Fear – You Show Me Yours & I’ll Show You Mine

storytotellFear is a slippery little fella. Sometimes you need to hang on to it so you don’t get damaged, and other times, you need to set it adrift on a flaming raft with an over-zealous shove and a one-fingered salute.

This past weekend, fear crept in and tried to snuggle up in my heart. Good thing I can be a cold-hearted, logical gal when I need to be. Good thing I have friends who remind me not to let my imagination get the best of me and conjure up all sorts of possible ways that my happiness can be sabotaged. Good thing I didn’t turn tail and run. Good thing.

Regardless of what we identify as being bountiful or lacking in our lives, we live within the comfort zone of the known. We live rooted in the identities that we have crafted for ourselves. We cling to our wounds until they no longer serve as shields.

The truth is, we often cling to our wounds long past their expiry date, and we do this because that is the only way we know how to go on living. We do this often without knowing we’re doing it. We fear leaving what is known and comfortable to seek what is meaningful.

During the past 48 hours I  have received calls, and had coffee with friends who have all experienced some sort of crisis rooted in fear. I was an addict. I’m drinking too much. I keep winding up in toxic relationships. Today I heard all of these symptoms, and I offered as much compassion and humour as I could. After all, being fearful is normal. We need to tell and re-tell our stories. We need to be the storyteller, and we need to be the witness to the life-stories woven by others. Change is scary, and we need our friends to walk beside us when we don’t know if we have the courage to take another step on a path that leads to goodness-only-knows-where-but-there-had-better-be-margaritas-and-a-bed.

Fear of feeling, dealing with the here and now, or not having someone to prop up an ego seem to have been  served up a la carte over the weekend. It’s  a menu everyone eventually gets served; long in the planning and very bitter. It keeps popping up on the menu until you get tired of the bitter aftertaste and are inspired to take over the kitchen.

brokenThe most curious of fears is the fear of getting what you want. It means letting go of an identity that was defined by lack of the thing itself; career success, loving relationship, independence, you name it. You have to be brave enough to break down the walls protecting your own kingdom of fear.

While trying to shake off the snug embrace of a well-known-and-outlived-it’s-usefulness-fear-of intimacy which had slithered it’s way into my mind, I had a rather synchronistic encounter.

After zenning out and treating myself to some self-care paraphernalia at an over-incensed and herbal-tea’d hippie hang-out, I wandered back to my car completely and utterly distracted. Rationalizing with oneself can be very engrossing, and I was neck deep. I was not going to half-ass this one. I was going to face this thing down even if it meant a haze of incense, tantra-drumming, and Buddhist-throat-singing loud enough to scare the bejeezus out of the neighbours. While I was getting all bad-assed and spiritual with this fear, I was being watched.

Two men of questionable intent approached my car, one wedged between the driver’s side door and the car next to me, pulled on my door handle and banged on my window while the other stood at the right side.

Thanks to good habits, my door was locked, and the car was started. Thanks to a friend who was texting an invitation for a drinky-poo, I was head-down-distracted, allowing these two men to target me.

Hours after I had safely pulled away and caught my breath from the initial shock, I sank into the corner of my couch and cried. I sobbed and relived those few seconds of that man’s face just inches from my own.

But why? I was safe in my own space now. I was ok.

I cried because the threat of harm pulled me back into the rational fear I had developed throughout years of abuse and  assault. It was like someone tossed me back into the arena to face another hungry beast after I thought I’d finally made it out alive.

What I did next was remarkable. I reached out. Well, I reached out the best I could. Via text of course, because I couldn’t bear to speak and have anyone hear my voice tremble. My pride wouldn’t hear of it.  “I kinda need you.”

It’s rather ironic that my fear of letting someone in was challenged head on by someone literally trying to get in.

presence.jpgPart of healing and kicking fear in the ass is learning that it’s ok to be vulnerable sometimes.  It’s a lesson that I have found extremely challenging. But with true self-compassion, vulnerability can be the greatest warrior in the battle on the front-line of fear.

There is a spiritual alchemy exchanged every time we offer support or receive it. This alchemy is grace in action, mercy in motion, the very human breath of compassionate and spiritual living. It is the greatest enemy of fear. It’s ok to kinda need someone, they kinda need you too. Trust me, if you show them yours, they’ll show you theirs.

 

 

 

 

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When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

IMG_6406I wasn’t going to write tonight.

What I wanted to do was to turn out the lights, curl up in a ball and shut out the world.

What I really wanted to do was to turn out the lights, curl up in a ball with my sweetheart, and shut out the world, possibly hearing those magic, fairytale words, “It’s ok”.

I don’t have a sweetheart to curl up with, and I can’t sleep. Right now, it’s not ok.

You see, today, despite always trying to be kind, loving and the world’s greatest promoter of open communication, I was hurt by two people very dear to me.

Call it what you will; lying, omission, whatever.

Being played for a fool, and not being trusted with emotional content is the emotional equivalent to tunneling through my heart with a grapefruit spoon. It’s messy, and it hurts like hell.

When someone  isn’t honest with me, I figure it’s for one of two very basic reasons; They’re afraid of being judged, or they’re an asshole.

Very few people I care about would fall into the latter category. So that makes me think that it’s something that I’ve done wrong. I must make them feel like I’m critical…They must think I’m stupid…They must be ashamed and are afraid to tell me…I’m a terrible person who makes people feel like they can’t talk to me….

And so it goes. I beat myself up and feel like my best just isn’t good enough. I feel like I’ve failed the people whom I care the most about.

Guilt, sadness and feeling inadequate; The trifecta of feeling like crap. There is never any rejoicing in being lied to or taken for a fool.

I practice what I preach when it comes to matters of the heart. I leave it all out there every day. I don’t miss an opportunity to let someone know I’m thinking of them, and I always, always, always tell them I love them.

Life is, by the way, a matter of the heart. Just in case you forgot what being a human being is all about and have mistaken it for a game of who can acquire the most stuff, the quality of your character matters, not the quality of your clothing.

I know that being able to open yourself to love is the cost of being loved. In other words, if you put it all out there, like I do, it’s a risk. But it’s a great risk. If you don’t allow yourself to be seen (in the spiritual sense), you don’t allow yourself to be loved, nurtured, or to grow in the warm light of relationship.

As my humble roots might mutter, “If you half-ass it, you’ll get half-assed results”.

For wearing my heart on my sleeve, I’ve had it beaten up, mocked and treated like hell.  It’s a tough old heart, but it’s just as tender on the inside as it was when I was a school girl with the school girl crush, and that’s the way I plan on keeping it.

After all, if you don’t put it out there, the right people will never be able to capture and care for it.

When your best isn’t good enough, it’s ok to be sad, to cry, to feel alone, and to dig your heels in and battle on in the name of all that you believe to be good and true.

 

My Secret Life

There’s nothing like a little bit of Leonard Cohen to ignite creativity…

A Soldier of Love on Buddhist VD

"Just because you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town." ~George Carlin~

“Just because you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”
~George Carlin~

Welcome to February!

In Canada, it’s another month of cold weather gear and snuggling by the fire. You may only be snuggling with the cat, a good book, a tumbler of your favourite winter red, or like me, all three.

During this month of winter, I am going to try my best to warm you up with cozy thoughts of love my darlings.  This will replace my annual whining about being bombarded by pink, white and diamonds tossed at us by Cupid, the  figment of our collective imagination aptly decked out in a diaper.

This year I am determined to laud Valentine’s Day as a day dedicated to loving and friendship. I will be doing this from a sailboat in the Caribbean Sea, which may be taking the sting out of it, but I digress…. Regarless of motive, I shall persevere and not question my rose-coloured outlook.

Yesterday, I as I lounged under my pile of duvets, I had time to read a short piece in Mindful magazine by Dr. Cheryl Fraser, entitled, Make Love a Priority.

Now, I really don’t have one special person in my life, so you might be wondering why on earth I was reading an article on making relationships last. Well darlings, it’s always best to be prepared.

I was reading the article as I would a map of sorts. It’s nice to become familiar with the landscape before you arrive. Consider it reconnaissance of the most delightful kind, being carried out by this soldier of love.

The little teaser read, “Remember: “Love” is a verb”…Oh good lord I thought as I sipped my coffee, this is going to be a bunch of idealistic pooh. Since I usually refer to Valentine’s day as VD, I thought I should carry on with the article in case it might change my very stubborn mind.

Dr. Fraser went on to tell the story of her Grandparents who met at a Valentine’s dance while her Grandmother was already engaged to someone else. This meant nothing to Norman (her grandfather), who was determined to woo and romance this woman.

Now that’s my kind of love story; real, messy, and completely lived on the fly. She had me hooked;

Though she was engaged to another man, he wooed her, won her, wed her.

“Go get her Norman,” I thought as my wee little cynical heart began to beat a  faster.  In a few sentences I learned that the couple did, indeed, live not just happily-ever-after, but with passion and that little je ne sais quoi that keeps your wiggly bits warm.

Most of us know a couple like my grandparents, and we want that sort of love affair, too. None of us plan to become the couple staring blankly across the restaurant table with nothing to say. But great relationships are created, not discovered.

I’ve been that couple. But that’s the kicker isn’t it? The ever-evolving creation, the ongoing magic of spiritual alchemy between two people that needs constant tending. I wish I fully realized that when my marriage fell to bits. It’s only in hindsight I have been able to recognize these things, and fully come to realize the ongoing effort that’s involved.

I’m a great one for grand gestures and whirlwind (but time limited) romances. They are so much more exhilarating than hacking away at the same old thing, but you miss the joy of reminiscing, and looking back on the trail you’ve created together.  It’s a cowards’s way out I’m afraid. It’s a way to let fear rule, and your heart remain safely locked away.

Authentic relationships are  a fine balance with pro’s and con’s on both sides of the ‘to be in a relationship or not be in a relationship’ debate that so often wages war in my anxious mind.

Whichever side you take; better-off-coupled or better-off single, it’s an article worth the read. Most of the advice applies to friendships as well. Those can be lop-sided too. Without effort, the friendship becomes stale, and meaningless. The maintenance of  true connection and attention to care in any relationship is necessary for survival.

Treat Valentine’s Day like a meditation bell, reminding you to slow down and show up for love, over and over again.

Call me a hopeless romantic Buddhist if you must, but I do have to recommend this article to friends, lovers, and armor-clad soldiers of love such as I.

Do Not Bring An Ocean To The River

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Anxiety & Depression: Catch Someone Doing Something Right

 

fortune cookiesEach year my mumster takes us out to a Chinese restaurant at Christmas time. It’s a tradition that we look forward to every year, including the passing around of fortune cookies, and reading them out loud. Mum’s hubby has added the advanced silliness of adding, “…in bed“, at the end of each fortune.

As the sun seeks longer periods of shelter from her shining down on the northern hemisphere, my good mood also fades, and I’m left with anxiety and depression that is even more hard to clothe in something fabulous and breathtaking. During the winter months those two aspects of my psyche stand as huge grey pillars in the flat landscape of my mind, poking up new outcroppings along paths that in the past were clear.

It’s been a doozy of a winter to navigate darlings. Bourbon, bubbly and boys just get in the way. It’s a raw journey that one must always make alone.

Mumster’s Christmas dinner always marks the beginning of the dull, dark, grey months, so the fortune is something light and lovely, and I always, always, always, tuck it in my wallet and keep it until the next year. It’s a reminder to keep things light.

youwillberewardedFortunes often promise something, but this year it issued  a task. This year, my fortune read; “Catch someone doing something right”…in bed. That’s not fun! That’s more work? I have to actually do something? Well, I never…!!!

The fortune hit home, and it caught me off guard. Catch someone doing something right.

I hadn’t done that in a while. I hadn’t acknowledged just how right some things were going, and being done around me. Instead, the bleak landscape of winter had taken over my very own grey matter. Grey, bleak and as always, it seemed like it would never end.

As much as a fortune can be, I use it as a guidepost, a koan, and do the best that I can for what it has to offer.

I caught little Willie Nelson the cat curled up in my white duvet this morning, so that’s gotta be doing something right.

Reading Kelzbelzphotography this morning, I felt less alone in my suffering, even if I did feel a little indignant about some of the comments,  “Think of your children….chin up…” , one of them read. Oh please, save the platitudes. Buh-arf! But the short post was something right. Sharing these thoughts and feelings is difficult at best. Kelzbelz did something right by making the rest of us feel not so alone.

Catch someone doing something right, snuck into my head, and I began to think of all the things people do right;

1) My pal’s offer to drive to the movie theatre yesterday

2) An invitation to a birthday get-together

3) An invitation to a business lecture to help grow my fledgling writing business.

4) Texts despite being busy

5) Willie Nelson the cat, just being himself

6) Being lent a waterproof camera for a much-anticipated vacation

7) Someone else doing all of the planning for said vacation

8) Someone being my diet buddy

….the list goes on and on. I have so many wonderful people in my life who tolerate me during my expeditions into the depths of winter doldrums, that it’s hard not to find someone doing something right all of the time. inbed

Even though I may not have told you, and you all know who you are, I catch you doing something right all of the time, and I am grateful. Winter sucks, and you are the marshmallows in the warm cocoa of life.

Go ahead, try to catch someone doing something right, and see how it changes the landscape of your grey, winter mind. Who knows, I may even catch someone doing something right…in bed!

 

An Open Letter to Mothers With Young Children

"Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason. And those of us who are mothers know it's the most exquisite love of all." ~Maggie Gallagher~

“Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason. And those of us who are mothers know it’s the most exquisite love of all.”
~Maggie Gallagher~

I was you once – giddy with affection and unconditional love for my child.

Every moment was a miracle, and every second I could kiss, cuddle, snuggle or coo my little one, I did. Unapologetically.

I see you out there, proud as punch as you push your strollers and post your photos on social media of your naps, and first steps, and messy little-helping hands of your budding cookie bakers.

Don’t stop.

That’s right. You read that correctly. Don’t stop falling in love with your babies.

I’m the middle-aged woman you pass at the coffee shop, or in the shopping aisle who stops to tell you how beautiful your baby, toddler or young child is. I’m the woman who coos over the outfits and little faces, and even the tears.  I’m one of the kazillion middle-aged women who look at you through their newly increased lens prescription and says; “Enjoy them while they’re young.”

Don’t stop being amazed at every new stage. Ever.Don’t stop wondering how they are when they head off to school, and don’t stop bothering them for a hug, or stories about their day when they become teenagers. Trust me, they will challenge you sometimes.

Whatever happens and whatever they get up to, don’t stop being the ferociously loving mother that you are.

I’ll be honest with you. When my child turned three, I was tempted to see what the return policy was. Four was better. Like a light switch being turned on, the ‘terrible three’s’ (it was three not two) turned into the fabulous four’s, and I had my angel back.

It’s true, every age and stage holds some surprise. Some stages, much like the prize your potty-training-darling hands to you while proudly shouting, “Poo-Poo”  are less satisfying than others. Sometimes you will despair at how you will get through the day; emotionally, physically, financially. Sometimes, you will have nothing left to give. But that’s when us older gals come in.

We’ve been there; the smiling photo-posting-proud-as-pie times and the lonely-how-am-I-going-to-do-it-times. Pick up the phone, talk to us in line at Starbuck’s, or at the grocery store. We’ve been there sister, and lived to coach you through it.

For now, just keep doing what you do. You’re great at it, even when you’re not sure you’re doing it right, you are.

~Enjoy them while they’re little. They grow up too quickly.~

 

 

Dear 2015

Photo ritghts are not not mine. I believe they belong to : www.b4men.nl "Write it in your heart that every day is the best day in the year." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson" "

Photo rights are  not mine. I believe they belong to : http://www.b4men.nl
“Write it in your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson”

My darling 2015, what took you so long?

I’ve been waiting for you since 2013. I thought 2014 was my soul mate, but it turns out I was wrong. So many of us were wrong about that charmer.

But you, you’re the one. I can just feel it in my squishy girly bits.

Take off your boots and put your feet up by the fire. Let me get you something to warm you from the inside out my deliciously, mysterious friend.

This year we’re going to have a lot more beach and a lot less stress. Yes, my sweet new love, let’s make that promise to one another so that when we toast one another good-bye and I move on to your big brother in 2016, we know that we’ve shared a special once-in-a-lifetime. Sand and sea breezes always bring out the best in me, and I’m ready to give it to you! In a pinch, we can settle for pool-side or more long, hot, deliciously candlelit baths. Bring poetry.

Already you’ve gifted me the pleasure of new company thanks to Vicki and Monica. What a delightful way to begin our relationship; surrounded by completely wonderful people who I didn’t know before.  It’s always a blessing to meet kindred spirits who know how to laugh and enjoy life.

You really need to introduce me to your friends. Don’t be jealous 2015, think about it. I’m going to need a lovely man to stick beside me after you leave. That’s your number one priority this year. Do you hear that 2015? A good one; kind, funny, loving, and if it’s not too much to ask, a little younger with some little giddy-up left in him. I will defer to your judgment here as mine has historically sucked.

I woke up with a headache this morning, and I’m assuming that’s because you knocked all of the negative el-poopo out of my energy field last night while I was getting my beauty sleep. Not so rough, eh? I need my lessons delivered gently, with a slow hand and generous heart. After all, I am a lady.

So, I’m all yours 2015.  Fully, completely, and unabashedly committed to making you a year to remember as one that brought good health, joy and love to not just me, but everyone I consider a friend.

Now, enough of all of this talk. Let’s go snuggle.

 

 

 

The Magic of Christmas Appeared in the Form of Ambrosia

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" ~Charlie Brown~

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
~Charlie Brown~

The magic finally happened for me this year.

I had just put the tacky Christmas goldfish ‘sunshine-Jello-salad’, into the fridge and was stirring together the tacky ambrosia, when I felt the first sparkly jolt.

Christmas?! Yes!

Perhaps it was going through the motions of tradition that brought it about for me this year. On the eve before Christmas Eve, I found some magic. It started with a kind message from one of my oldest friends who helped  me realize that I don’t have to constantly be strong for everyone else.

Just in time for Christmas Eve: my favourite part of Christmas.

To say that it’s been an anti-climactic lead-up to Christmas is an understatement. In fact it’s been a Christmas time to remember. Often these are the years that build character and help us empathize with others who struggle through the holidays.

One well-meaning soul typed a comment about having expectations too high at Christmas time.  This Christmas has not been Christmasy, and it’s not because of any expectation, it’s because of loss. Expectation is an interesting concept, and one worthy of discussion.

We live in a hurried world where sadness and empathy take time none of us want to take. I believe that encourages platitudes about ‘no expectation’ and ‘not being attached to outcome’. Hogwash and pith my darlings.

It’s right up there with; having a stiff upper lip, not crying in front of the children, and keeping yourself busy. I’m a ‘loss’ professional, and I firmly believe in having to fall apart sometimes in order to pull your refined-by-trial soul back together. Sometimes things suck, and it’s ok to say so.

If you think that having rainbows and lollipops poof out of your arse all day long is normal, please send your unicorn to fetch me for your next seminar.

Certain expectations are healthy; to be treated fairly, to be compensated fairly for work, to be able to live freely without discrimination and most importantly, to feel validated when you feel every emotion, including the ugly ones like fear, anger and sadness that make most folks uncomfortable. These are healthy, and necessary expectations.

For anyone who has experienced loss, Christmas can be a really tough slog, regardless of expectation.

As we near the midnight hour, and our corner of the world slows down, I think I will take some time to stop and consider what expectations are helping me move forward or holding me back. Discerning between the two is where the magic happens, because as much as our human brains would like the world to be black and white, it isn’t.

Christmas magic appeared unexpectedly as I went through the motions of making the traditional food that goes on our Christmas table, and I am grateful. Happy even. I’m looking forward to tonight and tomorrow, and am thankful for having people to share the day with.

Wishing you joy this Christmas. Wishing you a soft landing if  you are among those who have experienced loss at this time of year.  Wishing you the wisdom to discern between healthy expectation, and hokey platitudes. If you’re having none of that, I’ll send over a dish of ambrosia for your narwhal.

 

Why It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

 

"I close my eyes and drift away into the magic night I softly say a prayer like dreamers do. Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you." ~Roy Orbison~

“I close my eyes and drift away into the magic night I softly say a prayer like dreamers do. Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you.”
~Roy Orbison~

It has been decided and declared from our home to yours; it does not feel like Christmas this year. At all.

It’s been an odd festive season, and I had held out hope that as the day approached, I’d start feeling Christmasy. I kept hoping for that Christmas miracle I’ve been praying for would manifest in some way shape or form…until this evening as I assembled my ‘goodie’ platters for the office tomorrow.

I thought to myself, “I’ve done everything right. I’ve put up the outside lights. I’ve decorated the house. I’ve entertained and baked. The gifts are wrapped and under the tree, and I’ve stocked the pantry with treats and nibbles, so why on earth does it just suck this year?”

Decidedly it sucks because ‘we’, as in the royal, collective ‘we’ are caught in a vicious commercial and capitalist cycle of bullshit.

There is no break and no ‘taking it easy’ because it’s the holiday season. We work to the limit and squeak out a few days off to catch up with the people most dear to us.  Holiday house parties? Forget it. Who has time for that? Fun office parties? Nope, I’m afraid we’ve taken our professional selves to the edge of robotic functionality with no room for emotion, compassion or humour. Snarky sarcasm has replaced sincere humour as it’s older, wiser cousin. Dear god I miss laughing.

I want to believe in the magic of Christmas. I want to wake up one morning to whatever that Christmas miracle is that I’ve been hoping for, but I don’t have the energy this year to dig that deeply.

Perhaps I will find that magic in the candlelit sanctuary of church this Christmas Eve, after the Eucharist,  as we raise our voices to sing silent night and remember the true meaning of Christmas.

If ever we’ve needed your magic Santa Claus, this is the year.