What are we fighting for?

I don’t know about you, but 2018 has been a whopper of a year. I feel like I said this in 2017, also.

There is a heaviness in our world right now that is palpable. It hangs in the air. Is it smoke from forest fires or tear gas? No-I’m not making light of these situations, but the state of our union hasn’t been this heavy in my lifetime.

After 9/11, the days following the attacks on America, we clung to one another like life rafts, in danger of sinking. We welcomed neighbors and strangers, enveloping their losses as our own. We didn’t care about religion or color-we were never more together than in that moment, even when we were being ripped apart.

Although it only lasted for a moment, it was a reminder of pictures I recall seeing after World War II. A broken country came together because they had to.

I believe we are there again. The question I have is, how does one simultaneously live in a place where your own country feels like a battle field, while still remembering there is hope flourishing, too? How do we stay focused on the fact that when the soil turns over from the dead and barren, it then produces new soil with purpose and promise?

I have to believe the only way through the thickness of the air is to clear it out. Maybe we needed upheaval to remind us all there is so much work to still do. Racism, sexism and homophobia have reared their ugly heads again, but it can’t sustain what’s it doing now. It will always come back around, but so will we.

We have to be better than babies getting shot with tear gas and unarmed black men spilling their blood in the streets and children dying in their schools and politicians who have turned their backs on their citizens for money.

We are better. We are lost, but I have to believe we can be better.

There is scientific proof that love is stronger than hate. Oxytocin is called the “love-hormone” your brain produces to connect you with other human beings and it’s what associates empathy and positive life experiences. It connects mother to child. Hate, on the other hand, produces stress, which cause cortisol levels to rise, thus producing toxicity in the body. See? By nature, love is designed to win.

When your soul gets weary with these things-stand up. Speak out. Make noise. Take action. Then plant trees and dance and laugh and play and love harder than you ever have.

When you get mad-get busy. It’s OUR earth. It’s OUR children. It’s OUR right.

Keep moving, friends. It’s not over, yet.

And yes-Love will win.

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30th Anniversaries and Insights…

I apologize in advance for those of you who have had to endure the endless years of me go on and on about Shark Week. It’s an unhealthy addiction but, I take it back-I’m not even going to apologize.

Shark Week started for me thirty years ago. It was thirty years ago that my dad realized I was never going to care about football the way he did. I was the kid that stood in front of the TV, when weekend football engulfed the entirety of what we did. I was the boy they were suppose to have and while I was more than scrappy enough, I never quite embraced the game.

During one Christmas, he and my mom purchased a Jacques Cousteau book as a gift for me and I became completely obsessed with sharks. Enter…Shark Week… and my dad’s reason to distract me and bond over something something that wasn’t football.

For three short years, I got to discuss shark attacks, migratory patterns and feeding behaviors of sharks with my dad, and for once I had something he seemed as excited about as I did. Even if he wasn’t, he acted like he was. I never cared at the time whether or not my dad got as excited as I did about great whites-I just cared that he and I had something we did together.

My kids will tell you how this has become a long-running tradition in our house. It might have even become a slight obsession over time, but it’s only because it’s the one little bit of him that’s good and happy I can remember, right before he died.

I think we all become that way-we hold on to the things that make us feel comfort. I think that’s what makes us all hold on to things-even that often times bring us pain. We want so badly to hold on to the good we forget why we had to let go at all.

Recently, I’ve had to let go of a few relationships in my life and it’s hurt and been painful and makes me wonder if it was the right thing to do. Letting go of things not meant for you is never easy. For me, that was especially true about the painful memories I held on to from losing dad and how he died.

All these years later, our Shark Week festivities have turned into a celebration and a reminder of all the things I loved about him. This tradition transformed the sadness I felt into new memories we were making as a family, that somehow let him be a living part of that.

I tried to give up Shark Week over the last couple of years because frankly, I was tired of finding new shark trivia question or finding a new Shark Week-themed dessert. I think I knew that was never really going to happen. Shark Week will always my favorite week of the year because it reminds me of all the best parts of him.

Sharks and my dad will forever go hand-in-hand and will always be in my heart.

Fins up, Shark Week fans. It’s almost that time…

Life, unexpected…

I saw a quote the other day that said,”Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing”.

It made me think of all the times I’ve screwed up, or when something that seemed screwed up, happened.

The most impactful situation was the suicide of my father. When you’re fourteen and you lose a parent, it devastates your reality. When you’re fourteen and you lose a parent to suicide, your reality becomes a nightmare.

Healing and recovery from that type of loss takes years. It’s like a winding road that you never really see the entire path of. The bends and the curves are often unpredictable but as you go further down the road, you start to see the surprises that await you. The scary, thorn-lined path starts to feel a little more familiar and before you know it, you can’t see the things that scared you, anymore.

My family and I have been at the absolute bottom with grief and we’ve held hands and hugged and celebrated the smallest of things, together. Healing also makes you embrace the tiny nuances of the daily observations we often take for granted.

The other part of my healing came from my AFSP family. I always say we’re a group that nobody wants to be a part of but to have them is to know that someone has your back and knows the type of pain and loss you’ve experienced like nobody else can. They have become lifelong friends and we laugh so loudly my sides often ache but it’s only the laughter you exhibit with someone who knows what it means to have been in indescribable pain. Dolly Parton, as Truvy in Steel Magnolias, said laughter through tears was her favorite emotion. I completely agree.

Through the messiest moments of my life and the thing I thought would break me, I found my purpose. I never thought this thing that happened to me would be one of the most amazing aspects of my life. It sounds strange to say, but my greatest loss ended up being what brought me back to hope.

Even when the world seems to be out of control and we struggle to make sense of everything, looking for a way to change the narrative of our story is the most powerful tool we have.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing, at all. Sometimes the beauty is in the chaos.

When you get lost on your path, remember that thorns are just growing pains. You can’t heal if you don’t grow…

Thanksgiving…

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? 

There’s nothing like a rollercoaster-ride of a year to make you stop and think about it. Why is it that it often takes something drastic in our lives before we stop and truly reflect on the things we’re most grateful for? Why does it take something big before we realize how good we’ve got it? 

Last year’s Thanksgiving was a blip in hindsight and I can’t believe it’s been a year but everything I thought I knew, changed that day. My fortieth year of life in the months that followed, seemed like a crap shoot. The first couple months, I wanted to crawl back in bed the minute the alarm sounded each morning. I was drowning and it was hard to breathe. I didn’t even have time to stop and ask for help. 

Thankfully, old friends came back into my life, I started getting back out and I opened myself up to things that scared me. It took me until this year-this incredibly painful, beginning of a year-to figure out that sometimes what seems like the end is just the beginning. 

Sure-this year has included some heartaches but I feel the strongest, emotionally I have in years. That shouldn’t be the case. 

It took a trip to Montana, some love, some cracks, an insane amount of laughs and and an endeavor that filled me with some of the greatest joy I’ve known, to make me realize it was there all the time. Like Glenda, The Good Witch says,”you had the power all along, my dear.” 

This year, I have to be thankful for the heartaches-they propelled me forward and got me past my fear. The laughter-it got me through the darkest days to help me breathe again. The love-if I ever forget how much of this I have in my life, I will shave my head…seriously. 

This year I got to be a part of things I never thought possible that have created new opportunities and I got to love more than I thought I ever could. Even with the way this year began, it is ending with joy. Gratitude, people. So much of it. 

Today, I hope whomever you’re spending it with and the weeks to come for the holidays, you take a moment to think about the stages of your life and that we all have seasons. 

A dear, sweet woman I had the good fortune to meet only once reminded me of this during her daily creekside chats. She spoke the other day of each of us having seasons and that if we can just hang on, we’ll experience them all. The pain and joy both flow and if we’re lucky, one will help us appreciate the other. 

Go love your tribe. Love and light…

Female…

I have the good fortune of having superior female friends. Sometimes they’re a little too bad-ass for their own good. Without hesitation, they’ll tell me exactly what I sometimes don’t want to hear, but need to. 

Sometimes you also run across a set of women you’d like to work creatively with. Not just for wages, but to engage in something bigger. Over cocktails, laughs and lots of truth-telling, you decide to jump off the deep end and forge ahead together without much thought. You only know there are thruths to be told and you need to tell them, together. 

While coming up with a name for the creative thing we’re embarking on, yet to be decided, we started running words by one another. Being that we were three chicks, we pondered the formality of the words “female” and “woman”. Synonyms often amuse me and lead me on the path of word relevance no other person on the planet would dare care about. Off into the grammar-abyss, we’d go and imagine my surprise when one of my girfriends said,”the words for ‘women’ are pretty brutal”. 

Some of them included the following: lush, troubled, tumultuous, anxious and disruptive

I know guys-you’re probably thinking,”someone nailed it!” 

Women-this is total BS. 

Ok-yes, my girlfriends and I partake in copious amounts of wine on the rare occasion or not so rare occasion-no different than an NFL-powered tail gate, fueled with beer. 

This is all in jest, of course, but it leads me to a much deeper conversation that needs to be had. 

As I watch my female friends often apologize for their strong sense of self, their stance on politics, their beauty, their insistence on wanting more from a relationship, demanding more money for the job they’re just as qualified for as a man but have to prove themselves twice as much, their sexuality, their money, their independence, their reluctance to trust who they are or struggle to find love-I want to scream at them all and cry. 

I want to cry because my heart breaks that we walk in fear of our beauty, our strength, our purpose and I want to scream at them because I want to say that they should never let anyone burn their light out. They should never shrink themselves for anyone. They should never apologize for deserving and desiring true intimacy and commitment from every aspect of their life and they should never apologize when they receive less than and walk. They deserve to have their jobs, their spouses and friends rise up to meet them. 

This is not to say we want to shrink a man. We simply want to feel heard, understood and desired, with the intention that when we have feelings that are complicated or intense, we are not labeled crazy, frigid, ridiculous or insane. 

Our bodies, our minds and our hearts are not a sound bite. To do so reduces our spirit. We are no better and no less than anyone else but we are just as much of everything that runs the universe. 

I love men. I really do. Their energy can be powerful and intoxicating but I think that has been part of the problem. As women, we have conditioned ourselves to deserve less and to hide and reduce our expectations. 

I watch my daughter do all she can to be all she can. She knows the things that are coming. Well-we’ve talked about what might come. She hears the news. She knows what our president said before getting elected. She knows the things that are normalized. 

The times that make me the most happy though, are when I see my nearly fourteen-year-old with his girlfriend. As he walks her to the door and I see his chivalrous nature that many forty-year-olds lack, I’m reminded there is hope. Even with his feminist, independent mother, he knows what kindness is. He’s already turning into a good man. I want him to know he can both love and value women and respect their need for sense of self. 

My heart’s been held before, but my true loves are my chicks. My women. My female friends. They know the absolute worst of me and still love me-with the bags under my eyes and all. 

Female energy…I’ll take some more, please. It’s good food for the soul. 

Into the Mystic…

I remember the first time I came to Montana. My girlfriend told me for months I would love it. She kept saying,”you’ll get the thing that happens there”. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. 

I always thought of myself as a beach girl. Minus the sand you had to strip away from everything once the fun was over, I always felt the pull of the ocean. Take my love of sharks off the table-there was something about the vastness of the water extending forever, that made me feel calm. 

The town of Whitefish inhabits about 6,300 people. The two times I’ve been here, I feel like I’ve met at least half of them. Whether it be the farmer’s market or gallery nights on the square, you’re bound to run into to someone you know, daily, if not hourly. It has a small-town feel without making you crowded. The expansive list of outdoor activities keeps that from being an issue. 

Before coming to Montana, I had never seen the mountains. Being such a water baby, I wasn’t prepared to fall in love with them. The thing about Montana, though, is that it also occupies some of the most amazing bodies of water you’ll ever experience. My favorite Crayola color is cerulean. That color is plentiful here. 

One of the Crown Jewels of Montana is Glacier National Park. The main pass to get into the park is the Going to the Sun Road. A little movie trivia for you-this is the road Jack Nicholson drove on in The Shining, even though the movie didn’t take place here. You’d be hard-pressed to find views like that from anywhere else in the United States.  

Glacier was the first moment I knew the ocean had lost it’s place. The ambiance of the park is like being dropped in the middle of a Bob Ross painting where there are “happy little trees” everywhere. Each moment is like looking at a well-crafted landscape painting. I remember kayaking there and noticing how big everything seemed and how small I was and crying because the significance of anything in my world didn’t matter compared to where I was. It wouldn’t let me care. Time didn’t matter. All I could focus on was the incredible beauty and realizing that I had missed something in my life for a long time-the presence of being. 

I could go on describing the beauty of Montana but you just have to come see it for yourself. 

This trip has been a bit different for me. Even though the picturesque landscape is just as hypnotic, the people have been the thing that stood out to me this time. 

Maybe it’s because of where I’m at in my life, presently, or maybe it’s because I appreciate it more now, but the relationships of the friends and couples I’ve met have been the thing I will take away this time. 

Victor Hugo wrote that, “life’s great happiness is to be convinced we are loved”. 

Maybe being in a place like Montana brings out the best parts of who you are. Maybe it puts you in a frame of mind that allows you to be the best version of yourself. Maybe it gives you a natural high that makes happiness an easy way of life. Maybe there’s less stress or it’s not as hot or the traffic’s not as bad. Whatever it is they all have with each other-I want more of it. In all my relationships-I want more love. To give it and receive it. These people exemplify the nature of all the things I long for more of-peace, sense of purpose and living with intention.

I didn’t know I’d have to come so far to take that away. Standing beneath the trees, looking at the mountains or swimming in clear blue water in the quiet-I didn’t know observing the love would be the thing most beautiful to me, this time. It has been my happy place. 

We all spend our time longing for a place where we feel our existence matters. A place we feel we accomplished something and exemplifies the nature of who we are.  I suppose this place has captured a large part of my heart. I’d love to bottle this feeling and bring it home. 

I didn’t run into a bear on my walks(whew!) but I found some things I lost. This year has challenged me and stretched every part of who I am but as the months go by it has brought me back to a place of wonderment. Montana always reminds me when I’ve forgotten to stop, look and listen. 

When I come back home and it’s a tad too hot and the traffic’s a bit too horrible, I’m going to remember to love the hell out of my life. There’s nothing like falling down to help you remember what getting back up looks like. I’m thankful for my tribe that’s helped me do that. 

Here’s to loving and living fully awake…

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, 

And see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. 

~Henry David Thoreau

Meditation-hello, old friend…

You ever have moments in your life where you look around and in all the chaos, you realize that it’s all gonna be ok? Ok-I know in our current climate that seems a little daunting at the moment. Maybe the best you can hope for is to make it to five o’clock to get that glass of wine in your hand. 

Watching the news hasn’t made me feel that way much, lately but I started doing something again recently that I had gotten away from. I had forgotten how easy and how difficult it was and how much I needed it and missed it. Meditating. 

For those of you a little fearful of that word or believe it’s some hokey-pokey crap, I urge you to take a moment to open your mind. No, really-meditating will help you do that. 

I’m not the person to walk you through it or to explain what needs to happen for you to reach a place where you forget where you are and even who you are for a moment and why it can be so amazing. There are all sorts of guided meditations for that and books to help you understand the process. For me, it was a little more complicated…

As one who has a slight “type A” personality and whose brain is often like the programs you don’t close out on your phone and it makes it run slowly-I struggled to figure it out. I found my mind wandering thinking about to-do lists I had and when I’d think of something, I’d stop to write it down, afraid I’d forget it later(hello, pretty much every mom I know!). I soon realized I was meditating for no more than about thirty seconds at a time. I felt like I was failing before I even really got started. 

Once you begin to meditate, you grow to understand that we are constantly inundated with messages and images that keep our brain from processing the true intentions of our thoughts. When you try and quiet all of that or be absent of thought, you emphatically know how crazy all our brains have become. Trust me-the first time you try it, it’ll feel like minutes are hours. That’s how I felt anyway-don’t be judgin’! Sometimes for us to be aware of what we need to do for our bodies and mind, we have to be absent of thought for awhile. Free up some space to get to the good stuff! 

When I began meditating again, it woke me up to something I already knew I was doing-living without intention. Even when I first started again, it felt weird and forced and then I began to surrender to all the crap. That’s when the thing happened. It was like a giant friend showed up to tell me they had missed me and they got this and I didn’t have to be anything but in my own space for awhile. Wow-what a great feeling. To know that the only thing I needed for the minutes I was doing it was the breath in my lungs. That was it! So easy but yet so difficult. 

We’re taught if we’re not busy doing something, we haven’t been productive. We haven’t added value. Sometimes our lack of busyness is when the good stuff shows up. The quiet moments to think or to not think. To be in your space and not need anything except your own body to breathe. It’s pretty liberating. 

Once you learn to let go-you’ll notice something else starts to happen. Things start coming at you. Of course they are because your mind is open to accepting those things now! Ta-da-you’re now living with intention. 

Even the past year that has had moments of complete shit-when I have paid attention to how my body was responding to something sad or enraging, I learned to let it go a lot quicker. Holding onto it only poisons you. The world keeps going. Do I vent to my mom or girlfriends? Hell yeah, I do but then I come back and realize what I need to do to find that space where I can live intentionally. 

Some days are a struggle. I wouldn’t be human if they weren’t-but this year has given me so many gifts. I never thought I’d say that six months ago. New friends, new opportunities, new experiences with my family and when I get a little whack-a-doodle in my brain and it feels flooded and overwhelmed, I find that place where I know the only thing I have to be or do is in my own body and that feels safe. 

This period in history seems very chaotic and sometimes self-preservation is all you’ve got. How are you going to live? Take the time to get frustrated and scream that our Prez is leading from behind his phone in Twitter-land and then go find your safe place. Wherever that is. Go hang out with your mom and have a great conversation with her. Go play with your kids and play like a kid. Drink that glass of wine like those grapes died for you. They did. Drink that wine and savor it. 

I have a sign in my bathroom that says,”Wherever You Are, Be All There”. I’m going to keep working on that. Living and loving with purpose is our only saving grace in this crazy world spinning in space. If you stop long enough, you’ll realize what you’ve been missing…promise.