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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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2018: The Year of the Greatest Life Lessons

Stay Present

I think it’s good to look forward to things, to have something on the horizon that is kind of out there but within our sight and reach. I think sometimes that’s why we plan vacations, not to necessarily escape our regular-every-day- lives but to fully live them.

Not only is it wise to do so, it is needed.

I realize now, all the big trips I’ve ever been on have been planned by someone otheer than myself. When I was in direct sales, I received the itinerary months prior to the departure date for the free trip I earned and just showed up wide-eyed and ready to adventure. As a family, we headed to Rehoboth Beach each summer with extended family, which was booked by my mother and basically was like winning the lottery because Grandma’s afford tired mothers the ability to sleep past the butt crack of dawn.

I truly have been a kept woman when it comes to vacation planning.

But as life does, life changed.

So a couple of weeks ago, after months of talking about it, I woke up and called my mother’s travel agent. “Hi Joyce. This is August. Cindy’s daughter. I want to book a cruise for myself and three kids. I want to go in July and I want to leave from Baltimore. What do you have?”

Within five-minutes I was booked and in July, the kids and I will make a five-night jaunt to Bermuda a reality. The experience of booking and subsequently paying (a sobering experience) has been incredibly empowering. I saw my horizon and I knew what I wanted and since I am not fond of details, I’m grateful that other people are and know how to get me where I want to go.

I feel like such an adult.

Besides learning how to be my age, I especially love to travel. I love to explore and make new discoveries. I enjoy meeting interesting people and having new experiences and through it, am able to see, hear and taste different cultures and ways of living. It broadens my horizon and my persepctive…which is an adult thing to do.

But every time I get away, no matter how far I go or how much fun I have, it’s always good to go Home.

I use the example of physically going to a destination as a metaphor of what many of us do in everyday life, but instead of traveling TO somewhere physically, we use our thought-life as the vehicle that whisks us away. We dream about that perfect destination and what life would be like if we could just get there…

We day-dream and jaunt in and out of our present day reality to places in our future. We do it with relationships, the jobs that we have, the houses we live in, the cars that we drive and the clothes that we wear. We attempt to escape our present day sufferings by longing to trade in our current life for another. We romanticize how if we could just inch towards…

Our life would be better. More complete. Somehow different. But often times, that little visit riddle’s us with anxiety, stress, worry and fear. “How in the hell am I going to get there?” That thought steals our current moment, propelling us to figure the future out. We get ahead of ourselves, trying to fix and manipulate situations that haven’t yet, or may ever happen.

We also have the propensity to travel backwards in time to our past, replaying certain experiences in our heads like we have front row seats to an old Shakespearean tragedy which never really gets us where we ultimately want to go. Often times, hanging out too long in those VIP seats makes us susceptible to bouts of depression, resentment, shame and emotions that are hurrid and spastic. We become unsteady and those thoughts and feelings fill us with dread. They make it difficult to roll out of bed, have an attitude of gratitude and take the necessary steps to live in the here and the now. It’s a vicious cycle of expectation, disappointment, reaction and guilt. Wounding and offense envelope us.

How can I speak of such things?

I’ve lived such things.

Our thought travel navigate our life choices. Our behavior is dictated by what we think on and where we dwell. If we want to keep rehashing our past, we will live there, most likely sounding like a broken and boring record to any unlucky soul within ear shot. Similarly, if we want to keep dreaming about all these great and wonderful things we will someday have or do, but never take steps in the here and the now…we diminsh our credibility as well as our voice.

Here’s a little life lesson I gleaned from 2018:

The counselor I’ve been seeing is just as important as the travel agent I booked my cruise through. Both are helping me go where I could not go on my own. Joyce is helping me get away with my kids so we can snorkel together, which is a dream of mine and my counselor is helping me to heal from the inside out by carefully looking at my life. She’s like my own personal organizing consultant Marie Condo who wrote the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” I sit with her for an hour every few weeks and pick something up in my hands (be it an old memory or a present day happening), and she helps me decide if there is purpose for it to remain in my current life. Does focusing on that memory help me move forward and upward or is it holding me back and stunting my growth? Does dwelling on that thought bring help or harm to myself and others in the here and now?

Those questions ultimately lead me to remember my purpose in the life.

It is not necessarily to DO things. I’ve chased after titles, accolades and attention. I have a shelf full of dusty trophies and article clippings but at the end of the day, they are just that, clutter. I have to continuously remind myself that I am not a human doing but a human being. Being is most important.

Being love.

Being kind.

Being forgiving.

Being brave.

Being all of this and more, but most importantly…

Being present.

I cannot be loving or kind to the person in front of me if I am stuck too far back in life or dreaming of a vacation that’s somewhere too far ahead. I cannot be forgiving . I cannot be brave. I cannot be myself if I am continuously chasing that “someday maybe” who is tethered to what she will do…I have to be present in this very moment and not get too far ahead of myself.

Likewise, regret serves little purpose. Yes it can be a great teacher if listened to in the moment but dwelling on the things I wish I could do over only brings angst and sorrow. Want a do over? I’ve got it. It’s called today. This very moment that I am in.

When I allow my mind to quiet itself, I imagine myself standing on the shore, a vast and beautiful ocean before me. The water is lapping at my feet, the foam tingling my toes, and then it’s gone and the weight of my body presses my being deeper into the sand. The water laps again. My toes tingle once more.

Through this image, I hear the Spirit of God whisper, “Let life come like waves to the shore.”

In and out. In and out.

YOU are the shore.”

I am Home with my feet buried deep in the sand that it is almost impossible to move. It dries quickly like cement and then fills in the gaps, again and again.

The water comes in and it goes back out. The moments come and they go, I don’t have to try to have another one because another one is already afforded to me. It is here. Standing before my eyes.

What’s most important in life is standing, with our feet buried deep, in the present moment. The mundane and regular where it appears that not much is happening or is all that exciting. It’s the laundry and the cooking, the endless routines and piles of work and conversations that never go quite like we planned. It’s the heartache and loss and learning continuously to let go and the joy of knowing what to keep. It’s letting our future rest unknown in the hands of a known God who continuously graces us with a revolving door of people whom we can somehow touch and opportunities to fulfill our purpose.

We miss them if we aren’t paying close enough attention. Our eyes glaze over the people and possibilities placed in our path if we are not careful.

The past and the future both teach us to love in the present. What other purpose would they have? They encourage us to look at life though a different lens, one clearer and not as smudged as our orginal experiences have taught us, to be kinder and somehow gentler than we ourselves have been handled. They teach us to look forward and upward, to have hope and to be full of anticipation and excitement for life. They encourage us to be courageous, even when we are unsure and scared so we can take steps toward something bigger and better than what we currently see…

The fullest life possible.

At the end of our days, if we loved well, we lived well.

Stay present.

 

 

 

 

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Wish Them Well

At some point in our lives, we’ve all been hurt. Taken advantage of. Lied to. Disrespected. Not appreciated or treated with dignity, respect or any kind of love when things unravel at the end.

The thing is, none of us are ever immune from being on both sides of the equation. That’s just how life works. We unintentionally hurt people and we have been unintentionally hurt.

I genuinely believe people are doing the best they can in the moment, even when their best, quite frankly, sucks. That genuine belief can often make it challenging to reach deep inside ourselves when someone has hurt us to find an ounce of compassion or a genuine desire to wish them well as they move on in life.

My own struggle with this has been an ongoing, and by no means, linear path. I have always desired to wish those people who have hurt me well—to genuinely (and I mean genuinely) want them to be happy and at peace.

Why?

Because we ALL deserve this, no matter what mistakes and missteps we’ve made in the past. It’s the Golden Rule.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” – Matthew 7:12

But oftentimes we may find that we have a different inner dialogue going on inside our heads. We may want to do the right thing and wish them well, but instead we find ourselves thinking:

“You don’t deserve to be happy after the way you treated me. I hope someone treats you like you’ve treated me *or worse* so you know how it feels.”

 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. – Romans 15-20

Ever? Please for the love of God tell me that Paul and I are not alone.

If we are, so be it, but if not…cut yourself some slack. The struggle is real. You’re human.

When people hurt us, we want them to hurt back. Sometimes we want worse for them *like for them to die quietly in their sleep* It’s the inner child in us rearing its ugly little head.

Unfortunately, thinking that way is never going to get us what we actually want, which is real contentment and peace in our own lives. We can’t move forward from a relationship if we’re still looking backward, casting stones at the person or people who have hurt us.

Trust me on this one.

How can we expect ourselves to be truly happy *and I mean the no-bullshit-I’m-not-still-holding-grudges kind of happy* when we’re still exerting energy wishing someone from our past ill will?

Truth is, we can’t. We’re still giving the pain power over our life. By not choosing to forgive and letting go, hoping that they’re miserable, we’re allowing the pain to continue to cause us even more harm. And trust me, they don’t know or care that we’re still obsessing over them and losing sleep thinking of all the ways we’d like to see their life blow up in their face.

They’ve moved on—remember?

But us? We’re continuing staying stuck energetically and emotionally in an experience that already caused us enough pain. We become the poster child of what insanity looks like.

This is one of the most important and hardest (to practice) life lessons I’ve learned in 2018:

When somebody doesn’t want us to be in their life, they’ve done us a monumental favor by letting us go.

Even though we may secretly obsess over the details, it doesn’t matter HOW they hurt us and let us go. They may have done it in the most cowardly, selfish, manipulative and hurtful way…they did us a favor.

Point being, people either want to be in a relationship with you or they don’t. If they’ve hurt you, they will own their part, ask for forgiveness and make the changes needed on their end or they won’t.

Period. End of story.

We can’t convince other people who have hurt us that they have and we certainly can’t control how they handle things and process through. We can’t change the past and how things took place. We are powerful but not that powerful. What we can control is what we think about and how we treat people. We can shift our focus in wishing those people the highest, most genuine healing and happiness and love the universe can bring them, because those people *the ones who have little awareness or consciousness of the pain they’ve caused others* they need it the most.

Because the overused cliché is true: Hurt people hurt people.

We spend so much of our lives telling other people what they should feel and how they should do things, from loving us to letting us go. I’ve learned that the best way we can teach people to be better in these situations is to model what being better looks like with our actions and not our words.

It means modeling kindness and forgiveness and understanding, even when we feel they don’t deserve it and life is not fair. It means modeling taking the high road when every fiber of our being wants to take the lowest road possible.

It means having enough love for ourself that we want to be free of the past so that we can have a better future—one that doesn’t involve lugging around that old story of the person who brought us so much pain like a backpack full of jagged rocks.

So on your heavy days, envision yourself toting that jagged backpack around and ask yourself if it’s worth it. Trust me, it’s not. It will wear you thin like paper and you will topple down the mountain you are trying to scale.

Just put it down and let it go. Cycle. Repeat. A zillion times as needed because this type of thought process is like upside down thinking. Wish them love. Wish them happiness. Wish them a future filled with all of their own dreams coming true. Thank them for setting you free.

I promise, in the end, you’re the one who will feel a whole hell of a lot lighter.

Hidden

2018 marked the beginning of the worst year of my life. Could it have been worse? Indeed. That perspective and that perspective alone was a rope tethered to a deeply rooted tree that kept me from jumping off the edge when things looked bleak.

Month by month, looking back now, I watched an entire year of my existence become completely overshadowed by a grief so heavy and so dark that sometimes it felt completely impossible to bear its weight. But I did and I am here, emerging from the other side grateful, not for the experience but for the life lessons I learned from the experience.

And the experience itself is not what I want to share with you. In actuality, the experience serves no purpose and to revisit the events that led to me the very end of myself is mute. They only drudge up feelings in me that I have recently rendered unnecessary. They do not help me move forward or stay focused on where I am going. Note: I am not ignoring them, because believe me when I say they are still fully present, but I will not give them the power I did for thirteen longs months of my life.

As a writer, I kept writing through it. If you’d revisit some of my older blog postings from a year ago, I was more honest than some would have liked. I got the message loud and clear, though not said in these exact words, that if it’s not pretty, than it should not be public. So I created a secret blog and bore my heart there. It was in that secret, safe place, void of opinions that I wrote only for me and allowed myself to be raw and real, tattered and torn. But here, on Life’s Little Lessons…not so much.

And here is what I learned from it: When somebody hurts you, they do not have a say in how you walk it out.

My last post was July 7, 2018.

I checked myself into the hospital seven days later.

Afterwards, I danced around things that I wrote on Facebook to stay safe but those who could read between the lines did. I just stopped being direct and blatantly obvious by calling the kettle black because that’s what you do when you’ve been hurt. You cover up your bleeding wounds but here’s the thing, wounds still seep and ooze. They always find a way to escape the body because wounds don’t want to be concealed but healed. I realize now I was trying to find all these different angles to heal and process my pain instead of just being honest and allowing myself to be exactly where I was.

People pleasing…that’s another blog post I’ll save for later.

I was like a corpse trying to drag itself continually out of its grave instead of simply letting dead things lie so new things could be born.

So I could be.

I stayed in that grave for the entirety of 2018. Yep. Twelve long months, thirteen to be exact. I hid there because it was safe. It was miserable and lonely but I was growing attached to my pain, it was becoming familiar and known in a season filled and overflowing with confusion and change. I no longer wanted to place my feet on the path of uncertainty.

So I didn’t.

I didn’t want to talk about it anymore let alone write about. I only showed up when life mandated it and basically withdrew from my friends and family. The fact I have any left proves that God is Divine. I grew tired of questions like, “Hey. How are you doing?” because all I wanted to say was, “How the hell do you think I am doing?” 

But I had to put my game face on and run a business and feed people dinner so that answer never seemed appropriate because amidst my grief, the very death of what was and what could be, I needed to be appropriate. Always.

All around me, everyone’s lives kept on going. I envied their every-day-normalness and I hated my envy. So I stopped. I stopped engaging. I withdrew and hid because if I could not be found, I did not feel tempted to place the rotting corpse of my old life up against theirs and compare the two.

Looking back now, this is what I learned:

Grief is a bitch. It doesn’t care who you are or what you’ve lost. It is non-discriminatory and unsympathetic. There is no way around it. You must go through it.

There are days that I still hide. Fact. There are days that are hard even though I am growing comfortable with hard days. They are what they are, mere moments in time that no longer stay but there are days I cannot talk my mind into believing that. 

I looked death in the face this past year. Literally. From it, I learned to say “Have at it” because if my circumstances were not going to change, then I would. I would be reborn. At times that choice didn’t seem fair, but then I realized choosing not to learn and grow was also a choice. I have more to go but with awareness and increasing fortitude, I’m emerging from the pit. It was never a place to loathe but to embrace.

Because truth is, there were things in me that needed to die and for years I wondered what it would take for their death to become reality. Now I know.

Loss.

And with loss comes letting go.

I got what I secretly been wondering for.

So even though remnants remain, my slate is clean. I actually had a thought the other day that randomly popped into my head, a thought that went like this, “I love my life.”  It made me smile the moment I recognized that I had thought it. Love my life? Like this? Yes. I choose to keep evolving and learning better so I can do better. There are days that are messy because old mindsets reemerge because the scars are still tender but I’m able to identify them for what they are, call them by name, and tell them where to go, more so than I was ever able to before.

I’m learning to own my shit. To be accountable and say I am sorry for what I am responsible for. It keeps me out in the open, my heart beating, so I don’t retreat and hide under mounds of guilt or shame for long periods of time.

So long story short, hiding is needed friends. Do not be ashamed or afraid of it. It is a place that you cannot help but visit. There is no detour. Your wounds are painful, like a bad burn that leaves sores which are raw to the touch. They leave you gun-shy as you grapple with trust and faith but I can assure, if you make the time to heal, you do. And no one but you knows the timing of that process. You need to heal from the inside out and only you know what that is to look like.

What I do know is that the Spirit of God is good. He can handle your questions. He can take on your anger and pursues your apathetic and wounded heart. He walks towards you when you walk away and at night when you cry yourself to sleep, He is kind, gentle and embraces you with tender care. In the morning, He whispers “Arise. Come out come out because I know where you are,” and His faithfulness will overwhelm you because He is patient on the days where you think you want to try but just aren’t quite ready to.

He knows that tomorrow is another day to try again.

Hiding was never meant to be a place that you call Home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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