Tom has been gone for a total of 13 days and I always joke that the "alone time" is nice...for about 3 days. And then the quiet sets in and I can't wait for him to come home. So this is a long stretch of time, but last year we were away from each other for about 20 days, however both of us were traveling in far away lands, separate but busy.
So the solitude this time around is different for me. It made me think about those who live alone, either by choice or by a life event like divorce or death. I really got in touch with that feeling of aloneness. I was never lonely, I was always productive and connected so that didn't happen. (And oh, did I mention that I had the entire interior of the house painted while Tom was gone...if you need a good painter who talks a lot, to himself, let me know!!)
But I reached out to a hand full of people that I knew were alone, just to chat. They all were so grateful to have someone say to them, "hey I was just thinking about you." That is all it takes.
And death. I have been thinking about death a lot. Not in a fearful way, more of an introspective way. I read every one of the obituaries in the New York Times this morning. I don't know...I like to piece together the story of someone's life. One obit was written by the person himself, a journalist of course, his "last byline." It was beautiful. Here's the good news, of the 35 obituaries, 13 of the people were over 90 years old when they passed and 7 were in their 80's. That is pretty good odds. Those that passed in their 60's and 70's were all attributed to cancer and one at age 25 was suicide. I think it is good that we know the cause, that is the brutal beauty of being a human being. Some of us out there (our brothers and sisters, cause we are ALL connected) have harder times living in this life.
I had a conversation last night with a friend who lost her son at age 25 to a drug overdose this summer. We spoke almost the whole hour about death. Without tears. Just the reality of the process of letting go/not letting go of someone you love. But also knowing that their soul continues on and the beauty and comfort that that holds. I was so grateful to connect with her in this way. Don't push away the hard stuff.
So on this absolutely beautiful Sunday, say I LOVE YOU to those around you and make a call to someone you know who might be alone and tell them you are thinking about them. I am heading to my Mom's for a lovely Sunday dinner, feeling grateful.
The funny thing about life is that sometimes when you face challenges, and you don't DIE, you realize that the rest of it is just gravy. Here's what I mean. As I get older, I don't seem to have the ability, as much, to lie. I have seen and experienced a lot in my 51 years, and some of it will be in a memoir at some point. So when little things come up these days, and I have a choice between being people pleasing or speaking my truth, more often than not I speak the truth. A little thing happens in my head, where I say, "Fuck it, what do you have to lose?" Pardon my french, but it's TRUE! I try to never speak my truth with anger or resentment or rebellion. But when I do just state my integrity (yes, when you tell the truth you are in integrity with yourself) then the little girl in me jumps up and down and says, "WAY TO GO!!" I feel a release. I feel proud of myself. It is not up to me how the other person handles my truth. What is important here is that I ALWAYS PAUSE and ask myself "is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?" Now kind is arbitrary, but to me it means to not speak with ill intent. I know some people that time and time again throw gas on the fire called "haters." They think that by continuing to speak up against them it will quiet them, "I'll show them!!" But all it does is fuel the fire. BE CLEAR. Many times SILENCE SPEAKS MORE THAN WORDS, and you have to know when that is, as Michelle Obama says, "when they go low, we go high." Go high, always. And sometimes in silence.
So I ask you, how can you have more integrity with yourself by speaking YOUR truth? What inside of you is dying to come out? How are you shrinking yourself down? Not speaking your truth is soul crushing. But "coming out" and I mean coming out of the darkness of people pleasing and lying is your only redemption. A little bit at a time. And if you have children, what are you teaching them? It is a practice, do it a day at a time. Eat the elephant one bite at a time and don't beat yourself up when you fall back into the trap. But know that you are worth being heard. YOUR TRUTH. It will set you free.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try and how much you contribute to others, sometimes life just isn't fair. In the moment you don't know why. And you try like hell to figure it out. But during that time, it just sucks. The only thing that you can do is ride the wave knowing that at some point the water will smooth out and life will return to some sort of normalcy. It's not you, it just is what it is. It happens to all of us. It's a reminder of sorts, life telling you that on some level we are all the same. We all hurt. That's part of the deal of being a human being. I believe in the resiliency of the human heart and I believe in me. Smooth waters are ahead, just not today.
Let’s face it. There will always be someone who is smarter, richer, more beautiful, more famous, more fit, or SOMETHING we covet. Always. Isn’t that a relief? It should be. It takes the pressure off to be perfect or someone else which is impossible. Each one of us is so profoundly and beautifully unique, you wouldn’t compare one rose to another based on beauty would you? ALL roses are beautiful. So it really is silly to compare you to me and me to you.
We can aspire to be MORE of who we already are but when you tread in the realm of wanting to be someone else, it is soul crushing. Nothing will stomp out your fire of imagination, creativity, and love of life faster than comparison and its brother, envy. It is a complete energy drain. AND not only that, it is a slap in the face of the Creator.
So rise up and use these feelings of inadequacy to optimize YOU. Write a gratitude list. Next write ALL of your best qualities and accomplishments, ALL of them. Dig deep. Now think about HOW you want to feel. Because underneath a feeling of inadequacy is a feeling of wanting. What are those feelings? What do you long for? To feel empowered, valued, strong, affluent, innovative, connected, recognized, inspired, abundant, free, etc. This is what you are searching for, really and truly. Not more money. Longer and leaner legs. The spotlight. Our desires are all linked to a feeling and if you are able to identify that FEELING then you can start to work on how to create that feeling in your life without the attachment to something unhealthy and soul sucking!
Healthy aspirations are soul affirming and they lift you up because they are in alignment with who you already are. Give yourself the permission to expand your vision of who you could be if you were able to just remove the shackles of fear. How can you be more true to yourself? Where are you playing it small? Just taking one baby step in that direction will give you the energy and fortitude to take the next bigger step. Be grateful for YOUR journey and the path you are on, it is no better or worse than someone else’s journey no matter how it appears. Have faith and love your SELF!
It’s not that spring is around the corner, because this started in January. I suddenly became weary of everything in my home that was mediocre. For most of my life I bought things based on price instead of quality, because frankly, that’s what I could afford. Everything was always bought “on sale.” It may not have been the exact color that I wanted or the exact size, but “what the heck, it will work!” Whether it was kitchen items, linens, clothing, shoes, handbags, you name it, a deal is a deal.
Then this year I just got fed up. I was still using the same crappy pot and pans that, get this, I “won” based on points I accumulated from our bank accounts! So I was shipped these very expensive looking Emeril pots and pans, all silver and shiny about four years ago!. Then I put them on the stove and found out that “free” may not equate to quality!! But I was still using them.
Finally one day in January I asked myself “WHY DO YOU HOLD ON TO THINGS THAT SUCK??” Good question. And I thought about it. I believe it goes back to when I was a kid and we were taught to take care of things because “if you lose it or wreck it, that’s it!” So here I am, 49 years old and I still feel the same way. I DO take really good care of my “things.” Ask Tom. And I never lose anything, I know exactly where my stuff is at all times. But believe me, I am not at all a pack rat or a hoarder. I like order. I have just made due with most everything that I bought five or ten years ago.
So I decided that it was time to actually replace the crappy, bought on-sale stuff with things of quality. I chose based on two requirements: “DO YOU LOVE IT?” “IS IT GREAT QUALITY?” What a fantastic feeling to be able to choose freely!! And now I have started to give away everything that I didn’t like. It is a process. But I sure as heck started with the pots and pans!
I don’t think that this exercise has anything to do with money or your income. I believe that you can do this, even if it is just one item a month that you replace, knowing that you will probably have the new “chosen” item for 5, 10, 20 or more years. Start with the things that you use every day. A handbag, a sauté pan, a blow dryer, bed linens. What would make your heart sing every time you picked it up? START THERE!
And then I realized that purging the mediocrity wasn’t just about “stuff!” I needed to raise the bar on myself. I needed to take my integrity up a level. I needed to show up more and better to my friends and family. I needed to generate MORE in our business. I needed to “handle” some stuff that scared me. Wow! When I realized that little nugget I almost wanted to put all the crap back up on the shelves and call it a day! But I didn’t and I am so happy. Because it feels so good to be “clean.” Happy purging, go take it up a notch!!
I had a wonderful conversation today with an amazing woman in my business. She is smart, witty, caring and compassionate. And obese. Her words, not mine. She told me that she had been asked by an organization who trains professionals in our industry what they could do better. She told them that she noticed that with their women’s event that not one speaker was full figured. They did take note of her observation. In addition, she said to me that a woman had told her that she would have signed up in this lady’s business earlier if she had seen a significant weight loss from my friend. Hmmm I thought.
This conversation was on the heels of the Oscar award scandal, #OscarsSoWhite, that took place three nights earlier. And the whole thing just made me really sad. It was the combination of my conversation with this beautiful and talented woman, coupled with the sting of the Oscars, and throw in the absolute disgracefulness of the political LEADERS vying for our votes and I slipped into a heavy heart. Diversity. Why in the world in 2016 is diversity and MORE IMPORTANTLY our acceptance of diversity, an issue??!! Why is it that someone’s sex, weight, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, and/or political beliefs an issue that continues to separates us?
After a long pause I said to my friend, “This just makes me really sad that we are having this conversation at all. To me, the size of your waist means nothing, it is the size of your heart that I care about. AND the fact of the matter is that 30% of the country is obese and they are looking for YOU to show them that it is not their SIZE that matters! It is their happiness, their health, their self esteem and what they do in the world to make it a better place that MATTERS! They are looking for you to give them inspiration and courage to show up in the world and most importantly to demonstrate to them how to LOVE themselves, no matter what their waist size is.” She took all this in and I could tell that she was touched and moved. Her entire motivation is to end suffering in the world, two legged and four legged beings! What an incredible mission.
I heard from different conversations around the Oscar awards that people where just tired of the “whining” around the issue. Jaw drop, double take. WHAT??!! WHINING?! If I had been present in that conversation (I wasn’t, this was second hand), I would have asked “when, pray tell, in YOUR life have you ever been discriminated against? Oh never? Well then, my dear, you don’t get to complain about the “whining!” But of course, I would say this with love. Wink. Because the bottom line is that this is really just an issue of education. And sometimes we need to firmly but lovingly EDUCATE those around us. Speak up. Don’t be silent, especially when you get that knot in your stomach that makes you want to run away and not say anything. Be brave. Do it for those who need to be spoken up for and most importantly, do it for yourself. AND if you can say it with love, bravo, you just moved up one more rung on the enlightenment ladder!
I love Ram Dass. I spend hours a week listening to his podcasts. (Richard Alpert) is a teacher who emirates love and compassion with every breath and is extremely funny and entertaining which is a bonus for a guru! Now don’t get all freaked out when I speak of “gurus!” A guru is simply a teacher. I am inspired by many different advisers from (all living) Marianne Williamson, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, The Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle, Alice Walker, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Pema Chodron and Byron Katie, to name a few. Many different religions, all wonderful beings.
So a few weeks ago I was hit by that no good, rotten flu bug. It got its talons in me and wouldn’t let go! Day after day the only thing I could do was get up and wander to my comfy chair with my kleenex, Breath of Life essential oil, vitamin cocktail and velvet blankie. Days became weeks and the only that changed was my pajamas. Had I had a JOB, I would have been fired! On week three I was finally able to get out to go the grocery store and Bed Bath and Beyond for a humidifier! Big outing, exhausted afterward. I had a lot of time to catch up on all the newest tv. That is fun for about three days. So then I thought I would use the time to watch things that I felt were spiritually or intellectually redeeming!
Ram Dass’ documentary called “Fierce Grace” was exactly what I needed to watch while I was convalescing. It took place four years after he suffered a near death stroke. His right side was mostly paralyzed and he couldn’t move without the help of an attendant and a wheel chair. His vast vocabulary was lost in the ethers of his damaged brain. His life had changed dramatically. And herein lies the blessing. CHANGE.
The more we grasp on to the past, the way things were, the more suffering we will have to endure. Aging, sickness, disease all push this lesson. If we are attached to the body as it was as a twenty year old, we suffer. If we push away sickness and disease, hating every second of it, we suffer. Because you are identifying YOU as your body. This skin sack that really has nothing to do with YOU, the divine being. Ram Dass said “physical pain is a worthy adversary to my spiritual practice.” Oh my. I was feeling so sorry for myself because this FLU (not disease, not broken bones, nothing incurable!) this measly little virus had taken me down for three weeks. And I was bummed out. “When will it end? How can a person feel SO bloody terrible for three weeks straight?” ONLY three weeks. What about those constricted by illness and disease for years? What level of spiritual development and personal growth do you have to rise to in order to deal with THAT? Part of it is a lesson of letting go: letting go of the past and how things were, letting go of expectations of how you thought your life would look, letting go of the EGO attachment to body, and letting go of judgement around weakness (which is how our society inevitably sees aging and sickness.) The other lesson is acceptance of change. Because the “more you resist, the more it persists.” Why? What you focus on becomes your reality. Energy attracts energy.
So I had to drop the pity party and I immediately became so empathetic to those suffering. To endure physical pain, physical illness, physical challenges, to have your body constantly rebelling against you must be absolutely one of the highest of challenges.
Then this small stream of sunshine came through the window. Gratitude. Thank goodness I have had this opportunity to slow down. Thank you God for my awesome husband who has been the willing gopher, running all the errands and being so incredibly patient with my nonstop coughing and nose blowing! Huge gratitude for my Mom and friends who delivered homemade soup that was filled with love and nutrition. Thank goodness for my home based business that steadily marched on and I didn’t have to worry about being fired! SO SO grateful.
I am moving on from illness but I know that this is just a little precursor to the bigger gift in front of me…aging in the second half of my life. Ram Dass says “to age in a conscious way, fearlessness is an essential ingredient. This fearlessness involves the willingness to tell the truth, to ourselves and to others, and to confront the contents of our minds. We must be willing to look at everything – our own suffering as well as the suffering of others – without averting our gaze, and allow it to be in the present moment. Rather than closing ourselves to fear, we learn to open to it, to sit with it, allowing it to arise and pass in its own time. By simply looking, with no push or pull, mindfulness is strengthened. You will find that the moment you enter this witness state, the boundaries of the Ego are loosened, and fear begins to change.” I love it. Thank you Ram Dass. I pray that I will age with grace, acceptance and patience.
I truly believe that my life that I love today is the direct result of it sucking in the past. No kidding. The times that I felt like it couldn’t get any worse (I was wrong), the times where I was so lonely my heart hurt, the times when I couldn’t feed my kid anything more than tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, the times that I felt like running so I wouldn’t have to deal with the creditors calling. All of it sucked. I felt alone, I felt helpless, I felt hopeless. And then I had to pull on my big girl pants and DEAL with all of it. The phone calls to those I owed, the budgeting, the therapy, the dealing with the wreckage of my past. THAT made me stronger. When I balanced my check book and I had only ONE PENNY and I wasn’t overdrawn, that was JOY! When I finally got the creditors paid off, that was FREEDOM. When I finally landed a job that paid me more than my monthly nut, I was ECSTATIC!
It was when I was finally dealing with life, on life’s terms, not Denice’s terms, that the magic started happening. I started to build my self esteem. I started to know my own worth. I started to have some dreams. And day to day was less of a roller coaster, sprinkled with moments of joy. When I was DEALING with my reality instead of hiding or running away from it, I felt a hundred times better.
I started to think about how I would like my life to look and I never saw it the way it is now. What I envisioned was a beautiful house with a white picket fence (literally) with harmonious energy from kids running in and out, a great and powerful relationship and fulfilling work. That’s it. It was more of a feeling than anything else. But I also knew that I needed to stretch from a personal growth standpoint to be able to actually manifest my dreams. And again, that is where the magic happened. You know that feeling inside you that KNOWS what you need to do but you are shaking in your boots because it requires you to face FEAR head on? The “I know I gotta do this but it scares the daylights out of me?!” I started doing that. I started saying YES to situations that I knew would force me to grow. Not fun sometimes. But entirely worth it. And sometimes the challenge was over in two minutes, sometimes it was two months, and sometimes it strung out to two years. It was a process.
I received an email this week. It was an invitation to speak at a national women’s conference in front of 4,000 of my industry peers. I read it twice. Shocked and proud. And then instantly sick to my stomach. I knew that this was the opportunity that I have been setting myself up for my entire life. So without my brain kicking in, I emailed back my response of gratitude and YES. LIKE BIG, ALL CAPS, DANCING ON THE TABLE, YES!! And although it will be incredible to have this opportunity to speak in front of an amazing audience of motivated and inspired women, the real reason I said YES is because of WHO I WILL BECOME IN THE PROCESS OF IT ALL.
So say YES. Put yourself out there. The real juiciness of life occurs when you don’t just dip your big toe in the pool but when you dive straight in.
I hate New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s the scenario…I set a resolution and I absolutely blow it, and I feel like a loser. Or I set a resolution and I realize that I need to tweak it in order to make it doable and I feel like a loser. Or I set a resolution and I hit it and then I feel like I set the bar too low, and I feel like a loser. FUN! Woo hoo, l can’t wait to do this another year, NOT!!
So here is what I do now. Feel free to copy, borrow or steal any of this! First I create my INTENTIONS for the year. Go to a quiet place, light a candle, cuddle up in your favorite chair with a lovely cup of tea, a journal and a pen. Close your eyes. Breathe. If you are a meditator, spend five or so minutes meditating. Now think about how you want to feel in 2016. HOW DO YOU WANT TO FEEL. Underneath EVERY goal, desire, want, is a feeling. What are the feelings that you want to generate this year?
How about some ideas:
Happy, free, motivated, inspired, secure, energized, valuable, abundant, present, competent, fulfilled, clear, strong, alive, purposeful, pumped, alive, balanced, unstuck, fearless, happy, challenged, healthy, appreciated, loved, passionate, content, radiant, fired up, vibrant, calm, safe, nourished, limitless, delighted, empowered, calm, certainty, daring, courageous, enthused, focused, fresh, guided, harmonious, held, hope, liberated. Pick just 3-5 feelings that resonate with you. Write those down.
Now, what are you most excited about for 2016? What lights you up? Out of your various intentions or goals, what are you most enthusiastic about? Does it thrill you and scare you at the same time? How about looking into the different areas of your life and picking a significant goal. Significant intentions and goals take time to achieve, and a year flies by, so you have to FOCUS! The momentum and satisfaction you’ll gain from pulling off just a few amazing endeavors will far outweigh anything you could gain from doing a bunch of things halfway. Set out to do four or five things this year with GUSTO and EXCELLENCE rather than doing a dozen things just sufficiently! You might want to look at the following areas:
Now you will want to do a monthly check-in and a weekly action list. What do you need to do each month and then each week to move you closer to your 3-5 intentions for the year? Put this in your journal or your calendar:
CORE DESIRED FEELINGS FOR THE YEAR:
MY INTENTIONS AND GOALS FOR THIS MONTH:
WHAT I WILL DO TO GENERATE EACH AREA:
The year is coming to a close and we are all looking ahead to 2016. What will it bring? Will it be different or better than the last year? I know a couple of people who inevitably at this time of the year, say the same thing…”Boy am I glad that this year is over, what a terrible year, good riddance!” Every…single…year.
Before we are so eager to throw out the old, let’s pause and take a deep breath. What about the year can you be grateful for? What challenges did you overcome? What were some big “wins?” How did you generate a more fulfilling life? What relationships were healed? Did you create more self love? Did you do something on your “bucket list?” And if this year was one of the most challenging years to date, what did you learn from it? What were the unexpected gifts that surfaced? How did you grow?
In some ways I had a very challenging year. I had to come to grips with the fact that I may lose my son to an insidious disease. Lose as in die. How does a mother resolve that, ever?? In all of that pain, sorrow, hopelessness and powerlessness came a huge gift. I searched out resources to help me process it. People, books, blogs, audios, Ted talks, and groups, you name it. About a month ago I was talking to a friend who knew someone who was going through something similar. “Have her call me! I know how she feels, I can help.” My friend said that although we were going through similar situations, she felt that I had so much peace and grace in spite of it. “Well here is the truth,” I told her, “I feel that my son’s disease has been my biggest gift.” Not that I would want ANYONE to suffer as he has or I have, EVER. But I certainly would not have grown to the depth that I have if life would have been easy this year.
During this time a stranger (I don’t know him personally) in a meeting came up to me and said “I have a book for you.” I was a little surprised as we haven’t ever really spoken to each other at the meeting. “Wow, great! Thank you so much!” I said but I was really kind of wondering “why me?” So I took the yellowed paperback home and read it in two days, I was leaving for New Zealand and I needed to finish it and get it back to him. As I was reading I kept wondering “what is the message he wanted me to hear?” It was a very spiritual book, almost religious and I was intrigued. I wouldn’t have bought it on my own or even borrowed it from someone based on the title (which eludes me even now!) and back cover. Here is the message that I got…You (ME!) must be THANKFUL for EVERY thing. Good or bad. Happy or sad. Up or down. Easy or hard. ALL OF IT. I must thank God for EVERY thing. And I did. From that point on. Especially the hard parts. And I meant it because I know that there are no mistakes. I know that I was meant to be this boy’s mother for a reason.
Nobody gets a free pass from suffering. Minor suffering or sobbing on the bathroom floor, heart blowing suffering. But it is what you do with the suffering, how it moves you to the next phase of growth that is critical. And, can you actually be grateful for it ALL?
So for me, it isn’t OUT WITH THE OLD. The “old” is just part of the journey, the richness of life. The juiciness of this lifetime. Be thankful for it all, and usher in the New Year with a full and grateful heart.
let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. -Rumi
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