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It Takes Strength to be Vulnerable. What???

Shifting the Paradigm for Vulnerable

For many years, no, decades, I thought of my mom as weak and pitiful because, sometimes despite her best efforts, she let her feelings show. She laughed (seldom), cried (often), raged (even more often), and allowed some of the pain she carried inside to show.

Dad on the other hand was my rock, though I’ve since realized my trust was misplaced. He laughed often, many times at my expense. I only remember him crying once in my life before mom’s death, and it scared the crap out of me. When he got angry, it was usually the quiet, simmering kind except for his increasingly frequent yelling matches with my mother. Most of the time, they were about money and mom’s propensity to spend when she was unhappy. After she died, we found clothes with the tags still on she’d never worn, and mountains of sundries like baby powder, toothpaste, mouth wash, and toilet paper.

Because of my misplaced affections, I learned to view vulnerability and emotions as weakness. My dad frowned upon such outward displays. I thought he did it from a place of strength. Therefore, whatever my mom did was weak, right?

The Many Faces of Alcohol Addiction

Both of my parents were very social and their frequent parties were well-attended. Of course, their circles of friends also required excessive amounts of alcohol before they’d let loose and act like fools. At the time I thought that was normal. I’ve since learned better. But it took an 11-year marriage to another alcoholic, and living the dysfunction of having to be the only responsible adult in the household for me to recognize how abnormal my home life was.

Sure, dad was a business owner from the time I was about 12. Mom dabbled in Real Estate, but I think her heart was in the charity work she did. In hindsight, she’d have done well working for a non-profit. In many ways, I suppose they were functioning alcoholics, as were many of their friends who were also business owners. All had achieved at least a reasonable amount of success; enough to move to the newly built suburban area west of the San Fernando Valley in what was, at the time an unincorporated section of Los Angeles County. But years of heavy drinking took its toll on most of them. For some it was health, others, their businesses, and for many, it was both.

Where Do We Draw the Line Between Weakness and Strength?

I’ve learned a lot from my experiences up to the time I moved out of my parents’ home for good. For a while, the lesson was primarily related to alcohol consumption. Never one to feel comfortable being drunk and out of control (though I’ve only recently figured out why), my ventures into that world were relatively mild and short-lived. One particularly nasty hangover in my early 30’s was enough to quench the desire to ever drink excessively again. It also put me off Mexican coffee forever! Essentially being more parent than wife to an alcoholic cured me of any lingering desire to drink to excess, even occasionally.

In a roundabout way, it all leads to the topic of this post. I could oversimplify and say the alcohol abuse was a sign of weakness in everyone concerned. But that would be naive and inaccurate. People drink for their own reasons. Certainly, weakness and inability to deal with their day-to-day problems is one of them, but if you ask me, it’s hardly the most common.

In fact, some of the strongest people I’ve ever known abused alcohol or drugs at some point in their lives, not to run away from their lives, but from something far more insidious; voices in their heads they didn’t realize weren’t their own, but belonged to the people around them.

Finding Our Strength By Being Vulnerable

Which brings me back to vulnerability. Admitting you’re hearing and feeling things that don’t feel like your own, or talking about the abundance of inexplicable feelings you’re experiencing aren’t exactly table talk. Many of us were taught to keep things to ourselves and basically deal with our own shit. It would never occur to us to share something we were struggling with, especially if it reeked of mental imbalance. Yet the strongest among us have figured out the flaw in this line of thinking. We are stronger together, and how better to move closer together than to admit we don’t have all the answers?

People who try to fix everything themselves are like a house that’s been wired for electricity, but doesn’t have any outlets to plug things in. Sure, internally everything needed is there, but there’s no way to access it. Sure, deep down inside ourselves, we have what we need to solve nearly anything that comes our way, but some of it is buried so deep in our memories and history, we couldn’t access it if we tried.

It might be something simple like fixing a toilet or installing a new breaker. We would eventually figure it out, but what would we destroy in the process, and how would our sanity fare? More importantly, what pressing tasks would go undone while we spun our wheels trying to figure it out? It could be a legal issue, or a problem with one of our kids. Why not admit we’re imperfect and open the door for someone with the necessary skills and experience to come in and help us do it right the first time? Or at least avoid some of the pitfalls we’d surely encounter without talking to someone who’d already had to go through them before finding the best answer.

Ask For Help, Be Part of a Community

In opening up and admitting we need help, we learn something from the person or people who come to our aid. We also learn opening ourselves up like that takes a lot more strength and courage than trying to tough it out alone. Needing other people is hard! Especially if you’ve been taken advantage of, or had your heart stomped into a bloody puddle of mush a few times, or worse, humiliated. Being willing to go there again despite what you’ve been through is tantamount to stepping barefoot into a scorpion’s nest. You know the likelihood of a painful outcome will always be there, so you want to at least put on a heavy boot to protect your delicate skin.

If you’ve already done some reaching out and created a community, you no longer expose your imperfectness unprotected. My mom knew that and had friends who saw her at her most exposed. Dad on the other hand didn’t. After mom died, he lived alone with his cat, letting his girlfriend stay on certain nights, but spending the nights alone others; including the night before he took his life. He shared his health issues with a select few. His daughters weren’t among them. Even so, I doubt he shared the severity with anyone. He wasn’t one to handle pity or even concern well. He gathered around him men who supported him by drinking with him; each doing his best to mask his own pain.

And he went out alone. Unwilling, right up to the end to reach out and ask for help navigating the latest in a long series of perils and pitfalls.

Learning to Ask for Help Can Be a Rewarding Experience

I may not have the concept of reaching out for help down yet. I’m definitely in the fledgling stage. But I have come to understand and appreciate the advantages even if I’m reluctant at times to take advantage of them. Perhaps I still spend more time alone than others might deem healthy.

Each of us must find our own balance between going our own way and traveling in company. One of the groups I follow on Facebook has been using the mantra “test, adjust, test. repeat.” I think we can apply this to life in general, though the group refers to business-related activities. It starts when we’re infants, learning to roll over, then crawl, and ultimately walk.

Sometimes, part of the test is tuning into our internal monitor and adjusting our tolerance to things outside our comfort zone. The adjustments push us out of our self-imposed nest and, for some of us, further into a community where we learn there truly can be safety in numbers.

Being Grateful for Everything, Both Large and Small

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the friends who’ve been patient with me as I learn to walk as part of a community instead of as a solo act.
  2. I am grateful for the teachers who have been appearing in my life as the student becomes ready.
  3. I am grateful for some of the less-than-gentle drop kicks I’ve received to leave my nest behind and test my perfectly formed wings out in the real world.
  4. I am grateful for my writing which has played a huge part in changing my hermit-y ways, and for all the people who read and comment. Their inspiration and insight are invaluable to my personal growth.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendship, love, joy, connections, community, opportunities, inspiration, motivation, earlier mornings, dreams, answers, questions, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. 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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Epiphany Central

Opening the Epiphany Floodgates

This has been a week of epiphanies. I’ve cleared the cobwebs and the fairy dust from several things, though they all, in their own way boil down to how I’ve mis-perceived my relationship with my dad, both while he was alive, and until recently.

As I’ve mentioned more than once, my relationship with my mom was virtually non-existent unless you count being like two angry bulls spoiling for a fight just for the sake of fighting a relationship. Early on, it was clear I was destined to disappoint her, though I never really figured out why. She had about 2 1/2 years to bond with her first-born before her second came along, and she, like her mother before her, tossed the first one aside to dote on the second. Nowadays, I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that she was young when I was born, and made her mistakes with me. It wasn’t necessarily that my sister was an easier child, but by the time she was born, mom had figured out some of the ins and outs of motherhood, just as she had with cooking.

Searching for a More Hospitable Host in my Dad

Somewhere in my young mind, I must have understood, and given up on trying to please her long before my 4th birthday (and heaven knows, I became an expert at displeasing her!) and turned my attention to my other parental unit, believing I could bond with him while my mother was turning all her attention to the newest addition to the family.

By then, I had become accustomed to being ignored or yelled at, so I figured any attention I got was better than nothing. My dad did what he knew best; he teased and tormented me, and when he had had enough, he yelled at me and sent me to my room. Even as a teenager, my mom would wield the over-used admonition “wait until your father gets home”. When he did, she’d whine and complain about my latest misdeeds until you’d swear I’d committed murder, or at least a federal crime. After a long day, it was the last thing he needed, so of course, he took it out on me.

Thus began another round of trying to win my dad’s approval. A game I’ve recently come to realize was one I could never win no matter how hard I tried. Eventually, I accepted his demanding nature and verbal abuse as approval, or the closest he ever came to giving it. I loved him unconditionally and accepted whatever small crumb of attention and affection he could spare.

Breaking the Rose-Colored Glasses

https://www.flickr.com/photos/derekgavey/5403628476/in/photolist-9ev1ud-9odiqE-99hCeK-28aMBcv-L2NkmJ-L2NjGN-9aaEe6-kvx1iw-rkYv1m-4JnGd-en3MZM-qccpV9-FVyYz-7qbqYL-JvQXse-28aMnuk-25pJMJY-286n5WU-L2Nm3o-275n4TN-25pJMX3-25pJUrq-6xmHDy-275nbsE-21iHwcY-L2N9Pw-286mVTd-C3YxBB-275nbQo-25pJFVo-275ntKf-Ehpm5G-27cSKLm-fpFWJU-275naRu-26NbLs2-286mVgm-L2N1uA-6xhy1c-25pJHDU-JvQCMP-8w3ARY-275naAu-djcYHr-L2N3yA-4jqADJ-r2KRCc-bSaaQx-dy1jLj-275noVqFlash forward to a night when I sat in the ER awaiting test results, and doing writing prompts to keep myself amused. As often happens, the seemingly innocuous prompt became a veritable rant about the times my dad had mistreated me or shown preference to a virtual stranger over me (like the time he let my then sister-in-law drive his RX7 but made some lame-ass excuse for not allowing me the same privilege).

The word storm escalated, and had I been sitting at a table or desk instead of resting the spiral notebook on my knees, I fear I’d have ripped holes in the paper, I was gripping the pen so tightly.

And yet, it was cathartic. It made me realize I’d been dishonest with myself, holding back feelings I actually believed I shouldn’t feel. But the truth about our feelings is they are what they are. If we try to restrain them, they burst forth in other less productive ways. Since my habit was to stuff mine into a bottle and seal them tightly, it was only a matter of time before the seal dried out and cracked, leaking those old, never-dealt-with feelings out in a random moment of inattention. The beeps and buzzes of monitors, crying babies, and cranky, confused old men appears to be the trigger that broke my seal and let all the messy, convoluted, unkempt feelings spill out in an inglorious mess.

Letting the Myriad Feelings Flow

While I sat in my curtained cubicle with my earbuds in my ears, the music only slightly reducing the ambient noise around me, the emotional cacophony poured forth as years of pent up anger demanded release. I cursed and railed against the man to whom I’d given only love and devotion, at least until even his crankiness became exhausting if taken in large doses. Yet I still called, I still checked in, and I still listened to him rail about this person or that, murmuring sympathetic noises while he ranted.

When the dust cleared and I’d had time to sort through my feelings, the anger subsided. Instead, I felt hurt, disillusioned, and disgusted by how much time I’d wasted trying to earn the love of a man who didn’t really know how to give it. He taught me to give my love unconditionally, whether or not it was returned. What neither he nor my mother taught me was how to receive love unconditionally as well.

Seeing What I’d Been Missing All My Life

I’ve lived over 63 years of this lifetime going from one unfulfilling relationship to another until I realized the problem was me, not them. At that point, I did something reasonably sensible. I stopped trying to find someone other than my daughters to give my love to and put my effort into fixing and loving myself.

If I’m honest with myself, I don’t know if I’m capable of allowing someone to love me like that, though it’s also my dearest, most heartfelt wish. I’ve learned to shrug it off saying “I like living by myself”. Those closest to me aren’t buying it, yet until now, I couldn’t understand why.

They’ve seen and experienced my capacity to love and to give, and I wouldn’t be surprised if several hadn’t already discerned my problem was on the receiving side. It explains a lot with regard to my difficulty asking for help. Granted, I learned it from a long line of brutally independent people. But as is my wont, I took it to a whole new level.

We All Deserve to Be Loved

It isn’t that I haven’t told myself over and over I deserve to be loved. I never managed to actually convince myself to believe the words I spoke. I’ve made great inroads into positive affirmations about my outside packaging, and really do love my meat suit, flaws and all. But that inner marshmallow, the young girl whose face peers back at me from an ancient black and white photo above my computer still believes she doesn’t deserve to get as much love back as she gives. Despite all of my exhortations to the contrary, a piece of that little girl is my mom too.

As with anything else, the first step in solving a problem is to recognize the problem. I’m recognizing mine. The question remaining is whether I can fix it and turn things around in whatever time I have left in this Human form? Stick around, if you dare, as I step off onto the next leg of my journey. At least I’ve finally learned I don’t have to do it alone. As the Beatles so aptly sang “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

So Much to Be Grateful For

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I’m grateful for the friends who are helping me get by these days; who are helping me recognize what I’m missing, and helping me figure out how to fix what I didn’t know until now was broken.
  2. I am grateful for epiphanies. They come when they’re supposed to. It’s never too late, nor the wrong time, but exactly the right time to bring in new data.
  3. I am grateful for loving my dad. I think in his own way he needed someone to love him unquestioningly, even if he didn’t respond in kind.
  4. I am grateful for the swings I’ve taken as I come to understand the parents I chose this time around. I may never have all the answers, but the number of questions dwindles just the same.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, understanding, compassion, kindness, epiphanies, new outlooks, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps 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

Rawness is Beautiful

Reveling in Our Rawness

A few years ago, I gave myself permission to stop living down to the expectations of others; to rip off the masks I’d donned to conform with those expectations, and expose the raw gem I’d been hiding away. It was the best decision I have ever made.

We spend too many years trying to be what others expect us to be while our true selves are dying inside for lack of sunshine and air. Yet as we chase someone else’s dream, any chance of happiness and fulfillment disappears in the distance. It stays behind along with the self who is honest, true, unadorned, and unadulterated by society’s arbitrary expectations.

Since they are arbitrary and at the whim of someone who is following their dream, it’s a full-time job just keeping up with its fluid nature. What does this exercise in futility give us except ulcers, and a host of other stress-related maladies? The one thing it does not give us is a happiness of our own, a joy in our own unique being.

Being Real is Scary. The Rewards are Infinite.

Certainly, it takes courage to expose the rawness of ourselves to the world. Those masks we wear give us a protective shell as well as a certain amount of invisibility in an often harsh world. What many of us fail to realize is if we have the courage to be ourselves and expose ourselves to the hurt, we’ll grow stronger automatically. Our skin will thicken with each trauma, creating a transparent barrier, even while we allow others to see the genuine article rather than some cobbled together version of what we think they want to see.

Which brings up another matter. We don masks and fashion ourselves in an image we believe will be attractive to others. The trouble is, that facade is created with the best information available to us and crafted with our own perception of the information we gather. As such, it will never perfectly fit what the person or people around us see as perfection, nor will it be a one-size-fits-all image. It means we’ll always be short of the mark with everyone; some more than others, and we’ll be constantly changing to fit each person’s expectations.

Sounds like an awful lot of effort for minimal return, yet it happens around us, and sometimes to us every day. I’d say it’s the true definition of the “rat race”, this constant effort to be what’s expected, but doing so without complete information or control over any changes in those expectations.

Sure, there’s a certain amount of modification to our behavior required to coexist with people and to hold down a job. We all have moments when we’d like to tell someone exactly what we think, but hold back for a variety of reasons. If you ask me, the only valid reason for tempering words and actions is to avoid hurting someone unnecessarily. Anything else is just bulltwaddle. Frankly, if you hide your light under a bushel because you’re scared to make waves, you are hurting someone, the most important person in your world: YOU!

Taking a Tip from the Millenials

Perhaps that’s one of the positive aspects the Millennials have tapped into. Many aren’t willing to be what someone else wants them to be or conform their behavior to the “norm” so they’re launching their own endeavors. Entrepreneurialism is certainly on the rise and more people are choosing to work from their own space than to commute to someone else’s. After reading about the horrors of one friend’s commute when the company she recently joined moved its offices to a far less convenient location, I’m even more inclined to stay off the roads during rush hour. (Which is also a misnomer if you’ve ever been on the 101 or 405 during heavy commuting hours. Except for motorcyclists, I haven’t seen anyone rushing anywhere!)

More and more, we see the words “authentic” and “genuine” thrown about. I’ve been known to do it myself as I’ve yet to find a better way to express the concept of letting people see who you really are, to expose your vulnerability (mostly) fearlessly. I can tell you I’ve learned people respond better to someone who lets their imperfections show. Why? Because we all have at least a little bit of insecurity, which prevents us from opening up to someone unwilling to show a few cracks in their shell.

Life Kicks Us Down But We Can Choose to Get Back Up

By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have been slapped down a time or ten by someone who was stronger, or more likely, had stronger walls than we did. We’ve suffered an indignity or two and learned to mask our pain in public. Too often, we take it further than we should, and mask it from ourselves as well, only to discover we can’t do so indefinitely.

I’m learning it’s more important to let the scar tissue form and be our protection. We’ll be happier with our lives if we don’t let the lessons stifle the beautiful, sensitive, raw human being living inside our skin. Even more important, we’ll attract people who are more likely to fit us if we are ourselves and not some false front.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

I spent the first 40 or so years of this lifetime attracting people who were wrong for me on many levels. Yet, they were right for the person I was pretending to be, and taught me some valuable lessons along the way. After years of wondering why I never seemed to fit in, I realized I never would as long as I tried to be someone I wasn’t.

It took years to shed the masks and break down the walls, and I know there are still a few left to vanquish, but these days, the people in my life are far more suited to the person I am deep inside. They communicate in a way my heart understands and responds to. They aren’t afraid to talk about the things they struggle with. Most of all, they aren’t afraid or ashamed to ask for help when they encounter a situation which requires additional insight or tools they haven’t acquired or mastered.

Break the Mold and Thrive on Originality

We live in a world where we’ve been brainwashed into believing we have to be some modern-day version of the Stepford Wives. That society was rotten to the core, and many parts of ours is too. The good news is, more and more people are breaking away from a model which assumes we should be happy with a hierarchical society where a few people run everything, and everyone else is a mindless drone. I say, it’s about damn time!

Like an uncut, unpolished gemstone, we humans are most beautiful in our raw form. That doesn’t mean we don’t clean up a bit or recognize a few social mores when interacting with others. It simply means being who we are or, in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss “Why fit in when you were meant to stand out?” or “Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

This week’s Live with Sheri and Friends addresses the topic of Rawness too. You can find it here.

Feeling Grateful Every Day

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful I’m learning to be comfortable without all the pretty packaging.
  2. I am grateful for the people who have come into my life since I stopped caring about fitting in.
  3. I am grateful for the beauty in my life now it’s filled with people who are real.
  4. I am grateful for inspiration from unlikely sources.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; inspiration, motivation, health, energy, connections, dreams, goals, processes, joy, friendship, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps 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

A Lifetime of Learning to Pick Your Battles

Too Many Battles, Not Enough Time

Life hands us an endless stream of lessons. Some we catch onto right away like not touching a stove when it’s hot or watching where we’re walking so we don’t walk into walls, furniture, or even less forgiving obstacles. Others, we revisit time after time, even when we thought we’d learned something and moved on.

Though I’ve come a long way from the days when I’d jump into any battle, guns a-blazing, often desperately uninformed and under armed, I like to think I’ve learned from often painful mistakes. Then I get myself into another situation where it becomes abundantly clear I still have a lot to learn. Picking my battles is one I revisit over and over and over again. Clearly, I’ve yet to get it right.

Passion Always Trumps Logic

This time, though, as I sit licking my wounds and closing a few more doors, I’ve at least learned something new. When people feel very passionately about something, they do not want to hear anything about stepping back, being reasonable, or giving the other side (or sides) a chance to weigh in. And no matter how hard you may try to address issues, not people, someone will always, and I do mean always, forget the rules of discussion, and attack the poster instead of the post.

This time, though, I finally learned, maybe not soon enough, but I learned that there is a time to walk away from a losing battle and never look back. There comes a time when you just have to close the door, lock it, and maybe even plaster it over because nothing else you say or do is going to bring back what may have started out as a reasonable discussion, but quickly degenerated to name-calling, defamation of character, and worse.

Allowing Ourselves to be Divided by Blame

It saddens me that the very people who are filled with righteous indignation over one issue or another are blind to the fact that they’re diving head first into battles against people who are far better equipped to not only win the battle, but divide and conquer with the ease of shooting fish in a barrel.

I’m tired to my very bones of trying to point out that simply choosing a group, a company, a culture, or what have you to blame for the latest injustice which fills your heart with rage is simply buying into the same tactics and methodology which have allowed the very social injustices you want changed to continue spreading like wildfire. I’ve run out of words to point out we’re allowing ourselves to be goaded into fighting with each other, leaving the perpetrators to gather more resources with which to grow their own wealth and position, and to hell with the rest of us. Or worse, that they’re using the righteous outrage over moral and ethical issues to funnel even more wealth and power to themselves. (Do I need to bring up how the Russians used “Black Lives Matter” to impact the outcome of our last election?)

Realizing the Only One We Can Truly Influence is Ourself

I have to keep reminding myself people see what they want to see. They believe what their emotions, not their brains tell them to believe. They align themselves with people who believe as they do, no matter how much they insist their minds are open to all points of view. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no better. I allow my emotions to override logic and get caught up in the maelstrom of anger, hate, blame, and impotency just like everyone else.

Where I differ though is when it’s all said and done and the dust clears, the only one I really blame is myself for attempting to engage in the first place. It’s a battle I cannot win. I don’t have the charisma of Kennedy, the greed and complete disregard for the rest of humanity of Hitler or Trump, nor the passion to change the world of Dr. King. What I really want is for us all to be able to sit down and really talk to each other, but more than that, to listen without judgment or preconceived notions. I may as well be wishing for world peace, because it’s equally likely to happen, at least in my lifetime.

Desperately Seeking Humanity and Compassion

It makes me sad that humanity would rather look for differences than commonalities, would rather fight over small things than address the larger issues. They’d rather break up into tiny, powerless splinter groups than find a way to join together and help everyone thrive.

I respect those who feel the need to march for one right or another, but when it all comes down to it, we’ve allowed ourselves to be split into so many pieces, that no one thing, no one unifying idea gets enough long-term support to matter.

In the last year, or two, how many marches have their been? How many causes have been born, gotten a lot of attention for a while, then died when the next big, emotional outcry began?

Attention Span of a March

What happened to Occupy Wall Street? Many took to the streets to protest, yet did anything really get accomplished before all of the participants scattered, to be sucked into the next battle cry? Right now, it’s marches for science, #metoo, Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, and heaven only knows what else. When people get tired of seeing no progress, what will they march for instead?

Even if the general public had an attention span longer than that of a gnat, we’re being bombarded with so many things every day that are bound to make one group or another angry, how can anyone stay focused on a single issue long enough to actually make a dent in what’s wrong with our society? Our world?

Looking for Common Ground and Unity

Because, if you ask me, the biggest problem isn’t guns, or women’s rights, or ignorance of science, or white privilege, or any of the other causes people are screaming about on a given day. The problem is, we’re so busy looking for differences and things we don’t like, that we’ve completely lost sight of all the amazing things and people we have around us. We’ve totally disconnected from the goodness in order to point fingers, assign blame, and demand change without any implementation plans. Is it any wonder people like me are more often than not shutting our mouths and walking away?

In a nutshell, we’re tired of being shouted down, verbally abused, called cowards, and worse. So I’m done. The only person I can change is myself. The only place I can truly make a difference is in who I touch and how I touch them. All I can really do is try to leave the lightest, most gentle imprint I can on the lives I touch. I can’t change minds. I can’t make people open up to a broader perspective. I can’t make anyone try to see things from any point of view besides their own. And every one of us has a very myopic point of view based entirely on our own experiences and perceptions. I can only change that in myself. This video of Jordan Peterson conveys this concept better than I’m able.

Spending More Time Watching, Less Time Speaking

All my life, I’ve lived in the background. I was technical theater rather than a performer. I worked back office instead of being out there drumming up sales. And now, I sit behind my computer, writing for the few who find their way to my blog and website, and keeping records for small businesses. Would I like to make a difference? Of course. But I don’t need to be out in the forefront leading the charge, nor do I have a grand plan I feel would even be effective. As I said before, I have no aspirations to be a great leader, nor will I follow like a mindless sheep.

For the moment, I think my job is to watch and listen and leave the arguments and engagements to those who are more suited to it. Living on a remote mountaintop with no access to phones or media is starting to look better every day because there are times I find it difficult, if not impossible to engage, and yes, at times, be enraged.

Remembering How Much I Appreciate What I Have

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful I’m still interested in digging down to the heart of matters instead of simply accepting all of the opinions and fake news with which I’m being bombarded.
  2. I am grateful I’ve learned other peoples’ opinions of me, my character, my words, and my actions may sting for a minute, but do not impact who I am or what I do nearly as much as I once believed.
  3. I am grateful I continue to be true to myself, even when doing so makes me less acceptable in the eyes of some, or even many.
  4. I am grateful I live in a country where, at least for the moment, we’re still relatively free to express differing opinions. May it continue to remain so and not go down the road signs are indicating.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, discussion, information, research, health, peace, harmony, joy, forgiveness, acceptance, prosperity, and philanthropy.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write your expert book with you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

Empaths vs. Alcohol

New Insight Into the Drinking Game

I’ve always been uncomfortable around people who overindulge in alcohol. I saw it in my parents often enough, and later, my ex-husband. At times, I simply masked it by over-indulging myself, with obvious unpleasant consequences.

It wasn’t until recently I finally recognized the discomfort lay, not in the inebriated state of others, but in the results of that state and its impact on me.

I discovered what was there all along when I accepted that alcohol releases inhibitions. I used to believe those inhibitions were those which stopped people from making fools of themselves to they could relax and have a little fun. But there’s a somewhat sinister side to the lack of inhibitions.

Releasing the Pain Body With a Little Lubrication

We naturally corral what Eckhart Tolle calls our “pain body” when we’re sober, but the addition of alcohol in increasing quantities removes the filter which we’ve put in place to function within the parameters of society. When we remove those filters, thought it might not be apparent to most, we leak all of the sadness, pain, and misery we’ve kept bottled up until it’s flowing out of us like a veritable river of agony.

The average person won’t even notice, and will, in fact enjoy the crazy, uninhibited-ness of the the outwardly happy drunk. Not so with an empath like me.

Once I made the connection, I realized my real issue with people in an inebriated states wasn’t the alcohol (or drugs for that matter) at all. Instead, it was that they were functioning without the usual filters which protect me and others like me from being flooded with someone else’s emotions. You could say we were being drowned in sorrows of someone else’s making.

Once I realized what was happening, I could start taking the necessary steps to protect myself and above all, refrain from engaging with those who danced gaily around the room with their filters in shreds.

Mixed Reactions

I posed my conjecture to a group of empaths recently. In some cases, I was gratified to find others who recognized themselves in me. In others, I was saddened some took my words to mean it was open season on people who drink to mask their pain. Instead of finding an opportunity for compassion (once they’d protected themselves, of course), they took my words as permission to bash and abuse those who chose the only way they could manage to put aside their pain, if just for a little while.

The truth is alcoholism is a disease, plain and simple, and the people who use any kind of drug to excess do so for many reasons, one of which is a lack of healthy coping mechanisms. To crush them further with our condemnation will only serve to drive them further into they abyss.

Granted, it’s neither our place nor our gift to help them all, or maybe, not any of them. But neither is it our place to push them over the edge on which many totter. I am saddened and even mortified to learn my words caused others to take that path.

Self-Medicating to Mask the Pain

I know a number of people I reach are alcoholics or recovering alcoholics and can only imagine the strength it takes to challenge the addiction every single day. Far too many of them are probably empaths who chose alcohol or drugs to shut out the voices, the emotions which bombard us daily when we don’t know what they are or why we hear them in the first place.

I was one of them once upon a time. Though I didn’t abuse alcohol to excess nor use it to mask my pain on a regular basis as my parents did, I used my own equally ineffective and harmful methods for running away from myself and my true purpose. But I also used some healthy ones like dancing.

Learning to Embrace our Humanity

What it all comes down to is we are born compassionate human beings. Life and circumstances change that in us. Whether it’s family troubles or accepted behaviors, traumas we experience as life moves forward with or without us, or something seemingly innocuous. We learn to protect ourselves from mental, physical, and emotional harm in the best way we know how. All too often, the first step is shutting down our compassion for others.

I learned the hard way that shutting down, be it my compassion, sharing, connecting, or authenticity is equivalent to cutting off a limb which is perfectly fine the way it is. Closing ourselves off means we’re denying the very thing which makes us human. As time goes on, it becomes a lonely existence and one impossible to maintain without some hefty sacrifices.

Yet we’re taught to believe that only by functioning according to society’s rules; being cheerful, being gregarious, getting along, being easy-going; will we be able to get ahead, to make something of ourselves, to be a contributing member of society.

Here’s where I have to cry BULLSHIT! To be a true member of our beautiful, crazy, messy society, we have to be our whole selves. We have to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sure, we don’t want to go around harming others, but would that even be an issue if we were loved and accepted for who we are in the first place? Do serial killers kill because they were loved and cherished, accepted and celebrated? Do bullies tear others down because they feel good about themselves? NO! They do harm because it’s all they know to make themselves feel less ignored, less lonely, less apart.

Loving Each Other Beneath the Pain

We all have grumpy days. It’s a part of life. Those who deny they do are the ones who most need our compassion because they’re forcing themselves into a mold no one can possibly fit. Life is full of challenges. It’s how we learn, like it or not. It’s also an opportunity to reach out and ask for support, for help from other humans. And here’s a news flash. Other humans LIKE being asked for help once in a while. It makes them feel needed as well.

Yes, I learned a lot from putting my thoughts about alcoholics in particular out there for a group of empaths. Not all of it was good, but it was all useful for me. It reminded me to keep looking below the surface. It told me to put the judgment aside and look at the person underneath, the person the alcohol sought to mask. The mask is flimsy at best and the person underneath is crying for understanding and love, or perhaps just someone to say: “You’re OK just the way you are, warts and all. You’re loved.”

These little reminders make me grateful for the community I’m building, the people I reach out to, and those who reach out to me. You won’t see me marching in the streets any time soon. I’m too busy trying to learn my lessons and spread compassion in the world I know I can touch. In my own small way, this is how I believe I can make a difference. Imagine what would happen if we all spread some compassion. It might not solve all the problems of the world, nor stop all the anger, hatred, and evil, but where we start our journey is entirely up to us, and should be celebrated.

When we belittle the efforts of others, we minimize our own. Whatever we choose to do, it all makes a difference. Believe that, if nothing else.

With Love and Gratitude

OK, I’ll step off my soapbox now and give you today’s gratitudes:

  1.  I am grateful for the people who show me both sides of the impact my words make.
  2.  I am grateful for my little forum where I hope to provide dialogue and the exchange of ideas including those which oppose my own. Only then will we all learn a few things we might have missed out on.
  3.  I am grateful for the new people who come into my life, the messages they bring, the help they offer, and the suggestions they make to help spread my own message further.
  4.  I am grateful for acts of compassion and love as they serve as examples of how much more I could be doing.
  5.  I am grateful for abundance; love, peace, compassion, lessons, people, examples, warmth, pleasure, pain, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. 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.

I Ain’t Dead Yet AKA There’s No Crime in Looking

Self-Improvement on Our Own Terms

Though I haven’t been as diligent as I’d like, I truly enjoy my forays to the gym. I stick my earbuds in my ears, fire up one of my Pandora stations and go through my weight routine in the privacy of my own mind. Rarely if ever does anyone try to engage me in conversation. I guess my Leave me alone. This is MY time. message comes through loud and clear.

Discouraging engagement doesn’t mean I’m not aware, however. Quite often, I’ll watch someone who clearly knows what they’re doing to get ideas to improve my own routine. But occasionally my gaze (and mind) wanders to things which are for the benefit of nothing more than my appreciation of art.

At those times, my gaze strays to a well-toned body which happens to pass within my limited line of sight, not with lustful intent, but merely in open appreciation of the time and effort which went into a certain life-like sculpture.

Beauty is in the Eyes of the Beholder

I’m very particular about what catches my eye, however. The muscle-bound types who are unable to touch their own noses for their bulky triceps and shoulders do nothing for me. Even if I were inclined, I just don’t find them approachable.

Instead, my gaze (and OK, perhaps a little voyeurism too) is drawn to either the finely sculpted but reasonably sized or, more often, to the works-in-progress. I have a particular fondness for people, and non-gender specific, who are clearly making an effort to improve their health. They’re not frequenting the gym to attract attention or expand their social circle. They’re simply there to make a change in their own life, their own health. I have great admiration for the people who are there week in and week out, making small changes which eventually lead to huge improvements.

Our Flaws are Our True Perfection

As a diamond-in-the-rough myself, I know those long-term benefits come with the tiniest of steps in the right direction. They come with no small amount of back-sliding as well, but along with it, the drive to succeed even if they have to cover the same ground dozens of times before they begin to see obvious improvement.

The last few years has been a series of “two steps forward, one step back” events for me. In some cases, the backward progress has even outweighed the forward, yet I’m further along than when I began, and for that, I’m grateful. I realize there are times we need to re-cover old ground because we haven’t quite mastered the lesson. Or someone comes into our life who shows us a better way around a rather tenacious obstacle. Either way, once we’ve overcome the obstacle, we have an even more impressive array of tools at our disposal when we’re ready to climb the next mountain. The view from the top of our latest mountain and the road we need to travel to reach the valley below seems a little less daunting.

Learning from those Who Come Into Our Lives for a Reason

It isn’t only the tools we obtain along the way. It’s also the people. If we allow it, our team grows with many of our encounters, and we gain much-needed skills and knowledge in the people who become part of our expanding circle.

For many years, I believed to the depth of my soul that I had to make it on my own. I believed asking for help was a weakness. It took a lot of stumbles, long, lonely nights, and a failure to achieve my highest expectations to realize I was never meant to do it all alone. I was never meant to have every ounce of knowledge and every skill-set necessary to become my very best self.

In the years I’ve spent blogging, connecting with people online, reading self-help books, and delving further into my own spiritually, I’ve learned many long-overdue lessons. The biggest of those has to be that allowing people to see your vulnerabilities doesn’t make you weak at all.

I’ve learned instead that showing your vulnerabilities (within reason, of course) actually attracts people to you who have expertise in areas you don’t. They are there to reach that jar on the top shelf or help  build the scaffolding that will support you in building my structure higher. Maybe they’re there to simply offer encouragement or hand you another nail. But without them, it would take me much longer to achieve your goals.

Better Together

It took me spending a lot of time spinning my wheels to realize it’s OK to ask those around me for assistance and to accept the offers which might come unasked. Admitting I was better for their help came slowly, but it has come, and now I’m able to rejoice in recognizing what I traveled an overly hard, but self-inflicted road to learn.

When I look at those well-toned, sculpted bodies around me at the gym, I am, in part looking at what I could become if I stopped trying to go it alone and ask for help, maybe not with my physical efforts at the moment, but with so much of what I want to achieve; my writing, my eventual speaking, building my business. I’ve been struggling along for quite some time now, neither failing miserably nor succeeding remarkably. The small amounts of progress I see encourage me to continue trying even when the failures and their implications stare me in the face.

Balancing the Equation

I may not be world-class like Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or J.K. Rowling, but the operative word here has to be “yet”. That “yet” is predicated on my willingness to ask for and receive help, and in fact, I’ve seen more progress in the last few months because I’m no longer worried about appearing weak. Instead, I draw strength from those who find my words relate-able and who aren’t put off by a misguided illusion of perfection. As I said to my favorite mentor today, I’ve dropped the veil. What lies behind is neither as weak nor as scary as I’d let myself believe.

Dropping that veil has given me two gifts: the opportunity to give, and more important, the ability to receive. Some find the person behind that veil inspiring or helpful with some aspect of their lives. Others find her able to fulfill their own need to give back from their own well of experience. Contrary to my years of self-deception, we need to be on both sides of the equation. It’s called Balance, and like so many out there, I’m still working on finding mine. Sometimes I’ll find it for a little while, but then I start to wobble one way or the other and go sliding down into an extreme again.

The difference these days is I know when I’ve slid, and more, I know what balance feels like. Better still, I know I like what balance feels like and am better equipped to find my way back. I’ve learned the lesson from the people I’ve allowed into my life. Without them, I’d still be hanging off the edge of my personal cliff, struggling to climb back up on my own.

Barbra Streisand summed it up best: “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Amen!

Remembering to Acknowledge and Appreciate the Help and Guidance

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my friends and how much they’ve taught me about being human.
  2. I am grateful for the times the Universe forces me to slow down; even if it’s another ear infection.
  3. I am grateful for work that keeps my mind alive and agile.
  4. I am grateful for the many lessons I’ve been and will be given. Each one makes me stronger in some way, even if some appear as a willingness to be vulnerable.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; lessons, love, friendship, joy, challenges, successes, visibility, encouragement, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. 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

Clean Diaper, Full Belly. Finding Our Bliss In Simplicity

When Did We Lose Sight of Simplicity?

Somehow we’ve all gotten caught up, at least to some extent in the myth that happiness is predicated on having more. We’re bombarded, especially this time of year, with entreaties to let our consumeristic selves go wild, and the devil take the credit card bills.

Finding My Bliss by Giving Things Up

As I throw away every ad and delete every email asking me to buy, buy, buy (and only about half of them are from retailers), I feel a certain kind of peace in my decision to keep my holiday purchases to a minimum this year. It takes a lot of the stress out of the holiday season and beyond, and lets me put more focus into accomplishing things I want to see finished by the time the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. Here are a few things I won’t miss this year:

  • Endless hours spent wrapping presents
  • Cramming my car to the gills with gifts for my daughter and son-in-law, many of which they probably neither want nor need (pajamas, socks, and books notwithstanding)
  • Hours agonizing over what I can get them they don’t already have anyway
  • Hours spent online or in the stores which would be better spent bringing my clients’ affairs up-to-date and getting my own projects ready for the next steps
  • Credit card bills in January that leave me questioning what I could possibly have been thinking
  • Dragging out and putting back the bins of wrapping paraphernalia
  • The chaos my living room becomes while I’m wrapping those endless piles of gifts
  • Time spent wrapping in front of the television that would be better spent writing, editing, or doing work for clients
Halting the Pursuit of Stress, er, Happiness

Needless to say, I’m already enjoying the minimal stress of this holiday season more than I’ve enjoyed the holidays in a very long time. My shopping is already done and the wrapping won’t take more than a couple of hours including dragging out the paper and boxes and putting them back. Instead of setting up the card table in front of the TV as I’ve done in years past, I’ll just wrap everything on the dining room table so there’s one less thing to put away when I’m done.

There are hidden benefits to keeping our gift-giving to a minimum this year too. My daughter and I have been working on de-cluttering our environments. Adding more stuff means finding places, or re-cluttering areas we’ve worked so hard to clear. Why would we want to get back on that hamster wheel to nowhere?

Steps to Becoming the Ultimate Non-Consumer

I’m making good use of that “unsubscribe” option at the end of most emails these days. I have no problem if someone is offering me information with a link to their site if I want to learn more. But when someone bombards me with daily emails, each containing a poorly veiled sales pitch, there’ll be one less subscriber under their tree come Christmas. But I’m grateful to all who choose to do business this way as it shows me things I should not do when my goal is to develop a tribe who know, like, and trust me.

Many business-people out there believe very strongly in a numbers game. The more people you put yourself in front of, and the more often you do it, the more sales you’ll have. But if you think about it, their success rate is minimal. They send out daily emails to their 5-10,000 subscribers, so they have to take the time to either write those emails or pay someone to do it for them. Of those 5-10,000 daily emails (and don’t get me started on those who send more than one a day!), I’d say, conservatively, 75% are deleted without being read. Another 20% delete them after seeing they’re nothing but another sales pitch.

Generously, 5% or 250-500 people might actually read those emails, but how many of them actually buy? Remember those same people are also being inundated by emails as well as TV and online ads from Target, Kohl’s, Walmart and more encouraging them to buy the latest fashions, toys, and electronics for their oh-so-deserving families. You can bet most of them haven’t seen a gigantic influx of money to feed these voracious and never-satisfied fires of consumerism. I’m guessing most are going to take care of family before signing up for yet another course or e-book.

Happiness is Simplicity

Though this little rant of mine has strayed a bit off-topic, the point is that if we take it back to basics; to a time when the little things made us happy, we might be surprised to find that the little things still make us happy.

Here are a few of mine, just to get you started:

  • Spending time with friends in an environment conducive to relaxation and conversation.
  • Spending time with my daughter and son-in-law being silly and laughing a lot.
  • Snuggling on the couch with my cats, a book, and a cup of tea.
  • Letting my imagination take over as I spew words on the page with no particular reason or direction.
  • Getting outside and walking, preferably with a friend.
  • Daydreaming
  • Cooking up some kind of tasty mess
  • Baking something just to give it away.

We all have our own version of “clean diaper, full belly” if we just clear the crap and the constant compulsion to buy, the invisible cord that drags us into stores so we might buy on impulse rather than thoughtfulness.

Getting off the Stress-Go-Round

The biggest advantage to this year of simplification is that my stress levels have gone down to almost nothing. My calendar is fairly full, but the tasks required to get there are manageable. There’s even time in between for self-care; something most of us shove to a back burner this time of year, only to pay the price come January (in more than those previously mentioned massive credit card bills).

Simon and Garfunkel said it best, a long, long, time ago:

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

If you find your pleasure being a part of the holiday chaos, so be it. As for me, I’ll be talking to lampposts and watching the flowers grow.

My gratitudes today are:

  1.  I am grateful for slow, easy holidays.
  2.  I am grateful for simplicity, and for recognizing it’s an option.
  3.  I am grateful for work that keeps me busy enough, a social calendar that makes me spend a little less time alone, and that both require me to stay on task more.
  4.  I am grateful for the many things I’ve learned and the progress I’ve made this year. Looking back, it’s been a wild ride, but one helluva year for me. I’m looking forward to seeing where the wheels I’ve set in motion take me.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; work, friendship, lessons, love, joy, time, peace, harmony, opportunities already here and yet to come, inspiration, motivation, balance, limitless possibilities, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. She believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for article writing and ghost writing to help your website and the business it supports grow and thrive. Her special gift lies in finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information or to schedule a free informational call. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

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