The Sounds of Silence

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Simon and Garfunkel got it right when they wrote the timeless song, Sounds of Silence, over fifty years ago. Many remakes hit the charts, and then in 2015, the song was given an upgrade by heavy metal band, Disturbed. Not that the original needed any tweaking, but the incredible feeling and power behind David Draiman’s voice brings the song to a whole new level. The first version creeps quietly into my heart while the second, reverberates throughout my body. I listen to both, often.

Like our music that often permeates our homes and our cars, the sounds of silence are anything but silent. As I sit this morning, bringing forth this blog post, I feel the power within and beyond the silence. For many of us, it is rare that we sit in silence. It has been awhile for me as well, yet today, the sounds within and around me, feel like music. Like an old friend, I am welcomed back with open arms.

My home, usually quiet on a Saturday at seven am, feels no different today.  It has been years since babies and toddlers woke us much to early, with their wide eyes and intense hunger. Like a reward for all those sleepless nights, older children sleep late, especially on a Saturday. Two years ago, we emptied one of our bedrooms upstairs as my oldest went to college. In the space she left, we could feel the silence. The first to fly the nest left our house feeling different, a bit awkward and lonely. Yesterday, my second daughter left for college, and along with far too many clothes, she took her laughter, loud music and friends dropping by at all hours of the night. Our newfound silence, again unnerving, but now, more familiar.

Yet, it was not just the empty bedrooms. I had no choice this morning but to sit within the silence. When things call to me, as I follow that inner voice which feels anything but silent, I listen. Sit and do nothing, it said. While I do miss my daughters, the silence they left behind in this moment feels welcoming. A chance to reunite with myself.

I have heard all the arguments why people do not like the silence:  I have no time. It makes me uncomfortable. My mind always wanders. I just can’t sit there and do nothing. I know them well because I have used all of them.

Maybe it is because we don’t ever visit with silence that we fear the worst, and then we think we are proven right when we finally sit quietly. Our thoughts go on tangents, seeking rabbit holes without our permission, and our feelings, having been stifled, seem to bring forth the most inconvenient emotions. Perhaps this happens because we never allow them to come out, we never give them a chance to run free. Like a dog kept in a cage or cows prevented from grazing, it is only natural for it to be awkward when finally given a voice, a chance at freedom. Perhaps that anxiety and depression that seems to coming knocking is actually our soul’s need for silence. It is our inner voice of our soul that is banging on the bars of the cage, begging for freedom.

I have only two rules when it comes to silence.

  1. What happens in silence, stays in silence. It need not be discussed, unless that is your desire. Forging your own relationship with the voice of your soul for the first time can look messy.  We may think strange things, or feel that anger that has been buried for years. We may have intrusive thoughts about what we said in jest to a friend or feel the grief from our grandmother passing decades earlier that we never fully felt. It gets better. If we ride out the wave of what happens when we allow ourselves to sit quietly, things will settle. We will begin to hear the music playing so beautifully from the silence of our surroundings.
  2. Be comfortable. No need to suffer in silence. Grab a blanket, a mug of hot tea, a glass of water with ice. Sit in a field of grass or lay in bed. Even driving can be a wonderful place for silence when we turn off the radio. I like to hear the silence with my morning coffee. It seems that if I do not sit first thing, I do not sit. Emails, errands, writing, cleaning, my son – all take precedent. When we don’t label it, or think that it has to be done in a certain way, silence feels like a warm bubble bath, both soothing and invigorating.

As much as I love the mindfulness movement, the encouragement to meditate, it has created an imaginary box, a way of doing something that puts many people off. Sitting in silence is not about setting a timer and closing our eyes, chanting or listening to our breath, unless it works for you. There is no time limit or method. It is just about sitting, in the way that feels most comfortable for you, and just being. You can write things down, or not. Focus on your breath or not. Close your eyes or leave them open. Go for a run. Garden. Bake.

What do you hear? Smell? Feel? Sense? 

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With my coffee this morning, as I sit, I can both, hear sounds I usually overlook and feel what lies beyond the silence. I hear my husband snoring from the other room, my dog breathing lightly, and the birds making  plans around the yard. I can feel the emptiness of my daughters’ rooms, and the anticipation of my son’s excitement waking on a Saturday morning, having no school. I sense the flowers on the deck making their final offering to the bees, before giving in to the cold and snow.

As I sit longer, the sounds continue. An alarm from a watch goes off for ten seconds. It calls to me from a distant room of the house, likely lost behind a dresser. The white noise from the environment increases in intensity, its energy pulling me into the remembering that so much is going on behind the scenes in our lives, that there is another world going on within our world. Ideas, plans, to do lists begin to elbow their way to the forefront. I greet their existence, and having been welcomed, they simply take a number and wait their turn for my attention. Body sensations become known – last night’s dinner having a rager, while cool water settle its rumblings.

The sounds of silence are never silent. It is filled with hope, sadness, passion, expectations and anticipation of what is to come. As it was sung, “Here my words and I might teach you. Take my arms that I might reach you. But my words, like silent raindrops fell. And echoed in the wells of silence.”

In the end, it is not my words that will teach, or another’s. But the walls within your own desire to sit within the silence and all you need to know will reveal itself to you. Your questions, desires, hopes and dreams. Don’t be afraid of the silence. It has everything you want and need. You just need to open the cage and walk out.When we welcome silence, it receives our invitation. As often as I forget, silence is always waiting, patiently. It will always invite me back no matter how many times I shun it, or put it off.

The world is your oyster. It is waiting for you. You just need to be quiet enough to hear it.

Please excuse all grammatical errors and typos. My editor is on a permanent vacation in the Bahamas.

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Suicide: Why I Never Did It.

GUEST BLOG POST:

I wanted to die.  Not out of anger or fear.  I just wanted the pain to go away. It was the only way I could imagine it would stop. End it! I didn’t just feel pain. I was pain itself – and it had to end.

I had some deep dark days dealing with childhood sexual abuse, a teenage rape and feelings of utter worthlessness.

I never actually physically attempted suicide.  But for many years the thought was never far from my mind.

What kept me from doing it?

In the beginning it may have been the Catholic faith I was raised in.  A part of me was hopeful, despite my deep depression. I was an optimist at heart.  I kept telling myself that maybe, it would get better.

Maybe, if I offed myself I would miss something really good that would make me feel happy and good about myself.  What if that good thing happened tomorrow and I would miss it by just one day?

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Maybe it was Rita Moreno.  I saw her on a talk show many years ago where she talked about her suicide attempt.  “If you ever feel like killing yourself just wait one day,” she said.

I always waited.

I found strong support through therapy, but the thoughts persisted. Suicide became a trusted escape hatch.  When the depression and anxiety felt too much to handle I could tell myself, I had a way out.  I was not trapped in this mess.  I could leave anytime I wanted.  I didn’t have to actually go down that chute, but if it was handy I would feel safe.

I was tired of the dark sameness of my life, but the idea of change was terrifying.

I was afraid to show who I was.  Exposure felt unsafe. Stay hidden or you will be abused, beaten, raped. But something in me wanted to emerge. I dared myself to break out. Step into the light. It felt like I would die if I stepped out even one inch. I was trapped there in that place between deep yearning and fear. It felt like I would die, if I did this, if I stepped out into the light. I realized this was a suicide. I would die this way. Not a physical death – but a jumping off the cliff into a new way of being.  A new expression of who I am.

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Since that first leap, I have had many suicides.  I confronted my abuser.  That was jumping off a scary cliff.  Years later, I forgave him.  That was an even bigger cliff.  I took on leadership positions at work. That was frightening – it was exposure. I might be a target for abuse – but I was not. Those leadership positions helped me discover a whole part of myself that was always there, but had kept hidden even from myself.

I jumped into relationships – some were successful, some, not so successful.  Jumping into them was a suicide – jumping out of them was a suicide.

I survived all of them.  The old Elaine was dead and the new one was there to live a new joyful life.

My favorite suicide has always been the last one — When I am still still basking in the afterglow after having taken a chance to expand into my sense of who I am.

My most favorite suicide is the next one.  I don’t yet know what that is. I eagerly await its revelation.  I will jump off that cliff with joy into a new me.

ELAINE OCASIO

 

When You Start Blaming, You Start Healing.

Why are we so afraid to blame others? Blame is calling people on their shit. It is putting the onus where it deserves. It is giving the shame back to the abuser, the rape back to the rapist, the battering back to the batterer. Blame is empowering. It is about getting angry, and saying, you did this. You don’t have to take ownership, but I am no longer blaming myself.

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At some point in my life, I made a promise that I would devote my life to helping others feel worthy, and this blog has evolved out of that promise. I made that promise because I spent so much of my life feeling the opposite – unworthy, ashamed, bad, and confused about why I felt this way. Perfectionism, achievements were my way out of this unworthiness, or so I thought. Wrong! We can become intellectually worthy, but that is not the same as truly feeling worthy.

Feeling worthy begins with getting honest, real, speaking the truth. Sometimes being inspirational is about lifting others up with a hand, and other times it is about keeping it real.

Today, I am going to get real. If it is too real for you, feel free to look away. But if you have ever felt less than, unworthy, deep down like you are not enough, then stay with me. Whether you have experienced exactly what I have or can just be helped in some way from my experience, read on.

I used to think being a good person was about being nice. Janet Straightarrow, a very wise woman once told me, that nice is just an acronym for:  Neurotic Insecure Codependent Emotional. Does not sound as appealing does it? Truth is being nice is not the same as being loving, having compassion or feeling through our heart. People pleasing often puts the pleasing away from us, and we are left feeling empty, hollow and wondering why we always come last.

Want to take back your life? Start blaming.

I know blame is taboo. I have heard it many times. “No,” they shout from the rooftops. “Don’t blame! Forgive.” Here is the thing.

If you feel unworthy, like you are not good enough, chances are you are already blaming; you are just blaming yourself.

Why are we so afraid to blame others? Blame is calling people on their shit. It is putting the onus where it deserves. It is giving the shame back to the abuser, the rape back to the rapist, the battering back to the batterer. Blame is empowering. It is about getting angry, and saying, you did this. You don’t have to take ownership, but I am no longer blaming myself. Someone is never responsible for our feelings, our reactions, but he is responsible for his actions. She is responsible for her abuse.

Why has blame become so taboo? The actual definition of blame is to assign responsibility for a fault or wrong. Why is putting the responsibility where it is deserves – wrong?

Blame is a necessary step in healing. Do you want to feel relief like you have never felt? Do you want to honor all you have experienced and then be able to let go of whatever you are holding on to? Want to watch anxiety and depression melt away like an ice cream cone on a hundred degree day? Get angry, put the blame back where it deserves. Write return to sender on the package that you mistakenly opened and thought was yours, and give it back. images-3

We jump to forgiveness because we are being nice – the good daughter, the cooperative friend, the submissive spouse – and it is hurting us on all levels. We have no idea what self-care, nurturing, or true feelings, look, feel, taste and smell like.

I was the ultimate champion for running away – I literally began running for miles and miles to escape the past, those unwanted feelings that seemed to creep in when I was least expecting. Here’s the thing, the run always ends. It all catches up with us – every last repressed feeling. I had always known there was something very wrong with how I felt growing up. I just didn’t know the extent to the trauma and abuse I endured. I am learning that now with the help of an amazing therapist, among other things.

I know I am not alone. I know there are those of you out there, who also have endured trauma and abuse – whether it was a one time occurrence or over the span of years. The #metoo movement is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is one hell of a start. Whether it was a single event, or repetitive, it is time to let yourself off the hook. Educate yourself. And if you are or know of someone who is struggling with the effects of abuse or a traumatic event, please seek professional help. Please email me. I have resources, and information to share.

As a waitress in college, there was an old saying, I am in the weeds. It describes how we would feel when the hostess used to sit three tables in our section at once. I am currently in the weeds because I am doing the work. I feel at the moment like the hostess has sat ten tables all in my section and they all want a five-course meal with drinks. Before we can have a beautiful rose garden, we must begin pulling our weeds.I just keep pulling the weeds out, one by one. I also ask for help. There are food servers, gardeners and managers – all waiting to help us. We don’t have to go it alone.

One of the greatest strengths of those of us who endured abuse is our ability to handle  anything. Whatever life has thrown at me, I have handled it. But we can handle a lot more when we stop blaming ourselves. When we rush to forgive the abuse, injustice, assault, the lashing out – whether it is an internet troll lurking behind the tree, ready to toss off an angry post or someone who is close to us, who we least expect, hurting us. It can be a grandiose boss who berates us on a conference call, a borderline friend, who puts us on a pedestal only to cut us down the next week. A possessive boyfriend, exploitive controlling parent, or a narcissistic coach.

We have been taught forgiveness is the key to moving on, letting go. Yes, this is true. But not before we do the work, not before we blame.We rush into forgiveness because blaming, getting angry is about getting dirty. And it can cause us to roll around in the mud for years. We want clean, tidy, perfectly wrapped presents, complete with a beautiful bow. We put that neatly wrapped present upon the shelf for years, hoping that is where it stays. Until someone comes into our life – someone who is kind, compassionate, unconditionally loving, and she looks at the present on the shelf and he points and says, what is that? And we say, Oh, that? It is nothing. 

It is time to open the box. Picking up the phone or sending that letter to whoever hurt us, may be a part of your healing, but that is not what I am talking about. It means giving ourself the green light to send it all back, to finally honor what we really feel. It is not about getting someone to admit what she did, but getting ourself to admit it. If you feel called to reach out to the person who caused you to wrap up your pretty box in the first place, do so, not for a response or an apology, do it for yourself.

Rushed forgiveness does not break the cycle. Rushed forgiveness is not healing. Healing begins with blame.

I could not possibly cover everything about the effects of a traumatic event or long-term abuse in this blog post, but I hope this will be a springboard, a start. You can heal. It takes strength, love and support, but you can do it. Please reach out for help. I will continue to inspire you to believe you are worthy, beautiful, smart and enough because it is the truth. But you must find the strength to do the work or my words will bounce off of you like rain pelting down upon an umbrella. It is time to dance in the rain.

Do the work, get into that discomfort zone, and you will find yourself gifted to everything you ever desired – peace, joy, love and the greatest inspirational feelings you can imagine. Life is a gift. If someone opened yours, and cast it aside, it is time to take your life back. After all, it was never his to take.

 

The Gift of Anxiety

Change is about becoming uncomfortable, but change also leads us to a life we have only dreamt about – a life of abundance, peace, joy and love.

 

Anxiety is tough, isn’t it? I get it. I’ve been there – many times. I don’t have it always, but when it comes on, I want to get rid of it, and fast. Like everything else, that affects our mental health, there are different levels of anxiety. There is acute panic symptoms which can be accompanied by sweating, increased heart rate, rapid breathing. Then there’s the long-term generalized anxiety – that uneasy feeling that seems to hang around more often than not, like termites gnawing at your insides. Anxiety can manifest as specific fears, which can be about anything. The two strangest I have heard of is:

  • Nomophobia: Fear of Being without Cellphones. 
  • Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: Fear of Long Words.

We are programmed from an early age to be fearful. “Don’t step on a crack, or you will break your mother’s back.” As we grow, we continue to hear messages of fear. We cannot turn on the news without some fearful message plastered across our computer or television.

But let’s go deeper. Let’s get personal. It has been my experience that all anxiety is a cover up, a warning, a message that something is lurking beneath the surface. Something is trying to get our attention. The more we resist, the more anxious we become.

Well before the feelings of anxiety erupt, the seeds of denial, avoidance or repression are planted. Seeds grow, and over time, and it is natural for the seed to want to break through the surface and find the sun. Whatever you are repressing from your awareness, trying not to think about or feel, is attempting to break through the surface.

When the seedling wants to find the light, it is like a pot of water, boiling, with a lid rattling against the top. If you remove the lid, the steam and bubbles are free to just be. But if you keep the lid on – it will rattle you to the core.

Whether you feel anxiety or fear, here is what has helped me. It is a process that involves 5 steps – changing your state, becoming curious, allowing what arises to be felt or known, surrendering, honoring your truth.

  1. Changing your state with gratitude – if you are busy focusing on what you are thankful for, you are giving your mind something to focus on other than fearful thoughts. I like to play the Gratitude Alphabet Game. I start with A, and think about all the things I am thankful for that begin with A. Then, I move to B, and so on. Somewhere along the way, I begin to feel calmer.
  2. I surrender control – anxiety and fears worsen, when we try to control, manage or stuff it down. It is like holding down the pot lid, when it wants to come off.
  3. Curiosity – anxiety and fear cannot coexist with curiosity. I ask my self what is it really about? Where in my body am I feeling the most anxious? What is behind this anxiety?
  4. Allowing – whether is it an awareness, memory of feeling, I let it come to me without judgment.

Here is the final step. I separate it because it has become the most important step for me to grasp.

5. I honor and love all of me – every quirk, feeling, thought, behavior; every weird bit of me.

Let me explain.

It was a few years ago, when my intuitive gifts began to emerge. I was talking with a woman who was telling me her dog was limping – that she thought she must have hurt her leg while chasing horses on their farm. I heard the words “She has Lyme Disease.” I said nothing because I thought it was strange and I had not idea why I thought that. I left without telling her what I heard. Over the course of the day, the anxiety began to build. It got so bad, it was not until I went back and told her what came into my mind that the anxiety dissipated and I felt calm and peaceful again. Turned out, her dog had Lyme.

This happened again and again. Images, thoughts, gut feelings, song lyrics, messages – kept coming into my awareness without my asking. Because I am stubborn, I kept resisting. I didn’t like them. I thought it was weird, and I didn’t want to be weird.

Eventually, I gave in. What I realized is, whether I like it or not, I am an empath. I can hear messages from beyond my body. I see images in my mind’s eye. I can feel someone who has already passed away and what they need me to hear. I have no idea where they are, but they sure have a lot to say. I can also feel what someone is feeling who is sitting beside me on the bus, or across the world. Like anxiety, I used to think my empathic abilities were a curse, now I know they are a blessing. It came down to a choice. Honor who I am, or feel anxious.

My advice is to let your feelings, thoughts, memories out! Say it, write it down, honor the truth. If you were not ready to hear it, feel it, know it, you would not be feeling anxious. Anxiety is always a gift. It encourages us to go inward, express ourself, feel and acknowledge our feelings and our true self.

Perhaps you can look at anxiety, as a gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) nudge. Change is about becoming uncomfortable, but change also leads us to a life we have only dreamt about – a life of abundance, peace, joy and love. Coming out with who we are, speaking the truth about our past and our self, feeling everything, promotes peace and well-being.

I used to pray to figure out my life’s purpose, why I was here. I didn’t expect to be an empath, a messenger. I was thinking it would be more like – opening up a coffee/book store, a business professional or serving drinks under a cabana on the beach.

Finding my purpose is where I have found peace. And anxiety got me there. Now, I am grateful to find, not the road less travelled, but the road I am meant to travel. And if we cross paths, do not forget to give me a high-five. I will be the one that keeps on walking, feeling, figuring out who I am, and why I am here. And just maybe I will also be the one serving drinks on the beach.