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

Life Imitates Nature

I really enjoy being outdoors-hiking, walking, gardening and just observing. So often I’m able to make sense of things that I’m thinking and feeling when I take a cue from nature.

I think we all strive to be the best we can be. We all have room for growth and it makes us feel good to learn new things about ourselves. When we know better, we do better, and when we do better, we feel better.

Perhaps you are working on simplifying your life, focusing more on a healthy lifestyle, improving your relationships, having more patience or compassion, sticking to a self-care routine or stepping out of your comfort zone.

Let’s face it, growth and change is work, and we all have our days, and even weeks, when we just don’t have the energy to move forward. There are some days when, rather than meditate, go for a walk, prepare a healthy meal or catch up on some reading for a great e-course on how we can be more self-aware, we may just opt to eat a bag of chips and take a long nap. Sound familiar?

magnola3

I think we all need a restorative break from time to time. Maybe we had a particularly difficult day or it has just been one of those weeks (or months)! Although we may feel as if we had a minor setback in reaching our personal goals, it doesn’t mean that we are any less committed, courageous or enlightened.

We can move on and pick up where we left off when we’re ready and continue on our path.

It’s been a rough Spring for my majestic Magnolia tree. Its sweet-smelling, pink flowers just started to open up when we had a hard frost. The buds never fully opened, they just shriveled up and turned brown.

I reflected on how I’d been feeling the past few weeks as I looked at the brown leaves. My tree wasn’t at its best and I didn’t feel I was either. I felt like I didn’t have much energy or motivation, and I wasn’t making the most healthy choices. I hadn’t meditated in weeks and just couldn’t get moving. Whatever I was experiencing had thrown off my momentum, just like the hard frost had done to the tree.

After a few weeks of observing the shriveled up brown leaves, I noticed a change in my tree! The beautiful, bright green leaves had started to sprout and open up to the warmth and sunshine!

And just like that, the journey continues. I think I’ll go for a walk.

magnolia2

Stay In Your Own Lane

Stay in your own lane. I’ve been using this phrase a lot lately. To me it means to nurture and take care of ourselves, pay attention only to opinions that matter and to focus on things that bring us happiness and joy. I try to stay in my own lane.

But what happens when we get sideswiped?

I was cruising along this week when a few insensitive comments, loss of sleep, and thoughts of loved ones that I miss knocked me out of my lane.

I have been able to deal with each of these things in the recent past with a level head and a light heart (or at least I’m trying), but cumulatively they really knocked me off-center.

So how do we get back in our lanes?

As I watched the April snow fall on my beautiful, partially bloomed, very confused Magnolia tree, nature, once again, revealed the answer.

We stay the course and do our best. We deal with each thing that has knocked us out of our desired path the best way we can. And we eventually get back in our lanes.

Each experience makes us uniquely who we are and moves us closer to our authentic selves. Our imperfections are what makes us human, more alike than different, and I think this is the bigger picture.

The flowers on my Magnolia tree may look less than perfect this Spring, but the tree is much more than something beautiful to look at. As I peered into the tree, I smiled at what I saw through the wind-swept branches.

On this cold, snowy Spring morning, my Magnolia tree is the sturdy home which gently cradles a mother dove in her nest. Can you see her?

Stay in Your Own Lane2

 

 

Realty Check

realty check

Today was the first day of a week long break from work. Ahhh, finally some much-needed time off! Except I felt more like a snake in a can than someone about to have a relaxing, rejuvenating week. I’ve always done better with structure, so I can’t say that I was surprised.

I started to think of everything I wanted to accomplish, both short term and long range. I wanted to continue exercising and meditating, get some more minimizing done, get together with friends and family, catch up on work, my e-course and my writing, schedule the medical visits I’ve been putting off and plan for my next move and my next career!

I didn’t know where to begin and instead withdrew with one of my common default behaviors: I went back to bed. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. Sleeping had always been one of my coping mechanisms and I usually felt better after a nap. But, even after pulling my flannel sheets over my head to block out the daylight, I couldn’t fall asleep.

So I grabbed my phone and started scanning various social media sites to take my mind off things. I knew this wouldn’t bring me any closer to managing my “to do” list, but at least it would give me a break from this “free fall” feeling.

I know social media is a big time waster for me and I was feeling pretty crappy when I saw a picture of a distant friend’s smiling face. I had heard she was struggling with an illness, which was evidenced by her covered head.

Tears came to my eyes and my pity party abruptly ended as I instantly realized how utterly ridiculous I was being. What would she think of how I was squandering my time?

Instead of continuing to reach out to old habits like sleep or a technology binge to withdraw from life, I decided to lean into what I was feeling and draw on some new things I’ve learned.

I did some yoga, meditated, ate a healthy lunch and made a list of everything that I wanted to accomplish this week and what I wanted to include in my daily routine, like something active. I felt much more focused, grounded and alive!

I’m grateful for this realty check while deeply saddened that others have to endure such pain and suffering. I will honor them by emulating their strength and courage as best I can, and by leaning into life.

 

 

 

Courage

It’s been 18 months since my unraveling, I mean, since I began my journey of self discovery, and I made it my New Year’s resolution to pause, reflect and regroup in January. I felt a much needed break would give me an opportunity to learn more about where I might want to venture next.

Here’s what I’ve learned that keeps me less stressed, tired, anxious and depressed and more happy, confident, energetic and excited about life:

  • simplifying
  • presence
  • gratitude
  • intention
  • setting boundaries
  • nature
  • writing
  • eating a plant based diet
  • fitness
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • perspective taking
  • not taking things personally

I feel like I’ve come a long way and have experienced some real growth and lasting, positive changes.  This month I decided I was ready to learn more and dig a little deeper. That yearning brought me to Brene Brown and her Living Brave e-course (brenebrown.com).

One of the cornerstones of her philosophy and research is vulnerability and, although it takes tremendous courage to be vulnerable, the potential for growth and connection is profound.

Sounds pretty intense, yet my response was, “Sign me up!” Perhaps deep down I knew that this was exactly what I needed.

The courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.

We often look at vulnerability in others as courage, but inadequacy in ourselves.

~Brene Brown

Truth.

I’ve noticed that when I’m vulnerable, more often than not, others feel comfortable enough to do the same with me and this creates a real sense of shared humanity. A real human connection. These interactions really fill me up.

I went to the dentist recently for a routine cleaning and was greeted by a hygienist whom I’ve never met. My appointment wasn’t with her, it was with my regular hygienist. With my regular hygienist, I knew how the appointment would go. She wouldn’t use that excruciatingly painful water pick, she would compliment me on my dental hygiene and we would talk about work, our husbands, our homes and our pets. Sounds silly, but some days sitting in her chair I could actually relax.

Apparently there was a last minute change and my hygienist couldn’t make it in that day.  When I realized this complete stranger wasn’t just showing me to my room and was actually going to clean my teeth, I went into a full blown fear-of-the-dentist-anxiety state of mind.

THIS WASN’T WHAT I EXPECTED!

I instantly formulated two options in my brain, I could leave and reschedule or work through my anxiety and just get the appointment over with. I decided on the “big girl” option, it was unpleasant at best (she used the painful water pick AND tutored me on the proper flossing technique the entire time), but I made it a point to speak with the receptionist after my appointment and request that I be contacted prior to any changes in the future.

As I approached the receptionist, I became nervous and doubted what I was going to say. I was afraid I would seem silly, demanding or worse yet, a little unstable. I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and work through my vulnerability, unsure of the outcome.

Boy was I glad I did. As I began to politely and calmly share the anxiety I felt due to a change in hygienists without advance notice, and the fact that I would like to be notified of said changes in the future, something unexpected happened. Instead of an annoyed, judgmental reaction,  I received one of understanding, kindness and compassion.

The receptionist repeated over and over again that she completely understood and then went on to share her own story of her recent health issues, her experiences with a variety of health care providers and how unsettled and anxious she feels when her appointments change or don’t go as expected.

I left feeling completely understood and respected. Not at all what I had anticipated. We had shared a sacred space called common humanity and, rather than feeling abnormal, I never felt more connected.

If you decide to let your guard down, put yourself out there and allow yourself to be more vulnerable, it takes courage, since it may not always work out. Brene Brown cautions that we must be mindful of when and where we are vulnerable and who we decide to share with. A crowded office party after a couple of beers is definitely not the right time or place.

Only you can decide if you’re willing to take that risk. So far I’m one for two, not a bad average.

 the-gifts-of-imperfection-quote

A New Year’s Pause

Happy New Year

Sometimes things aren’t as clear as we’d like them to be. They aren’t always neatly defined and life can be downright confusing. Rather than reacting to the discomfort of the unknown by making New Year’s Resolutions to try to change things, maybe we should just hit the pause button.

Maybe we’re right where we need to be.

The weather has been unseasonably and gloriously mild and I recently noticed that the bright green summer grass was poking through an early dusting of snow. I even saw remnants of autumn as a few leaves blew around.

Yet I don’t think the deer that ran through this area was confused or uncomfortable at all. She was right where she needed to be as she made her way through to her favorite apples on the ground in my yard.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a place that may seem confusing, or we may feel like we’re not moving forward fast enough on our journey of self growth. Perhaps we’ve worked really hard and just need to catch our breath. Or maybe we’re unsure of our next move. We may even know what our next move needs to be but we’re trying to conjure up the courage or put together the means to move forward.

I’ve often found that it’s in this space that some of my best self-work happens, for it’s in the pause that I’m able to hear and really listen to the quiet revelations that may have otherwise been lost in all the doing.

So as uncomfortable as we might be with not knowing our next move, I think this space is an important part of our journey. Just like the deer making her way through some confusing weather to get to her favorite apples, I think we need to find meaning and comfort in the uncomfortable parts of our journey, since it’s in this space and beyond that we may find the tastiest fruits of our labor.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
-Neale Donald Walsch

Rather than the typical New Year’s Resolutions this year,  we might just need A New Year’s Pause. Let’s start a new tradition!

Happy New Year!  Wishing you Peace, Love, Presence and Pause in 2016!

 

 

 

 

Christmas Presence

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been off my game lately. Rather than being focused on enjoying The Christmas Present, I find myself dwelling on The Christmas Past and fretting about The Christmas Future.

I get a little sad when I think about the big family gatherings we used to have, and how different they are today. I feel stressed out thinking about what still has to be done before December 25.

Although I’m tempted to fall into my old routines of mindless eating, watching TV and endless hours on Facebook, my phone or the internet, I’ve come to realize that it’s especially important to be mindful during the holiday season.

After a particularly busy day at work recently, I finished off a partially eaten bag of potato chips and was headed to the living room to watch The Kardashians I had DVR’d.  It dawned on me that I was on autopilot.  I was mindlessly doing these things to shift my focus from missing loved ones and buying the perfect gifts.

When I allowed myself to be present in that moment, I was able to get my bearings and I became aware of what I was experiencing and why. Then I came up with a better alternative (yoga) to make myself feel better at that moment and beyond. The breathing and stretching felt great!

I realize things aren’t always going to be the same from year to year, and I look forward to developing new traditions and making new memories.  I also know that I’ll get the things that really matter done by December 25.

I’m not saying that I won’t be eating chips or watching reality TV, but with an increased understanding of how the busyness of the season can impact me, I plan to be extra mindful so I can enjoy The Christmas Present.

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Peace, Love and Lots of Christmas Presence to You! XOX