There and Back Again {A Tale of Thanksgiving and Spiritual Failure}

I'm not sure how we chose a flight with a four hour layover with this red eye but at least the floor looks comfortable. #travel #airport #exhausted

We just arrived home from a 9 day trip back to Las Vegas.

Let me warn you now, this post may be long, meandering, and senseless to anyone but me while I try to make sense of the many things going on in my head and my heart.

{I’m also going to talk somewhat candidly here and do so mindfully and in my never-freaking-ending practice to keep my focus on my own heart, without projecting or losing sight of my own accountability. None of this is “about” anyone, hold my experience with Life and how the hell we make sense of the seemingly senseless hurt it can deliver.}

Leaving #lasvegas

Ascending on my hometown
Feeling more like a visitor this time
{than the escapee of before}
I haven’t missed this place
Haven’t missed “home”
Although I know that’s not the story for all

Those were the words I quickly penned as our plane descended on the Vegas lights. For once, I didn’t feel that impending sense of entrapment – like I wouldn’t be able to leave without getting stuck – that I felt that last time. {That was big for me, to not feel stuck or constantly pulled back to a place with which I don’t resonate.}

I felt at peace, centered, excited for the week.

Excited to watch my little sister walk down the aisle (so moving!).
Excited to see the brother and nephew and niece I hadn’t seen in 10 years.
Excited to just BE – cooking and painting and watching movies with family.

Nephews.
afternoons with nephews

And my mama joined in!  #art #artjournal
art with my mom

Art journaling with my niece.  #artjournal #alteredbook #art #paint
art with my niece

He loves her so. #thompsonwedding2012
Their love = tears of joy.

Do we ever stop romanticizing those ideas of how things will be?

I have memories in my head of a house full of laughter and food and playfulness. Of huge family camping trips with everyone in attendance and giant games of hide and seek – kids and adults. Monthly family dinners. And holidays that stick to your heart.

And I haven’t experienced one of those romanticized holidays in almost 10 years.

Is it that as we grow up our perceptions are sharpened, picking up on things we can miss in youth and that amazing ability to remain in the moment? Or are we simply jaded by age and expectations? Or maybe things really do change that drastically and for no apparent reason than we all grew up and in separate, incomprehensible directions to one another.

It’s not that anything major happened this Thanksgiving. It’s that my heart and my head just couldn’t let go.

I’m not proud of that.

We all know family, even family we adore, can be a lot to take in all at once. And for those of you HSP’s out there, you know how compounded the situation can be when you’re sleeping in a room with two other families, four running dialogues, at least three noisy electronics going at all times, random bouts of stress and rush, and a dozen personalities and sets of needs.

I don’t pretend to be perfect. But it’s still disheartening when every tool I want to lean into seems so far away from my conscious mind as I slip back into a role I have carefully been working myself out of for most of my adult life.

Do we ever stop reverting to what other people expect to see?

Do we ever feel and respond like the adults we are when we hear the criticism or triggers of our childhood?

They mean me no harm but it’s time that I face it
They’ll never allow me to change
But I never dreamed home would end up where I don’t belong…

That’s a Rascal Flatts song that makes me cry with heartache. Those words almost describe it except for one thing:

I don’t believe that anyone won’t allow me to change. I just believe it’s so damn hard to show them I already have.

All my best intentions for a wonderful week lead to all my expectations breaking my heart.

No one else is responsible but me.

I didn’t meet my needs. I didn’t express my emotions {until they were boiling incomprehensibly…and loudly}. I didn’t pay attention to the patterns that trigger me, patterns of teasing and sarcasm and my holding back {anything from my opinion to my own sense of style for fear of the feedback I assume I’ll receive}. Patterns of expectations, ideas in my own mind of how anyone else should be.

I placed the responsibility for my own peace and joy on what others were able to do and that wasn’t fair or responsible. It made us all unhappy.

By the time I realized it I had already excused myself from the meal, driven away – the very best I could manage. I missed Thanksgiving because I had missed my own patterns of expectations and hurt and burying the truth to keep the peace, to try to support others instead of leaning into open honesty.

Hanging with one of my very best girlfriends in the sun. Kids running around the park. Good times.  @elizabethlowery
sweet, reflective, wonderful friend

My sweet wonderful girlfriend and I had a couple long talks, and as they often do, they centered around our role in our own lives and the lives of others. And the message was the same I had been grappling with: Every time I place an expectation on someone I love, I miss the opportunity to be at peace with what is. I miss the opportunity to love them. To practice surrendering to what Spirit is showing me.

It breaks my heart to read those words. It’s the same message I’ve been receiving for the last several months, the same message I think I’ve gotten right before I realize I haven’t: Stop pushing, stop micro-managing, stop thinking it’s all your job. Let go. Surrender to the direction of where Life is flowing. Surrender to peace and love within that moment, exactly as it is, without your thoughts that it needs to change for you.

It breaks my heart because I know it. I’ve been practicing it. And I’ve been failing, again and again.

It’s fucking hard.

Hard not to offer advice, instead of holding space.

Hard not to want to “fix” it – whether it’s an actual problem, or just a bad mood – instead of extending empathy first.

Hard sometimes to WANT to do anything from love: want to DIG IN, want to speak nonviolently, want to listen, want to reach out when you have nothing to reach out with.

So I did the very best I could do…I took space for myself.

I walked out when I couldn’t find that space to listen over the screaming of my own head. I hiked a mountain and lay on the rocks and turned my face to the warmth of the sun. And I said goodbye, or even missed opportunities to say goodbye, flying home without resolve.

Sitting on the hillside talking life, plans, culture and conformity with @justinplayswithballs and looking forward to flying "home" #lifeatthismoment #lasvegas
from the hillside with my lover

As Justin and I walked and hiked he asked me the same question I’ve asked myself for almost 8 years, since my dad died before we got the opportunity to have the talk that was on the horizon. It’s the question I asked myself multiple times over the past week as I did the very best I could {which didn’t seem like much}:

If the worst happened, would you regret this choice?

And I answered him honestly.

No.

I wouldn’t regret the choices I made to let things go, or not have conversations that I didn’t feel ready for. I wouldn’t regret walking out when I couldn’t find love or patience to respond with instead. I can’t regret doing the very best I could do, listening to my intuition and my heart when it says, “This is not going to help; you’ll only cause more pain right now.” I don’t ever regret the choices to surrender, to lay down my Ego-fear that tells me to judge or fix or change or fight or expect or even help, to “save” others or even see them as someone who needs saving.

I have to address my own heartache and hurt first. I have to unpack my own stories and triggers before I can bring my authentic love into a conversation with anyone else.

It’s no one’s job to apologize or change or fix anything for me, anymore than it’s my job to do the same for someone else.

It’s my job to examine what came up for me, and why. It’s my job to find my center before I try to find a solution. It’s my job to bring my real self into challenges like these, instead of compounding them by bringing my baggage. It’s my job to find what only I am accountable for {my emotions, my reactions, my choices} and release everything else {my expectations, my assumptions, my sense of obligation} so that I can walk in with nothing left but love.

Moments like this hold me perfectly still. #manchild
melt-worthy airport moments with the man-child

I can leave without regret,
With peace that I made the best choices I could,
but being void of regret
doesn’t mean being void of hurt.

{penned from the plane home}

It’s an unconventional, even controversial, viewpoint, that I believe it’s okay to say goodbye without first making amends. {Caveat: And it’s not always the right choice. As a daughter whose lost a father during an argument, I can attest to the anguish that comes from holding grudges, instead of taking mindful space.}

But the difference is in the mindfulness and the space {as opposed to the unconscious distance we tend to put between us instead}.

Are you paying attention? #artjournal
full attention slows the current

I’m experiencing hurt and frustration and sadness. And I’m allowing myself to experience it. No under-the-rug sweeps. No grudges held. But no feeding it or burying it either. No allowing it to overcome me, or to own me.

Some serious shit came up for me {and yes, I’m totally okay admitting that – why shouldn’t I be?} and I’m opening my heart up to what Spirit is trying to show me. I’m doing the inner work that’s being asked of me. I’m learning to stop projecting {hard} and stop blaming {harder} and meet my own needs so I can actually stand in the Truth that allows me to be – fully and unapologetically and compassionately – ME.

Hardest.

And even though there is a big part of me wanting to resist this next statement 😉 I can feel it nudging me to be experienced too:

I’m thankful for this. Thankful that I lost sight of myself and damn near lost my shit. Thankful that I felt hurt and frustrated. Thankful that I screwed up. Thankful that it’s so deeply triggered and challenged me. Thankful that it’s bringing up in me the bullshit that was hiding there, because I know full well it only comes up when the timing is perfect for it to be addressed {even if I don’t like that fact}. I’m thankful for the comments that were made, the stories that were dredged, the triggers that were found. Thankful for failure in how I handled it all {or didn’t}.

I’m thankful for the nudges that keep telling me when I’m trying to do something or say something here that isn’t focused on my authentic heart, too. 🙂

I love them all. They – like me – are doing the best they can as well. That I don’t feel at home says nothing about them, and everything about me – where I am and what I’m moving through with Life as my guide.

Why am I sharing all this?

Why am I “airing dirty laundry”, as culture has taught us to see it?

Because I got the most amazing messages of gratitude over the week: messages from incredible women who totally nailed it and stood in compassion and authenticity in a challenging family situation, messages from heartfelt women who struggle{d} to do the same and are thankful to be reminded they aren’t asshats for being human and unable to access that place of compassion and authenticity at the same time,or even separately.

Because I’d rather dismember the monster that tells us we can’t be honest about having a hard go of something, the monster that tells us it’s not okay to be imperfect, that tells us our lives “should” be perfect and by the book or else we’re going to hell. {Shit, I wrote a book on dealing with triggers, and my experiences still aren’t by the book.}

Welcome to being human. Welcome to trying to be that human with over 7 billion other people, many of which are our greatest, most wonderful, most frustrating teachers.

We love our families. But we mess it up. We do. I do. Again and again. And hopefully, again and again, we do the best we can to get through that moment, to get through the challenge, to learn and grow and try to love ourselves and others a little better each time. Sometimes we nail it. At least the same number of times we don’t.

My declaration is this: I’m okay with these facts. Okay with Life sometimes being messy. Okay with the fact that I’m going to make mistakes at it. Okay being open and honest and authentic about it. Finally okay with the choices I make. {And learning to be okay if others aren’t okay with it.}

Some wisdom from my mama's wall. #bestill
wisdom on the wall

This get you thinking too?
Some questions that may support you: What do I need to get still with? What parts of myself am I bringing into similar challenges with those I love? If I was fully centered and grounded first, what would I do/say differently?

What Makes Us Scary to The Night?


What She is Made Of – my first real attempt at mixed media

I had only just turned 17. It was February, give or take, and I was several months pregnant, which may account for my slightly crazy act of heroism (protective instinct and all).

My mom and I were driving home after dark, and as she turned the corner of our street I saw the violence taking place. I remember shooting upright in the passengers seat, twisting to watch as we drove to our home about 7 houses away.

There was a fire in me that I couldn’t stop, that I’m not even sure my mom could stop (or maybe I just couldn’t hear her try).

As soon as our car stopped in the drive, my door was open and I was running toward them.

Two young men, scary looking men – the kind you’d imagine in a gang or in a dark alley somewhere – were smashing another man’s head into a rock on the lawn of the corner lot.

And none of that registered as something to avoid. I wasn’t scared of those men. I wasn’t scared of the blood. I wasn’t scared of being hurt, even newly pregnant.

I was just running at them, shouting at them, with no thought in my mind of what I’d do when I got to them, but no way my feet would carry me any other way. I remember looking back at my mom, standing and watching me (did she call my name? is that why I had turned back?). I remember knowing this was my role that night, and maybe even thinking she knew that too.

The men heard me, saw me running toward them and placed one finally blow to the man on the lawn (which pissed me off and shot me forward faster) before finally taking off.

I don’t remember much of what came after, although I know I yelled for a woman in a window to call the police, angry that she hadn’t come outside with a bat long before this moment. I know I stayed by his side, surveying his wounds, touching his arm, afraid to move him and talking to him until the paramedics arrived.

But mostly I remember the look in his bloodshot, slightly unfocused eyes. I remember seeing something in them, like recognition or surprise – perhaps at exactly who had chased off his assailants, a tiny young girl without fear. I think he said something to me, but I can’t remember what it was. I can’t remember my words to him either.

I think back on that night from time to time and wonder at my fearless self.

How a young pregnant girl could set about to save a man she didn’t know without hesitation or alarm, as if it were the most expected thing for her to do.

I’ve never found myself in a situation quite so big, but yet I’ve found myself overtaken by fear again and again. Freezing in the terror of some near disaster, overcome by the thoughts of rejection or looking stupid at some choice.

And I have to wonder what happened to that girl, the one willing to chase off the villain with nothing but the fire in her belly.

Was it only the hormones moving me, or was it bigger than that?

What makes a woman bold and certain in one moment, and timid and shrinking away the next?

I suppose the same thing that makes the hoodlum run from you in the dark of the night, instead of turn and fight you too: your own wild fight within you. The light you carry with you when you move from your Truth.

That’s some scary shit to those who shirk in the shadows.

There have been times since that night when I need of remind myself of that young girl. Times when I lose myself and question my place in this world. Times like we all experience with the natural ebb and flow, in and out of our own Self.

I remind myself of her matter-of-factness.
Her conviction.
The way her feet pounded against the pavement.
The way her voice boomed through the night.
The way her fire propelled her.

When I question my path, I remember her and the knowing she had of exactly what she was meant to do without the voice of doubt nipping at her heels. When I question my ability, I remember her and how she found exactly what she needed the moment she allowed herself to shut out the fear and listen to only what was being asked of her.

When I question the power of a single choice…well, I remember him. The way his eyes came into focus on my eyes, the way his body felt against my own.

Sometimes the impact we have on another is palpable, obvious, immediate…

And that makes our choices simpler (although maybe not always as unflinching).

And sometimes we don’t get to hold the hands of the people whose lives we just changed, don’t get to look into the eyes of those whose lives we may have just saved.

Sometimes there isn’t a fire that blazes up within us, compelling us to run with fury and instinct, to protect or roar, or fight if it comes down to it.

But that doesn’t mean that wild woman isn’t within us all the same.

And that’s what I remind myself the most: what I can do when I give no thought to anything but what I can do.

That this is Who I Am when I allow myself to blaze: burning and growling and damn scary to the night.

Organic Wisdom :: The Result of Your Experiences

Every Friday I try to share some of the quotes I post on Twitter and Facebook, with some of my expanded thoughts and feelings on it here.

“Organic Wisdom” is what I have found speaking to me in those quiet moments, that guides me and that echoes Truth in my life. Please feel free to download, or share this image in any way you’d like.

I think we (myself included) give too much credit to our experiences, saying that they are what made us who we are today.

Likewise we can give too much blame as well, insisting that they are the cause of our suffering.

But we are not the result of what happened to us.

We are the result of what we choose to do with it.

Painful, heartbreaking and horrific things have happened in my life: abuse, assault, loss, depression.

I’m not being contrite when I say I am am thankful for each and every one, even though I have no desire to experience it again nor would I wish it on anyone.

But as painful as those events are, they did not happen to me.

They happened for me.

And more importantly, I happened to them.

From those events I learned how to suffer and how to overcome suffering. I learned that I could allow things to tear me down or I could choose for them to build me up.

There is a difference in what happens to us and what happens for us: One creates victims. The other creates survivors.

Kick-ass survivors. Men and women who are ablaze with wisdom, strength, confidence and the desire to transform violence into love. Men and women who experienced something that will embolden them to change the world.

You are NOT the result of what has or will occur in your life, of the pain you are or have experienced, of the mistakes you did or will make.

You are the result of what you choose to do next.

External Reflections of an Internal Joy (My Thoughts on Meaningful Consumerism)

"Stuff-ed"

Tiffani and I were sitting on the edge of my bed when I had the epiphany (I’m calling it “The Epiphany with Tiffani”.)

We were looking through my closet trying to find the perfect thing to wear during the dready photoshoot when she said something extremely obvious along the lines of “Pick something that reflects you and that you feel really good in” and I realized how much I felt “comfortable” in or “okay” in, but nothing to fit her description.

I started talking about how much of my clothing I don’t actually *love* or that doesn’t fit me well and how much I dislike to shop because I can never find what I want and love, when it hit me that I had my closet and my head so full of what I didn’t want that I had no space in either for what I did!

I know the value of creating space in my life (physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally) for the things I’m ready for. But I hadn’t applied it to the simplest of things. (Duh.)

I then proceeded to yank things off hangars and throw them on the floor, where they stayed for several days (Justin loved me for it. 😉 ) instigating me to finish the task.

And I did. I purged over 80% of my closet over the next week.

Then within 4 days I had found a handful of new things that I love and can’t wait to wear each day!

I created space and Life rushed in to fill it with the things I was ready for.

These things reflect me and highlight my favorite parts of me and make me feel radiant and comfortable at the same time. Yum. 🙂

Then last week I got a new iPhone.

I had milked my last phone until the last possible day, when it went haywire and started calling China like a curious 3 year old.

And I love my new iPhone! It’s fun and easy to use and syncs with my everything and has Siri which makes me feel like Tony Stark telling my robot what to do for me (or asking it the meaning of life – seriously, try it. Several times.)

It makes my life easier and I feel high-tech and hip and fun. I’m playing with Instagram and Hanging with Friends and getting automatic updates to my calendar.

But All This Triggered Me Too

I’m writing all this because it has me reflecting on consumption and my reasons for it.

We gave away nearly everything we owned when we hit the road and I’m suddenly finding value in “stuff”?

On top of that is my strong resonance with sustainability and eco-conscious living.

We live in a pretty consumable world and we (as a culture) love to consume.

And I’ll admit it. I loved the “high” of finding my new purple, off-the-shoulder top and tapping away on my new iPhone.

It feels good, especially to someone like me who hasn’t done a lot of shopping or consuming outside of thrift stores and farmers markets, based on the principle of it.

And so I can understand why it can feel so easy to fill a void with the superficial, the “stuff” in life.

Because it’s not the “stuff” we’re after – it’s the feeling it might offer us that we’re hungry for.

Maybe it’s a sense of newness, a clean state, a change that doesn’t actually scare us.

Maybe it’s the idea of deserving, of self-worth, of “I earned this”.

Maybe it’s the connection we experience when we fit in with our crowd, know what they are talking about and can share our experience of the same.

Maybe it’s the beauty and the inspiration from filling our homes or our closets with the things that make us smile, feel comfortable and radiant or offer us less stress or more time.

It’s easy to mistake what we’re really after with the means to get it.

It’s easier to get caught up in the “retail therapy” to make us feel good again than it is to actually DIG IN to those uncomfortable feelings that keep us from feeling good all the time and address them once and for all.

It’s also easy to demonize the “stuff”, to point fingers at consumers, to make ourselves or our kids go without for fear of creating waste or feeling (or fearing we look) shallow or conventional.

One way or another, it’s easier to get caught up in the surface, the superficial, than it is to look beneath the surface of our experiences to the real human experience happening within each one of us.

I’m finding it more and more true that the real solution is to notice when the “stuff” is suddenly a tragic attempt to access that joy we all so desperately need to experience, or whether it’s an external reflection of an internal joy we’ve already found.

As I reflect on all this – on my own consumption, my own guilt and concern in contrast to the positive feelings I’m experiencing as a part of this new “stuff” – I am noticing that the happier and more grounded I feel internally, the more I want my external environment to reflect that.

I want to paint my walls and wear rich and vibrant colors and take gorgeous photos faster and organize my life better to reflect what I know as Truth – that the world is beautiful, colorful, inspirational and enjoyable and I want to get back to the act of living it to its fullest potential.

When I keep my focus on the external being a mere reflection of the internal I find my consumer choices are more conscious and simple and eco-friendly, anyway. I choose things that will last, I care for them better and I make sure they are just right for me so that I have no regrets. Because that’s my internal experience as well – full of love, care, mindfulness and value.

If I had to summarize all these reflections I think my point would be this:

Love what you do. Love Who You Are. Let go of the fear and move into Truth. Live your life from the inside out. Find value in yourself and your life, and reflect that in all you do. Reflect outside yourself the Truth you experience in your heart. Allow every choice to count. And INSPIRE the world to something greater, starting with you.

Serving vs. Being a Servant {Which one are you?}

My Heart Is Hers

In your relationship with your children…

Your relationship with your partner…

Even your work or contribution to the world

In your life, are you serving or are you being a servant?

There is a very distinct difference between the two.

The Servant

Picture the classical version of a servant; a person in servitude to another, who does their calling or bidding.

There may be little to no boundaries and she has little to no say in the demands made upon her. Her needs aren’t important, or as important, as the person or people she serves.

She is lower than, less than, beneath others. Her servitude is out of obligation: it’s a duty or a chore or a job, something that must be done.

The modern-day servant looks a lot like this:

You give to your loved ones, or even acquaintances, out of duty. You often feel less important than or diminished or blocked by those in your life. You also feel tired, drained, and dull. Your actions breed resentment and anger in your life, and you find yourself playing the victim role of “others don’t care about me”, “I’m taken advantage of”, and even “No one will support me in that.”

Serving

Now imagine a host; a person who has invited her most revered and beloved guests into her home.

She is honored by their presence and delights in what they bring to the table, their unique contribution to the conversation. She is generous in what she offers them and does so out of Love.

Because they are her cherished guests, she is kind, patient and considerate of them. She offers them what she has learned they most love and earnestly wants to provide for their needs. She takes in account their individual personalities and preferences to create an experience they will enjoy.

She sees everyone, including her, as exceptional and equal in their own right and this is reflected in both her actions toward them and toward herself. Because of this she feels love, has more energy, and isn’t afraid to ask for what she needs.

Behavior and Intention

The describable actions of the servant and the host might be the same:

  • Both may prepare and offer food
  • Both may clean and organize
  • Both may listen and talk
  • Both may support and help
  • Both may be in charge of important and delicate matters

But the intentions behind their actions set them apart.

One is being used. One is making a genuine, generous, loving offer.

Both are making a choice.

In your life, in your family, in your work…what choice do you most often make?

Ask yourself: Am I serving or being a servant?

Photo Credit