XXX. Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Alana Fairchild

 

XXX.

Michelle

Remorse Code -Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Nizariat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t be afraid of love

Love big!

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

Pursue what sets your soul on fire

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

 

Give your heart a voice

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

Forgiveness

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

 

Embrace Mistakes

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

Always be true to you

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

Gratitude

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

Mean what you say, say what you mean

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

Advocate for yourself

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

Laughter

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

 

What are you doing to live a life without regret?

Love Story- Wise Project 2017 #TenaciousTuesday

The very best kind of love should feel like freedom. Love shouldn’t feel weighty or reserved. It shouldn’t make you feel shackled. Love should make you feel like you can fly.

Image Credit Pave it Forward-Tumblr

the love

we were promised in fairy tales

was never something

for us to find

it has always

been something

for us to create

~ Tyler Kent White

I was the little girl that believed in fairy tales. I had an eager imagination and I was captivated by the notion of grandiose castles in magical places, of tiny fairies, fearless knights, fire breathing dragons, beautiful princesses, handsome princes and of course happily ever after.

I still believe in a certain type of fairy tale, In fact I believe I have lived one, but the problem is that we get our idea of fairy tale love from a ninety minute children’s movie, and though we see struggle, and the all-consuming love that we are told lasts forever we are not shown the day to day challenges; the in-betweens. We don’t get to see what happens after babies, financial struggle, pimples, snoring, weight gain, exhaustion, lack of faith, loss of trust, anger, infidelity, disrespect, failure to communicate and a myriad of other issues that plague modern-day relationships.

We are also never shown the most important love of all, the one that makes everything else possible.

There are indeed romances that withstand the test of time, of bruised hearts and saggy butts, though I am sure they do not happen by accident. To anyone who has looked at another person and truly felt that they loved them head to toe, inside and out; no matter what, and meant it, I am certain that the one thing these relationships had in common was that they loved themselves first.

It is categorically impossible to love another person entirely without first loving yourself.

I lost my husband, my great love, to suicide in June of 2017. I have since realized that nothing in this world has taught me more about love, than death.

Death doesn’t end love, in fact, I have said many times that if you ripped me apart limb by limb you would find the residue of our love on my skin, in my bones and in every drop of my blood pumping furiously through my veins. I will love Kirk always and it is that very thing that propels me forward.

In the last several months of our earthly love affair, I learned to love Kirk unconditionally in a way that I never thought possible. I studied a lot about depression, anxiety and trauma over the years and though I could never understand how it felt from the inside, Kirk and I had finally come to a fearless and brave understanding that landed us in a place of complete vulnerability, a place that for most of our twenty year relationship I wasn’t able to visit because I didn’t love or trust myself enough to allow myself to be wide open.

I know that towards the end, Kirk kept a lot from me. I know now that he was inconceivably terrified of what was happening to him. Even amid soul crushing sadness, I never loved him a bit less for leaving.

This time last year Kirk and I were sitting on a patio overlooking the city lights of downtown Vancouver and having a huge discussion about the possibility and probability of unconditional love. From the beginning of our romance, there was never a shortage of love, but there was also anger, fear, resentment and walls that we built to protect us from hurt. For a long time, we depended on each other to provide all the feelings we desired to feel because we never learned to create that joy for ourselves. Desire morphed into entitlement creating huge issues for us.

There were times over the years that you couldn’t put a breath in the space between us, I can recall laying in this very bed I am writing from and feeling so close to Kirk I felt like I was inside him. As strange as that may sound I don’t know another way to elaborate on that kind of intimacy. There were other times that I feared loving him too much or giving too much of myself. I always wanted something in return for my love so in those times when Kirk was internally struggling with himself, I struggled with just loving him right where he was.

When I started The Wise Project I genuinely learned to love myself as I was, for who I was, every step of the journey. That unapologetic self love finally allowed me to love Kirk right where he was, all his lightness and even the horribly scary darkness that he tango-ed with. I didn’t just love him on the days that he was lovable or on the days when I could feel his love for me, I just loved him. I realized that any decision or choice he made was not a reflection of me or my worthiness and it didn’t affect my love for him or myself. I just kept loving him, even on the difficult days.

When a life ends you will never wonder if you loved too much.

Most will say they have loved with their whole hearts and most of those will even believe that they have. Often in our relationships we will feel unsatisfied or even slighted. We may feel unloved or unlovable, but it is important to remember that the person you so desperately desire to love you can only love you to the capacity that they love themselves.

If you do not love yourself unconditionally, your heart will not be open to receive all the love waiting for you. We are not taught self love in school and few of us can boast being taught it at home.

Kirk’s illness robbed him and everyone that loved him. He has a beautiful soul that will live through thousands more journey’s, bringing love and light and wisdom to others.

His tale is a tragic one.

Our tale is heartbreaking; and you may wonder how I could ever talk about our love and fairy tales in the same story. After all, where is the happily ever fucking after anyway?

Sometimes I feel like I have this huge magical secret about love that I want to share with the world. For a brief time, I loved another with all my heart and soul, from head to toe, void of ego or chains. The magical feeling it gives me to recollect it is indescribable and the only thing that made that kind of love possible is that I gave it to myself first, that is the big secret. If we do not love ourselves entirely, how can we seek and expect that love from others?

I can remember the exact moment I achieved that boundless and profound love. Blanketed in fearless courage and wrapped in delicate vulnerability, never did I imagine having to say goodbye to it so soon.

That type of love is so huge that it will never truly leave you and you will carry it with you everyday and use it to light up the sometimes cold, dark world around you. It feels like I imagine a bird would feel being released from a cage.

The physical love Kirk and I shared is no longer possible, but the love remains; as dazzling as a star-filled sky on a cloudless June night. It ebbs and flows with the pull of the moon, retreating to the sea to renew and restore and wash over me again and again to remind that I am a love warrior.

I have loved.

I have lost.

I am love and I will always return to love.

I came from Love, I am Love and I will return to Love. Love casts out fear. A woman who has recovered her true identity as a Love Warrior is the most powerful force on earth. All the darkness and shame and pain in the world can’t defeat her.

~ Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior

Kirk often told me that his depression put chains on our relationship, on our love. I finally realized that the very best kind of love should feel like freedom. Love shouldn’t feel weighty or reserved. It shouldn’t make you feel shackled. Love should make you feel like you can fly. A love driven by value and desires should be liberating.

I know Kirk didn’t want this, but I also know that he guides me, and he knows that this gift of love that I give to myself every single day makes me unfuckablewith. I cannot be twisted, damaged or broken because I am strong enough to bend.

I am imagining a new type of Fairy Tale, one where the heroine saves herself because she is a bad ass fearless warrior. I created it myself and I get to write the ending and erase and rewrite the ending…and rewrite the ending again as many times as I damn well please!

Love is something you share

Because you have it, not

Something you give desperately

because you need it.

~ Humble the Poet

Bloom -Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

My photos from Muttart Conservatory, Edmonton Alberta

Just as the breaths we take can occur so effortlessly, it’s not necessary to summon energy to stream through us.

Dynamic energy flows through channels in and around our physical body naturally, however, we can choose to enrich and elevate our natural energetic state, for health; both physical and mental or for spiritual growth and development.

I believe that I inherently have good energy and I used to spend so much time giving it away, along with my time and bits of me, little by little until I was so depleted and unhappy that I didn’t even know who I was. All the little things I thought I did for myself, that once gave me joy began to thieve from me, the expectations I placed on myself to be everything to everyone while never filling up my own cup led to a deep black void in my heart and soul.

I was off balance. I was not at peace with myself and my mind and my body were living in the same house but like angry lovers they had lost their desire and capacity to communicate in an effective way.

We want to give the very best of ourselves at all times, sometimes the pride and accolades we get from that alone, fuels us for a short time, but the reality is we need to give to ourselves first or we will end up in a place where we have given everything we had to give and we are not of any good to ourselves. If you have ever flown you will know that the flight attendants always instruct you to put on your oxygen mask first before attempting to help others. If you cannot breath, you will not be able to help anyone else.

In December of 2015 I reached a point in my life where I had nothing left to give. I am a giving person by nature and I don’t think anything will change that but after spending two weeks in desperate anguish, crying for seemingly no reason and realizing that I was sick and depleted was a huge wake up call for me. I lost my dad as a teenager to a heart attack and I realized that he didn’t know how to relax. Don’t get me wrong, I can be as lazy as the best of you but I didn’t know how to sit back and enjoy that. If I wasn’t doing physically, my mind was making lists of all of the things I should be doing instead of relaxing. I barely slept, I used to think that going to bed was the time you planned for all of the things you didn’t get done during the day.

Those two weeks were a huge wake up call for me. Looking back I think I kept myself really busy to fulfill my need for validation. A lot of my self esteem was tied up in being and doing for others. I placed a lot of expectations on others as well and when those expectations were not actualized I spent a great deal of time disappointed which led to resentment.

I also feel like I was giving away my energy to people and things that did not fill me up. The transfer of energy between people should always be beneficial to both parties, I learned the hard way that it is not always the case. Some people are takers and they will take and take and take without ever offering anything of value in the relationship.

That is how the Wise project was born.

We are all born fundamentally whole but throughout our lives our individual experiences; whether they be of hurt, trauma or neglect have obscured the natural beauty of our core being and concealed it in layer upon layer of soot and dust.

Unbecoming that person shaped and shifted by experiences, occurrences, and events, and reuniting and restoring our essential mind * body * spirit connection is a trans-formative process in which we reconnect those disconnected parts of ourselves to uncover our authenticity.

Self-awareness, self-evolution, and self-acceptance are all footsteps in this alchemical process.

For me, it required saying the word NO…a lot. It was hard at first but quite honestly it is now one of my favorite words. If something does not fit with my schedule, it doesn’t shake me, excite me or make my heart leap out of my chest, I say NO and in turn I create room to say yes to the things that are truly meant for me!

We breath effortlessly but how often do we actually fill our lungs with the air. How often do we have time to notice little things on our drive to work, like the beauty of the sunrise or the power of nature and the universe working together at every single moment to make it all possible.

This morning for the first time in a long time I noticed the extreme beauty of the fire in the sky, the light creeps in so slowly, the sunrise is like falling in love, it happens so casually and then all at once; the sky erupts and fills with the most brilliant light. It gives my heart pause.

I also noticed a young mom at the street corner, kissing her son on the forehead and waiting anxiously as he crossed the street, I saw an elderly couple holding hands as they unhurriedly walked in the early morning sunshine and as I was sitting at a red light, where I would usually check my phone I saw a couple in their driveway, the woman was in the front seat and the man was buckling their child into their car seat in the back, he closed the door and bent down to kiss his lady before getting into his own car. I thought about all of those beautiful moments in my own life, moments I hurried through, moving from one moment to catapult myself into the next; without a breath, a thought or gratitude for what was right in front of me.

A reminder to breath in the air.

A reminder to take a pause, practice the pause.

A reminder to be grateful and always see what is in front of me.

The universe gives us reminders, signs, that it is always working for our highest good. We often get busy and we ignore the messages, we are guilty of believing that we are a part of an experience or part of the universe. One of the things that was told to me back in 2016 that has had one of the hugest impacts on my life so far is when I was face to face with Deepak Chopra and he said, “You are the universe. You are not part of the experience, you are the experience.”

The night I met Deepak Chopra I was a part of the most moving meditation experience of my life. I learned that in the midst of chaos I could always access the stillness that exists inside of me and that has helped me through a great deal of darkness.

Every single time the blackness threatens to swallow me whole, every time I have the feeling that maybe I am not enough, doing enough, being enough I remember how important it is for me to accept that I will never be perfect and that is OK, this humility allows me to emerge, expand and grow right from where I stand.

I am in bloom.

The journey to our souls optimum evolution will emerge with each step we take , we do not have to struggle through years of trying to find the right path. We are always on the path.

P.S. Around Valentines Day I bought some mini roses for my office. I had intended to re-pot them but forgot and when I returned to work after the weekend they were all dried up. My co-worker caught me throwing them in the garbage and he told me to just give them a little love and they would come back. I stripped off all the dead leaves and was left with empty, sickly branches. I gave them love anyway, I loved them as they were. Today my roses have 5 new blooms, they are flourishing and their branches are adorned with beautiful greenery, growing steadily as if to meet the ball of sunshine through the cracks of my office blinds. Imagine what happens if we give ourselves the same love we give to everything else in our lives. Imagine how we would grow and flourish.

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” -Deepak Chopra

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The night I met Deepak Chopra and was a part of the most moving meditation experience of my life. I learned that in the midst of chaos I could always access the stillness that exists inside of me and that has helped me through a great deal of darkness.

Here comes the sun- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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Halifax, Nova Scotia /Photo Credit Morgan DeBay

“don’t fear getting broken

don’t fear rock bottom

that’s where it all really begins”

~ Humble The Poet

I can’t imagine a time when I will want to get out of this bed again, except to pee I suppose.

My body feels heavy, like my limbs are made of lead. I can barely lift them and I imagine myself sinking further and further into the mattress until I completely disappear.

All last week I kept thinking about the moment where I would get to crawl in bed again and feel the silky softness of the slate gray bamboo sheets I had put on my bed.
This has nothing to do with that at all.

There is no joy in laying here. No sleek luxury.

I just can’t face the world outside these four walls.
A world where for the past two days I have felt insignificant and small in.
A world that is difficult for me. A world I have no real sense of belonging to and I don’t really want to. I want this bed to swallow me whole, so I don’t have to feel horribly weak for just laying here.

I tried to overcome the beast today and I almost succeeded. I got up and tidied up, I made brunch and then my daughter came upstairs and piled all her teenage angst on me and every single word she spoke sat on me like it was a 200-pound man. I felt like I was being buried alive and I had already been barely breathing. I was desperate to fill my lungs with air. Her problems are significant to her and in retrospect I know that she is feeling lost and afraid as well but even as I puttered around the kitchen I felt very much like I was stepping over a wounded woman curled up on the floor in the fetal position sobbing. It sometimes feels impossible to keep moving and stepping over her, ignoring her. She just comes and plants herself there unexpectantly and I need to scream. I need to scream but how do I do that? Who do I scream at? Do I just fucking scream till I lose my voice?

I can’t be there for anyone today. I am struggling to find even a hint of myself today among the wreckage. I can’t even support me.

The house smells like maple bacon, a familiar smell. The memory of many a sunday brunch with my husband lingers just below the surface and I cannot quite grasp it. My memories are often colorful, decorated with genuine smiles and unadulterated laughter but today the color has drained out of them and I cannot hold them. I barely remember if I had eaten before coming back to bed.

Just four days ago I had my arms wide open ready to embrace all that the world had to offer and today I just want to hide from it.

Grief

It doesn’t sweep over you gently, like a cozy blanket on a crisp night. It strikes out of nowhere like a ferocious beast, stealing your breath and smashing the lights off the poles leaving you terrified, in obscurity. Sometimes its subtler, it attacks slowly like a stealth leopard in the Sahara Desert and though it waits patiently for the right moment to assault you, you have the sense that you are being stalked and it very gradually thieves your joy, minute by minute.

The sun is illuminating my bedroom, bursting through the window and chasing away the mid afternoon shadows. I want to feel it, I want to be warmed by it, charmed by it, bathed in it. It is right here but yet it feels a world away. It doesn’t feel like it is mine to enjoy.

Step 1. Is knowing that I hate feeling like this

Step 2. Is knowing that sometimes I must.

Step 3. Breath

Step 4. Begin the climb.

Grief is the price of love, the currency we pay for taking the risk and trusting our heart to truly care for someone else. Even amid the misery I can feel the exquisiteness that remains. I see it with my eyes, I feel it with my heart, it lives in my children and memories and visions of the furture.

Just not today.

I remember a quote by Anne Lamont where she said grief is like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly, that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.

I am going to dance. I am going to dance like there is fire under my feet.

Just not today.

Sometimes I feel the power of the blood coursing through my veins; like thunder chasing the wind, it reminds me that I am alive.

Just not today.

Freedom-Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

 

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Source (Google Images)

The other day a memory popped in my head of a summer evening a few years ago, my husband had made Margaritas and built a bonfire in the backyard and I was wrapped up in my purple fuzzy blanket which my husband affectionately referred to as my sooky blanket. The radio was blasting in the garage and like many a person before me in a similar scenario, on a similar summer night full of promise I belted out the familiar words “Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose…” from my favorite Janis Joplin song “Me and Bobby Mcgee’.

Many times over the past several months that memory has invaded my thoughts and as I imagined Janis pulling her harpoon out of her dirty red bandana, and playing soft while Bobby sang the blues,  I also imagined Kirk taking my margarita out of my hand, moving my blanket aside and pulling me to my feet so we could dance, like teenagers, right there in our backyard.  ‘Feeling good was good enough for me’.

There is a picture from that night that my sister in law and my daughters wear around their neck. His smile is magnetic and it is just a great picture to a lot of people, a picture that shows the Kirk that we all like to remember , but to me it is also a memory, one that will be forever imprinted on my soul. A memory that reminds me what freedom feels like, one that reminds me to dance, love and sing (even though I am tone deaf)

Somehow, Kirk slipped away from me. His depression shackled him in chains and bit by bit took his freedoms away.

Freedom means different things to different people.

When I think of the word freedom, I close my eyes and imagine myself outside sucking in the air and screaming from the top of my lungs, not so unlike the Four Non Blondes song. Throwing my hands up in the air, face to the sun.

I think of how for months after I lost Kirk to suicide that I was bound by his pain without ever even taking a moment to feel my own. While the world slept peacefully each night when the darkness fell upon their piece of earth my heart waged a ferocious war with my mind. I was my own worst enemy and without realizing it at the time I had the potential to be my own savior as well. While Kirk slowly climbed a stairway to heaven, I quickly descended a stairway to hell. A dark place I created in my own mind, a place that kept me unwell, that kept me small and lost and not at all living. Somewhere in the darkness I found and followed a glimmer of light. What I sought was emotional freedom. I was being held captive by my own thoughts and emotions, much like Kirk was. The difference was even at my lowest I knew that I was in control, sadly unlike those that suffer the devastating effects of depression and the attacks by their own brain, I always had a sense that I was in charge.

Shortly before Kirk passed away he got home one night and we were in the garage listening to music, I ordered Pizza and the delivery driver that came to the door was one of the most captivating young men I have ever met. I was immediately taken in by his smile and his enthusiasm. He wasn’t at all alarmed that my huge dogs surrounded him in curiosity and he seemed so genuinely eager and absorbed in the very moment, the conversation and the experience. It remains a powerful and memorable encounter for me. His name was Mustafa and he was a Syrian refugee. In our short but impressionable conversation he told me a little bit about his country and how much he missed it. When I asked him what he liked about Canada, he answered with the same elevated level of enthusiasm that directed the entire conversation and the charming smile that I will never forget.

“Freedom,” he said.

For me, freedom is a feeling and thoughts and the independence to be in control of my own ideas, feelings and decisions, regardless of what mass media or society spoon feeds me. Freedom means emotional sovereignty, knowing that I am always in control of me. Freedom is courage and self determination. Freedom is a long country road and good music to sing along to.

Freedom for me has never meant waking up without the sound of gunfire, the threat of violence or without fearing for my life and the lives of my family. That has never been my experience.

As some of you may know, February is Black History month and zealous to learn about things that we either did not learn about when I went to school or subjects that were glossed over I spent some free time educating myself. There are a couple things that stand out in my mind and one is the last scene from the Idris Elba movie Sometimes In April. The movie is based on the dark and violent hundred days when Hutu Nationalists raised arms against their Tutsi countrymen in the African Nation of Rwanda, beginning in April of 1994. As brother turned against brother, lives and families were torn apart and over 800 000 lives were lost, forever changing history. There is a scene at the end of the movie where a woman stands up and says ‘I was there. I’m a survivor.” Her name was Martine and she was a teacher at a Catholic School when the Hutu Militia storms the school gunning down all of the girls with automatic rifles. Martine had been knocked out during the encounter and somehow she and one other girl survive the unimaginable massacre. When Martine stands up and says the three simple words “I am a survivor.” Every single hair on my body stands on end.

In the past several months I have often thought of myself as a survivor. Finding freedom over the experiences I have endured, without being reduced by them. I often imagine what being a survivor means to someone like Martine, what freedom means to her.

I also watched a compelling documentary on abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass who was born into slavery sometime around 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. Douglass was chosen to live in his Masters house, believed to be his father. His mother died when he was between 7 and 10 years of age and he was moved around between slave owners and faced cruel but unfortunately not unusual punishment for its time.

He went on to become one of the most famous intellectuals of his time. A Baltimore slave owner’s wife taught him the alphabet and when she was forced to stop teaching him he learned from white kids and others in the neighborhood. Douglass, during his lifetime, advised presidents and lectured to thousands on a range of causes, including women’s rights and Irish home rule.

It was through extensive reading that Douglass’ righteous indignation to slavery began to take shape. He read newspapers keenly and sought out political writing and literature as much as possible. In later years, Douglass credited The Columbian Orator with clarifying and defining his views on human rights. Douglas shared his knowledge with other enslaved people and eventually found his way to freedom. Imagine what freedom meant to Frederick Douglas. Imagine what Freedom meant to someone born into slavery. Imagine what Freedom means to people whose ancestors were not born free.

Douglass said “Knowledge is the pathway to freedom.”

and

 “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.”

As part of my healing journey I developed a Moksha that is on a sticky note in my office and I say it out loud when I am overwhelmed. I used to say it several times a day. A Moksha is similar to a mantra but the best way I can describe it is a liberation or a release, mine is “I am emotionally free.”

Freedom, the very word and the idea is a bit of a paradox.  Is Freedom just a state of mind?

I do this exercise inspired by Tony Robbins, gratitude visualization.  I also visualize what words like gratitude, freedom, courage, love and connection mean to me. I bring in memories one by one and then I visualize moments from the future. I am very aware that my memories and visualizations are due to my own experiences. I have not and cannot live anyone else’s experience nor define or deny what something means to them.

The last several weeks when I thought of freedom I thought of people whose mental illness traps them in a devastating experience in their own minds, of North Koreans and the communist regime that forces them into modern day slavery, I think of people like Mustafa and his family forced to flee the only home they have ever known to come to a country where they are looked upon suspiciously and called terrorists out of hatred and ignorance,  I think of those that are still fighting racism and bigotry by having the perceived audacity to want the same unalienable rights as their white neighbors, the right to the fearless pursuit of happiness that everyone else gets. The freedom to feel like an equal. The freedom to be seen and heard. The freedom to walk or drive to the store without being profiled and harassed because they look or do not look a certain way. I think of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, mourning the loss of their friends to yet another senseless and horrifying school shooting yet fighting gun reform so they can feel a sense of freedom in their own communities and consequently I think of the youth of the Black Lives Matter movement who have been fighting the same fight for gun reform, to much less fanfare for years. Fighting for fair treatment from the very people sworn to protect them.

Freedom.

It means something different to everyone and we have to be aware and empathetic to the experiences of others, even though they may differ from our own. Some people fight for freedom every single day. Some people pass the fight down from generation to generation.

Nelson Mandela said “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in such a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”

 

I imagine a world where we are able to love and be loved in such a way that we feel free, that we feel the freedom to be our true selves and live the lives we want to lead without fear and we genuinely want the same freedoms that we enjoy for others.

What does freedom mean to you?

 

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free”. ~ Rosa Parks

Flower in the sun-Wise Project 2018 – #TenaciousTuesday

Good Morning,

Today is a bit of a cheat day, we are fresh off a long weekend here in Canada and I spent yesterday being incredibly unproductive and eating everything I could get my hands on. My girls and I were having a hilarious conversation about crushes and asking for what you want and my oldest daughter said I was a Badass because I wasn’t afraid to ask for what I wanted and my youngest remarked that I had so much confidence that no didn’t bother me, I just bounced right back. Sometimes I wonder about the line between Badass and just plain ass but I am excited that my perceived badassery might inspire them to go after what they want in life and not just in love and relationships but in every aspect of their lives. No is not always a rejection, sometimes it is merely a redirection and in any case no does not have to reflect poorly on anyone; the person on the giving or receiving end. That being said I was writing a bit of fiction, fiction is actually one of my great loves, I love creating characters and scenarios. The one I have created below is very light reading but it is cute and fun and if it inspires one person today to find their version of brave and put themselves out there, without fear of the word no but in awesome anticipation of what grows on the other side of our fear than it will be a great Tuesday.

Thanks for visiting and go get what you want today!

xo

Michelle

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Ed’s Diner, Photo Credit Telegraph U.K.

She was cute and fresh looking with just the hint of freckles across the bridge of her nose and scattered randomly on her face as if a happy accident with a brush and paint had lightly splattered them there. Her dark wavy hair was so shiny he could almost imagine how it would feel between his fingers. She had it pulled it back in a ponytail that moved from side to side as she talked and laughed. Her knee length floral dress hugged her in all the right places, showing off her small waist and fuller bust and then flaring into a flirty swing skirt. She could have effortlessly played the part of the girl next door in a 1950’s chewing gum commercial.

She smiled easily at everyone she encountered, her gentleness drawing exuberant smiles from even the most unlikely of candidates. Watching her from a distance he felt like a bit of a voyeur, peeking into her world uninvited.

He sipped his coffee, accepting a refill as the waitress walked by and loading it with full cream and sugar. It was still early, and the sun was just beginning to peak above the horizon, sending filtered light bursting through the restaurant windows. A rush of cool late summer air announced the opening of the door every few seconds and as he glanced in that direction he noticed that the sky looked like a tequila sunrise, a glorious golden peach color drizzled with hot pink throughout.

“Pretty sky this morning,” the waitress remarked following his gaze as she arrived to set down his scrambled eggs and brown toast and refill his coffee once again.

“It is, and thank you” he replied, nodding in the direction of the eggs and smiling.

He devoured the eggs and toast, pushing the plate aside to finish the last couple of mouthfuls of slightly burnt tasting diner coffee from a dingy off-white mug. He checked his phone messages again and took a sly selfie to make sure there was no food in his teeth or beard. He proceeded to nervously fumble with a small tear in the cherry red vinyl seat while avoiding going to the counter and fumbling over his words like many a time before.

Her name was Lily. She had once told him that she was named after her mother’s favorite flower and then looked at him expectantly to tell her his name. He ruined the moment of course and left feeling like a huge jerk but the next time he was in he blurted out “Trey” while she had her head down. She was thrown off guard for a moment, but he continued to speak what he had rehearsed, without daring to take a breath, “I was named after a childhood friend of my parents from D.C. who went on to be a novelist and playwright”

He sucked in a quick breath and looked up. Her eyes, as welcoming as the green fields of Ireland, seemed to be smiling at him as she held her hand out, “It is nice to finally meet you Trey.”

He came in every Tuesday since that day, waking up at an ungodly hour to beat the rush of the city traffic. He sat at the same booth and ordered the exact same breakfast and made the same incredibly awkward small talk with Lily while paying his bill that she rang in on the same outdated cash register.

He always made sure his suit was neatly pressed, his tie was on straight, and he had on enough cologne that he smelled manly but not like someone’s creepy uncle. He was well groomed; he had even started using beard oil and getting his hair trimmed more frequently. He was very aware that his dark skin was quite a contrast to her cream like complexion but he didn’t anticipate that being an issue, as it had been in the past.

As his legs somewhat unwillingly walked him to the counter each week he imagined every time that this would be the day that he asked Lily out and today was no exception.

“Good morning Trey, it looks like it is going to be a beautiful Tuesday!” she remarked, turning the corners of her bright red lips into a dazzling smile and looking straight into his warm chocolate colored eyes.

“Beautiful. Indeed,” he muttered, feeling like his throat was suddenly getting scratchy, and then quickly over analyzing everything he had intended on saying so opting to say nothing at all. He was certain that his brown skin was now a fiery shade of red as he stumbled to form a sentence while using the debit machine. Lily waved goodbye, still smiling at him with her wondrous eyes but looking a bit disappointed he thought.

As he got into his shiny silver Mazda a flood of frustration threatened to drown him. It was August 26 and he had wanted to ask Lily out for the past 35 Tuesdays. Today was supposed to be the day. He was going to celebrate his birthday knowing that he had a date with the girl whose smile had rocked him to sleep every night for the past several months. He completely blew it. He was a 34-year-old man with less courage than a twelve-year-old boy. It shouldn’t be this hard. There were three possible answers she could give him, yes, no or maybe. He had asked out girls before but had never considered dating anyone seriously since Jenna ripped his heart out and stomped all over it. Something about Lily made him believe that being with her could out weigh the risk of heartache. He longed to feel again, and he imagined feeling all sorts of things with Lily. Unfortunately, every time he got close he found himself in the grip of uncertainty and fear.

He realized he had been sitting in his car in the busy parking lot for fifteen minutes and was going to be late for a meeting. He scrambled to text a colleague when it occurred to him that he didn’t have his phone, he had left it on the counter while he paid his bill.

He walked into the diner and was greeted by Lily’s genuine smile and outstretched hand.

“I thought you would be looking for this she said,” placing his iPhone in his hand.”

“Thank-you Lily. You saved me. Have a wonderful day.” he said, turning to leave.

“Wait Trey,” she shouted as he opened the door. She came out from behind the counter and met him where he stood, “I put my number in your phone, and it’s under Lily, same as your pass code. Just in case you ever want to text me.” She smiled again and very softly touched his hand before turning on her heel but turning her head back just slightly, “Oh, and Happy Birthday.”

He was still smiling as he got in the car, even though Lily had out classed him by far. He texted his colleague first and then texted Lily thanking her again for returning his phone and asking her if she had any interest in going for birthday drinks with an adorable but hopelessly immature guy.”

She simply replied “Yes.” And then a moment later “Finally”

Hopeless minds and

hopeless hearts

are haunted places

where

no one loves to stay.

~Kwawaja Musadiq