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

 

 

 

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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Life in the Fast Lane-W.I.S.E. Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

 

Saturday afternoon as I padded around the little cabin in my bathrobe, a leftover cheddar smokie drizzled with mustard and rolled up in a napkin in one hand and a Krispy Creme donut in the other I felt content. I unabashedly slept in, waking to roll over, stretch out and sleep again on repeat. It seemed like it had been forever since I had been able to do that and I wasn’t going to ruin it by feeling guilty. I happily had no responsibilities except to relax.

I had gone to visit my husband out of town and meet his work crew. He convinced me to stay an extra night but in the interim I had a whole day to myself to do as I wished. I was in the middle of nowhere so there wasn’t a whole lot to fill my time so I decided to just slow down and enjoy the quiet.

I was watching a Ted Talk with Carl Honoré about his bestselling book In Praise of Slow, about the slow movement. Carl explores the idea that if we actually slow down, in our speed obsessed society, we can actually accomplish more, be happier and create greater success.

Our culture of speed takes a toll on every aspect of our lives; living in the fast lane is damaging to our health, our diets, our well being, our communities and our relationships.  When we live our lives in fast forward, we are missing some of the most important things.

“Everybody these days wants to know how to slow down, but they want to know how to learn to slow down very quickly!” ~Carl Honoré

In the last couple of years since I started the W.I.S.E. Project one of my greatest challenges and desires was to be more mindful and learn to live in the moment. My entire life needed a complete overhaul to learn to live in the present moment instead of speeding through to the next. I learned that I wasn’t really connecting to myself and to the world around me, I was literally racing against time to accomplish everything I could possibly get done in a day. It made me ill, unhappy and detached. I longed to have deeper, richer and stronger relationships and wanted to take an active role in my own well being and pursue activities that I was passionate about but the truth was that I didn’t have time. To be clearer, and more honest; I didn’t make time and I equated a great deal of my self worth with how much I could do and how much I could achieve in a short amount of time.

The message of ‘less is more’ has many meanings and can seep into several areas of our lives. We collect things, more and more things that don’t matter; that clutter our lives and fill voids. We subscribe to the notion that time is money and we race against the clock, busying our lives and barely taking the time to just breath.

I do believe it is possible to slow down but it is an undertaking that requires careful thought and an honest desire for change.

“There is more to life than increasing it’s speed.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Personally, one of my greatest tools in my battle against time and practicing mindfulness has been meditation. A daily meditation practice has allowed me to achieve something that I have always longed for; a strong and resilient mind among the chaos that is my life. I have discovered the luxuriousness that is silence and I crave more and more quiet and unhurried moments to ease my burdens and feed my soul.

Being still can seem strange at first. Most of us run on autopilot and we are trained to constantly be doing. For me, I often have to overcome the guilt that I should be doing something. Slowing down is healthy, silence is golden.

The World Health Organization has identified noise pollution as a global health hazard affecting both developing and developed nations. The impact includes hearing impairment, sleep disturbance, mental-health effects, hypertension and increased blood pressure. People surrounded by noise are often in constant states of stress, which can degrade their immune systems.

Slowing down and taking the time to embrace a quieter and yet more fulfilling existence is a healthy escape from the everyday that can be life changing for you and your loved ones.

Do you think your life could benefit from learning to slow down?

How do you find moments of calm in your busy life?

What do you value above all else in your life?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Do you struggle with giving a fuck?

Do you give too many fucks or not enough?

Do you give a fuck about trivial things?

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

 

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

Related : Shit Shit Shit

Good Vibrations-W.I.S.E. Project 2017

I’m back.

 

I have been gone from here for almost a month and though I thought about you often I had committed to spending some quiet time with my family and though wonderful, enlightening and sometimes hilarious thoughts ran through my mind, I was way to relaxed to form complete thoughts and put them in black and white.

For those of you that celebrate the holidays I hope they were wonderful. I had a quiet and relaxing holiday with my family but we are well into the new year now and I have a feeling it is going to be a good one. Whatever may be and however it ends up-good or bad, it will happen and I will either be swept along or I will lead the way so hold on…

While I was writing my last W.I.S.E. Project Post in December I was feeling a little bit of uncertainty about where to go from there but I got a lot out of the project and if nothing else it is a reminder to seek happiness and joy in every single day and that does require effort from me. I can get easily overwhelmed by the world, media, politics, sensationalism and my own first world problems. Seeking reasons to be happy has been good for me and something I hope to continue always.

A very important thing that emerged for me during the 2016 project was energy. I would like to think that I possess good energy and I quickly began to discern the things and the people that energize me and the experiences and people that are constantly in the withdrawal line taking my energy and depleting my balances without adding anything meaningful to my life.

I have believed for some time that our physical body is just one small part of our being, and I also believe that our physical body could not exist without the spiritual life force that perpetually guides it. The different parts of our bodies, energetic and physical are coupled together and effort as one, exchanging energies with the environment.

I know, I know, some of you are reading this and wondering what kind of hippy dippy mumbo jumbo I am trying to sell you. I am not trying to market anything at all, I am simply sharing with you that I am learning more about life force energy and how it connects our mind, body and spirit and how I can use that knowledge to lead a better life.

Last weekend I took my daughter and her friends to the trampoline park. I was sitting on a sofa in the corner reading an enriching article and a Muslim woman asked me if she could sit down. I have to admit, on a glance I am often quick to assume that a Muslim woman and I would have nothing in common, but that is not always the case. This particular lady was full of good energy and her eyes sparkled with it. She had a beautiful little boy with the most stunning brown eyes and he had dumped nacho cheese all over her, him and the floor and she was attempting to clean it up. She chatted amicably to me as she did and her beautiful boy charmed me with his almond shaped eyes and his magnetic smile. The minute they left I went back to my article and if there wasn’t a smile on my face there was one in my heart. A moment later two ladies came and sat on the sofa beside me, there was plenty of room but I felt immediately crowded. The energy had shifted quickly. The ladies were close to my age and they were talking about their friends in a very gossipy and malicious manner. They were reading private messages aloud from their texts and Facebook and making comments calling their “so called” friends idiots and stupid. It made me extremely uncomfortable to the point that I had to bite my tongue and refrain from telling them how horrible their behavior was. Their kids came over as they were out of breath and needed a break. One of the women was quick to shout at her son to “go away, stop pissing me off. You only have an hour so go play and stop wasting my goddamn money!” The kid told his mom that he needed to catch his breath and she continued more of the same tone and talk to make certain he stayed away from her. The other mom seemed to agree with her friend but quietly told her son to just walk around if he needed a break. When the kids walked away the one woman continued on her rant, calling her son a ‘fucking idiot’. At this point I felt like I was going to explode and I wavered between saying something and minding my own business.  Ultimately I decided to mind my own business but I was affected by it. The most vocal woman suggested they download Tinder ‘to make fun of people’. The other woman asked why she had been on Tinder (a hook up site) when they had both been married for years and she replied that it was ‘fun to check people out and make fun of them’

As appalled as I was later that evening I was contemplating the times in my life that I had been that unhappy that I spent my free time with people I thought were friends, gossiping about other friends.I am sorry I was ever that person, but I was. Maybe not to that degree but I certainly was guilty of sharing secrets, breaking trusts and talking about people that I called friends behind their backs. I don’t ever want to be that person again. We are all guilty of a little bit of mindless chatter, I am not perfect and neither are you but I like to think that for the most part if you are my friend I try to have the best of intentions and I hope you will do the same for me.

Misery loves company, people that are unhappy take solace in the fact the others are unhappy too. Unhappy people share their unhappiness in the way of bad energy the same way that happy people share their good energy. It would be impossible to never be affected by negative energy, it is like getting a cold…you didn’t want it, you didn’t ask for it, but you have it all the same. There are precautions you can take to not get a cold. You can wash your hands frequently, you can refrain from shaking hands with someone who has a cold, don’t share drinks. In the same token you can take steps to make sure that the majority of the energy that you exchange is good energy and you will find that the more good energy you put out into the world, the more you will get back.

I actually just had a discussion with my boss today about how last year I started spending a lot of time by myself, I wasn’t even joining my coworkers for lunch. I needed to take a step back and find myself in the silence and sort out my own energy and find a way to be sympathetic to the stories and problems of others without taking them upon my shoulders. It was something that I had to do to heal myself and I feel really good about it. When I was learning to distinguish between good and bad energy I spent more time with my family and my dogs. I got my energy from the sun, the grass and the trees instead of noisy, crowded places.

I have been feeling inspired to further research energy and learn more about how our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellness are all affected by the functioning of our energetic body. I know that there are many different ways you can look after your energy and there is one that has always fascinated me and that is Reiki. Many years ago I had a Reiki treatment and it was such an intensely energizing and healing experience that the memory stayed with me. I have been trying to get my husband to go for a Reiki treatment so that he can let go of some of the negative energy that weighs him down. He has tried Energy massage that works with chakra balancing and he thought is was a positive experience. I decided to explore the universal life force that is Reiki on my own as a means for personal growth and to keep myself in optimal mental and emotional health. I am pleased to say that I have obtained my Reiki level 1 and I plan to continue through the levels and hopefully in the future I can attend workshops and do some practicum and maybe share the gift of Reiki with others.

I have some other fun stuff that I am working on but I am trying not to overload my brain. I do have a tendency to get really excited about things and take on too much and then I feel stressed and lose interest. I will keep you updated on my journey and I really hope that if any of you are excited about something you are learning or you are engaged in a new activity  this year you will share it with me.

One thing I decided too do a little differently is alter the W.I.S.E. Principles. I think they were really good to keep me focused during the beginning of the project last year but focusing on them took me away from my initial pursuit to be more mindful and find joy in the present.

Instead I would like to use the W.I.S.E. acronym to describe myself or an aspect of my personality that I am proud of and elaborate on that somewhat throughout the month. You can creatively choose your own.

The W.I.S.E. project will continue to be a way of life, a means to focus mindfully on the moment, to invite abundance into my life by being grateful and to invite joy into my life by being present. Breath in-be present, breath out-be free!

A couple attributes I came up with quickly are Warrior, I am actually doing a Warrior goddess course and I think that without knowing many of us are warriors, I am insightful, I do not remember dates or facts or history the way some people do but I am intelligent and I am often keenly intuitive. I am strong, I know this without a shadow of a doubt, I think it is common for people to be fearful and doubt their strength but once you know…you know! I am eager, always eager to be better and to learn new things and to love the people I love with my whole heart.

W-Warrior

I-Insightful

S-Strong

E-Eager

Be W.I.S.E. friends!