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Archive for July, 2011

It’s All Gift

My recent Facebook Status: “I am completely happy with my life.”

As of this moment 35 people on my Facebook page “liked” it.  Which reminded me of a truth that I had forgotten, I have surrounded myself with people who want me to be happy.  People who for the most part know my strength and many of my struggles and who want the best for me.  Who are excited when I am excited, who mourn when I mourn, but who also celebrate when I celebrate.   We all need a cheering section, our tribe, our flock, a group of people that want the best for us, who are in our corner, who see us through the hard times. These people are the number one reason why I lay my head on the pillow at night with a smile on my face and a prayer of gratitude in my heart.

After pressing enter I started to wonder- is it really true?  That is a bold statement.  A while ago I would have waited for my life to be “perfect” for me to write that.  There are still a lot of places I struggle in my life, there are people I love who are hurting and therefore I hurt for them, there are things that aren’t “perfect” (i.e. the way “my” life plan was “supposed” to go)- but yet- in spite of that I am happy.   I am perfectly imperfect, and so is my life.

I have a lot of people I care about in my life that are going through significant things, cancer, infertility, new babies, babies in NICU’s, divorce, unhappy marriages just to name a few over the past week.  Thinking back there has never been a time when someone wasn’t in the hospital, or struggling with something significant, but in the past I would have felt like it was a betrayal if I was happy when they were suffering.  It has finally dawned on me that if there are people in my life there will be illnesses/drama/issues that will come up.  I can still care deeply for them, and I will hurt when they hurt, but if I wait for all of my friends and family to be happy and healthy before I can be- I will never get there.

If I wait for me to have no struggles, no worries, I will never get there.  Or if I do it is because I have stopped growing, stopped learning, stopped reaching for my dreams and I will be too stifled and to afraid of losing it all to enjoy it anyway.

If I wait until all of the things fall into place before I allow myself to be happy I will never get there.

I have decided that I want peace and happiness over worry.  Too much of what I used to worry about isn’t worth my time and I have learned to worry less and be happy more.  And the things I used to worry about happening, still don’t happen, and if they do I have to deal with them anyway.

When I appreciate each moment as it comes, when I recognize that there will always be reasons to celebrate and reasons to mourn, when I remember there is always beauty to be found, love to be shared, hope to be had I can say pretty much every day “Today was amazing”.

I am realizing too that it is becoming less about the “things” that are happening to me, and more about who I am, how I show up for my life that I am concerned about. Less of life happening “to” me, and more of me deciding who I am going to be in the midst of it.  Like it or not life will happen.  Life will rock you to your core when you least expect it, it will shake you up, it will wear you down, it will fill you up, it will send you places you never even dreamed, regardless of whether you think you are or aren’t ready it will happen.

When having a conversation about difficult times in life being “opportunities for growth”, and opportunities to create and find meaning in life a friend offered some wisdom her friend frequently comes back to:  “It’s all gift.”  I decided to try that on for a bit, play with that idea, and let it simmer for awhile.   I have to say it has worked for me.  Even things over time that aren’t wrapped in pretty paper or topped with a pretty bow still turned out to bring me lessons, open my eyes, and crack my heart wide open to let the love in.

Living my life in this way allows me to find the beauty in the midst of pain, it allows me to revel in the moments that are going to exist no matter what, so I choose to make the best of them.  It allows me to release the control of having to make things “fit”, or “turn out” and instead I get to embrace each moment as a gift.

And that means that I am completely happy with my life.

And it’s all gift.

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Minnesota Quilt Show 2011

What I know…

Together we are more powerful than we are alone.

That if we are to create our vision we must tap into the deepest parts of ourselves, which requires vulnerability and trust.

That we must be brave and speak our truth, we must be receptive to the truth of others and we must hold a space for the truths we have kept hidden even from ourselves.

That this vision is a collective one, a woven tapestry of heart, healing, hope and delight.  Each string we have to offer adds a new layer, a new color, a new and welcome addition to this tapestry creating more beauty and warmth. 

That this is what we are called to do. 

What string do you bring, what piece of the tapestry will you claim as your own?

What warmth will you share…

What light will you shine…

What hope will you offer to those who need your gentle touch, your kind words, your vision of who they could be… 

Tell me your vision… 

 

In looking through some of my old writings I came across this, and I have been thinking a lot about my vision, my voice, about who I want to be in the world, how I want to “show up”.  I am learning that a large part of that is having the courage to share my writing.

I have been writing regularly since about 4th grade, filling volumes of spiral notebooks, small brown leather diaries with the little locks that never really worked (especially if you had a nosy brother!), and then moving to computers filling disk after disk of words woven together.  But at that time it was something that I didn’t want to share, something private and personal.

But then there came the point where I wanted to share, but fear kept a grip on my pen, and kept my words from flowing smoothly.  I finally found the courage to share outside of my “safe circle” of friends and family who “had” to like my writing and I decided to join a writing group. After reading two of my poems at the first (and last group) one of the members of the writing group snidely remarked, “Your writing is too light, too fluffy, you need to have the dark too, people don’t want to read just love and light and butterflies.”  Which partially was a function of my age, partially because I had only chosen to share two pieces and they both happened to be inspirational in nature and mainly because that is what I tend to write about.  I write about possibility, I write about what I dream for myself and for others, I write about what I aspire to do in the world.  But that didn’t make him wrong, nor did it make my writing wrong.  And it taught me a valuable lesson.  Just because you have a gift doesn’t mean everyone will receive it as such, and vice versa, just because you don’t see it as a gift doesn’t mean it isn’t.

I spent a lot of time writing for this person who had made the comment, whose name I never knew, whose face I don’t remember.  He became the voice of my fears personified.  I tried to write “about the dark side of life”, and that wasn’t any good either, it was flat, it wasn’t me, and to be entirely honest, he was right.  My pieces were too contrived, too forced and inauthentic.  But it wasn’t my writing, my ability or my voice that was the problem, it was that I wasn’t being me.  I wasn’t showing up on the page, I wasn’t willing to trust me, my vision, my voice.  I was letting all of the other voices- the shoulds, the fears, the not enoughs- write  instead of me.  It wasn’t until I wrote for me, when I finally was willing to let my voice shine through, when I was willing to let my heart beat on the paper in front of me that I found my groove.  I realized I didn’t have to write for everyone to like it, I was the one who had to like it.

I started to think of all the words that had inspired me, that had touched me, guided me, healed me, inspired me, and encouraged me. What would have happened if SARK didn’t dare to do something different and share her writing when I was trying to figure out who I was or if I fit in, or if Joan Didion didn’t share her intimate experience with grieving in her book “The Year of Magical Thinking” when I needed it most, or if Marianne Williamson hadn’t penned “Our Deepest Fear” for me to refer back to when I am playing small in the world.

The world needs your voice, and your vision… I tell people that all of the time.  And now I have decided to live that for myself, to add my voice to the chorus, to add my vision of what I want the world to be.  One sentence, one blog post at a time :).

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A Happy Warrior

So this weekend I participated in the very first Minnesota Warrior Dash.

Basically it is a 5k and an obstacle course all rolled up into one, and then for a little added enjoyment they plopped it on a ski hill.

I have decided my middle name should be changed to Warrior.

Although you think I jest, I am only half kidding.

I want to remember how it felt to cross the finish line after listening to my fears take center stage all morning. I want to remember how good it felt to have strangers yell out encouraging things to those who looked like they were struggling because we were all in this together.  I want to remember how good it felt to be hot, sweaty, muddy and only through the first third.  And somehow how we all just keep going anyway, just a little bit more until we found that second and third wind to carry us through.  I want to remember how good it felt to cheer others on when I had some extra energy to spare.  I want to remember the guy with the tulle tutu who was holding his wife’s hand saying “Come On Honey You Can Do It!” when her fear was looming large, and watching her do the same at the obstacles that he struggled with.  I want to remember how amazing it was to silence fear with action and to literally leap over fire.  I want to remember what it felt like to celebrate afterwards, to earn your Warrior Helmet.

It felt good to be reminded of a lot of things, to force myself to face my fears and as Nike implores us- Just Do It!

Things I learned/was reminded of at Warrior Dash:

Sometimes, we need to be reminded just how strong we are.

Sometimes we need to step outside our comfort zones, and that is often best done with friends (and it doesn’t hurt to have that followed by a turkey leg and beer!)

Sometimes you need to celebrate your victory and revel in the fact that you did it, you climbed that hill, you hauled yourself over that wall, you broke down that barrier, you crawled through mud and jumped over fire to get where you are.

Sometimes you need to surround yourself with other people who are willing to get a little dirty, to have a little fun, to go that extra mile.

Sometimes you just need to ask yourself… What Would A Warrior Do?

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From the Minnesota Quilt Show 2011

When sad, be really sad, sink into sadness. What else can you do? Sadness is needed. It is very relaxing, a dark night that surrounds you. Fall asleep into it. Accept it, and you will see that the moment you accept sadness, it starts becoming beautiful. – Osho

(Thanks to Alana’s post at Life After Benjamin for this powerful quote)

I am beginning to accept and trust that if I truly let myself go into sadness that I will not stay there for longer than I need to.  It gets uncomfortable after awhile, like a sweater that is just a little too small, and I long for the lightness of being, of joy bubbling up… but I have learned how to honor sadness, let it wash over me, do what it will and then watch it ebb away.  And the more freely I allow myself these moments, the more I just sink into sadness, ask it what it wants of me, what does it want to say, the more quickly it responds, and the more easily it retreats.  So often it simply wants the chance to sit with what is in the moment, honor the loss, mourn the empty places and give voice to what was lost before moving on to a full throttle life.

Sadness requires a sitting in the unknown, in the silence, in the empty spaces… and we who are so fast to fill our lives shudder at the thought of an empty space, a moment where we hear our own breath echo in the silence.  But this is an opportunity to touch sadness, to turn it over in our hands, to feel the sharp edges, to see how it fits into our lives adding something even if we can’t quite name what it is yet.

There were so many times in the midst of my deepest grief that I doubted that I would ever feel happy again, that I would ever truly smile again.  The smile that seems to come from deep inside that can’t help but force itself out.  Gratitude was fleeting and so much of me was numb and life felt flat and lifeless.  But over time, bit by bit, there were moments that reminded me to trust, to know that my very being was laced with joy, that my gratitude would return, that my love was never lost, that as Rilke reminds us “no feeling is ever final.”

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
Rainer Maria Rilke

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Washing over me…

There have been so many times that I have been brought to tears by the beauty that is in my life. People using their talents, following the urgings of their heart, who have found their calling, found their peace.. and moments later seeing those who are struggling to find a moment of peace and tranquility in the midst of the raging of life and their inner demons swirling around them.

And I take a moment now to sit with it.

To let it wash over me, the love, the pain, the hope, the beauty… life is so very full, so amazing, so fragile- yet stronger than anything I have ever known.

To feel the complexity of it all…
And yet, to know the simplicity of it…
LOVE is all that matters,
But I still struggle with the complexity of how that is lived out on a daily basis.

Sometimes the words that I struggle to string together don’t do it justice,
but I try anyway.

I show up and spill my heart on the page,
I share what has touched me,
I laugh with those who laugh,
I cry with those who cry.

I welcome you to join me and share what touches you, what makes you laugh, what makes you cry, what brings you joy, where you see beauty and what words you would like me to string together for you!

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Sometimes life has a way of turning you inside out and upside down before you find your way again.  In those moments it is nice to feel the warmth of someone’s presence next to you, of the kindness of someone you love wiping the tears that have spilled over onto your cheek, and comforting to have someone hold your hand as you wind your way back to yourself.

Grief often shatters your heart into a million pieces and it is nice to know that someone else has found their way through, has found light in the midst of darkness, has felt the hand of healing and grace when the loneliness seems overwhelming.

That is what this e-book is meant to do, to be a hand to hold, a ray of light in the midst of the dark night, evidence of grace in the midst of it all.  And I was blessed enough to be included with several other authors in this compilation.

Alana Sheeren is a gifted writer, a beautiful and shining spirit in the midst of this world and I am so excited she followed her heart to create this and thrilled she invited me to be a part of it!

It is my hope that you will find healing and hope wherever you are as you wind your way through this world.  It is my hope that you feel the love that shines through between the lines from all of the contributors, that you will be reminded that you are not alone and you will find comfort in these words.

I would love to hear your thoughts and more about your story and what you learned from picking up your pieces… leave me a comment below!

Picking Up the Pieces

Luminous stories of grief and growth. Love-filled prompts for your own healing journey. A gift of musings + magic in a quick, easy download.

Written by Alana Sheeren

With Christa GallopoulosDyana ValentineEmily LewisErica StaabGail LarsenJulie DaleyKaren Maezen MillerRoos Stamet-Geurs & Vera Kate Hadley

Art by Diana Nielsen

Design by Shenee Howard

 

 

 

 

 

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Waterfall

I had spent the better part of a month trying to figure out a solution for a problem I was having, it was full of complexities and I had gotten tangled in it’s web.  If I do this then I might offend someone, if I say this then those others might not understand, if I do this then which do I do first? And the list went on and on… until finally it was so woven together it looked as though there was no light and no way that everyone could get what they wanted and I could find the peace I was seeking.

I finally got so sick of it I just gave up, and I let it go and let my subconscious start working.  I went on a walk and after a conversation with a friend, which had sparked something another friend had said earlier and suddenly in one sentence, there was my solution.

All of this agonizing, all of this obsessiveness and yet I was just one sentence away from a solution.  I was the one telling myself stories, I was the one that was making it so much more complicated than it ever needed to be.  And it reminded me of when I first went to go work out at the gym, I was so afraid that everyone would look at me and think “What is that girl doing here?  She doesn’t know how to work this machine.”  And then a few weeks into working out I realized that most of the time people barely even notice you are there.  Most of the time they were so into their own workouts, their own pain, their own story, their own fears that they were barely looking at me.

And all too often I forget that I am my biggest hurdle.

All too often I find the solution is just one well-crafted sentence away if I am willing to make room for a new way of thinking.

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