The Courage Within
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I had a really good week.

I made it through a full schedule of classes without my body falling apart, I am getting into a GROOVE with my students at GVSU and I launched my new website. All three are reasons to celebrate, yet the thing I am most proud of is that I am doing them all MY WAY.

As part of the clearing out process that comes with a website/blog switch, some old posts left in my drafts are popping up. I know my last post was also about staying in the wrong place too long and what it does to a person, and normally I would not share two of the same in a row, but I feel compelled to share the message that making change is up to you.

NOTHING, no job, no person, no life situation should ever be allowed to make you feel less than. To make you feel like you constantly have to prove yourself, to make you question your worth, to suck the joy out of you. Life is not meant to be so hard.

Over 5 years ago I found the courage to let go of what was no longer serving me as I set off to follow my heart. It was a scary fantastic thing to do. The result is I now end my days with a smile, a sense of worth/belonging, and knowledge that I make a difference. The dirty feet, messy hair and sweaty clothes I come home with are an in-the-present daily reminder of this. What a difference operating from your sweet spot makes in a person's level of joy. Below is the post from my drafts, I hope my words resonate with the right person today and encourage change.

You are enough. You are worthy and deserving of joy. You have a place in this world that is meant just for you. Find it.


Courage does not mean that you possess the strength to carry on. Courage means that you will carry on when you feel that you no longer have the strength.

This is one of the first statuses I saw when I opened up Facebook this morning. Maybe it was an answer to last night's prayers asking for the strength to get through the funk I am in. Maybe it was just what I needed to realize that I need to find the courage to plow through my current problems and face my fears. After struggling through another sleepless night, and waking up to the same sad, scared, tears-really-close-to-the-surface-feeling I have experienced for the last couple of weeks, I am ready for a change. I do not want to feel like this anymore. It sucks.

I believe in being honest. So I will tell you that my blog has been quiet because I haven't been myself. I don't know what people who suffer from depression feel like, so I won't say that is how I have been feeling, but I think it might be appropriate. I will say I am stressed, beyond stress I have ever felt before. Emotional is maybe not a strong enough word.

It stems from me feeling like a failure. At work. I was hoping by now that I would have achieved a different result, I've certainly tried hard enough. But a year after I began my quest to find my place within a changing industry and a stagnant company, nothing has changed. Honestly it has gotten even worse, for me. Because now that I have tried so hard, and beat myself up every step of the way trying to make sure I was doing the right things, and they haven't worked, I now I feel that I have indeed failed. Not a feeling I am used to.
 
Lately this feeling of failure is the last thing I think about before I go to sleep, what I think about during the night when I cannot sleep, and what awaits me when I wake up in the morning. It permeates everything I do. It is wrecking one of my favorite times of year. It is wrecking the joy I feel being around my own family.
 
I hate feeling uncertain, unappreciated, unsure, heck, unwanted. I hate that there is a now a knot in my gut all day long. I was foolish enough to think that people at work would see how hard I was trying. That by me finding the courage to take some chances and think outside the box, it would count for something. That someone in management would appreciate and recognize the lengths I was willing to go to find a solution.
 
Instead my value to the company is even more in question. So much so, I felt like I was summoned to a meeting to get my walking papers last week. I didn't, at least not yet. That is never a nice feeling to experience, but it is especially hard for me because our family size has recently increased by two. At this moment in my life, my contribution to the family income, is crucial.
 
Why is it that after doing a job for almost 24 years, my opinion does not matter? Why is it that after continually attempting to share ideas, and implement them, I am questioned about what I really do, what my role is? Whose fault is it that I am in a "grey area"? Why am I, after 12 years with this company, asked to write my own job description to clear up the confusion about what I do?
 
How can I not be offended by this? And not then take everything said as a criticism? My new boss (who has been at our company for a year) told me he has no idea what I really do. How is that even possible? If someone told you that you needed to start submitting a report every Friday about what you were going to do the next week, how would you take that? I cannot "not be so sensitive". I must be wired differently.
 
I take it like this, I am a failure. If no one can see any value to what I bring to the table, somewhere I have made a crucial error. Did I fail to advocate for myself? To make sure I achieved recognition? I am not motivated by my personal gain (at least not monetarily). Job satisfaction, passion for what I do, and joy come from feeling that I make a difference. Clearly I have failed to make that difference in my workplace, I have failed to matter. And that is my worst fear realized.
 
So, I am facing it. I am now going to find the courage to carry on. This blog will no longer remain quiet. I will once again achieve success. My promise to my family is this: I will not be sad anymore. I will fix this.

When one door closes, another opens.
 
If you find yourself in a similar situation, maybe these quotes will help.
 
He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he who loses his courage loses all. - Miguel de Cervantes

Have the courage to face a difficulty lest it kick you harder than you bargain for. - Stanislaus

Hit the Road Jack
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I spent too much of my life at a job in a place that never wanted me, didn't appreciate me, who resented me even. Why did I stay so long in an environment that brought me down?

Looking back I should have left so many years earlier. I allowed the unhealthy workplace to eat away at my self-esteem, to make me question my worth, to make me feel as if I wasn't enough.

I should have walked out the first week, the first time I was demeaned by a coworker who thought they should be my boss. The first time I was pushed to tears. I don't do well with meanness, I never have, and I should have known if it happened to me on the first week of the job, it wasn't going to be an isolated event.

It continued to happen in little ways, and in big ways for 12 years. And I am sad to say, I let it. I should have walked away, dared to do something different, but I kept trying to fit in, to make it work, to fix it. It was a great place "on paper", and the job was something I could do and do well, and I loved the flexibility in my schedule. But it wasn't worth what I lost there. Underneath the pretend, I knew I wasn't welcomed by all, and trying to please, trying to prove my worth and be seen as valuable to those who would never care, was a huge waste of my precious energy.

Underneath the company's "make sure we look good from the outside" facade, was an inside filled with a good old boys network that I would never fit into. Women were second class citizens who did a lot of the work and who management allowed to be bullied by a small group of unhappy, negative male employees.

A leader, by dismissing his employees complaints or avoiding the awkward conversations to handle the inequities, in essence condones the bad behavior and allows the unfair, inappropriate bullying to continue to happen. Over time this creates an apathetic, unhealthy, unmotivated group of employees, led by the meanest of the mean. Any responsible, conscientious, highly sensitive person cannot survive unscathed working in a company with all that negative energy.

It certainly took a toll on me.

I stayed so long for several reasons; because I was scared to go elsewhere, because the flexibility of the schedule worked so well for me, and maybe deep down I wanted to prove them wrong.  I thought if I tried hard enough, they'd see my value. Therein was my biggest problem. Looking for value and recognition outside of yourself is always a recipe for disaster. No matter how great I tried to be, I was never going to hear what I wanted to hear from the management in that company, and it wore me down trying. I became anegative, critical, angry, overly sensitive shell of myself.

I am much stronger now, after several years away from that toxicity and lots of personal growth work. I was able to gain back my positivity, and my self-worth. Deep down I am still the same person I always was, but I now have confidence from within in my abilities and in myself again. If I were to have started at this place in my present state of mind, I would never have hung on so long. I would more than likely have never signed up to work there in the first place.

If life has you feeling negative, stuck, angry, sad, or numb -- take a look at it from all angles. Creating your ideal life is up to you. What situation in your life is dragging you down or making you feel you have lost your personal power? There is always a way out. Take it. You don't have to justify it to your parents, your siblings, your co-workers, or anyone else -- and don't let the naysayers tell you you can't just do what you love. They are the most stuck and will say things like that to keep you stuck as well. You can do what you love to do, if you dare.

It doesn't have to make sense to anyone else when you make changes to improve your life. If you feel the need to take a demotion, change your job or your career, say goodbye to a relationship that just isn't meant to be, or sell your huge house and live simpler, then give yourself permission to do it right now. The world will not see the full version of you, until you do. 

You have the reigns, you control the speed of your life and you choose where you work, who you stay with, where you live, and how you live. Stop listening to the advice of others who see your life from the outside as a completely different life than the one it feels like you are living inside. Shift that energy, disrupt the status quo and create your ideal life. I learned in the process that I was making life much harder than it had to be, by trying to change a broken system, to fit in where I wasn't meant to.

You deserve to be lifted up, not beaten down by the people surrounding you.  A good person, with good intentions, who has natural talent and deep sensitivity can find work or love or whatever you seek, but only if you trust in your own inner wisdom to lead the way.

Take that leap. Life is so much sweeter on the positive side.

When I Was Me
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When I Was Me...

Life was full of awe and wonder.

I was free to dream.

I was bold and brave.

Strong and magical.

Creative and kind.

I believed in myself and all my magical powers.

I saw beauty in the world even on the cloudy days.

I spent hours in the shelter of the trees dreaming of worlds only I could see.

I doodled and wrote poems without a care if they were good enough.

I saw possibilities in all people.

I believed I could do anything.

I wasn’t afraid of trying. Or of failing.

And then one day I was.

And so I stopped doing the things that brought me to peace.

I worried what it would look like to others.

I put myself into a safe little bubble to protect against the hurt.

Soon that bubble grew stagnant. Stale. Grey.

I grew farther away from me.

When I sought to bring back the color, the spark, the imagination of life, I mistakenly looked outside of myself for the answers.

I began to emulate others. I attempted to fit in. I tried hard to measure up to my own impossible standards. I looked for others to assign me worth, to show me the way.

Believing they would know the path I needed to take to help me rise to my full potential.

Instead, they rose to theirs. I faltered.

I tried again, another way. Maybe this time I hung on way too long thinking it would all become clear, and ruining whatever it was really supposed to be; a stepping stone, a launch pad, a place to rest.

Until I slowly began to realize the power was within me. Inside of me. Mine to use or to ignore. It had been there all along.

I played with it for a while. Taking a small step here and a bigger one there. I had some success, got a little braver….and failed often. Not seeing that I was moving forward I began to judge myself. And when being judged, I freeze. The what ifs began to take over, until I was stuck again. In a prison of my own making. Too scared to bust out.

Yet there was a tiny quiet voice inside that waited patiently for me to listen.

She kept dreaming, kept believing in me, because she knew I would work my way back.

One dark day I lost my way completely. Too exhausted to continue the uphill battle within myself, I fell to the cold, hard floor. Tears began to fall, and I could no longer hold them in.

After the falling apart came the eye of the storm. Calm. Peace. The quiet space where I began to hear again.

And I heard her say: welcome home.

 
My Addiction Was Control

Ever since I can remember, I craved control. It was the only way I knew to keep myself safe from making mistakes. I controlled my world to keep from being caught unawares. As a result, when my kids were younger and I was working full time, I kept myself (and my family) on a tight leash. Trying to be perfect doesn't leave much room for anything else.

I wasn't the type to be spontaneous, or to procrastinate, instead I was efficient and planned. I made lists and prided myself on checking things off as I accomplished them. It became an addiction of sorts, a worthiness booster to be organized and in control. I tried to always be ready, to be prepared for anything, to impress the world by looking like I had it all together. And sometimes I really did have it together, but the effort it took to maintain the control ate away at my happiness. And it gave more fuel to the mean voice which grew in my head, every time I fell short of perfect.

I really thought everyone lived with a mean voice, an inner critic like mine, who constantly pushed me to be better, to accomplish more, to never fail, to never give up, to never let anyone down, to be beyond reproach and who screamed about how stupid I was when I eventually screwed up. I now realize it isn't like that for everyone, and I was one of the (un) lucky ones who's inner voice took a negative and nasty turn.

Attempting to live beyond reproach is a slippery slope to navigate, primarily since it is IMPOSSIBLE. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone fails. If they don't, they aren't trying, heck they aren't really living, they are simply keeping themselves safe. No one is truly ever perfect, there is always something that can be improved upon, and hearing the helpful criticisms and suggestions given by those I was trying to impress, felt like mean jabs that lowered my self-esteem. Could they not see how hard I was trying?

"We put so much time and energy into making sure that we meet everyone's expectations and into caring about what other people think of us, that we are often left feeling angry, resentful and fearful." --Brene Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me

Desperate to hear the words I wanted to hear from others, I tried harder to attain that praise. Imagining if I was perfect, I'd hear what I wanted to hear. Yet no matter how good I got at things, my own mean voice often reminded me that I could have done it better, faster, righter: if only I had done this...or that. So I was never beyond reproach from my own inner voice, even if I had heard the words I wanted to hear from the outside.

You will never find your own worth if you search for it outside of yourself. Which is why in the end, I had a magnificent crash and burn mid-life crisis, and was forced to start the journey over.

Once upon a time on a cold day in November I took a walk and sobbed my way through the darkest thoughts I had ever had about not being enough, not being good enough, not being worthy of love, of praise, of all the things I had been given. I was convinced I had messed up my whole life, screwed up parenting, and I couldn't even get being grateful for all I had correct. I slogged through the darkest of shi* on that walk and came to decision that life as I had known it was over. I was going to take a leap of faith and jump in without a plan.

No more miss perfect, no more worrying about how it all looked from the outside, or how crazy people would think me to walk away from a good job, and a nearly 24 year industry career and start over. Worse yet, to leave without a real plan. The only plan was to not have a plan and instead learn to follow my heart. Life had gotten too hard, I had made it that way, and it was up to me to change it.

The first stop after quitting my career and walking away from all I knew, was to sign up to be a substitute teacher. I didn't ease into it that role either, I chose a two day middle school assignment as my first experience to move out of my comfort zone. It pushed me so far out, I nearly walked away from substitute teaching an hour after I started. But I stuck it out.

A friend actually saved me that day, he was working in the building and stopped by to check on me. He ate lunch with me, and calmed me down. He let me know it was okay to be scared to death, and making mistakes was natural, and convinced me no one would think less of me if I didn't come back for the second day.

To walk away would have been a bonafide failure in my book, so I stayed with that awful assignment and made it through day two, vowing to never return to that particular middle school. And all that spring I gave it my best shot, I took assignments in all grades from K - high school, special ed, phys ed, split level classrooms, I wanted the full experience. And I got it. Realizing only later, after school let out for the summer, that substitute teaching was really not my thing.

I had been keeping my life so controlled and safe it had been years since I had been brave enough to get out of my comfort zone, to allow myself to be lost, unsure, uncomfortable, and caught unawares. Since there was no way to plan your day during substitute teaching, or to follow the rules and do things "right" or perfect, as the rules changed in every school, and in every classroom (sometimes there were no lesson plans for me to follow at all), I was forced to stay in the moment. To just be myself and deal with whatever came my way in each unique situation. It was uncomfortable, especially for the control freak me, but the times I succeeded in connecting with the class, or feeling like I had actually had a good day, gave me a new sense of accomplishment. It started rebuilding my inner strength. I was no longer checking things off my to do list and judging my worth by accomplishment, I was learning to live in the moment and slowly beginning to believe in my worthiness again, from the inside.

For a person who didn't like messing up, I was forced to ask for help often, to own my mistakes, and to extend grace to myself when I handled things poorly. I not only learned to be more comfortable with making mistakes and letting go the reins of control, I learned to give myself a break and to begin quieting the mean voice inside.

If life has you stuck in a pickle, the only way out is through the darkness, through the mud one step at a time. Find the courage to begin within, start by crawling if you have to, and let the winds of change blow in their magic.

Taking It All In
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I'm not writing much at all lately.

In my dreams I am busy, a prolific writer, yet by the light of day I lose the words. In the safety of sleep, I always have ideas, good ones if my sub-conscious is any judge, and then they poof when I wake up and start my day. Oh, I could blog about my random thoughts all the time, but that "big" book idea, the story I am feeling called to tell always seems elusive during the daylight hours.

Isn't it weird how I can sit down with nearly anyone else and suddenly "know" what they should write about? I get their story. Most aren't even interested in writing their story, and yet I can see it so clearly. The story that others would benefit from hearing; whether it be the struggles they overcame, their major win against giant odds, their strength and perseverance when others would have quit, etc. It doesn't have to be a big a huge crazy life experience or trauma to be a story worth telling. Stories come from ordinary people who are living life to the fullest as their truest self. The lesson(s) they have learned are what inspire others, and gently bring others the strength to make changes in their own lives.

If I apply this thought to my book question, I come up with one major theme that encompasses all I have learned so far. Each of us has the power within us to change our life.  I think we are our own roadblock to whatever it is we desire. Sometimes we get stuck simply because we hold ourselves back from all we can be.

My message isn't a new message by any stretch of the imagination. It is, in fact, the underlying message of all of the great spiritual teachers of our generation, or at least what I hear their works saying to me. But the road I took to learn this great lesson, is my own.

I've been on a journey and I don't intend to stop learning, growing, changing, evolving, expanding, understanding, appreciating. As long as I do it in ways that feel right to me, ways that allow me to be myself without compromise, I will succeed.

I had help from great mentors along my journey and from great friends who allowed me to change and grow into me, while still loving me. Change is scary hard. Letting of your old story leaves you feeling vulnerable, naked and afloat. But in my opinion it is also the most freeing you will ever feel. And it sets the stage for you to begin growing into the authentic you.

Getting started is hard. There is no one first step that works for everyone, in fact each person's path to growth is different. But surrounding yourself with open minded, like-hearted people who are serious about their own journeys, helps.

I might be stalled right now, but I am not stuck. Far from it. I am taking it all in, observing, enjoying, being present to as much of my life as I can. To quote a song, I don't want to miss a thing, I did that once upon a time and I am not doing it again. I eventually want to write something that helps move people forward toward their best life and whatever it is they secretly yearn for: to find love, to be happier, to find purpose, to simplify their life, to create a legacy, to live without stress or whatever it is. I believe each of us has our own unique hidden desire(s), things we really wish for but think we are unable to attain because we aren't talented enough, or we don't have the means, or the time, or worse yet because we think we are not worthy of receiving it.

I know in my own life I have created roadblocks for myself. I have stopped my own forward progress. We create a lot of excuses for why we don't move in the direction of our dreams, and that has to stop.

You are so worthy my friend. No matter what your belief, or religion, or your feelings about God, you are worthy of whatever you desire. Whatever higher power you believe in wants you to succeed, wants you to shine, wants you to be your truest most beautiful, uniquest self. And finding that power within is what brings you all that you wish for.

Bye Bye Perfectionist

A couple of times recently I have been reminded that my life, my transformation back into the real me, is publicly out there on this blog when people I barely know have either asked me about it, commented on it, or referred to it. I am thrilled people have read parts of it and are intrigued enough to have questions. My whole journey began by writing it out. When I first yearned for something "more" in my life, I wasn't even sure what I was missing, I found myself writing it all out in a blog. It helped me organize my thoughts and uncover some of the feelings I was hiding deep.

It is also no secret one of my bucket list items is to write a book about my journey and what I have learned. Not to tell people "how" to do it, but to lead by example and encourage anyone they can change if they want to. My path will not ever be your path, yet some of the steps I took might help you. My roadblock seems to be in knowing how I should take what I have already written,  add in some additional thoughts, and combine them both into a book worth reading. I have always said I was a better editor than writer, but that seems not to be true in my own case.

How did I change my life? How did I transform from a rigid, unforgiving, perfectionistic, planned control freak into a freer, happier, live (a little more) in the moment me? It took a lot of inner work to shut down my inner critic, make some life (work) changes, step out of my comfort zone, and face my fear of failure head on. It took patience and trust and it took letting myself fall to rock bottom before I could see the way out. Maybe I should ask those who lived through it with me, to lend their perspectives? People I worked with, my husband, my children, my best friends. A lot of my most difficult work came from the inside. Because from the outside I faked it pretty well to those who didn't really know me. I was rarely a hot mess despite what was happening on the inside and was okay to have around (even if I was controlling) because I took charge and made things happen, running things smoothly and efficiently was my skill. But those who knew me well could see that on the flip side I was a fun sucker, lacked spontaneity and had a hard time deviating from my plan. I am determined NOT to be a fun sucker anymore. Ever.

I am still organized (in a lot of areas), that hasn't changed. And probably never will. But I know that once I quieted my inner mean voice, I found a softer side of me. I no longer want to watch life from my safe bubble, but to get down and dirty in it. To have some fun. To live in the moment. To stumble and fall, and get back up to try again. To allow myself to experience life and (if that means being the hot mess I once avoided at all cost once in while) then          so be it.

If I can change, I know if you really want to, you can too.

If you run from quiet, still, alone time, or find yourself easily bored when you do, you might be the perfect candidate to start where I did, with yoga. To me yoga is a moving meditation which uses breathing to bring a person into the present moment and put them back in touch with their body. It helped me stop overthinking, calmed my spirit and reconnected me with the inner wisdom I need to thrive. It reconnected me with 'me'. As I grow, my yoga practice grows with me. I have accepted that I will never be perfect and understand there is no "right" way to do a pose, only my way. Clearly yoga has helped me loosen up more than my hamstrings!

Your path will not be mine, but yoga is a great starting point for anyone. You may cross it off the list after trying it, or you may find like I did, that it can be a much needed lifeline to help guide you toward greater happiness and purpose. I'm teaching this summer -- ready to join me?

Namaste.

 

Friends Like Trees

At somewhere around the age of 50 I began to remember my very first friends.

The trees.

For my younger years, many weekends were spent up north at our cabin in the woods. In the front of the cabin was a river, and the backyard was all woods. I could play in the back all by myself but could only go out front if supervised.

Trees were the first to listen to me, without interruption, advice, or judgment.

The first to accept me as I am.

To calm me simply with their presence.

They give the best silent advice, allowing you to figure it out from within.

Looking back I realize they never tried to be anything other than what they were. They remained solid, strong, truthful always.

They didn't try to make me like them or try to be something they were not, just to fit in.

They didn't change themselves when someone new came along, so they could impress.

They didn't say all the right things to make me happy then turn their backs on me when things got rough.

They didn't be nice to my face and say mean things about me when I left.

They never tried to make themselves feel better by making me feel bad, or by judging me, or comparing me to others, or ridiculing me.

They remained loyal even when I strayed. Even when I made mistakes.

They held space for me. That is what true friends do.

We should all be more like trees. Like the kind of friend a tree is.

Loyal

Accepting

Understanding

Faithful

Truthful

Patient

After nearly 50 years I have come back to my tree friends, and I am grateful they have quietly been awaiting my return.

If is as if no time (and all time) has passed since I have spoken to them.

Years of life lessons have made me wiser, and also shown me how little I really understand.

The trees hold many answers. After all they remain rooted in this earth long after we leave it.

We should all strive to be friends like trees.

 

 

Is This Your Season?

Every spring I come back to Big Star Lake and its surrounding areas with a sense of anticipation. Not only for the warmer weather and the summer of fun to come, but to see spring renewal at its finest—or what I call the pop-up swamps. Low lying areas in the woods where the spring waters pool and become instant swamps teeming with new life and sound.

This year there were fewer pop up swamps for me to enjoy on my first walk through the woods. Maybe because we didn’t have a lot of snow to melt along with the first spring rains? Everything looked a little different to me, and yet a lot remained the same. The sounds around me for sure alerted me to the arrival of spring, as did the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, so welcome after winter’s chill. 

I wrote this blog post last year and never posted it, so I thought I would share it now.

Pop up swamps teem with the sounds of spring.

Amidst the frogs, birds, and insects I hear the wind whisper: Renewal. Resolve. Rejoice.

I feel it, too in my bones. Renewal, I mean. I feel freer as I walk down the dusty path my cloak of troubles billowing out behind me.

It can happen overnight this change from the quiet and safe of winter, to the jubilant and wild spring life.

The shift from hibernation to growth and change.

Like people, swamps house crazy potential within.

In just moments they can leap forward and take off, nearly out of nothing, to become vibrant pools of life.

The quiet work that has gone on underneath during the quiet of winter, paves the way for quick spring expansion.

If you listen closely you might hear the question in your ear: Who Are You Now?

Like the pop up swamps that form from the spring’s heavy rains and winters quiet snowfall—you are ready to burst forth in all your alive glory.

Don’t hold yourself back. There is no time like the present to burst forth with the real you.

Conditions are right for forward motion and incoming joy.

The lowlands are the birthing spot of the swamps—just like the low times in our lives are opportunities to learn soul lessons we not only recover from, but flourish from after we get through the tough parts.

Without darkness there would not be knowledge of the light.

It helps if you stop resisting or constricting during times of darkness and instead allow yourself to be open to the feelings that come. Scary, yes. Uncomfortable, yes, but it is not necessary to rid yourself of them immediately. Accept the emotions, sit with them for just a little to uncover their true lessons. The heartaches of your low times will help you appreciate the upcoming moments of joy, and help you fully understand your journey later.

We build things from the ground up for a reason. Rock bottom is, if nothing else, SOLID ground to grow from.

When you feel stuck in life or in your progress:

1). Do not be afraid to ask for help, to take help or to offer help.

2.) Be open to other perspectives on your situation but remember no one outside of you can “fix” you.

3.) Expect to have some internal work to do to be able to let it go and get through to the forward motion part.

4.) Let go of all planned outcomes and surrender to organic change.

5.) Give yourself a break.

Maybe this spring will be the season of your renewal, your growth, and your expansion into the best version of you. I am eternally hopeful that it will be mine.

Reflection: One Year Ago

One year ago today I wrote a post announcing Phase 2 of my dream, the opening of a space where I felt comfortable holding workshops and making connections, and the beginning of Soulistic Sisters, a partnership with two crafty and artistic friends offering opportunities for others to come create with us. A year away seems like a long time when you are in the planning/idea stages of a dream, in reality it flies by, each month going faster than the next.

I wouldn't exactly say the past year has been easy, yet in reflection, it also has not been hard. I suppose as with any new venture, there were highs and lows. The highs for me were the times my workshops and classes filled up with people eager to learn and create, and/ or the times where I felt what I offered helped someone move forward with a new understanding, a new resolve to make changes to be happier, or to see things differently. The lows of course, were the times when no one showed up or no one seemed interested and we had to cancel (and yes there were plenty of those). It is normal to take it personally when something doesn't go as planned, to think you are the problem or the reason, and yet I know how silly and unhelpful that kind of thinking is in the long run. Throughout the year I clung to the thought that what is supposed to happen, will happen, even if it was just me and one other person who showed up for a class.

Working around our full time jobs has meant our offerings were hit or miss with our audience. We played around with days, times, and new ideas to attract more people to our studio. We repeated some classes that were popular the first time around, and stopped offering the ones where no one seemed interested--even if we ourselves still loved the idea. We tweaked, refined, and retooled and asked for suggestions as if searching for a magic formula of success, finding in the end, there really isn't one. We just have to trust and believe that what we are doing, we are doing for all the right reasons, and that what is supposed to happen, will happen.

The encouragement we received from those of you who frequent the studio has been great fuel for us to continue moving forward and to keep believing that if we "build it, they will come". To the many of you who have supported, shared, suggested, reviewed, and encouraged others to join you at our studio, we are so grateful to you. Growing our reach (without spending a lot of marketing dollars) is not easy, and it is only through word of mouth and your help, we have been even a small bit successful. Thank you for the love. Thank you for your trust.

Believing that each person who walks through our door is a uniquely talented artist (in some medium), and that every artist needs a group of supporters and challengers to learn from, is what will keep us going. I believe that our mission to bring people together to explore, connect and create is so important. I know it has moved me out of my comfort zone while at the same time helped me find my groove. I have found an outlet for a creative spirit I didn't even know I had. I have learned to manage chaos with mindful artistic activities and I relish the opportunity to share more of what I have learned with others.

I love our little space, I love the variety of things we offer, I especially love the unique and beautiful souls who come through our door to learn, to teach and to share. As I begin to plan another year of activities I will be leading, and look for areas in which I can grow my own knowledge base, I trust the universe will help it all come together. Just the way it is supposed to.

We must all believe in our own abilities, to seek new ways to work from our place of ease so that we can shine our brightest light, without fear, without regret, and by doing so help others begin to shine theirs. I hope our studio continues to provide an outlet for others to shine. To help them find their tribe and their supportive accepting community. To expand horizons. To open minds. To help everyone begin to believe in their own unique, creative, beautiful spirit.

Namaste. Cheers to seeing you at the studio soon.

Terri

 

 

What If?

What if you were completely free to live without all the things that weigh you down?  Things like doubt, worry, depression, people pleasing, or obligations you take on even if you don't really enjoy them. What if you could start over with a clean slate and just be free to be you,  would you do it?

It is hard to think that anyone would say no to the chance, yet I see people pass on it every day. In a way, that is exactly what I did for far too many years. Year after year, I searched outside of myself for answers and validation, blaming others when things didn't go the way I hoped. In essence, I walked right on by the chance to begin anew over and over again.

Until I crashed.

It took a falling apart to be able to piece myself back together in the form of the real me. Good news! It means, if I can do it, so can you. Now it doesn't mean there isn't "work" involved, because for a while it is all emotionally exhausting. But the ensuing sense of freedom and growth you gain as you dig deeper is worth every hard moment of inner work.

My journey started when I slowed myself down enough to try yoga, thanks to prodding from friends who knew me better than I knew myself. Yoga was something I thought I would never like/need because it was too slow, and I loved to move.

They say 'What we resist; persists' and they say it for a reason. I needed yoga like no other and the opportunity to try it kept presenting itself to me. Once I did, I realized how much I needed to slow down, to tune in, to feel myself again, because running from what was truly in my heart was killing me.

Yoga was my bridge, my gateway back to myself. My real self, not the creation of me I presented to the world. I wished to look perfect. To some, I was. The more perfect I pushed myself to be, the more I began to hate myself. My "hate" became a negative voice that never stopped criticizing me. I was always thinking that I could do better, be better, be beyond reproach, immune to constructive criticism because I was going to do it completely right. I sought to validate this fake "me" by trying to always be right, or worse, by making others feel wrong.

It didn't take long to become a negative force in the world. It became hard for anyone to live up to my expectations, because I never did. It was hard to make me happy, because I never truly was.

What a sad state to be in. What a lonely place. What a nightmare it was. Surrounded by worry, fear, living in judgement, hearing and thinking only negative thoughts, losing all sense of gratitude. Yuck.

I didn't hear any compliments that came my way, only the criticisms. I couldn't accept any niceness from others, only felt their meanness. I wouldn't accept any niceness from myself either. I lost the piece we all need to heal from the inside, self-love, self-acceptance, self-care. All of that comes from within, and I spent all my time outside of me looking for validation, approval, acceptance, and love.

It took me a while to realize it was within me all the time, even though the things I read and studied told me it was. I had to find my own way to access it.

Yoga started it, learning I was an hsp was the next step, and reiki energy work finished off the trifecta so that I could regain my power. The recipe will be different for each person as we are all on our own journey, but the results of tuning in can be the same.

Power. Acceptance. Change. Happiness. Love. Freedom. Expansion. Strength.

Every positive word you can think of comes from reclaiming your personal power. Don't let your life pass you by without taking a chance on yourself. Be the person you were born to be. Make waves, create ripples, be 100% YOU. You will only be truly happy, free and whole when you do.

There are so many people who have traveled a path to get where they are and are willing to share. Find someone who resonates with you, who gets you and go learn from them. Teachers come in so many different forms. Listen, look, feel, trust your instincts and find your inspiration, then work hard and fly free with the what ifs....

I can't wait to see your beautiful light begin to shine as bright as it was always meant to!

Namaste beautiful soul. Namaste.

 

My Three Words for 2017

Peace-filled New Year Greetings!

It is hard to believe a year has gone by again. I had great plans for 2016, mostly revolving around accomplishment. You know, things I "hoped" to do: write that book, create more podcasts, produce some great inspiring blogposts, organize, simplify, meditate more, etc.

As I reflect on the past year, I realize I didn't accomplish a lot of those things on my mental to do list, but I am proud of how I allowed life to happen, and how I gave myself the permission to enjoy it. I spent oodles of time with my sweet grandbaby, as much time with the rest of my family as we could all carve out, stayed peaceful within-- even if life got a bit busy, stopped worrying about money for the first time in my life, and let some things go that were weighing me down. I also stepped a few steps out of my comfort zone when I found a space and started Soulistic Sisters Studio with two friends. The studio is a refuge for me, especially when I cannot be up north with my trees. In it I feel safe, and like I am coming home. I find it brings out my confidence, my best self and I feel like I belong there. I still hear 'If you build it, they will come' in my heart, and I trust that what is meant to be will happen, as we grow our community one sweet soul at a time.

I haven't written a blogpost in a long while, much longer than I intended in fact, and not because I had nothing to say. I was intent on enjoying each day to the fullest in 2016. And maybe, just maybe I am becoming the person I was always meant to be. I had a major miracle happen in my life about a week ago. Someone I had met only last year, who took a yoga class with me, then became a friend, paid me the biggest compliment of my life. She called me a free spirit. A free spirit. I felt like Rudolph when he finds out Clarice likes him and he flys into the air without effort.

I was once so FAR from a free spirit I could only watch enviously while others were free spirited, as I wished/dreamed/imagined a "me" who wasn't an over achiever, and who lived happily without being scheduled and planned. Truth be told,  I am still doing a happy dance knowing someone currenlty sees me this way. I will hold this sweet thought close to my heart as I continue to recover from my once type A, control freak, people pleasing, critical, judgemental, perfectionistic self.

If I can change, so can you! It also made me realize the POWER of telling someone how you view them. We never see ourselves clearly enough, and having someone affirm my hard work has made all the difference in how I will approach my 2017, I even changed the words I thought I was going to choose as my Three Words to Live By because of it. I encourage you to reach out to someone with a random act of kindness and tell them how you "see" them. Who knows, it could be the little push of courage forward they need to transform into who they always wished to be.

My New Year's Wish For You:

Live 2017 with positive intentions. May you not only recognize the power within you to change your life in any way you desire, but also believe that you are worthy and deserving of everything you wish for. Begin healing yourself from the inside and watch your beautiful light grow brighter. Always believe in the Power of YOU. Shine on friend.

My words to live by for 2017 have finally chosen me.

Illuminate

Trust

Thrive

Happy New Year from my happy heart to yours.

P.S. Have you chosen yours yet? I can help with this.. :)

Claiming Her Power

When she finally accepted she could not collect her self-esteem by being perfect in the eyes of the world around her...

she fell.

Hard.

The quest to find her missing worth had led her on a fast paced journey far far away from herself.

Her solution had always been to find someone outside of herself to give her the accolades she so desired, to find her worthy, valuable, lovable, and to fill up her bucket of self esteem with their praises. She searched for value from everywhere, because she was certain it would be enough to fill the hole within her.

Only after years of trying she came to see it didn't work that way. Finding meaning from outside of herself by doing things "right" was like trying to hit a moving target. She was never quite able to grasp it. What she heard from others was never enough to fill the great void within. She grew weary from the constant trying, and super sensitive to even the slightest of criticisms.

Certain that someone, somewhere would see her value if she just did things a little better, faster, smarter, she kept up the facade. For way too many years. She wanted the world to think she had it all together. But that was a lie, and deep down she knew it, and the weight of that knowledge was eating away at her happiness from the inside.

As she slowly realized she was coming undone, she fought even harder to hang on, as giving up was not an option for someone like her.

So she continued to search outside of herself for the answers, not knowing then that she was wandering even further from the person she had once been.

She stopped believing she was lovable. She stopped believing in herself. She stopped trusting that she had the answers. And that made her weak from the inside out. It gave rise to a voice so mean it drowned out the whispers of her spirit.

She looked for love in all the wrong places.

If only she had known there was one only place to start. Her own heart.

She needed to begin to love herself, embrace both the dark and the light parts of her, to begin healing.

It took the hard fall to the bottom of the well of self-loathing, and a large letting go/cracking open, to let the light of worth back in.

In the quiet darkness at the bottom of that deep well she was forced to turn inward. There was no one else to seek praise from in that darkness. She had to face herself. She had to look into her own heart. Did she even like herself anymore?

A quiet voice arose from the darkness.

You are worthy. You are loved. Everything is going to be okay.

The soft words of comfort began to warm her soul from the inside.

She understood then that failure was an option. It was how we learned. It was how we grew. It didn't mean the end, it was instead a new beginning.

She let go of the heaviest of baggage she had been carrying with her, the need to be perfect, the need to please, the need to constantly pick up her pace.

It didn't happen overnight, but she slowed things down, she turned inward, and she began to find herself, a few small pieces at a time. This time around she vowed to stop looking outside of herself for the answers, instead to trust her inner knowing for the next right step.

It was there she found her power. It had been right there all along. At the heart of herself.

 

What This Yoga Instructor Wants to Hear

Truth.

If class was good, tell your instructor. It just might make their day.

Some days everyone is quiet at the end of class. As a yoga instructor I always wonder is that a good quiet? (like I am just all chill right now) or a bad quiet? (like you just killed me or that class totally stunk). I never know and always wonder. Sometimes I will get lucky and someone will stop me later and tell me it was a great class. Or that they loved class. Or even that they feel better after it. Or they apologize for not having kept up with me. Which is never needed as I consider someone who is listening to their body and doing what they need to do, a great student and, one who understands I am only a guide.

I will take any comments, even criticism (although the highly sensitive person in me is still learning to let the harshest ones roll off my back), because it gives me feedback I can work with. Usually there is always someone who doesn't like class --and that is okay, too. Not liking a class can be because it was too hard/too easy, it worked a body part that was weak in the student, or it didn't work the student as much as they wanted. Sometimes a bad class is nothing at all to do with the instructor, it can be the student having an off day or week. They get too hot, or are dizzy, weak or off balance or they are just plain too tired to do things the way they normally do.

What your yoga instructor wants to hear is truth.

Tell them when you feel great after class.

Tell them when you feel sore the next day.

Tell them you loved the song they played in shavasana.

Tell them you were finally able to connect your hands in the side angle bind.

Tell them yoga is the highlight of their week.

Whatever it is, please feel free to talk to them. We are human and we want to know how we are doing, how we can be better, or just to hear that we are making a difference in your life/body.

Never force it. Never lie. Just share truth when you can.

Thank you!

Making Her Choice
Photo credit: Jan Hubert
Photo credit: Jan Hubert

When the boat of security she lived in first began to pitch wildly in the waves of her deepest, darkest truths, she felt a fissure of fear.

Even before her boat capsized, she understood she would drown.

In a sea of salty tears.

They came from somewhere deep. Somewhere foreign feeling.

A place she hadn't dared to go for a very long time.

She let herself sink into the depths of her sadness for she was so tired of struggling.

Maybe, she thought, if she just rested for a moment or two, she'd muster the energy she needed to soldier on. She gave into the quiet, calm and sank even lower. She pictured herself in the eye of the storm allowing the millions of thoughts in her head to slowly empty, until there was only one.

I am a failure.

With a jolt her feet hit rock bottom. No where further down to go.

She just couldn't muster enough energy to fight that deepest, darkest thought any longer. Immediately she felt the bleakness of her wasted life in every pore of her body. The would have, could have, should have's stacking up before her to be reviewed. She knew she had let everyone down, had let herself down worst of all. She was so far off course she saw no more possible paths to take. Was this the fall she feared she'd never recover from?

In the darkness of her soul came the words she needed to hear.

Everything will be okay, everyone will be okay. Let it go. You've got this. And oh by the way, You are worthy.

Fresh tears flowed as she let the words surround her like a blanket. Only this time the tears weren't the same. They didn't hurt as much, they were softer, warmer, meant to soothe not sear.

And as they warmed her cheeks, they warmed her heart a little, too. She felt a little less alone. The tiniest spark of hope begin to grow in her.

At one time giving in, giving up the reigns of her life had been the furthest thing from her mind. The thought of letting go had only made her hold on tighter, try harder, do better. Now she knew her only option was surrender, she no longer had the energy to fight against the current of her heart.

She took a deep breath and some of the tight spaces in her body began to give a little.

Instead of dying in this low, dark space, she realized she actually could breathe a little easier here. The crushing weight on her chest began to lift and in the far corner of her dark soul a spark of light began to grow. The light was warm and comforting and filled her mind, heart and whole being with a feeling of acceptance, understanding, and ease.

It felt so refreshingly beautiful she was afraid to acknowledge it, fearful it would retreat and pull her back into the darkness.

But it grew brighter until it nearly filled her, and then she heard the voice again:

Inside everyone is darkness and light. Good and bad. That is the way it is meant to be. A person cannot be 100% perfect. That means there will always be darkness within you. But there is also light. So much light. You are no different than anyone else. You, like everyone, must learn to live in the light of you. Once you do, your mission here is to show others how to do the same. Teach others to dance in the light. Their own light. To take back their power.

And then there was quiet again. She wanted (as usual) to ask a million questions. To learn what she needed to do to stay in this welcoming light.  She wanted to know how she could possibly teach others to find the light. She wanted help to do it all correctly, but no words came out of her. There was only the silence.

And in the blissful quiet of her soul she discovered she already knew the answer to her unasked questions.

I hold the power. I've had the power all along.

She was the answer. She had all the answers within. She always had. She needed only to believe in her own power, to be still and listen to hear the answers to her questions.  In that quiet, calm space deep within her was all the knowledge she'd ever truly needed.

And the words she heard this time were her own.

I see you darkness. I acknowledge you are part of me. I understand that within everyone is darkness, and also beautiful light. I have a choice from which place I operate and I vow to live from this moment on in the light. I surrender my grip of control to a higher power for I know that I cannot see the whole picture from my tiny view. I will trust that I am enough, imperfectly as I am, and that I am worthy of everything I dream of. I will allow my life to unfold and to believe in my own power to discern the correct path. I will let my heart lead me to where I was meant to be all along.

And just like that she was filled with light. She was back home to herself. The same girl, yet forever different. Changed. Enlightened. Recharged. Renewed. Ready. Free. Hopeful. Reconnected.

Choosing never to be alone again.

For more in this series:

Losing Her Magic

Finding Her Worth

Garnering Her Courage

Hello I'm Terri Spaulding...

inspiring little girls who walk with inner confidence

I write so much so fast, I often lose important pieces of my journey. Here is a post I wrote nearly two years ago and saved it to my drafts but never shared. Perhaps it was that tiny voice inside that told me I had already posted something similar and no one would want to read another version of me coming undone.

Today felt like the time to let this fly. I hope hearing these kind of posts is inspiring to you and reaches you when you need to hear there is hope at any age to change and grow into the YOU you were meant to be. Each post seems so uniquely different to me, because it represents something else I needed to free, heal, admit or let go of, yet I also realize many of my posts have a common message and theme. Feel free to advise me if you are getting tired of them.

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Please allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is Terri and for a long, long while I was simply pretending to be me.

I am a naturally curious, creative, truth-telling, highly sensitive/highly aware person whoconnects dots. I always have something to say.

Word Lover -- Student of Spirit -- Unabashed Tree Hugger

When I want to learn something new or understand a different perspective there is no stopping me. I am relentless in my thirst for knowledge and often lose track of time. The days I am able to fill with reading, writing, collecting rocks or taking nature photographs while out walking, are the best kind.  Sprinkle in some sunshine, water, my beloved trees and quality time with those I love, and I am in my element.

You will no longer see a 'me' who dresses for success, nor volunteers her time to further everyone else's dreams. I have my own ideas and I have learned to say YES to all the things that matter most, and no to those that don't.

I happily end most days with dirty feet and a messy side pony.

I played the roles of my life fairly well: wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, worker bee; not many ever guessed I was sort of faking it. Heck, I may even have convinced myself.

When others began to define me as organized, responsible, practical, and helpful, I took their praise and ran with it. I built a "me" based on how I wanted to be seen, and in doing so only moved further away from the real me.

The real me isn't organized or overly planned. You may think by looking at my counter tops (which are usually clear) that I am a neatnik, but please don't open my cupboards or drawers or peer too closely into the corners of my home. All is not what it seems.

For years I was a clean freak. I actually cared about dust. Most days now I barely notice it. Well, until someone stops over and then I suddenly see every imperfection. But I am learning to let it go. (Dust comes right back anyway, right? And weirdly, so do spiderwebs). If I don't look in your corners, will you promise not to look in mine?

For years I just went through the motions; doing what I thought I should do, doing what I thought I was supposed to do, doing what the world expected of me. I made 'doing' so important I eventually lost touch with being, with the essence of me. I gave up my power to all those external things and stopped refueling from the inside. I stopped doing the things that brought me joy. 

I forgot how to just be. I forgot how much I loved sitting under a tree or walking in the woods, or collecting rocks. I forgot how to daydream, to be inspired by all the little beautiful things in nature.

I lost all spontaneity and gave up meandering for getting somewhere fast. I was always in a hurry.

I stopped dancing like no one was watching. I stopped writing. I stopped growing. I stopped leading with my heart.

My days were packed with so much accomplishing I had little time to enjoy anything. And I wasn't showing up in my own life, or the lives of those I loved, the way I was meant to. The way I had been born to.

I lost myself. Lost my once positive disposition. Lost faith in me. Lost my connection to joy.

Well, maybe it would be more accurate to say life circumstances converged upon me and broke me wide open. Stopped me dead in my over accomplishing tracks. Hitting rock bottom involves a fall--and when you are at rock bottom you have no where else to go but up.

A little less than a month ago I turned 52. I used to think being that age was an ending. I am so happy to say that it is only the beginning of a new era for me. One that finally feels authentically me.

Each day I am filled with awe and wonder at how fortunate I am to have found joy, freedom and inner peace doing what I love; doing what comes easily to me. Following my heart.

I made life way too hard for a lot of years and while I still have work to do, and many lessons to learn, I am making great progress to living authentically as me. Living from my heart has made all the difference in my journey back to me.

 

 

Garnering Her Courage

And when she could no longer hold all the pieces of her life together, she summoned the courage to fall apart.

Once she hit rock bottom, with no where lower to go, she came undone and broke into a million tiny pieces. The relief she felt was unexpected. With nowhere to go but up, she felt the lightness of hope instead of the weight of crushing despair. Her greatest fear had always been that if she gave in to the darkness, she would not be able to recover from the fall.

How had she not realized that the hanging on had been like a cement block around her neck?

So she began the process of letting go.  She gave up the constant struggling against the current of her heart, and began to float back to herself. 

Some changes were immediate, others took longer for the world to see. They said she was reinventing herself, but she knew it was more about coming home to herself after years of trying to be someone/something she was not.

She worked hard to unlearn the strategies she had created hoping to stay safe, appear good and be beyond reproach. Some days it was more of a battle than a release.

She stopped

playing it so safe she kept herself in a fake bubble of safety so she wouldn't fail

staying productive so she was never called lazy

perfecting her outward appearance so the world would like her

trying to right all the wrongs that were not hers to fix

Years of control and constant striving forward to achieve began to melt away. It left her feeling lighter and freer, but also a bit unsteady. She struggled to find her balance even though the ground beneath her was in a constant state of change. Some of it she liked, some challenged her to her very core.

During the years of growing up it hadn't occurred to her that she was a person in need of time to just be. Always thinking she was too old, too busy, too necessary to just sit among the trees, or to play with rocks, she had always kept up her forward trek. Sadly, her progress had become the measurement of her own worth.

And that led to utter exhaustion, and her ensuing fall.

Rock bottom has an interesting way of giving you a new perspective and she came up fighting with fresh new eyes. Hope filled, happier eyes who now saw the necessity of spontaneity, of living a more unplanned life, and who craved freedom, peace, and joy. Comfort zones were meant to contain, and she was clearly ready to fly again.

She let her life get messy. She watched for signs from the universe meant to direct her onto her true path, occasionally impatiently jumping at opportunities that were not meant for her. She let herself fail. She let herself experience new things. She began to grow wiser.

And gone was the feeling that she would not be able to handle anything that happened to her. She knew she was growing stronger. She filled her mind with beautiful things, gone was worrying away the moments of her life in preparation for the what if's that might never actually happen. She traded them in for living in the moment, experiencing the beauty of life right in front of her.

As a result her cupboards grew unorganized, cobwebs formed in the corners of her rooms, and dust settled on everything. She didn't care. She rarely even apologized for it anymore. She just let it be.

Instead she laughed. She danced. She sang. She created. She was silly. She made mistakes. She moved on. She began to believe in herself again. She made time for the things that mattered and didn't feel guilty for letting the rest go. She became wise in understanding she could never be what others wanted her to be if she was not honoring herself. After years of putting herself last in line she made time for herself. She became a calmer, happier, better version of herself.

She lost friends, but gained her self-respect.

She made mistakes, yet bounced back with inner reserves she once didn't believe she had.  

She grew weary of games, drama, and judgment. She stopped trying to figure it all out, to stay ahead of the game, and just made time and space to be herself, to fuel her soul.

Following her heart gave her the positive energy to live life her way. To lead with trust, knowing and belief. Her journey up from rock bottom brought her ever closer to the person she was always meant to be.

It took great courage to dare to fall apart, but she now understood the reward was worth it.

 

 

 

 

Finding Her Worth

And when she allowed herself to feel worthy—something shifted in her. Doors began to open that long had remained closed.

She stopped following everyone else’s rules.

And she began to think on her own.

She found if she listened close, she could hear her own heartbeat again.

With practice it grew louder, stronger, and braver.

Slowly, but with great emotion, she began to blossom.

Her magic began to return in little and big ways.

It started with great sadness at everything.

Then she began to notice beauty all around. Her corner of the world went from grey to brilliant, nearly overnight. She was filled with an energizing wonder. And fueled by awe.

There were leaves on the trees again, dragonflies who landed on her big toe, and sparkles of light on the water that she was certain were a million tiny angels waiting to play.

There was beauty in the sun, in the trees, and in the smiles of every person she encountered.

Her body felt lighter, freer and her spirit began to soar.

To fly.

Like she used to in her dreams when she was little.

In the worst of times she dreamed of tornadoes, teeth falling out, finding money that wasn’t really there and dirty bathrooms. She lived in fear, surrounded by worry, and desperately trying to control everything around her.

Now her dreams were of happier things.

Slowly she stopped being scared that she was doing it all wrong. She un-clenched the tight muscles of her body. She breathed.

Because the fear of screwing it all up had already happened. She had failed. She wasn't perfect, nor she realized, would she ever be. And dwelling on all her past mistakes, both large and small, only kept her trapped.

So she tried something new.

She began to believe in herself again. To take back her power.

And with the courage and joy that came along with the newfound freedom of following her heart, she allowed herself to start doing it all right.

Her way.

She rediscovered the magic.

She found the love.

And all that had once been a distant dream, a hopeful wish, became hers.

She not only began to flourish; she was able to breathe fully for the first time in forever.

 She listened to another voice inside now, and this one was kinder and gentler.

It forgave, it loved, it was compassionate. It didn't judge.

And it said all the right things to bolster her confidence.

And on the day when the voice told her she was indeed worthy of everything she ever dreamed.

She cried.

And cried.

Until the tears finally changed from sadness to relief. No longer were they heavy tears she tried to stem.

Instead the happy, joy-filled tears fell unabashedly, cleansing her soul of years of struggle.

And she began to float with the current, instead of frantically swimming upstream.

Her spirit felt hopeful.

The world was no longer the hostile, busy, noisy, draining place she had allowed it to be.

And since he was no longer fighting so hard to be something she was not, she was at ease in her body.

She became peaceful. Calm. Quiet. A better version of herself.

And when the now tiny mean voice inside tried to make her feel guilty for all the years she wasted trying so hard, she reminded it that it no longer had power over her. She was the one in charge.  

Now when she meets people who struggle like she once did, she wants to shout from the rooftops that it doesn’t have to be so hard. But she knows that everyone has to learn their lessons in their own time.

And nearly everyone not living authentically as their true self needs to hear a new gentler voice inside.

One that says all the right things.

You are worthy.

You are good.

You are loved.

You are blessed.

You are powerful.

You are enough.

Because she now knows if you believe in yourself, your whole world changes.

You CAN soar.

I Believe...

The question shouldn't have shocked me all these years later, but it did. I was taken back to another time, when I was an awkward school kid living on the west side of GR. A place where the next question after what is your name? was what church do you go to?

There was a moment of panic before I answered the person on the phone last week, as there always used to be. The truth never seemed to be the "right" answer when I was a kid. It always led to more questions, judgments, and often left me feeling like whatever I believed wasn't good enough.

Back when I was that little kid I thought it an odd question to ask someone what church they went to -- as going to church in my family was for big holidays only--otherwise we were up north at our cabin in the woods on weekends. Church was only a small part of who I was, so when I answered I was truthful and said I rarely went to church as I was out of town. That answer was clearly not the "right" one as I received so many of the oh you are one of those kids looks, I eventually began answering instead with the name of the church I rarely attended, First Park Congregational Church.

Unfortunately that only led to more questions like 'what denomination is that'? Are you a Christian or a Catholic? To little me, this was confusing. Church to me was a stale, old, scary place that smelled like old ladies perfume and where I had to sit still and quiet and try not to fall asleep through a bunch of mumble jumbo. I never liked it there. When I was old enough to get up and leave the main room for the kid classrooms partway through the service, I often got lost if I didn't have someone to follow. It was terrifying to my little self to be lost amidst the musty old smell and endless identical doors. The only part of church I even remotely liked was talking to people (my cousins and grandma in particular) after church in the big open room where they served punch and cookies.

What denomination was I? Clearly I needed to ask some questions because I didn't know what that meant. I made it a point to ask questions, and anyone who knows me knows I ask a lot of questions if I don't understand something.  I asked for years actually. In high school I made it my mission to try as many of the local churches as I could to find one that seemed to accept me as I was, and that seemed to make sense. As I learned what denominations were, and saw how many different faiths, churches, and variations of beliefs were out there, I got overwhelmed with all their crazy "rules". Every time I thought I'd found the one for me, it didn't take long for me to realize that something was off.

We can't do that on Wednesday night as we have to go to youth group, no I can't play on Saturday as it it our day of rest, or it isn't right to mow your lawn on Sunday.

Well I can't go to the movies or listen to that kind of music, but I do it secretly.

Our church thinks dance is evil so we can't have a prom at our school, but our parents have a private party for us instead where we get to dance.

You have to accept Jesus Christ into your life or you will go to hell like (so and so). Do you want me to help you accept him into your life right now?

You must always pray before you eat.

Please wear a hat to church or you aren't allowed in. No, don't t wear a hat to church or anything jean-like, you have to wear your Sunday best.

I can't play on Sundays we have to go to church at least two times.

Please join us for communion, no--you can't have communion in our church unless you are confirmed.

Say the lord's prayer like this, not like that.

It is time to kneel, now stand, now sit. Oh, no we don't stand up for that part here.

It was all so confusing to me, and so unnecessary to go through all those rules just to talk to God.

My church is, and has always been, sitting under a tree, preferably in the woods, appreciating the natural beauty and getting as close to my Creator as I could. To let my mind empty of worry, fear, everything unnecessary and to just be, listening to the sounds of the forest and the voice of my higher self, the godlike part deep inside me. And to hear the voice of the God who lived in heaven outside of me. I knew how to do that. In my own way.

I didn't know how to navigate the unusually difficult organized religions of the city I grew up in. Over the years my answers to the eternal questions about my faith changed to announce up front that I was a Congregationalist and I attended First Park Congregational Church. I didn't say (only on holidays) or (that nature was my real church). I also didn't explain about the denomination or what other congregationalists believed, and most kids never asked. Maybe because I said it so matter-of-factly they thought they should already know what it meant. For those that were persistent, I told them it was similar to being a Lutheran because someone told me that once. I never told people I still didn't really know what it meant and how it was different from what they believed, or why it mattered.

I truly believe that my individual beliefs should not make me feel shame when asked if I am a Christian, whether I answer it yes or no. But by the clenching of my gut when I am asked to explain my beliefs even today,  I realize I have old wounds that I need to continue to work through. 

I hate should-haves. But I should have immediately said I wasn't going to answer the "Are you a Christian?" question to the person on the phone last week, not because I am ashamed of my answer but because it didn't matter in the context of what we were talking about.

You do not need to judge me, categorize me, pray for me, save me, or avoid me based on what I believe. I will not get you into anything "bad". How can I? I am just me. I believe what I believe and encourage you to believe what you believe, and if it isn't working for you, ask some questions, learn, grow, open your mind and find something that does.

Recently I helped open a little art studio called Soulistic Sisters because in finding other like- minded, open-hearted women who loved to create things, I found my tribe. My support. My circle. Their acceptance gives me the encouragement I need to keep asking questions, to keep learning and growing into the best person I can be. At our studio, we promote acceptance, diversity, and choose to empower each other, while being open to explore new things together. I have finally found the safe space and fellowship I needed 45 years ago when an impressionable and shyly unconventional girl was growing into her true self.

Our studio is not religious, nor does it exclude you bringing your religious beliefs to the table. In fact, all three of us who partner in Soulistic Sisters come from very different backgrounds, yet we wish to be inclusive and welcome any and all perspectives. We love to learn, and want to continue our growth in all directions.  Your perspective, your beliefs should we ever choose to talk about it, are completely respected around our table.

It isn't about what you believe. It is about who you are.

So person on the phone...to answer your question (fully) now that I have time to think, here is what I believe.

I believe...

in a higher power, in God, in a creator.

in myself.

a piece of God lives within each of us.

in little and big miracles.

in prayer.

in the power of silence.

in honesty.

in LOVE.

in treating others as you wish to be treated.

in angels, fairies and signs from the other side.

in the power of music to inspire.

that dance has the power to heal.

in your right to believe as you wish.

in my right to believe as I wish.

in the beauty of nature.

in the power of positive thinking.

in leading by example.

in curiosity.

in the importance of finding balance.

in the necessity of every person finding their center.

in your unique beauty.

in my unique beauty.

you have the right to your beliefs and I have the right to mine.

in acceptance.

in truth.

that finding your creative side is a key to greater happiness.

happy is a state of mind.

yoga is a gateway to your higher self.

learning keeps your mind alive with wonder and awe.

the warmth of the sun is regenerating.

in the power of trees to heal me.

in setting intentions.

it is never too late.

A Lesson of Surrender, Patience and Faith

I've been having bad dreams lately. I think my spirit is telling me that I am off kilter.

When you pin your hopes on something and it doesn't go exactly as planned, it is easy to get discouraged and to lose the drive to continue. When this happens to me, and it has, often, you need to evaluate if you are doing what your heart tells you, and more importantly if you are doing it with the right intention. If the answer is wishy-washy or uncertain, then you may be in the wrong situation or trying to force something that wasn't meant to be. If the answer you hear is a resounding 'yes', I am following my heart and 'yes', I believe this is the right thing to do, then you have to give it time and see it through.

I am referring to the space + studio we recently opened. It is scary having a lease and a bill to pay that I didn't ever have before. Even though I prepared myself that break even was okay for me for the summer, I had secretly hoped for more. No great cause for alarm or anything as break even is happening, but there is possibly some roll up your sleeves work ahead to get things going that I need to do. Because I am listening to my heart in this situation, I know I just need to give it time and see it through. It feels so right. But I am not going to pretend that at times I don't get a little anxious and disappointed. And honestly, worried. Gosh why is it so easy to let doubt creep in?

Doubt is a low energy feeling that is not my friend. It tells me I am sliding out of balance. This is when I know I need time with my trees. I need space to breathe. I desire a warm, gentle breeze to come blow the doubt and discouragement out of my brain. Deep within me I know I am doing the right thing this time around. A needed thing. I just need to put on my big girl pants and keep trudging forward.

Doubt is definitely an energy sucker for me.  And letting go and trusting is really challenging for a recovering control freak like me. But I am prepared to do it!

I am so thankful for wonderful supportive friends and family. And for bright patches of hope amidst the little disappointments.

Perhaps the universe is making sure I really understand this lesson in surrender. Life and plans may not always run smoothly and easily, but I plan to hold on fiercely to my dreams and maintain faith, patience a positive attitude.

There, personal pep talk complete. Time to go enjoy the day.