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?

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