Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

A Face Filled With Joy to Light Up a Room

There’s a woman I see out dancing quite often who literally exudes waves of joy wherever she goes. Yet when I read the poetry she drops into Facebook, I can also feel the pain she’s experiencing as a physical ache. My first thought in recognizing the dichotomy is she uses joy to hide her broken parts.

Taking a step back, I realize it’s not an accurate portrayal. This lovely, fairy-like woman has certainly had her share of pain. She’s experienced loss, betrayal, and perhaps even abuse at various points in her life. She has chosen not to let those parts define her. Though her wings may have been broken or bent time and time again, she refuses to wallow or even allow the pain to encompass her being and affect others.

Instead, she uses the hardships as the building blocks of the firm foundation she continually creates for herself. The broken bits become pieces that are just the right size to fill in cracks or strengthen gaps with an extra layer of mortar. Perhaps she recycles the broken parts, grinding them into powder, then mixing them with glue or epoxy so it flows easily into the hairline fractures life gives her before they widen into chasms.

I suspect the process itself has come from her experiences. Once, she allowed those cracks to widen until some became seemingly insurmountable chasms. Like many of us, she did her share of wallowing before she found her strength and learned what didn’t break her has made her so much stronger than she ever imagined.

Searching for My Inner Light

I’ve not yet learned to be the ball of light and energy she has, but my own path has allowed me https://www.flickr.com/photos/erix/66519749/in/photolist-6SW1e-VTKUdm-M1eYnL-242z7nc-oqkg1j-proThx-fsTWuh-6k2FkX-o4wR24-y6Zwr-KfMCGq-SFv9cS-8hfbmZ-bfs4it-SkpXJ5-fTkgBF-SRG43L-oaSpyU-6LELFf-8sY2Wq-65Q84A-4uhkK6-4CwKmQ-21jdqXp-ry5GpM-RHagrR-s7emTJ-b8moxH-pgqTW-GmKEPY-7h7g9p-6tuV9R-r3UHnJ-9kePpX-b1DnC2-9Gv9Kj-RFjn7k-6tuPQR-2b4oHPW-nxaMN8-Kez8E-6tuN7i-dUaLfP-6nXEKq-TiiQCx-nXxmkn-hCDNRa-CFeyn-2YRhRS-9BUEVto learn the broken pieces have value. I’ve used my own to strengthen a wobbly foundation. I’ve added strength to myself, and been a rock for others at times. I’ve also learned to allow others to be a rock for me when my own strength falters.

I suspect her light, like mine is made up of millions of tiny prism pieces gathered not only from her own broken bits, but from the countless others she’s helped when they needed a light through their own darkness. Those prism pieces shine all the brighter for having been forged of love and tempered by life.

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was that nobody has to trudge through life alone. It’s OK to ask for help, and in fact, when you ask for help, you’re giving someone else the opportunity to be of service; to give of themselves. You need to break off pieces of yourself to help others get through the tough times. But in so doing, you end up with pieces of them as well.

A Heart Made of Millions of Prism Pieces

I believe by the time you reach adulthood, assuming you weren’t raised with the misconception you were better off standing alone, that your heart is made up of millions of little pieces of the people, places, and animals you touched on your journey. It’s those pieces which truly make you whole, not holding onto your own as if losing a single one will shatter you into a million irreparable pieces.

Yet that’s what I believed for the first 4 or 5 decades of my life. It was what my family taught me, and the times I’d been broken had given me no reason to question those lessons. Each time, I put myself back together as best I could, little realizing I was building on a disintegrating foundation each time, and setting myself up for the next disaster. I built fragile structures on top of each other, unaware that at some point, the whole thing would come crashing down, and I’d be unable to find a single solid piece on which to build.

That day came in my mid-40’s. I was alone, angry, sad, and clueless as to how I could come through the latest series of disasters in anything resembling wholeness. In truth, I’d never been whole, so I didn’t even know what it looked like. Nevertheless, I craved wholeness as most humans do. It wasn’t until a few years later I realized in order to find that wholeness, I had to finish shattering. Most of all, I had to shatter all the false beliefs I’d been given.

No Longer Working From Flawed Beliefs

I think my mom’s suicide was my first indication the belief system I’d been given was flawed. https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsexagesima01/3612047773/in/photolist-6vbFXK-7mfHK5-82q4rd-7Ku82r-7xTufQ-7xTvNm-noV2nx-8v7yLg-7xTtxw-b5JoM-awiDbx-74ofjQ-4xTEyL-aFUvSc-2nJqV-pnUS3J-UZSY-KSCvY-q54hFw-74jkL8-57r2Za-rXWSV-RAqoKt-wCAn3-74jkCt-459Ltf-8VkKtr-jrTTpy-7Mx4vz-9gJ6Hm-q2BAZF-A1eTBs-4sLmnj-7hJteh-nDn5BQ-98W5r7-4oJBHP-FUYqD-66WsR1-aaLTe-9gF1wt-7AibaD-cof4ks-bKGrY-7pamwZ-9yY17Q-2QEkGc-qtnpn9-qUrb5H-5EB1gvWhat had slowly become a toxic combination of resentment, disrespect, and annoyance was my ineffectual way of disengaging from my family without a safety net, or any idea what to connect to instead. For several years, my only real connections were my two daughters, and by then, they were at an age where they were trying to establish their own boundaries and rules.

Needless to say, I was adrift in unfamiliar waters without the ability to guide my vessel, or any idea where to guide it if I could. It wasn’t long before I lost the ability or even the desire to hide my seemingly unstoppable rush downstream and over the falls. With nothing left to lose, certain I was about to crash and burn in spectacular fashion, I threw caution to the winds. I admitted I didn’t have all the answers, my life was far from perfect, and by god, I was tired of pretending.

I’d like to say it was like finding the drain plug just as the place was about to flood, but it actually took awhile for me to even recognize my life was changing for the better. At first, I simply wrote and shared my thoughts, encouraged by my daughter. Initially, my words were like dipping a toe into a pond, then pulling it back quickly before anyone noticed or commented.

Everyone Struggles Until They Learn to Ask for Help

As comments came and were for the most part positive and encouraging, I became braver, sharing what my parents would have considered intimate details. I learned others simply considered it opening up and allowing myself to not only appear, but be human; to be someone others could actually relate to instead of a barren mask of feigned perfection.

I learned everyone struggles, everyone falls, and everyone hurts at one time or another. While those like me keep breaking, and never really fix themselves, but instead, set one more illusion; one more glamour in place, the ones who truly grow have learned to say: “Yes, I’m broken, but it’s only temporary.” In the immortal words of the Beatles, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

When I first began to lower my masks, though, I had no real friends. My relationships, such as they were, were as superficial as I was. I was surfaced in glass with no way to lock on. Those first forays made from behind the safety of my computer screen were downright terrifying. Once they started reaching the people I saw regularly, but who’d never really seen me, it got easier. To their credit, they found ways to connect to me until I learned from their example how to do some of the connecting myself.

Learning to Give Without Reservation

Slowly, I allowed the words to come out of my mouth instead of my fingers. I hugged with complete abandon instead of the reserve I’d been taught. I stopped being afraid people would be disgusted by the raw, brokenness of my bare face, and learned true love and acceptance came from the gift I gave them by sharing my imperfections as it allowed them to share their own just as freely.

So when I see someone like this beautiful, fairy-like, joyful creature dancing her way into everyone’s hearts with an ethereal glow on her face, I know it’s the result of many breakings, and an open and willing heart which keeps allowing others to help her fit the pieces back together, better and stronger for the experience. I only hope someday I’ll carry the same glow and light up a room the way she does.

Gratitude is My Strongest Building Block

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for wood nymphs, fairies, and sprites in human form who spread joy liberally and with complete abandon.
  2. I’m grateful for everyone who has been patient with me as I unlearned the things which isolated me to make room for those which allow me to be an active member of a community.
  3. I’m grateful for the free flow of words and ideas which never fails me as long as I put fingers to keys.
  4. I’m grateful for all of my broken pieces which have gone into making other people stronger.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, light, joy, friendship, compassion, kindness, dancing, acceptance, peace, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Disconnecting to Re-Set Intentions

Over the last few weeks, I’ve taken the opportunity to disconnect more frequently than I had in the past. I don’t know if it’s a need for more solitude, or simply a desire to focus more on my writing and less on outside distractions like social media, text messages, and TV. For all my talk, I hadn’t taken advantage of the DND function on my phone as frequently as I might, nor avoided being passively entertained for long periods of time.

I re-visited something I’d temporarily forgotten: the more I have on my plate, the more focused I become on tackling the tasks before me. More importantly, I reduced the amount of time spent interacting with people frivolously, and turned interactions into something which were more likely to benefit me both personally and professionally. To me, that part is huge.

It’s not that I don’t jump on Facebook and share inspirational quotes and posts, or the occasional pun or joke any more. I’ve started focusing my time more so it’s not an all-day affair, and instead, open a blog page and start typing even if I have nothing to say.

Constantly Improving Habits

In a conversation with a fellow writer who assumed I was having trouble writing, I explained my issue isn’t finding something to say. It’s sitting down in front of the computer with my fingers on the keys. If I sit here long enough, and pound out enough words from deep in the bowels of my subconscious, a topic will always form itself, and in so doing, will dump a thousand words or more onto the screen before I know it. Which makes the last couple of years without another NaNoWriMo pretty disturbing. It wasn’t that I lacked the ability or even the tenacity to see the project through. I lacked enough on my plate to motivate me to do more.

In the last year or two, I’ve made significant changes which proved to myself I could stay as busy as I wanted to. I only needed to set an intention for more ideas, motivation, and client work, and it would all manifest.

I know that sounds oversimplified, but I’ve proven it time and again on little things. When I start ignoring my alarm and sleeping too late, I re-set my intention to wake up by 8. The intention is enough so I don’t even need the alarm screaming in my ear. I wake up when I want to, ready to get up and start my day. When I want to write more and screw around less, I set an intention, and revisit my Trello board.

Is It Time for Time Blocks?

Granted, I’m still having trouble working in time blocks like some people do. My mind has trouble wrapping itself around the idea of doing X from 9 to 10, Y from 10:15 to 12:15, and so on. Yet I’m toying with the idea now. Putting myself on a tighter schedule will ultimately make it easier to:

  • Finish the re-write of  Rebuilding After Suicide
  • Thoroughly research publishing options
  • Finish editing and uploading Sasha’s Journey to ChapterBuzz
  • Finish and implement the lessons from LeadsLab
  • Map out my work schedule for the next 12 months to include blocks for client work, research, and personal projects.
  • Spend time reading and commenting on authors I’m following

I find if I start listing things out like what you see above, it gets me into the right frame of mind to start making time for the projects that somehow keep getting pushed to the back burner under “stuff I want to do regularly at some point”. Have you noticed when you do it that way that “some point” never quite comes into view? It is truly the albatross of procrastinators.

Progress Has Been Slow, But Steady

I had a boss years ago whose favorite phrase was “shit or get off the pot”. As I look at the progress I’ve made since I quit my day job 6 years ago, there’s a very definite pattern. The first couple of years, I futzed around, trying this course and that, but giving up, probably too soon in some cases. All of those courses are languishing in my DropBox account, some of them, still unopened.

I spent another year lackadaisically working on the 3 NaNo’s I managed to finish. One of them actually got to the re-write stage a couple of times. In the meantime, I joined a writers’ critique group, but ultimately realized it wasn’t the right one for me. I’ve yet to find another. To be honest, I haven’t even tried.

The last couple of years have seen the greatest changes; mentally, physically, and emotionally. I’ve written a great deal more, and with a higher degree of consistency. I’ve completed a couple of projects and gone on to re-write them. I’ve also attended a writer’s conference, and had my first dubiously helpful experience with an editor. And I’ve learned not to take my meat suit for granted.

Stronger in Mind, Body, Spirit, and Productivity

Overall, I’ve seen huge progress. Physically, I’m stronger and healthier. Mentally, I’m more focused. My writing is starting to gain more traction. I attribute a lot of that to publishing on Medium, and ultimately being invited to write for a publication called “The Startup”. I’ve connected with other writers and found not only great information for making changes myself, but an audience that’s beginning to expand as well. Writers do support other writers, but you have to show you’re willing to give as well as take.

Which is the primary reason I’m setting an intention to establish regular blocks of time to read and comment on the work of others. Not only is it a great way to learn from the successes and failures of others and avoid making the same ones (heaven knows there are plenty of others I can make), but it’s a way to connect with a community of like-minded folks who can and will help me wade through reams of material when I’m trying to figure out the best way to jump into the publishing pool.

Recognizing What’s Most Important

As I reflect back upon the lessons I’ve already learned since I left Corporate America to become a full-time writer, I’d boil it down to three main ones:

  1. Write every single day whether you want to or not; whether you think you have anything to say or not.
  2. Build a community and interact with them regularly and consistently.
  3. Make time for self-care. If mind or body fail, making the first two work will be nearly impossible.

Everything else follows from these three. Everything I’ve accomplished in the last couple of years is related in some way. I’ve managed a certain level of consistency with #1, if only by writing my morning pages almost every day. #3 has been, to my surprise, the easiest to manage, though every so often I have a week where I let myself slide. Nevertheless, I am always back to full throttle the following week.

The hardest thing for me has been consistency in building and maintaining a community, but like the others, the more I exercise that muscle, the easier it gets. As it gets easier, consistency will become automatic as well. With improved consistency, I expect to see another upsurge in my successes as well. It is the natural progression I’ve seen in everything I do.

Always Finding Things To Be Grateful For, No Matter What

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned in the last 6 years, and look forward to many more.
  2. I am grateful for friendships I’ve made both on- and off-line.
  3. I am grateful for the love, kindness, and compassion which are constantly building in my life, and for the lessons I’ve learned in both giving and receiving.
  4. I am grateful for personal evolution. I am not the woman I was 5 years ago, much less, 10 or 20. She served her purpose, but she’s gone now.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, inspiration, motivation, new skills, stronger old skills, mentors and mentees, healthy mind, body, and spirit, compassion, peace, balance, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Self-Imposed Stress Inducers

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jobber1/36197048070/in/photolist-X9BkiG-6zNVTx-9WcJ3G-dSakbx-dSammr-9TBa8u-6ezpVp-4BqdWY-VXtGBZ-rmenXX-qCVBCH-ebSPFY-on6uCz-7jht6-n98ro-VTXW6M-a1XWoX-aEZ3ZC-GAd7om-aETqXe-5YRvvk-dSfWbY-KEWxyD-7N2mv7-s8WVRA-97x2ND-9FZG7n-kv3uih-7dAKBM-Usjf3C-emcpAz-3EXMtA-U3SSPP-gQb96B-6QtXTY-o36uJj-iwvCcv-54dBjc-opbQb3-7NxyBo-7G7U6q-cS6eML-9FXQcH-ojrwjj-SUbPcQ-7MNAUc-Ee2qD-jZRnbY-a355px-cS691NHoliday stress. It affects each person in different ways, and for different reasons. For me, like most people, it’s a combination of things, but not what you might expect.

Cleaning stresses me out. My house is never pristine, and though I keep up with things like the kitchen and cat boxes, I am lucky to vacuum and mop once a week, much less, the two or three times my house needs because of my messy little fur balls. I’m not as bothered during the normal course of the year, but while getting ready for my annual Thanksgiving Feast, I pushed myself pretty hard to get floors and bathrooms scrubbed. As a result, my weekly cleanings suffered for a little while after as I recuperated from the frenzy; more mentally than physically.

Maintaining my writing schedule, while a labor of love can make me a little crazy during the holidays too. After Thanksgiving, it took me a couple of weeks to get back to my schedule of three weeks ahead. By then, Christmas week was looming, I had wrapping to do, and plans to make for the trip to my kids’ house. Still and all, I managed to get the wrapping done and all the paraphernalia stowed away for another year with about four days to spare; a new record!

Recognizing My Worth Via Someone Else’s Eyes

Leaving home for a few days stresses me out too. I know my home and cats are Created in Canvain good hands while I’m gone, but I do miss waking up to my own furries, especially Dylan and Pyewacket who love to sleep on my head, and wake me with kisses.

My biggest stresser, 6 years and a month into my self-employment journey is still marketing. Both my daughter and I have a hard time talking about ourselves, our strengths, and our accomplishments. She’s figured it out a little better than me, though. She roughed out what she needed for her grad school application, then sent it to me to, in her words, “fluff it out”.

What it really meant was I took what she wrote and added in some more of her relevant experience and accomplishments which triggered her to expand on them herself. It made me realize maybe I need to draft something to promote myself and give it to her to “fluff out”. She certainly sees me through more generous eyes than I do.

Learning to Focus on My Qualities

The question is, what might that be? I’ve put my second pass through LeadsLab on hold for the moment, while working on getting back on schedule with my writing projects. Maybe when I get back to it, I should write something up, then pass it on to her to inject some of the me she sees?

I admit I’m my own worst critic, and am least able to recognize the things I do well. I annoy the crap out of my daughter when I dismiss her assertions about what she thinks I’m good at. In the first place, I do her a huge disservice by dismissing her perfectly valid and objective opinions. In the second, I short-change myself. I’m not sure which hurts her more, to be honest.

Letting Go to Move Forward

The Tower from the Spiral TarotIn the weeks leading up to the New Year, I wrote a lot about changes I want to make for the new decade, and goals I want to accomplish. I think it’s also important to focus on what needs to be released. Here are a few of mine which really need to go:

  • False modesty
  • Disrespecting people by dismissing their positive opinions regarding my work and talents
  • Fear of disappointing anyone, including myself
  • Procrastination
  • Quitting before I give it a genuine, heartfelt effort
  • Letting one person’s opinion stop me in my tracks
  • Submitting to the distractions of Social Media and email

This list might be short, but each item is holding me back in many ways, and it’s time I stopped allowing excuses, fears, and outdated beliefs to stand between me and the greatness of which I’m capable.

Self-Motivating

Some say you have to either get angry enough or desperate enough before you’ll fight for what you truly want. I can see the truth in someone like J.K. Rowling who was in dire straits when she fought to get her first “Harry Potter” book published. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for an external reason to get my butt in gear. It motivates some, but it doesn’t mean everyone needs an external force.

I look back over my life and see how many things I’ve accomplished on my own. I also see I could have done so much more if I’d learned to ask for help a whole lot sooner than I did. I was taught not to by a long line of ancestors. It’s been my daughter who’s helped me see what I was taught was probably my biggest self-limiting belief.

Old habits are hard, but not impossible to break. I’m still learning who and what to ask when I need help. I don’t always recognize I’m doing something which could be greatly simplified if I ask for help from the right people. I’ve also asked for help from the wrong people at times, which made me a little gun shy. Not to mention the many times I asked for help in the wrong way. Small wonder I didn’t get the results I’d hoped for, and I’ve no one to blame but myself.

Using Other People as a Mirror

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nhoulihan/4038592452/in/photolist-79SQQm-TfUffd-pgu9hJ-qfYXYE-pDVWDB-6UQgZM-KFog6C-TFYhqd-29TMHM-fP6i28-j73ZT5-atsnGd-C4HxXs-5eRdT5-YoKVff-24PBcMS-28G1ckh-AqrzL-haocsM-o1RCfj-4iigfF-6hbQxG-TCfZem-qVx4n8-U63bC7-dCTxQg-amkKyF-eiY1qF-Ct5hqm-hSGXpV-BcaCh-8c2bVB-27RWaS2-eQjYy1-cJWTgw-ehKQWJ-AJSt63-ay4RXc-cxa1zW-UFe9Vq-aC3EP1-pkL1fr-ehKSrs-qxMMJj-bvMGyV-VG1fkR-ay4Sgv-aDNaMx-aE1tNY-h7171rLife is one long learning curve with switchbacks, dead ends, and the occasional sharp, steep drop that lands you on your ass in a pile of rubble. I’ve learned the hardest part of those falls isn’t getting up afterwards. It’s finding the lesson and not giving up. It’s far too easy to say: Doing that made me crash and burn. I guess it means I’m not meant to succeed. I used that worn out excuse too often myself, and have likely missed a few amazing opportunities.

Yet I’ve learned by watching my daughter that sometimes we’re supposed to miss a few opportunities so we have time to build our confidence and get ready, not for an amazing opportunity, but for the amazing opportunity.

In spite of it all, I’ve always told my girls that when things seem to be falling apart the worst, be it a lost job, lack of opportunities, a few harsh realities smacking you in the face; if you hang in there, things always turn out better than they would have been had you not been booted out of a comfortable, if uninspiring place. My words have not proven false yet.

Timing Isn’t Everything. Starting Is.

It’s taking me a little longer to find my footing this time, but until lately, I really wasn’t putting forth a lot of effort. I wasn’t expecting much of myself. That all changed a couple of months ago, though it’s taking me a little while to hit my stride. Perhaps making major changes just before the holidays wasn’t my best choice of timing. I do, however, work best under pressure. I had to learn how to do it when the only real pressure came from inside myself.

I’d say it’s working if my jumpy stomach and anxiety over catching up on missed deadlines is any indication. At the moment, there’s absolutely no one breathing down my neck or having expectations of me. I have no one to satisfy; no external deadlines to meet.

What I do have is a Trello board full of deadlines for my own work:

  • Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday blog posts
  • Edits and postings of chapters of “Sasha’s Journey”
  • Re-writes of all but 4 chapters of “Rebuilding After Suicide”
  • Research into publishing options
  • Learning to write an effective query letter
  • Learning to create a synopsis for non-fiction
  • Publishing both books

Recognizing and Acknowledging My Support Team

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rbh/4549085259/in/photolist-TBE2Nw-p4EDEt-TtPDPz-T6fYRE-WessCa-5aopSw-7VZfyt-ihp3jf-ekkzYU-dmX7yH-9XZhkA-5aooT5-TdHezm-b2Jtm4-ekkCk7-e2akL2-ekeVB6-k52jg-W218xN-5ahpwJ-9WoYHJ-d8ZSaC-9WVckM-dmX7a8-5a2rPt-bAkTRr-5aoogS-eQjvsU-fKHzgW-VeN9y3-5aimQk-5fy8qh-e2aadv-5anCeQ-ekkB5Q-W9ExL4-9mo7Zz-VZfQY7-fKraHx-aFayE2-ekkDFA-Sn7nK9-55Kh4v-ekeSRt-bk1R1Y-9DZ7ZJ-dmX9XU-RZ7W4o-chvcYj-qwtAJXI have at least two people who’ve been kicking my butt to get these things done. One has even implied I’m depriving a lot of people of my work by failing to complete the re-write and get the darn thing published. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one. I may have had a few experiences with people benefiting a little from the words I wrote, but not enough to make me believe my words and experiences could actually help a lot of people.

Looking back at that last paragraph, I realize it’s partly a lie I keep telling myself. I wouldn’t be driven to keep writing and sharing my own struggles if I didn’t truly believe they might help someone else who’s having a tough time. If I’m lying to myself to hold back from rushing headlong for some of the goals I set 6 years ago, it’s because I’m allowing fear to take the wheel. I talk a good story about letting fear have a voice but no voting rights and no driver’s license, but my words have no meaning if I don’t live them myself.

I think the theme for 2020 and beyond is not so much facing my fears, as living my truth.

Gratitude to Chase Away the Fears

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the reminders to put fear back in the corner.
  2. I’m grateful for the people in my life who push me to be my best, and remind me of my worth.
  3. I’m grateful for the challenges I’ve set for myself, and how I’ve been able to rise to and even above them.
  4. I’m grateful for the physical reminders that I’m on the right path, even though it’s often scary as hell.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; supportive friends and family, topics to write about, motivation, inspiration, love, joy, productivity, health, peace, prosperity, harmony, balance, and philanthropy.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Borderline Strong is More Than a Hashtag

Smiling faces and happy hearts filled the dance floor at what will soon be renovated to become BL Dancehall and Saloon.

Shortly after they got the keys, owners Brian Hynes and Troy Hale brought the Borderline family together in what will be our temporary home for the first time since the November 7, 2018 tragedy that closed the doors and scattered staff, as well as the dance family to the winds for over a year. Though most of us have found places to dance, and been given places with Borderline sponsored nights, it’s not the same as having a place filled with our own family energy; a place where once again we’re the hosts instead of the visitors.

The strength and resiliency of our community shows up in everything we do. Our family have been sorely tested, yet overall, it’s brought us closer together than ever. We see familiar faces at other locations and, though we don’t always know each other by name, hugs are shared because they’re familiar faces and family. We need no other reason.

Showing Our Love in Many Ways

Several people have invested time, money, and creative talents to protect and maintain the memorial which remains in front of our old home where we will one day return, even if it’s a couple of years off. The love and care they give, watering flowers, replacing candles, even cleaning up after vandals is a clear demonstration of a deep, enduring connection neither anger, hate, nor disrespect can weaken.

The waiting will be easier now we have a place which already feels like our old home; the walls resonating with the love and energy unique to Borderline. Like our original home, the new bar is a converted restaurant so instead of dark, blank walls, a row of windows faces the parking lot, giving the place a warm, welcoming feel. A large, glassed in patio gives us a place to cool off a bit after the DJ’s have kept us on the floor for song after song. (Think Garth Brooks’ “Long-necked Bottle) Familiar faces man the bar, the doors, and the DJ booth, playing the music and dances we all know and love.

I’m inspired and overjoyed by the pictures filling the Facebook groups created over the last year; faces aglow with joy and hope; a dance floor once again filled with “the usual suspects”. Photos overflow onto personal pages proving again that there are no strangers when the Borderline family gathers.

No Place Like Home

Brian Hynes

The efforts of Brian, Troy, and the Borderline staff over the last year or so are evident in the plans for a new dance floor and decor, and a feel that up to now, could be found nowhere else but Borderline. The months since the tragedy have to have been especially difficult for the people who have worked so hard to ensure we keep dancing; the owners and management, the instructors, the DJ’s, and the always smiling staff whose faces we saw at the front of the house every week.

Seeing everyone together again, some with small children in tow was, in my opinion, one of the most healing experiences we’ve had so far. Opening the place before renovations began so we could see where we’ll once again meet regularly, and in the very near future was an act which demonstrates how enormous and all-encompassing the heart and soul of Borderline truly is. In the immortal words of Judy Garland:

There’s no place like home!

The Family Who Stays Together Thrives Together

DJ Josh Kelly

So many people have contributed to keeping the family together; our unique connections alive. Instructors who opened their homes or found alternate venues for dancing and workshops, Brian who worked out an arrangement for Borderline nights at the Canyon, DJ Josh who set up his equipment in parking lots, malls, barns, and finally, BL Dancehall and Saloon to keep us dancing while Borderline undergoes major renovations. Not to be overlooked are fellow dancers who opened their homes and barns, or arranged for space, security, and whatever else we needed to both dance and feel safe.

Most of all, we have a family who pulled together, and never gave up hope that our home would be rebuilt. The fundraisers, the Healing Garden built in a ridiculously short amount of time, the lights and orbs on the oak tree in the Borderline parking lot, the beautiful memorial which, though damaged by weather and vandals, continues to be lovingly maintained; all give proof our family can be battered but never broken.

For over a year, the Borderline family has gathered in a multitude of places ranging from malls, to churches, to other clubs, and even private homes. Sometimes, we’ve talked, others, danced, but we’ve always shared hugs, laughter, and tears.

Celebrating Life and Lives with Dance

We marked the week of the one year anniversary with memorials and celebrations, but most notably by ceremonies and dancing in a beautiful garden dedicated, not only to the 12 souls we lost, but to the resiliency and cohesiveness of the country dance community, and specifically, the Borderline family. Supported by the City of Thousand Oaks, the garden was completed in a superhuman amount of time. The magnitude of the project would normally take years, but was completed in months. 

The bonds, the hopes, the continued belief that Borderline would return in physical form at some point remained alive without question. We all simply believed. As we became dancing vagabonds, traveling near and far to keep our love of dancing alive, and to remain connected with the rest of our family, we sometimes grew frustrated with always being the visitors and never the hosts, though many venues welcomed us with open arms.

A Home of Our Own Again

What we’ve most wanted; most needed over the last year was to be back in a home of our own. Brian, Troy, and the Borderline staff, displaced themselves, knew it was the missing piece in everyone’s healing process, and worked tirelessly to resolve what I can only think have been gargantuan issues standing between the dream and the reality. Rumors flew; hopes rose and fell, but we waited for the official word to come from Brian.

Brian along with his partner, Troy did not disappoint. Though it’s a good news-bad news scenario for now, they’ve given us something we never expected while what they’re saying could be a 2-year process to rebuild our home runs its course. They found an existing location which, with a few changes can be our temporary home. Where once again, we have a place we can be the hosts instead of the visitors.

Shortly after they got the keys, the new sign went up and the dance family was able to spend a few hours not only checking out our temporary home, but christening it in the best way we know how. While DJ Josh Kelly kept the music going, we tore up the floor (figuratively, of course) with 5 hours of dancing, re-connecting, hugging, laughter, and maybe a few tears. Knowing we’d have a home in a matter of weeks instead of months or years created a euphoria that continues long after the music stopped, the lights went out, and the doors were locked. 

Healing Hearts and Happy Faces

An undeniable energy permeated the bar; a euphoria arising from the knowledge we’d soon be back in a place of our own where the faces we’d seen nearly every week for years would once again fill every nook and cranny; where the staff we’d come to know and love would be serving drinks and food, keeping the place running smoothly, greeting regulars with hugs and smiles, and best of all, keeping us dancing.

I know I wasn’t alone with a smile that seemed permanently affixed to my face, and an inability to sit for more than a couple of minutes before jumping up to dance or greet another family member.

Our hearts might have been shattered on November 7, 2018, but on December 14, 2019, Brian and his tireless team showed us how hard they’ve been working to help put those collective hearts back together, perhaps broken and bruised, but overall, stronger and more resilient than anyone would have guessed.

A Bright Light Pierces the Darkness

The work on our temporary home has just begun but will soon ring with laughter, music, and stomping feet. Our original home will take awhile longer, but with a place to grow our healing energy in the best way we know how, the wait and sense of loss won’t feel as intense as it has up to now.

We have a place to once again celebrate birthdays, engagements, retirements, anniversaries, and everything else we’ve grown accustomed to sharing with our dance family. Every celebration missed over the last year left a hole in our hearts no amount of pictures from previous celebrations could fill. Thankfully, we don’t have to find alternative places to celebrate in the coming year, though I, for one won’t take having that special place for granted ever again. 

Above all, what Brian, Troy, and their team have done casts a much wider net. Amidst the anger and violence which has cast dark clouds on our society in the last few years, re-opening Borderline, and, in the interim, opening BL Dancehall and Saloon sets a precedent for clubs closed down by violence. As much as people have been forced to endure, love will always win.

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Making Movement a Priority in My Life

As the time until I’m eligible for Medicare grows shorter, I often stop to think, not about the aches and pains that have come with age and a body well-used, but with gratitude for all the things I can still do, mostly without thinking twice.

Not only do I walk almost daily on purpose, but I still park farther from stores than I need to, both to avoid the usual bottleneck of people waiting for a closer parking spot, and to give myself a chance to add steps and make my Fitbit happier. I dance and do strength training regularly, do my own heavy cleaning, and fix what I can around the house.

Even 20 years ago, I had friends who’s mobility was impaired for one reason or another, and realized my own was not something to take for granted. It’s not that I don’t have limitations. I think everyone does in one area or another. I’ve simply chosen not to allow a little bit of pain or a temporary setback like knee surgery slow me down any longer than necessary.

Pushing Through Pain, But Doing it Smartly

Perhaps that’s the key to remaining, if not in perfect shape, at least more active https://www.flickr.com/photos/prestonrhea/5236270625/in/photolist-8YHfQ2-4X1dP6-P58XGS-dmtrwi-2pMKC-nC1YD-QxGsf-q4rWqa-8HeDZc-o8pVg-8mXR4g-o7nP7c-8jQqTQ-bPxsQc-dJusGN-78jLU7-98LY1P-dYGYNq-cgtYSu-cgu1F7-7rMJ9R-6z6KQA-6VuMG-6Jfxqk-4bbwMg-dmtxds-9Rf6xQ-v8gDMa-9PqETD-4MsUzv-ptUKap-a2BfLR-4UtU1B-4UtSun-5dBS8k-7eGxtr-7nUbqa-7nUbW8-fBZ3S4-5M1h3P-8DYirc-8E2uBh-6r2V98-7oFgff-7oBon2-7oBpbn-7oBoG6-7oFfRo-vPhUL-jk3BYpthan many in my age and weight class. I’m grateful for what I am able to do, but also unwilling to slow down for minor aches and pains.

Sure, when my knees resemble softballs, I’ll take a short break, but it’s only so I can get back out on the dance floor or take my daily walks without excessive discomfort. It rarely occurs to me I might do myself damage without the break. It’s merely a few harsh lessons that have taught me to listen to my body when it says it’s time to stop for a little while so I can go more later.

Habits We Start When We’re Young

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hanuska/16371662835/in/photolist-qWH3YT-h3KDEM-ewdvhp-e9cCB-6Wf1h7-9iRoH2-89tR5w-89tQSA-7skA4b-7pBtca-49z4DU-6TNaBU-otqsxk-4KAQus-7vuw6o-8afGXv-6hw7Tk-APopNz-AL6QNw-s54FqX-NmuqLf-2ix4T1-pQjPE7-TxLjHh-67Je8b-dDzvwJ-67Jesh-2WQ4zq-8z2ufX-7vuwP9-z1sx5G-oc8Axy-a6br61-hw2FTF-p16gZp-dTB5hW-nZBebF-gmjmkX-pEum5b-pErusD-obWc5n-fcvgnp-pWGBhX-eJNrGA-54tbDb-H8SaT-dRtQeu-qATRHy-hRTeai-2m98ecMy neighborhood is an interesting mix of age groups these days. My neighbors on three sides are in their 80’s. Some have slowed down quite a bit. Those who have, are often those who smoked a good part of their younger lives. The couple next door still takes daily walks, and he can be found in his garage building things regularly, if at a slower pace than a few years ago.

More and more, families are moving in with kids, or expanding with births or children moving back home. At one time, my girls were the only young ones around. Now I see packs of teenagers, mothers (and sometimes dads) pushing strollers, and backpack laden kids walking to and from one of the local schools. The cats and I see a real cross-section of society from my office window.

Watching them throws me back to my own teenage years when I walked or rode my bike most places. Even when I got my driver’s license, I didn’t have access to a car on a regular basis, so I either rode with friends, or relied on my own mobility. It wasn’t until recently I realized how lucky I was to have to stay reasonably fit so I could get around the neighborhood and roam the surrounding hills. Like most teenagers, I think I felt very deprived.

Healthy Habits I Tried Passing on to My Daughters

Things in my town aren’t spread out terribly far. I think the entire city is less https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/23800751269/in/photolist-yra2iG-DU6XM-r2jkSH-riCwfg-Cgc59v-25ZjvpP-Esa7bs-r2dktE-riCRw2-r2d16w-r2cjid-riFdFJ-r2jiQX-riJKAr-rgrJ5N-rgrymj-riJtfk-rgrtto-qmXTaB-qmXTUx-r2dc7j-riFiwf-r2cN57-rgrAKs-qmKZtd-qmKx5b-riCoxT-rgrkmb-r2bRy1-r2bSiC-rgrjHC-qmKN63-r2iWTr-qZqbLz-Jmhu1f-riJk4R-riJgvD-JNiQ5F-6fCa3j-TSPptN-R2stHj-FBknvd-yBNSqL-JNjenn-JixL6D-rgrBXC-riJFkc-riJtrT-qmKAfu-riF5aLthan 10 miles from end to end. My own kids used to traipse all over with their friends, though I learned later one of them would jump on the bus rather than walk the mile from school to home. Knee and back issues notwithstanding, I think we’re all better for it.

When my daughters were younger, I used to use Friday night dinner out as a reward for finishing all their homework without excessive nagging. As there were plenty of options within a couple of miles, we’d walk to the chosen restaurant. I found it served a couple of purposes. We could walk and talk, sharing our day, week, month, or whatever was on our minds, and we had more time to spend together focusing on each other. Of course, it was in the dark ages before cell phones!

The sidewalks posed fewer obstacles than the road, and moving slower gave us more time to see and avoid the few we encountered. In a way, I miss those slower, easier times. But we all have to evolve, even as adults. Evolution does not mean we have to give up our mobility though. Sure, some have no choice, which makes appreciating what we can do so important.

Limitations in Others: A Cautionary Tale

Long ago, I’d look to a friend who was walking with a cane before she was 45 whenever I started feeling sorry for myself. On a truly bad day, I could still do much more than she, and I’m only a few years younger. In fact, 20 years later, I can still do much more than she could in her 40’s! At the time, she was my one constant example. Today, there are so many more, including one of my daughter’s friends who has some major health issues.

Of all the challenges I’ve had to face in my life, health has never been on the list, and even more so since I’ve established healthy habits and above all, keep dancing. The best gift my mom ever gave me, though she never realized it, and I never thanked her for it, was the love of dance. It’s been a part of my life since I was 5, and has gotten me through some rough patches in my life, not the least of which were my contentious divorce and my parents’ suicides.

I won’t say I came through unscathed because of the dancing, but I did ultimately leave the pain behind and come away with a lesson well learned. One of those lessons was to keep moving no matter what. Even if that movement is limited for some reason, I’ve learned to do what I can do comfortably, then push it a little further.

Adjusting to the Inevitable Physical Changes

Sure, I’ve lost a bit over the years; flexibility, and stamina for two. I don’t allow what I’ve lost to stop me though. I don’t dwell on them. It’s a lot like fear. I acknowledge the limitations and tell them they are there for a reason, but have no voting rights; no driver’s license. I listen to what they have to say, then do what I want. If they slow me down, or try to stop me, I push them gently aside before proceeding. Then I proceed anyway.

It would be easy to look at what others around me can do that I can’t. Everyone has that choice. I’ve found doing so to be a losing proposition. It means focusing on all the can’ts until they become reality. Is that a choice anyone would make consciously? To live our limitations?

I think some people do it without realizing how self-sabotaging their thoughts can be. I know I did for a long time. I sat around the house, overeating, smoking, and letting my body slowly deteriorate. I can’t tell you when or where my turning point came, nor does it matter. I’m grateful it came and pushed me to fix what was broken or breaking before it was too late.

Keeping My Body in Motion

Sure, there are days when things hurt; knees, back, shoulders, joints in general. Once upon a time, I’d use the pain as an excuse to do nothing. I learned the hard way doing nothing increases the pain, and causes it to move around the body, and worse, the mind like inactivity. Those are now the days I get out and walk, or dance, or clean house because I’ve learned movement is quite often the best remedy for stiff joints and an aching back.

All too often, it’s not what I’ve done that makes me ache, it’s what I haven’t done. Sometimes it means pulling out the squishy orange exercise mat, the Miracle Ball, and the resistance bands to stretch out the achy parts before getting back to the business of living a life of using my body well. Often, it means getting up and taking full advantage of my ability to move as well as I still can.

Some may choose to plod slowly through life. I choose to dance joyously through the rest of my mine.

Giving My Body the Gratitude it Deserves

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the contrast I’m able to see in the life I lived previously; without movement, without dance, and without joy.
  2. I’m grateful for an abnormally high threshold for pain which allows me to push pain aside and keep moving.
  3. I’m grateful for the gift of dance my mother unwittingly gave me. It has brought me through the worst times in my life still relatively sane, and ready to take on whatever life throws me. Nothing is as bad as it could be when overlaid by the joy of dancing.
  4. I’m grateful for friends who understand where I’ve been, and how important dancing and moving are to a life well spent.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, life, movement, mobility, dancing, community, health, harmony, peace, friendship, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Life

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Learning by Watching

Going to the gym 3 times a week gives me a lot of time to think. At the moment, I only use the strength training equipment as my daily walks and dancing give me plenty of opportunity for cardio. If I get really bored, I can always clean house!

Resting between sets, I look around and see the usual complement of men flexing, hoisting, and performing the rituals which make them a community in their own right. Though fewer in number, women form part of this community as well, though more often than not, in their own, smaller circles.

Certain ones seem to keep a similar schedule to mine and range from beginners to serious body builders, and everything in between. At one time, I would look around and compare myself to others, both favorably and otherwise, but have learned it’s a losing proposition either way. Now, I look to pick up new ideas for my own workouts; nothing more.

Earning the Right to Wear the Attitude

It’s hard not to notice those who are serious about their physical fitness though. attitudeNot only are most of them both lean and muscular, but they carry themselves with an attitude that says loudly and clearly: “Mess with me and I’ll turn you into a human pretzel without breaking a sweat!”

Still and all, their air is not so much aggressive as unapologetically confident. They’re not looking for a fight. They simply have nothing to prove—to anyone. When I see the word “badass” bandied around in so many women’s entrepreneurial groups, this is the image I see; not the skinny young woman leaning against an expensive car bragging about how she’s making 6 figures. In my mind, money (especially the fake kind) doesn’t make you badass. You only find that when you are genuinely self-confident and need no outside validation in order to feel and believe in yourself.

Needless to say, I cringe whenever I see the words “badass business babes” appearing on my news feed. In my mind, it’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes” version of business success. When a woman uses these words (and I have to say, I don’t see it used by women of a certain age, so perhaps it’s a generational thing), my mind says: This woman is seeing herself as she wants to be, not as she is.

Walking the Talk the Right Way

badassNot that this is a bad thing. Many follow the “fake it ’til you make it” doctrine. Somehow, I don’t think the intent behind that premise is to tell the world a bunch of lies in the mistaken belief they’ll buy something from you and make your declarations true. If you’re going to fake it ’til you make it, I believe the answer lies in having a genuine attitude of gratitude for what you already have, who you are, and the endless possibilities at your disposal.

I guess I class the people who use this phrase in with the ones who believe in cold calling. They’re the same ones who will send you a friend or connection request and upon acceptance, send you 12 inches of spammy sales copy in a private message. To me, that’s a clear message they are NOT uber successful, much less selling something I’d want or need.

One Woman’s Spam is Another’s Sales Style

I broached the subject of the spammy messages in my favorite Facebook group, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ekilby/16654251449/in/photolist-rnFoJn-apL7G5-8dGq5W-3w8Ke-8hXDgU-jghTD-88g1hy-5TtJq-4HTyY3-bKMwoD-gmMGf-8SggFs-aR1use-9QsYh-6Lego9-dHJajk-6Uqg5T-HBz66U-6wBgGs-6EMd2b-3i2FAx-RdqC6h-aBYCYg-8cSZJL-eSGonX-3i1qEx-ov2XaG-eSTPh3-6KYT7T-dg1bo-3i2hPa-YC8cK9-3i1vc4-f9zQVL-79EZcb-6KYSRe-josrJ-imGePS-josiC-joscd-3i6Gk9-6LbHPt-jore9-9ZD8oy-5cot6h-2un1k7-jorVf-jorbz-4H1Zbr-7GDbMJGorilla Army Nation (Getting Sales Without Being Salesy) after accepting a friend request I had doubts about. My doubts were confirmed with an immediate (if not premature as it came in before I accepted the friend request) message that began:

I’m reaching out to you because we work with thousands of clients and companies over the past 14 years to achieve their goal in their business.

What made it worse is, she mentioned a group which I stopped following months ago, and am not even posting in, which means she trolled the member list and pulled my name out of her…hat.

I’m a fairly transparent sort these days. I write a lot about my opinion on various sales processes regularly on my website in posts like Removing Desperation from Your Playlist   and How You View Relationships Makes or Breaks You.

As both posts are fairly recent, and are linked to my Facebook business page as well as LinkedIn, a cursory investigation into who I am and what I represent would bring them up for someone truly interested in learning about me as a prospective client. In all honesty, I’m not likely to do business with someone who isn’t, either as a consultant or a client. The people I choose to work with from either position are those who want to build relationships, not just get a quick fix and move on.

Doing Right by My Clients

Created with CanvaThe nature of the business I’ve chosen to build depends on getting a real feel for the person I’m working with. They have to know, like, and trust me enough to emulate their beliefs and style in a believable fashion. I have to understand them and their message on a fairly deep level in order to do that. I’m willing to put in the time it requires, but only for someone I know is as committed as me to that type of business relationship. It definitely isn’t for everyone, which is a good thing, or there’d be too little of me to go around!

One thing I detest is thinking I’ve shortchanged a client. If I do, I’ll eventually get up the nerve to reach out and see what I can do to fix things so they at least feel they got what they paid for, if not more.

Long ago, in the early days of my working life, I often heard “It’s not personal, it’s business”. That concept was fine when I was a cog in a gigantic wheel or working behind the scenes where client contact was limited to billing and payments. Still, there were a lot of facades in those days. Showing your real self; your vulnerability was almost a kiss of death.

A Warmer, More Honest Business Model

I’m grateful the hard, cold, impersonal days of doing business are behind me, but replacing them with “badass” doesn’t sit right either because in my mind, it’s merely another facade. It keeps business relationships impersonal where clients or customers are nothing more than dollars and cents on a P & L or numbers on a pipeline.

With all that said, there is definitely a place in the business world for self-proclaimed “badass business babes”. It just isn’t in my world. I prefer self-confidence that’s real and developed over time, and business relationships that aren’t forged on sleazy practices, subterfuge, and worst of all, disrespect.

Some might consider me part of the badass tribe because I do carry myself with confidence most of the time. That confidence was hard won, but its foundation is honesty and forthrightness. It can also be misconstrued if viewed from the outside without taking a look behind the curtain. Not all are brave enough to take that step.

Many who say they’re “badass” are easily discouraged or intimidated, at least from where I sit watching, listening, and taking notes.

Leading Off With an Attitude of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I don’t need labels to make me feel confident.
  2. I’m grateful for the hard lessons I’ve had which make me who I am, without the need for false advertising.
  3. I’m grateful for the people I’m connecting with and building relationships. They are my long-term and my future.
  4. I’m grateful for a world where many different business models can survive. You have to find what feels most comfortable to you, then embrace it wholeheartedly.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, vulnerability, authenticity, opportunities, inspiration, motivation, support, friendship, dancing, community, harmony, peace, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

‘Tis the Season for Giving

Who Exactly Are We Giving To?

greedI can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received with the headline “‘Tis the Season to be Giving”. Every one of them is asking me to give them some money. Now granted, they all profess to be a charity in business to care for one cause or another, and I appreciate that. But do they really get much out of those email blasts? Or are most people like me and have the causes they support already set (sometimes in stone) every year?

Do those email blasts proclaiming it’s #GivingTuesday, or #MatchingMonday, or whatever other cutesy hashtag someone comes up with really make a difference for someone directly? Call me a skeptic, but somehow, I doubt it.

Don’t get me wrong. I know many organizations including the ones I choose to support depend on the generosity of others to do the good work they do. But with so many putting their hands out via my email boxes (and I have several accounts so I get the same emails 5 or 6 times, minimum) could they be putting people off of giving because of the annoyance factor?

In my mind, it’s no different than the thrice-daily emails I get from certain companies telling me today’s sale is the best ever. Really? Isn’t that what you said about the last eleventy-seven days?

Giving More Of Myself and Less Money and Stuff

I suppose it’s a small thing to let bother me, but when you proclaim it the “Season of Giving” does that mean everyone and his brother either has his hand out for donations, or is exhorting you to buy, buy, buy?

Granted, in past years, I spent way too much on gifts, and was a great deal more generous with a variety of charities. My lifestyle has changed, and so has my outlook. Gifts are simpler these days, and the truth is, the season is a lot less stressful for me and my kids as a result. We focus on finding something very special but not overly extravagant for each other. As a result, the gifts and the holidays in general are more meaningful and exude togetherness, instead of consumerism.

Helping Charities Spend Less Time Fundraising

Call me jaded, but maybe the two factions should join forces. The companies exhorting us to buy might allocate a portion of all sales to the charities needing help—without raising prices in order to do it. I know it’s a lot to ask as retail stores depend on the holidays for a large portion of their revenue. But if they made it a year-long thing, they could allocate a smaller percentage of each sale and still make a sizeable donation.

In fact, I’ll bet the charities would love having smaller quarterly donations as their costs aren’t limited to once a year, but are incurred year-round. Although the animal charities I choose to support make a big push this time of year, they have various campaigns throughout the year. One has a $5 Friday campaign that goes on all year.

The same is true for charities like #GiveAnHour and Alliance for Hope. They all need operating funds to continue the work they do all year; not just in December or January. Granted, they do a big push like everyone else in hopes they’ll have funds to operate for a good portion of the next year.

Being Kind is the Right Thing to Do

What it all boils down to, in my mind is learning to be kind to each other https://www.flickr.com/photos/68716695@N06/29720272855/in/photolist-cidCGQ-cidAbW-oxdYzL-yNtP9-axVQZG-UVaRyd-oPHnHz-aEWSPf-cidEi3-cidDJj-pq3vki-cidGwb-cidAUs-cidzEm-cidGg5-6MaBxt-cidzzm-dRCmyq-7N6Ex-9i79bM-axVQZA-cidCsC-cidBSw-cidAyL-cidE3w-dY4eeu-cidBZG-8yJgxE-MhhaFv-Lk5teP-Lk5pNa-Lk5tT4-7M2d6q-cidG7W-7LXeC6-7LXeKr-WdN5Mm-5gktq-8zGa9M-9JanH2-ghRqpv-ehWVQY-LkYuxs-Sk3zxC-TnTsSY-pEomxJ-pEomes-PPJTdd-2aVQK6S-7VzqQP24/7/365. It’s realizing we don’t always need bigger, better, faster, more compact. Maybe we can invite someone into our home for a meal and some companionship instead of springing for an expensive meal for ourselves (and yes, I’m as guilty as the next person of this one).

Most of all, let’s not do a Random Act of Kindness (RAK), then brag about it all over social media. The purpose behind RAK’s is to do something from your heart without need or desire for recognition; because in  the end, it was the right thing to do. If you need recognition for being kind, I fear you’re lacking something important in your life no amount of self-proclaimed RAK’s is going to give you. 

It isn’t always easy to admit there’s a hole in your life or heart. Too many think they need outside validation, yet when they get it, the hole remains. But giving of yourself for the wrong reasons isn’t the answer either. In truth, I wish I had the answer and could heal the large numbers who walk around looking for the missing piece, little realizing the only place to find it is within themselves.

Giving of Your Heart and Time

The greatest gift I can think of is to give someone my time, but not to commiserate or help them fall more deeply into a pity party where there’s really only room for one. This season (and beyond) I’ll be looking for ways to help people cancel the pity parties for lack of interest. I’m not sure how much success I’ll have, but I feel like I have to try. 

The best part of my plan is it’s well within my budget, and won’t put me in debt (which is definitely stress-inducing). I’m reminded of the story of the boy on the beach who’s putting starfish back into the sea. When it’s pointed out he can’t save them all, he replies he’s saved the one he just put back. I can’t help everyone, nor am I supposed to. But there are so many out there. Together, we can make a sizeable dent in the number of people feeling sad, alone, and unworthy.

Making the Holidays About More than Money

To the charities begging for my help via email, they might as well take me off their list. Funds won’t be forthcoming this year. My charitable contributions are already set. As to the stores proclaiming the magnitude of their sales, you’ll not hear from me this year either. My shopping was done weeks ago.

The time I save by not wandering through the stores or piling up tons of things needing wrapping will be better spent on more human projects. I know I don’t have to look far to find people who simply need a bit of time. Even the Grinch learned his cold, broken heart could warm and grow, not by giving stuff, but by sharing a meal and giving of his not-so-cold-hearted self.

If I have a few dollars left over by not shopping, they will go to the charities I choose to support; whose causes I believe are important to the greater good. Thank goodness what’s important to me isn’t the same as what’s important to you, so in some way, everyone should get a little this year. And who knows? Maybe some of those email blasts will actually yield sufficient funds to continue the good work they do in 2020. Here’s hoping.

Giving the Gift of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I’ve learned I have so much to give that doesn’t have a monetary value.
  2. I’m grateful for the delete button on my email program.
  3. I’m grateful for smaller, less financially burdensome holidays.
  4. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, and the hope I see.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, compassion, time well spent, kindness without reward or recognition, friendship, warm hearts, passion, inspiration, health, peace, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

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