As I sit to write to you this morning, it might in fact be the first time I’ve sat in a week. Well, sat without the echo of “Mom!!!” ringing in my ears or sat without shuffling to the next holiday activity. Like many of you, I’m coming off a week of Christmas, a family birthday, and a happy new year. I’m just going to say it, that shit was intense. On my drive home last night I called my sister, “Who decided this?” I whined, “Who decided that we’re supposed to spend an entire month planning for Christmas, spend an ungodly amount of money, eat more sugar than our bodies can hold, and keep a LIVE tree alive? Anyways, I’m pretty sure I’m Buddhist.” My sister laughed, followed by the validation of, “Rough week?” It was joyfully packed with gifts, family, parties, food, squealing children, and yes, exhaustion.
Tradition vs Reality
I’m going to be honest with you, I thought I had set better boundaries with myself around the holiday. I might have been boastful, “I only send Christmas cards if it feels right!” You know little comments like that make me feel as though I was choosing how to celebrate the holiday. I thought I was doing a standup job at this until one of the highlights of my week was realizing my closet has a pocket door. You heard me right, a pocket door! When needed I could slip inside for quiet, breath, and let the busyness melt off of me until I heard the ringing of, “Mom!!” This holiday season, for me, didn’t bring peace on earth, it brought life at its fullest and emotions at their highest.
Anyone else? Surely I’m not alone in trying to make our holiday special only to be left lying next to our partner with a fist bump of, “We did it” then crawling into a cocoon of sleep. Yes, my holiday was filled with Gingerbread houses, cookies, lights, presents (the everloving candles in the window that take battery), Santa, Christmas cards, cheese balls, ham, and sure, a little whiskey in the eggnog. Those tiny moments and activities did bring tradition and family together. Yet those tiny moments collectively stole me (and my children) from our presence. I planned for the holiday only to be whisked away in a flurry of my plans. It went well enough; tantrums came as well as laughter. But in my lifetime I’m not looking for, “well enough,” I’m looking for “rooted.”
What can be done in reflection? Of this, I’m not certain of the right answer. The truth is some of my favorite childhood memories come from Christmas. Not the gifts (ask my mama, I was not a gracious receiver), but the traditions and time together with family. I want to recreate this for my children and actually like doing the Christmas traditions. You can bet I still hide a pickle on my tree. You can also take a bet if, after a second morning of stealing Christmas candy before breakfast, I threw it all away. Any takers, do you think I did? It was like $50 worth of candy, and that my friends is the price of a cute crop sweater thrown away.
This little dichotomy is everything; tradition versus daily reality. I tried to build Gingerbread houses that had expired unbeknownst to me, we had tears. I tried to put ornaments on the tree after a Christmas parade, there was hitting over whose ornaments were whose. I tried to ice cookies at 8:00 pm, but there was a full-blown tantrum because I wouldn’t let my son mix the red one (Jesus help me, it stains!). I tried to buy what they wanted from Santa, but it was found during hide and seek becoming a gift from Mommy. This was then followed by the days of, “Why didn’t Santa get me…” and mentally screaming “Because Mommy is Santa and you still got the toy!!” This list goes on exhaustively of planning traditions and navigating life. The little mantra that got me through was “Maybe Christmas perhaps doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” The Grinch and my pocket door; saviors of Christmas.
The Bustle of “Should”
Has this happened to you, darling? Did you plan for a beautiful holiday season only to be knocked down by parenting through the holiday season? As you sip your coffee of the new year, are you also calling your sister exclaiming, “WTF was that?” I’m guessing to some extent all of us are because the hamster wheel of the American holiday is exhausting and children are tiring all on their own. Together, of course, they make the perfect storm for moms and dads alike. That alongside a healthy dose of wanting to make traditions perfect. I suppose darling, I got lost in the bustle of should.
I do not have a proposed solution from grappling with tradition and reality. The only thing I know to be true is that when I find myself lost in should, I have to shift and actively choose what my soul needs to thrive. If I want to be rooted, I have to choose to plant myself in stillness. Stillness is what I could not find this holiday. I am still determining what we’ll put down next Christmas (it will be something..). But I do know what I need to pick up today and through my next busy season is air. Air that is breathed in against the dashing stillness of life.
Intentional pausing, stillness, and breath are always a path back to my roots. My darlings, what were you doing because you should and what must you choose for yourselves to come back home?
I’m breathing in, holding my breath for a count of 10, and exhaling you all A Happy New Year.
The last several blogs I have written to you have been about lighting up your life and world by letting go of everything that separates you from your love. In these blogs, I implore you to look inward to find where you have separated from love, your true source. Then, through your love, I have asked you to change not only your world but ours. Have you tried it, darling? Have you looked inward (or outward) to see what surrounds you that is rooted in hate? Have you then placed your fingers against the match of love to pave a new way? I hope you have darling, our world needs you and your love.
As I write these words to you, I know that this way of life is a challenge initially. Our world, and nervous system, are conditioned to look for threats to keep us safe. Biologically, our brains are made up of evolutionary parts, one of which is our reptilian brain. This part of our brain looks for danger beneath our consciousness so if a threat were to arrive we could protect ourselves instinctively. You heard me right, even after you make a conscious decision to reconnect to your love (and away from fear), your subconscious brain is on autopilot searching and scanning for threats. How then could we ever make all of our decisions from love with our brain working against us? Slowly my darling, slowing and exquisitely intentional.
Bringing Our Subconscious Into The Forefront
I’ve written to you before about Tara Brach’s teaching. Dr. Brach is a gifted psychologist and thought leader in the Buddhist community. In her work, Dr. Brach teaches us how to navigate our lived experience and biology to live in harmony with our spirit. Her work is the perfect combination of explaining what is out of our control and what we can bring into our control. Dr. Brach teaches extensively about bringing our subconscious fears and beliefs into our consciousness.
You see, thousands of years ago housing our fears in our subconscious was a smart evolutionary choice. The dangers around us were real (hostile tribes, predators, poisonous food, you get me…) and we needed our brains to remain on protective autopilot to keep us safe. Yet today, while there are some environmental fears, the majority of the fears we house in our subconscious are social. We aren’t thinking about poisonous berries, we’re thinking about the poisonous message to stay small as a woman (as an example). These fears build a reality around us of what we need to stay protected from based on what & who we have experienced as a threat.
How exhausting, right? Our brain is keeping grudges just like your bitter aunt at Christmas! Inside of each of those grudges is the same message, “I’m not safe when.” In response to not feeling safe, how might you suppose our behavior looks? Have you ever seen the Boom Booms in Mario? These little characters with huge spinning arms ready to protect themselves from Mario? In my imagination, it looks like that.
You move to protect yourself when you experience something you perceive as a threat. And, darling when you move to protect yourself without thinking you are operating in fear. This is something that all of us struggle with. As a woman living with PTSD, I can experience this on hyperdrive. If a perceived threat comes into my world and I am not connected to my love it’s like Hulk meets the Boom Booms and responds. It’s not a look I wear well and why staying connected to my love is so incredibly important. When I am disconnected from my love I am giving my power away to fear, just as we all do.
Love is There, You Just Have to Look
But here is the beautiful thing about love and life. The love you have inside of yourself is always there and waiting for you. And, darling, you are never walking alone when you are rooted in your fear. We are all imperfect beings who have baggage (okay, subconscious fears) that affect our day-to-day lives. With the power of our love, should we choose, we can begin to unpack our baggage so that we can understand it, and then release it. If you were to continue to open the bags with judgment, “Ugh why in the world would I have screamed at the dog?” you would stay stuck in fear. Maybe it’s not the dog next time, maybe it’s that jerk that cut you off in traffic but either way something or someone is wrong; often that someone is you. As you judge yourself, so will you judge the world. That, my love, is a miserable way to live.
Do not worry my darling, there is a different way to live as your fears bubble over the surface of your life. Try again, opening the baggage with love. “Ugh, I yelled at my dog, I must have felt incredibly low to do that,” No, the behavior isn’t okay, but acknowledging this, and then offering love will begin to unpack your subconscious, bring it to the light, and begin to pave a new way of life. A way of life in which you are divinely human and accept your shortcomings but can love yourself through it anyways. This offering of love, in time, will repair what lives beneath the line, and bring you closer to peace. As you live a life that snuggles closer to peace, the fears of the world lessen. Sure, things still go wrong, but you will have a new way to navigate through what life throws at you. And, when you mess up (or the world does), you’ll know how to walk home to your love.
This process isn’t perfect, because none of us are darling. However, it is the most powerful walk you will ever take. Release your judgment sweetheart, lean in, come home.
In my last blog to you I wrote to you about lighting up the world with your love to burn down the fear that surrounds you. In this blog I implored you to detach yourself from beliefs rooted in fear, to lean into your love, and use your rage against hate to build a new world. I hold a vision that collectively, should we choose this path, a new world will be created where all living beings flourish. My dad would say this is the romantic in me, my mama would say this is the fighter. To create this type of change, I realize that not everyone’s love and fury is as heated as mine. I hope someday it is, but to find your fire the first thing that must be done is to strike a match. Are you interested darling? Is there a low heat simmering in you as you observe your life or the life of others? I hope so, but if so, read on.
I’ve often quoted Glennon Doyle’s work, she’s now a well known writer and thought leader with her Podcast, “We Can do Hard Things.” In her work Glennon challenges us to re-evaluate our lives to find our truest form. In her work Glennon grapples with the concept of self-identity and how to find this within a suppressing society. Years ago Glennon’s work inspired me to evaluate my home life because at that time I had separated from myself and my love. Sure, I was giving love to others, but it was nowhere to be found for myself. This season of my life was the darkest I have ever walked. In separating myself from love, fear had taken root in me. Admittedly, terror was amidst my daily experience and truly love was the only way out. It was then I decided to light my own match to light the journey home.
Who Do You See in The Mirror?
I realize in writing this, it is incredibly vague. Why was I separated from my love? Who was I giving it to over myself? What was I frightened of? Who was I running from? Well, my darlings, that story is for a different time when I can safely tell it. What I can tell you is to know what it is to have a deep separation from love, and what it feels like to follow its call in the night. In those dark hours, I knew one thing to be true, I was no longer myself. My experience was admittedly extreme. However, I know that so many of us have these life experiences where in a chilling moment of clarity we realize we are gone. It is that very moment we must trust and believe that the light of love can expose the path back home to ourselves.
Have you ever felt this darling? I’m almost certain that you have. It might be a one off day where you feel restless, depressed or snappy. It could be that you are lost in judgment against yourself and therefore those around you. Perhaps it’s in moments of parenting where you cannot believe the words you’re yelling at your own child. Or in the empty halls of your marriage, knowing deeply you are not being loved the way in which you deserve to be loved.
Perhaps in these moments you’ve justified them away. Everyone has a bad day right? Everyone is stuck in judgment or has parenting moments we are less than proud of. And yes, everyone has some type of relationship, marriage or otherwise, that does not serve their highest good. Yet here’s the thing my darling, if you justify away that everyone else has this experience and then make no changes you, my dearest one, are stuck in fear. To change these life experiences that separate us from love, we must acknowledge them, hold them, and then want to change them.
Grab a Match
Recently I was at the riding stable with my little son Declan. If you would like to see cuteness in real life I invite you to see a tiny four year old in cowboy boots. My god, it’s glorious. The stable is owned by a woman at my Crossfit gym and the trainer is her sister. These women are powerhouses. I was re-canting to the trainer a recent experience I was struggling with as a mama. My darling son Declan struggles with anger and staying calm against his rage is a tall order to fill. As I shared this with her, I told her how badly I feel when I yell and how I’m desperately trying to stay connected to my love. I want to offer him the care and love I would want if anger I could not control overcame me. I was expecting a dismissive response, most moms give a simple, “Ugh, I know but yelling is the only way they listen!” The trainer instead met me with love and understanding, “I hate when I yell at my son, I always apologize after and people say I’m too good to him but I know he deserves to be treated like a person.” Yes! This is a woman connected to her love, who knows how to light a match when she needs to start the journey home. This is a woman who knows that no matter what, treating others (or ourselves) with unkindness, is not the way.
This experience is exactly what I am trying to tell you; it offers the two choices in front of us when we have an experience rooted in fear. We can either dismiss it, “Ugh everyone yells but it works!” or acknowledge it, “Yes, I yelled, I’m human, but it’s not okay and I’ll work to choose a different way.” It’s a tiny moment, a spark if you will, to begin the journey home to love. So where my darling are you separated from your love? Where does fear creep in and make decisions for you because it has taken root? What my darling can you change in any small moment to begin to light the path back home? Speaking from experience, starting with, “I don’t feel like myself and I want to come home,” is a wonderful place to start.
Grab a match my darling, I’m waiting for you and miss you so. It’s time my darlings, come home.
In my last blog, I wrote about Pledging Allegiance to Self Love. In that blog, I implored you to pledge to love yourself. Have you done it, darling? Spent time with the dark corners of your life that have brought you deep shame while offering yourself love? I hope you have darling. As I’ve said, you are not the sum of your darkest moments. You are expansively your light and love, should you choose to live in harmony with it. For it is not what happens to us, but how we respond that truly matters. As I write these words to you, I have to be honest, there is a piece of my writing that is selfish. “Selfish,” you say? Yes darling, selfish.
You see, I do want you to access your love and live expansively in it. I also want this because I want every being on earth to live the best life possible. We only get so many trips around the sun. I’ve written to you before about the Two Wolves; if you spend your time orbiting the sun lost in fear you have in turn lost your life. A life lost in fear means a life filled with wounding; both for yourself and others. But if you live your life connected to your love, you live your life connected to your true essence and the spirit surrounding us. As you stay in this connection to your love your wounds are able to heal.
This part of my wish is not selfish, I do want you to find your love and stay in connection with it. The part of my wish that is selfish is that I am tired of living in a world filled with hate and fear. I’m not just tired, I’m exhausted, and I need all of us to shed this pointless way of life. I can no longer be a bystander to the parts of our world that are shaped by shadows. Sitting quietly is something I have never been quite good at.
A Shift from Fear to Love
You see, I have walked through an incredible amount of darkness in my life and I have seen firsthand what the great separation from love creates. I have wept as those I loved once fell into this darkness never to be seen again. I have observed the people involved in this darkness more times than not simply turn a blind eye. As I’ve watched all of this unfold I could have joined them in their darkness, but my rage demanded a different outcome. My anger did not come with fear, it came from knowing that a miracle is defined as a shift from fear to love. In each black moment of my life, I knew that love was a heartbeat away.
My external darkness involves a system of oppression. As I write this, I know that my sisters and brothers choked by this system know this darkness too well. While they may not be facing the exact system I have been oppressed by, anyone but the elite has certainly faced some type of oppression in their lifetime. And, in my opinion, the elite are just as lost to fear drowning in attachment to material possessions. There is an unequal distribution of power and wealth at the root of this oppression that is planted with seeds of fear.
This forest, our society, has taken root with fear and the trees growing are barren. Each of the seeds of fear plant separation that starts with a single being and then expands as it grows. These seeds tell us that we are the sum of our traumas, that we are unloveable, unforgivable, unworthy, and alone. As these seeds attempt to take root with you will you grow with them? Will you water your trauma with the poison of suppression? Will you sprinkle your mind with unkind and judgemental words first to yourself, and then towards others? Will you repress your shame so that the light of your empathy is forever smothered? Will you decide that to become worthy you must harvest your worth from others and the possessions of this world? Will you go to bed each night satiated on hate and fear until you know nothing but this darkness? In this darkness will you succumb to the idea that you are truly alone? One against the world? My love if you are lost in fear I am weeping for you. It is all too easy to water our pain and separate ourselves from love. Especially when we find ourselves in a forest grown from hate.
Water What You Want to Grow
Yet what is inside of the seed cannot be changed just as what is inside of each and every one of us cannot be changed. Watering fear grows fear. Watering love grows love. I need us to choose again and water our love. Our world is suffering, our society is not sustainable, and the most vulnerable amongst us are not safe.
So you see my darling I need you to water your love, because I need all of us to come back home. To wake up and realize that a wound done to the earth is done to all of us. That an oppression or injustice our sisters and brothers face is an oppression or injustice we all face. I need us to push the shadows of fear away so that the truth of love creates a light so bright it burns these forests of fear to the ground. I need all of us to say, “This is not the way,” when any level of hate is brought to us. Whether this be a moment you walk past a mirror muttering unkind words to yourself or a moment a brother is killed for the color of his skin. I need us all to wake up and demand love, equality, and a society that reflects who we truly are as humans.
My darlings, I implore you, to rub your sleepy eyes and see what is planted around you. If you have separated from your love, place your hand against your heart and find it. Then, my darlings as you wake from your fearful slumber, find your rage against the forest around you. Find a tree of hate worth cutting down and unleash your fury. Lead your life with love for yourself and our world. For together, should we collectively choose our love, our world can be replanted and flourish as the flowers of our truest form bloom.
Several weeks ago I wrote to you about the busyness of life. In reading my blog did you feel connected as you reflected on seasons or moments when your life was packed with too much? Sometimes just knowing that we are not alone in any given struggle is enough. We’ve all had seasons filled with, well something, that didn’t sit well with our souls. Busyness, for me, was that latest season and I’ve certainly weathered darker ones. Coming out of those seasons we have to make the next best choice for ourselves. This step always involves first walking ourselves home so that perhaps we can weather the next season with more love.
Have you done that darling? Taken a moment to hold your hand to your heart, breathed deeply, and murmured, “I am here” to your soul? I gave this example to my six-year-old son recently when he was talking about something that was hard for him. He replied, “Mom, we already have to do that for the flag at school!” “Yes, baby, I know, but you also have to pledge allegiance to yourself.” Personally, I pledged nearly three years ago to never abandon myself for anyone or anything else again. Easier said than done, but here I am, still walking myself home.
Don’t Let Yourself Steal Yourself
We all have seasons of life that steal us away from ourselves. I wish that this weren’t true and yet our life on earth does not exist without challenges or trepidation. There are a million tiny moments followed by larger, more impactful moments that challenge how we treat ourselves. That darling, is what I want to focus on today. I want you to learn to be a kind shepherd to yourself when those challenging moments come. This is because darling, when you can be kind to yourself through those challenges you not only nurture your wounds, you can find your strength in your love. Hate always threatens to take us away from ourselves; don’t let it baby. Hold your heart and stay close.
Have you tried this after reading my blogs all these years? Have you become a believer that inside of you is boundless love? That no matter what choices you make or challenges you face, love is always waiting for you? My darling, I hope you know that this is true. Yes, of course, you’ve had moments you are not proud of in how you treat other people or yourself. You have also walked through moments or seasons where how the world has treated you is less than kind. You’re human baby, we have all been there. But beyond those moments, if you are brave enough to reflect on them, you can minimize the pain you feel knowing there is a different way to live. Because darling, once you breathe the oxygen mask of love, you will be forever changed.
Love is true, Love is strong
You see, centering yourself with love, does not take away your strength. It does not make you defenseless or weak. It does not make you soft where you need to be strong. It does not make you blind where you are forced to see the truth. It reminds you of how precious you are, how precious life is, what home feels like, and how to protect that home. For once you know that kindness is what we are all created to be, you cannot look away. Or, I suppose you can, but at some point, your lungs will burn again for love and you will breathe yourself back home. You will learn what I have learned; love is the strongest and truest thing on earth.
The great bell hooks writes about how our time on earth is just an ascension into the purest form of love possible. That the greatness beyond our life is not heaven or hell, but how closely we lived in fellowship with love. How close we can get to love inside of us, then share with others. This my darling is what I want you to know. To find the soft and brilliant parts of yourself and truly lean into your love. To dance intimately with yourself and fall in love. To know that no matter how dark your path may or might have been that love glows inside of you. To press your thumb against your cheek and breathe deeply into yourself knowing that love is there.
Can you do it, darling? Can you look past what is on the outside of your life or the inside of your mind and offer love? Can you take those moments where you abandoned your love, forgive yourself, and move forward? Can you treat yourself with such kindness that it is second nature to offer it to others? Can you witness where the world is lacking love and offer your wisest solution? I think you can baby, I think we all can and turn this world upside down with a revolution of love.
It’s been almost two months since I’ve written, that’s a record for me since I began these blogs nearly three years ago. It has always been my deep hope that my writing brings you a little closer to yourself. That’s why writing this past summer became impossible for me. You see, in order to write about living in a way that you’re in touch with yourself, I have to be in touch with myself. This summer I kept telling my friends when I would finally get around to seeing them, “I haven’t seen me either!” Just yesterday I was setting up our pool, filling my cart with Truly’s and popsicles to welcome summer. Yet somehow today I’ve sent two of my boys off to school with summer on our heels. I think if I had written to you this summer it would have been in memos and thumbs up. “We’re still here, everything’s A-Okay, shit; things aren’t okay, never mind, we’re fine…”
When Busy Takes the Wheel
Has that ever happened to you? Have you been in a spot in life where hearing yourself seems impossible? Where the demands of your life or the pleasure you choose (like summer vacations) become your driving force? I am certain in modern America we have all felt this way. Three years ago I chose to move from the suburbs of Chicago to the country of Ohio to denounce a bustling life the best I could. This summer I felt guilty for not leading by example. In the years that I’ve spent writing, I’ve also lived and breathed in a new way that I am always excited to share, even when my life was hard in impossible ways. Slipping into busy felt off-kilter from my integrity. Then I remembered that the human experience has seasons. Even if being busy isn’t what I would choose, it doesn’t mean I did anything wrong. Know darling, if busy is running your life that you’re doing anything wrong either.
Do you ever feel this way? That life has slipped into the driver’s seat and all of a sudden it’s demands are somehow the boss of you? I know many of my girlfriends feel this way about back-to-school more than the summer months. Their children are brimming with activities they love which means dinner gets crunched in at 4:00 for nine months with full weekends to follow.
We all have seasons of our lives that seem to run a schedule of their own. “How then,” I asked myself, “do we stay connected to our presence and the presence of life during this type of season?” I wish I had a perfect answer for this and I don’t. I can tell you the little things I tried through our bustling summer that helped me stay connected to myself in small ways. I can also tell you what I’ve realized only came when silence greeted me when my children went back to school. I’ll share what I’ve reflected on in hopes that whatever season you are in, you find time to hear your own heart.
Taking Big Lemons to Make Tiny Lemonade
In the summer months, when I felt myself slipping away into busyness, I no longer had my self-care routine down. This is what tipped me off my axis. My usual six to seven workouts a week crumbled into weeks where walks were the best I could do. Our eating as a family teetered between eating at home, then traveling and grabbing Subway while my children scarfed McDonald’s. My daily meditation practice was replaced by praying the children would nap and oftentimes falling asleep beside them in a heap of exhaustion. Choosing my schedule at work, where I know I’m most productive, got squeezed into child-free moments. My workout routine, the food I eat, and intentional moments of silence as well as when I work, is my self-care routine. With it swept out from under my feet I did two things every day to carry myself through.
The first thing I elected to do was to make the best choice possible daily that would bring some type of care to my being. I couldn’t look ahead to the week, but I could make small choices daily that felt in alignment with my integrity. I could make the best food choice in a moment, find small ways to move my body, and discover moments to find silence. Even if the moments of finding silence were simply standing outside with bare feet and breathing. As the days pushed me along, I tried my best to find moments of pause and to ask myself what I needed just that day. And, when there were days when no choice seemed to be available, I gave myself grace. I would hold my hand to my heart, take a deep breath, and allow myself to know that the next day I would try again. As life whirled around me, I tried in small ways to provide myself with the care I needed. This darling, is something that I want for you too. To find the small ways, in busy times that you can offer care and attention to yourself.
After I was able to accept my busyness and that small choices of care were my only option, the next thing I sunk into was gratitude. Yes, we were busy and I was out of a routine, but I was also surrounded by my children and the people we love all summer long. Our days without structure were often days surrounded by playdates, vacations, mom’s night out, family, and uninterrupted time with my boys. We were busy but we were also incredibly loved. When the work day ended and a playdate rolled up, I held my hand to my heart and whispered, “Thank you,” for the moments with our friends. If I could cook a dinner they didn’t have to, I knew that soon they would do the same for us. Holding gratitude for each tiny moment of connection kept me well-connected to their love as well as my own.
These two little things; choosing the best option at the moment and holding gratitude for the people in our lives are what carried me through my busy. When I laid my tired head to bed every night, sometimes saying hello to myself for the first time, I laid my head with gratitude and a full heart. This darling is what I wish for you in your busy days ahead. To make small choices that serve your body, soul, and spirit and to notice any type of love being offered to you. Then my darling, I want you to open your arms to that love, and whisper, “Thank you,” while offering yourself grace in your busy season.