Living Your Best Life

My husband says I think too much. Perhaps he is right. I remember sitting in forth grade, the teacher scribbling math equations upon the blackboard. I don’t remember the lesson, as I was not paying attention. I was too busy thinking about life. I was asking myself questions: Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? I was also thinking about how I was late that day because I stopped to pet the cutest dogs, and was not unhappy about being tardy, even if the teacher reprimanded me.

Most of us do not have a clue about life, let alone what it means to live a great one. Some of us do not care. Living each day, doing what we are asked, is what matters. We are each on our own journey, which is perfect.

But I care. I cared in 4th grade and I care now. When looking up quotes about examining our life, I came across this beauty.

“Plato says that the unexamined life is not worth living. But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?” 
― Kurt Vonnegut

What does it mean to live your best life?

Does it mean spending your summers surrounded by 300 plus girls, running an overnight camp and ensuring they are all happy, safe and fulfilled? Becoming the CEO of a multi-million dollar company or opening that restaurant you have always wanted to do? Maybe living your best life involves traveling the world, obtaining odd jobs in various places, or choosing to stay at home, raising your children. Becoming a lawyer, doctor, landscaper or politician.

Living our best life is all of these, and none of these things. Whatever is in our path, we need to follow it. But this list, even if we added thousands more to it would be incomplete. For living our best life is not about what we do, but how we do it. Are we happy? Or are we in pain? Do we hop out of bed in the morning, ready to start our day or come home from the greatest job yet drink ourself into oblivion each night when we come home? Are we controlling, unhappy and abusive or open, compassionate and unconditionally loving?

Do we serve our customers with a smile or scowl?

Life is stressful, for almost all of us. We have bills to pay, a family to care for, relationships to navigate, rules to follow, teenagers to worry about, and then we have all the baggage we take with us from childhood. All of us, even those that come from the happiest and most loving of families have baggage.

The ones that travel light, with only a carry on, can sling it over their shoulder, go about their life, feeling satisfied and loving to most people. Their bag easily fits beneath the seat in front of them and they move about the cabin spreading their good cheer. Sure there are a few things in their backpacks. That awful teacher that embarrassed her in the 7th grade. That girlfriend that cheated on him in college. For the most part, life is good, and a person who travels light can manage the ups and downs in life, and are living a good life.

The ones that have a set of luggage, matching nonetheless, but heavy, bulky, with zippers threatening to break, will find it more difficult to travel, move effortlessly through life. They always have to pay for each bag, and need to put more thought into moving from place to place. Often frustrated, sometimes angry at the weight of all the stuff they are carrying around, they look around with envy at those with carry ons. Perhaps they should ask for help with all their bags, they are thinking, but everyone else is too busy, carrying their own bags, managing their own life. For the most part, life is difficult, and this person with additional baggage finds it hard to manage the ups and downs of life, and often do not feel like they are living a good life.

No matter what we are carrying around, in order to feel lighter, less weighed down, we must open our bags. We need to take out the pieces, ask ourself if we need all that we are blindly lugging around each and every day. All of us carry around items we no longer need, although mostly, we don’t remember what we even packed.

What do we do about our baggage?

We cannot just drop its contents in the street, hoping someone will throw it out for us. And we cannot force someone to carry our bags, for that is like throwing our pain on someone else. Then without thinking, we are online, cursing at someone we don’t know, or worse, taking it out on someone we are meant to love. We may even hurt ourself, the weight of our baggage too much to carry. Our shoulders droop, our back hurts and our legs weaken.

We can do it ourself, unzip that first bag, no matter how much we dread looking inside, or better yet, ask for help from someone with a carry on. Asking another person, lugging their 5 pieces of matching luggage will not work, as they are too burdened.

Once we open our bags, and see what’s inside, there are many, many things we may have forgotten we packed. Slowly, we take out our first item, hold in our hands for a few minutes, or longer if necessary. Then we toss it. That was not too bad as our items on top feel easiest to let go of. Our next item may bring us to tears, and the ones buried deeply, we may not want to let go of at all.

Within out bags, we may find lost love, missed opportunities, failures, mistakes, disappointments and losses. Or we may find toxic people, coupled with abuse and trauma. We may feel doubt and fear as we go through our bags. Denial will arise as we tell ourself it is better to just zip this back up. We may even realize that we never even packed our bags. Someone else put their stuff in our bags! It takes courage and strength to go through our baggage, to reach for that lightness and greatness that is all of ours to live, feel and know. We will become uncomfortable, once we begin lightening our load. We may want to run back and stuff our bags, as it was heavy, but it was familiar. But we cannot. Once we unload our bags, we cannot put our things back inside. We simply won’t want to.

Knowing peacefulness, joy, gratitude; finding enlightenment, living a great life, feeling unconditionally loving to all, does not mean we do not have a carry on. We are human, and we all have something that we carry with us through life. It is far easier to rest a backpack nearby as we drink in the beauty of a sunset or a wildflower than a five piece set of matching luggage.

Don’t wait. Go through your bags now. Feel your pain. Air out your grief, shame, guilt and anger. You will feel lighter, freer, and able to travel light. You will be able to release your need for control, rigidity. Anxiety will lessen and depression, the spaces you may feel as you lighten your load will allow you the breaks you need to process. Your envy will become gratitude. And your inner knowing will blossom. You will lose weight and release that addiction. Spontaneity will emerge along with a balance of well thought out planning. You will laugh harder and longer. You will find love in another, walking side by side, supporting each other through the challenges and joys of your days, without being triggered by past wounds. You will forgive yourself for carrying so much luggage around in the first place.

You are now, living your best life. Where you will be going, you can never imagine. Just know, it will be beautiful whether it is raining or sunny. Whether you sit in first class or coach, you will feel grateful.

Although the gifted Kurt Vonnegut fears the clunker life, I believe the only “klunker life” is the unexamined life I believe we must continue moving forward, get on to our purpose and do that. For all of us to know why we are here, what we are meant to do and become, to live our best life, we must lose our baggage.

If you like Alternative Perspective, you will love my co-authored book, Living Beyond Fear, coming soon to Amazon, and fine book stores. These Sacred Letters, stories about life and death, will take you on a journey that is healing and inspiring.

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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!

 

 

 

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 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

The Illusion of Control

Control is an illusion.

There, I said it. There is no such thing as control. We have no more control over what happens in our lives than we have over the sun rising and setting. We may convince ourselves of the opposite so we can rise in the morning and go about our day without worrying that we will fall victim to a drunk driver coming home from a bar or a tree branch falling upon as during a walk along a wooded trail. We convince ourselves we have control because this keeps us from going down the rabbit hole of what if’s.

It also ties us down, binds us to become small instead of limitless. We convince ourselves we are living a wonderful fulfilling life, when in actuality we are hiding within the confines of our mind.

We give control such power, and yet it still defies us. Things in life happen anyway. Whether we brace ourself or not, the unexpected occurs because that is why we are here – for the experience. It is not to have only good things, wonderful easy moments. Life lessons are hard, but that is how we grow.  This false notion of control keeps us from living our truest life; one that frees us to follow our intuition, heart and dreams.

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In truth, the more we let go of control, the freer we become.

My illusion of control was shattered when the stillbirth of my son, fourteen years ago life came crashing down upon me. For years following this devastating life event, I felt unsafe, unprotected. I knew anything bad could happen at anytime. Truth is, I was no more vulnerable after the loss of my son than before. I just thought I was because I was forced to confront the illusion of control.

Each time my husband was late, I would panic. Every moment my daughters went out to play in the yard, I would need to go with them. I had thought keeping a close watch on my loved ones would keep them from leaving me, leaving a pain, a hole in my heart, so deep, it could never be filled.

It didn’t work. Soon I began to feel worse. Anxious, fearful and depressed.

Traumatic events, unexpected loss, diagnosis, accidents, job loss, divorce, even natural endings of life’s stages all challenge our notion of control. Sometimes the illusion of control hits us over our head, other times, it can feel like a punch in the gut. It may even show up as a simple detour on our way to work.  Whether you get knocked over, or just feel annoyed by inconvenience, it is how soft you are, how flexible, how permeable, that will determine how soon you get back up. Let life move through you. Sit within the discomfort, become lost within the depth of grief, and it will pass. Eventually everything will move through you, if you don’t dig your heels in the dirt, or grip tightly to your surroundings.

In my darkest out, grasping onto control began to feel like nails on a blackboard. I knew it was no way to live. I had to reach beyond circumstance and begin to trust life again.

But how?

Just feel.

It is that simple. I had to move from my head to my heart.

We must grieve deeply, if life brings us loss. We must allow ourself to feel scared if we become afraid. The only way out is through the mud. Otherwise we risk getting stuck in quicksand.

We must give up our notion that nothing bad is supposed to happen, and release our expectations of what is to come. This is how we move through whatever life brings with a lightness in our step, nor matter how heavy our hearts.

Just feel.

I love to listen to music. For me, this is quickest way for me to get in touch with what I am feeling. It bypasses my mind, and goes right to my heart. You know what works for you. Maybe it’s music or writing. Watching a sad movie. Singing, dancing, pounding pillow, walking in nature. Do whatever it takes to feel your way back from your head to your heart.

Opening your heart is where you will find freedom. Anxiety will dissipate, depression will lift, and you will know what it is like to live within the magic and miracles of life.

Feeling is the pathway out of the illusion of control, and into the glorious wonder of life.

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

 

 

LAUGHTER (AND A WATER BOTTLE OF VODKA) HELPED ME LET GO OF MY COLLEGE DAUGHTER

They said the second time around was going to be easier. They said that having another empty room would encourage me to fill my time with things I love.

Problem is, I love my daughter, and now she is gone.

I admit it. Another daughter, barely off to college, and I was wallowing. Unprepared for the mess, I choke on my last sip of coffee. Not that I expected her to clean up her room before she left. It was a whirlwind final week picking up last minute pharmacy items, closing bank accounts, printing out pictures, triple checking her packing list (well my packing list).

My daughter was not an organized person, often with her head in the clouds. This is what I have always loved about her. Yet, standing in her room now, feels like I have walked onto a battlefield, the remains of her eighteen years strewn mercilessly across the floor.

From inside her closet, cleats caked with mud from her last varsity soccer game call out to me. I move in to get a closer look. Like it was yesterday, I recall my own excitement playing soccer, the scars I used to collect upon my body like battle wounds. How did we get here so quickly?

On the floor, a clump of mud momentarily irritates me. All those times I had asked to leave her muddy cleats in the garage, and the same number of times I was ignored. Teenage rebellion. Or was it simply distraction that led her to defy my requests – cell phones and boys did that to her.

Turning away from her t-shirts, each holding a memory of summer camp, road trips and sports teams, I walk back to her bed where her bookcase headboard resembles a display of offerings at a second hand rummage sale. Old nail polish, eight bottles; half of them dried and caked. An unwrapped newly bought phone case and a half used bottle of saline nasal spray rests upon a notebook filled with rainy day doodles.

Dumping this, tossing that. I gain the courage to look behind her bed. Among a mess of garbage, I find her promposal poster and recall her pale shoes offsetting her blood red dress. Undeveloped prom pictures sit idle on my cell phone, reminding me of all my unfinished to do lists. Perhaps I will get to them later today, or next year.

For now, I am too busy hearing the laughter, recalling the feeling of prom night with its fairy tale moments. How we so often measure time in seemingly endless nights, thinking it will never end.

I have had enough – wallowing, and cleaning. I am about to leave it all a mess when I stumble over something.

On the floor, I pick up my favorite drawstring bag – borrowed and never returned. I sling it across my back, taking with it the contents of two half filled water bottles and a few hair bands. On my way out, I catch a glimpse above her door of the bumper sticker she had bought freshman year of high school.

“Do Something Amazing.”

While brewing a much needed second cup of coffee, I click on our latest string of text messages. How could she forget so many things? Today I am thankful for social media and my daughter. In her memory, as the ultimate recycler, I open and begin dumping the water into the plant. Proud of myself, I think, I’m not wasting water, Lia.

As it empties, a familiar smell begins to permeate the air. I stop pouring, albeit way too late. I would know that smell anywhere. At a fraternity house, late night bar crawl, or just before the last song at a wedding.

Stale alcohol.

In this moment, I have two thoughts. I can’t believe I have just watered my plant with a vodka filled Dasani bottle. And, can plants get drunk? #AskingForAFriend

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My son, barely ten years old wanders into the room as I am wiping away my tears of laughter. I glance at the plant. I could swear it just hiccupped. I wonder if it will sing bad Karaoke or drink and dial. Maybe it will just sit and chat for hours about nothing, and everything. I hide the lampshades nearby, just in case.

“What’s so funny, mom?”

Yes, I still have him keeping me honest, as that is one of his strengths, to tell it like it is. I dump the rest of the vodka/water bottles in the sink, and toss a bottle of Advil near the plant, just in case. As I walk the half-filled black garbage bag out to the street, I notice I feel better.

Laughter is the best medicine.

While it doesn’t feel right tossing her life memories, I know these are just things. I welcome the cliché that I will carry her laughter in my heart, feel her bear hugs on my skin and bring up the image in my mind of her blond curls and dimpled smile whenever I choose.

Glancing upward, I notice the sun’s stark contrast moving out the last bit of black cloud above my head. Yes, I think I will be just fine.

That night, I sit by my plant – just in case. I mean who will hold back her leaves if need be? No need for cranberry juice. We share a toast with the rest of the watered down vodka from our liquor cabinet.

After all, today, I did something amazing. Through tears and laughter, I let my daughter go.

This post was also published on Grown & Flown, group blog.

“The Birds are Mad at Me.” Tales of an Empath’s Life.

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This morning, while enjoying my first coffee, I looked outside and noticed the bird feeders were empty.

Crap.

I totally got caught up in my daughter leaving for college, the latest Netflix series, and you know, eating and other life stuff.

If it sounds like an excuse, it is.

I’m thinking what you’re thinking, is it my job to take care of the birds? Unless it actually is my job, and I am getting paid to feed the birds, the answer is no. Still, they’re helpless creatures and in a roundabout way, I signed up for the job because I put up the bird feeder.

Grabbing the bird seed bag, I hastily filled each feeder, and sent the birds a silent apology. After a few minutes, I peeled myself away from the trees and walked into the bathroom where my husband was shaving. “The birds are mad at me. I haven’t fed them in weeks. I filled the feeder this morning but they’re not coming by to eat.” I looked up at my husband who was now brushing his teeth.

“Birds don’t think like that, honey.” He smiled at me, but also peered in closer to see if I was serious.

I was serious. And yet, I wasn’t.

I knew the birds weren’t mad at me, but when you’re an empath, you feel everything. And sometimes, without realizing, you project.

In other words, someone, somewhere was mad at someone and I picked up on it.

I don’t remember when I first felt that someone was angry. It could have been yesterday, or last week. It could have been a second ago. And I didn’t realize it.

What we take in, needs to come out.

And when we’re not aware, it comes out in a whole bunch of strange ways, like me and the birds.

There’s a benefit to staying awake as an empath. Like a tick: if you find it within 24 hours, you’ll probably be okay. In other words, if you catch it, name what you’re feeling, or move through it—it ends fairly quickly and innocently. If you don’t, and it builds, it can wreak havoc both emotionally and physically.

A spiritual teacher once told me, “As an empath, you need to take out the trash.”

This is why a mindfulness practice for empaths becomes just as important as a healthy diet.

It is not just empathic adults who need to know what it means to be an empath. Many children are empaths and have no idea.

My son, often distracted in school, is exhausted when he returns home. He has been feeling for everyone else—all day, every day. He has no idea why. He just feels and releases. It’s why he goes into the woods as soon as he comes home. He unwinds with the salamanders and frogs. It calms him. He also likes dim lights, soft music, and time alone.

I’m the same, although I can do without the amphibians.

It’s also why we live on six acres and I work from home. As an empath, being around people can be exhausting. We can feel like rubber balls being bounced around by other’s emotions. We don’t know that it’s happening until one day, you look up and think the birds are mad at you. And you realize that something else must be going on. You’re too smart to think the birds are really mad. You know if you wait a little longer, they will begin feeding.

So you laugh at yourself, often.

And you spend time alone.

And you avoid the news.

And you make it daily habit to name what you’re feeling, and you ask often if it’s yours or someone else’s. And you begin to get used to not knowing why you’re feeling whatever it is you are feeling. And it starts to not matter.

And you even laugh, if you can, at some of the labels you and many other empaths have unknowingly taken on: depressed, anxious, ADHD, ADD, paranoid, phobic, introvert, and agoraphobic.

And you think, if they only had one label for all empaths it would be ESEP, Energy Sensitive Empathic People or ESEC, Energy Sensitive Empathic Children.

And you hope one day that all empaths will realize what is going on, and know that being empathic is a gift, not a curse. That being sensitive can have its perks.

You hope that others can see how empaths are helping others—by feeling the feelings for them.

And that spending time alone can lend itself to an active imagination, creative endeavors, and the time for self-reflection, a necessary and often eye-opening part of a life journey.

So the next time you think someone is mad at you, stop and think about the birds.

And then let it go.

After all, it was never yours to keep.

This article was also published on Elephant Journal. You can find it here.

 

 

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.