Chains of Love-WISE PROJECT 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

I am one of the rare one’s that loves Valentine’s Day and even though there have definitely been times that I have felt bombarded by the commercialism of it all, who doesn’t like flowers and chocolate?

People say Valentine’s Day comes with too much pressure and I say Pf-ft. As with most things we put that pressure on ourselves.

Valentine’s Days has infinite legends and folklore attached to it so basically you can pick and choose what you want to believe and/or celebrate. Valentine’s Day is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country. The custom of sending flowers, chocolates and greeting cards actually originated in the U.K.

My favorite account of the emergence of Valentine’s Day dates to ancient Rome, when the Roman Emperor Claudius ll forbid soldiers to marry in order to grow his army as he believed that married men did not make good soldiers. It is believed that St. Valentine performed clandestine Christian weddings for lovebirds during that time.

During that time, it was customary for Christian bishops to wear amethyst rings. It is rumored that Saint Valentine wore a purple amethyst ring with an image of a cupid engraved on it. The Cupid was a widely recognized symbol associated with love and romance and at the time it was legal under the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers would recognize the ring and ask Saint Valentine to perform Marriage ceremonies for them. Many believe that it is the association of Saint Valentine with amethyst that led to it becoming the birthstone for February and the stone is thought to attract love.

A possible origin of the use of hearts associated with Valentine’s Day is the legend that Saint Valentine cut hearts out of parchment paper and presented them to the soldiers to remind them of their vows.

That is the whimsical tale that my romantic heart has chosen to believe for many years.

I had the same Valentine for the past nineteen years. We always celebrated Valentine’s Day in some fashion; some years it was very elaborate and others we agreed on quiet and handmade gifts only. I have a Valentine’s Day card in my bedside table that Kirk made me over 12 years ago and it will always be one of my best memories. There were times during our relationship that we celebrated Valentine’s Day by spending the weekend at a romantic Oceanside cabin or dressed up for fancy steak dinners out, with copious amounts of fine red wine but that particular Valentine’s Day we were broke and we agreed that we were only going to give each other handmade gifts. I was blown away with the card that Kirk presented to me. He had taken pictures of me, in places we had visited together, and he cut them out and pasted them throughout the inside of the card and each of them had a caption, one was in downtown Boston, one was at the top of Mount Washington, one was at Loudon International Speedway in New Hampshire and one was at Salty Rose Cottages in Rose Bay, Nova Scotia. At the top of the card he wrote PLACES I HAVE LOVED YOU. On the back of the card was a photo of him and I together and at the top he wrote THE PLACE I LOVE YOU THE MOST and the caption on the photo was ‘beside me’. My eyes fill with tears just thinking of it, but I often take it out of my bedside table and admire it and wrap myself in all that love.

Kirk and I endured some very difficult times, especially in our earliest years when we were still getting to know each other and more importantly ourselves; and in the past several years at the height of his struggle with depression. The most important thing for me is knowing the growth that emerged from those struggles and the abundance of love that was always present, even when times were tough.

I am a better person for loving Kirk and I am richer from being consumed by the depths of his love. Death has surprisingly taught me more about love than I could ever conceive of. Death ends a physical life, it does not end love. Kirk’s love lives inside of me, in my limbs, guiding me and helping me to see and experience things in ways I could never even imagine. Our love is not dependent on bonds and it knows no bounds. It is how earthly love should be.

We spend so much of our lives consumed by the very idea of love. We constantly throw it at people, hoping they will catch it and desperately hoping that they will throw some back to us. We don’t share the best of ourselves; we in fact give away large chunks of ourselves trying to be all that we can be to the people that we give all our love away to. We lose ourselves piece by piece until our true self becomes a mystery. The problem is that we often forget one very important person in the love equation, ourselves. Until we can learn to truly love and be happy with ourselves and believe that we are worthy of the love and affection we bestow on others, we are essentially telling people that we are just not worth the investment. We are literally begging people to love us, while inadvertently deeming ourselves unworthy of love.

We are all born worthy. No matter what circumstances that we are born into, we are all inherently worthy. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we forgot to bestow the amazing love and attention on ourselves that we reserve for others.

A great deal of people fear love. Love can devour us whole and that can be scary. As humans we become easily attached and so we are terrified of giving our love freely and not getting anything back in return. Love is not like a vending machine, you don’t insert love and automatically get love. There are no guarantees in love. Love is often a mystery.

We are attached by things, experiences and people. We get attached to our favorite sweater, the mountains, our daily routines, the weather, the possibilities are endless.

Attachment however, can become self-serving as we tend to feed our needs with the things we are attached to and people are not an exception to this rule. We tend to get attached to people because they make us feel a certain way. We come to depend on those feelings and so our love depends them as well. We rarely love someone for who they truly are when we are completely dependent on them to make us feel a certain way. There is a lyric from a song called Chains of Love by one of my favorite artists; Charlie A’Court, who also happens to be from my hometown; and he sings, ‘chains of love, are chains just the same’ and that to me describes the attachment side of love.

It isn’t unusual to confuse attachment with love and we are all guilty of it to one extent or another, myself included. Sometimes when we love something we want to own it, wrap ourselves in it, keep it to ourselves.
LOVE however, should not be so demanding, frantic or self-absorbed. Love is an action word. We give love, we receive love. We put love into the world, regardless of any expectation of getting it back. Love is also a feeling; free of judgement, it should make us fee as light as air.

Our fundamental purpose here on earth is simply to love, giving love and being open to love without conditions. There are so many articles circulating about how to attract love when the very best way to attract the right kind of love to your life is to unabashedly love yourself first and foremost. People who truly love themselves are more likely to love without conditions and in turn entice and accept the love that they deserve. Be curious about yourself, that is an act of love. Discover who you are and what you desire in the world.

I like to remind you often that you are never alone, we all belong to each other, but you belong to yourself first. The love you give to yourself will always be welcome, and always be true. When you feel loved, you will want to share that love with others, without conditions, without fear.

At the end of our lives we will never wish that we had loved anyone less.

When I lost Kirk I never wished that I had loved him more or less, just better. I wish that I had learned to love myself first so that in those early years we would have struggled less to figure it all out. Attachment and fear-based love can put a lot of pressure on a relationship.

Love is spacious, it should never make us feel caged. Love is an incredible thing if we are able to love and be loved in such a way that makes us feel free.

In essence, we should strive to be the love we wish to see in the world as love can appear and manifest in all sorts of ways, volunteerism, social activism, writing and performing, are all acts of love. Love should always be rooted in a deep sense of esteem and admiration for ourselves and others and the complicated but divine humanity that we share. Love is imperfect, it requires delicate vulnerability, truth and forgiveness.

We will make mistakes, we will hurt and unfortunately, we will sometimes hurt others, but love is a beautiful reward for our efforts and not one person has ever died from a broken heart.

So… Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. There are probably a lot of you that want to sleep through your alarm, but Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and you are love. Your very purpose is to love. This is your celebration. Love does not require a partner. Buy the dress, eat the cake, drink the wine, make yourself a juicy steak dinner, dance in your underwear, hug yourself.

Spend time with your children, your friends, your dogs or spend some quality time with yourself. Valentine’s Day should not make you feel like less, it is marketed to couples purely to sell more flowers and chocolate. If you like flowers and chocolate buy your own, or send something sweet to someone you secretly admire.

When I talk about love I am always reminded of a little girl I met years ago when I was picking Haley up from school in grade three. She was running through the field chasing kids and dispelling illusory magic from her right hand and yelling with rampant joy “Zing, Zing, I am throwing love at you!” That little girl was bursting with love and just wanted to share it, without any illusions or expectations of having the love she so freely gave reciprocated. My mother always told me I could be anything I wanted so I think I am going to be that little girl.

ZING ZING.

P.S. Now the fun part. Wanna be my Valentine? I remember like it was yesterday being a young child and sorting through my flimsy Valentine’s Day cards to find the perfect one for my childhood crush. I now have the perfect one for you! If we are not connected personally, you can link to my Twitter, Wise Project Facebook or Instagram on the right side of this page. Simply send or post a Valentine’s Greeting or message and you will get one back. I am going to be the best damn Valentine ever xo

 

“Don’t you lock up something
That you wanted to see fly”
~ Chris Cornell (from Soundgardens Fell on Black Days)

Beautiful Trauma- Wise Project 2018 #TenaciousTuesday

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“I actually don’t mind falling apart. It gives me a chance to go, “Okay, NOW we have something to put back together’ Falling apart makes you stop and at least look at your arms and legs and god forbid, your eyebrows. You create a kind of ground zero for yourself.”

~Jann Arden

Dear beautiful people,

Some of you will think I am crazy for posting this, it started out as is me journal-ling, trying to pull myself out of the dark depths despair. For no apparent reason I found myself in the powerful grip of grief and trauma this weekend. It doesn’t come knocking and wait for you to let it in. It barges in aggressively and unannounced, wreaking havoc. It brings with it crippling fear and anxiety. It feels familiar yet like the scary stranger your parents warned you about when you were a kid. It doesn’t feel temporary and I think that is the most frightening thing of all. It robs you of the very best of yourself and you need to stand toe to toe with it. At your weakest, you need to fight your hardest battle, the battle for yourself. Some of you will understand this in a very intimate way, some of you face this daily. You fight an invisible sickness that screams at you from the inside. This is for you…

I am not OK. I am not OK. I am not fucking OK.

I am looking at the splendid sun filtering through the blinds of my picture window, tiny snowflakes are gently swirling around illuminated by the early afternoon light. My dog and my brilliant green Ficus are basking in the warm rays as my oil diffuser sends calming and healing bursts of lavender through the air. I am sipping on coffee brewed in my new Chemex, it’s Coast to Coast Damn Good drip, a smooth yet discreetly smoky blend, one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had to be honest. George Michael is seducing me with his familiar and pleasing tone softly in the background. All of the elements are here. It should be a good day but I feel like I am on the outside looking in.

I cannot stop seeing myself sitting on the step with my head in my lap in total shock wondering what the fuck I am going to do. For two days I have been stuck in that horrible day in June when I came home on Father’s Day to find that my husbands demons had stolen him away from us. I did everything I possibly could till the paramedics came, using all the skills I had learned in my First Aid and CPR course a week prior. I remember how freaked out I got imagining trying to save a stranger, nothing can quite prepare you for using your training on the love of your life in the most heartbreaking and tragic circumstances imaginable. When the Paramedics took over I collapsed on the corner of my step, I just sat there in front of the kitchen door, knowing that I had had to go inside and console and reassure our girls, tell them everything was going to be okay, that we were going to be okay but I couldn’t move. It felt remotely similar to how I felt when my Dad died suddenly when I was just 16, like everything was moving lightning fast yet in slow motion. That there were expectations and I needed to make a move.

I am so goddamn sad looking at that woman with her head in her lap. I hurt so fucking bad for her. She hurts so bad for him, the life that he should have had, for her children and the memories they won’t get to make with their Dad, she knows all to well what they will miss. I can’t stop sobbing for her. Her pain has me immobilized.

What the F is happening to me???

Looking at her is tearing me to pieces but for some reason she is all I can see. It doesn’t matter if my eyes are opened or closed, I see her, I feel her. She is a part of me. She is in color, yet I am in black and white, all the good in me, all the love, laughter and color has faded. I am an empty, colorless shell. I don’t know why. I don’t feel real. None of this feels close to being fucking real.

She is me. I am her.

I see all of it. The entire day and the days that follow keep playing in my mind like a bad movie. It seems to be in slow motion but for some reason I keep coming back to her. She is not moving, she needs to do something. She needs to fucking do something!!!

Her pain in that moment is ripping me a part piece by piece and seeping into the pores of my skin, my blood and my being. Her and I are one, yet I don’t want to know her. I can’t function as her.

That woman was like Humpty Dumpty after he fell off the wall, except she put herself back together. I know she did because I helped her. I don’t understand why she can’t move and why I am being suffocated by her pain.

Give me back.

It was a sunny day in June, not too hot, just right if I remember correctly. I just wanted to BBQ burgers and curl up and watch a movie with my husband. None of this could be right. This couldn’t be my life.

All the sudden I heard the sounds of the neighborhood, kids playing, birds singing, the bus stopping across the road. It was all very intense, as if everything had been temporarily paused while my body waged war with my mind rendering me unable to think or feel or move my limbs for what felt like years but was more likely just minutes. My body fought against it, but eventually I got up and held unto the side of the house, steadying myself until the dizziness gave way I and went in to face our children and a whole new life I never wanted.

Until that day I couldn’t even say the word suicide out loud without stammering. It always came out in a whisper, like a mouse standing in the middle of a castle and trying to yell. When all my senses came back I knew I would need to say the word. I would need to say it over and over. Even in those horrible first moments I knew how important it would be in everything I said and did moving forward, to acknowledge Kirk’s demons, his illness, his pain and his suicide. Saying it takes the power out of it, it takes the stigma out of it. People are shamed by their thoughts of suicide, by their fears of being unworthy and broken. That shame multiplies in the dark recesses of their minds and mocks and belittles them. We need to shine a spotlight on suicide, hold it in the light so that people are not afraid to talk about their scariest thoughts.

I still and will always believe that our stories are such powerful messengers. We are never alone. We have so much to learn from one another.

Last night I went to bed knowing that I would not sleep. My limbs felt hollow but curiously heavy and I couldn’t control my tears. They were silent for a time, just leaking down my face slowly at first and then falling so fast that they were blinding me, eventually turning into choked sobs. I laid back on the bed and I actually could see myself falling, it was the first time I noticed that I was seeing myself in black and white, like all of the color and anything good had been drained out of me and my world. I was like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. I could see myself, limbs outstretched and falling, with nothing and nobody to grab onto. I started to get scared because there seemed to be no end to the blackness I was falling through, and I didn’t want to allow myself to fall so far that I couldn’t claw my way back out of the dark this time.

I dozed off for an hour at best and found myself in a dream. Everything was normal, I had just cleaned the house and the kids and I were all waiting anxiously for Kirk to come home. The dream seemed to last forever and we were all just fucking waiting around for Kirk to come home. Kirk doesn’t come home. I just laid in a pit of murky nothingness until 7 am when my brother started texting me.

I have always held tight to the fact that no matter what is happening in my life, no matter what kind of struggle I am facing, the moon and the sun have NEVER let me down. There will always be darkness pushing up against the light; like when a cloud passes over the sun and seems to swallow it whole, but there is always a glimmer of moonlight to counter the darkness of the night and the sun always rises to meet the morning. No matter what shitty things happened the night before the sun never says, “Fuck it! I’m out”.

The sun keeps showing up.

Even in the dark heaviness of it all I have a sense that I can find my way out. I have been here before, I need to stand up and fight and follow the breadcrumbs. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is a luxury that many people do not get. I don’t just have the means to fight this, I have a responsibility.

Healing is not a simple, one size fits all solution that will miraculously cure all suffering. Grief is not linear and pain is not predictable. What I do know is that many of us have suffered trauma, to one degree or another. We are all survivors of something. We can imagine ourselves as self-sufficient or strong or unbreakable, but the truth is nobody is immune to struggle, and struggle doesn’t make us weak. Denying our struggles, fleeing our pain in record time, heaping our pain unto others and concealing our unhealed trauma behind work, food, booze and sex does not make us strong, it makes us sick.

Today I went and sat in the corner of my step by my kitchen door, the place where I abandoned a part of me several months ago. It was -16 and I cried, and my tears nearly froze to my face. It was a little bit humbling. I have been doing really well so to find myself so lost and hurt was confusing and unnerving. I was never separate from the woman on the step, we are the same. I needed to go out and pick her up and bring her along on my healing journey. I needed to marry the pain with the present. I need to heal every bit of me so I can continue to move forward.

My husbands story was much different than mine but so similar to many others who cannot seem to find the light, the beacon of hope in the darkness.

Tomorrow is #BellLetsTalkDay but in reality we need to keep talking loudly; every single day. Some people struggle with Mental Illness their entire lives, the impact of not talking or keeping Mental Illness that thing we talk about in hushed whispers has not and will not help.

Let’s get real.

Let’s talk.

Let’s be authentic.

Let’s be vulnerable.

Let’s share our stories and our struggles.

Let’s be good listeners to the important people in our lives and if you are hurting please reach out.

You are important, you are worthy, you are loved. Do not suffer in silence.

Silence is a serial killer.

Mental Illness is a sickness, not a weakness. Spread the word.

#sicknotweak

“We cannot judge a human life, by how it ends and we so often do, what we die of has nothing to do with what we “lived for”…

~ Jann Arden

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xo Michelle