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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Suicide: Why I Never Did It.

GUEST BLOG POST:

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

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

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

What kept me from doing it?

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

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

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

I always waited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELAINE OCASIO

 

When You Start Blaming, You Start Healing.

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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.