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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

The Gift of Anxiety

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

The Supermom is Dying, and I am Helping Dig her Grave.

 

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This is my teenage daughter’s closet. I am not posting this picture to embarrass her, or pretend my closet growing up was any different. I am posting it because it helps all us moms breathe easier. We are not alone, and although the supermom image is still hanging around like an old Yearbook photo, it is fading.

I always hated the saying, “Fake it Till You Make it.” It’ screams out, lie about where you are at – speaking the truth and being vulnerable is wrong. It is just as detrimental a saying as “Never let them see you sweat.” Guess what? We all sweat, we all have bad days, and we all struggle until we make it.

We have been dooped, led by Gillette’s marketing geniuses that tell us as women, we are not supposed to show our sweat. Even though it was to sell a product, it seeped into our culture, clogging our minds, along with our pores.

Thank God for our children. As toddlers, their strained carrots seeped into our carpets, as their round cheeks planted roots within our hearts. It was also common place for me to pull a pair of dirty jeans off the floor, but pretend they were clean. When those children turned into teenagers, my dirty jeans morphed into yesterday’s leggings. My wonderful boundary pushing mini adults with their messy rooms and natural self-centeredness, made sure I could not be a supermom even if I tried.

Freedom came when I remembered what I have always known. My daughter’s room with the clothes on the floor and her very messy closet, is not a reflection on my parenting skills or how valuable she is as a person. Her floor is messy because she is busy with her college acceptance process, preparing to leave the only home she’s known. She is buying shoes for Prom, studying hard, volunteering, working out and earning money as a dog walker. I am not saying don’t tell your kids to clean their room, I am saying shut the door and don’t take it personally. I am saying, DO NOT fake it to you make it. Keep it real, and be honest. Show your pictures of your kids’ messy rooms and dirty faces.

I am also saying, let’s slap on a cape, and turn all of us supermom wantabees into superheroes. Messy rooms, messy hair and messy houses is just small stuff.

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I love my daughter, but her messiness is no more a reflection on me than the college sticker on the back of my car. I love her in all her beauty and messiness. And guess what? I was the same way. I was messy, and today at times, I still am. In fact, the messier my house, the happier I am. It means I am busy writing, talking with my husband, sitting with my son and giving him my full attention when he wants to show me his latest Lego creation. It means I would rather bake fresh home-made cookies, making a mess of my kitchen and talk on Facetime with my college daughter, than have an immaculate house.

It’s a six step process to go from supermom to superhero:

  1. Sweat
  2. Admit we sweat – keeping it real
  3. Understand our children are not a reflection upon us.
  4. Order our superhero cape – it is on sale on Amazon Prime
  5. Grab a shovel and start digging – join me in burying the supermom
  6. Know we are not alone.

The trend has been going from #supermom to #keepingitreal for years. Websites like Scary Mommy  and movies like Bad Moms, are letting us off the hook. YouTube Videos of moms trying on bathing suits with less than optimal bodies and drinking wine in the laundry room, are the new normal, encouraging us to be real and laugh at our selves.

It has been my direct experience as a writer and mom that when we keep it real, there is a big sigh of relief; a feeling of gratitude when a mom comes clean and shows her child’s messy room, her own realistic unphotoshopped body, or her child’s college rejection letter. It is time to stop pretending and start laughing. Let’s smother the flames of perfectionism with a smile and the truth.

We are not there, but we are getting better. As more posts and videos pop up of moms keeping it real, more supermom posts will die in the wake of fake smiles and impossible to keep immaculate bedrooms.

The supermom is dying, and I am helping dig her grave. 

Next time, I may go crazy and show you my junk drawer and garage. Keeping it real.