I Rise

I woke up a little after 4 a.m. and immediately checked my phone for the election results. I thought I was still dreaming,  at first, but quickly realized the candidate, who many believed was a joke, had won the presidential election.

I am heartbroken.

Although I know that not all that voted for him support his cruel rants against humanity, it feels as if hate and divisiveness won over love and inclusion. What a sobering reminder that there are many who do not support equal human rights for all.

Even though I’m hunched over because the wind has been knocked out of me, I must somehow move forward.  The sun still rises and sets each day and each day I have a choice.

On this Veteran’s Day I will raise my American flag with gratitude to all who fought for my freedom to choose.

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I choose love, hope and compassion, and, in the beautiful words of Maya Angelou, “I Rise.”

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou, 19282014

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

 

 

 

 

Being Present Can Change Your Life

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When I first started focusing on being all there, it helped me dwell less on the past and worry less about the future. As I’ve written about in previous posts, I have incorporated many new things into my daily life that have made me less anxious and depressed and more present (and happy).

Minimalism, meditation, yoga, veganism, hiking, and writing are more than just habits in my life, they have become part of who I am and have changed my life!

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I’ve noticed that my weekends and time off don’t seem like such a blur and actually feel like quality time off.

Being present can change your life in many ways:

  1. Feel less anxious and depressed-By not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
  2. Slow down time by being fully present in each moment-And don’t we all want to slow things down a bit?
  3. Get to  know (and love) yourself more-Being present forces us to take a closer look at who we are and put some time and effort into areas that may need love and attention. This is not always comfortable or easy, but remember, no mud, no lotus!
  4. Develop deeper relationships-By spending more quality time with loved ones.
  5. Let go of comparison-Being present helps us focus on what works for us.
  6. Worry less about what others might think and don’t take things personally-Follow Brene’ Brown’s advice and keep a short list of names in your wallet of whose opinions really matter. Ask people to clarify what they mean rather than add your own commentary.  Most times people act in certain ways based on what’s going on with them rather than in response to us.
  7. Ask for what you need (in a kind, loving, “I” statement way)-Being fully present can really highlight what we need in any given moment and we want to acknowledge these authentic moments rather than ignore them. People have no idea what we are thinking or feeling unless we tell them! I have had to build up the courage to do this, but, I promise that with practice, asking for what you need gets easier.

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This time of year mindfulness has helped me no longer grieve the passage of summer and fear the thought that winter is around the corner (perhaps I grieve and fear a little, but certainly not as much). I’m enjoying fall for what it truly has to offer, beautiful weather, warm fires, gorgeous colors and delicious fruits and veggies from our local farms!

Peace, Love and Presence,

Jeanne

 

 

Back to Nature

nature3After a long week and an end to my summer vacation I was feeling kind of low. I’m not sure if it was that the never-ending days of daydreaming and doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted were over, hearing the news that a childhood friend is ill, the fact that the cooler weather is right around the corner, or hormones (just threw that in since they always seem to come into play lately) that made me feel like I was heading to Funkytown; It was most likely a combination of all of these things. But I didn’t really focus too much on how I was feeling this week. Until now.

It hit me like a ton of bricks, as I stared at my reflection after a much needed haircut. I got a great haircut, but much of the fun, carefree, blonde-make-me-look-younger (so I’m told) pieces of hair had been snipped off. As I examined my hair, I suddenly became aware of all the feelings I had been pushing through all week long.

Even though I didn’t see it coming this time like I did in the past (and wrote about here https://beallthere.net/2015/08/22/funkytown-just-passing-through/) the destination was the same: Funkytown.

I was pretty quiet for the rest of the evening but I knew what I had to do and I knew that I would feel better soon. I had to be gentle with myself, stay connected to the most important people in my life, and put one foot in front of the other. Literally.

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Yoga and a walk one day and a hike the next. Nature always seems to center me and gets me out of my head.

 

We Are Who We Are, Aren’t We?

we are who we are

For as long as I can remember I have experienced a range of feelings that made me feel  like I was missing out on life. Social anxiety, self-doubt and criticism, anger, fatigue, fear of failure and, at times, self-imposed social withdrawal. I had so much to be grateful for, but I never seemed content for very long.  I felt that this was my lot in life.

After all, we are who we are, right?

I think that so many of us feel that it’s impossible to make big changes and we just hunker down and “armor up,” as Brene´ Brown would say. Rather than focus inward, which is too painful and overwhelming, and wade through the heavy fog of emotions that never really seem to lift, we distract ourselves with drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, social media, work, over scheduling, and by accumulating, organizing and maintaining more and more stuff!

There are some bright spots along the way, but the years pass and we never seem to be able to lift ourselves completely out of the fog.

After all, we are who we are.

Well, I disagree!

Change is possible! But in most cases, things just don’t get better. We have to make an effort to work through what we’re not satisfied with in our lives.  We have to get to the point of being so sick and tired of hearing ourselves complain about the same things over and over again in order to take action.  Or, as was the case with me, we get a major wake up call. A big life change (or many smaller ones) or trauma can cause a shift in our thinking, feeling, what we choose to let into our lives and what we choose to eliminate.

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I’ve been on this journey for two years now and I have discovered so many things that have helped me be who I WANT to be. There are books, blogs, and e-courses that have inspired me whose authors range from everyday people, like Courtney Carver and Joshua Becker, to research psychologists like Brene´ Brown and Kristin Neff  (ALL superheroes in my opinion!). I’ve shared some of my favorite reads below.

Other things that have helped me greatly and which have become part of who I am are yoga, meditation, writing, nature and outdoor activities (especially hiking), minimalism and nutrition. These things help me focus on being present and positive and make me feel so alive! I am extremely lucky to have a supportive group of family and friends who love me unconditionally and who I can rely on for encouragement. I am so grateful for them!

It’s been a slow, DELIBERATE process of trial and error. It literally started with going outside on a daily basis and gardening- planting, repotting or even just weeding. I’ve tried many different activities and if I enjoyed them, they felt good and they fit into my lifestyle, they became part of my routine. If not, I moved onto something else. I’ve read things that have been extremely helpful and even life changing, and other things that have not really worked for me.

I realized that things weren’t going to change unless I put down the armor and started to move forward and pull MYSELF up out of the fog.

I want to encourage you not to give up! If you are not happy or satisfied and you feel it in your bones that there has to be a better way, then take action! Big changes can come from small steps you take on a consistent basis.

Try something different today. Take a walk, read a helpful book or blog, meditate for a few minutes, stretch, do yoga, go for a hike or run, paint, write or draw, eat better, or just sit in the garden and put your hands in the dirt. Start small. Baby steps. Slow and steady. If it doesn’t feel helpful, try something different. If it resonates with you and makes you feel good, keep doing it, until it becomes part of your daily or weekly routine. Once it becomes habit, experiment with something else.

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You might even try something called, “habit stacking.” Courtney Carver explains this as the pairing of two new habits each for brief periods of time, like a few minutes. Over time, you can extend the amount of time spent on each of these. I started with a short meditation (3-6 minutes) followed by a journal entry where I wrote 2 brief statements: a gratitude statement and an intention for the day.

Before you know it, you’ll have several things in your self-care arsenal! You can pick and choose which will be helpful to you on any given day rather than fall back on old habits that were more numbing than healing.

Reach out to positive, encouraging people who will support you. Embrace change!

I used to think that there was some secret to peace and happiness, but what I’ve discovered is that these things are well within our reach. We just have to make an effort to move in a different direction. Just like the lotus, we may have to go through some mud before we can rise above it.

My journey, with its twists and turns, achievements and setbacks is what life is all about and I’m glad to finally be in the game!

Here are some inspiring reads that have helped me along the way:

The Gifts of Imperfection-Brene´  Brown

Daring Greatly –Brene´  Brown

Rising Strong-Brene´  Brown

The Four Agreements-Don Miguel Ruiz

The More of Less-Joshua Becker

Buddhist Boot Camp-Timber Hawkeye

Faithfully Religionless-Timber Hawkeye

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself– Kristin Neff

http://bemorewithless.com/

http://www.rowdykittens.com/

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

http://www.timberhawkeye.com/

One-Hundred Kisses

I miss him already.

He was a part of my every day. His big, brown, soulful eyes watched my every move. The smell and feel of his fuzzy hair comforted me like the stuffed toy I never had.

He had hypo-allergenic hair so he was the perfect dog for our family. My son had severe allergies as a child. I think having a dog made my son feel more “normal” amidst all of the doctor appointments, medications, breathing treatments, allergy shots and avoidance of many things that he might react to which could potentially lead to another hospital stay.

I loved the fact that I could pet Louie in any direction and his hair still felt soft and smooth. I would breathe him in as I held him in my arms and kissed him-every day.

I must have picked him up at least 10 times a day and smothered him with just as many kisses each time.

Having shifted my focus to being as present as possible has enabled me to spend good, quality time with loved ones and to feel pretty happy. Being present in my grief has been much more challenging.

I would have never been able to publicly express my grief for my dog if it hadn’t been for something a dear friend said to me several months ago. She had lost a loved one way too young after a long illness and could sense that I was slightly uncomfortable about having such a difficult time after losing my dad. After all, he lived a happy, healthy 88 years!

Grief is grief.

What a wonderfully gracious gift she had given me when she said these three words. And so I talk about my grief, write about it, and yes, even though it really hurts, I feel it. To my surprise, I haven’t felt comparison, resentment or judgment from others. I’ve felt tremendous support and love!

Louie had a great life. We got him when he was just 8 weeks old and showered him with constant love and attention. He just had his 18th birthday! I am so grateful for his unconditional love, support and companionship through some difficult times.

Louie in Wyoming

Louie in Wyoming on our cross county trip

 

I love you Louie Boy! I got it from here.

 

And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

                                                                                        -Mumford & Sons

Unexpected Joy

By 2:30 p.m., five hours into the garage sale,  I sold one item, a Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack CD for $1.00.

garage sale

My reservations about having a garage sale were now justified. It was a colossal waste of time and energy! The attention it took to store, clean, organize, price, set up and finally box up and cart away items for a garage sale just wasn’t worth it. Not to mention the Sunday afternoon spent waiting for customers that would never arrive.

I had heard the same warning over and over from other people who were minimizing their belongings and getting rid of unwanted items. “If you don’t need the money, just donate your things straight away, a garage sale just isn’t worth it.”

Although I didn’t need the money, for some reason I just couldn’t heed this advice. Perhaps it’s my stubborn streak or maybe it was because I felt that all the time, effort and money spent accumulating this stuff over the years just had to be worth something.

The garage sale was a bust and the glassware, knick- knacks, albums, DVD’s, frames, etc. would have to be boxed up and brought to a donation center. By now I was completely detached from my old things and I even began to despise them. THEY WERE TAKING UP TOO MUCH OF MY TIME.

The very reason I began to minimize is so that I could spend more time doing what I wanted. Sitting out in the hot sun for six hours with no ocean or lake in sight certainly wasn’t what I had in mind. I was so over the garage sale and all the things I was trying to sell. I just wanted to get rid of them. They no longer brought me joy.

As my thoughts began to shift to boxing everything up, I wondered if giving everything away right here in my driveway would change anything. I honestly doubted it, since the items were so cheap to begin with, but I figured I had nothing to lose. The more I was able to get rid of, the less I would have to lug to the donation center.

My daughter and I taped up a new sign which read, “All items FREE.”

Things began to change immediately. Not only did the new sign attract enough customers in the next hour and a half to take away about fifty percent of my stuff, but the entire mood shifted. At first people were skeptical and wondered what the “catch” was. Once we reassured them that there was no catch, their disbelief lifted. They became excited, and happy and were so appreciative to get something for free. Families spent time talking with us and carefully picking out items that they wanted.

In turn, their happiness made me happy. I would have never thought that what started as a pretty regrettable process (other than the time spent with my husband and my daughter)would end on such a positive note! As we packed up for the day, I smiled to myself realizing the lesson learned.

Always be open to new experiences, especially when things don’t go as planned or as expected. Sometimes they work out better than one could ever imagine.

I laughed as I thought, “My old stuff brought me joy one last time!”

 

 

 

 

 

What If…

What if I try something on the menu that I usually don’t order and I don’t like it as much?

What if I say “yes” and I can’t meet the commitment or feel too overwhelmed or anxious about it? I can be socially awkward and it can be uncomfortable meeting new people and being in new situations. I’m such a homebody that sometimes I feel like the dad in one of the sitcoms that said, “Nothing good ever happens OUT THERE!”

What if I change jobs and I realize that I was really meant to teach, that nothing would ever be as rewarding? Epic failure! My mom always said, “The grass isn’t always greener.” She used this phrase so often that she recited it in a condensed version and didn’t even complete the statement with, “on the other side.”

What if I do what I’ve been talking about for so long and minimize my life in a really big way? What if I buy a much smaller home and move out of the home of my dreams? The place where my husband, my kids and I share so many memories. It really is the perfect house for us!

Does this sound familiar?

But, WHAT IF we try new things and they actually turn out better than we expected? What if we embrace change instead of fear it? What if we follow our dreams and if they didn’t work out we didn’t see it as a failure, but as a learning experience? What if we found the good in new experiences even if they didn’t turn out as planned?

I’m not saying that everything new you try will be a positive experience,  and I’m certainly not advising you to quit your job and sell your house.  But if you’ve been thinking about something for a long time, and given it careful consideration, you might want to give it a try.

Everyone has a unique set of circumstances and it may not be feasible to make some changes for very valid reasons, including financial and family responsibilities. It may take years of planning to make big changes that would impact your life in big ways.

Is there something you’ve been thinking about trying for a while and just haven’t made the leap? What’s the worst thing that could happen? If you would be able to manage the different outcomes, then perhaps it’s time to try something new. New experiences make new memories.

After nearly two years of thinking and talking about downsizing and moving along the minimalism continuum, my husband and I bought a house that’s one-fourth the size of our current home. We’ll sell the home that we’ve so lovingly remodeled to fit us like a glove and start over on a much smaller scale.  It’s both exciting and scary at the same time.

But I am ready.

We gave this decision careful consideration. It would actually be better for us financially, the same distance or closer to loved ones, closer to work for my husband, but a little further commute for me. I decided it was worth the extra 20 minute commute.

Even though our new environment will be completely different, we will still have what’s most important and what really makes a house a home. We’ll have each other and the people in our lives that we love.

I will also be taking a few of my most favorite outdoor plants to our new home and transplanting them there. One of them is a rosebush with yellow flowers that my husband so thoughtfully bought me in memory of my mom. I dug it up recently to get it ready to transport, took the tag off of it,  and noticed the actual name of the rose is, “Scent From Above.” Seriously?

When I took a closer look at it I noticed it wasn’t doing very well. It didn’t appear to have any new shoots on it like it normally does this time of year. I feared it was dead. Just as I thought it might not have survived the winter, I noticed a separate tiny plant next to the main rosebush that was sprouting up from the ground beside the old one!

I dug up the entire rosebush, carefully separated the new plant from the old plant and put it in its own pot, ready to be transported to its new home. I felt a little sad that the original plant didn’t survive, but I was relieved and very grateful that it had yielded new growth before it died.

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Just like me, my rosebush has outgrown this place and is ready for a change of scenery. Just like me, it’s never been more alive and ready to begin anew, branching out from deep inside!

The new, not abandoning the old, but an extension of it.  A continuation of its journey after a long winter’s nap.

Is there something big you’ve been wanting to try for a very long time? What would it take to move closer to your goal? Or perhaps you just want to order something different on the menu. Go for it!