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Choosing to Enjoy This Month of Chaos

You Say Chaos Like It’s A Bad Thing

I was thinking of the term “chaos” and how it can be seen as a negative where everything blows up and is destroyed, or as a positive whereby we’re shaken from our doldrums as pieces are tossed around and reassembled in unique ways we might never have discovered had we maintained the status quo. I’ve always had an affinity for The Tower in the Tarot because I saw it, not as destroying everything, but as a clearing of ground to rebuild on a stronger, more resilient foundation.

Sometimes, we have to shake up our lives to rearrange things for the better. And sometimes, the The Tower from the Spiral TarotUniverse does the shaking for us, either by pulling the rug out from under our feet, shredding our safety net, or putting us in a place where we have to make a choice whether we like it or not.

According to the Power Path School’s December forecast, creatives often weather chaos better than others, perhaps because we don’t define ourselves by a rigid set of rules. As a pantser rather than a plotter, I’m not only used to a certain amount of randomness in my life, but in fact, thrive on the unexpected plot twists and outcomes most of the time.

Setting Our Sights And Allowing

In some ways, I’ve trained myself to detach from the outcome. Instead, I toss my balls into the air, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicamullen/15936340893/in/photolist-qheUWa-6tvCyC-mfcahW-kF42vg-7aHRKn-dozSYs-upc1JR-5nU36i-6ZX1X8-9soFsZ-b6p5F2-dKgSFh-9soP3r-9GGyf-edzaxy-dKgQLq-4oLacT-9z49UC-aBS6db-kF5mTy-dbhFbp-83VBDF-JGdSxG-dKgR3q-dKbnZX-kF3i5M-kF2WWF-25sqyfg-kF3het-dKgU63-7121pw-dKbnLT-6ZXghB-7aMFFo-6ZXfye-a6G8a6-26PQPAR-ceZ3mw-7aF5cr-7aHRUn-kF3FwP-dKboVp-dKbj4F-3jqo8-dKbmgk-kF5cCu-dKgPvE-edzags-dKbjKc-dKbjtVoblivious to the force or direction of the wind, and trust they’ll fall exactly where they’re supposed to. If I’ve gained nothing else from the training, it’s a more stress-free life.

It doesn’t mean I don’t get thrown for a loop at times; a washer breaks down, a cat needs to go to the vet, I’m distracted and get caught speeding and have to pay a hefty fine. But now I don’t spend a lot of time stressing out over how I’m going to pay for it. If I have to put it on a credit card temporarily, I do it and do my best to avoid looking at the balance. I can only do what I can do, after all.

Meanwhile, I dream my dreams and set my goals, revisiting them frequently, not to try to control my trajectory, but to add details to make the outcome more real and emotion-packed. Then I turn it back over to the winds and allow them to toss the pieces around, breaking apart, rearranging, and ultimately building a better mousetrap than anything I could have cobbled together if left to my own devices.

Is It Fate, or Guidance?

Created with CanvaYou might ask “are you giving yourself over to fate, then; taking whatever you’re given, nothing more, nothing less?” The answer to that isn’t a simple yes or no. Imagine scattering colored chips across a map. some fall completely randomly, colors mixed up and in complete chaos. But some will fall in pockets of same-colored chips. Those formations are like a roadmap because they draw our attention by their seeming lack of randomness.

I look at my process as much the same. The places which seem to have some cohesiveness are pointing me towards the next step in my path; the next set of challenges I need to undertake in order to move closer to my goals. I could choose to ignore those signs and continue to drift around. That, too is a choice. Or I could pay attention and follow the path that’s laid out before me, trusting when I’ve accomplished the necessary tasks, another sign will appear showing me the way to my next set of challenges, meanwhile, bringing me still closer to those goals.

Listening to the Voices Within

In the process, I’ll likely fine-tune my goals as I get a clearer picture of the steps I need to take and the choices I need to make. But that’s the reason behind setting the goals and allowing the hows, the paths to show themselves to me. It means there are times when I’ll drift along, seeming to be riding a current not of my making. There are others where I’ll have to jump out of the current and dive head first into something I’m not entirely sure I can handle, but trusting help will arrive when I need it to keep me from going under.

Thus, I’m like the willow tree which bends and flexes in a storm, but doesn’t break though the wind flings it’s bows hither and yon. At times, I’m smacking myself in the face, or so it seems, because my limbs defy any attempt at control. Others, I stand still and unmoving, appearing to be waiting, but in fact, listening carefully for the next message, or quietly performing tasks which, to the outside world seem meaningless and mundane.

Embracing Opportunities to Accept Help

One of my biggest lessons has been learning to request and accept help. Only by following the trail of breadcrumbs will I find myself in situations where I have an opportunity to exercise what I’ve been learning. Only by practicing patience (another lifelong lesson) will I know when the time is right to ask and receive.

I had an opportunity to see those lessons bear some pretty wonderful fruit when my daughter, son-in-law and “adopted” son put together our 4th annual after-Thanksgiving feast. We all have our tasks to do, but in years past, I was the focal point for directing where things went and how they were placed. This time, I focused on my own responsibilities, gave instructions about what I wanted, and left it to the others to make it happen. The results were far better than the pictures in my head. Though I discovered later that as usual, I’d failed to put some of the food and drink I’d bought or made for the occasion out, nobody noticed the lack. Instead, everyone talked and laughed, and enjoyed each others’ company, which was the point of the event in the first place.

To the outside world, the four of us might have resembled a Chinese fire drill, running around, dodging furniture, and getting in each others’ way. But in reality, it was a finely tuned dance not unlike the wind tossing leaves into the air, to bring them down in beautiful patterns of brown and gold on lawns, roof tops, and sidewalks.

Breaking Down the Old, Rotted, and Obsolete

I’m looking forward to a chaos which will invariably knock down a few ancient structures leaving space to build stronger, more resilient foundations and structures in their place. The rigidity of my past has no place in my future. I’ll have enough to keep me busy stepping up to the next set of challenges without wasting time worrying about where to step next. I put my trust in the chaos which will clear a path for me when it’s time to move forward again. In the meantime, I am building my foundation and creating habits which will make me better able to weather the coming storms. Those storms are going to blow away a lot of debris which, even now, is cluttering my life and creating an obstacle course between me and what I need to do to make those dreams a reality.

Are You Ready to Embrace the Chaos?

How do you deal with chaos? Do you throw up your hands and look for someone or something to blame? Do you grab a shovel and a rake and start clearing the rubble so you can see what you have to work with? Do you work alone or grab a few friends to help make the job go quicker and the task seem lighter?

The way you choose to manage unexpected plot twists will determine your attitude and mood in the coming weeks and months. Of one thing I’m certain. The world is changing. The old, rigid, myopic ways which have been eroding slowly for decades are now being subjected to earthquakes and landslides which will either test their mettle or send them crashing down in a million tiny pieces. Only those willing and able to alter their course will ride this storm successfully. And by the way, bonus points for team work!

Immensely Grateful

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the lessons I’m finally learning; patience, community, asking for help.
  2. I am grateful for being able to look at the coming storms through the eyes of a child, wide-eyed with wonder, and excited about the possibilities.
  3. I am grateful for finally recognizing and appreciating what happens when I let go and allow others to play a part too.
  4. I am grateful for my community, my friends, my family. They teach me new things all the time.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, life, friendship, joy, peace, harmony, productivity, insights, inspiration, motivation, health, 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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Acknowledging the Right to Grieve

Telling Ourselves We Have No Right to Grieve

I’m no stranger to grief. I’ve had enough opportunities in my life where it was not only appropriate but necessary. But I’m no stranger to suppressing or denying my grief either. When each of my parents died, I made thousands of excuses to keep going on, business as usual while I broke into a million little pieces inside. I convinced myself the grief wasn’t necessary and got in the way of doing the things I was supposed to. In a lot of ways, both my family and Society had trained me well—too well.

I mistakenly believed, especially in my mother’s case I didn’t really deserve to grieve since she and I had such a contentious relationship. Feeling relief for one less stressful component in my life when she died made it easier to believe I had no right to grieve because it wasn’t a loss at all. Or so I believed.

Grief Has No Comparison

In the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit grief, and my ability to justify denying my right to grieve. I watched while people lost their homes, their lives, their pets. I sat glued to the television in horror while a dozen people I knew mostly in passing were gunned down by a man who ultimately took his own life.

I’ve watched as parents buried their children, families buried their fathers, husbands, sons, and daughters. I ache for them all, yet the voices inside me tell me I have no right to grieve because the pain I feel from losing the place I dance and gather with friends, albeit temporarily, is nothing compared to what they’ve lost.

When Our Hearts Connect

Yet it’s more than the loss of a place because Borderline Bar and Grill has always been more than merely a place to dance. As stories are shared of celebrations, of countless marriages which came about because of meetings at that particular place, of families sharing, of connections that last for years, even when people move away; I realize not only for me, but for thousands of others, it became a home. We came together, some as friends, others as strangers, and became a family connected at the heart.

Even as so many communicate only by text message or social media, it’s been a place where cell phones are put down, if only for a few minutes, and connections are made on the dance floor, doing something that brings joy not only to the dancers, but to those on the sidelines watching.

Hitting Close to Home

We didn’t just lose people on November 7th. Even those we didn’t know well were familiar, comforting faces we saw every week. Some helped maintain order and kept the place friendly and the dance floor safe. Others were a smiling face that greeted us or served us food and drinks, raising our spirits no matter how the day had gone. No matter what role they played, they were familiar faces; people we’d come to know by sight, and who, in their own way, brought joy into the place by their very presence. But more, they were part of a family which shared in each others’ successes, commiserated when jobs or family were lost, celebrated birthdays, weddings, births, anniversaries…

Right now, the whole family is grieving. Maybe not in the same way as parents who are burying children way too soon, or fathers who had only just begun to realize dreams, or brothers who were always there to lend a hand when the road got rough. But we grieve for the huge gashes in the fabric of our family and for the pain those close to them are suffering right now. It might not be our own pain, but the pain is soul deep anyway because our family has been violated.

A Need to Justify the Unjustifiable

Still, I fight the feeling that my loss is comparatively small when I look at the people who lost a father, a child, a best friend. As part of the extended family, though, I feel the pain of unshed tears, of unanswered questions, of grief that like mine can find no outlet. I feel even more strongly the connection between me and my fellow human beings.

There is also the unpopular and often sidestepped grief for the shooter and his family as he is repeatedly denounced and excluded from the memorials as being unworthy of mention or inclusion in a group of people who, in many cases were heroes trying to make the world better, or sacrificing themselves so others would be safe, or simply a smiling face lifting the spirits of everyone around them. But I believe we as a society failed him as we fail others who feel detached and disconnected.

Digging Deep to Find Our Compassion

Admittedly, it isn’t easy to reach out to people who are continually angry or depressed. They’re harder to be around, more difficult to love, and sometimes impossible to understand. Some isolate themselves, then blame their isolation on society, and rightfully so. Even in a family, you often have to fit in first before you can start showing your broken parts. Some people are so broken, they believe the only way they can hide those uncomfortable parts is by staying within their own four walls.

I’ve been that person, though never with murderous intent. I’ve been alone and angry with the entire world, yet desperate to belong somewhere, in need of comfort that wasn’t forthcoming. But I was fortunate. I learned to find and be my happy self until I found acceptance and windows of opportunity to allow the chinks in my armor to widen and eventually break off in chunks. I’ve opened up too much to the wrong people to be sent scuttling back into my shell to lick my wounds and regroup. But thankfully, I’ve never spent so much time inside my own head where those wounds fester and infect my entire being. Too many aren’t as lucky as I’ve been.

Helping Each Other Unlock Our Self-Imposed Prison Doors

Still, the grief continues to be locked inside me. I still feel I need justification to share my grief with those Created with Canvawho’ve lost so much more. Even in the privacy of my own home, I’ve yet to shed more than a few tears, though many more are dammed up inside me waiting for an opportunity to flow.

The walls I reinforced after my mom swallowed too many sleeping pills, and again after my dad put a gun to his head to end his pain are no longer the insurmountable edifices they once were. Some came crashing down with the violence of a 7.0 earthquake. Others have slowly dissolved into dust. Clearly, some still remain if I believe I need justification to grieve this latest loss. As I look around, I see others who struggle to grieve, to understand, and who continue to wrangle with the right to be compassionate with themselves.

I realize we all have a right to grieve, but in some ways, it’s also a responsibility. We have to release the pain, the anger, the confusion so we can begin to heal. Without healing ourselves, we can’t help others begin the long journey from a place of immeasurable pain to where they can start to feel those angels on their shoulder who are never truly gone.

Finding the Gratitude in the Grief

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my writing which is a constant source of comfort and release during a time when the news and faces around me are a long chain of tragedy and loss.
  2. I am grateful for my friends who are connecting more strongly and deeply than ever, though I wish it didn’t have to involve so much loss.
  3. I am grateful for all the people who have come forward to support others, even mainly strangers in time of need. It gives me hope for the overall human condition.
  4. I am grateful for compassion. We need more of it. We need to recognize how much more valuable it is than power or control.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; compassion, love, connection, support, family, opportunities, soul searching, recognizing each others’ hearts, peace, hope, harmony, health, 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.

We Are Stronger As A Community

Our Community is Our Family

Jesse Watrous PhotographyIn tragedy, families pull together. Not only families by blood, but families formed of a mutual love for something or someplace. My family is formed of people who dance, and specifically, people who dance at Borderline Bar and Grill.

By the time you’re reading this, a few weeks will have passed since the terrible tragedy which shook our home to it’s very foundation. And perhaps it’s for the best that I schedule my posts 2-3 weeks ahead these days. When this publishes, services will have been held, good-byes will have been said, and displaced dancers, with the help of an amazingly supportive community will have found temporary places to gather, dance, and do what we do best; hug each other, not only with our arms but with our hearts.

Too Many Internalize Their Pain Until They Explode

I’ve been through  my share of tragedies over the years; some personal, others affecting my community. https://www.flickr.com/photos/anieto2k/8156999698/in/photolist-dqNKPQ-8xXrZz-a2tqF7-ecib3q-aR5rxR-23UMduh-aWLsg4-aQ6X3p-dTTc5c-dcyQ5m-b1FLUp-drS8ZF-bsmN5R-nNhBzE-6ssEeg-9jEcfZ-aVXtzx-j6LK2o-aNpZyT-dCTfD3-dvswdt-b3pgdi-dtXu4B-6LJawW-8CFHEg-8aL7Jf-hDdmuC-anA578-cPoDxo-9qmjuQ-dtXueV-qsdJSm-dqq1i2-2cGG4pp-dqq1sP-hp14Hw-cbnjHE-7bv7xs-chavXC-7uLgNT-8E3GL9-ar7X3y-aai6ME-nt1LXG-gZvg1N-S1DgTf-8kUop7-6532HD-exeWcJ-di6ynQI’ve learned healing is more profound, more deep-set when the process is shared with others. I learned the hard way that internalizing pain makes it fester and grow until it eventually comes out in an explosion, and for some, with disastrous consequences.

Our world is home to far too many lonely, broken people and their pain turns to anger and hate when the media continually spews angry and false messages from every orifice. I can see how someone who is already despondent and alone can be stirred to acts of violence. They know it won’t assuage their pain or their feelings of disonnectedness, but they lash out in the only way they know how. Such was likely the case for the young man who killed 12 people he probably didn’t even know on November 7, 2018 in the quiet little town of Thousand Oaks, California.

I’m torn between anger at the way he invaded our home and took lives he had no right to take, and compassion for someone who was so desperately unhappy, so alone that the hate-filled messages spewing from media, both traditional and social fueled a fire inside him that deadened his already dysfunctional moral compass. He is just one more symptom of a society that is severely broken; that neglects those who need our care and compassion the most.

Sometimes, We Simply Have To Be There For Our Family

I don’t have any answers right now. The pain so many of my friends and family are feeling is often overwhelming to me, as it is to the rest of the Empaths and HSP’s around here. We have, not only the murders in our own home to process, but loss of life and property from two wildfires which began before the dust could clear, or the murder investigation finish. Many of my extended family were displaced, albeit temporarily. Some may have lost their homes. We’ve all been affected, either by being evacuated, or taking someone in.

The common thread, though, is keeping everyone together. Several Facebook groups have sprung up, a number of group messages are alive and well, text messages are burning up the phone lines. In short, we’re all reaching out to each other in this time of pain and confusion because it’s what families and communities do.

Connection Is a Learned Skill

I understand to some extent how many feel disconnected because I was one of them not long ago. https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisyarzab/40513877112/in/photolist-24J5dbC-xLBnC-qDMybP-8uuvzF-er1tf-8S5Btn-5NYfwV-LihYBt-g4kBQ-S442nL-ceYb9U-g5JpWL-jTQZz6-cfHP9u-fauq5P-ahCCN2-isiMDz-6ViLeY-2EJXG4-HC2MUT-BU26S-5jegSL-VYGMA1-5j9Xzn-eB4adY-nBPSrp-5j9ZhH-dkoQLa-nbdfPZ-4FD4L1-dZ3Vjx-mbSGYM-dsW4Bs-6w75Kx-7sZRqK-8KRTG2-Mysc7N-LM2cLA-eXrUyD-faz3Az-dAR84B-8S8Fa7-7hKbWd-pYwhq-z2MhH-6jxdb7-261SwZS-ee4Pp7-vv8vw-8TKhq3Connecting with other people is a scary proposition when you’re used to living behind mile-high walls and wearing masks to cover up your true feelings. Admitting you’re not strong enough to handle all of life’s challenges alone is terrifying because you have no idea how people will react. You expect ridicule, abuse, and humiliation rather than love, compassion, understanding, and support, so you don’t reach out.

I’m one of the lucky ones. Something, or in truth, a lot of someone’s managed to detach me from the death grip I had on my walls and showed me my worst fears would not come to pass. I found love, compassion, and common ground from people who, themselves, had faced their own challenges. I learned none of us have storybook lives. We all have to face things which test our strength, and learn those challenges are more easy to face when we have a support system to hold us up when our strength falters.

Without a support system; a community it’s easier to entrench ourselves in a sea of misery than to reach out and get smacked down for our efforts. Unfortunately, in that place of despair, we often attract those who aren’t kind or caring. Our worst fears are realized because we attract others who are angry and displaced, and who are looking for someone or something to take their pain out on.

Communities Supporting Other Communities

Photo: David Derong/Iowa State DailyThough I wasn’t directly affected by the fires or the shooting, the outpouring of support I received from many directions was both unexpected and heartwarming. Even now, as services, fund raisers, and vigils are held for the victims and the survivors, and I’m overwhelmed by heavy emotions on all sides, that support system I’m still somewhat amazed to find is there when I flounder.

Above all, the despair, discouragement, and depression I suffered in my 40’s and part of my 50’s has become a land I remember with no fondness, and where I have no desire to return. Not only have I opened my own heart to many, I’ve been privileged to have many hearts open to me as well.

I find myself wishing at times I’d figured all this out sooner. Yet I know I figured it out at exactly the right time. I had to have those experiences; some of them rather horrific, in order to be absolutely certain I’d do whatever it took to avoid returning to the sad, disconnected, angry woman I once was. If nothing else, I prefer the people I attract these days, and the ability to recognize the occasional narcissist who wanders into range, and detach before he/she gains a foothold to suck my soul energy as I allowed too many times before. I’ve learned I owe it, not only to myself, but to my extended family to be strong and whole; able to be part of a synergy which receives when they need it and gives back when they don’t.

Receiving vs. Taking

That’s pretty much the key. Learning to receive rather than take. It’s a concept I struggled with for a long

time because I didn’t understand there was a difference. But there definitely is. We receive when we are an integral part of a cycle; a kind of chain. Sometimes we’re the giver and others, by receiving, they allow us to give. But we must also reverse our position at times without feeling we’re taking advantage of the givers. We’re simply part of a balanced relationship where everyone feels appreciated, respected, and most of all, cherished.

I cannot properly express how grateful I am to be part of this loving, synergistic family and community. It’s one of the rare occasions when words fail me, and only heartfelt hugs can communicate what I feel.

#BorderlineStrong #CountryStrong #LineDancing #TwoStepping #DanceCommunity

Grateful For Everyone In My Ever-Expanding Family

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful beyond words for my dance family.
  2. I am grateful for the outpouring of support and the opportunities to be supportive myself.
  3. I am grateful for love that is infinite and endless.
  4. I am grateful for hearts which have become one; strong, powerful, resilient, and unyielding when faced with life’s challenges.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, friendship, family, community, support, dancing, footprints in the sand, health, peace, 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.

Seeing Improvements, Ignoring Flaws

Focusing on the Improvements

Created in CanvaLately I’ve found myself standing in front of the mirror and instead of seeing all the places in my body and face where I could use some improvements I’m seeing all the progress I’ve made.

Not only is the change of outlook uplifting instead of demoralizing, it motivates me to continue doing the things which contributed to the improvements. Best of all is the change in attitude which has me standing taller, walking more purposefully, and pushing myself to do more; increase the weights more frequently at the gym, do the heavier household tasks I’ve been putting off, drinking more water (5 gallons in about 4 days!), and getting up from my desk more frequently.

Yet the improved viewpoint with regard to my physical self also serves to amplify areas where I have work to do. It enables me to recognize the voices in my head telling me I’m not ready for certain kinds of work, and that there’s a very real chance I’ll let my clients down. I can say to those voices: I’ve achieved things I never thought possible physically, and at an age when most people are noticing their bodies are weakening and becoming less flexible. In many ways, I’ve reversed my own aging process. If I can do that, I can handle whatever I choose to take on, or, as happens often, what’s thrown at me.

Achieving the Impossible by Stretching Our Muscles

Everyone is capable of the impossible as soon as they realize the word can be re-read as “I’m Possible”. Once we recognize the impossible things we’ve already accomplished, we simply need to look at everything else we deem impossible and see how we overcame our own limitations and succeeded, often in extraordinary ways.

When I started managing my gym time and created a regular routine, I had only recently recovered from a herniated disk in my neck. I was unable to lift more than a couple of pounds with my left arm, and then, only a few times. Now, I’m doing chest presses with 35-pound free weights, 50 pound overhead presses, and shoulder lifts with 15 pound free weights. What makes these achievements more amazing is they’ve happened in about 8 months just by being persistent and consistent.

Writing and building a business use a different kind of muscles but muscles nonetheless. They need to be exercised and challenged to do more and do better. I look at what I wrote when I first returned to regular writing 9 years ago after a hiatus of several decades. While it wasn’t bad and my skills were still intact, I can clearly see how it improves over time when I exercise, not only the writing muscles, but those which have allowed me to chip away at walls decades in the making.

Detaching Ourselves from Outdated Lessons

Whatever we undertake which takes us out of our comfort zone is part of our journey and, as such doesn’t have a completion date. We continue to learn and grow, improving our skills and strengthening our muscles as we take on more and more, going beyond what we thought ourselves capable of when we began. The lessons we learned from early childhood forward are interwoven into our psyches and the root system is deeply embedded. We might pull some things out by the roots, but tendrils remain, intertwined with lessons we learned or revisited further along our path.

Like knots in a cord, we untangle things one at a time, often finding bits and pieces of other things interwoven like threads making up the cord itself. With each knot we untie, we uncover dozens of directions we might take to find the next one in the series. There’s no wrong direction or incorrect answer. Only more lessons to rework and, in some cases, unlearn.

Seeking Our Beauty in the Flaws

By far the most important of those lessons involves the way we see and judge ourselves. Until we https://www.flickr.com/photos/geekphysical/34110702621/in/photolist-TYfjPn-TYfjA6-SW9mjv-TYfhFV-nfDXTT-TzQShS-U7cbG3-TYfeGt-SW9q7a-TYffM4-TYfj3T-TYfgur-TzQSHS-U7cdRy-SW9oDR-SW9poM-UaL182-SW9rkH-SW9pEP-r9jQNK-U7ceT3-TYfhAp-TVUzJW-TYfhxt-TYfjgP-TzQM83-UaL13c-TYfeJn-UaL13x-UaL5av-TYfeRM-SW9oAz-SW9qAB-TYfhND-TzQPph-TVUyuw-p57Yrr-FjQDuX-TYffBp-TYfdzZ-UaL2kT-TzQSvY-U7cde1-UaL1Ux-TYffjF-TzQPku-TYfmMRrecognize the beauty in our differences, the value in what we unconsciously deemed flaws, it’s difficult to make progress untying those knots; unearthing the roots. Certainly, we could go about it violently, poisoning the roots and burning the cord. But doing so wouldn’t really alter our thinking or rework the triggers we’ve created through years of living life, falling down, getting hurt, and getting back up again.

We have to approach them as we might a timid animal, making it clear we mean the child within no harm. Otherwise we cling to those old ways, our preferred ways of reacting like a security blanket, refusing to let go no matter how old, filthy, and threadbare they’ve become. Taking the time to untie the knots carefully, we enable ourselves to see how and why they were formed, and where they are no longer necessary. Most importantly, we get to see how the strength we’ve developed has made so many of those old patterns unnecessary. We recognize how strong we’ve become and how much we’ve accomplished by handling the old wounds gently, cleaning them out and allow them to fully heal.

Our Kinder, Gentler Selves

A major part of our gentler handling of those old wounds comes from being willing and able to look at ourselves through kinder eyes with more realistic expectations. From a less lofty and unforgiving place, we see how far we’ve come, how much we’ve improved, and how clear our path is to continued improvement and previously impossible goals. In other words, by seeing how much we’ve improved rather than how much we need to work on.

We’ll always have room for improvement, if only because we, ourselves keep raising the bar the further along we get. We don’t necessarily do it consciously, but because we see that something is attainable and challenge ourselves to do even more. It’s normal and natural, and inspires us, as long as we don’t set the bar so high we can’t see any possible way of achieving our new goals. We need both confidence and hope in this journey we call “life”.

Gratefully Facing Each Day We’re Given

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the dance community which continues to amaze me with the love and support they share so freely.
  2. I am grateful for butt kicks. Even when they’re administered gently, they get me up and moving forward so I can achieve and attain all I have the talent and ability to achieve.
  3. I am grateful for friends who come together in good times and bad, ready to help each other over life’s humps and bumps.
  4. I am grateful for my home, my sanctuary where I can go to regroup when life becomes too challenging for me to handle without some respite.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, life, friendship, solidarity, support, inspiration, motivation, opportunities to step out of my comfort zone, people who allow me to give and take instead of either or, strength both physical and emotional, joy, 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.

Time to Re-set Our Triggers

Recognizing Reactions Are Our Triggers

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anieto2k/8156999698/in/photolist-dqNKPQ-8xXrZz-a2tqF7-ecib3q-aR5rxR-23UMduh-aWLsg4-aQ6X3p-dTTc5c-dcyQ5m-b1FLUp-drS8ZF-bsmN5R-nNhBzE-6ssEeg-9jEcfZ-aVXtzx-j6LK2o-aNpZyT-dCTfD3-dvswdt-b3pgdi-dtXu4B-6LJawW-8CFHEg-8aL7Jf-hDdmuC-anA578-cPoDxo-9qmjuQ-dtXueV-qsdJSm-dqq1i2-2cGG4pp-dqq1sP-hp14Hw-cbnjHE-7bv7xs-chavXC-7uLgNT-8E3GL9-ar7X3y-aai6ME-nt1LXG-gZvg1N-S1DgTf-8kUop7-6532HD-exeWcJ-di6ynQThis morning, I got a wake up call in the form of a kick in the pants, virtually. Upon reading a friend’s post which started “after my morning bible study” I caught myself thinking disdainful, unkind, and utterly unwarranted thoughts. Catching myself in those thoughts, I pulled up short and asked: how is morning bible study any different from my own practice of writing morning pages? I had to answer honestly that it’s no different, any more than praying is different from my practice of meditating.

How we do what we do isn’t nearly as important as the fact we take time to listen and learn every day. What does it matter that some people use a book or listen to someone they respect, or call the source of their guidance by a name I don’t choose to recognize? They’re doing something which ultimately makes them treat others with more compassion, and treat themselves respectfully too.

The thought stream continued as I chopped vegetables for the large bowl of salad I like to keep in my refrigerator to ensure at least part of what I eat is healthy. I started thinking about the friends who are on the opposite side of the ring in today’s political arena. All too often, I’ll find myself thinking How can they possibly believe that way given everything that’s being said and done these days?

We’re the Same When You Peel Away the Layers

Suddenly, I wanted to laugh like a loon. I realized from their point of view, my beliefs are equally https://www.flickr.com/photos/clairity/4847776412/in/photolist-8oo82W-5u6siD-5EVfmX-66Pp7M-6BmYQy-grdRmN-bN9Ufi-93zViS-5DfL4c-iWDSjP-8HFwE4-4jbLhS-4YdUrM-h8fjzx-9vsNWK-bNdaHc-8GMmUx-5P4TdC-6k8szn-Gunqy-7eff1x-8qXuYJ-7cQkpq-615Wz9-8L878U-6XwDvd-dgyjH-271b9a6-5y8ShS-4BtgT2-9LVvuW-5RB2Yq-5MAW7q-7RTDqt-bDGfkZ-21JcFzu-2cy6EDS-55cWM3-2cufUke-dACBpV-aEej5W-q6iNyc-otsMXj-pdNrXJ-cbmBYW-8YxiU2-5rKVFb-pQA94L-avZUVo-2jFJNCunfathomable. Nevertheless, we’re friends and don’t see a need to argue our points. In fact, most of the time, when a hot issue is raised by someone who sees things opposite from the way I do, I’ll either make an innocuous comment before going silent, or, if the conversation continues with others who agree with them, I’ll find the opportunity to slip away.

I’ve learned, often the hard way that when our belief in something or someone has any kind of emotional trigger, it’s unlikely either side will be able to look at things through the eyes of the other. Even now as many people are claiming the economy is in better shape than ever, I look at the latest drop in stock values, or I want to ask what the current poverty level sits at. What are the major indicators which point to a healthy or weak economy, and do they consider factors for all economic levels, or just the ones deemed worthy of measurement? I know my disbelief has a strong basis in my emotional reactions to factors indirectly related to the economy. As such, I need a whole lot more than someone telling me things are better. And, I’m embarrassed to admit, it would have to come from a source I feel (not believe as it’s a purely emotional response) is reputable, preferably with facts and figures I can verify myself.

We all have our biases, no matter how hard we try not to. Even as many are trying to present both sides, their sources are typically ones they trust, and rarely a source they don’t. As such, they too are biased in what they choose to share. I’ve learned there’s no such thing as a completely unbiased opinion or report when it comes to the media, or humans for that matter. I’ve tried to counteract the bias somewhat by looking at the same story as told by a source with whom I have faith, as well as a source I have mentally deemed the bearer of fake news. When both sides agree (which actually does happen) on the recounting of a fact, I tend to conclude there’s more of a likelihood the information is valid than if each side told a completely different story.

Pause to Respond Instead of React

It isn’t always easy to step back and not try to argue a point, or question words used, or have a knee-jerk reaction to something I oppose on a visceral level. I’m learning it’s often a matter of pausing for a few seconds to allow my brain to engage, allowing me to respond rather than react. In that brief span of time, I can not only consider the words, but the speaker, and formulate a response which won’t incite an unnecessary argument.

It’s often impossible to tell why someone poses a question on a topic they know is highly emotional. Sometimes, they honestly want to understand how others feel. Others, they want to start a debate. There might also be a need on their part to see how many people are on the same page they are, and with whom they can openly “discuss” a subject they already agree on. My goal right now is to avoid getting sucked in if their purpose is anything other than the first one. To ensure my success, a pause is crucial because if I allow the first thing I think of to come out of my mouth, I’ve already undermined any opportunity I might have had to understand another point of view.

Creating Safe Zones With Our Experiences

I talk about a lot of sensitive subjects these days and endeavor to be a safe zone where those topics can be discussed by others who have been through similar challenges without fear of judgement or worse, the listener trying to fix something that isn’t broken in the traditional sense of the word. Quite often, a discussion ensues for the sole purpose of feeling support from our community.

We open up to people about our lives to enable connection. Sharing what isn’t perfect in our lives lets others know we have parts of ourselves we’re working on, just like they do. Sharing is like a door into our world. The door is an empathic connection between hearts. When one heart is closed, the door won’t open because the connection is missing and the corresponding door may not even exist.

Walls That Isolate Us

When we’ve been hurt or traumatized, we build walls to protect ourselves. In the moment, we don’t think about creating a way for people to come in and out. We’re simply trying to block out the pain and discomfort. We build walls without gates; houses without doors and windows. Only when we’ve built up some scar tissue do we realize we omitted something important. Then we have to decide whether a bit of demolition to correct the oversight is worth the pain we know we’ll endure by cracking the edifice we constructed so intensely in a moment when we were all feelings and no logic.

Knocking out a hole in the wall to make room for a door means releasing some of the pent-up pain we walled in during construction. With no guarantee that whoever is on the other side will be gentle with the flood of feelings, we huddle behind the wall, often imagining the worst. We believe only what comes to us from people and places we trust implicitly.

Endure Initial Pain to Re-set our Triggers

The trouble is, we huddle behind those pain-induced walls for so many reasons. We isolate ourselves from the mainstream of life without even realizing it. We do it every time we close our minds to how similar we are, despite our disagreement on what we believe are monumental issues. If we stopped to realize how similar we are, we’d never have to withhold our feelings again.

What we believe to the depths of our souls might not be the same, but how we came by those beliefs, if taken down to the basic components is exactly the same. It’s a crazy mix of what we read, what we hear, what we’ve been taught by example, and what triggers are set off inside us which filter how we process stimuli that has our neurons working overtime trying to keep up.

If you ask me, it’s not the beliefs we need to relax our death grip on. Instead, we need to go back and revisit the birth of our triggers and reprogram them. We need to find a compassion for ourselves we walled away during times of stress. When we accept ourselves as works in progress, we’ll find it easier to accept others with their differences of opinion, their areas of strength and weakness, and triggers of their own much more easily. I’ve always believed that if we learn to love ourselves, we extend that love to others effortlessly. Now, more than ever, I believe it’s true, because I see far too much self-loathing, buried deep within every one of us.

Many of us have come a long way on the road to self-acceptance, but have places deep inside that still fight our efforts to love ourselves unconditionally. An organism or being which loves itself unconditionally doesn’t need to react from an emotional place of hurt and insecurity because they’ve loved the hurt and insecurity away.

Start with Gratitude

My gratitudes today are;

  1. I am grateful for virtual but kicks.
  2. I am grateful I can laugh at my own foibles and backwards steps.
  3. I am grateful I’m learning to love myself unconditionally, and give up on the idea of perfection.
  4. I am grateful for the people in my life who love and support me, and know I don’t expect them to agree with me on everything. In fact, I’d prefer they didn’t.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; inspiration, motivation, excitement, anticipation, joy, love, friendship, encouragement, opportunities, new people, harmony, peace, health, 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.

Products That Fuel Our Fear and Distrust

When Fear and Distrust Become Our Version of Normal

I recently saw a commercial for a tiny, cube-shaped camera you could hide anywhere in your home, and my initial feeling was how easily some of the creepier people could make use of such a device. I’m sure my reaction was triggered by a recent exposé about a man who rented out his place through Air B n B and had cameras hidden in smoke detectors in the bedrooms. To have a device promoted on national television, especially late at night made me think their target audience was lonely creeps looking for a way to be even creepier.

In my lifetime alone, there have been huge technological advances. Sadly, with those advances come people who will use them to do harm rather than good. We hear stories every day about how the devices we depend on; cell phones, computers, web cams, even home security systems can be hacked and used against us. Even our social media accounts are being hacked on a regular basis. How many can say their Facebook account has never been hacked or cloned? I can’t count myself into that perhaps elite group, as mine has been infiltrated at least once that I know of.

1984 Is Here And Now

Many years ago, before we developed our dependence on technology, I heard the phrase “the right toolhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/genomegov/27861478565/in/photolist-36R456-TVEoV3-7Wybvd-4WUnY9-5fFekL-UxPtrE-JXsDow-JXsDFW-5xxC-i6g81S-pj2KGy-RqtEwb-3bW8wG-aiBE4-21HP7o-7WuXxi-a87gs-v23FG1-e5Ta5U-8hAaU2-7CJgqt-4RTmW-6VGoa4-21HP7G-bKycpP-bwDtbf-rBr5w5-Js2mU6-4RTmT-bKycvn-6nNpdg-dtid4-5hSULN-8qeqEZ-vi6Sx1-vi6iuY-v2adQn-vi6nRJ-vi5UuQ-v23BpL-umARN9-v23yrQ-umAZaJ-wkdd7E-daLc3v-bwDtvf-aLErhv-a3Giyp-9oXUVB-7S9ue4 in the wrong hands can be dangerous”. I had no idea how true those words would become a few decades later. George Orwell wasn’t as naive as me, penning his famous work, 1984 40 years earlier, in 1944.

Certainly, the world was in turmoil when he wrote his story about misuse of power, as nearly everyone was involved in one way or another with WWII. But he took it many steps further, predicting technology which was in its infancy in 1944. Though the first television came out in 1927, video was strictly a one-way device and remained so for several more decades.

It’s been many years since I read the book, but some things have stuck with me, including the very real, and no longer fantastic idea that the government manipulates the media and controls our actions and behavior through the very real fear of being caught doing something unsanctioned, and by the reality that they could very well be watching us through our own devices. Even a summary of the book brings chills to my heart as I recognize how real it’s become in recent years.

Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a dystopian novel published in 1949 by English author George Orwell. The novel is set in the year 1984 when most of the world population have become victims of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and propaganda.

Another Example of Literature Predicting a Frightening Future

https://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/8566082872/in/photolist-e3Xq11-MsNvQk-dv9FzM-7GEGRT-79Vh6t-TeFmnV-tc6QsT-GJgW42-M6H62C-C2DtXo-hgL6i-6BHmqV-3nMBf-5cenpX-hu7jwg-gUAiV-dv9zbT-o5spb-9X1hHQ-f1LPTi-tHgDCn-6c8u59-cb9Aw-buNJ7-4mcxZX-bptvUE-id9KHn-dLhooh-7biuYV-HqAmqQ-w9VKa6-aAd1yw-jDmWyM-nt1FUe-2bEfutp-eUUztm-gpzGWG-qMF7Tg-oKX1j8-57zi41-5zUrRX-ebeScj-8Nw8uX-rcrMum-f4A53y-osfPWC-XBuPjN-7unYFj-79jefq-fUGUR1/What Mr. Orwell couldn’t predict was how the widespread use of technology would make it so easy for people to spy on each other and invade someone’s privacy completely undetected. It occurs to me if Hitler had had today’s technology, he might have succeeded in his nefarious schemes. And certain people who revere him and his actions today may be on a trajectory which could allow them to succeed where he did not.

I’ve reached a point where I believe being disconnected, even for an hour or so is a good thing, both for our health and sanity, but also for those who seek to influence and maybe even control our thoughts and actions. The media is being used to stir up anger and hate instead of simply reporting the news from an unbiased position. In fact, there is no longer a place where the unbiased truth can be found.

Conversations are recorded or videos taken. They are edited or re-engineered to tell an entirely different story, making use of people’s triggers to generate support, aggression, fear, or any number of knee-jerk reactions which ultimately damage our society and everyone in it. We have the technology to tell a story any way we want to, with “proof” from something we’ve recorded. Unless you’re well-versed in the signs which tell when something has been altered, you have no way of knowing if what you’re seeing or hearing is in context or not.

Using Our Tools to Twist the Truth Beyond Recognition

I heard the technique used during the latest round of political campaigns. One candidate obtained a recording of his opponent having what was touted as a private conversation. His techs took a few sound bites, put them in a different order, and basically instructed us to hear what they wanted us to hear. As a natural skeptic, especially when it comes to politicians, I heard it for what it was; a cheap attack on the opponent using technology and spin to twist and sully what was probably a perfectly innocent and innocuous conversation.

What’s especially discouraging is how often we allow ourselves to be manipulated and exposed by amoral people who only want their own way. The sick, twisted, lonely, and maladjusted have access to things which make it easy to join the movement to steal our privacy and, frankly, drive us mad with misinformation and excessive stimuli.

Preying on Our Oblivion

Is it any wonder people were oblivious to one person’s voyeurism until one tech-savvy individual noticed https://www.flickr.com/photos/mamnaimie/8680429035/in/photolist-ee4t8z-cNjy5-oKBJYc-7tRBmg-7dpdWv-buv1Nu-aDa4AY-51uTxq-fRQgnM-7zy4Hg-ceoS1-5u6JJ6-8JFHxV-7zy4Be-ceox3-apMg6S-bR4un-dq9xPC-4zmBQJ-hPY7A8-3bZjT7-daFcd2-6ZUq3Z-27uhQ9f-r7LzYM-K5keCM-L2RZSV-dg2mJw-2bFvdJJ-i63E4D-h9hrmr-JBNmhV-7pv8vg-f8R7b2-bj66S-rBh74r-DGtb3m-EkjWM8-dg2mfg-AcSwRy-26RUBUZ-fJwZNH-prZ4C3-23RFdN8-bj6mk-8zSsSY-defSSm-4Kx1jx-pEcuwd-eiC5SUa small, almost imperceptible blinking light inside a smoke detector where it had no business being? How many warning signs do the rest of us miss because we remain trusting? How often do we take advantage of alternatives which simplify our lives or cost less, leaving us exposed to people whose moral compasses are broken?

Are any of our moral compasses pointing to true north any more? Have we all been so inured to broken trust and a right to know that we see nothing wrong with hidden cameras, cell phone videos, and truth-twisting for our own agendas? Or have we been victimized into trusting no one, isolating ourselves in a place where walls built of paranoia soar high above our heads blocking out all that once made us human; once allowed us to connect without fear?

Depending on Electronics Instead of Our Perfectly Good Brains

I look at how I reacted on a day when a website I use to track my food and exercise went down for a few hours. I fell completely off track (though thankfully, not as badly as I thought I had) because I didn’t have the electronic means of controlling what I should be able to do on my own. My dependency on an app left me alone and drifting until I could once again connect and make sure I adhered to the nutritional goals I’d set.

What I see is self-brainwashing. We convince ourselves we can’t follow healthy habits without some kind of electronic affirmation we’re doing the right thing. We need validation and recognition from a faceless, voiceless, emotionless app instead of finding all of those things within ourselves.

Perhaps that’s why I need 30 minutes at the beginning of my day to go “old school” and write a few pages using nothing more than a pen and spiral notebook. Or why I try to set aside an hour or so a week to get away from my computer, again with pen and notebook to write somewhere different, be it a cafe, a park, the beach, or even my front porch.

Those few minutes every day, that hour or so a week are in some ways my personal protest about the direction we’re going. Though I’m not immune to the shiny objects which make my life easier, nor are my emotions detached from the barrage of inflammatory information inundating me from all directions, I can at least disengage for a little while every day and perhaps release some of the toxicity I absorb simply by being too connected; too available; too exposed.

Making Time Every Day to Be Grateful

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my moments of disconnection.
  2. I am grateful I still have choices, though I fear those choices are being restricted more and more.
  3. I am grateful for a life of my own making. I fumble and fall often, but I pick myself up and learn from why I fell or what I tripped over.
  4. I am grateful my parents taught me to think and read, and learn instead of accepting everything I see and hear as gospel. I don’t always get it right, but at least I’m still willing to listen, most of the time right now, but I’m working towards a place of understanding, compassion, and non-judgement. Whether I find it in this lifetime is anyone’s guess.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, compassion, understanding, open-mindedness, inspiration, unity, peace, health, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity for all.

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.

Judging Us By Our Outside Packaging

Judging on Looks Alone

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenwalton/17392785562/in/photolist-suWzc9-U1NXcb-XmjtCz-ed6kDh-24cGXED-zvNtw-22hdaT5-bnJAmT-29fwg6w-LeUtLe-28yjcKQ-29yKVqS-Zb4Czw-W3tEvE-W3j5Pq-25x3t69-28xQ2mC-G9mvwr-8B5AY-oAW92o-26oKdUj-27arySt-4RRRF-eRZ2Bz-vno6N-pNuMcR-bu8ZCf-b25rgp-qybkvh-8EJH9F-4drg3M-Gc4PnH-s6rhjo-5tu11t-pokUf-26gCo3c-7RnzT6-5ZrAGk-2436Pw7-7aoRuc-qsPPki-HeAyJc-5sJFgL-7Dje8Z-22ZDBAn-qQCAvU-5uSc-21sAW6c-WWzhBC-o89HnThere’s a lot of talk these days about the damage we do judging people by the way they look, whether it’s something that’s seemingly fixable like clothing or hygiene, or a physical trait such as skin color, ethnicity, or a disability.

Years ago, I was in a pretty bad place in my life, and went everywhere in either sweats or leggings and a baggy shirt. My hair was typically pulled back and my face didn’t know the meaning of makeup. It didn’t matter if I was running to the market, dropping the girls at school, or going to a teacher conference. My uniform was the same.

A few years went by and I heard a teacher friend saying how disrespected she felt when parents didn’t dress up for her. I was unpleasantly surprised at the time, but thinking back on it, I’m horrified.

In my own case, I was struggling to keep things together, trying to get a business going so I’d be more available for my daughters’ activities, and managing an unwieldy load of emotional crap at the same time. Making myself pretty for a teacher or administrator was the least of my concerns. There were days it was all I could do to get out of bed, feed the girls, and take them to school.

Basing the Respect We Give Solely on What We See

In hindsight, I realize I wasn’t respected or taken seriously by teachers or administrators in those days. https://www.flickr.com/photos/alisdare/6821200265/in/photolist-UB4c9G-eC7695-hBLDD-93L9XM-kYuVpf-UB4c3u-frGcgF-Dj96KV-ECCKLH-763CL-aB2kxX-NLUMEQ-boLrc8-7JVP3y-5qPdx9-27zcEPH-SErX9e-mhx3sb-d3Kv1w-bbHV92-edSAMq-gcdFEN-2brCHxp-aKBVjr-f9axWB-4F2voD-oGGEo9-f5xtRv-daC8zs-cFevC-eEFrNs-2ag28y-c6ahLG-nMywhk-BTQ5Yy-8iov8y-oAG89o-r8xj63-7yzik8-FktH6-fAebFr-psM1h-dTPcPi-8inAep-9Qj2wX-6Vi7Tw-D7zjy-d3cgUS-6acoir-g6L2UEThey met with me, sure. But it was always a “my way or the highway” attitude they projected.

The worst part of this to me is that as educators, they influence our children and pass on their judgemental attitude as an accepted mode of behavior. Never mind they have no idea what a parent is going through unless a child happens to share something (assuming, of course, the teacher is listening between the lines as well).

Now I know being a teacher is getting tougher by the day, but if what I heard and felt is correct, then we need to take a look at expectations and perceptions. It shines a pretty bright light on why there are such disparities between the education kids get in suburban areas vs. inner cities where there’s a higher rate of people struggling just to hold things together, and for whom dressing up to meet with a teacher is the last thing on their minds.

Looking Past the Smiling Faces

That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty who are holding on by their fingernails in the suburbs too, but all too often, their ignorance of what the educational system deems appropriate behavior and dress code are masked by other factors. For example, as a single mother, I noticed a marked coolness on the part of the other women when I was active with the band boosters; a chill which was confirmed by some of the other single moms. In fact, it was actually made blazingly clear to one woman when it became known that the man she was always with was someone she lived with but wasn’t married to. Somehow, we were undesirables, not only in the eyes of other parents, but the school system as well.

It didn’t matter that most of us not only worked at least one job, and often two or three to keep food on the table, clothes on our kids’ backs, and a roof over our heads, then dedicated countless hours to their activities as well. Nor did it matter that we often worked twice as hard as the ones who were happily married. I used to believe it was because they saw us as a threat, but now I think it was simply that we dared to be different and manage our lives without a man to help us or worse, validate us as someone who fit the conventional model.

It doesn’t surprise me that most of us weren’t perfectly coiffed or made up when we showed up to support our kids. Those who shunned us were blissfully unaware of the often Herculean effort it took us to show up and take an active role in the proceedings.

We All Have Challenges. What We Need Most is Understanding.

I certainly don’t remember anyone ever asking if one of us was all right—unless of course it was one of https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisyarzab/40513877112/in/photolist-24J5dbC-xLBnC-qDMybP-8uuvzF-er1tf-8S5Btn-5NYfwV-LihYBt-g4kBQ-S442nL-ceYb9U-g5JpWL-jTQZz6-cfHP9u-fauq5P-ahCCN2-isiMDz-6ViLeY-2EJXG4-HC2MUT-BU26S-5jegSL-VYGMA1-5j9Xzn-eB4adY-nBPSrp-5j9ZhH-dkoQLa-nbdfPZ-4FD4L1-dZ3Vjx-mbSGYM-dsW4Bs-6w75Kx-7sZRqK-8KRTG2-Mysc7N-LM2cLA-eXrUyD-faz3Az-dAR84B-8S8Fa7-7hKbWd-pYwhq-z2MhH-6jxdb7-261SwZS-ee4Pp7-vv8vw-8TKhq3the other single mothers. And we sure weren’t going to reach out to anyone in the secret society of marrieds for help. Showing even the slightest sign of weakness to that pool of piranhas was taken as an invitation to attack and consume.

By the time the girls reached Middle School, we’d been through several kinds of hell; way more than anyone ever suspected. I’d survived an ugly divorce in the midst of which my mom committed suicide. I’d been laid off from a job, only to go through another layoff, and a closure due to forced bankruptcy with another company, all in the space of about 2 years. I was trying to make a go of my own consulting business, but with no marketing skills and a negative outlook about almost everything, I didn’t exactly have clients knocking down my door.

Dancing helped, but when the girls reached High School, that, too ceased while I immersed myself in their activities and the barely concealed disdain of the married women.

Teaching Our Children Compassion

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jkfjellestad/17408694382/in/photolist-swm7k9-5RUVz2-mJjTbx-5RZcQG-LaVetu-ehWSkL-mJjNaa-mJncXh-UQc1nx-mJkdTR-mJnhJS-UNopBe-TLtd22-UnTzSt-UKUNfQ-TvXc6r-UWzrjN-g9uykn-H7hkTY-27dmuiJ-dPKPg5-StARkr-H28Np7-TLyHW2-SasSyJ-ovj4Jg-TDQz2w-g9v3mc-H7rXSy-UWEf8E-qxwgcP-X7uFem-TyrPG7-g9uRij-g9vmqr-TLF3sZ-683YTJ-4DjRMh-5R69WX-eiwKNy-873BnY-787D4h-g9vKLK-UWGbnj-TytBPA-p92cJn-Ufcsfy-URnUfu-TrXPo4-UMmQvhWhile I can empathize with teachers who want to be taken seriously, and know their jobs aren’t exactly easy, I hope my experience is the exception rather than the rule. I hope our educators are the first to follow the old adage: don’t judge a book by its cover. and remember if a parent isn’t dressing up for them, it may be something far more insidious than disrespect which has them presenting themselves in all their naked and unadorned glory.

Being a single parent is hard under the best of circumstances. But when you get no support from the father (or mother as the case may be), or they add to your burden by being difficult; when money is tight and you have to tell your kids no; when your job is kicking your butt for 8 or 9 hours a day; the very fact you’re showing up at all is, in my opinion, an act of ultimate strength. What you wear when you show up, as long as it covers you with reasonable decency should be the last thing people notice about you, much less judge you and mentally condemn you, assuming you lack respect for their lofty position.

As always, there’s a lesson for me in this memory and story. I’m far from innocent as far as misjudging people based on what I see instead of giving them a chance to show me who they are on the inside. Remembering how I felt is a painful yet poignant reminder to give others the same consideration I would have them give me. In other words, give people a chance to show their true colors, and don’t assume the outside packaging in any way, shape, or form tells the whole story.

Gratitude Instead of Judgement

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the challenges I’ve gone through and the lessons they’ve brought me.
  2. I am grateful for opportunities to revisit past hurts and find the lesson contained therein.
  3. I am grateful for those who directly, or even inadvertently point out areas in my own personality and behavior that need work.
  4. I am grateful for the people who did take the time to ask if I was OK, even during the years when I wouldn’t ask for help no matter what.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, opportunities, friendship, inspiration, cooperation, compassion, kindness, peace, harmony, health, 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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