How to Respond when Tragic, Awful, Overwhelming Sh*t Happens in Life.

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I remember seeing this saying on a bumper sticker and loving it. I have always felt its accuracy in describing life.

Today, when I scan the news and take in the problems of the world, I find myself repeating these profound words—shit happens.

It is true. Shit happens all the time and everywhere.

While opening my news app this morning, the first thing I read was a tragic death—a head-on collision involving two moms and six kids in Oregon. Nobody survived, including the driver who caused the accident.

As I looked up from my phone, I could feel the darkness, the rabbit hole egging me on to jump in. In that moment, I had a choice. I could continue reading through the problems of our world, or I could look up, take in the beautiful sky welcoming the traces of clouds dancing by, birds flying between trees, the sun shining upon the green grass, the innocence of children, so filled with love, and how it is a miracle just to be alive.

We all have a choice. We can concentrate on the shit or the miracles, dwell in the darkness or the light. It is all out there for the noticing—the miracles and the shit.

I am only so readily able to do this, to forgo the negative, because of how often I used to dwell there. Still, I slip, I forget, and I get lost in a problem or a tragedy. It is an old pattern—to become entrenched in fear or worry—and it is something I have observed in my parents, as well as so many others.

Focusing on the miracle, while becoming gracious and humble, is also a pattern that we can cultivate.

I am certain that, if we thought we had a choice, we would all choose to focus on the miracles. Yet, we believe we have no choice. We think we have to blindly follow the news reports, allow our minds to wander down the rabbit holes of worries and what-ifs, and accept the conditioning that was handed to us as if it were truth.

We have a choice.

It was over two years ago that a miracle was brought into my life. It was so blatant that I could not have missed it if I tried. It changed everything for me. It was the moment I knew I had a choice and that I was not victim to the news reports or my conditioning.

It was 4 p.m. The day was unusually hot for the beginning of summer. The phone rang. As a parent, picking up the phone and hearing your child in tears and unable to speak fills you with panic. With my own heart in my throat, I asked what was going on. In between sobs, my daughter was trying to give me the pieces of a story, one that included an ambulance, a child, and a beautiful afternoon at a lake turned horrific in the blink of an eye.

The story, which I finally got out of my daughter, began like any other summer afternoon. Many families had gathered by the lake for a few hours of fun, swimming, and barbecue. My daughter was there babysitting a three-year-old girl.

As they were getting ready to swim, a mother came screaming by the edge of the water—she could not find her seven-year-old boy. It seemed he had disappeared, and they feared the worst—that he had wandered into the water.

The first miracle: fire department first responders happened to be at the beach that day. Along with a nurse and lifeguards, they all sprung into action, combing the lake.

Almost 10 minutes had passed when the second miracle happened. One of the responders accidentally stepped on the boy, who was facedown in five feet of water, unconscious. They performed all necessary medical procedures and rushed him off to the hospital. Things did not look good.

“He drowned! I saw them pull him from the lake,” my daughter’s words rang in my head for days as I obsessively scanned the obituaries and the local news. I found nothing. Her sadness cut deep into my heart.

Tragedy, death, and accidents are the shit that happens, and as parents we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this dark reality of life. We know it happens, but we just want to keep our distance for as long as possible. We want to fill everyone we know up with cotton candy, laughter, and bear hugs. We want to keep them safe and happy.

Yet, life is unexpected, and we cannot control what happens to us or to others. We can hope and pray that our loved ones are safe, that we don’t witness the shit, but sooner or later it is right in front of us. We hear about a famous actor committing suicide, a cancer diagnosis, or a teen passing on from a car accident. But death is a part of life, whether we think about it or not. We cannot protect anyone from the shit.

And maybe the point isn’t to try to control and protect. Perhaps the point is how we respond and how we choose to spend our time. We can choose to love, see the miracles when they are brought into our lives, dwell in gratitude instead of misery, and allow ourselves to feel through the shit when it happens.

Four to six weeks after that call from my daughter, she took off on a three-week trip to Tanzania. Her heart was still aching for that boy, but her zest for travel and discovery was healing the sadness and carrying her on. On a whim, I texted the family she had been babysitting for that fateful day, asking if they had heard anything further about that boy. I received this response: “If you talk to Lia, tell her the boy survived. No brain damage at all. A true miracle. His name is Nicholas.”

We have all heard the saying that bad things come in threes. So do miracles.

We all have a choice to stop, breathe, notice, and make a different choice. It takes practice, but it is possible. Whenever I find myself pulled into the messiness of life, the darkness and the void of the rabbit hole, I think of Nicholas, and my heart opens.

Life is beautiful and amazing, and Nicholas is a wonderful reminder of the miracles that happen every day in life.

Shit does happen, but not always. If we’re keeping score, there are far more happy moments, amazing sights, incredible acts of courage, loving connections, and even miracles in life.

The next time we find ourselves looking down into that rabbit hole of worry or fear, we can look up, consider whether we want to focus on the shit or the miracles, and remember Nicholas. I do.

My post was originally published on Elephant Journal. As it has been placed in the most popular posts section, I wanted to share it with my blogging audience. Thank you to Elephant Journal for editing and sharing. Here is the original post: 

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/08/how-to-respond-when-tragic-awful-overwhelming-sht-happens-in-life/

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How Crying in a Bathroom Stall Can Change your Life.

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This story begins with a women’s experience, which turns out, is also mine. We are all connected, more than we realize. As you read this post, see if you can also see yourself in her. If not, perhaps your story is still unwritten.

This woman, on the very first day of her corporate job, one where had been given a six-figure salary, the task of overseeing a large department and managing multi-million dollar budgets, found herself hiding in a bathroom stall, crying. It seems the life she had been leading, all she had been working towards – the degrees, the promotions, the awards – came crashing down upon her. In that moment, she had no way of knowing that everything in her life was about to change for the better.

It would be a cool story, had she walked out of that New York high-rise that afternoon, but life isn’t about being cool, and neither is this blog. Change often takes time, and it took many more moments in the bathroom stall for her to find her voice.

How we had met was many years later, when she had asked me to write her a speech on Women Finding Their Voice. In preparation for my writing her speech, she told me her story, and how she had left her corporate job in order to pursue her passion – photographing women who life had beaten down. Women who didn’t look or feel good about themselves. Some were overweight, or fighting their way out of an abusive marriage, others had cancer. Through email, I learned how she had ignited her passion for photography, while also finding a way to make a difference for others. What seemed like an end, that moment in the stall, was actually a beginning. Along with her tears that morning, came a soothing ache of relief, a gift, a door opening. The first step she would take in a series of steps in finding her voice.

Due to unforeseen circumstance, she never did make it to that speech, but perhaps life had orchestrated our meeting just for me – and for you. To open my eyes to the path I was indeed walking in my own life, my own journey in finding my voice. Through her story, I had come to realize that finding my passion in writing, something that would lift me every day, while hoping to make a difference for someone else, began with many of my own moments in a bathroom stall.

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The steps she had taken that led her out of that bathroom stall, were ones I too had taken. Today, I share them with you. For sometimes we need to take the road less travelled, and other times, simply trace another’s footsteps in the sand.

As you read through these steps, please keep in mind that in finding our voice, our steps are fluid, as we can often skip or repeat steps along the way, moving forward and backward like a childhood game of hopscotch. Inevitably, whether we walk gracefully or clumsily stumble through these five steps, when we follow our hearts, we will find our voice.

The following five steps are simple, but not necessarily easy:

  1. Seek out your feelings. Our emotions always tell us the truth – sometimes whispering, often shouting at us. These are our bathroom stall moments. Take time to think about about your work, or your life. Does thinking about your day create feelings of joy or dread? When we begin to take notice of how we feel, we start to see the truth, to hear what is in our heart. When we follow our hearts, we find ourselves not at the end, but at the beginning of our story.
  2. Release Others’ Expectations. As we peel back the layers of our longings that linger beneath our skin, we often find a voice that is not our own. For many of us, our accomplishments have been driven by others’ expectations of us. Our stories of our higher education, financial success, the success of our children, can stem from a hidden need for approval. Releasing expectations is about not only releasing personal expectations about what we should do, but about what we think the world expects of us. It begins with the question, who am I doing this for and ends with what am I doing for myself? It continues with separating the voices of those we have known, from our own voice. We can meet every definition of the word success, except the one that matter to us. Success goes far beyond degrees, responsibilities and money.
  3. Find your passion. Unearthing your passion is not easy, but when you find it, it will feel like magic! Someday, you will be at the end of this wonderful life, and what will you find? Did you live your life for you? Did you follow your heart? Close your eyes, and think of something you love to do, that you would do for free. Start there. What makes you happy? As you take your last breath on this earth, what do you want to leave behind, and be proud of? This is the key to finding your passion. You will know you have stumbled upon it, by the excitement you feel, the joyful and peaceful feelings that emerge.
  4. Become courageous. This can be the most challenging step. Yet, when we reach deep within ourselves, finding the courage and taking a leap of faith with our passion, we are often rewarded. Give yourself a time limit, but don’t adhere to it. Set a goal but be willing to change it. Just begin doing what you love, and the rest will fall into place. Courage takes sacrifice, determination and pushing through adversity. As your courage grows, your passion grows, and this wonderful cycle continues.
  5. Share your Voice. Once you follow the other four steps, you will need to share your voice with the world. As you walk beyond the threshold of this fear, the life you have always wanted will begin to naturally unfold in front of your eyes. Resist the temptation to run back and hide. While many believe they have a fear of failure, it is often a fear of success. When everything you have been waiting for, that life you only imagined living, begins to take shape in front of your eyes, breath, say thank you. Remind yourself, you are worth it.

The first time I opened up to my voice, when Elephant Journal agreed to publish my article, I felt both disbelief and pride, joy and fear. Within twenty-four hours I had almost 50,000 views. My article had touched a chord about special needs children, and it was because it came from my truth, my voice. Not every article finds that success, but I have come to realize, the ones that I create from honesty and vulnerability, intimacy and truth, find their way more often into others’ hearts and Facebook pages.

I urge you to go out and find your voice. To listen to the gentle whispers of your heart, and follow it. To uncover and release any expectations that are not your own. To uncover your passion, reach for that courage and unleash your voice onto the world.

We can wake up each morning, and go through our days, never finding our voice, knowing the sun will continue to rise and fall. Or we can step out of our comfort zone, follow our hears and leave our mark on this world.

 

Please excuse all grammatical errors and typos. My editor is permanently on vacation.

 

 

I Met God at the Juice Bar.

 

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I never expected to find God when I went to the juice bar.

As I approached the counter, the man behind the abundance of fruit and vegetables looked up at me. “Hi,” he smiled, maintaining a daringly long eye contact. Smiling, I looked away shyly. Eye contact is so rare these days, it almost felt like it burned. “What is your name?” After I told him my name, he apologized. “I know you were in here the other day, and I am so sorry that I didn’t remember your name.” He remembered I was here? He continued looking me in the eye, addressing me by my name before wishing me an amazing day. Somewhere along the way, I slipped my phone into my pocket. His attention, kindness made me want to give back that connection, that respect. I waited for my juice – observing my surroundings, chatting with another woman.

I walked out feeling different. Connected.

What just happened? 

God.

There was a time I did not believe in God. I felt alone, separate. We often sit alone in our pain, thinking we are the only ones. But if we look around, that pain is everywhere. It is all one click away on social media or the news. It seems people are either talking about their pain, or giving the impression that everything is perfect. Then we hear about another suicide and we know the truth. If they could have said the words, “I am so much pain.” Would things have turned out differently?

All those people in pain, unable to give a voice, or better yet, to feel it, in all its raw gut wrenching agony. Instead, hurt people continue to hurt people, or themself. When pain, hatred, intolerance, rears it ugly head, we can wonder where is God in all of this? When bad things happen to good people, we often think God has forgotten about us.

It is too simple an explanation that when darkness and evil rest upon this earth, or knocks on our door, that God has abandoned us. When bad things happen, it does not mean, God is absent. I see God not in the tragedy of someone’s blind rage, the separation of an act of violence, but in others compassion that follows. Just as we hold each other in our darkest hour, or rise up against the oppressed, we can find God, not in the heinous act, but in the aftermath. I see God, not in the dirty dishes that pile up in the sink, but in the grace of the clean running water that helps clean up the mess.

I believe no matter what, God has our back. God is there, directing, guiding, often gently,  sometimes abruptly, prying open our hearts. I see it that we all have a personal plan, a guideline, a route mapped out before we come into our life. As if we are in New Jersey and are meant to go to California before we die. Which road we take, what method of transportation, how long it takes to get there, is in our hands. Do we camp out beneath the stars, or sleep beneath satin sheets within the comfort of a hotel. We make those choices. There are many paths we can take, and they are all out there, as possibilities. We will get there. Some of us will get there quickly, others will take a lifetime. On our trip, we will experience loss, joy, laughter and love.

In writing about God, I received the image of a person who sits in front of a huge network of switches, knobs and dials. It reminds me of the technology used for producing songs in a studio. God is there, turning up the volume on something, switching off something else – based on our choices, relationships, our intentions, interactions, insights and our divine plan. We can co-create our journey, we can make decisions. But God is also at work, directing through coincidences, synchronicities and seemingly meaningless interactions.

We just need to show up. Be present and look for the signs, even if we do not intuitively know what we are to do, or where we are meant to go. Everything is here to move us to a higher awareness, opening. Every challenge is a gift. It’s all in the way we receive it and incorporate it into our life.

We all have a purpose, and there is God in all of us. One person may serve juice, another directing planes for safe landing. One may reside homeless, searching for their next meal, another living within a newly erected castle with Italian inspired designer marble columns.

It is does not matter how we get there, how we find God. It can happen in an instant or across lifetimes. We can be reminded we are not alone at a juice bar or at a football game, In church, or gliding along a lake with the sun shimmering upon its glass like image.

If you have never seen or felt God, look closer. Peer into those hidden nooks and crannies, choose door number three or just become quiet and ask God to send you a sign, and to make it obvious.

God is here. God was here all along. Whether, life turns our world upside down, or we had to order a juice, to be reminded. God is everywhere, and we are never alone.

 

 

 

 

 

HERE ARE 10 WAYS FOR TIRED MOMS OF TEENS TO FIND THEIR ENERGY AGAIN

I have seen many posts out there about how tired moms are and I felt the urge to write about self-care. This is not me giving you advice while standing on a pedestal. This is me saying I get it, I’ve been there. Let me share with you what I have done that has helped me feel less tired, but also what I’m still working on today. This is me letting you off the hook because as moms, we rarely do this for ourselves.

Here are the top 10 ways that help me to become less tired.

1). Saying NO.

Yes, an oldie but a goodie. I know, you have heard this so many times before. But there is nothing more empowering and invigorating than saying no. Whether it is to your teenage son who wants to go away for the weekend and spend money you just don’t have or your husband who wants a four-course meal when you want to order in pizza or a friend who wants to go to lunch. Just say no! No explanation needed. The funny thing about saying no is that it helps you to have enough energy to say yes next time.

2). Cutting yourself off from toxic people.

This can be a friend, a relationship or a parent. Toxic people are energy vampires and those who create drama, are super competitive or are just not supportive, are draining our energy whether we know it or not. Cut the cord! It may be uncomfortable at first, but you will see your energy start to come back in spades.

10 ways for moms to feel a new sense of energy

3). Let go of the “Super Mom” image.

I hate whoever created the Super Mom image. Ok, hate is a strong word, but I strongly despise whoever decided we should do it all, and with a smile and perfect hair. YUCK! No thank you. Give me black leggings with a hole in them and the notion that being imperfect is being human.

4). Celebrate small.

If you want to throw an elaborate graduation party, inviting half the school- go for it. Some people do enjoy entertaining. But if you are tired, and trying to remember if you even ordered your senior’s cap and gown (me), then it is ok to celebrate small. Bigger is not always better.

5). Pat yourself on the back.

This is my pat on the back for you. We just don’t do this enough for ourselves. Make a list of all the great things you have done for your family. Read it daily. We all need a reminder.

6). Me time.

I have always needed me time. I decided long ago, I would take it. If I didn’t Mr. Hyde would emerge, and my husband would look at me with that knowing look in his hide. He would utter, “Honey, why don’t you take an hour to go do something fun? And please bring back Dr. Jekyll – that possessed look in your eyes is scaring me.”

The key for me was not only taking me time, but also letting go of the guilt. “Me time” includes watching a funny movie, a show on Netflix, a walk by myself, a glass of wine, a soft ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles (substitute any topping).

7). Gratitude.

Nothing invigorates me more than reciting what I am grateful for. It is a great way to change our mood, and let go of things that just don’t matter – especially worries that drain us.

8). Vacation.

For some time, my husband and I decided we would forgo vacations. We knew college was coming, and so was the need to have an excessive amount of money on hand, for our children to live somewhere else in order to drink excessively. Ok, I know that is not the reason they go to school – I hope you can hear the sarcasm in my voice – I must need a vacation!

Do not forgo these – whether you take a weekend or a week. When you just get away – it works to energize us. Often changing our location, changes our state, which changes our energy.

9). Have a good cry.

Sometimes it can happen organically, other times, we need to bring it on. Put on a sad song or even better, put on the Notebook (actually any Nicholas Sparks movie will do). Crying relieves so much tension, which gives us more energy.

10). Ask for help.

Ouch! I know. Many of us are not used to doing this – asking for help. I used to do it in a round about whining, nagging sort of way that did not work. It usually backfired. Now, I sit down, and ask for someone’s attention. I look them in the eye, and let them know how I am feeling. That I need help. Every time I do this, it works. They didn’t feel nagged upon, and I felt my energy come back like I was sucking up air from a pump.

I hope at least one of these things will work for you. You deserve to feel less tired and enjoy your life 100% no matter what you have going on. You matter.

 

Originally Featured on Grown & Flown – Where Parenting Never Ends. You May Find the link here.

 

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.

 

One Spoonful, One Single Act of Kindness

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It was 1977. I was scared, but I knew I was in a good place. Surrounded by 10 other girls my age, I was just dropped off at summer camp for the first time. I was a shy, but athletic kid. I could overcome my social awkwardness by kicking one of those slightly squishy oversized red balls over the heads of the most hopeful of outfielders. Always, I was the first picked for any teams, and the fastest runner. Yet, none of my strength or speed helped that late morning, when I first stood at the foot of my bed, watching many of the other girls, laughing and reuniting from last summer.

It was a moment of relief, when one of my counselors walked over to me, sensing how I was feeling. “I’m Gina,” she said, pointing to her name tag. I smiled, shyly. “Come on, let’s go meet the other girls.” I let her lead me over to the group, still feeling awkward, but joining in a game of jacks. By the end of the morning, I was already feeling better, thanks to Gina. At that moment, I could not know that 10 days later, Gina would reach out to me again, in the moment I would need it most.

As a former recruiter, I know you can only find so much about a person before you hire them. You ask questions, scan resumes, but in the end you must make assumptions that you hope are right. Most of the time, you get it right – but not always. Some people look good on paper or over the phone, but do not end up being the best fit for a job. Others – you don’t realize just how good they are. That summer at camp, I had both. An incredible counselor, Gina, and a less than optimal one, Nancy.

It was about 10 days into camp (so 10 months), and we were all sitting around our dining table. Servers, who were also bunkmates, were moving back and forth, bringing bug juice, cups, plates, and whatever dinner was prepared that evening. I was a picky eater. No worries. There was always peanut butter and jelly on the table – my favorite.

Dinner that night was some sort of meat. I think it was pot roast -not my favorite. I went to reach for the peanut butter and jelly, the loaf of soft white bread, glistening against the wooden table. Nancy stopped me in my tracks, “No!” She uttered, grabbing my hand. Nancy liked to exert control over us, because she could. Her moods affected her action more than common sense. More often than not, she made up her own rules. We did not know when and where she was going to strike, but when she did, we listened. I took my hand back like I had been burned, and held it in my lap.

Tears sprung to my eyes at the thought of going hungry, or worse having to eat the pot roast. But it was more than that. I was tasting the feeling of fear upon my tongue. I knew that feeling well, as it was a familiar feeling at home, one akin to walking on eggshells. Sometimes the mood was better, and you felt free to be yourself, but then the rules could change in a heartbeat, and you got burned.

But this was camp, my safe place. Yet, there I sat, helpless, my plate empty, waiting for Nancy’s emotions to calm, and her need for control to pass. There I sat, helpless, trying to make myself invisible in a room full of screaming campers, feeling scared and alone as I did that first day. 

Problem was, dinner was ending, and having run around all day, I was really hungry, and afraid to speak up. It was then, I felt it. A tap on my knee. I looked beneath the table, and there was a hand. It was Gina’s. Her fingers held on to a spoon, filled with peanut butter. I realized in that moment, I was not the only one afraid of Nancy. We are never alone – we just think we are.

I looked up at Gina, as if that spoon was a scalpel and we were about to do surgery. She nodded at me. Take it. her eyes pleaded. I nodded back, and took the spoon, got up from the table, away from Nancy’s disapproving eyes. I hid in the corner, eating that spoonful of peanut butter, feeling both shame and relief. Feelings that would fight for bragging rights over the course of most of my life, until I would finally name them both.

As I reach into the my memory box, clearing away some of the cobwebs to come up with the details of this story, I admit to not even remembering if Nancy is her real name, while Gina’s name, I will never forget.

If Gina had not reached out to me, I could have gone a bit hungry that night, but probably not. Nobody went hungry at camp. We were likely getting canteen, candy in an hour or two, or making s’mores by the campfire. But she did, and it meant more to me than she will ever know. She reached out to me, not knowing the impact. 

There were many people in my life, that went on to hand me spoonfuls of peanut butter. My incredible life long friends, my dear husband, my former kind and patient boss, my children and my dogs – all scoops of peanut butter. Playing cards with my father when I was sick, sitting on the grass in the college quad with my wonderful poetry professor, laughing till our sides ache with my husband – all scoops of peanut butter. I have even learned how to scoop my own peanut butter with a nap on the beach, a walk through a wooded path, a funny movie and a warm fire on a icy winter morning.

Summer camp, as it turned out would become one big scoop of peanut butter after another, a place even my daughters would eventually call home, many years later.

I am sure Gina would not remember that night, or knew the impact of such a small act of compassion. Just as we do not know if our smile at a stranger or a quick text to a friend could brighten their day, or even prevent him from hurting himself. Kindness can have more of an impact than abuse, hatred and drama – especially when someone has been the recipient of both. One spoonful, one single act of kindness – so simple and yet so meaningful. We can all impact each other, choose how we connect. Why not choose kindness?

Today, I sometimes wonder where Gina is – if she has a family, what jobs she took on, if she travelled as a single warrior woman, or made a home, nestled in the security of suburbia. I would like to think she is still handing out spoonfuls of peanut butter wherever she goes.

The Hidden Truth of Depression

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Like many, I have experienced depression at different times in my life. I have never felt the “I cannot get out of bed depression” or the “I cannot go on” depression, but I have experienced those feelings of emptiness, loneliness, loss of appetite, interest and connection.

If you experienced the devastating effects of deep depression, medication can be a life saver. It can give you the space you need to be able to even receive what I am saying or to be able to think differently about your situation. This is the moment, where I remind you that I am not a doctor. And if you think you need help for your depression, there is no shame in reaching out.

Very often, I receive very strong messages that come to me at times during meditation or when I least expect it. Yesterday, I was given the awareness we need to view depression, not as an inconvenience or detriment, but as a gift. Stay with me.

Depression is a space that is left when our ego has begun to unravel. This can happen from a loss, a change in routine, or during ongoing self-awareness. Our ego is there to help us – to keep track of time and space, and our daily lives. But egos can be very inflexible, and change is a part of being human, and living our lives. Change causes our ego to release its grip upon our psyche, and this can feel uncomfortable and empty. Imagine a person hugging tightly to you, and then they back away. While freeing, it can feel different, uncomfortable, empty. You are very aware of the space that is now there. All those patterns, routines and security are now gone.

Loss of loved one or job. Divorce. Life Change (children moving out). Therapy. Illness. Awareness and insight. Even a change in routine can trigger the space of emptiness. Your yoga teacher cancels, your child gets in trouble at school, you become demoted – can all lead to emptiness.

If we rush to fill that space with food, drugs, alcohol or technology, we never move beyond it. It is then, we can become stuck. We have now just become “addicted”, in addition to  “depressed.”

What if we allow that space to unfold, and treat ourselves kindly, like we are dancing into new territory, one that can feel strange, but also exciting. If we name this space of emptiness as a “time out” and don’t try to rush it away, self-medicate it. If we allow it to just be, for as long as it needs. We will change! It will not go on forever, even if it feels like it will. But we cannot force it to go, for then like an unwanted house guest, it will stay well beyond its welcome.

It is not about rehashing, but healing. It is not about running away from, but allowing. It is about becoming comfortable with uncomfortable empty spaces, and the feelings that may come and go.

I am not only relaying what I intuitively received – I have done all of this. It is always just beyond my actions that the awareness comes in. It has become my practice to do something as intuitively guided, and then the understanding follows.  I know from experience, it is not easy, but allowing the space to just “be” allows for not only a deeper understanding of our selves, but so much more.

Sometimes, it can get rough – as dark feelings can move in and out of that emptiness. Shadow feelings of grief, anger, resentment, and sadness can move in. Don’t raise the rent, allow them to linger until they move on. Their stay is temporary, I promise. This too shall pass, and in its place will come everything you can imagine.

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While allowing the space, it is important to also practice self-care. Picture your self in a new place, a new room, with an open door. Feelings can come in and out, as they need, no appointment is necessary. Make that room as comfortable as you can – put in a fireplace, a warm couch with a soft blanket, some ice-cold water to keep you hydrated, or hot tea to warm you. Hang some beautiful pictures on the wall. Even bring in a soft big teddy bear. Think comfort and safety. Make it all about you, and what you need. This is what self-care is about, and it needs to happen even more when we are moving into that space of emptiness, so that we can withstand the discomfort.

What does this self-care look like in real life? Releasing toxic relationships, saying no, putting up boundaries, a hot bath, a good book, a warm nourishing meal, a funny movie, or even just letting someone know how you feel. It is whatever you need in any given moment without judgement.

Just on the other side of the depression is a life you have always dreamed about. The confidence to move away from addiction, and into awareness. Our minds can benefit along with our hearts. The release of all those egoic and competitive needs – to be right, better, higher than others. Obsessions, fears and bad habits, can fade as we move into a more open-hearted way of living and loving. Everything we ever wanted – all the joy, peace and self-love – is bestowed upon us.

It gets easier, I promise. Many years ago, I would have done whatever I could to rid myself of any feelings of emptiness – run, eat, drink – you name it. Today, I become excited when I sense it because I know what is happening, and how I am continuing to move along my life journey. I am about to embark on something new, and release a piece of old conditioning that is no longer serving me.

So let’s stop calling it “depression” and call it “a time out.” Let’s view it as a gift, and if we can see it as such, we can unwrap our self, unwind our ego. Inside, we find the beauty of our true self. Rest in the beauty of that emptiness, take a pregnant pause and allow it to unfold as we are guided through the uncomfortable feelings, we move into a life we can only imagine. Everything we ever wanted is just outside of this discomfort zone.