Feeling Triggered? Stop Reacting and Start Healing in 6 Simple Steps.

Feeling triggered means something unresolved from the past has come calling. An invoice that is left unpaid from an earlier transaction. An old injury that aches whenever it rains. Loose ends that need tying up. A trigger always feels unpleasant, and always lingers. 

My latest triggered happened unexpectedly, and lasted a few days.

I have co-authored a book and what a project it’s been! It has been worthwhile, demanding, exciting, frustrating, exhausting, amazing, fun and now, I can add, disappointing. In writing these words, I realize this describes most things we encounter in life.

Life for me, is one big classroom, and what is most important is what we learn and how we grow. Do we make the same mistakes over and over, hanging around middle school like a relentless case of acne, or are we able to learn over time, moving on to college, even graduate school (this has nothing to do with book smarts or actual educational achievement, but what we set out to learn in this life). It would even seem, if we stopped judging ourself, in reality, our failures and challenges, along with our triggers are what helps us move forward, grow up, and graduate, or at least move on to the next level of life school.

When we move out of our comfort zone, get off the couch, write a book, start a new relationship, move to a different town, sell our business, we take risks. And unlike a romantic comedy, we never know how it will turn out. This discomfort zone of writing a book, has brought on many small successes and failures, and is also where my latest trigger occurred. 

In hopes of receiving a testimonial for our book, I had sent the manuscript off to a well- known spiritual teacher, one who enjoys a hefty following of devotees. Although I do not follow him as closely as I used to, his words can still bring my body to a state of blissful relaxation, and the rush of insights within my mind.

I received a “no” when it came to his testimonial. He was too busy to read the manuscript with his third book in the works, plus his hectic schedule of speaking engagements.

I got it. I did. But still, an unpleasant feeling emerged, and then lingered. I knew I was triggered.

I have grown accustomed to rejection, as it is part of the writing process. And a part of life. Yet, this felt different. It felt more personal. The feeling was unpleasant, and was not going away. I needed to resolve it.

In the past, I had always gone to my head when triggered. I would try to reason myself out of it, which would only lead to ruminating, lack of sleep and the repetition of the incident to anyone who would listen. It was like banging my head against the wall to get rid of a headache. It did nothing; in fact it makes it worse.

Breaking through old patterns, often feels like I am busting down thirty year-old kitchen back splash with a hammer. It’s gratifying, and hard work. Yet, it takes time, and effort. In the end, not only can we rewire our brain, but we have brand new tile as a reward. The more we admire and look at the new tile, the less we remember the old. But we must stay awake.

It appears, in dealing with this past trigger, I fell asleep, and went back to old patterns.

I told three people about the teacher’s “no” and each had a different response. One uttered, “What as ass!” Another said, “Oh well, keep in touch, you never know.” A third replied, “Maybe you can offer to endorse his book!”

I nodded. I pondered. I laughed.

We do need others to share our unhappy moments, to feel less alone. This can soften the blow, yet, this does not make a feeling go away. If we avoid the feeling when triggered, it will fester, and settle into our being, only to arise again at another moment. Feelings can even become stuck in our bodies leading to imbalances and dis-ease. Once I realized I did not want to lose sleep, to go another round in the ring, I stopped. I knew what I needed to do.

I knew the only way to resolve this feeling, was to get out of my head. I knew I had to let my heart win.

Once I stopped banging my head, I asked what I needed to feel better. These 6 steps emerged:

  1. Prepare or regroup. Since life is one big school, what better place to do that, then going back to Kindergarten. In this first step, I enjoy snacking, napping, getting my hands dirty. (and of course, binging on Netflix). Especially when we are in the throws of a higher education term paper. I not only feel it is necessary, but good for my soul. For me, it is the reward before the work. 
  2. Move. In order to get out of our head, it helps to move our body, change our state. We can go for a run, garden, walk, or go outside and get the mail. Do a load of laundry or go to the store. Create some distance so you can do the next four steps. We often need this space in order to work through a feeling.
  3. Locate the trigger. It may be obvious what triggered us. As in the case of the testimonial, the news, or if we are cut off in traffic. We also may need to search for what set us off. It could be an off-handed comment by our significant other or we may wake feeling irritated, having dreamt something unpleasant.
  4. Name the feeling. Knowing what we are feeling is not as easy as it sounds. For me, it can be obvious, but not always. Irritation can feel the same as anger, but with closer observation, irritation happens when I am not listening to myself and my needs. Anger occurs when I feel betrayed by another person. One feeling may even be a cover up for another. We can start feeling anger, and then realize underneath the anger is sadness. Be patient, you will know sooner or later.
  5. Pin Point where this feeling is in our body. Once you know what you are feeling, see if you can figure out where you are feeling it. Our hearts are inside our bodies, and a feeling can lodge itself many different areas of our body. I often feel fear in my gut, grief in my chest. Stress can give me stomachache, and change can result in a headache.
  6. Focus our attention on this area. When we put our attention on a feeling in our body, a number of things can happen. We help move it through, which may bring forth tears, insights, a memory, or all three. 

These steps may need to be done once through, or repeated, depending on how deep the trigger. You may be able to jump right in, or take a detour first. Do whatever you need to gather the courage, as this work is not easy. If it were, none of us would ever become lost in our minds.

Here is what happened with me, when I took on these 6 steps. 

  1. In preparation, I watched a few shows on Netflix (okay, maybe more like 10). Afterward, I felt ready to look at why I was triggered.

  2. I took my dog for a walk to get space.
  3. I knew the trigger was about the “no” I received for the testimonial, and didn’t need to linger on this step.
  4. As it turned out, the feeling of rejection, morphed into disappointment. 
  5. Surprisingly, I felt the disappointment in my throat, the feeling lodged itself there like a bad case of strep. No coincidence, I used to get Strep all the time as a child.
  6. When I focused my attention on it, I realized the disappointment came from an earlier time in my life when the adults were too busy, too wounded, too self involved to help me. To even see me. Over time, this stifled my voice.

As I moved through the steps, I became depressed momentarily, which is simply the space for healing, then felt sadness. I was now in the heat of the trigger, the fire that needed quenching. Here I stayed, until the feeling passed.

For every tear shed, we will enjoy a deeper moment of joy.

Don’t let your scars fool you. It seems if we ignore an old wound, it always comes back. Life always gives us another chance. Like a seed planted in the soil that innately moves towards the sun, we are always growing, moving towards healing.

All triggers are gifts, and all challenges, rejections or failures, are opportunities for healing. 

My co-authored book, Living Beyond Fear, will be available soon from amazon, and in fine book stores. These 37 letters, stories about life and death, will take you on a journey that is both healing and inspiring. Details to follow!

 

 

 

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Why We Should All Stop Feeling Guilty.

Our son was barely two years old, when our rescued dog bit him, barely missing his eye. Charlie, our mixed breed yellow lab, was never ok. The first time I saw the hackles on his back stand straight up, he was only six months old. During the second week of puppy training, he began attacking other puppies in an aggressive way.

At the time, I had been volunteering with a rescue group for years, fostering dogs, screening prospective families and working at adoption events. Charlie was a puppy we had been fostering, the only one that we decided would become ours. These hours I spent volunteering, were exhausting, yet satisfying. I loved being around the most kind, compassionate and giving people. I loved making a difference.

Until the day, I needed help. And then nobody was there.

Charlie’s aggressiveness was fear based, and he was afraid of other dogs and small children. We began to realize, he not only became volatile around dogs, but was not to be trusted with young children. We watched him, closely, walked him where dogs were less likely to be around, and did the best we could. Still, when a dog bites, it happens in a second. And when my son, reached to pet him, in the moment I turned my back, Charlie went for it.

Five stitches later, along with complete honesty, we found Charlie another home. The rescue group offered no help except that I could bring Charlie to one of their events and stand by his crate. I did try it. I was desperate, but, Charlie did not do well in a crate, barking and growling when anyone approached. I knew I had to take matters into my own hands, and I did. I found a family, with no small children. They knew everything about Charlie, and still decided to adopt. We bid a tearful goodbye, as the wonderful couple with grown daughters loaded Charlie into their car. It was hard, watching your family pet drive away. I took solace in knowing it was better for Charlie and for us.

A year later, I was ready to search for another dog. I wanted to believe Charlie was not the norm, that adopting from a rescue was not only admirable but a perfectly reasonable way to bring a dog into a home. After all I knew the numbers of how many “very good dogs” are put to sleep each year because of overcrowding. In some small way, I wanted there to be one less dog, because of me. With my son along for the ride, we went to the pet store where we knew there would be rescue dogs up for adoption. I inquired about a dog, and was instantly remembered by one of the volunteers.”We do not know if you should adopt from us,” she uttered. “You put an ad on Craig’s List. Don’t you know you are supposed to return a dog that is not a good fit?”

I was shocked, and hurt. Never mind the hours I had put in for them. Never mind, I had put ads everywhere, hoping to find the perfect family for Charlie. Never mind my job for them was to screen families, and that is what I did with Charlie. Never mind, I had received no help from the rescue, and my pleas went unanswered. Never mind, I knew if I simply gave him back, he would never have been adopted in the methods they use. Never mind, dogs are so near and dear to my heart, I would never have just dumped him anywhere, with anyone. Dogs were always a part of our family, even our fosters, no matter how long they spent with us. I had cleaned up more poop then I want to remember, and had chased dogs down the street without a bra that had gotten loose.

I was not one of them, the ones that dump dogs at the pound when they are older, less cute. When they are moving, or are having a new baby. And yet, that is what they were insinuating. They then uttered, “Well you can adopt, but we just want you know how we felt.” My response was, “No thank you. Have a nice day.”

This was a wake up call, and I never went back to rescuing dogs. And not because of a few sour apples, or because of the judgement on their part, but because I realized an important lesson.

In the end, the snubbing did me a favor. It woke me up. No amount of guilt was worth putting my son in danger. And no amount of guilt was worth the stress that I often felt volunteering for a rescue group, even if I was doing good. It was not a fair exchange, and never is. Doing anything out of guilt creates more stress, not less. It is not good for anyone. Once I began applying this to my life, in a bigger way, I knew those women’s comments gave me a gift. I knew I had to learn to stop doing things out of guilt.

Many rescue dogs are amazing, and most rescue groups do incredible work. The time and attention needed to fix this problem of homeless animals is abundant and overwhelming. And yes, I still weep uncontrollably at the videos where the dog is dirty, living in the junkyard and is rescued, now living happily ever after in her new home. She is clean, healthy and has no issues. At least on the video. That is not reality. Most rescue dogs have issues. Often, purposely, this is left out of the video. Normally, you need an abundance of time, resources and desire to work with rescue dogs. It can be rewarding to both help out a rescue group and adopt a rescue dog. If it works for you.

Are there exceptions? Yes. There are always exceptions. I know families that have had a wonderful experience adopting a rescue. This just has not been my experience. I know the saying, “Adopt. Don’t shop.” How awful it is to not adopt a rescue, to adopt from a breeder.

Do you know what is also awful? If you keep a rescue that is tearing apart your family and your walls with separation anxiety. To not be able to walk comfortable with your dog, because you are afraid another dog will approach, and your dog will attack. To not be able to have other children over to play and relax.

This attitude, this adhering to “shoulds” never works in life. Just as happiness creates waves outward, so does misery.

While I would never adopt from a puppy mill, as they are abusive and neglectful, I would also never again adopt from a rescue. For the simple fact that it does not work for me and my family.

We need to pick our battles. Martyrdom never works, and just keeps us on the hook for a crime we never committed.

I still hold on to this fantasy of working on a task force, one that raids puppy mills, or hoarders, rescuing hundreds of animals at a time. I admire those that do engage in this kind of work, but also know I will never be doing this. My life and home will never again be turned upside down by a rescue animal. And I will never do this type of volunteer work again. As this is not what my life’s purpose is about.

If we want to make this world better, we first need to do what makes us happy. Then, we can reflect outward and see how we can help. There are those meant to march on Washington, and those meant to help another cross the street. Devoting yourself to others, while you are secretly miserable, makes no sense. It wears you down, leaving you drained and empty. Staying in toxic relationships because of some obligation or thinking you can help, change them, and then turning around and drinking yourself blind every night or worse, yelling at your children for making a mess, creates more misery for yourself, and leads to more chaos in our world.

Learning the difference between codependency and compassion has changed my life. Knowing where the line is drawn between obligation and self-care has been eye-opening. Learning to check in with myself, using my intuition on how I am meant to help others has been incredibly rewarding. I now use discernment, and feedback, not guilt.

If we listen more, and ask what we are to do, we can choose to help where we are meant, and we find our path. We will need to stop, listen and open up our awareness. We will need to say no, often.

Looking back on that interaction with that rescue group, I can still feel the hurt I had felt. I can still remember calling my friends in disbelief. The words, “After all I did for them?” leaving my lips. And yet, I now know, they were doing me a huge favor.

Sometimes, especially when we act out of guilt, we need a little push in a different direction. And if we can read between the lines, what appears as rejection, is simply life saying, Back away. This is not your path. You are not listening so we are going to give you a gentle shove, even a good slap in the face.

As it turns out, after I left the pet store that afternoon, I found a breeder, and we adopted our amazing yellow lab, Bella. She has been the love of our life, bringing incredible joy, unconditional love and laughter to our family. So full of love, she helps all of us to smile a little deeper, and she is always there when one of us needs a hug, or a laugh.

I pray someday, that all dogs and all animals are treated with respect, love and compassion. I applaud all those working endlessly to help all animals and species. And then I go home and snuggle with Bella, knowing she is the perfect dog for us.

My love for storytelling, is one way, I hope to help our world. Through my words, I hope to help others feel, laugh, cry, and know they are not alone. As much as I still want to go on that task force, and personally right the wrongs that are done to animals, that is not my path in this life.

Life is meant to be a series of learning experiences. We are not meant to know exactly what to do, but it is important to understand why we are here, and how we can grow, evolve and change. I am still learning. I still feel guilty many times for saying no, for doing what is best for me. But I have learned that self-love, self-care and what is right for my immediate family come first. That is what I agreed to, and that is what I will strive to do for as long as I am living this life.

And of course, I hope to continue learning and overcoming, the failures and successes, the codependency and compassion, all the while, snuggling with Bella. 

My first co-authored book, Living Beyond Fear, will be available soon from both amazon, and fine book stores. These 37 letters, stories about life and death, will take you on a journey that is both healing and inspiring. Details to follow!

How a Margarita Helped me Learn the Truth about Life.

I love rejection. Yet, each and every time, if given the choice I would opt out of rejection. It is a good thing we don’t have that choice because without rejection life would be boring, and very confusing. We would all be going in the wrong direction down a one way street, and nobody would be shouting at us to turn around.

If there truly is a life path mapped out for each of us like I believe, then every failure, mistake and rejection makes sense. I have heard all the arguments about free will. They do not negate the bigger plan/fate theory.

Free will relates to freedom of choice, and we always have it. If we want, we can go back to the same toxic relationship time and again. If we wish to start our morning with some shots of vodka in our orange juice, we will find a way. If we choose to wake up every day, and complain about our dead end job, never updating our resume, we can do just that.

But, what if when this life ends, and we cross over to never never land, God will be waiting along with our dear Aunt Francis, saying, “Didn’t you hear me? Didn’t you see the signs? Was getting fired not enough? Was your need to get drunk every night not a sign?”

This is why I am giving you the answers to the test. So when you face your next mistake, failure or rejection, you do not look at it as doom and gloom. It is simply life’s way of giving us a nudge, saying, “This is not your path, not your person or not your moment.”

How do I know?

What if I told you, I talk to God. When life sucks, and when it is great. And when I called upon God, (I call him God. You can call him  The Universe, Your Higher Self, Higher Power, or Daddy Warbucks), and asked him about rejection, I heard him reply, “What if every rejection was a gift in disguise?”

He then showed me an image of myself waiting in line before coming to this life. It looked like the airport terminal, complete with a food court and numbered gates. When we are about to come here, to have a new life, we all go to this holding place. Some of us drink our Starbucks, or eat our Au Bon Pain sandwich, before boarding our flight bound for a new life. Others read the newspaper, or have a drink at the bar.

I had always wanted to believe that I had a few too many margaritas at the bar and got on the wrong plane; that I was meant to go to Hawaii and ended up in North Dakota. What God then told me, this was not possible because we each have our own flight attendant, which boards the plane with us, and joins us here on earth. They help guide us, especially when our direct line to God is fuzzy. They work for God, acting as our district managers.

My flight attendant, who looks just like Aerial with long red hair, but wears jeans and white high top sneakers, explained with patience, that  I did not get on the wrong plane. How I made all the decisions myself about what I would be experiencing in my next life. She showed me how we pick out everything we are to experience from our bodies to our college, even the people we “accidentally” run into on the street. How we all plan our life experiences before we go and live it, from the miraculous to the heart wrenching. And we are all just here, bumbling around, trying to remember what we decided before we got here. Our mistakes, rejection and failures point us in the right direction.

You know the saying God gives us only what we can handle in life? What if you gave it to yourself? God was just the boss who signed off on what you chose. If you have been having a hard time, or have had many challenges in your life, instead of blaming God or someone else, look at yourself and ask the question that I ask myself over and over, “What was I thinking?”

Maybe I did have a few drinks before boarding, as the ride here has been bumpy. But there have also been many moments of turbulence free flying. I met my husband and soulmate at fourteen years old. My friendships have been lifelong and I am blessed with three of the most incredible children. Music, books, writing and weaving stories, as well as my dogs, always ground me. 

What if each amazing gift, along with each challenge was well thought out for you, too. What if your flight attendant blindfold you while you were opening our bag of peanuts, and in order to remember, we all need to learn to crawl, then walk, then run. If we are lucky, we get to fly — and that is when the fun begins.

Looking back at my life — every rejection, every mistake, every failure was turning me a little to the life I was meant to live. I am still making mistakes because we do that, as humans. We sometimes need to be extra sure we are to walk away from that toxic person or quit that awful job. Sooner or later, we figure out that we all have a purpose, a reason for being here. It is not just to find the best frat party, run that marathon or get that promotion.

What if life is about so much more. And each failure is a gift. Each breakup is pushing you one step closer to finding your soul mate, and maybe it is the guy or girl behind you in the Starbucks. Look up from your iPhone the next time you are waiting for your double espresso and see who is around you.

Even better, why not look at your life like you are figuring a massive floor puzzle. Do the easy ones first. The borders. Sit down and ask yourself, what choices you can make today that just feel right. Do I like chocolate milk or orange juice with my breakfast? Where should I go on vacation? What do I really want to wear today?

Once you create your border, it is much easier to fill in the middle pieces. Those harder questions like, Where is my soulmate? Why am I here? How can I change my life?

While you wait for the answers, get busy becoming grateful for all you have. The pieces will fall into place. With each piece that fits, you will feel peaceful, relieved, happy, even accomplished. Conversely, If you try and shove a piece in that does not fit, you will feel out of sorts, anxious; it is even painful.

If you miss any of it, you will have a chance to do it over again, to get back in line. But I always think, why would I want to do it all again? Why not learn our lessons now, and then next time, I know it is not a mistake when I get in line for Margaritas. I am just here for the party.

How to Stop Feeling the Monday Morning Blues.

Do you have Monday morning blues? The feelings creep up on you Sunday, around midday, or the day before coming back home from vacation. And then, pow, we get punched in the face with them immediately after opening our eyes, Monday morning. It feels like there is no stopping them, that we just have to wait it out.

These are different than feelings of grief which are caused by losing a loved one or a relationship and this deep sadness needs time and attention for healing. I am also not talking about addiction because that is a much longer period, and a deeper escape. Monday morning blues are empty feelings, let down feelings and are what happens when we temporarily escape our real life, for the day, weekend, or week. Monday morning blues are an indication that somewhere, at some point, you checked out. And now, you have to face reality, your life, or whatever it is you checked out from.

Working life sets up us for this with our weekends away. We party hard on Friday, go out and about on Saturday, and lounge around watching football on Sunday – or something that looks close to that. It is not that we should not have breaks, but it is our thinking and avoiding of something, that causes us to feel blue when this temporary hiatus ends. 

What if there was a way to rid ourself from Monday morning blues altogether? 

The first way to end this vicious cycle is to come out of denial. It is not the rain, nor the cold that causes Monday morning blues. While The Carpenters sang about rainy days and Mondays, this was never the true cause of the blues. 

The second step is to figure out what you need to change in your life. What are you needing to escape from. Is it your relationship? Your job? What are you unhappiest about? Stop procrastinating and do it today. Nobody woke up on a Monday from a job they loved and felt blue.  

I love watching motivational speakers, and my favorite today is Gary Vaynerchuck or Garyvee, as he calls himself. He has a following of on Instagram 4.6 million (@garyvee) because he loves what he is doing, and it shows. He also calls people on their shit. He is real. For those of us who fake it, the life we dream about will never happen, and those blues will creep in sooner or later.

Find your passion, somehow and do that. It does not matter what it is, but that you do what makes you happy. Start on the side, and then go to full time. I know you didn’t come here in this life, to be miserable. I know you didn’t come here to wake up each and every Monday morning feeling dreading the day and week. If you want to get off the rollercoaster, stop riding the waves of what you are supposed to do, and grab some cotton candy for once. It is ok, you are entitled as a grown up to eat some pretty pink colored blown up sugar, and feel happy as it melts onto your tongue, along with the Monday morning blues.

It is not about Monday morning blues or Hump Day or TGIF. Each and every day is the same, and you can either be happy or miserable. These so called special days are an illusion to pull you into fake happiness – to encourage you to escape from your life, which will never work.

The only things that will work will be to change your life, so you don’t need to escape it. Do that thing you have been dreaming about. Leave that relationship. Share your gift. Take care of your business today, not tomorrow or next week.

Stop hiding behind a mountain of what if’s and if only’s. Start today, and you will find the life you have dreamed about, without the ups and downs. Life will be smooth sailing once and for all.

I woke up this morning feeling blue, and I do what I normally do when I don’t feel happy. I ask myself why. I look to see if there is a valid reason, or if I am avoiding something. I can be a queen procrastinator, and I realized this morning, if there are things in my life I am avoiding, I will feel blue sooner of later. With guidance this morning, I asked for how to release myself from this cycle of Monday morning blues. And whether it was God, or life or my higher self, I heard plain and simple, “Deal with your shit.”

Therefore, I am sharing this guidance with you. Time is an illusion, and facing the reality of what you are avoiding or running from releases you from the endless cycle of Monday morning blues. Face your self. It does not matter if you are avoiding a bad life or a bad day; if you hate your job or your partner. Deal with it, and you will find each and every day feels the same. It may not feel like the anticipation we experience as we hop aboard a plane for the Caribbean but it won’t feel like waiting for your baggage on the carousel before heading back home.

It’s not whether your glass is half full or half empty. It is whether you put that glass into the dishwasher or let it sit on the counter for weeks, staring at it each time you go into your kitchen. Thinking to yourself, I should put that it in the dishwasher and then walking back out.

So today, I encourage you to deal with your shit, and I will deal with mine. And I will meet you next Monday, and the Monday after feeling much lighter, freer than we feel today. The sun will be shining no matter what day it is, or what the whether is outside. I know it’s hard, but you are not alone. I am facing it, too. Take my hand and we will do it together. 

Love is Always Having to Say “I am Sorry.”

When I take out that tinfoil ring I saved, the one my husband gave me over thirty-five years ago, I see the beauty in his proposal. Love is circular with each disagreement and each apology bringing us deeper, closer towards unconditional loving one another. One cannot truly say I love you, and mean it, if they have never uttered the words, I am sorry.

I have been in love with the same person since I was fourteen years old. I remember it like it was yesterday, although the date was April 1st, 1982. The guy I thought was cute, had asked me to “go out” with him. Not long after we fell in love, and he asked me to marry him.

Actual Ring from 1983

Although we were very young, he was serious, and had made a ring out of tinfoil, to win my heart, forever. He worked up the courage and gave it to me, asking me to spend the rest of my life with him.

I was not ready. And there were others, for both of us. But life had other plans. Ten years after we graduated high school, we got engaged. There were balloons and tears, and of course a toast with champagne. He knew life would bring us together, and never lost faith.

Today, my husband still has the bigger view of us, while I often can only see us through to the end of the day. There are other differences, as well. He likes to always be with people, while I cherish my alone time. He loves television, I love books. My idea of an ideal vacation is sitting on a beach, somewhere, anywhere. To just be, feeling the sun upon my skin and bury my toes in the sand seems like heaven. While he hates just hanging out, and would prefer to go anywhere, but the beach. My past was rocky, as I endured many challenges, leaving more scars upon my psyche. His, less so, with perhaps a few nicks and cuts, barely visible to the naked eye.

Even with our differences, in many ways, we compliment each other. His strengths are my weaknesses, and mine are his. He does not care what others think. My sensitivity makes it more difficult for me to honor what’s right for me, when it makes others unhappy. He often says, “I am as shallow as a puddle.” I pull him into the deep end for as long as he can tread water. He wears his heart on his sleeve; mine is tucked away, not as easily seen until I have more evidence that it won’t be used against me. I encourage him to enjoy life, spend a little, while he reminds me that we need to save for a rainy day.

When we were teens, we disagreed about the little things, teenage things – what we would do, or what party we would attend. Who we would spend our time with, mostly. Not surprisingly, we still disagree about these things. As much as we change in life, grow up over time, we still often keep the core preferences about ourself the same.

There is not a day that has gone by, whether the sun was shining, our spirits high or the dark clouds lingered above, threatening our mood, that I would take back. When almost losing ourself within an abyss of grief brought on by a devastating pregnancy loss, I could not imagine going through those harrowing moments with anyone else. In some way, it is those moments, those unexpected life events, those moments of loss, that always create a crack within a relationship and throughout our being. Whether you repair it with gold, or allow it to create distance between you, producing an irrevocable break in the relationship, depends on how sturdy the foundation.

My husband is my best friend, my go to, my rock. We can spend hours playing cards, or just hanging out. My biggest laughs and hardest cries has been by his side.

Today, we disagree, sometimes even raising our voices. We get into it fast and furious, our emotions coming on like a tsunami, and withdrawing just as fast. We never linger when we butt heads, and that is only because we have both learned to say, “I’m sorry.”

It feels to me that it is one of the most difficult things for someone to apologize. It seems silly, really. For as humans, we are supposed to mess up, to say something dumb, to make a mistake. It is how we learn. It is the first thing we teach our children when they hurt another, to say they are sorry. Yet, when we grow up, we find it difficult.

The three most important words in a relationship, other than I love you, is to say, I am sorry. To be able to admit to our mistakes brings us closer to one another. To accept someone’s apology, allows us to move on. 

Apologizing does not have to be about the big stuff, although that eventually needs to be said for broken relationships to be repaired. Starting small is just as necessary. It can be as simple as, I am sorry for being in a bad mood and taking it out on you. I am sorry for leaving my clothes all over the house. I am sorry for ignoring you when you needed to talk. I am sorry for not filling up the car with gas before you got it back. I am sorry that I got caught up and didn’t make you dinner. I am sorry for forgetting to get your favorite snack or leaving the cap off the toothpaste. Earth shattering? No. Important? Yes.

When we get around to the big stuff, apologizing for how we hurt someone on a grander level, this is where greater healing happens. I am sorry that I had no idea what it meant to be a good parent, spouse or friend. I am sorry that I didn’t take no for an answer. I am sorry that I stole from you.

I am sorry that I neglected you. I am sorry that I talked behind your back. I am sorry that I ghosted you. I am sorry that I could not tell you how I felt. I am sorry that I caused you pain. I am sorry that I cheated. I am sorry that I was addicted. I am sorry that I took my stress out on you. I am sorry that I left. I am sorry that I stayed too long. I am sorry that I blamed you, when it was me that was wrong all along.

There are people alive who cannot get there. Who will always blame others for their mistakes, who cannot allow themself to apologize for even the small stuff, because it would unravel a lifetime of self serving, narcissistic, even abusive behavior. It would mean having to take a cold hard look at what they are truly about. Some people will never get there. It is then, you need to do it for them. Whisper those words to yourself for as long as you need to hear them. If someone you loved has hurt you, and never apologized, it is not too late. Say those words, the ones you needed to hear, and probably still do.

When I take out that tinfoil ring I saved, the one my husband gave me over thirty-five years ago, I see the beauty in his proposal. Love is circular with each disagreement and each apology bringing us deeper, closer towards unconditional loving one another. One cannot truly say I love you, and mean it, if they have never uttered the words, I am sorry.

Love is always having to say you are sorry, for these three words are the answers many are looking for in order to live happily ever after, or at least until infinity and beyond.

How I uncovered the secret to feeling good enough.

When I think about vulnerability, I think about feeling worthy, and how for much of my life I did not feel worthy. I believe I am not alone. So many of us need that constant approval that we are good enough.

We check our status – how many likes did I receive? We look in the mirror – how much weight did I gain? We look at our bank accounts – how much money did I make?

How do we stop looking for that outside approval?

To begin to feel worthy, let’s first start with why we feel like we are not enough?

I have been a stay at home mom for over eighteen years, and just as long, I have had the feeling I was supposed to be doing something else, too. It stemmed from giving up a six figure job to raise my children. I am proud of this choice, and my children. So I ask myself, why am I still searching for that career, the one that would put me on the map. What map, and where I would land, I had no idea. Ideally, it would be oceanfront. I would have a room with a view. Beyond that? I just knew I was not there – yet.

So I kept running. Around the block, on a trail, through my days, hours and years. While, wondering if there was something else for me to do, I did what life put in front of me – changing diapers, paying bills, planning birthday parties, editing school papers. Supporting, loving, encouraging, managing the life of our family.

And then it hit me. I could never do enough. There always had to be something more to do, to become, to achieve. If you are chasing what is outside, that imaginary finish line keeps moving.

What would be enough, really? A six figure income? A child who attends Ivy league university? The largest house on the street? Best selling author? Fittest body? Longevity? A viral video?

I think back to high school when we all voted in our year book. We voted in categories such as prettiest, nicest eyes, nicest smile, best dressed, most athletic, along with most likely to succeed. What about the categories of most likely to help someone whose car has gone off the road, or most likely to help a child in need? Or how about most likely to pick up and drive to Washington D.C. to protest what is near and dear to his heart? Most likely to start the #metoo movement which will change the lives of millions of women? Most likely to open her heart, fully and honestly with those she loves? Or how about most likely to survive life?

Maybe so many of us feel unworthy because we just have our priorities confused as to what measures success. I have seen women leave an abusive relationship after ten years, and if that is not a measure of success than I am not sure what is. I have witnessed people becoming sober after thirty years of drinking heavily. I have heard the stories of adults surviving childhood abuse, getting knocked down time and again, and still picking himself back up, making a difference in our world. I have watched people lose everything and need to live out of their car. I have observed grieving parents endure the lost of a child, and people lose loved ones in a natural or human-made disaster.

To start feeling like we are enough, to understand why so many of us feel unworthy, we need to first change our priorities, change our definition of what is success. I survived migraine headaches as a child and chronic sinus headaches as an adult – pain that kept me in bed for days. I made it through the devastation of pregnancy loss, a category 5 hurricane and putting our family dog to sleep that we loved dearly. My success included breaking the cycle of abuse, raising my children to love themselves while also helping rescue dogs. 

I am not unique.

If you have survived middle school, when raging hormones bully their way into your entire being creating monster emotions, you are a success. If you endured even a year of high school, you deserve more than a pat on the back. You deserve a standing ovation. Working each day when you’d rather be on the golf course, giving birth, holding another’s hand, listening to a child, walking a dog, preparing dinner for loved ones, even getting out of bed in the morning when you’d rather hide under the covers is a wonderful measure of success. Speaking up and out against hatred or deciding that today is the day, you begin whispering kind words to your own heart.

Everyone serving our country in any way, shape or form deserves the highest honor of success. So does the one who steps out of her house after years of suffering with agoraphobic symptoms. The one who creates her own fashion statement, and the one who makes a mistake and says, “I am sorry.” The one who gets a C in chemistry. The one who drops out of college. The one who plants a tree. The one who smiles at a stranger on the street. The one who fails. The one who is rejected. The one who is breathing.

If you are human, you are a success story. If you are alive, you are enough.

We need to cut the cord with the long term belief that feeling like we are enough is tied to any outside source.

It is not about feeling like you have done enough, but knowing that you are enough.

You are not your past – that was just your experience
You are not your future – it is still unwritten
You are not your children’s successes, nor their failures
You are not your zip code or your occupation
You are not your age

You are not the words said to you in judgment or anger

You are not your fears, anxieties or depression
You are not your clean house or dirty feet
You are not your thoughts
You are not your body

You are not your age

You are not your clothes, your weight or your hair color
You are not the numbers glaring back at you from your bank account
You are not your gender or sexual orientation

Who are you?

You are a gift
You are loved
You are worthy
You are enough

Peel back those outside layers of not enough. Be the first to come out of the closet with who you really are. And the second, and the last. Walk away from a battered relationship no matter how many times you have gone back. Tell your story with your heart pounding and our palms sweating, saying yes, this happened to me, but it does not define me.

Worthiness is building our selves back up from the inside out. It is letting go of comparisons and likes from others, and finding that place within our own heart that is gentle, loving and compassionate – with ourself.

Worthiness is honoring how we feel. It is putting our self first, saying no, and standing up for someone who has not yet found the courage.

Deep down, we are all worthy, good, and whole. If someone took that from you, told you differently or pulled you apart until you felt like your heart was split into a million pieces, it is time for you to put your self back together. It is time to say each and every day – I love my self no matter what. I love all my imperfect cracks, my shitting mornings, my weirdness and my lack of motivation. It is saying that was then, this is now. Yesterday does not define tomorrow.

I am not there yet, but I am getting closer to feeling good enough. In the meanwhile, I keep in mind that hurt people, hurt people. And loved people, love people.

Today, I choose love.

Today, love wins.

Do something nice for your self today. Do it because it is finally time, to start telling your self the truth.

You are enough.

Please excuse any grammatical errors, as my editor is on a permanent vacation in the Bahamas.

Coming soon:  My co-authored book, Living Beyond Fear, due out at Christmas! 

Love Wins

My favorite game of a child was tag. I was a fast runner and competitive when it came to sports. I always felt strong as an athlete. Yet, when I hear of something horrible happening in our world, I feel it deeply within my heart. I don’t feel strong, but sad, and helpless. But, I do not let it get me down. I am too competitive to let hate win. That would be too easy. Hate does not cure hate. Love does.

Today, I tag everyone with love. I send love to everyone – those involved in the latest tragedy, those in my life and those I don’t know. There is an abundance of love in our world, and I refuse to point the finger because that does not solve the problem. It is not a one person problem, but a worldly problem. We are all connected, and when someone feels lonely, hurt and angry enough to lash out and hurt others, we need not lose hope.

Yes, we are stronger than hate because love is stronger than hate.

I send love to those who are hurting, and those who hurt. May you one day find peace and know you matter. Post a photo where love shines, drop a photo or comment of love on a person’s wall or tag them #lovewins.

Love is contagious.❤️

 #strongerthanhate