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

Archive for the ‘memories’ Category

Memories Stored On Calendars

Memories Give Us Pause

Every year at this time, I write a post of remembrance, but this year is a little different. On September 10th, I began thinking about all the dates on the calendar which make me stop for a moment and remember, not necessarily what is good and right in my world, but what I’ve lost, and how it has impacted the woman I am today.

March 12th was my mother’s birthday. She would be 84.

December 27th was the day she took her life. It will be 25 years this December.

September 28th was my father’s birthday. He would have been 87 this year.

And September 11th—for most people, the day we remember when terrorists took down the World Trade Center with a passenger plane full of people, and targeted the Pentagon with another. But for me and my daughters, the memory is quite different, and far more painful because for us, it’s personal.

Our Personal Sadness

On September 11, 2003, my father wrote a note to his girlfriend, smoked one last cigarette, put a gun in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. His girlfriend and best friend found him a couple of hours later when he missed the daily check-in call from the girlfriend and wasn’t answering her increasingly frantic voice mails.

Some people read my words and assure me the anger will pass, and that diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer he received 2 days before his death meant he wasn’t in his right mind. To them, I can honestly say, my anger over him leaving without saying goodbye to me, my daughters, my sister and my nephew has long passed. I understand why he did it. The only time I ever saw my father cry was after the long ordeal of watching his mother die of the same disease. In his position, I can’t say I’d have made a different choice.

At the time, I was less angry about the act, and more with the fact that it was just under 10 years since my mom had also checked out by her own hand. Her reasons have never really been as clear-cut as dad’s, but I’ve accepted the fact that she, too had her reasons. I’ve had nearly 25 years to learn, and at this point, probably millions of words I’ve penned to facilitate the healing process.

Time Heals, But Brings Clarity With It

My anger with my father takes a different direction now, and yet, it too is tempered with understanding. https://www.flickr.com/photos/14778685@N00/5620269958/in/photolist-9yDmsb-9wLFJL-psqyLM-9eAGhb-8JDGi-22seJFb-eSRPY9-iPbhs5-nG8C4Y-ar7VdX-5cMaFn-enkvir-bqUWhr-5cMehe-5cRtPA-5cMbV6-7JBXyM-9NcXFu-akjnB4-f24BV3-Y4j9hL-C7FKVi-VTy9k3-8kdguW-4rv5oP-bJ1Fkv-8nE69a-f3h27J-4uSagZ-coUiM3-NioBNY-8r29ho-6Tj8Fy-6sU9p1-dRZwBZ-UWF6WG-8nMjbJ-dY99M6-oFhtwA-f32MKz-RtLuuB-9gdY6g-8n6qjK-iebqgz-dS9hDW-UUq24S-bt2EvL-LynnF6-nUg6Ge-auC2dzI know he did the best he could with what he had and where he came from. In truth, I’m angrier with myself for playing his warped and twisted game for so long.

For most of my life, I was certain my dad not only loved me, but favored me over my sister. Maybe he did, but if so, it was for all the wrong reasons. My sister was wise to his manipulative games decades before I ever figured it out, and went her own way. She understood him better than I as she’s the one who is more like him. I mistakenly believed she favored mom until recently.

Both she and dad wore their cold, hard exteriors like armor, and used sarcasm as a shield. But there was (and in my sister’s case, probably still is) a level of bitterness beneath the armor which further shields from honest, messy emotions. As I’ve learned, though, it also shields from the good stuff; the love, joy, compassion, and empathy I’ve come to appreciate in myself.

Mom wore her heart on her sleeve, though she tried very hard to cover it up. Her efforts to belong, to fit in, to be accepted were often heartbreaking to watch. I hardened my own heart so I wouldn’t have to watch hers break over and over again. Maybe Dad did too?

A Conglomeration of All Who Came Before

As time goes on and the dates come and go bringing memories and new insights, I realize I’m a little like both of my parents, and a lot like neither. Much of the deviation though, has occurred in the last 10 years. Until then, I held everything in and stumbled through life with my feelings treated as unwelcome guests. That’s the way I was brought up, and the only way I knew.

But when I started writing; when the feelings I’d held in check at great cost came tumbling out onto the computer screen, I found a part of myself that resembled not only neither parent, but none of the family I’d once been close to either. I became an enigma, not because I had always been different, but because I was the first and maybe the only one to break out of the mold into which we’d all been cast.

I let go of the blame, the bitterness, and the need to hold a grudge. I forgave and learned to recognize the need to forgive myself most of all. Even now when I drag out old feelings and find they were buried in lies, I allow them to flow, then forgive all over again.

Letting My Pen Lance the Boils of My Hidden Emotions

https://www.flickr.com/photos/matt_rogers/32072645186/in/photolist-QS9G29-7jFGWM-jSSXTn-gWnnAn-7jKzg7-k1Q3Ez-49HGS-JaXYoH-6HUNQF-7jFHgR-nQzqNh-fzUL6w-hx2nML-a4N44-Z3xc8b-6ef9HF-aEXdio-m2HqQt-bBKzg2-kbdf3P-5Db73z-b7AkyD-6zJzQw-7dEU9V-ZDftY1-fY9zv8-7pBPUc-bmfwto-7eXMSj-9NdNPm-8EVVBC-6JNLK8-6nNaux-c28A2C-9atUf8-7oMuuJ-9YvpG-vdJj7-ecCm-8LJzww-eEd6oi-BQX1p-XZKjij-k1Q1px-E6Miuc-6zrveY-j2kDUf-7vaq24-7fnH1m-dDHfZsThe revelation about my relationship with Dad came during a free-writing session which began with a writing prompt. An otherwise benign prompt became a tear- and anger-filled rant about how badly he’d treated me all my life. It churned and boiled inside me for a little while. Now I realize he not only behaved as he’d been taught, but loved me as best he could. He made me strong and independent, maybe in the extreme. It has been up to me to find the balance. I had no good example to follow.

I’ve hypothesized I come from a long line of Empaths who closed themselves off rather than feel everything that bombarded them. The choice was made more from fear and lack of understanding than a lack of desire or inability to embrace the sensitivity and accept the responsibility this sometimes dubious gift requires.  More and more, I’m convinced that’s true. I’m certain Dad would have been a wreck trying to deal with all the angst I had as a teenager, or the misery I tried to hide during my marriage and divorce. He already knew how to close himself off, and used it to good purpose to protect his own delicate psyche. Mom spent her whole lifetime trying to fit in, yet always sensing negative thoughts and feelings, especially those directed at her personally.

Lack of understanding and an inability to filter out the negativity and even anger emitting from her close family must have been painful in the extreme. The alternate spirituality she tried to turn to and draw my sister into as well makes more sense as I continue clearing the muck from my own mind. In her own way she sought what I found when I learned, first to shield with outward facing mirrors, and later to filter with elemental assistance. My own early extreme shielding gives evidence to my early need to shut the outside voices and emotions off completely until I learned how to be selective about it.

Remembrance and Healing

The dates bring an upsurge of feelings and thoughts. But more than that, they bring opportunities for more healing, more understanding, and more forgiving. My parents weren’t perfect. Nobody’s are. But they weren’t horrific either. In some ways, they might have been ignorant to what they were doing to their offspring, but again, I think most parents are to some degree. They all do the best they can with what they’re given, and both of mine weren’t given a full toolbox in the first place. There were more empty spaces than full ones, and I don’t think they had a clue what was missing or how to find it. You can’t miss what you don’t know exists in the first place, right?

I’ve gone, in the last decade from angry to compassionate, to understanding to resigned, and a bunch of other things in between along the way. My journey won’t be done until I lay my own head down for the final sleep. That, too is as it should be.

We learn, we grow, we become stronger, and we become lighter Beings because of the experiences we have and how we learn to adapt and thrive from each one. When we allow the journey to continue unthwarted and to share what we’ve learned along the way, no matter how painful, we shine a light for others to follow, and perhaps learn and grow themselves. Throwing up walls as I did for so many years put the process on hold, and perhaps even gave me additional barriers to cross and lessons to learn.

I don’t regret any of the challenges life has thrown me. I don’t think I’d have ever come out from behind my walls without the gigantic kick in the pants my parents’ suicides gave me. I was lodged pretty solidly and needed what amounted to a volcanic eruption to get out of my own way. It wasn’t pretty, but then, most eruptions aren’t. It was exactly what I needed to become the person I was meant to be.

No regrets, no anger, no blame, and no illusions.

Infinitely Grateful For What I’ve Been Given; The Good, The Bad, and The Horrific

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve been given; the easy and the painful, they all made me grow.
  2. I am grateful I can take what I’ve learned and share it with others who might need to hear what I have to say.
  3. I am grateful for understanding friends, and even virtual strangers who find value in the sharing of my own life’s convoluted path.
  4. I am grateful for the ability to write at length on things which at one time (and sometimes still do) reduce me to a puddle of tears and misery. Only by continually wading through the emotional swamp can I clear it and make the land clean and ready for fresh growth.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; caring friends, loving children, a life that’s as people-y or non-people-y as I want it to be, days of quiet contemplation, joy, time spent with friends where love flows, and sadness is shared, inspiration, motivation, 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.

Advertisements

Re-directing and Releasing Negative Childhood Memories

Revisiting Negative Memories

While meditating the other day (yes, I know you hear this a lot, but some of my best ideas and greatest epiphanies come when my mind is relaxed) I chanced to wander the highways and byways of my childhood. In particular, I revisited all the negative memories I’d amassed concerning my mother. It occurred to me I do myself no good dwelling on them, but how do you erase decades of fossilized memories so they remain in the past, no longer impacting life as we now know it?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gardener41/3981658694/in/photolist-74R3pQ-guBZra-9PAmFk-guBXEK-BmHigo-cnYGjs-onz542-gwdK8d-pChZkR-iVWveU-7ffW28-onyS39-gweuL7-onqbuh-ep3v1L-guBWAR-PKA3v-5ajFhY-aehBcL-asKqSq-BmHd6o-cjti4m-2WXcJr-oUH75q-8L7f6R-4Trbay-EuZSD-5qJE3t-pkMfTM-9PDc6W-57WDEo-ozJcfu-LD6AKH-716zoJ-oDDfTg-p2KdNQ-oC2Q3A-5ajVHq-2JUWn-oFPpnR-8fkhzd-4atQKj-8J2KMa-8J2Mqp-5qJE1B-CABft1-6Kk3do-4MHcAV-6JaPZU-asKivWAs my mind continued to drift, a balloon which had escaped from a tiny fist, another memory arrived. It was my earliest memory of reading with my mom. I was 4 years old and we were sitting on the L-shaped white couch in the living room of our house in Reseda. We held “Charlotte’s Web” on our laps while I read aloud, looking to her for guidance when I came upon an unfamiliar word. I don’t know how many days we spent sitting in that position, laughing and crying over the escapades of Wilbur, Charlotte and the rest of the barnyard residents. I do know it launched a lifelong passion for reading and writing.

Changing Course

It occurred to me that the way to erase, at least the recurring nightmare of some of the other memories was to pluck them like weeds, then quickly fill the hole with more pleasant memories so they’d be unable to grow back. Up until then, it had never occurred to me that simply removing a memory wasn’t enough. We had to replace it with something better.

That’s not to say we actually cut out part of our minds so the unpleasant memory doesn’t return. We simply overlay it with something that brings us joy instead of sadness, pain or fear. It seems to be working, as whatever thing I was remembering before I plucked it and replaced it with the “Charlotte’s Web” memory is no longer retrievable.

The Feeling Part of Memories

Now, you’re probably asking how it’s possible to consciously eradicate a memory, and you’re right. It doesn’t seem feasible. But let me explain. Memories instill more than just a visual recording of an event. In fact, the visual is often the least enduring. We get feelings and emotions from those events which are harder to release.

For example, as a child, you dropped a plate of food on the floor. Did your parents scream at you and berate you for your clumsiness? Did they launch into a lecture about how expensive it was to feed the family, and the cost of the meal you ruined? If so, the shame you felt while they ranted and raved stuck with you like a burr in the fabric of your psyche. Events later in life trigger, not so much the memory of the plate you dropped and the meal you ruined, but the shame you were made to feel as a result.

By replacing one memory picture with another, we’re not changing the picture. We’re releasing the negative feelings; planting new seeds as it were. So it is with memories of my mom. Some have already been released and replaced through the process of writing about my memories. Others pop up via triggers in my present life. But now I stop and evaluate the negative, unpleasant feelings.

Deep Down, We All Choose Happiness

I don’t want to feel uncomfortable, so I look for ways to replace those feelings with something, if not pleasant, at least constructive. I know eventually, I’ll be able to replace the constructive feeling with a pleasant one as it’s a shorter energetic leap.

There’s a lot of talk about shifting your mindset these days. What I think it really boils down to is deciding how you want to feel, then becoming conscious of the things that trigger feelings not in alignment with your desire. Since the most deeply seated ones come from your childhood and teenage years (oh the angst!) it might take some practice to separate the root issue from the knee-jerk reaction.

Peeling Back the Layers

We humans are as multi-layered as an onion. Understanding why we react as we do to certain things https://www.flickr.com/photos/gcaspers/3674508861/in/photolist-6AGPt4-9XPdGp-9AfZYv-asnfWg-2j1go4-7UukPU-a2XVdU-NqoUQ-dbkFUe-a2XRDb-6nnHrK-9EBf9b-9xemFj-cucYQS-cud1JC-cucV5Q-cucW5f-9GVbUK-9XS6cJ-53kCM9-8dXRc-ctMcPj-crXsXw-cutJfu-a3bJ56-9XS6GA-aspUtj-a3bRmp-rjDGsd-cudgUJ-9xeGYS-ctNGF1-cutroo-crYSB9-a2UPPe-crYbPw-6ZUrTn-cutJYm-jCRHS-cutQqA-csxxsh-sabp4u-aspXws-a3fFX5-cutPDh-dmd5Ze-asnkuX-cykHmj-9xAUFm-cutrGUoften requires a deep dive into things we’ve tried to forget. Yet therein lies the foundation for our beliefs, our fears, and our self-image, wrapped up in a not-so-tidy ball of emotions. My own process began over 20 years ago, and I’m continually uncovering new layers I didn’t even suspect existed. Only now are some of those layers proving to be rooted in my earliest years. I’m just beginning to find the place where the strings I’ve untangled are embedded in my psyche.

Many of the emotional triggers we set as children are built and expanded on as we become more connected with the rest of the world. Every time someone hurts us, every time, we suffer disappointment, every time we fail, those emotional triggers find more justification, more reason to exist. They become our reality, albeit a falsely constructed monument to our coping mechanisms. Often we don’t even remember why we react as we do.

Getting to the Bottom of the Perceived Failures

Recently, I bought a cake to have a small celebration of my daughter and son-in-law’s 6th anniversary. My daughter the baker removed the cake from the box and, no malice intended, began picking apart the decorating techniques of the grocery store employee who’d done the cake. I brushed it off, and even contributed a few comments of my own.

A few minutes later, with maybe half of the cake cut and served, a woman as known for her baking prowess as my daughter brought over a beautiful strawberry shortcake and some cups of mousse. One of the women who sits at the table next to me every week had missed the celebration planned for her a couple nights previously, so this was a make-up. But as soon as her cake hit the table, and everyone had sung “Happy Birthday” it was as if my daughter, son-in-law, and I no longer existed.

I already felt a little bad at the poor quality of the cake, augmented by my daughter’s repeated query “why didn’t you ask me to make the cake?” Suddenly, the air was sucked right out of my joy balloon. I danced the next couple of sets in a fog, my usual ebullience notably missing. I drove home in silence, focused only on getting us home safely, and cancelled my regular “Live with Sheri and Friends”. I had no interest in talking to anyone. I just wanted to be alone with my blue funk.

Taking Time to Query Yourself

In a lot of cases, being alone might have been the worst choice. In this one, it worked out well because it made me see the long string of disappointments I’d had in organizing parties or group events. So many times, I’d plan something and send out invitations, only to have maybe 3 or 4 people actually show up. Or I’d throw something together and be disappointed at the results which might have been better with a little more planning and effort.

Not until the recent addition of our annual after Thanksgiving dinner was I able to, with my daughter’s help, put together an event people actually wanted to attend, and looked forward to. That’s when I realized I could overlay the way I felt about all the failed attempts with the joy I feel about our Thanksgiving feasts.

Finding the Road to Happiness

The beauty of it all lies in the fact that we re-route our feelings for multiple events when we re-route one. The emotions we feel are, by the time we reach adulthood, a composite of things which brought the same response. Change one, change them all. Though it’s not quite that simple as many events contain multiple emotional charges, the idea is valid. We clear one negative emotional charge, replacing it with something positive, and each connected event, no matter how convoluted, holds less power over us in the future.

What’s one emotional trigger you can defuse? Where is a positive outcome and a joyful response you can use to fill the hole? It doesn’t have to be something big. You’ll probably recognize it as a minor thing which brings you down whenever it executes by virtue of a similar event or feeling. Share your efforts in the comments. What you learn helps not only yourself, but those of us you share it with. You’ll see an angle we might have missed.

 

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my meditational epiphanies.
  2. I am grateful for new triggers which bring me joy instead of sorrow.
  3. I am grateful for new opportunities which appear when I least expect them.
  4. I am grateful for new perspectives.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; joy, incentives, opportunities, epiphanies, love, companionship, peace, health, 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

Losing Someone to Suicide: You Never Forget

The Heart Doesn’t Let Go

Decades after my parent’s suicides, I find I’m still liable to fall down my personal rabbit hole when something happens to trigger the memories. It might be something simple like the feeling of my stomach dropping out from under me during takeoff when I’m flying somewhere. Or it could be more dramatic like a family member of someone close to me taking their life.

This week, though, it was merely a case of similarity. In a series of events which bore a slim resemblance to my dad’s last days, a member of the dance community received a diagnosis of lung cancer. The next day, he passed on, though in his case, the explanation was rapid deterioration rather than death by suicide.

Finding the Positive in a Life Ended Too Soon

In some ways, I envy his family and friends. Their grief isn’t stigmatized by the specter of suicide. His memory won’t be tarnished by what many consider a crime, or at least a sin. Yet, he, too didn’t linger unnecessarily after receiving the worst diagnosis imaginable.

I have to wonder if my dad might have been able to just let go of life when he learned his illness was terminal. Could he have, instead of resorting to a gun, just said “I’m done” and died peacefully in his sleep? Is it even possible to let go of life without trauma or catastrophe?

With Suicide, There Will Always Be Questions

Over the years, I’ve waded through thousands of questions, yet something like this makes me see I still have thousands more; many I’ve yet to even imagine.

It further reinforces my belief that after losing someone to suicide, the healing process never really ends. Just when you think you have it figured out, you’ve forgiven and accepted, something happens in your world to blindside you. You’re reminded in no uncertain terms that you still have a long way to go, another million or so questions to ponder.

It isn’t like lessons which build upon what you’ve learned. It’s more that the healing process occurs in layers. Like a doctor stitches up a wound, you heal the most serious first, trusting that the healing will continue moving inward to mend the layers beneath the surface.

Healing from Suicide is an Imperfect Process

But our subconscious contains so many layers, it’s nearly impossible to ensure that each one is healed in turn. Sometimes, the healing occurs above and below, but leaves a gaping wound in the center just waiting for the trigger which will break it open and send an accumulation of toxins oozing to the surface.

My festering wound is skepticism. I cannot just accept things at face value without wondering if there’s more to the story than meets the eye, or is shared with the general public. I know it’s not really my business, and I have no right to consider besmirching someone’s exit strategy. Yet I can’t stop myself from thinking these thoughts. Losing not one, but both parents to suicide makes me especially conscious of the fact that many find it to be their only viable choice.

In the last few years, I’ve known too many people who lived the horror of a cancer diagnosis. Some of them fought like the demon to eradicate the disease which was intent on decimating their body. Some have been successful while others are still fighting, quite literally for their lives.

Others chose to let nature run it’s course and go out with dignity and grace. When it comes down to living or dying; suffering or relief, the decision must be left in the hands of the one who is impacted most.

Trying to Maintain Perspective

If the death directly impacted someone close to me, I might ask the difficult questions in spite of myself, and against my better judgment. But when it’s just an acquaintance, the words must simmer beneath the surface, unspoken, yet in a way, my own undoing. I’ll never have the answers to my questions so they’ll simmer beneath the surface of my consciousness until I find a way to let them go; to let the deceased rest in peace.

I would never wish upon anyone, even someone I considered to be pure evil, the choice my dad had to make. Though people face the specter of terminal illness in their own intensely personal ways, my heart hurts for those who are forced to make difficult choices as a result of a diagnosis fraught with pain and an imminent expiration date. Yet I hurt even more for those who are left behind.

While my thoughts run rampant and I can’t help but wonder, I know I must make myself believe the story being told. I must do my best to avoid comparisons. My dad’s death was a tragedy, but I understand that as much as he didn’t want to suffer, he truly hated the idea of the people he loved having to watch that suffering. He chose the lesser of two evils and I have nothing but respect for his choice.

I’ll join in honoring a man who touched many lives without reservation. How he passed is irrelevant, just as are the minor misdeeds of which we are all guilty at some point in our lives. He deserves to be remembered and memorialized for all the good he did. What some might consider his mistakes or misdeeds were simply those things which taught him to be the man people will long remember.

Just like my Dad.

With Undying Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the people who move in and out of my life bringing many questions and sometimes even a few answers.
  2. I am grateful for a modicum of self-restraint, even if I’m compelled to share my wonderings here.
  3. I am grateful for inspiration which is keeping me on track to write 1000 words a day.
  4. I am grateful for changes in my life which I hope will make me a better person in the long run.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, life, friendship, dancing, laughter, joy, companionship, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

A Kiss is Just a Kiss–or is it?

When is a Kiss Not Just a Kiss?

I’ve been thinking a lot about kissing lately. Maybe it’s the time of year or maybe I’m in the throes of my own 7 or 14 year cycle. Either way, it’s on my mind. Being the inveterate researcher I am, I was compelled to search for answers like, for example, are there any health benefits to kissing?

All of the people who came up in my Google search seem to agree that there are a few things kissing is good for, even those little cheek busses we give to our friends with a hug (also good for your health, by the way). For example:

  • Kissing increases immunities. Believe it or not, swapping spit kicks your body’s immune-producing gremlins into overdrive and they start creating antibodies for everything you might…er…ingest while kissing.
  • Kissing helps prevent tooth decay. That’s right, swapping spit increases the saliva in your mouth which washes away tooth decaying bacteria.
  • Kissing reduces stress (and if you ask me, this a no-brainer). It’s tough to keep your mind locked on your lousy day when your lips are locked on someone else’s, right?
  • Kissing reduces levels of allergen antibodies, nipping allergies in the bud. I think I’ll share this with my feline-allergic friends!
  • Kissing makes you look younger. A few minutes a day of intense lip locking works your facial muscles, for a firmer, more youthful look.
  • Kissing also reduces or eliminates cramps an headaches. Funny how moving the blood from one part of your body to another will relieve pressure, huh?
All the Facts are Well and Fine, But Why the Fixation?

So I’ve satisfied myself that kissing is good for me, but it still doesn’t explain the fascination with all things smooch. In fact, I had to force myself to focus on the road on my drive down to my daughter’s the other night! It’s not as if there’s someone in particular I’d like to spend a little quality time with. To be honest, at the moment, there’s not a single man in my limited acquaintance who even stirs anything more than feelings of friendship in me. And yet, my imagination runs rampant with visions and feelings of exchanging this so intimate exchange with who? A nameless, faceless stranger!

Even my New Year’s plans are much the same as prior years. I have the choice of snuggling on the couch with my kitties or getting hot and sweaty on the dance floor with my friends. Both possibilities have their own kind of appeal (after all, I can always count on kitty kisses, especially from Dylan!)

Crisis Averted

Despite it all, I don’t believe I’m traveling down a dark, twisty road to my own destruction. On the contrary. I figure it’s just the Universe trying to tell me it’s time to unlock and unbar a door I’ve kept firmly sealed for long enough. Making me remember how fond I once was of kissing is a subtle reminder that the first step towards revisiting those feelings is to clear the way–a bit of decluttering in an emotionally energetic sort of way.

I’m not being given any sort of guarantee other than the one which tells me I’m guaranteed to get no kissing unless I remove the blocks which have, heretofore stood in the way. Of course, it’s still my choice to leave the blocks up, but why would I want to? They no longer serve a purpose and if truth be told, haven’t for quite some time. But like that pair of crazy pants you wore in the 80’s which got shoved to the back of the closet to be forgotten, such has been the intimate, interpersonal part of my life, and for nearly as long.

The closet has long since been cleared of clothes I’ll never wear again, so it’s about time I do the same with other parts of my life. Which begs the question, Do I really want to spend the next 30 or 40 years alone until I really do forget those amazing feelings of love,tenderness and intimacy? Or am I ready to tear down the walls I built, brick by brick from old hurts and disappointments. Is that really why I’ve spent the last 15 years or more turning my life around? Why expend the effort to love the person I am if I don’t intend to share that warm, loving energy with at least a few other people on various levels? And why only choose some levels when I can have them all?

So yes, I’m fixated on kissing for a reason, though it isn’t the obvious one. I’m simply being coached to open myself back up to all this lovely Universe has to offer instead of treating it like a Chinese take-out menu. If I want everything on columns A, B and C, I will have it, and the devil take the consequences!

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for the things which get stuck in my brain until I figure out why they’re there in the first place, and learn the lesson of the day.
2. I am grateful for the busy days and the lazy days that follow, reminding me I need both in my life.
3. I am grateful for my daughter and son-in-law. They bring me so much joy, whether we’re being serious (rarely) or making each other laugh.
4. I am grateful for my fur babies and grandbabies. They know just how to make me feel loved.
5. I am grateful for abundance: joy, peace, love, laughter, family, friendship, kindness, compassion, intimacy, caring, health, harmony, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be ve

November 26, 2014 Gratitude for Thanksgiving: So what if it’s cliche! #shericonaway

“Life’s a dance, you learn as you go, sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow.”

As I sat here thinking about today’s blog post and browsing my friends’ Facebook posts for inspiration, one in particular caught my eye. In a re-post of one of Ernest Holmes’ inspirational writings, I found exactly what I was looking for. Mr. Holmes likened gratitude to learning to play the piano, in which both repetition and visualization play a part in mastering the craft. It immediately struck me that it is also like learning a new line dance. First, I go through the steps with a teacher, then I run it mentally over and over, then put on the music and connect music and footwork together. The more complicated the dance, the more repetition and visualization are required, but ultimately, the whole dance is committed to my muscle memory and the first bar or so of the music kicks that memory back in, even if my brain doesn’t completely engage. Sure, I’m thrown off a bit if a different piece of music is used for the same dance, but even then, once I’ve been challenged a few times, muscle memory overrides what I’m hearing and I simply move to the music in the prescribed steps.

And so, too, it is with gratitude. At first, I had to make a concerted effort to remember to be grateful, especially in the face of adversity. But with time and practice, those offerings of thanks; for a ready parking spot, for green lights, for things working out in spite of all indications they wouldn’t, for time spent with my daughter, for the safety of my son-in-law, and for the drive, commitment and inspiration to write thousands and thousands of words; the gratitude now rises in me unbidden, but merely an extension of the woman I have become.

Keep practicing as, no matter how good it looks, it can always be better.

Just as an author continues to fine tune her work, a dancer practices over and over, doing her best to eliminate any margin for error, a singer commits every nuance of her piece to the deepest of her memories…I could go on and on as this applies to everything anyone might choose to master, but it is the same for gratitude. No matter how well you think you’ve mastered it, to cease practicing gratitude is as practical as ceasing to breathe.

What is Thanksgiving, but a reminder to be grateful all the time?

We’re coming up rapidly on the time of year when we’re reminded to practice the “Christmas Spirit”; the spirit of kindness and giving. But what about the “Thanksgiving Spirit”? Like the Christmas Spirit, it isn’t really about engaging in the behavior once a year, but to practice it always. If I had to sum it up, I’d have to say that the secret to a truly happy life is: Be grateful, be kind, be compassionate and be generous…every single hour of every single day of every single month of every single year.

The toughest challenge I’m facing right now is in keeping up my spirits though I have not yet, a year after taking my infamous leap of faith, started generating a steady income for myself. But each time I find my mind falling down that path, I have to stop and remind myself of the many blessings that are in my life. Every time I find my eyes wandering to a job listing for an accountant, I have to remind myself how incredibly free I am and how fortunate I am to be able to make my own hours (even though many of those have been in the wee ones of the morning lately), to be unfettered by someone else’s seemingly unreasonable demands in the name of control, and to be able to feed my inner introvert by only being around people when I want to. In the case of the latter, my introverted self can tolerate people a whole lot better when the pointlessness of office politics is removed from my experience. I have also come to understand from my far distant vantage point that there are those who truly thrive on the drama and the intrigue.

Gratitude’s closest pal is Forgiveness

I carried around a lot of anger and blame for a major part of my life. It didn’t make my life better; it simply carried me through like a tsunami across a peaceful shore. I generated storms where they weren’t even needed much of the time. But in the last few years of focusing on Gratitude, I also learned to Forgive; not only those I had saddled with the responsibility for my own anger and hurt, but also myself, for allowing all of the crap to filter into my life unchecked. I learned to Accept that the choices others make are their choices and have no real impact on me (and here’s the big catch) Unless I allowed it.

The real change, the real breakthrough, the real light in my world instead of just at the end of some imaginary tunnel came when I took responsibility for my own reactions; when I accepted everyone’s right to choose their own path; when I realized that my opinion of someone else’s choice was just as unimportant to them as their opinion of my choice was to me; and when I started looking at nearly 40 years of baggage and started going through it piece by piece, forgiving myself and anyone else who had been involved in packing that particular bag. Once a bag was unpacked, it’s contents disposed of or stored in my happy memory place, as applicable, I didn’t need the box or carton in which it had been stored any more, so I let it go.

Sure, the process of unpacking boxes and boxes of old memories is a long process, but it gets easier, the more boxes you unpack. Just like practicing gratitude or dance moves, unpacking takes practice too. After awhile, you can glance into a box and know whether there’s anything inside worth keeping and if so, go right to that place and toss the rest. Where it might have taken days, weeks or months to sift through the contents of one of those mental file boxes at first, it soon becomes a matter of minutes or even less to clear another box from the stack.

My daughter and I have made a ton of happy memories surrounding Thanksgiving, and even the years when it didn’t seem like we had much to be thankful for have now been boiled down until we can either laugh about a Thanksgiving that blew up in our faces, finding the shining moments in the midst of the gloom, or we can actually laugh about what seemed so traumatic at the time. I realized my own childhood, and even young adult memories of Thanksgiving with my own mother didn’t fare so well. I haven’t yet pulled out the sweet memories of the holiday with my birth family, and, for just a moment, this made me sad. But I realize it was merely a reminder that there are boxes I have yet to unpack, and that the time has not yet come to sift through them. I’m reminded of a song which always struck a chord in me, even when I was young and self-involved.

To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.

We are not meant to connect with our Divine selves in one giant step. We are meant to experience life, then go through the letting go process one baby step at a time. My baby steps are getting bigger, my emotional response to all of the disparity in the world has quieted. It isn’t silent, but I’m slower to react and hurl anger and misery at the angry and miserable. Though my opinions are not always respected or understood, my goal is to one day send nothing but love and compassion to victims and victimizers (do you know that there is no good antonym for victim? I wonder why that is?). We all had choices to make and made them as a result of lessons we decided to learn while we were here. I cannot even imagine the pain and self-loathing a murderer or abuser must feel. It might not be on a conscious level, but their soul, their spirit is certainly suffering, and not just for the time in which the act is inflicted, but more and more for each compassionless act.

Have I perfected my ability to avoid anger in every situation? Of course not! Will I do so in this lifetime? That, too, is unlikely. You, me and everyone, everywhere, is a work in progress. Most of us still have a long way to travel on our soul journey, but would we have it any other way? Would we truly want to reach the destination without experiencing the journey; its highs, its lows, its miracles and its tragedies? Not me, my friends. Definitely not me.

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for my journey.
2. I am grateful for everyone who has ever been a part of my life, and given me an opportunity to learn or practice a lesson.
3. I am grateful for the easy comfort of spending a week with my daughter and grandpuppy.
4. I am grateful for tasks which are getting done without rushing, without stress, and with a lot of love and laughter.
5. I am grateful for everyone who has, does or will read my scribblings. I write for me, but without an audience, my words would simply lay in the bottom of a dusty, musty drawer.
6. I am grateful for abundance: love, hope, compassion, lessons, forgiveness, acceptance, gratitude, health, harmony, beauty, inspiration and prosperity.

Namaste

And now for some shameless self-promotion:
I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel. I’ve created this page as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” it or leave a comment! Thank you!

October 3, 2014 The memories that remain

Cooking always gives me time to think, and tonight was no different.

My mother’s death caused me a lot of pain. Face it. My mom’s life caused me a lot of pain…once upon a time, in a place far away…but I digress. As I stood in my kitchen, sort of following her gazpacho recipe (sort of because I’ve modified the bejeebers out of it, but more on that later), using my favorite heirloom tomatoes picked fresh today at Underwood Farms, my thoughts wandered to mom. I realized that the pain I experienced while she was alive is long gone, but what remains is pretty spectacular. I remember the happy times, the good times, the silly times. I remember her teaching me to make Snickerdoodles when I was little, then teaching my daughters when they were about the same age I was when I learned. I remember sitting on the sofa with her, reading aloud from “Charlotte’s Web”, excited by the fact that I was reading at the tender age of four, but in tears over the death of a spider. How things have changed! Just the other day, I took one away from my kitten, Scrappy Doo, and smashed it for having the audacity to crawl across my living room floor. Had it worked for it’s keep by keeping my daughter’s old room free of ants, we might have negotiated. But again, I digress.

My mom went from being unable to boil an egg to one of the most amazing gourmet cooks I ever met. My grandmother never allowed anyone in her kitchen, so mom’s education was lacking when she and dad married. She was determined to overcome that lack, filling dozens of notebooks with recipes cut out of magazines, taking cooking classes and watching chefs like Julia Child devotedly. Her hard work paid huge dividends. She threw parties for 50 and did all of the cooking herself. She arranged, decorated, cooked, served, hostessed…I tell you, some of those talents might have been useful to me, but I was a very poor student, except for the cooking. Even so, she allowed me to make messes in her kitchen, to watch her cook, and to be part of the experience of cooking healthy, tasty meals for the people we love.

She taught me to cook by sight, taste and smell. As her mother didn’t know how to use anything besides salt and pepper, mom’s idea of herbs and spices, though far better than grandma’s, was still, in my opinion, on the light side. She also used a lot of dried herbs, which I still do in a pinch. But with the fresh ones becoming more easily available all the time, why use old, dried ones?

So I took her gazpacho recipe, played with it, modified it and finally came up with a version I like.  Six cloves of garlic became a whole bulb, or two if they’re small. A teaspoon of fresh tarragon became around two tablespoons of fresh basil. A tablespoon of chopped, curly leaf parsley became about three tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley (I find that it has more flavor and is less bitter). As for the tomatoes…well! Her 8 large were downright puny next to my lovely, colorful heirlooms! And since I essentially increased the amount of tomatoes, all of the other veggies had to have quantity increases too! Otherwise it would just be all tomatoes, not a bad thing, but not the idea of gazpacho. Though I’ve also noticed that a bunch of radishes or scallions in 1965 was a darn sight larger than what we see today! (refer back to the mysterious shrinking ice cream carton in a recent post).  As the years go by and I discover new things like English cucumbers, the recipe changes again.  If you ask me, there’s not a thing wrong with that.  Some people have their “mystery meat”, we had “meatloaf surprise”.  The surprise was simply the fact that it never came out the same way twice!

43b43-gazpachoThe resulting, enormous bowl of cold, healthy soup is at least a week’s worth of lunches, a dinner or two, and countless precious memories of the good times with my mom. To anyone else, it’s just a big bowl of healthy, tasty soup, but to me, it’s my mom’s love and spending a little time with her as we share a special experience. I think she would have gotten a kick out of the fact that I’ve made it my own, just as I have with so many of her old recipes. The brown box of 5 x 7 index cards she gave me when I first moved out is stuffed full with all of the things I’ve added over the years. The cards written in her neat hand are old and faded, messier notes in my hand indicating changes I’ve made to the original. Though, in the case of the gazpacho, I didn’t alter the original card. I just remember, and as I add five or six times as much garlic, grind a lot more pepper over the top than was her taste and toss in basil with reckless abandon, I know that I’m taking the lessons she taught me about cooking with passion to my own extremes.

The best part is that mom’s memory and her love of cooking will be kept alive for a very long time because at least one of her granddaughter’s is at least as passionate about cooking and creating, and she’s made it both an art form and a science. In a world of fast food and packaged meals, mom left us a beautiful legacy.

I know that at least my friend and butt kicker, Candy, will be asking if I’ve saved this post somewhere safe so I can include it in the book about my journey of healing which has been on the back burner for awhile. Rest assured that a copy of it is tucked away in my archives even as I type.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for the many lessons my mom taught me which have given me things like cooking and reading to love and share with my own kids.
2. I am grateful that I now have a big, wonderful bowl of gazpacho made with ingredients that could only be fresher if I got off my lazy butt and planted a garden of my own.
3. I am grateful for a couple of days spent getting things done for myself.
4. I am grateful for new beginnings. I don’t know where they’re leading or where I’m even supposed to start, but the fact that they’re here is all I need right now.
5. I am grateful for abundance: healthy food, love, happy memories, dreams, hopes, passion, motivation, projects, harmony, peace, friendship, health and prosperity.

Namaste

By the way, you can also find my Author page (I’m nothing if not optimistic) at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel Feel free to like and follow the page. I’ll be adding content slowly but surely.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: