I think of the first hint of spring and the new buds on the trees I think of my transformation from a child into a teen. Everything was new and fresh and endless, from the buds on the trees to my blossoming bosom.

I think of summer as my early twenties when a day at the beach and making memories was more important than bills and responsibilities. With sunshine in the sky and a bikini on my bottom I was ready to take on the world. I think of fall as adulthood, when the days have a more structured routine, they  are abundant with color and rich with opportunity but the hint of winter is in the air, hanging over us like a threat, warning us that we need to be prepared for what may come. I liken the changing trees to our changing bodies, the look of youth leaving our faces. Our wisdom, our happiness, our fears and our worthiness all etched in the fine lines in the corners of our eyes and the edges of our minds.

I feel like the foreboding of winter lurks in the shadows always, we need to be ready and willing to change at a moments notice. Relationships, jobs and experiences are fleeting. Most people experience more than one job and one love in their lifetimes and without that willingness to change, to grow, to risk heartbreak, where would we be? Time makes us bolder, we have seen a lot of falls turn instantly into winter. We know when to bundle up and how to weather the storm.

Enjoy the seasons of your life and don’t spend your life awaiting the storm. Have your boots and your snow shovel in the closet and if the storm should come you will be ready and when it passes you can sip wine by the fire and sing Stevie Nicks tunes at the tops of your lungs. Summer is always just a memory away.

xo

Michelle

Naked and Afraid-Marriage in the 21st Century -Podcast 3 part series

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I decided to do a three part  segment on Marriage and some things I have  learned during the last 14 years of wedded bliss and almost 18 years in a relationship with my husband in which we have  faced our share of adversity and struggles.

Marriage can be fun, beautiful and so rewarding, but the one thing that nobody tells you on your wedding day is how hard it is, how much work it requires and if you do not nurture it it can very quickly wither up and die, like a flower in the desert heat!

I entered into my marriage pretty idealistically and with a lot of silly expectations. I brought with me way too much sass and this incredible need to be right all the time. My husband brought his own ideas and idiosyncrasies. Adding us together, mixing us up, throwing in some good times and struggle on top of struggle there have been some dark moments. The thing we are proud of is that though there were times where we almost got lost in the struggles, we dug in, put in some very hard work and today we are lucky to not just call each other partners but we are best friends.

There will be times that we may not like each other but those are the times that we remind ourselves how much we love each other. We have shared some great times together and some times that have made our heads spin. My need, or desire to share this with you comes from a good place in my heart that wants everyone in a relationship that is facing hard times or  daily struggles to know that you are not alone and it is normal. I even share some tips about things that have worked for us.

Join me for a fun and honest look into being Naked and Afraid in a marriage in the 21st century.

Part One- Setting the Stage

Part Two- Stupid things your spouse does and taking the good with the bad

Part Three- Make-up sex, fighting fair and why cuddling has it’s time and place.

Thanks for joining me, I would love to hear your feedback and I adore your marriage stories.

Cheers,

Michelle

Ordinary Day! -W.I.S.E. Project 2016

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June. Where did you go? You were full of endless days of tripping the light fantastic and electric summer nights catching falling stars in moonlit fields. Crackling campfires and long kisses on the end of weathered piers, toes in the water as I sought advice from the man in the moon. I blinked and you were gone.

Sometimes I have a tendency to overcomplicate things. It’s all very simple really. Everyday the sun rises in the East, this usually happens way before I am ready for the filtered sunlight that peaks in through the bent slat on my bedroom blinds, before I am quite mentally prepared to embrace the gentle song of the birds, put my big girl pants on and adult. The certainty is, ready or not it comes like clockwork every day. I try to get myself and everyone else out of the house with a chorus of “I love you and have a good day” instead of frantic yelling because we are all running late. We all go to the places we have to be, not necessarily where we would choose to be if we had been born rich instead of so damn good looking, but we try to go with a gracious heart and a kind soul and the choice to make it a good day. Even the good days are tiring and mostly they fly by too quickly. Before we know it the moon has replaced the sun and the darkening sky welcomes it’s best friends the stars. The birds are lulled to sleep by the mystique of it all and out come the crickets to play their favorite summertime melody just as we are pulling cool sheets around our ears and settling in for a hopefully long and dreamy nap. A similar version of this happens on repeat everyday without fail, with some filler in between.

It all goes by so quickly. I just have to remind myself to look around more, breath more, be thankful. Remarkable moments are all around me, it doesn’t have to be about what I look at, but more importantly what I see.

More realistically, June was made up of a bunch of ordinary days and some subtle extraordinary moments,  many that I may have failed to see because I was too busy searching for these moments that would take my breath away, instead of just breathing and being in awe of the simple, wonderful moments that make up my life…the filler.

My principles for June are WOW, Incredible, Serenity and Enthusiasm.  I definitely had a bit of a setback  this month because instead of recognizing the Incredible WOW moments when they found me I went on a desperate search for them. When I didn’t find these ground breaking moments of wonder my enthusiasm quickly subsided. I neglected the whole premise of my own project, being mindful and focusing on the present moment to create a deeper experience of joy. I forgot to practice gratitude and in turn I caused myself a lot of unnecessary stress.

A former boss once said to me “A day doesn’t make a week, a week doesn’t make a month and a month doesn’t make a year”. That being said as June winds down and July lies in wait, I did learn some very valuable things about myself during month six of the W.I.S.E. Project and I have been reminded once again to stop complicating things.  I need to give up on my urge to fix things and as much as I can just let things be. If I spend too much time focusing on what is going to happen next I am missing what is happening now.

Those moments when I am blown away by the candy pink sky or enthralled by the uncomplicated relationship between the moon and the stars or I see a glimpse of my children’s budding character and the people they are going to be in the future, those things are gone in an instant but will find me if I am being mindful.

I am still finding out who I am and who I want to be. The W.I.S.E. Project is my Journey. May the crooked roads it leads me down be paved with white gold and swiss chocolate, curiosity, patience and gratitude.

And may it all slow down just a little bit….

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Saturday in the Park

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Hurt, fear, anger, disappointment, pain.

It has been an incredibly sad and emotional couple of days and though I wish I could numb the cruel sting of it we cannot selectively numb pain because when we shut out the darkness we also shut out the light. We have little choice but to feel the emotion, the fear and the discomfort of the uncertain days to follow.

John Lubbock said that happiness is a thing to be practiced, like a violin. It is times like this, when tragedy strikes and innocent lives are lost that I have to be reminded. I am embraced in sadness and disbelief over something I have no control over and even knowing how important it is to not let hate win, happiness in this moment feels wrong.

To all of the wounded and heavyhearted souls in Orlando, I see the wreckage that you are staggering through, you are achingly overburdened with grief and sorrow and so many of us wish we could help. Losing a loved one has it’s own anguish, losing a loved one to violence is unimaginable. When your loved one is murdered for simply living a life without boundaries, for being themselves, for loving freely and wholehearted there is simply no words I can offer to ease the pain or make any sense of it. The LGBTQ community is in mourning, the world is in mourning. We share in your grief.

I wish I could help you navigate your way through the horror, to take the weight off your chest, to tell you that someday you will smile again.

 

I feel helpless and you feel hopeless.

We have to remember to breath.

I promise to use my voice to share hope and not give hate an audience. I need to recognize the helpers because that is where I will find love and  peace.

I am going to take five minutes to pretend it is Saturday, in the park along the river, just you and me and the falling stars…

In that five minutes I will seek light in the darkness. I hope that someday soon you can do the same.

“it’s the kind of heartache you can feel in your bones”

 

I’ll keep your memory vague-W.I.S.E. Project 2016

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I love memories. They are powerful. I think memories would be one of the most difficult things to ever have to give up .

Memories for me are not just about people I have met or places I have been but sometimes it is a feeling the memory arouses.

I have this special place that I like to go and I always wish I could capture the feeling of that place, that feeling of being connected, wholehearted and deeply and madly free. Memories, like feelings are sometimes fleeting, fading as quickly as they came. Others are enduring and they survive our greatest attempts to exile them.

Memories can warm you, like a roaring cabin fire on a dreadfully cold February day. They can recapture a time, a place, or a feeling, and envelope you in a delightfully toasty embrace.
Unfortunately just as quickly they can tear apart your insides, and rip open old wounds as if you swallowed a bucket of rusty razor blades.

Ironically bad memories come to us with greater intensity than pleasant ones because the memory is not about a place or a person as much as it is about the feelings the memory evokes. Sadly, feelings of hurt, anger, heartbreak and hopelessness can be crippling, even years later.

I told you just recently how excited I am to be in such a good and warm place in my marriage. That wasn’t always the case. Like a lot of couples, just because we have always felt like we were meant to be together doesn’t mean that it has been an easy road.

The other night in a conversation with a friend my husband brought up something that surprised me. I was upset but tried to brush it off and suceeded for a short time. It seemed out of the blue to me and I was a bit shocked because it obviously came from a place of pain and I most definititely missed the part of the conversation that made the timing relevant.

The next day I had an appointment for a ninety minute float at the Floatique, to melt away stress and clear my mind. About 60 minutes in I had an aha moment of sorts. The thing about floating and sensory deprivation is that once you have cleared you mind and relaxed sometimes things that have been mired in the mud of stress and noise pop into your brain and you get it immediately. It’s mental clarity. I had that moment and it was a comfort initially, feeling like I had found the answer to an equation.

That response was short lived however. The emotional response that I had to the memories that came up that day hit me square in the face the next morning. I was catapulted to a time of sadness and uncertainty in my marriage. I tried to refocus. I tried several times to no avail as tears that I tried desperately to hold in spilled out of the corner of my eyes. It wasn’t the memory of the time, the place, the people or even the events, it was undeniably the feelings. I fiercely wished for an override button to bring me back but it wasn’t possible. I think the only thing worse than living through those feelings the first time is living through them again and again.

A lesson I have learned from doing the W.I.S.E. project is how important it is to live in the present. The past is gone, I can’t change it, I have this moment, this very one. I can’t have yesterday and I am not promised tomorrow or next week. I have now. I knew I didn’t want to feel that pain again, I knew better than to dwell on it but I also know that our emotional memories are sometimes cautions.

Have you ever had a drink of sour milk? If you have you remember it and you never want to drink it again. This memory stays in the back of your mind and cautions you. You check the date on the carton, you smell the milk if it is close to expiry, you are vigilant about it.

I feel like that memory, that moment… those feelings; were a caution of sorts. Reminding me of our indomitable spirit, our incredible love and our valiant vulnerability. Reminding us to keep moving forward. There will always be another hurtle, another roadblock to stumble over, another fork in the road that we will have to face together and forge on.

Memories can be a holding tank of your greatest pain but they can also be a place of peace, of passion and of solace. I have learned that memories will come and go like the wind. I get to decide which memories I give power to. Some I may hold unto longer than others, feel their soothing warmth like hot sun on my face on a July day. The feel of my lips swollen from my very first kiss, the joy of falling in love, the soothing embrace of my children. The sound of the ocean, the soaring heights of the mountains, the feel of summer rain, those are the feelings I will hang unto.

Other memories may hit me hard and fast when I least expect it, bringing feelings of fear and sadness. I will let the wind carry them away just as fast.

“Memories are made of peculiar stuff, elusive and yet compelling, powerful and fleet. You cannot trust your reminiscences, and yet there is no realty except the one we remember…”

~Klaus Mann

Be. W.I.S.E. friends.

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Red Red Wine-W.I.S.E. Project 2016

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This morning I found my crumpled up paper that I had handwritten the entire years W.I.S.E. principles on back in December and discovered that June’s principles are WOW, Incredible, Stimulate and Enthusiasm. I had my first WOW moment around 3 am when I got up to use the washroom and noticed through groggy, half open eyes that my underwear were covered in red wine stains. I was initially confused and then I had a moment where I whispered to myself “WOW bitch, time to get your shit together!”

I am pretty sure that when I set out in December that was not the type of WOW moments I had intended to have upon entering the sixth month of this journey.

In all seriousness though, before my family thinks that I have turned into Chelsey Handler with a blog, I had a rough couple of “lady-time’ days and I had given myself a time out in the rec room with fuzzy blankets, Crave TV and wine. I discovered on my couch-side table that I had three bottles of wine with a glass to a glass and a half each in them because apparently I can never finish what I started. I thought it would be best to drink them before they evaporated and at some point I forgot that I didn’t have three hands and spilled wine all over me while adjusting my blankets. The couch is leather and my pants were black so I grabbed some Kleenex and put minimal effort into the clean-up, poured another glass and put it out of my mind entirely until the witching hour when I discovered that I looked like I just left a college frat party instead of the comfort of my bed.

All things considered it gave me a “WOW’ moment early in the month, an incredible laugh, it stimulated my imagination and I was wanted to enthusiastically recall the story for all of you. So I have used all of my June W.I.S.E. principles in one day so yay for me. I am going to celebrate with ice cream and call it a month!

I am happy to report that I am feeling much better today. I actually put on real clothes and lipstick for work which admittedly was not the case for the first two days of the week. That is in the past though, lets leave it there.

May’s W.I.S.E. principles (warmth, intimacy, serenity and enrich) have changed my life. I discovered so much about myself and relationships,took time to myself to recharge and refuel and discover the power of vulnerability. I have enriched my life immensely with the books and talks by the fabulous Brene Brown. I am currently reading Daring Greatly and taking her CourageWorks e-course on the anatomy of trust. I know I mentioned this in a previous post but I am clearly telling you again for your own good. Give her a listen, her Ted talk on Vulnerability was life changing for me and I am not even being a little bit dramatic, it really has profoundly changed me and the way I see myself.

I am loving the W.I.S.E Projects Facebook page. If you haven’t followed please check it out. It is just a place to share inspiring messages and you can interact with me there.

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Let’s be wowed this month, whether it be by kindness or the beauty of nature or by knowledge, lets embrace the moments that make us say “WOW’, let’s seek the “incredible” and find it in everyday things, laughter, stories, art and music. Lets stimulate our minds and our bodies with good news, great messages, learning, good food and activity, and let’s face each new day with spirited enthusiasm, living, loving and learning moment to moment, day by day! This is a pivotal turning point for the W.I.S.E. Project, when we complete June’s principles we will be at the halfway mark of the 2016 W.I.S.E. Project. I don’t know about you but I feel great!!

I have learned so many great things lately but one thing that I wanted to share that I was once told is that you will be what you think of most of the time. when I started this project I just wanted to be happy…and I am.

Think about happiness, seek it, create it, enjoy it!

Be W.I.S.E. friends.